Sunday, August 25, 2013

What does it mean when they say Christ in you?

I was saved on May 5, 1972, and my view of the world was to change dramatically after that. I remember looking at our world before I was saved. Looking at the same world just a few weeks afterwards brought dramatic changes. What happened to me to change my world outlook so dramatically? Moreover, what happens when someone becomes a Christian? All of this has much to do with the phrase “Christ in you,” and I cannot do an adequate job of answering the question without including the utter and complete transformation that takes place when someone becomes a believer.

The incredible joy that entered my heart when I received the good news is almost impossible to describe. Although I was merely 19 at the time, I had quite hardened my view against Christianity. I had many friends who had what I called the church habit, and being naturally curious, I had questioned them about the why of their church habit. I was unable to get any coherent answers, but sometimes heard that they were “being careful” and wanted to insure that they were doing the right thing. Hardly a sterling testimony that warranted my interest, and it actually fed my skepticism that someone could actually know God.

The idea of a God who gets intensely personal with each individual was an unknown idea to me. I was much more caught up in the cosmic idea of God, and wondering how he fit into a world which seemed to have little need of him. After all, had not science told us how life begins? I wasn’t convinced about the theories, but I really had no other offered alternative.
Meeting my first convinced Christians happened, and for the first time, I heard articulate reasons about a God who not only created our world, but was very concerned with the desperate straits of humankind. These two Christians claimed to know and experience a personal relationship with God himself, something that none of the other Christians I had asked, confessed to. Eventually, because of those conversations, and my reading of the Bible for myself, I came to believe God.

It is at the point of believing God that the believer is given the Holy Spirit. As I became aware that God was concerned enough about me that he placed his own Holy Spirit inside of me, it was a feeling that was at once the best experience I had ever had, and the strangest experience I ever had. The best experience because I actually had constant access to God himself, who was able to show me in so many ways that he cared for me, had planned for me personally, and had gifted me to do work in his body—the church. The strangest experience because I was very used to lots of thinking on my own, reasoning things out, and figuring out what was key to a particular situation. Now there was Someone Else in my consciousness, and as I became more aware of his presence, I found him making me uneasy with my many of my thoughts. He knows all that I am thinking and doing at particular times, and I knew that there were thoughts in my mind that I was not willing to share. Those thoughts he knew, if the Bible is to be believed, even before I thought them. It was an invasive experience, and I had to learn to deal with the strange, as well as accept the blessing.

Along with that, I found the world that I had spent 19 years getting to know, not at all real. Reality lays behind that which we see and think and reason and feel. One of the main reasons I came to believe God was simply that I found he was there, more real than reality itself. All of a sudden, many of the assumptions of science that I had made, were on the line, as I learned that the God who had revealed himself to me in the Bible, gave quite a different story than the one that I had learned. Much of the reality that I saw and accepted as true around me, I had now found to be false, and Truth was taking me in an unexpected direction. For the last forty plus years, I have found the god-in-me idea to be radically life changing.

It is not me alone who testifies to such a wondrous change; the church is full of people by the millions who testify to the complete turnabout from self to God. Millions of times, in all sorts of individuals, we find the testimony of people who were altered almost beyond recognition when they encountered God. Beginning with Saul of Tarsus, and on to Augustine, John Newton, Whittaker Chambers, and Charles Colson, we find example after example of people who were completely transformed by their encounter with God. They had all discovered the secret of Christ in you.

Which brings me to answer the question. What is the secret of Christ in you? According to the Bible, in John 14, Jesus promises, ” And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever”(v. 16). Notice the forever! The gift is given, I believe, for all of eternity. It is part of what is going to make heaven on earth work. I used to think a lot about the crowds that will be with Jesus, one day, first in heaven, and then with him as he rules on earth. I thought a lot about being small and insignificant, and that I probably would be lucky in such a situation to even see Jesus, and that perhaps through a set of binoculars. But then I thought about God, who is omniscient, and the Holy Spirit who will be inside of every one of us. God in us. The secret of what will make it heavenly for everyone. God himself will personally interact with every single one of us, even at the same time, even personally and differently according to our needs. Could anything be better than that?

The next verse (17) makes it clear that this is indeed going to be the case, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” And in the same chapter of John (v. 26), it says, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” God is in us now, teaching us the very mysteries of God! But the best part? The best part is that he will be in us forever, always giving us guidance, and the more so when we at last meet Christ face to face.

Another Comforter? Just like Christ? Keeping us centered in God for the rest of eternity. I can imagine nothing greater could ever happen to us. John Newton wrote the first three verses of perhaps the most favorite hymn of the world, Amazing Grace. Someone anonymously penned a fourth verse years later, perhaps an African American, for it became part of their oral tradition. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun. All those years, stretching throughout eternity, to have God in us, and speaking to us, and teaching us. What could possibly be better than that? Christ in you!

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