My lesson tonight at the Transformation House was based on chapter 33 in John Piper's book The Passion of Jesus Christ. Its primary text was Galatians 6:14, and the premise is that Christ died on the cross so that all the boasting we do as believers might be a boasting in the cross. It's quite clear in Scripture that boasting in ourselves, what we have or do, is contrary to God's plan for the world. Boasting in ourselves over such things is misplaced praise, as if we are responsible for our very lives and the things we have been able to do. The Bible teaches instead that God is the giver of life and the one who enables us to do all things, and His desire is that as we come to understand this, we would render praise to God as is fitting for all the good things we enjoy in this life and all the bad things God uses for good in our lives.
This sort of life is only possible through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. He received in his flesh willingly, according to the plan of God, the penalty for our self-centered sin. All who trust in this substitution no longer stand condemned and are freed from an essentially self-centered life, so it makes sense that the cross would become the Christian's greatest treasure. According to the Bible, it frees a man or woman to live life as God intended which is by nature the most satisfying thing for him or her to do and the most honoring to God.
I believe these truths and teach them on Tuesday evenings to a group of men who could be my fathers (or at least my decade-older brothers). It is no secret that they have lived lives centered on themselves, particularly as a result of destructive addictions. I've seen several times now guys come through who stay clean for a few weeks, get tired of living under someone else's authority or in shared living space, and decide to get back out on their own. They think that they just need to keep strong like they've been doing, maybe with a meeting at AA or NA to check in with a support group. Unfortunately, it is this pride in what they've done, even for a short amount of time, that takes them prematurely out of a safe environment and right back into temptation's arms. Inevitably, they relapse, and sometimes we'll get to see them again at the T-House. The others I pray we'll see again if possible.
This is why it encourages me so much when the guys respond like they did to tonight's lesson. A new believer was eager to learn, to have all his questions answered so he can understand what the Bible teaches about his relationship with God. An mature believer was willing to confess that he often feels the temptation to enjoy sin and regret the life he left behind. And my favorite of the evening, a 51 year old man was able to confess that until our very lesson tonight he would say things like, "I came to the T-House because I was tired of getting drunk and high. I'm making changes by keeping strong. I have a job because I get myself up every morning at 4 AM." Now, he realizes it hasn't been all him at all... These things are mercies from a God whose kindness is intended to lead men to repentance. And as a Christian, he can boast in the cross of Christ Jesus, through which he's been made a new man and received a Spirit which strengthens him to make such wonderful changes in his life.