Today's "thought" comes to you from one of the first authors I ever read after being converted - Andrew Murray. In 1980 I was in Marion, Indiana, training to go to the Dominican Republic to work with teens through 'New Horizons Youth Ministries.' I had just come to Christ months earlier and had no books to help me grow in the faith once I arrived there. And since my "salary" was a dollar a day (and that's not an exaggeration!), I had very little cash. Therefore, I did the only thing I could - I prayed for $50.00 that I might be able to purchase some books to take with me to help me grow. Three days later a check came in the mail for $55.00(!), which I then took and spent on books -- and all but one was by Andrew Murray. ("Absolute Surrender," "Like Christ," "Abide in Christ," "With Andrew Murray in the School of Prayer," "Waiting on God," and "Humility." I still have each one! The other was, "Love Life of the Lord" by A. B. Simpson.)
Today's excerpt comes from an updated version of "Abide in Christ" published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and entitled, "Abiding in Christ." This selection is the entry for Day 6: "God Has United You to Himself." I trust it will instruct and enrich your soul. Enjoy!
"'You are in Christ Jesus.' The believers at Corinth were still weak and carnal, only babes in Christ. And yet Paul wanted them, at the outset of his teaching, to know distinctly that they were in Christ Jesus. The whole Christian life depends on the clear consciousness of our position in Christ. Most essential to abiding in Christ is the daily renewal of our faith's assurance, "I am in Christ Jesus." All fruitful preaching to believers must begin with: "You are in Christ Jesus."
But the apostle has an additional thought of almost greater importance: It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus" (I Cor. 1:30). Paul would have us not only remember our union with Christ, but also - and more particularly - that it is not of our own doing, but the work of God Himself. As the Holy Spirit teaches us to realize this we will see what a source of assurance and strength this is to us. If it is of God alone that I am in Christ, then God Himself, the infinite One, becomes my security for all I need or desire in seeking to abide in Christ.
Let me try to explain what this means... So often, when the believer tries to say, "I am in Christ Jesus," he looks more to the work he has done than to that wondrous secret work of God which united him to Christ. This is to be expected at the beginning of the Christian course. "I know that I have believed," is a valid testimony. But it is important that the mind be led to see that at the back of our turning, believing, and receiving Christ, God's almighty power was doing its work of inspiring our will, taking possession of us [raising us from our death in trespasses and sins -- Ephesians 2:1, 2:5, and Colossians 2:13] and carrying out its own purpose of love in planting us into Christ Jesus.
As the believer understands the the divine side of the work of salvation, he will learn to praise and worship with new enthusiasm and to rejoice more than ever in his salvation. At each step he reviews, the song will come: "This is the Lord's doing." It is Divine Omnipotence working out what Eternal Love devised. "It is because of God that I am in Christ Jesus." The words will lead him even further and higher, and to the very depths of eternity: "And those he predestined he also called" (Romans 8:30). One's calling in time is the manifestation of God's purpose in eternity. For before the world came into existence, God had his sovereign love fixed on you in the election of grace and had chosen you in Christ.
That you know you are in Christ is the key to understanding the full meaning of this word: "Because of God I am in Christ Jesus." With the prophet your language will be, "The Lord has appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness'" (Jeremiah 31:3). You will see your own salvation as a part of that "mystery of His will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ (Ephesians 1:9), and you will join with the whole church as they say, "In him we were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). Nothing will exalt free grace more, and make man bow very low before it, than this knowledge of the mystery of God's will: "It is because of God that we are in Christ Jesus."
Given the fickle nature of humanity, plagued as it is by sin, it is so comforting and soul-strengthening to know, "It is because of God that I am in Christ Jesus." It humbles, melts the heart, and brings joy unspeakable to the believer's soul to think that his or her salvation is the outworking in time of God's good pleasure and purpose for them from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5).
One of my favorite hymns - “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” - expresses so well our indebtedness to God for this grace. An indebtedness that isn't simply for his grace in joining us to Christ initially, as Murray speaks of above, but for holding us in it's grip when our hearts have wanted to wander, stray, and go their own way -- even after receiving such free and unmerited grace.
"Oh, to grace how great a debtor, Daily I'm constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter (like a shackle around my ankle), Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above."
If it were up to me, and me alone, I know all too well where I would be. Right where I was when in time He called me - dead in my trespasses and sins. Murray is right: "As the Holy Spirit teaches us to realize this we will see what a source of assurance and strength this is to us. If it is of God alone that I am in Christ, then God Himself, the infinite One, becomes my security for all I need or desire in seeking to abide in Christ... As the believer understands the the divine side of the work of salvation, he will learn to praise and worship with new enthusiasm and to rejoice more than ever in his salvation. At each step he reviews, the song will come: "This is the Lord's doing." It is Divine Omnipotence working out what Eternal Love devised."
In the Service of His Grace, Pastor Jeff