“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete,” Col.2:9,10
Those three little words sum up the whole purpose of Christ’s coming; so that …in Him you!
Ephesians 4 declares that the effects of the five ‘ascension’ ministries in the Church is to so root and ground Christians in the truth of their identity in Christ that they can no longer be “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” but instead “grow up into Christ” (Eph.4:14,15). In other words, that they will be mature enough not to be manipulated by anyone who tries to intimidate them or guilt trip them through fear. To see how real this danger was, we only have to read Paul’s letter to the Galatians; an eternal warning on how legalism can creep into a Christian community and leave them powerless and merely religious.
The gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are given to prevent this from happening, by ensuring that believers are equipped (Greek ‘katartismos’) and edified (Greek ‘oikodome’) (Eph.4:12). This is speaking primarily about the necessity of good teaching and for believers to be raised in a loving environment where they can witness and experience the power of the gospel to transform the thinking and so the lives of even the most hardened individuals. Such transformation can only follow a renewal of our thinking; a total change in how we see ourselves, the world and God. This allows us to live lives of confidence and generosity, not ignorance and selfishness (Rom 12:2). The foundation for such a life is the revelation of the believer’s union with Christ, the revelation that through Christ, we are not cut off from God and left to save ourselves, but are (entirely by His grace), as connected to God as the body is to the head (1Cor.3:11, Col.3:3).
From bitter experience, Paul had come to be convinced that without being rooted and established in this revelation, churches remained vulnerable to ideas based on worldly religious thinking. He knew that if a community of believers remain with their eyes fixed on Christ as their life, their life blossoms with the fruit of the Spirit (John 15:4,5). To be Christ conscious is to be union conscious, ever growing up “into the head” (Eph 4:15). It is to be persuaded by the Holy Spirit that we aren’t merely each living “separate” lives for God, but rather there is only one life that we are sharing in and that is the life of Christ (Eph.4:4-6).
But what happens when instead of being taught this continually and growing in the revelation of our union with Christ, churches are fed a diet of teaching that infers that separation from God (sin), is something that we have to work hard at preventing? What happens when more emphasis in teaching and practice is placed on sin (separation), than on Christ (union)? Think of a happily married couple who have eyes for no-one else but each other and are enjoying the peace, security and confidence of their lives together. Now imagine the husband comes home one day with an “idea”. He says that the last thing they would both want to happen is for one of them to start having eyes for someone else. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, each of them should now agree to start preparing a daily list to give to the other of any “straying” thoughts they might have had towards another person. In this way, by bringing their “sin” ever before them, this will keep their marriage stronger! Well, what do you think of that idea? In your opinion, would you think after six months of that focus, their marriage would know the same peace, security and confidence?
Separation consciousness cannot strengthen a marriage in the same way that love (union) consciousness can. It is a poor substitute. At some point the constant focus on finding fault will cause one or other of the partners to become defensive.
Separation (sin) consciousness inevitably leads to self-condemnation, which leads to an attempt to cover up. This attempt to “cover up” manifests in churches as self-righteousness. Keep pointing me to myself and soon all I can see is how well or how poorly I measure up to others. Keep going and the inevitable result is division. Now have a look at the body of Christ on the earth today!
The apostle Paul is very clear on the reason why believers do not grow up into union with Christ. “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” (Eph.4:17). Here he is not just telling, he is “insisting”, that believers, (those who are one with God in Christ, as connected to God as their body is to their head), stop thinking the way unbelievers think. They must stop thinking and so living as if they are separated from God because to think like that is futile. The Greek word translated “futile” is ‘mataiotes’ which actually means “devoid of truth” or “perverse”!
There is nothing more futile in this world that to see New Covenant believers (at one with God), act and pray like Old Covenant believers (separated from God). It is such a problem across the body of Christ, it has so dimed the light of the Church, that at River City Church I am afraid we insist on it in the Lord too, that believers grow up to live in the reality of their union with Christ, that they live and talk like sons of God.
- We insist on treating and speaking to Christians as if they are as connected to God as their body is to their head. (Col.3:3)
- We insist on speaking to you as if you are the very temple of the Holy Spirit. (1Cor.6:19)
- We insist on speaking to you as if you have already been blessed in the heavenly realms with every blessing in Christ. (Eph.1:3)
- We insist on no longer regarding you after the flesh but after the Spirit. (2Cor.5:16)
- We insist on preaching the justification and the sanctification of the believer by the finished work of Christ, not by our unfinished efforts at church. (1Cor.1:30. Heb.10:10)
- So we insist that in Christ you have already been made righteous by grace, and in Christ you have already been forgiven by grace, and in Christ you have already been healed by grace. (Rom.5:17, Col.1:14, 2:13, 1Peter2:24)
And we insist on speaking these truths to each other continually for this one reason, that although God has already freely gifted these things to us in Christ, by grace, it is by faith that we receive and walk in the reality of the ‘in Christ’ life and that very faith, that ability to receive what God has freely given, comes by hearing. (Rom.10:17)
Hearing what? By hearing the gospel; the grace of God in truth (Col.1:6). Faith doesn’t come by hearing what you need to do, or do better for God. Faith comes by hearing what God has done for you. This is why we teach Christians that they don’t need to give more, pray more or do more to receive from God. They only need to listen more to the enormity of what has already been freely given to man in Christ and that listening heals our hearts; our ability to believe and receive.
This Christmas, millions will remember that the baby in the manger was “the fullness of the Deity dwelling in bodily form’. But what excites heaven is when millions start to see that “in Christ” all the fullness of the Deity still dwells and guess who is in Christ now? Have a look in the mirror Church! “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete,” (Col.2:9,10) Those three little words sum up the whole purpose of Christ’s coming; so that …in Him you!
Church, have a completely amazing Christmas, for ‘in Christ’ you are the amazing completion of Christmas!