The game-changer that creates
and how it works
The sixth of the seven game-changers celebrated in the SYNC annual cycle is the most worthy, most admirable act in history--Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha, "the Place of the Skull" (John 19.17).
Suppose he hadn't carried this burden. Suppose he dropped his cross and cursed the soldiers taking him to his execution, and they all dropped dead. Suppose he cursed the mockers in the crowd and they were all struck blind. Suppose he called angels with flaming swords to lift him above the crowd and pronounce him King of the World.
None of those options would have changed the game of human history. They all play by the same old rule of victory through superior violence. The person judged worthy of honor would be the victorious power holder.
But Jesus changed the game. He showed his ultimate worth in an entirely different way.
1G - Game-changer. How Jesus changed the world by carrying a cross
Before Jesus’s execution, he taught his followers that he and they would all have to suffer, but they didn’t get it. They still assumed that as the promised Messiah he was going to set up a kingdom by force, and God would protect him from all harm in the process. Two members of his inner circle even asked him if they could become his right-hand men when he would take power! (Mark 10.35-37)
When Jesus carried his cross to his place of execution, the game changed. His followers had to face the truth that had been unimaginable to them before. The reign of God that Jesus announced was not going to brought in by violent overthrow of power holders but by one single victim who accepted his victimization by the power holders!
How could that happen? Who “takes power” by accepting victimization? Jesus did. He accepted his God-appointed role of suffering, putting the welfare of the world above his own. He carried his cross and trusted God for the outcome.
People who give up their lives as martyrs for a cause are honored as worthy people. Their stories inspire ongoing support for the cause. But Jesus is far more than a martyr.
Jesus is the Messiah, ruler of heaven and earth! He is the one who shows us how God evaluates worth:
He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—
his death on the cross.
For this reason God raised him to the highest place above
and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
And so, in honor of the name of Jesus
all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will fall on their knees . . . (Philippians 2.8-10)
Worth is not measured by how impressive we are or how much we achieve or conquer. What counts is how worthily we accept our assignments in God's campaign and how loyal we remain as we carry them out no matter what the cost.
2G - Gift. Now that Jesus changed the game, we have what it takes to show our worth
Our courage rises when we realize that as Jesus carries his cross, God’s campaign strategy is not getting blocked or frustrated. With that cross beam on his shoulders, Jesus looks for all the world like a loser, but he is not going to lose.
The cross is not the end of God’s campaign or of Jesus’s leadership in it. The cross is the path to the resurrection and to Jesus taking the throne in heaven.
“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12.2)
God set it all up so that Jesus, worthily playing his painful role, would inspire the courage and resilience of billions of human beings for many centuries to come. We are part of the same strategy God is using.
The courage we get from Jesus is not courage to overthrow governments and seize positions of power. It is the courage to trust God when we suffer for calling people to welcome Jesus as the Messiah, the rightful ruler of us and of every power structure.
3G - Get it. The gift helps us if we "get it" that loyalty to our mission won't be easy.
Anyone who supposes that Jesus suffered so we don't have to doesn’t get it yet. "Worth Season" is a wake-up call.
It is true that Jesus paid the entire penalty for our sin so that we could never have paid. There is zero sin debt remaining for us to have to pay by our own suffering. That is done.
But our suffering is not done. There is a different kind of suffering that starts for us after Jesus has done all the suffering for our sin. It is the suffering that carries on God’s strategy for ridding the world of sin.
This is the idea we have to get. This is how it works. Jesus sends us out as messengers of his resurrection, that is, witnesses that he in fact is the resurrected King, not the victimized loser he looked like when he carried his cross.
Sinful people and oppressive governments don’t want to hear this. They make life difficult for us, but when they see us respond in a manner worthy of Jesus, it gives them a second chance to realize that we are telling the truth--God really is at work in us.
Christ’s willingness to suffer and die for his cause is not our ticket to an easy life. It is our example for showing our worth in God's campaign, dealing honorably with the shame and suffering that will get added to our lives if we represent him in this world. Our worthy endurance testifies to his resurrection.
4G - Go with it. Once we "get it," we stick to whatever assignment God has given us.
We look at our victimization in the same way that Christ looked at carrying his cross—it is our role in the process of bringing God’s mercy to earth. When we accept it, we create the opportunity for everyone, even our victimizers, to welcome God’s amazing grace.
That’s what God wants—for everyone to have a chance to be awestruck by his mercy, even those who do not deserve a chance. He does not want people to have his kingdom rammed down their throats.
This is not hard to explain. It is hard to do. It goes against every bit of self-preservation in our DNA. But our re-birth in Christ altered some of the DNA so that loyalty to his campaign takes priority over self-preservation.
Our campaign mission is to point to him as the King who changes the world, and to show how he is already changing us. And one of the key changes he makes is that he turns cowards into heroes.
When we say, "SYNC me" to Christ, we are saying, "SYNC me with your courage." Then he empowers us to go with his heroic example, trusting him to work it all out in the end.
This is a great way to live! As worthy finishers, we convince people that there is hope for the world. They think they can't trust anybody, but they see they can trust us. They think everybody is trying to take advantage of them, but they see we are laying down our preferences and comforts for their good. We are living the authentic lives they thought nobody was living.
On the other hand, we dare not claim the benefits of Christ's death on the cross if we don't step up to carry our own cross. If we don't step up, what are we worth? We are out of SYNC with Christ's purpose and strategy. We are dishonorably trying to work the system for our own benefit, doing the exact opposite of what Jesus did.
5G - Genuineness. As we "go with it," we become
We find our authentic worth in Christ as we endure opposition to our mission in the same way he endured opposition to his. Sharing his experience of suffering is the fire that refines us like gold.
When we are victimized, it is never easy to bite our tongues, stop our urge to retaliate, and turn to God with our tears, but worthy people are never looking for the easy way. The deeper people scratch us, the more it is revealed that we are gold all the way to the core.
There is no human explanation for our good will toward our enemies, our joy that bubbles up no matter what, and our trust in the King who will make everything right in the end. The only explanation is that Jesus is alive, he really has sent us to represent him, and he really is with us when we do.
His gift to us is his presence, which explains our courage and our ability to finish worthily. He SYNCs us with his intentions when he carried his cross, which were that billions of his followers would join him in God's sacrificial strategy for bringing his mercy and power to earth. Participate in that and we show what we are worth, thanks to the Messiah.
Graphic of the "5G Cascade of Grace" that guarantees the success of God's campaign. See "Success" under "God's campaign" tab or click here.