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Union With Christ
UNION WITH CHRIST: How a richer understanding of our relationship with Jesus helps us navigate life in God’s world.
It’s true that for every person, what we believe shapes our lived experience. The things that we hold to be true are an important part of our identity. They may be religious, cultural or moral. And they are precious to us, because they reflect who we are and how we live our lives.
“Our personal values and beliefs have a powerful effect upon our lives….
These beliefs guide our life and our decision-making and a lot of these beliefs are unconscious… it is important to get to know what they are.”
Jane Faulkner | Australian Sustainable Wellness Academy
September 12, 2017
And this is true for the Christian person, too. Our core beliefs about God, about ourselves and about the world, shape us.
But why doesn’t this always seem to be completely true? Why is there often a disconnect between what we believe, and the way we live? There’s a tension there.
This is what the author of “Union With Christ”, Rankin Wilbourne calls “the gap.”
“What am I missing? This was the question I asked myself as I stood, deflated, in front of the list on the wall. It was Monday morning. My name was three slots lower than it had been the month before. Just yesterday I had heard the preacher say “The race is over. You are accepted. Your identity is not in what you do or what you have done but in what Jesus does and has done. You can rest.” That sounded like such good news.
But here at the corporate bank where I worked, the race was far from over, and this week I was falling behind.
Each month the company would post a ranked list of everyone’s performance – how much money we had earned the company that year to date. No matter what the preacher said my value was, here it was by another measure, in black and white, posted on the wall for all to see.”
He goes on to say,
“What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t the gospel doing its deep work in my heart? The gap loomed large between what the gospel said was true of me (I’m forgiven, accepted, and secure) and how I saw myself. There was a chasm between what I said I believed and what I was experiencing.
I felt discouraged by my lack of spiritual progress and exhausted by my efforts…I wondered if other people were reading the same Bible and sensed the same disconnect.”
Do you feel this gap?
Do you sometimes struggle to connect God to your daily life?
Do “Sunday morning” and “Wednesday afternoon” often seem like they’re a world apart?
Do you ever walk out of church and find yourself thinking, “ok, now back to the real world”?
Do you find yourself asking, “If I truly believe it, why doesn’t the gospel make more of a difference in my life?”
The gap is real for you if:
- You sometimes leave church feeling cynical about the Bible talk
- You struggle to see how what you believe relates to your everyday life
- You look at the world and wonder how what you see fits with what the Bible says
- You leave church feeling defeated and hopeless
- You struggle to be obedient to Jesus
- You don’t always feel like you’re secure in Jesus
- You doubt
- You feel like your “Christian/church life” and your “Monday-Saturday” life are in different worlds
- Feel like your new life with Christ feels a lot like your old life….
- You struggle to let your value be defined by God, rather than your job or your relationships
- You struggle to feel the peace and rest that Jesus promises, and instead mostly just feel anxious and restless in life
Do any of these sound familiar?
- “I know Jesus has defeated death, but actually I still see death and sickness all around me everyday.”
- “I’m convinced that faith in Jesus means I get to have an intimate relationship with my creator, but actually right now God feels really distant. Absent even.”
- “I’m convinced that Jesus has made me a new creation, but really, day to day, week to week I struggle to feel like anything but the same old sinful and broken person I was before.”
- “I believe Jesus when he says “I have overcome the world.” But when I look around at the world, it sure doesn’t seem that way.”
I’d hazard a guess that, if we’re honest with ourselves, the examples above are familiar to us.
Perhaps you haven’t even noticed the gap. Or if you have, it doesn’t bother you. Maybe you think that actually, what Jesus says shouldn’t have any authority in your life outside of Sundays. You’ll just keep doing things your way, thank you very much.
Perhaps your view is that the gospel is just a “free ticket to heaven” and that the grace of Jesus means there’s nothing left for you to do. Obedience and discipleship are optional.
Wherever you’re at, the gap is real in some form for all of us. Some of us may not have really noticed it. Some of us try to ignore it. But for many of us, in fact probably most of us, the gap, this disconnect, this tension between what we believe to be true and our everyday experience of life is a constant struggle.
The apostle Paul is wrestling with this very disconnect in his letter to the Romans, in chapter 7:
“18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
This constant struggle Paul wrestles with is real, isn’t it? Because of our faith, we know what we want to do, we know the way we want it to affect our lives, but actually there’s something else going on. We’re sinful, imperfect people in a sinful and imperfect world. And the struggle to translate our faith to our lives makes us feel terrible. It grates on us, and often we can be left feeling unsure of what to do about it.
But as Paul sums up in verse 25, and as Rankin Wilbourne suggests in his book, the solution to this disconnect, this gap – is Jesus.
Wilbourne suggests that rediscovering the truth of our Union with Christ, is the key to helping us deal with the disconnect between our faith in the good news of Jesus and the everyday battle to live it out.
As we explore our union with Christ, it’s going give us richer understanding of our relationship with Jesus, and clarify more about what it is that we believe.
Because perhaps you’re not always exactly sure of what it is that you believe. Or you know generally what you hold to be true as a Christian, but the details are a little murky. But if our core beliefs are what guide our life and decision making as Christian people, then getting to know them better and the implications they have for our lives will be really helpful.
Understanding more about what it means to be UNITED WITH CHRIST, has massive implications for our IDENTITY, our DESTINY as God’s people, our PURPOSE in life, and what we can HOPE for as we navigate life.
And as we understand more about what God says to be true in these areas, we’ll begin to be able to better connect these truths with our lives. And to deal with the tension between what God says to be true, and our everyday experience.
Throughout this series, we’re going to dive into the doctrine of our “Union with Christ”, and see how keeping it front and centre can help us to navigate life in God’s world.
We’ll be reminded of the many gospel truths that are held together by the “framework” of our Union with Christ. That we are in Christ, safe and secure in the grace of God. That we can rest, hidden in Christ and everything he has done for us.
And not only are we in Christ, but Christ is in us. Working in us as we strive to live out our faith in him. Helping us connect the truth of the gospel with our everyday lives. Giving us help and hope in the midst of our daily struggle to connect our beliefs with our lives.
And we’re going to see that when we face this gap, this disconnect, this tension between faith and life – the answer is to PURSUE CHRIST.
Pursue Christ and the truth of what it means to be UNITED to him. To be in him and him in us. As this shapes our understanding of who we are in Jesus, our prayer is that it will start to help us navigate life with a renewed clarity and hope. To rest in God’s grace to us in Jesus, while he helps us live lives that reflect the hope that we have in him.