Union with Christ is the number one reason why we have it better than those who lived before the cross. Back then they wrote love songs about yearning and absence. “I looked for the one my heart loves but I could not find him” (Song of Songs 3:1–2). “I opened to my beloved, but my beloved was gone” (Song of Songs 5:6) “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalms 42:1).
It breaks my heart to hear Christians singing songs of longing and calling it worship. I imagine it breaks Jesus’ heart too. Where are you Lord? I am right here. I am in you and you are in me. Where did you go? I didn’t go anywhere. I promised I would never leave you.
Here’s another timeless classic from the album, Love Songs of the Old Covenant:
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. (Psalms 27:4a)
That you may dwell in the house of the Lord? You are the house of the Lord. You can dwell in the house of the Lord as long as you like. In fact, it’s going to be quite impossible for you to dwell anywhere else.
Where is God?
To see how well you grasp this, ask yourself a simple question: Where is God? When you think of God being some place, where is that place? Is he up there or over there or who knows where?
I suppose God can be anywhere and everywhere, but the good news declares he is in you and you are in him. Any concept of separating distance is totally demolished by this revelation. He is not far away and he is not hiding behind a cloud. How can we be sure? Because Jesus said so. “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
Intimacy is not something we ever need long for. (He is already with us.) We don’t have to beg God to rend the heavens and come down. (He already did.) And we never have to fear that he might abandon us as orphans. (He promised he wouldn’t.) The good news declares that now and forever more, you are in perfect union with the Lord.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. (Romans 6:5, KJV)
There is a word in this verse that appears nowhere else in the Bible. It is a word that excites theologians into hand-waving bursts of hyper-ventilated hermeneutics. It is the word sumphutos which is here translated as “planted together.” This is just about the strongest word for union you could possibly think of. It means being “born together with” or “of joint origin.” The closest English word is connate which means individual parts that are united to form a single whole.
The best illustration of connate union is the one Jesus gave us—a vine and a branch, two parts that combine to make an indivisible whole. Vines and branches cannot be understood in isolation. A vine that has no branches is not much of a vine, and a branch that is not part of a vine is not a branch. It’s just a stick.
What does this connate union mean for us? It means our lives cannot be understood in isolation from Jesus. Apart from him we can do nothing. We can’t bear fruit, we can’t grow, and we can’t live. This has been humanity’s experience from the Year Dot.
The good news is we don’t need to do a thing to make this new life happen, we just need to receive it. To partake in his divine nature requires only that we live in the union that is already ours.
You may say, “But I don’t feel it. I don’t feel connected.” Don’t put your faith in feelings. Believe the One who declares, “You are a branch.” His eternal word is truer than your momentary feelings.
“But I’m struggling to produce fruit.” Stop struggling. It’s not your job to produce fruit but to bear the fruit that he produces in you.
Be the branch
He is the vine. Quit trying to be a little vine of your own. Jesus does it all. Our part is to trust him and depend on him for everything. The fact is you are in union, so live in union. Act married, because you are.
Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in union with him. (Colossians 2:6, GNB)
A married person who continues to act like a single person is going to miss out on many of the blessings of marriage. Similarly, a Christian who fails to draw from their union with Christ is going to miss many of the blessings of that union. New life is meant to be lived; it’s meant to be expressed and enjoyed and worked out to such a degree that unbelievers see it and marvel.
How do we bear his fruit in our lives? By not trying. Fruit grow naturally (see Mark 4:26–28). We hinder that process by trying to make things happen in our own strength and understanding. Do that and you’ll produce Ishmaels. But learn to rely on his love and trust in the Father’s pruning and you will bear his fruit effortlessly.
Extracted from chapter 4 “Union,” The Gospel in Ten Words.