Emmanuel - God With Us
by Dan Stone
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matt. 1:23 quoting from Isa. 7:14)
This SERMON SUBJECT--Emmanuel, God with us--appropriately appears on many church bulletin boards during the Christmas season.
Years ago in a most unusual setting a little boy was born. He grew up to manhood and announced Himself as the long-awaited Messiah of the expectant Jews. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). But God's purpose in revealing Himself through the man Jesus was that we also would know Christ in our flesh.
CHRIST DWELLS IN US
If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom. 5:11.)
In Romans Eight Paul underscores a truth which is only revealed by the Spirit-that we are the offspring of God: "Those led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). As if this glorious truth were not enough, Paul startles us with the conclusion that if we are the offspring of God, then we are also heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. In the New Testament's unfolding message, particularly in the writings, of Paul and John, we have the emphasis of sons of God by faith.
Paul makes what is, to him, a logical statement, which readers of Paul often miss. To many, joint-heirs implies there will be a pot of gold in their storeroom. But Paul says, "joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him" (v. 17). He is saying that adopted sons become vessels by whom and through whom the Father's love work continues. Though Paul speaks powerfully from his private revelation of sonship, John, in both Gospel and first Epistle, underscores exactly the same point.
During the past year both parts of I John 4:15 have become alive to me in a new way. As with so many other Scriptures, for years I had highlighted one section of the verse and blocked out another. The verse reads, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and He in God." I understood the "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God" part, for I related it to my previous salvation experience. Then nine years ago the section, "God dwells in him, and He in God," began to be opened up to me. Till then, I had thought, "Oh, that elusive God." All the time that I was chasing Him, He had dwelt within! He certainly had not been in any rush to show Himself to me. I smiled to myself as I recalled the twenty-threeand-a-half years' separation in my experience between these two sections of this one verse of the Bible, finally realizing that I had been in union with God all the time. Why does it usually take so long for these deep things of God to become reality?
CHRIST FOR ME
Christmas teaches us the blessings of giving over getting. At this season, people concern themselves with giving visible expressions of love to others. But our attention can remain upon getting for a long, long time. I might ask, "What are you more interested in-getting from God, or expressing God to others at any cost?" All are interested in getting from God to begin with. For example, I have noticed that "no condemnation" is one of the initial results of a person experiencing union with Christ. It is a getting. It is the desire of the Christian to get for himself. It is the proverbial carrot in front of the eyes. It gets our attention. Thankfully this carrot can be reached by one and all. Many are first caught by the carrot truth of "no condemnation" which satisfies their desire to be getters.
A couple of summers ago two women came to the Union Life Conference Center near Hixton. Their lives were filled with accumulated guilt and condemnation. One of them later said she was ready to leave on the first or second day of her stay. However, by the end of the week they had both experienced a knowing in their spirits which released them from years of condemnation. They departed rejoicing.
I have seen them several times this year. I did not recognize one of them when I saw her for the first time after Hixton. The removal of guilt and condemnation has caused her to do a few nice things for her appearance, and the knowing of union has produced an entirely new person from the inside out.
CHRIST IN ME
Expressing God to others by "Christ living in you" is another matter. This is what John talks about in his first epistle: "God dwells in him, and he in God" (I John 4:15). The next verse carries us to the weightier matter, "God is love" (v. 16) God is agape. Agape is God. Write it either way-it is the same. The Greek word agape-meaning love--is the key. The only source of agape is God. Isn't it the definition of the character of God having the welfare of others as His only concern-that most clearly describes Him to us? This love is not inanimate, but personal-"He." That is the trick. It is He Who is shed abroad in our hearts-Love is The Person.
The second woman mentioned previously not only experienced the truth of no condemnation, but also is so totally aware of her union with Christ that manifested rivers of Love now flow forth from her. Without any advertisement, she is drawing to herself those who are hurting.
I have seen the awareness of this giving revelation bring life to many. It whirls them about and thrusts them out as rivers of living water. Isn't this the experiential side of John's statement, "As He is, so are we in this world"? (I John 4:17.)
CHRIST AS ME
Today, as I was preparing to go to my desk, the telephone rang. Barbara, the official receptionist here, answered the call. It was the oft repeated story of a marriage problem. In tears, a young lady was speaking, "Will you come? I want someone with honest answers." Barbara is in God and knows it. Her word is His Word. This young caller heard truth coming from someone who knows who she is. She is witnessing agape for her. Love is coming to her in the form of Barbara who knows God dwells in her, and she in Him.
But how is one able to act with such sureness and authority? That is what we wish to know. Let us examine the prayer of Jesus in John 17 with particular emphasis on verses 20-23. As we know, Jesus' prayer reaches forward to include all who would ultimately believe on Him. The prayer is remarkable.
I pray for them which shall believe on me that they may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us. . . and that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one. (Vs. 20-23.)
Jesus' prayer expresses His desire for all future followers to know the truth; the Father and His Son in them, and themselves in the Father and the Son. We are intended to know a oneness in ourselves.
Now, in what realm is this knowing to take place? I take it to be the realm of Spirit, for all knowing is inner when you and the concept or truth become so one that you may say, "I know." It is a prayer for each individual though spoken collectively.
Another reason I see it as inner knowing is the human experience of Jesus. He was never recognized by the eye of flesh as being in union with the Father. His accusers said He was Beelzebub. The townspeople said He was only the son of Joseph and Mary. And even at the end, one disciple questioned Him concerning the Father about whom He spoke.
But some of us have come to know within ourselves this vital union of our human spirit with the TrinityFather, Son and Holy Spirit. What ultimate purpose does this knowing serve? Jesus said it would have a twofold result: "that the world may believe that you have sent me" and "that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:20, 23).
The result of our knowing ourselves in them" puts to rest the question of the existence and reality of the Father and the Son. Now we can speak with the authority of God and "say to this mountain, Be thou removed." We can now speak as first-hand knowers. This is to convince the world that the Father sent the Son. Our knowing "them in us" makes us vessels of love (agape)-it is our perfection, and the result should be a world which knows they are loved also!
Isn't the simplicity of God's plan amazing? Anyone who is willing to announce Himself through a birth in a manger setting must know the truth of simplicity. His plan appears so simple when placed alongside man's efforts. Simplicity frightens peopleit strikes them as naivety. They say, "It can't work. It's too simple."
"Christ in You" is the completion of the Old Testament "God with us" truth. It is so utterly simple. The world merely tips its hat toward the manger as it dashes on its way to celebrate the incoming new year. But, countless others pause at the manger in reverent awe knowing that this little one was truly God (Phil. 2:5-7).
Those who are aware of their union with Christ press on to share this miraculous truth of Christ in you, reaching out in the beautiful simplicity of a manifested concern for the well-being of others. Jesus said that because of this manifested love, the world would know that the Father sent Him, and that the Father loved them.
Now, it is clear. The God with us truth of Isaiah becomes the Christ in you reality of Galatians 2:20: ". . . I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Our knowing now is, "Christ in us, as us," so, isn't this an appropriate season to celebrate our own unique union of our spirit with the Christ of the manger.