Pastor Randy’s Top 66 –
This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight’, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23-24
There are fifty-two chapters and fourteen hundred verses to pick from in Jeremiah, but there’s no doubt as to the verses I would choose to write about – Jeremiah 9:23-24. And speaking of not having any doubt: there’s no doubt that we live in a world (especially here in America) that loves to boast – from our President, to our athletes, and certainly the music/movie/television celebrities that fill the media outlets with their self-proclaimed accolades. I’m all for having confidence and speaking your mind in a loving and helpful manner, but boasting, pride, cockiness, arrogant bragging, and inappropriate swaggering – while then insulting those ‘not as special or smart or rich or strong’ – has become the part and parcel of the American culture. As a meme that I recently saw says it: “May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook”.
But as we all know – and if you don’t, then here’s a slap of reality for you – your ‘wisdom’ or intelligence may dissolve into gibberish when you age; your muscle/fat ratio and then your health in general may vanish in the blink of an eye; your riches won’t buy you love and peace; just one mistake by your investment firm, or a sudden bankruptcy from the company you depended on, can put you in the poor house. Just ask Job.
Jeremiah was referred to as the ‘weeping prophet’ because of his heartbreak over the sins and disobedience of Israel, and over their soon dispersion and captivity by their enemies. One of their many sins was their boasting – boasting about being ‘chosen’ even though they didn’t live like it; boasting about their so-called wisdom; their might/strength; their material possessions.
But Jeremiah is reminding them – and us – that those things, as nice and admirable as they may be, are inadequate, fleeting, and God-given anyway, so they really can’t boast about what THEY have accomplished or acquired because, as James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
What’s really important? Well, Israel is in big trouble because they have completely ignored the Lord, and that can easily become a way of life for me and you – even as Christians. We cannot boast about our church size; our preaching skills; our counseling ability (….looks like I’m speaking to myself and my pastor friends right now!), nor can we or should be boast in anything other than in what the LORD has done.
But what the Lord does allow or encourage us to boast in is that we know the Lord as our God and Savior, and that we are growing in our understanding of the attributes, character and nature of God. And even this is God-given, so we can’t take credit for it, although we have to ‘work at’ part of it
First, the Lord wants us to “know” Him, and this is connected to the previous post’s verse from Isaiah, that speaks about trusting our complete life in the Lord’s hands. As I said in my discussion about Isaiah 26: 3-4, we aren’t able to trust – have the saving faith that St. Augustine referred to as fiducia – unless the Lord in His mercy and grace grants or enables us to have this trust, which only comes when the Spirit of Christ spiritually transforms us from spiritually dead enemies of God, into spiritually alive children of the King.
So, our “boasting in God” begins after we come to a saving faith in Christ through God’s grace in bringing His life – the life of Christ and His Spirit into us. When we recognize that we are saved – redeemed – born again – spiritually transformed – by HIS grace and HIS grace alone – then and only then can we truly boast in what HE HAS DONE.
But then the Lord doesn’t want us to just get our ‘salvation pin’ to wear on our lapel that we can ‘show off’ as we strut down the boulevard! Jeremiah tells us that the Lord delights – and anything that the Lord ‘delights’ in, we ought to strive to walk in – to grow in our understanding of Him. And specifically, we are to grow in our understanding of His kindness, justice and righteousness – in other words – we are to grow in our knowledge of Who the Lord God is.
Just as you would want to know more and more about your best friend, which will only increase your love for each other, the Lord wants us to grow deeper in love with Who He really is. Now, the Lord isn’t interested in us just getting smarter, or acquiring more information about His omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, holiness, aseity, justice, mercy, love, grace, and more, but rather, as we grow in our understanding through His Word (reading and studying the Word on our own) as well as good teaching/preaching through godly writers and preachers on the subject of God’s attributes. Good resources: the entire Bible, but especially the Psalms, Isaiah, the Gospels, Romans and Ephesians, and books such as A.W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy”; J.I. Packer’s “Knowing God”; Arthur Pink’s “The Attributes of God”; and Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”.
Again, it’s fine and helpful to become well acquainted with the ‘end times’, Reformed theology, the gifts of the Spirit, and any number of fascinating topics, but more than anything else the Lord wants His children to be like Mary (of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus) and sit at His feet learning of and basking in the presence of His perfect character.
To sum it all up: Remember, no matter how big your house is, how recent your car is, how big your bank account it, how many millions of albums you’ve sold, how many advanced degrees you’ve earned through college, how far you can run, or how much you can bench press; our graves will always be the same size.
Stay humble….esteem others greater than yourself…grow in God’s grace….and by faith, come to ‘know’ the Lord through a salvation of grace through faith; and mature in your understanding of Him. Then you can boast – but you’re boasting will really be about the Lord and His grace that enabled you to ‘succeed’ in your spiritual maturity in the first place.