Our time in 1 John has turned the recent focus of my heart to our union with Christ. At the same time, I’ve been feasting on a book with the same name (Union with Christ) by Rankin Wilbourne. Much of where John has pointed us to find our assurance of salvation flows directly out of our union with Christ. So as we prepare our hearts for 1 John 2:7-11 and the call to love, I’d like to turn our mid-week focus to the power source behind our love: union in Christ.
Wednesday, January 22nd
Larger Portion of Scripture - Colossians 3:1-17
Focused Passage for Reflection - Colossians 3:1-4
Reflecting on the Text:
If I look through my wallet I find several identification cards. Some cards list my affiliation with insurance companies, hotel chains, office supply companies, and even a fast-food restaurant. Take my Hilton Honors card for example. While it indicates some connection to a particular chain of hotels, it bears no real importance in my life today. Oh sure, I may pull it out if I am looking for a hotel room, and when I mention the affiliation, I may get some small benefit. But until then I will leave it in my wallet…compartmentalized.
For some of us, that is precisely how we view Christianity. The label indicates some level of affiliation with a certain group of people and a certain set of beliefs. When we need it we will pull it out of our wallet for proof of identification, and to receive a few benefits. But until then we will keep it in our wallet where it belongs…compartmentalized.
I’m not trying to be overly cynical. It’s just that in the Bible belt, many of us are walking around with affiliation cards which have little to no bearing on our daily lives. But Scripture points us to so much more! It points us to a Christianity which has little to do with an ID card and everything to do with union in Christ.
Colossians 3 is one of those places in Scripture where this union is most clearly articulated. There in the first 4 verses, we see our union in Christ described as a NEW STATUS. In these 4 verses, Paul describes what is true of the Christian as a result of his or her new status in Christ. And notice, there is no hint of compartmentalized belief. Instead, our union speaks to the totality of our being…a new being in Christ.
Verse 1 begins with “…If then you have been raised with Christ…” Paul is speaking of the Christian by indicating he or she has been raised. Verse 3 indicates that those who have been raised with Christ also died with Christ. Then he gives one of the most powerful summaries of our union in all of Scripture when he says “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The implication of being in with Christ is then laid out in verse 4, both for in the now, and the not yet. Christ is your life (now), and you will appear with Him in glory (not yet).
So to summarize…if you are in Christ you are raised with Him, you have died in Him, you are hidden in Him, He is your life, and you will be glorified with Him. Our union is total. We are swallowed up in Him. As opposed to a Sunday morning compartment, the Christian life is described here as an intimate, constant, ever-present relational connection to the God of the universe. And by virtue of this relational connection, we are forgiven, we are given a new power source (the Holy Spirit), we have a new life, a new identity, a new hope, a new family, and new affections.
Those new affections which flow out of the new status lead us to our NEW OBEDIENCE. Almost swallowed up in this description of our union in Christ are two command statements: SEEK and SET. Actually, they are the same. The passage tells us to seek the things above and to set our minds on the things above. It is telling us our thought life (or our new affections) are to be connected to our new status in Christ.
There is much more to say regarding union with Christ. As I said before, Rankin Wilbourne wrote a fantastic book about it. But maybe, for now, it will suffice for us to meditate on the gift we have been given in Christ and the realization that He doesn’t just want a little bit of us. He wants the entirety of our being. So keep the insurance card in your wallet, but know that Jesus won’t be relegated to a compartment. His love is not bite-sized. It is all-encompassing.
Questions for personal reflection:
Where do you feel the temptation to compartmentalize Jesus? Are you even aware of the temptation?
What might it look like for you to pull Jesus out of your wallet and allow Him access to your relationships? To your work? To your entertainment?
How might your prayer life change if your concept of the Christian life matured from compartmentalization to union?