45. Recap 3B

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 45. Recap 3B

Eph 2:6,7  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Jesus transforms life: As we moved into the final Part, looking to apply practically the theory of the previous Part, we observed the barrenness of religious life in Israel until Jesus came bringing life transformation through the power of God. That was a challenge for us today, to become a people who don’t simply act as spiritual sponges absorbing the word through sermons Sunday by Sunday, but who are to genuinely become the ‘body of Christ’, learning to minister one to another and then to the world outside.

God & People of Communication: We moved on into thinking about us being a people of revelation, expressing Jesus to the people around us as we learn to listen to him and then convey what we hear to one another, to strengthen, encourage and comfort one another.  I gave illustrations of listening to God. We pursued this whole subject of learning to listen to God and gave a further variety of illustrations. We confronted the fact that the word, ‘said’ comes up again and again in respect of God in Scripture and considered the God who communicates and still wants to speak to His gathered people.

Guidelines for Personal Prophecy: We laid out ground rules that personal prophecy today is to strengthen, encourage, and comfort, and we are to keep it simple and express love in accordance with God’s written word. Our words should come with humility and deference and without dogmatism, in everyday English, without dressing it up, and being open enough to check how our recipients are receiving it and leaving the outcome in the Lord’s hands.   In such ways we can be available to the Lord to bless others.

An Imaginary Example: In the following four ‘studies’ I gave an imaginary example of a prayer meeting and what came out of it so that we might see the fruit of listening to God and then following up with raised faith levels to see how He wants to work out the answers to that praying.

Living in the Fallen World: To bring a balance to what could potentially become triumphalist teaching, we considered the reality of living in this fallen world where things go wrong, which can often bring confusion, pain and questions. We considered the matter of discipline which can be painful but is always for our good in the long-term.

Exercising Authority: Back on the main track we considered how, being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, as he rules at his Father’s right hand, bringing in the kingdom of God on the earth, we may be led by him to exercise authority as through prayer we may proclaim, testify, command, bind or loose and pronounce the will of God. To catch the bigger picture, we reminded ourselves of the ‘creation mandate’ where we have been called not only to fill the earth but to reign over it and subdue it, and we saw that this includes the vast majority of activities that we call ‘work’.  This not only means that we seek to do well in our work, but we look for ways that the Lord might want to work in it sand through it.

How Jesus ruled: Considering the subject of authority, we considered various ways that Jesus ‘ruled’ while he was on earth – having control over the physical world, which included bringing healing etc. – but also in the way he controlled himself and his tongue and his emotions. When we apply them to ourselves we see areas of life for us to work into as he leads us.

Being a Relevant People: We expanded and clarified our thinking about being a relevant people in the midst of today’s world, as we reminded ourselves of the outworkings of that imaginary prayer meeting and all that followed. The outworking of all this, as we are led by Jesus, means lives are touched and changed and circumstances can be transformed, and God is glorified as the kingdom is expressed.  We noted that it isn’t just supernatural gifting but also expresses the nature and character of Jesus to bless the world around us through our ‘good works’.

Being a Distinctive People: Finally, we considered our distinctiveness that is holiness, being utterly different in the mold of the Lord, specifically as we express love, unity, truth, and goodness or, more generally, the ‘fruit of the Spirit’.   In these ways we are to grow as a body that is led by the head, Jesus, who is seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven, bringing in the kingdom of God on earth.

And So? How can we sum all this up?  This third phase, if we may call it that, of Jesus being glorified when he is lifted up, of him ruling at his Father’s right hand in heaven, is all about how, when we allow ourselves to be led by his Spirit we will become a people who don’t only express the character of Jesus but also the works of Jesus. It will be not only by what we have historically called ‘sharing the gospel’ (presenting the truths of the New Testament about who Jesus is and how he has come to bring us salvation) but also by being his ‘body’ today, being led by his Spirit as he rules in this world in the midst of his enemies, to express God’s kingdom in the midst of the effects of the fallen world around us.   As we do this, lives and circumstances will change. The only question is, will we rise to be this people the scriptures describe?

42. Areas of Rule

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 42. Areas of Rule 

Dan 7:13,14 “there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power;

In a previous series, “Focus on Christ” in Study No.56, we noted the following about Christ and because it is so pertinent to our present series, we repeat it here. It flowed out of the prophetic picture that Daniel had about the Son of God referred to in our starting verses above, of Christ the ruler, and we will see the areas of his rule:

Reign’ is about exercising sovereignty, about being in control, not merely coping, not merely surviving, but being in control. When we come to the ruler over the Kingdom of God, the ruler is a benign controller who controls for the benefit of his subjects. That is the big difference between the kingdoms of the earth and the Kingdom of Heaven.  So, let’s see ‘Christ in Control’. It is so obvious we have probably never thought about it

Control over the material world: This is the most obvious thing in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and many of us struggle to believe that this is still true of his body today when we allow him to lead. In the pages of the Gospels we see Jesus in control of the elements – calming a storm, walking on water, turning water into wine, expanding bread and fishes to feed thousands; these are all examples of Jesus being in absolute control of material elements. If I had more space I could give modern day examples of the same sorts of thing.

Control over health and life itself: When we see Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons and even raising the dead, we see this power and authority over the material world being applied into flesh and blood human bodies. This is Jesus reigning in the most obvious ways. Again we could give many testimonies of the same things happening today.

Control over himself: Now here is an area we don’t tend to think about but when it is paralleled into our lives as part of his body today it becomes very pertinent. Let’s consider various ways we see this.

 i) In respect of Satan: The Gospels record Satan coming with three temptations before Jesus starts his ministry, seeking to bring him down, but in each case, Jesus remains firmly in control of his mind and his behaviour and gives right responses. This is significant because Satan questioned his very identity, but Jesus remained firmly in control of his own thinking about himself and so did not succumb to the enemy’s negatives; he knew who he was and what he was to do, right up to and including the Cross and never deviated from that, even in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was confronted with the awfulness of what was just about to happen

 ii) In respect of human prejudices: Jesus not succumb to prejudices or false religious expectations which we see in the way he met with and spoke to the Samaritan woman, the adulterous woman, the Greek woman, a leper who he touched, tax collectors etc. who he dined with, all of whom would have been rejected by respectable Judaism.

iii) In respect of his speech: But it goes beyond meeting with the unclean, the sinners and so on; it includes how he encountered and responded to the leaders and religious elite; he did not speak out of turn, he was in complete control of his tongue. He did not waver before ‘great people’; he knew who he was and therefore never felt defensive, as we so often do. He never felt uncomfortable in any situation because he knew who he was and knew the power and authority that he had.

 iv) In respect of his emotions: This is an area where we are so often stunted and so our emotions are oppressed by expectations or hardened and calloused by the hard knocks of life or the hard words of parents or teachers or other people of influence that shut us down. No, he was clearly saddened by the fact of his disciples’ little belief sometimes, he was saddened by the grief that he saw in those he loved (at Lazarus’s tomb), and he anguished over the thought of being separated from his Father on the Cross.

In each of these ways Jesus was in complete control. He knew people (Mt 12:25, 27:18, Jn 2:24) and was not fazed by them, whether they were the great and good and influential or whether they were prostitutes, demon possessed, sinners and crooks. In one sense we might say he was above them all and was therefore not controlled by what they thought, either of themselves or about him.

Application: Now that was what I wrote in that series about Christ, but now we have to take and apply this to all we have been saying about being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, ruling with him. He, we said, is the head of the body and so if that is how he exercised his rule, seen in the Gospels in one single body, it must also be how he reigns through us, his body today. So, let’s apply those things.

When we are led and empowered by his Holy Spirit, in the light of these things, we should expect the body to, at times:

  • have control over the elements, the material world,
  • have control over health and life itself, bringing healing
  • have control over ourselves with His enabling, so that
    • we do not let Satan put us down
    • we do not tolerate prejudice
    • we control our speech
    • we are not fazed by ‘big people’, the good, the bad, anyone.

Now our tendency may be to duck and dive and make excuses and say well, these things will only happen through ‘big ministries’, apostles etc., but Jesus did say, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12). Admittedly the miraculous, whether in respect of the elements or in respect of human sickness, will only occur when needed, i.e. when we make ourselves available to Christ on the frontline, but why should that not include you and me?  This IS the way Christ ruled and still rules, so if we are seated with him exercising this rule……? Some areas for serious thought and prayer, and maybe reassessing of our ‘belief’.   “Whoever believes”?

41. Subduing the Earth

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 41. Subduing the Earth

Gen 1:28  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

In the previous study we wrote, “Authority in this case is the right to operate under God’s name to bring about the rule or kingdom of God on the earth. We have the right from God to, in general terms, go and make disciples for Jesus and as he leads us, to cast out demons and bring healing.”  That is the New Testament mandate, post the Cross, but for an even wider picture we need to go back to the beginning of the Bible.

Now I have to confess I considered putting this particular study in the ‘Theory’ section of Part 3 but eventually considered that unless we see it in practical terms it really just remains head knowledge, and almost pointless. So here goes, first the theory.

In our verse above we have what is sometimes referred to as ‘the Creation mandate’ and it is basically in two parts: i) “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth,” and then, ii) “and subdue it.”  The word ‘rule’ that follows clearly puts mankind in a superior position to any other living creatures but what ‘rule’ means there is left to speculation but the words we have picked out, “and subdue it,” leave little room for speculation especially, later on, when we see that working the earth after the fall is going to be hard work (see Gen 3:17-19). Now as population and culture developed, a literal ‘working the earth’ became the domain of only a relative few.

The vast majority of us are not involved in agriculture or horticulture. But if ‘earth’ is taken to have a bigger meaning – the whole of human life existence on this planet – then it suggests something much, much greater. Any activity to do with mankind’s habitation of this planet must fall under this heading and that must include anything whatsoever that improves life for mankind and so that includes medicine, science, technology, food provision, government, and the arts to mention just some of such areas.

Now a false dichotomy has grown up in popular thinking, between spiritual and non-spiritual, a hangover from the thinking of Plato (how these things hang around!), but anything that can be included in my list in the previous paragraph is ‘spiritual’ because it is something given to us to do by God. Now the only things that are outside that will be things that go expressly against God’s design for His world, so anything specifically harming or oppressing other people (e.g. slavery) is obviously outside that mandate. Producing, selling, and distributing illicit drugs would also be a no-go. You may think of others.

Now those running on an ‘environmental ticket’ might question whether doing any sort of work that can harm the world or the people on it (e.g. working in the tobacco industry) might fit that ‘no-go’ growing list and where we are in questionable areas, we have to ask ourselves and the Lord, “If this the area I should be in, and if not, what else could I do?”

So far, in recent studies, we have been considering things that are usually considered well and truly spiritual things, things to do with the bringing in of the rule of God to overcome sin, but whenever I have read people writing on this ‘creation mandate’ and the nature of our jobs in this present world, it seems to be that most effort is made in justifying what were once called ‘secular’ jobs (as I have done above) to such a degree that the writer only works on a ‘do your best in your job’ approach meaning be the best worker you can be. Now although I agree with that, it can be a godless approach and everything I have been saying in this entire series is to be seen from the viewpoint of ‘God first’ or at the very least, ‘God involved’.

In the relatively recent studies, I did four that considered a hypothetical series of events that sprung out of a prayer meeting that took the life of God into the job of one of the prayer group. Now if that just seemed too way out for you, then perhaps the question should be raised, “Can you see God in your workplace, someone spoken about at least to those closest to you, can you see opportunities for informally sharing your faith, and offering prayer?” How many of us tolerate working environments or learning conditions that are unrighteous or, at the very least, could be seriously improved?

Bringing the kingdom of God into these environments, I want to suggest, probably needs to start in a prayer group as I showed, who should then bring that working environment to the Lord to see how He might want to change it – possibly through you. I look back on my working life into these sorts of environment with regret. No one taught me these sorts of things and so I was a lonely example of righteousness in an ungodly environment in otherwise fine and acceptable careers.  I don’t think I did it well, even though I believe I did my job well; there was a better way and I have sought to show that in these recent studies. It is not spiritual or secular but God in every sphere of work. The big question is, how far will be let Him have space to move so that we can be people of faith in the midst of these places? Can other people find and meet God in work or learning environments through us, or will we accept ungodly thinking that relegates such things to ‘church’ or ‘missions’ or ‘campaigns’? May that not be so.

40. Releasing People

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 40. Releasing People 

Lk 19:5,6 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

I was about to move on into the wider subject of ‘ruling over the earth’ but sense that perhaps we need to put some more body or shape into what we have just been saying in the previous study when we spoke about ‘taking authority’ at Christ’s leading and noted various ways we may speak while praying in authority. Back in Study No.26 we considered ‘The Caring Church’, speaking about being carriers of love. Moving on in Study No.29 we considered being life-bringers, and then went on to speak about being revelation bringers as we are enabled by the Spirit. In Studies 34 to 37 we saw how faith, released through the prayer meeting in Alan, enabled him to move in grace, love and humility to minister to three different people in his work environment and bring about change there.

In the next study we will go on to consider this matter of exercising authority more widely but here I sense we need to consider how we minister in love, and THAT is a means of exercising authority that brings life change. However, before we go into that we might ask the question, what is our goal or intention for the person or people before us, to whom God has given us the opportunity to minister. Now the word ‘minister’ simply means ‘to serve’ and so we come to them as servants, servant of God to bring God’s blessing to them.  Put like that, we can now see that our goal is to present God’s love.

Now I have pictures in my mind from the distant past from Snoopy cartoons. In one of them Snoopy is out in the cold in the snow and two of the other characters come along and note he is cold and in need of comfort so go over to him and both just say, “Be of good cheer Snoopy” and then walk off and leave him shivering in the snow. That is a vivid picture. Our person in church may need us to give them a coat, or dig their garden or paint their house, i.e. a practical matter, and simply uttering cheering words will do little to help them. Money is sometimes what people need, not cheering by words.

However, we have been moving in the area of speaking spiritual truths and very often this needs to be our starting place. Until they are changed on the inside, outward ministrations may act like a plaster or bandage but will do little in the long run. So, let’s see if we can imagine some people who we are likely to find in our congregations from time to time, if not most of the time.

Now anything I suggest is purely hypothetical. The key point here, in line with so much else we have been saying, is that we need to pray and sense what the Lord feels about this person and wants to say about them, to them. Call this prophecy, call it encouragement, whatever makes you feel comfortable, but it is a sense that comes when we pray. This must be true of any situation I may suggest here.

First of all, here is a lady (it might be a man) who has low self-esteem, feels lonely, unloved and uncared for. Now as you pray – with a heart open to convey God’s unconditional love – it may be that the Lord gives you either a verse, or a sentence, or a picture that applies to this person. If it is the Lord, it will impact and lift the heart of this person and they will feel loved and the focus of God’s special attention. As the Lord speaks into their heart through you, they know the reality of that, and are blessed. Nothing has changed outwardly, their external circumstances are still the same, but they are changed, and it came through simple loving revelation.

Second, here is someone who is being pestered by their ex-partner and they are living in anxiety and fear. What can you say here? I don’t know, but God does as you wait on Him in prayer. As the Spirit moves on this thing, once or twice in the past I have sensed the Spirit’s directing to command (in prayer) this pestering partner to be removed from the situation. We had this only the other day in our house group and I prayed accordingly. In the past, twice I have known the Lord to move on someone physically (presumably by lifting off His hand of protection and allowing Satan access as in Job’s case) so they were no longer able to be a distraction. We speculated about this prayer the other day and wondered whether He would lead this person to another part of the country by job circumstances, new partner attraction or some other means. We simply watch this space and the lady over whom we prayed is watching with anticipation and the fear has gone. We dare not pray like this unless sure of His leading. Be careful.

Most of the time it is not by command but by the conveying the grace of blessing. A blessing in Scripture (see the story of Isaac with Jacob and Esau) is a prophetically inspired command for the goodness of God to come. A blessing is also an inspired ‘acceptance by heaven’ (because that it where it originates). We can either pronounce a blessing or we can speak that acceptance in other words.

Our starting verses above are about Jesus calling Zacchaeus down from the tree so that he may eat with him. This little chief tax collector would have been very powerful and almost certainly very corrupt, but Jesus saw his heart yearning for acceptance and gave it to him. He was instantly transformed.  That is evangelism in a different style to that which we normally see.  This was God seeing his ready heart and speaking into it just what was needed to melt it.  The word will either melt it or break it or cause resistance to its already hard state (see Pharaoh with Moses).

The objective of these words is to convey love that melts or breaks. Of course, we do not know that the outcome will be, we don’t know what effect it will have. All our role is, is to bring words of love and acceptance as given by the Spirit. In an earlier study I testified about a most simple word I gave a young man in Malaysia. I had no idea that this word of loving acceptance would break open his heart and release confession.

The more open to being used in this way we are, the more the Lord will use us and bless others. As you mature in this (but only when we mature), the Lord may give you words of correction, but they will always come with love and hope for what follows. I have brought a word that a man’s ministry would be terminated and when his face fell, I was able to add, “only that something greater may emerge.”

For many believers, life just goes on day by day, and they learn to live with negatives, learn to cope with ongoing worry, learn to accept that background nagging fear, or even have questionable guilt hanging over them (the enemies Jesus came to destroy), and then one day some Spirit-filled believer comes up and says, “As I was thinking of you and praying for you, I had a feeling that the Lord had something for you. Would it be all right if I shared it?” And as permission is granted they share, under the Spirit’s leading, God’s specific words of loving acceptance, and the person knows where it has come from, they suddenly know the truth of it, and are changed. The kingdom of God has just come, Jesus has just destroyed some of his enemies – through you! How wonderful, how easy, how marvellous. Isn’t he good!

21. A Matter of Position

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 21. A Matter of Position

Eph 2:6,7 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Overview: The first Part was all about having died to the old life. The second Part was all about the power of God that gives us new resurrected lives. This third Part is all about our Position TODAY and what that can mean. In the opening study of this Part we looked at the ascension of Christ and noted our verses above, but before we move on I sense we need to really get hold of this matter of position more fully.

About Perspective: It is, of course, a matter of perspective. In the first Part we noted the apostle Paul telling us to consider ourselves dead to the old life so that the things of the past will not impact us in the present. It was a matter of perspective. In the second Part we emphasized again and again the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is our power source for what I have called again and again, our resurrected lives. A matter of perspective and understanding. But now it about us seeing ourselves – yes, very much with our daily human lives living out human existence here on earth, and yet seeing ourselves as linked to Christ and therefore, in the realm of the Spirit, being seated with him in heaven where he is seated at his Father’s right hand. The ‘resurrected life’ emphasized the power we have today, but the life ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms’, is all about authority that leads to action that expresses the kingdom of God on earth.

The Godhead: First of all, how does this actually work? Well, it’s very simple isn’t it. We have dwelling within us the Holy Spirit, otherwise referred to as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ. It is God within us. But God expressed His one self in three ways. As the Father is the all-powerful authority over all things, so the Son is the part of the Godhead who exists alongside the Father in heaven from before time, who left heaven, came to earth, died for us, rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven where he is seated at the Father’s right hand ruling. (Sorry, we do need to say these things again and again for many today seem to lack this understanding).

The Spirit: The third member of the Godhead, or the third expression of it is, of course the Holy Spirit, the power-on-earth element of it, who moves on the earth expressing the will of the Father and the Son and is now indwelling all Christians. He is the link between us and Christ in heaven and He is the way Christ communicates with us. In this sense we are completely linked with Christ and there is able, therefore, to be a two-way communication. It is because of this permanent link that we are to envisage ourselves as being seated with him as he reigns. As we are open to him, so we become vessels or instruments through whom he can flow and act here on earth. Of course, because we cannot see him, it is an act of faith to believe, to hear, and to respond.

With God: But next we need to see what this ‘position’ means and because it is a position in heaven that means, first of all, that it is a position in the presence of God. I have already in the past studies put forward a ‘God first’ strategy and that must come to the fore again here. Anything and everything we say in this Part must take its origin from God; that is the big emphasis. In heaven everything focuses on God. If you want a revelatory picture of this, sometime read Revelation 21 and see the position and emphasis on God and His Son seen there.

Place of Revelation:  Second, because it is heaven, there is also a sense of being ‘above’ the earth and therefore everything of the earth is visible to heaven and therefore God sees everything and knows everything. This position therefore, as we share it with Christ, is a position of revelation, and we will find that various aspects of it, will be about knowing in ways that go beyond normal human experience. Revelation plays a big part.

Place of Power & Authority: Third, because this is all about God, it is also all about power and authority. We might take that as read when we start by saying we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but this takes on a new emphasis now because it is a direct link to the Godhead and so there is this enormous sense of power and authority wherever God is concerned.

Holiness: Fourth, because we are now talking about a more intimate or closer link to Jesus by his Spirit, and this to the Godhead in its entirety, we must remember a crucial word that occurs in the Bible over five hundred times – holy. It means to be utterly different and it reminds us that God is perfect, and that means He cannot be improved upon, He is complete, lacking nothing. There is also a moral or ethical dimension to it, that He is morally perfect. How can we have contact with such a God and still live? Only by the completed work of the Son of God on the Cross. Never have any silly idea that this concept, that we are touching on in this Part, allows us to become super-beings, super-Christians who can do what they like.  We are what we are because of Christ and we do what we do because of Christ – nothing more and nothing less.

Strategy: Fifth, what we are now looking at is another phase in the strategy of the Godhead formulated before the creation of the world, and it opens up a vista or panorama of new understanding for the child of God who is open to the Lord in His word and by His Spirit. In this we grow. The apostle Paul caught something of this panorama when he spoke of when Christ returns again at some future time and he says, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25)

In that, we catch the big purpose of the present time – an era in the history of existence when the Son of God is working with those who become believers, children of God, to counter the works of the Fall and to bring an expression of the kingdom of God to earth. As we play our part in this, so we grow. Now because this is such a big and significant concept, we will stop this present study here and pick up on the kingdom of God tomorrow.

20. Ascended?

Part 3: Ascended & Ruling:   3A. Theory

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 20. Ascended?

Eph 2:6,7 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Third Phase: We are, you may remember, basing our studies on the idea that when Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be,” (Jn 8:28) there were three applications or phases of his life that correspond to that: first, lifted up on the Cross, his death, then second, lifted up in the resurrection, empowered by God, and now lifted up into heaven, his ascension.  We will take this third Part in two sections, first the theory surrounding the two verses above, and then the practice, how it works out. But first, let’s lay down a basic foundation of understanding from the Bible in respect of his ascension.

The Fact of the Ascension:  In Acts 1:9-11 we see Jesus ascending, leaving the earth and leaving his disciples to continue his work after they have been filled with his Holy Spirit. In ascending in the manner he did, we see him sending the message, I am no longer here on earth, don’t go looking for me. It is also a message, I am ascending to heaven to my place beside my Father. There are in the New Testament 13 mentions of this: Mk 16:19 / Acts 2:33 / Acts 5:31 / Acts 7:55 / Rom 8:34 / Eph 1:20 /   Phil 2:9 / Col 3:1 / Heb 1:3 / Heb 8:1 / Heb 10:12 / Heb 12:2 / 1 Pet 3:22

His place in Heaven:  Note the things these verses say about Jesus in heaven: He has a place of honour at the Father’s right hand, and is there as Prince and Saviour, and he pleads for us there, has been given a name above all others, and all angels and authorities bow before him. It is important to understand these things.

Jesus Ruling in Heaven:  Prophetically Psa 110:1,2 indicates there is a process whereby he is dealing with his enemies and he rules despite them, or in the midst of them. Eph 1:19-23 show Jesus is above every other rule or authority and every other great name, and everything has been put under his feet and he is head over everything for the sake of the church.  1 Cor 15:24-26 again shows the process of dealing with his enemies and he reigns in the midst of his enemies. 1 Thess 4:16,17 says we will eventually join him there, while our verses above, Eph 2:6,7 declare we are sharing NOW in his reign (by his Spirit) and we receive his grace and kindness.

Us in Heavenly Places? There is a most remarkable truth here apart from the wonder of Jesus ascending and ruling at his Father’s right hand – that we are linked to Jesus by His Spirit and thus in a measure at least, are joined to him to participate in the process of his rule from heaven.

Ruling in a Fallen World: Now many Christians, with limited understanding, question the practical reality of these truth when they focus their attention on the terrible things that go on in the world. There is still slavery in the world, they say, there are still ungodly nations who oppress their people, persecute and kill Christians, there is still injustice, and so on. How can you say Jesus is ruling? Ah, be careful, the Scriptures say Jesus is ruling in the midst of his enemies; he exercises his rule while the ungodly are still doing their thing.

Free Will Reigns: Having given us free will, God will not overrule it and so He has to allow the world to be ungodly if that is what they want. That doesn’t stop Him acting into the affairs of the world in a variety of ways, and we shall try and pick these up as we go along. This is why it is so important that we keep close to Jesus and listen to him and not jump to our own conclusions in the chaos and apparent confusion that is often there in the affairs of men. One of the ways He works into the world is through His people, but even here He limits Himself to what we will do, our responses to Him. Thus, He may yearn to bring good changes to the world, but we may be slow to hear Him and respond, and thus He waits for us.

Little Faith? It is not His lack of desire, it’s more our slowness, even as the New Testament people of God, to respond to both what we read in His word and the leading of His Holy Spirit. There are various times in the Gospels where we see Jesus chiding his disciples for their ‘little faith’ (e.g. Mt 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20). Now we may think these things are of little consequence but in reality, they may be the very things that prevent us growing and becoming the people God wants us to be.

Growth? And there we have just touched on the heart of these studies – things to be considered if we are to grow as the Lord wants us to grow. There is always a danger in the Christian life that we either become very passive or we limit our thinking about spirituality or spiritual things to certain parts of the week (Sundays?). Limiting our thinking in this way will definitely stunt our growth. We may achieve great things in the world, but in the kingdom of God we remain infants and if the writer to the Hebrews was our mentor he would be saying, “By now I would have expected…..” (Heb 5:12).

Personal Assessment: So, we might ask, how have we done so far? Have we taken on board and understood and applied all the teaching about having ‘died’?  Have we understood and taken on board the principles we have seen in the second Part in respect of the Spirit-empowered resurrection life? If we have not coped with these, it is unlikely we will handle the teaching about ‘the ascended life’ where our faith will be really challenged

Jesus’ Expectations: The passive Christian is happy to sit in the pews on a Sunday but that is where it stops. The real Christian is the one who hears Jesus words and does something with them: “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man.” (Mt 7:24) and “go and make disciples of all nations…. teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19,20) and “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” (Jn 14:12) So there is the challenge for the days ahead. As we obey and move into these things, so we grow. Let’s rise to it!

17. A Power Name

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 17. A Power Name

Acts 4:10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

Familiarity so often removes mystery. At first sight there is mystery in this verse spoken out by the apostle Peter. A man has just been miraculously healed and Peter says it is by the name of Jesus Christ, the carpenter from Nazareth, that this has happened. What does that mean? It means that what Peter had said and done that resulted in this man being miraculously healed, came about because of all that Peter had known and experienced of Jesus and so that now he has the authority of that same Jesus to do the same things Jesus had done.

And then comes the thrust about Jesus: “whom you crucified”. Yes, you rejected him, and you tried him and wrongly declared him guilty of sin although he was sinless and then executed him. Yes, all right, all of that is not there in the record, but that is what is implied in it. And to prove you were wrong, “whom God raised from the dead.”

And that is why the name of Jesus is the name under which you and I operate, the name under which you and I serve God, the name under which we can have confidence that God will act. Peter does not spell it out here and perhaps it would have to wait until the fuller understanding was given to the apostle Paul. The truth was that by being crucified Jesus was being offered as a sacrifice for sin so that Justice would be appeased because all the sins of mankind were taken in this momentous punishment taken by the very Son of God. He was a figure so great that no one could ever say he wasn’t big enough to take your sin, my sin and the sin of every person who has ever lived or ever will live. Yes, that was what was happening on the Cross.

But as we’ve seen, it didn’t end there; he was raised from the dead and by his resurrection he proved he was who he had said he was, this Son of God ‘big enough’ to carry our sin.

And so, what was the outworking of those two things, Jesus’ death and resurrection? Well, as heaven sang of Jesus, “you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9,10)

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, you and I who have become believers, have been united with him and so, as he now reigns at his Father’s right hand, we share in that reign with him and his authority and power is expressed in and through us so that we do the works of Jesus here on earth as he said (Jn 14:12), just like Peter.  Hallelujah!

27. Authority

Short Meditations in John 5:  27. Authority

Jn 5:27  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man

Authority is a strange thing. It is a word we often come across but rarely bother to define. We sometimes speak of power and authority in the same sentence and in one sense they are two sides of the same coin.

When the United Nations sees an unjust war, they consider first what legal right they have to intervene. When various countries agree to send in a peace force, the important thing, first of all, is that they have the authority granted by the UN under international law. They will have the right to act. But now if they are to be effective they assess the problem to be confronted to see how much opposition there is likely to be, and will gather sufficient troops to overwhelm that opposition. They are assessing, do they have the power or might to achieve the end of peace. Authority is about legal rights while power is about having the ability or might to bring change. However, wherever there is real authority, there will be power given with it to make it effective

Now Jesus has both authority and power. The classic instance for seeing this is the incident of the paralytic being let down through the roof and we read, “When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mk 2:5) The Jews watching starting questioning in their minds, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk 2:7) and so Jesus responds, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” (v.10) and then turns to the paralytic and heals him, thus showing that he had the power that goes with real authority.

Now in what we have been seeing Jesus saying in this chapter about giving life to raise the dead, he has thus far being speaking about power – the ability to achieve this. He has that power and we see him exercising it every time he healed someone. Now we have just said that power and authority have to go together to make them effective and so Jesus now puts the emphasis on his authority, his right to do these things, his right to impart spiritual and physical life.

By claiming this authority, he is again subtly implying that he is God but, so that he doesn’t make it too blatant, he attributes the reason for the authority to the fact that he is the Son of Man. Now of course that term came from the prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel and was taken to mean one who would come from God, the expected Messiah, and all the Jews would know that. Every time Jesus used this term he was quietly declaring who he was. Here he links that with this ability to operate with this authority that grants or withholds ‘life’ and again links himself to God.

53. Christ in Heaven: His Authority

PART SEVEN: The Present Rule of Christ

Focus on Christ Meditations: 53.  Christ in Heaven: His Authority

Eph 1:19-22   That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything.

We have seen Jesus ascend to heaven and then pour out his own Spirit to continue the work of the Father but from a position of power and authority at his Father’s right hand. As we concluded study no.51 we noted that there were at least 13 mentions in the New Testament of him having ascended to the Father’s Right Hand: Mk 16:19 / Acts 2:33 / Acts 5:31 / Acts 7:55 / Rom 8:34 / Eph 1:20 / Phil 2:9 / Col. 3:1 / Heb 1:3 / Heb 8:1 / Heb 10:12 / Heb 12:2 / 1 Pet 3:22 which spoke about how Jesus:

– has a place of honour at the Father’s right hand

– is there as Prince and Saviour

– pleads for us there

– has been given a name above all others

– and all angels and authorities bow before him

To fully appreciate his position, ruling in heaven today, let’s simply go through some of the verses we find in the Bible (mostly New Testament) and see what they say to us. Let’s start in Psa 110:1,2: The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.”  i.e. the “I AM” says to the Messiah these things. Although written by David, I suspect we have prophetic insight here of what was decreed before the foundation of the world. The Father appoints the Son to be seen at His right hand, in the place of authority and equality, while he deals with the Fallen World in which he has enemies resulting from free will – Satan, Sin and death. There he must reign until he has overcome those three things, and that is still yet in the future but that doesn’t mean Jesus is not reigning; it just means that part of his reign means allowing these things to work out in the overall process of his drawing people to himself. To summarise, there is a process whereby he is dealing with his enemies and he rules despite them, or in the midst of them.

Next, let’s consider Eph 1:19-23 that we have above. Let’s repeat it: That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” Note: i) Christ is raised and seated at the Father’s right hand. ii) He is over and above every other sort of rule or authority. iii) God has given him this position over everything else, for the benefit of God’s people.  Consider the JBP Version of the last part of that: “the church is his body, and in that body lives fully the one who fills the whole wide universe” Wow! So, to summarise, Jesus is above every other rule or authority and every other great name, and everything has been put under his feet so that he is head over everything for the sake of the church in whom this expression of God lives and rules.

Now see 1 Cor 15:24-26: the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” So again we see the process that continues through the present age, of dealing with his enemies, and the amazing fact is that he reigns in the midst of those enemies who, in the fullness of time and in accord with the perfect will of God, will be defeated.

Then there is 1 Thess 4:16,17:  the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This is the fact of his Second Coming where he leaves heaven a second time to finally defeat his outstanding enemies and take us to be with him, so we will eventually join him there for eternity. To see the power and authority of this action, read Rev 19:11-21 and see the guaranteed outcome.

But now see Eph 2:6,7: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” As part of the work of the Cross, we are sharing NOW in his reign (by his spirit) and we receive his grace and kindness, i.e. we are now recipients of the full blessing of God in our lives. I wonder if we appreciate that and appropriate that? We will consider it more fully in a later study.

Finally see Jesus portrayed in Rev 5: 1,6,7  “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals …I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne …. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.” As the chapters move on we see that each seal, (sealed along the edges of the rolled up scroll) as it is broken, reveals a portion of the document which is part of the history of the end time. Here we see Christ in that prominent and preeminent position of rolling out the end times. Ruling in heaven at the Father’s right hand, we now have a vision of him presiding over the final years of this world as we know it now.

This is the supremacy of Christ. Never see him as anything less than this and realise that whatever is going on around you, HE is in supreme control over it. Yes, we may see the work of the enemy, the work of Sin and the effects of the godless self-centred world causing havoc – at least in our eyes with such limited vision – but Christ is ruling over it all, allowing some, inhibiting some, and stopping some, as he sees best for the will of the Father as he continues his work of drawing men and woman to himself in the midst of it. Never forget that.

In the midst of the godless materialism that we witness in the West, and various other forms of religion in other parts of the world, Christ is still supreme, working to draw men and women to himself, but nevertheless, in overall control of all that happens.  So for you and me, Paul’s famous words are given a foundation in what we have been considering: we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) Hold to this truth as you comprehend something of the glory of all we have been considering in this study and the previous ones in this series.

11. A Question of Authority

Analogies & Parables in Matthew: 11.  A Question of Authority

Mt 8:8,9  The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, `Go,’ and he goes; and that one, `Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, `Do this,’ and he does it.”

Before I start, we need to restate the overall context of Jesus’ teaching and repeat what I said in two earlier studies: what we have here is a supreme challenge to enter into a new world, the world of Christ, the kingdom of God that works on very different values to the rest of the world. The difference of the ‘two kingdoms’ will now be seen in an amazing way in what now follows.

Now I realise I am stretching the boundaries of these studies because this is not a case of an analogy used by Jesus, but it is clear from what follows that he thoroughly approves it: When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (v.10) This Roman centurion understood something about Jesus beyond anything Jesus had found in his own people. To understand the parallels implied in these two simple verses, we see on one hand the centurion’s perception of Jesus and then, on the other hand, the parallel of his own experience. It is easier to take his experience first and then apply it to Jesus.

This man is a centurion, not very high up in the Roman hierarchy but sufficiently high to have learned about authority in the army. As anyone who has been trained in the army knows, authority and obedience to it is essential. When a command is given, it is imperative that it is obeyed. Authority is the right and power to command and to be obeyed. It is built in very early on in the Forces by strict discipline that requires punishment for failures to obey implicitly. In the Roman army that discipline was about as strict as you may find anywhere in history. When the one above you issued a command, you obeyed! If you didn’t then you suffered. The point was that this man knew all of this and knew that when authority existed it WOULD be obeyed.

Now perhaps we should pause a moment to remind ourselves of the context, the situation involving this man. He comes to Jesus: “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” (v.6,7) There it is. He comes to Jesus and addresses him with respect. He reveals his need and Jesus says he will meet it. It is at that point the man reveals his humility and awareness of the reality of his life: “The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” (v.8a) i.e. implied within this may be, “I am not religious and holy like you. I am a rough soldier who kills people. I have no right to demand anything of you,” but then all that is overcome by a combination of his concern for his servant and what he knows about Jesus.

The outworking of this is seen in his following words: “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed,” (v.8b) and he goes on to explain his understanding of authority. In it he is saying, “I know all about authority, and I know about you, and in the same way that when I command my men they have to obey, so when you command sickness to leave I know it will obey you and go.

Somewhere between all that he had no doubt heard about Jesus, and his personal knowledge of authority, he had put two and two together and realised that Jesus, in the spiritual world, exercised this same authority and brought about healing in the physical realm. Somehow, we might suggest, the Holy Spirit had released faith in him, in his understanding of who Jesus was, and therefore he knew that Jesus authority could bring the healing his servant needed.

The parallel here (it’s not really an analogy but a close cousin to it) is a most remarkable one that shows us in a unique way what it means to say that the Son of God has such authority. Jesus spoke about this at various times. One well known time is when the man was lowered through the roof and Jesus first forgave his sins, which upset some of the religious observers: “Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home.” (Mt 9:4-7) If Jesus declares it, it is so.

He also imparted that authority to his disciples: “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Mt 10:1) which perhaps was the grounds for John to be able to record later, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12)

After his resurrection we read, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Mt 28:16-18) And because of that he was able to send the disciples out to continue doing what he had been doing: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:19,20) In the context of the incident with the centurion, note the strength of his words: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” That has echoes of authority within it.

John shows us that this wasn’t a matter of following a set of rules, but learning to live under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, doing what the Father did: “Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working…. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn 5:17,19) It’s all about relationship, not rules or ritual. When we have that relationship, we will have that authority and we will do what Jesus did.