Monday, December 24, 2012

Jesus is Alive - 31 Days with Jesus - Day 30

My Jewish, Jesus-following wife Linda, in Israel


I celebrated my first Easter in the spring of 1971. I was 22 years old. I don't remember the details; I do remember it being different. Because I believed. I believed Jesus was who he said he was. I believed Jesus died on a cross, for us, and "us" now included me. And I believed Jesus was raised from the dead. He was..., no, he is..., alive! Christ lives!

Or course. How logically odd it would be were he not alive, now.

When Linda and I were in Israel we saw the Damascus Road the apostle Paul walked on. We stood on a mountain in the Golan Heights looking north into Syria, and saw the road heading towards Damascus. It was on that road, or one very much like it, that Saul had his life-changing encounter with Christ, post mortem, post resurrection.

After that encounter, and via Spirit-given revelation, Paul began to speak of a great mystery. This mystery, Paul wrote, has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. For Paul, the Jesus-encounter continued. The living Christ, by his Spirit, has come to make his home in our hearts. Sam Storms writes:

"The mystery is that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, is now in you, that is, [all] who believe in him. He lives and abides in you, not merely with you or beside you or above and below you, but in you!" (Storms, The Hope of Glory, 128)

Yesterday morning at Redeemer, at the beginning of my message on Ephesians 1:1-10, I told my people: "I will give a gold star to whoever can correctly answer this question: What is the main theme of the letters of Paul?" The correct answer is: What it means to be "in Christ," and the living reality this is for every follower of Jesus. New Testament scholar Klyne Snodgrass writes:

""In Christ"and related expressions are among the most important components of Paul's theology, especially in Ephesians." (Snodgrass, Ephesians )

Referring to Ephesians 1 Ben Witherington writes: "The key to understanding what Paul means by "chose us" and "predestined us" is the phrase "in Christ." (Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles)

Paul uses the term "in Christ and variations of it 200 times, more or less, in his letters. He uses this term 37 times in Ephesians, and 8 times in the first 10 verses. Christ is not only alive, he indwells us by his Spirit.

Go back once more to when I was 22 and a new Jesus-follower. There was a Christian coffee house in Rockford, Illinois, that Linda and I regularly went to. There were a lot of young, radical Jesus-followers there. And one old man. His name was Peter Potter. Peter had just lost his wife of many years. I will always remember sitting around him, with other young radicals, listening to Peter talk about his loss, his life, and his hope. His favorite verse was Colossians 1:27. He repeated it over and over and over as he spoke. This little verse was carving out a new neural pathway in my physical brain. This pathway is still there, today. It runs, in me, deep and wide and long. Its waters course through my being as surely as I breathe. Christ, in me, the hope of glory.

He lives. In Me. In the hearts and minds of all who have chosen Jesus, and thus are now "in him."