Thursday, June 29, 2006

Painting the Target

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
Many modern weapons use laser-guidance technology. A laser is used to “paint” the target, and the laser-guided weapon locks on to this signal with pinpoint accuracy. It’s quite effective.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Notice that this is in the imperative mood. It is not a polite request, but a powerful command: Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!

This is a most potent weapon in our spiritual arsenal as we do battle against the evil one, enforcing the victory of Jesus over all his works. Think of it as painting the target.

Wherever we see the works of poverty, sickness, demonic bondage — anything that does not line up with the kingdom of God and His rightness — we can shine this laser beam on it and give the order, “Kingdom of God, come right here!” Wherever we see things that are out of order with the will of God, we can paint the target and call for the will of God to be done there on earth exactly as it is being done in heaven.

As long as we are in this life, until Jesus comes, we are in spiritual warfare. But Paul gives us this wonderful assurance:
Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every though into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
In the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord Jesus has given us a very powerful weapon for this warfare.

Know your weapon. Lock and load. Paint your target with the laser light of prayer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Only One Word

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
There has always been only one word from God, and it is summed up perfectly in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is commentary.

But there is a progressive unpacking, a progressive illumination, a progressive unveiling, a progressive revealing of what that Word means. Whatever one chooses to call it, let there be agreement that no true understanding of that Word can be at odds with what has already been revealed.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect expression of everything God has always wanted to say.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No Strangers in This House

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
There are no second-class citizens with God; if you’re in, you’re in all the way, with full benefits. Paul addressed this particularly to non-Jewish believers in Christ. Once they were strangers and foreigners, now they were fellow citizens with full membership in God’s household. Non-Jews do not have to become Jews, as some erroneously taught (Paul addressed this error in his letter to the Galatians). Nor do Jews have to become non-Jews, as some of the traditions of men within the Church have held, and as some non-believing Jews have insisted. No, in Christ, the “middle wall of separation” (v. 14) between Jews and non-Jews has been abolished. For God is doing a new thing, making one household.

The concept of household runs very strong in this passage, particularly as revealed in the Greek text. The Greek word for “house” is oikos, and we see some form of this word six times this short passage:
  • Once non-Jews were foreigners. The Greek is paroikoi — those who dwelt alongside the house, but not in it. They were resident aliens, not citizens. But now in Christ, we are fellow citizens with the saints, God’s “set-apart” ones.
  • Now we are part of the household of God. The word is oikeoi — of the house and part of the family.
  • The household of which are now a part is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ as the chief cornerstone. The word for “built” is epoikodomeo — to build a house upon its foundation.
  • This building is perfectly fitted together. The word is oikodome — the architecture or structure of the house.
  • All who believe in Christ, whether they are Jews or non-Jews, are being built together. The Greek is sunoikodomeo — building, not two, but one unified structure.
  • We are being built together into dwelling place of God. The word is katoiketerion — a habitation, an abiding place, a residence.
The foundation of this house is all about the Lord Jesus Christ, for that is who the apostles and prophets proclaim. Indeed, Christ Himself is the chief cornerstone, the one by whom the whole structure is brought into perfect alignment. All who believe in Him, whether Jew or non-Jew, are brought together, just as two walls are brought together at the corner and perfectly joined.

This house is a spiritual house, that is, it is a work of the Holy Spirit. Once we were outside of the house, separated from God. But now, we are not merely inside the house with God, but we are the house of God — He dwells within us!

Once we were far away. But now through faith in Jesus Christ we are brought into such intimate relationship with God — and each other — that He has made Himself at home in us.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What Does It Mean to Pray?

Then He [Jesus] came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)
Jesus said, “Watch and pray.” But what does it mean to pray? And how does one pray for an hour? The Greek word for “watch” means to keep alert, stay awake, be vigilant. Often, we do not know how to pray because we do not know how to watch with the Lord. If we watch, He will show us; if we listen, He will tell us. Then it is hard not to pray.

The flesh may be weak — but the spirit is willing. As believers in Jesus Christ, we not only have our human spirit born from above, but we also have the Holy Spirit. If the human spirit is willing, how much more is the Spirit of God in us willing.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pry for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
As I wrote in God’s Word in Your Mouth,
The Holy Spirit “helps” us. This is the Greek word sunantilambanomai, which speaks of two parties laying hold together, each one doing his part, to obtain a goal. The Holy Spirit does this by interceding for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, but which perfectly express the will of God for us. The whole creation groans, we groan within ourselves, the Holy Spirit groans within us — all working together to bring forth good. (p.22)
Paul talked about “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). “All prayer” means all kinds of prayer. “In the Spirit,” means that we are to let the Holy Spirit direct our prayers.
When you begin praying, don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and pray slowly. As you do, you may find that you feel an inward desire to expand upon some particular point. That is the Holy Spirit prompting you, and if you listen carefully, He will give you words to pray back to the Father. Go with this as far as the Spirit leads you.

When you come to the end, sit quietly and contemplate what the Spirit has given you. If you wish, you can pick up the prayer where you left off, and continue until the Spirit gives you more. When you come to the end of your prayer time, simply give thanks and praise to God and welcome His healing power at work in your life. (Healing Scriptures and Prayers, pp. 6-7)
Soren Kierkegaard said "A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening."

Smith Wigglesworth said that he rarely prayed for more than ten minutes at a time — but that he also rarely went more than ten minutes without praying.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection learned how to practice the presence of God, and speak to Him everywhere, so that his time in the kitchen was just as precious as his time in the chapel.

My own prayer time often includes singing hymns and praises to the Lord, reading the Scriptures and letting them springboard me into prayer, praying in tongues, quietness and listening.

Prayer is not about an hour, but about a life. The flesh may be weak, but the spirit — and the Holy Spirit — are more than willing. So do not attempt to pray by the flesh, by your own strength and ability, but pray by the Spirit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Calling Those Things Which Do Not Exist

God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. (Romans 4:17)
In this verse, we see how God operates: He calls those things that do not exist as though the did. It is His action that is in view in this passage. Abram's job was simply to believe.

Oops! Did I say Abram? I mean Abraham, for that is what God changed Abram's name to. God called him “Abraham,” which means “Father of Many Nations.” In renaming him “Abraham,” God was calling something that did not yet exist as though it already were.

Now what do you suppose Abram and Sarai began to call him when God renamed him “Father of Many Nations.” They, of course, began to call him Abraham, “Father of Many Nations.” That took an act of faith on their part, and it was also an act of calling. They saw that Abraham was old, and as good as dead, in the child-fathering department, and yet they called, in agreement with the Word of God, for the “Father of Many Nations” to manifest.

God's way is to call things that do not exist as though they already were. We see this reinforced in Hebrews 11:3. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

All that is seen was not made of that which is visible, but that which is invisible — the Word of God. The natural world which we experience by our senses actually has its origin in and is dependent upon the spiritual realm. For God, Who created the heavens and the earth, is Spirit.

Now, in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He did it by His words. “Let there be light ...,” etc. God called for things that did not yet exist as though the already did.

That is how God operates. But how are God's people intended to operate.

Look again at Genesis 1. In verses 26-27 we see that God created man, male and female, in His image. That was a sign of God's authority being delegated to them. That was important because of the mandate God placed on them in the very next verses:

“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing tat moves on the earth.” (v. 28).

In Psalm 8:6, we see that they were given dominion over the works of God's hand and all things were put under his feet (this was restored to fallen humanity in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is Man who perfectly fulfills this dominion).

What was Adam to multiply upon the earth? That which he was and possessed: the image of God.

What was Adam to do with the earth as he multiplied: Subdue it and have dominion over it.

How was Adam to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it?

Look in Genesis 2, a close-up account of how God made Adam:

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (v. 7)

Notice that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils — from God’s mouth into Adam’s body. The breathe of a person is that by which one actually utters words. We breathe them out. In 2 Timothy 2:17, Paul says that all Scripture is given “by inspiration of God.” The Greek word for “inspiration” is theoneustos, and literally means “God-breathed.” God breathes out His Word.

So God breathed, with His word-speaking capacity, into man’s nostrils, and man became a “living being.”

There are ancient versions of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Targums. These were translations from Hebrew into its cousin language Aramaic, for there were many Jews who lost the mother tongue in Babylonian captivity. Many Jews in the time of Christ, including Jesus Himself, spoke in Aramaic, and parts of the Hebrew Scriptures were actually written in Aramaic.

There is one such translation, known as the Targum Onkelos, which deals with the events of Genesis 2. And it renders “man became a living being” this way: “And man became a speaking spirit.”

God, who is Spirit and who speaks things into being, breathed His speaking faculty into the nostrils of man, and man became a speaking spirit.

Now, notice a few verse down in Genesis 2, where God gives Adam his first assignment:

“Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.” (v. 19)

God, who breathed into Adam’s nostrils, brought them to Adam, who was created in the image of God, given the mandate to subdue and have dominion over the earth, and then watched to see what Adam would call them.

Notice that God did not tell Adam what to call them. He simply let Adam work within the divine mandate and merely observed what Adam called them. Whatever Adam called them, that was its name.

What was Adam doing? He was subduing the earth and having dominion. How was he exercising that dominion? By the words of his mouth. He called the animals something, and whatever he called them, that is what they were. That is, he called things that did not exist (the nature and character of the animals) as though they did. And so they were.

In the Bible, names are significant. They are powerful words that have meaning. They call forth destiny. They establish things in the one being named. God called Abram Abraham, “Father of Many Nations,” and that was Abraham’s destiny. Adam called the animals by certain names, and that is what they were.

Adam and Eve, of course, plunged mankind into sin. But the Lord Jesus Christ came to deliver us from that fallen condition. We can see from how He taught His disciples what some of the ramifications of that redemption are. For example, in Mark 11, when Peter noticed that the fig tree Jesus cursed the day before had now withered, Jesus said,

“Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” (Mark 11:22-23)

What was Jesus teaching them? How to exercise dominion with their words.

Now, it is very important to understand that this authority and dominion are only properly exercised within the will and purpose of God, as established by His Word. We are to pray, act and think in Jesus’ name, that is, according to how Jesus Himself would pray, act and think.

We are to call things that are in accordance with the plan and will of God, believing what God has said in His Word and confessing it (that is, agreeing with it).

Having the image of God, the Spirit of God, the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the parameters of the will of God as expressed in the Word of God, we can call things that are not as though they were and expect to see them come to pass.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

No Wall of Separation

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:14-18)
Paul is addressing the relationship between believers among the Jews, who were of the Circumcision, and believers among the Gentiles, who were of the Uncircumcision (these were those who were not of Israel, but who believed in the God of Israel).

In the Temple complex, there was a place known as the Court of the Gentiles. It was for the God-fearing ones, but it was only the outermost court. A partition kept them from entering into the full worship and fellowship of covenant with the Jews. It was actually a physical enclosure that surrounded the Temple proper, and it was death for a Gentile to pass beyond its gate.

These were issues of enmity and division that could not simply be ignored. They had to be addressed properly and judicially, so that the stipulations of the covenant would be satisfied. That is what Jesus did through the shedding of His blood. He fulfilled all the requirements of the old covenant, and established a new and better covenant (Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:6).

He has became our peace, our oneness, our wholeness. There is no longer any division between Jews who come to Yahweh and non-Jews who come to Yahweh. We all have the same access to the Father by the Holy Spirit, through faith in Jesus Messiah, the Anointed One.

The moral law remains, but the ordinances of separation no longer apply. We are one in the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s purpose, to bring salvation to the world through His covenant with Israel, is fulfilled in Him.

It does not matter if you have been far away (Gentile) or one who was near (Jew), the gospel of Jesus the Messiah is the dynamic power of God for salvation (forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, deliverance, healing) to all who believe, “for the Jew first, and also for the Greek [Gentile]” (Romans 1:16).

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Covenants of Promise

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-13)
Paul is speaking to believers who had once been Gentiles — that is, they were not of the Hebrews, but of the nations that surrounded the Hebrews, and considered pagans. They were called “uncircumcised.” Circumcision was the sign of the covenant God made with the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Old Testament.

Remember when David asked, concerning Goliath, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?” He was not engaging in pre-battle trash-talk. He was properly assessing the situation: Goliath was uncircumcised; he had no covenant relationship with God, no right to expect any help from the Almighty.

Israel, on the other hand, did have such a covenant relationship. They knew God as Yahweh (a name expressed in our English Bibles by the name LORD in all or small caps). Elohim is the name by which God expressed Himself in creation; Yahweh is the name by which He revealed Himself in covenant. Israel have every right to look to God to rescue and provide for them in every way — though they often failed to exercise that right by putting their trust in Him.

But David remembered and asked his countrymen, “Who is the uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). Then he proceeded to take Goliath’s head off — literally! He knew, because of the covenant and because he bore the covenant sign of circumcision — that God was on his side.

Now back to the uncircumcised Gentiles, which Paul’s readers once were. They were without Christ. The word “Christ” is a title, not a name. It is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament Messiah. In English we would say “Anointed One.” Jesus is the One who was anointed by the God of Israel to deliver His people. In Isaiah 10:27, we discover that the function of the anointing is to completely remove burdens and obliterate yokes and bondages. That is what Jesus the Anointed One came to do.

But the Ephesian Christians were once Gentiles and were without Christ. The Greek word generally translated “without” is a bit more intensive: they were apart from Christ, outside of Messiah, separated from the Anointed One and the anointings that could set them free from every burden and yoke.

Not only that, they were alienated, excluded from the commonwealth God had established with Israel. They had no rights of citizenship with Yahweh. They were strangers to the covenants of promise. They had no reason to hope in God and expect anything from Him. God was not on their side.

However, Paul goes on to write that little three-letter word that reverses all that has gone before, the word but.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Gentiles were outsiders to the covenant Israel enjoyed under the Old Testament. But now in Jesus the Anointed One there is a New Covenant, just as God promised his people in the Old Testament:
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers I the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
This is a new and better covenant and it is mediated to us by the Anointed One: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

The old covenant was established by the blood of bulls and goats. But the New Covenant was established by the blood of Jesus, Lord and Messiah. On the Passover night before He was crucified, Jesus took the ceremonial bread and cup, saying,
This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me … This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)
It is by this blood, shed for us, that we who were once far off from God and strangers to the covenants of promise have been brought near. That is, we now have a place and a promise and a citizenship with God, and it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we have received a circumcision of the heart, by which God now says of all those who receive Jesus the Anointed One, “This is My people.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

But God … Before & After

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)
My wife will tell you that I am a sucker for “before and after” pictures. Before and after the diet; before and after the makeover; before and after the plastic surgery; before and after the home improvements. This is why I like to watch This Old House on PBS, to see how a decrepit old structure is renovated.

Paul gives us a before and after snapshot in Ephesians 2:1-10. The before is seen in verses 1-3, about how we were dead (not merely sick, but dead) in trespasses and sins; how we walked according to this present age and the prince of the power of the air; how we conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh; and how we were by nature under the wrath of God.

Then he shifts gears in verse 4 and gives us those beautiful words, “But God …” The before shot was pretty grim; the after shot is absolutely glorious. And it all turns on “But God …” There are volumes in that little word “but.” Whatever our condition was before, it makes no difference, for God is much greater than all of that and it cannot stand up to the pleasure and power of His will.

Satan may come and say, “See, God, I have all these under my power and influence — they are spiritually dead to You.” Then God utters one Word, “But …,” and reveals something that strips the devil’s claims of all force:
  • The richness of His mercy
  • The greatness of His love
So rich and so great are these, see how far they lift us up and set us free. For even though we were dead in trespasses — willful rebellion against God — He has:
  • Made us alive together in Christ
  • Raised us up together with Christ
  • Seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ
One we were spiritually dead, but now we have been given new birth by the Spirit of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. We have also been raised up together with Christ. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us, so that we now truly live and move and have our being in Him. God has also seated us together with Christ on the throne of heaven, the place of ruling and reigning.

How far we had fallen; how greatly we have been redeemed; how highly we have been lifted up in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God. “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Once we lived according to the corruption of this present age, but now we are part of the age that is breaking into this world, an age that powerfully demonstrates God’s grace and favor.

Now, it is not about us, but all about Him.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
It is not about our works, but about His grace. This grace brings salvation, which we receive through faith, but even that faith does not come from us — it is a gift that comes to us from God. Once we walked in the works of the world, but now we can walk in the works of God. There is no room for bragging here, except in God, who has created us anew in Christ Jesus.

Do you find yourself in the “before” shot of Ephesians 2:1-3? God has a wonderful “after” for you, and it can begin now, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Prince of the Power of the Air

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:1-3).
The power of the air refers to the realm of demonic spirits. They have no more place in heaven, having fallen when they rebelled, along with satan, against Almighty God. As disembodied spirits, they have no place on earth, unless they can find a body to inhabit. (The Greek word sometimes translated as “demon possessed,” is daimonizomai, and is better understood as demonized, that is, having a demon.)

All that is left for them is the region between heaven and earth. So Paul refers to it as the power of the air, the atmosphere that surrounds. The Greek word for “air” is aer. A. T. Robertson notes that, Aer was used by the ancients for the lower and denser atmosphere and aither [ether] for the higher and rarer.”

The Greek word for “power” here is exousia, the same word used in Ephesians 1:21, where God seated Christ in the heavenlies, “far above all principality, power, might and dominon, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come.” The word for “prince” here is closely related to the word for “principality,” and they both refer to a ruler.

Who is this evil prince? It is the one of whom Jesus said,
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. (John 12:31)

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. (John 14:30)

The ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:11)
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul refers to him as “the god of this age,” and he is none other than satan. He has been judged and cast down, for though he tried to destroy the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus has defeated him instead. For Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and heal all who are oppressed by him (Acts 10:38).

The Lord Jesus Christ also sent out His disciples with divine authority to do the same:
Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18).
Soon this fallen prince and his demons will not even have the lower atmosphere for their habitation.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Then it will be that “the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

The prince of the power of the air may have once held powerful influence in your life when you were dead in trespasses and sins, but if you know the Lord Jesus Christ, God has made you alive with Christ. The works of the devil have been destroyed, and that destruction is now in the process of being enforced upon him. Soon he will not even have a platform from which to propagate his lies and accusations, but will be cast into the depths of hell.

Friday, June 9, 2006

The Fullness of Him Who Fills

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
This is an expansion of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, beginning in verse 15, in which he asks the Father to reveal the exceeding greatness of His power toward all believers. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies — far above all principality, power, might and dominion, and everything that can be named in this age and in the one to come. All has been placed under His feet. All these — principality, power, might and dominion — refer to angelic beings and demonic powers. Christ is above them — not merely above, but far above.

But what of the church? What is our role, our place?

God has given the Lord Jesus Christ to be head over the church. We are explicitly identified as His body. Christ in not a disembodied head, nor are we a headless body. Rather, we go together with Him. We are intimately related to Him, as close as your own head is to your own body. We are not merely in close proximity to Him, but integrally related with Him.

Now consider this: If Jesus is seated far above all principality, power, might and dominion, and all these are placed under His feet — then we, as His body, are also seated far above all principality, power, might and dominion, and all these are placed under our feet, as well. Indeed, in the next chapter, Paul notes that God has already raised us up (exalted us) together with Christ and seated us together in Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). Christ is in the place of ruling and reigning; and as His body, exalted and seated with Him in the heavenlies, we are in the place of ruling and reigning also.

What is the fullness of Christ? According to Paul, we are — all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the fullness of Christ, for we are His body. Just as your body is the fullness of you, so we, as the body of Christ, are the fullness of Him. Your body is all about you; His body is all about Him. We represent Christ in every way, for He has filled His body all in all, that is, fully and completely in everything.
  • We bear all the authority of Christ on earth. Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Then He commissioned His disciples, authorizing them with all His earthly authority.
  • We have the authority to ask “in His name” (John 14:13-14). Whatever we ask in His name, the Father will do (John 15:16; John 16:23-27). We don’t have to ask Jesus to ask the Father; we can ask the Father directly in Jesus’ name. That is, we have the same authority to ask that Jesus has.
  • We have the authority to bind or loose on earth what has been bound or loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18). As we agree together concerning anything, it will be granted by our Father in Heaven (Matthew 18:19).
  • We have the authority to command the Kingdom of God to come and the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Jesus specifically gave us this authority in the Lord’s Prayer. He taught us to pray in the imperative mood: Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!
  • We have the authority of His perfected love. “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God; and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:16-17).
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are the fullness of Him who fills all in all. It is all about Him, His authority, His power, His goodness, His righteousness, His love. Through faith in Him, we abide in Him and He in us. As He is, so are we in this world, for we have received His fullness.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The Dispensation of the Fullness of the Times

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, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. (Ephesians 1:7-10)
Redemption, forgiveness, grace — this is the revelation of the Father’s will. It is His good pleasure and freely determined purpose. Because it pleases Him, it must have everything to do with faith, for without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

The overarching purpose of God which has now been revealed is to gather all things together in unity in the Lord Jesus Christ, to bring heaven and earth together in Him. For He is the God-Man who now rules and reigns over all forever and ever — and we rule and reign with Him (Ephesians 2:6).

We are now in the dispensation of the fullness of times. A dispensation is an economy, an administration, a stewardship. In the dispensation of the fullness of times, the stewardship is to bring all things in heaven and earth together. We have not yet reached the completion of the fullness of times — that is still to come — but the administration of it has already begun.
  • It is an administration of the New Covenant, which is established in the blood of the Lord Jesus, and of which God has made us able ministers: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as minister of the new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
  • It is an administration of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship [dispensation]” (1 Corinthians 9:16-17).
  • It is an administration of the grace of God: “For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles — if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” (Ephesians 3:1-2).
  • It is an administration of the Word of God: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship [dispensation] from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations but now has been revealed to His saints” (Colossians 1:24-26).
  • It is an administration of the Lord’s Prayer. For the Lord Jesus Himself taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven!” and all things in heaven and earth to being gathered together under His lordship.
The dispensation of the fullness of times has begun, and all those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ have been made able ministers of it. How will you exercise your stewardship today?

Monday, June 5, 2006

The Inheritance of Grace and Peace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)
Grace and peace are a gift from our heavenly Father. It is a matter of inheritance, for fatherhood always brings inheritance. We do not work for it, or try to show ourselves worthy of it — we simply receive it. It comes to us because we have been reconciled to the Father by His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus removed the barrier of sin by taking it on Himself and nailing it to the cross. He has destroyed all the works of the devil that separate us from God (1 John 3:8).

Grace is the favor of God. It means that we are backed up by all the power and authority of heaven. That is why God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is more than enough to deal with every obstacle and hindrance we may encounter.

Peace is not just the absence of conflict, or even mere calmness. Paul use the Greek word to write to a Greek-speaking audience. But being a Jew, he had the Hebrew idea of shalom in mind. It is a word of wholeness and means that there is nothing lacking and nothing out of joint. This can only come from God, who alone is able to restore things to wholeness.

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, grace and peace belong to you in abundance. They are a gift from the Father. Are you walking in your inheritance?

Saturday, June 3, 2006

A Blessing for Everything

There is a line in The Fiddler on the Roof, where Motel the tailor asks the Rabbi, “Rabbi, is there a blessing for a sewing machine?” The Rabbi answered, “There is a blessing for everything.”

Years ago, I came across a Jewish blessing for after using the privy. Going though some old notes the other day, I came across it again:
Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has formed people in wisdom, and created within them numerous orifices and cavities. It is revealed and known before the Throne of your Glory that if but one of them were to be blocked, or one of them were to be opened, it would be impossible to exist even for a short time. Blessed are you Lord, who heals all flesh and performs wonders. My G-d, the soul which you have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me. You will eventually take it from me, and restore it within me, in Time to Come. So long as the soul is within me, I offer thanks to You, Lord my G-d and G-d of my fathers, Master of all works, Lord of all souls. Blessed are You Lord, who restores souls to dead bodies. (Mangel, N., 2001. Siddur Tehillas Hashem Nusach Ha-Ari Zal, Otsar Sifrei Lubavitch, Brooklyn. p. 6)
Yes, there is a blessing for everything.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Living Out of Righteousness

Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). If you will focus on loving Him, you will end up keeping His commandments. If you will seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (God's way of doing and being right), everything else will be take care of (Matthew 6:33).

Now, righteousness is not something you achieve or attain. For if you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you have already been made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Righteousness is now your starting point, and your discipleship is learning to yield to Him, letting His life come forth in you.

Legalism is about conditioning God’s love and acceptance upon keeping a particular rule or discipline. That is foreign to God’s righteousness, for we are accepted by God on the basis of the Lord Jesus Christ, through faith in Him — nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t come to God based on your own righteousness — you’ll never make it. But come and receive the righteousness He has already provided for you through the Lord Jesus Christ. You will be “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6), and He will bring forth His righteousness into every area of your life.