“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Ephesians 4:17,18.
In Ephesians 4:11-18, the apostle Paul gives us a revelation of the union of Christ with His body, the Church. In this great declaration he is not just telling, he is insisting, that believers, those who are one with God in Christ, as connected to God as their body is to their head, stop thinking the way unbelievers think. He is insisting that they stop thinking and so living as if they are separated from God because to think like that is futile. There is nothing more futile in this world that to see New Covenant believers (in union with God through Christ), act and pray like Old Covenant believers (waiting for union with God through Christ).
It is such a problem across the body of Christ. It has so dimmed the light of the Church, that at River City Church I am afraid we insist on it in the Lord too. We insist that believers grow up to live in the reality of their union with Christ, that they live and talk like sons of God.
- We insist on treating and speaking to Christians as if they are as connected to God, as their body is to their head (1Cor.12:27, Eph.4:15,16, Col.1:18)
- We insist on speaking to them as if they are the very temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.6:19).
- We insist on speaking to them as if they have already been blessed in the heavenly realms with every blessing in Christ (Eph.1:3)
- We insist on no longer regarding them after the flesh but after the Spirit (2Cor.5:16).
- We insist on preaching the justification and the sanctification of the believer by the finished work of Christ, not by our unfinished efforts at church (1Cor.1:30, Col.2:10).
- So we insist that in Christ, believers have already been made righteous by grace (Col.1:22), and in Christ they have already been forgiven by grace (Col.1:14), and in Christ they have already been healed by grace (Eph.1:3, 1Peter.2:24).
And we insist on speaking these truths to each other continually for this one reason, that although God has already freely gifted these things to us in Christ, by grace, it is by faith that we receive and walk in the reality of the ‘in Christ’ life and that very faith, that ability to receive what God has freely given, comes by hearing (Rom.10:17, Eph.2:8,9)
Hearing what? By hearing the gospel; the grace of God in truth (Col.1:6). Faith doesn’t come by hearing what you need to do or do better for God. Faith comes by hearing what God has done for you. So we teach Christians that they don’t need to give more, pray more or do more to receive from God. They only need to listen more to the enormity of what has already been freely given to man in Christ and that listening heals our hearts; our ability to believe/receive.
That listening releases faith; the ability to receive. If listening to the wrong message was what caused our hearts (the ability to receive) to be sick, then listening to the right message is what will heal our hearts (John 6:63).
In very basic terms, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Prov.13:12)
- Messages that defer your hope to ……Christ in heaven one day, sicken the heart.
- Messages that declare your hope to be …..Christ in you today, heal the heart.
Years of listening to loud heavy metal music will damage your hearing. The dangerous thing is that it happens so slowly you don’t notice it, especially when you like the music! Years of listening to heavy gospel messages about what God will do for us, if we first do something more for Him, slowly but surely damages a believer’s ability to live in the NOW of the gospel. I am shocked by how deaf Christians can be and how deaf I had become, to the good news of the gospel.
Messages about what God will do for us if we first do something for Him, slowly estrange or distance us from the reality of what we now already have in Christ and move our hope onto some new thing that God is going to do. Hear the Gospel. God doesn’t need to do some new thing. He doesn’t need to abandon the New Covenant and bring in something newer. We just need to grow in the revelation that a Christian is an entirely new creation, who freely draws life and provision from God Himself (2Cor.5:17).
Without the revelation, that in Christ, the very core of your being, your identity, your Spirit, has been made new (1Cor.6:17), Christians are left run around looking for something new in the natural realm. Being in local church leadership now for over 20 years, I have seen my fair share of Christians wandering about. Until believers come to see that there is nothing newer out there, than what Christ has done in them, they will always be wandering from place to place, hungry for something new. I have seen so many people wander in, stay for a while and wander out again. Like the Father of the prodigal, I know there is no use trying to tell them that the life they are trying to achieve has already been gifted to them. It seems we all need to make that journey ourselves, to come to the end of all our trying; trying to achieve and trying to earn the blessing of God and arrive at our various pig pens to receive a revelation of what was always ours (Luke.15:15-17).
We want to see people grow in the revelation of the fatherhood of God and everything we do is to that end. There is nothing harder on sin than the Cross of Calvary because there is nothing more effective in dealing with fear in a person’s life than the love of God. Perfect love casts out all fear (1John.4:18) and the Gospel message is the proclamation and impartation of such perfect love (Rom.1:16). Why would you have to keep on sinning, keep on grasping for more of life, when your eyes start to open to see just how much life you now have in Christ? Remember the siege of Samaria, when the four lepers went out to the camp of the enemy and found it empty and treasure just lying around to be picked up (2Kings.7:3-20). In knowing themselves to be poor, they started to grasp and hoard the riches, the spoils of the victory. Back and forth they went, grasping, feeling richer and richer, until a moment came when they didn’t feel like they needed to keep grasping for themselves any longer. They felt rich enough to start to do the right thing, to start to share the wealth with others.
If you keep on hearing of the richness of the presence of God in your lives, there will come a time when you do not feel poor and abandoned and disappointed any more and you will stop grasping and running to and fro to try and save yourself. Instead, you will feel rich enough to be the generous carriers of good news, the people God always saw you to be in Him; the generous children of a generous father. Is that who you want to live as? Then insist on the Gospel.