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
A tough guy pushing his chest out and strutting around like he owns the place – that’s my mental image of “boasting.” As usual, the Word of God tears me apart (in the best way).
You may be wise, mighty, or rich. You may be pretty or well-liked. You may have worked hard for years, with a moral lifestyle and the respect of your peers. Yet – boast in none of these things; in fact, count them as loss (Philippians 3:8). Not one of these things is worth boasting about, finding your identity in, living for. There is one reality in whom you are to invest your zeal, commitment, and life, and he alone will prove trust-worthy in the end.
In Philippians 3, right before Paul makes the famous statement that everything he once counted as gain he now counts as loss for the sake of Christ, he gives a list of convincing reasons to show why he has good cause to do just the opposite – to, as he says, “put confidence in the flesh” rather than in Jesus. Paul had a lot of reasons to boast. He had a lot of reasons to feel confident in himself, before both God and people. And yet…
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. Galatians 6:14
“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.” Where is it, Christian, that the relentless love of God, the unstoppable justice of God, and the blazing righteousness of God, converge? Where is it that his love is poured out, his justice satisfied, and his righteousness demonstrated? Where else but at the cross? In the cross, in the gruesomely disfigured face of a man being tortured – boast in nothing else but this. The cross of Jesus alone is our boast, our identity, worthiness, confidence, and calling.
In losing your claims to false identities, find your true individuality. The aimless pursuit of self-gain or glory, which is what life is like apart from “boasting in the cross,” promises to let you be who you really are. In reality, it deadens who you really are. It sucks up every limited resource of self until it finally runs out. The cross, meanwhile, of the crucified and risen Jesus, is limitless in its scope and power. Lose yourself in God and in him find your true personality; lose yourself in you and get nothing but emptiness and limitation.
Because he boasted only in the cross – because Paul’s whole claim on life was wrapped up in how Jesus had sacrificed himself for Paul – Paul boasted also in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), suffering (Romans 5:3), and the people he evangelized (1 Thessalonians 2:19), among others. Yes, seriously: weakness, suffering, and churchy people. Thus there is no room left for boasting about anything at all which does not flow from a boast in the cross. The Lord of the galaxies, the Lord beyond the galaxies, has died for us. Therefore we are strong when we are weak, rejoicing when we are suffering, joyful when we are poured out and used up for the sake of other people’s faith. Incredibly, that is what the Bible says, unapologetically.
The call of the cross to you and me, then, is the same: come and be crucified to the world. Give up your claims of self, of wisdom, strength, money, morality, plans, likability, because the Son of God gave himself up for you. Let the almighty God who delights in steadfast love, and justice, and righteousness, have his way with you. Boast only in the Lord and in so doing find life so amazing, so worth living, you will never want to go back.
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:28-31