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Holiness | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Holiness

"In Christ"

Sunday, we are beginning a new series on the Sermon on the Mount.  I have to say that I’m really excited about this series.  

As I have been writing out my ideas for this week, I realized that I have too much material. So today, I’d like to get you thinking about Sunday and the direction for this series.  

Let’s start with a couple statistics:
  • The phrase “in Christ” appears over fifty times in Paul’s letters.  
  • There is an additional forty appearances if you add “in the Lord (Jesus/Jesus Christ)” and “in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
These phrases have been a source of discussion for Bible scholars for years. What does Paul mean with the term “in Christ”? Some have argued that “in Christ” is similar to a membership card. I only carry two membership cards in my wallet- the Jefferson County Library card and a Costco membership.  

Neither of these memberships really change anything. One of them allows me to walk into a library and leave with a book or a DVD for a couple weeks. The other card allows me to enter a store and spend more money (and get a bunch of free samples!).  I’m not changed as a person because of my library card or Costco membership.  Membership does not always equate to transformation.  However, to be “in Christ” is a life-changing transformative event.  

Let's look at a few Pauline passages where he uses this phrase:
  • 2 Corinthians 5:19- For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
  • Galatians 3:26- For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 3:28- There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 5:6- For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
Sunday, we will be looking at Colossians 3 as foundation for this series.  Look at how Paul opens the chapter, "Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God."

To be 'in Christ' is way more than a membership card!  It is a change in reality, hope, love, and life.  On Sunday, we will look at what it means to be 'in Christ.'  Here's four points that we will look at: 

To be in Christ is to know:
  • We have been raised up with Jesus to new life.
  • We have been given a new identity, one in which Christ dwells.
  • We have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Our citizenship is now in heaven. 
May we live into the beauty of knowing that we are in Christ..."For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God..."

grace and peace,

Pastor John

Be Transformed, Not Conformed

Last Sunday evening, District Assembly began with a celebration service at Huntsville First. It was a powerful service. Dr. Gustavo Crocker, our presiding General Superintendent, preached from Romans 12:2.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 ESV).

In this text, you will see that I bolded two words- conformed and transformed. Dr. Crocker challenged us to think about these words. Let’s take a moment to focus on these two words.

Paul is telling us ‘not to be conformed to this world.’ I hope we can all see that each one of us is conformed to something. We live lives in the context of internal and external influences.

The challenge for each of us is be centered upon being conformed not to this world, but to the good news of Jesus Christ. It is this good news that has the power to transform our lives.

Thus far, I think we all would agree with these statements– Paul is urging us to be transformed by the gospel, not conformed to the message of the world.

The issue isn’t this message. The issue is the question rolling around in your mind, “How am I transformed to the way of Christ?” This is where Dr. Crocker’s message hit home.

Dr. Crocker narrowed his focus upon these words, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” What does it mean to have your mind renewed? Amazingly, if one does this, Paul tells us that we will be able to “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Renewing your mind, Dr. Crocker argued, involved a couple things.

First, it involves a decluttering of your mind. We fill our minds with all kinds of things- some of these things are good, some bad. Many of us find ourselves focused on the negative of the world. Our minds are cluttered by the 24-hour news cycle, by the internal dialogue to people who have hurt us, by the destructive shards of glass the devil places in our minds to sow unhappiness and resentment.

Paul is calling us to do a little spring-cleaning in our minds. Throw out the things that separate us from the love, grace, and hope of Christ.

Second, we must replace our bad habits with good habits. These are the habits that show the love, grace, and hope of Christ. These habits open up our minds to hearing the voice of God.

This decluttering and new habits open the door for the life Paul is pointing to in Colossians 4:2-6, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone (NLT).”

May our conversations be gracious and attractive as we are transformed.
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