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? 2 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!