Summary: From what sources do you draw your understanding about yourself? Look to God!
Who are we listening to?
June 11, 2005
We wonder what Jesus has in mind for us, don’t we? You wonder, for your life. We wonder for our congregation. We wonder for our denomination. And we wonder for the greater church, as well. We know that we can have ideas and we can imagine. In fact, this is one of the greatest ways in which we bear God’s image, I feel- in our ability and desire to think and plan and create.
In writing to the Ephesian Christian church, Paul says something that gives us all pause and something significant to think about. In the context of discussing God’s incredible purpose and the way it was being worked out in Paul’s life- not necessarily easily, but, without question, being God’s work, he wrote the following prayer and declaration.
Eph.3.14- 19- what a wonderful prayer and expectation for these Christians.
Then, Paul makes a great declaration- v.20, 21. How deeply do we believe this, and expect this? Do you know that Jesus’ plans for you exceed your desire or expectations? We all sell ourselves so very short. Now, this doesn’t mean that He intends to bless us with health and wealth- that is not the biblical promise, as we know. He might have a difficult road in store, through which the greatest of blessings will come. While en route to the Conference, I read a book Judith recommended- called Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn. It’s about a Christian family in China- a Christian fiction, you could say- I was inspired by their reliance on God, despite the cruel circumstances, and the feeling of blessing for dying for the Lord. We have a harder time with this kind of perspective. Yet, blessings and having more come in different ways. The point is that Jesus has more in mind- greater in mind- for you than you can imagine.
Do we understand that anything we can imagine for our congregation is paled into insignificance by what Jesus has in mind? I know that we want to do the right thing- that we are thinking about where we fit and what we ought to be doing, but to understand that no matter what we, ourselves, see, it will be short or less is important to know. (And the same applies to the denomination we are part of- which has already experienced this through Jesus’ love for us in bringing us to change all our paradigms, and he continues that process. Also, Jesus has more in store for the entire Christian church than we can consider.) But the greater groups are not our focus today. We need to focus here, and the lessons we consider will be easily transferred to your personal life, too. No matter what we can imagine or see, Jesus has more in mind for us- we think too low, is what this says.
Earlier, Paul had declared a vision that we’ve looked at, together, before:
Eph.2.6- we actually operate on a different platform than we imagine. If I can use computer terminology, it’s like we believe we’re on a Windows 95 platform, but we’re on a Windows Millennium edition. We’re higher than we normally think we are.
The result of this is that we are to live in a particular way that makes a difference in our lives. We are to live with our heads in the heavenlies- that is where we are- from where we are to draw insight and inspiration, not from our own minds. We can’t just think up what we want to do, or ought to do, but have to go higher.
We all have opinions. In our church, we all have opinions about what we ought to do or not do, and much more. We must understand something about opinions, though. I’ve heard it put this way: no opinion has any value unless it has been passed through Jesus’ mind first. Often we put up our own opinions as of equal value, or greater value, to Jesus’ opinions and thoughts on a matter. This is a perspective that helps us.
What place does Jesus have in our congregational life? What position does he have in each of our lives, who contribute to the life of this congregation, as parts of the body, but who cannot function, in our Christian calling and operation, apart from the body? We are part of the body, here, and we are part of the body, more generally. The body is the entire Christian church, but we have to operate and live as part, somewhere. There is nowhere in scripture that encourages individual life- a Christian separated from a congregation and involvement in one is no Christian. We can’t live out our Christian life apart from community- that was never in the mind of Jesus and is not in the mind of Jesus. Paul emphasizes this in his great passages about body life in his letters to the Corinthian Christians. This is hard for us, in the western church, to grasp. Such a premium is put on independence and self-determination- even among us, sometimes. We value ‘making it on our own’ and ‘independence’. However, these do not reflect God’s values, and his values trump yours and mine- and all of society’s. God values community and interdependence- not enmeshment, not independence, but interdependence.