“But so far as justification is concerned, Christ and I must be so closely attached that He lives in me and I in Him. What a marvelous way of speaking! Because He lives in me, whatever grace, righteousness, life, peace, and salvation there is in me is all Christ’s; nevertheless it is mine as well, by the cementing and attachment that are through faith, by which we become as one body in the Spirit.” – Martin Luther
“He (Jesus Christ Himself) is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – Paul the apostle, writing to believers in Corinth.
I have written previously about the fact of our union with Christ Jesus, our status of being placed “in Him” by our God, and that now we are literally one with him. Not just one in purpose, not simply fidelity with His mission. The Bible uses stronger terminology; joined to or with him, united with Him. Our union with our God is expressed in the very presence of God the Holy Spirit within us.
Of all the doctrines on which we can ponder, few are as important to our everyday living as this one. Our union with Christ is the most foundational truth of the faith. It is the source of all the necessary habits and practices that extend from a sincere faith in our God. It is the goal of our commitment to Him, context for all daily living.
Yet for many, the fact of our union with our God through Christ and the Holy Spirit is rarely if ever discussed. Instead of focusing on this most fundamental truth, the central themes of what I call the “Christian religion” have been reduced to lesser concepts:
- Commit to being “Christian” – accept Christ as your Savior
- Work to manage sin more effectively this year than last
- Wait for your time to go to heaven where you will receive your reward for having done the first two.
While there are vestiges of truth in this view, it bypasses the main tenets of the faith. This view also distorts the purpose of our salvation, the path to holiness and righteousness before our God. It places all of our hopes on heaven when we die, and therefore misses the Biblical focus on how we live in union with our God now, walking in communion with His Holy Spirit every day.
To understand our God’s plan, we need to briefly review the problem humans face due to their sinful nature. When sin entered the human race, a radical, massive shift happened within each of us. We all went from being God-centered and God-focused to being self-centered and self-focused. This is the most foundational form of sin and the root of our rebellion. It is the ultimate idolatry.
We exchanged walking in the light – God’s direct connection and direction in our daily lives – to walking in the darkness of making our own choices based on our own priorities. Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to our own way.” Here is the root of all sin – going our own way and doing what we want. Isaiah goes on the prophesy the only thing that could save us from the spiritual fatality of wanting our way in life: “And the Lord laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of all of us.”
Because going our own way is the root of our rebellion, there is no action we can take on our own to rectify the situation. Action on our own is the problem; it cannot be the solution. Religiosity – trying to manage our sin so we act better over time – is of no use in making us holy or righteous. It cannot help us because it is based on our own efforts.
Isaiah the prophet also spoke to how useless our attempts at righteousness truly are: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” The Hebrew term here for filthy cloth is literally “dirty diapers.” How many of us would feel confident trying to spruce up our appearance by wiping ourselves down with a used, filthy diaper?
Point: We are hopelessly bent and marred by sin. Any solution sourced in whole or in part from us is a continuance of the problem. It is going to be an effort at reforming our behavior. Such efforts begin with our outward behaviors, with the hopes that behavior change will make us clean. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this line of thinking when he told them that they were like unwashed cups – clean on the outside, but filthy on the inside. They were like white-washed tombs, bright on the outside but filled with death and decay.
We need a solution that is outside of ourselves, one that invades us to the core and reforms us from the inside out. The solution needs to change the self in us into something righteous in God’s eyes, something objectively holy. We do not need our behavior reformed. We need our very being transformed.
It is to this transformation of us from the inside out that Paul was writing to the Corinthian believers. “God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”