The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, April 19, 2010

Conversations with a 'bullfrog' ( 'If I was the king of the world..........tell you what I'd do..............' )

'Am I a narcissist?'

No 'hello; how are you': nothing, just another blurtation, something I was getting quite used to when conversing with my 'friend', Jeremiah Bereano!

Although I was sorely tempted to reply with the rudeness that he began the conversation with ( 'He started it!' ) by affirming what somebody else had obviously had the 'guts' to tell him to his face, and tell him that, 'YES'; he was indeed a narcissist of the highest order, I held my natural feelings in check, and asked him instead why he would ask that. ( I wasn't even for sure what the word meant, exactly! )


'Do you even know what a narcissist is?', he asked. Not even waiting ( politely ) for a reply; my friend went on, answering his own question, 'the definition that I found on-line, at, is 'inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity', and number two is even worse, 'Psychoanalysis. erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.'

( Wow; I was glad that I hadn't succumbed and told him that he was a narcissist: he was a little ego-centric, thought a bit much of himself, but he wasn't THAT bad! )

Not yet acknowledging that he had asked me a question that I hadn't really answered yet; I asked him again, 'why would you ask me that?

I could tell, as immature as he could be at times, that he was ready to fire back with the much-used 'I asked you first!', but instead, he, almost petulantly replied that he had been getting the feeling lately that people thought that he took himself too seriously, that he took too much on himself, as if he had something that they, or others, didn't have.

Further 'skirting' his blatant question; I asked him; Do you think too much of yourself? Do you take too much on yourself? Do you think that you have something that others don't?'

My friend must have really been hurting, because instead of coming back with something like, 'Are you mocking me?' ( which I kinda was ), he replied that he wondered about that himself, sometimes. 'Am I really sharing my gift, ministering, even preaching as I am, or am I just using my 'gift' as a 'crutch', as an excuse not to be concerned with DOING something else I should be ( though, sometimes I wonder if I'm equipped for that )?'

'Do you believe that you should be doing something other than what you are doing?', I asked.

'Well', he replied, 'maybe not something 'other' than what I have been doing, but something else as well as what I've been doing!'

I aked him then ( I should have asked this first, probably ), 'Do you believe that God has called you to do what you've been doing?'

'Yes', he quickly replied!

'Do you believe that He called you to do this other thing that you're so obviously worried about?'

'Of course', he ( almost as quickly and vehemently ) replied!

Where's the problem then', I asked,' if God gave you both tasks; don't you believe that He would give you the ability to 'carry it off'? 'If you're wondering if he's given you the ability to DO what He's given you to do, then maybe it's not He that's given it to you to do, but you yourself who only ( because of a guilty conscience, or whatever ) think that it's your job, that you only think it's what you ought, or need to do!' 'Doesn't He tell us, in other words, in the Scriptures, that HHe won't give us more than we can handle, and that He always gives us the ability along with a 'charge'?'

'Well, yes', he replied, 'but...........'

'No 'buts' about it', I said ( I was on a roll now ), 'God has given you a gift, my friend, and if you feel that He has called you to it, along with the other; then you better be occupied, to the best of your ability, with doing both!' 'If you don't feel like God has given you, or that He's taken away from you, the ability to do one or the other, then maybe you'd better examine yourself and realize that maybe the problem IS you, not that you're a narcissist, but that you've begun to trust you're own feelings more than God and, for whatever reason, have given up on both accounts!'

As soon as I said it; I was almost sorry that I had, because I could tell from the silence on the other end that I had struck a 'nerve'. ( in fact, I could almost smell the tears )

After a few moments of stunned silence; Jeremiah ( almost crying now ) feebly ( and humbly ) re-phrased ( and re-formed ) his question, making it more of a statement, 'So you DO think I'm a narcissist!'

'No', I said, 'but maybe just a little too reliant on your feelings sometimes, a bit egotistical as well, and too concerned ( even to the point of worrying ) about what others think, or might think about you, and what they might think about what you believe that God has given you to do.' 'Be a man', I said, 'don't apologize for what you believe God has given you!' 'If you believe so strongly that God has given you a job to do ( whatever that job may be ), then you'd better be DOING it, no matter how hard it is, or wwhat feelings you're getting from people!'

I could tell that my friend needed some 'quiet time' right now, so after a little of our usual ( not quite the usual ) 'banter'; I gave him some lame excuse about someone at the door, or having to make another call, or something like that..................

'Goodbye, Jer; trust God to help you get things sorted out; ask for His wisdom and remember; I stilll love you, and I'll be praying for you, brother!'

'I love you too, man', he quietly replied, 'bye, Chuck!'

I hung up the phone, breathing a silent prayer ( and a sigh of relief )............

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mary, Mary ( quite contrary? )

I originally wrote this little study yesterday for a pastor friend of mine, using the KJV.

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.  For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. Matthew 26:6-13

And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. Mark 14:3-9

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. Luke 7:36-50

Then Jesus six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. John 12:1-8

Matthew, Mark, and John all record the story of this woman anointing Jesus at a house in Bethany, but while Matthew and Mark made very clear whose house it was ( 'the house of Simon the leper' ); John is not so clear, merely saying that He 'came to Bethany, where Lazarus was', which needn't imply that it was Lazarus' house, simply that this house was in Bethany, where Lazarus lived. Other than some easily noted similarities between these accounts and Luke's account; there does not seem to be much reason to think that the Gospel writers all wrote of the same woman.

Let's note a few of the similarities first; Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have the woman bringing an alabaster box of ointment. Matthew and Mark both said that it was 'very precious', but Luke simply recorded that she 'brought an alabaster box of ointment'. John tells us that this woman was Lazarus' sister Mary, and that she took a 'pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly'. Matthew and Mark record that this woman 'poured it on his head', but Luke wrote that she 'kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment' and John that Mary took the oil and 'anointed the feet of Jesus'. Luke was the only Gospel writer that said that the woman 'stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head', but John also reported that Mary 'wiped his feet with her hair'. As we noted before; Matthew and Mark both report that it was 'the house of Simon the leper', and while Luke implied ( strongly ) that it was Simon's house, he recorded that Simon was a Pharisee, rather than leper ( could a leper be a Pharisee? ( Leviticus 22:4, Numbers 5:2 ), and interestingly enough, John makes the notating that Judas Iscariot was the son of Simon. Are we to believe that this is just a coincidence? Matthew and Mark recorded the indignation of some of the disciples at this frivolous use ( as they observed ) of this expensive ointment, saying in Mark's account that it could have been sold for 'more than three hundred pence', with which John's basically agrees, except that he reports that Judas asked 'Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?' Luke's Gospel is silent as to anyone complaining about the waste, but when Jesus began His parable of the two debtors; He told Simon ( the leprous Pharisee? ) 'There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty'.

Interestingly enough; the context of Luke's account is the Pharisee's and lawyers rejection of the truth that Jesus brought ( v. 30 ), for which reason Jesus told them ( Simon in particular ), 'to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little' ( the Pharisees thought they were righteous, and owed little to God, and therefore rejected the Righteousness that Jesus brought ( 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'- Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17 ( Luke 5:32 ). I believe that too many similarities exist here for these accounts to be speaking of two different occurrences. In Matthew, Mark, and John; Jesus answers the disciple's complaint by telling them that she had done it to prepare His body for burial, that they had the poor with them always, to leave her alone, and in Matthew and Mark only, that this story would be told of her for a memorial. In Luke's Gospel, He simply forgave her sins when He saw her tears of repentance!

While the first three accounts do not give the woman a name, we can very easily guess that this woman was Mary of Bethany, the woman that John names in his account. Was the woman in Luke's story the same as in the other Gospels? Personally; I believe so, but from other stories that have Mary in them, it would seem not, but then Paul was a persecutor of the Church, a great sinner himself! Was Mary of Bethany this 'sinner' that Simon was all aghast about? Stranger things happened during the earthly ministry of Jesus!

In the love of Christ ( God ),
Charles Shank

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Why do 'bad' things happen to good people?

This is a question that has been asked, literally, I'm sure, a million times, and will be asked at least a million more; in fact, it's probably a question that you've asked yourself numerous times. A better way to phrase the question, though, might be, 'DO bad things happen to good people?' I'm sure that all, or most, of my readers are familiar with Paul's famous words in Romans 8:28, 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose'. Sure; we all can say, from our own personal experience, that something bad has happened in our life, even ( maybe especially ) after we came to Christ! But was it really bad? Or was it just something that we didn't/don't like? I believe that we, especially as Christians, can look back ( 'hindsight is 20/20' ) at all the 'bad' things that have happened in our short lives ( which are 'but a vapor'-Psalm 39:5 ) and realize, acknowledge that, through it all, God was working in our behalf, either causing everything to work together for our good, or, as the Century English Version reads, 'We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him'. Either way; it should be obvious that God works in our lives what He has purposed for our good, but most of all, for His glory!

What do we mean by 'bad' things?

To clarify what we mean by 'bad' things; it might help to be reminded of a few examples from Scripture. Probably one of the more familiar examples ( it jumps immediately to my mind! ) is what happened to Joseph, beginning in  Genesis 37:27 & 28, 'Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.', and ending with Genesis 45:5-8, 'But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.' I'm sure that Joseph had thoughts similar to many of us, when his brothers stripped him of his 'favored' ( Genesis 37:3 ) status symbol and threw him into the pit to wait for death, sooner or later, but through his faith in God, and his experiences in Egypt; Joseph was abe to look back on all his 'bad' experiences and see that God had indeed been working for his good, all along. ( You might also read of his 'bad' experience with a woman, in Genesis 39, for more on how God used something 'bad' for Joseph's good )

Another Scriptural example of God using a 'bad' situation for good, is found in Judges 14, in the story of Sampson. As Christians today; we might easily condemn certain things done by this judge of Israel as 'bad' things, and no doubt they were wrong, and sinful, according to God's direct command ( Exodus 34:12-16 ( Ezra 9:12 ), for example, we read in Judges 14:1& 2, that 'Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife', and then, a little later ( verse 4 ), God's good purpose is revealed; 'But his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.' Reading further, In Judges 16:28-30, we can see that even though Sampson had a bad, or wrong motive ( 'that I may with one blow, take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes' ) that God's good purpose for Israel was accomplished through Sampson's questionable efforts.

There are many other examples throughout Scripture, of God using 'bad' people, actions, or situations for the good of His people, including II Samuel 18 & 19, when King Saul began to turn against David, which I'm sure David saw as a 'bad' thing, but later in life was shown, in David's eventual triumph in becoming king of all Israel, to have been a good thing, by causing him to grow ( in the Lord ), and forcing him to rely on God's providence for his sustenance, and believing ( trusting ) His promises ( I Samuel 16:13 )! We could look, in the New Testament, at the example of Paul & Silas being beaten and placed in stocks & bonds ( prison ), but later revealing God's good purpose for this 'bad' situation through their meeting the Philippians jailer and bringing Salvation to his household, in Acts 16:16-34.

Thinking of 'bad' things that happen, not just to people individually ( although everybody has a story ), but to whole cultures, civilizations, and areas; take, for instance what recently happened to New Orleans, before that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Even more recently we remember a tsunami in Indonesia, not to mention earthquakes in Chile and Haiti and others closer to home, and more recent! Why do all these 'bad' things happen? When you look back on it, and many have, I'm sure; we can see that floods always have a 'cleansing' effect ( sure, it might take awhile to see that ), fires having much the same effect, and in the aftermath of 9-11, and other such 'bad' things ( which they were; horrible, don't get me wrong ), we have all witnessed, whether in person or through the media, of people pulling together, out of whatever motives, to help their fellow man, just because he needed it. This is, and will be, I'm convinced, an ongoing thing until we all realize why God has put us here on this good earth, and why 'bad things happen to 'good' people!

What is meant by 'good' people?

I like to believe, on a very physical level, in the inherent 'goodness' ( honesty, kindness, etc. ) of most people, and can personally attest to the fact that most people, when it comes down to it, will 'give you the shirt off their backs' if you have a real, evident need, but probably as many can give examples of people that are just 'bad to the bone', with not an honest or kind bone in their body. When people ask the question 'why do bad things happen to good people'; more often than not, I believe that they have in mind the above description of 'good' people ( they also might be thinking of the 'innocence' of those killed ( think 9-11 ), but even Christians ask this question, even almost, as Jesus on the cross, crying 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' ( Matthew 27:46 )

A wise man once wrote 'All things come alike to all: one event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good,[a] the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath'. ( Ecclesiastes 9:2 ), and as Jesus said of His Father, 'He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust' ( Matthew 5:45 ).When things like I described above happen, whether it be personally experienced ( death in the family, loss of a home, etc. ) or on a larger level; we, as humans, tend to think 'what did I do wrong?', or, even more to the point, 'what did THEY do wrong!', when, as Jesus and Solomon said, they just happpened! (Not that anything 'just' happens, because I believe that nothing happens for no reason! ) Everything that happens ( I believe ), happens for our good, as Paul said above, and for His purpose and Glory! ( not either, that this makes God the Author of 'evil', because God, by His very nature, His very essence, can do, can be, nothing but good; He is goodness itself! )( this brings me to my next ( bonus ) question )

Can there be good without God?

Humanly speaking; I believe that we can, in a sense, say that without condemning ourselves too thoroughly. By the above definition, people can do, even be good ( some of the time-like I tell people, 'We can be good, but God is good!' ), so in that sense, 'bad things do happen to good people'! You might say though, that 'bad' things like a death in the family, loss of a house, car, livlihood, etc. happen to Christians too: 'why?' I believe that the answers, several of which we've seen here, can be found in the Scriptures, and usually, by waiting patiently, in hindsight.

In the spiritual sense, of course ( and even in the physical sense of God granting even the wicked their breath ) there is no one good, or righteous, except those for whom Christ died, thus tranferring His righteousness upon us, making us 'the righteousness of God' ( II Corinthians 5:21 ( Isaiah 61:10 )!

I hope that these words will bring comfort to their readers, because, as I said above 'I'm sure that we can all personally attest to 'bad' things in our own lives', and that we can all realize that, on a physical level, anyway, things just happen, good or bad ( whether we like them or not ) and that sometimes it's how we look at the things that God sends us that make them 'good' or 'bad': with God, 'It's all good!'

In Christ's love ( the love of God ),
            Charles Shank

Friday, April 02, 2010

Jesus and the Resurrection of Life ( the assurance of glory )

Having written previously on this subject, and made my apology, in other words, before; one might think that I've already stated my position, so why take it up again?

'Well', I reply; 'that's a deep subject!'

If you have read any of my articles, you may have noticed that I am wont to turn to Jesus' words to Martha, in John 11:25, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live'. It should be clear that Jesus ( God ) is the resurrection, not some necrotic physical body coming back to life, although, as I've mentioned before, this had happened before as a picture, a preview, if you will, for those 'under' the Old Covenant. There is no doubt that Jesus did bring Lazarus, after he had been in the grave four days, back to physical life; but I don't believe that's what Jesus was telling Martha, for in the very next verse, He said 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'. Obviously; Jesus was speaking of the Life-giving Spirit  ( I Corinthians 15:45 ) that He, together with His Father, was! Using physical language that Martha could understand; Jesus revealed a spiritual truth to her, not that her brother would physically rise from the grave a 'the last day', but that those who believed ( trusted ) in Christ were resurrected, brought to True Life, and would never suffer the pain of separation from God.

Matthew 4:17 records that Jesus, upon His baptism, and trial by 'fire' in the wilderness, began immediately to follow John's prior example, telling them 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'. This, in fact, was arguably the main focus of Jesus earthly ministry, and the subject of numerous parables ( Matthew 13 alone records 9 parables concerning the kingdom of heaven! ).

In Mark's Gospel; we read the parallel passage to that above, but Mark recorded Jesus as saying 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'. What time was Jesus speaking of here, but the same 'time' that He spoke of to John, at His baptism, when He said 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness' ( Matthew 3:15 )? I believe that Jesus was revealing, to those with 'ears to hear', as it is this day, that He Himself was the kingdom, and that the time had been fulfilled, and the kingdom had come ( Matthew 6:10 ) to fruition. In Luke 10:9; Jesus told His disciples to tell the people of Israel, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you', and in the very next chapter told the Pharisees, who had questioned His power and authority, 'if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you', Later; Jesus told His disciples, in answer to their question 'Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?', 'So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near' ( Luke 21:7 & 31 ).

One may wonder at this point where I'm going with this: although it's fairly clear throughout the New Testament ( Greek ) Scriptures that Jesus and the gospel writers, not only looked for the kingdom of God/Heaven to be revealed in their day, that, generation' ( age ), but that they taught  that the kingdom, in the 'form' of the Christ, had indeed come to them, was ( very physically ) near them! When Jesus comforted Martha with 'I am the resurrection and the life'; He, in other words, was telling her that He was the fulfillment of all those promises, made under the Old Covenant ( Genesis 21:12c ( Galatians 3:16 ), Jeremiah 31:31 ( Isaiah 42:6 ( Luke 22:20 ), II Samuel 7:10-16 ( Hosea 3:5 ( Luke 1:32 ), to Israel!

What does 'in the resurrection' mean?

When Jesus told the Sadducees, in Luke 20:34-36, in answer to their question about the resurrection ( which they didn't even believe in ); 'The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection'. When one remembers Jesus' words to Martha, after the death of her brother, and just prior to his physical reanimation, when He told her 'I am the resurrection and the life'; it should be clear that Jesus was telling them much the same thing, for in the next breath, He also told her 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'. Jesus told the Sadducees above 'nor can they die anymore' because they were 'sons of the resurrection'. The same holds true today. Paul wrote, in II Corinthians 5:17, 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new'. When he wrote these words to the Corinthian believers ( church ) in the first century, they probably understood his words in the context of the sayings of Jesus to this effect, or possibly even the writings of the Old Testament prophets, like Isaiah ( 65:17-25 ), Jeremiah ( 31:31-37 ), and Ezekiel ( 36:25-27 ). Although these words of Paul's do not have quite the same meaning for us as they did for those first-century believers; I believe that we can be assured with those same words, that we have been made new, in Christ, just as they were then, and thus enabled to make the right choice, to be 'in' Christ, and loving as we have been loved, by Love itself ( thanks Arthur )!

What does 'in Christ' mean?

We are prone to 'bandy' words about, and these are some of those words that we like to use, but what do we really mean when we quote Paul as saying 'in Christ'? I'm not sure if any of us can fully, or sufficiently explain what that phrase means: as an infinite God; can any of us truly know, in our finiteness, what it really means to be 'in Christ'?

When Paul wrote ( at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of course ) these famous words, probably one of the most-used phrases in his letters; he employed the Greek ἐν ( en ), which is properly translated 'in', because it is 'a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively), i.e. a relation of rest', according to the website Blue Letter Bible, using the Strong's ( on-line ) Concordance. To be 'in' Christ, then, means that we have a 'fixed' position 'in' Christ, because of what He has done; as Paul told the Roman believers, in Romans 8:38 & 39, 'For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'. Paul , nor Jesus, promised that 'sons of the resurrection' would experience life as 'a rose garden' ( or 'a bowl of cherries', 'box of chocolates', 'peaches and cream', etc, but God did promise that we would always have 'the love of God in Christ Jesus'! ( there's that word again )

How are we 'in' Christ?

Anyone familiar with my writings should know that I like to emphasize the fact that we are the 'Body of Christ' ( I Corinthians 12:27, ; Ephesians 4:12, Colossians 1:24 ). Paul previously had told the Corinthian church that 'as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ' ( 12:12 ); so how are we members of His Body? As a child ( oh, the naivety! ); I used to imagine myself, as Paul talks about in the next several verse, the 'foot', 'hand', 'eye', or some other physical body part, but as I matured, I began to understand that Paul was using this physical picture as an example of how we ( spiritually )are menbers of Christ's Body, in other words, 'in' Christ. As the Body of Christ  on earth ) then; we are members of His Body in a very physical sense when we are joined with His Church. ( I'm not speaking here, of what is traditionally called the visible church ( institutional ), but of the body of ( true ) believers, who, though they may not be affiliated with the afore-mentioned, belong to Christ's Body, traditionally known as the invisible Church. )

What does it mean to us that we are 'in the resurrection'/'in Christ'?

I believe Scripture makes it clear that we are 'members individually' of the Body ( I'm not condemning membership in the institutional or local church! ), and thus, in that sense, are literally, in a very physical ( yet still spiritual ) sense, members of His Body. I mentioned, in the very first part of this article the answer that Jesus' gave to the Sadducees ( tricksy ) hypothetical question, but one part of His answer that I didn't comment on was 'those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage' ( although I have, I believe, made a few comments on it, in a previous article ). When Jesus said they ( 'sons of the resurrection' ) 'neither marry nor are given in marriage'; I don't believe that He was speaking of the physical act of marriage, although, in the historical and covenant context, they would have understood it that way, but was referring to the coming end of that 'age' ( Old Covenant ), of which that was one of the signs of God's physical blessing ( Isaiah 62:5 ( Psalm 127:5 ). Jesus was revealing the fact I believe, that in the 'New', eternal 'age' ( 'in the resurrection' ) there would be no concern, spiritually speaking, with 'marrying and giving in marriage' ( Matthew 24:38 ), because in the New Covenant; we have been married to our Head, to Christ, and secondly, because, as Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, 'there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus' ( Galatians 3:28 ). I wrote, in a previous article, 'Jesus told them ( Sadducees ) and reminds us, in language reminiscent of Matthew 24: 37 & 38; that the sons of the age in which He lived in the flesh ( the Old Covenant age ) were focused on the physical aspects of life, marrying and giving in marriage; while those who were counted worthy ( notice; He didn't say 'those who are found worthy' ) to attain that age ( the everlasting age in which we as Christians live, ie., His kingdom ) would be focused, not on the physical aspects of life, but on the spiritual aspects of true life, in and for Him': no more are we to be, or need we to be concerned with the above, for now that we are the Bride of Christ, and married to Him in the New Covenant, we have, as Paul told the Ephesian church 'every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ' ( Ephesians 1:3b ). The physical blessings, as I've described above ( and there are countless others ) of marriage under the Old Covenant, and even today, pointed to, and still point to the spiritual blessings which we enjoy as the Bride of Christ, the 'wife' ( Romans 7:4 ( Malachi 2:15 )  of God!

What now?

'And he showed me a pure[a] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him'.

Again; Paul wrote to the church at Rome ( Romans 12:1 ), 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service' : like I said before, this may be 'old hat, 'old ground' that we're covering here, but it stands repeating, I believe. We are those 'leaves' that John mentioned above! Physically speaking, of course, we are not leaves,  nor are we physically to heal the nations ( although, sometimes, this does happen as an extra benefit ), but spiritually, we are 'leaves of the tree' ( that Tree being Christ/God ) and 'branches' of the True Vine!

Jesus said, in John 14:12, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. If we believe in Him, that He is who He says He is, and and able to do what He says He will and did, then we must believe that we are who He says we are, and are able to do what He said we can and will!

May God continue to bless us all, as we continue and even begin ( in some cases ) to realize that we are who we are, and that we have what we need, to do what we have been given to do, even in this physical existence, because He is our life, and we are 'in the resurrection'!

Alive in Christ,
and serving His Body.
Charles Shank