But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:14-15, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(Thanks to Rev. Paul Raabe)
St. Paul says the world is dead to him. What about you, are you dead to the world? I’m not talking about a really sound sleep; I’m talking about being influence or not by the anti-Christians things that surround you every day. Clearly there are a lot of ideas that you come into contact with every day that you are tempted to believe, tempted to take to heart, tempted to say are not a problem for your life. Do you think like the world? Do you value what the world values?
Maybe I should ask the question a different way: What are you most proud of? What is your biggest boast? What’s the one thing in your life you couldn’t live without? The one thing you are unwilling to lose? Is it your job? Your children? You church? Your savings account? Your family history? Your reputation? Your standing in the community, position in church, your family held farmland?
Well we must all confess that we all have things we like to boast in, things we think we brought about through our own hard work, ingenuity, accomplishment, or status. Things that we believe we deserve because of our own good works. That’s from the footprint of sin in our lives. Our sinful nature always wants adopt the thinking of the broken world around us and to take credit for the good things in our life. We want to be recognized and held in high esteem by the world around us. We even want to be recognized by God for our good works.
That’s part of the problems they were having in the Christian Church in Galatia. And it’s one of the reasons Paul wrote a letter to them; a letter we know as the Book of Galatians. What they were valuing was being “good Jews.” Some of the members of the congregation were boasting that they were circumcised and followed the Jewish laws. They even held it over the non-Jews who were a part of the congregation. “If you really want to be a real Christian, you have to be circumcised, like we are; you have to follow the exact letter of the Jewish laws, as we do.” They were really boasting in their own accomplishments. “Look at us! Look at what we’ve done! Look at who we are!” That’s the way the world works isn’t it? We have to demand our own attention, in order to get ahead. We have to boast in ourselves. Sometimes that means stepping on other people to push ourselves up.
Now Paul really had reason to boast. His credentials were of the highest caliber. His background was impressive, according to the Jewish religion. He was circumcised on the 8th day, just like the law demanded. He was a faithful member of the house of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. He followed the strict laws of the Pharisees, went to the best school available at the time. He protected the laws he followed against all those who would make them less important. With zeal he sought out and killed Christians. In many ways Paul could “out-Circumcise” the folks who wanted everyone to follow the letter of the law.
But Paul didn’t boast in any of those accomplishments. In fact he considered the garbage in light of what Jesus did for him. Paul only boasted in the “cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Paul knew that all the praise of the world, all the good deeds he did in the name of his religion meant nothing at all to God. In fact, since they were self-centered and full of selfish pride they were evil in God’s eyes. What God counts as important is not what Paul did but what Jesus did, “the cross of Christ.”
That’s really quite different from the way we think. That’s very different from the way we want to think. Whenever, we hear that God doesn’t consider our good works, we always say things to our ourselves like: “Maybe not other people’s good works, but mine count, to God. They have to. I’ve done some really good things. I sit in church every Sunday. I’m known for my work throughout the community. I make sure everything gets done, and that it’s done right. This church / community couldn’t survive without me. That’s got to mean something to God. God’s got to notice me.” Don’t you see how that matches up with the way things are in the broken world? To get ahead we have to be noticed by the boss. We’ve got to go public with our accomplishments or we’ll never be recognized. Volunteer hours have to be counted to be praised. God doesn’t work the way we do. He doesn’t think the way we do. We see it most clearly in the only thing that Paul wanted to boast in, the cross of Jesus. What God shows us by sending Jesus to hang on the cross and suffer and die for us is that He doesn’t want to praise you or admire you, he wants to forgive you.
Just think about God’s Law. The way we want to use it is to say, “Look at how I measure up.” Usually we use it to show that other people don’t live up to it and imply that we do. But God won’t let us get away with that. He tells us that breaking the law is a matter of the heart. We can make a show of keeping God’s law like the Ten Commandments, but in our hearts we’d rather be breaking them. And the more we really look at them, the more we look at ourselves in light of them the more sin we see and the more hopeless we see our own situation. The world says, “Look inside yourself to find the good that is there.” God shows us that inside the human being is sin, hatred and death.
But God wants to forgive you. In fact, it is his very nature to do so. The more he can forgive you the happier he is. You won’t find your happiness and life by looking inside yourself. There’s nothing to boast about there. You will find it outside of you, in the only thing you can boast in, the cross of Jesus. Inside of you is sin. Outside of you is a perfect Jesus. Inside of you is death. Outside of you is Jesus resurrection from death. That’s the Good News that’s worth boasting on.
Paul said that he was dead to the world, crucified to it. Jesus’ death on the cross put to death the old way of the world. All its values and boasts are worthless to you. They can’t do anything to help you. Jesus resurrection from the dead brought about a new world, a new creation. In another letter Paul says it like this. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.(2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV) That new creation is in you through faith in Jesus.
The old world doesn’t rule over you anymore. Jesus death is your death through baptism. Jesus new life, his resurrection is yours, too, through baptism. You have been crucified with Christ and now you no longer live, but Christ lives in you. You don’t have to boast in your achievements to get God to notice you. He knows who you and he considers you worthy because you are connected to Jesus.
Back in Galatia, some Christians boasted that they were circumcised. The non-Jewish Christians alternative was to boast that they hadn’t been circumcised. Paul said that neither was anything to boast about. What as worth boasting about is what Jesus did for them on the cross. What was worth boasting about was the new life they had received from Jesus.
Well, of course, it’s hard not to be influenced by what we see every day, where we live and work. It’s expected that people will conform to the ways of the world. We are told that boasting is necessary to get ahead, and we are likely to believe it. But to you and me, that world is dead. If you want to boast, boast every time you get wet with water and remember your Baptism. Boast every time you rise from your bed and step in the shower or sit in the bath tub or pour a cold glass of water down your throat, and remember the water that was poured on you in Jesus name. Boast that through Baptism you are dead to the world and you life to God. Boast in the Cross of Jesus that is yours. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.