Conclusion of our Series We've we've been in a series called 'Chase the Light' where we've been studying the gospel through the lens of the incarnation.
The crib as well as the cross is a symbol of our faith.
It's an amazing thing to think about isn't it? God becoming a baby. I wonder what it was like the be Jesus's mommy. Have you ever thought about that? I've got a slide that I think illustrates this point really well. (Jesus at bath time pic)
So we've been saying that the Gospel is one word is: Jesus
That's what we mean when we say "The Gospel" is the good news message of Jesus Christ. - God becoming man.
So we've expanded that for this series to say:
The Gospel is the Good news of Jesus who has come to:
The previous weeks of this series have really been leading up to this one. This message is really the heart of what I've been trying to communicate.
And I believe that for some of us, it's going to clear some things up when it comes to our identity.
We live in a culture that is PLAGUED by identity issues.
I meet with multiple people every week who are in self-destructive patterns that all stem from the same thing. Seeing yourself in an unhealthy way.
Body - It's a pandemic in our society for women AND men, to be crippled by body issues. Even this morning, you might have gotten up and looked in the mirror and been so disgusted with yourself, b/c the world gives us such a broken way of understanding beauty. You're bulging here, you're balding there. Too fat, too skinny. All the places you want hair, there's no hair there. All the places you don't want hair - amazon forrest.
Successful - Or maybe for you, you look at yourself at this point in your life and you thought you were going to be so much more successful and you can't believe you're still working at the same dead-end job.
Sin - Or maybe for some of you - it IS sin or struggle. I can't believe I'm still struggling with that. After all these years. I still struggle with anger, or unforgiveness. Or whatever that is for you.
Physical Issue - Maybe for some of you - you have a physical issue or disability. And it's such a big part of your life that it becomes the bedrock of your identity. It becomes how you see yourself. "I'm the depressed guy" "I'm the lady that walks with a cane," - Whatever it is, and that bleeds into how you see yourself as a person, and that begins to erode in your heart the simple fact that you're created in God's image and he desperately loves you.
We have young girls today that believe they're completely unworthy of love. So they settle for any sleeze-ball that gives them attention.
In every case, the solution is the same: Understanding who you are because of Jesus.
It's absolutely critical.
Well the Scripture, unsurprisingly, has an incredible amount to say about who you are.
And I want to focus on something that should form the bedrock of who you are as a person.
I want you to look at a phrase: "Union with Christ"
Now what does that mean? Does that just mean that we're friends now. Maybe, we're no longer enemies.
Or does it mean something more?
I wonder how many of you have ever had the experience of going to a family reunion.
Well my moms side of the family is quite large and so growing up every 2 years we would go to Arkansas and get together with probably 100 of our family members.
Always kind of strange being with people who you've never seen before but that you're related to. It's like "Wow, that girls kinda cute. Who is that?" "That's your cousin David" - OOKKAAYY. Awkward.
So what is a "reunion"? - well a reunion is coming back together after a period of separation.
And when we talk about "Union with Christ" we're saying the same thing, a coming together after a period of separation.
Union with Christ is one of the primary doctrines (which is to say teachings) of Christianity.
And it appears over and over and over again in scripture. Both Christ in Us, and us in Christ. Which speaks to the intimacy that we have.
We have a whirlwind of scripture this morning.
And as we go through these scripture, just know that what I'm wanting to do is overwhelm you. That usually not a good strategy. We might say "Well we don't want to overwhelm them" NOT TODAY. Today, I'm trying to overwhelm you.
But with a biblical teaching that is on one hand is very simple, but is so amazing, our little pea brains struggle to grasp it.
So we're gonna jump around in Scripture a little this morning. It's something I try to do as little as possible, but I'm really hoping to drive home a point this morning.
Sword Drills I wonder if you guys ever played "Sword Drills" growing up. We would do this after youth group. Where the two contestants had closed bible in hands, then someone would yell out a verse and the first person to flip to it and read it aloud won.
Church kids can be weird.
My joke used to be "Hezekiah 3:12" - Because Hezekiah isn't a book in the Bible, but it sure does sound like one. So they'd be flipping "I can't find it!!!"
Well this is the closest we're gonna get to a sword drill, so lets have some fun flipping through some scripture talking about our union with Christ.
If you have a paper bible, I'd love for you to flip to the sections together, or if you have a digital bible, you know, click the reference and cheat.
In this verse, Paul does something weird.
Have you ever had the experience of trying to have a conversation with someone about something you really care about, but it's clear they don't care about your thing, they care about their own thing, so it's like you're having two conversations at once? I feel like this is Paul doing that with HIMSELF.
He's talking about marriage and then look at what we says:
For we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:30)
(Then he goes back to talking about marriage again:)
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31)
(And then he says:)
This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)
He flows in and out of this conversation about marriage and the intimacy that we enjoy with Jesus.
And when he says "Two will become one flesh" - He saying yes that applies to marriage. But the primary point he's making is that is what happens with Christ and the church.
So some of the guys in the church of Corinth were taking the message of Grace, that you're saved by grace not by works - And they were saying "That's great! Now I get to live however I want."
And they went and were sleeping with prostitutes.
"Jesus loves me this I know, therefore, let's go pick up some prostitutes."
So now Paul has to write them and say "Wait a second!"
And it's interesting how he makes his point here. He doesn't say "You wicked, vile, pieces of trash, God will judge you for what you've done." Or "You've disgraced the church, shame on you." No he doesn't threaten punishment, he speaks to their identity, he reminds them who they are.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! (1 Corinthians 6:15)
"Your bodies are members of Christ himself." - Whoa, that's amazing.
Paul is saying that when you go and live a wicked lifestyle, you're bringing Jesus with you.
When you lie, when you become bitter, when you gossip, when you're unkind, when you fail to forgive, you're bringing Jesus into those situations with you. And Jesus doesn't want to lie. Jesus doesn't want to gossip.
Do you see what he's doing there? He countering their sin, not with the threat of judgement, but with a reminder of their identity.
B/C see Paul understands that you will always live up to way you see yourself.
So for Paul, one of the best ways to improve someone's behavior is to tell them who they are in Christ.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Wait, I thought we were in Christ. Christ is in us? - I thought the Holy Spirit was in us?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20a)
So let's think about this: I was crucified with Christ. So now I don't even live anymore, but rather Christ lives in me.
And so let's be real. When you read all this stuff, it can almost sound like poetry, just pretty artists, non-literal things to say. But Paul never says "I don't mean literally." - No, in fact, when we read about this page and page we start to learn "Wow, he's talking about this like it's actually true."
So just to warn you, if you've never read the book of Romans, I think it's probably the most theologically dense book that Paul writes.
So sometimes it will make your head spin, but it really is a masterclass on biblical theology.
So what I'm wanting to point out here is how Paul deliberately uses The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit interchangeably when it comes to who lives in us.
I don't know if you've ever heard someone when they're praying and they do that?
"And we thank you Jesus, that you father God promised you will never leave or forsake us!" - And it's like "Wait… Who are you talking to?"
That's sort of what Paul does here.
So let's read this, and focus on this question: Who is it exactly that lives in me?
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)
But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead (who is that? That's always attributed to the father) is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)
See how freely he moves between the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
Alright you guys ready for a new cool word to impress your coworkers at your Christmas party:
Also if you're looking to impress that special little lady from the office. Ladies love parsing greek verbs.
Perichoresis is a word that describes the interwoven-ness of the trinity.
Where they are 3 distinct "persons" if you will, but they're so intimately connected, that where one stops and the next starts is hard for us in our finite minds to understand.
Triquetra This is the "Triquetra" - Many of us know as the Trinity Knot. No doubt some of you have this tattooed on you.
What's the point here? The point is that they're distinct in a sense, and they're unified in a sense.
Think of Jesus when he gives the great commission he says "I will be with you always." Then he leaves.
But he sends the spirit, and through the spirit, Paul talks about Christ himself being in us.
And God raised us up with Christ (oh, so since we are IN Christ, what happened to Christ happened to us as well) and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)
Isn't that interesting.
So Jesus is in heaven, but Jesus is also here with us.
And that paradox is also true of us. That we're here on earth, but we're also in heaven, sitting next to the father IN Christ.
So this is the big difference between the way of Jesus and the way of religion.
We are not doing things so that we can "achieve" salvation, or nirvana, or paradise, or enlightenment, or heaven. We are seated in heavenly places NOW.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, (there it is again) set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2)
So since we have been raised with Christ, the instruction is to think about heavenly things, not earthy things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
(So beautiful. Where is your life? It's hidden with Christ in God.)
Through these (the blessings and grace that God has given us) he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4)
We participate in the divine nature. Does that mean we somehow become God or are absorbed into God? No. What IS the divine nature? It's love. So like we talked about in the first week, we're invited into a loving family dynamic that has already been in loving unity before the earth began.
Now let's look at the words of Jesus. In the verses before this, he's telling his disciples that it's time for his to leave, but that he's going to send the spirit:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16-17a)
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:20)
There's that beautiful intimacy.
And then v23
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)
Wait "WE" will make our home with them? - YES! Through the Spirit, we're in intimate relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (John 15:1)
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Why does all this matter?
It matters because how you see yourself and WHERE you see yourself is all important.
When you become of follower of Jesus, you get a new address - "In Christ". That's not true for you someday, that's true for you right now. So for those of you who this holiday season without hope, or without love, or without support, nothing could be further from the truth. At this very moment, you are in Christ Jesus. And he's in you.
Experiment I'd like us to do a little experiment. Close your eyes. Now when you open your eyes, I'm gonna give you 10 seconds to notice everything in this room that's blue. Are you ready? Remember: blue. Open your eyes. (Wait 10 seconds, and make little commentary). Ok now close you eyes. Now I want you to think of all the things in the room that are RED. OOHHHHH. Interesting. Ok open your eyes. There's TONS of stuff in this room that's red. But you didn't see it. Why? B/C it wasn't there? No, because you were focusing on something else.
Here's how this applies to the Christian life. There are spiritual realities, at this very moment, that are 100% as real as anything you see happening in this room. But sometimes they take a little more effort to SEE. It requires that you see with your eyes of faith.
So when life feels like it's coming in at you, close your eyes and see yourself IN CHRIST. Every moment of every day, perfect intimacy with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. You are never alone.
And when you're in Christ, you know what happens? You get to share in Jesus's life. Everything that's predestined for Jesus becomes true for you as well.
In fact, in Ephesians 1, Paul shares some things that are predestined for you if you are in Christ.
You are predestined to:
Everything that’s true for Jesus becomes true for you
Doesn't mean life will be perfect. But it's much harder to be frowning all day when you see yourself as in Christ. Experiencing perfect unity with God, and partaking in the divine nature.
So to close this series, what I wanted to do was to pray over you. But not just with my words, but the words of Jesus that Jesus himself prays for you. Did you know that Jesus prayed for you? This is one of my favorite moments in scripture. And if you've been following along during this series, I'm hoping that you'll hear it and receive it like never before. The context is Jesus is praying for his disciples and then he opens it up to include you:
“My prayer is not (his disciples) for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, (John 17:20)
So this is all the people who would believe in Jesus. That includes us. And what do you think Jesus would pray for the Believers Center of Albuquerque in 2019? Lets read:
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. (John 17:21)
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— (John 17:22)
I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. (So what's the benefit of that? Let's look:) Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23)
Wow. That through our unity, the world would know that God loves them as much as he loves his own son.
And that's my prayer for you this Christmas season. That you would be filled with the reality of your union with Christ. And that would we would allow that to flow into our union as brothers and sisters.