What You Can Count On Every Day Of 2012

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. —1 Corinthians 1:30

This week I saw a list of answers to this question: What do you regret about this past year? Here are some answers: I regret thinking more money is all I need. I regret believing this would finally be the Cubs’ big year. I regret not spending time with my lonely neighbor. I regret the date nights with my wife I didn’t take. I regret my apathy in worship. I regret being held back by human opinions of me. I regret missing times with God but not missing my show on TV. I regret every minute I gave to pornography. I regret trying to hide my sins from others. I regret the person I’ve become.

I wonder what your regret is. I know mine. But sometimes we don’t see our biggest failing. All the regrets I’ve just read lie at the surface. And there is a deeper reason why we act these ways. The deeper reason is this. We do not savor God’s love for us. Of course, if someone asked us, Does God love you?, we’d all give the right answer. But savoring his love, enjoying his love, drawing strength from his love, especially when we see how sinful we are – that’s different. All our problems stem from this – not believing and receiving the love of God for the undeserving. I am calling you today to enter 2012 with this declaration: “I will let God love me and save me.” There’s a New Year’s Resolution for you! Every day of 2012, rather than try to make God love me, I will let God love me, because he does – for the sake of Christ.

This verse here in 1 Corinthians will help us. It tells us how far the love of God has gone, how generous he is to us. We can count on this every day of 2012.

What is this verse about? Theologians call it “union with Christ.” Should we imitate Christ? Yes. But there is far more. If you belong to Christ, God has so removed every barrier, God has brought you so near, that you are now “in Christ.” Christianity is not about admiring an historical figure named Jesus way back when; it’s about living in vital union with the living Christ right now. In chapter 1 Paul starts this letter by addressing it “to the church of God that is in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2). But now he says they are at the same time “in Christ.” We today are in Nashville and also in Christ. We have a geographical location and a spiritual location. As Nashvillians, we have a strong local economy, we have country music, we have the Titans, we have Vanderbilt, and so forth. We didn’t create these great things. They all belong to us just because we live here. And as Christians, we have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption in Christ. We didn’t bring these things to the table. God did. All these things belong to us now just because of where we live – in Christ. In other words, God has taken your story, with all your disappointments, and has relocated you in Christ’s story, with all his benefits. For example, Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). That sounds like gobbledeegook. But it isn’t. He meant that, when Jesus died, Paul’s own sins were so present there on the cross that it’s as if Paul himself died for his own sins, and the matter is settled forever with God. You too have a new story in Christ. You can see yourself in a new way now.

Over 160 times in the writings of Paul he uses phrases like “in Christ” and “in him.” We Americans would never say that we are in George Washington. But the Bible says we are in Christ. We used to live in a personal universe of ourselves alone. We were all we had. But God has ensphered us now in his love in Christ, surrounded as in an atmosphere. Paul tells us this over 160 times. In my Bible the writings of Paul come to about 100 pages. If you read a book of around 100 pages, and the author said something over 160 times, that’s what the book is about. The gospel is about God loving us when we were hopelessly lost in our own thoughts and feelings and frustrations and regrets, loving us so much that he gives us his best in a union with Christ that will never end but only get better forever.

Jesus himself is where everything else at Immanuel begins. We don’t begin with community. After all, what sustains community? Jesus. We don’t begin with mission. What will empower us for it, except Jesus? Churches that put community first end up angry churches. If all we come to church for is one another, then one another is all we’ll get and we’ll be disappointed and empty and angry. And churches that put mission first end up exhausted and ineffective. If we make our task central, then we cut ourselves off from our only power for the task. Only Christ comes first, because only Christ is our life. Jesus, then community, then mission – in that order. That’s how we thrive.

Here is why we savor Jesus, first and foremost. If we belong to him, God has done the most amazing thing. He has joined us intimately and permanently to a Savior, a Redeemer, a Friend – not an enemy. I think of it in this simple way. I wake up in the middle of the night, reach over and pat Jani. She’s there. Not far from me. Very close. So everything’s okay. I like our home. But when she’s away, it’s an empty place. When she’s there, it’s a happy place. Her nearness makes the difference. Even so, in a far more profound and wonderful way, Jesus is near to us. He could not be any nearer. The Bible says, “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). When you received Christ, God so bound you to him that all that he accomplished is yours. God didn’t just save you from hell; he saved you into Christ. Live there! Jesus said, “Abide in me” (John 15:4). How do we do that? We set aside, we deliberately reject, all that we can derive from ourselves, and we draw life from Christ alone by faith. He opens up a better future! He defines us not by our defeats but by his victory at the cross and the empty tomb. All that you regret about the past is outside Christ, and everything you fear about the future is outside Christ, and everything you desire is in Christ and now yours forever. And this “in Christ” message is not a piece of verbal ingenuity; it is the deepest truth about you. When you are in trouble, you are more deeply in Christ. When you are in sin, you are more deeply in Christ. When you are in despair, in debt, in depression, you are more deeply in Christ. And when you are out of answers, you are still in Christ. When you are out of energy, you are still in Christ. When you are out of patience, you are still in Christ, and he defines your future now. God never tells us to pretend that this is so for the sake of a little emotional uplift. God announces to us that this is the new reality we live in. Our union with Christ is the truth that God certifies to us by his own sacred Word. Let’s think it through briefly.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

God did this. We didn’t. We didn’t earn it. We don’t sustain it. God gave it, and forever. It’s all about God’s love for us. The most important thing about us is not what we give to God but what God gives to us, just because he loves to give.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Then they sinned, and God threw them out. God put Israel in the Promised Land. Then they sinned, and God threw them out. God has put us in Christ because we’re sinners, and Christ is love enough for any sinner.

There is nothing quite like union with Christ anywhere else in our experience, so it isn’t easy to explain. But the Bible says that union with Christ is something like marriage (Ephesians 5). It’s something like sexual union (1 Corinthians 6). It’s something like a vine with its branches (John 15) and a head ruling a body (1 Corinthians 12). In other words, our union with Christ is a relationship. It is the ultimate relationship. The highest and best of human relationships are a mere shadow of our union with Christ. Enjoy him! He’s there for you! You’re either abiding in Christ or abiding in something inferior and denying Christ. David made a decision: “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). We can spend 2012, moment by moment, setting the Lord before us as our constant thought, and we cannot regret that on December 31st. I love the way Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it:

Our faith is a person. If you had asked the twelve Apostles in their day, “What do you believe in?” they would not have given a long sermon; they would have pointed to their Master and they would have said, “We believe him.” “But what are your doctrines?” “There they stand incarnate.” “But what is your practice?” “He is our example.” “What then do you believe?” Hear the glorious answer of the Apostle Paul, “We preach Christ crucified.” Our creed, our whole theology is summed up in the person of Christ Jesus.

All we want to do is press further into the help that Jesus is to us. I love the passion of John Calvin when he looked at all these blessings Jesus is to us, and Calvin said, “Let us not seek the half, or some part, but the totality of the benefits in Christ which are listed here.” Christ is big, and he is our energy for community and mission. What then awaits us in Christ, to transcend ourselves and live for him in 2012?

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Jonathan Edwards wrote about this verse, “These four benefits answer to the four evils that we are subject to in our fallen state, viz., ignorance, guilt, sin and death.” What does Jesus bring, to save us from this bundle of negativity that we are? Wisdom to understand us, righteousness to forgive us, sanctification to change us, and redemption to free us for a better future. Every day of 2012 God will love you in these ways. In our own thoughts and feelings, we tell ourselves over and over something like this:

And because of me, I am what I am and I’m stuck with what I am – my own ideas, my own rightness, my own rules, my own limits.

God has put us in Christ, to change the subject from ourselves to him. Let’s begin 2012 enjoying Christ. As we come to communion, let’s open up and receive him as if for the first time, because this is the first time, and the only time, we’re going to live 2012. God is giving us this new year for the purpose of drawing us deeper into Christ. Let’s savor him now!