Romans 3:27-28 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded … For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
I boast far too much. Some of it is expressed; most of it is thought. Sadly, I am a hypocritical ego-maniac guilty of boasting, externally and internally, each and every day. Sure, I try as much as possible to camouflage my arrogance. Boasting is not a seemly trait for a professional minister. Who wants to be around a conceited pastor? However, the truth is the truth, and I am an addict. My arrogance is a horrible sin, and I have not even gotten to the depth of it.
How do I boast? Let me count the ways:
I boast of God-given privilege. For some reason, I look at my national heritage, family history, educational opportunities, and class-perrogatives as reasons to be proud. In some twisted way, I come to the conclusion and look down on others because I am the beneficiary of these gracious gifts. What an arrogant fool!
I boast of God-given position and prosperity. It is true, in some ways I have advanced in both profession and possessions. Again, I come to the conclusion I am superior to others who have not “climbed the ladder” or accumulated the barns like I have.
I boast of God-given characteristics and skills. Sure, there are always people better than I, but I have a tendency to discount them. It’s not flattering to compare myself to such. Instead, I focus on people less talented than I and then pat myself on the back. Now, it is true, as I get older, most of my self-applause centers on skills and characteristics I once enjoyed, but that does not keep me from boasting. I am determined to find someone to compare myself with so that I can still “be the man.”
I boast of God-given common grace. I look around at people engaged in particular “despicable” sins and pride myself on not being as depraved as they. Yes, I puff myself up by comparing the debauchery of others with my “pretty little” sins. Consequently, I dream I am better than others because I have not fallen nearly as far. My sin doesn’t stink as bad as theirs; at least that’s what I pretend.
I boast of God-given repentance and faith. I am pretty pleased with myself for changing my will, repenting, and believing on my own — which, by the way — is horrible theology and not true at all. God is the one who sovereignly gifts faith and repentance, but I’ll take the credit each and every day.
I boast of God-given intellect, enlightenment, and wisdom. Yes, I am pretty impressed with my book collection, biblical knowledge, systematic theology, and practical applications. It makes me feel special to consider myself more the “teacher” and less the “learner.”
I boast of God-given sanctification. I plagiarize the work of the Holy Spirit as I look about, see the Fruit of the Spirit, and take credit for my advancement in displaying Christ’s righteousness. I then pity the fool who is not a sharp, diligent, and committed as me. In all of this, I make much of “my faithfulness,” which is not mine at all.
And why exactly do I boast? Ultimately, I am conceited because I am theologically warped.
I do not rightly understand God’s law. I prove to have forgotten the first chapters of Romans which explain the depravity of all men and women — Jewish or Gentile. None are righteous, not even me. All I am, in and of myself, is a rebellious, idolatrous, anarchists inviting down the wrath of God upon my head. I am sinful. I am depraved — totally depraved. Never do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Never do I love my neighbor as I ought. And the list of sins in Romans 1, they are a divinely-written biography of my natural life. In regard to God and his law, who do I think I am? When I boast, I prove I am theologically warped.
I do not rightly understand God’s gospel. Again, I prove to have forgotten the first chapters of Romans. A righteousness apart from me, outside of me, from God has been graciously gifted. It has nothing to do with works. It has nothing to do with effort. It has nothing to do with God’s law — be it civil, ceremonial, or moral. I am made a perfect and holy saint by the work of Jesus Christ gifted to me by faith. In regard to positional sanctification, God has done it. In regard to progressive sanctification, God is doing it. And because I am a work in progress being completed by my Creator and Redeemer, He is so happy with the art he is developing. My Father’s affection is not growing or declining. He is perfectly satisfied with me because I am his masterpiece. Therefore, in regard to my holiness, who do I think I am? For what will I take credit? When I boast, I prove I am theologically warped.
I do not rightly understand God’s sovereign discretion. In Corinthians, God asks us the question, “Why do we act as if we have earned anything? Why do we not see all our blessings as gifts from the Father?” (1 Cor. 4:7) Friends, I do not know why God makes:
- some rich and others poor
- some healthy and others sick
- some pretty and others plain
- some gifted in this way and others gifted in that way
- some with head-starts and others with hurdles
- some with tender hearts and others who are rock-hard
- some Reformed and others not so much
- some reputable and others with sordid reputations, etc …
But this I know, God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass, and any time I applaud myself, I am proving I am theologically warped.
Therefore, as an arrogant addict consistently battling the symptoms of boasting, what do I do? I focus less on myself and more on my Savior. I turn from self-boasting to Christ-boasting. I turn from self-stroking to gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise. And as God helps me understand how grand he is, and how needy am I, I am rightly humbled from the inside-out.
Yes friends, the Gospel saves us from God’s wrath and hell.
It also saves us from seeking approval based upon self-introspection and neighbor-inspection.
Then, it also frees us up to look with mercy and grace towards our neighbors — none of whom are worst or lesser than we — all of whom need the gift of Jesus Christ and his benefits. We are the most humble who understand God’s law, God’s gospel, and God’s sovereign discretion best. We are those who can’t stand to look at our natural selves. We are those who need not compare ourselves with our brothers and sisters. We are those who boast most in Christ, and then find ourselves of some real ministerial use to the broken people about us.