Once, in a chapel lesson, a young ministry student stood up to present his lesson; the topic for the day was “Humility.” After discussing the value of such within the life of the Christian, the young preacher ended by stating, “Humility is so important for a Christian. I should know—no one is humbler than me!” Being in the audience, and knowing this student, I couldn’t help but laugh. In reality, he was one of the humblest men I knew; yet his remark seemed arrogant to others.
As Christians we realize that an arrogant spirit has no place in the church (Phi. 2:3). Pride is considered by many to be the root of all sin. It was an appeal to pride which encouraged Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit and rebel against God (Gen. 3:5). So, a boasting Christian seems completely out of place—until we come to the book of Hebrews.
One of the major themes within Hebrews is endurance and faithfulness. The disciples he is writing to were considering going back to their old way of life (possibly Judaism) and the author is attempting to show them the importance, benefits, and consequences of “neglecting so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3). He warns them about the Israelites and their rejection by God because of their unwillingness to believe in His promises and remain faithful (3:16-18). These were the same people that God had saved from Egyptian bondage (3:16). The writer’s point is this: If the Israelites were once saved by God and subsequently lost because of their unbelief, what makes you think the same thing couldn’t happen to you? The entire book is a clear warning against those who would reject faith in Jesus and return to their former way of life. As a side note, an honest reading of Hebrews compels us to recognize the terrible reality that a Christian can, in fact, fall from grace.
The message behind this anonymous book (possibly thought to be a record of a sermon by some) remains just as applicable today as it was 2,000 years ago. The temptation to turn back, to reject our life in Christ for our old ways, is a constant possibility. In our secular, materialistic, hedonistic society that threat may be more present than ever. How can we guard against such an insidious deception?
We are given some valuable insight in Hebrews 3:5:
Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
We remain the house of God if we make a white knuckled grip on confident, boasting hope. Again, this doesn’t seem like Christian language. Confident boasting seems like something you witness at the local bar, not within the church of Christ. Where does this boasting hope come from? Paul tells us where it comes from in 1 Cor. 1:27-29, 31:
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God… so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
So, our boasting doesn’t come from our own power, ability, or success—God destroys them within the gospel. Before the cross, we are all exposed as vile sinners in need of the grace of the Lord. Still, Paul sees Christians as boasting by the end of the text; their boasting is “in the Lord.” The confident boasting of a blood bought Christian is in what God has done, is doing, and will do for them in Jesus Christ. It is a life lived in such confident expectation of unimaginable glory, pleasure, and happiness, that it can’t help but boast to others about it. These are the Christians whose greatest joys don’t come from the temporal pleasures of this life, but have a happiness rooted deeply in the eternal. They will speak of their coming inheritance often. During difficult times they will lean on, and openly talk about, the hope that they look forward to in the resurrection. These are the type of boasting Christians God is looking for.
But what does that have to do with guarding ourselves against unfaithfulness to the Lord? When we truly catch a glimpse of the great hope that we have in Jesus Christ, when we learn to hunger for the grace that will be brought at his return, we fight off the temptation to return to our old life. There is no true and lasting hope in this life without Jesus. Because of this, we must daily guard our hearts from backsliding by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:1) through meditation on scripture and the great promises God gives to us. We must remind ourselves that God’s future is far greater than any present pleasure sin offers.
And that’s something to boast about.