In 2013 Barna surveyed 718 self-identified Christians from a variety of denominations to find what extent their actions and attitudes line up with Jesus’s. Researchers found only 14%, or 1 in 7 Christians manages to hold Christ-like beliefs and also act in Christ-like ways. Yet, 51% or 1 in 2 Christians tend “to have attitudes and actions that are characterized by self-righteousness.” And we wonder why people aren’t flocking to Christian churches like they used to?! We wonder why we lose young people to church and to faith?! We wonder why we lose older people to church and to faith?! Oh, how times have changed!! How…time…has…changed. Our text for today is Galatians chapter 6:12-16. Paul said: 12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 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. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—even to the Israel of God.
51-53 AD friends. 51-53 AD. That’s 1,965 years ago. There were believers who said they believed in Jesus as their only all-sufficient Savior, and then acted completely the opposite. They weren’t just hypocrites, they were believe-ocrites. And so God warned them, and encouraged them on how to avoid being one yourself. That’s where I want you to go today. To rejoice if this is something that you do not struggle with, and to adjust what you’re doing if you do. As the rest of us float in between (wink-wink)…what a great lesson God teaches us today on how to avoid being a believe-ocrite! It’s actually easy, at least on paper, just work on Boasting in Christ! God help us to remember that happens inside-out, not outside-in!
Paul was dealing with former Jews who had become Christians who still believed that they needed to have circumcision in order to be a true child of God…not only did they believe this about themselves, they also tried to push it on others, or as Paul said, “compel” others… but Paul wasn’t having any of that. His simple line is one we do well to remember: 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.
Paul knew peer pressure. He knew what it was like to live in a world that constantly screamed at him, leave the faith! Leave what you have come to know! Leave letting Scripture be your only guide! Leave believing that following Jesus is more than just lovey-dovey and that it actually involved holding people accountable for sin and that following Christ means applying to yourself both law and gospel! Leave believing that there’s more to God than just a smiley face and a warm hug and someone who says with every passing day, “Live and let live- as long as they’re not hurting anyone, let them make their choices, as a matter of fact, I’ll accept their choices too!”
I mean, you think that Christianity is actually about Christ? You think that as you follow him you and may lose others, that that is okay? Even if they’re your best friends from college or high school?! Even if they’re your own family?! You’re a crazy idealist, aren’t you?! No one thinks that anymore!!
You think that life is no longer about you and your family and your friends and your status and your openness to change according to society and academia? You actually believe it when Jesus said (in our Gospel lesson today): “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? You may now. But what about when it comes time to actually live that?! Has it for you? Have you seen it for your kids? Your friends? That’s when it gets real up in here, right?! It’s not easy. So many times we fail to deny ourselves. And that’s when we act as believe-ocrites.
Paul simply reminded the Galatians the same thing that he reminds us, yes, 1965 years later us- that God isn’t having any of that.
So he sent his son.
And he sent a cross.
And on the cross his Son died.
On the cross his Son saved.
On the cross your sins of selfishness, your sins of believe-ocrisy were forgiven.
And then the Son rose again! Triumphant! Keeping promises! Validating your forgiveness! Your sins are removed!
Every one. Every time. Forgiven. So were Paul’s. What could’ve been 30-40 years of living for show, all wiped clean by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What could’ve been even longer for you, or shorter- does it really matter? All wiped clean in the blood of the Lamb.
It may be hard to believe sometimes. It’s even harder to live. But it doesn’t mean it’s not true. You’re forgiven. Now boast. That’s right. Brag. In the cross of Christ alone. That cross changes who we are. It changes what we do. It changes how we live and how we speak and how we react to things around us- whether it is a word or it is an action. Try practicing that with your family this week! Try practicing that with your spouse. Then your kids. Then try it at work or school. The Holy Spirit changes who we are because his work is made ours in faith. Jesus died for the world. The Holy Spirit brings that world to you. That’s called faith. Now live in faith. You heard Paul. Live in faith. 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.
It’s not about your body. It’s not about your family. It’s not about your friends. It’s not about society. It’s not about politics. It’s not about anything- but our Lord Jesus Christ. Through which the world has been crucified to me. And I to the world.
Don’t think it’s time for the world to change. It’s time for you to change. Or to continue to rejoice in how you already have. How you’ve already changed…so much. How you’ve already grown, so much. How you seek to keep growing now and always. God help you, from the inside out. God help us to follow you now and always. In Jesus, our Lord! Amen.