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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. Used by permission.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (I Thessalonians 4:16)

“The dead in Christ.” It sounds to me that if you are not “in Christ” you are not going to be resurrected when the Lord Jesus returns.

Have you ever wondered what the expression “in Christ” means? I sure have. I believe it has to do with abiding, or remaining.

Unfortunately, we have reduced the Gospel of salvation to a one-time action on our part. “Accept Christ”, and no matter how you behave after that does not really matter. You now are “saved!” In John chapter 6, we are told that the work of God is to believe in Christ. But then the Lord proceeds to inform us that if we are to have resurrection life, we must eat His flesh and drink His blood.

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)

Well, believing in Christ may be nothing more than a mental effort on our part. But eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood is not a mental effort. Is it?

When speaking of eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood, I am not referring to the Communion service. The Communion service is a portrayal of something that can actually happen only in the spirit world and is invisible to us. When partaking of the elements in the Communion, we must focus our minds on the events of the Last Supper, when Christ was with His disciples just prior to His crucifixion.

Do we eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood just once in our lifetime (as the infamous and unscriptural “accept Christ” suggests)? Or do we live by feeding continually on His flesh and blood?

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57)

How do you feel about the verse above? Does “feeds on me” sound like we live by “accepting Christ” at one time? Or does it give the impression that we are to live by eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood constantly?

But how do we do this? How do we live by continually eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood? His body and blood are “hidden manna.” They are given to us as we are making our way through the wilderness of this present life. Every time we resist temptation and choose to obey Christ, we are fed with His body and blood. When we are fed, we are strengthened so we can do God’s will on another occasion. Thus it is a cycle leading to the moral image of Christ.

The flesh and blood of Christ are hidden from us until such times as we choose to resist sin and determine to do God’s will.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4—NKJV)

Christ invited us to abide in Him. Abiding in Christ is not a one-time action on our part, is it? We are to live in Him at all times.

How do we live in Christ? We live in Christ by continually, all through the day and night, opening the door to Him and receiving His Life. He always is knocking, you know, and we are to always be opening the door. We are to be thinking as Christ is thinking, just as Christ is thinking as the Father is thinking. We are to be speaking as Christ is speaking, just as Christ is speaking as the Father is speaking. We are to be acting as Christ is acting, just as Christ is acting as the Father is acting. This is what it means to be “in Christ.” This is what it means to live by Christ as Christ lives by the Father.

The expression “in Christ” appears many times in the New Testament.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1)
So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5)
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. (Romans 16:3)

Do the passages above give us the feeling that being “in Christ” is not referring to a religious statement we made some years ago, but is a state of being in which we are living?

Paul tells us God predestined His elect to be changed into the image of Christ:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29)

Now, think about that. We all have frailties and parts of our personality that simply are not in the image of Christ. Is that true? Then would you agree with me that changing us from our adamic state to the image of Christ in which we are a life-giving spirit like Him is going to require a period of time? Below are five steps to being changed into Christ’s image:

  • Replacing our life with Christ’s life.
  • Overcoming the enemies of Christ.
  • The forming of Christ in us.
  • Daily fellowship with Christ.
  • Clothed with Christ’s outer image.

Now, think about this for a minute. Can these changes be made just by saying “I accept Christ as my Savior,” or do we need to keep on pressing forward each day, as did the Apostle Paul, until we have been changed into Christ’s image? Personally, considering my own sad state, I figure it will require a thousand-or-more years before I am completely in Christ’s image, as God would have me to be.

I have been thinking about the two young Muslim men who set off bombs at the conclusion of the Boston Marathon. They had been in America for some time, but they apparently did not see anything in our sinful culture that they desired to emulate. All it took was for a Muslim radical teacher to fill them with a desire to strike out against what they believed to be wickedness. The older young man stated he was training to represent the United States as a boxer, in the next Olympics. The younger hoped to be a brain surgeon, he said, and already had received a scholarship, if I read the account correctly. Whether these two expressed hopes were a smokescreen to hide a carefully developed plan to infiltrate and terrorize our country, or whether they really had hoped to accomplish these goals, I do not know. Whether they would have changed their minds about destroying America if they had come under the influence of Christian young people who were being changed into the image of Christ, instead of waiting to die to go to Heaven and live in a mansion, doing nothing of significance for eternity, I am not able to say. Why was it easy for a radical Muslim teacher to fill their minds with murder?

I will tell you why. What they were seeing, in a country that used to fear God, is sex lust, gender confusion, nakedness, the wild pursuit of material wealth, the adoration of violence, political chicanery. We are a confused, materialistic culture. We have turned away from the old American values. We have a government that is teaching us to trust our own resolve instead of looking to God to help us. Christ and the Bible are being set aside in favor of Humanistic values. Am I correct? Are we looking to the government to help us or to God to help us?

There are millions of Muslims in the world. Among them are a few people who are insane in their desire to force everyone to have the same beliefs as they do. They are giving a bad name to the rest of the Muslims, who, as far as I can see, are ordinary people who just want to worship God according to their customs and go about their business.

I wonder if we Americans realize that if we were setting an example to the rest of the world of how a true disciple of Jesus lives, we would not have the current hostility directed toward us!

If I am hearing from God accurately, the future for us Americans will be grim indeed. Why? Because we are driving Christ from our land. Yet, our nation was founded by hard-working, God-fearing people. I would not be at all surprised if our nation is visited with Divine judgment to the point that we become a small country with little influence in the world. Perhaps then a remnant of sincere Christians will rebuild our country. Or perhaps Christ will return by then.

We have an immoral citizenry. Why is this? It is because the Christian churches, which are the only true moral light of the world regardless of what people may think, have been deceived by the false doctrines of “accepting Christ”, unscriptural grace that invites unrighteous behavior, and an escape from the problems of the world by means of an unscriptural “rapture.” The world cannot see the light from an imputed righteousness and glorify God, because no light shines from an imputed righteousness, only from actual righteous behavior.

The tragedy of the two Muslim young people may lie at the door of the false teaching in the Christian churches. We are not preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, but the gospel of going to Heaven by grace. The two might still be with us along with the people they killed and injured, if the pure Light of the Lord Jesus Christ were shining from us instead of the works of the flesh, proceeding from our ignorance of God’s plan of redemption.

So what are we going to do? Keep on with our foolish, unscriptural preaching and teaching and rail at those “murderous Muslims”? Or are we, from the leaders of our government on down, going to confess our national disgrace to God? Are we going to repent of the millions of children who are murdered in the name of the rights of mothers? Are we going to cry out to God about the displays of nakedness by the “beautiful people”? Are we going to emphasize righteous, merciful behavior in place of the buying and selling of the Antichrist world spirit in which we are immersed?

We point to this one or that one, and say he may be the Antichrist. How blind we are! The Antichrist spirit of buying and selling already has invaded our culture, and is one of the reasons some Muslim people despise America.

This present essay is about what it means to be “in Christ.” If each of us would press into Christ each day, learning to live by Him, letting our old adamic nature die along the way, we will gradually be changed into the image of God. When the people of the world saw our righteous, compassionate, generous behavior, they would glorify God. At least, that is what our Lord said would happen.

I am disappointed that young people from another country can live in America for years and not desire to be assimilated into our culture. However, their actions are not surprising if their religion emphasizes moral rectitude.

If anything, I am upset that we Americans have drifted so far from the Gospel of the Kingdom. If we can apply the lessons taught by the history of the nation of Israel, we might conclude that, as in the case of Israel, when a nation turns away from God and seeks only to gratify its flesh, then God will raise up enemies who will punish those people.

As commentators have pointed out, it is just about impossible to close the door against determined terrorists. We pride ourselves on being an “open” society, and we don’t want to lose our freedom of speech and action.

But if we do not, as a nation, espouse the righteous principles of God’s moral laws, demonstrating to the remainder of mankind that we fear God and want to please Him, God may raise up enemies against us as He did against Israel, His chosen people. We have a choice, don’t we? We can turn to God, or else we can curse the terrorists, hoping that somehow that will improve the situation.

Let me speak a moment to God’s elect, His called-out ones.

Today, God is moving forward in His plan of redemption. The holiness teachers who went before us stressed “the death route,” that is, crucifying our sinful nature. If I am not mistaken, I believe today the Spirit is emphasizing what we might call “the life route.” Paul referred to this new way of living as “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ.” If we are willing to leave our old personality and become part of the Life of the Lord Jesus, we will be kept safe under the protective wings of the Almighty God when Divine judgment falls on our nation. We can save ourselves and our loved ones by abiding “in Christ.”

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
(Psalms 91:1-8)

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is “the shelter of the Most High.” The promises listed above are limited to those who are living “in Him.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us make every effort to remain in Him at all times.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. (Psalms 91:9,10)

Is Christ your dwelling place? He is mine!

(“Remaining in Christ”, 3480-2, proofed 20210829)

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