Benefit of Being In Christ, Part 1
by Rev. Randy Brown
Our scripture for the morning is taken from 2nd Corinthians Chapter 5 Verses 11 through 21.
Out of reverence and respect for our Lord, would you stand for the reading of God’s word.
“Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others but we are as plain to God and I hope is also plain to your conscience. We’re not trying to commend ourselves to you again but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind as some say, it is for God and if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died.
“And He died for all that those who lived shall no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view that we once regarded Christ in that way. We do so no longer.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ the new creation has come, the old has gone. The new is here. All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ not counting people’s sins against them. And, He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God was making His appeal through us.
“We implore you on Christ’s behalf. Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sent for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is the word of God for the people of God.
Praise be to God.
We’re going to pray together.
Father, we’ve been blessed this morning in worship together and we asked that in this time You would continue to pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us. Once again I pray that you come and rescue me from me. That you would hide me behind Your cross. That the words that are of heard are Your words and not mine. That the one who’s seen is You and not me, and above all else may we hear the quiet shuffling of sandaled feet and know that it is Jesus the Christ who is in our midst. To His name and for His glory I pray. Amen.
It’s a word that we use a lot. It’s a defining word. It’s a descriptive word but sometimes we’re not sure what it means. It’s the word ‘in,’ I-N. You come into Manchester and somewhere you’re going to see a sign that says, “You’re in Red Raider Country.” Or if you’re in the South, you’re probably going to see, “You’re in Sun Drop Country.”
You’re all with me this morning, aren’t you? What does it mean to be ‘in?’
Every child knows what it means to be ‘in’ trouble.
Every person growing up at sometimes or another hopefully knows what it means to be ‘in’ love.
If you’re an athlete you know what it means to be ‘in’ the zone.
The word ‘in’ means to belong. It means to be a part of. If you get in the car then the car encompasses you. If you go into the house the house encompasses you. It engulfs you and you become a smaller part of the whole.
What does it mean to be ‘in Christ?’
Because the scripture says, “That if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation.”
I want us to talk about a few moments this morning what it means to be ‘in Christ.’ It means that Christ engulfs you just like the car would engulf you if you were in the car or a house would engulf you if you were in the house.
Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you. For I am the vine and you are the branches. Abide in Me.”
What does it mean to be ‘in Christ?’
To abide in Him.
How do we become ‘in Christ?’
The prodigal son knew what it meant to be in the father’s home because he had been way off in slime land and he came home and the father heard his feet…well, part of it and he ignored the rest and he said, “Well, just come on in. Let the party start.”
To be ‘in Christ’ is to let Christ engulf you. To have total control and you’ll be a part…a small part of a whole.
I remember the story, years and years ago I was in seminary and I was in a group meeting at a church at Manchester, Georgia and we were meeting and the news came in. The secretary of the pastor came in and she said, “There’s been a shooting in Washington DC and President Reagan has been shot.” I remember following that event and during one of the interviews after, someone asked him, “Mr. President, how have things changed for you since the shooting?”
His answer was this, “I’ve been trying to follow Christ for a long time now but from now on all my life, every moment of every hour belongs to Him.”
Now, for you on the other side of the aisle that want equal time, let me share this with you.
President Carter, after he left office…President Carter counted up somehow at least a rough estimate of how many people he personally asked to vote for him for President of the United States. After he was defeated in the second election he decided that the rest of his life he would try his best to spend his days inviting that many people – the same number of people – to give their heart and their life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
That’s what it means to be ‘in Christ.’ To have our life engulfed by Christ.
I know we are in the South, so most of you will understand this illustration. Do you like sweet tea? You all are with me this morning, alright. You know, there’s some places you go they don’t even know what sweet tea is. I will go back to those places when I know that they’re there but there’s a couple of different ways you can make sweet tea. You can make regular tea and pour something into it. You know what you usually get with that? Something in the bottom of the glass.
I never did understand that growing up but then mama started making sweet tea and she get the water real hot and the tea real hot and then she’ll pour sugar into it and the sugar and the tea became one. You couldn’t separate them. There wasn’t anything in the bottom of the bowl or the bottom of the glass. The sugar and the tea became one and that’s what it is to be ‘in Christ.’ Not just that we’re a part of something but we’re one with something. Just like tea and sugar become one when it is done right.
We are one with Christ when we become one ‘in Christ.’ Christ becomes the driving force.
Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ.”
I see these bumper stickers and these license plates and if you have one of these…please, no offense but if it says “God is my co-pilot,” you need to change seats. You need to change seats and I say that as lovingly, as kindly, as I possibly can. He didn’t need to be our co-pilot because that means we’re still in charge. Let Him be our pilot. Let Him have the controls and let us be ‘in Christ.’
In Him the scripture says, “In Him we live and move and have I been.” I think we tried to describe what it is to be ‘in Christ’ just like to be in a house or in trouble but what are the benefits of being ‘in Christ?’
There are at least four and I’m not talking about the posterity gospel, the kind of thing that you see on TV at times, when you’re never going to have any problems, never going to have any struggles, never going to have any debt…I’m not talking about those things. I’m talking about something much more important.
What are the benefits of being ‘in Christ?’
Number One. Forgiveness. That’s a hard one sometimes, isn’t?
To be ‘in Christ’ we are forgiven. He forgives us. Now forgiveness is more than being let off the hook. Forgiveness is more than God looking the other way when we do something we shouldn’t do.
When Jesus was on the cross and he cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing,” you know what He was asking for? If you go back and you translate that it really means, “God give them your very best.” The very best that God has. That’s what it means to be forgiven. For God to forgive you means that God is giving you the very best that He has. Not that you just are let off the hook or not that you get a warning or not that God looks the other way because God cannot look the other way when it comes to our sin but God will forgive us when it comes to our sin.
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It give us the freedom to forgive others.
I want to share an interesting story with you. In 1929 there was man named George Wilson who had robbed a bank and he killed the banker. He was sentenced to receive a life sentence and be put to death in prison. He received the Presidential Pardon but it shocked the Oval Office when George Wilson said he would not accept the Presidential Pardon. The case went to the Supreme Court and the issue of the Supreme Court was decided like this, “If the President of the United States gives you a pardon, you aren’t pardoned unless you receive it. You can reject a pardon that is given to you by the sovereign.”
Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall rendered the decision and he simply read this, “A pardon rejected is not a pardon at all unless the recipient of the pardon accepts the pardon, then the pardon cannot be applied. The pardon has two sides, defender and defendee. Unless the offeree accepts the offer then it is no good.”
On the cross, the Eternal God having been satisfied by the death of His Son has offered every one of us a pardon but it is something we have to accept for ourselves. He has offered you a pardon. He has offered you forgiveness but it’s up to you to accept it. Just like a Christmas present.
I know it hadn’t been that long ago but on Christmas morning when the gifts were there, what’d you do? You tore into them, didn’t you? Just like they did at our house. You didn’t have to. You could have left that present, wrapped, sit there ‘til the Fourth of July. Nobody said you have to open it that moment. You choose to accept it. Such as the pardon of God, we have to choose to accept it and apply it in our life before the it does any good.
But one thing forgiveness does. It allows us to forgive others and that may be a hard part too. You’ll never be asked to forgive more than you’ve been forgiven. One of the things that has intrigued me is in our time here is that every Sunday morning when the organist is playing the prelude, somebody’s back there ringing the bell. Sometimes if we ring the bell sometimes it’s kind of like forgiveness because when they quit ringing that bell, the bell just doesn’t stop, it kind of continues to go to on. You don’t hear it but it’s still in motion.
Sometimes when we forgive others, but the motion and the opportunity to not forgive is still there and it slowly comes to a stop. Such is that with forgiveness because we have to forgive and continue to forgive until it becomes a part of who we are.
The second thing about what it means and the benefits of being ‘in Christ’ is freedom. We have a freedom. We still know the truth and the truth shall what?
Set you free.
We tell a story in our family that when my brother was a little boy – he’s a doctor at Mayo Clinic now – but when he was growing up he was very inquisitive.
One day he was toddling around and outside my mother’s back kitchen window was a water spigot and that inquisitive little boy saw that water spigot and he decided to inquire about it, so much so that he squatted down and he tried to look up that dark hole of the water spigot. He didn’t see much in there so he put his thumb up in it and then he stood up.
Guess what didn’t come up?
His thumb was still there, so he starts crying and screaming and mother did come running and get him to bend down and pull that thumb out and everything’s fine. They wiped away his tears and all that kind of stuff. A few minutes later mama was back doing what she was doing, daddy was doing what he was doing. My brother, this doctor, goes back to that same water spigot, squats down that same way and sticks that same thumb up that same water hole. He had been freed from it but he went back to it.
How many times in our lives does Christ come along and free us from something we need to be freed from yet we go back? And we allow it to hold us hostage again.
I don’t want to get into a political discussion but you know the name Amanda Knox? Been in the news. I doubt very seriously that she’ll go back to Italy. I wouldn’t. She’s been freed.
What has Christ freed you from?
Don’t go back to it. Don’t go back and let it enslave you again. Christ has set us free, ‘in Christ’ we are free.
Then thirdly, there is family. That we belong to one another. That ‘in Christ’ we are with Christ’ and join hands with Him. Family. A church family. A family of community of faith.
I had a seminar with Dr. Fred Craddock. Dr. Craddock told the story of one time he was in this church and they had come to the early service. He wasn’t the pastor at this time but he’s gone to the early service and as he was leaving a member of the choir walked out in front of him and she said, “I’m through. I quit. I’m going home.” He said, “Why?” she said, “Because nobody cares. Preacher don’t care. Choir director don’t care. Choir members don’t care. Nobody cares. I’m going home.” He said, “You’re wrong,” she said, “I’m right.” They had that this discussion.
Then he told the story about his dad. His dad was one of those un-churched people who would embarrass a visiting pastor, would embarrass anybody from the church who came to visit him. “Why did you come to see me? All you want is my money,” those kinds of embarrassing comments. But, he said at the end of my dad’s life he’s laying in a hospital room in Memphis, Tennessee dying with cancer.
He said there’s a large and stack of mail and they were all letters and notes from people from his son’s church, offering prayers, offering best wishes, offering God’s blessings. Fred walks into the room and his dad points at the stack of letters. He wrote on a Kleenex box. “I was wrong. I was wrong.”
It’s such a great thing to belong to a family, to a church family. We have each other. We have each other because everywhere I go I see people who care for one another and that’s what it means to be a part of the family of God. That’s only found if we are ‘in Christ.’
Then the last thing is this: ‘in Christ’ we have forgiveness, ‘in Christ’ we have freedom, ‘in Christ’ we have a family, and ‘in Christ’ we have a future. A future. If anyone be ‘in Christ’ they are a new creation, the old has passed away, the new has come.
I had a friend years ago. He’s gone to be with the Lord now but his name was Bob Cole and Bob played football before his injury. He was at the University of Georgia and he went on to play with the Dallas Cowboys and he and Lee Roy Jordan for some of you older folks, they were rookies together for the Cowboys. Bob grew up in the inner city Atlanta and by his own admission, Bob loved to fight. If he could get into a brawl he thought he was just in his element.
He and Lee Roy Jordan get to training camp in Dallas late at night. There was an old trash can sitting there and there was a Coke bottle sitting beside it. Bob said, “I got that Coke bottle and I got that empty trash can and at 11:30 at night,” he said, “I started ramming that Coke bottle around the inside of that metal trash can making all the noise we could make,” and he said, “This is Bobby Cole and Lee Roy Jordan. We just got here and if anybody steps out of the room you’re going to wish you hadn’t because we’re going to beat you to death.”
He said about that time six of the biggest, ugliest guys stepped out a room and just whipped him to nothing. He said, “Randy, if I could fight ours I was great,” but he said, “If I could fight a black man that was even better because my heart was full of hate.” He said, “I knew I had it when I could look at a man of opposite color and not want to beat him to death.” He said, “I knew I was ‘in Christ’ when that happened.”
Being ‘in Christ’ gives us a new future and I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “But preacher you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You can if you change his heart. You can if you change his heart and if we’re ‘in Christ’ then the old has passed away and the new has come. Jesus said, “Come to me. Take my yoke upon you. Learn from me. Come to me.” Then He says, “Enter into the kingdom that has been prepared for you.” He invites us.
He invites us in. To give us forgiveness. To give us freedom. To give us a family and to give us the future. He invites us.
My hope is that you will receive that invitation you’ll say it like the prodigal son, “I’m coming in,” and that Christ will engulf you and you will be ‘in Christ’ and if you are ‘in Christ’ you are a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come. I hope this year is we go forward. We will all strive our best to be ‘in Christ’ and to accept His invitation.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.