Pastor Kyle McIver
Think about the last book you read. Did it have an introduction? Did you actually read that introduction? Or did you figure “Ehhhh - let’s get on with it” and move straight to chapter 1. I know I’ve skipped many an introduction, and frankly, we’re free to do so! Nobody said you had to read every word in that new book you started. We can’t however, treat the Bible the same way. Some books in the Bible come with an introduction - I’m thinking specifically about Paul’s letters. A lot of these intros are short and sound similar. So much so that without much thought we might skip on ahead to “chapter 1” so we can get “to the real letter”. But the freedom you have to skip over the introduction to a textbook or new work by your favorite author doesn’t apply to the Bible. We don’t want to miss these diamonds God has hidden in plain sight.
Listen to Colossians 1:1-2: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. Sounds pretty routine to us, doesn’t it? But I want to pull something out of these short verses for us this morning. And this serves as a two-part exhortation for us: the first exhortation is don’t skip the introductions in the Bible! The second, which is the main idea here, is something so simple that it probably didn’t stand out in the verses we just read, yet it is the defining truth of our lives as Christians. There are two words in this intro that carry bottomless depths of meaning: in Christ. Paul says he is writing to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae. Paul could have simply said: to the saints and faithful brothers at Colossae. And that would have made sense, at least as a coherent sentence. But he didn’t - he inserted the words “in Christ”.
This little phrase in Christ is short-hand for one of the greatest truths in the universe: that we, sinful human beings, by faith in Jesus, are united to Jesus. We are united to Jesus when we repent of our sins and put our trust in him. The theological term for this is “Union with Christ” - and union with Christ is something that should be front and center for every single Christian every single day of our lives. That might sound like an overstatement, but I am convinced that it is not.
The phrases “in Christ”, “in the Lord” and “in him” occur 164 times in Paul’s letters alone - this idea was certainly central for the apostle Paul. Volumes have been written about the riches of our union with Jesus. But I want to give you one simple thing to hang on to this morning. I want you to start preaching to yourself on a regular basis, and preaching a profound sermon. One filled with infinite riches and unlimited grace. Here’s what it sounds like: I… am… in Christ. That’s it. Four words. Only four words, but inexhaustible in it’s glory and grace. Which is exactly what we need, isn’t it? We don’t have it together. There’s not a single time we’ve come before the Lord and there isn’t something to be confessed, something in our lives the needs repentance and God’s grace. Maybe you’ve been devastated by the sin in your own life recently. Or maybe you find yourself simply coasting… distant… apathetic. You need to know that you are in Christ. Jesus, along with all the benefits of the gospel(!) - are yours. Yours! Because you, Christian, are united with Jesus!
So whether you find yourself this morning apathetic, or frustrated by your lack of holiness, or trapped in addiction, or whatever it might be - and we all find ourselves somewhere in there - start preaching to yourself: I am in Christ. I am in Christ, and He is me. I am in Christ, and He is in me. I am in Christ. Preach this sermon to yourself over and over and over again. Wash yourself in the grace of Jesus Christ, because you absolutely need to.