22. Dead to the World

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 22. Dead to world 

Gal 6:14  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

The cross, a symbol. Many people wear it around their neck. Churches have it on their spire; it appears in many such places, a symbol at the heart of the Christian faith. Paul has just been speaking about those who boast in outward, physical expressions of their faith but, he says, I won’t boast in any such thing; the only thing I will ‘boast’ about, the only thing I will get excited about, is my Lord’s cross. It isn’t, he infers, what I do but what he has done that we should get excited about.

But then he says something strange as he talks about the cross: “through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  The JBP version puts this well: “God forbid that I should boast about anything or anybody except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which means that the world is a dead thing to me and I am a dead man to the world,“  and the Living Bible puts it, “Because of that cross, my interest in all the attractive things of the world was killed long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead.”  Don’t they put it so clearly, but even they need thinking about.

By coming to God in repentance we surrendered our old lives to Him for Him to make us anew. The reason He could accept us was the fact of Jesus dying on the cross to take our sin, our guilt and our punishment, as we’ve said before. But in so coming to Him we gave up the allure of the ways of the world and surrendered to the ways of God which are far better. But it is a two-way street. Not only have I died to the ways of the world, but as far as the world is concerned I am a write off. Just the other day I heard someone launching off about their mother-in-law who was ‘a born-again Christian’ and it was said in a derogatory way.

For many in the world we are irrelevant as far as they are concerned in terms of running the country, and yet isn’t it a strange thing that when Government or local government has problems in society and they are looking for help, they come to the local church because they recognise here are a group of caring people who will step up to the mark to help the community. As far as they are concerned, if we speak of the cross, we are dead people, yet as a resource for the needy community they recognise we are vital. (That doesn’t mean to say that there will not be spiritually hungry and thirsty people who won’t see is and be drawn to Christ, for our ‘good works’ are to be attractive – Mt 5:16)

The Cross is not merely a symbol, it is what divides us from the world around us and determines our lives and our future.

22. Pride

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.22

Psa 52:1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long?

Do you ever read or watch the news and wonder? So often there are ‘celebrities’ or ‘great leaders’ or leaders who think they are great, and they come over with such confidence. They have money, stardom or position and they seem so full of themselves. Perhaps you have a college lecturer like that, or a boss at work. They look and sound so sure of themselves, at least in public, and their lifestyles leave much to be desired, and they are godless. In fact they even pronounce on our folly in believing in a make believe God. They don’t need any such belief to support them. They are strong, they are powerful, they have the ear of important people, and who are you after all? You are just some insignificant Christian who doesn’t cause half the ripples in the world that they do!

Boasting is a sign of pride and pride is an overblown estimation of self. Proud people think they are in control, think they are invincible, think they are all-important, think they can do what they like and get away with it. But proud people are wrong! Proud people, although they don’t realise it, have a major problem: “God opposes the proud” (Jas 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5). The apostle Paul taught, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom 12:16). Pride we said was an overblown estimation of self. We think our cleverness or our strength or our power has got us to the place where we are, and we don’t realize that it was in fact the grace and mercy of God. We also don’t realize how vulnerable we are. How quickly we fall when the flu strikes or a previously unknown pain strikes, and fear follows a frightening diagnosis. How easily are the mighty fallen!

The heading at the top of the Psalm from which today’s question comes, indicates that David wrote this shortly after he had fled from Saul, gone to the priest for help and been seen by a man by the odd name of Doeg. Yes, this is not so much a question for God as for those who oppose God. Doeg was an Edomite and the Edomites had so often been enemies of God’s people, but Doeg curried favour with Saul to cause upset and opposition against God’s anointed man, David. Doeg was Saul’s chief shepherd (1 Sam 21:7) and Doeg told Saul where David had gone (1 Sam 22:9) and when Saul ordered the priests to be killed, only Doeg would do it (1 Sam 22:18 ,19). Only an outsider would raise his hand against God’s priests. That day he killed 85 of them.

As David writes about this he writes, “Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?Doeg may think much of himself in his own eyes, but in God’s eyes he’s a disgrace! He may think, “I’m Saul’s chief shepherd, I’m an important man and I helped the king” but God calls him a disgrace. That’s the folly of pride; it wrongly assesses itself. It thinks it’s great but the most important Assessor of all, utterly disdains it! He says through Solomon, “I hate pride and arrogance.” (Prov 8:13)

Obadiah exposed pride when he prophesied against Edom, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, `Who can bring me down to the ground?(Obad 1:3). Pride thinks it is secure. The Edomites thought that because they lived in mountain strongholds they were safe. In their pride they boasted, but the word came, I will bring you down, declares the LORD.” (Obad 1:4). David’s question in our verse today essentially is saying, “Why do you boast you silly person? Don’t you know you are answerable to God and you have no security before Him?”

This is the point, isn’t it, that the proud think they are all important and that they are secure, yet before God they are utterly weak. In that Psalm David goes on, “Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin(v.5). In other words, don’t you realize you are doomed because you oppose God? David derides him for his folly: “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!(v.7). More and more the word of God reveals the folly of this proud man. He trusted in wealth. Presumably Saul had paid him well as chief over all his flocks. He grew strong in Saul’s court by doing Saul’s ungodly and unrighteous bidding and so, foolishly, thought he was completely secure. Don’t worry about the proud; leave them to the Lord!

When Peter, quoting Proverbs, wrote, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5) he prefaced it with, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” and followed it by, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.Our call is not to join the ranks of the proud, but to remember who we are, remember our frailty and weakness and need of God, and to get our perspective right. As Paul said, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.(Rom 12:3) When we do this, it will not only act as a safety check for us, it will help us realize again the wonder of who we are in God, because we will find ourselves meditating on the wonder of what God has done for us and in us. When we do that there is no room for pride. “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded” (Rom 3:27 ). Let’s make sure that is how it is.