June 29, 2014
We grow as believers when we know that he is with us, that he is in us and that we are in him.
I. Introduction – John 14:18-20
II. With Him – yoked: Matthew 28:19-20, Matthew 11:28-30
III. Him in us, we in him – the plant: Romans 8:1-2, John 1:4-5, John 15:4-5
The New Testament frequently uses phrase like ‘in Christ,’ ‘in Christ Jesus,’ or ‘in Him.” There are over 130 places where this kind of phrase is used, and it is worth your time to read all of them. Just to give one example, 2 Corinthians 5:17 “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” What does this mean? We know what it means to be in the house or in a group. But that is not exactly the same as in Christ. In fact the phrase is used in many ways.
And the Bible teaches not only that we are in Christ but that he is in us and that he is with us. I believe we are strengthened and grow as believers when we see our relationship to Christ the way he sees it: that he is with us, that he is in us, and most of all that we are in him. We grow as believers when we know that he is with us, that he is in us and that we are in him.
I want to begin this morning by looking at a short section from John 14 that teaches all three of these things. It is John 14:18-20. Jesus says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
Jesus said these words the night before his crucifixion. He was teaching his disciples a few last things. And the focus was on his presence. Verse 18 says ‘I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.’ He promises to be with us. Sometimes a parent has to go to fight in a war or work in another country. He says to his little son or daughter. “I’m not going to leave you forever. I’m going to come back to be with you.” This is the promise Jesus made.
And he kept this promise. The next day he went to fight that war. He was crucified. He was buried. But on the third day he rose from death. He had died and he was alive again. This is the great miracle that defines Christianity. He had paid for their sins on the cross and now he was with them again. But after forty days, he went away again. He ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
Yet he kept this promise. He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus is with us now. The world can’t see him. He says that in verse 19. “The world will see me no more, but you will see me.” We see him now, not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of our hearts.
And why is that true? Because he lives. Because he rose from the dead, as he promised. He won the victory over death. And so he makes us alive. When we believe in him we find forgiveness of sins and new life and eternal life.
Verse 20: “Then you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” In verse 18 he says that he is with us. We are not orphans. In verse 20 he says he is in us, and we are in him, the other two phrases. I want to spend the rest of this message looking at the idea that he is with us, that he is in us and that we are in him. We grow as believers when we believe these truths are true. 24 hours a day. 365 days a year, Jesus is with us. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Jesus is in us. And 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we are in Him. Do you believe this? Is this reality for you?
The very last promise that Jesus made to his followers was that he would be with them always. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Jesus is with us. This is his promise. He is always with us, to the very end. And the simplest picture we can have of this is Jesus next to us. I talked in church a couple of months ago about the drawings Valerie Maier’s father has done of Jesus with us. He drew pictures of ordinary people – a doctor, a mother, a welder, an artist. And Jesus with them, Jesus involved in what they are doing. That’s reality. We don’t see him but he is right here, next to us, all the time.
Jesus gives another picture of what it means that he is with us in Matthew 11“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Because Jesus is with us we can find rest. The world is a weary place. All of us carry burdens. That has been so obvious here at Trinity lately. We’re praying that Jesus would make his presence known; that he will give rest to those with burdens; that he will teach all of us to be gentle and lowly in heart. That we will be able to help each other find that his yoke is easy, his burden is light.
So you can imagine being with Jesus the way Larry van Pelt pictures it, or you can picture being yoked with Jesus. A yoke is a collar that allows an ox or a horse to pull a heavy burden. We all have those burdens. Some of us are burdened by concern for others. Some of us have financial burdens. Some have health burdens. Some have sin burdens.
But the yoke Jesus pictures is not just a single yoke for a single animal. He pictures the double yoke. It was very common to yoke two animals together, to harness the strength of both. Jesus tells us that he is with us, in the same yoke, carrying the burden with us. This is how he gives us rest. He comes alongside to make the yoke easy, to make the burden light. He is with us. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He does not leave us to carry the burdens alone. It’s an invisible reality, but life changing when we realize that we find rest in him, that he carries the load we’ve been trying to carry alone. What is your burden today? You don’t have to carry it alone. More than that, yoked with him, we can begin to carry his burden for others and for the world and for ministry.
We grow stronger when we realize that he is with us. But even more when we realize that he is in us and we are in him. In him and only in him we find freedom from the burden of sin. Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul describes his struggle with sin. He wants to do what is right, but he fails. He finds himself doing the very things he hates. And he knows that because of his sin he deserves judgment. He knows that the wrath of God is being revealed against all sin, and that the wages of sin is death.
“Who will save me?” he cries. His answer is Romans 8:1. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. To be in Christ Jesus is to have him as our representative. When God looks at us he does not see us as our sins deserve, but he sees Jesus, who paid the full penalty of our sin. He conquered sin and death to live a new life. So, as we said at the beginning, if anyone is in Jesus he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come. Because I live, he says, you will live. His resurrection is the guarantee of our life.
There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit who gave him life from death sets us free from condemnation. It sets us free from the law that brings death to those who sin. When we see ourselves in Christ Jesus we see ourselves as forgiven and renewed. How could we see anything else in Christ? He is pure and spotless lamb, the sacrificial lamb sacrificed for us. We are free in Christ. Free from sin, free from judgment. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for eternity.
But there is another picture I want to give of what it means to be in Christ. A believer growing in Christ is like a plant growing in the sunshine. Let’s think about two more sections. John 1:4-5 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
And John 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Life and light are deeply intertwined in Scripture, especially in John’s Gospel. Jesus said that he came as the light of the world. This light, John tells us, gives life to men. It is a light that shines in the darkness, and darkness cannot touch it. But John also says that this life, this light is in Him.
Don’t miss that. We’re trying to figure out what it means to be in him, and here we are told that in him is life and light. Therefore when we are in him we are in the light and have life. He doesn’t just hide us to stand in our place before the Father, though he does that. But he also provides for us, life and light. Outside of him is death and darkness. In him is life and light.
I went through a long thought process trying to find a mental picture of ‘in him.’ I wanted to be able to visualize what being ‘in him’ looked like. I did not like the image of a giant Jesus with a little me floating around inside him. I did not even like the image of hiding in Jesus as in a crack in a rock, though I admit Scripture gives that image. I finally came up with an image that works very well for me. I hope it will work well for you, too.
A believer in Jesus is like a plant in the sunshine. Do you see how that works? My family went to California earlier this month to visit Bethany and Jeff and our new grandbaby Dominic. It’s a 200 mile drive that took us two very long days. But we went to the California coast. And we camped and hiked among the redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, 375 feet tall. The families of redwood trees block most of the sun from reaching the forest floor. But not all of it. And in those patches of sun grow baby redwoods and other trees. The small plants seem to rejoice in that sunshine, and it gives them life. Where no sun penetrates, nothing can grow. But where there is sunshine there is life.
A believer in Jesus is like a plant in the sunshine. Imagine how that feels to the plant. I am surrounded and sustained by a life-giving presence. The sunshine does not constrain the plant, but attracts it, transforms it. The sunshine is what provides the energy for the plant to grow. It gives life to the plant every day.
In the same way, Jesus gives us life. The life we receive when we place ourselves in his light enables us to become mature believers. He does not constrain us. We can still place ourselves outside his light. But his light draws us, attracts us, transforms us. Just as the baby redwood rejoices in the sunlight, so we truly rejoice in the light of our savior. We rejoice to be in him, to dwell in him.
But even that is not the whole story. It is not just that Jesus is with us, it is not just that we are in Jesus, but also that he is in us. In John 15:4 Jesus says “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
Jesus completes the picture. Now we are not just a plant in the sunshine, but a branch of a vine. The trunk of the vine draws up water and nutrients from the soil and provides those essential elements of life to the branches and leaves. The sunshine is necessary for the growth of the plant, but so is the soil. Jesus says if you disconnect the branch from the vine, the branch withers and dies. In the same way if you uproot a baby redwood, it dies on the spot. It is still in the sun, but it is disconnected from the essentials of life.
So we are in Christ as a plant in the sunshine, and he is in us as nourishment and moisture from the soil. If we abide in him, remain in him, he gives us what we need to live and grow. The plant needs nothing else but sunlight and soil.
But how do we make this practical? If being in Christ is like being a plant in the sunshine and the soil, what does the plant do to grow? On one level the answer is nothing at all. The plant is surrounded by the sunlight and sustained by the water and nutrients that flow up into it and by natural process it just grows.
But we’re not exactly plants, are we? We’re not completely passive in this process. In fact we have a role to play. And our responsibility is not complicated. It’s not some hidden formula that a genius can understand, or only a spiritual giant can do. No, in fact our part in growth is so simple that many dismiss as childish or ineffective. But I’m going to say it anyway because for me, as for so many others, this simple discipline is the key to every deepening of my relationship with Christ. Are you ready? It’s pray and study your Bible.
Prayer is conversation with God. You’re with Jesus, you’re in Jesus and he’s in you, so it is perfectly right and natural for conversation with him to be at the center of your life. No one else is as close as he is. No one else is there 24 hours a day. If you can take the internal thoughts of your head and heart and direct the consciously to Jesus, and if you can listen for his responses, you will begin to live out the truth that he is in you and you are in him. It’s relationship.
But listening for his responses depends on the other simple discipline. You only hear him in truth when you are hearing his word by reading and studying his word. You might think you hear him in friends or in culture or in self-help books or even in sermons. But to hear him in truth his voice in your heart must be an echo of his word in your head. He will never say something that doesn’t grow out of and fit in with his teaching in Scripture.
So prayer is like kneeling before him in the sunshine, surrounded by him, energized by him with every inch of enveloped in him. And reading and studying the Bible is like opening yourself to the stream of water and nutrients that comes up from the soil. The power of Jesus and the truth of his word work together in you to produce growth and maturity, just as the energy of the sunlight and the nutrients of the soil produce growth in a redwood tree.
And then, us in him and him in us, we are equipped to serve. To bring forth fruit. The first truth we looked at is that he is with us, and we are yoked with him. In that yoke he carries our burdens and our weariness, but in that yoke he also calls us as maturing believers to do his work, to love and serve others. His yoke is not just there to relieve our burden but to constrain us to do our part in his work without ever leaving his side. We can’t do it on our own, but at his side, in his light, with his word we can work effectively for his kingdom.