SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
The Secret of the Christian Life is Christ Living within Us
Key Verse: The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
The heart of the gospel for Paul is found in these words: “Christ who lives in me.” Repeatedly, the apostle writes of living “in Christ” or of Christ living “in me.” Here is the great secret of the Christian life – embracing the spiritual reality of Christ living within us.
In my earlier years as a disciple of Jesus I “tried” hard to live like a Christian. I struggled to be “like” Jesus, to imitate him in my attitudes and relationships. All my self-effort resulted in frustration because I lacked the power to live a new life in my own strength.
Then I met E. Stanley Jones whose life was centered “in Christ.” He had discovered Paul’s secret. Jones was 77 when I met him and I realized he was not struggling to live like Jesus. Instead of trying to imitate Jesus, he was surrendered to Jesus, to His living presence. Jesus was not an example from the first century; he was the risen Lord, here with us, right now.
Instead of struggle what I saw in Brother Stanley was an effortless joy. He was in a groove. His life was in cruise control, or should I say, Christ control. This was obviously the Spirit-filled life I had heard about but never experienced personally. Christ was in Jones, and Jones was in Christ. The reality of this man’s deep relationship with Jesus was truly captivating. I sensed a peace and calm in Jones that could only be explained by the presence of Christ within him.
I wanted what Jones had – a sense of the presence of Christ in my life. Seeking his counsel I met with Brother Stanley and confessed my hunger for the assurance that Christ was living in me. He asked me to claim for myself the promise of God found in Mark – “. . . whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
We knelt in prayer. Brother Stanley prayed simply for me to receive the assurance I was seeking. No bells rang as we stood up. No angels sang. But since that night I have been a different man, a new man, for that night I surrendered my life to Jesus in a way I had never done it before.
I invited Him to take over and He did. Ever since that night I have by faith believed that Christ was living in me. I exchanged “imitation” for “incarnation” and a new joy became mine.
Instead of struggling to imitate Jesus, I focused on letting Him live His life within me. This made sense for, after all, he had said clearly in John 15:5 that he is the Vine, we are the branches, and “without Me you can do nothing.”
As a result of this new understanding of Christian living, Galatians became one of the most powerful verses of the Bible for me. These words of Paul constitute the essence of the gospel for me:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (New KJV)
The same week that I found the joyous peace of Christ living within me, my friend Thomas Carruth gave me a copy of Brother Stanley’s book, In Christ. Jones shared how he had searched for a concept that would reduce the whole of life to the utmost simplicity. Here is what he said:
“If you have that, you’re ‘in’; if you don’t have it, you’re ‘out.’ By ‘in’ I mean ‘in life,’ and by ‘out,’ ‘out of life.’” That concept Jones found in the phrase “in Christ.” He concludes: “If you are ‘in Christ’ you’re ‘in life’; if you are ‘out of Christ’ you’re ‘out of life.’”
As I studied the book Jones’ concept made sense. It cleared up so much confusion for me. The Christian life is not about religion; it is about life in Christ. So the phrase “in Christ” is then the ultimate phrase in the Christian faith because, as Jones says, “it locates us in a Person – the Divine Person – and it locates us in Him here and now. It brings us to the ultimate relationship – ‘in.’“ This means takes us beyond being “near” Christ, “believing” in Christ, or “following” Christ.
I was captivated by Jones’ explanation: “To be ‘in Christ’ means to pull up the roots of one’s very life from the soil of sin and self and herd and plant them ‘in Christ.’ He becomes the source of our life, the source of our thinking, our feeling, our acting, our being.”
“This obviously involves self-surrender,” Jones said. “Not merely the surrender of our sins, our bad habits, our wrong thinking, and our wrong motives, but of the very self behind all these. All of these are symptoms; the unsurrendered self is the disease. So the phrase ‘in Christ’ is not only the ultimate concept, but it demands the ultimate act – self-surrender.”
Jones was so convinced that he was right that he said if this concept or thesis is not true, then it doesn’t matter – forget it; but if it is true, then nothing else matters – you can’t forget it”!
As a young pastor I embraced Brother Stanley’s concept and it has been the focus of my Christian journey for almost half a century. In the midst of faults and failures, storms and trouble, this has been my chief desire – to let Christ live within me, to guide, comfort, discipline, and use me for His glory. Now, in these sunset years of my life, I can declare Brother Stanley’s affirmation to be my own:
“My creed and my song are one – my creed: ‘Jesus is Lord’; my song: ‘Jesus is Lord!’ I’m in Him and He is in me. Hallelujah!”
Yes, beyond any doubt, the great secret of the Christian life is Christ living within us. Paul was right. Jones was right. You and I can be right – if we choose to surrender and let Christ live within us!
+ + + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)