The High Love of Christ
GraspPastor Jerry Gillis - March 13, 2016
The love of Christ is so high that it can't help but raise us up.
Community Group Study Notes
- What does it mean for us to have been "raised to life"? What difference does this make in our everyday living?
- How does a right understanding of your identity transform your ability to share the Gospel?
- In what ways can you share the height of Christ's love with others? What difference will this make in the lives of those around you?
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)
So there's this guy that set a record in India. He went to this lake that's called Gurudongmar Lake in India. It's in the northwest corner near the, it's in the Himalayas and uh, if you kind of are thinking through your geography, if you have you know that long extra sleep that you got last night and you're ready for that, it's between Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, if that clarifies that for you. It's kind of right there, near the border of China, almost as well in the Himalayas. And so this guy actually set it up where he was he videoed him asking his fiancé to marry him up at this lake. Now the thing is, this lake is 17,000 feet high. So he set, at the time last year, what was a country of India land record for the highest marriage proposal ever, in India. I thought it was cool, I thought man, that's that's not bad. I think he did a great job. I also read about 2 1/2 years ago it was in 2013, uh, maybe a little more than, five couples were on a Fiji Airways flight, and they all got married at 41,000 feet in the sky. And, which was a record as well. And so, I don't know what it is about the idea of love and height that seems to go together, but it does.
And I'll be honest with you, I must confess that um, it actually happened to me as well. So, back uh when Edie and I were dating, I had finished school a little bit before she had and then she finished school and I had you know, had a buddy who had an in at a particular place where I got the ring, you know how that goes. I got a buddy who's got an in over there at a particular place and I got a ring. And, it was legit, like I didn't break any laws or anything. I didn't have much money but I knew what I had to spend and so I secured the ring and that ring was just like, you know, eating a hole in my pocket. And I was, at the time, working at a church had just started working at a church in Atlanta and was at a conference, and then upon coming home from the conference I called Edie and I said, hey, would you want to go to get some dessert, and she's like sure. So I said okay, cool, uh then before I got off I said but wear something a little bit nice. And she was like what? I said wear something a little bit nice. She's like okay, alright.
So, I had this whole thing set up where all of her family and my family and some of our friends were gonna be waiting back at her parents' house when we left and you know, I was gonna ask her to marry me and we were gonna come back and they were all gonna be there, so I was pretty sure she was gonna say yes, right? I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I was pretty sure she was gonna say yes.
That would've been the worst day ever and I would of had to make the worst phone call ever, this is back before cell phones and stuff. I would've been, like I would have asked her to marry me, would you marry me, she's like no, okay, yeah, cool, um, I gotta find a pay phone just for a few minutes. If you could just hold on for a second, no, I'll pay the bill in a second, but if you'll just hold on for a second, then you ring them up. Hey, yeah, could you send everybody home? Yeah, send them home with cake, I don't care, just give them whatever, but just get out because when I get home I don't want anybody there. What happened? Just get out, right?
So I was pretty sure it was gonna work out, so I took her to this place in Atlanta where we lived and it was downtown, and at the time it was called the Peachtree Plaza, but now is a Weston Hotel and it's kind of that tubed-looking hotel in the Atlanta skyline if you ever see it. At the top of kind of the tubed hotel is a restaurant called the Sundial. The reason it's called the Sundial is because every hour it actually revolves so that you get a chance to kinda look at the whole entire skyline while you're up there eating your dinner or whatever you're doing. So it's a really cool place.
So, I take her, we park, we go upstairs, we're in the Sundial, you know, we sit down, we're having our very, very expensive cheesecake, there's a reason I didn't go there for dinner, there's a reason I went there for dessert. Cause I was like, I spent everything on the ring, that's all I got, you know. All 25 dollars that I had, I had spent it on the ring. Uh, it was a cool ring, the Cracker Jacks box does a nice job keeping it in very good shape. So I, I've got this ring burning a hole in my pocket, right, you know, and and I'm sitting there with her, but I needed a pump-up so I, I leave. And I said hey, excuse me one second, I gotta' run to the restroom, so I go to the restroom and I'm in there and it was like a Saturday Night Live skit, man, I mean I'm in there throwing water on my face, you know talking to myself "you can do this, you are smart enough, you are cool enough, and doggone it she likes you." You know, so I'm like old school Stuart Smalley, you know, bad Saturday Night Live skit, and I'm just in there pumping myself up for like a couple of months, I don't know how long I was in there, but I was in there for a while.
I come back out, I literally walk out, she's not there. And I'm going man, this is not good, in fact there's a lady sitting there, but it's not Edie, and I was like, was I in the bathroom that long? Cause I mean when I left you were 24 and now you're 62, how did that happen? I don't even know how that happened. Well what had happened is the room had started spinning. I'm in there thinking she left, she knew what I was about to do, she's gone. I gotta find a pay phone. So I found her and I asked her to marry me and all that was good and we had a fun time coming back, but I don't know what it is, but even with me the idea of love and height actually has some kind of resonance, like those things seem to go together.
If you listen even in the music that you've maybe either grown up with or heard, you can hear the same ideas being woven together. If you were from the 60's, I'm reaching out to some of you right now, all right, I'm reaching out to you. If you were from the 60's like say 1967, you might have listened to Jackie Wilson sing: "Your love is lifting me higher than I've ever been lifted before", right? Except Jackie sang it much better than what I just did. In 1983 maybe you would have heard Steve Winwood, '86 I think, you would have heard Steve Winwood sing: "Bring me a higher love, it's that higher love that I've been thinking of", right? Or maybe you were all emo like in the 90's, and you like the Depeche Mode. And Depeche Mode had a song different than that but also called "Higher Love". Or maybe you're kinda of an indie person and you know, you're familiar with a group out of Pitts, uh, out of the kinda' Pennsylvania area Philadelphia area called Three Legged Fox or whatever they're called I don't know, something like that, it's an awesome name. They also had a song called "Higher Love".
So you've got these ideas where love and height seem to go together, and it even comes out maybe in marriage proposals, or it comes out in the way we think or the way we write or the stories we tell, or the poetry we write or the songs we sing. The fact is, these song writers that we hear about the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's you know the 2000's, whatever, that are writing songs about love and height. Now they're not the first song writers to do that. The ancient songwriter, even the psalmist did the very same thing. When David thought of God's own love, listen to how the psalmist David actually revealed this in Psalm 36, he said this: "Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." And in chapter 50 something, 57 the psalmist said, I can't remember them all, right? I know the content, I just don't always know the addresses. Anybody else like that, just raise your hand. Alright, thank you for making me feel like not a loser. Cause I'm already still getting over the counseling with whether Edie would have said no and I'm still processing that but I thank you for laughing at me and not with me.
Here's what the psalmist said: "For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies." And then Psalm 108 it says this: "For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth." So the songwriters in the 60's and the 70's and the 80's, they weren't the first song-writers to think about this stuff. Even David back in ancient times was writing about the height of God's love reaching even beyond the heavens themselves.
And so, we're reminded when we get to Paul's prayer that we've been studying over the last few weeks that it wouldn't be a shock to us that one of the ways in which Paul would describe the love of Christ would be the tie. That makes perfectly good sense to us. Look what it says beginning in verse in chapter 3 in the book of Ephesians where we've been studying, beginning in verse 17. It says, "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Now we've already discovered over the past few weeks that the love of Christ is actually wider than the world itself. We discovered last week that the love of Christ is longer than time itself and now we have the understanding that his love, Christ's love is actually higher than the heavens themselves. But we have to figure out kinda how we get at this idea of the love of Christ, and what that looks like for us and how we think about it, how we process it. What does that mean? Because for some of us it just feels kind of like a sentimental thing that we think about or we sing about but we don't really know what to do with that.
Well, what are we talking about when we talk about the high love of Christ? Well, one of the things that I want to point out to you is that in this prayer that Paul is praying, he's actually praying something that has corporate implication, not just individual implication. And for many of us when we talk about this idea of the love of Christ we think about it on an individual basis and we should. It has an individual application. There's no question that when we think about how wide and how long and how high the love of Christ is, that that matters to us individually. But it has a corporate dimension that I don't want you to miss, because Paul was actually saying in there that he's praying that we would have power together with all of the Lord's holy people to be able to grasp the love of Christ. Now, that means that for us there's something about the love of Christ that has a corporate dimension to it that we need to think about all together as the church of Jesus Christ. That it does have individual application and it matters greatly for us on an individual level, but it also matters in kind of a corporate way.
So how do we get at this idea? Well, I think we get at this idea by staying within the framework of context of what Paul has already said to us that leads him to pray what he's praying. You remember over the last couple of weeks we've helped to understand Paul was saying some things in chapter one and chapter two and chapter three to lead us toward the end of chapter three where he's praying a prayer: "For this reason I get on my knees and I pray to the Father these things". Why? Because there are some things that he's already established, and when he's praying about how how wide and how long and how high is the love of Christ, he's referring to some things that we've already seen in some of the context.
So when we talk about the high love of Christ, what can we connect to? Well, I want to move you back just a little bit in Ephesians into chapter number two, so just go back a chapter, and I want you to look with me in verse number four. It says: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."
So you see, when Paul talks about this idea of the high love of Christ, he's actually helping us to see something, and here's what I don't want you to miss. If you miss everything else that goes on in this message don't miss this, because if you get this, you'll be able to put everything else together that I'm talking about today. And it's simply this: The love of Christ is so high that it can't help but raise us up. The love of Christ is so high that it can't help but raise us up. You see, we're actually gonna see this, I'm gonna tell you about four things that we see in the context of this passage of Scripture that helps us to understand this idea, that Christ's love is so high that it actually can't help but to raise us up.
The first way that it does that, is that Christ's love raises us up to life. Let, let me explain what I mean by that because I want to pull your attention back to the text itself in chapter two looking, beginning in chapter verse 4 through the beginning of verse number 6 it says this: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ...".
You see, the love of Christ is so high, it can't help but raise us up to life. You see, what Paul says here is he says that there was a time when you and I, us that believe in Jesus, and I know I'm not referring to everybody in here because maybe you're, maybe you're new and maybe you've just started coming and checking out the church thing and kinda the way we refer to that is you're, you're kicking the tires about this God idea and the idea of faith. Or maybe you came from some kind of religious background but you haven't really stepped into the reality of relationship with Jesus Christ and you're just kind of checking that out. Great, we're so glad you're here, thank you for being here whether you're at this campus or one of our other campuses or watching online. We're thrilled.
But for those of us who have put our faith and trust in Christ, here's what we know. We know that there was a time before that where the Scripture tells us that we were dead in our transgressions and sins. Everyone, the Bible says, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". "There are none who are righteous, no, not one." That's what the book of Romans tells us. So we have been in a position where before knowing Christ and before receiving Him and before our faith in Him, we were dead in our transgressions and our sin. We had missed the mark. We had failed on a number of fronts.
Now here's the thing, nobody has to convince you or I that we've ever made mistakes, that we've ever sinned, that we've ever done things to hurt the heart of God. Nobody has to convince us of that, right? We all know that in our heart of hearts even if we act like that's not true sometimes, we all know that that's true in our heart. We've all lied before, we've all done things along that line, nobody even had to teach you how to do that. Your parents didn't sit you down and say I want to give you a seminar on lying. You know, this is how you do it. If you want to steal a cookie from the cookie jar, this is how you get that done, man. No, your parents don't do that, right? You don't teach them, it's something that's just inherent, we learn that, there's a bent toward that. We get it.
And so every one of us, ladies and gentlemen, every one of us were dead in our transgressions and in our sins. We couldn't see the world the way we were supposed to see it. We couldn't experience God the way we were supposed to experience Him. We couldn't know life the way it was meant to be lived, because we were dead in our spirit in terms of our transgressions and our sins. But it's interesting that when I talk to people all the time, whether they are younger folks like some of those who, who followed the Lord in believer's baptism today, or whether you're older, it doesn't matter. I talk to people who have just come to faith in Jesus Christ and they use a lot of different terms to describe that. Things like "man, the light, the light just came on for me". "I don't know what happened, Pastor, the light came on" or "it's like there was a curtain on my life, and the curtain just got rolled back". "It's like somebody threw up the windows and all the sun just started pouring in". I get all of these different examples, do you know what they're saying? Listen, "I'm alive, I'm alive. I was dead and now I'm not. I'm alive inside!"
This is what Jesus was talking about when he said, I've come to give you life and give you life abundantly, or life to the full. I, I know what it's like to be dead to all of this, but now I'm alive to God! I see the world differently. Everything's changed for me! The light has come on, the shades have been drawn back, the curtain's been pulled away, I'm alive now. And that's what the Scripture actually says that happens to us, because the love of Christ is so high, it actually tells us that we are made alive with Christ.
That's a brilliant reminder, and then it says that God raised us up with Christ. Now you can't get away from the idea that this is talking about the resurrection of Jesus. You can't run from it, it's part of what's being referred to here. When we know that Jesus has risen from the dead, here's what we know. That because of our faith in Him, we no longer stay dead in our hearts, but we are raised to life. We are made alive in Christ, we are raised with Christ in that sense, and that has a real direct personal implication for now.
In fact, when Paul was writing in his letter to the Romans he referred to this in Romans chapter 8 verse number 11 when he said these words: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit which lives inside of you".
So, because of the Spirit of God living inside of us when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are no longer dead, but our spirits have been made alive. We are alive in Christ and everything changes for us. Now, when Paul's writing in Romans 8, he's not only talking about how that matters now, but he's also talking about the future hope that we have.
Now he expounds on that once he starts writing his letter to the Corinthians, particularly in chapter 15 of the first letter, he expounds on this idea of resurrection and its future hope. It not only has this idea of us coming to life right now... Because don't you know that before you meet Jesus you read the Scripture and it doesn't land, because it can't be discerned. But after coming to know Him you're like where have you been all my life. It's like you think like new chapters got added to the Bible. You start reading and you're like what? Has this always has this always been there? For real? Because your spirit is alive, you have been made alive with Christ. The love of Christ is so high, it can't help but raise us up to life. That not only has a now function, but it also has a then function.
You see, because these physical bodies that we live in, the mortal bodies that we just read about have been raised to life in the sense that we have come to life, we are no longer dead in our transgressions and sins, but this mortal body is going to die. But when it does, our souls will go to be with Christ, but upon Christ's return he can't help it, his love is so high he's gonna raise us up.
Listen to how Paul said this in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, beginning in verse 21: "For since death came through a man," referring to Adam, "the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." Here's the promise: because Jesus has paid the price of sin in his death on the cross, the sinless One for the sinful ones, he has satisfied the justice of God, where God's justice on sin was poured out on Jesus, where he took upon Himself our sin, our shame, our failure, our fear, our mess. He paid for it perfectly. He rose from the dead showing that he conquered sin, conquered the grave and conquered death and conquered hell on our behalf. And when our faith is put in Him, not only do are we now made alive in Christ and the Spirit of God is given to live inside of us, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead is now giving life to our mortal bodies. But there will come a time that even after these bodies pass away and our spirit goes on to be with Jesus that he is going to return, and when he does, he is going to reunite us with a body that is not like the one that we had, because the one that we had was mortal. The one that we're getting is immortal. The one that we had is perishable, the one that we're getting is imperishable.
This is the reality that this resurrection is so rich in our lives. We're not just talking about some ethereal kind of ghost-like existence. We're talking about the real deal. Look at Jesus. You see his body after his resurrection, eat fish, walk through walls, all of that. You see that, and you know that's what we're getting. We will be made like Him. He is the first fruit of the tree and that means we, being in the tree are also going to be like Him. In so doing, that means that your loved ones who have died in Christ, who knew Jesus, who loved Jesus, who put their faith in Jesus, there is coming a time where you are actually physically going to be able to hold them again. You will be able to kiss their cheeks again, you will be able to wrap your arms around them again. This is the great hope that we have. Why? Because the love of Christ is so high, it cannot help but raise us up to life.
Now, oh there's more. Cause you're like thanks man, I'm out of here. There's more. So not only is the love of Christ so high that it raises us up to life, but the love of Christ is so high, that it raises us up to rest. I want to explain this to you from the passage that we're looking at here that's shaping how Paul is praying. Look in verse number 6 again of chapter 2: "And God raised us up with Christ," listen, here it is, "and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus."
Now, to understand this idea - listen - the Bible tells us that we have been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. That's a startling statement, isn't it? We've been seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. To understand what it means for Jesus to be seated in the heavenly realms, we have to understand what that's referring to, what's the picture that's being painted. To understand Jesus being seated in the heavenly realms, we have to understand some things about the temple.
You see, this word seated is a contrast word from the temple. You know the temple, right? The temple that has different places - courts of the Gentiles, court of the women, Holy Place and a Most Holy Place where God himself dwells. And you know that inside of the Holy of Holies, the high priest would go once a year and would minister before the Lord. And there were a number of various things - instruments, utensils, furniture - in the most Holy Place that I've talked at length before on. But do you know what's not in the Holy of Holies? A chair. And there's a reason, because the High Priest was never done. They weren't finished where they could just sit down and be done with the work. So they were always on their feet, always ministering before the Lord, and there was never an end to their ministry until a great High Priest that we know as Jesus came.
And that's why the writer of the book of Hebrews actually paints this picture for us, and I don't want you to miss the contrast language. Listen to Hebrews chapter ten and what it says. Day after day every priest - what? - stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest - Jesus - had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Here's why this is so incredible. Paul says, I want you to know how high the love of Christ is. And he's told us before that the love of Christ is actually so high, that it not only raises us up to life - here in this present context but also the hope for the future - but it raises us up to rest, because we are now seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.
You see, here's the thing. He has done what he came to do. It is as he said on the cross - tetelisti - it is finished. The work that I have come to do - it is completed. There is no longer a need for additional sacrifices. No longer a need for little priests and priestesses to be running around striving trying to figure out how they can somehow corner God into His favor. It's done. Jesus has completed the task with the offering of himself, his own blood, he has satisfied the justice of God making one sacrifice for all time to make his people holy. And we are seated with him.
You see, what this does is takes some of the pressure off. Of all of you who are striving, all of you who are running around scrambling, trying to somehow earn God's salvation in Christ - it's done. He's done it. Your response is faith because we now can rest because we are seated with him. He has accomplished it. It is his righteousness. It is his work on our behalf.
Now, the beautiful thing is that when he transforms us and he brings us to life - he raises us up to life - we will do wonderful things because we are empowered by his Spirit. But we are not doing wonderful things to try and get his affirmation. We are not doing wonderful things to try and smuggle his attention into our world. We are not doing wonderful things to somehow pin his arm behind his back so that somehow now salvation has to come to us. Not at all, because Paul's clear in Ephesians chapter number two - "It is by grace we have been saved by faith. It's not of works lest any of us should boast." It's a gift of God. But he's equally clear that when we have been transformed by grace through faith that we are his workmanship created in him to do good works.
So we can stop striving and start resting in him knowing that through his own power he is going to use us for his own glory instead of trying to climb some ladder to get to him or do enough good things that are somehow going to earn our salvation. His love is so high that when we put our faith in him, he raises us up to rest in him. We are seated with Jesus.
Now do you know why my confidence is so high - that's worth a clap or four, right? Do you know why my confidence is so high in the security of salvation that Jesus gives? Do you know that even the language that Paul used was extraordinary here when he says, "and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him." Does he say - listen - does he say will seat us with him? Um-ummm.. For Paul, it's already as good as done. Why? Because of Jesus. Because he's already completed it. So Paul is not talking about just what's going to happen in the future - that we're going to be seated. No, no, no. He says you already are. It's as if your heart is already there. That's how secure we are. That's how much rest we can take in what Jesus has done on our behalf.
Some of you are going, o.k., I get all that. That's not my problem. My problem, Jerry, is that we're seated with him in the heavenly realms, and I know the heavenly realms is the place where there's all kinds of spiritual warfare. Where all manner of spiritual warfare happens, and I'm worried about my soul and my life with Christ when there's all of this spiritual warfare happening in the heavenly realms. Well let me pause you for a second because I'm going to help you here. Again, so that you can rest - so that you can be secure.
There are times without a shadow of a doubt in the Scripture where when heavenly realms is referenced. It is talking about the place where there is warfare beyond our imagination - the spiritual forces of evil, the principalities and dominions and authorities that are raging against everything that we are and want to be. And some of you think, man, I'm concerned. Is that where we are? No, no. Chapter one - listen to what it says. Verse nineteen: "That power is the same as the mighty strength that God exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms" - here it is - "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church."
Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you. Jesus is seated so high that there is nothing that is not under him and we are with him. Man, if that doesn't give you rest, if that doesn't give you confidence, if that doesn't do something in your soul to just go, what? This is unbelievable. Yes, it almost feels like it's too good to be true. But it's so good that it's so true. He raises us up - his love is so high it can't help but raise us up to life. It can't help but raise us up to rest. But it also can't help but raise us up to reign.
You see, that verse there in verse number six, if you look at it again - God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Do you know that this picture of being seated is a blossoming picture? It doesn't have just one picture. There are multiple pictures associated with it. For Jesus to be seated in the heavenly realms is a picture of rest, but it is also a picture of rule. You see, he's completed his work and now he's set to rule over this, and the Scripture says that we will actually be seated with him not only in his rest, but in his rule. We're going to reign with him. His love is so high it can't help but raise us up to be seated with Christ to reign with him.
Now, the Scripture is replete with examples about this. When you start reading through the New Testament you see pictures over and over again, whether you're in the gospels and you see the parables where you pick up some of these pictures, or whether you see Paul's writings as we're talking about now. But let me rush you all the way to the back end - the Revelation, the consummation of all things and what is going to happen.
Do you know there's a promise that the Lord Jesus made when he was speaking prophetically to the churches in chapter two and chapter three of the book of Revelation? There's a promise that he made that I don't want you to miss. It's in Revelation chapter three. Here's what it says (verse number twenty-one): "To the one who is victorious (or to the one who overcomes), I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne." Now, before you get too confused, the idea of throne - you're going, man, that's going to be really crowded with all of us on there - it's a picture, and the picture has to do with reigning and ruling. And Jesus says this: just like I overcame, and I sat down on the throne of my Father, those of you who by my own power in your life that overcome, you will join us. You will rule and reign alongside of us. Not in place, but to do the bidding of.
In fact, when you go further into the book of Revelation in chapter number five you see this picture, this beautiful picture of the Lamb that we know to be Jesus, and it says these words in verse number six: I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits (or the sevenfold spirit) of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."
Now, there's this picture that we are reigning with him, but what we have to remember is that because we are in him that where he is we are. And he's coming back to the earth. And we're going to reign with him. That is startling to me. Do you know that this actually is not just a, "hey, this is going to happen someday", but this actually has practical implications for right now?
Do you know that when Paul, in another place when Paul was writing - when he's writing his letter to the Corinthians and they're going through all kind of madness, right? I mean like sons getting involved with their moms romantically and blah, blah, blah - that's happening, right? That's in the Bible. You go, for real you're telling me? Yeah, that's in the Bible. There was some real problems. They were suing one another's pants off, man, in Corinth. People in the church! Paul's like, what are you doing? And in first Corinthians six, listen to how he frames it, because there's something behind what he's trying to tell them. He says, "If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord's people? Or do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!" You know what he's referring to? He's referring to our rule and our reign with Christ. And that it matters for now, because we have the mind of Christ. We can discern the will of God because we have been raised to life. His love is so high it has raised us up to life, and because of that we can rest in the work of Christ, we can discern the will of God, and we can prepare to reign with him even in the now. Because we can discern what his heart is, what his mind is in the now.
So not only is his love so high that he raises us to life, raises us to rest, raises us ultimately up to reign, but he also raises us up to royalty. Look again in verses six and seven of chapter two. I want you to see it. "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus - in Christ Jesus - in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."
Man, I don't want you to miss this phrase. It seems like for many of us when we read it, it's kind of a throw away. Not a throw away! The reason that it's not a throw away is because it is everything to us. The idea that we are in Christ Jesus is the idea - listen to this - is the idea of union. This is really important, because what Paul is doing in the book of Ephesians is he plants seeds about particular pictures that he wants us to understand and then comes back to some of those pictures at other times. Or he plants the seed of the picture early, and then explains it a little bit later.
The idea of union is something that has been expressed by Paul in a physical metaphor in chapter five. He uses a metaphor of marriage. He talks about practical implications of marriage - how husbands and wives ought to treat one another - but then you get to what Paul was doing when you get to Ephesians five beginning in verse twenty-nine. He says this: After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body. And then he quotes Genesis two here: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This, Paul says, is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. O.k.
His love is so high that it actually raises us up to royalty. Let me take us on a little journey to get us there. Paul is giving us a picture of union, because he keeps saying to us that we are in Christ Jesus. We are unified with Christ Jesus. And then he quotes Genesis two talking about Adam and Eve, and says this is a mystery, but I'm actually talking about Christ and the church.
All right, so let me think about that for just a second. Out of Adam's bleeding side came his bride. Out of Christ's bleeding side came the Church. Eve was actually hidden in Adam. The Church has been hidden in Christ. Paul talks about it as a mystery. In fact, we're still hidden in Christ, because Paul in Colossians says in chapter number three these words, he says: "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."
Adam was put into a deep sleep and upon his awaking he had a bride. Christ died and upon his resurrection he has a bride. You seeing the pictures here? Some of you are just like, well, say what is happening right now??? But here's what you've got to hang onto. Some of you, in your minds - I'm just going to take a second here. I didn't do this in the first gathering. I'm going to do this here. Sometimes there's things that I leave out because of time, and right now I just don't care. All right?
Think about this. Think about this - listen. What we have a tendency to do in our minds is we think to ourselves, man, isn't that incredible. God looked back at Adam and Eve and then mimicked that with Christ in the Church as a picture. You've gotten it all wrong. Here's Adam and Eve. Eternity past, in this covenant of redemption where God the Father had already promised the Son that I'm going to give you an inheritance, a people, a bride. He actually determined to do this in eternity past, and Adam and Eve were created to picture what already was, so that we are reminded that there is a union between Christ the bridegroom and the Church the bride. And because of that, Paul actually uses the term as we read a few moments ago that it says that through one man came death, Adam, but through another man came life and resurrection, Jesus. That's why Paul talks about Adam and the second Adam, Jesus. If Jesus is the second Adam, the Church is the second Eve. We are a bride to a King. Royalty. This is what he raises us up.
Now, I've got to land this plane and I'm going to get practical here. But the psalmist actually in the psalms - there are some of the psalms, even through they pre-dated Jesus by hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years - that are messianic - they talk about Jesus. And the way that we know that most often is because the New Testament writers under the inspiration of the Spirit actually quote from those Psalms, and tell us that this is referring to Jesus. One of those is Psalm forty-five. And Psalm forty-five is quoted in the New Testament referring to Jesus, but here's what we know. Psalm forty-five gives us a picture - listen to this - gives us a picture of a king that's about to get married to his bride.
Listen to what it says in Psalm forty-five, you'll see kind of the picture: All your robes (talking about the King) - all your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the stings makes you glad. Daughters of kings are among your honored women; at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir. So here's the picture - this messianic picture of a king clad in all of his beauty and beside him a bride clothed in the gold of Ophir. A picture of Jesus and the Church, because it's messianic in nature. But then there's a voice - in the next verse there's a voice that comes and this voice is an outside voice speaking to the bride, the daughter. And I want you to listen to what that voice says. "Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people. Forget your father's house. Let the king be enthralled with your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord."
Hmmm. I don't know what the picture is here, because there's no telling where this bride came from. But ultimately, it doesn't matter because she's now the king's. You see some of us - we struggle with the love of Christ in our lives because we're too caught up in where we came from. Maybe what our last name represents or should have represented or how tarnished it is or how great we think it is. Here's the counsel to us today: forget where you came from. Forget all of that, because when you trust Christ by faith, you're now the king's. You get a new name, a new citizenship, and a new authority, because you've married into royalty. Some of us can't really experience the love of Christ and how high it is because we can't get over some of the stuff that we've come from. The counsel is the same to you. Forget it. You're now the king's. Let him love you. Let him love you. And when you do you will honor him because he is your lord.
So, the love of Christ is so high that we don't have to walk low anymore. It's so high that it raises us up to life, which means we don't have to walk around controlled by the flesh anymore because the Spirit of God lives inside of us and allows us to be people who overcome. We don't have to walk around with our head down all the time. I'm just a miserable old sinner. Listen - you were a miserable old sinner. You were dead in your trespasses and sins but in Jesus Christ you have been remade. You have been reshaped, and you now have the power of the Spirit of God living in you that you don't have to sin. You still may, but you don't have to anymore, you're not a slave to that anymore. Because he's raised you up to life, and you've got the hope of whatever else happens to you in this life.
You know he's getting you up from the dead and reuniting you with a body that's going to be better even if you're a stud - it's going to be better than anything you've ever known or experienced. The mortal will put on immortality, the perishable will put on the imperishable and we will be changed. His love is so high that it raises us up to rest. We don't have to strive anymore. We don't have to try and work for God's favor. He's already completed it in Christ, and Christ has sat down at the right hand of the Father because his sacrifice was absolutely enough and we are seated with him. We can rest in him. His love for us is so high that his love raises us up to reign and that we now in this life, even though we're preparing for what's to come - in this life we can have the discernment of the mind of Christ because of the Spirit of God in our lives and we can actually discern and help and judge properly. And he's raised us up, ladies and gentlemen, as royalty and that means you don't have to listen to the lies of the enemy anymore that tell you that you're an orphan, that tell you that you're a slave, that tell you what you came from. You don't have to listen to it anymore. Why? Because his love is so high that it can't help but raise us up. When that washes over us, when that actually washes over us it will change you.
Let's bow our heads together. Before we walk out and we are walking out in just a moment, if you've never entrusted your life to Christ, the Scripture says that you're dead in your transgressions and sins. You can't save yourself. This is why Christ has come, why he has shown love to you that even while you were a sinner Christ died for you. And if you've never turned from your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus, then when we dismiss in just a moment I would hope that you would come by and speak to one of our pastors, one of our prayer partners. Find out what it means to actually know Christ. What it means to be changed. What it means to receive forgiveness, salvation, hope, new life, to come alive. And if you do that, just come by - in the Atrium there's a room marked the Fireside Room. Just come by there. There's some pastors and prayer partners in there who would love to just talk to you for just a few minutes.
Father, for those of us who know you, I pray that the truth of how high your love is would wash over us because your love's so high that you can't help but raise us up. You bring us to life. You give us rest because of your finished work. You let us reign alongside of you as joint heirs. It's astounding for us, God, to think of the joy of what you have given us because your love is so high. And then you've called us by new names. We're royal priesthood.
So Father, I pray that that kind of love would wash over us in such a way that we would know that you love us so high that we don't have to walk low. We don't walk puffed up with pride. We just walk knowing the height of the love of Christ. I pray that our identity would be found in that. That we would find our identity in how high your love is. And that you call us your own, your Church, your bride, your temple. And I pray that you'd reshape the way that we love others as a result of that. So help us to be what we already are because of your grace. We pray this in Jesus' name, amen.
Love you folks. Have a great week.