June 1, 2014

Invisible But Invincible - June 1, 2014

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Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we remember how the resurrected Jesus left this world. Forty days after Jesus was raised from the dead, he gathered his followers on a hill just outside of Jerusalem. After blessing them, he rose bodily into the sky, and ascended steadily until the clouds obscured him from their view.

This was Jesus’ way of taking his visible presence from the earth. He didn’t die again. He didn’t just disappear. He purposefully ascended so his followers would know he was going to the Father.

Though they would no longer see Jesus with their eyes, Jesus assured them that he would remain with them, and with all who trust in him as their Savior from sin. Jesus told them,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV).
Have you ever wondered why Jesus said all authority in heaven and on earth had been GIVEN to him? He was the eternal Son of God, right? So that authority was always his, right?

To begin with today, I’d like to review some theology that helps us understand statements like this. Statements made about Jesus in the Scripture. Statements that speak of Jesus being GIVEN divine rights and abilities.

When the eternal Son of God became human, his divine attributes were transferred to his human nature. But since he came to be a humble servant to save sinners from hell, his human nature did not freely and openly use the divine attributes transferred to it. Instead Jesus used his divine powers as God only when necessary for his work as our great Savior. Theologians call this the “Humiliation of Christ.” It covers the period of his life from his conception to his burial.

But when God the Father raised his Son from the dead, the human nature of Christ began to freely and openly use the divine attributes that had been transferred to it. This is why Jesus says that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been GIVEN to him. The Son of God always had this authority because he was in substance, God. But now his human nature was given this authority as well. He was fully glorified as the God-Man. Theologians call this the “Exaltation of Christ.” It began with his resurrection, and will never end.

This is the Jesus that you and I have been connected to through faith. Today he is invisible to our eyes, but he is also invincible beyond our wildest imaginations.

It is this connection to the invincible Savior that the apostle Paul helps us to better understand today.
If I asked the question, “What is an airplane?”, even a little child could give me an answer. An airplane is a thing that flies in the sky. It carries people from one place to another. But if I asked one of our Boeing engineers what an airplane is, I’d get a more detailed and technical answer. Both answers would be true, but the adult version would be more full. More advanced.

It is one thing to know the FACT that we are connected to God through Jesus. And it’s a wonderful thing to know that. But to fully comprehend what this means for our lives every day—that is something God must show us. God must enlighten us through his Holy Word. May God bless our study of his Word today, so that the eyes of our hearts may more fully grasp the great salvation we have in Jesus.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (NASB)

  15   For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints,
  16   do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;
  17   that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
  18   I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
  19   and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
  20   which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
  21   far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
  22   And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
  23   which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
There’s a lot of stuff in this text. A lot of deep, transcendent, and profound concepts. That’s why Paul prays that God would enlighten us. We need God’s teaching and guidance, otherwise we will never understand spiritual truths of this magnitude. 

Simply put, Paul says he wants his fellow Christians to know three things: God’s calling, God’s inheritance, and God’s power. Just what kind of calling is this? What type of inheritance? What level of power are we talking about here?

When people talk about a “calling” we often just mean a job. A vocation. What you do in life. In this sense, a person’s “calling” could be quite grand, or quite common.

An inheritance is the same. It could be next to nothing, or it could be billions of dollars.

And power is the same too. It could be little or great.

So where does God’s calling rank? Or his inheritance? What about his power? Are these little, or great? How great are they?

Paul directs us to look at the Father’s interaction with Christ Jesus. In the Father’s interaction with the God-Man, there is also a calling, an inheritance, and a power. And if we look to Christ we’ll have some idea of how grand God’s calling, inheritance, and power is concerning us.

In verse 19 Paul says…

“…These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
  20   which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
  21   far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
  22   And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
  23   which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:19b-23 NASB).

The connection Paul is making is this: look at how the Father did things with Jesus, and you’ll have an idea of how he’s dealing with us. Look to Christ, and you’ll be able to estimate the greatness of God’s calling, and inheritance, and power towards us.
First of all, God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. This exercise of power is something only God could do. No human doctor has ever raised a corpse from the grave. Not even Satan with all his angelic energy could do this. Only God raises the dead.

But God didn’t just raise Jesus from the dead, he elevated him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places. That is to say, God set the man Jesus in the place of highest honor and power. Paul describes just how high Jesus has been elevated by saying that he is “above all rule and authority and power and dominion” (verse 21). In other words, Jesus is above every human authority. He is above every angel, every demon, every force of nature in the created universe.

Imagine for a second that we had a list of every being who ever existed, human or otherwise. And imagine that we put those names in order from greatest to least. Paul says that the name of JESUS would top the list. His name is the the greatest name ever named in this age, and the greatest name that will EVER be given.

Just to make sure we get it, Paul says that when the Father set Jesus at his right hand, he put ALL THINGS in subjection under his feet. If two kings meet on a battlefield and king “A” ends up standing with his foot on the head of king “B”, we know king “A” is the victor. He is completely in charge. That’s what the Father did for Jesus. He set everything under his feet.

But then comes a little twist in the description. Though Jesus is the mighty victor, the champion with his foot resting on the universe, God the Father gave him to be HEAD of the church. Certainly, Jesus is above us, but not as a victor grinding our faces in the dirt. For those who look to him as Savior, Jesus is our gracious HEAD. And we are called his BODY, part of him now, by faith.

Paul even says we are the “fullness” of the One who fills all things in every place. Not just according to his divine nature, but also according to his human nature, Jesus Christ is now present everywhere in this universe. And we have been placed safely in him through faith in his cross. No longer do we have to fear God’s wrath over our sins. Now we are IN CHRIST. Our sins stand forgiven through his blood.

This is how God the Father exercised his power in connection with the human Jesus. He called him from the grave. As his inheritance he gave him the position of highest authority and honor. And he gave him power over all things to use on behalf of his church.
But maybe these thoughts are hard for us to grasp. So let’s look at this calling, inheritance, and power in a different way.

When you invite someone to a party, your call goes out with the intention that they’ll come. That’s why you invite them.

When someone leaves you an inheritance, that inheritance is legally YOURS even though you don’t have it in your possession at the time. Eventually the paperwork will be finished, and the inheritance will be placed in your hands.

If you plug a cord into a power source, the power that flows through that cord matches the power of the source. If you’re plugged into a car battery, you have one level of power. If you’re plugged into a nuclear reactor, you have another.

God the Father has called us in Christ. Through his Word he has revealed that our sins damn us, but that Christ has saved us. The Father’s intention is that we will believe, and be saved.

Through Christ, God the Father has set aside an unbelievable inheritance for us. This inheritance means forgiveness of sins in this life, love from God, peace with God, joy in life, guidance, comfort, and after this life—an existence beyond our imagination at God’s side in heaven.

Through Christ,  God the Father promises us that his power will flow into our lives. Protecting our souls, and working through anything and everything that happens to us to bring us spiritual blessing and fulfillment. In Romans 8 it says…

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NKJV).

This is the hope of his calling, the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe. And it’s all because we’re connected to Jesus by faith. He is our invisible, but invincible Savior.
We tend to forget these things as we trudge along through life, distracted by the cares and worries of this world. If we don’t continually come back to God’s promises, to review then again, and again, to refresh them in our minds, then we get into a weak-faith frame of mind. We grow an attitude that says, “Yeah, Jesus is my Savior, BUT there’s so many things going on in my hectic life right now. Yeah, God is all-powerful, BUT I’ve got a lot of problems to figure out. A lot of errands to run. Savings to manage, bills to pay, etc., etc.

Through the apostle Paul, God calls us back to the truth of the Gospel. We have been redeemed by the God-Man. He has been exalted to the highest place. He holds absolute power over hell, death, the devil, and over any other power that seeks to tear us away from God. Jesus is our LIVING Savior, and he watches over us with a loving and powerful eye. And the same Father who exercised immense power in raising Jesus from the dead, and exalting him, that same Father is now our heavenly Father too.
We know these truths. Now is the time to learn these truths more completely. Now is the time to see our lives through the lens of God’s Word, and more specifically, through Christ’s Gospel. This is what Paul prays God will help us to see.

Jesus ascended. But he’s still here. May his Holy Spirit enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we say, “Gosh, my life is hectic, BUT JESUS IS HERE. Yeah, I’ve got problems to solve, errands to run, savings to manage, bills to pay, but in all these things, BUT JESUS IS HERE. Invisible, but invincible. And because he’s with me, I’ve got nothing to fear.”

PRAYER: Father in heaven, help us not only to know your truths, but to live in them. Strengthen our trust in your Son. Lead us to a greater understanding of the love and grace you have showered on us through our crucified and living Savior. Help us by your Spirit to live in the light of your forgiveness, and ever to rest on the surpassing greatness of your power. Amen.

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