Jesus in you
Jesus in you
I brought in a boxing glove as a visual aid. I dangled the glove and showed how ineffective it was without a hand in it. Then I put my hand in the glove, made a fist and punched the air so that everyone could see the difference that made to the power of the glove.
I was speaking at a detention centre (a prison for young adults) in Oxford. I was a theological student at the time and was given the opportunity to speak to some of the young men in a chapel service.
The chaplain at the detention centre, who was helping with my training, pointed out that it was rather an inappropriate illustration for a detention centre, since it suggested that Jesus and violence were closely associated! He was quite right. And, of course, all illustrations and analogies break down.
What I was trying to illustrate was the difference it makes when Jesus Christ comes to live in us by his Spirit. Without him we are weak (2 Corinthians 13:4), like the glove without the hand in it. When Jesus Christ comes to live within us we have God’s power in our lives (2 Corinthians 13:4–5).
Jesus Christ lives in every Christian. This is what it means to be a Christian. Jesus Christ comes to live within us by his Spirit. As Paul writes, ‘If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that person does not belong to Christ’ (Romans 8:9).
This is life transforming. Jesus Christ is alive today. He lives in you. He lives in me. If we ‘realise’ this it will transform the way we live our lives.
1. Fill your heart with the word of GodProverbs 22:17-27
How healthy is your heart? Have you filled it with God’s wisdom? Just as what we put in our mouths affects the health of our bodies, what we put in our hearts really matters.
The writer of this section of Proverbs urges us to keep the wisdom of God’s Word in our hearts and have them ready on our lips, that our trust may be in the Lord (vv.18–19a). ‘Listen carefully to my wisdom; take to heart what I teach you. You’ll treasure its sweetness deep within; you’ll give it bold expression in your speech. To make sure your foundation is trust in God...’ (vv.17–19a, MSG).
He then lists thirty ‘principles – tested guidelines to live by’ (v.20, MSG). These are thirty ‘truths that work’ (v.21, MSG), the first three of which are in today’s passage.
The first is about how we treat the poor and needy (vv.22–23). The second is about how to avoid becoming ensnared by anger and a bad temper: ‘Bad temper is contagious – don’t get infected’ (vv.24–25, MSG). The third is a warning against gambling and practical advice on how to avoid getting into debt (vv.26–27).
All this comes under the heading of ‘sayings of the wise’ (v.17). This is wisdom literature. As we have seen in the book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified (see chapter 8). Wisdom has been around since the creation of the world and was indeed involved in the creation of the world. It forms the background to John 1:1: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Jesus Christ is both the Word and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30).
The writer of Proverbs encourages us to keep the word of God in our hearts (one of the ways that we can do this is by learning Bible verses) and to have those words ready on our lips so that our trust may be in the Lord.
Lord, thank you that all the way through the Bible we get this foretaste of the fact that one day Jesus Christ would come to live in our hearts. Thank you for the power of the Word of God. Help us to read it, learn it, meditate on it and have your words ready on our lips that our trust may be in you, the Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in us by your Spirit.
2. Realise that Christ Jesus is in you2 Corinthians 13:1-14
Do you realise that Jesus Christ lives within you? The apostle Paul had no doubt that Jesus Christ was living in him. He realised that in the words he spoke to the Corinthians, ‘Christ is speaking through me’ (v.3).
Paul had the advantage of meeting the risen Jesus. He was able to write with great confidence, ‘for to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you’ (v.4).
Self-examination is important. He urged them to ‘Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it’ (v.5a, AMP). The purpose of self-examination is so that we can see what is wrong with our lives, admit it, turn from it and be set free by Jesus.
He urged them to realise that just as Jesus Christ lived in him, so too ‘Jesus Christ is in you’ (v.5). Paul talks far more often of us being in Christ than Christ in us. Nevertheless, the passages in which he puts it the other way round are remarkable. In Colossians 1:27 Paul writes, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’, and here too he writes about Christ being in us and the difference it makes: ‘Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realise that Christ Jesus is in you’ (2 Corinthians 13:5).
This is what turns our weakness into strength (v.9). This is why he prayed for their perfection (v.9), and was able to urge them to ‘aim for perfection’ (v.11).
Of course, none of us will reach perfection in this life. Being a perfectionist is unhealthy. But we can all aim to live in a perfect relationship with God and with one another. He appealed to them, ‘be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you’ (v.11).
How is this possible? He ends with the words of the ‘grace’. It is the ‘amazing grace’ (v.14a, MSG) of Jesus that enables us to be constantly forgiven and cleansed. It is ‘the extravagant love of God’ (v.14b, MSG) filling our hearts that enables us to aim for perfect love. It is ‘the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit’ (v.14c, MSG) of Jesus living in us that enables imperfect people to grow into maturity and one day see him face-to-face. Only then will we reach perfection.
Lord, thank you so much that Jesus Christ lives in me. Thank you that Jesus Christ lives in every Christian. Help us to be a church that realises this. Thank you that however weak we may be, having the Spirit of Christ living within us makes us immensely powerful as a church. May the grace of Jesus flow out of everything we do as a community. May we be filled with the knowledge of God’s love for us, and bring that love to the poor, needy, homeless, prisoners, elderly and the lost. May we be united in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Help us to be of one mind and to live in peace.
3. Know God’s love poured into your heart by the Holy SpiritIsaiah 30:19-32:20
It is the result of Pentecost that the Spirit of Christ comes to live within each of us. God’s love for us is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit of Jesus (Romans 5:5). It is his Spirit who gives us the realisation that we are children of God, and that Christ lives in us.
The prophet Isaiah seems to have caught a glimpse of the day of Pentecost when ‘the Spirit is poured down on us from above (Isaiah 32:15a, MSG).
In this passage Isaiah sees five pictures of God:-
The Lord is our teacher. He teaches us through ‘the bread of adversity and the water of affliction’ (30:20). It is often through the hard times in our lives that we learn the most.
‘Your teacher will be right there … urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road”’ (vv.21–22, MSG). The Holy Spirit leads and guides us along the narrow road that leads to life.
The Lord is our king (vv.27–33). ‘A king will rule in the right way, and his leaders will carry out justice’ (32:1, MSG). He rules our lives through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
He is the source of our wisdom (31:1–3). Isaiah warns against trusting in our own strength rather than looking to the Holy One of Israel and seeking help from the Lord (v.1). The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom in our lives.
He is like a mother bird who will shield Jerusalem and deliver it (31:5; see Luke 13:34). The Holy Spirit is often associated with the feminine side of God’s nature.
It may be that Isaiah, in this passage, gets a glimpse of the coming Messiah. ‘A king will reign in righteousness’ (32:1a). He certainly seems to get a glimpse of Pentecost.
‘The Spirit is poured upon us from on high ... justice ... righteousness ... peace ... quietness and confidence forever ... secure ... undisturbed places of rest ... how blessed you will be’ (vv.15–20).
The outpouring of the Spirit leads to great fruitfulness, righteousness and peace (quietness, confidence, security and rest). It leads to generous sowing and freedom. God promises us that if we walk by the Holy Spirit that we will enjoy great blessings in this life and into eternity.
Lord, thank you so much for the outpouring of your Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Thank you that through your Spirit, Christ Jesus comes to live within each of us. Thank you that you promise great fruitfulness, righteousness and peace. Thank you that through your Holy Spirit we can sow generously and in freedom.
Thank you for the privilege of living in the age of the Spirit – an age that the prophet Isaiah only got a glimpse of. Thank you that now we can experience it to the full. We live after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We live in the age when Jesus Christ comes to live in us by his Spirit.
‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ’
I am always interested that the voice is ‘behind you’ and not ahead. As you step out in faith, not necessarily knowing where you are going, you are stepping out into the unknown and having to listen very carefully to the voice behind whispering in your ear.