Destination – Unity…

Ephesians 1:9-10 (NIV)

He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

After four days, we still do not have official election results.  Indeed, it will be interesting to see the outcome amid all of the discrepancies as they are discovered and resolved.  But there is one thing I know without knowing the election results … that God has made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Yes, regardless of election outcomes, the unity of believers … those called out of the world to minister to the world … is what God has made known to us through His Word and His Spirit. For the Holy Spirit has been given to us as “a guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” has been accomplished.  This is to the praise of His glory!

I think it would provide us both inspiration and assurance to read the opening of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.  As I read it this morning, I was amazed again with his overview of the plan of salvation God prepared for those who would come to faith in His Son, our Lord Jesus. And I pray that the Spirit will impress on you as well the truth of what Paul has unraveled for us – the mystery of His will – which God ordained in Christ Jesus.  Let this Word of God fill you with hope and readiness … instill in you an eternal perspective of the life God has given us in Christ.  Amen.

Ephesians Chapter 1 (NIV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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. For He (God) chose us (believers) in Him (Jesus) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In Him (Christ) we were also chosen (made heirs) having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him (Jesus) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 He (God) exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.

To me, it is clear that the call and purpose of the Church is to be the physical body of Jesus Christ in the earth. Though Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms … far above all earthly rule, authority, power, and dominion … everything has been placed under Him, including the Church.  As His Body, His fullness resides in us, so that we might be His eyes and ears … His arms and legs … His hands and feet … His heart and soul. Indeed, as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-7: “In our relationships with one another, we should have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” And so I think the application is that we are to be the “human likeness” of Christ Jesus in our families … in our local churches … in our communities, states, and nations. Wherever we are guided to serve others by the Spirit of God, we are to have gracious influence and fruitful impact. And in this context, I again pray we will all stay focused on the eternal inheritance that awaits those who persevere in faith.  May His promises motivate and encourage us to bring glory to God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Ultimate Price…

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19

Redemption…. We have heard that word.  We have used that word in our studies.  And here, Peter tells us that we were “redeemed” from an empty way of life through the “precious blood” of Christ … as a perfect, unblemished lamb slaughtered for sacrifice on the altar of a Roman cross.  Indeed, our redemption was “purchased” with something of far greater value than perishable silver or gold….

To redeem something has several meanings.  Let’s look at some of these from Merriam-Webster:

1.         To buy back or repurchase

2.         To get or win back

3.         To free from captivity by payment of ransom

4.         To release from blame or debt

5.         To free from the consequences of sin

6.         To change for the better

7.         To repair or restore something (i.e. a relationship)

8.         To remove the obligation of by payment

9.         To exchange for something of value

10.       To atone for; to remove guilt; or expiate

There are more, but I think you get the full sense of what redeem can and does mean.  And as I review this list, I think to myself: Every one of these definitions articulate what Jesus Christ accomplished through the cross on our behalf.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Paul explains that we were “sold as slaves to sin”. (Romans 7:14) The sinful human nature has held us captive … like prisoners of darkness.  But Christ Jesus redeemed us! He repurchased us from the slave owner of darkness! He released us from the consequences of our sins! He paid the price of death for our sins … and removed our personal, individual obligation of the required payment.  This how we need to understand redemption!

But there is more that Jesus accomplished!  His selfless sacrifice was done to brings us back to God … to change us for the better … to restore our broken relationship with the Father.  These are the outcomes of His atonement for our transgressions while held under the power of sin.  His sacrifice removed our guilt while fulfilling the judgment required for our rebellion.  And all this required a high price.  The value of our redemption was set higher than the value of all the gold and silver in the earth.  God decreed that the just punishment was death … and then took that punishment upon Himself as a demonstration of His passionate love for us.  How can we even understand what God has done … except that Jesus Christ fulfilled it before the eyes of His disciples and followers.  And His resurrection from the dead confirmed: “It is Finished!”  There is no more payment required! An eternal redemption was paid in full on our behalf….

The writer of the Book of Hebrews offers us some insight on this matter:

Hebrews 7:23-27 (NIV)

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore He is able to save completely (forever) those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.

Hebrews 9:11-14; 24-28 (NIV)

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did He enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

So I pray that we will spend some time mediating on this concept of redemption.  It is rooted in Jewish culture and theology; and it best articulates the message of the cross … explaining its necessity and affording a clear visual image of the infinite price exacted by God for our sin.  We need to see that the mission of the Messiah was to defeat the kingdom of darkness and to establish the kingdom of light.  And this is how Jesus fulfilled the purpose for which He was sent.  The kindness of God is seen in the redemption of the cross.  His kindness is intended to lead us to repentance.  Repentance will prepare us to reconciliation.  Reconciliation will bring us to resurrection.  Resurrection offers us restoration.  Restoration equips us for replication.  Replication will complete the love of God is us….

1 John 4:10-17 (NIV)

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.

So I hope each of us will internalize the unsurpassed value of our redemption … and how it should move us to the goal of replication.  And remember, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  He is interceding for us!  He is for us!  Indeed, Jesus wants us to grow in our faith and to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head! (Cf. Ephesians 4:15) It begins at the cross … the payment for our redemption. May God be forever praised … in the name of Jesus! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Peter 1:13-25 (NIV)

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (NIV)

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. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

Spirit-Filled Grace

2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time …

In his appeal and instruction to Timothy in this letter, Paul affords some great theological concepts for us to ponder. Let’s look at our verse in a wider context:

2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit a few times in this passage.  In Verse 6, Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God….”  The implication is that Timothy has some degree of influence over the Holy Spirit within him.  Here Paul is basically telling Timothy to “get fired up for God.” Why?  Well in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul is giving instructions to believers and admonishes them: “Do not quench the Spirit.” When you quench a fire, you are stopping its source of fuel or air.  You are attempting to extinguish it.  With the use of this metaphor, Paul indicates that we (believers) can “inhibit” the power and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  There appears to be an exertion of the human will that can counteract the will of the Spirit to give us power, love, and self-disciple as Verse 7 mentions.  To me, the application is that if we are timid … if we are ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ … if we are unwilling to suffer for His sake … it is not because of His unwillingness to empower us. Verse 8 tells us that God gives us the “power to suffer for the Gospel”.  So if we are timid, it is our own unwillingness to “unleash” the Holy Spirit to drive our spirits and guide our souls.  So Paul tell us – fan into flame the gift of God who indwells us and do not quench Him!

Part of the suffering we will encounter as believers appears to be related to living a holy life!  That’s right!  We will suffer from being good and doing good for others…. But that is the reason we were saved by the grace of God.  We have been called to holiness … and that is the hardest thing for a human to do.  In fact, we cannot do it apart from the power of God through His Spirit within us.  As Jesus asserted, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Cf. Luke 18:27) And this power sometimes comes to us in the form of grace … a grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.  And we know that His grace is sufficient because His power is made perfect (complete) in weakness. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9) So we just need to realize that suffering goes with the experience of being human … but as a believer there is great reward for going through it … eternal life!  All the more reason to fan into flame the gift of God!

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. This is pretty straightforward advice. The theological intellect that Paul had to share was incredible.  I think that is why God called him to be a herald and an apostle and a teacher; and we would do well to heed his instruction and guidance in matters of faith – wouldn’t you agree? Paul tells Timothy to “guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  So what is Paul talking about here?  Well, I believe the concept here is the “depositing” of the Holy Spirit within us.  Let’s look to some other Scriptures to captures this point:

2 Corinthians 1:21-23 (NIV)

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,22 set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NIV)

For while we are in this earthly body, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly body, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the One who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:13-15 (NIV)

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

Notice how Paul uses this concept to explain the function of the Holy Spirit in our salvation – to be a deposit (like a down payment) on a promise or covenant to be kept in the future.  A deposit is similar to a pledge or an oath to do something further, but you want to go ahead and “seal the deal” now.  You put a deposit on a house because you intend to purchase and you want the seller to know you are serious about your commitment to follow through on the deal.  Well, in this context, God has given us His Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  It’s an awesome analogy that Paul uses here to help us understand what God is doing.  When you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  He is sent to indwell you … put in your heart … as a guarantee of what is to come … eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  That is what you and I have been called to embrace and believe with our entire being! So why would we ever want to quench the Spirit of God who was given to us for life here and now … especially since we know that suffering will be part of what we must endure?

Well, I hope that I have stirred your thoughts on this subject.  I know Paul has challenged my thinking through this letter; and I pray that I will not quench the Holy Spirit in my life at all … nor grieve Him through willful conduct in conflict with the call of holiness.  (Cf. Isaiah 63:9-11; Ephesians 4:29-31For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!