Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On Boasting - Part 1

"Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.'" - Jeremiah 9:23-24

God has been bringing up the sin of pride in my life in so many different ways in the past several weeks. I would like to share some of the things that I am learning and hope to provide a sense of the severity of the sin of pridefulness or boasting, as well as provide some steps that we can take, as Christians, to overcome our boasting.

"But I'm not a boastful person," you might say. I think that I said the same thing about myself a month ago. I have always worked very hard to not talk about myself at the expense of others. Since high school, when I realized that it was my inclination to try and turn the focus to me in many conversations, I have worked very hard at diminishing focus on my abilities and achievements and trying to focus on others in conversations. I know that I fail often at this, and God has been working on me for a long time in this area. But I have realized over the last several weeks that there are a lot of circumstances where I am boastful, and where we as Christians tend to be boastful in general.

This subject initially came up in our Romans 3 bible study. Near the end of the chapter, Paul addresses the Christians in Rome, to whom he just explained the gospel (saved by grace alone through faith alone and not of ourselves). The first result of understanding this gospel is found in verse 27:
"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." - Romans 3:27-28

Looking into this passage and how God sees boasting in the Bible is leading me to discover not only the way in which worldly people boast, but the subtle ways in which we, as Christians, boast without even a second thought.

The Bible says that God does not associate with people who are boastful (Psalm 138:6, Psalm 18:27), opposes people who are boastful (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5), and even
hates our boasting (Proverbs 8:13). Of all the characters in the Bible who seem so offensive to us, no one is more so than the Pharisee in the parable of Jesus who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:11). But the irony is that even as we condemn him, we condemn ourselves. Romans 2:21,23 says, "you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?...You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law." As we condemn others for boasting, we often condemn ourselves for the same sin.

I have found several ways in which we Christians tend to be boastful, and I will be digging into some of these in subsequent posts:
  1. Boasting in our faith.
  2. Boasting in moral self-righteousness.
  3. Boasting in correct doctrine.
  4. Boasting in our life circumstances (whether good or bad).
  5. Boasting in achievement.
  6. Boasting in our own independent spirit.
If you continue to stay with me on this topic, be careful. You may find, like I have, that you will have to confront this sin in your life as you read on, but God says that he will continue to sanctify us through the power of His Holy Spirit (John 15:2, Galatians 5:25, Philippians 2:13), and that is right where He wants us to be.

Next time: How do we boast in our faith and moral self-righteousness.

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