Thursday, July 31, 2008

(39) Going DEEPER into "in Christ"

Before going back to our ROOTS of covenant concepts, let's refine part of this concept of being "in Christ" as it refers to our overall theme.

I recently received some material my dad wrote back in the 1920's as he contemplated his future and made choices - mostly about what he decided to NOT do, but ultimately choices were also made about what he actually ended up doing and some of the priorities of his life. One very serious choice was to embrace a spiritual awareness and an allegiance to Christianity. Pretty serious when deciding to be on your own at 16 or 17. Those are my roots as well and I was "in dad" as he made decisions to come to Canada from Denmark. There is a literal concept there - but from our study perspective, we realize that what our ancestors decided controlled their lives AND ours in several focus points. We sometimes remind people they cannot help where they come from - but they can have some control over where they are going. They cannot help what kind of parents they had - but certainly can have some influence over the kind of parent THEY are. I thank God for my dad and His choices of priority - but when I share in them - it's even more cogent. If he had not made his choices - you would not be hearing from me at this point - probably. His choices influenced - and some controlled my life.

Compare that to being "in Christ" - several choices have already been made by HIM. Your forgiveness is already a "done deal". Your CHOICE in receiving that is yours to make - as you are made aware of His choices and results. Several other things follow from Jesus being made our NEW Covenant. He is The Way, The Truth, The Life - so everything of ultimate value and identity is wrapped up in Him - HE gets ALL preeminence. You have a choice to make - allow HIM to be your ultimate reality - or try to find it some other way. His choices and performance are an historically focused fact. That presents the choice about what YOU will do about Jesus as a major part of whether you live in reality or not. You CAN embrace the future God has prepared for you - or you can choose like Adam and Eve and all humans since - to be God in your own life. Wait - we've already done that. So - we have to decide to STOP being God in our own lives.

So - does that mean all of life is planned out and set for those who decide for Jesus to be Lord ?

Actually - the answer is always "yes" and "no" to those kinds of questions. YES - if you have chosen to live "in the palace" with Jesus, you do have a structure for life. But - NO - if you have entered an adventure with Jesus and Abba - it is an adventure daily - just like it was for Jesus in His ministry and life. As HE said, "I only do what I see the Father doing." "I do NOTHING on My own." HE responded to life as it happened, but He knew He was heading to a Cross.

If we are "in Christ" - then Paul challenges us to realize that we now have HIM as our life and He is still loving and sharing His life with the world He loved and died for. Paul explained that as we are "no longer living for ourselves, but for Him who for our sakes died and was raised." From an understanding of Jesus as Covenant, we then go where He goes and allow Him to live in and through us - so we live that adventure. Many folks have objected to this concept by bringing up an idea that we don't have Jesus with us at all times - or in all places. My response is - how did you get separated from HIM ? Their response - "Well - I don't think Jesus wants to be with me in the bathroom." My response - "I don't think you have a choice." The marriage covenant tells me I am married to my wife - 24-7-365 - except on Leap Years - then it is 366. No Choice !

But - we CAN live like Jesus is not with us at all times - but that is not REALITY. We can live like we are not "in HIM" at all times - but then we are not living up to our privilege. But - even more to the point - we are living an illusion. (Like many do in reference to their marriage !)

Paul taught that "The things that are SEEN are temporary, the things that are NOT seen - are Eternal." So - if we don't get plugged in to the unseen things, well, we'll be focused on things that cannot and will not last. AND - since Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life - well - what else is there ? HE is our reality - our ONLY reality. So - when we are "in Christ" - we've come to reality. As Paul taught - "In Him ALONE dwells immortality" 1 Timothy 6:16, and WE are THERE !

Three thoughts: (1) - Jesus has done it all for us - "It is finished."
(2) - HE ALONE has the offer of reality for us - so our choice is important.
(3) Being in Him - is one key to important stuff . . .and HE invites us to be "in Him and He in us" - as finding "the Way, Truth, Life" - because NO ONE comes to the Father - but BY Him.

I consider that to be of ULTIMATE IMPORTANCE - and being "in Christ" is at the center of that importance ! Don't settle for "religion" - when HE wants relationship - intimate relationship. In that situation He promises to give us - life and that abundantly. More to come

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

(38) - "in Christ" continues

A forceful conclusion in my thinking came in just seeing that "in Christ" means I cannot do it IN MYSELF. This forced me to begin making Jesus the focus of all my theology. Problem is - the concept of theology seemed to be focused (at least in my own mind - but seemingly for many of us) in my thoughts about God and my positions about the Trinity and what repentance meant - even how baptism works and how many times I take the Lord's Supper and when I can or cannot take it - and that begins a list of stuff I DO which causes splits at every point in the discussion. My question then was - how is ANY OF THIS actually "in Christ" ?

If I accept Christ as my "all in all" - how do I immediately jump to what I do and don't do and think and don't think ?

I don't think the question is moot - so let's trace the mindset and track the conceptual construct - if we can. Much of Christendom divides the Christian life into what must I DO to be saved and then - what do I do next ? That way all my responsibilities are covered. There is a certain logic to that - if we begin down that road. It seems analytical - balanced - common sense.

Problem is - "Christ is ALL" gets left behind - oh, I don't mean we would be giving up on Christ - just that as our Representative, He had finished His job and now it is up to US ! And - since I believe in freedom of Choice - at each step - it DOES seem that the focus can easily jump off Jesus and on us and be the right way to continue. Verses like "I buffet my body and bring it into subjection" by Paul - can easily fit our new lifestyle here. "Study to show yourself approved" seems to be a focus on my behavior - and "have a ready answer" means I have responsibilities now I never had before !

That is part of my continuing problem of picking out verses and stapling them together and forgetting conceptual verses which are meant to give the overall structure. In fact, most objections ANY of us make to others' positions involves a verse which we want to make a POWER verse in life which others seem to relegate to "not as important" - and we call their verses "sugar sticks" or some such comment. OK - I'll admit right here and now that the "JESUS is ALL" concept seems like an overall structural concept to me. If that doesn't ring true to you - I will have to say our discussion is pretty well limited. Well - let's at least say we need to settle the place Christ is supposed to have in salvation AND in life first - then we can go on. If Scripture seems to indicate that God's design was to give Jesus preeminence in EVERYTHING, then I am convinced that giving Jesus preeminence in everything is at least an innocent conclusion for me to stick with. BUT - scripture doesn't stop there. Paul will teach "For me to LIVE is Christ" Philippians 1:21. And - although we can make that some over-reaching vague principle - Paul seemed to make it a daily FORCE concept. "Whether we live or die we are the Lord's" is a life concept - structuring our behavior towards others for our whole lifestyle. "Jesus came and lived and died that those who LIVE might no longer live for themselves - but for HIM who for their sakes died and was raised" (2 Cor. 5:15) and "Jesus the author AND FINISHER of our faith" Hebrews 12:2 - convince me a focus on JESUS is what I do every second - and I don't wish to get involved in a "my Scriptures vs. your Scriptures" debate to solve this issue. Let's engage in finding out where ALL Scripture fits into our lives - don't leave ANY of it out ! My mind is convinced at this point that Jesus is the focus of the whole Bible - but that doesn't mean I'll debate how Jesus fits into getting gored by your neighbor's ox ! (With my former commitment to arguing, I might even DO that - I just can't DEFEND that anymore.)

What DO I do ? Well - I have called it two things:
(1) Like Mephibosheth, I ENTER the Palace and live at the King's table forever, so I learn how Palace life works - to live efficiently and relationally as Royalty.
(2) I live an "Adventure with Abba" - daily - so I try to see where HE is going and what He is doing - especially as "God is at work in you , to WILL and to DO" - I expect that all my life is done with God. I expect Him to work in me - and on me - I am HIS project (Ephesians 2:10) BUT - I also think YOU are His project and He might use us to bless each other in that process.

How does that effect church life and doctrine ? Well - I know already not to dispute over opinions (2 Timothy 2:14ff. Romans 14:1ff.) or argue over words, and to teach gently and leave others to God. So - if we all do that, EDUCATION can take place at the pace of the ones being educated. I also know that "knowledge PUFF US - but Love builds up" 1 Cor. 8:1 - so I am "speaking the Truth in Love" (Ephesians 4:15) and allowing others to talk to me since "LOVE is easy to be reasoned with" 1 Cor. 13. Paul taught "each should live up to what they have mentally attained" - but don't take the focus off our FOCUS - as Paul told Timothy "because we have our hope set on the living God" 1 Timothy 4:10.

Conclusions for today - if Jesus is ALL - and the Bible teaches us that He IS - then I purpose to allow Him to take that kind of dominant place in my WHOLE life. He is my Savior - and He is my LORD - and that word is dominating. Luckily for us, HE is a servant of Love, so it isn't hard to submit to His continuing Lordship. If Jesus is my LIFE - then maybe my studied interpretation may pass muster with some scholar, but Jesus didn't always pass muster with the scholars of His day - so I don't use passing muster as my my final authority. Paul taught us - "If it doesn't have LOVE - it amounts to nothing" 1 Cor. 13. So - being "in Christ" means HE did it all in salvation - but we LIVE IN CHRIST - so He is still ALL for me. "Author AND finisher of faith" seems like a lifestyle which never leaves Jesus - even for an instant - and most of MY arguments over the years hardly joined Jesus - even for an instant.

ALL of this is under the umbrella of Jesus as my covenant Representative - HE won the war, He dethroned Satan, HE paid the price - and HE is my life. I am UNDER Him for my continuing protection and my new identity. So - I still discuss matters of opinion - but since we're BOTH under Jesus for our protection - you're not going to get me to leave being by your side (under Him) - FOR ANYTHING ! I have changed the concept of "our fellowship" to being in Christ together. I just don't get to make all those decisions about your hangups - that's between you and Him, Romans 14:4. My part in your life is to teach, encourage and in any other way I can to LOVE you. And - if you nail me up to a tree - I still know how to act - in forgiveness. Jesus showed that and Stephen learned it - and Paul was affected by that - I believe ! Stephen teaches me that even if the stones are falling - I am still in relationship to JESUS ! More to come

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

(37) - "in Christ" - focus

The FOCUS of "in Christ" is CHRIST !

Paul wrote: 1Corinthians 8:6 "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live."

Note the sharpening of the FOCUS - to Jesus as OUR focus.

Jesus is our covenant focus - HE is our representative and all we can hope for is wrapped up IN HIM. The verse indicates that ALL things came FROM God - and they all came through Jesus Christ. That is harmonious with how covenant process works. We could "hark back" to the concept "God was in Christ" - 2 Cor. 5:19. I remember how LONG it took me to even begin to see this principle. Now the force of it causes me to see some verses differently - like our chosen verse in 1 Cor. 8:6. One factoid I did NOT see for quite awhile was - God used this principle from BEFORE the beginning. "God chose US in Christ - before the foundation of the world" did not fit my Theology for quite some time. (Ephesians 1:4) It is hard for us to see anything from God's perspective - and in many cases we don't need to - but when God does share the concept - it certainly isn't crazy to receive it. Peter wrote (1 Peter 1:19-20) that God's plan includes the slaying of our Lamb - before the foundation of the world. Add to that the concept of being chosen "in Him" before the foundation of the world - and what do we have ? It was a design for all mankind - about how to be chosen in Him - a covenant representative concept. All Israel did to be chosen for victory IN David over Goliath was to be Israelites, as David had to be in the design of the battle. David made it plain that "the Battle is the Lord's AND - HE will deliver you (Goliath) into my hands" - so Victory was assured for those who identified with David as Israel. Being FEARFUL didn't disqualify one from Victory - but it should have for those who lined up in battle ! So - David was the only one who qualified to be in the Battle against Goliath but all those who identified themselves with Israel got in on the VICTORY ! The application to us is - WE don't have to be perfect in any way (in fact we cannot be - right ?) but if our identification with JESUS is evident, we get in on the Victory. HE is the only one qualified to BE in the Battle - but if our hopes are IN HIM - then they are in His qualifications and in His performance - and if HE wins, we experience victory because HE fights as US - we are IN HIM ! That's why Paul said "WE live through HIM" 1 Cor. 8:6.

If we see that - then the concept of "God was in Christ" becomes a full concept of HOW God did it all. That leaves only one more concept in this regard - salvation or victory was fought and won for all mankind - but as is mentioned so many times - it is to be RECEIVED by faith in what Jesus did to gain the victory. Sometimes that is written as "faith in His blood" other times "the obedience of faith" and "justified by faith". If we don't make the FOCUS of that concept Jesus Himself - we'll be tempted to focus on US - what we believe, how we say what we believe, how we receive what HE did - even how we think about His full identity and the mystery of Jesus as a double representative. Keep it very simple - Jesus is ALL - means if our focus is ON JESUS - we focus on what is ALL. AND - never take your focus off Jesus - as Paul taught us - "as we fasten our focus on Jesus - we are being continually changed from one degree of glory to another - ever increasing" (2 Cor. 3:18) and don't forget to add - "this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." Maybe that's a good way to begin next time - how Jesus then dwells IN US - through His spirit, the Holy Spirit - more to come.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

(36) - "IN CHRIST" - ramifications

"IF anyone is IN CHRIST, he is a new creation - the old is gone, the new has come - all this is from God (or out of God) - 2 Corinthians 5:17f.

Note the emphasis - ANYONE - in Christ IS a new creation - means what ?

Creation (as the following phrase - "all this is from God" proves) - is GOD'S WORK - we cannot be involved in creation. Doesn't mean we are not and cannot be creative - but most of us KNOW we cannot create. So - let's FOCUS on that part. One raised question involved my focus in Colossians 2:12 about Baptism - Paul wrote "we are raised by faith in the energizing of God" - and I see that as a parallel thought to 2 Corinthians 5:17 "new creation" - but I don't force my comment on anyone - I just see that as what Paul is talking about. The focus I do wish to emphasize is the part about "anyone in Christ is a NEW creation - God does this" - and ask YOU - did you get a new "religion" or did you get a new LIFE !??

By the way - I believe the same concept is in mind when Paul wrote about God back in 2 Corinthians 4:6 "FOR - it is the God who said 'LET LIGHT SHINE OUT OF DARKNESS' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" - so my challenge is - did God SHINE in your heart - or not ? If He did - this context calls that a CREATIVE ACT ! God somehow said of YOU - "Let there be light !" and you had that happen to you !

Now - back to the first sentence today - "If ANYONE is IN CHRIST - he is a new creation" means GOD did something to you - to make YOU be a new creation ! Note the phrase "in Christ" - and let's focus in on that. We've discussed it - but briefly "in Christ" means - being UNITED with Him - by faith. I believe when the NT was written, it was generally understood that Baptism was a ceremony of faith accepting what God provides in Christ - and more than once it is written "baptized into Christ" - and it is done by the Holy Spirit, just as Paul discussed what happened in Baptism in Romans 6 and Colossians 2. If we are "raised up by faith in the energizing of God" - that is HOW the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ. The water ceremony is just like the marriage ceremony - a ceremony of remembrance to mark our allowing God to do His creative work ! Since Baptism is ALWAYS a Passive concept - it makes it even more emphatic - we act dead to show our helplessness - and non-involvement - we allow a burial and GOD energizes us with his creative light power. What a sad fact that Christendom made it a work and focused it on US instead of HIM ! Quite a work - to realize our death and allow ourselves to be buried ! Good grief ! Maybe that was even a problem in the first century so Paul did teach - "not of yourselves, NOT of works" Ephesians 2:8-9. I've actually heard a preacher say - "Baptism is a work - and it is our part in salvation - His work and our work" - that borders on sacrilege ! It is faith from first to last - Romans 1:16. It is ALL FAITH - because "we no longer live for ourselves, but for HIM who for our sakes died and was raised." 2 Corinthians 5:15. It contradicts Paul in many places - I just wouldn't do that ! But - then we generally do not understand "covenant ceremony" either - so that is a quandary. More later

So - "IN CHRIST" means we have allowed God to give us of His life - so our new spiritual DNA is HIS life - and evidence of our Sonship - and that's why we can have confidence on Judgment Day - because we really are like Jesus - our spiritual DNA matches ! Well - I'll try to deal with that more fully later.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

(35) - "IN Christ" - as HE is

A MAJOR focus came out of the context of 1 John 4. John claims that we SHOULD have NO FEAR even on judgment Day itself. I remember sharing that verse with someone about 35 years ago - and the response was - "well, you can't take those kind of verses at face value."

My response is (not was - I think I said something jokingly about - wow - what happened to it means what it says and it says what it means?) - if we cannot take the focus of an entire section at face value - then why take ANY of it at face value ? Why even HAVE a Bible ? Just tell me YOUR thoughts and I'll know what TRUTH is - right ? (Read that gently - I try very hard to be gentle.)

I think we should be very careful about discarding any verse - and especially in a book which has as its purpose for being written to encourage some things that are not fully focused upon ! John said - "this is the message WE heard from HIM" 1 John 1:5 - and I get real uncomfortable with anyone who thinks they know God's message better than Jesus did ! Note the following - "I am writing this so our joy may be complete" 1:4; "I write this so" 2:1; 2:12; 2:21; 2:26. LISTEN - John wants this to be understood and used completely ! OK - let's say "at face value" - and realize that if John cannot be taken at face value - there is NO FACE VALUE !

Then - about that confidence on Judgment Day - let's GET IT ! There is a reason for having it, John says - it is "because as He is, so are we in THIS world" 1 John 4:17. It seems we need to know a concept - "as HE is, so are we - in THIS world" and in this context it includes a huge principle. 1 John 4:13 introduces part of it this way - "we KNOW that we abide in Him, because He has given us of His own Spirit" - then the following verse claim that if one "confesses Jesus is the Son of God - God abides in him and he in God."

NEXT - if we know and believe the Love God has for us - verse 16 - then love is matured in us - THEN we have confidence on Judgment Day, (v.17).

My pilgrimage was towards believing God's love for me - but I sort of switched that to MY Love for God. However - I did settle that a little back in 4:10 - "this is Love - NOT that we loved God, but that HE loves us" - but many groups have a HARD focus on us instead of God. "If you love ME, you will keep My commands" - becomes YOU better keep commands ! Actually the emphasis is - if you are not keeping commands - LEARN TO LOVE -then you WILL keep the commands - because if you LOVE - you just automatically will !

So - that helped a LITTLE - but something was wrong - I didn't feel very confident. The little phrase "because - as He is, so are we, in this world" held a bigger key. How come Jesus was confident ? That's the real concept we must learn in this regard.

There are MANY clues - but for me, the biggest was at the grave of Lazarus as Jesus began to pray. Strange prayer - He said, "Father I thank You that You have heard Me - I am always aware of You hearing Me - but I said this on account of those who are standing by - so they will believe You sent Me" John 11:41ff. Plus the MANY times He said, "I do nothing of Myself" - and I realized that Jesus took His relationship with God as a fact - a continuing, actual, for sure - fact.

Now - back to 1 John - if I take relationship with God as a fact (as HE is, so are we - in this world) will I not have much better confidence ? AND - if I know my relationship to God is "as a son" - not as a slave - won't THAT give me some confidence ? Well - my secret is in there.

Being born again, Paul wrote, is God's job - He "Fathers me - energizes me and causes me to have His life" (Colossians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 3:4-5; 2 Cor. 4:6ff. Romans 8:11-17)

In fact - we have "put on Christ" Galatians 3:26ff. so we have HIS identity and by faith we are a son of God and have confidence in our FATHER !

When I realized that God gets to be GOD and I trust Him - one more facet came to my brain - "if I TRUST HIM - I will not be put to shame" - (prophesied in Isaiah 50:6-8 and written by Paul in Romans 9:33 quoting Isaiah 28:16; 8:14.)

Well, that brings up a study about "shame" - we'll have to postpone to another time - but IMPORTANT - God wishes us to live without shame. Standing on Judgment Day confidently means we have allowed God to deal with our shame - and we have ACTUALLY become like Jesus in this world. We KNOW we are sons - and we know that being God's sons is what gives us confidence. Well - that was a MAJOR rock to climb on in my personal pilgrimage. Hope it helps someone else as well. More to come

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

(34) "In Christ" - is what it is !

Someone has asked - "Does God HAVE TO do it this way ?" That's always a good question, I guess - but - we're generally using it as a rhetorical defense - because it doesn't matter what the answer is - the actual question has to be - "DID God do it this way ?"

Obviously I contend that HE DID - so I try to deal with it like HE set it up - not like HE could have set it up ! That leads to a second question - do we have to believe it this way ? My response - the Bible says - live up to what you know ! We can only understand what we understand - right now - but anticipate learning more - and try to make it Biblical CONCEPTS - not verses taken out of context. It IS what it IS. So - enjoy the climb !

In OTHER words - when Paul writes a whole book about being "in Christ" - we can learn that, but he did write it to Christians, so it generally explains what we are now - and how it happened. That way - when it comes time to share the information, we can be more informed about the stuff God inspired men to write down - and I think that is a good thing ! BUT - a couple of Paul's DEEPEST prayers was that the Christians would realize what they NOW HAVE ! And - HE gave a reason for this realizing and being informed - "that YOU may be filled to the FULL with all the FULLNESS of GOD" Ephesians 3:19. He even prayed that we would KNOW what is beyond knowledge - same verse - and that is how to be filled with ALL of God's fullness. That is not just realizing what we have - but experiencing what HE HAS for us !

"Christ in you - the hope of Glory" has a couple layers of meaning. It means at first glance that we have hope because Christ is IN US. Hope of GLORY - usually refers to an even greater excitement in the future. Well - to me it refers to a fulfillment of the promise in 1 John 4:17ff. - that we get to stand on the judgment day and have NO FEAR - but rather confidence - because "as HE is, so ARE WE - in this world" - that sounds sort of important. I want that for YOU ! This concept is an IDENTITY thing.

Wait a minute - this is "in Christ" - not Christ in you ! Exactly - and that is Christ's Promise in John 15:5ff - "He that abides IN ME and I in him" which Jesus was thinking about as He readied Himself to die for us and be raised in John 17:20ff. "that they may all be ONE - even as You are in Me and I in You - they may be in US - that the world might believe that You have sent Me"

Very challenging - to have us in God and Christ so others believe. "But - that was the 12" - someone said - NO - the prayer is about those who believe through the 12 - that includes YOU and me. But, that does help us with Colossians and its theme. To be IN SOMEONE - is to be part of their actual life-force. We DO become part of their History - and their destiny - but remember Paul's goal - "to be filled with ALL the fullness of God" - do we WANT THAT ?

That IS what happens when we have Christ "in us" - we receive Christ's performance - the result of His faith - and we get what HE won for us ! Christ had the ultimate Victory - and He shares everything with those who allow Him to be their Champion. So - maybe this can be YOUR motto - "Claim the Victory-Share the Joy" - and it WILL BE - if your Focus is Jesus ! More to come

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

(33) More about the "In Christ" concept

I cannot cut out most of my 3-6 month study and still do it justice. But - possibly I can introduce the concept - and you may be able to follow some applications.

My roots are Danish on both sides of my family. Someone said one time "That makes YOU a Great Dane" - to which I replied - "Woof"

No big deal - but it does reveal one factoid - I was "IN" my dad when he came from Denmark to Canada back in the 1920's. That's a Hebrew way of thinking all through the Bible. We might say - we were ALL in Adam originally - true ! (And - by the way - that's NOT a figure of speech - but a physical reality.) So - Christ was there as well - and HE is part of the human race - so HE is physically related to us - otherwise HE couldn't be a Covenant Representative. (HAD to be a human to represent US.)

Paul explained "In Adam we all died" - Paul meant that Adam REPRESENTED the human race and lost it all for us in Eden. (Romans 5:12-21 gives the whole story; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22; 45) and we should see that "in Adam" means US - we lost Eden at that point - literally. So - we lost the Tree of Life in this dimension as well. (God graciously spared us from living forever in this realm as sinners.)

Just as real - "in Christ" we are all made alive (same scriptures) - so what does that mean ? We suffer from IDENTITY with Adam - and we are BLESSED by IDENTITY with Christ. Romans 2 seems to teach that we become sinners when we sin - not simply because we are Adam's descendants - but he was responsible for bringing "death through sin" - so we inherit death PLUS the "knowledge of good and evil" - so sin is pretty well the sure result ! (And - in everyone except Jesus, sin did result !)

We don't have to do much to "identify" with Adam - simply "do it my way" - and we're there. BUT - that is the identification with Adam. But - to identify with Christ takes a different decision of faith. It is a CHOICE - which was the early church's practice of Baptism - a ceremony of faith expression. Sin has an expression of faith as well - we believe it is necessary to "sin" in order for something to happen - generally something we want. Note a contrast - from "what I want" to "what HE wants" - and since HE already paid for our reunion and reconciliation, we need to be identified with Him. That is how Baptism was thought of in the Hebrew practice - identity. (So - we may not realize that when we sin, we identify with Adam - but generally we say with Adam - "This is good - and will make me wise" or "since she did it - I better as well" - either case - a statement of lack of faith in God's promises.)

So - our "identity practice" ceremony puts us "IN CHRIST". For today - let's focus on one aspect - we are baptized into His History -we get His lineage, His identity. That puts us INTO the Promise - and gives us an inheritance. The whole book of Colossians tells of aspects of this concept - focus on ONE - "in Christ all are made alive" - we receive HIS LIFE and with His identity, we have confidence - even on Judgment day itself - 1 John 4:17 "because as HE is, so are we in this world" - and I don't think THAT is a figure of speech either. More to come