Hello and welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. Today’s passage is Galatians 6: 11-18. We’re going to focus on verse 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.
Today, we come to the end of our journey through the book of Galatians. As we reach that point, Paul, in today’s passage reinforces again the central message he’s been trying to get across the whole time– that the Gospel means that we get to live free – and verse 14 ties this altogether powerfully.
‘May I never boast…’, Paul writes.
In verses prior to this, Paul has been challenging the false teachers – who as we have already heard in others’ reflections on this letter – were seeking to instruct new believers to adopt the practices of the Jewish law. And boasting, Paul says, is right at the heart of the reason why they were doing this, the root of it all…was pride. The need to look good in the eyes of others. Because, for these teachers the primary concern was not the spiritual well being of these new converts to the faith but…. how many they had and how stringently and meticulously they had adopted the practices of the law. They cared more for the outer show to others in influential places, not realising that it was the internal transformative power of the Holy Spirit, the stuff happening deep in believers’ hearts that really mattered/matters to God.
Does this sound familiar? It sounds a lot to me like Jesus and the way he challenged the pride he saw in the Pharisees…
Pride, boasting – it was an issue in Jesus’ day, and as the church grew. Of course, it’s still an issue for us now. As the famous saying goes – the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart. And our hearts – well they long for belonging, acceptance and recognition. The world tells us that we can find this in what we have and in what we do.
Certainly in our modern culture, work and the increasing amount of time we spend doing it and our identity seem to go hand in hand. We introduce ourselves to new people through explaining what we do. I’m Liam and I’m a youth worker. Our work and how that’s viewed matters to us. In a way that’s a good thing. Work is created for good. God created us to work. To work with him for the building of his kingdom here on Earth. To step into the calling that he has placed upon our lives. We are workers. And yet… the challenge is that the Gospel tells us that our work, what we do, does not define us. It’s the one whom we serve and his love for us that does.
One of the big challenges of this lockdown season is that for some our study/work life has been totally changed. For some, that’s meant navigating the challenge of working from home alongside trying to parent children. For others, it’s stepping into a new role or having theirs suddenly stopped, or being placed on furlough. And indeed for some – it’s meant the loss of their job. As we reflected on yesterday, it’s at times such as these when the imperfections in our character come to surface. When our identity and what we trust in, what we rely upon – it’s all being challenged. And for many of us this might be a season where pride rears its head again.
It certainly has for me. Like many other youth ministries, we’ve taken our Defined youth groups online during lockdown. I’ve found myself entering the world of Instagram Live and filters and followers. I’ve found myself looking at people like Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft and using social media metrics as a barometer of my success as a youth leader and disciple. Reflecting on how I don’t get as many ‘likes’ as them. That I’m not as witty or as articulate or as spiritual or as learned as them. Or comparing myself to other youth groups. Seeing that they are doing this for their young people. Asking “should we be doing that too?” “Is it enough?”
Under pressure, the enemy will use his schemes to attack our identity.
We can’t do as much work as we did before because we are working from home so we feel like we’re failing. We find ourselves getting cross with our children because they demand our time, and we’re stretched so we feel like a bad parent. We’ve spent years studying for a set of exams that are now not happening and we feel empty.
What have we to boast in? It feels like we are losing…That’s what the enemy wants us to believe. That our circumstance defines our identity.
But Paul’s message, the Gospel message he leaves the Galatians with, is this… we don’t need to boast any more ‘except in Jesus’ and what he has done for us.
The Gospel means that we don’t have to live that way any more.
The gospel means that God’s love for us enables us to walk in freedom. That we don’t have to earn our standing with Him.
That we put to death what the world says should define us: our job, our parenting, our grades, our good deeds for charity, our bank balance, our status …. because we, us, me and you, we are already enough in His eyes…and will continue to be whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.
We boast in Jesus. That’s what Paul had come to understand. We boast in the cross. Because the cross means we are loved – not for what we do, but for who we are.
God wants us to walk, to study, to work, to parent, to care, and yes even to just rest too… in the freedom that we have found in his unfailing love for us, his children, this day.
Jesus thank you that the cross means that we are loved and chosen. Help us today by the power of your Spirit living in us to embrace our identity as adopted children into your heavenly family. Help us to live in freedom, knowing that we are enough in you this day. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 6:11-16
See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
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. 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. 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. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – to the Israel of God.