“The Christ Within”
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Pastor Mark Klaisner
A few years ago, First United Methodist Church in Abilene, Texas, bought a new sign or marquee. The message on the sign could be changed each week. The purpose was to advertise the church to the thousands who passed by daily on a busy highway.
A decision was made to let each Sunday School class be responsible for the message on the sign for one week. The Bible Class was first. Their message read: “The Church Visitors Never Feel Like Strangers.” The following week the slogan was produced by a young couple’s class. It read: “Our Church is Incomplete…It Needs You!” When the third week rolled around, the youth got their chance to produce the message. Their advertisement became the talk of the town. It said: “Best Little Church House in Texas!” Needless to say, the Administrative Board put a stop to further creativity regarding the sign.
A sign out front does not tell much about a church. Rather, the signs within the church tell the true story. Are we a church who exemplify Christ in our mindset, as well as our actions?
The apostle Paul pointed to some important truths found in our scripture lesson for today. As I lift up these truths, I want you to ask two questions: first, how does our faith community measure up in this regard; and secondly, what am I doing to demonstrate that Christ is alive within me?
The first sign of having Christ within us;
Is that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In verse 5 of chapter 3 Paul wrote: “Our competence is from God.” Then in verse 7 of chapter 4 he added: “We have treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.”
When I was a kid I always dreamed of being a scientist. For some reason, I was experimenting on this old radio, what I was trying to invent I had no clue. Everything was going well until I plugged it into the electrical socket. Now, you want to talk about having a bang. I saw the light. A ball of fire jumped out of the radio and grabbed me. After that I don’t remember much!
The Holy Spirit has that power to grab and shock us. When you ask in faith, God will pump inexhaustible power into your life. There is no way the clergy and lay leadership of our church have enough talent, brains, and energy to make this church the leader in our community, our conference, and our denomination that she is called to be. But if we ask continually for the Holy Spirit to fill us and use us, we will be empowered to do things, for the sake of the kingdom, that we thought we could never do.
My former seminary professor in preaching, Ernest Campbell, told one time of visiting the Metronome in Minneapolis for a baseball game. He noted a strange phenomenon there. As one leaves, one feels a mighty push of propelling one toward the exits. It has to do with the controlled pressure inside the dome clashing with the prevailing pressure outside. The outrush is strong and unmistakable.
We ought to feel a similar phenomenon in church. When with the Holy Spirit we are thrust out into the world to witness for Christ, to serve his children, and to build his kingdom. If the winds of the Spirit are blowing inside the church, we will always be propelled out into the world for which Jesus died.
The second sign of having Christ within us:
Is our ability to Love as Christ loves.
Love here does not mean liking someone. It is more a decision than an emotion. It means wanting what is best for every person because we have received the very best from Christ. Paul told the Corinthians that love is the greatest of all spiritual gifts. He wrote: “Faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.”
How are your called to love others as Christ has loved you?
Growing up in the Chicagoland area there was a man in our church who many called brother Tiny. Brother Tiny was a big man with a big Christian heart. He was a handy man who dedicated his life helping those who had little or no many. If you needed your toilet fixed brother Tiny would be there to fix it, and with his deep booming voice he would say “pay what you can and remember Jesus will always love you and I love you. And then he would pray one of the most beautiful heartfelt prayer one would ever hear.
The Apostle Paul urged the early church folks to show their love by giving of oneself to others.
The third sign of having Christ within us.
Is surrendering our lives to Him as our Lord and savior.
In our text for today, chapter 4, verse 5, Paul wrote: “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…”
The central core of our preaching is not Methodism, though we are proud to be United Methodists. Our primary message is not the Ten Commandments though we affirm their validity. Our message is not the American Way of Life, though we are proud to be Americans. We preach Christ, crucified and risen, as a way to experience God’s abundant life here on earth and eternal life hereafter.
Let me be even more precise. Our central goal is not to make people more respectable or to clean up their language or to make them more tolerant of others. Our goal is to help people encounter Jesus Christ in a meaningful and personal way, and to claim him by faith as their Savior and Lord. It is about having the risen Christ alive in us
O few years ago syndicated columnist William Raspberry wrote an article reporting that he had just attended a national convention of social workers. There he discovered this startling truth. All of the social programs that are working have a spiritual component or relate to the belief system of the clients. Raspberry writes, “The transforming power of belief seems so obvious that it may be worthwhile to look for ways to harness it to social purpose.
If Spirit-filled, conversion-oriented programs work better than secular humanist programs, perhaps recipients should be free to choose them.”
United Methodist pastor and author, Maxie Dunnam, likes to tell about the time he was walking through an Episcopal Church building when an announcement in large print on a bulletin board grabbed his attention. It read: “If you have everything but don’t have Jesus, you have nothing. If you have nothing, but have Jesus, you have everything.”
That’s our message! We stand with our Methodist founder John Wesley who, when he sent some Methodist preachers to America in 1784, gave them but one command. He said, “Offer them Christ.”
Back during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, a postal clerk named George Wilson robbed a train and in the process killed a guard. He was apprehended, tried, convicted, and sentenced to die by hanging. But in those days the public sentiment against capital punishment was great. A movement began to secure a presidential pardon for Wilson. President Jackson responded by granting the pardon.
But then came an astounding development. George Wilson refused to accept the pardon. That had never happened before. No one knew what to do. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall, speaking for the court, ruled that a pardon has no value if it is not accepted by the one to whom it is issued. Therefore, since George Wilson would not accept it, the pardon was invalid. George Wilson was hanged.
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, a pardon has been issued to all of us who sin. But that pardon has no value unless each of us accepts it. How does one accept it? By saying, “Lord, I am a sinner. I accept what you did for me on the cross to redeem my life. I welcome you into my life as Savior and Lord.”
Friends, Christ wants to reside in our hearts. Christ wants to mold and shape us into the person that God intends for us to be. It begins with opening our heart to the power of the Holy Spirit, which then leads us to that place of love and redemption. Will you invite him in today?