The Transforming Cross

March 30, 2018

The cross of Jesus refers to his crucifixion by the Romans, his burial in a rich man’s previously unused tomb, and his resurrection from the dead. Christians look back on this once for all event as permanently dealing with sins and gaining the victory over death. But Paul also uses the cross as a model for our lives as Christians.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

This daily crucifixion is a putting to death of myself so that Christ may live in me. The voluntary death to self is motivated by the great love that Christ and the Father have for us.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24, ESV)

The above passage from Paul lets us know that this crucifixion of ourselves also has to do the flesh. Flesh in Paul is defined well by the descriptive phrase that follows “with its passions and desires.” In other words, it is a putting to death of sinful desires in our life. It is a life lived by faith (Gal. 2:16), “through the Spirit, by faith” (Gal 5:5), and involves faith working through love (Gal. 5:6). Although we may be engaged in an inner moral struggle for Christian maturity, it is love that motivates us and the Spirit who strengthens us (Romans 8:13, Ephesians 3:16). It is not an unaided struggle.

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, ESV)

The model of the cross is also a model for putting to death the world on a daily basis. Paul’s use of “world” is not to evoke the beauty of creation around us. Rather it is the world system that is hostile to God. My death to self is to result in a new creation (Gal. 6:15). It will be because I’m walking by the Spirit which is the opposite of gratifying the desires of the flesh (i.e., worldly, sinful desires). I’m to be led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18) which will produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is a very different lifestyle from the one lived by worldly values. And Paul offers a challenge to us: “let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).We must pay attention to what it means to let Christ live in us. We must be vigilant that we are not slipping back into worldliness for the new creation is in Christ, it is not in the world.

As you ponder the cross of Christ, also consider your daily crucifixion of self. The cross of Christ is to be a transforming cross.

We Can’t Have Both

September 21, 2012

Worldliness is an attachment to the things of this world while neglecting spiritual things. It is the mindset and behavior that conforms to this world instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds (see Romans 12:1-2). It is to choose the world’s values instead of God’s values. G.K. Beale gives a very good functional definition:

Worldliness is whatever any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness to be strange.1

Most of us don’t like being strange. We want to feel normal, and there lies the temptation to worldliness.

We shouldn’t be surprised at this? Peter gave a warning of exactly this kind of situation.

So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you. (1 Peter 4:4, HCSB)

Some of Peter’s readers had engaged in wild living. It was in their past. The gospel had changed them, but Peter warns them of the temptation that would come their way. Old friends would be surprised that they would not join them again in wild living. The worldly people would view the Christians as strange, and they would slander and malign the Christians for being different.

What about today? Tim Tebow is a NFL quarterback with the New York Jets. He has been outspoken about his faith. At a press conference a few years ago a reporter asked him whether he was a virgin. Now stop and think about the question. It is not the typical question asked by sports writers. Tebow answered “yes,” and it has set off lots of commentary in our society. One online dating service that specializes in infidelity has offered a million dollars to anyone who can prove Tebow is not a virgin. “So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you.”

Lolo Jones is American olympic hurdler. She finished fourth this summer. She too has been outspoken about remaining a virgin until marriage. After her disappointing finish in the olympics, some critics snidely said she should have had sex, maybe should would have run faster. “So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you.”

We each face a choice: normal and acceptable to God or normal and acceptable to the world. We can’t have both.

1G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship, p. 300.