Over the past few talks I’ve suggested that...
The goal of all of this, then, is the subject of this talk, expressing the presence of Christ in the world.
Let me show you what I mean. And let me show you from the early Church…
Acts 11:26 tells us something that’s become commonplace to us but would have been shocking in the first century: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (NIV, emphasis added).
This verse is somewhat odd. You see, the first Christians were not named after their leader (i.e., they weren’t called Jesus-ans or Jesus-followers). Jesus is the name of our Savior. His name means “Salvation.”
Christ is His title. It’s the Greek equivalent of Messiah, which means “anointed one.” He is the one set aside by God for the purposes of redemption. And He does so as He walks in great power.
Here's what happened: people in that day saw the followers of Jesus carrying the same power that He carried. They taught with power, they gave graciously, they performed miracles. As such, onlookers labeled them for the same anointing their Master had! “Outsiders” named them not after His name but after His anointing.
Just a few chapters later, we see Paul ministering in Lystra. He heals a man who’s been lame from birth. The townspeople make an astounding declaration: “The gods have come down to us in human form” (Acts 14:11).
I used to think this verse showed the waywardness of the people. However, the idea that Zeus and Mercury had come to them was the only plausible explanation these people had— not because they were so “off base” but because they had never seen humans walk in the power and authority that Paul and Barnabas carried (Acts 14:12). To them, there was no other explanation— humans don’t carry this degree of spiritual power; therefore, they must be gods!
By the way, before we get too far into this, let me clarify that your "starting point” here actually matters. That is, we've got to get certain about what we discussed in the previous two chapters, about being so much included in the life of Christ— and now captured by His resurrection power— that we've been made completely new!
Here’s what I mean: a lot of Bible teachers and pastors promote the theory of “original sin.” (I briefly mentioned this concept a few pages ago.)
What does “original sin” mean?
Well, a few things...
Ever heard anything like that before?
Yeah, it’s one of the predominant teachings floating through the church today.
It’s obvious that people who ascribe to this worldview begin their theology with Genesis 3— after the Fall. If you begin there, your theology will feature things like a focus on…
That last line on that list is important, the image of Jesus. You see, at the starting line of the human race there’s a sentence that says this: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27 ESV, emphasis mine). We were originally designed in the Imago Dei, that is, the image of God.
So, the big question here...
Should we begin building our theology from Genesis 1, or should we start building with Genesis 3?
If all Scripture is inspired, it makes no sense to skip the first two chapters, does it (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?
Let me tell you where I stand on this…
My theological construct begins with the image of God— not the Fall. Now, I know the counter-argument to beginning in Genesis 1. “Just a few chapters later,” the argument goes, “people mess it up. They sin, and that’s where we are now!”
Jesus died and rose from the grave 2,000 years ago. Now He sits at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20). We’re not living in the era of the Fall; we live under the authority of Jesus!
(And, remember, we’ve been included in every aspect of His redemptive work- everything from His life of obedience to His death, to His burial, to His resurrection, and even His ascension.)
Even if you want to argue that the Fall wiped out the entire Imago Dei in humanity, you’ve still got to contend with Paul’s assertion that Jesus is the “Last Adam” and the “Second Man.”
Remember those titles?
Furthermore, the Bible tells us that Jesus was slain from before the foundation of the world (see Revelation 13:8, 1 Peter 1:20). The Cross wasn’t a last ditch effort to fix something that got jinxed. The Cross was the plan before Adam ever arrived.
Think about it. Hard.
What issue is so big that the Cross didn’t permanently resolve?
Which sin is unforgivable?
What— if anything— can people do to render themselves unredeemable and unusable by God?
Galatians 4:19 speaks of Christ being formed in us. Paul likens this reality to childbirth, to something small happening inside us and then coming forth in a powerfully visible way.
He writes, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you...” (NKJV). He speaks of “giving birth” to Christ in them. This fits with the images we have seen of something new coming to life.
Paul’s goal was for the people he led to become "fully developed" in Christ. In other verses that he expressed his desire to present people “perfect” or “whole” or “complete” or “mature” in Christ. He didn’t want them to remain infants— he desired for their “adulthood” in Him.
Or, to say it another way, he didn’t want them to live as Simon, he wanted them to live like a Peter. He didn’t want “sand” Christians; he wanted rocks.
He wanted people to encounter them and conclude that what was happening was humanly impossible, that it was the very presence of God within. Even if they were theologically "off the mark " in Lystra when they assumed Paul and Barnabas were Mercury and Zeus, Paul desperately yearned for people to encounter God in that powerful of away. That requires a group of believers living the full expression of what it means to be “included” in Christ.
In Colossians 1:28 he says (emphasis added),
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
The word “perfect” is the Greek word telios. It doesn't mean “without flaw.” Rather, it means “reaching full potential.”
Paul longed for his disciples to live the complete revelation of Christ in them, in other words. Living the “total inclusion” in all of Christ is our potential— our telios.
Let’s look back at one of our graphics. This is the image we built in talk 3, and it has everything to do with the subject of this one.
I love how Galatians 2:20 communicates the first step of this process (KJV):
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
There are two points I want to emphasize here.
First, this verse speaks of Christ actually living the life that we live. Awakening to the reality that the Lord wants to express Himself through us is essential. When we arise (step 4) we emerge with the resurrected life. The same power that raised Christ from the dead now dwells in us (Romans 8:11).
Second, the depth of Christ’s work in us is far deeper and more penetrating than most of us realize. I quoted the King James Version of the Bible here, as it gets the nuance of the “faith issue” in this verse more accurate. Read the verse above again. Notice that it’s not faith in the Son of God that causes us to live; it’s the faith of the Son of God. Christ occupies us so much that even the faith is His!
In his book The Happy Gospel, Benjamin Dunn quotes The Distilled Bible (another translation) for Galatians 2:20:
I consider myself as having died and now I am enjoying a second existence which is simply Jesus using my body.
This translation helps us explore more of what this “resurrected life" should be. Think about it with me…
What does it look like for Christ to express Himself through you?
Well, let me provide you with four generalities. As we move to the next part of the book and discuss supernatural gifts, you'll see that He works through you in those areas uniquely.
Here are four things which are true of all of us:
First, we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16 asks a specific question— and then provides the answer. “Who can know the Lord's thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him? But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ” (NLT). In other words, when you are seeking the Lord, you can think His thoughts!
Second, we have been given His Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:12 reminds us that “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (NIV). You do not need to worry about your prayers “hitting the ceiling,” as if they must transmit from where you are to where God is. He remains near you.
1 Corinthians 6:17 tells us that “whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in Spirit” (NIV). The connection here is the same connection we read of the Godhead— that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). It’s the same expression used of the connection to describe marriage (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:6). It's an unbreakable union.
Third, we have His desires, coupled with His ability to do the will of the Father. In Philippians 2:13 we read that God is working in us “to both will and do His good work” (emphasis added).
Notice both aspects of His transformative power in us:
Fourth, we will do greater things than He did. In John 14:12 Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (NKJV).
Not only will we do the same things Jesus did (which includes His words/teachings, His miracles/deeds, and how He responded to and loved people/embodied grace), we will even do greater things! Notice, too, that Jesus is not saying that “the Church” will collectively do greater things. He says that the one person who believes in Him will do greater things!
Now, put the pieces together of how we express the presence of Christ in the world…
What does it really mean that “to live” is Christ?
It means that to live is literally to manifest His presence to those around us. We carry Him wherever we go. This means our regular routines, our daily lives... well, those schedules and meetings and interactions are filled with the sacred.
We live from the resources God supplies— not the strength that we can muster. Practically, that means things like…
When we speak, or serve... it should be God doing it through us. That is, we become His vehicle of supernatural expression (1 Peter 4:11 NKJV, emphasis added):
If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
When we share the message of grace, God Himself pleads through us, calling others to Him (2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NKJV, emphasis mine):
…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
This is why Paul concluded that “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NKJV).
2 Corinthians 4:10 says that we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (emphasis added NKJV).
That’s right, always. There's never a moment when we cease carrying His life in us.
1 Corinthians 15:10 says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (NKJV).
Notice that Paul worked hard. Yet it was not Paul working. Christ worked through Him.
Another verse that describes this dynamic of Christ living in us— the one that’s my favorite— is John 1:16. We read, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (NKJV).
The English translations are all a bit odd. The NKJV tells us that we have exchanged one kind of grace for another. That’s what they all say: "We've received grace for grace.”
I always skipped over it, not thinking too much about it, not digging to deep into it. On the surface, these few words sound clever but they don’t seem substantive.
If you go back to the original Greek language, though, you discover there are two different words used for grace in this passage. Most English translations are unsure what to do with them (it would be wordy and cumbersome to do anything with them anyway), because they're so similar. The two words are charin and charitos (the root word for each is grace / charis).
Here's what John writes:
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace (charin) for grace (charitos).
Here’s a snapshot of a Greek interlinear Bible, one that provides the Greek words and the literal English translations. Notice that the Greek word anti has been translated as "for," meaning that one thing has come in place of another. Instead is the best English replacement here.
Here's what the words mean. Notice the difference.
The Bible tells us that you have received charin instead of charitos. In other words, You had favor with God (this is a great message, this is the very message of grace). But, the Bible goes farther. Now, you have the divine, animating, life-giving presence of God living in you!
The reality is now this: when people encounter you they actually encounter everything of the Kingdom.
Think back to that graphic we began labeling in talk 1, the one where we drew an arrow from Jesus to the Father, highlighting that He reveals the Father— that He's the mirror image. Along the way, we also learned that Jesus was sent to do all of this. That is, His ministry was intentional, deliberate.
In talk 2 we added an arrow from Jesus to us, observing that He also shows us who we are. That is, Jesus not only introduces us to the One True God, He also introduces us to the truest, most pure version of ourselves.
Now, notice two more additions to our picture.
First, Jesus sends us into the world. He sends us in the same way that He was sent: “As the Father sent me, I send you” (John 20:21).
This doesn’t just mean that “The Father sent Him, and He is sending us.” Rather, it means “He is sending us in the same manner that the Father sent Him.”
Remember, the fullness of the deity dwelled in Jesus (Colossians 1:19). And, Jesus is in us— with His fullness (Colossians 1:27).
This is not an isolated theme in Scripture, there are verses throughout the New Testament that say this same thing:
One pastor explains it this way:
The reality is that Jesus died not only for the forgiveness of our sins; He also died to establish a brand new covenant in which we could live. In this covenant there is not only the forgiveness of sin, but also a new life.
That life is the very life of Jesus Himself living in you. It’s easy to see, then, that we become an encounter, a connector to the Presence and Power of Christ and all of our Father’s Kingdom.
How could we not with everything that He has resourced to us?
Second, because of this, we now reveal Jesus to the world. That is, we show them what He is like.
Let me show you something interesting about this. We’re told to walk in the light, as He is Light (see 1 John 1:7).
That makes complete sense, doesn’t it?
We also read this multiple times in the New Testament: Jesus is Light (see also John 1:7).
He even said it of Himself: "I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12).
When we walk in the light, we're not just walking in rote obedience to legalistic demands, we're walking in relationship with a Person, the very one who embodies Truth in the flesh (John 14:6).
Notice this, though. We not only read that Jesus is Light, we also read you are light (see Ephesians 5:8). Paul wrote it, but years earlier Jesus actually said it Himself: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, emphasis added).
Here’s what I'm driving at: To encounter you is to encounter Him. Because you've been radically included in Christ (chapter 3), the old nature is gone and you have a new nature— His nature.
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