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Joyful Boasting

Posted by Pastor Christopher Hull on

In Philippians 3, The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write of his accomplishments saying, "For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,blameless" (Philippians 3:3-6).  St. Paul is pretty full of himself. He speaks as if he is the holiest dude on the face of the earth. He speaks as if honey flows from his lips and his heart only thinks righteous things all the time. He writes as if he is the best of the best, no one even comes close to Paul's righteousness and piety. But then, St. Paul says, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philippians 3:7-9). St. Paul didn't list all his accomplishments in order to himself over the Christians to whom he wrote, but rather to show that even though he had many accomplishments, they were nothing but rubbish in light of Christ's righteousness and love.

There is a distinction between selfish boasting and joyful boasting. Selfish boasting is when we boast in our own righteousness. We speak of how far we've come in comparison to where we were in our past life. We speak of how often we are in the Divine Service, how many boards we serve on in church, how long we've been LCMS or been a member of a certain congregation, we speak of how many volunteer hours we've put in and how many short-term mission trips we've gone on. Selfish boasting is puffing ourselves up with our own thoughts of our righteousness. However, when the law comes and speaks to us, it says that we don't measure up, we aren't righteous, we aren't as perfect as we thought we were. Instead the Law says, "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." So, we either repent, or we take a different approach. We don't compare ourselves to the law, but instead we compare ourselves to those around us, especially those we know are messed up and don't have their act together. Fat people compare themselves to someone with four more inches on their waist, and dumb people hang out with someone with a lower IQ. We compare ourselves to people who's sins are evident, made public, so we can walk around as if we aren't as sinful and wicked as they are. This is selfish boasting, lording our self righteousness over our neighbor in order to humiliate them and lift ourselves up. However, this boasting ends only in despair because the devil could care less about our thoughts. He knows we are wicked, sinful, lawbreakers. When death comes knocking, no selfish boasting will save us and help us face death head on in confidence. We must count all our righteousness, or our thought of it, as rubbish in order that we may boast in the righteousness of Christ that He gives to us freely by His grace.

St. Paul says that he desires not to be righteous by the law, but by Christ, meaning that he does not desire to make himself righteous, but instead takes comfort in the certainty that he is righteous because of the work and mercy of Jesus. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession asserts, "Faith is that worship which receives God's offered blessings; the righteousness of the law is that worship which offers God our own merits. It is by faith that God wants to be worshiped, namely, that we receive from Him what He promises and offers" (Apology IV.49). God does not want our merits, but rather for us to receive His merit. He doesn't want our works, but rather for us to be blessed by His work on the cross. He doesn't save us because we love and praise Him, but rather He saves us because He loves us and praises the work of His Son on the cross. This is our comfort, that we are righteous because Jesus loves us, bears our sin for us, and declares us righteous according to His grace and mercy. Let us boast in this, in the work of Jesus for us. Let us boast, not in our righteousness, but in the reality that Jesus forgives us our sins and in this we are righteous. Let us boast, not in our accomplishments, but in Jesus and His accomplishment of our atonement on the cross. When this is our boasting, it is a joyful boasting because Jesus righteousness will never turn into despair, but remains forever. 

Peace be with you, May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "I forgive you. I love you. I claim you as My own forever," Amen.

Jesus' Sheepdog,

Pastor Hull

Tags: jesus, paul, righteousness, joyful boasting, selfish boasting