• RevShirleyMurphy

Joined to Christ



Joe recently started going to a church and his excitement about this new experience was evident. One of his friends, who was often critical of ‘religious freaks’ was curious about this sudden interest, said to him over lunch one day, “Joe, I hear you’ve become a Christian. Tell me something about your new religion.” He really wanted to show how foolish Joe was in going all religious.


“Do you believe that Jesus was a real person?” he asked.

“Yes, I do and that he was God as well”, replied the convert.


“Well then, can you prove to me that he was God?” asked the friend.

“I don't know”, Joe replied.


“I’m told he died on a cross to forgive everyone’s mistakes. Joe seriously how is it possible for someone to do that?” asked the friend.

“I don't know that either. I’m only new and I’ve got a lot to learn,” Joe responded.


“Joe, how serious are you about all this church stuff. You certainly don’t know much about what you believe”, said the friend.


“I can’t argue with you there,” replied the new Christian, “I don’t know too much about the finer details of what I ought to believe about Jesus and I’m in the process of changing that – but I can tell you this.

A year ago, I was a drunk. I was in debt. My wife and children dreaded my return home each evening. My life was on a downward spiral, and I was about to lose everything that I valued – my wife, my family, my job. I needed to do something, but I didn’t know what. I was helpless.


I hit rock bottom one Friday night and was jailed for a weekend for being drunk and disorderly and apparently hit a cop who was doing his job. That meant my stay in jail turned into a long weekend. After I sobered up, I was so full of self-pity and remorse that I was ready to step in front of the next bus. Sometime during my stay in jail, a bloke, I suppose he was a kind of chaplain, dropped in for a chat. I laid it all on him. I sobbed like a baby as I told him how my life was down the toilet. My wife and kids were afraid of me. I was out of control. I wanted to change. I didn’t know how to do it.


He invited me to a Recovery Group for alcoholics and gave me a card with an address on one side and some words on the other. “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins” (Romans 3:23-24). I stared at those words late into the night. They were speaking to me. I didn’t know much about Jesus except from Sunday School, but these words said that there was still hope for me. God accepts me as foolish and weak-willed as I am, and he can set me free from the addiction that has gripped my life”.


Joe continued, “The road wasn’t easy but now I’ve given up booze, we’re out of debt, and my wife and I are in love once more. There is peace in our home and my kids aren’t afraid of me. All this Jesus has done for me. I may not have all the facts about Jesus sorted out in my head, but this much I know; Jesus’ love has given me a new start”.


As you can see, for Joe, Christianity is more than a head thing; it’s more than knowing lots of facts about Jesus’ life and getting his theology right; it’s something that has brought about a change in his life. It has renewed his direction, restored relationships, renewed his life in an ongoing way. It didn’t just happen on a certain day in a certain year, but this renewal is an everyday thing.


To use Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “being joined to Christ”, or more accurately being “in Christ” is not just some theoretical pie in the sky Christian mumbo jumbo that only pastors, and theologians talk about, it is something that is very real and is at the core of our Christian faith. How God loves us and embraces us even though we have done nothing to deserve such acceptance and mercy; how we can gladly and without fear own up to our sins and be certain of God’s forgiveness and welcoming embrace; how God understands us, helps, strengthens us and shows us nothing but love when our lives are nothing but train wrecks; all of this is centred on this one and all important point – to use Paul’s words, “Christ changed us from enemies into God’s friends” (2 Cor 5:18). Without the suffering and death of Jesus removing the barriers of sin and death between us and God, we would forever be enemies of God.


Think of the story of the prodigal son. While he remained separated from his father and his wrong-doing and disrespect and guilt stood between him and his father, there was no way there was ever going to be a change in his life. Even after he had made up his mind to go to his father with a sad and repentant heart, he still didn’t know whether his life would change. In fact, he might be worse off as his father could easily condemn him and banish him forever.


It was only when he experienced the arms of his father around him, the smile, the laughter, the warmth of forgiveness that he realised that his life would now be different. His old life of rebellion and remorse and living in a pig sty was over; a new life had begun. He was no longer an enemy; he was once again a child of his father.


This is what the apostle Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians when he says, “Anyone who is joined to Christ (or in Christ) is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). This is favourite theme of Paul as he explains to his readers that being a Christian, being “in Christ” changes our values, attitudes, principles, and the way we speak to others and treat them and the place that we give God in our lives.


Being “in Christ” means that we become like Christ in every aspect of our lives and that we are Christ-like to the people around us.

Being “in Christ” means that our lives are so interwoven with Christ,

that we shun temptation just as Jesus did, that we endure hardship confident of God's love as Jesus did.

Being “in Christ” means that our hearts and minds are so filled with Christ

that we are patient and kind, compassionate and understanding, generous and supportive just as Christ has always been to others,

that we readily reach out to others just as Christ did even though it might not the easiest thing to do.


In Galatians Paul says, “All of you were baptised into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ” (3:27 NIV). He is saying that when we are baptised, we are joined with Christ, we put off the old clothes of sin and put on the new clothes of a life in Christ. “In Christ” our lives are no longer connected to the old “sinful me”; that “me” which wants to make myself the centre of my own little world, that “me” which wants to remove God to the side-lines of life; the “me” that is selfish and inconsiderate toward others. God has begun a revolution in our lives. He has turned us around and cleared away the old and brought in the new. He gives us a new life. As Paul says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17).


In the cartoon strip Hagar the Horrible, a monk, Bible tucked under his arm, says to Hagar, “Remember, it is better to light a candle than to sit in the dark.” In the next frame, we see the monk disappearing over the horizon, and we see Hagar, looking out at us – saying – “But I enjoy the darkness”.


That’s how it is with us and our sinful nature. There are times when we prefer the darkness. Like Hagar, our human nature enjoys the dark side of life – we like our selfishness, our personal addictions, our private hang-ups and foibles and it’s easy to find excuses. Living a life “in Christ” is not easy.


Needless to say, being made new is a continuous event.

Daily we repent, admitting that we are too willing to resurrect our old ways

Daily we are renewed and reoriented.

Daily we are reminded we have been made friends with God through Christ and that we are “in Christ”; we belong to Christ and not even our sin can stop our Father in heaven loving us.

Daily we are forgiven.

He forgives us and restores us as his beloved children pledging once again his love and help as we journey through life’s ups and downs.


The question that needs to be asked is, “How has this fresh start, this newness, changed us?” In what ways are we different because we are “in Christ”? We have been filled with Christ and are called to live like Christ, how has this changed our attitudes and the way we treat those close to us and those who are strangers.


This text is not simply a fact or a creed-like statement; it is about hope, comfort, peace, and the assurance of God's never-ending love. It’s about the new you becoming a reality in everyday matters. Just as Paul’s readers, and even Paul himself, struggled with the power of sin and evil in their lives and how easy it was to give in to its influence, this is still our struggle today until the day we enter our heavenly home. In the meantime, always be mindful that anyone who is “in Christ” is a new being, the old has gone, the new has come. With Christ every day, even our dying day, is a fresh start.


Sources

Incomparable Christ - J. Oswald Sanders

The True Vine - Andrew Murray

How to Explain Your Faith - John Pritchard

Vince Gerhardy Blog

Where is God in a Messed up World - Roger Carswell

What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me? - David Platt

All Things are Ready - Donald John MacLean

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