a New Identity at the Cross
Isaiah gives the most horrifying picture of
Christ’s crucifixion. Isaiah writes, “ . . . his appearance was so disfigured
beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness . . .”
(Isaiah 52:13-15) Christ’s body had been so disfigured by the beatings
before he was nailed to the cross that he appeared inhuman. His form didn’t
look like that of the children of men, and he certainly didn’t look like
Christ’s body didn’t just bear a few wounds
and bruises; it was battered beyond human recognition. Christ's cross was
such a despicable sight that Christ was thought of as a worm and not a
man (Psalms 22:6-8). Such degradation of God is anything but believable,
but it is true. It is all but impossible to believe that God would allow
himself to suffer such grief.
I offered my back to those
who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide
my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign LORD helps me,
I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I
know I will not be put to shame. (NIV)
Who could believe that God resided in such
a disfigured body? It is little wonder that those mocking Christ as he
hung on the cross taunted him saying, “If you are the Son of God”
My strength is dried up like
a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in
the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled
me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people
stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots
for my clothing. (NIV)
It was on that cross that the despicable
cruelty of Satan's schemes and the unbound love of God met face to face.
It is there that Christ reveals the invisible God (Colossians 1:13-20).
There God's love is reflected from a face so disfigured by sin that it
was unrecognizable. It is the reflection of that priceless love that mirrors
our true identity.
We have sanitized the cross with silver and
gold jewelry encrusted with diamonds. When we think of the cross, we must
remind ourselves that is what sin wishes to do with each of us. Christ's
death illustrates sin's purpose for each of our lives--DEATH and DESTRUCTION.
What Satan has done to God--he desires to do to you!
Today We Have An Identity Crisis
The world has an identity crisis because
it has lost sight of God. Sin has blinded us to who we are. We
have spent so much time creating our own identity that we have lost sight
of God. Today we have males trapped in women's bodies--we have women trapped
in men's body. We spend so much time searching for our lost identities
that we are blinded to the image of God that each one of us bears.
The cross is a statement of who we are.
cross of Christ gives us the clearest view of the God in whose image we
are made. There at the cross Christ makes a statement about our identity
that nothing in this world can match.
1 Peter 1:18-20
For you know that it was not
with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from
the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with
the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (NIV)
The cross affords us an opportunity to lose
sight of the image the world has stamped on our hearts. It is there that
we learn the secret to our existence. There we see ourselves reflected
in the image of God as we behold the disfigured body of Jesus forsaken
by God on our behalf. For it is there that the invisible God is revealed
as one of us.
The history of salvation throughout the Old
Testament reveals how humanity has sought to recreate its own image. Every
time we seek to do so we degrade ourselves. Genesis says, "So God created
man in his own image" (Genesis 1:27-28). The image of the invisible God
is revealed at the cross in the image of Christ. Sadly, we are like the
Israelites who traded their “Glory” for the image of a bull.
At Horeb they made a calf and
worshiped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their Glory for
an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved
them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and
awesome deeds by the Red Sea. (NIV)
It is no accident that the psalmist spoke
of Israel's “Glory”—“Glory” is capitalized in the passage because it compares
the glory God gave man made with that of a bull.
The prophet Habakkuk reveals how we often
seek to recreate ourselves by the works of our own hands.
"Of what value is an idol,
since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes
it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to
him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' Or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!'
Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath
in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent
before him." (NIV)
Today the same kind of idolatry takes place
when we allow the images of this physical world to define who we are.
The covetous practices of our world tell us that our value is found in
things. It always gives us a distorted view of self. Habakkuk asks us,
"What guidance can the things you are trusting in give you?" Look
around the answer is obvious.
Regardless of the eloquence and exquisiteness
with which we seek to recreate our self-image it leaves our lives as breathless
and lifeless as Michelangelo’s art in the Sistine Chapel.
The cross of Christ offers us a chance
to discover our true identity in God. Granted, looking at it from
an earthbound existence often blinds us to the true image of God mirrored
there. But Jesus makes it clear that if we wish to find ourselves, we must
come to the cross.
Then Jesus said to his disciples,
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross
and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a
man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man
give in exchange for his soul? (NIV)
Our identity is discovered as we pick up our
crosses and follow Christ to the Place of the Skull.
Our Identity is wrapped up In God’s Identity
There is something about the cross that
strips each of us down to the very core of our being as it helps us discover
who we really are. Throughout history humanity has sought to deify
itself, but at the cross we see deity humanizing itself in the humblest
form. We seek to identify with God, but God defined his true identity in
the cross as he identified with each of us. God tasted the human experience
for himself, so that we might taste the presence of the Creator (Hebrews
The crowning act of God's creation was
completed when God became man (John 1:1-14) and succumbed to the death
of the cross. Luke traces Jesus' genealogy showing that Jesus is
the son of Adam who was the son of God. His logic was that God became the
Son of Man, therefore he is one of us. The cross leveled all the mountains
and raised all the valleys making the world a level field from which each
of us has equal opportunity to seek God who lives on the same level.
We speak of the attributes of God---holiness,
omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence---but it is the cross that reveals
the clearest picture of all these attributes. There we see the glory and
power of God as the cross strips away all the theological speculations
about God, revealing the very core of his being as he reveals himself in
the purest form of love for even his enemies. That revelation is the clearest
and most concise revelation of God, and it helps us discover our true identity
as children made in the image of God.
God came to this earth to die on the
cross to illustrate the full impact of sin on one life by giving his life.
Christ became so human that he stayed awake
all night begging God to "Let this cup pass."
The human burden of sin he bore before his
accusers was so dumbfounding that it left even the Word of Life speechless.
Christ became so human that he was absolutely
powerless over those who stripped him naked to disguise his Sonship with
He became so humanly weak that he had to have
Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross.
Christ became so human that he was powerless
over sin's grip of death.
He was so human that his accusers thought
that he was anything but the Son of God.
His burden of sin was so acute that he cried
out "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani." "My God, My God, why have you forsaken
The cross is the one thing that God
did that makes sense of God because there he became sin for me.
It is the one thing that makes the Bible understandable. If God subjected
our world to frustration, it is only right that he provide the world freedom
from frustration, and that he did, as he bore the sin of the world on the
cross (Romans 8: 18-21). God doesn't just share the burden of sin with
us; he bears the burden for us. In doing so he identifies with us to reveal
our true identity as his children. The cross reveals God's willingness
to become sin for us so that we could be made right (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It was his willingness to be made sin for us that makes him holy, and it
also makes us holy.
The cross of Christ is the only thing
that makes sense of our lives. There has to be a place where we
can share the glory of the Creator in whose image we are made. If we are
made in the image of God, then there must be a place where we can come
to God just as we are. If we are made in the image of our Creator, there
has to be place where we can become one with our Creator. If we are one
with the Creator, there has to be a place where we can share in the work
of his creation.
Paul found such a place in the cross of Christ.
It was there that he became one with the creator.
I have been crucified with
Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in
the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself
for me. (NIV)
The cross of Christ provides us an opportunity
to become one with Christ as we allow the power and glory of the cross
to live in us in spite of our human weakness. Sharing in the cross of Christ
allows us to become one with the God.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered
for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's
afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (NIV)
Paul says, "I fill up in my flesh what
is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions." Paul is not saying
that Christ's sacrifice for our atonement was not sufficient. The only
thing "lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions" was his need to
fill his life with the suffering of Christ for the church. Paul admits
that his fleshly life was lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions. His
life was not completely filled with the sacrifices he desired to make on
behalf of Christ. There was a gap between the price Paul was paying and
the price Christ paid. There was still much lacking on his part before
he should be entirely conformed to the image of Christ in his sufferings,
but he was striving to fill what was lacking. It was his willingness to
complete what was lacking that allowed him to find his identity in Christ.
Likewise, it is essential for Christians to
be filled with the afflictions of Christ so that we might help others find
their true identity in the cross. Thus we must fill what is lacking in
Christ afflictions within our own lives.
The individualism of our culture has stripped
the church of its proper role in God’s scheme of things. God created the
church for the ongoing redemption of humankind. We are here to seek and
save the lost by allowing our lives to filled with the same afflictions
of Christ as we die to this world. For those of us who have been baptized
we must remember our commitment to die with Christ at baptism.
In a reformatory, a rebellious boy stabbed
another youth, inflicting a minor wound; he was sentenced to 3 months in
a dark cell on a bread-and-water diet. He was afraid of the dark, and the
prospect of what lay ahead terrified him. The wounded boy, who was a Christian,
volunteered to take his place. The director accepted his offer on the condition
that the guilty boy bring the bread and water to the other boy each day.
On the sixth day he broke down and asked to take the punishment himself.
The suffering of that Christian boy had touched his heart, and soon the
guilty boy became a believer in Christ.
Satan wishes to distort the true identity
of the church by distorting the cross. He wants us to believe that
our salvation stops at the cross. He would like for us to believe that
Christ has made the only sacrifice that needs to be made. However, the
cross requires a personal sacrifice.
The power and glory of the cross affords us
the opportunity of becoming one in purpose with God as we seek to recreate
the world through the knowledge of the cross.
The road to the cross begins with believing
in the Christ to the point that you are willing to die with him in baptism
that you might be resurrected to bear your own cross in the power and glory
Initially, it all seems as horrifying as Christ's
death on the cross, but it the only way to discover the real you made in
the image of God.