Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Stigmata of the Cross

Here is part three of our "Tattooed" series.

Big Idea:
Just as God has our names tattooed on His hands and His image imprinted on our hearts, He also wants His mark of identification branded on our lives. This mark separates, regenerates, and unites us.

The Apostle Paul once said that he bore the “marks” (or “stigmata”) of the Lord as a result of his life and ministry. The Greek word “stigmata” represents ownership. We all wear marks and show our allegiance to something. We tell the world and God where our allegiance lies by what we say, what we do, where we spend our time, how we spend our money, and how we treat others. There are times when we show our allegiance to the world, to our friends, to our political party, and to our social clubs more clearly than we do to the Kingdom of God. There is really only one thing that truly matters in this life, one event which divided the History of the world, one payment which covers the cost of sin: it is the cross of Jesus Christ. May our lives be branded with the symbol of His amazing sacrifice.

God took the vilest of symbols, the cross, and turned it into the ultimate sign of victory! That God became one of us and allowed Himself to be viciously nailed to that “emblem of suffering and shame,” is remarkable. Only God would do such a thing. Only God could bring glory from shame, taking the stigma of the cross and turning it into a tattoo of beauty - a priceless piece of art. But is this stigma just a symbol, or is it an instrument of deliverance? Do you wear the stigmata of the cross, not just around your neck, but also in the way you live? Do others associate you with what the cross truly represents? 1) The stigma of the cross represents separation. The Greek word for separation basically means to be holy, righteous, and sanctified. When we fully identify with His stigmata, God instantly separates us from our sinful past. Then he progressively separates us from the behavior that keeps us from fully becoming like Jesus. And ultimately, we will one day be completely separated by being given perfect and sinless bodies. The goal of a Christian is to be more and more like Jesus until this happens. 2) The stigma of the cross regenerates us. The work of the cross is what brings us into newness of life and removes the old sinful nature that used to rule us. We are new creations. The old has passed away, and we can now live for God while we shed our sinful lifestyles. 3) The stigma of the cross unites us by making those who believe in Christ into a family. So, what brand to do wear? What stigma do you bear?

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Galatians 6:14-17
What does it look like to “die to the interests of this world”? Give examples of how we can bear the “stigmata” of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17
What does Paul say will happen when we wear the brand of the cross and fully associate with Christ? Share what “old things” have disappeared in your life since coming to the cross.

Hebrews 2:10-11
How can the cross change our identity? What does it mean to you to be called a brother of Christ and also a child of God? Discuss the implications of being a member of God’s family.

Taking Action: Write down where you spend your time and money. Based on this list, what brand are you wearing? Purpose to associate more with the cross and less with the world.

Ministry Time

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