In the first devotion, we discussed the first principle of being “In Christ.” That was the truth shared in Ephesians 2:8, that we can’t earn our way to heaven through our works and accomplishments. It is through our faith in Christ, that He extends the gift of grace. Grace is an ‘unearned’ gift. In this devotion, we will look more closely at the phrase “in Christ.”
The phrase ‘in Christ’ or ‘in Him’ appears over 100 times in the New Testament. If this phrase appears 100 times in the New Testament, that means it’s got to be really important. Phrases like “blessings in Christ,” or you find “this in Christ,” or this is something “in Christ” or “in him.” This is the glory and fulfillment I was working for all along: to be living “in Christ.” As I was reading through all the verses with the phrase “in Christ,” I couldn’t help thinking, “Lord, you are speaking to my heart, because I’ve always struggled with this.” I’ve always wanted to focus on my own actions and my own behavior. It is a trap we can all fall into if we are not careful. The thought “If I just do this, or this, God will be happy with me.” There is nothing we can do.
The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one.” That includes the best of us and the worst of us. So is there no hope? Of course, there is. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” That means the only action in our lives that makes a difference is in our ‘faith’ in Jesus Christ. We must accept Him into our lives, and then pursue Him and work to remain ‘in Jesus Christ.’
But what does that look like? I have two illustrations I‘d like to share, that are intended to help describe the phrase ‘in Christ.” The first is that, when we say ‘In Christ,’ imaging putting a jar in a box. The jar represents me. The box represents Christ. The illustration is taking me (the jar) and putting it in the box (Christ). This is what it means to be ‘in Christ.’ I am no longer completely separated. I am no longer my own thing. When the world sees me, they shouldn’t see just me, they should see Jesus Christ. Not only that but when I see the world, it should be filtered. I don’t see my friends and family. I don’t see the people who may hurt me or say something bad about me. I don’t see in my own ways through my own eyes. Rather I see them God-filtered.
Here’s the second part of the illustration. I take the jar (which still represents me) and I fill it up with water, which represents the Holy Spirit. You see, I’m not only in Christ, but Christ is in me through the Holy Spirit. God builds us up with Him through His Holy Spirit. It’s a double-whammy. For example, if the enemy is attacking, he has to go through God. And we already know he’s not going to get through God. But let’s just pretend somehow, someway the enemy gets through; maybe the attack is allowed for whatever reason. Even if he gets through the guard, which he would not, there’s still Christ in me. The enemy still has to go through round two with Christ. This is what God is saying. That is, ‘we are in Him and He is in us.’ We are now, in Him, completely protected.
When I say we are “in Christ,” it is more than taking the jar and putting it in a box. It is not just positional, but it is relational. When you’re in a relationship with somebody, it’s something that is growing, blooming, ever-changing. The depth of your relationship on day-one should not be the depth of your relationship on day-100. And the depth of your relationship on day-100 should increase in depth by day 365, and so on. I’ve been serving God now for over 20 years — and I praise God for that — but if I am the same way in this relationship 20 years after I invited Christ into my heart, then something has gone wrong.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” What does it mean to be a “new creature” in your relationship with Christ? It means there should be depth. There should be growth. There should be some progressive change in the relationship. And unfortunately, a lot of times what happens is that people get into this frame of mind:
“You know what? The relationship is good. I started and I was on fire. I learned to love God. I learned to seek him, and I read through the Word — for the most part. Then, somewhere along the line, the fire died down.”
What happens in a marriage when the fire dies down? They begin to grow apart. Are you still in marriage? Yeah, but is the relationship still there? Well, something’s gone wrong. And so many times what’s happening is that we’re in this committed relationship and walk with the Lord, but things are changing. Why? Because our depth or priority of commitment to him has changed. Where I used to seek the Lord early in the morning of every single day, maybe now, because I’ve gotten so busy with life and work and kids and just everything in general, I don’t wake up and say, “Lord, I thank you for this day” anymore. He’s become an afterthought.
Again, read through 2 Corinthians 5:17 a few times during the day. There are three (3) important lessons in today’s segment you should take forward in your life. (1) None of us is righteous on our own. Again, repeating from the last devotion, it is not about what we do outside Christ, but what we do ‘In Christ.’ (2) Being ‘in Christ’ should change how we see and act in the world. You should expect it to become increasingly God-filtered. This is the analogy of the jar in the box, and the jar filled with water. We are the ‘jar.’ (3) Being ‘in Christ’ has a relationship component. By nature, a relationship is progressive. It can go forward or backward, but it is always moving. If you want your relationship with Jesus Christ to grow, then make it your top priority.
God bless you and keep you. ~OS