Complement Each Other
Vincent V. Marshburn Homestead Mennonite Church

Vincent V. Marshburn, Homestead Mennonite Church

In the first part of this article series, we explored some of the implications of being "in Christ," and what that can mean for our understanding of the Christian life. Being in Christ can refer to an immersion in the reality of redemption provided by Jesus. It could be described as a kind of positional or relational status with regard to our ultimate identity before God and can also refer to how our perspectives and understandings are modified or enhanced by that position or relationship.

We also noted that there appears to be some direct correlation between being in Christ and the condition of having "Christ in you." From this, we may gather that the complete experience of a believer seems to consist both of being fully immersed in Christ and also having Christ inhabiting or occupying us. These appear to be two facets of a harmonious, cohesive, and singular spiritual state of being.

A review of scripture shows an ongoing theme throughout the entire text that emanates from the notion of spiritual inhabitation, a kind of merging of physical and metaphysical components within an individual. From what we can gather, spiritual indwelling or residing seems to refer to an occurrence or circumstance beyond the baseline assumption, whereby an additional spiritual entity or entities are somehow incorporated.

The Old Testament includes a number of references to this spiritual commingling at the human level. Based on the various narratives, the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God visited and spoke to specific individuals at various times and also "came upon" or resided in certain people as well (Numbers 27:18, Judges 3:10, 1 Samuel 10:9-10). Just as clearly, there are instances of the Spirit removing himself from someone's being or life (1 Samuel 16:14). Prophetically, there was also the assurance that at some point, God's Spirit would inhabit all believers (Joel 2:28).

We see the beginning of the fulfillment of this in the New Testament during the most significant recorded observance of the Feast of Weeks, when the Holy Spirit manifested rather dramatically in the presence of the disciples and Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem — the event typically referred to as Pentecost. The apostle Peter himself asserted that this was indeed the realization of the ancient words of Joel in their midst.

Once we can discern the truth of the Holy Spirit being "poured out" on and dwelling in us, we can perhaps begin to determine how we experience and express having Christ in us in this manner. One of the things Jesus did during his time on earth was establish and exhibit, through word and deed, the full nature of God as described through the qualities and interrelationship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. In various instances, Jesus affirmed that they are all one yet perform somewhat different roles (Matthew 10:20, John 10:30, John 17:20-22).

This is reiterated throughout many of the post-Gospel writings (Romans 8:9-11, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 13:5, among others) such that we have developed the rationale that maintains that to have Christ in us is to have the Spirit of God that the Son asked the Father to send in his name (John 14:16-17). If we acknowledge the reality of this spiritual fusion and surrender to its consequences, we can perhaps begin to gain insight into the blessing of submitting our will to God's will.

The Holy Spirit's aim in inhabiting our personal being and life is not to dominate or overpower our will, but rather to have us enter into a kind of spiritual symbiosis and synergy with the Spirit of Christ, where we share holy desires and dreams and enjoy bestowed wisdom and experience, striving to become the best possible version of ourselves as we also strive to serve others and extend the message of redemption through Jesus.

In the "Star Trek" television series spin-off "Deep Space 9," select members of a species of humanoid aliens called Trill live in symbiotic relationship with long-lived "sentient vermiform" entities. After much counseling, training, and testing on the part of a host candidate, a worm-like "symbiont," as it is called, would be surgically implanted within the Trill host and they would undergo a process known as "joining," where their physiologies, consciousnesses, and personalities would merge and become integrated; any given symbiont may have previously undergone such an operation multiple times if they end up outliving their hosts. This process allows the host and symbiont to engage in a supremely intimate and mutually beneficial relationship in which the host provides a means of mobility and direct engagement with other individuals, and all the symbiont's previous knowledge, memories, and experiences contribute to the current host's continued growth as a person.

Even with all the preparation that hosts endure before joining, it is not unexpected that a Trill would still find it challenging at times to cope with the reality of having someone, a separate entity, living inside, altering the essence of their being. As Jadzia Dax, a prominent joined Trill serving aboard the titular space station, explained to another, unjoined Trill in one episode: "I'm nothing like I expected. Life after life, with each new personality stampeding around in your head, you get desires that scare you, dreams that used to belong to someone else. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone but in time I might recommend it for you. When you're ready."

How many believers can say they were adequately prepared for the reality of being "joined" with a powerful living being, intent on inhabiting their body and melding with their mind and spirit? How many believers, even after years of claiming the Christian experience, only minimally acknowledge that reality? Though we clearly depend on the Spirit within for our new life in Christ, one might balk at the notion that God would rely on any kind of "symbiosis" or mutually dependent relationship with his creation. It may be helpful to

consider that while God does not literally "need" us in any sense of survival — he is of course completely self-sufficient — the scriptures do indicate that he derives great satisfaction from being able to use us for his own good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5, 9; Philippians 2:13; Revelation 4:11).

Having Christ in us — whether that be described as the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or the Holy Spirit — means, among many things, being moved and influenced by the same concerns, passions, desires, and goals as Jesus himself as we work to integrate, on a supernatural level, the life that has been implanted into our very beings. This is "the mystery that is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27), which speaks about the blessedness we are assured will manifest as we strive to fulfill our purpose of sharing and spreading the promise of redemption expressed through the gospel, facilitated by the symbiotic synergy we enjoy with the Spirit that inhabits and enables us.

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