Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Ephesians 1: 3

 

It is amazing, totally remarkable, and almost beyond my understanding that God, the Creator and the Ruler of the entire universe, would be so interested in me that He would grant to me a gift such as this. As magical and special as many of the gifts that I have received during my life have been, none of them starts to compare with the gift of relationship with Him that the Lord has handed to me. Yet, as extraordinary as that is, there is much more, for the Spirit of God opens the eyes of my heart to a new dimension of life that is also mine through my acceptance of Christ.

 

God has changed me from being spiritually dead to being fully engaged with the totality of His realm. I do not understand all that is of God or see everything that God sees, for His knowledge and understanding go far beyond my capacity and the Lord doesn’t need to or choose to reveal everything that is happening in the dimension of spirit to me. Still, in Christ, heaven has come to live in me, and my perspective on my world can now be a heavenly one. God grants to me the gift of His insight, wisdom, understanding, compassion, mercy, and love; and He tells me to bless Him by living in a different manner than people who don’t know Him.

 

You see, it strikes me that God wants me and all of His own people to live each day like we are, in fact, living in a heavenly place. God gives us a picture of what that looks like in the way that Jesus lived His life on earth, and Christ says that He wants us to follow Him. We need to take the view and the vision of life that we have gained due to our spiritual awareness and live in a manner that clearly demonstrates that we are different. The difference that God wants me to bring into this world is not one that is expressed in a superior air of separation; rather, the Lord wants the people that I touch to know that they have been touched by heaven.

 

Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8: 39

 

This was a very unusual situation. The man from the area of the little town of Gadara on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee had been healed from the horrible oppression of demons. He was free, he had his life back, and he had a new purpose for that life. This man wanted to pursue one course, that of following along with Jesus, but Jesus sent him off onto another path. He was sent back to his home, that is to the place where his family and he were resident. This would include his immediate family, his village community, and those who lived in the region around the village. These were people who had expressed great fear and concern over the power of this strange Jewish teacher, Jesus.

 

So, the healed man is sent back to his family, friends, neighbors, and others in their broader sphere of contact. Jesus instructs him to tell these people about the great and wondrous things that God has done for him. He is to tell the story of the miraculous and transformative work that Christ has accomplished in him, and he was to declare to all the salvation from a life of slavery that comes through this same Jesus. This was no easy task in light of the negativity and even hostility that his community and his culture were likely to express toward this message of hope and peace that comes from acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord. Yet, sharing this good news was the man’s new life calling and his commission from God.

 

So, I wonder, how much different is my calling from that of this man? I don’t have the drama that surrounded the expulsion of the demon, but Christ has claimed my life out of sin’s slavery and death. He has given me freedom, peace, and purpose for this life that I have in and through Christ. All of this would seem worthy of much more than just mention in my home, around my neighborhood, and throughout my community. It also seems to me that this message of Christ’s work in me is not limited to a singular time and event. The Lord continues to do His work in and on me, and this ongoing story of transformation and growth is a significant part of the story that I have to tell. So, like that man from Gadara, I too am sent by Christ to declare how much God is doing for me.

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you a covenant for the people; a light for the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 42: 6, 7

 

There are so many times when the thing that we need can be one of the most fundamental and basic components of our universe; yet, despite its seeming abundance, true light can be awfully elusive. I know that I can be standing out in the open on the clearest day of the year with the rays of the sun beating down on me and still have a heart that is shaking from the effects of the bitter cold of helplessness and hopelessness that life has poured on it. This condition is real; yet, it is not necessary. God will bring the light of His truth and love into the center of my being, and His light is of such a great intensity that it will melt away even the hardest frost of these times of living in the winter of despair.

 

The Lord’s light comes into my life in many ways, too. He has given it to me through my acceptance of Christ and the resulting infusion of the Spirit of God into me. He has given me the ability to understand the deep truths of His Word, for God literally speaks to His own through the Spirit’s illumination of the printed text. The Lord also brings people into my life that care about and for my needs and who are confident and honest enough to do what ever is required to bring me back to the center of God’s will. God wants all of us to be the recipients of His light so that we can live in the freedom of His grace. Also He wants us to be light bearers so that we can bring the truth of His love to anyone who is bound in the chains of captivity that evil tries to keep locked around all people’s hearts and minds.

 

As we live in the freeing warmth of God’s light, we are called by Him to seek those who have been made ill by living in the cold. Then we are directed and empowered to administer the healing medicine of Christ’s loving touch to them. We are also called to seek out the people and the places where oppression rules and bring the lock smashing blows of God’s hammer of truth to bear against that bondage. In order to fulfill the mission to which God has called us, we need to keep seeking the light of Christ’s truth, stay close to others who are doing the same, and allow God’s Word the center place in our own reality. Satan brings on the coldness of despair; the warmth of God’s light sets us free.

 

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain gladness and joy,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35: 10

 

There are a few essential questions that need to be answered in order to attempt to understand what Isaiah is saying. First of these to me is who are these people who have been ransomed by the Lord? Then what were they saved from, and what price was required to set them free? The obvious and immediate answer to who is that this is the nation of Israel, and that concept works in a purely historical sense. However, I don’t generally take God’s word as being solely about the history portrayed. So, who else could be on view here?

 

It seems that the Prophet is also looking ahead to the even greater ransom that was paid by Jesus. In that case, Christ did suffer and die for everyone who would live throughout history until the end of time. As God grants to all people the freedom to choose to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, His ransom is available for all people, and it is effective for any of us who make that decision to follow Christ. Thus, in Christ we are saved from the slavery of sin and its penalty of death. Without Christ this enslavement to sin controls us now, and the death that it brings permeates our daily lives and separates us from God for all of the eternity that follows after our earthly existence ends.

 

Yet, in Christ our lives are profoundly changed. This is a change that takes place at the deepest levels of our being. It is brought about as the Holy Spirit works the miracle of rebirth in us. This happens at the time of our acceptance of Christ, and it continues throughout the rest of our lives. God gives us no promise that life in this world will get to be easier or that we will not suffer or endure pain and grief. These are a part of the nature of this world where we dwell. However, the freedom that comes to us through knowing Christ and by way of the Spirit’s guidance of our hearts and minds into His truth and love does bring a song to our lips and the joy of deep peace to us. In Christ we walk daily on the holy ground of Zion, and the presence of the Lord comforts us and drives away our sorrow and distress.

 

 

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15: 22

 

Now Paul is discussing a future event. He is talking about the real, bodily resurrection that Jesus experienced and that He will grant to everyone who believes in and follows Him. This is a part of the restoration that Christ will bring to all of creation in His second coming. Although it is rather hard to actually understand, this is a great and wonderful promise. However, my future shape and form have very little to do with my life in this world today.

 

What does matter now in this discussion of Christ’s resurrection and in this promise of a future one for me is the real fact of God’s complete and absolute control over life and death and of all of the elements of what life actually means. Jesus was a very real man who lived an earthly life just as we all do. He experienced all of the pain and suffering of a horrible death, and He drew a last breath in the same manner as every other person does. Yet, He did not stay dead. God raised Jesus out of death and resurrected Him into a new life that was seen and touched by many of His followers. Christ is alive, and this fact was clearly attested to by numerous people.

 

So, if God can overcome the ultimate defeat that we experience in life, that is death, then why couldn’t this same God overcome the daily struggles of living that we each endure? The new life that followers of Christ enter into with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us is a real version of the resurrection that Christ gained. Acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord brings about a transformation in us that permeates every cell of our being. The idea of it being like a new birth is accurate. Christ’s resurrection grants to all who follow Him a new and a radically different view of what it means to live that is freed from the oppression of mortality and that is filled with the grace and love of the Father. Our daily mission is to seek to know Christ more fully and to live to the fullest in the expression of that grace and love.