Galatians 6:14-16 “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”
Is there anything in the life of a true follower of Christ that is cause to boast? Cause to have pride in a process, or a sense of accomplishment, a sense of ownership of the outcome? As it is used here, the term for “boast” implies a high level of personal or self interest, an internal boasting that leads to external boasting. When Paul makes it clear that he would never boast of anything less than the cross of Christ, he is speaking to our attitude of pride, accomplishment, and ownership.
What is it about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that is cause to boast? Jesus in the atonement has done everything for us, and there is clearly nothing we can do that furthers His work or betters our position in Him. All we have that is of any value in this life comes not from our efforts, but by way of the atonement and the Spirit of Christ living in us. All we are and have in Christ we have by way of His atonement for us.
When we elevate our own thinking, our plans and activities, our status and associations, these easily become “boasting” in us. Boasting does not need to be spoken, for it is at its root an attitude of the heart. Such boasting underscores the fact that we are finding our life in things other than our God. When such boastful thoughts are present, our hearts are exposed as divided. The good in our living is attributed to factors other than our God.
Paul is telling us that all we have and are in the Kingdom comes through Christ Jesus and not of our own efforts. Therefore, any self-elevating, self-congratulatory thinking is not fitting for the redeemed. Some would respond to Paul by saying that his view is harsh and restricting. Such narrow focus on our God alone will limit our freedom, harm our self-efficacy, and reduce opportunities for living in this life.
The truth of the matter is exactly the opposite. When we allow anything to compete with our God for our attention and affection, we are diminishing the freedom and limiting our opportunities. The truth is the more our God fills all our vision and consumes all our affection and attention, the more we realize our true purpose and potential. We were created to thrive in a single-minded focus upon our God. Thriving at our fullest is not possible otherwise. Only in such single-minded focus will we discover what real life is meant to be.
It is to this point that Jesus speaks several times: “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” See Matthew 10 and 16, Mark 8, and Luke 9. To attempt to find our life in pursuits other than our God and Savior is to settle for lesser things in this life. It is to miss the point of our existence. How much more clear could the scriptures be than what we have read this morning? “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
The enemy of our souls, Satan, is clever in getting us to seek life in a host of things other than our God. He will distract us with anything, including many things that seem good. This is one of his main strategies. He gets us to make our own choices on the basis of what we think of as “moral” or “good.” He knows that even something that is morally good can become the enemy of that which is spiritually best. This is not an argument against morality, but a recognition that there are higher standards than the moral consensus in society.
The strategy of Satan is to distract us by filling our hearts and minds with lesser things. In this way he can turn us away from the best in our lives. He distracts us into seeking our life in the pursuits of this world. This is what Jesus warned us about – “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Satan whispers to us that fixation upon our God is narrow, exclusionary, legalistic. Certainly, many have made pursuing God into legalism. The Pharisees to whom Jesus often spoke were expert at this, and He denounced their legalistic approach. Such a legalistic approach based upon rules and religiosity will not take us into the deeper experience of the presence of our God.
And it is going deeper into the experience of the presence of our God where our best life is to be found. Nothing material, temporal, sensory, or religious will take us there. Only the atonement made by the cross of Christ Jesus creates the path to our best life on this earth. Only our full surrender to Him opens that path.
More on this in a future post.