In Christ by Maxie Dunnam
Three-year-old Ryan and his five-year-old sister, Lisa, were playing on the floor following a family dinner while the adults tried to have a conversation. Lisa opened her new toy nurse’s kit and convinced Ryan to be her patient. She took the little stethoscope and placed it on her brother’s heart, listened intently – as good nurses do. Suddenly she announced, “I hear somebody walking around in there.”
The adults smiled at this, but Ryan, matter-of-factly answered, “Why, that must be Jesus.”
That’s the amazing promise, and one of the central claims of the Christian Gospel – that Christ may live in us. Indeed that was Paul’s definition of a Christian – a person in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17).
When we think of Paul’s contribution to Christian thought we usually think, justification by grace through faith. The fact is “In Christ” is the central category of Paul’s thinking. This phrase, “in Christ,” or “in Christ Jesus”, is used by Paul in his letters 169 times.
What does Paul mean by this vital image? Hundreds of books have been written on the theme. Boldly, I’m going to write a couple of articles that will at least introduce the dynamic meaning of our being IN CHRIST.
To be in Christ is to become a new creation. Phillips’ translation of Paul’s definition of a Christian could not express the truth more vividly. “If a man is in Christ, he becomes a new person altogether – the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.”
So it is – to be a believer is the identifying fact of one’s being a Christian. But I insist that being in Christ is more than just another way of talking about the Christian experience; it is the definitive word. To be in Christ is to have our being, our life, in the very life of God. It is to live a God-centered existence.
To be in Christ implies spiritual renewal, a new creation, as Paul put it. I remember a family experience some years ago that helps picture it. In fact it’s quite a graphic picture of it. Jerry, my wife, gave her brother, Randy, a bone-marrow transplant.
The doctors were brutally honest. It was going to be tough for Randy – he was going to be brought to the door of death as all his marrow was destroyed and his immune system reduced to zero before he received the transplant – and even after that, if the transplant worked it would be a flirtation with death for a while. But his only hope was the transplant. What rejoicing there was when it was discovered that Jerry was a perfect match for the transplant.
I think I’ll never forget, and I know Jerry and Randy could ever forget, the day February 1 (1990), when the doctors made the transplant. Jerry was in a room down the hall from Randy – coming out from the anesthesia, as her marrow was being fed into Randy’s system. I was back and forth between the rooms during that six-hour process.
When the last drop of the marrow had gone into his system, the nurse took the i.v. bag down and said, “That’s it, Randy, this is your new birthday. You’ve been given a new life.”
I can only imagine the joy of Randy and the special oneness Randy and Jerry had – her life creating life in him.
That’s at least suggestive of the opportunity that is ours with Christ. Receiving Him, and cultivating His presence, we have a new life, a Christ-centered existence.
In Christ. We are who we are because of the personal love of God that comes to us in Jesus Christ.
I’ll talk more about this in my next article.