As we talk about becoming a new creation, a central part of this new beginning is our faith in Christ. We read that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, but what does “in Christ” actually mean?
To be honest, many theologians make this out to be a lot more complicated than it actually is. Some are simply looking to prove how smart they are, so they will come up with all kinds of theories.
To Be IN or OUT
To understand this, consider the terms in and out for a moment and how you use them in your daily life. If you are a sports fan, for example, consider what it means when someone is “out of the lineup” for a game or is “in the lineup.” If they are out of the lineup, the idea is that they are not part of the team that is on the field, court, or rink for that day. They are a bystander, so to speak. Someone who is in the lineup is a person who is actively part of the team for that day or game.
How the term is used here actually gives us a fairly clear idea of how in and out are used, and tells us a lot about what it means to be “in Christ.” What separates someone from being “in” the lineup versus being “out” is participation. A person who is in the lineup is one who is actively participating in the outcome of the game.
A God of Reconcilation
If you continue to read beyond 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul discusses the reconciliation of God to us and how we then become ambassadors of reconciliation to the world. The word translated as reconciliation is katallasso, which means to change mutually. At one point, we did not get along with God and He did not get along with us but, through the work of Jesus on the cross and the prompting of the Holy Spirit to draw us to the Father, we are now both mutually changed to the point of wanting to have a relationship with one another.
Paul makes this clear in verse 19. Christ brought about mutual change between the world and God. People’s sins were no longer held against them so that reconciliation could occur.
19…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We looked in our last lesson at how Jesus bound Himself to pay all of the debt for our sins. He did not just redeem us, but removed our sins, because He made Himself responsible because He is the Creator of all. The creator is responsible for all that he has created and Jesus, the Law Giver, made Himself equally responsible for all that He has created.
The Relationship Is Essential
We are reconciled to God and now there is no barrier between us and Him. That means that we have let go of the things that stood in the way of our relationship with our Father.
Most of us will focus on how Christ died so that God would no longer have to look at our sins because our debt was paid, but there is another side to this as well.
There is a reason why each of us chose to separate ourselves from God. While we don’t know who God is when we are first born, most of us create some kind of barrier that stops us from forming a relationship with Him as we get older. Whether it is that we are influenced by someone to believe there is no God, that we become angry over something tragic that happened to us, or we just don’t see a need for Him in our lives, we choose to create a barrier.
When we recognize that need, then the mutual change has occurred. God always knew that He wanted a relationship with us, but many of us refused to see that at first. It is the acceptance of Jesus and His sacrifice, as well as the desire to form a relationship that brings about a change that makes us new.
What this tells us is that to be “in Christ” means to be actively involved in a relationship with God, like a player is in the active lineup for a game. What active looks like is up for debate, but what is important to understand is that the closer we are to Him, the more likely we are to be transformed from what we were to what we should be.
This is true of anything you do. The more time you spend studying anatomy, the more you are going to know about the human body, and the better you will become as a student of that discipline. The more time you spend with your friend, the more you are going to know about him or her, and you are going to be a much better friend because of your knowledge.
This is true of our relationship with God as well. The more time we spend getting to know Him and seeking Him in our lives, the greater the transformation is. While God can change all things in an instant, He makes it clear that when we prove ourselves worthy of a little, then He is more likely to give us much more (Luke 12:48).
Being in Christ starts the moment that you have put faith in His sacrifice and accepted Him as friend. The question now is how much change do you really want?
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By Robert Pannier