6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Last Sunday we looked at the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is God, and the fullness of God dwells eternally in Jesus. As we’ve just heard the words of Colossians 2:9, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Today we will be going one step further, as we consider where and how as Christians we fit into the picture. We find part of the answer in the next verse: “You have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
One of the greatest mysteries the Bible reveals to us is the incarnation – God Himself taking on human flesh and becoming like us. It is one of the central doctrines of the Christian faith. And yet there is another equally important theme we are taught in the New Testament that kind of mirrors the incarnation. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are “being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.” Not only did Jesus become like us, but now His greatest desire is that we would become like Him.
In the incarnation there was the union of Deity with humanity, and now that as Christians we are new creations, we are part of a whole new union - the union of humanity with Deity.
I wrote in the bulletin today that the Christian faith is not just one of the many different religions that we have happened to choose. The way we relate to God and how He has interacted with us through Jesus and now by His Spirit makes the Christian faith so different and so unique, that we are simply poles apart from any other religion in the world. This is one of the reasons we say that Christianity is not even a religion. All religions are man-made, but this Divine, living relationship that Christians enjoy with the one true God, is a gracious gift He has given to us. In Colossians 1:27 Paul talks about “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you.” The mystery of Christ in you is crucial to understanding the difference between just following a religious belief system and truly living the life of Jesus in our own lives.
When the Holy Spirit created this whole new person in us, He opened the door to a living union between us and Jesus, and this union will exist for all of eternity. Christ and the Christian are eternally one. Jesus, by and through His Holy Spirit lives now within every Christian to give us in all of its fullness His own holiness. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
Ask people to define the word Christian and you’ll hear all kinds of definitions – some very good ones and others that are way off the mark, but what does it really mean to call yourself a Christian? Quite simply, to be a Christian is nothing less than to have the risen and glorified Christ living in you. Jesus physically returned to Heaven some 2000 years ago, but He continues to live on this earth in and through every Christian. He is just as real today as He was 2000 years ago.
Being a Christian is to have Him as our purpose for living to such and extent and to such a degree that we can echo Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21 – “To live is Christ.”
Once we begin to understand this crucial point, we will have a whole new understanding of the Christian faith. It is vital that we grasp this. When we think that Christianity is just the religious hat we’ve decided to wear and we go to Church on Sundays because that’s what Christians are supposed to do, we have missed the point entirely.
To be a Christian is to grow up into Christ in every aspect of our lives. It is to have the Spirit of Jesus transforming every part of us as we become more like Him every day. Max Lucado wrote in one of his books, “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.” Lucado has such a gift for putting the mysteries of God into language that is so easy to understand. He wrote this in one of his Christmas messages: “You are a modern-day Mary, and even more so. He was a foetus in her, but He is a force in you. Jesus grew in Mary until He had to come out. Christ will grow in you until the same thing occurs. He will come out in your speech, in your actions, in your decisions. Every place you live will be a Bethlehem, and every day you live will be a Christmas. You, like Mary, will deliver Christ into the world.”
To be a Christian is to have Jesus so deeply entrenched in our lives, minds, hearts and wills, that it is Jesus thinking through us, loving through us and willing through us. To be a Christian means to have no life other than the life of Jesus Christ within us, and to become more and more like Him each and every day.
It is that simple. And it is that hard.
Why is it hard for us? Again, Paul puts it so well at the end of Romans 7, and he hits the nail perfectly on the head as he describes the struggle every Christian faces: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. I have discovered this principle of life - that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”
Our own sin, the sins of others, the daily struggle we face against temptation, and just the sheer burden of living in a broken world seems to make us so far removed from the Christian disciples we should be, that we find we’re not comforted by the truth that God’s Spirit is within us, encouraging and equipping us to be more like Jesus. Instead we are wracked with guilt, and we end up believing that we’re just not good enough for God.
So what are we to do? If being a Christian means Jesus living in and through me, why am I so far removed from where I should be, and what can I do to change things?
Listen to Paul’s question in Romans 7:24 again: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” This is his answer in the very next verse: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The first thing we need to remember is that Jesus died for those things that continually draw us away from Him. Paul begins Romans 8 by saying “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
Secondly, because we are sinners, our natural inclination is to reject God, and to not seek His will for our lives. Becoming Christlike is something we should desire for ourselves. Ask God to give you that passion. Ask Him to break your heart with the things that break His heart. The desire needs to come from us. We have to want to seek to have Jesus’ life in us for Him to give us the help to change us. Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” This means we must cry out to God for the help we need to change.
Jesus has shown us the path of life, but we must want to walk that path. And when we do, He will give us the necessary tools to stay on that path, but our desire needs to be to walk it first. At the heart of the Christian faith should be a diligent passion to change into the likeness of Jesus. When we don’t have that passion, we just slip into religious ritual and we become no different to the countless followers of other man-made religions. Whenever this life-giving and life-changing relationship with the God of the Universe is reduced to just a religion, it is because of us – not God. It is because our passion has dwindled and we no longer allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.
At the heart and core of Christianity as taught in the Bible is this incredible truth: As we are in Christ, so He is in us. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If apart from Jesus we can do nothing, then it stands to reason that with Him, we can do everything. He is the source, the means and the power to live the life He wants to live through us. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Listen again to that amazing prayer of Jesus in John 17: “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
“I in them.” Three simple yet profound words close the high priestly prayer of Jesus. “I in them” reveals to us this consuming and passionate desire of Jesus to continue to live on in my life and in yours. As Del Tackett, the host of The Truth Project so eloquently puts it, “The God of the Universe dwells within me? Wow!”
The apostle Paul’s life was totally transformed once he grasped this truth. Galatians 2:20 again: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Christ in me. There was nothing beyond this for Paul. Having the glorified Jesus as his very life was all-inclusive in Paul’s life. “Christ in you” became the heart of his message to the early Church in the 1st Century. It was central to all of his teaching and preaching. If you were to put all of his letters to the Churches together and try to find a common thread which holds them all together, you need look no further than Colossians 1:27. “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
“Christ in you” became the focus of all he said and did as he took the message of the gospel of Jesus into the world.
To be a Christian is to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and to crown Him as Lord. But that’s just the start. Someone once said that the next step is to appropriate Him as life. Another anonymous quote says, “The Christian life is not merely a converted life nor even a consecrated life, but it is a Christ-life. Christ is the Christian’s centre, Christ is the Christian’s circumference and Christ is all in between.” As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:11, “Christ is all and is in all.” Verse 4 of the same chapter says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then shall you also will appear with Him in glory.”
I could go on, because there are many other verses that talk about the same thing. The point is that we need to understand just what Jesus means and what the eternal implications are for us when He says “You in me, and I in you.” This principle takes the definition of the word ‘Christian’ to a whole new level once we begin to grasp what He is saying to us.
It becomes a perfect oneness between you and Jesus. In God’s eyes you and Jesus have become one in such a way that Jesus is both in heaven and on earth, and you are in heaven and on earth right now. It’s true to say that as Christians we will leave this earth and go to heaven when we die physically, but in a spiritual sense that has already happened. It’s Christ in you – the hope of glory.
Charles Spurgeon in one of his sermons said, “The gospel is the grand secret, the mystery of mysteries. It was hidden from ages and from generations, but is now made manifest to the saints. To the mass of mankind it was utterly unknown, and the chosen people, who saw something of it, only perceived it dimly through the smoke of sacrifices and the veil of types. It remained a mystery which wit could not guess nor invention unravel, and it would have forever continued a secret had not God in His infinite mercy, been pleased to reveal it by the Holy Spirit. In a still deeper sense it is even yet a hidden thing unless the Spirit of God has revealed it to us individually.”
God has revealed the mystery of the Gospel to us, and our task now is to reveal that same mystery to the world today. As modern day Marys we are to deliver Christ to the world.
God’s divine purpose for us is to live out the fullness of Jesus in our own lives. The world needs to see Christ in us, the hope of glory. We are to live the life of Jesus in such a remarkable likeness that there can be no mistake that Jesus is who He claimed to be: God Himself, and the Saviour of the world.
We are to be vessels of the sheer beauty, holiness and glory of God.
I want to close by quoting from Charles Spurgeon again:
“Why, look, Christ in you is glory. You have heaven in having Christ, for Christ is the biggest part of heaven. Is not Christ the soul of heaven, and in having Him you have glory? What is more, having received Christ, Christ’s glory and your glory are wrapped up together. If Christ were to lose you, it would be a great loss to you, but a greater loss to Him. Therefore comfort yourselves with this word: Christ in you means you in glory, as surely us God lives. There is no question about that. Go your ways and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and let men see who it is that lives in you. Let Jesus speak through your mouth, and weep through your eyes, and smile through your face. Let Him work with your hands and walk within your feet, and be tender with your heart. Let Him seek sinners through you. Let Him comfort saints through you, until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”
Homegroup Study Notes
Read John 17:20-26 and Colossians 1:27-29
A point made on Sunday was that the Christian faith is not just one of the many different religions available to choose from. Rather, it is a unique faith which is completely different to other religions.
How would you answer if you were asked to describe the main differences between Christianity and other religions?
What does Jesus mean when He says “I in them and them in me?”
We all know we are to reflect the very nature of Jesus in how we live our lives as Christians.
Why do we struggle to do this, and why do we feel such guilt when we know others do not see “Christ in you, the hope of glory?”
Read Galatians 2:20.
What does Paul mean by saying he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him?
Another point made on Sunday was that through the incarnation (physical birth of Jesus), we see a mystical union between the Divine and human, but as the Spirit of God transforms us we become part of another union: between human and the Divine.
Discuss this statement in your group.
How does this challenge your traditional understanding of Christianity?
Close by praying that Jesus would continue to change us into His likeness every day, and that He would remind us of the privilege and responsibility we have to reflect “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”