Matney: The cradle, the cross, the crown |

Matney: The cradle, the cross, the crown

The cradle: Friend, God has greatness planned for you! Before you were conceived in your mother’s womb and laid in your cradle, God had a plan and a destiny for you. And, in many ways, our journey to greatness parallels the path to greatness that Jesus took. It might be summarized as, the cradle, the cross and the crown. Let’s start at the beginning.

In the beginning, was the Word … and the Word became flesh … The Living Bible paraphrases it this way: “Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us …”

These words from John 1:1-14, refer to Christ’s pre-existence and his entrance into the world as a human baby. His journey began with his conception in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. His cradle was a manger, a cattle’s feeding trough, in Bethlehem.

In “Cosmic Christmas,” author Max Lucado wrote: “The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. God had come near.”

I tear up every time I read that. Such love! Such humility! The Christmas story is the greatest story and best news ever reported: God so loved mankind that he became one of us, lived among us, walked in our shoes, bore our pain and sorrow, and took our sins and failures upon himself.

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I’m impressed with a God like that. I’m proud to be a son and a servant of a God like that! How can I be more like him? This is where the cross is needed on our journey to greatness.

The cross: Scripture teaches that Jesus died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And, the Bible also teaches that our old sinful nature of hatred, lust and greed was crucified with him so we would not be slaves to sin but could experience love, joy and peace. See Romans 6, etc. Jesus taught that we should take up our cross daily and follow him in Matthew 16:24.

So, how can we live the crucified life, dead to sin but alive to God with Christ Jesus? How do we experience ongoing freedom from the lusts of the flesh, sinful anger, and the pride and ego of our selfish nature? Well, this is where the example of Jesus on his path to greatness is our example.

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-8: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”

For our sake, Jesus humbly died to give up his rights as God and man, and took our sins to the cross with him. And, now, humility will keep our sin on the cross. So, how does one stay humble?

The apostle James wrote: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Being honest and transparent with caring and trustworthy people will help keep the old ego nailed to the cross. Steps 4 and 5 in Alcoholics Anonymous says, “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and admitted to God, ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” These are the steps to healing and honor.

Confidential confessions and accountability to a spouse, a friend, a minister, a focus group or other trusted individuals will help keep us humble and keep the sinful nature nailed to the cross. In my own life, I have found this to be a powerful and effective practice.

The crown: Because Jesus was willing to take the path of humility, he was given a great crown of honor. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus, the highest of Kings, cradled in the lowest of places, endured the cross and is now crowned with many crowns, and is seated in all authority at the right hand of the Father.

We too can anticipate crowns of victory in our lives here and now and in the eternity to come. Paul taught in Ephesians 2:6 and Romans 5:17 that we are even now seated in heavenly places with Christ and that we can rule and reign in life by practicing a humble, vital, living union with Christ in his death and resurrection.

Paul also wrote in 2 Timothy 4:8: “There is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

In this Advent season, let us embrace the smallest seeds of faith, hope and love, and let us long for the return of Jesus to set up his kingdom on Earth, even as it is in heaven.

Dan Matney is the pastor at New Life Assembly of God in Avon. Email him at

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