God’s Design: Christ in Us for One Another
To blossom in life, a person needs encouragement, support, love, forgiveness, and grace. God designed us in such a way that we need these things to thrive. Without them, we die.
Since God designed us with such needs, it is safe to assume that God also has a plan to fulfill this need. God’s plan to accomplish this is the support and encouragement and forgiveness and love of one another.
In their book How People Grow, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write, “It is a medical fact…that from infancy to old age, health depends on the amount of social connection people have. Infants and older people die from a lack of relationship, and those in the middle suffer and fail to recover from illness…. Virtually every emotional and psychological problem, from addictions to depression, has alienation or emotional isolation at its core or close to it. Recovery from these problems always involves helping people to get more connected to each other at deeper and healthier levels than they are.” (p. 122)
For this reason, when Paul writes to believers in Philippi, he stresses the importance of the work God does through one another. In Philippians 2:1-4, he writes, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.”
But we are frail spirits who struggle often with issues of self-worth, depression, inadequacy, hurt feelings, resentments, prejudices, and bad attitudes. How could we ever be the means God would use to bring encouragement, support, love, forgiveness and grace to others?
This is where Paul’s letter to the Philippians gets most exciting. In Philippians 2:5 Paul tells us, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” or “that is yours in Christ Jesus.” The way that you and I can be encouragement and support and love and forgiveness and grace to one another is through the presence of Christ in us.
Here is the important dynamic: We are not naturally composed of the same love, humbleness, tenderness and compassion that flows freely from Jesus. Therefore it does no good for us just to try harder to be loving, humble, tender and compassionate. It is no good for us simply to try harder to be the kind of people we are not.
On the other hand, love, humility, tenderness and compassion are natural to Christ (as Paul describes beautifully in Philippians 2:6-11). When Christ comes into our souls, he brings with him these qualities that flow freely within him and which are now ours “in Christ Jesus.”
That’s why the message of Scripture is never “Try harder!” Trying harder leaves us pushing vainly against our natural struggles with self-worth, depression, inadequacy, hurt feelings, resentments, prejudices, and bad attitudes, and we end up with increasing amounts of guilt and regret and stress over not doing better. Instead, the call of Scripture is for us to abide in Christ, so that we can get more and more of his nature to become more and more of our nature. The more that we admit to our own shortcomings and seek for Christ’s qualities to grow in us. The more that Christ establishes his love in us, the more we can provide others with the encouragement, support, love, forgiveness, and grace which we all need to flourish.
Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend share, “When I went to graduate school and studied theology, I discovered that this is the doctrine of the church. This doctrine holds that the church, with its indwelling Spirit, is the real physical presence of Christ on earth today. It is true that where two or more are gathered together, he is present (Matthew 18:20). It is true that he is inside each believer. It is true that the Body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). In the Old Testament, God lived in the temple and in the Holy of Holies. Today he lives in temples of human flesh. He lives in us, and wherever we are he is. What an incredible reality!” (How People Grow, p. 121)