DAILY DISCIPLINE #189
By Colleen Donahue
OUR POSITION "IN CHRIST"- PART1
Getting There and Living From There
Our Heavenly Father loves each and everyone of us with an intensity that only a father can know. Whether or not we feel worthy of his love is not even an issue. He has done the same for all of us to make us right with himself. He shows no favoritism. He has done so whether or not we want to avail ourselves of it.
In this three part study we will focus on two little words that the New Testament writers pepper throughout their letters. It's those words, "in Christ" or "in Him" -- so important yet often skipped over in our reading. What does it mean to be "in Christ"? How do we get in? How do we stay there? And most important, how do we live from that position?
Understanding our position with God -- "in Christ" -- will give us the confidence to approach "the throne of grace" at all times. It will enable us to truly partner with God throughout our life on earth which is how He made us to begin with. I hope you'll find this study giving you a whole new perspective.
1. Over and over we see in the letters circulating to the early churches that the Apostles Peter and Paul would be addressing a whole group of people or even an individual whom they had something in common with. There are many passages I could list but here are just a few. What is the common thread in all these verses?
Philippians 1:1 /Philippians 4:2 / Colossians 1:2/ Philemon 1:23 / 1 Peter 5:14
Did you get that the common thread was that Peter and Paul were addressing the saints "in Christ", or my fellow prisoner "in Christ", or "those who belong to the Lord". They were addressing men and women who were all part of the same spiritual family. Just as we are born physically into an earthly family, we are born spiritually into God's family.
HOW DO WE GET INTO CHRIST AND THEREFORE INTO GOD'S FAMILY?
2. The short answer is that God puts us there. But let's step back into eternity for a moment. BEFORE anything was ever created, God knew that some of his angels -- created to serve Him- would demand to be gods themselves. He knew that man -- created to rule and reign over the earth -- would be deceived into giving up their kingdom authority to become slaves of Satan and sin. Therefore, to keep his universe intact, where was all the creating done and by whom?
3. Paul is talking here about Jesus. God was the architect of his creation but He did all His creating through Jesus. How is it that Jesus was able to be the carpenter of God's universe?
Colossians 1:19 / Colossians 2:9
4. Jesus was able to make all things in himself because he is God just as the Father is God. That's why Jesus could say this:
5. God the architect had decided back in eternity to do all his work through Jesus his carpenter.
6. And therefore Paul gives us the answer to our question as to how we get into Christ in the first place.
1 Corinthians 1:30A
And who is it that keeps us firmly rooted in Christ?
2 Corinthians 1:21
So we get into Christ--into God's family-- by God's will and intention. Then, we are also able to stay there by God's will and intention.
7. Therefore, this universe stays intact because ...... reread:
(The "He" in this verse is Jesus)
8. But what about all those in Christ that don't know they are there, don't believe in God, and don't want to be there?
Reread: Colossians 1:19 but continue on through Colossians 1:20
9. Reconcile (used in Colossians 1:20) is an accounting term. Before we were even born --before we even knew that we were alienated from God -- God reconciled all of us back to himself through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19a (especially verse 19a)
What exactly does this mean for us?
10. To accomplish this what had to happen to Jesus?
11. Everyone was to be reconciled to God through the body of Jesus as the cross. God made this a reality for the whole world. He did this not only for his own people (the Jews) but for everyone else as well (the Gentiles) -- making them both one people in His family.
12. Because all of us are "in Christ" by right of the Creator, what does this mean for us? Make a list.
GRACE VS LAW
13. For all who "feel" far off from God and don't know what to do about it, this is truly good news. For WHEN did God make us alive with Christ?
Ephesians 2:1, 5 / Colossians 2:13
14. Ephesians 2:5 introduces one of the best concepts in all the world -- GRACE. "It is by grace you have been saved." And just in case we miss it in verse 5, Paul repeats himself in verse 8.
15. Grace is always synonymous with Christ. Notice how Paul expresses the concept of grace to Titus.
Paul could just as easily have written, "For Christ, that brings salvation, has appeared to all men." The "grace of God" and Jesus Christ are synonymous. Indeed, many would define grace as "God's Riches At Christ's Expense". I would add that grace is also the fact that "God Restores us At Christ's Expense".
16. The Old Covenant (or Promise) that God made with the Israelites was based on THEM keeping God's law. Century after century they would succeed a little but fail a lot. As we ponder the history of man we have to come to the conclusion that men could not keep God's law back in their day, and if we try today to live by law (or our own efforts to be right with God) we still fail miserably. The Law's purpose was to show us clearly that we cannot make ourselves right with God. In fact WHO was the law meant to drive us to?
.........and to what purpose?
17. Bible scholar Watchman Nee once gave this illustration. When a paper is tucked inside of a book, whatever happens to the book happens to the paper. If a book is thrown into the river so goes the paper. If the book is burned, so is the paper. You and I have been put right with God because we are "in Jesus". Therefore whatever happens to Him, happens to us. According to these verses what happens to us?
Acts 13:39 / Romans 3:28
(Bible Teacher Derek Prince says justification is "just-as-if-I had never-sinned")
18. Does this mean that everyone is put right with God? The answer is both yes and no. God has set everything in place for ALL of us to be put right with Him in Jesus. But he can't and won't violate man's free will. So now reread these same verses and this time notice WHO will be put right with God.
Acts 13:39 / Romans 3:28
In Acts 13:39 we see that it is everyone who believes and in Romans 3:28 we see the phrase by faith. Let's look at these two concepts for they are our part to play in availing ourselves of all the privileges of being "in Jesus" - in God's family.
BELIEVING IN JESUS
19. For many of us today the idea of "believing in something" is that we give mental assent to it. But to the people at the time of Jesus, it had a far deeper meaning. From the Greek word "pistis" believing meant that a person had become morally persuaded about a person or a truth so that they would align their life to live by it. For example: The Jewish leaders stood at the foot of the cross mocking Jesus. What did they say it would take for them to "believe in him"?
Did these leaders believe in Jesus as we use the term today? Yes. They could see that he physically existed and in fact was right in front of them. But did they "believe in Jesus" as it meant at that time? No. They had refused to believe in Him and therefore had no intention of obeying his words, or aligning their lives with his teachings.
20. In contrast to these Jewish leaders, let us consider one conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26). This woman became so thoroughly convinced that Jesus was the Messiah that she acted right away on what she believed to be true.
And because she acted on her belief in Jesus, what happened?
Notice in verse 42 John makes the point that these people no longer believed in Jesus just because of the woman's testimony. After spending two days with Jesus, they had become thoroughly convinced that Jesus was the Savior of the world. Now, they truly "believed in Jesus" and would align their lives with Him.
21. Today there are many who proclaim to be Christians and "believe in Christ" but still live as practical atheists -- i.e. by their own will and desires. Based on John 3:14-18, and a mental assent to them, they feel safe as to their eternal destiny.
John 3: 14-18
Three times in these verses the phrase "believe in Him" is used. With each use, what is promised to those who "believe in Him"?
Commentator John Gill writes about these verses. "This is not a mental assent to the truth respecting Jesus Christ's person, office, and work. But it's when a soul goes to Jesus, ventures everything on Him, commits himself to Him, lays hold on Him, leans and relies on him, and trusts in him."
Commentator Albert Barnes writes: "Believing in Him" has the meaning of one who has confidence in Jesus, relies on Him, trust in his merits and promises for salvation. As lost sinners we look to Christ and act towards Him as the Saviour from our sins."
It has nothing to do with "easy believing" and everything to do with living our lives in partnership with Christ -- the way God originally meant us to live.
22. A crowd of people, who had just been fed miraculously by Jesus, came to Him with this question: "What must we do to do the works God requires?" And how did Jesus answer?
I like how the New Living Translation puts this verse: "This is the only work God wants from you. Believe in the One he has sent!"
Did Jesus mean we are to go around saying, "I believe in Jesus?" No. He meant that if we align our lives with Him, we are naturally going to do the works that God wants us to do. For the original purpose of God was that man would live his life in partnership with Jesus because Christ's Spirit would indwell their own.
23. Jesus wants us to know that when we come to believe in Him, who will we truly be seeing?
24. Under the section "How do We Get Into Christ" of this study, we saw that God, before the foundation of the world, was with Jesus setting up a rescue plan knowing what the first humans would do. The genius of God's plan was that every man and woman would be given the opportunity to be restored and all without God overriding their free will. To be restored to God's original plan for us, God's requirement was that we believe in his Son. (Reread John 6:29). And when we do, it's like a reset button has been pressed. For when we believe in Jesus and come to rely on Him, what do we receive?
B-Philippians 1:11 / 3:9
C-Romans 9:33 / 10:11 / 1 Peter 2:6
D-1 Timothy 1:16
The fact that God has not only forgiven every rotten thing we have thought, said, or done -- but counts us to be righteous in His Son -- is truly good news. For so many of us walk in guilt and shame that gets heavier with the years. Jesus has lifted all this off us and has put us right. We can now get on with living our life in fellowship with God through our time on earth and then right into eternity -- into Heaven.
FAITH IN JESUS
Once we believe in Jesus, then to have faith in Jesus is the natural outcome. Faith is the action we take because we believe or are convinced about something. This story illustrates the difference between belief in Jesus and faith in Jesus.
Charles Blandine was a French tightrope walker and acrobat in the 1800's. He performed amazing feats to spellbound crowds all over the world. With an 11,000 foot rope stretched out over the Niagara Falls in New York he amazed the tense crowd by walking across and back at 160 feet above the surface of the water. He said to the cheering crowds after this great feat, "How many of you believe that I can walk across and back with a wheelbarrow?" Everyone cheered and shouted, "We believe!" Then he asked the crowd for a volunteer to sit in the wheelbarrow. The crowd grew silent and nervous. And then ---- one man stepped forward.
And that is the difference between believing and faith. They are two sides of the same coin. When we truly believe, then we can act on that belief. We might feel some fear and trepidation, as that volunteer probably felt getting into the wheelbarrow.... but we can act anyway knowing solidly WHO we believe in.
Remember, when we believe in Jesus we are declaring our belief in the God of this universe, and He can't fail. For all who believe in Him will not be put to shame. He will uphold us with His right hand --- he will never leave or forsake us. We can act because Jesus Christ is a solid rock on which to stand.
25. Faith must always be "in something" or "in someone". Here are some examples:
-We see a chair and determine that it will be strong enough to hold us up. Therefore we sit down in it with confidence. This is how we put our faith "in something". We do it all the time.
-Our mom puts dinner on the table. We believe that our mom only wants the best for us and wouldn't poison the food. Therefore because we have faith in our mom, we eat the food she has prepared.
What we believe in will cause us to put our faith in -- and what will this produce?
When the Apostle Paul was brought before Governor Felix and his wife in Caesarea, what did he speak to them about?
Notice Paul didn't talk with Felix about a religion. He talked about "faith in Christ". And as we share with our friends and family -- it's bringing them to meet the person of Jesus that will ultimately help them to put their faith in Him.
26. Faith is something that grows and most of us feel we have too little of it. We would think that Christ's disciples who were privileged to be with Jesus ---24 hours/day, 7 days a week -- would be men of great faith. But notice what they asked Jesus to do for them.
You and I probably feel the need to ask for the same. How does Jesus assure us about the "little faith" we might have?
27. Faith is like a muscle. The more you exercise the muscle, the stronger it becomes. So the more you rely on Jesus to do what he promises and find him faithful, the more you will go to him with something else. And when our faith in Christ grows, so does our faith in God. This gives us the confidence to proclaim before men what we know God will do -- all based on God's absolute faithfulness. Here are three men who had the confidence to proclaim before other men what they knew God would do.
Job 19:25-26 / Daniel 3:17-18 / Acts 27:25
How is it that these men of faith could speak so confidently even though they couldn't yet see the results?
And that is how we will be able to speak confidently as well.
AN EXAMPLE OF FAITH
We are all "in Christ" and therefore in God's family. Not everyone believe this or even wants to be there. Nevertheless, it's true. We see a parallel of this truth play out in our physical families. All of us know of a family -- maybe even our own -- where a child just doesn't want to be there or be part of it. They refuse love from others in the family -- maybe even run away. They are in the family but they are not actively a part of it. They do not believe they are loved and therefore they won't put their faith in their parents or siblings. In this way they forfeit their rights as children in that family. Are they still a member of the family? Yes. Are they partaking of its privileges? No.
Now just suppose that child decides to "test the waters" one day. He shows up for dinner. To his surprise his mom has a place set for him at the table and plenty of food to offer him. He decides to do another test. He has so often run away and lived on the street. He asks if he can stay the night. To his surprise his dad shows him to his room. It has been kept for his return and there are clean sheets on the bed! He lays down and sleeps like a baby. He tests them again .... and again....and again. Every time he finds his family faithful.
Gradually over time he becomes convinced that he is loved and wanted. His faith grows. He can count on his mom and dad to provide him with food, clothing, and shelter. They encourage him with his school work, his sports activities, his friendships. Pretty soon he is boasting to others what great parents he has. He is now confident in their love because they have proved it over and over in the practical things of life. Now he is not only "in" the family but he is an active part "of" the family and a privileged member of it.
I give this example to help us understand that while all of us are "in Christ" -- in God's family by right of creation -- not all of us are partaking of family privileges. Still, our gracious and loving Father waits for us, sets a plate every night at the table, and keeps a bed ready for us. He loves and wants every one of us.
Then, there are some of us who are "in Christ", believe we are "in Christ", but don't act on it. We never feel quite good enough to sit at the Father's table. We feel we need to do more chores or clean up before we partake in what he offers. If you are in either group, I'd like to challenge you to try out your faith -- just a little at a time -- and I'll try to show you how.
KNOW WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU
28. First, we'll be encouraged to step out in our faith if we have a bedrock knowledge of what God has done for every man and women -- past, present, and future -- which of course includes you and I! In #9 of this study we saw that before any of us were even born, God had already reconciled us to himself in Jesus. That's because He knew man would choose to rebel against Him and this rebellious nature would be passed along to all of us.
When Christ came to earth it was to reenact this reconciliation process that had already been done in Heaven. The Bible uses the term justification which Bible teacher Derek Prince says is "just-as-if-I'd-never-sinned"! So let's start by reading these verses and then going through them more slowly.
Verse 21- Jesus is that "righteousness from God, apart from the law" that the Old Testament writers testified to. The New Living Translation says, "But now, God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law...."
Verse 22- HOW are we made right with God? and WHO is it true for?
Verse 23- All mankind - Jew or Gentile -- is in the same condition. What is it?
Verse 24- Despite our sinful condition, what does God freely and graciously do for us?
We saw in #13 that God made us alive with Christ when we were "dead in our trespasses." So here we find our gracious Father declaring us righteous because of Christ's redemptive work on the cross while we are still dead in our sins and trespasses! Amazing!
Verse 25- God demonstrated his justice or showed his fairness by not punishing those who sinned in times past. When Jesus Christ came to earth it was to be the final sacrifice for sin. His shed blood was to be the means of man's forgiveness-- past, present, and future. God was including all people from the past and the future into what He was doing in Christ at the present. Or, to say it another way: In a cosmic miracle, God put us into Christ and this included all of us (past, present & future) in His redemptive work.
Verse 26 - This verse repeats verse 22 in a different way. How is it that God can declare sinners to be right in his sight?
29. Paul sums all this up again for us in:
Three times in this one verse Paul says the same thing:
A. Man is not justified by observing the law but by faith in Christ.
B. We believe or put our faith in Christ so that we can be put right with God -- not by observing the law
C. No one will ever be made right with God by observing the law.
Paul does not want us to miss this important point! Nothing WE can ever do will make us right with God. There is only one "work" that God wants from us.
Reread: John 6:29
The Holy Spirit gave me this revelation to help me understand the fact that I am righteous because of Jesus' shed blood for me. I saw a picture of myself going about my life with a bright red blanket over me (symbolizing that I was covered by Christ's blood). When God looks down upon me He sees the blood of His Son and He is satisfied. He's not counting my sins against me because He doesn't see any sin in Jesus who is covering me. When He sees me, He sees His Son. And because I am in His Son, God sees me as righteous in Christ. If God is satisfied when He sees me "in Christ" then surely I should be satisfied! This picture of myself covered in Christ's blood made it possible for me to say with confidence: "I am the righteousness of God in Christ..." (2 Corinthians 5:21) even though I didn't feel that way and others didn't either!
It's what God thinks about us that is the most important. When we speak and act as people who are right with God because of our faith in Christ, then gradually we become that way in real life.
30. In the world when we "see something, then we believe it" and so we walk. But... did you know that God's way of walking with Him is exactly opposite to the world's way?
2 Corinthians 5:7
Here are the simple ABCD's of faith so that you can easily remember:
A= AGREE with God and His Word over what the world is saying.
B= BELIEVE God's Word by acting on it
C= CONFESS God's Word to God, to yourself, and to others
D= DO What God is telling you
Now it's time to practice!
TRY OUT YOUR FAITH -- ABCD
31. We now KNOW that while we were still sinners God reconciled us back to himself IN CHRIST. We have looked at two verses that clearly tell us we are in right-standing (righteous) with God because of what Christ has done (Romans 3:22 & Galatians 2:16). Here are two more verses to tell you that truth again. (Memorize at least one of these four verses.)
Romans 10:4 / Philippians 3:9
Now the test comes. One day you fall back into a sin that you thought was over for good. Satan whispers in your ear, "See, you did it again. You call yourself a Christian but you are just the same as always. You'll never change."
But... instead of wallowing in self-pity you get up and go straight to the Father and say...
A- "Father, I fell back into this sin and I'm sorry. I now AGREE with your word that I am righteous because of what Jesus has done for me."
B- "I BELIEVE your word over what I think and feel. That's why I have come straight back to you."
C- "I CONFESS that your grace is greater than my sin. It is the power by which I will overcome all sin."
D-" I will now DO as Jesus told the adulterous woman. I will go and sin no more by your Spirit which is greater in me than the law of sin and death!"
32. We KNOW that because we are IN JESUS, when he died our old carnal nature (that keeps us sinning) died with Him. This was done so that we would no longer be a slave to sin.
Now the test comes. You have an addiction or "pet sin" that you thought you were free from. In a weak moment you went back to that addictive thing. Satan now whispers..."You will never be free from that addiction because you are mine!"
But...instead of wallowing in self-pity you go straight to the Father because you know you are IN CHRIST JESUS and there will be no condemnation from Him -- only a gladness that you have come! And so you express your faith in God.
A-"Father I AGREE with your word that my old nature has died with Christ and I do not need to keep going back to this sin.
B- "I BELIEVE you have rescued me from Satan and his evil forces and I do not belong to him! I am IN JESUS and therefore in your family."
C- "I CONFESS before you that I have died to this sin and it has no power over me."
D- "I will DO as Jesus said. I will go and sin no more by His power which is far greater than Satan's power.
33. Let's try out our faith in one more trial. We KNOW that when Jesus went to the cross he carried all of our sins, sicknesses, and pains within himself so that we would not have to bear them. Peter, in a restatement of Isaiah 53:5 tells us....
1 Peter 2:24
Peter was so confident that Jesus had healed us "by his wounds" at the cross that he was able to say to a crippled beggar, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" And that crippled beggar got up and walked! Then Peter explained to everyone watching how complete healing comes.
Now the test comes. You were diagnosed with something. You took your stand for healing and wholeness on what Jesus did at the cross for you. The symptoms disappeared and you praised God for your healing. Now, one month later, the symptoms are back.
But.....instead of just accepting the symptoms, you go straight to the Father and express your faith in Him....
A- "Father, I AGREE with your word that says when Jesus went to the cross he took all my sins, sicknesses, and pains."
B- "I BELIEVE because I am IN CHRIST that I am healed because of His wounds."
C- "I CONFESS that I am healed even though the symptoms are back."
D- "I will DO as your word suggests and hold firm to what Jesus has done for me to make me whole rather than believe these lying symptoms. Jesus Christ IS my healing."
Do you see the pattern in all three of these trials? We are able to act based on what WE KNOW about our loving Father and all He has done for us IN JESUS. It has nothing to do with how we feel. You can be certain you won't feel like you can go to God. You won't feel like you are the "righteousness of God IN Christ". You won't feel like sin doesn't have any power over you. You won't feel like you are healed.
That's why agreeing with God's Word is that vital first step. An old saint once said, "God says it, I believe it, and that settles it." This means you need to KNOW what God says. That's why Paul wrote Romans 10:17. The King James Version says, "So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." But more specifically, our faith grows when we hear the good news about Christ and what HE has done for us. Here is how the New Living Translation puts it, "So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the good news about Christ."
Now let's summarize what we are beginning to learn from this study.
1. ALL OF US ARE IN CHRIST because God has put us there. This includes Jews and Gentiles, men and woman, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian.
2. God was the architect of creation but Jesus was the universal carpenter who made us all in Himself. It's IN Him that all things hold together.
3. Before any of us were made, God reconciled all of us to Himself in eternity IN his Son. God knew that we would sin by rebelling against Him and He had a plan in place to restore us.
4. God has extended His grace to us because we belong to Him and he loves us dearly. He has made our restoration possible by giving us Christ.
5. Believing in Jesus means we are so persuaded about the person of Christ and what he has done that we align our life with Jesus.
6. We express our faith in Jesus only when we believe in Jesus. Faith then goes forth in action.
7. Our life with God is one of faith and therefore opposite to how the world lives. To live by faith we:
A. AGREE with what God says.
B. We BELIEVE it by taking action.
C. We CONFESS what we know is true even before we see it.
D. We DO what the Word of God suggests.
8. Our faith grows by reading the Word of God and most specifically the words about Jesus and what He has done for us.
In part 2 of our study we'll look at how Jesus came to get back for us what man lost through sin. Being "IN CHRIST" puts us in position for Christ to also be "IN US" through His Spirit.
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