There are two basic religions in the world. A False Religion: that is man-centered and self-gratifying and it builds on works righteousness. The True Religion: is the gospel of Jesus Christ, a divine accomplishment by God’s sovereign grace provided for man’s redemption through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross. This has been the foundational truth of Paul’s letter…so let me ask you as we close out Paul’s letter this morning. When you think of the Cross of Jesus Christ, what comes to mind? Do see your sin and shame and your inability to save yourself?
Do you see yourself as the problem and His glory and restoration? Do you see God’s destructive wrath and mercy for sinners like you and me as He killed His only Begotten Son? Do you see Jesus Christ as our substitute, our sinless and spotless Lamb of God?
Do you see yourself hanging there and the punishment you and I deserve?

Because you should! Whenever you think about the cross, in your mind's eye….. picture yourself there. Picture your face in the place of Jesus' face. See your blood spilling down in place of His. You should have been there, but Jesus took your place. Thinking about that is very humbling……..Shouldn’t that humble you this morning? As James MacDonald said “You can't understand the Gospel until you understand this idea of substitution. Jesus' death was in the place of every person who has ever lived. I am in that line. You are too. Each of us deserves to die in payment for our own sin, but Jesus stepped in and took that penalty for each of us.

What are you boasting in Christian Brother or Sister?

Is your skills and accolades?
Is it your looks and riches?
Is it your athleticism?
Is it your job or certificates of higher education?
Is it your trade or ability to craft things with your hands?
Is it your favorite hockey player or team?
Is it your family?
Is it you?

Paul is very clear in this closing section of his letter! (v11-v13) Why do I say that? Paul lets them know “See with LARGE LETTERS I am writing to you with my own hands.” Why Paul says this is unclear and it cannot be interpreted dogmatically, In one camp they say “it’s because he had poor eye-sight.” And they refer back to Gal 4:13-15The other camp says “Paul used bold block leaders to emphasize the importance of the context rather than its usual form.” And they would refer to the present text (v12) “IT IS THOSE WHO WANT TO MAKE A GOOD SHOWING IN THE FLESH…” Whichever it is……is not the main point, and not worth starting a new denomination over it. But the main point is “What are you boasting in?”

John Piper said this in sermon “Boasting Only In The Cross” You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by a few great things. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on for centuries and into eternity, you don't have to have a high IQ or EQ; you don't have to have to have good looks or riches; you don't have to come from a fine family or a fine school. You have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things, and be set on fire by them. Acts 20:24 reveals Paul’s heart for the Cross "I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." One thing mattered to Paul and it should matter to us! That you and I finish our course; run our race with endurance and our eyes focused on the glorious Christ. Philippians 3:7-8 speaks of what we are to be boasting in "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 refuse, in order that I may gain Christ." 

“Boasting” The basic meaning of the word is "to praise, or "to puff up oneself"" Usually when Scripture talks about idle words we think about profanity, but it can also be the sin of bragging. This sin is very easy to commit and we can fall to boasting without even knowing it. I have to constantly ask myself did I handle that discussion with grace and truth or did I just want to boast and prove them wrong?

Boasting is Sin

Jer 9:23-25 says “Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD. "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised." Psalm 75:4-5 "I said to the boastful, 'Do not deal boastfully,' And to the wicked, 'Do not lift up the horn. Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.' "

False teacher love to do it

Jude 16 “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.” Gal 6:12-13 says “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.”

What is Paul saying? Its man centered and man-made efforts to please God with their outward Christianese. They have no concern about pleasing God by an inward righteousness grounded in Christ alone and His precious gospel. They are more concerned how they look and impress other men by outward legalism. Look at me I don’t do this or that and defiantly would never do ______- fill in the blank. Only concerned by an outward showing, an attitude of human righteousness. Remember what Jesus said “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matt 23:27. Outward appearance and keeping an image to boast in the flesh destructive. Not only destructive it labels you a coward and spineless weasel. (v12b) “simply that they may not persecuted for the cross of Christ.” The Judaizers not only were proud but they were cowards as well. They were never willing to pay the price of persecution in order to identify themselves with Jesus Christ. They might use His name and attend church to look good in the community. They have a wonderful outward devotion to making displays of religious devotion that require no heart righteousness or dependence on the Holy Spirit. It’s the idea that they think people observe them and say “Wow! Joe is a super religious guy. He attends church every Sunday and prays at every meal.” It’s superficial and empty full of dead men’s bones. We need to proceed with extreme caution if this is how we see the Christian life. Any religion that relies on the flesh and promotes religious superiority has no part in Christ and is damable by association. Matt 23:15 Jesus said “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte (a person who comes over from a foreign nation, religion, or sect to join us… a convert.) and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” SO WHEN IS OR IS IT EVER OK TO BOAST THEN? YES IN ITS PROPER CONTEXT. The only time we as god’s children should ever boast is….

In our weakness

2 Cor 11:30 says “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.”

In our lack of eloquence

1 Cor 2:1-5 is very clear about this “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
In the cross of Jesus Christ

And here in Paul’s final words to the churches we see that truth "May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (v14)

Only boasting in the cross of Jesus Christ. What Paul is saying! It’s my single idea, my single goal and my single passion. “Only boast in the cross.” The word can be translated "exult in" or "rejoice in." Only exult in the cross of Christ. Only rejoice in the cross of Christ. Paul says let this be your single passion, you single boast and joy and exultation. Our lives are to emulate this truth by living each and every day in this MOMENT! The ONE THING that you love, the one thing that you cherish, the one thing that you rejoice in and exult over……… be the cross of Jesus Christ.
What does your life emulate the most? Is it Christ or self? Because Paul closes this letter by saying…….. 

A cross centered life is humble not prideful (v12-v13) 

False religion promotes self, self-interest and their own agenda and they are compromisers who want to avoid any kind of persecution. The cross is about sacrifice and His unmerited grace, humility and willingness to go to the cross to have His blood shed for our pride and rebellion.

 A cross centered life boasts in the cross not self (v14a)

As Paul says “I will never” which is the strongest expression he could us to emphasize his point. Do not ever boast in anything other than the cross. It’s all about Him and overflowing grace that saved my wretched soul from eternal damnation.
A cross centered life treasures Christ not the world (v14b)

The cross has a present power in our lives. The cross has the power to free us from the “world’s system of bondage” My greatest achievement in life is not what I’m capable of, but what He has done in and through me for His glory and my good by setting me apart unto Him and not this world.
A cross centered life values spiritual transformation not external rituals (v15-v16)

The cross has done for us what the flesh couldn’t do. As new creations in Christ, we are now for a new creation. We enjoy this new blessing because of the cross and the freedom it brings. It’s not about my church attendance and outward ability, but an inward heart transformation of grace to desire the things of God.
A cross centered life walks in truth not error (v16)

Paul says this new gospel community, called “the church” walks by a “standard” which means a measuring rod or carpenter’s rule. Peace and mercy are for those who remain faithful in the truth. One more reason why theology matters to the Christian. We walk in His truth as He leads to the promise “eternal life” with Him. 

A cross centered life seeks to please Christ not man (v17-v18)

“let no one cause me trouble” means I will not allow myself to be troubled, harassed or bothered by the agenda and rules of people. Our lives matter and we live for someone else! Jesus Christ. Paul can say “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” referring to the wounds he received numerous times thought-out his missionary journeys. Paul was a faithful messenger and scarred messenger for the precious gospel. This portion of scripture shows Paul’s great love for the Savior. He not only bore the spiritual marks of a believer, he also bore the literal scars for his obedience to Jesus. This verse reflects Christ’s call to all of us.

God forms a family through the gospel. Our lives have been changed and transformed by the gospel. Now may grace multiply to us as we live cross-centered lives for His glory and our good. The Sunday question! What are you glorying in brothers and sisters? Is it Christ and His glory cross or are you boasting in you and works righteousness?

Close with “When I survey the Wondrous Cross” Hymn 258


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