30 May 2016

Get to know God better.

He doesn’t want us to live in ignorance. He wants us to follow Jesus.

Ephesians 1.15-23

Humans are creatures of extremes. So American churches tend to likewise be creatures of extremes.

Either we pursue God-knowledge with all our might, and make sure our doctrine is accurate and solid… and ready to be pounded into the heads of newbies, skeptics, and people of other church traditions, who we deem as wayward or heretic. Or we pursue godly behavior with all our might, and make sure we’re behaving ourselves and helping the needy.

(Or, with the godly-behavior folks, we fall into a whole second dichotomy: Either behaving ourselves but doing little to nothing for the needy, or devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to the needy but making loads of compromises in our own behavior.)

Why can’t we do both the pursuit of God-knowledge (without the impatient argumentativeness, of course) and the godly behavior—both working on ourselves, and loving our neighbors? I dunno. Too many chainsaws to juggle?

Well. Paul, upon hearing of the Ephesians’ good behavior and faith, prayed God would put more wisdom and revelation and knowledge into ’em. And power. Partly because knowledge is power; partly because God gives us access to supernatural power, and we oughta learn how to tap that, and minister more mightily.

Ephesians 1.15-19 KWL
15 For this reason I too, hearing the about your trust in Master Jesus
and the acts of love towards all the saints,
16 I don’t stop giving thanks for you,
working my memories of you into my prayers
17 so the God of our Master, Christ Jesus, the Father of glory,
might give you the spiritual wisdom and revelation to understand him—
18 flooding your hearts’ eyes with light, so you’d understand.
It’s the hope of your calling. It’s the saints’ glorious inherited riches.
19 It’s the over-and-above greatness of God’s power for us believers,
through the energy of his powerful strength.

Paul prayed the Ephesians would grow. He made a regular practice of it. He knew from experience they’d need the help: They lived in Ephesus, a place which manufactured new religions on a daily basis. (Some of which featured really bizarre versions of Jesus.) They needed to know the truth, and hew to it, lest someone easily lead them astray with some strange but appealing novelty. You know, like nowadays, ’cause Americans are easily convinced that God promised us a safe, comfortable, unchallenging, profitable life.

God doesn’t want his kids to be stupid.

This knowledge of God is every Christian’s birthright. It’s part of God’s riches. It’s wealth. Pagans don’t know squat about God—and loads of them would really love to, but their hangups about organized religion keep getting in their way. People of other religions (heck, people of certain other Christian sects) don’t know squat about God—and have either embraced their ignorance, and figure there’s no point in trying; or insist they do so know God, even though their beliefs won’t work when put into practice. Heretics don’t know squat about God for the same reasons.

But we don’t need to dwell in such ignorance. We have the Holy Spirit to correct us where we’re wrong. We have the scriptures, which’ll point us in the right way. Especially when pop-culture Christianity tries misdirect us with stupid platitudes.

  • “God does everything for a reason.” True, but God didn’t necessarily do what you’re claiming he did, and not everything happens for a reason.
  • “God’s word won’t return void.” True, but it doesn’t mean whenever we misquote it, it does something. It means it does as he intends. Our intentions aren’t so honorable.
  • “God knows the plans he has for you.” Yes he does. They’re not necessarily the same as the plans he had for the Babylonian Jews, so don’t assume prosperity and safety from harm are among them. Your destiny might be martyrdom.
  • “God helps those who help themselves.” Stop mixing up Benjamin Franklin with the bible.

You get the idea. God doesn’t intend for his kids to passively wander through our Christianity, refusing to study what he had to say about the way he wants things to be. Live in that kind of ignorance, and nature is gonna smack us around like a tornado lays waste to a trailer park—and we’ll foolishly respond, “God’s teaching me a lesson.” No; ignorance has consequences. Don’t be ignorant. Claim your inheritance. Learn from God.

God has much better lives in mind for us. Every supernatural blessing in the high heavens. Ep 1.3 Confirmation as sons and daughters. Peace and prosperity in spite of tribulation. Power.

Why don’t we live this way? Not because we don’t claim these blessings. Loads of us claim ’em. Claim ’em till we’re blue in the face. But these things have a string attached: We gotta follow God. We gotta pay attention to what the Holy Spirit wants to do with them through us. We gotta pursue his kingdom, not ours. We gotta stop assuming we know what he wants; that getting saved means we’re automatically right. We’re not.

So pray for growth. Pray for other Christians’ growth. Pray regularly that God reveal himself to us. And through this revelation, let’s learn who he really is, and what he really wants for us.

Look at what God did for Jesus!

Lest anyone get the idea God’s power is only gonna make our lives just a little bit better, or slightly more powerful, or vaguely greater, perhaps we oughta take a good hard look at what this power did for Christ Jesus. ’Cause it wasn’t nothing.

Ephesians 1.20-23 KWL
20 God exerts this strength in Christ, having raised him from the dead,
and sat him at his right hand in the highest heavens—
21 greater in rank than all leaders, authorities, powers, governments,
and every name that’s named, not only in this age, but afterwards as well.
22 Everything was submitted under Christ’s feet,
and he was made head over the whole church, 23 which is his body—
the full form of he who fills everything in everything.

First of all, Jesus was dead. That’d be the lowest position in the universe. Dead, gone, wrapped in moist bandages and left to decay in a dark cave. Your soul snuffed out; your spirit waiting for resurrection.

God took him from that, to the highest position in the universe. The highest heaven. The Pharisees believed there were 10 of ’em, and clouds, stars, angels and spirits, and even evil spirits, inhabited the bottom nine. When Paul listed “leaders, authorities, powers, governments, and every name that’s named,” Ep 1.21 certain Christians don’t believe Paul was speaking of earthly political authorities, but dark spiritual ones. And these authorities would fill the other nine heavens—but the LORD, and his Messiah, are now in the 10th heaven, above them all.

…Okay, I believe Paul was speaking of earthly political authorities. ’Cause the tip-off is how he refers to them as temporal: “Not only in this age, but afterwards.” Ep 1.21 These authorities aren’t gonna last. Others will take their place. They’ll have successors. Whereas evil spiritual forces will all be overthrown by Jesus—and have no successors.

So these are all human authorities, folks.

  • Leaders (Greek arhís/“firsts”). Anyone who’s in charge, like a mayor, chief, general, governor, president, or king.
  • Authorities (exusías). Anyone whom people respect, like successful businessmen, experts in their fields, philanthropists, people of character.
  • Powers (dynámeos). Anyone with power: The wealthy, the connected, the strong, the clever, those who lead mobs, those with lots of guns.
  • Governments (kyriótitos/“mastery”). Organized power. Not necessarily the governments of a nation; could just be a really influential social order. Whatever keeps people in check—or oppressed.

You know, stuff Jesus is gonna overthrow, then set up his own leaders, authorities, powers, and governments. Everything must go under his feet.

Including the church. That’s his body. That’s us. We’re under his feet. And, at the same time—assuming we’re properly under our Head—we are his feet. We’re part of the new system Christ Jesus is implementing. When we follow Jesus, we’re his “full form.”

Plenty of Christians have tried, and are trying, to create this “full form” without actually following Jesus. They’re trying to do it through politics, presuming their party is his party, presuming he approves of ’em using any other power than the Holy Spirit’s, presuming their will is really his. Or they’re trying to do it through positive thinking, naming-and-claiming themselves a buttload of material possessions and worldly positions, supposedly for the kingdom’s benefit, but really for their own.

All those folks are earthly-minded, not heavenly. When one truly follows Jesus, one doesn’t care about that crap. We only care about Jesus—and the people whom he loves. That’s about it.