Summary: What is it like to live the life of "In-Christ"?
In the language of the New Testament our text is one long sentence, so I’m going to break it up as we go along. The phrase, "IN CHRIST" provokes questions. Why is "in Christ" so important that Paul uses it over 170 times in his epistles? What does it mean? Short answer: it means “to be saved, ransomed, redeemed, and pardoned”. To be “in-Christ” is the picture of me, wrapped up in Jesus’ embrace, safe from Hell, bound-together with a forever family.
In this "never-ending sentence" we hear what seems to be the opposite, "Christ-IN-YOU." In reality, it is not the opposite, but simply the extension of the greatest reality of the Christian faith:
ONCE YOU ARE "IN CHRIST," HE IS IN YOU!
It means that, for someone in Christ, there is safety, fellowship, love, the promise of Heaven later, strength now, and a place of service – all because of accepting "Christ in you" now! It means we’re pressed together, Jesus and me, or me, or anybody who comes to him.
Another question: What are people like who are "in Christ," who have "Christ in them;" what is it like to live a life like that? The answer to that is what this morning’s baptism was all about. You will see certain CHARACTERISTICS of a life trained-up in, and lived in-Christ. It is the fleshing-out of the baptismal covenant. We see these characteristics exhibited in the life of the apostle Paul:
Baptism Leads to People-Serving
Colossians 1:24 – 25a (NRSVA)
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you,
Paul considered himself a servant of the church. His suffering came as a result of his service. As an itinerant missionary, Paul suffered hard times, opposition and personal affliction. Plowing "new fields" is not for wimps!
I often have to ask myself, Russell, are you a people server? In the name of Christ, do you go out of your way to love others, even when they’re not quite lovable?
People servers very rarely get mentioned in the bulletins and Annual Conference publications. When you serve, often you will get served-up on the world’s platter, but heaven knows the genuine article. But, when you’re "in Christ," He’s "in you," and the hope of glory makes the suffering pass away. That is the reality of living-into our baptism; following Jesus obediently makes serving a joy, even if there is suffering involved.
Baptism Shares Priceless Secrets
Colossians 1:25 – 27 (NRSV)
I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Paul could even rejoice over the suffering he’d done to bring the truth of the Word of God to the Gentiles. This priceless secret, or mystery, was the revealed propositional truth that Jesus was the Messiah, God-incarnate, who had visited planet earth.
Some people don’t believe that! But Paul had put all his life’s eggs in the Jesus basket, and found a priceless secret...every day Jesus shined through him. The sculptor, Thorvaldsen, created a magnificent statue of Jesus. It is placed in a unique way, in a chapel in Copenhagen. When you stand in front of the statue, you must kneel to see the face. And as you kneel, a shaft of light from a window above illumines the face. Those who have knelt there tell of the awakening of the reality that to possess this priceless secret, one must kneel with his life - and then, there is the daily renewal of revealed propositional truth - Christ IS in you, and the hope of glory is not far off...because it lives within!
Proclaiming a Savior
Colossians 1:28 (NRSV) It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Paul preached Jesus in at least two ways, admonishment, and teaching. The teaching is for those who would listen and be instructed. But the kind of admonishment he had in mind was confronting men, with the intent of changing their attitudes and actions. He went after them!
Paul’s evangelism could go either way. If received, he’d instruct with wisdom, making mature believers of them. But if his witness met with stubborn unbelief, he could make them feel the warmth of the flames too!