April 7: Union With Christ

April 7: Union With Christ

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Audio of Scripture reading and sermon only

April 7 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

Other sermons in this series
“Depths of Love”

Scripture: 1 John 1:1-2:2

On my way to work this past Wednesday morning I did something a bit foolish and stupid, all because I wasn’t fully consciously engaged in what I was doing. I was the second car at a red light, waiting to turn left onto Pinegrove Ave. At some point, my mind went on vacation and took a trip to who knows where? When the car in front of me pulled forward and began its left turn, I instinctively followed it into the intersection and began my own left turn. It was only when I saw the car coming directly at me from the opposite side that I returned to my senses and realized I wasn’t in a left-turn only lane. My signal to turn was not a green arrow. And so I quickly gunned it and got out of the way after which I berated myself for letting my mind wander like that.

Our walk of faith can sometimes be like that, yes? When it comes to our spiritual well-being, it’s easy to get to the place where we’re essentially on autopilot. We’re not paying much attention to how things are going spiritually. This most likely happens when we’re neither growing nor languishing but simply comfortably coasting along unconsciously.

This is probably a common experience for those who’ve been followers of Christ for quite some time. That’s because after a while, most of us reach the place where we’re comfortable with where were at spiritually. And if life is such that our trust in God isn’t being challenged beyond what we can handle on our own, it’s easy to become spiritually content.

Contrary to how this feels (good, satisfactory), it’s actually a precarious place to be. Jesus began his mystical communication to John (the content of which became the the book of Revelation) with specific messages directed at seven geographical congregations. His message to the Christians in Laodicea was a blunt warning against spiritual apathy. Here’s what he said: “I know your works. You’re neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you’re lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth. After all, you say, ‘I’m rich, and I’ve grown wealthy, and I don’t need a thing.’ You don’t realize that you’re miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17).

They were fine with where they were spiritually. We don’t’ really need anything. We’re happy with the way things are. We’re good! But all was not good. And that’s because God has a different take on spiritual satisfaction, or as Jesus put it, being spiritually lukewarm. He said that contrary to the satisfaction they consciously felt, in reality they were miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked.

My guess is that you don’t want this to be the situation in your life. Neither do I. But because it’s easy to unconsciously camp out in the relatively shallow spiritual waters—because that’s where it feels safe and comfortable—it’s incumbent upon us to intentionally switch off the spiritual autopilot. And in doing that, it’s quite possible that we’ll rediscover not only the deep joy that Jesus offers (a joy that goes beyond mere satisfaction), but maybe even the life-transforming power of the resurrection. Resurrection power is what I’d like us to consider on these two Sundays after Easter. Specifically, how we might apply to ourselves what the resurrection of Jesus accomplished. The book of 1 John will provide our focus for these two weeks.

Jesus accomplished a number of things in his resurrection that affect our lives in this world. Essentially, the resurrection of Christ permitted him to apply the accomplishments of the cross to the believer. For example, on the cross, Jesus bore the weight of the guilt  of human sin. The application of this work is that we now stand before God forgiven and righteous in his eyes. But there are also benefits of his resurrection that are applied to us as well. These accomplishments affect our daily walk with Christ as well as our experience of life in this world.

The most important accomplishment of Jesus’ resurrection is that it destroyed the power of death which held sway over all of humanity up until that point in time. But since then, death no longer reigns in the life of the Christ follower. In essence, the follower of Christ passes from death to life, and that in this earthly life. Here’s how Colossians 2:13 states this important truth: You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins” (New Living Translation).

This is Paul’s same point in Ephesians 2:5: Even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. God moved us from death to life… And what brought this about? Jesus’ resurrection: when he raised Christ from the dead.

But his resurrection accomplished something else for us, which is revealed in the next verse. For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus (v. 6) Two important points from this verse. Our resurrection to life happened (or happens) in conjunction with Christ’s resurrection. He raised us from the dead along with Christ. And taking it one step further, our resurrection means that we’ve already been given a seat, so to speak, alongside Jesus in his risen and glorified state. In a not-yet-but-already twist on reality, we’ve already been seated with Jesus in his heavenly glory. And how is this so? Because we are united with Christ Jesus. We are united with Jesus. Put another way: through the resurrection, we have union with Christ. The life we live today, in this world, is lived in union with our risen Lord Jesus Christ. His resurrection and your resurrection are bound together as one.

This point about us living in union with Christ brings us to the 1 John reading and the application of resurrection power to our lives. 1 John chapter 1 references our union with God, what the author calls “fellowship with” God. And it also speaks quite a bit to the issue of sin. Let me try to restate this part of the chapter.

God is by nature light and truth. If a person says with their mouth that they live in union with God but the manner in which they outwardly live fails to reflect God’s light and love and truth, then they’re deceiving themselves; they’re not living in union with God. On the other hand, if their manner of living aligns with their verbal claim to be in union with God, then their fellowship with him is real and true, and, as a result, the blood of Christ which washes away the guilt of sin is applied to them. Now, anyone who boldly claims they no longer have any sin that needs forgiving is living outside of the truth. However, if they change their tune and recognize their propensity to sin and confess those sins to God, then God’s more than willing to forgive and cleanse them of those sins. Also, anyone who claims to have never sinned is definitely living outside of God’s truth. Having said all that, my purpose in writing to you is so that you don’t sin! But if you do sin, remember that, together, God and Jesus Christ are on our side. Jesus is the means of dealing with our sins.

In this passage, John’s line of thinking can be confusing to our modern minds. He almost seems to speak out of two sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he makes a big deal about the fact that we all sin and need to apply the cleansing blood of Christ in order to be forgiven. In fact, he says that if we claim to not sin, then we’re a big fat liar living outside of the truth. But then he seems to contradict that point when he says his purpose in writing them is so that they won’t sin. We all sin but I’m writing to you so that you won’t sin! So, what exactly is trying to tell them?

Here’s what I think. True fellowship, or union, with God will result in a changed life, both on the inside and on the outside. A true internal change wrought by faith in Jesus will be manifest outwardly in one’s actions and the way they respond to the challenges of life. The bad news is that every person is born with a sin nature; this sin nature makes us prone to sin; sin is our first inclination. Because it’s a permanent fixture of our earthly bodies/existence, we will always commit acts of sin. The good news is that through the death of Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and we no longer personally bear the heavy burden of the guilt of our sins. In this sense, we no longer have the identity, “sinner,” but rather, “saint.” And through the resurrection, we have union with Christ. Because he lives in us (and because we mysteriously are seated with him in the heavenly realm), our sin nature no longer has full control over us. The Holy Spirit is our power to resist sin and temptation whenever they come upon us. Praise God that there are times when, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we’re victorious and turn our backs on sin…when we say no to temptation But there will always be times when we fail to live into that victory, when we choose the sin instead. However, when we do that, forgiveness is freely granted when we confess it. And by God’s grace, over time our victories will increase. Our lives will increasingly reflect the presence of Christ. Out outward actions will more fully align with our profession of faith.

In Philippians 3:10, Paul writes, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” In the verses that follow, he acknowledges that experiencing this resurrection power is a lifelong endeavor.  In this life, we’ll never “arrive” spiritually, but because of our union with God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are constantly pressing in the right direction. And we know that a day will come when each of us will reach the end of our race and we’ll receive our heavenly prize, and we’ll take our permanent seat with Christ in the heavenly realm.

The resurrection of Jesus results in our living in union with him starting today. Being in union with Christ means that his Holy Spirit lives within us, and he becomes our power to choose the way of right living.

Friends, let me encourage you to not drift through life with little regard to your spiritual well-being. Instead, do everything you can to grow and mature in your union with Christ. As long as we’re on this side of heaven, let’s remain alert and alive to the fact that through faith in Christ Jesus, victory in life is ours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray….


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