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Lent Readings: In Christ Alone

Readings Begin February 21

Holy Saturday (Day 42) - THIS MIND IS YOURS IN CHRIST

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Philippians 2: 4-11
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
 
Consider
These words of Paul are a hymn to the Son of God who emptied himself completely of all divine prerogatives and privileges.  
 
Down he came from heaven to the manger. 
 
Down he came into the dailiness of life as a child, then as a carpenter. 
 
Down he came into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized in solidarity with sinners. 
 
Down he came into ministry with the least and the lost, the compromised and possessed. 
 
Down he came into a farcical trial and corrupt judgment. 
 
Down he came into execution even as his body was lifted on a cross. 
 
And when it was over, down he plunged into the dark depths of endless death. 
 
He reached bottom. Beneath all human suffering. To the very farthest reach of God’s wrath against sin. To the utmost limit of human alienation from God. He descended, empty of life and light, so that we do not have to. And when the full, horrible, silent day of Holy Saturday had passed, with all music stopped and all hope vanished, the Father sent forth the Spirit to raise the Son. God countermanded our death sentence with resurrection. The emptied Jesus rose, and then ascended, as the King of kings and Lord of lords. 
 
This day we wait in the silence and feel anew what it would have been like to wait without hope. We know that Jesus has been to the depth of all our sorrows. And we are in Christ. We are in Christ crucified and buried. So that we tomorrow we can rejoice to be in Christ risen, never to die again. 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
This explains the impregnable confidence and the deathless hope which shine on every page of the epistles. To despair of the world, if we believe Paul, is simply to despair of Christ. It is to proclaim oneself an atheist. It is to take sides with the forces of Antichrist. For if the redeeming death and resurrection reveal a “love divine, all loves excelling,” they reveal also a divine determination which nothing in earth or hell shall prevail to break, and a Christ who is marching from the green hill where He died to the throne of all the world. The faith which has been born of a personal experience on some Damascus road of the spirit cannot stop short of this. It knows that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. It knows that creation itself, bound long in affliction and iron, shall yet be reborn and redeemed. It knows that the everlasting gates of the universe shall lift their heads to let the King come in. And then the victory of love which once agonized and died for reconciliation, the love which even now is interceding, shall be perfect and complete; and Jesus, seeing of the travail of His soul, shall be satisfied (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp.171-172).
 
Consider
On this Holy Saturday, we step into what felt like an endless interim for Jesus in the realm of the dead. We try on the despair of the disciples and the broken dreams of the Kingdom. In that way, into that abyss, we also hurl our worries for the world. We throw in our cynicism. We disgorge our anxiety about politics, economics, pollution and corruption. We add our despair over loved ones. It all pours into that dark hole of Jesus’ hours between cross and resurrection. In doing so we learn, that all human experience, all the worst of us has also been taken into Christ. In Christ alone, our whole lives—good and bad, righteous and sinful, dark and light, joyful and tearful—are received. And tomorrow we will rejoice to know that all that is in him, he utterly redeems and makes new!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We have been on a long journey
With you this Lent, Lord Jesus.
But it is only a taste of the passage
You made for us.
Down into the depths
Where everything mortal and frail returns,
To the day without hope,
The day without any dawn you went.
Now we know that nothing we undergo
Falls outside your care and saving reach.
For even as we wait, we do so in hope,
We know the end: you rose!
We know the end: you will return!
We know the end: no more tears or sorrow,
No more sin and no more death.
It will all be made new in you
In the power of the Spirit
To the glory of God the Father.

 

Good Friday (Day 41) - THE BEST WORST DAY

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Titus 3: 1-7 
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
 
Consider
Today is the darkest day in human history, the day we crucified our Savior. He came to love us, and we called him a menace and a threat. He brought us the very Word of his Father, and we called him a blasphemer. This is the nadir of world history, when we, each of us in our hearts, put Christ to death. Yet we call it Good Friday. For Christ in his bleeding on the cross, bled the world dry of its sin and shame. He took it all onto himself and poured it out to death as he died. Humanity’s sin crystallized in those dreadful hours where we watched him die. But in the Triune God’s great reversal, our worst became his best. This good, Good Friday, he saved us.
 
Our passage from Titus takes us all the way back to the beginning of our study as we recall what life was like outside of Christ. We were slaves to passions, full of hate, riddled with envy, and plumb stupid about what makes for life. But then, in history, in the world where we live, the kindness of God appeared in the flesh. Jesus in his incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, victorious resurrection and ascension in glory created our salvation. Later, as we heard this gospel news, the Spirit created faith in us so that we could be joined to Christ, so we could gain personal entry into that salvation. We were made new. Re-generated. Jesus is the re-start of the human race, and when we are in Christ, we get re-started down the path of eternal life as well.
 
Now, in Christ, Paul reminds us to “be ready for every good work.” We have Christ’s life in us. So we have the power of his Spirit, to choose to draw from his own character as we treat others with courtesy, gentleness, kind words and a peaceful lifestyle.  
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Well might the Church of apostolic days, knowing the strength of the enemy and seeing its own advent hope receding down the multiplying years, begin to wonder whether the kingdom dream would ever be fulfilled, or whether the new creation of Christ would perish in the desert far from the goal, and chaos and ancient night return. To this question . . . Paul’s answer is clear and definite. The world is not moving on to chaos: it is moving on to Christ. In the person of Jesus lies the key to God’s hidden plan with mankind and with the world. No longer is the mystery of things left dark and baffling and unrelieved. Those who ignore or refuse Christ, indeed, cannot share the secret: but to all who have eyes to see, it is an “open secret” now. To them it is given to realize in the very constitution of the universe there is something which is on the side of the Gospel, and that the ultimate values which give life its meaning all converge on Jesus Christ, like mountain-paths converging as they near the summit. It is from Christ as God’s creating and life-giving power that every principle of goodness and every deed of beauty and every word of truth have sprung; it is in Christ that these things are sustained and have their real existence; and they are never lost, nor does their influence ever die, for it is to Christ their goal that they move on. The universe may seem a riddle and a chaos; but the Gospel has put the solving clue into our hand (Stewart, A Man in Christ, p.171).
 
Consider
To human eyes, the early church had little reason for confidence. Their number was few, their enemies many. Yet note, on this Good Friday, all the confidence given to us in Christ. See if you can lift out at least three phrases from this Stewart quotation that give us reason to hope for the future.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I now do take my stand;
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
And the burden of the day.
 
There lies, beneath its shadow,
But on the farther side,
The darkness of an awful grave
That gapes both deep and wide:
And there, between us, stands the cross –
Two arms outstretched to save –
Like a watchman set to guard the way
From that eternal grave.
 
Upon that cross of Jesus
My eye at times can see
The very dying form of one
Who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart, with tears,
Two wonders I confess:
The wonders of his glorious love,
And my unworthiness.
 
Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane, 1868, alt

 

Maundy Thursday (Day 40) - REMEMBER THE POINT!

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Titus 2: 11-15
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 
 
Ephesians 2: 8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
 
Consider
Today is Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, the last day before Jesus was crucified. “Maundy” comes from a Latin word that means “mandate,” which is a command. We can readily identify four crucial directives Jesus gave his disciples that night, to be obeyed by following his own actions toward them. 
 
1) In the Upper Room, according to John 13, Jesus took to role of a servant and washed his disciples’ feet. He told them that they, too, “ought to wash one another’s feet” (13: 14). 
 
2) Shortly after Jesus said, “A new commandment, I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (13: 34). This is our mandate as those who are in Christ: to love one another with a foot-washing, laying down our lives kind of love. 
 
3) Later, at the Passover Supper, Jesus declared that the bread was his body and as he gave it to his disciples, he mandated, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22: 19). As his body would shortly be given for us on the cross, he urged his disciples to keep a living memory, a present experience, of his sacrifice through their sharing the bread and the cup in his name. 
 
4) Finally, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus directed Peter, James and John, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matt. 26: 41). He asked for vigilance, to stay near and attentive in his agony, and to pray, both for himself and their own souls in the hour of trial. 
 
While being taken into Christ is a total gift to us, even down to the faith which the Spirit creates, that does not mean we are inert. Jesus relocates us into himself in order that our capacity to serve him and love others might be restored.
 
Our passages from Titus and Ephesians remind us that we received salvation in order to respond with thankful good works as we participate in the Triune God’s mission to the world. We are Christ’s workmanship so that we might engage the good works that he has planned for us! This night, those works include keeping watch with him in prayer and worship, partaking of communion and opening ourselves to serve one another in Christ’s name, even in the most menial ways.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

Before union can take place, two things must happen. On the one hand, there must be an outgoing of God to man. This is the divine initiative, and its name is “Grace.” On the other hand, there must be an outgoing of man to God. This is the human response, and its name is “Faith.” Paul has brought the two ideas very strikingly together in a phrase which presents, in condensed form, everything that matters in redemption: “By grace are ye saved through faith.” 
 
He made it perfectly clear that the gate of self-abandonment was the only way into the kingdom. He challenged men to an act of full surrender. He had no place for the man who would not commit himself. The very essence of discipleship was faith (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 95, 97).
 
Consider
Holy Thursday calls us to commitment. As we re-enter the story of Jesus’ passion, we recall how much it mattered to him that his disciples would keep him company, pray for him and encourage him in his trials. By paying attention to these events, making them a present story in our lives, we honor Jesus with an emotional connection to him. The passion of this night is meant to lead us to renewed commitment. We acknowledge that, like the disciples, we lose focus, fall asleep, run away or even deny our Lord. Yet, when we come back to our senses, we realize that Jesus still gives himself to us. And still inspires the response of faith. Our role is the great surrender of our wills to his. To abandon ourselves into his nail-pierced hands. We say, as we keep watch, “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus ’tis now.”
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jesus, joy of our desiring,
Lover of our souls, 
Brother of our flesh,
Lord of our futures,
You asked nothing of us
That you had not already given.
We are amazed that you would desire
Our response of faith.
Yet we hear your words from this Holy Thursday
Echo down the years to the present moment.
You saved us so we could be your people,
A people zealous to do good,
To love others, to wash feet,
To offer ourselves as you did 
In the broken body and outpoured blood.
Grant us strength to keep watch with you
These holy days as we enter the drama
Of your passion, your passion to save us.
 

 

Wednesday (Day 39) - LOVE IN OUR HEARTS

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Romans 5: 1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
 
Consider
The Triune God desires us to enter deliberately the rhythm of dying to self and living to Christ, of mortifying the flesh and dressing in the new creation. But he also knows that the inevitable sufferings of life often accelerate this process beyond what we would do on our own.  
Paul suffered intensely and for prolonged periods for his faith in Christ. But he learned to treat these trials as precious. He actually rejoiced in suffering. Because he discovered how difficulty opens the channels in our union with Christ Jesus.  
 
This is the chain he saw revealed:  
 
Suffering produces endurance. If we don’t quit with first pain, we learn to live with more sorrow, aches and setbacks than we knew possible. We become battle tested. 
 
Endurance produces character. Staying faithful through seasons of suffering forms a character of faithful reliance on God. We become those who panic less and exude peace more. We grow from saplings to oaks. We have experience in receiving the Spirit of Jesus through long dark hours as well as sunny days. We trust the rhythm of God’s care and providence. 
 
Character produces hope. It has been said, “Whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” When we have a character of faithful trust and continued consecration which endures through trials and joys, a long-term hope arises in us. We believe that more is coming. The world will not always be the way the world is now. God is in control. God is at work. Jesus said in Revelation, “Behold I am making all things new” (21: 5). We expect a bright future.
 
Hope does not disappoint. The cynical may laugh at our hope now, but we are not ashamed. Even though all we expect has not yet come to be, we have a down payment. We find God’s “earnest money” to be more than sufficient to live on the rest of our days. For the Holy Spirit within us is the guarantee of what is to come (Eph. 1: 13-14). He is nothing less than the love of God poured out within our hearts. 
 
Nothing brings out the experience of the Spirit, and so the guarantee that our union with Christ is real, more than enduring suffering in faith. So the mysterious paradox in a believer’s life is being able to say, “I wouldn’t wish this suffering on my worst enemy; but neither would I trade it for anything in all the world. For this has brought me so close to Christ Jesus.”
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Whatever the present moment be, however unprepared the message finds you, however sad the divided and hopeless state of the life may be, still I come and urge Christ’s claim to an immediate surrender—this very moment. I know well it will take time for the blessed Lord to assert His power, and order all within according to His will—to conquer the enemies and train all your powers for His service. This is not the work of a moment. But there are things which are the work of a moment—of this moment. The one is—your surrender of all to Jesus; your surrender of yourself entirely to live only in Him. As time goes on, and exercise has made faith stronger and brighter, that surrender may become clearer and more intelligent. But for this no one may wait. The only way ever to attain to it is to begin at once. Do it now. Surrender yourself this very moment to abide wholly, only, always, in Jesus. It is the work of a moment. And just so, Christ’s renewed acceptance of you is the work of a moment. . . . He does indeed anew take hold on us and draw us close to Himself. . . . Jesus says: Abide in me, do it at once. Each moment there is the whisper: Do it now (Murray, Abide in Christ, p. 91).
 
Consider
Andrew Murray endured sufferings such as the loss of his voice and the fire-bombing of his home. The hope in his writing is real. He knows that it may take time for Christ to resolve the difficulties in our life. But that delay does not preclude our need to ask for help right now. And to surrender ourselves anew to Christ in this very moment, no matter what we are going through. We don’t have to see resolution to enact the heart of the solution: I yield myself right now to your will, Lord Jesus. I take my place in you, the place you gave me, right now.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There is nothing through which I pass
That you have not known the heart of.
No human suffering is strange to you.
And no suffering is wasted time
If we consecrate it to you.
Thank you, though it pains me to say,
For deepening our life in you
Through the abiding and waiting
These hard times demand.
Work your way in me, Lord Jesus,
As I remain in you.

 

Tuesday (Day 38) - DECORATING THE NEW HOUSE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Colossians 3: 12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
 
 
Consider
Yesterday we saw the mortification side of living in Christ. We continue to die to sin. We say, “No” to the old, rebellious ways. But living in Christ is so much more than a big “No.” In fact, living in Christ is mainly a jubilant “Yes!”
 
Today Paul shows us the pattern for vibrant living in Christ. First, every day, perhaps every hour, we claim our identity. What wonderful words he uses! We are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” The Father wants us so much he sent the Son to create our salvation and new humanity and he sent the Spirit to join us to the Son. We are accepted in the beloved Jesus. We are made holy in him. The Triune God has already enfolded us into his own divine life. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8: 39). 
 
Starting with that rehearsal of grace, I am free to get dressed in my new identity. I get to go into the wardrobe of someone who is a son or daughter of the High King. And what splendid choices I have! Because I am in Christ and he is in me, I can wrap myself in the robes of his compassion. I can button up an attitude of kindness like he showed to sinners. I can put on the coat of patience that Jesus wore in dealing with our ignorance, weak faith and thick hearts. I can dress in the fine silks of forgiveness. Threaded through every garment I take up is the golden cord of love. I am so loved. I am joined to the God who is love. I can invite, channel, receive and let flow through me his very Spirit of love today. 
 
Pick out some clothes from this list in which you desire to dress today as you prayerfully prepare for what you are called to do and whom you are to meet.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Each time your attention is free to occupy itself with the thought of Jesus—whether it be with time to think and pray, or only for a few passing seconds—let your first thought be to say: Now, at this moment, I do abide in Jesus. Use such time, not in vain regrets that you have not been abiding fully, or still more hurtful fears that you will not be able to abide, but just at once take the position the Father has given you: “I am in Christ; this is the place God has given me. I accept it; here I rest; I do now abide in Jesus.” This is the way to learn to abide continually. . . . It is not a matter of feeling—it is not a question of growth or strength in the Christian life—it is the simple question whether the will at the present moment desires and consents to recognize the place you have in your Lord, and to accept it. If you are a believer, you are in Christ. If you are in Christ and wish to stay there, it is your duty to say, though it be but for a moment, “Blessed Saviour, I abide in Thee now; Thou keepest me now.” 
 
Each time you bow in prayer, let there first be an act of simple devotion: “Father, I am in Christ; I now abide in Him.” Each time you have, amidst the bustle of duty, the opportunity of self-recollection, let its first involuntary act be: “I am still in Christ, abiding in Him now.” Even when overtaken by sin, and the heart within is all disturbed and excited, O let your first look upwards be with the words: “Father, I have sinned; and yet I come—though I blush to say it—as one who is in Christ. Father! here I am; I can take no other place; of God I am in Christ; I now abide in Christ (Murray, Abide in Christ, pp. 87-89).
 
Consider
To stay dressed in the clothes befitting our position in Christ, Andrew Murray knows we need to keep choosing to abide in Christ. For the truth is that trying to live intentionally putting on Christ will meet with a lot of resistance and failure. The very day I pray my identity the best may become the day when it gets tested most. The very clothes of Christ I mentally put on may become the exact places I fail. That’s normal! It takes a long time to get used to our new position and our new wardrobe of behaviors. Becoming aware of who we are in Christ will also make starkly apparent how we still wallow in the old life. It’s a struggle to live in, from and for Christ. But he is there to help us. It happens over time. Meanwhile, Murray reminds us what to do when we are overtaken with sin and failure: “O let your first look be upwards with the words, ‘Father I have sinned; and yet I come . . . as one who is in Christ. . . . I can take no other place . . . I now abide in Christ.’” Don’t worry that you have to pray this over and over! Just know you can.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thank you dear Jesus
For the splendid clothes you have left me!
I love the fabric of compassion,
The snug fit of your forgiveness,
The cozy comfort of your patience.
I would like to dress today
In the qualities with which you have clothed me.
By your Spirit, 
May I offer to others what you are.
Touching me, may they hear
Your peace, forbearance and mercy.
Beholding me, may they see
The gorgeous garments 
Of your character,
You in whom I dwell. 

 

Monday (Day 37) - TRASHING THE OLD HOUSE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Colossians 3: 5-11
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
 
Consider
We are in Christ. The old has gone, the new has come. We died, and the life we live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loves and gave his life for us. We are a new creation.
And yet. The earthly remains. Until we take up our resurrection bodies with Christ in heaven, we will fight the old sin nature. The world will still tempt us. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5: 17). 
 
An important part of living in Christ, from Christ and for Christ involves mortifying what remains of the old man. Putting it to death. Saying, “No.” Putting away old habits and old patterns. 
 
That involves identifying what we are doing and saying that is contrary to God’s Word. We repent of it. We change our minds about what is satisfying, fun and good from these impulsive wrongs and habitual sins. We change our behavior based on our awareness of what truly makes for life. 
 
Take a moment to inventory some of the remnants of the old, sinful self that beset you. Would you agree to be rid of them? Andrew Murray shows us how to start.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
We have here the great cause of the weakness of faith in our days. There is no separation from the world. So many Christians seek to have as much of its pleasure and honour and riches as they possibly can, consistently with their profession of religion. In such an atmosphere, faith is stifled. Many hardly believe, or never remember, that the world, with its arts and culture and prosperity, amid all its religious professions, is still the same world that rejected Christ
 
There is no way but utterly ceasing from ourselves, dying to self, and waiting in absolute dependence and deep humility upon God.  
 
Let us sink into the death of emptiness and nothingness and helplessness; let us, as dead, wait for the mighty operation of God.  
To enter in demands a very entire renunciation of the world and of self, a very real and true participation in Christ’s humbling of Himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross—in His death to sin. And it demands no less a very real experience of the mighty operation of God, which raised Him from the dead and set Him at His right hand.  
 
The new covenant does not do violence to man’s will. It is only where the heart sees and believes what God has promised, and is ready at any cost to claim and possess it, that any blessing can be realised.  
 
Our place is deep dependence, patient waiting, and implicit reliance on His mighty power (Murray, The Holiest of All, pp. 459, 278, 282, 266, 272, 274).
 
Consider
Murray calls us with words that have never been popular but have always been counterintuitive. Will I renounce the world in all its self-assertion and self-based ways of living? Will I reckon myself dead to these deathly things I once loved? Will I walk away from the sins that even now I still love so much? Will I truly give over and wait upon God’s power to deliver me?
 
Is there one particular thing the Spirit is asking you to forsake today?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Let’s make the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism our prayer today:
 
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
 
That I am not my own, 
but belong with body and soul, 
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins 
with his precious blood, 
and has set me free 
from all the power of the devil. 
He also preserves me in such a way 
that without the will of my heavenly Father 
not a hair can fall from my head; 
indeed, all things must work together 
for my salvation. 
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, 
he also assures me 
of eternal life 
and makes me heartily willing and ready 
from now on to live for him.
 
To this Lord, to whom I belong, I consent today,
To renounce my sins and my self
To be wholly and always his.

 

Palm Sunday (Day 36) - REMEMBER WHERE YOU LIVE

WEEK SIX

DAILY LIFE IN CHRIST
 

They say you can’t be in two places at once. But we are! Clearly, I’m here on earth, bound by gravity, clunking about in this skin suit. But I’m also somewhere else. I am in Christ. That’s the truest thing about me. Therefore, I am, right now, with him in heaven! 
 
The trick, of course, is learning to become aware that we live in two locations at once. And then, the real task is discovering how to live with the energy, mission, values and customs of my homeland in heaven providing the major influence for my life on earth. 
 
This final week of Lent we will focus on daily living from our union with Christ. As we approach Good Friday, we will seek to put to death what is sinful, or fleshly, in our habits. As we approach Easter Sunday, we will seek to live by the resurrection power of Jesus. We will consider how to rely on the Holy Spirit to keep us remaining close to Christ is our true life and heart’s home. 
 
This colorful image of a cone nebula was taken by the Hubble space telescope. With a little imagination, graphic artists have noticed and filled in an image of Jesus. This creative rendering of a real phenomenon evokes the sense that Jesus right now is both a specific man and the Lord of the cosmos. We dwell on earth with Christ in our hearts by the Spirit. We dwell in heaven, joined to the ascended King who by his own Spirit reaches every place everywhere. 
 
Cone Nebula with Jesus' Face. Image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
 

DAY 36 SUNDAY

REMEMBER WHERE YOU LIVE
 

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Colossians 3: 1-4
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
 
Consider
Paul blows the horns signaling that a great quest has begun. “Further up and further in!” is the call to the children climbing deeper into the land of Narnia in the final book of C. S. Lewis’ classic series. They seek their truest home. The hope of it fills them with energy to press on no matter the obstacles. The closer we get to the presence of God, the nearer we come to Reality and the more alive we become.
 
By contrast, we often labor under an insipid view of heaven. It seems pious and boring. A place for bloodless religionists, filled with rosy-cheeked baroque cherubs playing easy listening spiritual musac. How often we worry that “the things above” will mean the loss of all that is good and beautiful and true in this world. But that’s just not so! Where Christ Jesus dwells is where all the good we have known finds its fullest, purest, most joyful fulfillment.  
 
Questing “further up and further in” means leaving some things behind. But whatever is lost we did not need, nor ultimately even want anyway. We seek the realm where human life flourishes in vivid color and vibrant relationship.
 
Of course, we can only see the destination by faith and consecrated imagination. The world’s shiny trinkets distract us. So Paul reminds us, “Seek the things above . . . set your minds on things that are above.” We do not earn our way there, but this quest for Christ summons us to great focus and intense journeying. This week, then, taking all we have learned about union with Christ, we consider how to live in Christ consciously hour by hour.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
I speak to those who say they are Christ’s disciples, and on them I cannot too earnestly press the importance of exercising their faith in saying, “I am in Him.” It makes the abiding so simple. If I realize clearly as I meditate: Now I am in Him, I see at once there is nothing wanting but just my consent to be what He has made me, to remain where He has placed me. I am in Christ: This simple thought, carefully, prayerfully, believingly uttered, removes all difficulty as if there were some great attainment to be reached. No, I am in Christ, my blessed Saviour. His love has prepared a home for me with Himself, when He says “Abide in my love”; and His power has undertaken to keep the door, and to keep me in, if I will but consent. I am in Christ: I have now but to say, “Saviour, I bless thee for this wondrous grace. I consent; I yield myself to Thy gracious keeping; I do abide in Thee” (Murray, Abide in Christ, p. 35).
 
Consider
Andrew Murray was a master guide to living in awareness of our union with Christ. As we have seen throughout Lent, Murray urges us to claim the deep simplicity of saying, “I am in him.” Easily it rolls off the tongue. But it demands great endurance, constant attention and steady determination to claim it hour by hour. Paul has said we have already died and been hidden in Christ. We’re no longer running alone and without cover in this perilous world. If we belong to him at all, we are fully and finally in Christ. Right now. 
 
So Murray presses us to go through the key questions and answers every day:  
 
Will I consent to be where I already am? I am in Christ. 
 
Will I agree to live out what I already am? A man, a woman, in Christ. 
 
Will I let the energy from Christ the great Vine flow through me? I am a branch living from Christ so I can yield fruit for Christ.
 
Will I make my true home in Christ? He keeps me safe within if I but consent to let him be head of the house.
 
Daily, when the great news of our union with Christ slips away from us, and we’re tired of remembering who we are, we have to ask the diagnostic questions:
 
Do I really want to go back to the life enslaved by sin? 
 
Do I prefer the exhaustion of attempting vainly to work out life on my own terms? 
 
Do I enjoy the tepid life of living by my own power? 
 
Do I enjoy the tedious voice of my self-loop? 
 
With a rousing answer of No! we take up anew the quest to live vibrantly in and for Christ by agreeing that we are, already by his Spirit, in him. 
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus, I am in you.
The Father has placed me in you.
I am joined to the Vine.
The life-giving sap of your Spirit
Flows from you into me.
I belong to you.
I am not my own.
Therefore I rely on you to uphold me
To transform, to remake me, 
To grow fruit through me
That the world can see and taste.
I will seek you.
I know the old life is futile.
The old habits predictably destructive,
The old ambitions an illusion.
I am in you Lord Jesus.
You are my brother, my friend,
My Lord, my God, 
The country which I seek.
Right now, I am in you.

 

Saturday (Day 35) - SEEING EACH OTHER IN CHRIST

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Romans 16: 1-13
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. 
 
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.
 
Consider
You’re going to meet these people! Look at all the times Paul connects particular people to being “in Christ” or “in the Lord.” We get only a few precious bits of information about each one. Yet, we know what matters most. They are in Christ. Most of them never met each other in this world. But they know each other now. We also are in Christ. We are connected. We will all know each other. Their testimony contributed to our testimony. And our testimony contributes to saints yet to be.
 
Take some time today to think of fellow Christians for whom you have particular affection. Give thanks aloud as you call their names that they are in Christ. 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM
 

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.
 
A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.
 
God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38: 7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15: 3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship. (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 99, 86, 57-8)
 
Consider
Your prayers connect others to the song of praise that has been going on through eternity! Keep locating each other in Christ and in the great songs he promises we will keep singing!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Take time this morning to pray several times through a prayer so beautiful that it is still said around the world sixteen centuries after it was first written in Latin. Note how it connects all Christians, angels and creation throughout space and time in one prayer to the work of the Triune God in Christ. 
 
We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting.
To thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens and all the powers therein.
To thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.
 
The glorious company of the apostles praise thee.
The godly fellowship of the prophets praise thee.
The noble army of martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee:
The Father of an infinite majesty;
Thine honourable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost the Comforter.
 
Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man,
Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants,
Whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting.
 
O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify thee;
And we worship thy name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us, as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded.

 

Friday (Day 34) - MEET MR. LIVING-STONE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1 Peter 2: 4-5
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
 
1 Peter 2: 9-12
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 
 
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
 
Consider
Peter expresses another image of those in Christ. We are living stones, built upon Christ Jesus, the cornerstone. Together, we form a spiritual house. In the context of our community, we enable each other to offer spiritual sacrifices. Yesterday we heard from Paul that such spiritual worship is the presenting of our bodies, our whole lives to Jesus in his service. This moment by moment worship is heightened by our weekly gathering.  
 
We may meet in a church building made of wonderful stone or bricks. That structure stays the same week to week. But in another sense, a new sanctuary is built every time two or more gather in Jesus’ name to worship him. An instant construction of a beautiful spiritual temple occurs every Sunday! We greet each other with smiles, hugs and beaming faces. Because each one is a living stone. Each one is now one of God’s jewels, chosen, royal and made holy in Christ. 
 
Our joy, our task, in worship remains the same as it was 2,000 years ago: we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Notably, our mission when we leave our gathering also remains the same: to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light! 
 
Finally today, Peter reminds us how important our daily obedience is to our mission. The way we conduct ourselves either gives the lie or the truth to the words we say in worship.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
“Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience. But a brother is sinful as we are. He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin. Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution.
 
Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God? God gives us this certainty through our brother. Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 115-116).
 
Consider
Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran, suggests a practice we often associate only with Catholicism: confession. But we note that he doesn’t suggest we go to an ordained priest, but to each other. In the priesthood of all believers, we are able to carry the weight of one another’s sins. We are called to offer the absolution of Christ. And to suggest ways of repentance and strategies for combating the sins which so easily best us.
 
This, Bonhoeffer says, is not easy. In fact he knows that right now many readers are saying, “I’ll never do that!” Or, the more spiritual of us just learn how to share “safe” sins with others. We have our stories of big sins from the past. They work to shield us from the little deadly sins of the present moment.
 
Now Bonhoeffer, of course, did not make this up. James 5: 16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  
 
Do you have a confessor? Someone, or some group, who knows you well enough to help you break “the circle of deception.” And then direct you to the grace of Christ in whom you dwell? If not, who comes to mind as a possibility? 
 
The honesty of our fellowship makes the living stones that form our spiritual house all the more beautiful.
 
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus Christ,
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us!
Thank you for calling us out of darkness
Into your marvelous light.
You are the cornerstone of the new creation.
We rejoice to be stones in your house.
We are amazed at the sanctuary you create
Every time we gather,
Fitting the living stones together in glory.
We confess how little we confess.
We know that if we were more honest,
Our stones and our sanctuary would be more glorious,
For we would see the shaping, cleansing, fitting work
Of your glorious grace.

 

Thursday (Day 33) - BODY LIFE, PART 2

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Romans 12: 1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
 
Romans 12: 9-21
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 
 
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 
Consider
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he expresses what it means to be in Christ with unparalleled depth. In chapter 12, Paul turns his attention to how our union with Christ gets worked out in our life together. First, he summarizes the basic, daily offering we are to make: to present ourselves to God, ready for whatever service he commands. This involves the effort of our very body’s physical exertion, time spent, emotion felt, journeys taken. Such tangible sacrifice is actually spiritual worship. Our souls are truly engaged when our bodies are involved.
 
Paul also specifies ways we can be sure this moment by moment presenting of ourselves as available to God must be worked out. Look over his list and see all that he prescribes for the body life of the church. Genuine love. Constant honoring. Harmony seeking. Brotherly affection. Energetic attitudes. Contributing. Hosting. These are in contrast to being neglectful, proud, stingy, contentious or revengeful. 
 
Indeed, our spiritual worship of God involves such connection to each other that we truly empathize. Rather than be envious of another’s success, we rejoice. Rather than feel smug that we are safe from trouble, we weep with those in distress. We love each other in a way that we truly empathize with life on life.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
God did not make this person as I would have made him. He did not give him to me as a brother for me to dominate and control, but in order that I might find above him the Creator. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion of joy, whereas before he was only a nuisance and an affliction. God does not will that I should fashion the other person according to the image that seems good to me, that is, in my own image; rather in his very freedom from me God made this person in His image.
 
The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother. He must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. The burden of men was so heavy for God Himself that He had to endure the Cross. God verily bore the burden of men in the body of Jesus Christ. But He bore them as a mother carries her child, as a shepherd enfolds the lost lamb that has been found. God took men upon Himself and they weighted Him to the ground, but God remained with them and they with God. In bearing with men God maintained fellowship with them. It is the law of Christ that was fulfilled in the Cross. And Christians must share in this law (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 93, 100).
 
Consider
I love Bonhoeffer’s honesty. If I look at my fellow Christians outside of their being in Christ, they appear “only a nuisance and an affliction” to me! But if I see them included in Christ, they can be a joy. I see them as particularly created and beloved. God is doing a great work in my brothers and sisters. Jesus has called each one specifically into himself. Jesus bore the burden of their sins. Jesus bears the burden of their particular stubbornness, favorite manipulations, besetting sins and destructive strategies of protection. He did not and does not consider us too heavy to endure. Rather he remains with us, working in us to the end. As Paul wrote, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1: 6). 
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Which brothers and sisters are you especially called to view as in Christ today, praying for them so that they pass from being a nuisance to being a joy, from being a burden to being a gift?
 
Would you specifically lift up two or three of these? Call their names aloud before Christ. Tell him you know that they belong to him, that he has called them and is working in them. Ask him to give you a glimpse of how glorious they will be when he completes them. Tell Jesus that each one is a joy, and that you accept the burden of loving them now.
 
Lord Jesus, how patient you were with those you met!
How kind you are to listen to me.
Surely if you can bear the burden of me indefinitely,
I can take a moment to bear with others today.
I begin with prayer.
 
For ________. Ah, Lord, you know I struggle.
I see her/him as only needing, as only draining.
Forgive me.
You have called her/him to be your own.
You have called us to each other.
I cannot be in heaven without her/him.
For heaven is you, and we are members
Of your one body.
Thank you for what s/he does in your body.
Be at work in this life today and thank you,
Especially, for this beloved one.  

 

Wednesday (Day 32) - BODY LIFE, PART 1

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Romans 12: 1-8
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 
 
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
 
Consider
So we’re one in Christ. And we’re each different. Many members, one body. For three days we’ve embraced this reality. Now, Paul urges, get on with it! Every member of Christ’s body has a unique function and particular gifts given for it. If you like organizing, find a scatter brained pastor who needs help putting together the year’s calendar. If you are good at placing and stacking chairs, set up the classrooms. If you love reading and talking about Scripture, volunteer to teach elementary students God’s Word. If you like people, show up early and stay late at church. Help make the party lively! If you’re stuck at home, pray for people, and, when someone comes to mind, let them know you did pray. Send encouragement by phone, text, card or email. If God has given you some money, share it. If you get to care for someone that has continuing needs, do so with a good attitude so they don’t feel like a burden. 
 
Today, make a brief assessment of all the ways you already contribute to the life of our church body. Give thanks that you get to contribute to the whole, so that the success of the whole belongs wholly to you! Consider if you have yearnings or gifts that aren’t being deployed and where you might be useful. Give thanks for the ways you see others, especially ones not gifted like you, using their gifts to serve all of us.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.
 
What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. . . . We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity. 
 
The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. . . . There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother’s confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects. Secular education today is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously, and upon this insight it has constructed its own soul therapy, which has attracted great numbers of people, including Christians. But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 21, 25-26, 97-99).
 
Consider
Bonhoeffer directs us to an activity that each one of us, no matter our gifting, is called to enact. This is the sacred art of listening. How do we listen better in order to show Christ’s love?
 
Prepare
Consider at the start of the day some of the people whom you are likely to encounter. Note what they like, who their family members are, what concerns you know about. Think of what you will ask them so that you can listen.
 
Make Inquiries
Good listening involves good questions. Ask questions that express an interest in a response. For example, instead of asking generically, “How’d it go at work?” Ask, “How was your presentation received?” Follow up with, “Did you feel prepared for their questions? Who gave you a hard time? Who seemed to affirm you most?”  
 
Note Feelings
Good listening includes feeling with the person speaking before you compose your reply. “I feel a bit panicked imagining the traffic jam you were in. How did you ever stay composed?”  
 
Welcome Interruptions
God sends us opportunities to listen. Most don’t occur on a schedule. Engage the adventure of being interrupted in your plans by a moment to ask, to listen and to encourage.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Who will you send to me today?
What life will I be asked to share for a while?
What burdens might I be able to make lighter?
Father, I do not know when the moment will come.
But I ask that you keep me nimble.
Open my eyes to opportunity.
Open my ears to hear the story within the story.
Guide me to ask the right questions.
Fill my heart with your compassion.
And open my mouth to share well your love.

 

Tuesday (Day 31) - ONE NEW MAN IN CHRIST

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ephesians 2: 13-22
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
 
Consider
People don’t get along very well. Sure, when everything is normal, we can move politely through our transactions. But add a little stress and things can fall apart quickly. Think what can happen when you face:
 
Being delayed on the tarmac with the air not working well. 
 
Sudden shortages of gas when the power goes out after a hurricane. 
 
Getting your button pushed at Christmas by the same old attitude of a relative.
 
Having a weakness exposed by a colleague at work.
 
Someone of a different attitude, ethnicity, background or way of relating who has the power over whether or not to approve your application, get you in for an appointment or issue a license.  
 
Getting into a political discussion at a dinner party.
 
We tribalize pretty quickly under duress. Throw in a history of hostility or discrimination and unity may seem an impossible dream. There are whole groups we don’t trust and try to avoid. 
 
Before we go further, take a moment to identify which kinds of people evoke hostility in you or express hostility toward you. Which are fellow Christians?
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Reconciliation with God also means reconciliation to the brethren. . . . The man who, while accepting the Gospel, is capable of censoriousness and resentment and uncharity, is unconsciously announcing to all and sundry, as plainly as if he stated it aloud in words, that he is inwardly wrong with God. That is why all human alienations are serious. Invariably they betoken an alienation, at some point, between man and God. Reconciliation, when it is real, changes all this. To be genuinely reconciled to God is to see all mankind with new eyes. It is to have “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” It is to have the living Christ within, which means to feel towards others as Christ would feel towards them (Stewart, A Man in Christ, p. 123).
 
Consider
Stewart is piercingly convicting when he links hostility toward others with being inwardly wrong with God. Judging, criticizing, neglecting or resenting others reveals that we do not yet fully get the gospel. Ouch! “To be genuinely reconciled to God is to see all mankind with new eyes.” How can I do that when people have harmed me, when they annoy the fire out of me, when they’re so unappealing and demanding?
 
We start with the body of Christ, those with whom we do share the same Spirit. The basis is from our Ephesians passage. Jesus reconciled us at the cross. Remarkably, our common need for salvation is the basis for unity. Our shared utter sinfulness and helplessness to save ourselves melts the pride that divides. 
 
I fall on my face before the crucified Savior, the Christ I sent to the cross. I beg for his mercy. And then, on the ground, I look over and see others on their faces before the cross. I see those I like least, those who scare me, those whose views make no sense to me, those I feel guilty about, those just not like me. We’re tasting the dirt of confession and repentance together. We’re being lifted at the same time by the word of the crucified Jesus who rose from the dead. He bids us to rise with him. He offers us the bread of his broken body to drink. Each of us from the same loaf. He offers us the cup of his blood to drink. Each of us from one cup. 
 
Hostilities cease when Christ’s people go deep into confessing sinfulness and need together. In order that we might receive grace together, the one flesh of Jesus that covers his whole body, the one blood of Jesus that courses through his whole body.
 
What could happen if we looked at each other that way today?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As long as they’re different,
I can stay apart.
That’s always been my plan, Lord.
I can’t help who I am,
They can’t help who they are.
So it’s OK that we just stay apart.
But that’s not your plan.
Underneath, runs common blood.
Adam’s blood,
Rebellion in our veins,
Futility and decay in every cell.
We each share this nature and this fate.
But you have joined yourself 
To our common humanity.
You became sin.
That we might become righteousness.
Within your Body runs the new Adam’s blood,
Rich with forgiveness, faithfulness and life.
You pour forth one Spirit 
Who locates us in the Reconciler.
I cannot stay apart from these 
Who breathe the same Spirit 
And drink the Redeemer’s blood with me.
We are leveled at the cross
And raised together in Easter joy.

 

Monday (Day 30) - ONE BODY

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1 Corinthians 12: 12-20, 26-27
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 
 
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
 
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 
 
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
 
Consider
The spirituality of our interconnectedness in Christ directs us to work out its practicality. We live our individual distinctiveness in concord with other believers. Paul writes with piercingly simple profundity. A body has many parts. Each one is needed. A body won’t work if somehow, absurdly, the hand starts complaining it wants to be an eye. Or if the nose disdains the feet that carry the body. Within our shared life in Christ, we need each other’s unique contributions, and even each other’s different, sometimes difficult backgrounds. 
 
The Corinthian congregation had to deal with different ethnicities, different prior religions and different social/economic levels. No doubt these believers came from different kinds of families with different styles of relating. Our histories come into play when we interact with others, especially when we get stressed or threatened. Plus, new believers were continually joining their number. People with zero knowledge of the Scriptures had to be brought along, often to the annoyance of longer time believers who wanted to “get on with it.”
 
So Paul reminds them of the new, shared location of their lives. Each believer got relocated into Christ. The Spirit yanked us out of our old lives and plunged us into Jesus. Our common experience is that we have been immersed, baptized, into Jesus by the Spirit who joins us to him. Another way Paul puts it reminds us of our common, continuing experience of the Spirit: we were all made to drink of one Spirit. We share the cup. We taste the same “wine” so that each may say with all, “Isn’t God good? Doesn’t he do wondrous things in us? Aren’t we lifted up into his presence when we come together?”  
 
This, in turn, leads to shared emotions with each other. “If one suffers . . . all suffer . . . if one is honored, all rejoice. . . .” That’s the way family members feel about each other. It’s a profound freedom from self-only focus. We know that a broken toe can make our whole body ache; the day our back stops hurting gives our whole body energy. Paul urges us to grow into the awareness, until we feel it, of the interconnectedness of Christ’s body.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
It remains to be added that wherever the primary experience of reconciliation to God is realized, two secondary experiences immediately follow—reconciliation to life, and reconciliation to the brethren; and both these aspects of the Gospel are stressed by Paul. No man can be at war with God without being at war with everything in his environment which is of God’s appointing. When there is disharmony at the centre, there cannot be peace at the circumference. Life and its conditions look unfriendly. There is a perpetual sense of irksomeness and maladjustment and strain.  
 
Meanwhile, he is a rebel. It may never occur to him that this attitude to life and outward circumstance is an infallible symptom of a wrong relationship to God. He may indignantly repudiate any such suggestion. But none the less, it is a fact. The first thing that reconciliation with God does is to adjust the soul to life and its vicissitudes. Rebellion and strain become acceptance and peace. When Paul speaks of this, his words ring with the triumph of a personal discovery: “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8: 28). “If God be for us, who can be against us?” “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 122-123).
 
Consider
According to Stewart, how is disharmony with God related to discontent with life and other people? 
 
By contrast, how is reconciliation with God related to reconciliation with one another? 
How related are peace with God, peace with each other and peace in life?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I confess, Lord Jesus, that if left to me,
Your body would look very odd.
I would like the parts that are like me;
I would forget, neglect or disdain
The parts that don’t interest me.
How unhealthy a church would be with just me!
Thank you that your body, the Church,
In our city and around the world
Is a glorious, impossible, unlikely
Joining of broken but healing,
Sinful but sanctifying,
Distorted but reforming,
Sullied but cleansing,
Damaged but mending,
Needed and beloved members
Just like me,
Drinking one Spirit 
And passing from death 
Into Christ our life. 
 

 

Sunday (Day 29) - FROM THE HEAD DOWN

WEEK FIVE

IN CHRIST=IN HIS BODY: THE CHURCH
 

The Lord Jesus has not joined us to himself as isolated individuals. We are not single satellites orbiting around the sun of his love. Rather, we are members of the body of which Jesus is the head. We belong to each other as lungs, fingers or eyes belong to one single human body. We were not meant to function without one another. We were made to work in harmony, and when we don’t, the body grows ill and feeble.
 
Our culture has a wonderful emphasis on personal responsibility and individual freedom. But we can tip so far into individualism that we lose a Biblical view of what it means to be a person in Christ. 
 
Jesus shared, and shares, a common humanity with us so that we can know the oneness of our shared humanity in him. He calls a multitude to himself to be his body, inseparably joined to him and one another into eternity.
 
This modern rendering of Jesus on the cross joyfully includes all kinds of people, young and old, within the arms of his gathering love. As you gaze on it, ponder how we find our unity at the foot of the cross. 

Art Credit: Body Of Christ. Chico, 2019. FAVPNG.

 

DAY 29 SUNDAY

FROM THE HEAD DOWN
 

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ephesians 4: 15-16
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
 
Ephesians 5: 30 
“For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (NKJV).
 
Galatians 3: 26-28
. . . for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 
Consider
What vivid imagery of being in Christ together we discover in Paul’s writings on the body of Christ! Think of these next time you see fellow members of Christ’s body, the church.
 
The first passage depicts a body with all its members—organs, limbs, bones, ligaments—held together by the intelligence and communication of its brain which makes it all work together properly. Christ Jesus is the head of the church. We are the members of his body, each with different functions, each unable to exist independently, each uniquely needed. The body grows in health as, whatever our individual role, each speak the truth in love and build each other up. Love makes the body healthy!
 
The second passage is a verse from an alternate Greek text preserved in the King James Version. Paul has been speaking of the one flesh union of husband and wife. Here he reminds us that we, each one of us and all of us together, are the bride of Christ. When we are joined to him by the Holy Spirit through faith, we enter a one flesh union with Christ. We are so joined to him, the still incarnate God, that we can be considered bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh!
 
In the third passage, we follow further one of our daily verses. Here, the imagery is of each of us being sons of God because we are joined to, baptized into, the one Son of God, Jesus. He is our unity. All other distinctions pale in comparison. It’s not that we stop being male or female, or cease having an ethnicity. It’s that there is a deeper, underlying unity that comes from being in Christ. As human blood is the same across races and sexes, so the Spirit of God that we share gives us a oneness deeper than any identity marker. 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 169).
 
Consider
We were made for love. We enter the world in dependent relationship upon our parents. No infant would make it a day without care from other humans. As we grow, we gain a measure of independence. We can feed and dress ourselves. We can endure sleeping alone or working on a task alone. But we ever remain interdependent. 
 
That, in fact, is why we get so hurt by others. We require connection: we were made needing the nurture of love, tenderness, regard, admiration, forgiveness, expectation, inspiration and trust. Inevitably, our young hearts get bruised when the people around us enact the reality of being fallen human beings. They let us down. Sometimes they crush us. Some get so wounded that the soft heart becomes hard. We close off connection to others, even though we crave it, because we want to protect our damaged heart from further wounding. We learn strategies and habits that may not be healthy, but seem to offer us some safety. Ultimately, these very defenses keep us from receiving the love we crave and from fulfilling our mission, our calling, to be givers of love to others.
 
When we discover that we are in Christ, we get connected to the healing source. Jesus tends our wounds by the power of his Spirit and the ministrations of fellow Christians. Over time, deep hurts can be forgiven. Hearts can be mended. We awaken to the call to love.
 
But it is never without risk. As Lewis notes, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” We’re summoned back into the fray of human relationships. The alternative is not protection, it is isolation that eventually becomes damnation. As W.H. Auden wrote, “We must love one another or die.” Christ frees us and demands from us a life of risking, healing love.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus, you drew daily from your Father’s love,
Then gave ceaselessly to all you encountered.
How it must have pierced you when they said
You had a demon. They called you a blasphemer.
They, we, resisted your love.
The open heart of God got trampled.
Still you kept on loving.
We fear to risk such openness.
But we know love is life
And we are not our own.
Grant us to find healing for the wounds
Of rejection, slander, neglect
That we have received
By finding communion with your wounds of love,
By feeling our hearts go out to you in your suffering
So that we, being tended and inspired
By your nail-pierced touch
Will risk the work of love in this world.

 

Saturday (Day 28) - STAYING IN JESUS: THROUGH FAITH

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1 Corinthians 10: 16
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
 
Consider
Paul understood the Lord’s Supper to be more than a memory of what Jesus did in the past. Communion is a present participation in the current heavenly life of Jesus. Christ who died, Christ who is risen and ascended, Christ who will come again, meets us in a special way at the table. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus takes us more and more into his own life. And he fills us with himself.
 

A PERSONAL MEMORY

 
The last Sunday before I moved from North Carolina to Baton Rouge, I went to the Episcopal Church. Rhonda and Mary-Emeline had already left town. Two of our other children, Jacob and Leah went back to our Presbyterian church. But all my goodbyes had already been said and I wanted to worship without creating any disturbance. So I went by myself, soaking in the words of the liturgy based on forms the church has used for centuries. When the time came for communion, I went forward to kneel at the rail. I was alone, a pastor between churches, a father between homes, a husband without his wife, a man between times. Layers of pride and self-absorption seemed to have been peeled away by my circumstances and the truth of the ancient words. Kneeling at the rail, I felt myself to be a beggar before the King. I was a supplicant. I had nothing to bring, no scrap of worthiness to offer. I held up my hands with no demands, only the rawest plea.  
 
Just a crumb, I thought. If I could just have a crumb from the table of the Lord, it would be enough. A tiny crumb, a stale crumb, a moldy crumb, just a speck, just a scrap. Oh give me but the smallest morsel and I will be satisfied! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. Just a crumb.  
 
But as the wafer was placed in my hands, with the words, “The body of Christ,” the truth of it came crashing through me. I tremble to plead for a crumb. Jesus replies by giving me his entire ascended, glorified body. I do not deserve a speck, but the Lord gives me himself, all of himself. Then the chalice was put to my lips. What, the cup, too? For me the beggar? “The blood of Christ poured out for you.” This seemed beyond hope. The Lord invited me to drink from the festive cup the wine of the new covenant. To the abject beggar in his rags is offered the chalice of the Lord God.  
 
Psalm 16 came to mind, “The LORD is my portion and my cup.” What do you get when you come to the Supper, you compromised, double-hearted, double-mined, befouled cur? The Triune God of grace himself is your portion. One drop would be beyond an eternity of deserving, but he pours in the unending wine of his presence. The cup overflows. The cup of salvation. Christ drank down the dregs of my sin and passed back the chalice filled with his precious blood, the wine of everlasting life.
 
Eternity crashed in on me. To all appearances, it was just an ordinary Sunday. Regular people coming forward to partake of the usual Eucharist. I was merely one of them. It’s just that no communion is ordinary. Every time the Word is preached and the Supper is offered faithfully, Jesus gives us himself. His blessed Spirit closes the distance between heaven and earth. We get taken up to Christ and Christ comes down to us. I left exulting in how the Father feeds his children.
 
The table of the Lord is the place where we regularly offer our lives to him and where he promises to give himself to us. This is the usual place where we enter the extraordinary, supernatural blessing loop. All our reasons to bless God are gathered in the communion prayers because they recount his mighty work of creating and redeeming us. So these prayers are known in many traditions as the Great Thanksgiving. Then, Christ blesses us by feeding us with his body and blood through the mysterious work of his Holy Spirit. What could be more graphic and graspable than this: Do you want Jesus? Eat him. Drink him. Communion is the gift Jesus gave to his disciples as the continuing way for them to stay in his blessing loop. The Supper represents a way that Jesus asked us to bless him (Dawson, The Blessing Life, pp. 129-131)!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Draw near and take the body of the Lord,
And drink the holy blood for you outpoured.
Saved by that body and that holy blood,
With souls refreshed, we render thanks to God.
Humanity is ransomed from eternal loss
By flesh and blood offered upon the cross.
Salvation’s giver, Christ, the only Son,
By his dear cross and blood the victory won.
Offered was he for greatest and for least
Himself the victim, and himself the priest.
Victims were offered by the law of old,
Which in a type this heavenly mystery told.
He, Ransomer from death, and light from shade,
Now give his holy grace his saints to aid.
Approach him then with faithful hearts sincere,
And take the safeguard of salvation here.
He, that his saints in this world rules and shields,
To all believers life eternal yields;
With heavenly bread makes them that hunger whole,
Gives living waters to this thirsting soul.
 
Ancient Irish/Latin Prayer, translated by John Mason Neale (1861) from the Latin as found in the Bangor Antiphonary (7th c), Ireland.

 

Friday (Day 27) - THE MEAL THAT MAINTAINS

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
 
Consider
These are the words traditionally used at the Lord’s Supper. In quoting Jesus in the Upper Room, Paul offers what the church calls “the words of institution.” By this saying, Jesus set up, or initiated, an act of worship by which he would continue to enter the wonderful exchange with us. The simplicity of this sacrament makes it accessible to a young child. Do you want Jesus? Then eat this bread as you invite him into your heart. The depth of meaning, of course, go on forever. 
 
Jesus took and gave. He took up the bread, made of the grain of the earth and shaped by human labor, and then gave thanks to his Father for the gift of its nourishment. Here is a sign of his whole incarnate ministry! Jesus the Son of God took up a real humanity. He took to himself our flesh and blood. From within our skin, he gave thanks to his Father for the gift of life. And he gave his life to us in ministry and for us on the cross. So in Communion, he gave the bread to his disciples. But now it was no longer just bodily nourishment. It was the physical sign that bore his special spiritual presence. This is my body, which is for you. Jesus gave himself once for all, but he continues to give himself to us as he gives us his Holy Spirit who unites us ever more closely to him.
 
Notice as well the past, present and future dimensions of the sacrament. We enact the Supper in the present moment, proclaiming the past event of the Lord’s death even as we anticipate his future return. We remember in such a way that what happened long ago becomes a present, experienced reality for us. This includes the immediate hope of Christ’s promised future for us and the world.
 
Perhaps you can plan to re-read and pray through this day’s readings before our next communion at church.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
A little later, Jesus sat down with his disciples at the Passover Meal at which he specifically linked his body and blood with the Covenant. Then when Jesus was betrayed and crucified the disciples found themselves in utter disarray standing before the Cross in a crowd of people who mocked and jeered at Jesus and laughed at the helplessness of Jesus nailed to the Cross. Jesus was now utterly alone, abandoned by them, and they the disciples were now separated from him by an unbridgeable chasm of shame and betrayal and horror, for they had all forsaken him and fled. They had betrayed the very love with which he had bound them to himself. Then they remembered what had happened at the Upper Room and the Covenant Jesus had forged with them in his body and blood. Jesus had meant them to remember, for in that act he took their very sins, even their denial of him, and used it as the very means by which to bind them to himself. 
 
Then the disciples understood the significance of the vicarious Passion of Christ as something undertaken not for the righteous, but precisely for the sinner. It was their very sin, their betrayal, their shame, their unworthiness, which became in the inexplicable love of God the very material he laid hold of, and turned into the bond that bound them to the crucified Messiah, to the salvation and love of God forever. That is the way in which the katallage, the wondrous exchange of the atoning and reconciling Cross of Christ operates, by making the shameful things that divide us from him, into the very things that bind us to him in life and death for ever. Such is the unlimited power of the Cross of Christ (Torrance, A Passion for Christ: The Vision That Ignites Ministry, p. 27).
 
Consider
Torrance insightfully reveals that the heart of the Eucharist involves this wonderful exchange. The bread is Christ’s broken body: it represents the worst that humanity could do, hanging the Son of God on the cross. The wine is his blood, spilled out because of human betrayal, denial, injustice and violence. These signs should shame us. But Jesus has made them the signs of grace! For God surprised us all. By his shed blood, we are forgiven. By his broken body, we are made whole!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wonderful are you Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God.
You took up what is earthly, our flesh and blood,
And gave out sinless love and grace.
You took your thorns and wore them as a crown.
You took the rage and gave us peace.
You took our sin to be counted as your own,
And gave back the eternal healing words,
“Father, forgive them!”
You took our death to the deepest darkness
And returning in everlasting resurrection,
You give us your own Holy Spirit,
The breath of life that quickens us
The pulse that beats through the Triune heart,
Giving us a share in your own eternity.
O, open our eyes, whenever the bread is broken
And the sacred cup is shared
To see the wonder of this exchange 
And give back to your thanks and praise.

 

Thursday (Day 26) - EATING JESUS

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

John 6: 47-51
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 
 
Consider
After Jesus had fed five thousand from the five loaves and two fish, people approached him hinting that they’d like him to multiply some more bread. They baited him with a reminder that the LORD had fed the people in the wilderness with manna from heaven. But Jesus wanted them to see the limitations of earthly bread. Loaves wouldn’t save them from death. But he had bread which sustains unto eternal life: himself!
 
Can you imagine how confusing this must have sounded? A man standing in front of them was saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” The manna was just a sign of the greater gift: the Son of God who came to save us. Jesus himself is our nourishment unto eternal life: “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The broken body would be for our healing. Jesus gives himself to be partaken of by any who acknowledge their need.
 
John 6: 52-59
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
 
Consider
Drinking blood was forbidden by the Hebrew Scriptures. Indeed, it sounds a bit vampiric and disgusting to us now. How offensive, even insane, his words seem! Eat my flesh. Drink my blood. We must not too quickly spiritualize this. What you eat becomes part of you. If it’s poison, it sickens you. If it’s food, it nourishes you. But either way, once you consume it, that substance has power in you. Faith is not a pleasant nod to Jesus. It is all in. I eat Jesus. I drink him. And in case we want to get away from this striking imagery, he gave us the Eucharist to be the way he commanded us to stay connected to him.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Calvin’s Wonderful Exchange: Read this at least three times slowly!
 
Godly souls can gather great assurance and delight from this Sacrament [of the Lord’s Supper]; in it they have a witness of our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours. As a consequence, we may dare assure ourselves that eternal life, of which he is the heir, is ours; and that the Kingdom of Heaven, into which he has already entered, can no more be cut off from us than from him; again, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.2). 
 
Consider
Calvin considers that communion is more than a memorial. It is actually an event where we trade with Christ. He enacts for us in the moment the meaning, power and nourishment of what he did once and for all in his days among us. We come to him empty, tired, guilty, feeling the weight of frailty, the stress of pressures, the anxiety of life and the weariness of the world. We haul all that to the table. And he promises to give us his fullness, his forgiveness, taking our burdens and giving peace, energy and hope. Jesus wants us to be aware of this trading, and be eager to embrace it as he lets us partake of his body and blood in the sacrament. What a deal!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus, you are the Bread of Life.
Whatever else I eat leaves me hungry.
You satisfy.
You are the lifeblood in my soul.
Other pursuits leave me weary.
You energize.
Decay and entropy and chaos
Work in me, swirl around me, threaten me,
But you are the nourishment
That keeps integrating, organizing, harboring.
You and you alone are what I most need.
O bread of heaven, feed me again
By Word and Sacrament, 
Spirit and Truth.

 

Wednesday (Day 25) - IN THE CIRCLE OF LOVE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

John 14: 18-20
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
 
Consider
Yesterday we read words that Jesus said just earlier to his disciples on his last night. He reminded them twice of his oneness with the Father using this formula: 
“I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” 
 
Today, we listen further on in his speech. Notice that Jesus sets us up to hear the formula: 
“You will know that I am in my Father. . . .” 
 
We expect him to follow the pattern and say next: 
“And my Father is in me.” 
 
But he doesn’t! He changes the formula to include us: 
“I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” 
 
We get taken into the circle of Triune love!  
 
Yesterday we saw that Jesus described the deepest, eternal intimacy with his Father. They are so close it can be described as dwelling in each other. Now he is saying that about those who are joined to him by faith through the Holy Spirit. The Triune God desires deep communion with the likes of us!
 
Watch for the original formula and its expansion to include us in this excerpt from the prayer Jesus made just later:
 
John 17: 20-23
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
 
Consider
We will study further the church as the body of Christ next week. But for today, we notice how much Jesus desires the oneness of his disciples. Our unity flows from the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the bonds of eternal love. As we get taken inside that circle, we realize that every believer shares the same Spirit who binds Father and Son together. We were never meant to go it alone. Our relationship with Christ is never private. How could it be? To be in Christ, is to be in Christ with all others who are in Christ, in the mystical connection of Triune love. Ponder that reality today as you pray specifically for fellow Christians. Look at a brother or sister you meet today and say to yourself, “She is in Christ. He is one with me in Jesus.”
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Jesus is God’s very own Son, his only begotten Son - one who came to us out of the Father’s Life who belonged to his very Heart and innermost Self. And when the Father did not spare his own Son but freely delivered him up for us all in atoning sacrifice, the Cross became a window into the innermost heart of God and the nature of his Love. It tells us that God loves us more than he loves himself. 
 
That is what the oneness in being and act between Jesus Christ and God, between the incarnate Son and the Father, reveals to us: that our heavenly Father loves us more than he loves himself - and we are assured of an infinite love from which nothing in life or death can ever separate us. The love of the Lord Jesus in giving himself for us on the Cross for our salvation, where the infinite sacrifice of the Father and the infinite sacrifice of the Son are for ever bound up indivisibly together, assures us that the eternal God, let it be repeated, loves us more than he loves himself. God loves us with an infinite love from which nothing in life or death can ever separate us. That is the love incarnate in the Lord Jesus (Torrance, A Passion for Christ: The Vision That Ignites Ministry, p. 14).
 
Consider
Just say that line aloud several times: God loves us more than he loves himself. Let it stagger you. Consider the proof. The Father did not spare his own Son, with whom he has been one from all eternity, but freely gave him up for us all in atoning sacrifice. That’s how much he wanted us to be joined to himself by being joined to Jesus. For Jesus is the Son of God who became Son of Man so that he could be our brother and we could be sons of his Father!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Give glory, God is one is three,
Is love throughout eternity:
God is our dear Father!
 
In time to heal us from within,
He took himself our bone and skin:
God is beloved Son.
 
Poured out now he, in hearts made well,
In sons and daughters deigns to dwell,
God is Holy Spirit.
 
To Father, Son and Spirit God,
Give glory then great glory!
 
Robert Austell and Gerrit Dawson, “Trinitarian Gloria,” 1998.

 

Tuesday (Day 24) - ETERNAL COMMUNION: THE FATHER AND THE SON

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

John 10: 30  
“I and the Father are one.” 
 
John 14: 10-11
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
 
John 17: 21a 
“. . . that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you . . . ” 
 
Consider
We can’t visit too often the relationship that is at the heart of everything. It was revealed to us in the arrival of the Son of God in the flesh. Jesus lived the love for his Father which he had been offering from all eternity. But now he loved his Father from where we could see him. He took us into his prayers. He demonstrated the obedience that was not servile but given from the self-offering at the heart of eternal love. 
 
The language of being “in Christ” has its foundation in the oneness between Father and Son. So simple, yet so deep. Jesus says “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” They envelope each other without swallowing up the other. They flow in and out of each other without hindrance. Jesus explains that the Father “dwells in me.” Where one is, there the other is also. Each is everything that the other person is while yet being distinct persons. Their hearts beat as one. Their wills are perfectly aligned. They live for each other, to please each other in every creative way. Their love brought forth all the life there is. 
 
Years ago, the wildly popular rock musician Peter Frampton had a big hit with a song called “I’m in You.” The chorus included “I’m in you. You’re in me. You gave me the love, the love that I never had.” That “in-ness” is impossible to explain mathematically, but ordinary people grasped it intuitively as they gobbled up copies of the record. And yet, human romantic love is only a shadow, a hint, of this love between divine persons in the Triune God.  
 
As you sit with this reality today, ponder, “What does it mean to live ‘in’ someone?” How close is that? 
 
Now let’s push a bit further into these mysteries with Professor Torrance.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
He insisted that he and the Father were one (John 10: 30), that what his Father had been doing hitherto he was continuing to do in an unbroken continuity of divine activity, he who had seen Jesus had seen the Father, so that there was no ground for anxiety or fear. What the Father is and does, Jesus is and does. And what Jesus is and does, the Father is and does. There is in fact no God behind the back of Jesus, no act of God other than the act of Jesus, no God but the God we see and meet in him. Jesus Christ is the open heart of God, the very love and life of God poured out to redeem humankind, the mighty hand and power of God stretched out to heal and save sinners. All things are in God’s hands, but the hands of God and the hands of Jesus, in life and in death, are the same. That is to say, the ultimate destiny of humanity is bound up with Jesus Christ, for it is he who has come to invade and destroy the barrier of death and all that separates men and women from God. And it will be his voice, the voice of one through whom all divine judgement is channelled, the voice of Jesus, that will reach into the grave, and summon the dead into resurrection and life. For Jesus is himself the resurrection and the life with ultimate control over the destiny and future of each of those who believe in him (Torrance, A Passion for Christ: The Vision That Ignites Ministry, p. 17).
 
Consider
In what events of the life of Jesus do we see the oneness between the Father and the Son?
 
How does Jesus show us “the open heart of God, the very love and life of God poured out to redeem humankind”?
 
What difference does it make for us if God the Father is something other than who Jesus is? That is, what does it matter if God is not like Jesus? 
 
By contrast, what do we gain from the truth that God the Father and Jesus the Son are identical in their disposition toward us, their will for us and their love given to us?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We look at you in Scripture, Lord Jesus.
You tell us that we see the Father.
We see all the way through to the heart of everything.
God is like we see you to be!
You lived in constant sync with your Father’s will.
You loved him as you always had,
Though from the ground where we live.
In the noise of the world, you stayed focused,
In the rage of the world, you stayed peaceful,
In the selfish sins of the world, you stayed loving.
You would not be turned aside in any way
From loving your Father by
Fulfilling the Triune mission 
To love us unto the end.
Seeing you, we see how things really are,
We see who God really is,
And we are lost in wonder at such love. 

 

Monday (Day 23) - STAYING IN JESUS: BY ABIDING

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

John 15: 8-11
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
 
Consider
As Jesus continues the theme of abiding, he focuses in on love and obedience. The source of our lives is the love of Christ. He has already loved us unto death and into new life. Jesus the man drew from the eternal love of his Father. Jesus the Savior creates us anew in that love. Now he asks his disciples to remain in that love by sharing it. Worship and love, like pedals on a bicycle, keep us riding in Christ. We look unto his mighty deeds and give praise. We look to the needs of the world and share love. And in that outflow, the joy of Jesus fills in to overflowing. 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
This fruit is not an artifact of the disciples; it is the fruit of the vine. It is the life of Jesus himself reproduced in the lives of the disciples in the midst of the life of the world. . . . the fruit is love and obedience. 
 
But it is necessary to “abide” in Jesus, and this means a continually renewed action of the will. It is the continually renewed decisions that what has been done once for all by the action of Jesus shall be the basis, the starting point, the context of all my thinking and deciding and doing. . . . but the loyalty demanded is not primarily a continual being for, but a being from; not the holding of a position but an allowing oneself to be held (Newbigin, The Light Has Come: An Exposition of the Fourth Gospel, pp. 197-198).
 
Consider
Scholar and missionary Lesslie Newbigin packs deep truths into a few words! Let’s work through this section of his commentary on John 15.
 
The fruit is not the work, or creation, of the disciples. It is the fruit of the vine. The ultimate value of our lives is not measured so much by what we do but what Christ does through us. 
 
Jesus’ own love and obedience becomes ours, as we are connected to the vine. The fruit of our lives is his life expressed through ours.
 
The fruit is, at the deepest level, the very life of Jesus reproduced through the lives of his disciples. A branch bears the fruit of whatever kind of tree it grows from. Orange trees reproduce oranges, not tomatoes! Christians, if healthy, reproduce the life of Jesus from whom we come, in whom we live, and who lives in us by his Spirit. 
 
The essence of the fruit God desires is the essence of Jesus’ life: love and obedience toward his Father. With his incarnation, this love and self-giving that has flowed from eternity got produced through a human, the man Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in faith, affection and obedient offering to his Father that extended to self-giving love to others. That heart of obedience to the Father is what the Spirit produces through us as we abide in Christ. Anything more tangible that we “do” in the world for God only lasts if it flows from that relationship.
 
Our part is not fruit creation: we can’t manufacture God! Our part though is crucial. It is a decision. A decision that must be renewed every moment. This is the choice that what has been done in Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection, shall be the starting point for all my thinking, deciding, speaking and doing. 
 
Abiding is agreeing to live from Jesus each moment. From his values, from his words, from his mighty acts of redemption, from his vision for the world, and from his promised future. I consent. I ask him to grow his life through mine. I got connected once for all in salvation. But that same surrender, consent and asking continues every moment of life.
 

painting by nicholas poussin of jesus and the disciples at the last supper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poussin, Nicolas. The Institution of the Eucharist. 1610. The Louvre, Paris.

 

 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus, I confess that I would rather this be all about me.
I’m grateful you saved me, 
But I’d like to work some things out on my own.
I think I can do great things for you.
I think I know what people need.
I think I could be a guiding light,
A kind of savior and leader that would make you proud.
Shall I not just try it out?
 
Ah, forgive me for falling for that same old trick!
Apart from you I can do nothing.
This never has been about me.
It is your life the world needs,
That I need. 
I do not want to wither in my own strength,
I do not want to get lost on my own road.
I do not want to be full of me and useless to you.
 
You have engrafted me into you.
I take that place joyfully.
Your way be followed.
Your will be done.
Grow your life through me.
For I know, so gratefully,
That more of you does not mean less of me,
It means the joy of all my desiring
And a share in your wonderful kingdom. 

 

Sunday (Day 22) - STAYING IN JESUS: BY CONSENT

WEEK FOUR

LIVING IN CHRIST: THE MYSTERY OF COMMUNION 
 

The Father and the Son have loved each other from all eternity. Long before we were made, the dance of eternity unfolded joyfully. Father, Son and Holy Spirit moved in and out of each other. Ever giving. Ever loving. Ever offering. The one God is a relationship of three persons. At the center of the universe, then, there beats a heart of love. 
 
The miracle of Jesus is that this eternal love story opened out to include us. The Holy One intended to take the unholy into himself, to cleanse us from the inside out, and make us to share in this triune dance of harmonious joy. By his arrival in our midst, born of Mary, the eternal Son now loved his Father perfectly from within our flesh and blood humanity. Amidst the sad clamor of the world, with the chaos of our sin swirling around him and the siren song of temptation ever threatening to distract him, Jesus pressed into his Father. 
 
This 2008 painting by Jyoti Sahi is called “Abide in Me.” To abide means to stay, to remain, to dwell in. The painting reminds us that Jesus’ most important work was staying in his Father while he was among us. That relationship was the continuing source of the obedience by which we were saved. It is a fitting image for us this week as we explore what it means to stay in Christ, the mystery of communion.
 
Painting Credit: Sahi, Jyoti. Abide in Me. 2008.
 

DAY 22 SUNDAY

STAYING IN JESUS: BY CONSENT
 

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"

 
John 15: 1-5
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
 
Consider
On the last night before his crucifixion, Jesus used a very ordinary picture to describe the extraordinary reality of our continuing union with him. In fact, the illustration is so obvious that we can miss its meaning! A branch has to be connected to the main tree (or in the case of grapes, the main vine) in order to bear fruit. Cut a branch off a tree and it dies. Block the flow of xylem and phloem within a branch and its leaves wither; no fruit can grow. Such a dead branch has to be removed so the tree can thrive.
 
So we do not bear the fruit of Christ’s life flowing through us if we are cut off from him. Or if we have internally blocked the movement of his Spirit by our fear, pride, stubbornness or other sin. The Lord’s advice is so simple, “Stay in me! Remain connected. Don’t break away. I have already joined you to myself. Now abide!”
 
What kinds of things typically interrupt the flow of your drawing from Jesus and living for him? Can you speak Jesus’ words “Abide in me” straight into the situations where you expect interruptions to happen?
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
The parable of the Vine . . . gives us the best and most complete illustration of the meaning of our Lord’s command [to abide in him], and the union to which He invites us. 
 
The parable teaches us the nature of that union. The connection between the vine and the branch is a living one. . . . And just so it is with the believer too. His union with his Lord is no work of human wisdom or human will, but an act of God, by which the closest and most complete life-union is effected between the Son of God and the sinner. “God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts” (Gal. 4: 6). The same Spirit which dwelt and still dwells in the Son, becomes the life of the believer; in the unity of that one Spirit, and the fellowship of the same life which is in Christ, he is one with Him. As between the vine and branch, it is a life-union that makes them one. 
 
Let me . . . study the wondrous union between Jesus and His people, until it becomes to me the guide into full communion with my beloved Lord. Let me listen and believe, until my whole being cries out, “Jesus is indeed to me the True Vine, bearing me, nourishing me, supplying me, using me, and filling me to the full to make me bring forth fruit abundantly.” Then shall I not fear to say, “I am indeed a branch to Jesus, the True Vine, abiding in Him, resting on Him, waiting for Him, serving Him, and living only that through me, too, He may show forth the riches of His grace, and give His fruit to a perishing world.” 
 
Shall I not believe that, now I once am in Him, he Himself will keep me and enable me to abide? On my part, abiding is nothing but the acceptance of my position, the consent to be kept there, the surrender of faith to the strong Vine still to hold the feeble branch. Yes, I will, I do abide in Thee, blessed Lord Jesus (Murray, Abide in Christ, pp. 27, 30, 31).
 
Consider
Murray speaks in terms of a life-union with Jesus. Our relationship with Christ is a living one. He speaks winsomely of our motivation to stay in the flow with Jesus. He awakens our desire to have a life that is fruitful for Christ. A life that brings more life into the world. 
 
What about such a life seems joyful to you?
 
We will explore this further tomorrow, but note how our work in abiding is not as much about trying harder but about consenting to be where Jesus, by his Spirit, has already placed us: in him! 
 
What would it look like today if you truly accepted that position of being in Christ and surrendered in trust that he will hold you there?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST

 
Jesus you are indeed to me the True Vine, 
You right now are bearing me, 
You are nourishing me, 
You are supplying me, using me and 
Filling me to the full 
To make me bring forth fruit abundantly.
I say, “thank you!” I say, “Yes.”
I take the place you have given me. 
I rest as a branch in the Vine.
I wait for you to do your work in me,
I eagerly anticipate that your fruit will come
As I yield moment by moment to you.
Show forth the riches of your grace
In me and through me, 
Give your fruit through me to a perishing world.  

 

Saturday (Day 21) - NO LONGER I

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Galatians 2: 20
I have been crucified with Christ. 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.
 
2 Corinthians 5: 14-15
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
 
Consider
Paul here describes the result of our union with Christ. When we go from being apart from God, alone on our own, we get joined to Jesus and all the members of his body. The old is gone, the new has come. This is his Spirit’s work in us to join us to the work he did for us. But that does not make us passive. Now we live differently.  
Paul tells us the point of Christ’s giving his life for us: “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 
 
What a blessed relief! I no longer have to live for myself, bound in that tight ball of self-interest, a shrunken life of protection and defensiveness, the diminishment of trying to put myself first. Now I can live for him! My purpose is the one who loved me more than he loves himself. The more I yield to him, the more secure, filled and joyful I become. 
 
Paul had reached such a place of utter commitment that he could credibly say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The ego had been slain. The self-focus had become Jesus-focus. And he rippled with the life of Jesus pulsing through him. But of course, he did live. He just lived by a completely different purpose than he used to. “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
 
We can feel the dancing romance in these words. Paul feels how Jesus is in love with him. He believes that the one who claimed him on the Damascus Road blinded him to his old life and gave him vision to see the burning heart of Christ’s love.  
 
Take this phrase with you into the day. Notice how it transforms situations and encounters as you speak into them, “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM
 

To Paul, who here as everywhere is building on his own personal experience, faith-union means nothing short of being overpowered by Christ. It means the making over of the whole man—thought and feeling and will—to Christ in unconditional surrender. It means an act and then a life. “Now is our salvation nearer,” he writes, “than when we believed”: there is faith as an act, the original deed of self-committal by which they had become Christians. “The life which I now live, I live by faith”: there is faith as a life, the abiding condition of the consecrated soul. Hence faith includes everything that enters into a vital, personal relationship to Jesus—trusting His guidance, obeying His commandments, praying in His name, giving Him our love.
 
It is here that the full force of Paul’s great conception of union with Christ appears. Christ unites Himself, and takes our place and bears our sins: we then identify ourselves with Him by surrendering up to Him our life. Thereby His attitude to sin becomes our attitude, His love for the Father our love, His passion for holiness our passion. “They that are in Christ have crucified the flesh.” United with Christ in his death, they die to sin. By the cross on which Jesus poured out His soul, the world is crucified to them and they to the world. In His resurrection, they also rise, and live henceforward in newness of life. . . . He is their representative. They are “in Christ.” And in virtue of that identification, God receives them (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 101, 131-132).
 
Consider
As we conclude the third week of our explorations, James Stewart summarizes for us what it means to enter into Christ by faith. “There is the original deed of self-committal” by which we became Christians. It is a matter of “surrendering up to Him our life.” We get made over in “thought and feeling and will” through this surrender. Now this yielding faith becomes a way of life. Our attitude toward sin becomes Christ’s attitude. And our desire to be like his Father partakes of Christ’s own holiness. On the cross with Christ, the world in its mad drive to make life work without God becomes dead to us. We are baptized in the full spiritual sense of dying to sin and rising to new life. We are joined to the person and work of Jesus. It is his sacrifice that saves us, his resurrection that enlivens us, his Spirit that brings us to life so that we can surrender that life to God. He gets all the credit. But we get to participate by employing our restored wills fully in his service. 
 
Is there anything holding you back from experiencing this reality? Would you be willing to yield it today as an experiment in grace? Give it over and see how God responds!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your light blinded Paul.
You knocked him on his face.
You terrified him with the revelation
That in hunting your people,
He was persecuting you.
What severe mercy you offer!
You are willing to make us shout
With the startle of resetting our dislocated souls.
You demand that we are crucified with Christ.
You arrange the death of the old man.
It hurts. We kick against it. We grieve its loss.
But then we discover resurrection life.
We live by faith that you love us enough
To change us.
Your blinding light heals.
Your rearranging Word makes us new.
And we know we can never go back now.
The life I live, I now live by faith in you,
The Son of God who loved me,
And gave his life for me.

 

Friday (Day 20) - CHRIST GETS US THERE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1 Peter 3: 18, 21-22 
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. . . . Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
 
Consider
Peter declares that baptism saves us! Does that mean it’s a magic rite that works apart from our faith? Of course not! Peter even clarifies: it’s not really about “a removal of dirt from the body.” But Jesus commanded baptism as the sign and seal of participating in him. Our baptisms connect us to Jesus’ baptism. Once, he went into the Jordan to take a sinner’s place as he consecrated himself to his Father’s mission. Then, he took a criminal’s place as he went to the cross. There he was baptized in blood (Mark 10: 38-39). Passing through his baptism, Jesus who gave his life rose again from the dead. This dying and rising on our behalf is the heart of Jesus’ baptism. We share in his baptism, this gospel movement of sacrificial death to resurrection life, when we come to faith. Peter succinctly tells us what our part is in such a great salvation. “We appeal to God for a good conscience.” We ask for cleansing because we know we cannot make ourselves right. We cannot undo the damage done. Cannot get the stain of our wrong out. We cannot solve our lives. We appeal to him. We willingly let him take us through death to the old life and into becoming a new creation. We ask him and we let him bring us back to God.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short, that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him. For this reason, we glory that we have a fellowship of righteousness with him.
 
You see that our righteousness is not in us but in Christ, that we possess it only because we are partakers in Christ; indeed with him we possess all its riches (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.11.10, 3.11.23).
 
Consider
Our great father in the faith, Calvin directs us to the essence of the Gospel. He piles up the phrases. He offers in these few words (10!) sparkling facets of the one beautiful diamond. See them shine as you contemplate them:
 
Mystical union with Christ. 
Joining together of head and members. 
Indwelling of Christ in our hearts. 
Engrafted into his body. 
Fellowship of righteousness.
Christ made ours.
Sharers with him.
Put on Christ.
One with him. 
Partakers in Christ. 
 
Nearly at the midpoint of our study of In Christ Alone, we are right at the heart. This is the Triune God’s intent. This is our joy. This is the great mystery of Christian participation in Christ, never fully understandable but available for even the simplest Christian to experience. Christ in us. We in Christ.
 
Calvin says that he considers this mystical union of highest importance. Yet most Christians never think about it! We look to Jesus to help us solve our problems and live our dreams. We’re grateful he pays our sin debt so we can shake off our guilty feelings. We’re thankful our ticket to heaven is punched. But we do not drink deeply of this organic, spiritual oneness we have with Jesus! And that is why so many of us experience so little effectiveness in mission, such scant growth in love and joy, such a lack of power and boldness in our witness. Oh, Christian! Plunge deep into the prayer below. 
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I am in you Christ Jesus.
You are in me.
We are one.
You ask for my heart.
You give me all that you have.
You take me into the Father’s presence
Cleansed in your righteousness.
You make me delight to do the Father’s will,
For in you all hostilities have ceased.
You pour your Spirit into my heart
That I might be lit up inside, 
Filled with the sense of everlasting life,
You give me purpose greater than myself.
You locate me in the fellowship of your body,
Joining me to all other believers.
You send me into the world to share this love
To participate in your brokenness that heals.
Your pouring out that brings new life.
This union with you, dear Jesus
Is the fountain, the bread, the light of life.

 

Thursday (Day 19) - A SURGERY OF GRACE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Deuteronomy 30: 6
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
 
Colossians 2: 11-14
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
 
Consider
In today’s passages, we encounter a powerful but less familiar image for our union with Christ: circumcision. Since the time of Abraham (Genesis 15), circumcision had been the physical sign of belonging to the covenant people of God. It was the rite of initiation for all male babies, though the reason why was never clear. But centuries later, in Deuteronomy we begin to see the spiritual significance of the act: we need a surgery of the heart.
 
More centuries passed until Paul grasped that the promise had come true. The sign of initiation into being part of God’s people had changed from circumcision to baptism. But baptism still represented a kind of surgery. The old self is cut away. The hard heart is removed. A new heart is given to us. We can now be responsive to God again. All this occurs because of our union with Christ Jesus in his death and resurrection. Jesus was literally circumcised on the 8th day according to Jewish law. But on the cross he experienced the deeper circumcision. He took our sins and held them unto death. In his dying, the sins he took were cut away from him, and he rose as a new kind of man, with an eternal body outfitted for everlasting life. Now, we participate in that circumcision of Christ. Joined to Jesus, the record of our debt of sin is canceled; cut away from us. The record of Christ’s righteousness is given to us; sealed into us as our eternal possession. 
 
The Spirit of God performs this surgery whenever he brings someone to faith that unites him or her to Christ Jesus. We get a new record and a new heart!
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
But the characteristic Pauline conception comes into view only when faith is seen as utter self-abandonment to the God revealed in Jesus Christ. It is faith which begets that deepest and most intimate of all personal experiences—the mystical union of the believer arid his Lord.  
 
To Paul, who here as everywhere is building on his own personal experience, faith-union means nothing short of being overpowered by Christ. It means the making over of the whole man—thought and feeling and will—to Christ in unconditional surrender. It means an act and then a life. “Now is our salvation nearer,” he writes, “than when we believed”: there is faith as an act, the original deed of self-committal by which they had become Christians. “The life which I now live, I live by faith”: there is faith as a life, the abiding condition of the consecrated soul. Hence faith includes everything that enters into a vital, personal relationship to Jesus—trusting His guidance, obeying His commandments, praying in His name, giving Him our love. . . . Paul’s great cardinal conception of faith, as the willing, eager obedience of the bond-slave to the Lord, and the adoring, self-abandoning response of the redeemed to the redeemer (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 99, 101).
 
Consider
The utter self-giving of Jesus calls forth from us a responsive giving of our whole selves back to Christ. His circumcision on the cross cost him everything. He asks us to give him total control of our lives. A baptismal faith is a willingness to die to self and live unto Christ. So Stewart tells us that faith is “an utter self-abandonment to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.” If you are in Christ, he brought you to that place of self-abandonment. But we all begin to take back some of what we gave to him. We can find after some months or years that we are encrusted with parts of the old, dead life that we have tried to retrieve. 
 
What might Jesus be asking you to release again to him today?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This baptismal prayer comes from the French Reformed Tradition:
 
For you, little child, 
Jesus Christ has come, 
he has fought, he has suffered. 
For you he entered the shadow of Gethsemane 
and the horror of Calvary. 
For you he uttered the cry, “It is finished!”
For you he rose from the dead 
and ascended into heaven and there he intercedes— 
for you, little child, even though you do not know it. 
But in this way the word of the Gospel becomes true. 
“We love him, because he first loved us.”

 

Wednesday (Day 18) - BELIEVING INTO HIS NAME

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Matthew 28: 19-20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
 
John 1: 12-14
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 
 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
 
John 3: 16
For God so loved the world that He gave the only begotten Son, so that everyone believing in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life (Berean Literal Bible).
 
Consider
These passages help us make the link between faith and baptism as a propelling into Christ Jesus. Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew could just as well have been translated “baptizing them into the name. . . .” Baptism is not just an act done in the name, or authority, of the Father, Son and Spirit. Baptism means sacramentally immersing someone into the Triune God. It means the relocation of someone into life in Christ.
 
So, too, these passages from John could be translated as “who believed into his name” and “everyone believing into Him.” Rendering the Greek word as “into” creates a sense of dynamism. Faith thus means propelling into Jesus. We move away from a life that is purely on our own, as if we belonged only to ourselves. We push away from such isolation toward Christ. Believing is active. We’re changing spiritual locations, from alone in self to relationship with God through Christ. We quest ever deeper into communion with him. So Biblical belief is a continuing action, enabled by the Spirit, that moves us from death into life. “Faith-ing” is the ever renewed choice to confess the old life, leave it behind, embrace forgiveness and live by grace for the mission of Christ to the world.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
As if we ought to think of Christ, standing afar off and not rather dwelling in us! For we await salvation from him not because he appears to us afar off, but because he makes us, ingrafted into his body, participants, not only in all his benefits but also in himself. . . . If you contemplate yourself, that is sure damnation. But since Christ has been so imparted to you with all his benefits that all his things are made yours, that you are made a member of him, indeed one with him, his righteousness overwhelms your sins; his salvation wipes out your condemnation; with his worthiness he intercedes that your unworthiness may not come before God’s sight. Surely this is so: We ought not to separate Christ from ourselves or ourselves from him. Rather we ought to hold fast bravely with both hands to that fellowship by which he has bound himself to us (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.2.24). 
 
Consider
For Calvin, the activity of faith is vigorous and continual. We clasp Christ spiritually with all the vigor of grabbing hold of something strongly with both hands. In this sense, we emphatically embrace the reality of our union with Christ Jesus. We hold hard to the events of the gospel where by Christ incarnated, lived sinlessly, died sacrificially, rose triumphantly and ascended gloriously. We claim them all as our own. By such faith, we discover that we have indeed been made participants in Jesus’ saving journey. He really is ours. We really are his.  
 
This dynamic belonging changes everything. We revel in all the benefits Christ has won for us and gives to us. But the best gift of all is that we are truly members of the body of which he is the head. We are grafted with all those who belong to him into Jesus’ own life and person. Our connection is not external but organic. It is not just in words but in spirit. In the Spirit of Jesus who keeps us joined to him. 
 
Our minds naturally fall away from such staggering reality. We fall back into old habits of just trying to stay comfortable and live as reasonably good people. We settle for spiritual mediocrity in order to stay safe and not be odd to others. Or, we worry that we now have to be worthy of such union. We fear we have to show that we deserve to be here. Suddenly, we’re back to trying to earn God’s favor. We look back at ourselves and realize how pitiful we are. The joy slips away.
 
Calvin wants to rouse us. Propel into Christ! Look away from yourself and look to Jesus. His life is your life and you belong to him. You are in Christ! Look at him and “hold fast bravely with both hands to that fellowship” you have with him. He really has overwhelmed your sin and wiped out your condemnation. He really does hold you in his grip.
 
Now we can wholeheartedly thank him, live for him and tell others about him. Not as a duty but as a delight. 
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus, I live everyday breathing the air
Of this world and its concerns.
We live for ourselves. We live for now.
It’s hard to remember you,
To believe that all that you are and did
Is now the truest part of me, for I am in you.
So help me Holy Spirit,
To lay hold of Christ Jesus 
With all my mind, heart and strength.
Give me energy to propel into him,
To immerse my life in his,
That I might be filled with the joy of our union, 
And bring glory to the Father
Through sharing in the mission of the Son
To this world that needs you so.

 

Tuesday (Day 17) - JOINED TO CHRIST'S DEATH AND RESURRECTION

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Galatians 3: 26-27
. . . for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
 
Romans 6: 3-4, 6, 8, 11
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.
 
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. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
 
Consider
Today we see the heart of this Galatians verse we have been saying every day. By means of faith, trusting in Christ Jesus, we have been given a share in his Sonship. Men, women, boys, girls, become sons of God through the faith that joins us spiritually, but truly, to the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God.  
 
Paul goes on to describe this union in terms of having been “baptized into Christ.”  Faith is not merely saying, “Well, OK” to what Jesus has done. The true faith which the Holy Spirit creates propels us into Christ. We jump into Jesus as if leaping off the edge into a great pool. We’re all in. 
 
The sacrament of baptism beautifully symbolizes this spiritual immersion. The sign and the reality go together. Of course, physically we dry off from the water of baptism. Spiritually, though, this reality of having been bathed in Christ continues.
 
In Romans, Paul writes of baptism as a passing through death into new life. When we are joined to Jesus by the Spirit through faith, we get linked to all the mighty events of his life. Jesus died for our sins; we die to sin, getting free of both its guilt and ultimate power. Jesus rose; we rise with him, with his eternal life given to us by the Spirit. There is no going back. The old self was crucified with Jesus. To put it graphically, we now cannot become spiritual necrophiliacs. We just can’t return to loving again the dead things of old sins and habits. We live with a better hope and a higher calling because every part of us has been baptized into all of Christ Jesus by the Spirit who enabled us to yield our lives to him in faith.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
 
Just as the Apostles’ Creed uses the phrase, “crucified, dead, and buried” to emphasize the awful depth and completeness of Christ’s self-sacrifice, so Paul employs the image of burial to put the reality of the death to sin beyond dispute. And he has linked up the whole conception in a wonderfully illuminating way to the Christian Sacrament of Baptism. To the convert, going down into the water, the moment of immersion was like a burying of the old self which in union with Christ he had renounced. Not that baptism created a saving relationship to Christ: only by doing violence to Paul’s teaching on salvation can such a position be deduced. But baptism was the seal set to faith’s reality. Once and only once could it happen in the believer’s life. There could be no going back upon it. On the one side of the line of baptism lay bondage to the old lusts and a life without God in the world; on the other side of the line were joy and peace and membership in the community of Christ. Than the sacrament of baptism no more definite or more decisive event could be imagined: to be baptized was to be committed publicly and for ever. And not less definite than the outward act, declares Paul, must be the inward change to which it sets its seal. “Reckon yourselves not only dead with Christ,” he insists, “but buried with Him in baptism.” For union to Jesus means an end and a beginning more clear-cut and radical than any other transformation in the world (Stewart, A Man in Christ, p. 104).
 
Consider
How is baptism an adequate sign of being joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection? 
 
According to Stewart, what is a good consequence of allowing us only one baptism? 
 
What is constructive about the fact that baptism occurs publicly? 
 
Given that baptism occurs only once, and we may not even remember the moment, how do we “stay in touch” with the reality of baptism day by day? (Hint: the key lies in the word “reckon”!)
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Filthy with regret, I made my way to you,
Head bowed with the weight of shame,
Encrusted with habits I could not break,
Raw from all the ways I tried to wash myself,
I heard there was a cleansing pool.
On its edge, I hesitated.
I knew I was leaving behind 
Many things I thought I loved.
They had hurt me again and again,
And caused me to hurt others,
But even the pain bound me to them.
Could I live without these ways?
Behind me the rubble, before me the water.
I felt your wind blow crisp around me,
I let it lift me, and then I leapt.
The water was icy, stealing breath.
I seemed to sink forever,
I’d never get back to the surface alive.
Then my head broke water.
I gulped the free air.
Felt the clean skin of forgiveness,
Left the old man behind
And saw your beaming face.
Everything was new. 

 

Monday (Day 16) - ADOPTED AND NATURALIZED

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ephesians 1: 5 
. . . having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will . . . (NKJV)
 
Galatians 4: 4-7 
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
 
Consider
We’re exploring the mystery of being united to Christ. Here in Ephesians Paul describes God’s intent to adopt us into Sonship through the person and work of his Son Jesus. By that act of adoption, we can be taken into the Father’s own family. Into his Triune circle of love! Human language strains when describing these mysteries. But the literal prepositions used help us think of the wonder of our adoption through directional language.
 
We were outside of God the Father. But he determined to bring us into adoption as sons through (by means of) Jesus, in order to get us into himself. God is other than we are in our mortality and sinfulness. But he entered our world as one of us in order to establish the grounds for being united to us. While he could not take pleasure in our sinfulness, the Father could take pleasure in his obedient, loving Son, now fully human. So if we are connected to Christ, we can be part of the Father’s good pleasure in accepting his Son.  
 
The Galatians passage encapsulates the whole gospel in terms of adopting us. The Father sent his “natural” Son to be born of a human mother under the conditions of law we all endure. Jesus became our brother in the flesh. So that, united as kinfolk to him by the Spirit, we might be adopted. Both males and females get adopted as “sons” because we share in the one, true Sonship of Christ. And this is more than a legal transaction. We receive the same Spirit as Jesus, and he cries out through our spirits to the One who is now truly our “Abba, Father.” All in Christ alone. 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Until our minds become intent upon the Spirit, Christ, so to speak, lies idle because we coldly contemplate him as outside ourselves—indeed far from us. . . . union [with Christ] alone ensures that, as far as we are concerned, he has not unprofitably come with the name of Savior. The same purpose is served by that sacred wedlock through which we are made flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone (Eph. 5: 30), and thus one with him. But he unites himself to us by the Spirit alone. By the grace and power of the same Spirit we are made his members, to keep us under himself and in turn to possess him. 
 
But faith is the principal work of the Holy Spirit. . . . [It is] a supernatural gift that those who would otherwise remain in unbelief receive Christ by faith. . . . the Spirit [is] the inner teacher by whose effort the promise of salvation penetrates our minds, a promise that would otherwise only strike the air or beat upon our ears. 
 
Perfect salvation is found in the person of Christ. Accordingly, that we may become partakers of it, “he baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and fire,” bringing us into the light of faith in his gospel and so regenerating us that we become new creatures; and he consecrates us, purged of worldly uncleanness, as temples holy to God (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.3-4)
 
Consider
There’s no escaping the mystical dimension to union with Christ. Calvin was supremely a theologian of the Holy Spirit. He knew, as well as any scholar in history, how vital the Spirit’s role is in joining us to Jesus. The Spirit brings inside us the benefits of what Christ did outside of us in his life, death and resurrection. He immerses us in Jesus. This is what John the Baptist meant when he said that the Messiah, Christ, would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3: 16). The ascended Jesus pours out his Spirit so that believers can be believers, so that his brothers in the flesh can be his brothers in the Spirit and thus true, eternal sons of the Father.
 
Do you feel how your faith is, as Calvin says, a supernatural gift? Do you feel the need to ask the Father for his Spirit to create more faith in you, to take you closer to Christ the Son? Remember his precious words, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11: 13).
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus, Son of God, 
Thank you for becoming Son of Man,
For being our brother in the flesh.
And thank you for sending your Spirit
To make us your spiritual brothers. 
We revel in our adoption:
That it is more than a legal declaration.
We have been naturalized into the Triune family.
You are our home now.
Your Spirit runs through us and between us
With deeper ties than blood or marriage.
We are yours, and yours we would be,
Now and always. 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday (Day 15) - ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED

WEEK THREE

PROPELLING INTO JESUS: THE MYSTERY OF BAPTISM
 

This week, we consider how it is that we get in on all that Jesus is and has accomplished for us. The sign given in the New Testament for our initial joining to Jesus is baptism. That does not mean that the rite of pouring on water, or going under the water, has power in itself. Rather, this sacramental action beautifully expresses the reality of what Jesus went through for us and how we participate in it. So this week, we will start with exploring the baptism Jesus underwent before his public ministry began. We will see how it was a preview of the “baptism in blood” which would occur as he passed through the cross into resurrected life. Then, we will consider how when the Spirit brings us to faith in the Jesus who died and rose, we are summoned to surrender our lives to Christ. We then become participants in his dying and rising. We get freed of the guilt and power of sin in order to live a transformed life in the Spirit. All our lives, this surrender and faith fuel our growing intimacy with Christ Jesus. The proper human response to who Jesus is and what he has done is to propel into Christ by entrusting ourselves to him more and more. Though we are baptized only once, we immerse ourselves in this dynamic of dying and rising every day. 
 
The image below, a 19th century drawing of a baptismal font in an ancient catacomb, beautifully symbolizes how our baptism is a partaking of Christ’s baptism, in water and blood, for us. The stirring photo captures what it means to take the plunge of faith into Jesus. This leaping by faith into Christ, surrendering control to him, is the continuous movement from the old life of sin to the new life of loving obedience.
 

Baptism Photo Credit: Pearl. Lightstock.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

DAY 15 SUNDAY

ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED
 

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"

 
Matthew 3: 16-17
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
 
Ephesians 1: 6 
. . . to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (NKJV)
 
Consider
The baptism of Jesus inaugurated his public ministry. Jesus’ cousin John was preaching in the wilderness by the Jordan River. He called God’s people to repentance in preparation for the coming of the LORD himself. The people confessed their sins, then went down into the river to be baptized by John.
 
Jesus also went to be baptized, though he had no sin from which to repent. Nevertheless, he showed his solidarity with us, the sinners he came to save. His baptism was his consecration to the task of saving us. Three important events followed immediately as Jesus came up from being baptized. 
 
The heavens were opened. This symbolized the breaking of the barrier between God and humanity. It foreshadowed the tearing of the Temple veil to the Holy of Holies. Reconciliation was occurring as God was fulfilling his promise to once again dwell with humanity.  
 
The Spirit of God came down upon Jesus in the form of a dove. In laying aside the prerogatives of deity, Jesus lived out his humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now as his public ministry began, he would conduct his mission in conscious, total reliance on the Spirit’s power. This event furthered the breaking of barriers. Now the Holy Spirit would reside in a human being. Jesus in his sinlessness was getting our humanity fitted to be temples of the Spirit himself.
 
The voice of the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son.” The Greek literally says “in him I am well pleased.” The Father’s pleasure is in Christ, his Son who undertook our salvation by going from heaven to earth. At Christ’s baptism, we learn that the Father is as delighted in the man Jesus as he has eternally been in his Son. 
 
So, the beloved human Son of God is Jesus. The Father’s acceptance and love is in his Son in the way it never has been or could be in any other human.
 
The Ephesians text reveals why this is so important. God the Father has “made us accepted in the Beloved.” Our acceptance is in the sole acceptability of the ever obedient Son, Jesus. We can never be delightful to the Father in ourselves. But if we are in Christ the Beloved, we share in all of his acceptance by the Father!
 
Once again, we see that we have no independent relationship with God. It’s always in Christ and through Christ.
 
As you contemplate this, how do you feel about the reality that your relationship with God is not immediate (independent) but is always mediated by Christ (i.e., dependent on him)? Is that humiliating or liberating? Rankling or relieving?  
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us. . . . We also, in turn, are said to be “engrafted into him” and to “put on Christ;” for, as I have said, all that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him. [So we must] climb higher and examine into the secret energy of the Spirit, by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits. . . . the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.1).
 
Consider
Calvin understood how crucial it is that we find our acceptance in Christ alone, the one true beloved Son who took up a human body and a sinner’s baptism in order to save us. Calvin knew that we must be spiritually baptized into Christ to partake of his acceptance, as we will see later this week.
 
This passage from Institutes contains the essence of Calvin’s thought: if Christ is outside of us, all that he is and has done remains useless to us. We must be grafted into Christ. He must dwell in us. This union occurs through the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his baptism descends into our hearts as we come to faith by surrendering to Christ the beloved Son.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST

 
Jesus, you are the Accepted One,
The one true Beloved, 
The one man who found favor with his Father.
Join us to yourself!
May we find our acceptance in your acceptability.
May we find our justification in your obedience.
May we find our welcome in your delight to do your Father’s will.
May we find our inclusion through your opening
Of the Triune circle of love to us.
Oh, Christ who received the Spirit in faithfulness,
Share him with us, that we might be bonded to you.
Engraft us into yourself, enfold us into your mercy.
 

 

Saturday (Day 14) - RECONCILING THE WORLD

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2 Corinthians 5: 19-21
. . . that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
 
Consider
Yesterday’s passage concluded by declaring that we have been given a ministry to the world, a message of reconciliation between God and humanity, a re-union which we have already experienced if we are in Christ. Today, we pick up where Paul defines further this news we have to share.  
 
We remember from Sunday’s reading that all the fullness of God was in Jesus. He was, and is, God come to us in the flesh. Today Paul reveals what God was up to in Jesus: reconciling the world to himself. The Triune God desired and planned from eternity to close the gap between himself and his wayward children. He intended to take the burden of our estrangement onto himself. The cost staggers the imagination.  
 
We have seen that Jesus is the one faithful man, the only human who ever lived completely to do his Father’s will and show his love to all. Yet, God the Father in sending the Son made Jesus, on the cross, to become sin. Not just to carry sin, but to be sin itself. He who has been in perfect communion with the Father from eternity became everything hostile to his Father. He entered the separation that is the natural consequence of continuing sin. Jesus underwent the horrifying breach from all that is Life and Light and Love. Whatever else the “descent into hell” means, it surely means this. Jesus entered the full extent of the alienation, isolation and forsakenness that is where our sin leads if it is unchecked.
 
We rightly speak of the cross as the paying of a debt and the satisfaction of God’s justice. But it is also much more. Payment is an external act that may or may not involve the depths of someone. Legal penalties may satisfy the law, but never touch our souls. Jesus went deeper. He became in himself the one who holds together the contradiction between God’s holy love and our polluted selfishness. It killed him. But in the mystery of God’s reconciliation, his death closed the gap. Then his Father raised him in the power of the Spirit. Jesus and his Father reentered the experience of perfect harmony. Now we get in on that reconciliation.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
It is the very Gospel of Jesus, who proclaimed God’s initiative first and last, who was Himself God’s initiative become flesh, whose eyes were like a flame of fire to those who would propitiate God by their gifts and offerings and character, whose face smiled the welcome of heaven to those who confessed they had no standing before God at all, who did not wait till sinners sought him but went forth to seek them first, who lived to bring the gift of reconciliation near to men, who dies to put it in their hands. No man who is too proud to be infinitely in debt will ever be a Christian. God gives for ever: for ever man receives.  
 
Everything has been different since the Son of God climbed Calvary. Life has been different, death has been different. . . . Round the wide universe the arms of the cross have reached; its head has touched the heavens; its shaft has gone down as deep as hell.  
 
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world.” Just as the flame which flashes out from a volcano momentarily reveals the elemental, unceasing fires burning at the earth’s heart, so the love that leapt out on one crowning day of history in the sheer flame of the cross disclosed what God’s inmost nature is for ever (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 122, 124, 129).
 
Consider
The shaft of the cross “has gone down as deep as hell” itself. Its arms have reached “round the wide universe.” Nothing falls outside the range of God’s love in Christ. This cross, says Stewart, is the sheer flame of God’s love. His inmost nature has been revealed forever as the Son was made sin so we could be made righteous. To those who want to live on their own terms and trust in their own measure of merit, that flame flashes with searing judgment toward us. But to those willing to confess their sin and their need, this is the fire that draws us in from the cold of separation to the warmth of home in Christ. God gives forever; forever we receive!
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Triune God of grace, 
Who can endure the fire of your love?
That you would love us more than you love yourself,
Making the Son to be sin 
So that sinners might become children!
We scarce can take it in. 
Grant us humility enough to receive
This love we can never demand.
Grant us to turn toward you 
In repentance and faith.
And turn us outward
To this world you love.
We would spurn this broken planet 
With its ridiculous inhabitants.
But you did not. You do not.
Send us your ministers of reconciliation
With arms wide open, as wide as the cross of Jesus.

 

Friday (Day 13) - NEW IN HIM

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2 Corinthians 5: 16-18a
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 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, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . 
 
Consider
To be in Christ is to be made new. When what was purposed for us in eternity comes to pass in our lives, everything changes. We get relocated into Christ. The old measures of a life fade away. We can tear up our resumes. Education doesn’t matter. Previous experience doesn’t matter. Recommendations from others don’t matter. The only qualification that matters is which of these categories is circled: “Not in Christ” or “In Christ.”
 
Apart from him, I have only myself to fall back on. The holes in my resume are all too glaring, as are its falsehoods and distortions.
 
But in Christ, I have his very Spirit poured into me. He makes all things new. The ordinary sparkles. The tattered past gets resewn. The toil becomes joy. The point becomes participation in something gloriously more than I could ever be. 
 
In the book of Joel, the LORD made a promise through the prophet, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2: 25). When we first get relocated into Christ, we may suddenly become aware of how much we had been missing. It can seem that years spent in self-pursuits left so much waste. So many opportunities to love wasted. But the miracle of the new creation is that the Triune God makes up for lost years. Being made new in Christ recovers much that was squandered. Even our sins become useful in his mission. The sufferings of earlier years become testimonies to his mercy. When we have let go of our grip on life that we never owned anyway, God gives us more than we could ever have hoped.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
These two great realities which confronted Paul at the cross—the condemnation of sin, and the revelation of love—held in their arms a third, the gift of salvation. Not only had Christ by dying disclosed the sinner’s guilt, not only had He revealed the Father’s love: He had actually taken the sinner’s place. When destruction and death were rushing up to claim the sinner as their prey, Christ had stepped in and had accepted the full weight of the inevitable doom in His own body and soul. Thus the cross “represents an objective transaction, in which God actually does something, and something which is absolutely necessary.” Paul could never stand in thought before the cross without hearing an inward voice which said, “He died instead of me. . . . ” Christ did something for Paul which he could not do for himself. 
 
This life which flows from Christ into man is something totally different from anything experienced on the merely natural plane. It is . . . a new quality of life. . . . “There is a new creation”—not just an intensification of powers already possessed, but the sudden emergence of an entirely new and original element—“whenever a man comes to be in Christ” (2 Cor. 5: 17). He begins to live in the sphere of the post-resurrection life of Jesus. The life which he now lives bears the quality of eternity. . . . This is Paul’s glory and joy—life, with the stamp of eternity on it, a present possession! Over the believer’s true inward life, death has as little power as it has over the risen and exalted Saviour (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 130-1, 105).
 
Consider
The things we used to fear most recede in power when we come to be in Christ. For example, when we realize that a) Christ rose and b) I am in Christ, we conclude confidently that “I will rise with Christ.” Therefore, death can no longer taunt me with its inevitability. Of course there yet remains the passage to be made. Hospitals and hospices may await. But that’s the short term. I look past death now to resurrection. “Over the believer’s true inward life, death has as little power as it has over the risen and exalted Saviour.”
 
The same is true with finances, work stress and even strained relationships. Being made new in Christ changes my perspective. It reduces nervous worry and infuses peaceful confidence. What used to seem “the worst” may yet happen. No one gets out of life unscathed. And yet, Christ has taken all that “worst” and turned it into the “best.” And I am in Christ. The old has gone, the new has come. 
 
Into which area of the “old life” would you like to speak the reality of being made new in Christ today?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Today I will look at people and size them up
With all the old measurements.
How I will reduce them, Father!
Yet when I think of how you made them new,
It awakens my imagination.
What if I could see others as in Christ?
What if I could put away the old categories
And consider each I meet as beloved to you,
As included in your mercy and grace,
As someone I will know into eternity?
 
What if I could look at every aspect of my life that way?
The old has gone, the new has come.
The dross will burn away,
But what is done in love will remain.
 
I praise you for making me a new creation
By locating me in the risen Jesus!
Enable me, I pray, to see with his eyes
And love with his mission in mind.
You have created reconciliation between us.
Send me to speak that peace to another today.

 

Thursday (Day 12) - ON PURPOSE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2 Timothy 1: 9-10
[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel . . . 
 
Ephesians 3: 11-12
This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
 
Consider
The mystery deepens! Not only did God put us into Christ. He did it before the world was made! In the secret counsel of the Triune God, the Father, Son and Spirit determined both how to create us and how to redeem us when we would fall into sin. Paul tells us this plan had nothing to do with our earning our place. The Triune God gave us grace in Christ Jesus even before time began. He laid out from eternity the purpose of a holy calling to be his own, and to be part of his mission to the world. 
 
This plan, long veiled even from the angels, was made known when the Son stepped into the world as Christ Jesus. Our Savior worked out the eternally planned redemption during his career among us. His death abolished death: because death is a consequence for sin, when Jesus took our sins and destroyed them, he eliminated the reason for death. His resurrection then opened immortal life to all who are joined to him. This news is the gospel. It shines the very light of the world, illuminating dark despair with hope. 
 
In the Ephesians passage, we notice that the Triune God’s purpose got realized, worked out, in Christ Jesus. Salvation is never a possession of ours. We don’t get grace as some kind of substance given to us as independent creatures. It’s always, always in relationship. It’s always, always in the one who accomplished his character of grace through his great and costly acts in the real world. The eternal purpose got enacted in Jesus 2,000 years ago. But right now both the purpose and the enacted grace give me immediate access to the God who made me and saved me.
 
What does it mean for you now, on this very day, to learn that God’s grace and purpose was given to you in Christ before the world was made? 
 
Ponder how it will affect you to consider through the day, “I was called before I was made!”
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
O my soul! Yield yourself to the mighty influence of this word: “OF GOD ye are in Christ Jesus.” It is the same GOD OF WHOM Christ is made all that He is for us, OF WHOM we also are in Christ, and will most surely be made to what we must be to Him. Take time to meditate and to worship, until the light that comes from the throne of God has shone into you, and you have seen your union to Christ as indeed the work of his almighty Father. . . . From eternity Christ and I were ordained for each other; inseparably we belong to each other: it is God’s will; I shall abide in Christ. It is of God I am in Christ Jesus. (Murray, Abide in Christ, p. 43)
 
Consider
This passage from Murray continues his reflections from Tuesday. Murray considers how the reality that we are in Christ because of God has its origins in eternity. The Father placed me in him before the incarnation came to be! So Murray can delight: “From eternity Christ and I were ordained for each other; inseparably we belong to each other.”  
 
How sure is a love founded before time?
 
How certain is a union commanded and created by God himself?
 
What happens to today’s immediate concerns in light of this eternal security?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
You have strange taste in your loves!
Why would you set your heart on me,
Before I was made, knowing full well
All I would do and fail to do?
I shrink away from your confidence in me,
Until I realize you regard me for the sake of your dear Son. 
You have loved him utterly for he is infinitely worthy.
You chose to open that love to include me.
I do not understand it. 
But you promise I am included in Christ.
In Christ alone I take my place,
Boldly coming before you,
Eager to imagine eternity with you,
Seeking to see the beauty of my Savior
And to adorn his majesty 
By my words and works.
These can never save me 
Yet in Christ, I offer them to you with thanks.

 

Wednesday (Day 11) - GOD'S MYSTERY: CHRIST IN YOU

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Colossians 1: 26-27
. . . the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
 
Romans 8: 9-10a
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you . . . 
 
2 Corinthians 13: 5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?
 
Consider
Yesterday we pondered the foundational truth that God has planted us in Jesus Christ. By God’s will and power alone, we are placed into Jesus and all his benefits. Our little lives get put into his great life. Our little stories get taken into his one, true, life-giving story.
 
Today, we ponder the corollary: Christ is in us! It’s crucial that we consider our being in Christ first. That’s the more dominant theme in Scripture. And, we have to avoid the tendency to think Christianity is about having a Jesus small enough to fit into my heart. Then he would be nothing but a little spiritual accent to help me live the life I dream for myself. That’s not the Biblical view!  
 
The point is being taken into Christ. But Christ has established a new relationship between God and his people. We dwell in him. But he also dwells in us. We are united. We share life. He is in us and we are in him. 
 
Today we see that Christ dwells in the center of us, our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.
 
God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This mystery is as baffling as a mathematical equation. But it’s as glorious as an experienced reality. 
 
In the second century, Irenaeus wrote that to save us, the Father stretched forth his two “hands.” He sent the Son to accomplish redemption. He sent the Spirit to put us into the Son and all he accomplished. The Spirit joins us to Jesus as he dwells within us. Once more, who can understand such mystical reality? Yet we can experience Christ in our hearts. In worshiping, in praying, in serving and obeying. We feel Christ within. We behold Christ accomplishing his work through us. We see answered prayer. We realize the change in our behaviors that he creates.  
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Now Paul’s mysticism grows lyrical with precisely this great discovery. “Christ in me” means something quite different from the weight of an impossible ideal, something far more glorious than the oppression of a pattern for ever beyond all imitation. “Christ in me” means Christ bearing me along from within, Christ the motive-power that carries me on, Christ giving my whole life a wonderful poise and lift, and turning every burden into wings. All this is in it when the apostle speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Compared with this, the religion which bases everything on example is pitifully rudimentary. This, and this alone, is the true Christian religion. Call it mysticism or not—the name matters little: the thing, the experience, matters everything. To be “in Christ,” to have Christ within, to realise your creed not as something you have to bear but as something by which you are borne, this is Christianity. It is more: it is release and liberty, life with an endless song at its heart. It means feeling within you, as long as life here lasts, the carrying power of Love Almighty; and underneath you, when you come to die, the touch of everlasting arms (Stewart, A Man in Christ, p. 93).
 
Consider
Stewart leads us to see how crucial Christ is within us as a person shaping and empowering us. He is not just “out there” as an impossible ideal to follow. Meditate a while on Stewart’s idea that “‘Christ in me’ means Christ bearing me along from within, Christ the motive power that carries me on, Christ giving my whole life a wonderful poise and lift, and turning every burden into wings.”  
 
When, specifically, have you experienced this to be true? How can you draw on this Source today?
 
Into what anticipated situations do you especially want to invite Christ within you to guide and empower you?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Christ in me, the hope of glory!
Blessed Holy Spirit, I marvel that you would reside in me.
How can you stand to lodge near my
Selfish thoughts, my resentments, my lusts, my greeds?
Yet you bring Jesus the redeemer to me!
You work his life in me from the inside out.
What a big work you have to do!
And how patiently, gently you undertake it.
This day I invite your guidance, 
Your shaping, your desire, your direction
To transform me more and more.
Oh Christ in me, great mystery of our union,
Flow through me that I might do your will
And rejoice at day’s end to give you thanks.
 

 

Monday (Day 37) - TRASHING THE OLD HOUSE

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Colossians 3: 5-11
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
 
Consider
We are in Christ. The old has gone, the new has come. We died, and the life we live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loves and gave his life for us. We are a new creation.
And yet. The earthly remains. Until we take up our resurrection bodies with Christ in heaven, we will fight the old sin nature. The world will still tempt us. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5: 17). 
 
An important part of living in Christ, from Christ and for Christ involves mortifying what remains of the old man. Putting it to death. Saying, “No.” Putting away old habits and old patterns. 
 
That involves identifying what we are doing and saying that is contrary to God’s Word. We repent of it. We change our minds about what is satisfying, fun and good from these impulsive wrongs and habitual sins. We change our behavior based on our awareness of what truly makes for life. 
 
Take a moment to inventory some of the remnants of the old, sinful self that beset you. Would you agree to be rid of them? Andrew Murray shows us how to start.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM
 

We have here the great cause of the weakness of faith in our days. There is no separation from the world. So many Christians seek to have as much of its pleasure and honour and riches as they possibly can, consistently with their profession of religion. In such an atmosphere, faith is stifled. Many hardly believe, or never remember, that the world, with its arts and culture and prosperity, amid all its religious professions, is still the same world that rejected Christ
 
There is no way but utterly ceasing from ourselves, dying to self, and waiting in absolute dependence and deep humility upon God.  
 
Let us sink into the death of emptiness and nothingness and helplessness; let us, as dead, wait for the mighty operation of God.  
To enter in demands a very entire renunciation of the world and of self, a very real and true participation in Christ’s humbling of Himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross—in His death to sin. And it demands no less a very real experience of the mighty operation of God, which raised Him from the dead and set Him at His right hand.  
 
The new covenant does not do violence to man’s will. It is only where the heart sees and believes what God has promised, and is ready at any cost to claim and possess it, that any blessing can be realised.  
 
Our place is deep dependence, patient waiting, and implicit reliance on His mighty power (Murray, The Holiest of All, pp. 459, 278, 282, 266, 272, 274).
 
Consider
Murray calls us with words that have never been popular but have always been counterintuitive. Will I renounce the world in all its self-assertion and self-based ways of living? Will I reckon myself dead to these deathly things I once loved? Will I walk away from the sins that even now I still love so much? Will I truly give over and wait upon God’s power to deliver me?
 
Is there one particular thing the Spirit is asking you to forsake today?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Let’s make the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism our prayer today:
 
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
 
That I am not my own, 
but belong with body and soul, 
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins 
with his precious blood, 
and has set me free 
from all the power of the devil. 
He also preserves me in such a way 
that without the will of my heavenly Father 
not a hair can fall from my head; 
indeed, all things must work together 
for my salvation. 
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, 
he also assures me 
of eternal life 
and makes me heartily willing and ready 
from now on to live for him.
 
To this Lord, to whom I belong, I consent today,
To renounce my sins and my self
To be wholly and always his.

 

Tuesday (Day 10) - GOD PUT YOU IN CHRIST!

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1 Corinthians 1: 30
And because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption . . . 
 
Consider
The Corinthians were a young church. Most of them had come out of paganism. Most of them were neither wealthy nor educated. Yet, they were a spiritually gifted church. Dramatic works of the Spirit happened among them. This combination of immaturity and gifts led them sometimes to think too much of themselves. To take too much for granted. They had trouble with snobbery and immorality. Paradoxically, they also felt intimidated by the sophisticated Greek culture around them. Sometimes they worried they were missing out by being part of this new religion. Paul had to remind them that God chose what is low and despised in the world as the path of his glory: the shameful cross became glorious redemption.Obvious failure became eternal victory. Paul reminds the Corinthians that all of Christ belongs to them, not as a right, but as a gift. 
 
The language is so simple, we can read right past it. It more literally reads “But out of him you are in Christ Jesus.” Notice the “out” and “in.” Out of him, you are in. The “him” is God the Father. By his will and action, you and I got put into Christ Jesus. And Jesus is for us all wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. 
 
If it’s all in Jesus, we have to get into Jesus. That happens only by an act of God. He creates saving faith in us. God enables us to do for ourselves what we cannot do by ourselves: to believe, to yield, to surrender, to trust, to be joined to Jesus.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
“Ye are in Christ Jesus.” The believers at Corinth were still feeble and carnal, only babes in Christ. And yet Paul wants them, at the outset of his teaching, to know distinctly that they are in Christ Jesus. The whole Christian life depends on the clear consciousness of our position in Christ. Most essential to the abiding in Christ is the daily renewal of our faith’s assurance, “I am in Christ Jesus.” 
 
But the apostle has an additional thought, of almost greater importance: “OF GOD are ye in Christ Jesus.” He would have us not only remember our union to Christ, but specially that it is not our own doing, but the work of God Himself. As the Holy Spirit teaches us to realize this, we shall see what a source of assurance and strength it must become to us. It is of God alone that I am in Christ, then God Himself, the Infinite One, becomes my security for all I can need or wish in seeking to abide in Christ. 
 
Let me try to understand what it means, this wonderful “OF GOD in Christ.” In becoming partakers of the union with Christ, there is a work God does and a work we have to do. God does His work by moving us to do our work. The work of God is hidden and silent; what we do is something distinct and tangible. Conversion and faith, prayer and obedience, are conscious acts of which we can give a clear account; while the spiritual quickening and strengthening that come from above are secret and beyond the reach of human sight. And so it comes that when the believer tries to say, “I am in Christ Jesus,” he looks more to the work he did than to the wondrous secret work of God by which he was united to Christ. . . . But it is of great consequence that the mind should be led to see that at the back of our turning, and believing, and accepting of Christ, there was God’s almighty power doing its work—inspiring our will, taking possession of us, and carrying out its own purpose of love in planting us into Christ Jesus. . . . [So] he will learn to praise and to worship with new exultation. . . . OF GOD I am in Christ Jesus” (Murray, Abide in Christ, pp. 39-40).
 
Consider
If I am in Christ, it is because God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit put me there. He re-located me into Christ. Not by taking away my will. But by enabling my will. His power inspires me to yield my heart which otherwise would remain in stubborn rebellion. So I really do surrender my life to Christ; it is really my act of free will. But the power to have free will comes from God. He creates faith in me as a gift. “It is of God alone that I am in Christ.” Murray encourages us to receive the comfort of this reality. God wants me! God planted me in Christ so that I can grow in him. I did not make this up. It is God’s work and it’s happening in me!  
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Of God I am in you, Christ Jesus!
Out of the Father’s pleasure
Out of the Spirit’s power,
I partake of your very life,
I receive your redemption,
I yield to your will and way.
Oh, priceless gift of faith!
Oh, merciful Savior
Who lets me be joined to you
And all you accomplished for us.
Of God I am in Christ.
I sing all day!
Of God, of God, of God
I am in Christ!
I cannot be snatched away
I cannot lose him
For I did not make this.
No, you are making me:
Of God I am in you, Christ Jesus. 
 

 

Monday (Day 9) - THE GREAT YES

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2 Corinthians 1: 20-22
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
 
Consider
Today we take up for study one of the verses we are learning by repeating it every day. When we begin to see what is going on in this passage, we realize these are words we cannot live without. 
 
All the promises of God get fulfilled in the person and career of Jesus. All the human response to God gets offered by the person and career of Jesus. 
 
In Jesus, we see God keeping promises like these:
 
“And I will walk among you and will be your God and you shall be my people.” Leviticus 26: 12
 
“And I will give you a new heart . . . and I will put my Spirit within you.” Ezekiel 36: 26-27
 
“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25: 8
 
In Jesus, we see a man keeping promises like these:
 
“All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” Exodus 24: 7
 
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book’” Hebrews 10: 7 quoting Psalm 40: 8
 
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14: 36
 
Jesus is the meeting place between the promises of God and the faithfulness required of humanity. The people waited for centuries for the LORD to fulfill his Word to them. The LORD waited patiently knowing his people could not ever, on their own, keep his law. The waiting ended in Jesus. He enacted our faithfulness and his Father’s promises. So God and humanity meet in Christ alone. 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
It was by his union with us in our life in the flesh, by His Identifying Himself with our nature, that Jesus was able to claim and to work out and enter into possession of the glory God had promised to man. It is by our receiving His nature, and identifying ourselves with Him in this life on earth and in heaven, that what He has achieved for us can really become ours. Let us here, at the very outset of our Epistle, get well hold of the truth that what Christ does for us as our Leader, our Priest, our Redeemer, is not anything external. All that God works in our nature in heaven or on earth, in the stars or in the trees, He does from within, by laws that pervade their whole existence. All that Adam wrought in us is from within, by a power that rules our inmost life. And all that Christ does for us, whether as Son of God or Son of Man, is equally and entirely a work done within us. It is when we know that He is one with us and we with Him, even as was the case with Adam, that we shall know how truly our destiny will be realised in Him. His oneness with us is the pledge, our oneness with Him the power, of our redemption (Murray, The Holiest of All, pp. 73-74).
 
Consider
Murray describes Jesus as 1) identifying himself so closely with us as to join his divinity to our humanity and 2) fulfilling from within our humanity the obligations of man to God and the promises of God to man. 
 
How do we get in on this double fulfillment? Murray says we identify ourselves with Christ. We put all our faith and trust in him. His Spirit joins us to Jesus, and from that moment on, Christ is working out his life from within our lives!
 
There is no way we can be like Jesus if we just try to imitate him. Only when he lives within us, by his Spirit, can Christ’s faithfulness start to get worked out through our faith and faithfulness.  
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beautiful Jesus, you said, “Yes” to your Father!
As the Son of God, you accepted the plan
To visit us as the man Jesus Christ. 
In becoming one of us, you said, “Yes” to humanity.
You came to bring us back to what we were meant to be.
All the ancient promises came true in you:
God dwelt with his people in you!
And you hold onto our humanity in heaven,
You keep us joined to you by your Spirit.
You are constantly the promise kept!
And you are our Yes back to God!
Through your faithfulness, we sing our praise.
Through your prayers, we make our own.
We find our joy in joining your harmony
With the Father’s will. 
In you, we say, “Yes!”
 

 

Sunday (Day 8) - ALL OF GOD IN THE MAN JESUS

WEEK TWO

IT'S ALL IN JESUS

So the true address of the church is Jesus. We live in Christ. That’s the truest thing about us. But if we really have our lives in Christ, don’t we want to know more about this “neighborhood” where we reside? Don’t we want to know more about the person and work of this Jesus who contains our whole lives in himself? 
 
The great Reformed theologian, John Calvin, loved to ponder the riches of Christ, and how he accomplished in himself such a great salvation for us. Calvin raised this question: 
 
Now someone asks, “How has Christ abolished sin, banished the separation between us and God, and acquired righteousness to render God favorable and kindly toward us?” To this we can in general reply that he has achieved this for us by the whole course of his obedience. . . . In short, from the time when he took on the form of a servant, he began to pay the price of liberation in order to redeem us (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.5). 
 
From his conception right through to his ascension, everything Jesus did and said matters to us. From birth through his sinless life, sacrificial death and mighty resurrection, Jesus created a life for us in union with himself. This week we’ll explore what Scripture says about all that is “in Jesus” for the sake of humanity.
 
I love the mystical quality in Fra Angelico’s painting of The Sermon on the Mount. Here is the Son of God on earth, seated on the solid rock of real life. Jesus teaches his twelve disciples who represent all the believers who ever would come to be. He reveals to them the hidden mysteries of the Kingdom of God, now come to earth. Jesus is the very center of focus. It’s all in him. All treasures of knowledge and wisdom, the very path to intimacy with God. Viewing this painting, I realize how drawn I am to this man who came from the Father’s heart. 
 
Fra Angelico. The Sermon on the Mount. 1437. Museo di San Marco. Florence.

 


DAY 8 SUNDAY

ALL OF GOD IN THE MAN JESUS
 

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"

 
Colossians 1: 15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
 
Colossians 2:9
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily . . . 
 
 
Consider
The first disciples asked, “Who was this man Jesus?” They had to wrestle through seeing an ordinary-looking man like any other who also did the most extraordinary things. After he returned to heaven, they realized, “Jesus is no less than God himself who came among us as a man!” Paul explodes our imaginations with the realization that the Jesus who lived among us 33 years is also the Son of God who existed before creation and, indeed, through whom all things came into being. Paul grasped an impossibility: in Christ all the fullness of God dwells bodily.
 
If we think just in terms of containers, all of God could never fit into a body. His divine fullness would overflow and burst the paltry container of a human person. Yet. Yet, somehow, the essential nature of God, stripped of divine privileges, joined with a truly human nature. Jesus was God walking among us as one of us. He is, even now, still human as he is divine. God and humanity, so at odds with each other, meet and reconcile in the man Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
We see that our whole salvation and all of its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from somewhere else.
 
If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus [which means “the LORD saves”] that it is “of him.”  
If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing [at his baptism].
If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception
If gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. 
If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion
If acquittal, in his condemnation
If remission of the curse, in his cross
If satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood
If reconciliation, in his descent into hell; 
If mortification of the flesh, in his tomb
If newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; 
If inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; 
If protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessing, in his Kingdom;
If untroubled expectation of judgement, in the power given to him to judge.
In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19).
 
Consider
Our passages from Colossians locate all of God in Christ. These extraordinary words from John Calvin locate all aspects of our reconciliation with God in Christ
 
Jesus atoned for our sins on the cross. But that salvation occurred in a context from which the cross cannot be removed. From the moment of his conception Jesus was redeeming us. He ran “the whole course” of a sinless life and a faithful ministry full of love and worship. Without these, the cross doesn’t work.  
 
In the same way, Jesus’ death would have accomplished nothing if he hadn’t been raised from the dead and then ascended to the Father’s right hand. His salvation for us would not be complete if he were not returning to judge the world and set all things right.
 
I invite you to spend some extra time this morning going over Calvin’s list and considering how each aspect of Jesus’ journey relates to how we are saved in Christ alone.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST

 
Lord Jesus, when we meet you in Scripture,
We know we are meeting God come to us.
You are the eternal Word.
The Father spoke creation into being through you.
In you, the eternal Son of God, all things hold together. 
Without you, nothing would be.
Without your entry into our world, we would be lost.
Your conception, your life, your death and your resurrection
Together bridge the separation between God and humanity.
All reconciliation occurs in you.
You are salvation itself; you are the meeting place 
Between us and the Father.
You brought hostility into peace,
You remade our humanity
As you made your faithful way through the world.
We bless you Lord Jesus.
It’s all in you! 
 

 

Saturday (Day 7) - THE REAL ADDRESS OF THE CHURCH

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Colossians 1: 2  
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae . . . 
 
Philippians 1: 1b 
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi . . .
 
1 Thessalonians 1: 1
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
 
Ephesians 1: 1 
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.
 
2 Thessalonians 1: 1 
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .  
 
Consider
The “churches” to which Paul wrote were groups of believers in particular cities. They usually met in homes and had no building dedicated to Christian worship. Paul thought of these believers as dwelling in two places at once: in Christ and in the town. They were co-located. A gathering of those worshiping Jesus as Lord might be held in a city you could find on a map. But at the very same time, this church also dwelt in Christ. For instance, though geographically in Ephesus, those believers were declared by Paul to be already seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2: 6). Physically somewhere in the visible world, they were also spiritually united to Christ Jesus and with him in the Father’s presence. 
 
There is a mystical quality to the church. He is the head and we are the members of his body, as organically joined to Jesus as a hand or stomach is part of human anatomy. What’s more, we are joined with all other believers, across the space of the world and the ages of time. This reality is what the Apostles’ Creed means by “the communion of saints.”  
 
In the Garden, the LORD asked our first parents after they had eaten the forbidden fruit, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). They were hiding in the bushes, ashamed of their nakedness and alienated from their Creator. Now we have a different answer about the status of our lives. Where are you? The answer is “in Christ.” Or, to answer the Genesis story, we are still hiding but now “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3: 3). And Christ brings us with him to draw near to the Father unashamed and unafraid—as long as we go joined to him. 
 
The deepest reality of our lives is our union with Christ. So it follows that the deepest bond we can have with other humans is to share the Spirit of Christ who binds us together as one.  
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
“Ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2: 12). His life is yours, Paul means. You do not need to wait “until the day break and the shadows flee away” before beginning to live eternally. In union with Christ, that glorious privilege is yours here and now. Risen with Him, you have passed out of relationship to sin, out of the hampering limitations of this present order, out of the domain of the world and the flesh, into the realm of the Spirit, and into life that is life indeed. In short, even here on the earth, “you are a colony of heaven” (Phil. 3: 20). Never forget where your citizenship lies! “Reckon yourselves alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6: 11). 
 
To be “in Christ” means that Christ is the redeemed man’s new environment. The human body, by the acts of eating and drinking and breathing, is continually drawing for its strength upon the resources of its physical environment. So the Christian spirit, by prayer and worship and surrender, makes contact and keeps contact with its spiritual environment, which is Christ: thus the soul draws for its strength upon the supplies of power which in Christ are quite inexhaustible. “I can do all things,” it says, “Through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4: 13). Faced with the strain and stress of the moral struggle, surrounded by stubborn hereditary foes, torn sometimes on the rack of almost unbearable temptation, it lifts its head and cries, “Thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ” (2 Cor. 2: 13). (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 105, 107)
 
Consider
Dr. Stewart reminds us of our true home when he writes that “even here on earth, ‘you are a colony of heaven.’” We live and work and serve in this world, all the while tethered to our homeland, and representing the interests of our King. Stewart tells us that even in this daily life we can keep contact with our “spiritual environment, which is Christ.” We live in him even more truly than we live on this earth. Just as we draw physical nourishment from the physical world, so we can draw strength from Christ, who is now our true natural habitat. The church gathers weekly to reset our focus on our real address.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Triune God, we live and move and have our being in you.
More than sky to a bird or the sea to a fish, 
Great Father, you are the environment of eternal life. 
Even more than we must have air to breathe,
Windy Spirit, we must breathe you in.
Even more than we must have food to eat,
Lord Jesus, we must partake of you the Bread of Life . . .
It mystifies us that right now 
You have made us spiritual amphibians:
Both of earth and of heaven.
Yet we know we are here to bring your Word
And your love to those who do not yet 
Breathe the air of heaven, eat the Word of God
Or revel before your shining face.
So give us strength for this day here
As we yearn for you there.
 

 

Friday (Day 6) - THE TRANSFER OF OUR DWELLING

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Colossians 1: 11-14
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
 
Consider
Paul uses dramatic imagery to express how we live in Christ alone. Think in terms of a moving company. Let’s call it the Triune God’s Relocation Services! Elsewhere Paul writes of “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2: 3-4). God does not want us to perish (2 Pet. 3: 9), but he knows that without him we are trapped in the inky night of our lonely sinfulness. So by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father sent the Son to come get us out. Jesus came to relocate us.  
 
Our old neighborhood could be described as the Domain of Darkness. We lived under the shadow of death. We were enslaved to sinful passions. We could not see a future with any hope. But then the orders for a transfer came. The Father sent the great mover. By the Spirit, we were given faith and got placed into Jesus Christ. The transfer came through. We moved from the Domain of Darkness to a new neighborhood: the Kingdom of the Beloved Son. In Christ, we no longer live where we used to.  
 
Now we joyfully learn the streets and paths of this new neighborhood. We don’t need to go back to revisit our old streets! We really, truly, get to live here. In Jesus. In his Kingdom. 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Paul thinks of the Christian as living and moving and having his being in a spiritual element which is the very breath of life. Just as it might be said that the human body is in the atmosphere that surrounds it on every side, and yet that atmosphere is also within it, filling it and vitalizing it, so it may be said of the Christian soul that it both exists in the Spirit and has the Spirit within it. Here, then, is the key to the phrase “in Christ.” Christ is the redeemed man’s new environment. He has been lifted out of the cramping restrictions of his earthly lot into a totally different sphere, the sphere of Christ. He has been transplanted into a new soil and a new climate, and both soil and climate are Christ. His spirit is breathing a nobler element. He is moving on a loftier plane.  
 
The sinful soul, confronted with God’s wonderful self-disclosure in Christ, and with the tremendous and subduing fact of the cross where the whole world’s sins were borne, responds to that divine appeal and abandons itself to the love that stands revealed: and that response, that abandonment, Paul calls faith. This is what God sees when He justifies the ungodly. Far from holiness and truth and all that makes a son of God, the sinner may yet be: but at least his face is now turned in a new direction. 
 
He is now “in Christ.” He is “looking unto Jesus.” And that means three things. It means, first, that the sinner is now looking, not inwards, but outwards—trusting not to any merit in himself, but to something outside of himself altogether, the grace and love of an entirely trustworthy God. It means, second, that he is looking not downwards, but upwards, not down to sin’s alluring shame, but up to the beauty and purity of Christ. It means, third, that he is looking not backwards but forwards, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” His position may not have altered much, but his direction has been changed completely; and it is by direction, not position, that God judges. Once the sinner had his back to Christ: now his face is Christward. This is faith, and it holds the potency of a glorious future (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 87, 138-9).
 
Consider
“Christ is the redeemed man’s new environment. . . . he has been transplanted into a new soil and a new climate.” Dr. Stewart uses this same metaphor of being relocated into Christ. He elaborates how in Christ we can live on a higher plane. The air is better up here with Jesus! The new neighborhood is brighter. Its soil is much better for growth.  
 
Later, Stewart describes this relocation as a change of direction. We point our lives Christward. The physical neighborhood around us may not change much. The streets may still be mean, the pathways may still be littered with broken relationships and trust. Yet, when the fundamental direction of life changes from self to Christ, we see the world in a new way. We find forgiveness to replace bitterness; kindness substitutes for mean ways; love heals old wounds. The desert can bloom even if we don’t physically leave it. This spiritual redirection of focus transforms everything.
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thank you Father, for getting me out!
The Domain of Darkness was terrible.
All the streets were fear, guilt, clamor and despair.
But you sent the Mover!
Christ created salvation.
The Spirit put me into Christ.
I live now in the Kingdom of Your Beloved Son.
The streets paved with steadfast love and mercy.
The future shines bright with hope.
I belong to you and I go to work each day
On the mission of your kingdom.
Oh, thank you for getting me out of the dark
And into your marvelous light. 
 
 

 

Thursday (Day 5) - WHAT'S FOUND IN CHRIST JESUS

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Faith and Love  
Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1: 13-14
 
Mercy   
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1: 15-17
 
Nearness  
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2: 13
 
Peace  
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 7
 
Truth  
. . . the truth is in Jesus . . . Ephesians 4: 21b
 
Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge
. . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2: 3
 
Life  
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus . . .  2 Timothy 1: 1
 
Eternal Life  
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6: 23
 
Strength  
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6: 10
 
Consider
On Monday and Tuesday, we looked at passages describing our lives outside of Christ Jesus. Today we receive the riches of ten gifts that come from being in Christ.
 
Faith, Love and Mercy. Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy about three decades after his conversion on the Damascus Road. But we see that Paul never lost connection to that life-changing moment of being joined to Christ. He kept constant awareness that his harassment of the first believers made him feel the foremost of sinners. Though Paul the persecutor deserved only wrath, God’s grace overflowed toward him. He received a share in “the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” His phrasing is key to our understanding.  
 
Living, active, constant faith to God the Father is not possible for we who are sinners. Only the man Jesus lived in fidelity to his Father wholly and completely. True, other-centered love is not sustainable for we who are sinners. Only the man Jesus lived pure, self-giving love to others. Jesus is the man of faith and love. We cannot ever successfully imitate him on our own. Rather, we have to be organically joined to Christ. With Paul, we have to receive “the faith and love that are in Jesus” if we are to live them out. 
 
Being joined to Jesus all begins with the reality of the mercy of God. By his grace, the Father sent the Son: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. As we take a sinner’s place with Paul, we can then also become those through whom Christ displays his patience.
 
Nearness and Peace. In Christ, we are brought near to God again. Because we have peace with God through Christ (Rom. 5: 1), we may have peace in our souls day to day. But again, we note that the peace promised to us never comes apart from a living relationship with Christ. The bumper sticker is correct: No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace!
 
Truth, Wisdom and Knowledge. We all seek an enduring view of the world that will make sense of our lives. We seek an integrated vision that embraces the reality that life is difficult while yet offering a real hope for a better future. No other philosophy on the face of the earth engages suffering with realism and optimism. Only the foolishness of the cross (1 Cor. 1: 18) gives wisdom that endures.
 
Life, Eternal Life and Strength. Jesus defeated death and opened the way to eternal life for all believers. In union with Christ that everlasting life begins now. Jesus is the water of life, the bread of life and the light of life right this minute as well as in eternity. From Christ who is our life we, by faith, draw strength for daily tasks. In relationship to Jesus, we find his strength to be our strength.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Everything depends on a man’s union with a living, present Saviour. In the absence of that union, even the Gospel of the cross loses its saving efficacy. Atonement remains impersonal and largely irrelevant until we make contact with the One who atones: and contact of a vital kind is possible only if Jesus is risen and living now. Hence, the New Testament writers refuse to treat either the death or resurrection of Christ in isolation. When they speak of the cross, they see it ever in the light of the Easter glory; and when they speak of the resurrection, they set it against the dark background of the cross (Stewart, A Man in Christ, p. 124).
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have known my heart to say “I am the foremost of sinners.” 
I have heard the accuser say, “You deserve no good thing.” 
I have looked at the futility of the world and despaired. 
Yet this I call to mind: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 
Most blessed Lord, continue to display your mercy in me! 
Draw me near to the Father and speak peace to my soul. 
By your life, I can live and find strength for this day.
 
 

Wednesday (Day 4) - HE SAVED US!

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Titus 3: 4-7
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 
 
Consider
Yesterday we visited Titus 3: 3 which describes the sin-spiral of life without Christ. It’s a steady slide into hatred of life itself. Today, we hear Paul proclaim how God interrupted our cycle of futility.
 
Note how something happened once at a particular time in history that has dramatic, continuing effects for us right now. The goodness and love of God appeared in the world. Into the darkness of our rebel world, God shone a great light. He sent his Son. Jesus came to us as one of us. He answered hate with forgiving love. He restored broken relationships and broken bodies. He lived the fidelity and obedience to his Father that we could never achieve. And he did it on our behalf! He accomplished the purpose of God for humanity: to live a life of utter love and worship.  
 
Further, Jesus took the rage of our sin onto himself. All the God-hatred, the self-hatred and the people-hatred that our sin created piled onto Jesus on the cross. He absorbed it until it killed him. But God raised him from the dead, destroying the death into which we were all plunging. 
 
Paul is saying all that (and more!) in those three simple, magnificent words: he saved us! That happened once for all in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Salvation was accomplished.
 
But then, throughout the rest of time, God has been sending the Holy Spirit to unite people to Jesus so that they can get in on this salvation. Based on what Jesus has already done, the Spirit washes us clean of sin in his name. He creates new life in us. He enables us to believe. We come back from death. Everything gets renewed. Instead of expecting condemnation to come, we anticipate inheriting eternal life. 
 
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
[A direct consequence of Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road was his surrender to the divine love which now stood revealed.]
 
That Jesus Christ, whose name he had maligned, whose followers he had harried, whose cause he had striven to bring down to destruction, should nevertheless have come to meet him, and to lay his hands upon him, was a thought at once gloriously uplifting and terribly subduing.  
 
For him, then, blasphemer and persecutor as he was, Jesus had been seeking! For him, grace and mercy had entered the field. For him, the Lord had climbed Calvary. In that hour of revelation, Paul realized that right on to the end of his days he would be immeasurably Christ’s debtor. With endless wonder he now could speak of “the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2: 20). And never for a moment did he doubt that the love which had come seeking him was the love of God himself.
 
All his feverish quest for peace and righteousness and certainty was now over, for God in Christ had taken the initiative. The poor, smoking lamp of legalism had flickered out in the glory of the dawn. God had reconciled him. While he was yet a “sinner,” an “enemy”—how deep dyed in Paul’s own heart’s-blood, the great words in Romans are!—Christ had died for him. 
 
Gone was the stern, inexorable God of [Pharisaism], watching his creatures toiling for a justification he knew they could never win. Now there stood revealed a Father yearning for his child. Face to face with that seeking grace, that reconciling love, Paul’s whole being went down in uttermost surrender. 
 
With all the passion of his soul he responded. He gave himself to God. He worshipped Christ. Grace on the side of God had met faith on the side of man: and from the white-hot crucible of that experience there emerged a new life. The cataclysm of that hour ushered Paul into a totally different sphere of being. He was now as unlike the man who had set out from Jerusalem as noonday is unlike midnight, as life is unlike death. His outlook, his world his nature, his moral sense, his life purpose—all were changed. He was a man “in Christ” (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 76-77).
 
Consider
As you read back through the above passage, try to identify what changed for Paul when he encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road. From what things specifically did Paul get saved?
 
Also, identify Paul’s response to this salvation that Stewart describes. 
 
Where would you say that you are in relationship to the salvation Jesus accomplished? Have you also been called to a response of surrender? Have you entered into “a totally different sphere of being” than when you were outside of Christ?
 
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fairest Lord Jesus,
You are the goodness and loving kindness of God
Who entered our world
In order to save us.
Thank you for coming as light into our darkness.
Thank you for washing clean our humanity
By your faithfulness.
Thank you for taking our sin to the cross.
Thank you for rising in resurrection power
So that everlasting life may be opened to us.
Oh, shine your light into our hearts this day!
Shine it so clearly that we see you and 
Joyfully yield our whole lives to you. 
 
 

Tuesday (Day 3) - OUTSIDE OF CHRIST, PART 2: ABSENCE OF ALL LIFE AND GOOD

DISCOVERING OUR LIFE WITHOUT CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
No Good
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;            
I have no good apart from you.” Psalm 16: 2
 
Futility  
Apart from me you can do nothing. John 15: 5b
 
Anger and Hatred
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. Titus 3: 3
 
Death
. . . in Adam all die . . . 1 Corinthians 15: 22a
 
Headed for Wrath 
. . . 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. Ephesians 2: 3
 
Consider
Humanity was made to live in active relationship to the Triune God who created us. From the earliest days, however, we made decisions to distrust God’s good intent for us. We wanted to be our own gods and trust our own wisdom. From the beginning, we human beings, made in the image of God, have tried to live without God. That decision expresses itself in myriad ways, but at its root, it can simply all be described as sin, a word which means literally “missing the mark.” 
 
Today’s passages show us the consequences of our sin.
 
We cannot achieve the good we envision if we seek it apart from God. Godless utopias can be envisioned but never accomplished. We can climb for a while toward something we think is good, whether it involves wealth, power, intimacy, intoxication, enlightenment or adventure. We routinely try to make lesser goods into ends in themselves. But always with diminishing results. (Just ask an addict.) Without God, our goods evaporate. Futility and despair solidify.
 
Frustration rises from the failure of our self-determination project. We get angry that we cannot make life work out on our own. Rather than own up to the choices we made, we blame. When we blame, we go on to envy, slander, undermining and hate. Bitter death remains, as well as the expectation of God’s judgment against the squandering of his gift of life.
 
Have you noticed people caught in the downward spiral the Titus passage describes? What is life like for them? When have you been there yourself?
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Only those who through Christ have entered into a vital relationship with God are really “alive.” Existence outside of Christ is not worthy of the name at all; for as compared with the soul that has seen everything in heaven and earth transfigured by a personal experience of redemption and has begun to live daily in the romance and wonder and thrilling stimulus of Jesus’ fellowship, the man who lives for the world and the flesh and has no knowledge of God is virtually dead. He does not know it, he thinks he is “seeing life”; he cannot guess the glory he is missing, nor realize the utter bankruptcy and wretchedness of everything in which he has put his trust. But the fact remains. “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life” (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 104-105).
 
Consider
Those outside of Christ often ridicule us for losing out on a great life. They say we don’t live in the “real world.” We are described as boring, narrow, constricted and fearful of truly living.  
 
By contrast, how does James Stewart describe life outside of Christ? 
 
Why does being apart from God actually diminish our experience of life? 
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How often I have left you, dear Jesus,
To seek some “good” I think I need.
I have feared that you want to withhold life from me.
So, I have not even asked you about these new “wants!”
I do not consecrate my desires.
I do not compare them to your Word.
 
I have found that:
The experiences I demanded
Have left me bored.
The relationships I manipulated for advantage
Have left me empty.
The revenge I craved
Tastes bitter, not sweet.
The offence I took at the least slight
Led neither to harmony nor satisfaction. 
I do not savor life apart from you
But fear constantly discomfort, disappointment, illness and death.
 
Truly, apart from you I have no good.
It’s all empty and angry without you.
Oh, do not leave me to myself! 
 
Would you receive me back into your arms?
Let me taste your goodness again.
Restore me to life in you that I might
Be made well and rejoice.
 
 

Monday (Day 2) - OUTSIDE OF CHRIST, PART 1: THE GREAT DIVIDE

DISCOVERING OUR LIFE WITHOUT CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Scripture describes two impenetrable barriers between us and God.
 
Mortal Frailty   
“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3: 19b
       
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,          
   neither are your ways my ways, 
      declares the LORD.       
For as the heavens are higher than the
      earth,           
   so are my ways higher than your ways            
   and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 8-9
 
God lives forever and is holy. He is high and lifted up (NCV). Isaiah 57: 15  
 
Consider
God lives forever. We live, at best, for a century. God created the universe and rules over it. Our frail strength, never much anyway, rises and falls like a breeze. God knows all things and sees all things from every angle. We know only a fraction of reality.
 
How, then, can we relate to God? How could he even notice us or care for us? We can never climb up to God’s level in our own strength and wisdom.
 
How does such truth put your life in perspective? What in us resists this reality?
 
Sin   
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1: 21
        
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2: 12
 
Consider
My creaturely limits are not the only impediment between God and me. Scripture from first to last concludes that I have a bigger problem than mortal frailty. I am sinful. That is, I am prone to rebel against God’s revealed way in order to seek my own way. I am prone to live without continuing recognition of God as my source and sustainer. And I consistently fail to thank God for my life and his mercies, including what The Book of Common Prayer calls “our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life.”
 
To which of these ways do you feel most prone: a) lack of acknowledging God, b) failing to give him thanks or c) choosing your way over God’s way?
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Of all sin’s consequences—and they are many and varied, including outward penalties, and suffering to self and others, stings of conscience, hearts hardened and wills enslaved and “a certain fearful looking for of judgment”—by far the most serious is the loss of fellowship with God which sin involves. It brings a cloud across the sun. It interrupts the family relationship. . . . What makes sin an essentially lonely thing is not the separation of the sinner from his brother men or even from his own best self: it is his isolation from God. This is what Paul calls “alienation.”
 
This condition of alienation has various stages and degrees. It begins with a vague feeling of estrangement. The soul becomes aware of a barrier which has mysteriously arisen between itself and God. It realizes that although in the actual sin there may have been no intention of wounding God, indeed no conscious thought of God at all, still the relationship has subtly changed. . . . Inevitably the barrier rises, and the fellowship is broken. The soul is alienated.   
 
Now it often happens that alienation of this kind hardens into resentment. The soul in its bitterness turns and accuses God. It lays the blame for the estranging barrier at God’s door. Has it failed to observe the law? Then the fault is God’s, who has pitched His demands so unreasonably high. Is God almighty and the soul itself feeble? That only serves to increase the resentment. Thus failure breeds hopelessness, and hopelessness begets recklessness, and recklessness becomes downright hostility. The man who was made for the highest fellowship now stands over against his Creator as an enemy. “We were enemies,” says Paul, describing the general attitude to God before conversion (Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 113-114).
 
Consider
When have you been aware of the loneliness which sin creates because it isolates us from God?
Stewart describes a progression in the alienation from God that sin causes. He says that in the beginning, we may not even be aware that our relationship has changed. But if we persist, alienation hardens into resentment. What a paradox! We sin; we isolate. Then we blame God! 
 
We do not want to accept responsibility for the breach in the relationship, so we project blame outward onto God. Then, things get worse, and we get hopeless. So we sin more because it doesn’t seem to matter. Before long, we have steady hostility to God.
 
Can you remember any times in your life when you followed that path to God-resentment? How did you get out of it?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lord Jesus, lights from houses and streets hide your stars.
Walls and shades hide your sun.
Screen lights illumine the trivia that occupies our hours.
Breaking news demands that Now is all.
We live in a shrunken awareness.
We forget the immensity of the cosmos,
The variety of creation, the mystery of the microscopic,
And the eternity of our lives.
We are so easily distracted.
So we hardly feel you, scarcely believe you. 
The immediate is our world and we are lonely.
Jolt us with your grandeur 
So that we might know our true place,
As nothing to the indifferent universe, 
But as a pearl of great price to you. 
 
 

Sunday (Day 1) - LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

WEEK ONE

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The conversion of Saul the Pharisee was one of the most dramatic in history. He despised Christians, believing their “gospel” to be an idolatrous perversion of the Jewish faith of his fathers. Saul was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus with official papers authorizing the arrest of known Christians. In the middle of the day; however, a light brighter than the Middle Eastern sun suddenly burst upon him. Blinded and terrified, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The answer came in a voice from heaven, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
 
Everything changed, including his name. Saul became Paul. He went from being a hostile outsider to intimately united to Jesus. The very location of his sense of identity moved. For years he had lived inside a sense of Jewish heritage, elite education and scrupulous keeping of the law as the markers of his life. Now he considered all that as nothing compared to being located in Christ. Over and over Paul uses that simple phrase to take us into the riches of grace Christ brings us. This signature expression “in Christ” reveals a reality that pervades the New Testament. Jesus has opened for us an intimate, insider union with himself. This joining fills us with a sense of Christ’s presence, love, forgiveness and hope. 
 
This famous painting by Caravaggio expresses the dramatic transformation Paul underwent. It is an emblem of the deep change anyone experiences in moving from “outside” to “inside” Christ Jesus.
 
Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da. Conversion on the Way to Damascus. 1601. Oil on canvas. Cerasi Chapel, Rome.
 

DAY 1 SUNDAY

PAUL RELOCATES INTO CHRIST
 

DISCOVERING WHAT'S "IN CHRIST"

 
Acts 22: 3-16  
In Paul’s own words:
 
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus . . . educated at the feet of Gamaliel [a famous rabbi], according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God. . . . I persecuted this Way [Christianity] to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women. . . . I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
 
As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. 
 
And one Ananias, a devout man . . . came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” 
 
Acts 26: 17-18 
“‘I am sending you [to the Gentiles] to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”  
 
Consider
When have you had moments of realizing, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see?” (If the answer is “never,” what do you imagine you are missing?)
 
Describe the circumstances leading up to the realization.
 
Describe the change in focus that occurred in you after this realization.
 
After his Damascus Road experience, Saul changed his name to Paul, and considered himself from that time on to be “a man in Christ” (2 Cor. 12: 2). 
 
How would you describe Saul before conversion? He was a man in ________?
 
Consider what it means to have your leading identity statement be “I am a (wo)man in Christ.” How would that distinguish you from other identities?
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
Paul writes again of his transformation in Philippians 3: 3-4, 7-11:
 
For we . . . worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. . . . But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
 
Consider 
What does it means to be “found” in someone? Think of the ways we might finish this sentence, “If you’re looking for me, you can be sure you’ll find me. . . .” The answer would say lots about what we love and value. You can find me . . . watching the Tigers. Working on my computer. Down at the boats. Hunting at the camp. Taking care of Dad.  
 
What would your life look like if people said about you, “Oh, you can find him/her in Christ”?
 

PRESSING INTO CHRIST

 
Graham Kendrick set to music Paul’s ardor for Jesus recounted in Philippians. This song epitomized a season of renaissance in my faith when the Holy Spirit reignited my first love for Jesus. It’s directly affectionate, a true love song to our Savior. It captures our yearning to have our soul’s true home to be “found in him.” I invite you to YouTube this beautiful song and sing along in your prayers today. Here are the first two verses and the chorus:
 
All I once held dear, built my life upon,
All this world reveres, and wars to own, 
All I once thought gain I have counted loss,
Spent and worthless now, compared to this:
 
Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing. 
You’re my all, you’re the best!
You’re my joy, my righteousness,
And I love you, Lord. 
 
Now my heart’s desire is to know you more,
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness:
 
Knowing you . . .
Graham Kendrick, “Knowing You,” 1993.
 

 

Saturday - INTRODUCTION

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Where you do you live? That’s a deceptively simple question. You could, of course, just answer with the address of where you sleep. Or the state or country in which you reside. Or you could take it deeper.
 
I live in traffic, driving people from dawn to dark.
I live in hope she’ll one day come home.
I live in pain; nothing they can give me touches this wound.
I live in the fast lane, always pushing it, never resting.
I live in the shadow of my brother.
I live in complete disarray, forever losing my keys and phone.
I live in expectation that all this has got to change sometime.
I live in fear of what will happen when she gets home.
I live tangled in the web of his addiction.
I live in the sunny warmth of her love.
 
We can describe where we live in terms of the condition, pace and longings that permeate our days. The atmosphere created by the people with whom we live can seem more like our home than any physical dwelling. The culture of our community becomes so much a part of us we’re not even aware of it. Its values and priorities seep into us. More, we each live inside the habits of our technology, media and daily routines until we don’t imagine that anything could be different. 
 
Scripture, however, urges us to awaken to our truer home. Early in John’s Gospel we hear this description of Jesus, the Word of God, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1: 4). In Christ is life. Life that lights up all our days. 
 
Living in Christ is a major theme in the letters of the Apostle Paul. More than 150 times, he uses the phrase “in Christ,” “in him” or “in the Lord.” For Paul, coming to live “in Christ” marked a transition as striking as passing from death to life. Everything changed. He found his heart’s home. He found the heart of the universe. He found the point of everything. 
 
This Lent, we explore what it means to live “in Christ.” We take up in prayer and study what it means to discover that our truest address is in Jesus. This reality pervades every aspect of our life. Living in Jesus, we draw on a source which alone satisfies the deepest human longings and needs. In Christ may be found deep peace, effective forgiveness, enduring hope, robust love, energizing purpose and everlasting life. During these 42 days, we want to take time daily to live where we truly live: in Christ alone! 
 

HOW TO USE THIS STUDY 20 MINUTES A DAY
 

This study is meant to be a springboard for your own reflections and prayers. My work is to take you to the sources and encourage you to drink deeply from them. The power, of course, is in the Scriptures which we will read in reliance on the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. Further insights from recognized spiritual masters will help open our hearts and minds to the deep Scriptural mystery of union with Christ. Each of the 42 days unfolds according to this pattern. I encourage you to plan to spend about 20 minutes each day working prayerfully through the material. Here’s how a day sets up.
 

DISCOVERING WHAT'S IN CHRIST

 
We’ll read over 80 passages of Scripture together during Lent! The treasury of all that is “in Christ alone” is a vast one. Each day we’ll study the Word deeply with a particular goal in mind: to trust more in Christ so that we can live more from Christ and be more effective in the world for Christ. After the passages, I offer questions and commentary meant to inspire your own quest to live in Jesus more fully.
 

TREASURES FROM THE STOREHOUSE OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM

 
To assist our explorations, we’re inviting several great spiritual masters to guide us through what it means to live in Christ. Their contributions have stood the test of time. I quote most from Dr. James S. Stewart’s beautiful 1935 work, A Man in Christ. Stewart was a renowned Edinburgh minister and teacher. One website (preaching.com) ranked him as the number one 20th century preacher! His insights into union with Christ sparkle with loveliness and light. We will also hear from Andrew Murray, a South African pastor at the beginning of the 20th century. His books on the spiritual life have endured more than a century. His Abide in Christ and The Holiest of All usher us into the intimacy of continuing communion with Jesus. John Calvin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Torrance and C. S. Lewis also resource our reflections. I’m delighted to have excavated these jewels for you.
 
Daily Quotes to Pray
 
Each day, two Scripture passages recur. We’re meant to read them aloud in order that, by the end of six weeks, we will have them memorized. This treasure will be ours to enjoy no matter where we are. These verses encapsulate the theme of our study.
 
2 Corinthians 1: 20: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 
 
As we will see, Jesus is the fulfillment of all that God promised to do for our salvation. Jesus is also the way by which we make our response to God’s grace. Jesus is the station through which all the trains of faith and redemption run! 
 
 
 
Galatians 3: 26: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
 
The wonder of who Jesus is and what he has done is that we, men and women, become sons of God with him!
 

 

 



PRESSING INTO CHRIST

 
In this section, I’ll invite you to use the printed prayers as a springboard for your own prayers. We’ll each try to push deeper into the mystery of living from and in Jesus.
 
Weekly Art
 
In each week’s introduction, we will engage a work of art related to the theme. Both classic paintings and contemporary expressions will give us one more avenue down which we may consider all it means to live “in Christ.”
  
Fare forward, beloved congregation! It’s a joy to pursue Christ Jesus with you in this season,
 
Gerrit S. Dawson
Senior Pastor

 

You're Weird!

You're weird! Not like everybody else. Unique in the world. Different than most.
 
After all, what Muslim says “I live in Mohammed?” What practicing Buddhist says, “I spoke with Siddhartha this morning?” What existentialist says “I am in organic union with Camus?” What atheist says “I have a mystical link to Richard Dawkins?” But you say all those things about Jesus! We Christians are “in Christ.” We speak with the historical founder of our faith personally and presently. His Spirit links us to Jesus and to each other the way parts of a human body are linked to the whole. That’s weird—if you’re on the outside looking in. But such wonder is normal for those who have been joined to Jesus.
 
This Lent, we’re going to explore what it means that our truest home is Jesus himself. We’re going to pursue the mystery of what Paul meant by being “in Christ.” We’ll see how living in Christ and from Christ lights up everything in our lives. John Calvin called it a “mystical union” and declared it to be of highest importance to our faith. 
 
Honestly, engaging in this study will change your life. Like discovering priceless treasure you hadn’t known you possessed. Like tapping into an endless supply of energy. Like coming home. Like finally living in Reality. We’ll be drawing from more than 85 Scriptures as well as the writings of experienced spiritual masters such as James Stewart and Andrew Murray. We’re questing for the very heart of Christian experience. We’re going to claim our distinctive faith. Yep, we’re weird. Gloriously, joyfully so!
 
The week of February 14, your elders, deacons and pastors will be bringing your Lent books to your house! It’s a quick, safe drop off. But we wanted to be sure, in these COVID times, that every member gets a copy before February 21 when the daily readings begin. You can get extra copies at church and also sign up for daily emails. Smaller, well-distanced 6 week home groups will also begin. We hope participating with others will help to reknit our congregation after so long apart.
 
I’m so eager to join you on this journey deeper into Christ our true home!