Now I want to bring it back to marriage being a pointer to our union with Christ. Because we don’t understand the purpose of marriage and because we get confused as to the essence love–we think love is sappy romance and getting my needs met through this relationship. And because we are prone to gravitate toward power and fairness, I think this truth of being united with Christ escapes us. We don’t get it.
Marriage was meant to last a lifetime. Can you think of any relationship that God insists, commands that it must continue for life? Friends? You think your best friend will be your best friend for life? Perhaps. But chances are, your friends, people you think will be by your side for the rest of your life, these friends will move away because of grad school or because they met a special someone, or they got a job.
What about other Christian brothers or sisters, or church? Do these last for a lifetime? God can call you to leave one place and move somewhere else. It’s his prerogative. Or, you may have to part due to differences. Paul and Barnabas split. In fact, church history is full of godly men and women disagreeing and parting ways and forming new churches, even new denominations.
What about our kids? Kids are your kids for life, but eventually they grow up to be adults and they stop living with you so it’s different from your spouse whom you see every day for 50-60 years. Kids eventually grow up and leave their father and mother to start their own families.
Your spouse is the only person that you are not allowed to separate from. Even for a moment. For life. You have a covenant with that person that is higher, that trumps any other relationship on this side of eternity. Friends, Christian brothers or sisters, kids, none of these rise to the level of a spouse. Because only with a spouse do you have a God-ordained covenant. A commitment to be with for better or worse, in sickness and in health.
In exactly the same way, Jesus is united to us. He has made a covenant with us by His blood shed on the cross. And this covenant lasts, not just for a lifetime, but for all time, for eternity. Believers, you and are in Christ. He is in us. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are His, now and forevermore.
Practically, how does this union with Christ impact our day to day life?
First, it changes the focus of our life. The focus is staying connected to Jesus. There is much anxiety and stress and worry in life because our focus is off. In your twenties, you are generally afraid of making wrong decisions and having to backpedal and start over. Because you don’t want to feel like you have wasted a decade of your life.
Fast forward a couple of decades and people my age are beginning to have midlife crises. Where they look back at the past 40 years and wonder, what have I done with my life so far? There is regret over missed opportunities, dreams that you never went for, frustration over poor decision making. Because you look at your life and what your life could have been and there is an immense gap between reality and whatever ideal picture you had for your life. You feel cheated that your life did not turn out they way you had hoped. Many in their forties, it dawns on them for the first time that all the hopes and goals that they had set for their lives in their twenties are not going to be met.
Our greatest fear is–what if my life doesn’t go anywhere? Isn’t that the underlying fear that pushes us to strive so hard? Even after working hard, if things don’t pan out the way we had hoped, which is often the case, we feel, somewhere along the line, things have gotten off track. Life is not going according to my script.
We all expect our dreams to come true and for life to be smooth sailing. No problems. No setbacks. Blue skies ahead. Therefore, when something happens that is off script, people are in such a state of shock. I never thought adultery would happen to me. I never could have imagined myself as a widow. I don’t want to be a mother of a deceased daughter. Each deviation from our expectations of normalcy can leave us confused and recalibrating.
How do we cope with the suspense of life in such an unpredictable, fallen, broken world? How do we deal with the fear that our lives might be disappointing–to ourselves or to God?
For those of us who wrestle with the uncertainty and disappointment of life on earth, union with Christ is such good news. Because we are “in Christ,” because his life is ours, our fundamental life story has already been written. As one who has put on Christ and been raised with Christ, your life and mine has a predictable trajectory. I will live, like Jesus, through suffering and sacrifice, through rejoicing and rejection, obedience and fellowship, service and sadness, death and resurrection. And my life will end, like his, in glory.
My life “path” has already been mapped out by Jesus, who calls himself THE WAY. This road goes through suffering and death to life and glory. The script is already written. Because of these realities, I can be at peace because my future is guaranteed. No matter what storms may come, Jesus is the anchor. The reality of Christ in me is my hope of glory.
Brothers and sisters, don’t fear, don’t regret, because our lives are going to end in glory. I don’t know about you, but for me, this takes tremendous pressure off my experience of life here and now. You and I don’t have to obsess about the particulars of the decisions before us. Do I take this job? Move to this city? Marry this person? Have another child? Yes, you will discern these things best in relationship with Jesus. And yes, God, as a loving Father, certainly cares about them. But these are not ultimately the defining questions of your life.
Think about Jesus’ image of the vine and the branches. Look at an individual branch. What matters most? Which direction the branch grows? Whether it twines to the left or the right? Of course not. What matters most to its health and well-being is simply whether it is connected to the vine, and whether the vine is alive and thriving (which Jesus is).
As far as life direction goes, the most important questions sound more like this: Am I feeding myself on Jesus? Am I hearing his words and putting them into practice? Am I loving him with all my heart? Am I living in his body, the church?
Union with Christ impacts us in two ways. First, if I am united with Christ, my focus can be on staying connected to Jesus. Second, union with Christ also means in the present, you and I are going to be changed. If I am united with Christ, then my life will take on not only the direction of Jesus’ life, but its quality. We spend a lot of time thinking about the plot of our lives, the decisions we make, what we accomplish, our achievements, even our Christian service. God is apparently much more interested in character. The reality of my union with Jesus speaks to both. Not only is the direction of my life and future guaranteed, but because Jesus is living in me by his Spirit, my character also gradually conforms to Christ’s character.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
2 Cor 3
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
In other words, holiness happens from the inside out. It’s not about me, struggling away out here in my world, trying to be more like Jesus on my own. Jesus doesn’t merely save us and pat us on the back and say, good luck. I’ll see you in heaven. I’m rooting for you. I’m cheering for you. I’m here if you need me. Instead, it’s Jesus living in my heart and he is bringing out the wrecking ball and doing a complete home makeover from the inside out.
Like the marriage analogy where the two become one new person, because Jesus is in us, it is impossible for Christian to remain as you are. In Christ, we are a new creation, a new creature. You are not a better version of your previous self before you met Christ. Salvation means you are like a new species. Your life is like a pointer to the new heaven and the new earth that is to come where you are already a citizen the moment you receive Christ into your hearts.
Love is not sappy, syrupy romance. Love is being united to Christ. Marriage points to Christ and his love for the church. And he demonstrated love, not through a feeling, but through an action. By laying down his life for the church when the church was not lovable in the slightest. While we were enemies, Christ died for you and me. I pray that this picture of being united to Christ will fundamentally change your approach to life. Christ is in you. He’s in me. No wonder the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children. Children are humble and they know how to stay connected to mommy and daddy. Only one thing is required of us–let’s stay connected to Jesus. He will take care of the rest.