backwards boasting

backwards boasting

The biggest problem in my life and ministry is me. And one of my biggest problem among many is my gravitation toward self-defense or self-justification. I have an inner defense attorney from the firm of Flesh & Associates who is always there challenging the case in my favor. Well, not exactly for my favor. I am grateful for the Spirits work in me in this area, but I still have a long way to go.

When was the last time you defended yourself? Why did you feel the need to do it? Often times one is feels the need to defend themselves when confronted or attempting to protect an opinion or reputation.

Ironically, in 2 Corinthians 10-11, Paul is in the middle of defending himself and his ministry. Why does Paul feel the need to defend himself? What could be such a big deal that he feels the need to protect his reputation? Well, some in Corinth are discrediting him as an apostle. They say he is tough on paper, but in person he appears weak and doesn’t speak quite like the pros. Paul not only defends his ministry, but in doing so he defends the gospel message. It’s a big deal because he is protecting the reputation of Christ.

To defend himself Paul does a little boasting (v.1). Doesn’t that sound backward for Paul? Shouldn’t he turn the other cheek or be more humble? Instead Paul sees it is necessary to exercise “a little foolishness.”

Why is boasting foolish? It is foolish because no one likes listening to a boaster. Boasters are so full of themselves (show Packer shirt). If we do like people who boast, how much does God like it?

  • “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,” (Jeremiah 9:23)
  • “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1)
  • “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” (Proverbs 25:14)
  • “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 1:16)
  • “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” …For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11-12, 14b)

God doesn’t like boasters. So why is Paul stooping to that level? Now to be fair, boasting was anathema to Paul too, but he engages in it to show the church just how foolish it is and how foolish his opponents are. Here are three justified boasts of Paul.

1.  As a father of the Bride, he is jealous for the church’s purity (vs.2-4).

What is the responsibility of the father of the bride? One of the most emotional moments for me when I married Sarah was the moment when the doors in the back of the church opened and my wife dressed in a white dressed walked down between our friends and family who were standing all looking at her. I was speechless. As so was her father. He was walking his daughter to me. For 27 years, he had been teaching her, giving her counsel and presented her to me as a pure bride.

How does Paul take his responsibility seriously as father of the church at Corinth? Paul, knew just how vulnerable the church was (vs.2-4). Like a faithful father he has boasted in his daughter and wants to keep the her pure and protect her from other lovers (deceivers) and present her not to just any man but the Son of Man, the Blessed Bride Groom.

Paul was properly jealous about this. He had paternal jealously handed down from another Father. It is said that “Human jealousy is a vice, but to share divine jealousy is a virtue.” Our God is a jealous God. He is jealous for the truth. He doesn’t like people adding or subtracting things from the message of Jesus, the work of the Spirit, or the Gospel. If God and Paul are jealous for these things, so must we.

2.  As a faithful apostle, he compares himself to the super-apostles (vs. 5-15).

Here Paul takes the opportunity to boast in his authority. Remember, it is not his own authority, but an authority given to him from Jesus. And some were challenging his authority. Paul sarcastically refers to them as Super-apostles (v.5) because they made themselves bigger than Paul. We don’t know much about these super-apostles other than that they were skilled speakers and were paid well for their skills. I am sure they also had capes and sidekicks too.

How does Paul compare himself to the super-apostles? (v.6) First, he admits he is not a skilled speak. He doesn’t wow the crowds like the Greco-Roman speakers who were suave, spoke with a swagger, yet were synthetic. Second, he admits he excels in knowledge. In other words he says the main criteria you need to be a good preacher is a knowledge of God. This knowledge made him a powerful and persuasive preacher.

Third, Paul explains that he came to Corinth free of charge (vs.7-11). Paul didn’t take speakers fees like the skilled speakers or professional philosophers. Not that this is wrong, but it can be a temptation. Paul instead says he received support from Philippi and other churches in Macedonia so he didn’t have to burden to the church in Corinth. People misinterpreted this as if Paul was not charging for his services as a self-admission that he was a low caliber speaker and his message wasn’t worth much. That he gave away the gospel because no one would pay to he it, when he gave it freely as proof he loved them.

Paul will switch his tone from sarcastic to serious as he now calls these super-apostles false prophets, deceitful workers (vs.12-15). Why would he use such harsh terms? These super-apostles are changing Jesus, the Spirits work and the gospel message for their profit. That gives Paul grounds to boast. What Paul boasts in is the faithful, self-sacrificing efforts made on behalf of the gospel ministry in Corinth to the degree that his example serves to expose false apostles as what they really are, ministers of Satan.

This passage challenges all who take money and serve the name of Jesus. I must ask myself the question, do I consider the financial gain before you consider the glory of the Name? This is a real temptation. Remember, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (cf. 8:9).

3.  As a follower of Christ, he has counted the cost and carries his cross (16-33)

Paul boasts to prove a point to boasters, “Look, isn’t boasting really foolish?” If Paul must be forced to boast, it will not be in the things that are impressive from a human standpoint. Rather, he will boast in those things that put him in such a vulnerable situation that he has to depend utterly upon God. He takes great lengths to share all that happened to him for the sake of the name of Christ (vs.16-33).

Paul answers the question, When is foolish boasting acceptable? “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (10:17; cf. Jer. 9:23-24). Nothing, absolutely nothing trumps the Lord. It doesn’t matter what I say about myself, it’s what I say about God. It’s the essence of backward boasting. I am nothing. God is everything. When the foolish boasting is in favor of Jesus and the gospel message it is sometimes acceptable.

How might this chapter be applicable to your life and ministry? Can you embrace your weaknesses? Will you boast in your weaknesses? The answer to that question has everything to do with the authenticity of the gospel and the church and its mission.

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get off your pedestal

This weekend I graduated from Faith Bible Seminary with a Master of Divinity. Sounds important, eh? No, I am not more divine! It was quiet the accomplishment 6-years in the making. I started taking classes in 2004 at BBS and finish the last 3 years at FSB. I am grateful for the spiritual growth from digging deep into God’s Word. However, the more that I study God’s Word the more I have come to realize and appreciate that there is a whole lot more to know about God and His Word. I have just touched the base of the mountain of God’s glory in His Word. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life unpacking and applying His Truth to my life.

Now it could be really easy to sit on top of my puny pedestal boasting and bragging about my brains, brawn and bucks. Sure I might have expanded my brain since pre-school with books, papers, and higher education, but that doesn’t give me the right to flex those intellectual muscles [personally, I think they are quite flabby].

What does it mean to brag and boast? To think you are above others in attitude and action. Sure you may have Bucks, Brains or Braun, but compared to whom? Where is the ultimate source of all things? What about boasting in God?

This is a reason why most rap music drives me bananas. Some rap artists would say boasting about yourself is built into rap. It’s common for a rap artist to talk up his skills, his money, or his sexual conquests. Even some Christian rappers jump on the boasting bandwagon. However, there is some radical rap that rocks the name of Christ:

What is a boaster and bragger to do? Turn boasting about your own greatness into boasting about God’s greatness: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” [2 Corinthians 10:17]. Paul even went as far as to boast in how weak he was, because he knew God’s strength could fill in for his own failure [2 Corinthians 12:5].

I can’t claim bragging rights about everything I’ve done, am doing, or will do in my life [cf. Philippians 3:1-11]. Any accomplishment I claim must give glory to the God who is the source. Compared to God I see my imperfection and His perfection. Compared to God I see His holiness and my need for forgiveness. Compared to God I can only claim bragging rights about God. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:29-31: “It is because of [God] 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 [in Jeremiah 9:24]: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

We see in these three short verses that God’s source of any significant spiritual change. “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus.” God Himself is the means and motivation for our salvation. He has claimed me, He called me, He comforted me, and by the faith “in Christ” He has given me salvation.

Now the Corinthians Paul was writing to were know for their boasting in wisdom. The Corinthians were consumed with wisdom, which they seemed to have equated with their salvation. However, Paul poo-poo’s their pride party by repeatedly emphasizing that Jesus Christ is God’s wisdom. If you love wisdom, you will love Jesus. Why? Because in Christ, God gives us “righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

In those three words [righteousness, holiness, and redemption], God has given us in Christ a reason to boast. First, righteousness is a legal metaphor meaning in Christ believers have been declared innocent of sin. Second, holiness is a religious metaphor meaning that in Christ believers are been set apart like God. Third, redemption is a marketplace metaphor meaning that in Christ He has purchased my freedom from the power of sin.

When I look at all that God has done for me in Christ I am awed. And so should our response be, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” I have nothing to boast about before God, except what God has done for us in Christ. He is the source of all my bucks, brains and brawn. Only God is the omnipotent and omniscient Creator. He is the means, source and end of all things [cf. Romans 11:36].

“Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 9:24

pride: a beast in hiding

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Pride. It is a real beast that hides in the darkness of our mind waiting to devour us from within. Many do not know the telltale signs they are suffering from the sly and stealthy beast of pride. Consider the following list of hidden forms of pride:

1. Insecurity. Insecurity is the root of many unhealthy and ungodly behaviors. It provokes us to want the lavish praise and attention of others. Pride is often motivated by one’s unmet need for self-worth. Focusing on the worth of Christ and security in Christ is a must to avoid pride.

2. Got to play the trump card. Do you know someone who has a hard time being wrong? This is a symptom of pride (Galatians 6:3). A person who needs to be right has an exalted view in themselves and think they are too-sexy-for-their-shirt. In religious circles, the need to be right is frequently said through statements like ‘God told me’ or ‘God showed me’, which are simply prideful trump cards.

3. In a state of arguing. Those who argue their point of view, especially to those in authority over them, are allowing pride to be their pet beast. At the root of their argument is a belief that they are right and the other is wrong, period, argument done [like a turkey at Thanksgiving]. It is sometimes appropriate to advocate for a point of view or position, but there is a thing called tact.

4. More invested in being heard than in hearing. When one develops a pattern of needing others to listen to them rather than first hearing others, pride is a motivating factor. I’m going to bust out in one of my most favorite raps, “Alright, stop, calibrate and listen… ” [Vanilla Ice] Listen, hear, it is not a brand new invention, rather a humble way to communicate with other human beings.

5. Blowing up and clamming up. Ungodly anger is pride. In anger that blows or clams one will often justify their position and blame another for the wrongdoing. Justification of self leads to denial of our own complicity or wrongdoing. Deal with your anger and quit blaming others for it.

6. Irritability and impatience. The root of impatience in my life is pride. When we are unable to be patient with another and are irritated, it demonstrates a haughty view of self. “My time and talents are not worth your investment.” We feel that our views, time or needs are more important than the other persons.

7. Lack of submissive attitude. Submission is the voluntary placement of oneself under the influence, control or authority of another. Pride says, “I can do it better than they can. If I were in charge things would be different.” Maybe so. Yet when one pledges their submission to you or another, yet is critical or bucking that authority, then pride is in coming out of hiding [like words about our President].

8. Who do you think you are–attitude. Have you ever worked or lived with someone who won’t receive any negative or corrective feedback? This is pride. Were Adam and Eve were confronted by God in the garden they passed the blame-buck. Own up to confrontation and learn from it.

9. Receiving correction but do not changing. Some receive correction and say thank you for the feedback, but never change. This too is pride. The individual is placating and people-pleasing, nodding their head and telling you what you wanted to hear but not really taking the feedback to heart. Ones ride with prevent them from truly changing.

10. Boast about your badges. A good friend of mine requires everyone to call him ‘Mr.’, saying that he has deservedly earned the title. Demanding that others call you ‘doctor’ or ‘pastor’ or ‘sir’ is usually a way of making you ‘one up’ and them ‘one down’. This shade of pride hungers for approval and starves for recognition, “Hey, look at me dad? Look at me son? Look at my long list of credentials, crowns, coronations…” Pride fuels the requirement to respect the badge.

11. Stubbornness. Pride exerts one’s own will and is not easily persuaded, difficult to handle or resistant. The root issue of stubbornness is willfulness, which is ‘I want what I want when I want it’. You think you have rights, well are you willing to give up your rights for another?

12. Comparisons and competition. 2 Corinthians 10:12 makes it clear that comparing oneself with others is foolish. “I wish is was more like…I wish you were more like…” How about, “I wish I/you were more like Christ!” Comparison is a form of competition. The motive of a comparing heart is pride.

Pride is a powerful beast that wants to control you. Be careful to let him in your cave. Once he is in he will be at home to stay, and it is difficult to sweep him away.