VIP CHRISTIANITY (Vital, Influential, Practical)
1 Christianity and You Col. 1:15-29
2 Christianity and Your Life James 4:13-17
3 Christianity and Your Faith Rom. 10:11-21
4 Christianity and Your Church Mt. 16:13-20
5 Christianity and Your Home Ps. 127
6 Christianity and Your School Mt. 18:1-14; Prov. 22:6
7 Christianity and Your Friends Jn. 15:11-16
8 Christianity and Your Time Eph. 5:15-20; 1Cor. 7:29-31
9 Christianity and Your Work 2Thes. 3:6-13
10 Christianity and Your Play Ps. 16
11 Christianity and Your World Mk. 16:14-20
The next 11 messages will focus on the subject of vital, influential, and practical Christianity. It is all these things because the Christian message is relevant, and because of that, you are important as a Christian. You are the one whom God has chosen to reveal his message of truth through various means. It is relevant because Christianity works – at least it is supposed to – at least we would like it to – and it does when we get it right – and by God’s grace, sometimes even when we haven’t got it all right yet. After all, it cost enough that it should work well. It cost the blood of Christ.
A young boy was overheard as he stood with his father during a major auto show listening to the manufacturer’s representative tell about all of the visionary electronic and mechanical technological features of the new prototype models to come out in the next 2 to 3 years. The excited lad edged up as close as he could with some inevitable questions on his mind. “Daddy,” he started, “please ask the lady how much this car costs.” The good-natured speaker, overhearing the child’s request, supplied the answer, naming a considerable sum of money. “My,” remarked the father, impressed, “our new church cost as much as that!” The words were hardly out of his mouth when the boy, pointing at the automobile, innocently interjected, “Yes, Daddy, but this works!”
A fair number of years in the Christian faith have shown us that many in the church have this same attitude of realization as the little boy, although perhaps not so innocently. They have looked to the church for answers but have found much failure. The church has not met all our expectations, and from the stream of seekers that come in and go out of the church, it hasn’t met all theirs either. Of course, some problems and unrealistic expectations are our own fault. Many people are just not yet ready to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. But there is some justification for acknowledging that things could work better in most churches. Vital Christianity, rightly related to everyday life, is hard to find in much of the organized religion of today. In the words of the practical proverb coined upon our lips by all of us at one time or another, we must practice what we preach. To show how Christianity can work and should work in everyday life is the aim of this series. It is important because the Christian is God’s example on display. The world wants to see how God works. They want to see if God is real for them. God wants to reveal himself through us.
According to the Bergen (N.J.) Record, the zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently put a human couple on display. Henrik Lehmann and Malene Botoft live in a see-through cage, in the primate display, next to the baboons and the monkeys. Their 320-square-foot habitat has a living room with furniture, a computer, a television, and stereo. The kitchen and bedroom are part of the display. Only the bathroom is excluded from public view. Unlike their neighbors, who aren't allowed out, the two humans occasionally leave their fishbowl existence to shop and water the flowers on their porch back home. "We don't notice visitors anymore," said Lehmann. "If I want to pick my nose or my toes now, I do it."
We would do well to remember that people are watching the way we live. "In everything set them an example by doing what is good" (Titus 2:7).
-Parade Magazine (12/29/96) (Marriage, Privacy)
SERIES: VIP CHRISTIANITY
SUBJECT: Christianity and You
READING: Colossians 1:21-29
TEXT: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27).
DATE: March 14, 1999
I. The Majesty of This Life in Christ (1:15)
1) His Creative Life (1:16-17)
2) His Redemptive Life (1:18, 20)
II. The Mystery of This Life in Christ (1:27)
1) The Miracle of His Incoming (1:27)
2) The Measure of His Indwelling (1:27)
III. The Ministry of This Life in Christ (1:28)
1) The World Must Be Reached Through Us (1:27-28)
2) The Word Must Be Preached Through Us (1:27-28)
Captain Reginald Wallis, whose evangelistic crusades and convention ministry blessed thousands of young and old on both sides of the Atlantic, used to define the word “Christian” as follows: He would say, “Spell out the word C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. Then take the letter ‘A’ from the end of the word and put it at the beginning. Now what do you read?” The answer, of course, was —“A CHRIST IN.” With great earnestness he would then add: “A Christian is a man or woman who has Christ living in him, or her.”
The Bible teaches that man by nature is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). In other words, because of sin, he is devoid of that divine element which makes him alive to God. This fact can be true of any man or woman, regardless of educational, cultural or even religious refinements. God’s answer to this basic deficiency is life as it is in Christ.
I. The Majesty of This Life in Christ
Christ “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (1:15). Here is a statement which declares that all that God represents is embodied in what Jesus Christ is. He is the image of the invisible God; He is the radiance of the glory of God. In the passage before us, this outshining of God is manifested in:
1) His Creative Life
“By him were all things created…and by him all things hold together” (1:16-17). As John tells us in his gospel, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). The countless constellations of our universe were brought into being by the creative act of the Son of God. What is more, they hold together, or consist, by the same outgoing of divine power. Only in recent years have scientists realized that everything that holds together must have an integrating point. And they are absolutely correct in their assumption, for, centuries ago, Paul declared that by Christ all things consist or hang together (1:17). What a glorious concept this is of the majesty of the creative life of Christ.
Scientists tell us that everything in the universe is expanding at an equal rate away from everything else. They use this to support the Big Bang Theory. Whether or not you believe that theory, I have wondered something else. If everything is expanding away from everything else, there must be a center away from which everything is expanding. Even though everything is expanding, it is that center which holds it together. It is what everything in the universe has in common. That center must be God. And God is Christ. He is not only the center of the universe and of all creation, he is the center of your life. And he has place his creative powers in you. It all works when we remember where those creative powers come from and use them for good as he did. It may be true that you are a piece of meat, but that is not all you are.
“An American cutlery manufacturer wrote: ‘It takes a girl in our factory two days to learn to put the 17 parts of a meat chopper together. It may be that these millions of worlds, all balanced so wonderfully in space—it may be they just happened: it may be, by a million of years of tumbling about, they finally arranged themselves. I don’t know. I am merely a plain manufacturer of cutlery. But this I do know that you can shake the 17 parts of a meat chopper around in a washtub for the next 17 millions of years, and you’ll never make a meat chopper.’” But God did make the girl that puts the meat chopper together. And he has given some of his creative powers to the girl.
-from 1200 Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes published by Pickering & Inglis; used by permission.
2) His Redemptive Life
“And he is the head of the body, the church --- having made peace through his blood shed on the cross” (1:18, 20). God has not only demonstrated the majesty of His Son in the realm of creation, but also in the realm of redemption. This is the story of the gospel—and an extraordinary story it is. In “Annunciation,” John Donne addresses Mary and describes Christ’s “immensity, cloistered in thy dear womb.” Here is the record of how God contracted to the measure of a woman’s womb and was born and lived and died and rose again, that the human race might be redeemed, reconciled to God, and made a vehicle through which the Son of God could express His life. So He is described in this passage as the very Head of a new body, which is the church. This process is going on today. Every hour, somewhere in the world, men and women are being added to that body, and the majesty of Christ’s redemptive life is being displayed in every part of the globe. God in Christ is not only the Creator, but the Recreator. Sin may destroy, but God is able to rebuild all that desire to be recreated through the cross. We may have been crossed up by sin, but we have not been crossed out by God.
“He came from the bosom of the Father to the bosom of a woman. He put on humanity that we might put on divinity. He became Son of Man that we might become sons of God.
“He was rich yet for our sake became poor. How poor? Ask Mary. Ask the wise men. He slept in another’s manger; He cruised the lake in another’s boat; He rode on another man’s donkey; He was buried in another man’s tomb. He is the ever perfect One, the Chief among ten thousand. He is altogether lovely.”
-from 1200 Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes published by Pickering & Inglis; used by permission.
Christ has life in himself, but he borrowed our lives in which to reveal himself so that others may see and understand that the essence of our lives are in him. He wants others to see that even when we cannot help ourselves, he is able to redeem, restore and redirect. God delights in doing the impossible and the improbable to show his glory. He wants to do this in you (Rom. 5:8).
II. The Mystery of This Life in Christ
“This mystery …which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). In ancient times, a mystery referred to a secret which was revealed only to initiates. In this context it means something which cannot be understood by human reason, without the aid and illumination of the Holy Spirit. And we can understand this when we analyze that astonishing statement, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This is the mystery that Jesus Christ the Son of God actually lives in the hearts and lives of men and women, boys and girls, who have acknowledged His majesty in creation and in the recreation of redemption and have personally accepted Him.
1) The Miracle of His Incoming
“Christ in you” (1:27). The coming of Christ into a human life is one of the great miracles of the universe. This is why the Bible speaks of it as a conversion, or a new birth, or a transformation. To argue that because a person has been brought up in a Christian home, or a so-called Christian country, or has been attached to a Christian church - that this necessarily makes him a Christian is wholly illogical and unreasonable. A Christian is one who has Christ dwelling within him, and this involves a definite act of the mind, heart and will. Jesus said, “Here I am, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in” (Rev. 3:20).
3. Exegete: Revelation 3:20
Receiving Christ involves an act of the mind, heart and will. Notice that the words, “Here I am” are an appeal to the faculty of perception. We must understand that Christ is waiting to enter our lives, the very Christ of creation. The words, “If anyone hears my voice” appeals to the faculty of emotion. It is with the ears of the heart that we hear the voice of God calling to us. And finally, the words “open the door” are an appeal to the faculty of volition, the will. Wherever there is this threefold response of mind, heart and will the miracle happens: Christ actually comes in to dwell in the human personality forever. As we heard in our message series on Moses, he wants to be our God and for us to be his people. And when this miracle takes place there can be no doubt about it: it is revolutionary, and joyfully real.
We can compare this to an insightful little outline on God’s provision found in the Daily Bread, 3/11/99. That is, that to receive our physical needs from God, we must seek him daily (for he has promised enough for each day even as he feeds the birds), expectantly (for he has provided faithfully in the past), and actively (he does not throw the seed into the nest – it must be gathered). So it was with the manna in the wilderness and so it is with us in the spiritual sense. Daily he is there for us to come to him, expectantly we must listen for his voice, and actively we must open the door and apply what he reveals to us through a union of expectant intimacy. This intimacy with him is vital to our Christian life, influential in how we live it, and practical in how we live with others. You are a VIP Christian. Ultimately, it will influence them.
2) The Measure of His Indwelling
“Christ in you” (1:27). That title “Christ” implies “the Messiah” or “the anointed Prophet, Priest and King.” And for Christ to be a reality in your life and mine He must be heard as the undisputed Prophet in our lives, He must be heeded as the undisputed Priest of our lives, and He must be honored as the undisputed King in our lives. There is no other message which matters, but that which is revealed through His prophetic Word. There is no other sacrifice which applies, but that which is available through His atoning work on the cross. There is no other authority which can be recognized, but that of our King of kings and Lord of lords. To know Christ in this sense is to know the mystery and measure of His indwelling.
Dr. E. B. Meyer used to tell a story of a widow who lived with her son in a house in one of England’s seaside towns. One day, without warning, the lad left home and went to sea. At first the distressed mother held the hope that the boy would soon return, but as time went by she had to accept the fact that he was gone for good. Being extremely poor, she soon had to plan how to earn her living, and so she decided to turn her little home into a guesthouse. To make it a success, she had to work hard night and day. Her hands became rough, her back began to stoop, and her face soon was worn; but on she worked, year after year.
One day a sailor, with heavy beard, applied to stay at her guesthouse. She welcomed him in and gave him one of her rooms. At first she thought there was something strange and mysterious about this man. Still, she tried to take little notice and worked harder than ever. Then one evening she made a glorious discovery! Intrigued by a familiar gesture, she dared to ask her sailor guest who he really was—and to her joy found that he was none other than her son! As soon as the mystery was solved, he took charge of the situation. “Mother,” he said, “I am now a rich man; so I want you to give those worn hands of yours a rest; I want to see that back straighten up, and your face look young once again. What work there is to be done, I will do. Your business from now on is to rely on me.”
You see, the mystery was his incoming; the glory was the discovery of his indwelling; and the riches were the means of releasing the old lady from any further concern or burden. Our life in Christ is to rely upon his riches which he lavishes upon us. The mystery of our life in Christ is a measureless miracle. It is the richness of his grace that transforms us.
III. The Ministry of This Life in Christ
“Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (1:27-28). Christ’s indwelling has a redemptive purpose. God indwells us by the power of His mighty Son in order that His glory might be seen in us here on earth as well as in heaven in a coming day. The ministry of the indwelling Christ is twofold:
1) The World Must Be Reached Through Us
“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). The only hope of this poor dark world in time or in eternity is Jesus Christ, and the only method which God has devised for reaching others is through you and me. Once Christ becomes an indwelling reality He uses our bodies and lives as the vehicles for the expression of His life and glory. There is a sense in which He has no eyes but our eyes to look through, no lips but our lips to speak through, no hands but our hands to work through, no feet but our feet to walk through, no hearts but our hearts to love through. Just as a body without a spirit is a cadaver, so a spirit without a body is a ghost. The Spirit desires to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Mt. 3:8). We must be the presence of a real live flesh and blood Jesus to others whom he also loves.
John Perkins, in chapters 4, 5 & 6 of his book, Beyond Charity, makes comment on this:
“When John’s disciples asked Jesus who he was, the burden of proof was on him to provide the answer. Jesus did not answer John’s question with mere words; he authenticated his messianic claim by his actions. In fact, his deeds that followed – healing the blind and lame and lepers and preaching good news to the poor – were in fulfillment of the prophecy in Is. 61 concerning the Messiah and the favorable year of the Lord. --- Among the poor, Jesus authenticated his claim to be the Son of God. John’s disciples returned to his prison cell as eyewitnesses of the proof of Jesus’ lordship. --- Today, the burden of proof is on the church of Jesus Christ, the people of God. As the old Prince Albert ad used to say, “The proof is in the puffing.” --- The cross was a physical event. People stood there and witnessed the evidence of Christ’s love. Love must be seen to be embraced.
“Historically, however, what we the church do has not matched up with what we say. When I speak in suburban churches, both white and black, and call for an inner city life-style that will demonstrate the gospel to the poor, I am not asking for something that is easy. It is very difficult because many suburban churches do not disciple people who are capable of answering such a call. In many cases their discipleship goes only as far as their suburban life-style will let it. Then they make the mistake of organizing their Christianity around their chosen life-style, rather than vice versa. --- When we speak of such matters as class divisions, racial discrimination, institutionalism, neglect of the poor and the inner city, and lack of social conscience and cultural impact, we are confronting problems that are just as present (and sometimes more so) in evangelical and fundamentalist churches as in the so-called liberal churches.
“We the church face a crisis in terms of the gospel we preach because we have not authenticated ourselves to the world around us. It amazes me how we can be so versed in the Scriptures yet never get around to asking ourselves the right questions. --- We see the gospel as primarily rescuing us from hell and getting us into heaven. We have lost sight of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
But Perkins goes on to affirm, “From L.A. to Philadelphia, Detroit to Dallas, even on Chicago’s dreaded Westside, stable Christian families, motivated by their desire to participate in the rebuilding of our inner cities, are sprinkling back in, buying homes, setting down roots, and building relationships with unlikely neighbors. They are convinced that their presence is the surest way to begin tackling the problems of their cities.”
“There are many Christians whose response to the love of an indwelling Christ has compelled them to pass on that love to their neighbors, but often that has not been accomplished without extreme personal sacrifice. At our 1990 Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) annual convention, Mary Nelson shared with us some of the painful experiences that would have devastated and chased away people whose actions were motivated by personal gain or guilt, and not by a love for God. One of Mary's most painful stories was of a brutal physical attack and rape that left her nearly dead. It would have been easy to become alienated from her community after this experience. Instead, through God's grace in the midst of her pain, Mary became more determined to create a safe, healthy community for herself and her neighbors. Now, years later, Mary can say, "I believe we're just about to the point where we're going to tip this neighborhood for the positive. On the corridor where we've focused our greatest efforts you see flowers, picket fences, green gardens-like the suburbs. In a year, we probably touch ten thousand of the forty thousand people in our community." Mary's hope and undying positive spirit flow out of the love that she has experienced from God, even in the midst of personal pain.”
2) The Word Must Be Preached Through Us
“Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (1:27-28). Just as Jesus incarnate was God’s conversation with men, so we have become a kind of extension of that incarnation. Through us the message of the gospel is communicated in its warning aspects, as well as its teaching aspects, in order that men and women might believe and be perfected in the life that is in Christ. And as we engage in such work, God promises us a dynamic that will enable us to serve mightily as well as to succeed mightily. So Paul says, “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me” (1:29).
…to show that preaching is more than proclamation, it is also conversation by life and lip. “The meaning of preaching can be [learned] from four Greek words used in the New Testament to translate the word ‘preach.’
“1. Kerusso—to proclaim, to herald. This is used of the public proclamation of the gospel (Matt. 11:1; Mark 1:4; 3:14; 16:20; Rom. 10:15, etc.)
“2. Euaggelizo—to tell good news. From this word are derived our terms ‘evangel,’ ‘evangelist,’ ‘evangelize’ (Matt. 11:5; Luke 4:18; 7:22; 1 Cor. 1:17; Gal. 1:8; Heb. 4:2, etc.)
“3. Kataggello—to tell thoroughly (Acts 4:2; 13:38; 15:36; Col. 1:28)
“4. Laleo—to talk (Mark 2:2; Acts 11:19; 14:25, etc.) “Of the 112 times the word ‘preach’ is found in the New Testament, on only six instances does it mean a formal discourse. Thus to preach, in the New Testament sense of the term, is to proclaim as a herald the message of the King of kings and Lord of lords; to tell the good news, to tell thoroughly all the truth of the gospel, holding back nothing, but declaring ‘the whole counsel of God’; to talk to others, as we meet them on the highways, or in their homes, of the love of God as revealed in the gift of His Son, and of the salvation He has secured for whosoever will believe on Him.”
Alfred E. Gibbs, from 1200 Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes published by Pickering & Inglis; used by permission.
What a thrilling adventure this is! How utterly removed from the distorted concepts men have of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Sometimes we don’t get much time to speak the message, but we must. If we ask God, he will show us who to speak to and open the way. Who knows what seed we may plant? Joan and I were in Milwaukee on Friday to view the NCAA playoffs with some free tickets I won in a drawing at the Naval Base. After the first session, and about suppertime, we left the Bradley Center to find a place to sit down and eat. Everything was packed out. I prayed and asked God for a place to go. We were just heading back to the car to sit and wait for session two to begin when I noticed a little coffee shop on a side street. I persuaded Joan to give it one more try and we were delighted. We went in, struck up a conversation with the two workers inside, and had some tea, bread, and homemade soup. It was one of those places where I thought I had been before but know I haven’t. At least I don’t think so. But we gave a real live witness of what it means to be a Christian as we shared our lives with those two young people and asked them questions as well. When we left, I handed them each an “Eternal Life is a Free Gift” tract. The young man took it with some interest but the young woman said, “I can’t take this, you keep it.” I responded with, “Just check it out and see what you think.” She pushed it back my way and said she had her own way. I asked, “What are you then?” meaning what is your religious preference. She opened up with one short sentence and said she was brought up Catholic when she was younger. That left my opportunity like the one Bill Hybels talked about at Founder’s Week, 1999, when he was leaving the boat and had to give an explanation of the gospel in one short sentence and explained the ‘do’ vs. ‘done’ idea of religion vs. Christianity. I said, “Growing up Catholic could be enough to distort your view of Christianity. That was works, this is grace. Check it out.” She still wouldn’t take the tract, but the young man did. They both heard the message.
We have seen what we mean by “Christianity and You.” Christianity is vital, influential and practical, and he wants us to be VIP Christians. His majesty is vital (he created us to serve him), his mystery is influential (he enables us to serve him), and his ministry is practical (we must serve him). This is nothing less than the outliving of the indwelling Christ. Nothing could be more relevant to our contemporary scene. What people want and need to see is Christianity in action, and this can only happen when Christ lives in us, by the power of His indwelling Spirit. Then, and only then, will His creative and redemptive glory be seen in a life style that is authentic and convincing. In essence, this is Christ in us, the hope of glory.