This week's Bible Study - April 19, 2015
Exalted Like No Other
Quotes of the Week:
Jesus Christ, the condescension of divinity, and the exaltation of humanity.
This is the final lesson focused on "Like No Other". These lessons have primarily been based on the life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Most believers are able to tell some stories about the life and ministry of Jesus, but as we have discussed in previous lessons, if you only know the story and if Jesus has not changed your life, it is merely head knowledge. It is imperative that we understand the impact of the life and death of Christ, and how we truly stand pure before God. Each of us (every last one of us) understands that we will not stand pure before God - and lest we forget, God doesn't look at us based on some scale (from biggest to least sinner).
In the past couple of weeks. Berkley and I lost a dear friend who touched the lives of so many people. He had come down with cancer last year and after several rounds of treatment, we thought that he had beaten it. We saw him and his family in October and he appeared to be doing well. However, it was only a short couple of months later that they determine that his cancer had returned. He spent the majority of his last couple of months in a cancer treatment center and eventually he lost his battle. At the funeral, a video was played and in the closing, he spoke to the camera from his hospital bed. His words reminded us of how short life is and how we should let those we love know that they are loved. (Even if that was all, wouldn't that convict many of us who hold onto past grudges?) However, he was a believer, and his primary concern as addressed by the minister was that others around him would come to know his Savior. It was quite a powerful testimony and when death strikes so close, we often spend some time reprioritizing our lives.
The impact of Christ on our lives is amazing, as He can change everything about us. We often get caught up solely on what his life means to us and when we do so, the focus tends to be on us and not on Him. In this lesson, we will remind ourselves of just what we have through Christ, and how He is truly exalted like no other.
In these verses, our focus is on Jesus Christ. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us." You and I have been redeemed, in that Christ's blood has paid for our sin, bringing forgiveness and freedom to our lives. Have you ever wondered what would change in your life if you were not forgiven? Sadly, there are many people who have no place to turn for forgiveness and they are unwilling to consider seeking God. We all realize that we have made mistakes and many do not understand that God has provided for them. There is none of us that will ever get past the need for forgiveness; not just for the past sins in our lives, but also for sins of the present and future.
Many people understand the power of forgiving others and haven been forgiven by others, while some people seem to use holding back forgiveness as a way to gain leverage over someone else. Eventually, when a person has refused to forgive someone else, they are apt to become bitter. Certainly, there are many terrible things that happen in our world and for some people, forgiveness may be very difficult, if not impossible. However, in the end, the inability for us to forgive others will only impact us.
As has been discussed in previous lessons, none of us fully understand how the actual transaction of forgiveness takes place. Many people want to know every detail of something before they believe anything about it. We do know that God commanded sacrifices for the sins of His people in the Old Testament. We know that Jesus fulfilled the penalty of sin, once for all, through the shedding of His own blood. While we may understand what the Bible says, none of us can fully explain how that brings forgiveness. Some may say that they will not believe, because they can't understand the transaction in detail. However, as one pastor said, "I don't understand electricity, but that doesn't mean that I am going to sit in the dark until I do!"
Christ not only provided forgiveness, but He also made known the mystery of His will, in that we have purpose in this life and we have a view of what is to come. When a believer's spiritual growth is stunted, in that they understand forgiveness, but see that as the end goal of Christianity, there is a problem. Yes, it is important to know we are forgiven, but it is also important that as we mature in our faith, we can begin to understand at least part of the purpose God has for each fo us. This all comes through the work of Christ.
Paul continued this passage by praying for the church. In his letter, Paul often prayed for the believers in the different churches that he had visited (or started). In this case, he prayed that the eyes of their heart would be enlightened. His desire for them is the same as his desire would be for us; that we would not just know about Christ, but that we would truly believe. Paul is praying that our sight be extended, so that we can see with more than just our human eyes and believe more than the facts. Paul wasn't asking that our physical eyes would be enlarged, but he was asking that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened.
Have you ever wondered what we might see if we could see the spiritual forces that wage war against us? One of my favorite Christian authors of a few years ago was Frank Peretti, who authored such books as "This Present Darkness". In his books, Mr Peretti gave at least a view of how spiritual warfare might be taking place (if we could only see it). I believe that if we could truly see spiritual warfare, we would realize that we are entirely ill prepared for what we stand against.
It is not just what our eyes can see, but it is also important as to how we understand Scripture. When you are listening to a sermon or are hearing a Bible Study lesson, are you listening with the eyes of your mind or your heart? God doesn't intend for us to merely understand what Scripture says, so that we can win a game of Bible Trivia, but He desires that we learn how to apply it. Most believers have attended many church services in their lifetimes, hearing God's word being shared, participating in worship services and attending Bible Study. Have you ever wondered why it appears that in some cases, we can be there listening and participating, but it has little to no impact on our lives. God doesn't look for our mental assent to His word, but He desires that it truly begins to impact our lives.
Paul writes that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened, so that we may know the hope of the calling of Jesus Christ. When we think of hope, we often think of things that we would wish for. In the 2015 NCAA tourney, Berkley and I had 'hoped' that UK would win the National Championship. Is that the type of hope we are to see? (To be honest, I had thought UK winning the National Championship was more about confidence than hope, but my confidence was misplaced!) Paul wants us to understand and be confident of what we have in Christ. When you think of the riches of our inheritance, have you ever considered of what worth you are to God? He owns the entire world, and is the Creator of all we know (and more than we will ever know), yet He cares for us individually. He cares so much that He paid for our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. We need to realize that God's redemption through Jesus Christ comes to all who call on His name and as some have said, "The ground at the foot of the cross is level". When we start to compare ourselves with others and assume that God loves one more than the other, we have mischaracterized God.
We read about the surpassing greatness of his power. When you think of power, who comes to mind as being powerful? Is it an athlete, who can set records? Is it a CEO, who controls the employment of many individuals? It is a politician who can enact law to change different parts of society? Is it an entertainer who can make others laugh or move them emotionally? Is it a super hero who can catch the bad guys? There might be many answers that come to mind, but we generally associate power to people when they can accomplish what we may not be able to on our own. However, there is no person that can begin to approach the power of God. If you think about it, there have been 'powerful' people who have come and gone throughout history. Some of them may seem to leave a large imprint on our world, but over time, that imprint is reduced, if not totally forgotten. God, on the other hand, has power that far outweighs anybody and the surpassing greatness of His power is toward those of us who believe.
We read that all things are under subjection to Christ. In our world, we would consider that unwieldy at best. If you to work for a large corporation, with hundreds to thousands of employees, there may be one CEO, but that CEO would not come close to knowing much more than a small percentage of the employees as individuals. However, in God's order for the church, we are all under Christ and there is no such dilemma. In Luke 12, we can read that God cares for the sparrow, and He knows the very number of hairs on our head. He truly knows us and cares for us, which is indeed an incredible thing. We also know that we can only do what we are called to do because of the power of Christ. And, God's plan is for Christ to not only be over each believer, but also the church as a whole. When we place ourselves collectively under the power of Christ, we can do many things.
When you take a step back and realize all that we have as believers, it may seem more amazing that others do not believe. As most believers mature, we realize that Jesus has impacted or has a desire to impact every aspect of our lives. This isn't some sales pitch that is intended to draw more people to 'our team', but is all about the greatness of our Savior. We have peace in our lives, due to the forgiveness of our sins. We have joy, knowing that whatever we experience in this life will pale in comparison to what we have in Christ for eternity. We have strength to endure through difficult times. We have a network of other believers who would do most anything for us, assuming they understood what we were experiencing. This isn't because believers are any nicer than non believers, but it is due to the fact that they have been impacted by Christ and each have the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We may be avid sports fans, willing to attend games and applaud great performances. However, there is no game or performance that can personally impact our world anywhere close to the manner that we are impacted by Christ. As we close this lesson, let us exalt and praise the Lord our Savior, who cares enough to make each of our days worthwhile as we live for Him.