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I’ve been experiencing something of a convergence of a few lines of thinking about this life we live with Jesus.

One strand comes from recent posts about Jesus’ expectations for his followers (rooted, at least in part, in John 14:12). Those thoughts drive me to consider whether I am really living into the life that Jesus wants for us. Am I participating in the “works” he himself did?

Another line of thought has come through reflecting on the life of the church pictured in Acts and their apparent expectation that the would and should participate in a ministry that looked like Jesus’ own (rooted, at least in part, in the prayer of the church in Acts 4). Do I have any expectations for what Jesus intends to do through us?

One last strand has been uncovered in some discussions with a group of friends who have been working through Paul’s letter to the Romans. In chapter fifteen, Paul shares a little with them about himself.

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:15-19)

It’s hard to miss Paul’s boasting. He gladly affirms that he has been the recipient of grace that empowers him to minister, that Gentiles are becoming an “offering” to God through him, that Christ works through him in word and deed, that in his ministry he serves with clear signs and wonders, that he ministers in the Spirit’s power, and that where he goes he fully preaches the Gospel.

As the discussion around this passage developed, we wrestled with Paul’s confident boasting. How is it that this is not prideful? How do you think of yourself this way and remain appropriately humble? As we talked, it became fairly clear.

Most of us wouldn’t talk this way because all we could boast in would be what we pull off “naturally.” That is, what happens in and through us is so thoroughgoingly “us” that, of course, the boasting would be arrogant. But not for Paul.

He lived in the reality of John 14:12. He had the kind of expectations seen in the prayer in Acts 4. He recognized that his life with Jesus was a work of grace and that Jesus intended to “show up” through his life–in markedly “non-natural” ways. To not be honest and forthright about how Jesus was showing up would be to denigrate that work of grace and to ignore the presence of the Spirit in his life.

I don’t find myself boasting in this way because . . . well, because so little of the reality of Jesus’ presence and so little of the power of the Spirit is evident in my life.

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