Since reading Rankin Wilbourne’ book, Union with Christ, I have been more mindful of the implications of “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). That not only am I “in Christ”, but He is actually living through me. That’s why I can do “all things”, because I’m strengthened by Christ who lives in me (Php. 4:13). That’s why I have a run at being holy as He is holy (1Pet. 1:15-16). Because it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. I think, in part, that’s why these verses in 2Corinthians popped this morning. The other part, I’m sure, is because my resident Teacher loves me too much for me to think that “Christ in me” is only about what I can do and not also about what I may have to bear.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
(2Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV)
Pretty familiar with this portion of Scripture. But my focus has tended to be on being a jar of clay (4:7). Or of not losing heart when the going gets tough (4:1, 4:16). Or of the inner self being renewed though the outer self is wasting way (4:16). Or the comfort of knowing that everything this side of eternity is but a “light momentary affliction” (4:17).
But what caught my eye, and my soul, is thought of manifesting the life of Christ in our bodies. The visibility of Christ living through us in our mortal flesh. And how’s that done? By “always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake.”
Okay, so who’s looking for a premature death? Not this guy. Who naturally embraces the possibility of having to endure afflictions in life which just leave you confused? Not me. Tell me that I going to be persecuted and struck down, and do you think I’m forcing my way to the front of the line to sign up? Uh, huh! But what if, in “dying” in this way, it actually manifests the life of Jesus in me? Hmm . . .
Not crushed, not driven to despair, not forsaken, not destroyed. Only explanation? The Christ who lives in me. Being given over to death, whether literally or metaphorically, and not just surviving but actually thriving — that’s got to show the reality of the One who conquered death living in me. This is union with Christ.
It not just what we must endure for the sake of the cross, but what we get to demonstrate of the power of the empty tomb.
Jesus is alive and well and living in us through His Spirit. Wanna know how? It’s manifested every time we are tried but not defeated. Every time we take a licking and keep on ticking (older generation reference). Every time these fragile jars of clay are stressed and, though cracked, are not broken — demonstrating for all who have eyes to see that it’s possible only because of the reality that Jesus lives in us. The power belonging to God and not to us. Jesus manifested in our bodies.
Like I said, I’m not looking for trouble. I’d be happy if me and trials and sufferings walked parallel paths. But if they’re permitted by my Sovereign Father then I trust it will be to manifest, to myself if not to anyone else, the reality of my union with Christ.
By His grace. For His glory.