I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace….For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
(Galatians 5 4&6, the Message)
Sometimes as followers of Jesus, we find ourselves grappling with phrases which are very familiar and yet almost impossible to translate for those who do not yet believe. This concept of being “in Christ” can be one such challenge, and yet to fully grasp it is so gloriously liberating!
I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the only and the utterly adequate way by which humanity can be restored to a relationship with a holy, just and mighty God. I can add nothing to that work, I am incapable of making it more effective by any efforts I might expend. I cannot unleash the potency of that work in my life by labouring to reach some perceived standard of ‘good behaviour’ and thus achieve merit in God’s sight. I cannot cajole or persuade God to be kind to me on any terms other than those which He has revealed, and those are very clear…
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made know…this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace…
(Romans 3. 22,23,24)
There is the key… justified (meaning declared innocent, free of any condemnation) freely (at no cost whatever to ourselves) by God’s grace. And what brings about this astonishing transformation in our circumstances before God? What great labours are required? None, on our part, since all has been done by Christ, and therefore it is as we identify Jesus as the source of our salvation and trust in the completeness of his work that faith is born in us, and we receive the righteousness (meaning a new and right relationship with God) which is promised.
A great Christian writer once said “Faith is the gaze of the soul on a saving God” (AW Tozer), and as I gaze upon the Christ who died for me, confessing my need of him as saviour, so God looks upon me as it were through the prism of Christ’s saving work. I am seen by a holy God as a beloved and welcome child, because God looks on me and sees the holiness of Christ, the beauty and perfection without which I could not endure God’s presence. It is as though when I finally admit my helplessness before God and claim Jesus as my Lord, then “I” die – the proud, rebellious, wilful me perishes. When by faith I rejoice in the forgiveness and fresh start I receive from God, then a new “I” is born, one who is no longer bound by the old rules, and who now lives in direct loving relationship with the Giver of Life! The apostle Paul puts it like this to the church in Colossae..
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God….. you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.( Col 3. 2,9&10)
So when I think about being “in Christ”, I consider how my assurance of eternal life depends on him; how my daily walk with God depends on him; how my need for forgiveness and cleansing is met in him; how all my feeble efforts to truly love others are only possible because of his love for me. And yet I know that I have not begun to express the full riches of what it means to be “in Christ”. I think I am not alone in this, and it will be good to revisit the subject again! But today I will close with one of Paul’s wonderful outbursts of praise:-
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ!