28. Stand – firm, courageous and victorious.

We are daily bombarded by so much. We have more sources of information and entertainment at our fingertips than at any time in the history of mankind. We know so much of the bad and the horrific in the world, both domestic and international through as much news as we can absorb. We can be entertained on phones and tablets throughout our commutes daily and every other minute spent in the choices we make. We hardly need to look another person in the eye. We know about the world – even comfortably far away. We know how bad it is. I am not always sure if we know the good, which is often more subtle and hidden. Only occasionally it gets included in the headlines or talk shows.

It often bothers me how much of our spiritual and moral values are mocked and humiliated in entertainment. Relationships and institutions like family-life and marriage are routinely the subject of comedy. It is not wrong to laugh at our efforts and failures and exaggerate the difficulties and complications of situations in everyday-life, as long as we identify the agenda behind the constant ridicule of the very source of most of life’s happiness.

I thank God for His Word and the clear principles of life we find in it. Since the days it was written it provided a light of truth and guidance through many centuries, in spite of gross abuse. We are very aware of how deep and painful the church has failed in so many instances, but through all the darkness and deceit of evil doings, the true disciples and leaders stood firm and triumphed. Never underestimate the most important playing field of satan – the church.

We can observe the confusion and ambiguity of society with no direction, trying to be their own god, bewildered and confounded by the choices of an evil world, while we have the ultimate textbook where we find grace, forgiveness, hope and unconditional love – priceless.

Above all, our greatest spiritual challenge is to see with the “eyes of our heart enlightened” [Ephesians 1:18] to discern the hope with “real knowledge and practical insight” [Philippians 1:9].

Our third position in the Letter to the Ephesians is STAND. Ephesians 6:10 [Amplified]:

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might.

The Message puts it this way. Ephesians 6:13-18:

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

The most important aspect of spiritual warfare is the strength that we find in being seated with Christ in heavenly places and our walk in faith, light, love and unity. If we are not seated with Christ, our walk falters and spiritual war is only talk. The devil can afford to ignore us completely.

With enlightened eyes we are able to see into the unseen, beyond mere flesh and blood to identify the struggle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 6:12]

Our struggle is against the cosmic powers of darkness in the same heavenly places where we are seated in Christ [Ephesians 2:6]. Can you imagine just how vulnerable we are when we are not seated with Christ? But if we know our blood marked seat, we can stand!

The church is called to displace Satan. Divine law is constantly breached in the attacks against the children of God. We are weakened by this breach of the laws our Father, but we have a quick fix. We are called to confess – quickly and truthfully. Open up the channel of communication, receive forgiveness and be strong.

The Greek for stand is anthistemi and it means to vigorously oppose, bravely resist, standing face-to-face against an adversary, holding your ground.

It is not a command to invade enemy territory. We are not to march, but to stand. We are given defensive weapons – as opposed to offensive weapons. The cross was the ultimate and completed offensive. Jesus reached the gates of hell and led the captives out of captivity. Our position is to stand on what is already won, to maintain and consolidate.

We are more than conquerors – Romans 8:37. Overcomers rest in the victory already given to them by God. We stand in faith. God slays the enemy with His breath – 2 Thessalonians 2:8:

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

Walk and warfare are derived from the sitting position! That is why we praise in the midst of problems. We pray the solution and victory, which is already in the unseen, into the seen. The cross has already taken all the territory possible.

Do you feel defeated? Go back to the first chapter and KNOW:

Ephesians 1: 19,20,21:

what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

There is no possibility of defeat, even when things look different and seems not to work out according to our expectation. We walk in the name of Jesus. It is a name of exaltation and glory. He was obedient unto death. His resurrection made all the difference.

Philippians 2:7-11:

…but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We are given the authority to use the Name of Jesus. In this process it is possible to be guilty of identity theft. It is not about our own agenda in life. It is all about God’s agenda. It is His mighty works, His greater power at our disposal for miracles unlimited. Christ is not seated with us on earth – we are seated with Him in heaven, the unseen.

Jesus has entrusted us with the greatest possible power. His name is above every name. He takes responsibility. We do not use it only when revved up in crisis – NO!

John 16:23,24:

23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

It is a fruit of obedience to God and of a resulting spiritual position known and maintained.

 The evil powers recognized Jesus and Paul. Do they know about you? Acts 19:15:

And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

This magnificent authority is given in grace and power. It can never be earned. The first requirement is revelational knowledge.

 Four features needed for God’s commitment:

  1. We need of a true revelation of the eternal purpose of God. It will always be to the exaltation of Jesus. We need to seek the counsel of His will [1:9-12]
  2. All in the divine purpose is conceived by God. The name of Jesus is not a stamp on my idea. Paul was forbidden to speak in Asia. [Acts 16] Sometimes we have to keep quiet for Him. All true spiritual activities must be tested: In the beginning God created…
  3. The agenda must depend upon the power of God alone for its continuance. It cannot and must never rely on natural power or our talent and abilities. Conscious dependence is the first requirement. Examples: Stephen and Moses in Acts 8. Moses had the education in the court of the Pharaoh but was reduced to dependence in the Presence at the burning bush. Self-energy must come under the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s verdict: John 14 – Apart for Me you can do nothing. God works in and through us.
  4. The object and end purpose of all work is God’s glory, never man’s glory. When we use His name in full obedience, all Hell will have to recognize our authority to do so.

 In the ancient world of Paul, everybody recognized authorities, world powers and classes of evil spirits. He sees before him the Roman soldier and describes his weapons.

Belt of truth: Gives freedom to move. The sword hangs on it. God  works in truth.

Breastplate of righteousness: No accusations can hinder us.

Sandals: Equipped and ready to move.

Shield of faith: Not the small round shield. He uses the word for the oblong heavy armour so that we are covered from head to toe against the fiery darts.

Helmet of salvation: We have the full package deal of salvation: peace, joy, liberty and a sound mind.

Sword: Word of God. No fear. The content of our future is the promises of God in His Word.

Prayer: Constant, intense and unselfish.

Rejoice mighty warrior! The Cross is before you. The war is won. Our God reigns.

Isaiah 52:7:

How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Exodus 14:13:

Then Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid! Take your stand [be firm and confident and undismayed] and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for those Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see again.

 

 

27. Walk with heaven in your step.

Sitting down in the presence of our Father is the best ever place to be in this life. We are fully protected, cared for and loved in the shadow of the Almighty and the secret place of the Most High. [Psalm 91]

However, life demands action. We are purposed beings, living and breathing, going somewhere, progressing, building and moving according to the rhythm of the world around us. Our contribution to history can only be measured in accomplishment, which implies action. We walk our walk with an attitude of a triumphant Jesus, leading us in the paved way of the cross.

Modern life is in community – that is a fact. One of the most important ingredients to a happy life is relationship. Relationship is the life-giving water of community. Living successfully and fulfilling within community is a happy life. Community can be defined as a group of people living in the same place or a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, places and goals.

Jesus ministered within community, to community and from community. That is the foundation of all ministry. Our personality and beliefs are expressed within community. As Christians we function and serve within our community. It is amongst souls that we walk the walk of heaven.

Walk is mentioned 8 times in Ephesians. It can be described as order of behaviour, conduct, habits and attitude. The Greek word is: emperipateó: to walk about in or among and the Hebrew word is: halak: to go, come, walk.

Our walk is always in His name, bearing witness to His life and achieving through His grace.

From the earliest times, God’s people were known for their walk through life. It is in our being and moving the we bear witness to the great Father we serve. St Francis of Assisi’s words ring true through all the ages:

Always preaches the Gospel, sometimes use words.

Micah 4:5:

All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.

Deuteronomy 26:17:

Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments

 1 Kings 9:4:

As for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have

 The most important conduct-prescription for our walk in this life is in these verses of Ephesians:

4:1,2: walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4:17,23: that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

5:15: See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,

These comments of Paul cover the whole field of relationships, both domestic and public. In chapter 5 he talks practical behaviour to neighbours, husbands, wives, parents and children, to remind us that the first layer of community is home and family – those closest to us. This is the real test for our behaviour. It is in the lives of loved ones that we walk the walk of heaven. Jesus covers so much and more of this order of behaviour in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5,6 and 7 and related verses in the other Gospels.

It is one thing to put an effort in to good conduct and another to do it from a seated position in Christ. We are not left to our own devices in this world. Our starting point is different. The world will always struggle with good and bad, right and wrong all the while acting as their own god, eating from the Tree of Knowledge. We eat from the Tree of Life, Jesus. We find our good and right-living IN HIM.

Ephesians 5:1,2: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children

Acts 17:28: …for in Him we live and move and have our being,

Our secret is in the prayer of Paul for the Ephesians:

3:20: Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.

God does the work. Lean hard on Him in all matters of relationships.

Philippians 2:13:

 Work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Watchman Nee explains the progress of an invalid in a power-driven wheelchair as opposed to a healthy marching soldier. Our conscientious Christian-living will cause us to hold on to the image of a marching soldier, while our progress could only come from God’s power working in us. The invalid’s “progress follows from the position in which he has been placed”. [Watchman Nee: Sit, Walk Stand]

Ephesians 2:10:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Only Jesus is light, love, unity and wisdom. That is a good description of the walk of heaven. The precious words of Jesus:

John 8:12:

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world.

1 John 1:7:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.

2 John 1:16:

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love…

The most important principle is to set aside our empty efforts and ASK. He will live in us. Do not try – TRUST. Our life in Christ should flow from our inner being like speaking in your mother tongue. It is not to act like we think Christians should behave. When our own efforts fail, we hurt the ones we are trying to help.

Matthew 5:20:

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

The scribes and Pharisees dictated a command performance of the law. They could not enter the invisible kingdom of God where every self-effort is subjected to the cross of Jesus and a heart-felt dependence is the first rule of every day. Jesus raised the standard of living prescribed in the law of Moses. How could He? Complying was impossible in the first place. Jesus knew His father and the power of the Holy Spirit that is available to His children. God will never command what we cannot achieve through Him.

Page with me back to chapter 5 to have a closer look at the high standards of New Covenant living.

5:15-17: See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom. All ten virgins expected the bridegroom, all ten had lamps with oil, but the oil of 5 did not last the waiting period. In Revelation 14:1-5 the virgins are mentioned again.

Being a virgin, expecting the bridegroom, with a lamp and oil for the lamp, is the package deal of successful Christian living. The bridegroom comes unexpectedly, as we so well know when we are surprised and shocked with tragedy and problems coming our way. It is in the hard times, the wilderness of life, that the bridegroom invites us to the feast at the table in the valley of the shadow of death. [Psalm 23] He comes and opens the door to the feasting. We are ready when we have our lamps burning with the knowledge of the Word, quickened and revealed by the Holy Spirit to equip us for the crisis. We can go and feast with Him.

Without oil, the crisis finds us unprepared. We stumble in darkness to buy oil. The bridegroom and feasting are forgotten while we struggle to gain the inner power of the Holy Spirit, which we have not learnt in the waiting. Therefore we must redeem the time, making it our priority to study the word, knowing the voice of God when His rhema word reveals to us the great and mighty things we do not know. [Jeremiah 33:3]

We must seek the fullness sooner than later. The wise virgins have done well at an earlier hour. They had the reserves to walk in victory. Watchful disciples will find ample oil ALL the time with a continuous miraculous supply for every day. How will we know what power is available if we do not have knowledge of the full extent of the promises of God.

Being filled = plerousthe. It specifically means to be continually filled, not only in hard times of crisis and need. By studying the Word of God and His promises, alive in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be clear about the will of God and His goodness in times of need. The Holy Spirit will flow through us like the ink in a fountain pen – ready for writing at all times. [Watchman Nee: Sit, Walk, Stand]

3:19:  …that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!

So that:

…the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people), 19 and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe.

 

To me – this is walking heaven on earth!

26. Our perfect host – come and sit.

We are so self-sufficient. We care for ourselves, we have access to food and drink and entertainment on an individual, my-choice-above-all basis. We live alone, by choice or necessity. We control the community in which we live at arms length so that nothing and nobody enter into our space except by invitation, when it is convenient.

In spite of city living, millions of people are lonely amongst so many, having left family and community behind for of the demands of modern living. In primitive societies survival was dependent on community. Hunting and harvesting were team efforts. Today we hunt and harvest alone. Our living space is not so open and relaxed as in the villages and tribal communities of history. We lock the door and disappear in privacy. If you don’t have God, you have to compensate constantly with hobbies and work. It is rare for people to live in utter isolation. Usually the few living completely off the grid are somewhat odd.

Faith in God and full surrender of our life to our loving Father is the single-most powerful choice towards a fulfilled life. Loneliness can kill, quite literally. Secular society knows that and always emphasizes connection to community. A well-known quote from the poem by John Donne:

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

In Jesus we are invited into community. He established the invisible Kingdom of God on earth and declared Himself the Way in. He perfected the path for the desperate, lonely and the sick to enter into the ultimate community on earth, to be welcomed and healed. He Himself is the open door, the perfect host, extending a royal welcome to enter into His rest.

So, do come in….and sit please.

These are mostly our words of welcome when we have invited guests over in our home. It is very fine words to hear. Something has been prepared and we are ushered in, invited to sit and enjoy what is offered. This involves planning and preparation by the host.

What a magnificent plan was announced in the beginning of time when God proclaimed our ultimate victory over sin in Genesis 3:15. Since then the plan was in motion, the table set and the people invited. Centuries of planning and preparation culminated in the baby born in Bethlehem, but some did not come to the party. It was so unexpected and the people were set in their ways, convinced that they know how to please God. The ministry of Jesus was revolutionary. He introduced his Father as a loving dad, intimately involved in everyday life, willing and waiting to graciously give all that is good.

Very diligent and eager to please, we set off, living this spirit-filled life with all the responsibility and conscientiousness we can muster. In actual fact, the most important first step for any Christian is a place of rest, a sitting down position and not walking, running or fighting.

Come and sit with me while we page through the letter to the Ephesians. We will become joyfully aware of the richness of our spiritual blessing, supplied to us in abundance. We do not have to DO anything. We have to realize what is DONE.

“By comment consent, the Letter to the Ephesians ranks very high in the devotional and theological literature of the Christian Church. It has been called “the Queen of the Epistles” and rightly so. Ephesians clearly has a unique place in the Pauline correspondence”. [William Barclay. Professor of Biblical Criticism, University of Glasgow.]

There is a strong connection with the letter to the Galatians. The bearer of both these letters is Tychius and more than 55 verses of the two letters are word for word the same. In the tradition of ancient letter writing, letters were delivered by hand, written on papyrus, rolled, tied and sealed They followed a structure of greeting, prayer and thanksgiving, special contents, special salutations and personal greetings.

The letters of Paul to the churches were the writings of a friend to his friends. It was not an academic exercise of systematic arguments or an official legal document. He was writing to meet an immediate situation. A letter is like one side of a conversation. We can only deduct the circumstances to which he responds. Paul had no idea what place his words would occupy in the universal history of the church.

The letter to the Ephesians reads like a religious meditation, a theological tract – a poem in prose. Paul is in prison, near the end of his life. [4:1 and 6:20]. He has time. He leaves a precious legacy of theology.

The central thought is the all-sufficiency of Christ. The concept begins in Colossians and is developed in Ephesians. [1:9-10]

The disharmony of the universe can only be addressed through Christ. Christ is God’s instrument of reconciliation; the Church [the universal church that is an assembly of all believers] is Christ’s instrument of reconciliation.

The letter spells out the doctrine in chapters 1-3 and in chapters 4-6 the emphasis is on practical application of the doctrine. The first part deals with our life in the midst of the world; the second with our conflict with the devil.

“Of all Paul’s epistles, it is in Ephesians that we find the highest spiritual truths concerning the Christian life. The letter abounds with spiritual riches and yet at the same time, it is intensely practical.”

[Watchman Nee: Sit, Walk, Stand.]

The first time we read the word sit in Ephesians is in 2:6:

and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,…

The first independent position of a child in the first year of life is sitting. In our new life we need to sit first and rest. It is the natural order of things. Adam was created on the sixth day. His first day on earth was the seventh day, God’s day of rest.

When we sit we are not even carrying our own weight. Life’s heavy load of worry and work is not felt. It is right there with us in the heavenly places with Jesus and fades in the light of His countenance. We are not bent over by our burdens. We sit and look up and are in a position to hear clearly what is promised.

In the first chapter [1:3] Paul says that Jesus has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

We are saved by grace not by works [2:8]. We did nothing, but surrender to the work already finished on the cross. Our utter dependence on God is our only qualification.

This is important to remember in our walk with Christ after those joyful days of rebirth and accepting Jesus into our lives. We accept a free redemption and thereafter immediately set out to earn His grace by struggling with our flesh and suffering guilt in our weaknesses.

This principle is strongly addressed in Galatians 3: 1,2 when Paul chides the Galatians for reaching back to old, legalistic ways of earning grace.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Jesus finished absolutely everything, relating to our past, present and future when He declared on the cross: It is finished. Why is it so difficult to cultivate a mindset of receiving? We are moulded into a life of earning and working for reward. Our first principle in Christian living is to receive and not earn. There is a vast supply of abundance already given; only held back by our efforts to work for it.

We need enlightened eyes to see this [1:18]. God gives us rest. He has done the work. Luke 14:17:

At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

Life begins with the discovery of what God has finished.

How then do we receive?

Is it by labour, pleading, self-denial or fasting – NO NEVER.

We receive that which is freely bestowed, according to the riches in Jesus. Ephesians 1:7-9:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself

What is the foundation for this?

Acts 2:33. God revealed Himself through Christ and in our resting and accepting redemption, Christ is exalted.

How do we become members of the body of Christ?

We were chosen before the foundation of the world [1:4]. We get rid of the old man in baptism [4:5,6]. Our old life is all past tense. [2:5 and Romans 6:6]

We are not born with Christ, but crucified with Him [Galatians 2:20] Union with God begins in death. God included us in the death on the cross. We died IN Him, not with Him.

God puts us in Christ. This divine act is to be accepted, seen, believed and rejoiced in. It is not a struggle. It is a fact.

2 Corinthians 1:21:

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,…

The story of the prodigal son illustrates the contrast of receiving and earning mindsets. Both sons are far away from the joys of the Father’s house even though the older son has not left. He is at home with no joy, clinging to his own good works. His eye is on what he earns, his own faithfulness and his own effort.

The younger son is catapulted into a position of receiving, realizing his father’s true wealth that does not even count or think of the money wasted. God is so wealthy; it is His delight to give the robe, the ring, the shoes, and the feast. He is ready to lavish His gifts on your life.

Get yourself in a mindset to receive.

This is renewed thinking – get rid of your guilt and receive the best!