29. Redeemed To (2)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 29. Redeemed To (2)

Eph 2:6,7    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.

Recap: We are looking at the verses in Eph 2 that follow on from those where Paul describes our ‘old life’ and we said that from verse 4 he balances out those things with the things God had made us to be and is making us to be: alive to Him (v.5), joined with Christ (v.6), recipients of His incredible blessings (v.7). In the previous study we considered something of what it means to be ‘alive’ spiritually.  We move on now to the second aspect.

Seated with Christ:  Now I did cover this area in some detail in Part 3 of a previous series, ‘Lessons in Growth’, and so I will simply take some snippets from there to produce a more concise summary for this aspect of the Christian life to which I believe many give little thought. It is, of course, a matter of perspective; it about us seeing ourselves. Yes, it is very much about our daily human lives living out human existence here on earth, and yet it is about 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. Because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, He is the link between us and Christ who is reigning at his Father’s right hand in heaven.

An Aside: Having just referred to heaven, I am aware that there are schools of Christian thought today that are pushing away the idea of heaven as our ultimate goal and are focusing on a new heaven and a new earth and especially about the reality of our living out the God-life here on earth which becomes the main focus. Now I believe there did need to be that readjusting balance but if we reject thoughts of heaven – even now or in our future – we fail to pick up on the bigger picture that the New Testament brings to us – that Christ IS reigning in the midst of his enemies from his Father’s right hand in heaven, expressing his rule through his Spirit, until one day all his enemies will be destroyed. I would love to think that it will be a gradual process whereby the world will get better and better, but the New Testament picture does not convey that. The primary resource that God has given us for understanding this period has to be the book of Revelation, and there we see that despite God’s ongoing redeeming activity on the earth, the folly of sinful mankind means that that destruction of enemies will come in stages and Jesus’ Second Coming will be one of those biggest stages.

Yes, in the meantime we are to remain faithful and respond to all Jesus is showing us – and that will bring blessing – but it is a naïve believer who ignores the lessons of the Old Testament seen through Israel, that even with God’s presence and God’s help we stumble and mess up. We are going through a period of time where in different parts of the Church there are positive changes that have been taking place for a number of years (while many others just carry on oblivious of these things). Yet again and again, as the years pass, we see new ideas or ideologies coming, lasting and falling and, tragically, that is also true of leaders as well. Even with the indwelling Spirit, we are prone to getting it wrong (as we have sought to show in previous studies).

Us with Christ: So what can we learn that hopefully will help us in our struggles as we see Paul describing us as being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms? Well let me take the things I identified in the previous series:

  • First of all, that it is a position in the presence of God. In heaven everything focuses on God. Your life and mine must first of all be a life that is God-conscious.
  • 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. Although I suspect that is a strange concept for many modern Christians, our present life, the life He is redeeming us to, is intended to be a life of revelation, where Jesus shares with us knowledge and insights and wisdom to help us through.
  • 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.
  • 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’s work and we do what we do because of Christ – nothing more and nothing less.
  • Fifth, what we are now looking at is another phase in the strategy of the Godhead formulated before the creation of the world, that is working towards a clear goal, 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, a vista that has an end goal 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) You and I need to understand that, and recognise that, ‘seated with Christ’ and ‘empowered by his Spirit’ we are part of God’s means to overcoming his enemies – anything that is contrary to the design, the will and the purposes of God, and we will only be able to do that by revelation that we referred to earlier.

And So for us? How does this affect who we are today? Well let me summarize in one sentence these five things: we are to be a God-conscious people, sharing in His insights, knowledge and understanding, receiving and using as He imparts it, His power and authority, maintaining that ‘utter different-ness’ (holiness) that is constantly reminded that we are what we are by Christ’s work on the Cross and by his indwelling Holy Spirit, and that we are working towards a goal, the restoration of God’s design in our lives and bringing righteousness and goodness wherever He directs and enables us.

The first of those three things in verses 4 to 6 of Eph 2 – us coming alive – enabled us to enter into a new life with a new identity and new power source. The second one, that we have just been looking at, puts focus and goals before us. So far it has been ‘being’ and ‘doing’ but there is yet a third, even more wonderful, aspect yet to come and that we will consider in the next study.

28. Redeemed To (1)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 28. Redeemed To (1)

Eph 2:6,7    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.

Moving On:  Having, for the last three studies, been focusing on the things the Lord seeks to redeem us from, we now move on to what He wants to redeem us to. You remember the picture of the Exodus? God wanted to deliver Israel out of the land of slavery, Egypt, into the Promised Land, a land of new identity, freedom and resources. The first 3 verses of Ephesians 2 were about our old life that God had delivered us from, a life of spiritual death (v.1), a life of being led by the deception of the world’s godless ways of thinking (v.2), a life that was focused on responding to personal whims, personal desires, personal emotions (v.3). Those are the things we have been considering in the last three studies.

Balancing Verses: But from verse 4 he balances out those things with the things God had made us to be and is making us to be: alive to Him (v.5), joined with Christ (v.6), recipients of His incredible blessings (v.7). From being spiritually dead, He has made us spiritually alive; from being led by the world, He has made us one with Christ to be led by him; from having to struggle to satisfy ‘self’ by getting, He has brought us into a place of wonderful provision. Now because I suspect we so often succumb to taking these things for granted and becoming so familiar with the teaching that we just don’t rejoice in it any longer, we also succumb to relying on the old ways and fail to enter into the wonder of the reality of these things. For this reason we will, in these next three studies, major on these things.

Alive? For those of us who have had a dramatic salvation experience, this is more of an observable reality. For those of us who made childhood professions of faith or professions of faith spread over a period, this often fails to be so clear. I am in the former category and I can remember to this day (even though it is now over fifty years ago) praying on my own, late in the evening, going to bed and waking up a new person. I was alive in a way I had never known before. There was much I would take time to appreciate, but I went off to visit a cousin and spent the day seeking to convert him. I bought a Bible and started reading avidly. I got involved in Bible studies and very soon was leading a number each week. I became involved with a youth evangelism team and found myself sharing my testimony. I had found Christ and was changed. Without being particularly conscious of it, it was happening. His life in me was a reality, prayer became part of my life. I knew the reality of Paul’s words, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17)

Familiarity dulls: Now let’s be honest. For those of us who have known the Lord for many years, it is quite possible (probable?) that that early feeling has abated. The trouble is that we get sucked into daily life and life of ‘church’, and regularity and familiarity take the edge off. When you have prayed every prayer you can think of, when you have read your Bible inside out, when you have heard thousands of sermons and attended thousands of ‘church services’ there does become a feeling of ‘been there, done it three times, got the tee-shirt’ and faith on a daily basis seems to become a struggle, and you know it shouldn’t. What had happened? ‘Life’ was replaced by routine; faith was replaced by ritual. Church becomes a ritual, prayer becomes a ritual, Bible reading becomes a ritual.

Think about ‘life’: ‘Life’ is something spontaneous, new, fresh every moment. Watch a new born baby. Every new move, every new experience is avidly watched by its parents. We observe it beginning to focus and watch a mobile hanging above its crib, we watch it develop so that it can roll over, then sit up, then stand and then take its first step. Excitement! We note its first word which creates competition: “Say Momma,” “No, say Dadda.” Sometimes we cause laughter trying to make it learn new words. A nephew of mine had been given a brightly coloured plastic duck and so someone said (without hope), “Say fluorescent duck.”  He didn’t, but other words soon did come as he grew and developed at his own pace. This is the thing about ‘life’, it is natural, it changes and grows and develops at its own pace, and some parents worry about the fact that their child isn’t saying or doing the same things as the new child next door, and they have to learn that their baby is unique. Each ‘life’ is unique and here’s another thing you watch as your children grow: they have ‘growth spurts’.

‘Life’ for Jesus’ disciples: I’ve written this at least twice previously in this past year, but it bears repeating. Imagine Levi the tax collector at his collection booth when Jesus walks up. “Hullo,” says Jesus. “I’m Jesus.” “Yes, I know,” comes the response from Levi, “I’ve heard about you.” “Great but I don’t want you to just hear about me, I want you to follow me.”  “But I’ve got a job here, I’m a tax collector.” “Yes, I know but I want you to come and follow me.” “Where to?” “Wherever I go. Follow me and see.” “What to do?” “Whatever I do. Follow me and see.”  “When do I have to start?” “Right now.” “For how long?” “For as long as it takes. Follow me and see.” “What will happen to me?” “Follow me and see.” That was life; it was following Jesus as he was led by the Holy Spirit.

Ah, there is the crux of life for the Christian, it is the life of the Holy Spirit, and being led by Him. Sometimes that is a conscious thing, sometimes it is a natural flow, sometimes we seek Him, wait upon Him, and sometimes He comes without warning. But Jesus said it would be like that: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8) Now to come back to what we’ve said a number of times about redemption, this may apply to the initial ‘new birth’ but it also applies to the nature of the ongoing new life. We can put ourselves in the way of the Lord as we wait on Him in prayer or reading the Bible and all we can do is pray, “Holy Spirit, please come,” and then just be open to Him. Life flows, life is spontaneous, life comes from Him.

Regaining Life: How can we get back on course so that our daily and weekly experience is one of ‘life’? One of the ‘rules’ I have adopted in the last few years is ‘God first’. Now what I mean by that is when we are ‘doing’ anything we consider spiritual, we pause and seek Him and ask, “Lord, what do you want here?” That can apply if we are church leaders and worship leaders in respect of weekly services. Some of us will be part of denominations that use prayer books or other means of established, regular ritual. This is not for you; you will feel frustrated by this. But for those of us from so-called ‘free churches’, dare we put aside our routines and try this new approach? My congregation used to laugh when so often I would say, “This morning we’re going to do something different.”  But why shouldn’t each Sunday morning be different? We follow a Creator God and we do Him a disservice by using preplanned, premade repetition instead of the life He wants to bring. No wonder the people in synagogues (where ritual prevailed) were delighted and surprised when Jesus came in, brought authoritative teaching and healed and delivered people.

Let the Spirit flow: Where the Spirit is allowed to flow, He brings life. Ezekiel’s picture is so graphic and powerful (Ezek 47) that wherever the river was allowed to flow, life followed it (see v.8-10), but not in the ‘swamps (v.11). A swamp is a stagnant quagmire where there is no movement and life dies. I will refrain from saying the obvious here about much modern church life. But the call is to let the Holy Spirit come, let Him lead, let Him bring fresh life. It is all there in the New Testament.

And me? Will I remember every morning to turn to Him when I pray and be aware of His presence and not just utter words? Before I open His word, before I study, before I write, will I pause and seek Him and look to Him for His life flow in what I read? And on Sunday mornings, will I come to Him and make myself available – if not able to break loose in the structure others are responsible for – at least to bless Him in the reality of my worship, and my availability in looking to bless and encourage others before I come home?  In my daily life when I am confronted with problems, difficulties, ways of doing things, will I turn to Him for wisdom and grace to carry me through? This is what the Lord is redeeming us to, and away from arid formalism and meaningless ritual that stifles the Spirit. No where do I find this more challenging than in preaching. When I get up and speak, will I seek for and allow His life to flow in my words, bringing alive His word so that people are thrilled, lifted, challenged, encouraged, blessed and sent out full of faith? To do this every week is one of the biggest challenges of church leadership and so team ministry allows time to think, reflect and, most importantly, overcome routine and familiarity.

Reality: In truth, there is no easy ABC (despite the books!) of retaining a fresh flow because, although I can do the things above, life is a spontaneous thing and it seems the flow is more like the ebb and flow of the tide rather than the regular flow of a river. Sometimes He is very evident, other times not so – perhaps to prove the reality of it. On the good days, rejoice in the wonder of the life; on the quiet days, remain faithful and continue to wait on Him and seek Him. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (Jas 4:8) This is not for spiritual-super-giants, this is the potential for each and every one of us, this is what He is redeeming us to.

28. Recap 3A

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 28. Recap 3A

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.

Perspective of the Ascension: Before we move on to more practical matters, we would do well to go back over the lessons in this third Part which have been about the Theory to do with this idea of reigning with Christ’. We started out by seeking to put this whole section in the perspective of the ascension of Christ and linked that with our verses above.

Us seated in the heavenly realms: We looked first at the fact of Christ’s ascension which concluded with him now reigning at the right hand of his Father in heaven, and we made that link of us being seated with him in the heavenly realms. We faced the fact that we live in a Fallen World where free will reigns and thus the work of Jesus (with us) is to overcome the effects of that Fallen World. Personal growth comes as we start to really understand these things and move into them, thus fulfilling Jesus’ expectations of us.

A New Perspective: We moved on to consider that it is all a matter of understanding our position in Christ, reigning on high with him, bringing about the will of the Father, cooperating with the Godhead, allowing the Spirit to lead us. This taking hold of a new perspective means that we put the will of God the Father first with everything focusing on Him. Because this ‘position’ is in heaven, it is a place of revelation from on high, a place of power and authority, a place of awareness of the holiness of God, and a place where the strategy of God is worked out, countering the effects of the Fall and expressing the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, on earth.

Considering the Kingdom: Having touched on the concept of the kingdom, we went on to consider that in more detail, starting with the reminder that it is all about demonstrating the will of God in heaven, on earth (note the ‘locational’ aspects). Talk of a kingdom also speaks about a ruler who presides over his followers, who conform to his rules or laws. However, because we live in a fallen world there are likely to be those who resist the rule of the king.  Whether it is people or characteristics of living that run contrary to God’s design, the work of the kingdom comes to overcome those ‘enemies’, which will continue until Jesus comes again.

Us called to reign: From here we went into Revelation, chapter 5, to see us designated as a purchased people who were called to reign on earth. We acknowledged that there is a timing uncertainty – now or the future –  which is also seen in one of the early church sayings used by Paul writing to Timothy. However seeing what he says to the church at Corinth, seeing his call and expectation of us to grow up, we see that part of that is learning to reign now and in fact growing in that. We concluded that thought with the observation that in the period after Jesus coming again, his followers’ role is to reign with him. For us, in the present day, our role is to learn to share with him as he works to overcome these ‘enemies’.

The Body of Christ: From there we went on to consider the idea of the ‘body of Christ’ as the church is called in the New Testament and we noted various things about it – that it’s role is to do the will of God, that it is made up of every Christian, and we are all different with different gifts etc., and that it is designed to grow and develop. That growth comes about, we saw, as we live out our relationship with Christ, as we develop relationships of love within the body that strengthen and hold us together, as we each use our gifts, talents, abilities etc. under his leading, and in accordance with the plans that God has on His heart for us, which are conveyed to us by Jesus, our head.

Relevancy Today? We continued in this Part considering whether we are relevant in the light of the threat or challenge that the enemy might seek to bring in the midst of the tremendous changes that are taking place in the world, especially in the realms of technology in its very wide application in so many spheres of life today. Whatever they may be, we concluded, they do nothing to change the existence and reality of God, and the state of sinfulness of mankind that will still need a saviour. The challenge is not to lose a true perspective.

Carriers of Love: Because God ‘is love’, the kingdom is all about love. We observed human need which needs so often strengthening, encouraging and comforting and we saw this is part of the ministry of Jesus to be expressed through His body, both within the Church and to the world outside.

A Community of Goodness: Finally we considered another characteristic of God and of Jesus that should be exhibited in the church – goodness. It is a difficult concept to grab hold of, and yet one with which we are all familiar. However we perceive it, it is to be something we think about and work for, as we seek to represent Jesus and rule with him as he expresses the kingdom

Summary: So let’s try to summarize all these things: Christ is ascended on high and we are to consider ourselves seated with him in his position as a ruler over all things, as he works in this Fallen World to bring the kingdom or rule of God on the earth through his body, the church, and in this manner we will ‘reign’ with him as we allow him to lead and guide and empower us as he works to bring down all those things that run contrary to God’s design for this world, and replace them with his love and goodness.

Wow! That needs rereading more than once, I suggest, but it does sum up what these principles within this Part have all been about. Now we need to try and see how they can be worked out in practical ways. That is what the next Part will be about.

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!

15. A Reigning Body

Short Meditations on the Body of Christ:  15. A Reigning Body

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

And so we come to the last of this particular series which leaves us realizing a crucial spiritual reality – and it is spiritual.  We have considered that we, the Church, are Christ’s body on earth today, and that he is still the head of the body, even though he is seated at his Father’s right hand, ruling in heaven over all things. So positionally Christ, the Son of God, is in heaven with his Father, but we have also observed that we are indwelt by his Holy Spirit who not only unites us with each other, but now also with him in heaven.

And so he now wants us to grasp this picture that Paul brings to the Ephesians, that because we are untied with him by his Holy Spirit, it means that we too, having been raised to new life after dying to the old, are in a sense, sharing with Christ in his role as the present king ruling over all things.

Now is this just an academic or theological nicety or does it have any practical outworking? Yes, it is far more than just a theory, it is an overall picture of how the body is supposed to work to bring about the will of God, the reign of God on the earth.

First of all this means a change of understanding. We are to see ourselves as sharing with Christ in his rule, so that, second, as we listen to him and sense and receive the revelation of His Holy Spirit, so we are led to do the things on his heart and those things will bring change on the earth.

Third, we will see these things as incomparable riches of grace, amazingly wonderful expressions of his love and mercy that come to us through his kindness, here within the body so that the body uses this grace to perform signs and wonders to bring changes on the earth. Every time you pray, every time you command in the name of Jesus, as he leads you, so his grace is released in the form of power so that things are changed on the earth, people released, people delivered, circumstances changed. Every time we bind something in his name (Mt 16:19 & 18:18) the power of the enemy will be annulled.

We have much to learn about being his servants, about wielding authority and bringing in the reign of the kingdom of God, as we experience what it means to be “seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”, i.e. as we experience what it means to be part of the active body led by the head from heaven. Hallelujah!

15. Raised & Seated

Ephesians Meditations No.15

15.  Raised & Seated

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.

Here we are, yet another ‘link word’ – “And”. What have we seen here in this chapter so far? Contrasting our past with what God has now done in us, Paul started the chapter reminding us what we had been like – dead, disobedient, objects of wrath (v.1-3). But then God came and ‘made us alive’ (v.4,5). That was the big contrast, but it didn’t end there (and that is why we’ve gone back to the beginning) because we have this And“.

In other words, not only did God make us alive – just like He made Jesus alive after his death – He also “raised us up” AND “seated us with him.” Now of course when we were born again (we’ve covered that so many times in these meditations, let’s not detail it again), we had no idea that this had happened. We carried on living our normal lives on earth, aware that something amazing had taken place and we felt completely different – but we hadn’t realised what it was. That only became clear as we read the Bible and were taught.

Now one of the frustrating things about Scripture is that it isn’t always ultra clear. If we had been Paul’s pupils in a classroom we might have asked him to clarify what he meant but we can’t, and so when he says “God raised us up with Christ” we are not sure if he is referring again to the work of ‘being made alive’ or whether he is referring to an aspect of our being united with Christ in heaven where we are ‘seated with him.’ Both are true because God has raised us from the dead and He has united us with His Son who (positionally) is seated at His right hand in heaven.

Now we have observed previously that when Paul uses the expression, “heavenly realms” he means heaven itself, and so here we find an amazing claim for Christians. It is that we have not only been raised from the (spiritual) dead, but we have also ascended and are seated in heaven with Christ. Hang on, you say, but I still live here on the earth; that hasn’t changed, so have can this be? Look again at the description: “in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Because His Holy Spirit now dwells within us, we are linked to Christ, for the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the Spirit of Christ and so many of the descriptions of what has happened to us, as laid down in the New Testament, are said to be “in Christ“, just as we find in these verses. So Paul is saying, that because we are linked to Christ by his Spirit, it is as if part of us is there with him where he is, seated on his throne in heaven.

Now comes the crucial question: what is the significance of that, or what are the consequences, or outworking of that? Put another way, what is the practical relevance of this claim? Well we could speculate on many things but let’s restrain ourselves and limit ourselves to what Paul tells us: 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.” Did you note the link words, in order that’? He’s done that so that He may be able to do something else, bring something else about, and achieve something further in His plans.

Let’s check it. “in the coming ages.” Whatever else it means when Paul wrote it, it means the future. For the period of the church – between Pentecost and the time when God brings an end to all things – it means that Christ ruling on his throne in heaven is going to reveal and express the “riches of his grace” to us, i.e. he is going to be able to share with us all the outworkings of the Cross and how they affect us in our daily lives. Now if you are a bit unclear about God’s grace carefully note Paul’s description of this grace that we so often glibly talk about: “the incomparable riches of his grace.” This grace that God expresses to us through Christ has an immense value (riches) that has no comparison. It is more valuable that ANYTHING else we can think of! We may not realise the extent of this ‘grace’, this goodness of God towards us that is expressed in his kindness to us,” but it is ours and part of the development of our lives is coming to understand it, receive it and live in it more and more and more.

Now ultimately this ‘grace’ flows to us in two ways: firstly, and mainly, through the presence and working of his Spirit through us who takes his word (the Bible) and reveals the truth of it to us and brings us understanding which in turn brings changes in the way we live. As we step out in belief in response to what He has said (that is faith), we find his presence works as a power within us to enable us to live freely in ways we couldn’t previously. But his grace also flows to us by his activities in the world around us and so he does change people and circumstances as far as they relate to us.

An example of this as seen in the Old Testament was the way, in respect of Joseph: “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.” (Gen 39:2-4) i.e. God gave Joseph ability so he did well but He also impressed this on his master so that he so trusted Joseph that he put everything into his hands, thus acting for Joseph’s good (even as a slave!).  Later when Joseph was in prison we find, “the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.” (Gen 39:21,22) This wasn’t the Lord only giving Joseph ability, but He also impressed this on the prison governor so he acted for Joseph’s good (even in prison!)

We have much to learn about this grace, but note in summary some key things: a) it flows to us through us being united with Christ in heaven, b) because we are seen as ‘seated’ it comes to us not by our efforts but simply because Christ gives it to us, c) the extent of it is way beyond our frequently limited understanding and d) it is something we are to learn to receive more and more as we walk through this life with Christ. Wow!

11. Power & Rule

Ephesians Meditations No.11

11. Power & Rule

Eph 1:19-21 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.

Here we go again; note the link with what has gone before. “That power” refers to the power Paul has just said is, “for us who believe.” (v.18). Now that is vitally important to note because the power he is just about to speak about is a power which God has put in us who are Christians, who are believers. Now he goes on to let us know something more about this power: it “the working of his mighty strength,” which means God’s strength. Now if he didn’t say anything more that would leave us gasping because we know that our God is the One who created this world and so His power is limitless. Then we might start thinking about some of God’s mighty acts in the Old Testament – the plagues he brought on Egypt , the parting the Red Sea and the Jordan river , as well as vanquishing armies. This is the power that Paul says is in us. That is difficult to take in.

But actually he defines this power by something else: “which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” The human side of Jesus was powerless to come back from the dead so it was the power of God that raised him up. Peter said the same thing when he preached on the day of Pentecost: “But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 2:24 ). Paul himself said the same thing when he wrote, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:11). Now Paul says this more to describe the wonder of what God did with Jesus than the impact that it had on us (at least here in this passage), but surely he has that in the back of his mind, that we today are empowered by he same power that energized Jesus. But as he finds himself referring to Jesus, it is he who catches his attention and so he moves away from what has happened to us, to what has happened to Jesus.

It is not just that God raised him from the dead but He also seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. Now at the beginning of the book of Acts we have Jesus’ ascension described, a mystery but very visual. The picture of Jesus being seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven is conveyed a number of times in the New Testament. The writer to the Hebrews particularly caught this when he first quotes the Old Testament: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Heb 1:13) and then, “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” (Heb 8:1) and “when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:2) and “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

But we find the same thing elsewhere in the New Testament: “Now he sits on the throne of highest honour in heaven, at God’s right hand.” (Acts 2:33) and “Then God put him in the place of honour at his right hand as Prince and Saviour.” (Acts 5:31) and “Stephen…saw Jesus standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7:55) and “Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honour and power.” (Col 3:1). This is the clear message that Jesus didn’t just die and didn’t just rise again to die again later, he ascended to heaven again where he is seated, ruling with his Father.

But Paul doesn’t want us to have any doubt about this: “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given,” i.e. he rules over everything and everyone one! There is nothing and no one who is outside Jesus’ rule. Now you may not have taken this in yet, but this is one of those claims of the New Testament that elevates Jesus above any other religious figure and which makes Christianity unique among world religions. If you hear someone say, “All religions are the same,” then simply point them to all these verses (and there are more) that place Jesus as THE ruler over all things above everyone and everything and point out that no other religion makes this claim. We are dealing with THE unique Son of God here!

But Paul hasn’t finished: “not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” This isn’t a short term rule, this is an eternal rule. Yet there will come a time, as we’ve noted before when, “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.!” (1 Cor 15:24 -26). Hence the prophetic word in the Psalms, “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 sceptre from Zion ; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” (Psa 110:1,2). Jesus rules in the midst of his enemies until he has dealt with them all – sin, fear, guilt, shame, death, Satan!

THIS is the one we are called to worship. No mere human being, but God who came in the flesh and then took it back to heaven to continue His rule. Worship Him!

2. Praise & Blessing

Ephesians Meditations No.2

2. Praise & Blessing

Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

God is worthy of our praise and worship. The fact that most of the time we don’t praise and worship Him is simply a sign of our spiritual blindness. The fact that people even deny God or speak badly of Him is an even greater sign of foolishness. It was the psalmist who said, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psa 14:1). Paul was elsewhere to condemn sinful man in that, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” (Rom 1:20,21). Paul, now in this letter, has things on his mind that he wants to convey to the Ephesians, and the very thought of these things evokes praise in him.

He has just greeted them with a blessing: “To the saints in
Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He has described the believers as ‘saints’ which simply means ‘holy or consecrated ones’ which is what all Christians are. He has desired grace – God’s power or ability for us to live out our lives as His children – and peace, which comes through that relationship. Instantly these are things where there is an interweaving between God and man. This book is all about that. It isn’t about ‘God out there’ and it isn’t about us on our own. No, it is all about the coming together and interaction of God and man that results in transformed and changed men and women who form a ‘called out people’, the church, and it is all the work of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Thus when he asks for grace and peace for them, it is from both the Father and the Son, for it is a joint activity.

But now, as we’ve already noted, he praises God. Praise automatically rises within him when he thinks of what God has done. Praise is about acknowledging someone’s achievements. Worship is about acknowledging God’s greatness, the fact of Him being infinitely greater than us, but praise focuses on what He has done. We praise our children when they have done well. We praise God for what He has achieved.

Do you notice how he links Father and Son: “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” He wants to remind us at every turn that Jesus is God’s unique Son and that God is uniquely his Father. But he’s not just ‘Jesus’, he is ‘our Lord’. Paul is quite clear; Jesus is our Lord, because he is the Christ or the Messiah, the anointed one sent by God to save us. Every word is significant. Paul is quite careful in the way he uses each word, and we shouldn’t miss the significance of each word therefore.

But now comes the reason for Paul’s praising God: who has blessed us.” A frightening number of people never seem to see this, that God’s intent is to bless us. Now the word ‘bless’ is not a word commonly used today but in the Bible it is very significant and used a great deal. When God ‘blesses us’ He ‘decrees good for us’ and when God decrees something it IS done. So Paul is praising God because of what God has done and the outworking or end product of what He has done is that He has been able to decree good for us.

But there seems a condition on this blessing as far as it is being mentioned here: who has blessed us in the heavenly realms.” Now to catch the meaning of this we have to look at the other four times that Paul uses this phrase in this letter (and nowhere else). The next reference is, “which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” (
1:20) which clearly refers to heaven as a place. Then comes, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (2:6) which suggests us being linked to Christ who is in heaven. This is followed by, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” (3:10) and “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12) both of which suggest that there is a spiritual dimension of which we need to be aware.

Putting these together we can therefore suggest that our being blessed “in the heavenly realms” means that our origins have been settled in heaven and God decrees good for us from heaven now, and in heaven in eternity. It also suggests that in the spiritual world, where we (knowingly or unknowingly) interact with angelic forces or demonic forces, God decrees good for us. As the Bible indicates that this spiritual realm also impacts the material realm, it is also a suggestion that God decrees blessing in every aspect of our lives.

Every spiritual blessing in Christ”? Yes, everything that is good that can be considered as part of the outworking of Christ’s work on the Cross, is for us! Perhaps a shorthand for this is the sense of Paul’s rhetorical question in Romans 8 put as, “God is for us(Rom
8:31). Yes, all of God’s intents, attitudes, call them what you will, in respect of us, are GOOD. Be blessed! Praise Him!