Christ Our Life


CHRIST OUR LIFE

(Part 1)

An Earnest Appeal to Those Who Have a Passion
To Know Christ Better and Seek a More Intimate Walk with Him

Introduction

The true Christian knows that Jesus is a living Person who calls us to have a personal relationship with Him! He wants to fill our heart with Himself! He wants us to center our life and affections on Him. He desires that we focus our love, faith, devotion, and interests on Him. He wants us to love, trust, obey, and enjoy Him—personally! Jesus calls us to have a deep, one-to-one, intimate relationship with Him that begins now but extends into eternity!

This is the theme of the booklet you are now reading. In a world that too often views the Lord Jesus casually and superficially, the writer awakens us to the incredible privilege of living in Christ and Christ living in us. Let us not be content with anything less. May we not just know about Jesus, but actually know Him! Let us genuinely and personally know the Lord Jesus—initially, deeply, savingly, intimately, and eternally (John 17:3)!

Our burden is that each of us will find Jesus to be our very lifand that He will be the passion and delight of our heart!

Christ is Our Life

Christ claims our highest loyalty. He calls for an unreserved devotion and unrivaled love. How is it possible for Him to require such absolute, unqualified commitment? How can our very life itself, with all of its varied parts, be centered on Him? Let’s explore how you personally can focus every aspect of your life on Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior!

One of the most prominent, but denied, aspects of Jesus’ life was His total exclusiveness. He did not hesitate to declare, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Likewise, His followers boldly proclaimed, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Since Jesus is the only way to present peace with God and eternal salvation, our devotion must rest exclusively on Him and must never be directed toward any other person in history or any other contemporary person.

The Christ-centered or “Christocentric” focus which was dominant in Jesus’ own words and the preaching of His followers is far different from what we see in the major world religions. In the Koran, Mohammed says to “the people who have knowledge” that he (Mohammed) is “only mortal, like them.” Buddha said to his followers at his death that it did not matter much if they remembered him; the important thing was that they remember his teaching, especially the way to illumination. Even Moses realized that he was simply a servant of God through whom the Lord chose to give His law to the people of Israel and led them to the Promised Land. John the baptizer directed people away from himself to Jesus by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He added, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

While Jesus’ teachings are vital to our life, they cannot provide a substitute for Him. He is personally the center and focus of His teaching and such teaching derives its significance from its relationship to Him. He not only pointed to the “way” but He, Himself, personally is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6)! In the words of Wesley Nelson:

Jesus Christ himself is the Way. If we have gone astray from the Way, it is because we have strayed from Jesus Christ. We return to the Way by returning to Jesus Christ. It is not just doctrine about him, or knowledge of him, or experience of the blessings he can give: it is his own living Presence which is the Way (Wesley Nelson).

Jesus often stressed this truth. Notice several of His bold, but true, claims:

  • “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35,38)
  • “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5)
  • “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7)
  • “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11,14)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
  • “I am the true vine” (John 15:1)

As we have mentioned, Jesus did not simply direct people to His teachings, but He invited them to come to Him personally and partake of Him:

  • Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
  • “He who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me” (John 6:57).
  • “You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40).
  • “He who comes to Me shall not hunger and he who believes on Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
  • “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink” (John 4:37).

He did not point away from Himself to a body of teaching, however noble and worthy such teaching may have been. On the other hand, we must not go to the opposite extreme and assert, “Jesus is all I need, thus I don’t need His teachings.” Such a view entirely misunderstands our Lord’s words. Christ declares that He and His words are inseparable. Christ’s teachings cannot be divorced from Him, for in Him they find their focus and significance. Neither can we have Him while denying or minimizing His words (cf. Mark 8:38; John 12:48; 14:23-24). He called on people to focus their attention on Him personally and come to Him for life—and this will mean that we respond to His words in faith and obedience.

Since our relationship with Christ is crucial and directly determines our eternal destiny, our entire life is to be Christcentered! We are not now referring to a merely technical point of teaching or a side-issue from God’s revelation, but to the very heart of the Christian Scriptures. We are to “honor” Christ (John 5:23), find our “victory” through Him (1 Corinthians 15:57), “exalt” through Him (Romans 5:11), and recognize Him as having “first place in everything” (Colossians 1:18).

If Christ is not the center and circumference of your own life, if He is not your reason for living, if you do not abide in Him and He in you, then please continue reading with an open heart, a receptive mind, and a searching spirit. Let this be your attitude of heart and sincere prayer (written by someone centuries ago):

  • Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
  • Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
  • Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
  • Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
  • Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
  • Christ in every eye that sees me,
  • Christ in every ear that hears me.

Christ is to be our very life: “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4). Paul put it simply, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Again he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Take note of this latter passage more carefully. Paul says that—if you are truly a Christian—you no longer live! It is Christ who lives in you! You live by faith in Christ who loves you and gave Himself for you. Your life is so bound to Christ that He lives in and through you. This means that I should be able to say: “Richard no longer lives. The Richard who formerly lived is now dead. Instead, Christ lives in me. I am a new creation, a new person, in Christ and my new life is lived by faith in Christ. All things are now new and transformed as Christ lives in and through me.”

Paul adds to this amazing truth by saying that “one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit” with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). This is the closest of spiritual relationships! Our lives must consist of a one-to-One, person-to-Person relationship with our Lord Jesus. Can we sincerely say that “Christ . . . is our life”? Can you personally affirm that “to live is Christ”? Can you honestly say, “Christ lives in me”?

The closeness of our relationship with our Savior, Christ Jesus, is intimate and intense. This is reflected in the mutual indwelling described in Scripture. Jesus explained, “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). We may be able to understand how the Father and the Son can be described in this way, since Jesus was able to say, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and Jesus previously disclosed, “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me” (v. 10). But since we are merely mortal beings, how can it be said that we also are in Christ and Christ is in us? This is a profound truth that makes us wonder in amazement!

Notice that this is not an isolated teaching. Jesus said to His disciples, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). This is true of you and true of me—if, in fact, we have been truly saved, we abide (remain, continue) in intimate spiritual union with Christ and He abides in intense spiritual union with us. Christ gives a further truth that we can actually experience: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me” (John 6:56-57). Although Jesus uses figures of speech in this passage, He is saying that as we respond in faith to His sacrificial death on the cross (by “eating” His flesh and “drinking” His blood), we are spiritually united to Him and find spiritual life because of our relationship to Him! This reveals how vital it is to be indwelt by our Savior and to dwell in Him—it is a matter of life and death, of spiritual life and spiritual death!

In His prayer in the upper room, our Lord speaks of the corporate relationship of those in Him: “. . . that they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us. . . . I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (John 17:21, 23). This intimacy of relationship is not just for you as an individual, and me as an individual, but it involves the entire body of His true followers. There are mysteries to this intimacy of spiritual relationship, yet it is one we must confess and in which we find great comfort. Our relationship with the Lord Jesus is so intimate that it can be described as a mutual indwelling.

Paul refers to being in Christ some 164 times and these add further depth to this spiritual reality that Jesus described (William Mueller, “The Mystical Union,” in Basic Christian Doctrines [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962], p. 208). God’s love is ours “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). We are “complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Paul explains further: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Further still, “in Christ Jesus” we are brought near to God through the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13). Complementary to this truth, Christ is also in you and in me—He indwells us. Christ “dwells in your heart” through faith (cf. Eph. 3:17). Christ in us is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). I in Christ and Christ in me describes a mutual indwelling that is rich, comforting, and rewarding. It refers to the intimate mystical union between Christ and the believer. Does your relationship and my relationship demonstrate the spiritual reality described by Jesus and reiterated by Paul?

Along with the Scriptural teaching of mutual indwelling, we might notice that Christ promised to be with us at all times. In His “great commission,” Jesus said that He will be with us “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). This is a great comfort to us as we meet the difficulties and sorrows of life that seem to overwhelm us. When everyone seems to misunderstand us, we can know that Jesus is at our side to help and bless. Paul knew this well. When he was a prisoner in Rome, he knew the hurt that comes from being forsaken: “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:16). But then he adds this encouraging note: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (v. 17a). Henry F. Lyte put it well:

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens: Lord, with me abide!

When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me!

Has this been your experience? I’ve known the joy of acceptance and the pain of rejection, the blessing of fellowship and the sorrow of aloneness. In times like this, we can depend on the Lord. Many have been the times when I’ve voiced the words of T.O. Chisholm in the following song:

Be with me, Lord—I cannot live without Thee,

I dare not try to take one step alone,

I cannot bear the loads of life, unaided,

I need Thy strength to lean myself upon.

 

Be with me, Lord! No other gift or blessing

Thou couldst bestow could with this one compare—

A constant sense of Thy abiding presence,

Where-e’er I am, to feel that Thou art near.

Be with me, Lord, when loneliness o’ertakes me,

When I must weep amid the fires of pain,

And when shall come the hour of “my departure”

For “worlds unknown,” O Lord, be with me then.

The point is that we do have a Savior who promises to be with us all of our days and we may enjoy His delightful fellowship in the inner person at all times.

The question may arise as to how it is possible for Christ to actually dwell in us if He is bodily in heaven. It is true that since He was born of Mary, He has had a body (Heb. 10:5). And since Jesus was raised from the dead, He has had a glorified body—one that He will have through all eternity (Phil. 3:21; Luke 24:36-39). He presently dwells in heaven, “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9), and is now appearing in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24), seated upon God’s throne (Rev. 3:21). Yet, at the same time, Jesus promised to be in the midst of His people as they gather (Matt. 18:20) and will be with us until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).

Perhaps a key to our understanding is our Lord’s statement that He, personally, was to leave (cf. John 13:33,36; 14:2-4, 28-29), but that He would send another “Helper” who would be with them forever—the Spirit of truth (14:16-20). Indeed, even when the Spirit would come to be “in” them, Jesus promised, “I will come to you” (v. 18). Whether He is saying that He will come by means of the Holy Spirit’s presence, or that He would be with them spiritually, or whether He is referring to His second “coming,” mentioned earlier (v. 3), we can see that there is an intimate relationship between the Son of God and the Spirit of God. Significantly, the Holy Spirit Himself is called “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7), the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6), “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11), and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). We relate to Jesus as we are indwelt by and led by His Spirit. Consider carefully: Is your life so connected to Jesus’ life that Christ lives in and through you—through the Holy Spirit? And is your life so united to His life that you constantly and consistently abide in Him and He in you?

One brief caution is in order before we proceed. Some people, through the history of the established church, have so stressed this Biblical teaching of “indwelling” that they have gone beyond the Biblical view by embracing a view of identification. They have imagined that they somehow have “merged” with God or even partaken of God’s essence. One modern cult speaks of being “mingled” with God. New Age religion, of course, may say that we should realize that we, ourselves, are “God”! Ancient mysticism, both within medieval monastic Catholicism (and Orthodoxy) and on the fringes of the established church, taught that it was possible to lose our identity through spiritual meditation and esoteric rituals. All of this deviates from what Scripture means when it says we are to dwell in Christ and Christ is to dwell in us. We retain our personality and identity, but our spirit is transformed by our union with Christ Jesus through the Spirit. We relate to the Lord Jesus in faith and love as we submissively yield our heart to His divine will. We must keep this in mind as we seek to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

When someone centers his life around a job, an activity, a sport, a hobby, or a possession, we often say that it is “his life.” We may put it this way:

  • “Football is his life”
  • “The stock market is his life”
  • “His job is his life”
  • “Music is his life”
  • “Television is his life”

Likewise, we may say of a woman:

  • “Her family is her life”
  • “Card playing is her life”
  • “Tennis is her life”
  • “Cooking is her life”
  • “Shopping is her life”

Can it be said of you—and me—that “Christ is his life” or “Jesus is her life”? Our life should be so identified with our blessed, risen, living Lord that He is our very life! He not only indwells us, empowers us, and gives us life, but He fills our life with Himself!

Christ has given His life (John 10:15,17) that we might have life (John 10:10,28), that we might live because of Him (John 6:57; 14:19), and that He might live in us (Galatians 2:20). But now that we live in Him and He in us, we are to live for Him! Paul expresses it this way: “He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Instead of living for ourselves (the normal manner of life in society around us), we are to live for Jesus—the one who loved us, died for us, was raised for us, and now lives for us! In another place, Paul simply says, “If we live, we live for the Lord” (Romans 14:8). We no longer live for self—but for Jesus! A beloved song (by T.O. Chisholm) well expresses this point. Notice its meaningful words:

Living for Jesus a life that is true,

Striving to please Him in all that I do;

Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,

This is the pathway of blessing for me.

Living for Jesus who died in my place,

Bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace;

Such love constrains me to answer His call,

Follow His leading and give Him my all.

O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee,

For Thou in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me;

I own no other Master, My heart shall be Thy throne;

My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.

How can your focus be more fully directed toward Christ? Perhaps a principle expressed by Jesus will give us a clue. He said, “Do not lay up treasures upon earth,” but rather, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He then stated the reason: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Our heart follows our treasure. If your “treasures” are on earth, your heart will be on earthly things. Conversely, if your treasures are in heaven, your heart will be on heavenly things. Similarly, if your time, energy, talents, money, possessions, and interests are all centered on the Lord Christ Jesus, then your heart also will be centered on Him—for He is your treasure!

Jesus went on to say that we cannot serve two masters: “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). If you “serve” money, possessions, pleasures, popularity, and other pursuits, then it should be no surprise that you cannot serve God and focus your attention on Him. But if you consciously center your life on Jesus you will find your heart embracing Him and your mind dwelling on Him more and more fully. Paul also pointed out where our heart focus should be: “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2; cf. Matthew 6:33). Paul himself had this heavenly focus that he commanded of others: “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

We must center our constant attention on Christ and spiritual things. We must “seek the things” of Christ, “set our mind” on Him, and “look” to Him. As the Hebrew writer puts it, we are to run the race of life, “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). We are to “consider Him” (v. 3) and allow this focus to transform our thoughts and life.

Helen Lemmel’s beloved chorus says it well:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

To these words, someone added a further significant verse:

Turn your thoughts upon Jesus, Think long of His wonderful love,

And the things of sin and self will cease as you’re lost in His rapture above.

As a young person, I became part of a local fellowship and found that the conversation of my peers (and the adults as well, for the most part) usually centered around school, ball games, and cars. According to Jesus’ principle, “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34), such conversation evidently indicated hearts centered on worldly pursuits and pastimes. “They set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19), thus they spoke of earthy things (1 John 4:5).

At a later time in life, I was associated with a different group of young people and noticed that the topics of conversation were usually spiritual in nature. One would frequently see open Bibles in the hands of the young brothers and sisters. One would commonly hear singing to the Lord or about the Lord. Biblical topics were constantly discussed. Yes, speech does reveal the heart (unless hypocrisy is present), and the heart focus is determined by the conscious location of our life “treasure.” If we devote our time, energy, talents, money, and possessions to Jesus, our heart and speech—our entire life—will be centered on Him. We will recognize Jesus Himself as our treasure of unfathomable value (Ephesians 3:8). As Paul put it, “Christ is all” (Col. 3:11)—and He will be all and everything to us!

Now we are prepared to notice a number of emphases found in Scripture that reveal how our lives are to be centered on Christ Jesus. Search your own life, questioning how these Scriptural principles speak to you personally and how Jesus would want you to respond.
Richard Hollerman
(Please go to Part 2)

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