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Boast

On my first trip home from college my freshman year, I got my first speeding ticket. I had just gotten inside the city of Atlanta line on 75S, amidst very large trucks going very fast, and the combination of excitement to be home and the desire to get around these trucks came together at just the time the speed limit dropped. When those blue lights came on, I was devastated. I was shaking. But darn it, I couldn’t cry like I heard so often worked for the people in all those stories of getting out of tickets. So, when the officer came and went through his bit and could tell I was visibly upset and rattled, he kindly said, “Don’t worry about it, this happens to people everyday.” To which I indignantly responded, “I am not people everyday!” I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Gal. 2:20 At a Young Life camp in high school, I memorized this verse as a great summary of what it means to be a Christian. Awesome, I thought. Bring it!, I delighted. Summarizing my proper identity, these words capture who I am as well as who I am no longer. In theory, that is. The arrogance and pride expressed by my college freshman self is not in the past. Even today, my heart fights vehemently not to be confused with “everyday people”. I am not one of “those kind” of…(fill in the blank). But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Phil. 3:7-9 So, like the concept in Galatians, this one I totally get as well…until I actually have to give up what once was to my gain. Those little gains and losses come in all shapes and flavors, but here is an example of what I am thinking about: When someone casually asks, “Where did you go to college?” and I say, “Vanderbilt”, I am often met with “AHohhh!” (That was the best I could do in writing to convey the sound which is often made.) What is basically communicated in that response is that whatever assumptions they may have had about me, now they are favorably impressed. My stock value just went up, so to speak. That same response is more true of my friends who went to Harvard. They are clearly the superiors in the room once their alma mater is revealed. When following Him means removing some of these types of personal credits (the car you drive, the outfits you wear, the bands you see in concert, the politics you identify with, the places you vacation, the decor of your home) in order to be found in Him alone, it shows me how little I really comprehend my bankrupt estate apart from Jesus and how little I really grasp the extravagant gift of His righteousness offered as my own credit. The shifting tides of here and now status are so much more intoxicating than the promise of total identification with the God Man, Jesus! (What is wrong with my heart!?!…oh yeah, sin.)


Now, we all know intellectually and theologically that educational pedigree is not the way God measures the value of His children, but it is the easiest example I can think of to demonstrate my heart’s agonizing over this major theme in the Gospel – I no longer live but He lives in me/my righteousness is in the person and work of Jesus alone/I become less so that He becomes more…and over and over it is reinforced. The reason my high school enthusiasm for becoming less isn’t as easy as just being passionate for Jesus is because I really like that Ooooo and Ahhhhhhh response to my accomplishments, my associations and my relational contacts. I deeply want people to know my stock value is high, that I have credibility which gives weight to my opinions, perspective and choices. And, it isn’t always about the degree or the accomplishment itself, but the communication to the world that I know what they value and have been approved of by this or that organization, group or even individual that they find admirable. Interestingly, the approval of the most admirable One, is omitted from my equation. …not having a righteousness of my own… This phrase alone may be the most challenging aspect of my faith. I mean, I totally “get it” theologically, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of my need to be approved of by mankind. My white knuckled clinging to worthless idols (Jonah 2:8), such as varied associations which increase my stock value with a fickle few, is an indication of my lack of grasp of God’s great love and worth as well as my inherited sinful demand to my own god. But this is the very place where the person and work of Jesus is effecting change as no self-help program can. Unlike the multiple church marquees Terrell and I passed yesterday which said things like, “If you are obedient, God will bless you” and “Don’t let go of God and He won’t let go of you”, my hope is not in a sudden surge of spiritual discipline to “Let go and let God.” By God’s great mercy, I don’t “let” God do His job and fulfill His promised will. He is faithful and He completes the good work that He has begun. He is removing my idols like a parent who removes splinters from a child’s foot, even as the child protests the approach of the scary tweezers. I don’t have to be a god in the eyes of others when I am convinced that role is already filled in such a marvelous way that there is nothing I can add or do to improve upon it. As I surrender my need to be glorified in the eyes of others, I can become more interested in seeing His glory displayed in the lives of those very same “others”. As I lay down my need for others to see me in a particular way, to distinguish me from all those “others”, perhaps the focus can begin to shift from being impressed with myself to being more intensely impressed with the person and work of Jesus. I am being crucified with Christ, which is not a fun “campy” experience. But it is bringing new life, His life in me, as no other title, position, degree or affiliation can. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Rom. 5:1-2

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