Ephesians 2:3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
These are my thoughts:
God obviously has plans for our life and our future. I don’t think God organizes identity parades down the golden streets of heaven to show off his successes so that prompted these questions to think about. When are “the coming ages?” Where are those “heavenly realms” and what was actually “prepared in advance for us to do?”
Our very existence was “prepared in advance” that we could be “alive with Christ.” Maybe learning to do life honoring that truth is the sum of what God calls “good works” not just our little segments of activity. The “coming ages” could be the years we’re given to practice life in Christ here on earth before God chooses to complete them and Heaven becomes our new reality. “The heavenly realms” might be something as simple as earth being the practice ground where we begin to recognize there are intersections of daily life that lead us to His Kingdom.
Life is the palette God chose in advance to prepare us to be His handiwork. He created life for us out of a nature that was deserving of wrath. We’ve been saved through faith, raised up and seated in Christ Jesus in order that “HE might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
Cliff notes characters from Mark 2
• A paralyzed man, Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth, the teachers of the law who were Pharisees and John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees who were fasting.
• Focus: Mark 2:25 He [Jesus] answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2 is a rich resource of who, what, where, when and why Jesus brings about the renewal of the worn out, run-down, or broken. All that information was the key to why I distilled my focus to the last four verses of the chapter where Jesus reveals his own Sabbath identity“…The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus is Lord of the seven-day-a-week rhythm we call Sabbath. His Sabbath identity is the encouragement of all the “renewals” I saw in this chapter. Jesus’s Sabbath identity was made for us too. His Sabbath identity is the bridge of encouragement that connects our human need to our renewal.
[NLT] Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Scripture is particularly surprising when ancient words create a bridge to everyday life. I came across one particular old Greek word in reading what John Piper had to say about Philippians 1: politeuomai. It’s an action word.
1. to be a citizen
2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
3. to make or create a citizen
It wasn’t much of a stretch to see in “politeuomai” another more modern-day word…”polit-ics” and that became the bridge of thought for me. God does have a purpose for our daily life in this world. He’s created a place for us to practice living as “citizens of heaven, conducting [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Paul reminds us that’s the very reason we have to stand “together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News…We are in this struggle together…”
Practice can be fumbling, imperfect and often unpleasant BUT remember these two things: 1. everything depends on what we’re practicing AND 2. practice makes perfect. God has given us this world to practice being citizens. We have the “privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” as we struggle with one another to perfect our desire to “live as citizens of heaven” in the midst of an imperfect reality.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of faith who lived and died for these words he wrote: ”I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”
2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Life is like a calendar. It’s a fixed schedule of “wasting” [the prettier word for aging.] Those 24 hours in every single day seem like a vast sea of opportunity for renewal but by the time you fall into bed at night you realize the “light and momentary troubles” we call daily life have been like the outgoing tide sweeping away all the moments and hours available. You can’t count on the efficient management of a calendar to insure renewal. In fact the calendar is basically only the confirmation of the “wasting” part.
Time continues to march on. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. You’ve heard those before right? Here’s the secret no one wants to hear; the blessing of renewal is more like exercise. “Finding” time in those 24 hours is an illusion that can waste away your renewal as surely as lack of exercise and aging waste your body. It’s awful isn’t it? BUT “we fix our eyes not on what is seen [those 24 hours], but on what is unseen [our need for renewal] since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” It’s your calendar! You’ll never “find” time, TAKE time for renewal.
• 21 “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.
• 23 “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. 24 Consider carefully what you hear,”
• “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The crowd Jesus was speaking to was accustomed to their connection to God being dependent on a priest in a synagogue where they would be required to sit until dismissed. Jesus knew two important things about them. They were there because they’d heard he was changing lives AND they were free to wander away at any time.
He gave them stories that could become their lightning flash of reality; to discover a heavenly meaning in the seemingly inconsequential events of daily life. They weren’t meant to be studied at length but to cause an immediate response. If people would see and hear them in the actual presence of God they could discover truth of God that was truly their own. God wasn’t only there in the church, he desired a direct connection to their day-to-day lives.
I read somewhere these words of Jesus are sometimes called orphan statements. I don’t know when the concept of God as Our Father began but I do know without God we’re all orphans. “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. Consider carefully what you hear,”