The Key to a Purposeful Life
If I am united with Christ, then my life will take on not only the direction of Jesus' life, but its quality. We spend a lot of time thinking about the "plot" of our lives. God is apparently much more interested in character development. The reality of my union with Jesus speaks to both. Because Jesus is living in me by his Spirit, my character gradually conforms to his character (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Col. 3:10). In other words, holiness happens from the inside out. It's not about me, struggling away out here in my world, trying to be more like Jesus. Instead, it's Jesus, living in my heart (Eph. 3:17), making his home in me (John 14:23), who is remodeling his own house. This was, in fact, the primary point of Jesus' incarnation for our redemption. As Martin Luther put it, "The Logos [Jesus, the Word] puts on our form and pattern, our image and likeness, so that it may clothe us with its image, its pattern, and its likeness." It is freeing to take our eyes off the unknowable variables of our future, and focus instead on cooperating with the Spirit of God as he works to transform our hearts into the image of Jesus. That transformation is one thing we can be certain God has in store for our lives.
If I am united with Christ, I get to enjoy his victory. Now. I think of Sarah Hughes, figure skating her way to an unexpected gold medal in the 2002 Olympics. As a 16-year-old, coming into the final event in fourth place, she didn't have much to lose. While the top three contenders competed, we held our breath for each jump, each landing, each combination. Every movement had the power to guarantee either victory or defeat. But Hughes was fun to watch, because she was clearly having fun. "I didn't really go out and skate for a gold medal," she told an interviewer that evening, "I went out and had a great time." She skated as though it were a prize to simply be at the Olympics. She skated with an exuberant, reckless abandon. That freedom enabled her to give the best performance of her life.
Our life as disciples, united with Christ, should be a lot like that. Jesus has already won the medal for us. The prize is ours. We get to enjoy the event, to marvel at the privilege of being included in the games. As A. J. Gordon writes in his classic book In Christ, "He who is in Christ fights from victory in his very attempt to fight for victory."
If I am united with Christ, my life—even my pain—is sweetened by fellowship with the Trinity. Whenever my husband and I hug each other in the kitchen, my 3-year-old daughter is inevitably there within two seconds. She squeezes through our legs until she's right in between us, at which point she announces: "Family hug!" She sees our love for one another, and she wants in.
Because of our union with Jesus we can join the Trinity's family embrace: "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them …. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them" (John 14:20-23).