Above All

alpha-889309_640.pngReign of Christ –  (November 26, 2017)

Ephesians 1:15-23 | New Living Translation (NLT)

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

This Sunday brings to a close the Christian calendar for another year.  The following Sunday will will begin Advent – which in some ways is like a New Year’s Day.  This year we have been in the cycle A readings and it will complete 11 years of doing this weekly devotional based on the Revised Common Lectionary.  I like the challenge.

Reign of Christ Sunday

This week’s passage takes us to Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.  After his greeting to the church, he turns to a prayer for the church.  In it he prays for three things. The first thing Paul prays for the church at Ephesus is this:

  1. He prays that God would give the believers spiritual wisdom and insight. Paul wants the believers to grow in their knowledge of God.  I think all of us who are pastors, pray this for our congregations.  I know that I pray that the congregation that I serve would grow in their knowledge of God.  Back when I was in FLAME, we always talked about being lifelong learners.  This doesn’t just apply to pastors or teachers, or those tasked with leading congregations or educational institutions.  It is important for us to continue to grow in knowledge.  I think that it is amazing that every time that I read through the Bible I learn something new.  Something pops out that I had never seen before.  This is a good thing.  This really leads us to the importance of continuing discipleship.  There are times in our spiritual walk that we get caught in a rut.  I’ve heard the simple illustration that a rut is simply a grave with both ends knocked out.  When we are growing, we don’t get caught in that rut – when we have spiritual wisdom and insight, we can tell what is right and what is wrong.  This is important, especially when it comes to the knowledge of God.  Our family was talking about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral this week.  For those of you unfamiliar, it is a way of interpreting scripture. Scripture is at the base, but let’s be honest – as you can see by the illustration – reason, tradition, and experience come into play.  So often we think of tradition as a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Tradition in this case says, what has the church for the last 2,000 years said about this scripture? If we come up with something completely new, we might need to check it – does it fit with the church’s teaching for the last 2,000 years – does it fit with logic or reason, does it match with Christian’s experience?  Scripture is the primary way that we grow in knowledge of who God is.  My prayer is that each person would constantly be growing in the knowledge of God.
  2. Paul then prays that the believers hearts will be flooded with light – so that we can understand the confident hope he has give to his called out people – holy people – set apart people  – a rich and glorious inheritance.  At this moment, I want you to think of a powerful floodlight – so powerful that it cuts through the darkness – it cuts through the fog. This is what Paul is praying for the believers in Ephesus.  He is praying that their hearts would be flooded with a floodlight that cuts through the darkness of our human nature…When we talk about this human nature, we are talking about the nature that goes against God.  A word that you may have heard before is the carnal nature.  It’s an adjective that means pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; not spiritual but merely human; temporal; worldly.  This is the darkness – the darkness of our human nature and it really is bad news, but contrast that to the light – God’s light.  Christ followers – we were not called out of darkness to live just like everyone else, no we called out of darkness, into his glorious light.  Peter (one of Jesus’ disciples writes:) “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” If we are Christ followers – if we have placed our trust in Christ – we are called out of the darkness and we should follow it no more.  We are a people who are set apart – we have been called into His glorious light – and because of that – we have a glorious hope – a rich and glorious inheritance.  That my friends is the hope of eternal life – an eternity in the presence of God.
  3. Finally Paul prays that the believers would understand the greatness of the power that God has given to believers.  Do you realize that if you are in Christ, you have great power?  I really don’t believe that many who call themselves Christ-followers really believe that.  The power that God has given us is literally dynamite.  There is a word that is used in the Greek – dunamis – it is used 120 times in the New Testament. The word refers to “strength, power, or ability.” We know it in our English words dynamite, dynamo and dynamic. Paul wants us to know that we have great power available to us.  He goes on to say that it is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.  Did you catch that?  Let’s go back to our human nature for a moment.  So many times we think that we don’t have the power to overcome our human nature, our carnal desires, But we – if we are trusting in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit – have the same power – the dunamis – the dynamite – that raise Jesus Christ from the dead – and now he is sitting in heaven – waiting for us to use what he has given us.  We don’t have to live in our human nature because God has given us the power not to.

Wow! what a great prayer for believers that we would be filled with spiritual wisdom and insight, flooded with light, and understand the incredible greatness of God’s power.

Not only did that power raise Jesus from the grave, but it gave him ultimate authority.  Paul tells us this authority is present in the current world.  Christ has ultimate authority over any ruler – any authority – any power – any leader – and just so that you get the point – Paul says that Jesus has authority over anything else – talk about your glorious hope.  In a world where it seems that everything is going crazy – Christ is the ultimate authority and he has the final say.  I don’t know about you, but it appears to me that the world has gone insane.  I know that I wonder, “What in the world is going to happen?”  But because of my faith in Christ – because of my trust in him that he came to die for my sins – that he was raised from the dead through God’s power – and that he is sitting on the throne in a place of authority given to him by God. God has place Jesus in authority over everything – over this current world and the one to come.  This is the glorious hope – in that world to come there will be no more evil – no more tears – no more pain.

John writes in the book of Revelation:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

This is the glorious hope that Paul was talking about – that if we place our lives in the Savior’s hands – if we live for him – if we obey his commands – if we love God with all of our heart and we love our neighbors as ourselves, we have a glorious hope – we have a glorious inheritance in heaven.

Jesus is the King of kings – Jesus is the Lord of lords – Jesus is the God of gods and his reign is eternal.

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