Time to Brag
Do we really reap what we sow? And how much of a formula is it?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
In my experience, I find kids love to brag.
I’m not sure why.
Maybe we as parents build it into them by calling them special, or ”our princess,” or the best or whatever.
Maybe pride is the innate character trait we’re born with and humility is learned.
Whatever the case, the evil side of me, loves to bring this out in kids.
I might be talking to a 5 year old who’s dribbling a basketball.
“Hey kid…you pretty good at basketball?”
“Do you think you’re probably the best in the neighborhood, or do you think there are other kids better than you?”
“I’m the best”
With kids, it’s not even “Pretty sure I’m the best.”
Kids are just matter of fact: “I’m the best”
We love to brag.
Most people (not everyone), but most people learn to “tone it down” a little as they get older…
Or just brag about their kids…which is just a secret way of bragging about what an awesome parent they are.
Well, this morning, I want you to get even better at bragging.
Except, I want you to brag about something besides yourself.
In fact, as we finish up the book of Galatians today, Paul’s going to give you instructions on how to be a better bragger. A “boaster” if you will.
This is a monumental day at our church, as this morning we are finishing our 18th and final week of studying the book of Galatians.
Let’s get right into Paul’s powerful conclusion
PEACE & MERCY FROM BOASTING
(Galatians 6:11) - NIV
See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
At this point in the letter, Paul takes the pen from his secretary or scribe (which were quite common in those days).
And he’s going to personally write the conclusion.
It’s a way of personalizing it; authenticating it…and stressing importance.
It’s like Paul’s bolding or italicizing his conclusion here
Let’s read the rest of it
(Galatians 6:12-18) – NIV
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Paul is taking one last opportunity to compare these false teachers in Galatia to the real Gospel of Jesus.
These false teachers who think you can earn your way to heaven by being good and obeying the right laws vs. God’s forgiveness being a gift…not a reward.
And Paul even tells us what will happen when we truly get that it’s a gift.
That’s in verse 16. Look at it again
(Galatians 6:16) – NIV
Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
…that is…the true church of God…which is now Christians.
Who wants peace and mercy? Who wants to live in God’s forgiveness every day and experience REAL PEACE from God?
I do. We all do.
There isn’t much like enjoying forgiveness and living in peace!
I’d rather feel deep peace every day than see the Timberwolves win an NBA championship…and that’s saying a lot J
But if we’re going to see how to get peace, we’ve actually got to work backwards in the passage.
Much like a movie that opens in the middle of the plot, and spends the next hour, showing you how you got to that point in the first place.
So to find the answer, let’s start going backwards: Look at the 2 verses before the one on peace.
(Galatians 6:14-15) – NIV
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.
Paul says the only thing we can really boast in…is the cross.
There really is nothing to brag about…except what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Everything else is pride.
Talking about how successful we are, how nice our house is, how perfect our kids are, how nice our car is, how nice we are…is just pride.
And Paul writes, and you can’t brag about it…cuz the only thing you can brag in is what Jesus did on the cross.
Sounds kind of all-encompassing, doesn’t it?
Can’t we at least brag about being good looking or our sense of fashion or our ability to fix computers? Something? Anything?!?
Nope. But why?
Because we are nothing without what Jesus did on the cross and nothing compares to what Jesus did on the cross.
Without Jesus…we are dead in our sins.
Meaning…all of our rebellion against God, against others, is deserving of justice…of punishment.
But God, in His love for you, sent his OWN son Jesus, to take it for you…in your place…on the cross.
Without Jesus dying in your place, your only future would be an eternity of pain in hell.
And bragging about anything you accomplish here, with hell on the horizon, is INSANE.
It’s like a basketball team scoring the first 2 points in a game (and then calling timeout to celebrate and eat cake together), only to get annihilated 100-2 for the rest of the game.
There’s no point in bragging about anything you’ve done…or in what you’ve become, because it’s all from Him.
(James 1:17) – NIV
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
In fact, before we go any further, let me just ask you?
Where are you holding on to pride? Where are you boasting in yourself and taking credit from God?
Do you want to know why you got that job you have?
The benevolence of Jesus
Want to know why you have those “perfect” kids?
God gave them to you
They’re a gift. Not everyone can have kids.
Want to know why you have a place to live?
God gave it to you
We love to take credit for things we have no business taking credit for
Can you take credit for the fact that you were born in the U.S. and not in a country of extreme poverty like Haiti?
Can you take credit for the fact that most of you were born relatively healthy and physically able?
Can you even take credit for the fact that you’re still alive? While others have been lost to cancer, sudden heart attacks, and car accidents?
You can not.
We have nothing to take pride in. Nothing to boast in. Nothing to brag about.
Except…that Jesus died for us. That’s it.
And it all starts to make sense when you start to size up the world a little bit more.
When you back out of your constant obsession with the self and take a broader perspective. (as we just did)
There was a story that some used to tell about President Teddy Roosevelt, who was crazy, but quite refreshing, where Teddy would often go out with a friend and search the skies for a certain spot of light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square Pegasus.
Then Roosevelt had a habit of saying, “That’s the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than ours
Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now…I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed”
Think about being president.
On the one hand…man, that would be terrible.
You can’t even change the paint color on the outside of your house.
But what would it be like to have so many people hate you no matter what you do?
But on the other hand, you’re the most powerful man in the world.
Next to Justin Bieber that is.
It would be a job…like no other…where you’d have to maintain a healthy perspective.
Winston Churchill, (The Prime Minster of England during WWII) who was practically a quote-machine, was once asked, “Winston, aren’t you impressed that 10,000 people came to hear you speak?”
He replied, “Not really. 100,000 would have come to see me hang”
And Roosevelt’s perspective of who we are in the scope of God’s universe is important.
When you take the time to actually measure yourself up with God…not others (of your convenient choosing)…there’s nothing left to brag about
We’re like the girl who got an A+ on the story she wrote for 6th grade English and feels like it’s magnificent because she’s comparing it to a story her 5 year old brother who can barely read wrote for 1st grade.
But what if she compared her writing to C.S. Lewis?
So much of our pride and boasting comes because we make these silly (and convenient) comparisons to each other.
But what we need is perspective.
Perspective that involves an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing, almighty God!
And when we do that…there’s nothing left to brag about.
You know, it’s interesting, the more mature you become as a Christian, the less you feel like bragging about who you are.
It’s actually a little counterintuitive.
Because you are growing in God. You are changing. Becoming more like Him. Maybe even a nicer person. Gentler person.
Maybe even something worth talking about.
Yet, the closer you get to the light of Jesus, the more obvious it becomes how broken we really are.
And that we have nothing to brag about.
We’re a mess. A serious mess.
And the only reason we’re not a complete mess is because of the work HE’S done in our life.
There’s nothing to boast in, except the cross of Christ.
But remember, this all connects to verse 16. This is how we know mercy. This is how we know His peace.
You want to just sit and breathe again? To relax again? To smile again? To know peace?!?
Then let go of your own boasting. Your own striving.
And start boasting in Him.
THE WORLD IS DEAD & WE’RE DEAD
And there’s so much in this passage. Look at verse 14 a third time: J
(Galatians 6:14) – NIV
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Paul is saying that he has no interest in the world…and the world has no interest in Him.
When you see the phrase “the world” in the New Testament, it means the world with out God.
A system of beliefs, practices, and life that is with out God.
So the more and more you grow in God, the more “the world” or the “acts of the flesh” as Paul calls it in Galatians…or we can even just say “sin”…
The more that all starts to look dead to you…worthless…a waste of time. A dead-end…a bad idea.
But it’s not just that we start to lose interest in the world…it starts to lose interest in us.
We, as Christians, start to look kind of unattractive to the world.
We’re like the ugly kid with pimples that no one wants to take to the prom.
That wasn’t as true when Christianity was a cultural juggernaut in the 1950’s.
But it’s more and more true everyday in this country.
To our culture, there’s nothing attractive about self-denial and being entirely sold out to Jesus.
But the only reason Paul mentions this line about having no interest in the world, and the world not being interested in us…
…is to just once again show the only reason for bragging is in Christ.
All the “pleasures” or “status” that the world can give you…
A) Are illusionary.
And B) Are going to become less important to you anyway
As you grow in God, like Paul did, the only thing left to boast in your life…will be that Jesus gave you life.
Paul says it this way in verse 15:
(Galatians 6:15) – NIV
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation
It doesn’t matter if you’re a really good religious person in Galatia, and you do all the right “religious things” like get circumcised…
Or, let’s make it modern day: You do all the right religious things and “get baptized just right”, or go to confession, or take the sacraments, get confirmed, get your last rights.
It doesn’t’ matter if you do every one of those things or none of those things.
All that really counts is one question: Have you opened the gift of forgiveness by believing that Jesus died for you?
And thus, have you become a new creation, forgiven by Him?
Cuz you could have gone to confession 3 times a day, shaken the hands of the 3 popes, and been baptized as an infant AND an adult, and confirmed catholic, Lutheran, AND Methodist,
But if you don’t have a real relationship with Jesus Christ….you’re not a new creation…you’re not forgiven.
Cuz otherwise you’re just trying to earn your way to heaven with those things.
When you die and meet God and have to give an account for your life (which you will), are you expecting to brag your way there??
Are you expecting to pull out a resume?
“As you can see here, Almighty One, in 2013, I attended Renovation Church 51 out of 52 Sundays”
“Oh, no one goes to church on July 4th. I doubt you were even there, Jesus”
“Continuing on, I was in a house group. I was confirmed as a kid. And even took a first communion. PRETTY impressive if I don’t say so myself. PRETTY impressive!”
But it won’t do anything.
This isn’t Islam. The goal isn’t to cancel out your sin with good deeds.
The only thing you can brag about on your life’s resume is the cross of Jesus.
It’s the only thing that gets us in.
All we can say is: “God, hi. I got nothing. Nothing I did was really on my own. Nothing I did could make up for my sin. But because of your grace, I did believe in your Son. That he died for me.”
“So I’ll brag about Him. I’m thankful to Him. I’m here cuz of Him. Amen!”
And this is the kind of thinking that actually brings peace in your life…like Paul SAID in verse 16.
You know what? (PAUSE) It feels really good when you don’t have to do it yourself.
Like, when you’re a kid…and you’re trying to put together this incredible toy you just got for Christmas…
And you’re frustrated…because you can’t for the life of you get your teenage mutant ninja turtles pizza shooter to shoot PIZZAS!!
And your dad steps in and says, “Can I finish it for you?”
YES, YES YOU CAN!
I can’t do it.
It feels really good to say, “I can’t do it.”
In fact, tell it to God. Right now, in your head.
Say, “God, I can’t do it.”
“I can’t make it there on my own.”
“the only reason I’m alive and here and living…is cuz of you…and your cross…thank you”
You start to get peace when you realize that you can’t earn His love on your own. And you don’t have to.
FEAR & PRIDE LEAD TO THE WRONG BOASTING
“Paul shows us that the only way we really get peace is when we get to a point where we ONLY boast in what Chris has done.
But there are some traps here.
Some paths that even well-intentioned Christians often fall far.
Some alternate forms of boasting.
So Let’s keep going backwards…because remember…everything is building up to Paul’s conclusion about what it is that actually brings peace to the believer’s life.
And you can only get there in boasting in Christ…not in other forms of boasting.
And Paul’s going to show that the false teachers in Galatia were stuck in worthless forms of boasting.
(Galatians 6:12-13) – NIV
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.
Paul lists two things that can really stand in the way of you boasting in Christ alone…and thus finding peace.
The first is boasting in yourself. The second is fear of persecution.
Let’s look at boasting in yourself.
These false teachers in Galatia want to impress people.
They were trying to get people circumcised, to go through the traditional religious rituals…not because it was important, but because it would be impressive!
So they could boast about how spiritual they are!
“Ooh, look at us! We’re getting new converts to our way of thinking in Galatia!”
And then the people themselves could boast!
“and OOH, look at me! I’m so Godly! I’m so spiritual now! And I can prove it to you by MY LIST of what I’ve done for God!
And don’t we do the same??
I’ve gone on a missions trip!
I serve the community!
It’s fascinating really…for how clear the Bible is on the fact that we are loved by God JUST BECAUSE…not because of what we’ve done…we’re sure pretty insecure about what we have or have not done for God.
I’ve sadly really only met a few Christians who just bask in the love in forgiveness of God….
People that just feel SO loved by God….they feel so loved, that they feel…at peace.
Just like Paul said would happen.
Most of are just trying to talk ourselves up to God…and others.
We’re bragging about how much we know during small groups
We’re bragging to our coworkers about how we actually served the hungry at Feed My Starving children: “What did you do about it!??!”
We’re bragging about how we used to commit sins A, B, and C, like “Johnny new Christian” does now…but now, we’ve above that.
Sometimes I catch myself bragging about Renovation Church to people I meet.
“Oh, we did this at Renovation. Or we accomplished that.”
But we didn’t. We don’t have a leg to stand on. GOD DID IT!
God allowed us to meet here.
There are some prolific leaders at this church. Amazing volunteers. But it was GOD that brought us together.
God’s allowing me and equipping me to be the pastor of this church.
I have to often remind myself that if it wasn’t for the mercy of God, I’d still be an unbeliever. And where would I be then??
Probably still neck-deep in selfishness, pride, and anger. And probably alone.
The only thing we can boast about is Christ.
Any other sort of boasting, especially spiritual boasting, is just a slippery slope.
We’re often no different than the false teachers in Galatia who were trying to impress people with how “spiritual” they were.
If you’re always thinking about getting praise. If you’re always seeking it out…you’ll never be able to only boast in the cross.
See, the cross puts an end to pride. It plainly says, “You weren’t good enough, you can’t be good enough, you’ll never be good enough. It’s not a reward. It’s a gift.”
And when you get a gift. You are stripped of your right to take credit for it. To take pride in it as if it’s something we did. Something we earned.
If a very rich person, decided to gift you a “half-a-million” dollar house, you couldn’t move into that house, and then start bragging to your friends about what you accomplished.
It was a gift! You didn’t earn it!
And therefore, any sort of spiritual pride we have will keep us from being able to fully boast in Christ alone.
And when we can’t boast in Christ alone, we’re not going to really experience real peace.
Because it’s exhausting going back to the hamster treadmill…trying to earn a reward…you’re never going to earn.
And Paul shows us that it’s not just trying to impress people that keeps us from boasting in Christ alone…it’s fear.
Paul even tells us that one of their root reasons for doing all this is fear.
A concept that we’re really going to flesh out in House Groups this week.
BY the way, if you haven’t signed up to try a house group yet, do it today.
It’s the natural next step to really growing in your faith.
Surrounding yourself w/ other people who are trying to pursue God.
You can sign-up in the hallway on your way out.
But I’ll say this for now: You can’t find peace unless you truly are boasting only in what Christ has done…and you can’t do that…when you’re afraid of the implications of boasting in Him.
These false teachers couldn’t boast in Christ alone as their all in all…as their everything…because if they did…they were going to get persecuted.
What would their Jewish friends say?
What would their Greek or Roman colleagues say?
Following some Jesus guy? Giving Him their LIFE? Believing He saved them?
And furthermore, actually BOASTING, bragging about how He saved them?!
Saying that He changed their life. That He loves them. That He is their all in all.
That He is God. That He is amazing!
Reorienting their entire life…time…calendar…finances…with him as the cornerstone of it all.
But that’s not most of us….
I mean… we like God…we’re thankful…but we don’t really want to do that.
Let’s just go to church, feel a little “spiritual” when we worship, take a few practical tips form the pastor…and carry on my wayward son…
You can do that…but then you’ll still operate out of fear…or out of a desire to impress others…
And it’ll never lead to the love relationship you really want.
Half-measures will never lead you to surrendering your whole life to God.
And thus, you’ll just keep boasting in yourself.
And peace will just be something you chase after, not something you have.
So here we are. At the end of the book. At the end of an 18-week study spread throughout the year.
What’s my prayer at the end of this? What do I hope that God’s accomplishing in our hearts because we went through this whole book?
My hope: Is that you’ve become a better bragger.
Except not in yourself anymore.
That you would know so deeply in your soul that “salvation/forgiveness/being made right with God” is NOT a reward. It’s a gift.
That you’ve started to put away all forms of earning your way to God.
And like a person who gets an incredible gift (maybe a car when they needed it most…or even a place to live)…like a person who gets an incredible gift and just can’t stop bragging about how awesome the person is who gave it to them. (the gift giver)
My prayer is that a deeper understanding of God’s incredible love for you…his amazing gift…has made you love Him even more.
And has made you boast of His love for you even more.
That His love…is changing you…so you can boast…like Paul.
That it’s changing you…to change the world.
Thank you for dying for us.
I pray that you quiet all of our boasting.
Give us heavenly perspective on our lives.
Give us eternal perspective on our lives.
God, may we continue boasting, but may our boasting only be in you.
May we tell all around us of your love and your forgiveness.
This Christmas season, may we boldly speak of the greatest gift-giver the world has ever known.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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