Thursday, July 28, 2022

"In" and "With" as Keys to Living the Jesus-Life

(Monroe County Community College)


A key to living the Jesus Life is found in two little words - "in," and "with."

Paul, in his letters to the various Jesus-communities, uses the phrases "in Christ" and "with Christ," and their variations, over 200 times (e.g. "in him," Christ "in us," and so on).

"In" is a container metaphor. When I am "in" the room, I share in the room's environment. When "out" of the room, I do not experience what is happening in the room.

Every Jesus-follower is "in Christ." This means union with Christ. I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Just as the resources of a vine flow into its branches, so do Trinitarian resources flow into every branch who abides in Jesus. 

Consider "with Christ." 

  • Jesus-followers have died with Christ, 
  • have risen with Christ, 
  • and will appear in glory with Christ on his return. 
  • When Christ died sin was defeated; 
  • Therefore I, in Christ, am dead to the rule and reign of sin. 
  • Sin has, for Christ and therefore for me, lost its power. 
  • When Christ was raised death was defeated; 
  • therefore, because he lives, I also live and am alive in Christ. 
  • Where he moves I move; 
  • where he goes I go. 
  • I am a new creation, living out of a new ontological status. 
Sadly, the default, flesh-system of "religion," is to ignore this core Gospel reality, and instead preach the Moral Code and the utilization of human flesh-power to keep it (what Richard Foster has called "will worship"). Craig Keener says the best imitations of Christ are just “flesh.”" (Keener, here)

"In," and "with," tell us that living the Jesus life is not about trying harder. N.T. Wright writes:

One aspect of Christian maturity, and certainly one of the road signs on the road to Christian holiness, is that the mind must grasp the truth: ‘you died, and your life has been hidden with the king, in God!” Once the mind has grasped it, the heart and will start to come on board. And once that happens the way lies open to joyful Christian holiness. Don’t settle for short cuts.” (NTW, C for E, 176; emphasis mine)
It's not imitating Christ, but union with Christ that makes the difference. It's about Christ, living in me and doing his transforming work in me, and I in him, rather than striving to copy him by using will power. (Think of the guilt and shame this produces in the church.)
Wright says: 

"The possibility is staggering: that I, a creature, might have my life linked—actually, organically, eternally linked—to the Son of God himself. Like a freight car coupled with an engine, where Jesus goes, I go. What happens to him, happens to me. I follow him and share his life, his character, his suffering, his future, his inheritance, even his reign with the Father.
While this reality, known as the doctrine of "union with Christ," has received a lot of attention throughout Christian history, it is often ignored in the modern church. But it is incredibly good news for those of us who wrestle with the uncertainty and disappointment of life on earth. Because we are "in Christ," because his life is ours, our fundamental life story has already been written."

Orient your heart and mind to things above, to Christ. Set your hearts and minds on who you are, by faith and through grace, in Christ.



Christ in you, the hope of glory. The actuality is staggering.

For more, check out former Fuller Theological Seminary professor Lewis Smedes, Union with Christ: A Biblical View of the New Life in Christ.