What Blessings come by being United in One Body of Christ?

unityBeginning in Ephesians 2:11, Paul uses the same pattern he used in Ephesians 2:1-10. In both cases, he states that something is wrong with our condition, adds a “but”, and then explains what God did to change our condition. In the former passage, we were dead in our sins, BUT God made us alive. In the later passage, we were separate from Christ, BUT now we have been brought near. Paul then proceeds to describe some of the benefits of having been brought near. Let’s take a look at these five different blessings … may they be an encouragement for you today.

First, we have genuine peace with God and with one another (Eph 2:14-17). The dividing wall of legalism separating Jews and Gentiles had been torn down by the perfect and complete fulfillment of that law in Christ. In his life, death, and resurrection Christ removed all reason for Jew and Gentile to be at odds with one another. And if the barrier between Jew and Gentile has been destroyed, what barrier among people in Christ could exist?

Not only this, but we have been reconciled to God as well. The sin that served as a barrier between sinful man and Holy God was removed by Christ, allowing us to draw near to Him in peace. Note that this is a stated fact of the passage…it is not conditional on our behavior. That is, our peace with God does not depend on our sinlessness…it depends on Christ’s work already “finished”. Therefore, if you do not “feel” at peace with God, it is because you do not believe verses like Eph 2:16. Now, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit does not convict us of sin or that this conviction does not come with “feelings” of separation. What I am saying is that walls of separation are not repeatedly built and torn down according to our behavior. What are we to do then? Obey God, but when we fail, remember that God disciplines those He loves. Despite the feelings that come with discipline, our ultimate peace with God is not affected.

Second, we have direct access to the Father (Eph 2:18; 3:12). This access comes by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. What does this mean? It means that other people or entities (like the Church) are no longer needed to mediate between God and us. You can approach God directly through prayer, and He will hear you. You do not need a priest, friend, minister, whatever to pray for you. Are you taking advantage of this access?

Third, we are citizens of God’s kingdom and members of God’s household (Eph 2:19-21). We are no longer aliens of the kingdom and outside of the family of God. No, we are all united in our devotion to and membership in the Kingdom. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and with Christ. God is our father. The last time you prayed, did you refer to God as “Dad”?

Fourth, we are a dwelling place for the Spirit (Eph 2:22). The Spirit is in us, and we are in Him. How can two things be in one another? It’s only possible if they are in some sense one. And this is what we are in Christ…perfectly (that is, exactly how God intended it to be) united with Christ and the rest of the Church. We don’t fully experience this oneness, because we are still in our sinful flesh. But from a spiritual perspective we are indeed in Christ and Christ is in us, so why not believe and act like it?

Finally, we can understand the mystery of our unity (Eph 3:4). We may not understand it perfectly, but we certainly understand it better than the Jews and Gentiles did before Christ. God revealed the mystery to Paul, and Paul has revealed it to us. The question is…what will we do with this knowledge?

What should our response to these blessings of unity be? In Eph 3:14, Paul adds “for this reason, I bow my knees before the father”. Our response should include prayer. In addition to simply being thankful, pray that others you know might be “strengthened with power” and that they would increasingly understand this amazing love God has for us. Reflecting on this and praying for others may very well move you to praise God as it did Paul (Eph 3:20-21)!

Are you afraid of failing? No? Are you sure?

basketballMy family and I spent last Saturday at my grandparents’ house. They are two of the most hospitable people I have ever known…makes me wonder why I did not get those genes! As such, they give up space in their home to keep toys for my boys when they come to visit. One favorite is the “age appropriate” basketball goal, which is about 5′ tall…even I can dunk on that one! Aside from being called for goal-tending quite a bit, I have a blast playing horse, one-on-one, around the world, etc with my two oldest, ages 8 and 7. Well, on Saturday my oldest quit the game in a fit once he felt like he could not win the game. This is not the first time we’ve had issues like this with the two of them; they are both very competitive and would rather not play the game than risk losing. Their joy of winning and hatred of losing exceeds the joy of playing the game. The lesson is obvious right? I thought so, and we had the appropriate discussions…again. But, maybe the lesson for us is not as obvious as we think.

Here’s the question for the day…do you love to win and hate to lose so much that your joy of playing the game is forgotten? Said another way, are you so addicted to success and fearful of failure that these drive your day-to-day decisions more than a commitment to doing the “right” thing? If your initial answer is “hmm, not really” (as mine was) please read on a little further before drawing a conclusion. Not everyone shares this struggle, but I think many of us do without knowing it.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, then you know what SeqHim is basically about. The vision is significant, and the mission is seemingly impossible given the state of the world and the church today. You’ll also know that while this is a full-time passion, it’s a less than part-time job…I already have a full-time job and a full-time family. Back in January, before I started the blog, I “wrestled” with the Lord trying to get Him to tell me what His specific will was for this project. I’m thankful for His answer at the time, “I’m not going to tell you where this is going; just take one step at a time according to the vision you have”. The blog was the first step, and I’ve been taking steps ever since. It was all pretty easy…I enjoyed it and was “successful” taking these steps. There was really no risk of failure…I could not lose. But that is now changing.

I’m now at a place where the next step seems impossible, and I went back to “wresting” with the Lord again begging him to reveal where this was going. He’s silent, except for one nugget of truth which is the answer to this question: why do I need to know where all of this is going before I take the next step? The answer is, because I am afraid I might fail and/or experience pain. I had a 100% chance of success starting a blog; I have a very small percent chance that this next step will be successful, IMO. I too, if I’m being honest, have the same problem that my son had…I don’t want to play the game if I don’t think I will win.

If you are willing, I’d like you to do something. In all things, seek the Lord’s will through prayer and Scripture. But if you find yourself struggling to know what His will is, ask yourself why you really need to know His will on this matter. Could it be that you want to know because you are afraid of failing and want some assurance that your path will be successful, as you define success? His silence may indicate that you do not need to know what you are asking for and that this is a test. Here’s a suggestion: rather than seeking guidance on a large goal or plan, seek guidance on the ‘right’ next step. In many cases, I’ve found that the next step, if it is small enough, is pretty obvious. Scripture is full of the phrase, “do not be afraid”. In some cases, there is an assurance of ‘success’; e.g. check out 2 Kings 6:16-17. In other cases, there is not; e.g. see Esther’s dilemma, climaxing in Esther 4:13-16. Either way, focus your faith not on an outcome, but on a person…Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid, because God is with us and will support us and will protect us through the unpredictable ups and downs of life. (See Isaiah 41:10). Trust Him to use you how He wishes, in success and failure, rather than using Him as a crystal ball you can use to stay on a “success” path at all cost to righteousness.