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“In Christ” – Union with Christ (part four)

Sermon Date:November 8, 2020

Sermon Series:

Sermon Topics:Ephesians 5:31-32, Revelation 19:1-16, Revelation 21:1-7

Author:Allen Burns

Sermon Topics:

In Christ – Union with Jesus

As we journey through this series of unity, I hope you are being encouraged. It is a joy to see the depth of how God speaks about unity. It is very dear to God’s heart.

It is enjoyable to see how God communicates. As an artist, it is especially dear to me to see how God speaks to us in word pictures.

We gaze at the canvas of the night sky and see the majestic glory of God. He creates stark contrasts of love and justice with the cross of Christ. He teaches about standing while wearing the armor of God. God uses images so we may understand His truth and character. When God says, taste and see that the Lord is good, we can take that phrase and meditate on it easily since looking at food and eating it is an experience we all enjoy.

God’s art museum has many paintings of unity. There are numerous depictions showing what it means to be “in Christ.” Let’s walk into the “Union with Christ room” of God’s art museum and marvel at the glorious display of our union with Christ.

We will be looking at the picture of how God joins together a man and a woman, and see how it is a glorious picture of what it is like to spend our eternity with our Husband, Jesus. The goal for us today is to have a deeper understanding of our union with Christ, as pictured in a marriage union. The goal is to have a picture that we can have in our mind’s eye to savor and enjoy. We are going to have something worth our contemplation and meditation. So, let’s start painting the canvas.

Pointing to Jesus: Types, Icons, and Shadows

On the way to the union in Christ room, we walk through the types, icons, and shadows section. It is the section which points our way to Christ. All the pieces in this room are pointing to the Messiah.

They are picture of the Messiah in the Old Testament. They are not the actual Messiah, but they point to Jesus.

We see the picture of the Sabbath which help us understand that Jesus gives everyone a rest from their work. The Sabbath is a picture of resting in our salvation. We rest now, not working for our salvation today, and we have a future rest in eternity being with Jesus forever.

Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. We see a display of how God has the Israelites sprinkle lamb’s blood upon their doors, which saves them from death in the time of the Exodus. God paints the shadow of Jesus being the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. The sacrificial lambs illustrate Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for sins.

We walk by a statue of Moses holding up the serpent upon a pole in the wilderness. We see Israelites nearby, looking at the serpent with faith to be saved. The statue has an arrow, pointing to a statue of a cross where we see people from every tribe and tongue kneeling to put their faith in the salvation of Jesus.

The room with the tabernacle, priests, and sacrifices also points to Jesus. Jesus is the great High Priest who enters the Holy of Holies to sprinkle His blood upon God’s mercy seat. When Jesus dies, the temple veil separating God’s people from God’s mercy seat is torn, giving us access to the great throne of God’s mercy.

We may use all these pictures, and many more, to help us see the glories of our salvation in Jesus. These pictures guide the way so we may enter the section of the museum which displays our union with Jesus.

Pictures of being – “In Christ”

Walking through the many rooms with hundreds of pictures helps prepare us for what comes next. God wants us to see the glories of our salvation and our union with Jesus.

Our salvation extends far beyond being saved from sin. Many people stop at the room which shows the death of Jesus on the cross is the forgiveness of sin. It is truly remarkable and breathtaking, but they need to walk into the union with Jesus room.

In the victory room, we see the death of Christ is the beginning of our new life. His resurrection makes us alive, risen, and seated together with Him in the heavenly places.

The resurrection of Jesus brings us into a perfect union with Him. In this section of the museum, we find a life of abundance. There are many pictures.

We see the painting of Jesus as the Vine, and we abide as branches in the Vine. He gives us life, nourishment, and we bear fruit that is pleasing to God in His name.

There is the depiction of us as sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd. We enter through Jesus, the door, and we graze on the green grass of His pasture. His staff and rod lead us to still waters. The Good Shepherd protects us from evil. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His beloved sheep.

Art museums contain architecture. We see a beautiful holy temple where Jesus is the Cornerstone, and we are the stones. Each of us aligns to Him.

There is a statue with Jesus as the Head of the church, and we are the members of His body. Each member of the body receives guidance from the Head. As members of the body, we are the hands and feet that He uses to bring about His kingdom.

These pictures are truly marvelous. But one more picture arrests our attention. It is this next picture that reveals the greatness and splendor of our salvation.

Christ, our Bridegroom    

The ultimate picture of being in Christ is the picture of marriage. We are not branches, neither are we sheep; we are people. The picture we understand the most is the picture of the bond between a man and a woman.

The picture of marriage is found outside the museum. Some have thrown mud at it. Others have shown how to cherish the picture.

Marriage is a union of a man and a woman that is the source of life for all. In God’s art museum, marriage is the union between Christ and His church, and it is the source of eternal life.

When God institutes marriage between Adam and Eve, His purpose is to create a picture of His Son being married to the church.

We know this from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. The Apostle quotes Genesis and then declares the quote to be a mystery revealed.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

It is a great mystery because before the Messiah came, who knew that marriage is a picture of things to come? For centuries, God’s people thought of marriage as being a good thing for God’s people. Which, of course, it is! But, to now know that marriage is a picture of Christ and His church opens up the beauty of marriage to an incredible dimension.

The joining of a man and a woman in marriage is a picture God creates to depict our collective union with Jesus. Every marriage union in history is a picture of Christ joined with His bride, the church. We call it holy matrimony because of what the picture marriage represents.

As we go through Scripture, we see many references which support the truth that Jesus is the Bridegroom, and we are His bride.

Isaiah writes and says that our Husband is our Maker (Isaiah 54:5).

John the Baptist declares that the Bridegroom is present when Jesus arrives (John 3:29).

Jesus refers to Himself as the Bridegroom and His disciples as His wedding attendants (Luke 5:34-35).

Jesus tells a parable that likens the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast given by a Father to His Son (Matthew 22:2).

Jesus refers to His Second coming as the Bridegroom coming back to fetch His bride in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).

Paul says that his work of evangelism and discipleship is arranging the bride’s marriage, the church, to the Bridegroom (2 Corinthians 11:2).

The Apostle Paul tells the church in Rome that we are released from the covenant of the Law in the same way a married woman is released from marriage through the death of her husband. He writes, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead …” (Romans 7:4).

The conclusion is that our union with Jesus is best illustrated as a union between a man and a woman.

Side note: Beware of pushing the Details of a Metaphor Parable

I have been asked, “how do I, as a man, view being a bride of Christ?” The answer is that don’t push the details of a metaphor to an understanding that doesn’t make sense. I feel the same way about being the bride of Christ as I do about being identified as a sheep (John 10), branch (John 15), or any other illustration explaining my union with Jesus.

In the same way, the church is not an actual bride who has marital relations. We are to think of being betrothed. We are spoken for Christ. We can look forward to an eternity of being deeply in love standing in the presence of our Lord.

Living as a Betrothed Bride to the Bridegroom

We are to live as the betrothed bride. We are engaged with a future marriage date written in heaven. Being betrothed is considered the same as being married, except the marriage is not consummated. We are an engaged bride.

We learn how to live as the betrothed bride by thinking about what engage brides do before their wedding day arrives.

Worship

A betrothed bride worships her bridegroom. Worship is to give value. Her bridegroom is what she values most in life. The bridegroom is her treasure. She speaks of Him to others, telling His greatness to all who will give her an ear.

Our Bridegroom is the King of kings. He is the Savior of the world. He died that we may live. Everything else in life is secondary to our Bridegroom. He is worthy of our worship.

When a love song comes on the radio, the betrothed bride automatically thinks of her fiancé. She is devoted. She is in pure adoration. She loves to please him and bring joy to his face.

A worshipful bride is not an adulteress who winks at other men. She has no idols she worships. The thought of giving worship to someone or something else is unimaginable. She has the most wonderful Bridegroom of all. Why would she desire another?

Listen to how the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians about their corrupt devotion. He says,

“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3)

Do not let the craftiness of the serpent deceive you in being led astray from simple devotion to Christ. When we are saved, we are betrothed to one Husband. We are to see the temptations of this world for what they are; they are competing for our devotion to Christ. Let’s commit to being wholly devoted to worship our Bridegroom.

Wash

We are to wash and make ourselves clean. The bride makes herself presentable for the day of her wedding. Purify yourself for His coming.

The way we wash is by the Word of God. Jesus says that we are sanctified in the truth of the Word of God (John 17:17).

The Bible has much to say about purity. We are to have pure speech and keep ourselves unstained from this world. We are to conduct ourselves in all purity. We are to make every effort to wash ourselves of our former ways and to put on our new self. Put aside dirty rags and be adorned with white linens.

It is no accident that we begin our testimony as Christians with the rite of baptism. Our baptism testifies to our new life in Christ. The waters of baptism symbolically represent a cleansing.  

Our Bridegroom is at work to sanctify us. His blood cleanses us from sin. We might ask, why would we need to purify ourselves if Jesus’ blood makes us pure? Isn’t it true that Jesus will present to Himself a bride with no spot or wrinkle or any such thing and that she will be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27)?

Jesus will make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless. The reason we purify ourselves is that we love Jesus. We seek to please Him, and purity brings Him glory. Our desire to wash and make ourselves pure proves that we treasure what Jesus treasures. He is worthy of our devotion, and we seek holiness in honor of His name.

The Bride of Christ washes and cleanses herself for the day of her marriage is approaching.

Watch

When Jesus ascends into heaven after His resurrection, an angel appears before His disciples and asks, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Jesus is coming again. He will come again, and when He does, the world will know. It will not be a secret event. We do not know the hour or day of His return; although many have tried to predict the time of His coming. It has been said, “It is useless to set the day and the hour for Christ’s coming. It is folly to neglect it.”[1] 

It is indeed folly for us to neglect the truth that Jesus is coming back to fetch His bride. It is the most important event of creation. There are twice as many Scripture passages that speak about Jesus’ second coming as there is that speak of His first.

We may not know the time, but we still look forward to the wedding day. We can watch the calendar and know that each passing day is one day closer. We can keep our eyes on the eastern sky and eagerly watch for His return.

In Jewish culture, it is customary for the bridegroom to go and prepare a home for his bride. When finished, he will return and fetch his bride and bring her to her new home. Jesus is preparing for us a mansion in glory. He will return to fetch His bride and bring her to her new home.

As a betrothed bride, we need to have excitement in our anticipated return of our Lord. Let’s encourage one another to press on, for He is on His way.

Worship, wash and watch. These are among the many ways we can live as a betrothed bride to our Bridegroom.

Glorious Union

The more we look upon the picture of our union with Jesus, the more we will anticipate and watch for His coming. Our anticipate, our hope, is the anchor for our motivation to persevere in difficulty.

There is a hope section of God’s art museum. Let’s walk into the hope room. It is a glorious vision in John’s Revelation, chapter 21.

This portrayal never fails to lift our spirit and gives us comfort. The fantastic picture completes the painting of our union with Christ. Let’s use our mind’s eye to see what John sees when he pens these words:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (Revelation 21:1-7)

The Tabernacle of God is among men

God will no longer be an abstract concept of pictures and statues in a museum. We will live in the reality of God’s existence. Our faith will become sight. We will experience the most significant and rewarding moment of our existence when we see God face to face and not just His shadow.

He will wipe away every tear

Imagine the hand of our Bridegroom, reaching out and personally wiping away the tears from our face. We will be in the presence of God, and His presence is deeply intimate.

There will no longer be any death; mourning, crying, or pain

These promises are among the greatest of Scripture. Our Bridegroom promises us, His bride, to everlasting life.

All things new

Newlyweds open their gifts received from their wedding, and it is a joyous time. Everything is new. As we enter into the mansion of our Lord, all things are made new.

It is done

It is the beginning and the end. We will pass from time and will live in eternity. This age comes to an end.

Drink!

We will drink the refreshing waters from the spring of the water of life. We will eat the fruit of life. We will enjoy basking in the presence on a continual picnic with our wonderful Lord! We will live in a perfect, transformed reality with our Lord.

Meditate on the glories of being one with Jesus Christ, Savior, and Lord.

[1] Word Pictures in the New Testament, pp. 194-5