Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder , Senior Minister

 

 

 

“How to Receive Christ - Trust”


Sunday, June 20, 2010

 

 

Dean

Rev. Dean Snyder

 

We are spending two Sundays on the topic of how to receive Christ.

One of the teachings of the New Testament is that Christ wants to live inside us. I’d like us to take a look at a few of the scriptures that talk about this.

Romans 8:10 says, “Christ is in you.” It says: If Christ is in us, even though we wrestle with sin and struggles, the Spirit of Christ within us gives us life. “Christ is in you,” Romans says.

Galatians 2:20 says, “It is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.” Paul says in Galatians that he has died with Christ to his own desires and ambitions, and it is now Christ who lives inside him.

This idea of Christ in us became especially important in the late Christian epistles in the New Testament – the pseudo-Pauline epistles written late in the period when the Bible was being written because the early Christians were beginning to realize that they had misunderstood in some way the return of Christ. They had expected that Jesus would return to earth in glory and victory in their lifetimes and when they realized it wasn’t happening the way they had expected, they began to ask: where then is the presence of Christ?

The answer was that Christ dwelled inside his people, corporately – the church is the body of Christ, but also individually. Christ dwells inside of everyone who will receive him. 

Ephesians 3:16, 17, 18 and 19.  Listen to how beautiful this is:

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Christ dwells in the hearts of his people.

Colossians 1:25-27 talks about the mystery that God has chosen to make known – which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Where is Christ, whom we expected to return in glory? Christ is in you, the hope of glory.

Christ wants to live within you and me individually and us collectively.

But because Christ is never coercive, we must receive Christ if Christ is going to dwell within us. And this is what we want to spend this Sunday, and next, talking about. How do we receive Christ? How do we invite Christ in? How do we open ourselves to the presence of Christ within us?

I want to focus this morning on a passage of Scripture about this from the gospel of John. Next week we are going to look at a passage from the book of Revelation. Today I want us to focus on a very specific passage from John 1. One verse, John 1: 12 that I’d like us to try to unpack this morning. John 1:12 says; “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

So, we receive Christ by believing in his name. This is the idea that I want to try to unpack with you this morning.

We receive Christ by believing in his name.

Here’s the first thing I want us to notice. It does not say that we receive Christ by believing a creed or a doctrine or an idea. It doesn’t say that we receive Christ by believing something. This is a Protestant misunderstanding we have to get past – the idea that it is what we believe that establishes our relationship with Christ. That Christ lives in us if we believe the right doctrine. 

What it says is that we receive Christ by believing in something. There is a big difference between believing something and believing in something. To believe something has to do with intellectually agreeing with or intellectually accepting some idea or ideas. Believing in something has to do with trust.

So John 1:12 says we receive Christ by believing in or trusting in his name. To believe in his name is to believe in him; to trust in him.

We receive Christ by trusting in Christ. We receive Christ inside of ourselves when we trust Christ. When we choose to trust Christ, Christ comes and lives in us.

When I was a teenager there was an illustration I heard in church and Sunday school and church camp a dozen times that I never really understood but it stayed with me all my life anyway.

The illustration was about the different between believing something and believing in something. It involved a chair.

The teacher would get out a chair and say I can intellectually believe this chair will hold me but to really believe in it, I have to sit down in it. The purpose of this illustration was to show the difference between believing in Christ intellectually and really trusting him. I never really understood the illustration because sitting in chairs came absolutely naturally to me. I saw a chair I wanted to sit in it. I never spent a lot of time wrestling with the question of whether a chair would hold me or not.

So this week I was thinking again about what those teachers were trying to teach me, and I came up with another illustration.

This is the largest ladder Foundry owns. It is a 10-foot ladder.

Here’s the question – Do I believe in this ladder? I intellectually believe the ladder exists. I intellectually believe the ladder can hold somebody. I believe in this ladder to hold Alan Zabel.

Alana Zabel does a lot of work in this building. I have seen him climb this ladder 30 times. He dances up and down it. I believe in this ladder to take Alan Zabel ten feet high.

The problem is that I don’t believe in this ladder to hold me. I hate heights. I have my whole life. I used to push myself to climb ladders even though I hate heights but I stopped pushing myself at some point.

If I believe in this ladder for Alan Zabel but not for myself, what does that mean? It isn’t that I don’t care about Alan. I love Alan Zabel. I would never let Alan climb a ladder that I thought wasn’t safe for him to climb.

So if I believe in this ladder for Alan but not for myself, what is it that I don’t believe in, really? It is not that I don’t believe in the ladder. What is it that I don’t believe in? I don’t believe in myself.

Here’s what I am trying to say. For some of us, we have a hard time receiving Christ not because we don’t believe in Christ but because we don’t believe in ourselves. We don’t believe that Christ can dwell in us. We don’t believe that Christ wants to live in us. We don’t believe we are worthy for Christ to live in us.

We can’t believe Christ would live in us because we don’t believe in ourselves.

We will not receive Christ fully because we don’t really believe that he wants to live in us. We think he wants to live in somebody we think we ought to be.

I would trust this ladder if I was more like Alan Zabel. But when I get more than three feet high I start to shake and doubt and get afraid. So I would believe in this ladder if only I were Alan Zabel.

John 1:12 says; “But to all who received him, who believed in him, he gave power to become children of God.”

See, many of us want to become good enough to be children of God and then we will think that we can receive Christ. You know, if I could become a forgiving person, then Christ could dwell in me. So I need to work on forgiveness and then I can receive Christ fully into my heart and life.

You know, if I could get my sexuality straightened out, then I could receive Christ into my life. If I could get my drinking under control, then I could receive Christ into my life. If I could be more disciplined, then I could receive Christ into my life.

We don’t believe in Christ because we don’t believe in ourselves.

But the way it works, is that we receive Christ into our lives and then Christ does inside of us whatever Christ is going to do. We don’t become good enough to be God’s children. We enter into a relationship with God and then let that relationship form us however it is going to form us.

Lots of us have something in our life that we think we need to fix before we can receive Christ. When we receive Christ, it often turns out it is actually something that Christ doesn’t care about. But we refuse to trust Christ with it. We keep a barrier up between ourselves and Christ either because it is something we don’t want to give up or else because we think it is something we have to fix before Christ will live in us.

We wouldn’t trust Christ because we don’t trust ourselves.

What Christ came to somehow communicate to us is that God wants to be in relationship with us. God doesn’t want to be in relationship with us only if we have gotten our lives together. God doesn’t want to be in relationship with us only if we are successful. God doesn’t want to be in relationship with us only if we believe certain things.

God wants to be in relationship with us – Christ wants to live in us – the only question is whether we will receive him, because Christ is never intrusive. The question is will we trust him into our lives.

I want to give you a posture to experiment with this morning. When Jane and I were visiting Buddhist temples in Japan these past two week and watching Buddhist monks chant and mediate, I was thinking how important body position and posture is to them, and how important is has been in the history of Christianity and how little we practice it anymore.

So I want to give you a posture this morning that one of our speakers used at annual conference this year. Every time he spoke and the end of his speech, he would invite us to sit with our hands facing upward open wide on our knees, like this. Then he would pray.

It is a posture of receptivity. So in a minute I am going to invite you to go into that posture and I am going to say a prayer, but before that I want to encourage you to experiment with this posture for the rest of the month of June. I want to encourage you to take a minute of two to sit in this posture twice a day. You can pray in words in your mind if you want to or you can just sit silently. It is a posture of receptivity. It is a way of inviting Christ into us even without words.

Then after we’ve experimented with this posture for a few days, and we find ourselves in a situation where we feel ourselves becoming defensive or reactive, we can go into this posture within ourselves.

You know how I can climb ladders? If I climb a rung until I begin to fell uncomfortable and I do that every day for a while until I begin to feel comfortable there, then I can take a step higher. Eventually I can climb a ladder. I gradually begin to trust the ladder.

God longs to be in relationship with you and me. Not when we accomplish our goals or get our act together, but here and now. Christ longs to live inside us.

So if you would close your eyes, put your hands on your knees, and open them.

O God, you created us to be in relationship with you. Life is not meant to be lived in our own strength alone. So we invite you into our lives today. Even if we never get disciplined enough or committed enough or generous enough, we invite you to live in us. Help us to believe in you, and to believe in ourselves. Amen.

          

 

     

 

       

 

 

 

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