Living Above the Line Manuscript
Living above the Line
A Celebration of our Union with Christ
Rev Greg Byrd
Faith Temple Baptist Church
Living Above the Line Introduction
Colossians 1:27 says Christ in you, the hope of Glory. In fact Christ in us is our only hope of eternal Glory,
The union of the believer to Christ is a topic I never truly understood as a Christian until I was 37 years of age. It is a topic we as Baptist are a bit afraid of. When we begin to talk about matters of the spirit some Baptist get very uptight.
Galatians 2:20 says It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. No other verse captures the truth of the indwelling Christ, living in us, through us, as us, so well.
Now let me just also disclaim any originality for what I plan to share with you. It all comes from the Word of God. In my journey I have found the writings of men such as Major Ian Thomas and Dan Smith who have spent most of their lives spreading this message. Though I am a Dichotomist (Man has a Body and a Soul, the Soul containing a mind and spirit, best explained in my opinion by J P Moreland) as far as my view of the nature of man and I do not think ether of the before mentioned are. Of course my interaction with John Piper and Martin Lloyd-Jones as well as many older Puritan writings has deepened my understanding of the union of Christ with the believer and the ability to lead an abundant life in this realm.
It is my deepest prayer that through my teaching on the union of the believer with Jesus Christ that it will be for the growth of the body and for the building up of itself in love. And I pray that you will drink deeply of the water of life who is Christ Jesus, knowing the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge that you may be filled up to all fullness of God.
Jesus Christ living in us and through us, as us, is the only hope we have of experiencing the Glory God intends for our lives. I want everyone; I want to help everyone, to enter into Christ’s fullness in their life.
Now there is a flip side to “the hope of Glory,” Yes, Christ in us is our only hope of experiencing God’s glory ourselves. But we must understand that it is also the way that God has chosen to eternally manifest His glory. By living His life in and through a host of sons and daughters God has chosen to eternally manifest His glory. I want to begin this emphasis with a discussion of not the Glory we receive from God, but the glory He receives through us.
If we do not begin from God’s point of view, we end up with man at the center. That is true even in the way we approach the Word of God. For instance we often begin our study of the Bible with the fall of man into sin. We then perceive that after mans fall the entire Bible is a chronicle of God’s redemption of man. That is true, it is. It can appear however and is often preached, that God’s ultimate purpose is the rescue of man. So the whole matter focuses on us.
But if we just back up, and begin as the Bible does with before the foundation of the world, before Gen. 1:1, we start from another point of view. We start with the question: what is God’s intent? Galileo and Copernicus discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe, or at least not our little solar system. The Sun is. My dear friends IM here to remind you today we are not the center of the universe. The Bible says the Son is. (And I don’t mean the Sun.)
But, it is very easy to live as if we are the center of the universe. We would not ever say it, or even think it consciously, but it is easy to live as if God is here for us. That sort of teaching has in fact become very popular the past few years. That God is here to bless you that we ought to be wealthy and prosperous. We are due it, we are owed success, owed getting ahead. That God must respond to our faith. God has obligated Himself to bless us if we just do the right things. All of which means we are the center of the universe.
But if we start before the foundation of the world, we discover that God has a plan, a plan conceived before time began. Paul revealed God’s plan I think most clearly in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Is it God’s intent to bless us? Yes, that is an absolute fact. In fact, He has already blessed us with every possible blessing in the heavenly realm.) V.4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world God had a purpose for us before the foundation of the world. (He chose us for that purpose. that we should be holy and blameless before him.) In love V. 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, (Gods plan involved having many sons and daughters who would be holy and blameless in His sight. Through the subjection of the Son to the cross, God intended to bring many children into glory. Why? Paul continued), … according to the purpose of his will, V. 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
And just to make sure we do not miss the point, he repeated it six verses later: V. 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. And again two verses later V. 14 the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
See here, we exist for the praise of His glory. God works all things according to the council of His will, v.11, to accomplish that purpose. And what exactly is it that glorifies God? What has He set out to accomplish from before the foundation of the world? V. 8-10 he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
God’s plan was to bring into being many sons and daughter whom He would indwell; through whom He would live and manifest Himself; and in and through whom Christ would reign supreme. We Christians are the beneficiaries of that plan. God, in His love and grace, has made us a part of His plan. But…we are not the center of it; Jesus is. We are participants in the plan, participants whom God loves and cherishes, and nourishes, as a husband does his bride. (Eph 5:25-32)
We are God’s inheritance. We tend to focus on what we inherit in Christ. We are God’s inheritance: V.18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
His inheritance is His body—the Body of Christ—accomplishing His purpose. And though the Bible records mans fall, that disaster has not done one thing to delay or change God’s purpose. His intention was always to have a vast family of sons and daughters. The fall did not deter that plan. God incorporates our redemption into that plan, but the plans goal is still the same. We are here for the praise of His glory. Romans 11:36 says this so well, for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
From-Everything comes from God.
Through – By means of God.
To—The ultimate end is unto God. Not Him unto us, but us unto Him.
Everything we need to know for experiencing God’s abundant life is found in the cross of Christ. We look at the cross and see what God did for us there. I praise God for this truth. That was Christ’s work on our behalf.
Even more than that though, the cross was God’s work on His own behalf. Through the cross God accomplished what He needed to fulfill His own eternal purposes, so that all things might be summed up in Christ.
Christ in us, the Hope of Glory is primarily His glory. Christ lives in us to manifest His life through us, but His plan encompasses more than just that. He is working toward His own ends, and we are the vessels through which He works. We are the visible manifestation of what God is doing, with Himself as the ultimate goal, what is it, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)
That is why the Father wants us to be filled up to the fullness of God. And that is what this emphasis, Living above the Line is all about; our being filled to all the fullness of God, to the praise of His Glory
Living Above The Line- Introduction
1. What would you say is the Pastors main purpose in leading this emphasis and preaching these sermons?
2. Why do most Christian emphases run the risk of being man-centered? How is that problem avoided?
3. What is the Father’s overarching plan throughout the ages?
4. What does “Christ in you” have to do with this plan?
5. What effect does it have on our lives to know that we exist for God’s glory? This being the case, how might God want your life to change?
6. In what sense was the cross God’s work on His own behalf? What is the result of Christ’s work on the cross?
7. How does God want us to cooperate with Him in that result?
Living above the Line
“Lift Up Thine Eyes”
2 Cor. 4:18 (ESV) As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
This verse contains two absolute truths. One truth talks about things that are seen and temporary, the other talks about things that are unseen and are eternal. A line exists between the two. Above the line is the unseen and eternal; below the line is the seen and temporary.
Now just for the sake of explanation, there really is not a physical line; these two realms coexist. The unseen and the eternal are going on in the midst of the seen and temporary. As Christians, we have the privilege of living an unseen and eternal life in the midst of this seen and temporary world. But, because we think in concepts, it helps to separate these two realities with the line to understand them better.
As 2 Cor. 4:18 indicates, the realm above the line is invisible and eternal. It is changeless and timeless. It is the realm of spirit and of God’s absolutes. It is the realm of ultimate reality, of the uncreated, of completeness and wholeness, it is where things are finished and settled. The eternal realm can be illustrated by the word “now.” It is the realm of I AM, where things simply “are.”
The realm below the line is visible and temporary. We call it the natural realm. The Apostle Paul called it “this age.” It is the created realm of matter, of substances and appearances. It has a beginning and an end. It is the realm of past, present, and future:… birth, life, and death are here, …. sowing, growing, and reaping are here. It is the realm of activity, process, and need. It is a realm where we often say, I want to grow in Christ.” It is a realm in which we see both good and evil. …Where as the unseen and eternal realm is the realm of “I AM,” the seen and the temporary is the realm of “I am becoming.”
Spirit “I AM” Ultimate Reality
Wholeness ETERNAL Changeless
Complete Unseen Timeless
In Progress Seen Time-based
Need Temporary Changing
Matter “I am becoming” Appearances
Now, hear me, I’m not talking about a belief in which one realm, the realm of spirit, is pure and all important, and the other realm, the physical, is un-clean and unimportant, or even unreal. Both realms are crucially important to God, because He made both of them. The seen and temporary is a true realm and is important. We live in the seen and temporary realm. But, we are simply acknowledging what Paul says, that there are two realms, and that one is greater than the other. And we, as Christians are to focus on the eternal realm.
Many Scriptures illustrate the difference between the two realms. When Moses asked God His name Ex 3:14, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM”. He told Moses to tell the Hebrews that “I AM” had sent him. God’s very name indicates the changeless, timeless, eternal, present-tense nature of His being. Jesus used the same language to refer to Himself: John 8:58 “I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” The writer of Hebrews said Heb13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Our God is the unseen, eternal, timeless, changeless One.
At the appointed time, however, I AM came down below the line and entered the seen and temporary realm that HE had created. And John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us... . The changeless, timeless One became a seen and temporary man. As a man, Jesus experienced all that we experience below the line, except sin. He had a past, a present, and a future. He experienced growth both as a child, (Luke 2:40) and as an adult (Heb 5:8). He had needs just like us.
In a very similar way, we as God’s children live both above the line and below the line. The verse that best illustrated this is Hebrews 10:14: For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. God has already perfected those of us who are in Christ. We are complete in Him Col 2:10. We are His righteousness 2 Cor 5:21. We are Holy, and blameless and beyond reproach. Co 1:22.
These are all already true of us above the line, in the unseen and eternal realm, in God’s Kingdom, in our spirit. These are the eternal, unchanging truths of our identity as new creatures, as sons and daughters whom God has birthed John 3:3-6.
Below the line, however, in the seen and temporary realm, we are in the process of being sanctified. We have needs. Our emotions fluctuate. Our behavior changes. And through it all we experience growth.
We live in both realms but what is important, is where-our-eyes–are-focused!
Now this distinction between the two realms is vital to us for three reasons.
First, in the here and now, God has designed His Kingdom to work by faith. God could have placed the eternal in the visible realm. His eternal kingdom would then be plainly seen. But if He had done that, there would not be any faith. Everything would, in fact, be exactly as it appears to be, and faith would be pointless.
But the whole universe operates on faith. We in particular, were designed to operate by faith. We have the privilege of looking through the seen and temporary to the unseen and eternal. … By the Spirit of God, living in us, Christ in the man, we discern what, from God’s perspective, is taking place in the seen and temporary around us.
That is how Jesus lived. He saw the seen and temporary around him, but when the man stretched out his withered hand, Jesus did not see the withered hand as ultimate. When the people brought Jesus five loaves and two fish, He did not see them as insufficient. When they took him to the dead girl, He did not see death as ultimate. In each case Jesus saw beyond the outward appearance to what His Father was doing. He lived in another Kingdom. He lived in another realm. And He invites you and me to do the same.
Your cancer, your heart disease, your handicap, is not what is ultimate in the eyes of Jesus. Your current financial situation is not what is ultimate in the eyes of Jesus. Even your death, is not what is ultimate in the eyes of Jesus. And it does not have to be for you ether. It is all a matter of where your eyes are fixed my friends. This life is a vapor. What is real is above the line in the eternal realm. God wants you to lift up your eyes beyond what’s here and now, look up Christian, look to the Heavens, cast your eyes upon Jesus.
Second, the distinction is important because it enables us to understand our true identity in Christ.
As Christians, our failures, sins, and shortcomings---all things below the line, are realities, and constantly confront us. They are right in our face. Unless we understand that our true identity lies above the line in our spirit (which is the identity God gave us when we were reborn, our new birth), unless we understand that our true identity lies above the line in our spirit we will draw our identity from our below the line performance, whether good or bad. Our focus will be on trying to clean up our act and to look good enough for God to accept.
That is where most Christians are living: (and it makes me want to scream out, just what Jesus did, He said tear it down and in three days I will rebuild it. They did and He did. If my getting a bull dozer and tearing down this building would help you understand this I would) Christians are trying to become something they already are. We have it backwards.
See, in God’s system, in the seen realm we become because in the unseen realm we already are. In the eternal realm we are ether eternally lost or eternally saved, and we cannot live in the seen world differently that we are in the eternal realm. Christians are saved but they are still living as though they need saving.
As we know and rest in the unseen and eternal truth, God manifests that truth in the visible realm. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. In the unseen and eternal realm, God has already perfected us. ….In the seen and temporary realm, God is bringing that perfection, or completion, into view.
That is why we can say we are a complete and a new creation while simultaneously, in the seen and temporary realm, a process is going on. From God’s point of view, in the unseen and eternal realm, we are a finished product. At the same time, in the seen and temporary, He is continuing to work the truth deeper into us and He is continuing to conform us to His image.
Third, the distinction between the two realms is important because God has designed us so that we can find fulfillment only in the unseen and eternal realm.
The seen and temporary realm offers many pleasures that God has provided, but none of them ultimately satisfy. That is why Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst John 6:35. Hear me; there is not anything below the line, no matter how beautiful, no matter how touching, no matter how true, that equals true Life. And we only find true Life above the line, in God. He and He alone is Life!
God has created each of us with a thirst that only He can quench. The French philosopher, Pascal, called it a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts that only He can fill. Or as the early church father Augustine said, “Our souls are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Man is forever seeking. To whatever degree we do not know the unseen and eternal realm; we seek answers in the seen and temporary. We look for eternal answers among temporary things. But we discover again and again that they cannot and never will provide them.
We are programmed for failure if we are looking for ultimate answers in a non-ultimate realm, a realm that is partial, fragmented, and incomplete. We end up worshipping the creation rather than the creator. We can do that as Christians too. I’m not talking about just houses and cars and boats and jewelry; we worship buildings and music and clothes and heat and air and soft pews. The ultimate answer is a Person …Jesus Christ. It is part of God’s program to make us dissatisfied with what the temporary realm offers, that’s why so many people do nothing but complain, they think they know what they want but what they need is Jesus, and more of Jesus. God’s makes us dissatisfied with what the temporary realm offers so that we will seek Life in Him.
What kind of life; a life of faith, it is our true identity, and fulfillment in life is all based in the unseen and eternal realm. Our problem is that we cannot see that realm or learn of it through our own observations, or experiments, or experiences. Presently, right this moment God’s unseen and eternal kingdom is within us, …but we can only understand the things of that realm if God reveals it to us. Look at 2 Cor 2: 14,10,12 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. But 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
We are completely dependent on the Holy Spirit to be our teacher.
To whatever degree the Holy Spirit of God has revealed to us the unseen and eternal realm, we live in it. So, to whatever degree we do not understand by revelation the unseen and eternal realm of God’s kingdom, we are locked into living in the seen and temporary realm. And, to whatever extent you greave and quench the revelation of God’s Holy Spirit of the eternal realm you condemn yourself to life in this realm of the here and now, below the line.
God makes known to us the eternal, unseen, spiritual realities of His own domain by revelation. He breaks through into our consciousness and reveals eternal truths not discernable in the realm of appearance. And we respond when we close our physical eyes and open up our hearts eye and say “Oh God, I see!” …I was blind God, but now I see, I see You God, I see You Jesus, I see heaven coming down and this realm is passing away, I see the Holy City God, coming down from You, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I hear Your voice saying Your dwelling place is among man. You dwell in them, and they are Your people, You God, our true God, are with us. You want to wipe away our tears; You want us to see God that death is no more, there is for Your children no more mourning, no more pain for us if we will lift up our eyes. That which is below the line has all passed away. ….Thank You God!
And what has happened? … Revelation has met with faith on our part, and when revelation encounters faith, it produces an inner knowing. …. Unfortunately for us this happens to us progressively. Some seek it, some give up, some think what they received on the day they received Christ is all there is to be had in this life.
One of our first revelations is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. The natural man does not know that. He cannot know it, even if he hears it over and over. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal to him the reality of Jesus Christ. If this has yet to happen to you, you are lost. You are a captive, a prisoner of the temporary realm, below the line.
Once then we place our faith in Christ, the next revelation is that our sins are forgiven. That is an unseen and eternal truth. Nothing in the seen and temporary tells us that. The Holy Spirit reveals it. As is my testimony, I lived primarily on that revelation for 27 years. But thank God He continued and still continues to reveal unseen and eternal truths to me that expanded that basic spiritual understanding. And at the age of 37 I came to understand the truth I share with you today, the life of unspeakable joy.
As Christians, we live below the line, but we are not a below the line people. We are of God’s Kingdom. But we live in a realm of temporary appearance that differs from what Gods sees in the unseen and eternal. Spiritual Growth is a process of replacing temporary appearances with eternal reality, and then living it out. See, once one knows inner life, the Life of the Spirit; one cannot help but live it.
Generally speaking, except for brief excursions, we are almost always constantly living out what we believe. We cannot escape it. We do not do anything but what we believe. So, the more we understand the unseen and eternal realm we will live it, and as we live it, we become less and less oriented toward the seen and temporary. It exercises less control over us.
Paul in Romans Chapter 6 tells us that we died to sin and are free from it. That is an unseen and eternal truth, about which I will say more another time. Sin no longer has any power over us. But if we do not know that unseen and eternal truth, sin still exercises power over us. That is because we are caught in the trap of trying to become something we already are: what is that, we are free from sin.
We will never know abundant life until the unseen and eternal realm is home to us in our everyday experience. Until then, we will be living according to appearances, and appearances will never lead us deeper into the life of God. Only faith will. God wants to bring us to the point where we say, “I live by what God says about things in my life, …situations, people, and even myself. Then we see what He sees, that situations are not as they appear to be,… but that God’s absolutes are operating in the realm of appearance. We are at rest then in the unseen and eternal realm, and we experience His fullness within us.
In our daily lives as Christians,… the most important thing we can know from the unseen and eternal realm is that we and God are one, we are in union. That sounds heretical, but it is exactly what the Bible says: 1 Cor. 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
God has permanently joined Himself to your spirit. Your spirit and He are one. The two then operate as one spirit. When we begin to know and live out of that truth, all the promises of the New Testament Covenant, suddenly become real. We realize that there really truly is no more separation. No more God up there and us down here. We stop trying to get closer to God. We stop asking, How do I reach God. Give me a program, give me a plan, and give me a way.
Instead, we live out of what is already true. We live in union. God and we are one. In the seen and temporary, He operates as us. And we rest in Him.
Where you live and where your eyes are can easily be determined by your understanding of my next statement, ….Every one of us who has received Christ is complete in Christ (Colossians2:10). We are already Holy Col 3:12. There is nothing else to be done.
As we see that, we will live it, and God will make what is true in the unseen and eternal, above the line, a seen and temporary experience here below the line.
Living above the Line
Lift Up Thine Eye’s
1. What is your understanding of Pastor’s illustration of The Line?
2. What are the major characteristics of “above the line”? Of “below the line?”
3. In what ways is God primarily “above the line?”
4. What is already true about you in the eternal realm?
5. What are the three main reasons it is important for us to understand the two realms
How in these three ways it is important for you personally?
6. In what ways is your life primarily being lived “below the line?” Give at least three
examples of ways you see your focus below the line.
7. What is the process God uses to get us to move from below the line to above the line
in a given area in our lives? How can you cooperate with Him in that process in the
areas you mentioned in question 6?
8. In this sermon Pastor mentions many things that are true of us above the line already.
Which one was most important to you as you read? Why?
Living above the Line
“Two Sides of The Cross”
PART ONE: YOU DIED IN CHRIST
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins.
A very large majority of Christians only know about one side of the cross. Much of modern preaching is nothing more than a steady diet of Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins. Week after week preachers deliver this message and already saved Christians are perfectly happy hearing it again and again and again… The problem is that most audiences in churches on Sunday morning are already saved; their sins are already forgiven. And if and when another message is offered it is typically having to do with some external compliance or keeping some commandment.
Much of my life I heard these messages and thought that there has got to be more. This is not getting me any further along than I already am. It was like a rehearsal Sunday after Sunday, but never any performance. Lots of effort but no action, no growing, defiantly no growth spiritually.
Why? Why is there no growth? Because so often only one side of the cross is being preached; the local church is being feed a steady diet of only half of the cross. The church is being sustained on only one half of Gods minimum daily requirement of nutrition. Now one side of the cross has a strong enough nutritional value to sustain life but that’s all. It sustains life but does not provide growth. And where there is no growth the body’s development becomes stunted. So what we have is a body with an Identity problem as we saw last week, but also a problem in its development.
Let me take you on a trip. Let me take you back two thousand years. You are in Jerusalem for vacation. It is Passover week and you cannot believe you did not read up on the travel brochures and find out never to come during one of the local peoples religious festivals. But all the talk is see the Holy Land. You’re out shopping and you hear that there is to be a crucifixion that day. Two local thieves and some man accused of being a political extremist, an enemy of Caesar. ….Your disappointed in the place, the food is bad, the climate is hot, public transportation stinks, so you say to your wife lets go to the crucifixion and see what that’s all about. …That is what we see in the seen and temporary realm.
So you go out in the middle of the afternoon, and they nail the man in the middle to a cross and He dies. Being Americans, nothing holds our attention for any length of time, so we immediately ask, what else is going on? But then, a very strange thing happens. A voice within says, this was no political extremist. This is My Son. I AM God the Father. This is God the Son. And He died for your sins. If you will receive this, your sins will be forgiven.
We hear this and respond yes, I will receive that from Him. …All of us who have believed, had faith in, who have trusted into Christ, have had this experience. It is not important that you know the date, or the time, but that you know it happened, so that you can say MY SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN! That is a revelation from the Holy Spirit. Nothing from the seen and temporary realm, below the line, tells you that your sins are forgiven. It is a truth from the unseen, eternal realm above the line.
This is the first side of the cross. Christ died for you. 1 Cor. 15:3 for I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins. And this message is spread throughout the New Testament. (Eph. 1:7-8, Col. 1:14, Col. 2:13, 1 John 2:2)
And it is a thrilling thing to have your sins forgiven. Just knowing that we are forgiven and now have a right standing with God is usually enough to carry even the weakest of Christian for at least a few months, as we marvel at God’s amazing grace toward us. And that is all most preachers preach, a steady diet of Christ died for your sin’s, a constant diet of Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me and Are You Washed in the Blood fully trusting His Grace this hour. You know, week after week, are you washed in the blood, are your garments clean, are they white as snow, and we scream yes, yes, yes, …hallelujah…
But very soon, and in some cases way to soon, we encounter a problem. Why, because there is only one lesson that the Holy Spirit can teach us from this event in Jerusalem of Christ dying for us: Your Sin’s Are Forgiven. That is the basic truth this event contains. But once we are forgiven, Jesus said its time to start living. … and so we ask, how in the world do I live this thing out. How on earth do I get my act together? How am I going to keep from sinning?
And we discover the truth that we are forgiven, does not tell us one thing about how to live the Life. It only addresses the question, what do I do about my sins.” It has nothing to do with living the Life. Forgiveness is the only inner revelation we have so far from the Holy Spirit. We do not have any revelation on how to live the Life. So we take this one single revelation, that our sins are forgiven, and we try to stretch it out to somehow cover how to live the LIFE.
And how do we do it? We go out and try to live the Christian LIFE, but we just cannot quite pull it off. Instead, we sin a little bit, or a lot, and then we get forgiven before we go to bed at night. Or we get forgiven on Sunday at church. Preachers take their congregation through this week after week after week. They say, this is what we have done wrong; now let’s ask God to forgive us. Then let’s do our best to make it until next Sunday. The People say, Thank you preacher, you made me feel twice as bad as last week, and I’m twice as glad I’m forgiven this week, oops, now its 12:00 o’clock time to pass the potato salad, got to go.
And that’s the way it is for far too many, either at church, or in their individual lives. And there is no way out, because we do not have anything from the Lord yet on how to live the LIFE. So we become preoccupied with whom, with ourselves and on our sins.
We still see ourselves externally, based on our performance. And this is like being on a roller coaster, because our performance goes up and down and we never measure up. So we are very unhappy, but we smile, a fake smile, sometimes. We go to church and say IM fine when asked. We think IM actually miserable, but it is Sunday, I cannot say IM miserable in here because everyone is so happy. I mean happy happy. So we say where’s the coffee? I need more spirit. More caffeine please, turn up the music.
See, after you get over the thrill of being saved, you’re stuck on this treadmill. And it is worse than being lost. And by that, I don’t mean it is really worse than being lost, but I mean it feels worse than being lost. … Why, because when you were lost you were comfortable being lost. You do not have to do anything to be lost. Have you ever seen a book on how to be lost? Lost people are good at being lost. …It is easy to walk on two feet, it gets difficult when you have to drop to your knees and spend the day crawling. It is against our nature to crawl. We are comfortable being lost because it once was our nature.
And it is easier being lost than being saved and trying to live off of only “IM forgiven,” trying with all your might to be a good Christian. Because that is simply only one side of the cross; it is only half of the Gospel Jesus proclaimed. And it will give you only a partial, fragmented view of salvation. With only half the Gospel, we go back to the old way, into our independent self-effort, trying to make the rest of it happen on our own.
And we cannot make it happen. But, there is a reason why, this is actually part of the way God programmed us. God programmed us so that if we try to make the Christian walk work on our own we will fail. He designed you in a way that that kind of living would bring you nothing but heartbreak, and despair and disappointment. He designed us that this kind of life would bring nothing but condemnation.
And so many simply preach or decide that this must be how the Christian life is supposed to be. That victorious living on this side of Heaven, below the line is impossible, that this is the Christian life, this side of eternity, and it is never more than a struggle in which you will suffer defeat after defeat after defeat. That is a far cry from what my Lord Jesus promised as “Abundant LIFE.”
So why the disparity? ….Because the first side of the cross only deals with the issue of sin’s. S-I-N-S. Plural. Jesus Christ died on the cross, our S-I-N-S are forgiven. God has wiped the slate clean of all the offenses we have or ever will commit against Him. But, getting our sins forgiven does not deal with the question of sin. S-I-N, singular. Sins are the product of something that the Bible says dwells within us-which is sin. (Rom 7:17)
Sin is a power, or a force, that is in rebellion against God and produces sins as its fruit. We inherited sin through Adam, from whom sin was passed to every subsequent generation (Rom 5:12). As long as sin dwells in the center of our being, it will produce sins. So most Christians are on this sort of treadmill: we sin, we get forgiven; we sin, we get forgiven. Over and over and over.
But, we read our Bible and think praise God, it says one day that sin will not dog us anymore, causing us to do what we don’t want to do. We read God’s promises of abundant LFE, and how we have victory over sin. But because we don’t experience that victory over sin, in the here and now, below the line, we conclude that some event is yet to take place before we can experience them. And that is exactly right.
That event is that WE MUST DIE. But we even have that all wrong.
See, we tell ourselves that once we physically die we are going to move into the unseen and eternal realm above the line. Then we are going to have everything that we have anticipated. So we push all of God’s promises off into the eternal future, and we say, Thank You God that this great big struggle will end when I die. When I die, IM going to join the unseen and eternal realm above the line, and everything is going to be great!
And there is a tremendous truth to this thinking. … I know, I lived that life; but there came a moment in my life when I realized that none of those words in the Bible applied to the future. Every single one of them applied to my life now. Remember the word I said best described the eternal, unseen realm, it was simply “Now.” 2 Cor. 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. Not will find their yes, not will be yes, but find, are yes, in Him. God did not intend me to relegate them to the divine realm. He meant for Greg to experience them now.
But we have one thing right. The only way to experience these promises is to die. When we die, we finally will be free from ourselves. That is an absolute truth. We all must die to enter into these unseen, eternal realities, above the line. So I say, you do have to die, but the issue is when you die? You know what God showed me, 27 years after I became a Christian, I had already died, and it was a whole lot earlier than I ever imagined. Here I was walking along waiting on something to happen that in the unseen, eternal realm above the line had already happened. I had already died. ….
Now let’s go back to our Holy Land trip 2000 years ago. Remember we were standing just outside of Jerusalem observing a crucifixion. There the Holy Spirit told us that the man in the center was God’s Son, and He died for the forgiveness of our sins, but now the illustration changes. Suddenly quite beyond our understanding we are transported off the ground and up into that body; the body of Jesus Christ Himself. And we are no longer observers of something He is doing for us. We are participating with Him in the event. We are being crucified with Him. And when He dies, we die with Him.
Look at Romans 6 3-6 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him …
I used to read that passage all wrong. Being a Baptist, and not reading Greek back then, I came along the word baptize and all I saw was a pool of water. But the Greek word Baptizo does not mean what baptize means to us. We are victims of the fact that King James was a Catholic. Rather than translate into the proper English word immerse, the translators decided to keep their heads, I mean literally keep their heads, and just turned the Greek word into an English word. Baptizo became baptize. And whenever someone says baptize we think of water and a religious ceremony of some sort.
But we get a much more accurate meaning when we translate it directly into the corresponding English word. Do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death? There is no water here, because Paul is saying that we were immersed into Christ. We went into Him. He swallowed us up. All of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death!
Why? Because He died, and whatever happened to Jesus on the cross happened to whoever was immersed in Him. We were all immersed into Him. We were in Him on that cross, experiencing what He experienced. So when He died, we died. When He was raised, we were raised with Him. And to emphasize the point, Paul said that we were “buried with Him.” And when we bury someone it can only mean one thing. At least it better. They are dead! The human life is over. Whatever they were is gone.
So there is a great big question confronting every one of us today. What died with Christ? It certainly does not seem like we died with Him. Here we are, still alive, still breathing, and alive in Poetry Texas. Jesus died 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. How could we have possibly died with Him.
The answer can be found in Romans 6:6 We know, or knowing this, that our old self, (the one we inherited from Adam, cut off from God but alive to the power of sin) was crucified with Him, Christ. …..Look at Ephes. 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
The source of that life had to die. You cannot put an I Love Jesus Band-Aid over it. It had to die. It had to be cut off. Cut Loose. The root must be killed. You cannot just scrape off the sin and cover it up. God had to cut the old man out of you at the root or he would continue to produce his sinful fruit. So God crucified you with Christ.
The old man is indwelt and enslaved by sin. But God crucified that old man and gave us a new spirit, created in righteousness and holiness, (Eph. 4:24). Hundreds of years before Christ, Ezekiel prophesized that God would perform this heart transplant under the New Covenant: Ezekiel 36:26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you,
We were dead in trespasses and sins. But we are no longer. We were sons of disobedience. But we are no longer. We were expressing desires of our spiritual father, Satan. But he is our father no longer. We were children of wrath. But we are no longer.
How could we have been crucified with Christ 2000 years ago? Because we were not crucified physically, in the seen and temporary realm below the line, we were crucified in the sprit realm, the unseen, eternal realm above the line. In the realm in which time has no meaning; because everything is now!
This is why Jesus is the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. In the seen and temporary world below the line, He was slain 2000 years ago. In the unseen and eternal world above the line, He has always been the slain lamb. In the seen and temporary world, you and I live physically right now. In the unseen and eternal realm, you and I were crucified on the cross with Christ. Our old man, inherited from Adam, dead and separated from God, died with Christ!
This is just one side of the cross. There are two sides. The first is the blood side. That is where Christ dies for us. He shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. The second side is the body side. We were united with Him on the cross, participants with Him in death, burred, and resurrected. Our old man was crucified with Him. Our new man, righteous and holy, was resurrected with Him.
On one side of the Cross is the Blood, Christ died for us, on the other side is the body; we died & were raised with Christ.
This should not be so unfamiliar to us. Every time we take communion we eat the bread, we drink the cup. The problem, most Christians do not have a clue what the bread represents. What representing the body really means.
It means that we were united with Him, and that when He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. When He was raised, we were raised. The heart of Paul’s theology is built on the Lord’s Supper; the blood and the body of Christ. Christ died for us; we died with Him.
We do not feel dead. We do not look dead. We do not act dead. But at some point the Holy Spirit pulls back the certain and shows us that in the deepest part of us, our spirit, which is who we truly are, a death has occurred that has forever changed us. We are going to look the same, feel the same, and think the same on many, many days. But…. we will know this, we are not the same. 2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. If this has happened to you, you are ruined for the ordinary.
My friends in the unseen and eternal realm, above the line an exchange has taken place; I call it the great exchange, a change in our spirit that once we know it, produces a quality of life that is different from anything else the world has ever seen. It is light in darkness. It is God’s love in place of a world of self love. It is desirable above all else. And it is in us.
What We Died To
So far we have looked at what I’m calling Two sides of the cross. I explained that not only did Christ die for us, the blood side of the cross, but we also died with Him, the body side of the cross. Before we go further we must truly understand that our old self was crucified on the cross, because our old self was the source of most the problems we experience as humans. Our old, unregenerate spirit, inherited from Adam, was by nature sinful. It was an enemy of God, separated from God, and without the life of God for which man was originally created. From the old man flowed sin, hatred, a sense of separation from God, and from one another, and death.
For our God to restore humanity to its original purpose, that old man had to die. Through His kindness, God accomplished that for us on the cross of Christ. Now before I move to the second side of the cross, the body side, I want to make sure we understand the first side and give you some details of the benefits of the fact that our old man died. But before we do, we must establish one fact:…we all died with Christ. Paul tells us this repeatedly:
2 Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
Col. 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
This is incredible! It is something we can not entirely process through our brain. When One died, all died, because all were in Him. This is not a below the line statement. Humanity is stretched out over time from the beginning until the end. The only realm where this could happen is above the line, where there is not any time. There is only now! What we see as past, present, and future is simply now, above the line.
The fact that all died in Christ is an unseen, eternal, above the line reality. It is just like when Adam sinned, all sinned. None were even born when Adam sinned, but all were in his loins. All believers are in the loins of Christ.
But, it is easy for someone to say, “All Died. That means all of you. But I know me, I have not died yet. I’m not dead yet. But I say. All means all. The devil wants you to believe his lies; that all does not include you. He wants you to believe the old self still lives within you. He can control the old self. So then if you believe him, he can control you. That is a lie from Satan; a lie straight from Hell. You tell Satan he can take that lie and go straight to Hell. Tell him it’s a trap, but not for you. All means all. And the beautiful thing is that all means all to God, no matter what all means to us!
If we never see that we died spiritually until we physically die and then, looking back, see that the old us was already dead, we were still already dead to God. That He is already seeing us differently than we are seeing ourselves. That we are inflicting punishment, guilt, and condemnation upon ourselves, day after day, for things about us that He isn’t even seeing because He can’t see them.
I do not mean He is blind. I mean that He cannot reckon them. He cannot record them. He cannot see us that way because we are no longer that way to Him. So Paul could say, 2 Cor. 5:17-18 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God,
That is good news. Before I understood this, in my own life, I, Greg was trying to get rid of the old and I was trying to make the new come. What a trap! Above the line, Paul said to me, Look Greg, when Jesus died, you were in Him, you died too. The old is gone, the new has come, and you are a new creation in Christ Jesus!
People say I know what you are telling me, but that is just not my experience. Why, because below the line things are temporary, above the line things are eternal, above the line is the greater truth. Your position is your true condition. In your spirit, you did die with Christ, and you were raised with Him. You are Holy and righteous, and blameless. These are all above the line truths. The question is what is your position, where are you living, above or below the line.
Your life may never evidence this in the temporary world below the line, but God says you died, you were buried, and you were raised, and you are seated in heaven. The question you must ask yourself is, when am I going to admit this truth. What is true, what God says, or what I currently see? “Not by sight but by faith says the Lord.
Can you recognize that above the line in the unseen realm of the spirit, you are already dead? I promise you that when the Holy Spirit turns on the light and you say, “I See, I see, you will become a free person. You will be able to stop fighting with the flesh, trying to make it do things it can never do. You will free yourself to be an expression of the indwelling Jesus Christ. You will become what God desires of you, to be the expression of Him, in your own unique humanity.
Now, when our old self died on the cross with Jesus, there were certain things that we died to. When our spirit ceased its relationship with certain things; these things no longer hold any power over us, over our new spirit, which is our true identity. We are dead to them.
The First thing we died to is sin.
Not, sins, which are acts of unrighteousness, but sin, which is the power that produces those acts of unrighteousness. In the last part of Romans 5, Paul talked about the riches of God’s grace. But the Apostle knows that as some people listened to his teaching on grace, they heard license. When the flesh hears pure grace, it always hears license. The spirit praises God for His Grace; the flesh hears only license. So Paul knew that some were going to hear the good news and conclude, “I can do whatever I want and get away with it. I can do all the sinning I want, because I have all of this grace of God to draw on and get all the forgiveness I want.”
Well, technically, that’s a truth. That is true. If, and this is a big if, but if, you are truly a born again person, you can do whatever you want to, because God never sees what you used to be. He only sees who you are now in Christ. But, and this but is even bigger than the if, but just as Paul responded 2000 years ago, I would respond today, God forbid that that would be your conclusion. It is a truth, but God forbid you would conclude it. Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Paul then immediately taught what we saw last week, our union in Christ in His death and burial and resurrection. Because we died with Him, we are dead to sin. It no longer has any power over us. Romans 6:6-7 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For the one who has died has been set free from sin.
But we would have to be blind not to see that there are those who take advantage of God’s grace and continue to sin, just as well as there are those who are fearful of the full grace of God. But I will guarantee you one thing. There is something they do not know; something that has so far eluded them. They do not know they have died to sin.
They know they have been forgiven of sins, but they do not yet know they have died to sin. Hear me, there is no one among us in the Body of Christ in their deepest being, their inner man, their soul, who wants to sin. They just do not yet have the spiritual awareness of being dead, buried, and raised with Christ.
The blood side of the cross deals with sins; actions or attitudes that break the law of God. The body side of the cross deals with sin. The source of Sin was the old self, our Adamic nature. He was the point of origin of sins. God’s solution to our dilemma was to become what our problem was. But our problem was not our humanity, it was not our environment, it was not our parents, the school we went to, which side of town we grew up in, how much money we have or not.
Our problem was always a spiritual problem. 2 Cor. 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The cure was radical. Jesus became sin and joined our old self to Himself. So our old self died with Him. And when our Old self died, sin was eradicated from our inmost being. We died to sin.
Jesus did not just die to forgive us. Through our spiritual union with Him, He did something in us. He completely solved the sin problem. He took the sin nature out. As Paul said in Romans 6, he who has died is free from, is cut off, separated from, sin. Says who? I do say’s God! And if you ever catch up with me He says you will see it too!
But if we have died to sin why are we still tempted to sin? …Why do I still have this struggle within me toward sin?... Paul explained this in Romans 7. Though sin has been removed from our deepest inner being, it has not been eradicated from our body, our members, as Paul puts it. So we can still be pulled by the power of sin that dwells in our body, but not in our spirit.
This is why it is so crucial to understand that our old self was crucified with Christ and that we died to sin. We are free from sin. That is a spirit level truth, above the line. Because if we live by our thoughts and feelings, we feel sin’s temptation and think that is the real us. It feels as if the real us wants to sin, so we think there must still be something wrong with the real us.
It feels like we have both the old nature, the old self, and a new nature, our new life, the new creation in Christ. And every outward appearance seems to substantiate that. The only thing that does not is what God says is true: Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him..so that we are no longer slaves to sin, for he who had died is freed from sin.
The Blood side of the cross labels us, FORGIVEN. The body side of the cross labels us THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. (2 cor. 5:21) We are the righteousness of God. We are not just forgiven, but perfect and complete. In the unseen and eternal realm above the line, we are a finished product!
The old self made its self known through us by way of sins. The New Creation in Christ, the new spirit man, born by God’s Spirit in righteousness and holiness, makes his self known by Christ’s nature living through us by way of righteousness.
As we learn to live from the truth of what has happened in our soul, we will then witness externally what God has already made an internal reality.
We have been separated through death from the power of sin.
We have become the righteousness of God.
We have total victory over sin!
Two Sides of the Cross
PART ONE: YOU DIED IN CHRIST
1. Why is Christ dying for us only fifty percent of the gospel? What is the other half?
2. Why is the first half of the gospel insufficient for us to live the Christian life?
3. What happens when we try to live the Christian life on only half of the gospel?
Tell what that experience has looked like in your journey.
4. What is the difference between sins and sin? Why is the difference critical to
our understanding of the gospel?
5. Why does death end our relationship to sin?
6. We know what happened to Christ on the cross. Explain what happened to you on the cross. What significance does that have for you living the Christian life?
7. How is that we died with Christ and yet are still living? How would you explain someone’s death with Christ to them?
8. What was the old self? What happened to the old self? What significance does that have for you as a believer?
9. Why is it difficult to accept the fact that we died with Christ?
10. If we think that we didn’t really die with Him, what are we looking to that tells us that? What tells us we have died with Christ? Which is more reliable?
11. What does it mean that you died to sin?
12. Look up Romans 7:22. In your deepest being, do you want to be obedient to God, or do you want to sin?
13. Because of the body side of the cross, what is your true identity now?
14. Why is having died to sin critical to you living the Christian life?
15. What does it mean that you died to the Law?
16. Why is that critical to you living the Christian life?
17. What does it mean that you died to yourself as your point of reference?
18. Why is that critical to you living the Christian life?
Living above the Line
Two Sides of the Cross, Christ Lives In You
1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God,…. God abides in him, and he in God.
Christ Lives in You
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, comma…You know how many Christians sit on that comma. Some do for years, some forever. I did for 27 years. Then I experienced the other half of that verse, God abides in him, and he in God. Jesus said I AM the life. I finally realized the LIFE had been residing in me all along. But I did not know it.
I have been talking about the two sides of the cross; the blood side and the body side. On the blood side, Jesus Christ died for our sins. Through His death we obtained forgiveness. On the body side of the cross, in the unseen and eternal realm, in our spirit, we experienced with Christ what He experienced; we died with Him and were raised with Him.
I have focused on the death aspect of the body side. We died on the cross with Christ. Our old self is dead, burred. We are dead to sin. We are dead to the law. We are dead to ourselves as a point of reference. The fact that we died is a foundational truth in the Christian life IN CHRIST.
But, if we only emphasis our death in Christ, we will never see what God purposed to be resurrected out of our death; what is that…it is LIFE! We can stand on the tomb and celebrated our death all day long and never get on to living the Life.
In Romans 6, Paul emphasized both our crucifixion and our resurrection with Christ. Romans 6:4-5, 11 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. V. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
God raised our new man from the dead, and then God berthed in us an entirely new spirit, holy, righteous, so that He could then unite Himself to our spirit and live His life through us. And whether we knew it or not, at our rebirth, Jesus came into us and we became one with Him. He now lives in and through us. Two sides of the cross; Blood, and Body, Christ died for us, Christ lives in us.
Now it is time for another trip. Last time we went back 2000 years to the cross, this time we will go 3400 years to the Exodus. God gave us a wonderful illustration of what IM trying to help you understand. We call it the Passover. In Exodus 12, before God sent the death angel to kill all the firstborn in Egypt, God told the Hebrew people to set apart a lamb from the flock, to kill it, and smear the blood on the doorposts of their dwellings. When God saw this blood, He would then Passover that house and spare the firstborn inside. The people had only to apply the blood to the doorposts.
This part of the Passover foretells the blood side of the cross. The lamb died for the household. The household did not participate in that death, the lamb died for them. When they applied the blood to their doorposts, they escaped the wrath of God. The firstborn was sparred. The parallel to the blood side of the cross is undeniable. Christ died for us. He shed His blood as payment for our sins, a satisfying sacrifice to the righteous judgment of God. When, by faith, we today apply Christ’s blood, His death, to our lives, we are spared the wrath of God upon us. Our sins are forgiven.
Now follow me. Let me ask you this. When the children of Israel were in captivity under Pharaoh, what country were they in. Where were they?...Egypt. And after they put the blood on the doorposts and the Lord passed over them, and the firstborn son was spared, what country were they in. …Still Egypt.
You know, as long as our revelatory knowledge is limited to the blood side of the cross, Christ died for us, we may still have our firstborn. That is our sins may be forgiven. But we still live in captivity experientially. We are still living as if we are the subjects of the Pharaoh of our life, in bondage. If I were to allow for the term Carnal Christian to be used, this would be my definition of one. A Christian, living in bondage to the ruler of this world, trying to overcome with one’s own efforts, trying to become spiritual. And what happens is, they think it sure is great to have my sins forgiven, but this captivity stuff sure takes the excitement out of it. They think I sure thought it would be different.
And God had a solution, then and now. The solution was to provide them with LIFE. To get them and us out of Egypt, He instructed each household to roast the lamb and eat it as nourishment for the journey ahead. This is the body side of the cross. You take the lamb, Jesus, into you as LIFE. God showed them and us today that the same lamb that provided the blood is to be eaten for the journey.
Everything that is necessary for living comes from the lamb. It is not that the lamb dies for you then you are sent out on your own to do the rest on your own, and not even that you do it with His help. The lamb is everything here. The lamb gave His blood for them and his life to them. They took its meat into them, and it became nourishment, strength, vitality for the long journey. They lived their life out of the lamb’s life. They walked in his energy. They killed one lamb for two purposes; the Passover and the walk.
Paul also calls the New Testament life a walk. What is the LIFE of that walk? Well it is not our trying to walk for God. It may look that way on the outside, but we have the Lamb of God in us. He is not only forgiveness of our sins. He is also the LIFE in us, from whom we make the journey; one cross, two purposes, just like one lamb two purposes. God say’s “Take the blood and put it on your door. Take the meat and put it in your body. Put The LIFE in you. And unless you put the LIFE in you, you will always be operating in that realm of bondage. When you put the LIFE in you, you will be ready to live. You will be ready to start the journey.”
Christians can walk around for years with a sense of forgiveness, but absolutely no sense of LIFE. WE have the LIFE in us, but we do not know it. We try to generate the LIFE ourselves, but we are doomed to failure, because it is impossible for us to generate the LIFE. God is telling us, I will share my Glory with no man. Only I can live MY LIFE. But, …I will impart the LIFE to you. I will give you the LIFE. I will live it through you.”
This is why there is not anything beyond the grace of God, once it is understood, that is necessary for living the Christian LIFE. All you are ever going to need for LIFE is in the cross, ..that is both sides of the cross. It is all in Christ. And HE is in us.
The Apostle Paul wrote: Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. See, we were saved not just by Jesus’ death, but also by His LIFE. This is true eternally, above the line, but it is a truth here and now. We are saved by the Life of Christ that lives within us.
Not Us, But Jesus In Us
In the 6th chapter of Johns Gospel, Jesus feeds 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. When he leaves the crowd goes after Him. They want more. He tells them, you did not see the miracle in the miracle. You saw the seen and temporary. You saw bread and fish multiplied. But you missed the unseen and eternal miracle. I AM the unseen and eternal miracle. See Jesus is not just a bread producer He is THE LIFE giver.
Later in John 6, He says “I AM the bread of life…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood; you have no life in yourselves. He who eats MY flesh and drinks MY blood has eternal life.”
We, Christian, have ETERNAL LIFE in us, God’s very LIFE; LIFE without beginning and end. We have the uncreated LIFE.
Jesus is telling us, I AM all a person needs for living the LIFE, it is not ME plus something. It is not Me plus your prayers, or your Bible study, or your service, or all you can do, because you will never produce a life that pleases ME. I AM the only LIFE that pleases Me.
See, no one gets offended when you are talking about separation from God, instead of Union with God. As long as it is God up there and us down here, He does things for us from up there it is okay. But when you start talking about Jesus and He does something for us, as us, things get touchy. People get nervous when you start touching them. In John 6, the people were perfectly satisfied with Jesus as long as He produced bread. The problem came when He said I AM the bread. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?
Jesus was telling the Jews, you are doing all the external things, but there is no LIFE in it. What is the opposite of LIFE?...Death!. This became so real to me at Faith Temple these past few months. In March as I prepared to write these very sermons I wrote an editorial in our monthly news letter. In my excitement I wrote that God is ready for spiritual awakening, another term for The Life, at Faith Temple, and that I was also, and that if you were not please leave. I had no Idea how upset this would make people. I mean what is the opposite of Spiritual Awakening, ..Spiritual death. If we are not operating out of LIFE, then we are operating out of Death. Yea, people are okay when it’s God up there and us down here. But a preacher starts talking about Christ in the man, oh he better watch out, people get mad, they make comments like, oh I guess it’s his way or the highway, well, …that what Jesus said.
Yes, If we are not operating out of LIFE, then we are operating out of Death..but, ..it does not look like death, because we often get results. I think that is another lie of the devil. “Results” Church programs get results, personal programs get results, in the seen and temporary realm below the line, and people are getting results. Jesus has a word for Christian trying to get results; it is “Enjoy Your Reward.” You want results; you’re getting results, well then enjoy your reward. Go ahead with it. But it is not of Me. It is not MY LIFE flowing through you.
Paul revealed the secret of Christ in us. He said to the Galatians, I live, but not really, Christ lives in me. It looks like me, but it is Christ. To the Colossians he wrote, It is Christ in you that is your hope of Glory. To the Philippians he proclaimed; For me to live is Christ. Who was doing the living? Jesus Christ was. But if we could look at Him, we would see Paul.
2 Cor. 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. These ambassadors were pleading, but who was really pleading? God was. He was making His plea through them. The words and the works came through Paul. But Paul knew he was not working up this concern for lost people, God was. God was in him making the appeal. It looked like Paul, but it was the indwelling Jesus Christ.
3) What does Jesus In Us Look Like
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, … and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
What did Jesus mean, Learn from Me? The Gospel of John has the answer. Jesus says over and over things like, I do nothing of myself, I only do what I see with the Father, I only speak what I hear from the Father, the works I do , they are not My works, they are the Father’s works, who dwells in Me.
When Jesus said “Learn from Me, He meant from how He lived. And how did He live. He lived out of the Father. He had no other secret. He did not have a Bible to read, He did not have a prayer group, He simply let the Father live through Him. He learned how to live off the resources of the Father, which are not of this temporary realm below the line. The resources of the Father are above the line, in the eternal realm.
Jesus could have said it this way. The Father is LIFE. Every statement He ever gave is a witness to this. God is LIFE! The Father was living His LIFE through Jesus. Jesus says, what you see when you look at Me is the Father in Me. We are ONE. The Father lived through Him as Him. Jesus was at rest in Him. Jesus was at rest all this time. The Jews were irate when they heard this.
The life of the Son was the Father, and the Life of the sons is the SON. So how do we live the LIFE? We learn to live it out of the Son and the Father. To learn to live out of the Son and the Father you have to know something. …Where the Son and the Father live. Where do they live…In US!
It is a miracle, it is absolutely amazing, I cannot fully explain it, but it can be witnessed in the LIFE of one man, The Man Jesus Christ.
How do we live The LIFE? We don’t, because we can’t. For years this is where I lived, but I could not produce the LIFE of God. I could not bring the uncreated, Gods LIFE out of the creation, me. How was I ever going to do that? Well, as long as I saw myself as the source of LIFE I kept on trying. Then one day, Jesus said to me, I AM your LIFE. I AM the only One acceptable to the Father. I not only want to forgive you; I want to live the LIFE in you. I want to be your LIFE!
Look at Roman 6 one more time. Verse 7 says He who has died is free from sin. We then usually ship to verse 11 in our focus and read, consider yourself to be dead to sin but alive to God in Jesus Christ. But I want you to focus on verse 10 for just a moment. Romans 6:10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
The LIFE that Jesus lives, He lives to GOD! And where is Jesus? He is in us. Jesus in us lives His LIFE to God. He lives only to God. …We don’t have to try and live to God! He who lives in us lives to God. If we know that the old self is dead and out of the way, we can rest assured that the Person in us is going to live for the Glory of God. Jesus said; My food is to do the will of Him who sent me. That is who lives in you. His only desire and will is to do the Will of the Father. He lives in you and me, and HE will Do IT!
So let me bring all this to a conclusion.
We have really only 3 questions. Who is The LIFE? Where is the LIFE? And who am I?
When we get those settled, LIFE is easy. …Jesus is The LIFE. Jesus lives in me. I am the vessel, a container of His LIFE, holy, righteous, and blameless in His sight. If I know who life is and where the life is, I am free from trying to become something I was never meant to be. It is easy to be natural. It is hard to be unnatural, trying to produce the LIFE on our own, resulting in frustration, anger, desperation, till finally you give up. I did.
We are not meant to operate un-naturally. But if we know who we are, and who LIFE is, and where LIFE is, we can just be ourselves and let Him live it because no one has any trouble being themselves.
I pray you are on the verge of an I SEE moment. An I see now how to live the life. I let him live it. If so then I encourage you to count yourself dead. The old self dead. Count on it. Count yourself alive to God in Christ Jesus. He is the One in you that lives to God. Count on Him to be doing it moment by moment. By faith reckon yourself dead as your point of reference. You are holy and righteous and blameless in His sight. Christ in you is you point of reference. He is sufficient, always loving, and always living to the Father.
It is not our trying that releases Christ life through us. It is our trusting. Just say, Lord, Your Holy Spirit is showing me this truth. I embrace it by faith, just as I embraced Jesus for forgiveness of my sins. I now embrace Jesus in me as my LIFE. Teach me; convince me God, of this truth by the Holy Spirit, so that I will not be captive any longer to trying to produce the LIFE myself.
Is it not good news to us to know that He did not just die for us, though that is great news, that He is with us, though that is great news, that He is in us helping us, though that is good news, but that HE IS In US, Living The LIFE! He has joined His Spirit with our spirit. In the eternal realm, above the line, there is Deity inside us. We are not Deity, but we are containers of that Deity.
A well of eternal life is springing up inside of us, within us. This LIFE is adequate, This LIFE is sufficient; This LIFE is never exhausted, never tires, never taste bitter. This LIFE is always light, always has mercy in it, always has a second chance in it, always carries God’s forgiveness toward others, and always is love.
When we recognize this, suddenly the ought-to’s and musts of the Devils frantic way of life become the “Be Still and be’ of God’s LIFE. The be still and be of His eternal presence. A dramatic change of our point of reference results.
Satin’s invitation to humanity was “you Become.” …And when we are playing in his game of must and ought-to, we are in the spotlight. Our performance is the center stage. But our new point of reference is the indwelling Jesus Christ. He has no part in the separation implied by must and ought. He lives in the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where all simply is.
We are invited to let that be, and let Him come. We pray it all the time. It is time we meant it. They Kingdom Come, Thy will be dome, on earth, below the line, just as it is in Heaven, above the line. Christ in the man, God in His Kingdom.
Two Sides of the Cross
PART TWO: CHRIST LIVES IN YOU
1. How in the Passover did God provide a picture of both the blood and the body side of the cross?
2. Give examples from your life of how, after coming to Christ, you have continued to live in Egypt.
3. How is it that Jesus is all we need to live the life? If that is true, what about the Christian disciplines? What role do they play? How does Jesus being the life affect the way we “do” all things in the Christian life?
4. What does Pastor mean when he says that Jesus lives His life “in you, through you, as you”?
What does he not mean?
5. Summarize what the Gospel of John says about the process by which Jesus lived His life.
What relation does this have to how we are to live our life?
6.What does it mean to see ourselves as our point of origin, or source of life? What does it mean to see Jesus as our Source or point of origin?
7. How does seeing Jesus as our Source work in our lives? Pick something you struggled with this past week, a trial you had. What does seeing Jesus as your Source in that circumstance mean? How does that work out in your life?
8. Of what significance is it to us that the life that Jesus lives, He lives to God (Rom. 6:10)? What does it mean for us living the Christian life?
9. Why is it important to see ourselves as vessels that contain God’s life?
10. How can you cooperate with God in experiencing the reality of Christ as your life?
Appendix: What does it mean to be “in Christ” or “united with Christ”?
Union with Christ
Union with Christ
What does it mean to be “in Christ” or “united with Christ”?
EXPLANATION AND SCRIPTURAL BASIS1
The subject is so frequently mentioned in Scripture and so wide-ranging in its application to our lives that it deserves treatment here. That is the concept of union with Christ. As we shall see below, every aspect of God’s relationship to believers is in some way connected to our relationship with Christ. From God’s counsels in eternity past before the world was created, to our fellowship with God in heaven in eternity future, and including every aspect of our relationship with God in this life—all has occurred in union with Christ. So in one sense the entire study of the application of redemption could be included in this subject. However, we can simply summarize the incredible richness of the scriptural idea of union with Christ. John Murray says:
Union with Christ has its source in the election of God the Father before the foundation of the world and has its fruition in the glorification of the sons of God. The perspective of God’s people is not narrow; it is broad and it is long. It is not confined to space and time; it has the expanse of eternity. Its orbit has two foci, one the electing love of God the Father in the counsels of eternity; the other glorification with Christ in the manifestation of his glory. The former has no beginning, the latter has no end....Why does the believer entertain the thought of God’s determinate counsel with such joy? Why can he have patience in the perplexities and adversities of the present? Why can he have confident assurance with reference to the future and rejoice in hope of the glory of God? It is because he cannot think of past, present, or future apart from union with Christ.2
We may define union with Christ as follows: Union with Christ is a phrase used to summarize several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit of salvation. These relationships include the fact that we are in Christ, Christ is in us, we are like Christ, and we are with Christ.
As this definition indicates, four different aspects of our union with Christ may be specified from the biblical material. We will look at each of these four in turn:
1. We are in Christ.
2. Christ is in us.
3. We are like Christ.
4. We are with Christ.3
A. We Are in Christ
The phrase “in Christ” does not have one single sense, but refers to a variety of relationships, as indicated below.
1. In God’s Eternal Plan. Ephesians 1:4 tells us that, God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” It was “in Christ” that we were “destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory” (vv. 1:11–12). Later he “saved us and called us” because of “his own purpose” and because of the grace which he gave us “in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Tim. 1:9 niv).
Since we did not exist before the foundation of the world, these verses indicate that God, looking into the future and knowing that we would exist, thought of us being in a special relationship with Christ. He did not first choose us and later decide to relate us to Christ. Rather, while choosing us, he at the same time thought about us as belonging to Christ in a special way, as being “in Christ.” Therefore, he thought about us as eventually having the right to share in the blessings of Christ’s work.
2. During Christ’s Life on Earth. Throughout Christ’s entire life on earth, from the time of his birth to the time of his ascension into heaven, God thought of us as being “in Christ.” That is, whatever Christ did as our representative, God counted it as being something we did, too. Of course, believers were not consciously present in Christ, since most believers did not even exist yet when Christ was on earth. Nor were believers present in Christ in some mysterious, spiritual way (as if, for example, the souls of thousands of believers were somehow present in Christ’s body during his earthly life). Rather, believers were present in Christ only in God’s thoughts. God thought of us as going through everything that Christ went through, because he was our representative.
When Jesus perfectly obeyed God for his whole life, God thought of us as having obeyed, too. “By one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). So Christ is our source of righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9).
Because God thought of us as being “in” Christ, he also could think of our sins as belonging to Christ: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV), and “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). These were sins we had not yet committed, but God knew about them in advance, and thought of them as belonging to Christ. Thus, it was right that Christ should die for our sins. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24; see also Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Col. 2:14; Heb. 9:28).
But it was not just our sins that God thought of as belonging to Christ: it was we ourselves. When Christ died, God thought of us as having died. Our old self was “crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6). “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). “One has died for all; therefore all have died” (2 Cor. 5:14; see also Rom. 6:4–5, 8; 7:4; Col. 1:22; 2:12, 20; 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:11).
In the same way, God thought of us as having been buried with Christ, raised with him, and taken up to heaven with him in glory. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6 NIV; see also Rom. 6:4–11; 1 Cor. 15:22; Col. 2:12–13).
When Christ returned to heaven, therefore, all the blessings of salvation were earned for us. God thought of these blessings as being rightfully ours, just as if we had earned them ourselves. Nevertheless, they were stored up for us in heaven—in God’s mind, actually, and in Christ, our representative—waiting to be applied to us personally (1 Peter 1:3–5; Col. 3:3–4; Eph. 1:3).
3. During Our Lives Now. Once we have been born and exist as real people in the world, our union with Christ can no longer be something just in God’s mind. We also must be brought into an actual relationship with Christ through which the benefits of salvation can be applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit. The richness of our present life in Christ can be viewed from four slightly different perspectives:
1. We have died and been raised with Christ.
2. We have new life in Christ.
3. All our actions can be done in Christ.
4. All Christians together are one body in Christ.
a. Dying and Rising With Christ: The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus now have real effects in our lives. “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Here Paul’s references to baptism and faith indicate that our dying and rising with Christ occur in this present life, at the time we become Christians.
Paul sees this present death and resurrection with Christ as a way of describing and explaining the change that the Holy Spirit brings about in our character and personality when we become Christians. It is as if the Holy Spirit reproduces Jesus’ death and resurrection in our lives when we believe in Christ. We become so unresponsive to the pressures, demands and attractions of our previous, sinful way of life, that Paul can say we are “dead” to these influences, because we have died with Christ (Rom. 7:6; Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14; Col. 2:20). On the other hand, we find ourselves wanting to serve God much more, and able to serve him with greater power and success, so much so that Paul says we are “alive” to God, because we have been raised up with Christ: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11; see also 1 Peter 1:3; 2:24). Because we died and rose with Christ, we have power to overcome personal sin more and more (Rom. 6:12–14, 19); we have come to “fullness of life” in Christ (Col. 2:10–13); in fact, we have become a “new creation” in him (2 Cor. 5:17, with vv. 14–15), and should therefore set our minds on things that are above, where Christ is (Col. 3:1–3).
b. New Life in Christ: These last verses suggest a second perspective on our being “in Christ.” We can think not only in terms of Christ’s past work of redemption, but also in terms of his present life in heaven, and his continuing possession of all the spiritual resources we need to live the Christian life. Since every spiritual blessing was earned by him and belongs to him, the New Testament can say that these blessings are “in him.” Thus, they are available only to those who are “in Christ,” and if we are in Christ, these blessings are ours.
John writes, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11), and Paul speaks of “the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:1). We read that “in Christ” are “faith and love” (1 Tim. 1:14; 2 Tim. 1:13), “grace” (2 Tim. 2:1), “salvation” (2 Tim. 2:10), “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) and God’s “riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19). Paul says that it is because of God’s work that Christians are “in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), and that “God...has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
In fact, every stage of the application of redemption is given to us because we are “in Christ.” It is “in Christ” that we are called to salvation (1 Cor. 7:22), regenerated (Eph. 1:3; 2:10), and justified (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:17; Eph. 1:7; Phil. 3:9; Col. 1:14). “In Christ” we die (1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 14:13) and “in him” our bodies will be raised up again (1 Cor. 15:22). These passages suggest that because our lives are inseparably connected to Christ himself, the Holy Spirit gives us all the blessings that Christ has earned.
c. All Our Actions Can Be Done in Christ: The foregoing changes within our individual lives are accompanied by a dramatic change in the realm in which we live. To become a Christian is to enter the newness of the age to come, and to experience to some degree the new powers of the kingdom of God affecting every part of our lives. To be “in Christ” is to be in that new realm that Christ controls.
This means that every action in our lives can be done “in Christ,” if it is done in the power of his kingdom and in a way that brings honor to him. Paul speaks the truth “in Christ” (Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 2:17; 12:19), is proud of his work “in Christ” (Rom. 15:17; 1 Cor. 15:31), reminds the Corinthians of his ways “in Christ” (1 Cor. 4:17), hopes “in the Lord Jesus” to send Timothy to Philippi (Phil. 2:19), rejoices greatly “in the Lord” (Phil. 4:10), and “in the Lord” commands, beseeches and exhorts other Christians (1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:12; Philem. 8). He says, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Paul also writes to believers about their actions “in Christ.” He reminds the Corinthians, “in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). It is “in the Lord” that children are to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1), wives are to submit to their husbands (Col. 3:18), and all believers are to be strong (Eph. 6:10), be encouraged (Phil. 2:1), rejoice (Phil. 3:1; 4:4), agree (Phil. 4:2), stand firm (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 3:8), live a godly life (2 Tim. 3:12) and have good behavior (1 Peter 3:16). “In the Lord” they work hard (Rom. 16:12), are made confident (Phil. 1:14) and are approved (Rom. 16:10). Paul’s hope for Christians is that they live in Christ: “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him” (Col. 2:6–7 NIV). Then Paul will achieve his life’s goal, to “present every man mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). John similarly encourages believers to “abide in him” (1 John 2:28; 3:6, 24), echoing Jesus’ words, “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (John 15:5).
d. One Body in Christ: We are not simply in Christ as isolated individual persons. Since Christ is the head of the body, which is the church (Eph. 5:23), all who are in union with Christ are also related to one another in his body. This joining together makes us “one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12–27). Thus, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:26). The ties of fellowship are so strong that Christians may only marry “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). In this body of Christ old hostilities disappear, sinful divisions among people are broken down, and worldly criteria of status no longer apply, for “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28; cf. Eph. 2:13–22).
Because we are one body in Christ, entire churches can be “in Christ” (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14). And the church universal, the church made up of all true believers, is collectively united to Christ as a husband is united to his wife (Eph. 5:31–32; 1 Cor. 6:17). Christ’s purpose is to perfect and cleanse and purify the church, so that it might more completely reflect what he is like and thereby bring glory to him (Eph. 5:25–27).
Yet another metaphor is used in 1 Peter 2:4–5, where believers, in coming to Christ, are said to be like living stones, built into a spiritual house (see also Eph. 2:20–22). Thus, they are unified and forever dependent on one another, just as the stones of a building are united to each other and depend upon each other.
But the boldest analogy of all is used by Jesus, who prays for believers “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21). Here Jesus prays that our unity would be like the perfect unity between the Father and the Son in the Trinity. This is a reminder to us that our unity should be eternal and perfectly harmonious (as God’s unity is).
But this analogy with the members of the Trinity is very important for another reason: it warns us against thinking that union with Christ will ever swallow up our individual personalities. Even though the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have perfect and eternal unity, yet they remain distinct persons. In the same way, even though we shall someday attain perfect unity with other believers and with Christ, yet we shall forever remain distinct persons as well, with our own individual gifts, abilities, interests, responsibilities, circles of personal relationships, preferences, and desires.
B. Christ Is in Us
Jesus spoke of a second kind of relationship when he said, “He who abides in me, and I in him he it is that bears much fruit” (John 15:5). It is not only true that we are in Christ; he is also in us, to give us power to live the Christian life. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The factor that determines whether someone is a Christian is whether Christ is in him (Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Rev. 3:20). God’s wise plan, hidden as a mystery for generations, was to save Gentiles as well as Jews. Therefore, Paul can tell his Gentile readers that God’s mystery is “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
It is important to maintain, on the basis of these verses, that there is a real, personal dwelling of Christ in us, and that this does not mean that we merely agree with Christ or that his ideas are in us. Rather, he is in us and remains in us through faith (Eph. 3:17; 2 Cor. 13:5). To overlook this truth would be to neglect the great source of spiritual strength that we have within us (1 John 4:4). To remember it destroys our pride, gives us a constant feeling of deep dependence on Christ, and gives us great confidence, not in self, but in Christ working in us (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 15:18; Phil. 4:13).
This indwelling of Christ affects our response to those in need. Whatever we do to help a Christian brother or sister, we do to Christ (Matt. 25:40). Keeping Jesus’ commandments is an indication that he is in us, and the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us that Christ is in us (1 John 3:24).
C. We Are Like Christ
A third aspect of union with Christ is our imitation of him. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” writes Paul (1 Cor. 11:1). John reminds us, “He who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). So union with Christ implies that we should imitate Christ. Our lives ought so to reflect what his life was like that we bring honor to him in everything we do (Phil. 1:20).
Thus, the New Testament pictures the Christian life as one of striving to imitate Christ in all our actions. “Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you” (Rom. 15:7). “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). “As the Lord has forgiven you so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13). “He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Throughout our lives, we are to run the race before us, “looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 13:2; see also Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 Thess. 1:6; 1 John 3:7; 4:17). By contrast, disobedience to Christ holds him up in contempt (Heb. 6:6).
Our imitation of Christ is especially evident in suffering. Christians are called to take suffering patiently, “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Paul’s goal is to “share his [Christ’s] sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10; see also 2 Cor. 1:5; 4:8–11; Heb. 12:3; 1 Peter 4:13).
Furthermore, our suffering is connected with sharing in Christ’s glory when he returns: “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17). This is probably because it is through suffering and difficulty that God makes us more Christ-like and causes us to grow to maturity in Christ (James 1:2–4; Heb. 5:8–9). Also, since Christ perfectly obeyed his Father even in the face of great suffering, so our obedience, trust, and patience in suffering more fully portray what Christ was like, and so bring more honor to him. It gives us great comfort to know that we are only experiencing what he has already experienced, and that he therefore understands what we are going through, and listens sympathetically to our prayers (Heb. 2:18; 4:15–16; 12:11). As the outcome of a life of obedience, we are able to share in Christ’s glory: “He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).
Our imitation of Christ should not be thought of as a mere mimicking of Jesus’ actions, however. The far deeper purpose is that in imitating him we are becoming more and more like him: when we act like Christ we become like Christ. We grow up to maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:13, 15) as we are “being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). The final result is that we shall become perfectly like Christ, for God has predestined us “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:49), and “when he appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). When this happens, Christ will be fully glorified in us (2 Thess. 1:10–12; John 17:10).
Yet in all of this we never lose our individual personhood. We become perfectly like Christ, but we do not become Christ and we are not absorbed into Christ or lost forever as individuals. Rather, it is we as real individuals who shall still know as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12); it is we who shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2); it is we who shall worship him, and see his face, and have his name on our foreheads, and reign with him for ever and ever (Rev. 22:3–5).
Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are exactly like one another in character (John 14:7, 9), yet remain distinct persons, so we can become more and more like Christ and still be distinct individuals with different gifts and different functions (Eph. 4:15–16; 1 Cor. 12:4–27). In fact, the more like Christ we become, the more truly ourselves we become (Matt. 10:39; John 10:3; Rev. 2:17; Ps. 37:4). If we forget this, we will tend to neglect the diversity of gifts in the church and will want to make everyone like ourselves. We will also tend to deny any ultimate importance for ourselves as individuals. A proper biblical perspective will allow each believer to say not only, “We Christians are important to Christ,” but also, “I am important to Christ: he knows my name, he calls me by name, he gives me a new name which is mine alone” (John 10:3; Rev. 2:17).
D. We Are With Christ
1. Personal Fellowship With Christ. Another aspect of union with Christ concerns our personal fellowship with him. It makes little difference whether we say that we are with Christ or that Christ is with us, for both phrases represent the same truth. Christ promised, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20), and, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Once again, since Jesus’ human body ascended to heaven (John 16:7; 17:11; Acts 1:9–11), these verses must speak of his divine nature being present with us. Yet it is still a very personal presence, in which we work together with Christ (2 Cor. 6:1), we know him (Phil. 3:8, 10), we are comforted by him (2 Thess. 2:16–17), we are taught by him (Matt. 11:29), and we live our whole lives in his presence (2 Cor. 2:10; 1 Tim. 5:21; 6:13–14; 2 Tim. 4:1). To become a Christian is to be “called into the fellowship of [God’s] Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). Yet this fellowship can vary in intensity, since Paul’s benediction on Christians, “The Lord be with you all” (2 Thess. 3:16; cf. 2 Tim. 4:22) can only express a hope for still closer fellowship with Christ and a deeper awareness of his presence.
Furthermore, in some sense yet imperceptible to us, when we come to worship we now come into heaven itself, to “innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 12:22–24). This participation in heavenly worship is what the Apostles’ Creed calls the “communion of saints,” and what a familiar hymn calls “mystic, sweet communion with those whose rest is won.”5 Hebrews 12 does not seem to suggest that we have a conscious awareness of being in the presence of this heavenly assembly, but it may indicate that those now in heaven witness our worship and rejoice in it, and it certainly implies that we can have a joyful awareness that our praise is being heard in God’s temple in heaven.
In all our prayers now we are heard by Jesus and have fellowship with him (1 John 1:3), our great high priest, who has entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb. 9:24; 4:16). Our fellowship with him will be greater yet when we die (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; 1 Thess. 5:10), and even greater still once Jesus returns (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 John 3:2). It gives us great joy to know that Christ actually desires to have us with him (John 17:24).
Our fellowship with Christ also brings us into fellowship with each other. John writes, “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
2. Union With the Father and With the Holy Spirit. This last verse suggests a final aspect of union with Christ. Because we are in union with Christ in these several relationships, we also are brought into union with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. We are in the Father (John 17:21; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; 1 John 2:24; 4:15–16; 5:20) and in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14). The Father is in us (John 14:23) and the Holy Spirit is in us (Rom. 8:9, 11). We are like the Father (Matt. 5:44–45, 48; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:10; 1 Peter 1:15–16) and like the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:4–6; Gal. 5:22–23; John 16:13). We have fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:3; Matt. 6:9; 2 Cor. 6:16–18) and with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:16; Acts 15:28; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:30).
These additional relationships are not blurred into a distinctionless, mystical ecstasy, however. Both now and in eternity we relate to the Father in his distinct role as our heavenly Father, to the Son in his distinct role as our Savior and Lord, and to the Holy Spirit in his distinct role as the Spirit who empowers us and continually applies to us all the benefits of our salvation.
QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL APPLICATION
1. Before reading this, had you thought of yourself as being united with Christ from the point of God’s choosing you before the foundation of the world to the point of going to be with him in heaven forever? How does this idea change the way you think of yourself and your own life? How does it affect the way you think of difficulties that you may be experiencing at this time? In what ways can the ideas of having died with Christ and having been raised with him be an encouragement in your present efforts to overcome sin that remains in your life?
2. Have you previously thought of doing the actions that you do each day “in Christ” (see Phil. 4:13)? If you thought of doing the reading that you are presently doing “in Christ,” how would it change your attitude or perspective? What difference would it make to think of doing your daily work “in Christ”? What about carrying on conversations with friends or family members? Or eating, or even sleeping?
3. How can the idea of union with Christ increase your love and fellowship for other Christians, both those in your church and those in other churches?
4. Do you have any awareness in your day-to-day life of Christ living in you (Gal. 2:20)? What would change in your life if you had a stronger awareness of Christ living in you throughout the day?
5. For one or two days, try reading some section of the gospels and asking how you might better imitate Christ in your own life. What effect will the idea of following in Christ’s steps (1 Peter 1:21) and walking as he walked (1 John 2:6) have in your life?
6. Can you name some times in your life when you have sensed an especially close personal fellowship with Christ? What have those times been like? Can you think of anything that brought about that close fellowship with Christ? What can we do to increase the intensity of our daily fellowship with Christ?
7. In your personal experience, do you relate differently to God the Father, to Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit? Can you describe those differences, if there are any?
1 1. The material in this document is taken from an essay written for Tyndale House Publishers (Wheaton, Ill.). Used by permission.
2 2. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied p. 164.
3 3. Union with Christ is also sometimes referred to as the “mystical union.” This is because we do not fully understand the workings of these relationships with Christ, and because we know about them only through God’s revelation in Scripture.
NIV —New International Version
5 5. This phrase is taken from the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” written in 1866 by Samuel J. Stone.
Grudem, Wayne A.: Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich. : Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994, S. 840