Forbidden to Boast? Well, Not Exactly.

The Death of Christ

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
 Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
 I sacrifice them to His blood.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
By: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Listen as you read.  This is a beautiful piano version by Norm Hastings.

We begin this stanza by picking up where we left off in the first.  Having counted our gains as losses, and poured contempt on our pride, Watts now invites us to ask our Lord to forbid us to boast of anything except the death of Christ our God.  So there are really two elements in play in the first part of the stanza which we will focus on in today’s Tuning.

Boasting in Christ

It is a very clever turn of phrases used here.  The first idea proposed is this notion that God would forbid us to boast, except about Jesus’ sacrifice.  I want to approach this instead by looking at that which he is actually implying we will boast.

Though this stanza seems to start off with this idea of desiring to be forbidden to boast, it is really a prayer that we will boast in something: the incredible sacrifice of Christ on the cross, His Death.  To someone who knows nothing of the efficacy of His sacrifice, this would seem like a remarkably macabre and morbid request.  Why would someone want to boast in the death of someone else?

Ah, but we do know of the impact of His laying down His life.  Or better yet, have begun to know it.  Though there are many Scriptures which speak of what Christ accomplished on the cross, consider this one.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…1 Peter 3:18 ESV

What do we see in this one verse?

  1. He suffered once for sins
  2. He, the righteous One, did this for us, the unrighteous
  3. He brought us to God
  4. He was put to death
  5. But made alive in the spirit

He took care of sin, brought us to God, died but was made alive.  If that is not something to boast in, then there never has been.

So it begs the question.  Why don’t we do it more often?  Sure, when we are gathered together singing His praises, boasting of Him comes easy.  But often outside of that gathering, not so much.

While I think the immediate defense of our actions more often stems from the opposition we might face, or the lack of interest people seem to have had in the past, I wonder if there might be a simpler explanation.  Do we really grasp the magnitude of what Jesus has already accomplished?

The answer is yes, and no.  Yes we have begun to grasp it, as only eyes of faith can, but do we really understand just how remarkable this all is?  That’s the no.

Boasting

I believe if we did have a better grasp of it we would be more quick to boast.  And what makes me so sure?  Consider the things about which you easily boast.  I actually want you to allow a few to come to the surface of your heart before you read the second idea, but let me help.

Let’s first be clear about what boasting is.  To boast is to talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.  Did that help clarify things, and maybe remind you of the last time you did that?  Most of us are probably more guilty of the old, “That’s nice, but I think my ______ is a little better than yours.”  We do this boasting without even noticing.

Boasting in Nothing Else

So let’s think about it this way.  Have you ever caught yourself sharing a litany of accomplishments and suddenly felt like you had gone a little too far?  Maybe it was not even about yourself, but someone of whom you are proud, or in whom have a vested interest?

Maybe you are thinking, “Far be it from me” to boast in what I have or can do, but this is something most of us struggle with on some level, even if the boasting is internal.  All a vain attempt to feel a little better about ourselves, compared to the person to whom we are boasting.

What we really long for is a place of rest where we do not need to boast.  That place of rest is found at the foot of the cross.  Looking up to behold what our Savior has accomplished, puts everything else into perspective.

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes with the video log below which will guide you through an experience of reorienting yourself to Jesus and His cross.   These are available every week to our Subscribers, less often to our Free Members, and only occasionally to everyone, like this one.  I pray it will help you boast in the work of Christ today, and keep you from boasting in anything else.

Happy Tuning!

Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross.  I want to boast in it everyday so please show me the wonder of Your redeeming love again today.   May that awareness limit my willingness to boast in my accomplishments, until it disappears entirely.   In Jesus name.  Amen.

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Please enjoy this video log!  And the transcript below.

Video 4.2 Transcript

Welcome to Tuesday Tunings at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s tune our hearts.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
 Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
 I sacrifice them to His blood.

We continue the same theme from the end of the first stanza of disdain for our accomplishments.  As the prayer continues here it actually intensifies. Echo it by asking God to keep you from reveling in what you’ve done.

Now we fill the vacuum created by our unwillingness to speak of our accomplishments by making the deliberate choice to boast instead in what Christ has accomplished by His death. Ask Him to help you in this noble pursuit.

It is a good practice to routinely assess things in our lives which compete with our affection for Christ.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what those things might be for you today.

Armed with this fresh awareness, bring that brief inventory to God and denounce each item.  This will help you be unencumbered in your efforts to esteem His eternal achievements.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has surfaced in your heart, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then we will sing once more.

Sing

Take the awareness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

Paradox: Seeing Gains as Losses

When I survey the wondrous cross
  On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
  And pour contempt on all my pride.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
By: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Listen as you read.  This is a nice instrumental version.

Having surveyed the cross a bit in Tuesday’s Tuning, inviting our heart to come back to a place of wonder, now turn your mind to the discipline of embracing the implications of the cross for your daily living in these Thursday Thoughts.

The Prince of Glory

A quick search of several different translations turned up zero occurrences of this name for Jesus.  While the King James refers to God as the “Lord of glory” in I Corinthians 2:8, nowhere is the phrase “Prince of glory” found in Scripture.  I find that interesting because it is such an apt name for Christ.

When you think of Jesus, what is your first thought of Him?  Healing the sick?  Feeding the thousands?  Walking on water?  Maybe even suffering on the cross?  Is it something like this image?  I must confess, it is not my first thought, yet what a powerful default mental image to conjure.  I suppose there are times in exuberant worship I have thought of Jesus like this, but not often enough.

What a beautiful image to create with his words to contrast the treatment He deserved with the treatment He received.  I want to come back to this image in my mind so as to cultivate a loftier view of Jesus in the days ahead.  I am thankful to Watts for using it, and maybe even creating it, but am far more thankful to Jesus for being it, yet humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Though I want to imagine Jesus like this more often, I do not want to lose another way of viewing Him that I often return to, which allows me to rightly see so many other things.

Backdrop of the Cross

Though the wonder and grandeur of the person of Jesus Christ and His unparalleled work on the cross  are remarkable in and of themselves, I think it is imperative that we also learn to see all of life through another lens.

“I always view my circumstances against the backdrop of the cross, where God demonstrated once and for all His deep love for me.”  Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God

For years I have returned to this practice to help contextualize things I have faced.  What Blackaby is encouraging here is the development of the ability or discipline to see everything, or better yet, interpret everything in light of the reality of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The cross changed the course of human history so it certainly has implications on the circumstances of my life.

Gains as Losses

The Christian Life is full of paradoxes.

  • die to live
  • give to receive
  • love your enemies
  • gains as losses

When I see the cross accurately for what it represents, the love of God on full display, I am left with little choice but to consider my “richest gains” as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.  But how do I do that practically?

When something is valuable to you, you treat it as such.  You protect it.  Defend it.  Spend time just thinking about it.  When we esteem to0 highly any of our gains, things we have earned or maybe simply been given, things can get out of balance.  It is not long before other things of value in our lives suffer from our inability to maintain a healthy perspective.

Ridiculous example.  Netflix and sleep.  Many of us have shows we like to watch.  Sometimes we stay up later than we should to enjoy another episode.  We let our desire to be entertained outweigh other things of value, namely in our example, sleep.  Yes, I have been guilty of this in case you are wondering.  I know it is a silly example, but hopefully it illustrates the danger, and the opportunity.

What gains, or things of value, might it profit you to consider as loss?  Maybe it’s another Netflix episode.  Maybe is something far more valuable.  Nothing compares with what you will actually gain by considering those things rightly.  Oh for the ability to survey the cross like that. Holy Spirit, help us.

Jesus, thank You laying down Your life on the cross.  It is wonderful indeed, and I know that full well.  But I long to know it more.  Help me to think rightly of the gains in my life, and to even consider them as losses, if that means I will now You more. In Jesus name.   Amen.

Joyful Thinking!

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Subscribers enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 4.1 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

When I survey the wondrous cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

How wondrous to see the cross of Jesus Christ for what it truly is, a symbol of His love for us.  Once it was folly to you, but now the power of God. Thank Jesus for giving you eyes of faith to not only see, but rightly appraise the value of His cross.

 On which the Prince of glory died,

Philippians 2:6-8 ESV

though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus had to condescend so far just to become like us, because He was after all the Prince of glory.  But His humbling did not stop there. The Ever-Living God died for us. Our minds can barely conceive the wonder of His love.  Thank Him for dying for you.

My richest gain I count but loss,

Philippians 3:8 ESV

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

So whatever was to my profit or gain I consider as loss that I may know Christ.  Ask Him to help you rightly value your accomplishments, and His.

 And pour contempt on all my pride.

Proverbs 11:2 ESV

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Oh that we would routinely see our pride with scorn, as opposed to defending it.  Pride is disgraceful, but never more clearly than when juxtaposed with the humility of Christ.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you acknowledge and deal with your pride.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

When I survey the wondrous cross
  On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
  And pour contempt on all my pride.

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

What’s Effecting Your Appraisal of the Cross?

The Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
  On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
  And pour contempt on all my pride.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
By: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Listen as you read.  This is a nice instrumental version.

Before we begin, would you please take a few moments and look at the cross.  As you do, ask the Holy Spirit to give you fresh eyes to see it, and all that it represents and symbolizes to you as a follower of Christ.  Survey the cross.

Survey

One of the reasons I love the hymns so much is because the writers chose their words so carefully.  It may not have been quite so unusual in 1707 when Issac Watts used the word survey, but I believe it is an excellent choice still today.  I asked you above to look at the cross first, then to survey it.  But let us take a quick look at how much richer a word survey truly it.

Survey says…

I must admit, when I think of the word survey in this context, the idea of forming or sharing my opinion or perspective never even crosses my mind, but it is a good place to begin.  Different pronunciation, different meaning.  In a sense I suppose Watts is stating his opinion and experience of the cross, and although it is a singular survey, it is a challenging, compelling and powerful one.  So much so that it influences and shapes that of those who read and sing his text thoughtfully.  Frankly though, this is just a beginning point.

Silhouette background illustration of a land surveyor.

This is the image that first comes to mind for me when I see this word, survey.  In it we begin to develop a different perspective as we consider the cross.  Let’s consider the definition of this activity as found at Thought Co.

In its broadest sense, the term surveying encompasses all activities that measure and record information about the physical world and the environment. The term is often used interchangeably with geomatics which is the science of determining the position of points on, above or below the surface of the earth.

This definition intrigued me, not only because of the conciseness of the first part, but also the latter which referred to “on, above or below the surface of the earth” all three of which the cross has implications upon, not to mention the term geomatics, which was a new one to me.

And so we arrive at the term as is used in the hymn.  Survey, to look carefully and thoughtfully at the cross so as to appraise it.  And that is not easy to do, for a couple reasons.  First on which is that we have become so familiar with the cross that we think we have ascertained its full meaning.  We wear it, decorate with it, and adorn our churches with it in attempts to keep this powerful symbol before us, but in so doing may suffer the unintended consequence of diluting the true power of what it represents.  I pray as we journey through Lent and make our approach to Holy Week the Spirit will allow us to see the cross in a while new light, even as we declare again what mercy has done for us at it!

Pride

And herein lies the second reason appraising the cross is not easy, our pride.  As much as we know we desperately need the cross, we too often live as though we do not.  Jesus invites us in Luke 9:23 to “deny (ourselves) and take up (our) cross daily” but we would often rather admire His.

Contempt is the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.  It is the last part of the definition that comes closest to what Watts is saying.  This is a very strong statement, and appropriately so.  It is exceedingly so when juxtaposed with the wonder that fills our hearts when we survey the cross, and at the same time still opposes it.

What fills you with pride?  Or better yet, how does pride slowly seep into your life?  Are you aware of the gateways?  Even that which at the surface is not a bad thing, like the ability to sing, can become a hindrance if we derive our identity from it.

Imagine this image is coffee.  Now imagine it is laced with acid.  That changes it, doesn’t it?  That is effectively what pride does to everything it touches.  So Watts, filled with wonder at the sight of the cross, determines to pour scorn on his pride, and we should purpose to do the same.

Inventory

I asked above, but would encourage you to take a quick inventory of what might invite pride into your life, and be on guard against it by pouring scorn on it whenever your appraisal of it competes with your appraisal of the cross.  We will do a little more of this on Thursday, but tune your heart today with this in mind.

Happy Tuning!

Jesus, thank You for giving me the ability to see Your cross for what it is,  a wonderful expression of Your love for me.  Help me to survey it rightly and nail my pride to it regularly.  Help me tune my heart today with an awareness that my pride will mar my ability to see and respond to Your cross today, and make the necessary adjustments as I go through this day.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

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Please comment below and share if you have found this helpful in your journey of being more resonant.

Below is content available only to Subscribers.  Want to learn more about accessing all the additional material in the Subscriber Content Library, click here, or the Free Member Content Library with some examples of the Subscribers content, click here.

Subscribers, enjoy this video log!  Everyone else, the transcript below.

Video 4.1 Transcript

Welcome to Tuesday Tunings at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s tune our hearts.

When I survey the wondrous cross
  On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
  And pour contempt on all my pride.

Survey is a bit of an unusual word as it’s used here, but it’s perfect.  When we look carefully and thoroughly at the cross to appraise it, it is indeed wonderful. Thank God for the capacity to survey the cross.

Because of who He is, Jesus should never have had to die. Because of who He is, Jesus knew His was the only life that could be offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. Thank Him.

Only His death could atone for sin, and in so doing it renders everything we could ever attain or possess as comparably worthless. Ask Jesus to help you see everything accordingly which you might otherwise be tempted to do to earn His grace.

Oh for the ability to view my personal achievements beneath consideration, worthless, and even deserving of scorn that I might rightly see the wonder of His love for me displayed on the cross.  Help me Lord.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has surfaced in your heart, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then we will sing once more.

Sing

Take the awareness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

Coming in July!

This series of blogs, Wednesday Wanderings, is currently under development.  We look forward to releasing the first of these this summer, each with their own unique multimedia component like Tuesday Tunings and Thursday Thoughts!

Stay tuned for details!!