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Discovering a New Identity at the Cross

Matthew 27:32-40

Jim Davis

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 God.

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.

Isaiah 50:6-7
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” (Matthew 27:32-40).

Psalms 22:15-18
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. The 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.

Psalms 106:19-22
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.

Habakkuk 2:18-20
"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.

Matthew 16:24-27
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 4:15-16).

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 God.

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 me?"

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.

Galatians 2:20
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.

Colossians 1:24
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.

Conclusion:

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 of God.

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.
 
 

 

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