Romans 12:4-5. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
One of the greatest truths of our union with Christ is this reality of the Body of Christ. We are each IN CHRIST and each of us has CHRIST IN US. The same Lord. The same Spirit. The same life. And yet, at the same time, we are each of us uniquely indwelt and empowered by Christ himself. The SAME Christ in each of us creates a DIFFERENT manifestation of Christ in each of us. We are individuals and yet interdependent.
We don’t cease to be ourselves when we receive Christ. Yes, superiority and inferiority are gone as attitudes. Yes, humility is self-forgetfulness. But union with Christ is not the destruction of the self. It is actually the enhancement of the true self. The self you were created to be. The individual member of the Body. The image bearer.
Often we hear Christians say things like “less of me and more of Jesus” (quoting John the Baptist). Or “I had to get out of the way and let Jesus have his way.” Or “we need to put the self to death.” The problem is that we forget that John the Baptist did not have the indwelling Christ, but we do. Our union with Christ is just that – a union. Christ did not eradicate you when he indwelt you. He’s not trying to get rid of you, or wipe you out. In fact, he doesn’t want to do anything apart from you. He wants to empower you to do everything that you were individually created and called to do.
How does Christ change our dream and empower us to follow it?
Yes, we need to put to death the flesh, but not the self (that already happened when you died with Christ). And there’s no such thing as “more of Jesus” for those that are in Christ. No, Jesus doesn’t want “less of you,” he wants more of you, the new you, because he is in you. No, we don’t get out of the way of Jesus. We have his mind, his affections, his heart, his very life. Why would Jesus give us all this and then tell us to get out of the way of what he’s doing?
Yes, we are still sinners and yes, we need Christ to eradicate sin in us. And I think that is what most well-intentioned Christians mean when they talk this way. But we have to be careful that we are not presenting a gospel that falls short of the glorious reality of Christ’s justification, sanctification, and glorification in us presently as individuals.
One of the great paradoxes of gospel living is that the more we connect to the community of Christ, to his Body, the more we will know, appreciate, and embrace our individuality. In the Body of Christ, we see that no single one of us is the whole body. We are each simply a member of the body. And yet, we are each a necessary member of the body. Each one of us individually needs the others individually. Each member is meant to play a unique role in the life of each of the other individual members’ lives. Embracing this view of community as the outworking of our union with Christ is what renews our mind away from the superiority and inferiority of this world.
“To live is Christ” means we can actually have a love for ourselves, which will then allow us to love our neighbor. We can embrace who we are. We can see our individual worth and actually believe it. We can stop comparing ourselves to others. We are free to not have to be like everyone else. We can celebrate difference and uniqueness. We can laugh at our quirks and enjoy our individual peculiarities. Why? Because Jesus does.
Now that you’ve embraced this freedom Jesus wants to merge the individual YOU into the corporate HIM more fully than ever before. Because it is only there that you can express the life of Christ in you as an individual. It is only in union with Christ’s church that you are truly free (more on that tomorrow).