Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The apostle sensed within himself not just the philosophy, ideals, or influence of Christ but the person of Jesus. Christ moved in. He still does. When grace happens, Christ enters. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
For many years I missed this truth. I believed all the other prepositions: Christ for me, with me, ahead of me. And I knew I was working beside Christ, under Christ, with Christ. But I never imagined that Christ was in me.
I can’t blame my deficiency on Scripture. Paul refers to this union 216 times. John mentions it 26 times. They describe a Christ who not only woos us to himself but “ones” us to himself. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15, emphasis mine).
No other religion or philosophy makes such a claim. No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers. Muhammad does not indwell Muslims. Buddha does not inhabit Buddhists. Hugh Hefner does not inhabit the pleasure-seeking hedonist. Influence? Instruct? Entice? Yes. But occupy? No.
Yet Christians embrace this inscrutable promise. “The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you” (Col. 1:27 MSG). The Christian is a person in whom Christ is happening.
We are Jesus Christ’s; we belong to him. But even more, we are increasingly him. He moves in and commandeers our hands and feet, requisitions our minds and tongues. We sense his rearranging: debris into the divine, pig’s ear into silk purse. He repurposes bad decisions and squalid choices. Little by little a new image emerges. “He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son” (Rom. 8:29 MSG).