Union with Christ enables us to focus on the various ways that we are connected to Jesus (see previous blog). Now we need to bring these truths into the real life fight to grow in grace. So here is the challenge: how do we take the truth of our union with Christ and utilize it in such a way that we relate to God during our struggle and therefore actually change? That’s step 8.
Your union with Christ should move you in two ways: a lifestyle of repentance (or “deconstruction”) and faith (or “reconstruction”). What does this look like?
Gospel Deconstruction: Repentance
I’ll start by sharing an example from my own life—follow along as I highlight a few themes from the previous blogs.
Look Around You (You, Baggage, Terrain, Weather)
Late one afternoon, I was sitting in my house enjoying some peace and quiet. This always works better when no one else is around to interrupt you! At just the moment that I was contemplating how peaceful it was, the front door opened and then was quickly slammed. I immediately felt tense and a bit agitated. It was my teenage daughter coming home from school. I managed to welcome her home by saying, “Hey, how was your day?” I got a terse response: “Why would you care?” She proceeded to stomp up one flight of stairs, then stomp down the hallway and stomp up the second flight of stairs. Then I heard it again: she slammed her bedroom door! What was a peaceful, quiet afternoon in the house was shattered in about 15 seconds.
Gauge Your Reactions
I could feel myself tense up immediately. There was that all-too familiar struggle with irritation and anger. It was a personal battle within that occasionally spilled over into my interpersonal relationships. It was as if I was standing at the junction: would I respond in the right way?
Look Under the Hood
Why was I irritated? What was I not getting that I wanted? On the surface, there was nothing inherently sinful in my desires. But in that moment, they had become something that I was living for, or worshiping, more than Christ:
Peace and Comfort: I had been working with people all day and all I wanted was some down time from the challenges of what other people wanted. Drinking a diet coke and catching up on the daily news on TV was bliss. As soon as my daughter entered the house, the atmosphere had been ruined. Peace and comfort, which can be very good things, had morphed into something I was living for.
Appreciation and Respect: Who doesn’t want appreciation, especially from your own son or daughter? After all the sacrifices you make for them, the least they could do is show respect! In this instance I felt disrespected when my daughter did not respond positively to my greeting. Appreciation and respect, which can be very good things, had morphed into something I was living for.
Gospel Reconstruction: Faith
This is where the reconstruction began. It started with a desperate cry for help to God and continued into ongoing conversation with him. It just happened that I had been doing some sermon preparation earlier that morning on a passage in 1 Corinthians 1. (Of course, these things never “just happen!”) The one verse that stood out was 1 Corinthians 1 v 30.
It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
That verse captures a host of the blessings that we discussed in the previous blog. And as I studied it, it had begun to penetrate deep into my soul. It was beautiful in its simplicity. It captured so many of the blessings that were mine because I was in Christ. These truths enabled me to start talking to God and turn from gazing at daily pleasures like peace, comfort, appreciation and respect and start gazing at Christ.
So as I rounded the corner at the top of the first flight of stairs and uttered my simple prayer—“Help me, God. Here I go again”—something astonishing happened. What followed was utterly miraculous, though no one would have been able to see the transformation that was going on in my soul at the moment. Here is how it unfolded:
By God’s grace, I was beginning to see how I was living for peace, comfort and respect rather than for Christ. Seeing patterns and signature temptations is a work of the Spirit.
I started to cry out to God for help. This simple pivot took me out of myself and directly to God.
I began to talk to God based on 1 Corinthians 1 v 30. The truth of Scripture began at the “head-level” but moved to a deeper place. I began to relate to God. The written word enabled me to engage with God and talk to him.
The truths in that one verse reminded me of my connection to Christ. They captured who I was in Christ and how that was deeper, more profound and more beautiful than anything else in this world; even good things like peace, comfort, appreciation and respect!
It is encouraging to know that there is hope for these everyday moments in your personal and interpersonal life.
You can find a full explanation and illustration of this in Chapter 8 of Unstuck: A Nine-Step Journey to Change That Lasts