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The Christ Who

Lives in You

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"The Christ Who Lives in You"

 

 

Galatians 2: 20

20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

     Dear Friends in Christ,  

I’d like to begin my sermon this morning by asking you to use your imaginations for just a few moments. And I want you to imagine that an angel has just appeared to you and told you that he is giving you the opportunity to interview any person who appears in the pages of Holy Scripture, except for Jesus? Who would you pick? Who would you interview? Adam would be a good choice, wouldn’t he? I mean, to be able to get the scoop on what it was like to be the first and only human being in a brand new, perfect, sinless world. And then to find out what it was like when he awoke from his slumber that one day with a pain in his side that was quickly forgotten when he saw this beautiful female counterpart standing by his side. No doubt about it. Adam would make for a great interview.

So also would Moses. Just think of all the things you could discuss with him – the burning bush, the 10 plagues, the night of that first Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, the meeting with God on Mt. Sinai, the eating of manna. Why, his stories alone could fill a whole newspaper and more!

Then I also thought it would be neat to interview those 3 Jewish fellows who took a strong stand for the Lord when everyone else bowed down before a huge 90-foot idol that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Remember their names? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Remember what happened to them when they refused to follow the king’s orders? Wouldn’t you just love to ask them: What was it like being thrown into a furnace that was so hot that those who were stoking it died from the heat? Were you scared? Did you even break a sweat? And who was that 4th man that Nebuchadnezzar saw walking around with you in the fire, that one whom he said looked like a son of the gods?

Oh, what a thrill it would be to interview the likes of these biblical giants! But as I thought about it, you know who I thought just might make an even better interview? How about Mary? Just think of the questions you could ask her. I mean it’s one thing to have a baby growing inside of you as many of you women here today have had. But what must it have been like to have God growing inside of you? So I’d like to ask Mary questions like these: What was a virgin birth like, Mary? What was it like to be the mother of the Son of God, to give milk to the One who gave you life, to hold in your arms the Creator of DNA and galaxies? Did this One who was incarnate deity ever slurp his soup, Mary, or burp? And if he did, did you correct him? What was it like to be the mother of your Maker?

Now those kinds of questions are tough to comprehend, aren’t they? But for some people they’re tough to stomach. Through the centuries following Jesus’ appearance in this world, there have been those who have found the thought of Mary as a common mother to be too much. So they’ve altered the script. They’ve added their own thoughts and ideas to what God has told us about Mary in the Bible. This in turn has led to one of two unfortunate responses as to what to do with Mary.

First of all, there are those who would deify Mary, make her divine, assign to her God-like qualities. They say, “There’s no way that this one who carried the Son of God in her womb for 9 months could have been just a common ordinary person. So we’re going to elevate her. We’re going to put her on a pedestal to set her apart from all other human beings.” Consequently, a whole series of doctrines have been developed about Mary. You’ve heard of the Immaculate Conception? I used to think that referred to Jesus being immaculately or perfectly conceived in Mary’s womb so that he would be born without original sin. But when I wrote my Master’s thesis on Mary at the seminary I found out that it refers to her conception in her mother’s womb so that those who hold to this view believe she was born without original sin and even went on to live a perfect and sinless life.

Some have assigned to Mary the role of co-mediator and co-redeemer. Bernard of Clairvaux, a theologian who lived a millenium after Christ, spoke these words which represent the way many people today still feel about Mary: “Let him who fears the Son seek refuge in Mary, the blessed mother, for she is the ladder of sinners by which they re-ascend to the height of divine grace. She is my greatest confidence. She is the whole basis for my hope.” Mary has been called the 4th person of the Trinity, the Queen of Heaven, and the pre-eminent member of the church’s community of faith.

With all due respect to those who hold to these views (and I’m sure many of you here today know such individuals), we must speak kindly, yet urgently, and point out that such a belief in Mary has no basis, no foundation whatsoever in Scripture. Scripture is clear when it says that there is only one Mediator between God and man. There is only one Redeemer whose sacrifice could serve as a sufficient payment for all of mankind’s sins. And that Mediator and that Redeemer is Jesus, who did not need any help from his mother or anyone else to do what he did on our behalf.

The Mary of the Bible then was a real person just like you and me. She lived and walked in the same work-a-day world in which we live and walk. She had a real husband and according to the Bible she had real children with that husband besides Jesus. But perhaps most importantly, she provided for us a beautiful example of what it means to walk by faith not by sight, of what it means to surrender oneself completely to the will of God. So while we don’t deify Mary or worship her or pray to her, we do respect her. We do applaud her. We do strive to follow her example.

The 2nd response that people have given to Mary over the years is the complete opposite of the 1st one. Rather than deify her, there are those who would normalize her, who would extract from her life the miraculous things that God allowed to take place in that life. These people call the virgin birth a legend and the Christmas story a myth. The same liberal theologians who have cast doubt on the Creation account of Genesis and the parting of the Red Sea by Moses and the story of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, have also had their hey day with Mary.

The problem though with that line of thinking is that God never gave us the authority to pick and choose when it comes to these miraculous moments or events in Scripture. I really believe that such faulty thinking is born out of a desire to have a God we can comprehend and a Bible we can explain. And yet if God is God, then his very nature and essence dictates that he be beyond our comprehension. Like Paul says in Rom. 11:33-34: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’" And I might add, who would even want a God that we can understand completely, a God whom we can put into this little box. I don’t know about you, my friends, but I prefer a God who is far greater, far more awesome, far more mind-boggling than my puny brain can grasp.

But getting back to Mary, if we don’t deify her and we don’t normalize her, then what do we do with this one who is properly called the mother of our Lord? I would like to toss out to you a 3rd option this morning. I would suggest that we personalize Mary. Now what do I mean by that? Well, have you ever thought about the fact that God offers you what he offered Mary? And that is the supernatural deposit of Christ’s presence inside of you. Please stay with me on this. It is God’s desire to place his Son within you so that that Son might grow and grow and grow and finally he just has to come out, not in a physical way like he did with Mary, but in your thinking, in your serving, in your living, in your loving, in your forgiving, in your witnessing.

The Bible is full of references that speak of Christ being within us. Eph. 3:16-17 says: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” In Gal. 2:20, which serves as our text for today, the Apostle Paul tells us: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” And then my favorite verse that speaks of Christ being in us is Rev. 3:20 where Jesus himself says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will what? Stay on the porch? Live in the front yard? Make a home for myself on the roof?” Is that what it says? NO! It says, “I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Listen, my friends, Jesus is not content to just be near you. He’s not content to just be beside you. He wants to be in you. He wants to be a part of every fiber of your being so that when you find yourself faced with tragedy or trouble, with sickness or sorrow, you will be able to feel his comforting presence inside of you. Or when you find yourself having to deal with a difficult person at work, you will find his love for that person overriding your anger and resentment. When you find yourself being deeply hurt by your spouse or betrayed by a friend, you will find that his forgiving presence is able to overcome the bitterness that the world says you should feel in your heart and it’s able to help you work toward reconciliation rather than revenge; toward restoration rather than separation.

Put simply, it is God’s will that every day be Christmas for the Christian and that every heart be a Bethlehem so that wherever you go, wherever you may find yourself, you understand that you are there for one reason and that is to deliver Christ into that tiny corner of the world – that just as Mary delivered Jesus into those humble surroundings of Bethlehem that first Christmas night so long ago, so also you would deliver him into your work place, into your classroom, into your home.

Oh what a privilege is ours, my friends, to have Christ within us. It’s a privilege that God did not give to Adam and Eve. Granted, he walked with them in the cool of the evening, but he was not in them. He did not offer that privilege to Abraham. He called him his friend, but he didn’t indwell him. He appeared in the burning bush to Moses and as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire to the Israelites so that they could say, “There’s God.” He was close to them, but not inside of them. But he does live inside of us.

So what exactly does this mean for you and me? What implications does it have for us? Well, I would venture to guess that there are some things in your life right now that you just can’t seem to do or accomplish on your own, but the good news is that the Christ who lives in you can. Maybe you can’t stop drinking. But the Christ who lives in you can help you stop drinking. Maybe you’re having trouble forgiving that jerk at work that we spoke of earlier. But the Christ who lives in you can give you the strength and even the desire to forgive that jerk through you. Maybe you can’t stop looking at pornography on the Internet. But the Christ who lives in you has no problem walking away from that pornography. Maybe you feel you can’t raise a child the way you know it should be raised, but the Christ who lives in you can help you. If our text for today is right in Gal. 2:20, and I believe it is, and you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus as your Savior, then you not only have forgiveness of sins and the blessed assurance of spending eternal life in heaven, but you also have power at your disposal that you may have never even realized or tapped into. Listen once more to that verse: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Let me close this sermon then with a very simple prayer that someone sent me in an e-mail sometime ago. I pray that it will reflect your heart’s desire after hearing this message today. In fact, I’m going to ask you to bow your heads right now and repeat after me…

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me. I want to be your faithful servant. May there be less of me and more of you in my life. I want to be changed so that I can be more like you and of greater use to you.

      Amen.

 

 
 

 
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