Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tipping Points – Christian Practice

In the first post in this series, I identified Christ’s resurrection from the dead as the tipping point that helps ignite change in our belief – replacing doubt with a greater confidence in God.

(As a reminder, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a “tipping point” as “the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place.”)

Today’s tipping points relate to our practice, or actions, as believers in Christ. What are two tipping points that promote breakthroughs in spiritual growth and Christ-likeness in our lives?

The first is the theological concept of “cruciformity” a term that has been popularized by biblical scholar Michael Gorman, among others.

Crucifixion-National Gallery of Art

Cruciform means “cross-shaped,” and its abstract meaning points to a life that is shaped by Jesus’ crucifixion. In its broadest sense, cruciform living can exhibited in a number of ways:

1) Profound gratitude for God’s sacrificial love for us, in Christ’s death on the cross. Christ’s death on the cross brings us forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) and results in our adoption into God’s family (Galatians 4:4-6). Our gratitude for Christ’s redeeming work should disarm our pride and create sincere worship, humility, and a heart of mercy for others.

2) Sober awareness of the reality of opposition to God, his work, and his people in this world. Christ was crucified by “rulers of this age” who did not recognize Jesus as the “Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). Christians can expect similar opposition as followers of Christ (John 15:18-21). Those who seek to live cross-shaped lives will identify themselves with Christ even when the prevailing winds of culture blow against them.

3) A radical others-centeredness in our actions and attitudes. On multiple occasions Jesus moved seamlessly from talking about his own death and resurrection to talking about the need for his followers to adopt similar practices of service and sacrifice for others (Mark 8:31-38; Mark 9:30-35; Mark 10:32-45; and parallels in other Gospels). Likewise, the apostle Paul emphasizes putting the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:3-4), inspired by the pattern of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).

When we buy into cruciformity, we buy into values that are polar opposites to the norms and values of this world. Christians who “carry their crosses” live humbly, sacrificially (laying aside rights and comforts as servants of others), and faithfully (as servants of Christ, willing to suffer for him). The tipping point effect occurs when we embrace this vision of service and others-centeredness and let it shape our decisions, attitudes, and practices.

Cruciformity provides the “what” of Christian practice, describing what the “shape” of our lives should look like. But what is the “how” of Christian living? How can we be enabled and equipped to consistently please God with our actions? The second tipping point is the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of Jesus’ followers. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the key to the believer’s ongoing fruitfulness for God. For a more extended look at this tipping point, see my earlier post on this topic: Grace, Works, and Fruitfulness.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Discipleship, New Testament