Be filled with the Spirit … giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:18, 20

 

The Holy Spirit does many things with and for us. He is a literal life-changing force in the lives of people who follow Christ. I make this statement from personal experience and base it upon the testimony of God’s Word. When people accept Christ as their Savior and Lord, they are given the gift of acceptability in the righteous eyes of God. At that time we all become new beings, different to the core of our spirits, and we are washed clean of our sinful natures by baptism into Christ’s sacrificial blood. Then the Spirit begins to work in us to transform all that remains of our sin infused selves into the perfect holiness of Christ.

 

This is not an easy process. We are all born with a nature that is directed away from God. People are naturally defiant and rebellious, and we are also wired to be quarrelsome, selfish, and vain. We want things to be the way that we think suits us best, and we desire for other people to bow down to our sense of what is right and wrong. Almost everyone wants to be the one who is calling all of the shots in this life. Then Christ intercepts our journey. He shows us the unconditional and unending love that God, the Father, has for us, and Christ calls us to repentance for our sinful rebellion and into acceptance of God’s grace and mercy. We are changed.

 

So, it is this changed person who can do what Paul instructs us to do in this verse. As Christ is in us, we can understand and live in the true nature of thankfulness. In Christ we are alive! We are beloved children of the Eternal God! We are given wisdom, strength, comfort, grace, and mercy all tendered in love that is endless and complete! The relationship with God that Christ has given to me is more than enough reason to pour out my thanks to the Father. There is nothing in this life that is outside of the boundaries of thankfulness. No pain or loss, suffering or defeat can overcome my ability to enter into the grace that God grants to my soul, for the Spirit of Christ never leaves me and He continually speaks thanksgiving and praise to God into my ear.

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1: 1-3

 

Even the greeting in Paul’s’ letters carries weight. It has content and meaning. The Apostle tells us something about the way that he views God’s people and about the way that God desires for His entire kingdom to live. God called this man Paul out of the life that he had settled quite comfortably into, and the Lord had redirected him toward a life of service to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That change of course was radical in the extreme. Now Paul was already an all-in engaged worker in service to God. However, the problem was that Paul had no idea of who God truly was or about the way that the Lord was already working out the salvation of His creation.

 

So, the risen Christ pursued Paul, in a real sense He hunted him down, and Paul turned to Christ as his true Lord and master. From that point forward all of Paul’s life was committed to following Christ and to living as a servant of God’s will. As Paul greets the people of the church in Corinth and includes them with all of Christ’s followers in other places, he indicates that they all are recipients of the cleansing salvation that God granted through Jesus Christ and that they too, like Paul, were called by God into service to His kingdom. In Paul’s view of things he did have a special calling as an apostle that carried with it certain obligations and duties, but all people who follow Christ are called to live in a like manner.

 

We are granted the blessing of adoption into God’s holy family. Thus, we are all placed under the authority and the lordship of Christ. We are not just granted the gift of grace which saves us from our sinful state of existence, but we are filled with Christ’s grace which frees us to engage with our world fully and totally as Jesus, Himself, did while bodily on earth. Christ also provides His people with the peace of eternity that allows us to live in the center of love with its calming influence on our hearts and minds. This is a peace that spreads the holy oil of God’s blessing upon the troubled waters of our world. This is a peace that allows God’s grace and His desire for reconciliation the opportunity to speak salvation to the lost. As followers of Christ, we are all called, like Paul, to live continually in the reality of God’s grace and peace, and we are also commissioned by God to be a source of that same grace and peace in our world.

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3: 20

 

 

I live here, in this house, in this town, and on the earth. This is where all of the visible and tangible things that I do are carried out, and this world’s physical boundaries are what tend to define my home. Yet, Paul saw his world quite differently from just being framed by the people, places, and laws of man that existed where he lived. It seems that Paul was acutely aware of the change in the real, from the heart, allegiance that he had sworn when Christ became his Lord and Savior. At that time Paul and everyone else who has entered into the same transforming relationship with God through Christ were changed from being citizens of this world into holding citizenship in heaven.

 

Citizenship, as used here, is a reference to much more than just the nation that would issue us a passport or a statement of allegiance to a particular governmental entity. The word used refers to the concept of living in community, and it implies the existence of a conversation, a dialogue, with that community. In Christ, this is what we all gain. We become a participant, not just an observer, in the ancient dialogue between God and people; thus, our worldview can become elevated from our earth-bound one to God’s heavenly vista.

 

Recognizing this reality and choosing to live in its marvelous possibilities can profoundly alter the way that you and I view our lives. When we seek to open our hearts and minds to the ongoing conversation that the Lord wants to have with us, and we seek to live each minute of every day with that dialogue guiding our thinking; our understanding of our physical world will be altered. Then we can see the sort of potential that God sees in the people and in the situations that we will encounter, and our hearts will be guided through those encounters by the ever present words of wisdom, grace, peace, and love that come directly into our hearts from the Spirit of Christ. As we choose to truly dwell in the righteous and just land that is the Kingdom of God, we expose the parallel world that is this earth to the hope of salvation that comes only in Christ.

 

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge – even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1: 4-8

 

The journey through this life is not easy. This is a fact regardless of spiritual orientation, faith in any form of god, or status and wealth. The earth is a beautiful but deadly place to reside, and it is not getting any better despite all of our best efforts to clean it up or to straighten it out. There is danger lurking in the water and in the air, and there is treachery and deceit to be found in the hearts of people across its surface. Essentially, every activity that we enter into and each of the relationships that we engage has the real possibility of doing us harm. It seems that life should come with a very large and boldly stated warning label: ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

Yet, it is also true that we people brought all of this upon ourselves. We took the gift of perfect peace and returned it to its giver with a form of arrogant disdain that told Him that we would prefer something a bit bolder, a little more exciting and a lot more within our control. So, God gave us what we asked for, but the Lord did not leave us alone to suffer the consequences of our demands on our own. Now there is a beast in our forest, a demon in our closet, and God is present in our lives if we choose to allow Him to enter in. That choice is the critical one. It makes all of the difference between life and death.

 

In Christ we are alive. In Christ our lives have meaning and direction. In Christ we still suffer and the brokenness of this world impacts us with all of its fury and senseless brutality. Yet, in Christ, we are never alone, and the painful hours and the grief that our hearts endure work to bring us closer to the only One who both understands it all intimately but also responds to bring us comfort and peace. The harsh air of this world forces Christ’s people to enter into the holy sanctuary of His presence in order to breathe in the pure grace of His love and mercy. Christ’s Spirit gives each of us the gifts that we need to take our personal loss and turn it into gain for God’s Kingdom, and He also provides us with the strength to carry on in that service until our days here are complete.

Do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

James 2: 1

 

Everyone likes to be the favorite, the favored child, the one that the teacher calls on, the person with the best seat, or the first one picked. It feels good and it gives us a sense of importance in a world where there is so much that diminishes our understanding of value and significance. All people have a place in God’s heart that is unique and special. Yet, He is that last one to tell us that this remarkable place of favor with the Lord gives any of us a place of superiority in our world.

 

It seems that God seeks to elevate all people to His place of glory. He promises us that when we enter into a relationship with Him that the transformation that He works in us includes our relocation from the dark cellar of the lost to a seat of honor in His throne room. So, if we attempt to claim superiority over others, or we start placing people on a plane that is superior to others for any reason, even for ones that might seem spiritually oriented, we are acting contrary to God’s will and are defying His plan of equal grace and absolute mercy.

 

When we place our humanly defined limits on God we usually go far astray from the understanding that He wants us to have of Him. This can lead us to take actions that we claim are done for God’s glory; when, in fact, they are done solely for our own. We need to listen to the voice of God as He tells us about the beauty, value, and special giftedness that He has given to every person. No one is greater than another and none hold lesser status, either. We honor God when we seek to elevate and honor everyone, and when we see them through the eyes of the loving Father who views every person as a blessing to Himself and to our world.

 

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5: 23

 

The thought of preservation brings to mind the specimens that we would get to dissect in biology class. They didn’t bear much resemblance to actual life. They were no longer the color that they had been naturally; they didn’t feel very real anymore; they were cold and a bit slimy; and they certainly didn’t smell like life. Of course this was all true because there was nothing of their living organism present except for the form of what it had been. Sometimes people tend to think of the preserving work of God as the same sort of thing. They believe that in order for God to make people righteous that He will remove everything that makes them who they are and that He would leave behind only their shell. Frankly, this thought is frightening, and I don’t disagree at all with resisting having this happen.

 

However, this is not my experience with the way that Christ works in the lives of people. God is truly the peacemaker, and a lot of the peace that He works to effect is located inside of the hearts, minds, and spirits of individual people. As the Spirit of Christ comes to dwell within our beings, He works to cleanse us of the painfully destructive thoughts and actions that sin has caused us to engage in. These are the elements of corruption that have infected all people from birth and that are at war with the absolute love and the total goodness that is God’s true design for everyone. Christ brings the possibility of purification for our spirits, and He gives us His Spirit to do this work in us. In and through Him, we are blameless in the eyes of God.

 

Christ’s preservation, unlike anything that we can do on our own, brings about a complete and a total restoration of the life that has been God’s intent for us from the very beginning of creation. All people were created in the image of God Himself. So, His plan for preservation is one that takes us from the dead state of being that is our birth existence and changes us into the fully alive state that is His desired one for us. Unlike the preservative chemicals that covered those lab specimens, the Spirit of Christ causes our skin to glow with His presence, our touch to bring peace, our hearts to be filled with the warmth of love, and our aroma to be the sweet fragrance of the Spirit of Christ.

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.