"Christ living in me"

Message preached June 17, 2001
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Galatians 2:15-21

Order of Worship

        A 4-year-old was at the pediatrician for a check-up. As the doctor looked down her ears with an otoscope, he asked, "Do you think I'll find Big Bird in here?" The little girl stayed silent.
        Next, the doctor took a tongue depressor and looked down her throat. He asked, "Do you think I'll find Cookie Monster down there?" Again, the little girl was silent.
        Then the doctor put a stethoscope to her chest. As he listened to her heart beat, he asked, "Do you think I'll hear Barney in there?"
        "Oh, no!" the little girl replied. "Jesus is in my heart. Barney's on my underpants."

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Artist: Ann Gertano        Itís a nice thing to say, "Jesus is in my heart," but what does it mean? The apostle Paul once wrote, in defense of the sheer simplicity and freedom of faith in the Son of God, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:19b-20a). But what does that mean?

        Oh, in answer to that question, I could dissect this particular section of Paulís letter to the churches of Galatia. I could note (for instance) how his words flow from exasperation at his brother-in-Christ, Peter, who wimped out when it came to sharing the gospel with those who had never heard of Abraham or Moses. I could mention church counsels where debates raged over whether Gentile believers needed to be circumcised and take on the Law of Moses, thus becoming Jews first, before following Jesus. I could tell of Paulís own struggle with the Law, as a Pharisee himself, and how he discovered that "doing" all sorts of religious "stuff" doesnít bring anyone any closer to God.

        I could speak of how he found that he needed to die in order to learn how to live - to die to what he had been trained to hold most dear: the Law of Moses. I could say that this Law, in fact, only pointed out to Paul how distant he was from God - an ever-increasing chasm, a gap that only faith in Christ could bridge. I could share about the freedom he found in Jesus Christ, the marvelous grace of God, a message he now was on a mission to take to the entire world.

        I could bring all of this up (and I guess I just did), but that still might not answer the question. What does it mean for Christ to live in me? Thatís an appropriate question for this day when we baptize yet another new believer. I say "new" believer, even though I know she has been raised in the faith, that she has known for a long time that itís Jesus who dwells in her heart, not Barney. I say "new" believer because there comes a time when we each need to claim that faith as our own and choose to follow Jesus, to let him more fully live in us.

        However, what does it mean for Christ to live, not just on the outside, but within? At this point let me turn to the wisdom of this congregation and allow this message to become a sermon of the people of God. A few weeks back I asked for folks here to ponder what it means for Christ to live in them, and to write this down as briefly as possible. The responses I received back were overwhelming. Let me share them. Note that I have edited them just a bit - to shorten, or take out words that might identify the writer, or to make complete sentences. Please donít try to figure out who wrote the words. Instead, listen for God to speak through them. The thoughts reflect various points along the journey of faith, some beginning steps, others further along.

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        "It means that Christ is in control. I cannot force solutions, but can only let God take control. It happens when the situation is surrendered to God."

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        "Knowing that Christ lives in me is a Comfort, instilling a sense of well-being and confidence, especially in times of great difficulty. This enables me to be of help to others."

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        "Nothing is certain in life except the continuing love of God. We seek Christís leading in what we do, often in frustration because decisions are frequently unclear. Fortunately we know other believers who also live for Christís service... We can care for each other and help identify those times of grace and understand that a higher law prevails .... we can groan together but also seek Godís spirit to help us consider challenges as part of an adventure."

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        "He gives me strength and courage when disappointments and trails come. He keeps me singing and smiling. He enables me to clear my thoughts; He accepts my gratitudes. When itís hard to like people, eventually he helps me see what to do. He enables me to see good in others and to talk with them; to be hospitable. He gives me hope, calms my fears, gives peace - when I let Him. He listens even when I talk to Him about little things. He gives me comfort... Heís a friend to me. Not all my questions are answered, but we are still working on it. He gives me more understanding and inspiration. Helps me make choices; keeps me in better health. I can pass it on."

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        "Having grown up in the church from the time I was a baby - I learned to know Jesus - so he has always been a part of my life. A memory I go to back to is of graduation from high school one day and traveling alone to another state to work for the summer. I realized at night how far away I was, and didnít know anyone. I remember praying and no longer feeling afraid."

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        "Christ living in me means that there is nothing that can happen to me that God and I cannot handle. I try to remember that God will never put on me more than I can bear. My faith will see me through."

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        "As Christ was a sacrifice for us, as He lives again, as I have taken on His name as a Christian, I feel I am called to approach situations and relate to others according to the principles He taught. I am called to help others, to forgive others when they have done what I consider "wrong to me." I am called to use my talents and gifts for Godís kingdom on this earth. I am called to always be ready to share the Good News - that God is the all-sufficient One who sent His Son for us and that we are all called by Him to receive Him."

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        "This is the way I want to live my life. Jesus is the Way! God directs."

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        "Knowing that Christ lives in me has helped me control anger and respond with grace and consideration for others. Iím still working on it, however."

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        "I have a great, filled spirit within me. A new inner and outer happiness not felt in so long until Iíve given all my faith to God. I pray it never leaves me."

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        "Jesus Christ makes up the mind, body and soul. He makes you whole. He is the spirit of life! Without Christ spirit, you live in darkness."

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        "When I think of Christ living in me, I think of rebirth, growth, a new kind of maturity, an inner peace, sacrifice, unspeakable JOY! HOPE, hunger for wisdom (the WORD), a desire to know Him more!, and a desire to tell others."

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        "Jesus is my Savior. He leads me and protects me through the Holy Spirit. He lives in me and I know he will be with me forever. I know my sins are forgiven because he died on the cross for me and some day will take me to be with him in heaven."

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        "For him to live in me means that I should walk the way Christ would if he were here today."

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        "Christ living in me makes me appreciate the goodness and kindness of others and helps me to show love and kindness to them - and to try to be a good and honest person."

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        "It is no longer living for only myself and my desires, choosing my direction, which later is learned to be a mistake. It is living a Christ-directed life. A better direction is followed, one that is more fulfilling in purpose, and much more wisely chosen. And because with Christ living in me, my direction is wisely chosen for me, I can step out in faith without fear, apprehension, and worry."

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        "For Christ to live in me means that my life is full and I am happy."

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        "Whenever Iím down or facing a difficult decision, I try to think what would Jesus want me to do or how would Jesus handle this. I also try to remember that Jesus is with us always to guide us through our life."

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        "Christ lives in my marriage, strengthening it... Christ lives in me as I find a better job with more pay and better hours than the one I already have."

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        "Christ living in me means that I can project and be what he wants me to be and reflect his love, joy, and concern through me to others."

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        "Because Christ lives in me now I have power to make the right choices. I no longer am compelled to choose what the world of flesh tends to lead me into but am given wisdom of direction by Christ and his teachings."

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        "Christ is always guiding - maybe in ways we donít understand and donít want to. I try to follow his guidance. This will lead to the "Good Life" here and here after."

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        "Because Christ lives in me I have peace and comfort."

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        "Because Christ lives in me I have Joy in all seasons."

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        "Christ stirs your conscience. You do what is right because you know what Christ wants and is all about."

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        "It has meant that I try to do better in my life, try to be more open and tolerant of others."

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        "It means that each person is filled with the spiritual gift given to us by Christ, and our lives are part of the broader family of Christ."

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        "When I think of Christ living in me, I think of peace, listener, living my life for a change, working for the good of others, being able to rejoice with others as they meet Christ and walk with him on their journey, friendships."

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        "All those in the world are my sisters and brothers (because Christ lives in me)."

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        "The day of my baptism has passed years ago but with each new day his blessings still abound in new ways."

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        That last reflection brings us back to this moment, which is a present day of baptism for one of us. It is our prayer that as she steps forth by faith in Christ, that she will discover in ever deeper ways what it means for Christ to live in her. Who knows what she may write about this many years down the road. The path today brings us now to the water of baptism.

(Continues with introduction of the candidate by her mentor, and the vows.)


©2001 Peter L. Haynes

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