Well, we are still in the second chapter of Ephesians, and examining the great facts Paul used to explain who we are in Jesus Christ. Knowing our identity is important because I believe not knowing is one of the most fundamental problems we face. If our desire is to solve the difficulties in our lives, then we need to know, with certainty, who we are. Because of this need to understand who we are, Paul was very careful to explain our identification in Christ. One of the worst struggles most of us face with our Christian faith is that we try to solve all of our problems without understanding our relationship with Jesus.
In the earlier messages I think we pretty much established the depths of depravity and darkness that the Lord brought us out of — the condition of fallen man, which, if it hadn’t been for the Grace of God operating in our lives, there wouldn’t have been a chance of improving our situation. Then, in the fourth verse, we saw the wonderful change which came about with my two favorite words: “But God . . .”
But our God is rich in mercy because of His great love for us. We were dead because of our failures, but He made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness that saved you.) God has brought us back to life together with Christ Yeshua and has given us a position in heaven with him. He did this through Christ Yeshua out of his generosity to us in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Paul’s description explicitly compares our experience to our Lord’s experiences. In the sixth chapter of Romans, we see this identification in Jesus’ death. But now, we are made alive together with him. We are “brought back to life together with Christ Yeshua and given a position in heaven with him.” Do I fully understand this? Nope. But I fully believe it! And these symbols that Paul used help us understand the reality of our new birth. This beautiful hyperbole is designed to teach us something about ourselves and who we are as Christians. Without these symbols, we have no way to grasp our ability to handle the problems life throws at us. In the last message, we saw what it means to be alive in Christ, to be made alive together with him.
We learned that we are no longer dead, that the condition we were born with has changed! We are no longer alienated or afraid of Yahweh. In fact, Scriptures explain that we can come fearlessly and confidently and boldly before the Throne of Grace to receive Grace and Mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16)! One of the first proofs of this change is that we are no longer afraid of death. We are no longer afraid to confront our God, to come into His presence. We no longer see Yahweh as our enemy, as a terrible judge, an avenger. Instead, He is seen as a friend, as a father, with a father’s love, father’s arms, and father’s heart.
That is not all of it! We saw that this means we are joined to Christ. Somehow we have been identified with him. His life has become our life, and our new identity is Christ. He is our life. Paul declared, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live I live by believing in God’s Son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins” (Galatians 2:20). In another letter, he wrote, “the person who unites himself with the Lord becomes one spirit with him,” (I Corinthians 6:17). That is why we should never think of ourselves as what we were in our “BC” days. That person doesn’t exist any longer. We are now in Christ. We belong to him. He has welded himself to us, and it created an unbreakable union. We are His, and he is ours. Jesus stated, “You are in me and that I am in you” (John 14:20) — these are Jesus’ own words! I didn’t make them up, and certainly, Paul didn’t make them up! Nothing can break this relationship.
We are changed right to the very depths of our being. Something happened to us when we came to Jesus Christ that altered everything we are from that moment to this day. We are different. We became changed at the very root level of our life! Fundamentally and foundationally, something came to alter what we are, and it began to manifest itself from then on, and in many ways — different outlooks, different attitudes, different approaches to situations.
Right now, I want to see what happens as this new life begins to work itself out regarding our experience. Paul adds two other fundamental factors to this new relationship we have in Christ: We are raised with Him and made to sit with Him in the heavenly places.
Again, this follows what happened to Jesus. Whatever happened to him has happened to us. Okay, so what happened to him? He died. Yep, we already know that. However, when they took his body down from the cross, it gave every evidence, it had all the marks, of death. Rigor mortise had set in. It was cold and stiff. A painting I once saw of the Descent from the Cross showed in grisly detail the horrifying fact of Jesus’ death. The mouth was open; the teeth were protruding; the eyes were glazed. Jesus’ body was a dead! And that dead body was laid in a tomb. You should remember how the stark reality of Jesus’ death cast a pall of gloom over the disciple’s hearts. It dashed all of their hopes and was the end of all their dreams. Their Lord was dead. However, on the third morning, God the Father infused into that dead body new life, and Jesus was made alive. Hallelujah! Great shouts of joy and celebrations!
“And that,” Paul was, in essence, saying , “is an exact parallel to what happened to us when we were made alive in Christ. Into the death of our fallen humanity there came a new life, and new Spirit.” Of course, Jesus’ body of wasn’t left alive in the tomb. He didn’t remain there holding counseling sessions with people who came to visit him. No, He was raised up and put back into business. He was put back into life to operate once again, but on a different level, with a different power. He was back into the experiences of men, but with an entirely new mission to fulfill. The same happened to us when we were made alive in Christ. So it is important for us to see this. We are called to go back into the same circumstances, into the same situation, but to depend on a new power, to demonstrate a new power on which to draw: resurrection life! Oh, mamma!
Now the Christian can do what he could never do by himself. He can act in a way which is impossible for those who are without Jesus Christ. He is now able to love the unlovable, to endure the unendurable, to achieve the unachievable, and to forgive the unforgivable. Just like the Man of La Mancha!
It is the mission of each true knight…
His duty… nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the unrightable wrong.
To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!
You can find this exemplified in many churches. You will find many who, after giving their life to Jesus, are able to love those who were absolutely unlovable. Everyone speaks of faith, but you have to remember that faith only changes things. But Grace changes people!
Grace will fix broken families. Husbands will again love their wives; wives will again love their husbands and children will honor their parents. Glory to God! After coming to Christ, people discover a new appreciation and understanding and love for what they have. No, it probably won’t be instantaneous, but the change in their heart will motivate them. All this was possible because Grace renewed their hearts!
Grace has given multitudes the ability to endure the unendurable. I know some who have learned to struggle against constant pain and discovered, in the midst of the pain, a joy and peace they cannot explain. Imagine that: joy even in the midst of increasing pain! Others experience terrible struggles with depression, discouragement, and defeat. But, hallelujah, the Lord can sustain them, as well.
Believers can endure because of the power released in their Risen Lord. These are situations that real people are facing, and the comfort and strength of Grace will cause them to be victorious!
Some are able to achieve the unachievable. Others, the ability to forgive the unforgivable. That is the power of Resurrection Life! It is for situations like those and many others I couldn’t even imagine! It is designed to confound the calculations of men, to transform the demoralized, and not to solve, but to dissolve the problems of life.
Resurrection power works differently. It allows us to approach life with a different attitude which often baffles and bewilders people. They can’t figure it out, but they do recognize the wonderful things it accomplishes. That is the purpose of this power! That is what it means to be raised up together with him.
The third factor involved in our relationship with Christ is part of our true identity — it is not only that we have been made alive and raised up with Him, but that we have been made to sit with Him in the Heavenly Places in Christ Jesus. What does that mean? Well, several places in Scripture, Christ is referred to as being raised up and made to sit at the right hand of God. In the first chapter of Hebrews the writer says that no angel can ever compare with Christ because, as the author puts it,
God never said to any of the angels,
“Sit in the highest position in heaven
until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Hebrews 1:13)
In the tenth chapter of the same book there is another reference:
[Jesus] made one sacrifice for sins, and this sacrifice lasts forever. Then He received the highest position in heaven. Since that time, he has been waiting for his enemies to be made his footstool (Hebrews10:12-13)
Why do the Scriptures say that Christ “sat down” when he came to the right hand of the Father? I mean, is He sitting up there somewhere in a chair, waiting? It is, of course, a picture, a symbol of something. Yeah, yeah. We know that. But what does it symbolize? Be patient; I will share it. What does sitting symbolize? It signifies the end of any effort, doesn’t it? Sitting means the end of work and the end of struggling. It is a beautiful picture of what the Scriptures call “rest.” We used to sing:
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
of Thy loving heart.
It means depending on the work someone else performs. Let’s pretend it is a hot summer day, and I walk up and see you digging a hole — sweaty, parched, tired, exhausted — I look down in the hole and say, “Yo, you look pretty tired. Why don’t you climb out of that hole and take a rest? I’ll take over.”
Now tell me, what would you expect me to do? Would you expect me to encourage you and say, “It would work better if you had a sharper shovel. Now, remember to bend your knees and not to use your back.” Nah, you silly bunny. You would expect me to jump into the hole and start shoveling while you sat down and relaxed. Well, my friends, this is what a disciple of Jesus is supposed to do. He is to live seated with Christ in the heavenlies. The heavenlies, as I pointed out, is not some far-distant spot somewhere out in the Cosmos. No, it is the invisible realm of reality — the inner life, the place where we feel tension and pressure and anxiety and hostility. We are to rest there. Having done what Jesus asks us to do, we are to sit down and rest, relax, and let him bear the pressure and the problems.
It is amazing how difficult this is for us to grasp. We need to learn the fact that it isn’t up to us to maneuver and manipulate things around us. No, we are now dealing with a God who has announced that he has ways of working which go beyond what we are able to do. He has told us that he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think. So it is no good trying to reason out what he is going to do because you can’t ask or think what it is. He has announced through Isaiah:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and my ways are not your ways,” declares Yahweh.
“Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways,
and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Along with Paul, we can cry out:
God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep
that it is impossible to explain his decisions
or to understand his ways (Romans 11:33)
Our lives turn into adventures! You never know what any situation is going to become. A creative God, beginning to work in the most ordinary circumstances, can suddenly make them break wide open, and you end up with something that staggers your mind, which you never dreamed could happen. Its possibilities are as vast as its possibilities. This is the kind of God we have, and this is what it means to sit — to expect him to do this, and to rest, and not be anxious and struggling and straining and striving and frantic. Oh, it is a wondrous way to live our lives!
We are also told that when Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father, He was waiting for something. Huh? That’s right, He has been waiting “for his enemies to be made his footstool” — waiting for harmony and peace once again in creation, and for every force that opposed the authority of Jesus Christ to be defeated, and every knee would bow and confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!
Oh glory! Oh, but unfortunately, it won’t come quickly. But with this picture of us sitting involves the expectation of victory, yet . . . one we have to wait for. Patiently wait for. This is our biggest frustration, isn’t it? I believe that the most difficult struggle we face is accepting how slow our God can be! Have you notice that? Maybe it is just me, but sometimes He seems so incredibly slow at times!
I will discuss this in the next message. lol. Hang in there.
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