As I was praying recently, I thought about how little emphasis is being placed on the presence of Jesus living inside of today's believers. This realization welled up in my heart.
Christians were first called those of “the way” and in Acts 11:26 it states, “and in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”(NKJV) The word Christian is a Greek term “Christianos,” which means “Like the Anointed.”
In Colossians 1:27 it says, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you the hope of Glory!”
The thought of Jesus by His Holy Spirit living in us should thrill our hearts and compel us to seek Him even more. Paul refers to the reality of “Christ living in you” as a type of heavenly riches!
What happens when someone genuinely accepts Christ, but because of their lack of understanding gradually pulls away from their close walk with God? I have often said that most Christians don’t backslide into the depths of the world’s sin. Instead, they backslide into religious practice. Instead of allowing the living Jesus to take up residence in their spirit, they begin to put on an act, trying to imitate the personality of Christ. Because this is only a temporary persona that they can portray, these are the false attitudes that the world often identifies as hypocritical. These followers are often legalistic in their personal convictions, which are replete with double standards. Although their religious act may come across as loving, it invariably fails the acid tests that Jesus used to expose the hypocrisy of the religious people of His day.
I think the most telling test that Jesus ever laid out is found in Matthew 5:43-45a, where He states, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” True Christianity demands that Jesus lives in us.
The constant tests and trials of life’s experiences with all of their abuse and heartache leave us confounded, confused, and embittered if we are trying to go it our own way. No measure of acting like Jesus will ever cover the wounds we experience from other people. Only the very presence of Jesus Himself, loving the unlovely through us will ever reveal the actual and very precious love of the Father. Only then will we resemble Him in any way and only then, according to Jesus' own teaching, will we be considered by those looking on to be the sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.
The other concern we need to be aware of is the repeated warnings by not only Jesus Himself but also by every one of the Apostles and writers of the New Testament. They warn of the rise of false christs in the last days.
In Matthew 24:23-26, Jesus warns, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.” In the Old Testament, constant warnings were issued by the true prophets to not be deceived by false prophets, but in the New Testament, we are warned to beware of both false prophets and also false christs.
I think it is safe to say that a close copy of Christ could deceive the “very elect,” as scripture warns, or solid seasoned Christians. I am sure they will appear to be loving, compassionate individuals. They could carry out impressive philanthropically-motivated works, which may perhaps feed and clothe thousands in third world countries. They may raise huge amounts of money to build orphanages and schools and possibly be involved in finding hidden cures to previously incurable diseases and plagues. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that the Anti-Christ in a masterful Satanic deception will be introduced on the scene as the most seemingly Christ-like personality who has ever lived in modern times!
Paul gives us a beacon of revelation in 1 Corinthians 11:19: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you,” What Paul is saying is that true gold shines so much brighter than any imitation.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the Beatitudes repeatedly address religious misconceptions, sift the wheat from the tares and aim directly at those who are trying to be religious instead of receiving the beautiful gift of salvation through what Jesus did on the cross. This gloriously opens the way for the very infilling of God Himself by His Holy Spirit. As God’s born-again creations, this indwelling makes us the very temples that Jesus lives in, as He touches the lives of all those around us. The person of Christ in us by far outshines anyone who, for whatever reason, tries to imitate the personality of Christ by acting the part.
Through personal experience, I can honestly say that when Jesus is alive in you, His love flows out of your heart to often the most unlikely and undeserving individuals you know. Just like His Heavenly Father, Jesus is beautifully spontaneous. A life truly filled with God’s Son brings the eternal love of heaven into this natural world. That same Jesus still changes lives! Consider a rededication prayer today to truly invite Him into your heart again, or maybe even for the very first time.
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.