Friday, January 17, 2014

The Missional Meaning of the Cross

Saul of Tarsus became deeply entrenched in the teachings of Gamaliel, a  Master Teacherin Israel. As such, young Saul of Tarsus remained thoroughly radicalized to teaching the one true God. He was deeply rooted in the fundamentals of his Hebrew faith. Committed heart, soul, mind, and body, pleasing God became Saul’s Pearl of Great Price!

Saul's naturally choleric temperament drove him to drink deeply from life's cup when others merely sipped. Competitors quickly fell short of Saul’s passion to live life as a “Pharisee of Pharisees.”

Impetuous and hot-tempered, this self-sufficient radical threw down a gauntlet, drew a line in the sand, and became the first century defender of Jewish monotheism. He quenched his thirst by initiating a one-man crusade of defending The Almighty. Saul’s Mission Statement focused his intention on destroying the followers of this prophet called Jesus.

En route to Damascus, this fire-breathing exponent of Jewish Legalism experienced a life-changing encounter. Saul discovered in an unexpected moment that life was much bigger than his provincial values and beliefs. This Jesus that he sought to destroy, could not be looked upon as mere humanity “according to the flesh.”

With the foundations of his belief system destroyed by his Damascus road encounter, Saul soon found himself an ambassador for Christ, because “God was in Christ, reconciling us to Himself,” (2 Corinthians 5:16; Romans 1:16-18).  

 Saul of Tarsus experienced a  resurrection that empowered him to live a new life as the Apostle Paul. “And I, “said Jesus, “if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32 NASV).  The message of the cross was that death came to Jesus, “that men … should cease to live for themselves,” and “live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NEB).

Saul, the Hellenist Jew with a Pharisee’s pedigree as long as his arm, experienced a metamorphosis when he encountered Jesus. Saul’s encounter on the Damascus Road humbled the arrogant Pharisee and transformed him into a humble disciple of  Jesus, a follower of Christ. Thus Saul the Tarsus terrorist became Paul, Apostle of Christ to the Gentiles.        

The message of the cross empowered Saul to disengage from racism, culturalism, and creedalism, and be metamorphosed (transformed) into Paul, the zealous Christian Apostle.

Through the power of the cross experience, God empowered Jesus to overcome sin and death by means of the resurrection. It was the power of the cross that enabled Christ‘s disciples to live like Christ, becoming “little Christ’s.”       He consequently confessed, “For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God.” Thus, he reasoned, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:19-20, NASV).                 

Through the message of the cross Saul discovered the powered to become Paul, the visionary Apostle, a missionary of hope for the human potential. Saul went into his spiritual cocoon a sinful worm; Paul came out a grace-full butterfly, enjoying
G od’s
R ichest
A t
C hrist‘s
E xpense.
            From then on, Paul regarded no person from a worldly or human point of view. Rather; he saw the cross of Christ as a divine invitation given to all:

            Beneath the cross of Jesus [I] gladly take my stand  . . .
            The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
            And from my smitten heart with tears, Two wonders I confess--
            The wonders of His glorious love And my unworthiness.
--Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1872

The church, concluded Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is “our hope for the present and the future.” Bonhoeffer followed in the wake of the Ancient Fathers who agreed, “God [is] our Father, the Church our Mother, Jesus Christ our Lord, [and] that is our Faith.  Amen.”

            1 Mary Bosanquet, The Life And Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  (New York:  Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968), p. 65.

This is at Warner's World

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