Every year when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announces its list of inductees, heavy metal fans are some of the first people to jump into the conversation, exclaiming that one of their favorite metal bands was snubbed yet again. There is truth in many of those assessments, and yet it reveals something important about us. Why? Because behind those thoughts is something deeper that we personally contend with for the duration of our days on this globe. We identify with these bands because their music has impacted us in significant ways, and the reality is that we take the snub personally.
But this actually goes much deeper. We ourselves crave, and dare I say demand, our own recognition. Thoughts and statements such as “Don’t you know who I am?” or “They never recognize my contributions!” may have come into your mind – or maybe, like me, from your lips. Although for some, it may be a bit more subtle. “How come she never says ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’ to me?” The bottom line… we desire to be recognized, acknowledged, even praised.
The Apostle Paul was intimately acquainted with this mindset. Take some time to read Acts 7-9. Paul (then called Saul) was not only bent on destroying Christianity, but he was granted the power and authority to try and do so! But then God radically saved him… and as vehemently as he persecuted the church before, he now joyfully proclaimed salvation through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross!
Almost thirty years after his conversion, Paul wrote a letter (epistle) to the church in Philippi. In this letter, he addresses this very issue. Here is his personal assessment of his own status:
“Further, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Just how stark of a contrast is Paul making here? Well, many English translations use the word “garbage” to translate the word σκύβαλον (skybalon) found in verse 8. But this word literally means “dung” or the “excrement of animals!” This is amazing! Paul saw his impeccable heritage, status, education, accomplishments, and good works as gnarly as “poop” compared to having a relationship with Jesus!
This echoes what the Lord said though the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 9:23-24 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”
In 1912 George Bennard, a traveling evangelist, penned the words to “The Old Rugged Cross” and captured the heart of those who have been redeemed by Christ! As John the Baptist said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30 (NLT). As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, life increasingly becomes less about ourselves, and more about the glory of God, This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2; 1 Peter 1:2)!
The beauty of this hymn is the juxtaposition between the old, rugged cross, an emblem of suffering and shame, set against the cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain!
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
The juxtaposition between my worldly trophies and accolades that I will finally be rid of set against the glory of the Cross of Jesus Christ along with the crown of life which we will receive by the grace of God (2 Timothy 4:8; James 1)!
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
A prayer of devotion: Dearest Lord Jesus. Thank you for enduring the shame of the cross and the wrath of the Father for me, a broken sinner. I pray that you would give me a heart that truly desires to decrease and more so desires for You to increase in all of my thoughts, motivations, and actions. Most of all help me to never boast except in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Amen.