Monday, August 20, 2012

Buying a House or Living in a House?

I love the atonement of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus died in my place at Calvary is an astounding thing. My favorite bible verse is II Corinthians 5:21, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Apart from His sacrifice on the cross, we would have no hope, no salvation, no eternal life.

Here's a related question: Is it possible that we spend too much time talking/thinking about the atonement of Christ and not enough time abiding in Christ?

I'm not trying to create a false dichotomy of sorts here. Of course we should both ponder/cherish the atoning work of Jesus and enjoy abiding in Him moment-by-moment. I just wonder if we spend so much time on the former that we are losing out on the latter.

Some of this stems back to the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers in general were concerned with having a biblical understanding of salvation. I am deeply grateful to men like Luther and Calvin for the work they did in this area. Those of us coming from Protestant backgrounds have been taught again and again about the transaction that took place on the cross. Jesus purchased our salvation by taking our place. This is the substitutionary atonement.

My concern is that, coming from a Protestant background, I (and maybe you too) have my priorities askew just a bit. Could my focus be off a little? Could I look more at the transaction that Christ purchased than at Christ himself?

This is sort of like the difference between purchasing a house and living in a house. The purchasing is certainly important. Without it there would be no living in the house. However, once we buy a house we do not spend most of our time thinking about the day we bought it. Instead, we simply enjoy the daily living in the house. In our relationships with Christ, it seems that we would benefit from more time basking in the presence of Christ in the here-and-now, and less time focusing on what He bought for us so long ago (I realize the above house analogy breaks down at several points. I simply include it as an illustration).

It is correct to say that we cannot and should not separate Christ from the cross. However, if we stare too intently at the cross, we may treat Christ as someone who mostly functioned in the past. He is alive and well today! We are called upon to abide in Him in the present. In the book of I John, the apostle repeatedly refers to our abiding in Christ. For example, John writes:

"And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming." I John 2:28

"Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us." I John 3:24

"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." I John 4:15-16

Click here for a complete list of John's uses of "abide" in I John.

When we read the bible we see a real person named Jesus Christ. He lived, died, and was resurrected. These things truly happened in space and time. Praise the Lord for this! These truths are necessary for our faith. If any fail (which they cannot), then we are without hope.

That said, Jesus lives today. He is doing very well and sitting at the right hand of His Father. John calls upon us to abide in Him. Abiding is a second-by-second communing with Jesus Christ. It is truly living with Him in every sense of that word. His death on the cross enables our abiding, but it is not the same thing as our abiding.

Let's not spend so much time thinking on the Christ of the past that we lose out on the joy of the Christ of the present.


Anonymous said...

I love the imagery! Very well put. I think you've been reading my mind. Until we realize not only that we were bought with a price but also for a purpose, I don't think we're doing justice to our calling and Christian walk.


Aussie John said...


Great stuff! An empty cross, and an ever present, living Christ!

Eric said...


I feel like I'm still an infant when it comes to abiding in Christ. I know all the facts about the crucifixion, but my knowledge of Christ Himself is just beginning. What a glorious journey!

Eric said...

Aussie John,

Well said! Jesus is doing very well these days I'm sure. I can't wait to see Him.