WORSHIP AND BOAST IN JESUS CHRIST! (2)
By Pastor Paulus Budiono
Lemahputro, Sunday, November 10, 2019
We must not stand idle! We must do something for the Lord as He has saved us. We have heard the testimony from the founders of The Gideons International who have distributed copies of God’s Word to all corners of the world (199 countries). Here we see how a great ministry started with a small thing, a little prayer of a mother from a small town in Wisconsin, United States. She was dying and asked her 12-year-old son to promise her that he would read his bible every day. Then, the mother died and a few years later the son (27 years old of age) became a traveling salesman. Together with two other Christian travelers, who shared the same vision of "going and bearing fruit" (John 15:16), founded The Gideons International. To begin with, they placed 25 bibles in hotel rooms (1908). And today, they have partnered with local churches to share 2.1 billion Bibles in 101 languages for free. How about us? Have we worked and born fruit for Him?
What kind of work did Paul do while he was in prison? In suffering and limited activities, Paul wrote, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.... "(Philippians 3: 5-12)
Paul might be considered a madman by some people. He left behind things that were gain to him only to end up in prison, without knowing whether or not he would be released. Don't many Christians doubt the authenticity of the book of Revelation? They assume the Apostle John, out of his tremendous suffering on the island of Patmos, hallucinated and wrote stories similar to the Book of Daniel. And some others treat the Book of Genesis as a work of fiction and so on.
Trade, generally speaking, is always based on profit and loss. A trader sells goods (loss) to gain money (profit). On the contrary, the Apostle Paul threw away his identity and his pride (profit) that had been attached to him for decades to suffer a loss. How strange is that? Here, Paul exhorted the Philippians to hold the same convictions as he did ─ but for those who were differently minded, Paul hoped that God would make it plain to them also (Philippians 3: 15-16). Meaning: had the Philippians disagreed with Paul, they were advised not to be complacent. Instead, they had to adopt developing attitude and the Lord would set it right.
Application: a pastor must understand the spiritual condition of his congregation. If they do not fully understand God's Word, the pastor should pray for them so that the Holy Spirit will open their minds and hearts.
What was the Apostle Paul’s pride before he knew Jesus?
♦ Circumcised on the eighth day → according to custom, physically
Jesus was circumcised when he was 8 days old (Luke 2:21). Isaac was also circumcised when he was 8 days old (Genesis 21: 4). Evidently, circumcision was enjoined upon Abraham (Genesis 17:10). Circumcision became the pride of the Jews; it was a reproach for the Jews to be uncircumcised. If they believed in Christ and failed to carry out the practice, there would be a high risk of persecution.
The Apostle Paul was so proud of his circumcision. But what did he say after he knew Christ? Galatians 6: 11-12 write, "See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”
The Apostles Paul and Barnabas were against some Jews who came from Judah to Antioch to teach their brothers that they could not be saved unless they observed the whole ceremonial law as given by Moses (Acts 15: 1-2). As a result, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders to seek a resolution to the issue. A hearing was held in Jerusalem led by the Apostles Peter and James (the brother of Jesus). After going through a heated debate, Peter made a final ruling on the case that the Gentiles who had received Jesus need not be circumcised. God knew the hearts of men and He received them. And He granted them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to the Jews (vv. 3-9).
Jews were proud of outward circumcision. And they resorted strong-arm method to the Gentile converts to be circumcised to avoid persecution, bullying and even punishment. Paul himself suffered, for the sake of Christ, eventhough he had been circumcised.
To the Gentiles in Galatia, the Apostle Paul restated that the circumcised Jews only boasted about physical circumcision yet they themselves did not keep the law (Galatians 6:13). Paul firmly said that he would not boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ (v. 14).
The Apostle Paul was born in 3 CE, converted to faith in Jesus Christ about 35 CE and died a martyr in 67 CE. From this, it can be inferred that he had been boasting about his circumcision for 32 years before he finally came to know Christ. Unconsciously, his wrong source of boasting caused his misdirected zeal. When he mentioned about spiritual circumcision, the Jews were outraged and persecuted him.
What do we boast about in worship? Is it the perfect liturgy? Is it the grand church building? Is it the high church attendance? Or, is it the stunning choir performance? The fact is, when we talk about spiritual matters, some cannot endure them. They prefer the latest gossip.
The Apostle Paul never coerced anyone. Rather, he displayed significant transformation. For him, circumcision of the heart was far more important than outward circumcision (Romans 2: 28-29). In the Old Testament, God reminded the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness to circumcise their hearts and stiffen their necks no longer (Deuteronomy 10:16). Sadly, they soon forgot about it, including the Apostle Paul. They were more proud of outward circumcision.
♦ Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe Benjamin → clan / tribe
How did he know that he was an Israeli? Did his parents tell him that he was an Israelite, God's chosen nation (Deuteronomy 7: 6)? As a Pharisee, I’m sure Paul must have studied the five books of Moses. He knew the Pentateuch inside out from an early age. And he prided himself on it.
Who was this Israel nation? God changed the name of Jacob (= a deceiver) to Israel (= a victorious prince) after Jacob wrestled with "a man" until daybreak. Jacob refused to let "the man" go before he blessed him. Eventually Jacob's name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32: 24-28). Jacob used his new given name, Israel, only after returning to the Land of Canaan and going to Bethel for the second time where he built an altar. From then on, he was called Jacob no longer but Israel (Genesis 35:10). Paul was very obsessed with the name Israel. Paul, regrettably, read the Pentateuch but never knew Jesus personally. It only made him proud. Didn't Jesus rebuke the Jews who observed the Mosaic Law but sought to kill Him (John 7:19)? Be aware! If we read the Bible but never find Jesus in it, our biblical knowledge will make us proud.
Who was this Benjamin? Joseph's younger brother and Jacob's favorite son after he thought he had lost Joseph (Genesis 44: 27-29). After Benjamin was detained in Egypt, Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers (Genesis 44: 18-34; 45: 1-3).
Paul came from the tribe of Benjamin (= a wolf that tears its prey). Wolves have violent personalities. And Paul was proud of his violent acts. He proudly acted like a wolf hunting down and tearing flocks of sheep apart. He confessed to King Agrippa about his cruel actions against the Name of Jesus of Nazareth. He locked up many Jesus' followers in prison, tortured them to blaspheme their faith, pursued them and voted on their dead sentence (Acts 26: 9-11). And he also took part in Stephen’s death (Acts 8: 1). Nonetheless, Paul received God's grace after a divine encounter. He was chosen to be His instrument and to suffer for His name (Acts 9: 15-16).
After the Apostle Paul tossed away all of his most prized gains, he suffered physical and mental losses while learning to know the crucified Christ. Don't we often misunderstand this? We thought being a Christian means living comfortably and happily in abundance. With this in mind, the true function and benefits of the cross have been nullified.
♦ As to the Law, a Pharisee → academic
Paul was very proud of his Pharisaic status. Whom did Jesus often rebuke? The Pharisees. They were the lovers of money (Luke 16:14). Prior to that, Jesus warned them about serving two masters – God and Mammon (v. 13).
The Pharisees forgot the Word of God in Jeremiah 9: 23-24 that said, "Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.
The Pharisees were wise but greedy for money. The Lord reminded the wise, the mighty and the rich to boast of this, “that they understand and know Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things.” So, we can be rich but let’s not be greedy for wealth because later on our riches will ensnare and enslave us. We can be wise but let’s not be autocratic and bossy. We can be smart but let’s not be a know-it-all and the like.
How can we understand and know Him? By reading God's Word. That way, we can really know Jesus and we know the right things to do as well as the evil things to avoid.
If in the Old Testament God chose Israel, in the New Testament He has chosen the fool, the weak, the base and the despised of the world to nullify the things that are honorable so that no man may boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:27 -29). He was even willing to choose His Only Begotten Son whom He loved so dearly to be a Servant and a Man who was obedient to the point of death on a cross for sinful men (Philippians 2: 6-8). Jesus became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. So that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1: 30-31).
Our Lord is so great and amazing. He was able to transform the arrogant Paul (who had prided himself on his status for decades) into a humble man (who, for the sake of Christ, had suffered the loss of all things and considered them as dung). Now, take careful note of this: if we take pride in our achievements, it is synonymous with considering Jesus as dung. On the other hand, if we consider Jesus the most glorified treasure, all pride is garbage. And others will see through us that only Jesus is worthy of pride.
Jesus is worthy to be magnified because He suffered to the point of death on a cross and He rose again victoriously. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2: 5-11).
We are not to take pride in customs, outward appearances, races and academic achievements but rather let’s boast in Christ Jesus alone. That way, our Heavenly Father is pleased and the Name of Jesus Christ be glorified. Amen.