What is Christianity?
By David A. DePra
Back to the Goodnews
Transcribed from a message by David A DePra, entitled,
“What is Christianity?” found here:
found here: 681-mp3
We are going to turn to the first chapter of the Gospel of John again today. But, before we read out of that chapter, I want to begin by asking a very simple question. In fact, this question is so simple, and so basic, that I think probably most believers have never even thought to ask the question. Now, what question am I referring to? The question is this: What is Christianity?
Have you ever asked that question? Have you ever discovered the answer? We are going to talk about this today and -- our title will be that very question, “What is Christianity?”
We are going to see how this is revealed in the first chapter of John -- and we are going to find the answer to this question in other places in scripture. I wanted to address this subject before we moved on in John 1, because it sort of gathers everything together as a foundation thus far in that chapter -- and we can then move on.
Christ in Us
In John, chapter one, I want to go all the way back to the first verse. I am going to read John 1:1 through John 1:18. I am going to skip all the verses which talk about John the Baptist. As we read this, you are going to see that what John is telling us here, in these opening verses of his gospel, is very much a description of Christianity. Really, he gives us a whole bunch of the foundational doctrines of Christianity. We are going to see that when you gather it all up and bring it down to its most simple answer, that the answer to the question, “What is Christianity?” is simply this:
Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Now, that is a quote from Colossians 1:27, of course, and there are many other verses in the Bible which we could pull out and perhaps use as the answer to the question, "What is Christianity?" I happen to think that Col. 1:27 is the best answer. I believe it is the best answer in one sentence which can be found in the Bible. In the end, Christianity is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory."
If you are a Christian, it is because you are in Christ and Christ is in you. There is a great deal which goes into that -- and a lot that comes out of it. We have to include in this Truth how you come to be a Christian -- and we certainly have to look into what the impact is of having Christ in you. What is the meaning of Christianity -- and what does it result in? I would actually submit that most of the New Testament is an explanation to believers of what Christianity is. Isn’t that true?
Here in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, John is going to talk about this. He is going to talk about what Christianity is based on -- and will even get into the fact that it is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory."
I want to read these verses, 1 through 18, and skip the ones about the Baptist. John writes in John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
So right away, John sets the tone or the theme for the rest of the Gospel: The Person and identity of Jesus Christ -- who He is. Then of course, he is going to talk a lot about who He is IN US. John goes on to say:
The same was in the beginning with God.
There you have a foundational Christian doctrine that Jesus is God, and that He existed before He became a man.
Verse 3 says:
All things were made by Him. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
How many understand that Jesus is the creator -- because the Father created all things THROUGH Him -- as it is stated in Colossians 1:16-17? He is that.
Verse 4 continues:
In Him was life and the life was the light of men.
John is telling us that Jesus Christ is the personification of all life, light, and truth for the believer. He doesn’t say it outright here -- though he does later -- but Jesus is life, light, and Truth IN US. It would be of no value to us unless He dwells in us. So, he is beginning to get to that here.
John then states:
And the light shined in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:5)
Now, skipping verses 6-8, we return to Jesus in verses 9 and 10. John says:
He was the true light which lights every man -- (Jesus is He) Who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own and His own received Him not.
"The true light who lights every man," is clearly CHRIST IN US, the hope of glory. In fact, the next couple of verses speak directly to the fact that Christianity is, "Christ in us the hope of glory." John writes:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the sons of God, even to them which believe on His name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
Note the wording here very carefully, “For as many as RECEIVED Him...” Sometimes I think that when people say they have, "received Christ," they simply mean that they assented to the fact that He is the Savior. No. "Received," means exactly what the word, "received," indicates. To RECEIVE Christ means that you open yourself to Him and His grace -- such that now He comes and DWELLS IN YOU -- you are UNITED with Him and made one with Him in spirit. (I Cor. 6:17) This is what it means to RECEIVE Christ -- and if you hear what I am saying -- this is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
John is also saying that if we receive Him, we have, "the right," at that point -- as we begin our journey -- to come into full son-ship. All of this is dependent upon that initial faith, as John says, "on His Name."
So right here in verse 12, not to mention verse 13, you have a description of, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." This is the new birth. It is what happens when you believe on Christ: You become indwelt by Him. This is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” You become born from above.
John goes on to write in verse 14:
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Even though he is speaking of Jesus becoming man, there is also a principle here: Today when we receive Christ, He comes to dwell in OUR flesh. This Truth is also found in 1 John, chapter four, where it says, “Jesus having come in the flesh.” "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," He lived, he died, He was raised, He ascended to heaven. But because of all of that, today this very same Word, who is a Person, comes to dwell in OUR flesh and blood -- by being united with us in spirit. Again, Christianity is “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”
Then after mentioning John the Baptist again, we read in 16:
And of His fullness have we all received, grace for grace.
And again, HOW do we receive Him? Well, we are united with Him in spirit as he comes to DWELL IN US.
Then, he says in verse 17:
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
And, we might add, "came by Jesus Christ," TO BE IN US.
John concludes the introduction to his gospel by writing:
No man has seen God at any time, the Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
So today we are going to gather together all of these verses here in John 1 and we are going to talk about the meaning of Christianity. I said that the title for today is, “What is Christianity?” We are going to hopefully answer that question.
The Great Mystery
Now, I gave the answer to our question, "What is Christianity?" -- by quoting Colossians 1:27 -- Christianity is, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” Let’s turn there and see the emphasis that the apostle Paul puts on the fact that Christ dwells in the believer. I want to begin reading there in Colossians 1:25. In this verse, Paul is going to give a description of his ministry. The statement which he makes in verse 25 is quite an immense and incredible statement and we need to take note of it. Paul says there:
I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you.
So Paul is saying that he was made a minister according to the will and purpose of God. He says that the ministry and message that he was given -- the Truth which he was given -- was given to him from God for the Body of Christ.
But in the latter half of verse twenty-five, he also says that his ministry -- and the revelation therein -- FULFILLS the Word of God. This is an immense statement and is in full agreement with much of what we have been seeing out of John 1, as we compared John the Baptist -- as the last prophet of the Old Covenant -- over and against the New Covenant -- which is brought in and personified in Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant was a type and a shadow of Jesus Christ. (And thus, did not completely fulfill the Word of God.) But the New Covenant is Christ Himself, and by fulfillment -- "Christ in us, the hope of glory." (He is the complete fulfillment of the Word of God.)
How many see that once we understand the differences between the covenants, we easily see that even though the Old Covenant was the word of God, it did not fulfill completely the Word of God which God has for man. No, it was a type and a shadow. The Old Covenant, as was John its representative, was as a voice crying in the wilderness. It sufficed; it fulfilled a purpose -- but it was not the complete fulfillment of God’s purpose. It was not the complete fulfillment of God’s redemptive purpose in His Son. It simply paved the way for that.
Well, Paul is saying much the same thing here. He is stating that the Old Covenant did NOT completely fulfill the word of God -- but that it just paved the way for that fulfillment in Christ. Then he says, "the revelation which God gave to me and which I now share with you”, DOES fulfill the Word of God. So, we are talking here, through the apostle Paul, of a revelation and a Truth that brings to fulfillment everything that God has wanted to do from the beginning -- going all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Now, this is an incredible statement. I think verse 25 is usually overlooked and we just read right past it -- and do not understand that what Paul is about to announce here as his ministry is THE MESSAGE that GOD has given to FULFILL the Word and the purpose of God in mankind. What could be more important?
We need to keep this in mind as we go on. So, let’s again read verse 25 and move forward. He says:
I am made a minister according to the purpose and dispensation of God which is given to me, for you, to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations but now is made manifest to His saints.
So again -- take note: This tremendous revelation and Truth fulfills completely the word of God. Therefore, it fulfills completely the purpose of God from humanity.
You will also note that Paul now speaks of this as the MYSTERY which has been, "hidden from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to the saints." In other words, these Truths; these revelations, were NOT fully revealed under the Old Covenant. They were there in type and shadow. Indeed, everything Paul taught in the New Testament is in the Old Covenant in type and shadow -- one way or another. That is a fact, but because it was there in type and shadow it was like a mystery. It was a great Truth and revelation that God had for mankind -- but which had not yet been fully revealed. So Paul says, “THIS is the mystery” -- this message which he has been given -- this revelation that fulfills the word of God IS this mystery which had been hidden from ages and generations -- but NOW is made manifest to the saints.
So what is this mystery which was hidden -- and was only in the Old Covenant in type and shadow -- but now in the New Covenant fulfills the word of God? What is this mystery that NOW -- in the New Covenant -- is fully revealed and made manifest? Paul answers in verse 27 -- and I am going to skip right to the sentence. This mystery and this Truth which fulfills the word of God is:
Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Now, can we see why the answer to the question, “What is Christianity,” is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory?" It is because everything is dependent upon CHRIST IN US. You cannot be a Christian unless Christ is in you. You aren’t born again unless Christ is in you. You don’t have life at all unless Christ is in you. There is no way to know Truth unless you know the Christ who is in you. The purpose of God in this age is to form Christ in us -- and to bring us to an inward realization of Him. Yes, we can attach other descriptions and definitions, bring in lots of other verses -- and we ought to -- but in the final analysis: "What is Christianity?" At the core, Christianity is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Paul, in this passage, is saying that CHRIST IN YOU is the revelation which fulfills the word of God. This is the mystery which was hid from ages and generations -- but now is made manifest to the saints: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Hidden, But Now Revealed
Paul says in verse 26 that this great mystery -- this great revelation of, "Christ in you" -- was hidden from ages and generations past. We can see from that statement why, for example, when we talked about the covenants, I was able to clearly state that under the Old Covenant no one was born again. Under the Old Covenant, no one had Christ dwelling in them. The Spirit of God was IN no one. Yes, Jesus Christ was, by His spirit, WITH people before Acts 2. It was only after Acts 2 that Christ, by the Spirit, dwelt IN people. (see also John 14:17) Paul is affirming that right here.
The Truth which God has given me -- Paul is saying -- fulfills the Word of God. It only makes sense that, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," fulfills the word of God. Everything God has been doing throughout all of these centuries was toward that goal -- to have a people in whom Christ dwells. To have a people through whom, and in whom, God could work and reveal Himself in this age -- and then throughout the eternal ages. This was, "the mystery," which was revealed to the saints -- only through the New Covenant once Jesus Christ was ascended, and then came to dwell in His people by His spirit.
So, Christ in you, the hope of glory IS Christianity -- and summarizes the purpose of God. Jesus Christ IN US is the New Covenant.
Paul writes here, in Colossians 1, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and then goes on to say:
Whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man mature in Christ Jesus.
So Paul includes in the core Truth of, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” the fact that it is the purpose of God to form Christ in people -- through our coming into a knowledge of Him. Sure. It is the purpose of God that we may grow up in Jesus and be mature in Jesus Christ.
This is what I labor unto, striving according to His working, which works in me mightily. (John 1:29)
Paul is saying in verse 29 that God is doing a work in him, so that through that work in him, he can minister to the body of Christ. This is how the body of Christ is supposed to function. He says it a different way in II Corinthians 4, where he says, “The work of the cross produces death in me -- so out of that ministry -- life can flow unto you.” (see II Cor. 4:10-12) It is the same thought.
But here in Colossians 1:27, we have the answer to my question for today, “What is Christianity?” Christianity at the core is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Therefore, the Christian life is all of the impact of CHRIST IN US in a person’s experience.
Made One Spirit With Him
The next question I want to answer is, “How does Christ dwell in the believer?” Obviously, this is not a physical indwelling. It is a spiritual indwelling. Indeed, we have our answer as to how Christ dwells in the believer in 1 Corinthians 6:17:
He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
Now, that word, "joined," in 1 Corinthians 6:17, in the New Testament Greek, means, "to be glued or cemented." We can see from this that there is a tremendous ONENESS being described here -- howbeit a oneness IN SPIRIT -- not a physical oneness. This is how Jesus Christ dwells in us -- or if you prefer the other terminology which Paul uses -- this is how the believer dwells IN Christ. Ourselves in Christ, or Christ in us -- it is the same Truth from two different perspectives: We are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him. This is how we are in Christ.
When we put our faith in Jesus, solely by His grace He joins us to Himself in spirit -- and we, at that point, are one with Him. The ramifications of this are eternal and mean everything. For example, "Christ in us, the hope of glory," is our life. When we are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him, we are joined to the One who said, “I am the life;” “I am the resurrection and the life.” How many understand therefore, that we are alive eternally only because we are joined to the Lord? In other words, eternal life is not a THING God gives to us. It is not some kind of a legal classification that God pins on us. No. Eternal life is a Person -- and we are joined and made one with him in spirit. This is why we are alive and have eternal life. We have it IN HIM.
All Given in Christ
God Almighty does not give to us a bunch of THINGS because we put our faith in Christ. What God does is give to us CHRIST HIMSELF -- in Whom are all things that God has to give. Jesus Christ IS the alpha and the omega. Jesus Christ is all that God has to give — "I AM the life...I AM the truth...I AM the light...I AM the Good Shepherd...I AM the door...and the list goes on and on and on. The Bible shows that Jesus Christ -- His very Person -- is ALL that God has for man. God has placed in Jesus Christ everything which God Almighty has to give to humanity. ALL is in Him -- and there is nothing God has for us which is outside of Him. Period!
Romans 8:32 says, “God has freely given us ALL THINGS in His Son.” Even here, in Colossians, if we read down through chapter two, we would see that once Paul establishes the Truth of, "Christ in us, the hope of glory," he goes on in chapter 2 to absolutely emphasize that ALL is given in Christ -- indeed, he WARNS Christians against seeking or thinking that we can find anything of God outside of the Person of Christ who dwells in us.
For example, in Colossians 2:3, speaking of Christ, Paul writes, “In Whom are hid ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” In Christ, are ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. You don’t go somewhere else to find the treasure; to find knowledge, or to find wisdom. They are in a Person -- and if you are a believer, that Person is IN YOU. Therefore, if you want knowledge -- if you want wisdom -- you have to come into an inward knowledge of Jesus. Christ has to be unfolded in you, and to you, and then all that is IN HIM -- including wisdom and knowledge -- will be unfolded as He is unfolded.
You can’t cut right to THINGS that you believe God has for you. You have to get into business with Jesus Christ because everything God has for you is IN HIM. Paul actually warns throughout Colossians 2 against departing from this Truth -- he warns against departing from the Truth that Christ in us is the source of all. He says:
In Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say LEST any man should beguile you with enticing words. (Col. 2:3-4)
Yet isn’t this what is happening on a wide-spread scale today? People are being offered the things of God, help and gifts, through every other imaginable gimmick and religious ritual except through the Person -- who supposedly dwells in them. Paul makes it perfectly clear that if you and I are not coming to know Jesus Christ -- and coming into an inward realization of Him -- then we will not come into the things of God which are IN Christ. We are going to get deceived trying to find those things elsewhere.
I absolutely believe that the reason there is so much deception in the church today is because this one Truth -- which had been hidden but now is revealed: Christ in you -- continues to be hidden because of false teaching and false teachers. It is also because of our own ignorance. God has preached this from cover to cover in the scriptures…"Christ in you, the hope of glory"…and the fact that He is all that God has given to humanity. But we’ve ignored this -- and we are blinded to Him -- and once we neglect this Truth of Christ in us, Satan is going to offer us other options and substitutes for Him. This is where Christianity, in large part, is off today: Substitutes for Jesus; substitutes for the cross of Christ; substitutes for the purpose of God. These abound.
The Fullness of God
Paul goes on in Colossians 2 to show what is made possible because we are united with Christ and made one with Him in spirit. He says in verse 9:
For in Christ dwells all the fullness of God bodily… all the fullness of Deity bodily.”
So again -- just as Romans 8:32 says that we are freely given all things in Jesus Christ -- here we see that stated another way: “In Christ dwells all the fullness of God.” How many understand that you cannot get any more full than that? How many understand that if all the fullness of God dwells in Christ, then there is no more of God that Jesus Christ needs to get, or to seek.
Now, it should be no surprise that in Christ dwells all the fullness of God; that all the fullness of Deity dwelt in Him bodily. But then Paul says, "Christ is IN US -- and that we are complete IN HIM." Notice: Paul is saying that we are compete in Christ -- but has already stated that in Christ dwells all the fullness of God. Therefore, he is telling us that if Christ is in us -- that we have in us THROUGH Christ everything that God has to give -- everything that God has to give of Himself.
Again, don’t think about this in terms of THINGS. Think about it in terms of being united in spirit with the Person in Whom are all things.
I don’t know about you, but when I consider that all the fullness of God Almighty dwelt in Christ -- and then this same Christ dwells in me -- it is an awesome thought. This makes me to understand why Paul is able to say without apology, “You are complete in Christ.” In fact, we read in John 1:16, “Of His fullness have we received and grace for grace.” So, there it is again. We receive the fullness of Christ, and Christ is the fullness of God. Thus, you cannot get any more complete, or filled to the full, than you are if Christ is in you.
If we really believed this -- that we are complete in Christ -- it would revolutionize our thinking about the Christian life. For example, we would no longer be out there seeking God for other things, or for other experiences, so that we can supposedly have all that He has for us. We wouldn’t be doing that because we would realize that we already have all in Christ. So, instead of seeking God for secondary experiences, subsequent experiences to salvation -- such as those taught in the charismatic or Pentecostal churches today -- we would realize that God has already given us all He has to give in His Son.
Note: The Christian life is never you and I trying to get MORE of Christ from God, or a matter of us trying to get more of the Spirit of God from God. No. The Christian life is a matter of being brought into a discovery, revelation, and experience of the Christ who ALREADY dwells in the believer -- and in Whom are ALL things. Again, God has wrapped up everything in His Son.
I boil it down to a basic component: Jesus Christ said, “I am the life.” How many understand that there is nothing outside of life? There is nothing outside of life except DEATH. Thus, if Christ is The Life, and you want to be alive, you must find it all in Jesus. That one statement, “I am THE LIFE,” says it all -- as does His claim to be the, "Alpha and the Omega." So, all the fullness of God dwelt in Christ, and Christ dwells in us -- and therefore, we have all that God has to give -- namely Himself. This is why Paul is able to say that if you are joined to the Lord and made one Spirit with Him, you are complete in Him.
Notice something here: You are not made into a complete independent creature. No, you are only complete IN HIM. In other words, when you are joined to Christ, you are made complete SOLELY by virtue of the fact that you are joined TO HIM. I think we get this false idea that, yes, Jesus Christ is complete -- but if we put our faith in Him, then God also makes us complete, not IN HIM, but separately, "because of Him." And so under this false idea, God has a whole bunch of people who are standing as separate individuals -- all of whom are made complete in themselves because they put their faith in Christ.
I hope we can see that this is NOT the case. We are members of His body and are never complete except that we are joined to Him. In fact, we can put it this way: HE IS OUR COMPLETION. He is the source of all and we must abide in Him.
How many know that a branch is never made into its own complete entity? A branch abides in the vine for all -- and if it does, then that branch is complete IN that vine.
We need to get these distinctions. Everything that the believer has, and everything the believer is, is absolutely dependent on the One in whom we dwell and abide. God doesn’t make us into wonderful specimens all within ourselves. No. He puts us in Christ -- and Christ brings all the value -- that the glory may be of Him and not of flesh.
So Paul emphasizes this truth that in Christ dwells everything that God has for humanity. This truth is based on the cardinal reality of, "Christ in us, the hope of glory."
The New Creation
So again: What is Christianity? Christianity is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." And then the Christian life, which is built upon that, is a matter of us coming into an experience of this Christ who dwells in us -- as our source of life; as the source of all for the believer. There is no other Christianity. It is the only one there is.
All of this is in this prologue in John 1 -- where John says that Jesus Christ is, "The light of men." This is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." John also says that Jesus Christ has to be received within us -- such that we can become one with Him in spirit -- and then we have the right to sonship. We are in that kind of a relationship with God at that point, through Christ.
It is also in John 1 that he says that we are born, not of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but we are born of God. We are born as a new creation.
What is the new creation? The new creation in Christ Jesus is the spiritual union of Jesus Christ and the believer. When we are joined to the Lord and become one spirit with Him, this IS the new man in Christ, the new creation. “If any man is in Christ”, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, “he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, all things have become new and all things are from out of God.”
Now, let me repeat that because it is very important. When we are joined to the Lord and become one spirit with Him -- when Jesus Christ comes to dwell in us -- what is born out of that is a new creation in Christ Jesus; the new man in Christ Jesus. "If any man is IN Christ Jesus, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, all things have become new -- and all things are out from God." When you and I are joined to the Lord and become one spirit with Him, this is what happens. It all goes back to the fact that Christianity is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory."
The Separation of Soul and Spirit
I want to talk some more about this -- but now I want to talk about another dimension -- I want to talk about the separation in the believer between soul and spirit. When Jesus Christ unites Himself to us in spirit, that spiritual union IS the new creation in Christ Jesus. But how many understand that our union with Christ is only a union in SPIRIT? We are not united with Christ in body, and we are not united with Christ in what the Bible calls our, "natural man; our soul man." We have a body, soul, and spirit -- but Christ dwells in us by uniting us with Himself in SPIRIT.
What we can clearly state, once we understand this, is that the new creation in Christ is our union with Christ only in SPIRIT -- but everything outside of that union with Christ in spirit -- namely our body and soul man -- are not part of the new creation in this age. Our body and our soul man are not united with Christ in spirit or in any other way.
What I am describing here is what the Bible calls, "a separation between soul and spirit." This is mentioned in Hebrews 4:12. It says there that, “The Word of God” -- whom we are seeing in John 1 is a living Person, Jesus Christ -- “is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” Translated, what this means is that when Jesus Christ unites us to Himself in spirit, that this automatically creates in each believer a separation between all that is in Christ -- i.e., our spirit -- and all that remains outside of Christ -- i.e., namely our body and soul man.
Each believer has that separation. Unbelievers don’t have it because they are all soul and body. They have no union with Christ in spirit. But for each believer, the moment you are joined to the Lord you have two natures within your person. You have the union of your spirit with the spirit of Christ -- and all that is within that. This is the new creature; this is the seat of salvation; it is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Everything that God is going to do in us is going to be done upon the Christ Who is in us. But outside of this spiritual union with Christ are the body and the soul man. These remain natural. They are not united with Christ in this age.
What you see there is a separation -- a division between soul and spirit. And Paul makes it clear in his epistles that not only is there a separation between the two, but the two are actually CONTRARY one to another. “Natural man cannot receive the things of God. They are folly to him.” (1Cor. 2:14) “The flesh wars against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. The two are contrary to each other." (Gal. 5:17)
Romans 7 is likewise a description of the ongoing struggle and conflict that we are going to have within ourselves because of this division between soul and spirit. A lot of people try to say that Romans 7 is something which ought to be past for us -- and that we ought not any longer to have these struggles. That is such absurdity I don’t even want to spend time addressing it. I mean, look in the mirror. Do you sin, and do you have struggles? Does your flesh give you a hard time? For pete’s sake read what Paul is saying. He is saying, “Oh wretched man that I AM" -- not that I WAS. Paul continued to struggle with the old man. The old man -- the flesh, the soul, and the body -- are not eradicated. When Christ comes to dwell in us, He unites us with Himself in spirit, but the flesh and the body remain as part of our make-up. And, as I noted, this is the separation in each believer between soul and spirit -- and the two are contrary to each other.
Treasure in Earthen Vessels
But how does God deal with this? He deals with it through the work of the cross. This is the essential Truth and I want to talk about it now. How many understand that the moment you are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him, not only does this separation occur between soul and spirit, but a war begins? It is a war which Christ has already won. It just now needs to be worked out in you and experienced by you. It is the work of the cross that brings this victory to pass.
Now, to begin to illustrate this, I want to turn to 2 Corinthians 4:7. There Paul begins a wonderful passage as to the work of the cross -- and what it really means to be under that work so that Christ might be manifested. He says there:
But we have this Treasure [he is speaking of Jesus Christ] in earthen vessels.
And here is the result:
That the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.
Now, note that phrase: Treasure in earthen vessels.” Can we see that Paul is talking about two distinct things? Can we see that this is just another way of saying, “Christ in us, the hope of glory”? HE is the Treasure who dwells in us -- WE are the earthen vessels.
So again we see illustrated the cardinal Truth and definition of Christianity: Christ in us -- i.e., "The Treasure in earthen vessels." But can we also see the nature of this union? The nature of Christ in us the hope of glory? It is Jesus Christ, the Treasure, uniting us with Himself in spirit -- but all of Him dwelling within an earthen vessel. There again is your separation between spirit and soul -- separation between the Treasure and our spiritual union with Him -- the separation between that and everything which remains outside of that spiritual union which is natural, or as it says here, earthen.
And so, what we see is that this is the Treasure IN an earthen vessel. This is not the treasure bringing out some kind of greatness in the earthen vessel. No. This is not Jesus Christ dwelling in us as sort of an adjunct -- to bring out some greatness in man; to bring us into our true identity; to bring us into our full potential; so we can, "discover the champion in ourselves" -- as Joel Osteen suggests. Not at all! We are supposed to discover Jesus.
So, "We have this Treasure IN an earthen vessel." The earthen vessel is never the Treasure, and the Treasure is never the earthen vessel. But there is a wonderful, supernatural, spiritual union between the Treasure and the spirit of man -- all within a flesh and blood human being during this age. That will change at the resurrection -- where we will no longer be an earthen vessel.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:7, is talking about, "Christ in you." He is elaborating, as it were, on what that looks like, and what it really means. You will note, at the end of verse 7, that he says that Christ brings the value and the glory which emerges from this spiritual union. It is not of us. Christ has not come to glorify us or to manifest our greatness or our potential. Jesus Christ did not come to bring out the greatness in man. No. He came to bring His greatness TO man. This is something which has been so twisted and misrepresented today. You have millions of Christians walking around basking in the glow of their true identity in Christ -- but who have completely lost sight of the One who dwells within them.
The Work of the Cross
Well, let’s move on here. Paul talks in verses 8 and 9 about various persecutions, which constitute in the life of a believer the work of the cross. Let’s stop here just for a second -- regarding this work of the cross -- and bring in what Jesus said in Matthew 16 because it is right to the point here. Matthew 16 contains that passage where Jesus stated:
If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever would save his life will lose it. And whosoever will lose his life for My sake will find it. (Matt. 16:24-25)
Jesus is obviously talking about finding HIM as our life because He is the only life we can find. But He also said, “Whosoever would seek to save his life will lose it.” How many understand that this is a principle that Jesus is laying out here? At the point in time, when Jesus made these statements to His disciples, He did not talk about how it would be worked out so much, as He just gave the principle. But here, in 1 Corinthians 4:8-9, we have some of the practicalities of what Jesus was talking about regarding the work of the cross. You and I lose our lives, in practical outworking, by facing trouble. Do we not? In each trouble, in each challenge, and even in blessings, lies an opportunity for us to lose ourselves to Jesus Christ -- no matter what it takes -- to have the full purpose and plan of God worked out in us through that situation.
Sometimes we wonder how to pick up our cross. First of all, we are never told that we are supposed to figure out how to crucify ourselves. Have you noticed that? God never tells us to crucify ourselves. What He does tell us to do, in and through situations such as we find in II Cor. 4:8-9, is to hand ourselves over to Him. This is what it means to pick up your cross. The trouble, the situation, can constitute a cross. You are to pick that up and you are to tell God, by surrendering to Him in that problem, to do whatever it takes to get His full purpose and will -- but not merely in the situation. More importantly, that God would get His full will and purpose IN US. Part of that purpose will be to bring us to the end of our own lives, so that we can walk by faith in Christ.
I think, frankly, that Jesus Himself, when He hung on the cross illustrated how to lose your life fully, down into this surrender. When He hung on the cross, He got to the place where He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” He cried out this despair to God the Father in the middle of that suffering -- which is sort of like we feel when we are in the middle of one of these horrible trials. We may cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But in His next breath, maybe His last, Jesus nevertheless said, “Into Your hands, Father, I commit my spirit.” Thus, these two statements put together is a description of what we need to do in the midst of trouble.
God is absolutely going to bring us to the place where we have no hope at all except HIM. This can happen in circumstances -- and it often does -- to bring out what God really wants. Because ultimately, where the battle is fought and won or lost is INTERNALLY.
For example, are we in possession of our lives -- such that we want to direct traffic to make them turn out according to our desires? Even if we say it is the will of God?
A lot of people want relationships in their family healed. Welcome to the club, I think we all have those kinds of things. That is a good goal and it is the will of God, isn’t it, that God heal marriages; that God heal family relationships? But how many see that if you and I try to grab hold of that and make it happen, even under the power of religious flesh, then we have not lost our lives to Jesus Christ in that matter. No. We are firmly in control -- even if it is for a good cause -- or so we think. (Healing families is a good thing! I am just using that as an example.)
But no. What we must do is say to the Lord, “Lord, I know that in my heart I want your will. I want my family healed -- but I know, Lord, that I can’t do it in a way that will be real or lasting. I can only live as an example and I can reflect or manifest Christ in my life -- but I cannot do this.” So, what we do is this: we completely relinquish to Jesus Christ, not only the situation that we are talking about -- whether it be healing of the family or anything else -- but we relinquish OURSELVES to Christ in that situation.
We also say, “Lord, there is a separation in me between soul and spirit -- but because I love my family and am tied to them, my soul man; my natural man is rising up and out of that soul man in me, I am trying to fix this situation. Lord, I lose this soul man into your hands because I know that soul man has no life in him.” I fully lose myself to Jesus, who dwells in me by His spirit. I tell Jesus Christ -- and here is the commitment that I often mention which is a commitment we can make in any matter -- let alone in an overall way -- we say to Jesus Christ, “Lord, I am giving myself to you and I am asking You to do whatever it takes to do a work in me to make me able to be absolutely at one with you in this matter; to be one with You in Your will. I am asking You, Lord, to do whatever it takes to make me to be someone who is fully living in and out from You. Whatever death this requires in me, via the work of the cross, I surrender to You for that, and I deny the right of my natural man to rise up and be in charge.”
So again, instead of trying to crucify ourselves by doing this or that, we just need to hand ourselves over to the Lord and surrender ourselves to the death of Jesus Christ for us. He knows how to do a work of the cross -- we don’t.
This, "whatever it takes," commitment into the hands of God -- the losing of your life -- is the key to freedom from all sin; all kinds of sin. In our lives we have addictions to all kinds of horrible things. We have habitual sin; we have attitude problems; we have things we may have tried for years to overcome. Maybe we have tried to memorize Bible verses. Maybe we have gone to seminars, or tried to plug into the right, "‘how-to." We have begged and pled with God to deliver us from these sins. BUT -- maybe we have never actually lost our lives to Jesus Christ.
Victory Over Sin
How many understand that you cannot overcome any sin until you lose the life in which that sin is rooted? You cannot, in the final analysis, get free from sin by being partially crucified. No, you have to surrender your whole self to God and then the power of sin which is rooted in that whole self will be broken with regards to specific sins. This really is an absolute principle. You have to give your SELF to God before the power of sin is broken -- because the power of that self is manifested in all kinds of different sins.
So, instead of battling and trying to beat sin over the head -- trying to overcome all these addictions and other things by praying and claiming and doing -- we need to get back to the very basic principle Jesus is giving here. Lose yourself -- because all sin is rooted in that self. All the sin derives the power from that self. Lose that self -- and you can begin to do so by making that, "whatever it takes," commitment -- things will begin to move and God will begin to work. It will take time but you will come to freedom.
Jesus died for you to be free. He is not going to sit there and do nothing. No. You lose yourself and become united with Him in His death and you will see freedom. You have His blood as a guarantee of that.
The Trying of Our Faith
Now what I am saying is that most of us have as our goal that we would stop sinning. You can name any sin that you have a problem with. We want to stop sinning -- which is fine -- but our goal really ought to be: To start believing. We are not going to stop sinning until we start believing and begin surrendering. We usually get the ‘cart before the horse’. No. We need to give ourselves to Jesus Christ by faith, because in Him is all victory over sin. Until we do that, until we have made the, "whatever it takes," commitment, we cannot even get started in victory.
Now, if we do lose ourselves to Christ -- it does not mean that our natural man is going to quit functioning. No. We will not cease to have feelings. We will continue functioning in our natural man -- in our own unique way emotionally -- over our family, or whatever it is. We will continue to care, and have a stake in matters. Emotions will still be able to rise up and challenge our faith in Christ. All of this, of course, is part of what it means to have faith tested -- even if by our own reactions.
But what it does mean is that we have made a commitment NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES to lose ourselves to Jesus -- and there is no argument or debate about it anymore. We are not going to settle for anything less than the full will of God -- to His glory. We are willing for God to do anything He needs to do in us, or in our circumstances, to accomplish this.
What is going to happen over the course of time is not simply that the power of the old man will be broken -- which is included -- but what really happens because of a work of the cross on the old man is that the life and power of Jesus Christ will come to govern us. Jesus will be Lord -- and it will be His life which governs us. And the old life, which is outside of our spiritual union with Him, will become less and less a factor because it is under the cross.
This takes time, trials, tribulations and challenges to our faith. We may be crying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” This is what our soul man may be crying -- but in the same breath we can say, “Nevertheless, I put that aside, and disregard my reactions, because they are not the Truth.” Then as I disregard them, and lose all of myself to Jesus, I put my faith in Him. We can then cry out, “Into your hands do I commit my spirit.”
You and I can make that commitment of, "whatever it takes," to God in an overall way. It will be tested and we may have to recommit and abide in that commitment in Christ. We will have to hang on that cross and carry it throughout our lives. But we can also continue that same commitment specifically in situations we face.
His Strength, Our Weakness
The work of the cross is to bring death upon all that is outside of our spiritual union with Christ, so that the soul man and body may no longer govern us and be our master. But not just as an end in itself. It is also that Christ Himself may be known to us and manifested in and through us.
What a miracle that the same body of natural man, which is so contrary to Jesus Christ who is in us, can then become an earthen vessel through whom Christ is manifested. God does not bypass our flesh and our body. Christ is not manifested in such a way that bypasses our human frame. No, by the time God is finished with us, the treasure that is in us will, because the earthen vessel has been broken, be able to flow through, and be manifested through, that earthen vessel to God’s glory.
When you and I are united to Christ in sprit, like I said before, the soul and the body are not eradicated. They are forces to be dealt with in our experience, are they not? Jesus says, I’ve already broken the power of that in your life but you don’t believe it or understand it, so you are going to keep yielding to that flesh until you do. So, He brings about situations whereby we can be given opportunity for our natural man to be handed over to the work of the cross. Then the power that is already broken may be shown to be broken.
How many understand that when God makes us weak within ourselves that He is not really MAKING us weak? He is actually showing us that we have always BEEN weak. But WE are just seeing it now; we are seeing the Truth. Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong in Him,” i.e., “When I am weak in myself, the power of Christ works upon me, and in me.” And so, God is exposing all of this about the natural soul man, which is really the SELF -- the ME, the, “I.” The power of that has been broken in the death of Christ. The work of the cross, as we pick it up daily, is going to work that out and it is going to show our self to be dead in Christ; the power is broken.
Again, if you want to know what it means to walk in the power of natural man -- the power of the flesh -- in the final analysis it is to walk according to ME. But all of this has to come under the work of the cross, so that, through that death, the life of Christ may be released to a greater degree in you and in me.
Death Results in Life
This is what Paul was getting at here in 2 Corinthians 4. He says, “We have this Treasure in an earthen vessel” – which is, ”Christ in us the hope of glory.” In other words, we have our spiritual union with Him, who is this Treasure -- but everything that is outside of that spiritual union remains earthen. He also says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed” -- and lists all of those other trials in verses 8 and 9. He then gathers all of that up in verse 10, where he says that these troubles and trials constitute a WORK OF THE CROSS such that, “we are always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” This, “body,” is what is outside of our spiritual union in Christ (i.e., physical body and soul man) – we will bear about in this body the dying of the Lord Jesus -- IF we surrender to Christ in those matters; surrender ourselves to Him.
Yes, surrender the situation, but we must surrender OURSELVES in the situation. If we do this, we are going to be brought to the place where the work of the cross -- in and through that situation -- will actually result in us bearing about in our natural man the dying of the Lord Jesus.
How many see that if this is happening, then that old man in Adam will come to govern us less and less? Paul says that here. He says, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, IN ORDER THAT that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” This is the purpose for the dying: LIFE.
Notice the great miracle that is being described here. Everything about ourselves, inclusive in our natural man, is originally governed by our self-life. Everything. But once we have Christ in us, and come under the work of the cross, things can come to the place where our natural man, our body even, is no longer governed by the self-life -- or by the flesh – but rather, by Christ. This is sanctification and redemption. This is what God is doing by virtue of the presence of His Son in us.
Now obviously this is never going to be perfected in this life. It is a process. We are going to have challenges to it every day. Nevertheless, this is the Truth -- and it is the direction God is taking us.
How many see that if you and I want to manifest Jesus Christ that it is never going to happen until we come under the work of the cross? How many see, in addition, that the end product of spiritual growth -- of coming under the work of the cross, indeed the purpose of God -- is NOT to merely make us, “look like Jesus?” No. It is not to make us into little xerox copies of Jesus; into little gods who look like Jesus. Never. That is heresy.
No, Paul says it right here: The end product of what God is doing is Christ Himself -- whom we have seen already dwells in us – God’s purpose is that Christ Himself be manifested THROUGH US. Now the core of that will be spiritually in the form of Christian character, the fruits of the spirit, and so forth -- but this will be Christ manifested through our mortal bodies, as Paul says here. All of these manifestations are HIS LIFE flowing through the earthen vessel. This is NOT the earthen vessel being made to LOOK LIKE the Treasure. It is the earthen vessel being broken so that Christ, Who is in us, can be seen through us,
Now you may not think this distinction matters. But, “looking like Jesus” vs. Jesus being manifested through us, are two entirely different Christianities. One is error and heresy and one is the Truth. This is just that important.
And so Paul writes:
Always bearing about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal bodies. (II Cor. 4:9-10)
Now, take these verses from II Cor. 4:9-10 and compare them over and against Galatians 2:20. You will see exactly the same Truth.
I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20)
Yes, the Cross is a finished work. It is finished -- Jesus died once for all. But we must pick up our cross -- not to get saved all over again; not to maintain salvation -- but we pick it up daily so that we can, “bear about in this self-life the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might then be manifested through us.” God doesn’t want to simply save us. That is where it all BEGINS. But God wants us to become His living witnesses. He wants us to become manifestations of the Christ who lives in us. That is something that will be continue throughout eternity.
Christ in Us to be Manifested
Many of us have this misunderstanding that, yes, Jesus Christ has died for us -- and now that His death is over and done with -- God is able to pour out His spirit to do stuff TO US to make us LOOK LIKE Jesus. Some of this, “stuff God does to us,” we call, “sanctification” -- or we say it makes us righteous, and so forth. All of that is error. God does not, “make US righteous.” No. Rather, Jesus Christ IN US is our righteousness. Neither does God do a work of sanctification upon us. No. Rather, Jesus Christ IS sanctification IN US.
Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 1:29. Notice the wording here and you will see what I mean. First of all, verse 29:
No flesh should glory in His presence. (i.e., the presence of Jesus in us.)
How many know that His presence is IN US? Do you think this is going to result in our glorying in OURSELVES? No, It is going to result in our realizing that we are merely recipients of grace -- and that our glorying is in HIM. That is why Paul adds, “No flesh should glory in the presence of Jesus -- BUT of God are you in Christ Jesus.” In other words, Christ is in us -- or we are in Christ -- but HE is our only hope of glory.
But of God are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is MADE UNTO US wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
The result is:
According as it is written, “He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
So here again we see that God has not given us, “things,” called wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. No. Neither is He is doing stuff to us called creating wisdom, making us righteous, sanctifying us, or redeeming us. No. God is not, “acting upon us,” to produce this stuff. Rather, God has given us CHRIST -- and through the bearing about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus, CHRIST is made unto us to BE wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. These are nothing more than descriptions of how CHRIST is manifested THROUGH US.
For example: What is sanctification? We say it is Christian growth. Some errantly say that it is a matter of us being transformed to, “look like Jesus.” But no. Sanctification is Christ in us being seen.
There are people, who absolutely demand, for example, that because God says in Romans 8:29, that, “we are conformed to the image of His Son,” that this means that we are made to. “look like Jesus.” But look up the Greek. The word, “conformed,” means, “to be formed together WITH Him.” This is the exact same Truth: That because Christ is in us, we are going to be formed (through the work of the Cross) so that He can be manifested through us. We are going to be, “bearing about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that He might be seen in and through us.”
So all of these things are ramifications and impacts of “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” This is Christianity.
Now, I have to close this message. And in order to do so, I want to go back to John 1. In that chapter -- in the prologue -- all the different components which form the foundation of Christianity are included. It starts with the identity of Jesus Christ as the preexistent, only begotten Son of God. John not only talks about the identity of Jesus, but he talks about the fact that this same Jesus is to be RECEIVED. If we receive Him into ourselves and become united with Him in spirit, we will be given the right (verse 12) to become the sons of God; we will be given the right to become Christians.
So what is Christianity? Well, I hope we have answered that question in this message. It is exactly this: Christianity is, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”
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