With the coming of Christ, which we celebrate during the Advent season, the Father, Son, and Spirit made a way for us to be incorporated into the triune fellowship. We are placed in Christ through the power of the Spirit. This doesn’t just change how God views us and relates to us. It changes who we really are.
We really are “in Christ,” and through the Spirit, Christ really is in us! A great deal of harm has been done by teachers who stress how our union with Christ changes how God sees us without emphasizing how this union really changes us. The Father doesn’t just view us “with Jesus spectacles,” as some have said. Rather, the Father re-creates us in Christ through the Spirit.
We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10, emphasis added). “If anyone is in Christ,” Paul says, “there is a new creation: … everything has become new!” (2 Cor 5:17).
When God says we are righteous, holy, and blameless in Christ, we are in fact righteous, holy, and blameless. Take some time to read Romans 6:1-12. This is the point that Paul makes there. Paul makes it clear that our union with Christ isn’t a fictitious thing—it is real. We really do participate in Christ’s crucifixion and burial. And we really do participate in Christ’s death and resurrection life.
Moreover, since “the life [Christ] lives, he lives to God,” freed from sin, we “must consider [ourselves] dead to sin and alive to God in Christ” (Rom 6:10-11). Our thinking about ourselves should line up with the truth of who we really are. Our new identity must give rise to new ways of thinking, which in turn gives rise to our new way of behaving.
Paul does not command us to behave a certain way in order to become something we’re not. Rather, he commands us to remember who we already are in Christ, and to think and live accordingly. Paul is not giving people a new set of ethical rules; he is calling people to live out a new identity.
The life believers now live is no longer a life of their own efforts; in Christ, this old life is dead and buried. Being incorporated into Christ, the life we now live is the life that Christ himself lives, and this life is eternally toward God.
In sum, just as we participate in the love and life Christ receives from the Father, so we participate in the love and life Christ lives to the Father.
Christ is God for us, and us toward God. In Christ, we receive unsurpassable worth, and because this reception is not a fictitious thing—we really do have this worth from God!—we also participate in Christ’s overflowing of life and love to God and to others. The perfect love that God is is directed to us, abides in us, and therefore flows through us—and all of this takes place only as we are in Christ.
—Adapted from Repenting of Religion, pages 41-43