30/09/2020 - Philippians 1:1 'Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons ...'
I am very wealthy. I have two places of residence – one, a small bungalow in Halesworth and the second - ‘in Christ.’ It’s my second residence that makes me wealthy because, as Paul writes in this same letter, ‘my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus’ (4:19). Time and again when writing to those early Christian churches, Paul points out that they have an earthly location, but they are also ‘in Christ.’
What does that simple phrase mean?
Jesus didn’t have to come to this earth. He was, and is, 100% holy. He had no need of his own. We were the ones with the need. Paddling your own canoe sounds a good idea until you find yourself up the creek without a paddle. We had made a mess of trying to live right. Someone had to come and do it for us. That’s what Jesus did. Right from the start, he lived how we were meant to – in his attitudes, his perspectives, his approach to life, his obedience to his Father.
He knew how to be kind, when to get angry, how to address evil. He feared no man. He was controlled by no man. He was brave and walked courageously to his death. He only lived just over 33 years, but in that time he demonstrated what living as a human being should look like.
We can’t live that kind of life. He came from the Father, a new beginning, so only he could. He died under the weight of our sin. He was buried and rose again, ascended to the Father and is now seated ‘in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion…’ (Ephesians 1:21).
That’s great. But what does that mean for us? Simply that everything he did in his life is now available to us. He overcame temptation – so can we. He showed enormous courage – so can we. He loved, empathised, reached out in compassion and so can we. In his letter, John writes very simply, ‘In this world we are like Jesus’ (1 John 4:17).
But it still leaves the question, how can this happen? Is it by imitating, striving? There is only one way - trust. Trust he did everything he did on your behalf. The living, the dying, the rising again, being seated in the heavenly realms. How do we know that? Because we are seated there with him. Did we do that ourselves? Of course not. We got there by trusting that he did it on our behalf. That’s why what baptism represents is so important. The Greek word, ‘baptizo’, means ‘to immerse. Amongst other things, it is used of soaking cloth in a bowl of dye until the dye totally changes the colour of that cloth. Paul uses baptism to show how we are immersed into the death and life and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6). We need to get soaked in Christ. When circumstances bring to the surface our negative attitudes, our small-mindedness, our unkindness, we must push ourselves back into the life of Christ. Get such a soaking that no part of who we are remains un-soaked by the life lived on our behalf.
We make a choice. Every time we are drawn to express our old attitudes and responses, we need to know there is an alternative. Every time we find ourselves striving for what we already have, we can remind ourselves of where we are seated. We can go down the ‘I’m not good enough’ road, or we can take the path back to where we are in Christ. It doesn’t matter where we live on this planet. It’s our second home that’s important. Let’s get used to being ‘in Christ.’ After all, that’s where we will spend eternity.
In his Sunday talk 'How to live in Christ' (27th September 2020) John explores what it means and what living 'in Christ' really looks like - click to listen to the talk.