Light Brighter Than Any Cnadles
April 20, 2019
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
As I write this, my mind is on the sudden and tragic death of a beautiful young woman, a friend of a friend, but still shocking and saddening, most especially for the preschool daughter she leaves behind. But, I suppose, if one is going to face a terrible and unexpected death, then Easter weekend would be the best time to do so, if there is any good to be found in tragedy. After all, the Resurrection is the great hope of all Christians.
Indeed, the Resurrection is our great hope, that this world is not the fullness of reality nor the measure of any life, short or long. Moreover, the promise that tragedy does not win and death is not the victor is the source of our greatest consolation and reassurance when death enters our lives. We can see death as a passing not an ending, the beginning of a new journey of life unshackled from sin and unleashed to soar to heights we do not yet know.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is telling us something more. This is one of Paul’s long sentences, as if he’s speaking and gets wound up and goes on and on. Many years ago, I was given this text to use in speaking to a large gathering. It would be interesting to see what I thought then, what I said then. Did I understand what Paul was saying? Somehow, I suspect I did not, at least not as well I understand it today, which is (hopefully) not as well as I will understand it next year. Paul’s prayer is that the Father of glory will give the Ephesians – and hence, us, since we are the heirs of the Gospel – the Holy Spirit. In the giving of the Spirit, we are granted wisdom and God is revealed to us. In addition, he prays that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened – that our hearts will be opened to what is true and unfailing – and we will know what is the hope to which we are called.
Yes, I’m basically just repeating Paul’s words, but they are so important for us to grasp. Paul is not praying that we believe there is hope. He is praying that we will know what that hope is, that we will know the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us. This is the knowledge of revelation, the certain knowledge given by God, in which we know truths greater than what we see, know the reality far beyond the limits of human knowledge. We don’t simply hope what we believe is true; we know and enter into God’s reality.
The word Paul uses for power is dunamis, the origin of our word for dynamite. The dynamite power of God’s greatness toward us is immeasurable, and it is the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at the Father’s right hand. I want us to pause and think and about that. The power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is the power that God expresses in our lives, not just when we die, but now, right now.
I get bogged down. Does that ever happen to you? I get caught up in all the things around me, things I can see, circumstances I cannot control, influences that determine outcomes, and I get discouraged. But what we as Christians experience and feel when we are in this bogged-down state is not real. We resemble heartbroken women carrying burial oils to an empty tomb. For we who believe, God’s dynamite power is at work to bring resurrection to our lives in whatever form our God deigns is good for us. That means what we know about the eternal Kingdom, what we have entered into with the eyes of our heart where Christ Jesus sits at His Father’s right hand, is greater than everything we can see and all that appears to constrain us.
Surely, there is no constraint more devastating or more permanent than death. And, yet… death has no hold. It does not stop us, but has become a “way station,” a minor station set between two major stations on our journey. Moreover, because we know the riches of the glorious inheritance that is ours, we do not have to be afraid. Christ’s Resurrection becomes our own. The Spirit of God dwells within us, granting us the wisdom and revelation of our hope, of the riches of the inheritance our Father has for us. The gates of the Kingdom have opened, and we can see beyond death and into eternity.
Ah, yes… but do we really live this way? Paul says, “not only in this age, but in the age to come.” Not only in this age… I think we’re safe! We certainly have not counted on Jesus to have all power, authority, and dominion in this age, though most of us are pretty sure He will have all of that in the age to come. Ask yourself, “Is this the beginning and end of the days of my life, awakening in the Holy Spirit, filled of the knowledge of eternal hope, and falling asleep each night after having enjoyed a foretaste of the glorious inheritance that is mine? Do I live in wait, watching for the dynamite power of God to explode in the dark and hopeless areas of my life and in the lives of those I know and love?” If you cannot answer these questions with a resounding “yes!”, then there’s every possibility you are missing out on the power of Jesus Christ for your life “in this age.”
Recently, I heard a man describe our culture as a “flat earth” society. That is the great insult incorrectly hurled at late-medieval Christianity, but the truth is, our culture now is the flat earth society. There is nothing beyond. Our colleges, our media, our entertainment, our policies and laws, every aspect of our lives is permeated with this “flat earth” mentality. And when a beautiful young woman dies a tragic and unnecessary death, there is weeping and wailing and hopelessness. Society scoffs at Christian hope in the resurrection at the very moment we can and should proclaim it from our rooftops.
Society mocks Christianity because we do not live the Resurrection every day. We celebrate it on Easter, between egg hunts and family dinners with ham and all the fixin’s. (Is this a southern thing? Who decided ham is what we eat on Easter?) The Resurrection was not intended to be celebrated once each year. It is ours to live every day. Early Christianity celebrated the Resurrection every Sunday. Worship was moved from the Sabbath, the seventh day, the day of completion, to the Eighth day, the day beyond completion, the beginning of the fullness yet to come. Monday through Saturday, Christians are to bow down before Christ Jesus and lament our sins, but on Sunday, we stand. We are raised as children of God by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
If we would be truly Christian in America today, we would reject the flat earth view that entraps our vision. When we are filled with the Spirit of wisdom and true knowledge is revealed to us, when our lives are expressions of the certain hope of the glorious inheritance our Father has for us, and when the power of God swells within our hearts and minds and explodes from us in love and joy, the world will be drawn to our God. It will not matter what the world does not believe. All that will matter is the rich and powerful presence of God within us, as people are drawn to the beauty and majesty of Christ’s eternal Kingdom resting in our souls.
The fields are ripe for harvest, but the workers are few. Today, it is not enough to be good to your neighbor, as it once was in recent memory. That time has passed. Now, we must choose between the flat earth society that saturates our culture, and the Spirit of God Who would saturate our lives with power, with wisdom, with knowledge, and with riches – eternal riches, the “keeping” kind of riches that stay with us.
As we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, my prayer is that, if you’re bogged down as I’ve been, or if you’ve never really embraced your inheritance, you will rise with Christ to true life, authentic life that never ends. I pray you will be raised with Him to know what is your glorious inheritance and what is the immeasurable power of God’s greatness for your life. Then, when a life ready to blossom is destroyed, and an inconsolable three-year-old sobs for a mommy who will not be back, you will stand firm with unfailing certainty that tragedy does not win, and death is not the final word. You know, because you are a child of the Resurrection and you live it every day.
This Easter, celebrate the reign of Christ in this age, so you will be strong and ready when the flat earth society around us hangs its head in sorrow and consoles itself with the pleasures of the world that steal life. Don’t let that be you. Choose to be alive in your inheritance, empowered by the Spirit of God Who raised Christ from the dead. There is nothing we face in life that is greater than the life our Father gives to us in Jesus Christ.
He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
In Christ –