c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: CRUCIFORMITY - THE NATURE OF OUR FAITH

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Though our religion has official doctrine, it is not a belief system only.  Though we have rituals instituted by Christ himself, it is not a mere formality of worship.  Though it commands love and good works, we are not moralists alone.  Christianity is all those things but more – it is walking with Jesus day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment.  To know him is to love him, and knowing him requires that we live with him and become like him in the life that he lived.

How did he live?  What was his life-style, so to speak?

In short, it is called the way of the cross.

One might rightly be concerned that the cross is a dark and painful message, but no, it is a victorious way of living, which is why we begin the lesson with this verse:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

The mind thinks by a process of free association, one thought leading to the next natural thought in a sequence of ideas that reveals the way a man thinks.  We can know how Jesus thinks!  In the following passage from Matthew, which has parallels in the other Synoptic Gospels, Mark and Luke, we find a series of sayings that speak to the nature of our faith:

  • Peter rightly confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God
  • From that time Jesus begins to tell them that he must die and be raised
  • With the immediate implication that they, too, must go the way of the cross 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

                From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

                Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:13-28 ESV, Cf. Mark 8:27-38 and Luke 9:18-27 (also 17:33))

Notice above how Jesus rebuked Peter.  At first Peter got it right and won from Jesus both praise and power.  But then Peter’s thinking went wrong.  Notice the reference to Peter’s “mind.”

The way of the cross is so central to Christianity that to think otherwise is Satanic.


John treats the way of the cross differently.  In his Gospel it’s implied that some Greeks understand who Jesus might be and want to meet him.  Jesus sees great hope in this for the spread of Christianity and so concedes that it is time for him to die.  His next thought sequence is exactly the same one that we saw above in the Synoptics, that is, the core saying about losing one’s life to keep it.

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:20-26 ESV)

We find in the Pauline corpus exactly the same call to be like Jesus and follow him in the way of the cross.

About living out our baptism/confirmation he writes, For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11 ESV)

This passage contains a PROVISO, meaning a condition (underlined) for inheriting eternal life.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God … and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-14 & 17 ESV)

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)

The following two passages reveal an interesting parallel between them.  In the first Paul tells us how we ought to think about things.  He writes in terms of Jesus being obedient unto death and therefore God raised him up.  In the second we see how Paul thinks of himself and the hope that he has for his own salvation, hoping to be raised by the same process that Jesus engaged.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on (the) faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  (Philippians 3:2-11)

Finally, we have this passage, a fitting end to the lesson.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  (Colossians 3:5-6 ESV)

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