Seated on High

“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.”.
Ephesians‬ ‭2:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As Paul continues with his Epistle, he sets out some truths that must have appeared as strange to Ephesian ears as they are today. Paul in many ways was a spiritual pioneer. He had received a glimpse of Heaven, which he wrote about in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 – “I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago …. and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” Such a revelation fuelled his grace-filled writings, seeding them with God-truths. And he glimpsed the fact that we have been raised “from the dead”. And we are now seated with Christ in Heaven, united with Him. A “wow!” moment for sure. However, it gets better. Not only are we seated with Christ in Heavenly places, we are united with Him. Imagine it! With Him we will be party to victory over all the things that drag us back in this life. Sickness, death and so on. One thing for sure – we will not be sitting back passively, enjoying the comfort of Heaven. We get a glimpse of what we will be up to from reading the Book of Revelation.

The next verse, with its revelation that God wants to use us as examples of the “incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us”, has to be an understatement of staggering proportions. Incredible for sure. God’s grace is without limit. He pours out His love and kindness without measure. Such God-qualities demonstrate power far beyond human comprehension. We who are Christians are truly overwhelmed that He has chosen us to share in His glory. And the only way we can respond is with a deeply thankful heart. In fact our thanks cannot really scratch the surface of what God really deserves. He has done so much for us.

And so we plod along our pilgrim road, facing into our day to day issues. Dodging the traffic. Eating, drinking, working and sleeping. But inside there is the inner glow of the realisation that we are already there, seated with Jesus in Heaven. And we share how good God has been to us with others, in the hope that they too will be united with Christ. 

God’s Grace

“But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”‭‭.
Ephesians‬ ‭2:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬

In the last blog post, we considered the enormity of our perilous status before God. Paul reviewed the sinful state of mankind, and the role of the devil in corrupting and contaminating the world, leaving rebellious and sinful people in the firing line for God’s anger. Thankfully, Paul reminded us that there is a “but” in God’s world. “But God…”. And it is when we read this that the realisation that God has a solution to our sinful state brings us to our knees in deep thankfulness. You see, in our sin pandemic, God’s vaccine comes quietly, effectively and completely, bringing healing and forgiveness for our rebellious and sinful natures. 

But what is this “But”? Paul goes on to mention four key words – “mercy”, “love”, “life” and “grace”. God’s mercy is without dispute. The very fact that we are allowed to complete a pilgrimage through our lives, free to make choices in the way we live, in the way we view God, can only point to a merciful God. And not a God who is stingy and mean, dispensing the bare minimum of mercy. Paul emphasises that God is “rich in mercy”. His mercy is present in copious quantities, providing every opportunity and more for a rebellious world. And Paul explains that God is merciful because He loves us. How can God, rejected by so many, love us? Finding that most people effectively shake their fists in His face declaring that He is unnecessary for their lives, even if He exists? But love us He does, again without limit. God never says, for example, that He will only love us on a Sunday if we go to church. It’s all the time. 24/7. Regardless of where we are and what we are doing. Paul then draws an analogy with a corpse. A dead body. Because that is what sinful people are. That’s what sin does to us. It kills us spiritually. The “but” is completed by God giving us life, the same life that came “when He raised Christ from the dead”.

Finally, in these two verses, Paul points out that we have been saved through God’s grace. The acronym, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense amply describes what this grace is. Unmerited favour. From a God who cares for every human being regardless of race, age, or sex. I recently tried to share the love of God with a man who lives in the village close by. But his sad response was that he had looked into “all this religious stuff”. It wasn’t for him he said – he wanted to join “the party that’s going on downstairs”. There was an opportunity accorded to him to grasp God’s grace and turn towards God, but he rejected it. Sadly, unless the seed planted bears fruit – and there’s always time for that – God is patient, kind and gracious – he will find out that the party he hoped to join might not be quite what he expected.

We have been saved. Well, those of us who have responded to God’s love by embracing the wonderful Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself. Believing in Him. Responding to His love and mercy by declaring His Lordship over our lives. Accepting His Life-giving Spirit. All by His grace. What else can we do other than fall to our knees in deep thankfulness? 

The Sins of our Ancestors

“O Lord, how long will You be angry with us? Forever?
How long will Your jealousy burn like fire? 
Do not hold us guilty for the sins of our ancestors! 
Let Your compassion quickly meet our needs, 
     for we are on the brink of despair.”
Psalms‬ ‭79:5, 8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is not a comfortable Psalm to read, with its references to blood shed and misery, death and destruction. The Psalmist equates the reason for the devastation to God’s extreme displeasure with the Jewish nation, accusing God of acting in anger and jealousy against His people. But in the middle of his lament, is an appeal to God, for His compassion to displace the judgement. Asaph, the Psalmist, obviously believes that God is acting now because of the misbehaviour, the rebellion, the unfaithfulness, of previous generations. And he perhaps questions the fairness of such action. But God was quite clear – in Exodus 34 God said through Moses, “I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” Eventually God will act in judgement against guilty people, people who stack up their individual and national sins until He can stand it no more. But nevertheless, Asaph pleads with God to have mercy, to show compassion, on his people in a time of a national disaster, a time of despair. Perhaps the chink of light in this verse of warning is the reference to the guilty. Thankfully God is a God of compassion and love, as well as One of judgement, of anger and jealousy. And Asaph appeals to Him to show compassion, in the process forgiving the people for the sins of their ancestors. And to quickly come and mitigate their guilt and despair, to provide what they need.

So the inevitable question. How relevant is this Psalm in 21st Century societies? It’s a warning to us all. God is “slow to anger, quick to bless”, thankfully. Otherwise the rebellion and sins of our nations would have led to our destruction long ago. I probably wouldn’t even be here, writing this blog. And that is the key – God allows mankind to exist, even when acting sinfully, because of His grace and mercy. He gives everyone an opportunity for repentance, for embracing Him while there is still time, during our lives here on earth.