Union with Christ

For some reason, the typical follower of Christ falls into the trap of living their life under the umbrella of Performance Based Acceptance (PBA). That means in order to sense a degree of acceptance from God we must perform acts of service and devotion. For example, some feel that they must be involved in every program of the church, read a certain number of chapters in the Bible daily, set aside a designated place and time for daily prayer, and give a certain amount of money to the church in order to feel God’s acceptance.

Don’t get me wrong, all the above activities are things that every committed follower of Christ should be involved in. However, the problem is that when we do those things in order to feel accepted by God we fall into the devil’s subtle trap of believing that we must do something in order to receive God’s acceptance. It is better known as the “Cain mentality”.

Instead of receiving God’s acceptance through the blood sacrifice, Cain attempted to earn his own righteousness by bringing to the altar something he created instead of a blood sacrifice. We all know how that turned out for him. God never intended for man to earn His acceptance by good works. God’s ultimate intention is for us to receive His grace and acceptance through the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. Our works and service should be a reflection of our love and devotion, not an effort to earn His favor.

God offers a package deal. Christ and His sacrifice took care of all that separates man from God. Jesus paid our sin debt in full. All our sin is forgiven, past, present, and there is even a provision for our future sin. (1 John 1:9)

Union with Christ
We have eternal acceptance because we have union with Christ. Matter of fact, it is better to refer to our daily walk with the Lord as “fellowship” rather than “relationship”. Relationship smacks of something we have to do to maintain our position. Our relationship is eternally settled. We are in the family of God, we are joint heirs, we are grafted into the vine, we are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus – all because of our union with Christ. (Romans 6-8, 12:1-39 Ephesians 2:6, John 15)

In one spiritually judicious act (the death, burial and resurrection), we have been united with Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Here is a key Scripture in the form of Jesus’ prayer to the Father:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone,(the disciples) but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me'” (John 17:20-23, NASB).

The above verse is a snapshot of God’s ultimate intention for His children. We are to be in Union with Him. That’s the reason Paul says in Colossians 2, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so (now) walk in Him.” In other words, since you are one with Christ, now walk in that oneness. We are to live with a moment to moment assurance that God’s indwelling never leaves us. We are never apart from His presence.

What does understanding and living out of our Union with Christ do for us? We have the potential of living from a position of victory and rest no matter what is going on in our life. We can rest assured that whatever we are going through, Christ is taking every step with us. He understands our frustration, our pain, our loneliness, our fear, our doubt. He is saying, “Yes, I know, just trust me and I will see you through.”

What a great way to begin a New Year, walking in your Union with Christ, knowing that because we are one with Him, all is well. Will you covenant with me this year to walk by faith in your Union with Christ? And will you choose, in the power of His strength, to trust God in every area of your life during 2014?

I pray that 2014 will be the best year ever for you and your family.

“May the God, who puts all things together, makes all things whole, who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant, who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd, up and alive from the dead, now put you together, provide you with everything you need to please Him, make us into what gives Him most pleasure, by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah. All glory to Jesus forever and always! (Hebrews 12:20-22 “The Message”)

Learning to Rest

Like many virtues in life, the most valuable and beneficial things come at a cost. We mess up, make mistakes and through the school of hard knocks we finally learn the lessons we wished we had learned years earlier.

One such lesson in the Christian life is the lesson of learning to rest.  God intends that the first step of every new believer is to learn to rest.  I know, that is opposite of what most of us experienced.  Most of us jumped in with both feet, with eyes wide open attempting to “do all we can do for God”.  It didn’t take long for us to experience burnout.  When we couple a little weariness with church problems we come to the point where we say, “There has got to be more to the Christian life?”  At this point, the result is sometimes church burnout.

Why does this burnout stage occur? Some would say that we took on too much too quickly.  Others would say there were spiritual maturity issues; we needed to grow more before we attempted to do church work.  Those may have been contributing factors, but I think the main problem is we neglected the resting stage.

It is instinctive to human nature to begin the process of “doing” as soon as we have a meaningful spiritual experience such as salvation.  We have heard the good news of the gospel, it has impacted our life, now we must get busy and tell someone else.  We are correct that we should tell others, that is a mandate for all committed followers of Christ. However, the first step in the Christian walk is not doing but rather learning to rest.

The principles of Scripture teach that our degree of success in ministry is directly connected to how much we learn to rest. The Apostle Paul so eloquently portrays that truth in Ephesians:

“…He(God) raised Him(Jesus) from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in heavenly places far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion…(1:17-21)

“And raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus… (2:6-9)

Notice that God first made Jesus to sit, then his made us to sit with Him. As Watchmen Nee writes in his book Sit, Walk and Stand, “Christianity does not begin with walking but with sitting.”
Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father because his work was finished. He paid the debt for our sin once and for all.  No more sacrifices, no more burnt incenses, no more entering in the Holy of Holies once a year to apply the blood to atone for sin.  Man’s futile attempt to keep the law was now fulfilled in Jesus.

We first see the principle of resting in creation.  God made everything in six days. At the end of the sixth day He made man.  On the seventh day God rested. That means that man’s first full day on earth was a day of rest.

Why is our first duty as a believer to learn to rest? Why is resting so important to God? Listed below are five key reasons that resting is important to every committed follower of Jesus.

  1. Resting is an indication that we understand that our salvation is a work of God’s grace and not our self-effort. Our good deeds, learning the catechism or being baptized will not get us to heaven. Salvation is only received as a free gift, we can’t earn it. It is only through accepting by faith Jesus’ finished work on the cross, in our behalf, can we receive this free gift of salvation.
  2. Resting is the acknowledgment of our absolute dependence upon Him.  Apart from the living Christ within us, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) Our ability and power to be fruitful is directly related to being connected to the true vine, which is Christ.
  3. In resting we realize that our power to bear spiritual fruit comes from a higher source. Our talent and ability is practically useless unless it has been empowered by the Holy Spirit. The scripture teaches us that we are to be filled with the Spirit of God for effective and fruitful ministry. (Ephesians 5:18)
  4. Resting is a time to realize that the same Holy Spirit that drew us to Christ has formed a union with us. He is our companion 24/7. He leads and guides us toward truth, He goes before us and prepares our daily path, and He opens the hearts and minds of those we come in contact with. He prepares their heart for what He will lead us to say to them.
  5. Resting prepares our heart to have fellowship with the God of the universe. It is in those quiet moments of resting that we hear His tender voice and we receive those gems of wisdom and sense His overwhelming love.

As you can see, resting is an important step in preparing us for effective ministry. If we “hit the ground running” we can get so busy doing good that we may miss God. Make no mistake about it, the Lord wants us to be proactive in the kingdom, but not before we learn to rest. You can be more productive in five minutes with the power of God on your life, because you have spent time resting, than you can in five years of working in your own strength.

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter into that rest…”(Hebrews 4)

For more on this subject of resting, I suggest you purchase a copy of the little booklet by Watchman Nee entitled, “Sit, Walk and Stand.” You can find copy at most Christian bookstores or you can order from Amazon. It is available in Kindle format.