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”?

Advertisements

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!

54. Righteous?

Meditations in Job : 54.  How can a Man be Righteous?

Job 25:4 How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?

Job has been protesting his righteousness and the three ‘friends’ have been struggling with that!  Bildad comes in, for the last time, with an attack on that assertion. It is in fact the last of the words from the friends. In the remainder of the book we will see Job speaking, then Elihu an outsider speaking, and then the Lord.

To start this last argument, Bildad exalts the Lord: “Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? Upon whom does his light not rise?” (v.2,3) i.e. God is the supreme ruler who brings peace (implied)  and order to heaven. He calls upon countless angels to serve Him and His glory shines on all of creation. This is the God with whom we have to deal. So far, so good! Implied within all this is God’s perfection, perfection in His being and perfection in all He does. Before Him, Bildad continues in our verse above, how can any man stand righteous? How can any human being claim to be righteous?

He then sets up a strange comparison: “If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot– a son of man, who is only a worm!” (v.5,6) If the moon and the stars are not bright in comparison to His glory (implied), how much less be a mere human being, who is but a maggot in God’s order of things?  I have heard the same being said in the sceptical derision of modern day atheists: If God is so great how could he possibly worry about such mundane and minute figures such as we are? And there is a great mystery – the love of God!

When we seek to examine Scripture as a whole, we come across two amazingly different pictures of mankind. The first puts us down:

  • For instance the apostle Paul wrote, “death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom 5:12) and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)
  • David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” (Psa 51:5) and “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one,” (Psa 14:3) and, agreeing with Bildad, “no one living is righteous before you.” (Psa 143:2).
  • Jeremiah spoke similarly: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jer 17:9)

So, this first position shows mankind as utterly sinful and in that respect, in their original state, there is nothing good about them. But there is a second view of mankind:

  • “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour and put everything under his feet.” (Heb 2:6-8 quoting Psa 8) – this is mankind who God made to rule over the earth.
  • Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Prov 8:30,31) i.e. God delighted in mankind when He made us!
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16,17) i.e. God still loved this world – the people on it – even though we are sinners.

This latter position shows that we were created to a position of authority and rule and honour and even though we are fallen, God still loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. So, can we be righteous? That is Bildad’s concern. Can we be righteous apart from Jesus, we might add?

Consider: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Gen 6:9) and “Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God.” (Deut 24;13) and “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” (Psa 1:5) and “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God (Psa 68:3) and “Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.” (Prov 2:20) and “The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry” (Prov 10:3). ‘The righteous’ in all of these cases (and very many more in the Old Testament) are those who walk with God and follow His ways and are morally upright.

Let’s move on a step: Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6) and “to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom 4:5). Here we see ‘righteousness’ clarified as that which God declares over a person when they simply believe Him! Where there is faith, there is righteousness.  Can we be righteous? Yes, by walking with God – by receiving His salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, and being led by His Holy Spirit. This IS righteousness. We could say so much more on this subject but space forbids for the moment. Bildad, you’ll  need to see the wider testimony of Scripture and realise that although we are fallen, we are loved and, being loved, we can enter into a living relationship with God whereby He declares us righteous for believing what He has done for us and then for what He is doing in us.

24. My right hand

God in the Psalms No.24

Psa 16:8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

There are probably many times when we read Scripture but just don’t take in what it means. What does he is at my right hand mean?  Perhaps we’d better look, first of all, at general references to the right hand:

Gen 48:14  But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger.” Israel put his right hand to make a special blessing. The right hand was seen as the hand of authority. Joseph saw what his father was doing and recognized its significance.

Ex 15:6 Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.” Israel saw God’s destruction of Pharaoh as an act of His right hand. It is seen as the hand of power. See similarly Psa 17:7, 20:6, 21:8 etc.

Ex 29:20  Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands”. The right side was the side designated hold, to be cleansed. The right hand was to be holy.

Psa 110:1  The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right handJesus is seated at God’s right hand in heaven. It is the place of intimacy with the Father and a place of rule. This intimacy is seen also in Psa 73:23, Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” Have you seen pictures of little children holding the hand of their parent? There is a safety and security and intimacy there.

It is this last reference that perhaps impinges most on our verse from Psalm 16. It is first a sense of safety, closeness or intimacy. He first says, I have set the LORD always before me, which is an act of will on David’s part, a determination of attitude. It’s like that which Paul says,Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:2). For David, his heart is open to the Lord at all times (v.7), he seeks to have a God-awareness or, if you like, a God-consciousness, at all times.

When he knows the Lord’s presence is with him, he knows that God’s authority, power and rule are there, working on his behalf. Because of this he will not be shaken, and he will rest secure (v.9). Because of this he knows that the Lord will not let death come prematurely (v.10). When he knows the presence of the Lord, he knows there will also be joy (v.11), because the Lord isn’t just there, He’s there to bless. That’s what David means when he speaks of the Lord who has eternal pleasures at your right hand (v.11). God’s right hand is also a hand of provision.

Do you see the two sided aspect of this?  We have been considering all these pictures conveying all these things at God’s right hand, but David is referring in our verse above to his own right hand. He has an awareness that in all these aspects, God is there close to Him. When it comes to his own authority and power, his own safety and security, his own provision, they all exist because of the intimacy that He knows – the closeness of the Lord to Him. He purposes to ensure this: I have set the LORD always before me. He puts the awareness of the Lord in the foreground of his life, to ensure that he is always conscious of the Lord’s presence.  Yet, to give the whole picture, his psalms indicate the reality of life – sometimes we lose that sense of God’s presence and have to step aside, be quiet, wait on Him, until we regain it. He is what he is, because God’s there, close!

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!