The Cross-Shaped Christian Life

Steve Arterburn

 

 

The triumph of the cross is the pattern for the Christian life. In the death of Christ we witness the death of death itself. Through the cross, Christ defeated your worst and last enemy. He won the war. And in this same way, you’re to fight the remaining battles, confident that the outcome is decided and in your favor.

 

Reading the gospel sets your thinking in a completely different direction than that of personal potential and self-empowerment’things our society put such a high value to. The gospel calls you to be out of step with the world. You and I must die in order to live. We lose our lives in order to find them. We become strong by becoming weak.

 

Yet we too often lack the courage and conviction to embrace these gospel paradoxes. Instead, we look at our needs, wants, and desires and formulate a plan we expect God to honor in order to meet them. This keeps us focused on getting our own way rather than on releasing God’s redemptive power in our lives.

 

How different this is from praying ‘Your will be done”Jesus’ prayer as He went to the cross. The world looks upon this and sees weakness, vulnerability,’and foolishness. Yet, if you believe the Bible, you believe the apostle Paul when he says the cross is the power and wisdom of God.

 

Men, we’re not better than our Master. Jesus Christ’s life was cross-shaped, and ours should be also.

The Intimidation Factor

Steve Arterburn

 

 

Do you ever feel intimidated when you’re in the presence of a woman? It’s important to examine the situation when you’re feeling anxious or unsettled. If your desire or need to lead and provide isn’t being met, it’s probably best to keep those feelings in check.

 

If you’ve been negative, critical, withdrawn, judgmental, self-pitying, angry, or anything less that supportive and appreciative when in the presence of a successful woman, you need to completely change your attitude. It’s clear that God has gifted women with incredible talents and abilities. If we men are not mature enough to recognize and celebrate those gifts, then we’re the ones at fault.

At the same time, you must recognize and celebrate your own instincts to lead and protect and look for appropriate opportunities to do so, and look for opportunity to discuss this with your successful wife. The apostle Paul exhorts husbands and wives to ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’

I encourage you to examine your relationships with the women in your life. Many men confess to feeling intimidated by women. So ask yourself, What do I do when I see competence or confidence in a woman?  And remember, we are diverse, yet unified; different in gender, yet the same in humanity; we should be more confident and competent together than apart!

Motivation for Recovery

It is said that we are motivated by the desire to avoid pain (losing our job, marriage, reputation; etc.) and the desire to acquire gain (having peace of mind; hearing our father or wife say, ‘I’m proud of you,’ etc.). So what motivates you to work your battle plan each day?

A daily motivational review is a tool we discuss at Every Man’s Battle. It may include desiring intimacy with God, being tired of lying and covering up, wanting peace of mind, refusing to support something that is ruining human life, etc.

At the risk of pontificating spirituality, I’d like to look at an area of motivation that helps many of us in our recovery process, namely, wanting to know and experience the love of God.

Imagine you are hiking in the mountains and you slip off the edge of a cliff. You grab hold of a bush with your hands, but you’re now dangling over hundreds of feet below. You’re safe for the moment, but you can’t hold on for long. You must have help that is immediate, good, and adequate.

Now suppose help appears. Someone reaches down and says, ‘take my hand and I’ll pull you up. ‘Will you do it? The answer depends on the helper. Suppose it’s someone you deeply offended at one time? He may be strong enough to help, but will he? Or suppose it’s a ten year old Boy Scout with 20 merit badges? You know he will do everything in his power to help, but does he have enough strength? What will persuade you to trust the help offered? You must be convinced of the good will, reliability, and strength of the helper.

All of us are holding on to something or things we think gives meaning and substance to our lives. It may be your sexual behaviors. But sooner or later our hold on those things weakens because they don’t solve our crisis.

So what is offered to us in this life that is good enough, strong enough, and durable enough to hold our lives together for the whole journey? What is it that can motivate us to live the life we really want? What is it that can motivate us in our recovery process?

The Apostle Paul says it is the love of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 3:16-19 he prays that we be rooted and grounded in that love ‘ like a deeply planted tree or well-founded building that cannot be shaken. And he prays that we will be able to comprehend how wide, long, high and deep this love is ‘ i.e., that we will come to know the love of Christ in such personal ways that it will motivate us to live the life He meant for us to live.

What is this love? Is it some great ideal to which we should aspire? Is it an abstract concept: so high or lofty we can’t possibly ever experience it? Or is it a mood or sentiment?

No, God’s love is concrete and personal. It delivers us, lifts us up, and sustains us. We don’t earn it or stir it up by some goodness or loveableness in us. It comes to us even though we’re  imperfect and sinful. Think of how Jesus treated moral failures. He appointed the Samaritan woman as his first missionary. She went back to her town and told the people about Jesus, and many believed because of her testimony. He defended the sinful woman who anointed him with expensive perfume by saying, ‘wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.’ He restored Peter to leadership after denying him three times. Mary Magdalene, of whom seven demons had been cast out, he honored as the first witness of His resurrection. And the prodigal son was given a welcome home party.

It’s difficult to believe you’re worth anyone’s love, least of all the almighty God’s. Yet, with all the wrongs in your past, the mistakes, the detours, the moments of sin and selfishness, God loves you. No mistake we make in life disqualifies us from God’s love because nothings can separate us from His love.

So lay hold of this staggering, mind-blowing truth that God loves you just as you are, and not as you should be, because none of us is that. And let that motivate you to become the whole, integrated, connected man He created you to be.

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Brad Stenberg