Continued from Love does not Boast, Part 2
In parts 1 and 2 of Love does not Boast, we examined both the roots and the future of boasting to see how ugly this sin actually is. God hates boasting, because it steals glory away from Him and seeks to glorify mere human beings. We saw in a few Biblical cases, starting from the devil and ending with the antichrist on the world stage, how boasting, when fully grown, can deceive the created being into thinking he or she is a god. Boasting is the expression of a heart fully preoccupied with self rather than fascinated and humbled by God.
Let’s face it, it’s difficult to see how bad something is, when it’s become so much a part of our culture, like the water fish swim in. Sometimes, we do things we don’t even realize we’re doing.
For that reason, it’s all the more critical to identify any kind of boasting in our lives and “nip it in the bud.” Though boasting may start off with a small seed, a thought of Hey, look how good I am!, it reaps a harvest of independence, destruction and different levels of separation from God.
Why would I need to worship and depend on God, when I’m my own god?
Once again, we need to see how bad something is to take up arms against it and live in humble repentance, as needed.
So, what are some practical ways to deal with boasting in our lives? Though not an exhaustive list, here are some suggestions. More suggestions will follow in a later post.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE
1. STOP BOASTING AND START BOASTING IN THE LORD
Since things can’t exist in a vacuum, we refuse the negative of boasting and apply the positive of boasting in the Lord, which is a principle of Scripture. (Ephesians 4:22-32) It’s not enough to stop the negative; we also need to add the positive.
Stopping the negative:
To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.
Do not lift your horns against heaven;
do not speak so defiantly.’”
No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
He brings one down, he exalts another. –Psalm 75:4-7
Now, how do I boast in the Lord? or ministry: how big, how influential, how successful, etc. Yet, all the while, God cares more about the oil that you carry
As God has lovingly shown me my shortcomings, I realize I don’t praise Him enough in my own personal life and when I’m with others.
What do I mean?
The Bible tells us the first and foremost thing God wants us to do when we enter into His presence is to thank him and praise him.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. –Psalm 100:4
One thing to know about me is that I love to pray. (Is that a boast? Gosh, I hope not.) But, since I’m an intercessor, I immediately start interceding whenever I come to him. It’s a “let’s get down to business” mentality.
Though I love God and spend time in His presence, I don’t take a whole lot o f time to thank Him, to praise Him and to bless His name. I may rely on worship songs to worship Him, but I realize there’s something more. To have the praises of God flow from my mouth like a river, I have to practice adoring God and speaking forth His praises to the point where it becomes second nature to me.
We may feel all those things in our hearts, but are we using our mouths to verbally express our praise to our Creator and Father in Heaven? The book of Psalms testifies as to how King David and others made it a practice to praise God and exalt His name! Yes, it was in song, but also in His word and in their own personal prayer lives and encounters with God.
God’s presence and kingdom comes in power and authority when we praise Him and not ourselves.
The below verse speaks about Israel. But, in the Old Testament context, the Israelites were the people of God. And, since God doesn’t change, God can metaphorically establish His Throne on our praises, too, as Gentile believers!
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. –Psalm 22:3
And, when I’m with others, I want to speak more from the perspective of “Guess what God did…” rather than “Guess how God used me…”
2. SEE YOURSELF FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE
To God, you are precious, but little.
Even if God does “lift up your horn” and promotes you in some way, you’re still little to God. For example, the Apostle Paul’s name means “Little,” a person who can arguably be considered the greatest Christian of all time.
If you recall, God changed Saul’s name to Paul. Any name change in the Bible signifies a personal transformation. If you recall, King Saul (after who Saul was most likely named) was an insecure king, though he was physically head and shoulders above the other Israelites. (1 Samuel 9:1-2) Similarly, Saul in the New Testament, was “head and shoulders” above the rest in his Pharisaical devotion to the Scriptures and God’s law. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, the most elite religious group of the day. (Philippians 3:4-6)
But, after God got a hold of him, he stopped boasting in his resumé and started boasting in Christ, the cross and all of his weaknesses. Though he was once a big shot in his field, and later on as a believer in Christ, he eventually saw himself the way God did. Imagine hearing your name all the time, due to your mighty exploits, while, at the same time, being constantly reminded you are “little” before God.
God named Saul Paul to make a point. If Paul, the prototype believer and the writer of most of the New Testament, was called “Little” by God, then what about the rest of us?
In other words, no matter how big/successful/rich/famous/etc. you or I get, we’ll forever be small before God’s eyes.
To God, though your life matters, when it’s all said and done, you’ll only have done a few things.
We can get caught up in our numbers, influence, impact, etc. in the kingdom of God and be tempted to boast.
In the Parable of the Talents, we only see people represented with one, two and five talents. The person with five talents trades what he has and gets five more talents. He clearly has had the most impact of the three and, yet, God reminds him that in the grand scheme of things, he’s only done a few things. (Read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30)
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a FEW things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’ –Matthew 25:21 (Caps mine)
Not to say our individual contributions to the kingdom of God aren’t significant, because they are. Most likely, more than we realize. But, we also need to balance out our view of our own “greatness” with God’s perspective, to keep us in that humble place.
We must also understand how every good thing we have comes from the Lord, so there’s no room to boast!
For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? –1 Corinthians 4:7
Renewing our mind for the days to come is so vitally important! In keeping God’s perspective as a sacred trust, we’ll be able to stay grounded even as we soar to great heights by the Spirit! We’re coming to a time when the Church will move in unprecedented power and glory! God will radically move through those radically committed to him!
In the midst of all that we may do, will we be tempted to take the glory to ourselves and boast in how great we are, OR will we give all the glory to God?
If God encourages us to go low and be small, it’s only because He’s preparing a people to do big things through Him!
Oh, God, may we all aspire to be little!
3. INSTEAD, BOAST IN KNOWING GOD
It’s not about your ministry, your gifts, your fame or the numbers you gather to yourself, etc. If you have all the rest and do not take the time to really know God and cultivate that intimacy with Him, the rest simply doesn’t matter.
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength, nor the wealthy man in his riches. But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. –Jeremiah 9:23-24
Once again, God calls us to fill up a vacuum and not leave anything to chance. Instead of boasting in our accomplishments, He sets at a high premium that person who can boast that he knows and understands God.
In the world, and even in the church world, I may be able to take pride in all of my stuff, but it simply won’t matter in the eyes of God. God won’t evaluate you based on the measuring sticks of the world.
God’s looking for intimacy and relationship! It was the reason why we were created. Do you know Him? Does He know you as a doting Father would his adoring child or a loving Husband would a beloved wife? That level of intimacy.
Ministry and impact are secondary to our personal relationship with God!
Our main priority in these dark days is to cultivate intimacy with God!
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 shows us where we need to put our priorities. As virgins waiting for the Bridegroom, they all symbolized committed Christians with ministries (lamps) awaiting His return.
The wise virgins differed from the foolish virgins, however, in prioritizing intimacy with the Father. They took the time to really get to know God, over and above their ministries. We know this because, along with the oil that gave fuel to their ministries, they had extra oil.
Their FIRST PRIORITY was an intimate, growing relationship with God!
They didn’t just spend time with God, so they could be prepared, blessed and anointed in their ministries.
May I be honest with you? It’s so very tempting in our busy world to do just what we need to get by in our relationship with God for the sake of our ministries.
- Sure, I’m going to study for my small group, especially if I’m leading it.
- I’ll take a half hour to pray for my teaching time or meeting.
- I’ll spend a little extra time with God, because we’re going on an outreach today.
- On a personal note: I’m going to pray and study the Bible for this blog post.
As the world spins faster and our ministry responsibilities get bigger, we often spend less time with God rather than more. There’s enough oil in our lamps to get by for now, but God calls us to more. He yearns for more!
Let’s remember how they used to crush olives in order to get oil. In other words, getting oil requires sacrifice. Putting the first commandment first place amidst countless obligations, distractions and potential “good things” to do instead requires sacrifice. (Matthew 22:34-40)
To be a wise virgin with extra oil, I’m going to have to die to self and say no to some things, possibly many things, in order to build up my oil reserves. You see, “buying oil” can be costly.
In the end, many have and will boast in their ministry lamps: how big, how influential, how successful, etc. Yet, all the while, God cares more about the oil you carry in your secret history with Him. That oil will speak volumes for you in future days, when God reveals the hidden things of our hearts and lives.
Will you cultivate the oil of intimacy as your first priority and beyond what you need for the scope of your ministry? Will you be considered a wise virgin in the days to come?
4. GLORY IN OUR WEAKNESSES AND IN CHRIST, NOT IN OUR FLESH
The Bible tells us clearly that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
Don’t put your confidence in the wrong place!
Back in Paul’s day, certain Jews compelled everyone to be circumcised. They put their confidence in the flesh rather than in God and made their boast in the flesh. This principle of boasting in the flesh, however, can be applied to many things in life.
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. –Galatians 6:12-14 (Caps mine)
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who BOAST in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh… –Philippians 3:3 (Caps mine)
Originally, circumcision was meant to be an outward sign of an inward reality. Consequently, these people based their confidence on the wrong things, since God judges the heart, while man looks on the outward appearance. When we put confidence in our flesh, we glory in our flesh rather than on God, which leads to, you guessed it, boasting in ourselves and others.
God so wanted us to focus on Him rather than ourselves that he made this radical statement: But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:3) It’s a strange thing God asks of us. He challenges us to ignore our flesh, even as we do our righteous acts in the flesh to glorify Him. That way we can’t keep score!
Weakness unto Strength!
The Apostle Paul appropriated God’s strength and grace, not by hiding his weaknesses, but by making the most of them. Though we may feel the pressure to appear as though we have it altogether, God exhorts us to show our vulnerable side to a proud and boastful world.
God’s like, “No, I want you to let the cracks show in your clay pots, so My light, or My glory, has a way to shine through you!”
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will BOAST all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (Caps mine)
As we die in the flesh, the Spirit can increase in our lives.
He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. –1 Peter 3:18
In its context, this verse speaks of Christ’s physical death and resurrection. Yet, this New Testament principle of “death to the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit” also applies to all of us, metaphorically.
In the following passage, Paul, no stranger to trials and persecution, describes us as jars of clay in a rough and tumble world where we can be cracked and broken.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. –2 Corinthians 4:16-18
God says it’s alright to be weak. He not only gives us permission; He encourages us to see our reality before Him. Every time we do, it’s a step closer to Him. So, be honest. Be weak. Be your flawed human self and let the glory of God shine through you!
The world wants you to boast, while God wants you to cry out to Him!
Ultimately, the kingdom of God radically opposes the values of the world.
The enemy would have us blustering about with our chests sticking out, blowing hot air. God, on the other hand, invites us to enter into His upside-down, inside-out kingdom through the doorway of our weakness, brokenness and spiritual poverty.
5. FOLLOW THE CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. –Matthew 5:3-12
Each aspect of the Sermon on the Mount requires us to bend our knees and bow low to the Only One Who can help us! If we enter into the kingdom initially and into any greater aspect afterwards, it will always be on our knees.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that the enemy stirs up boastfulness in our society now and will use it as a foundation stone for the antichrist kingdom to come? The devil doesn’t want us to humble ourselves to go deeper in our relationship with God, let alone come to God in the first place.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Does it seem like I focus more on Biblical principles rather than on the practical applications? If so, there’s a reason. To truly change, we first need a radical shift in the way we think. Practical applications will follow Biblical reasoning and principles. As you pray and study the word of God, He’ll show you what to do. God tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:1-2) Without this change in our mindsets and belief systems, we’ll continue to live according to the values and pattern of this world and not according to Christ.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. –Romans 12:1-2
Next week, I’ll go over more practical ways we can eliminate boasting in our lives.