The Hope of His Calling

January 17th, 2019

…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:18)

These three words – “hope,” “His,” and “calling” – together proclaim a wonderful Christian truth. There is eternal hope in the calling of God.

“Hope” means that for us who believe, the future is always getting brighter. Troubles are temporary but blessings are eternal. “His” means that God has redeemed us and we belong to Him. When you trusted in Christ, God put His seal on you, and marked you eternally as His child. “Calling” completes the picture of this biblical phrase and it means that God calls our names.  He calls us each individually. We have hope because God calls us intimately, and personally and assures us that we are His. It is our job to stop and listen to His voice.  

Hope or Hopelessness

There are other words used in this world that compete with these three. “Discouragement” and “hopelessness” are two words that paint a very different picture, a black and depressing one. It is the work of the dark forces in the spiritual realms to put these thoughts into our heads. In Ephesians they are called “principality and power, and might and dominion” (1:21) and “rulers of the darkness of this world” (6:12). Satan himself is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (2:2), and he leads this gang of old spirits, fallen from millennia ago. 

The very description of them depicts an embedded enemy – entrenched in culture, human thought, and old sayings, and they raise their ugly heads every time some hopeless thought is spoken in the world. Elsewhere Paul wrote: 

So from now on we regard no one according to the flesh. Although we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:16-17)  

This describes a new way of thinking, a new approach to life that takes the demonic hopeless discouragement and tosses it aside. 

His or Theirs

And that word “His” that speaks of divine ownership also is challenged by the evil horde that is opposed to us. In the very idea of salvation the Bible unhesitatingly uses the word “redemption” and the idea is that Christ has by His blood purchased us back from Satanic control. His death removed the basis of accusation against us by paying what we owed. 

When you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our trespasses, having canceled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross! And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 1:13-15)  

In so doing, Christ removed the basis that Satan held for accusation against us. Satan is the father of lies, but with regard to our guilt he need not lie. He can tell the truth and make a compelling case for each of us as to why we deserve eternal condemnation. The answer to these accusations is not to plead our innocence – that would be foolish – but to plead the shed blood of Christ as payment for our sins. 

And by the sealing of our hearts by His Spirit He marks us as His. Our freedom is found not in our “independence,” for we can never be truly independent. Either we will be a slave to our lusts and thereby to the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), or we will come to Christ and have Him break this curse and set us free to live in Him. Our freedom from lust and price and demonic deception and dominion is found in surrender to Christ. That is the only spiritual power we will ever truly have. 

Calling or Crowding

The crowd is impersonal and quickly forgets who we are. The call of God is personal and speaks directly to our significance in the universe. If God knows your name, if He calls to you personally and intimately, then no one can ever say that you are insignificant or that your life is meaningless. 

There is no satisfying significance to the human soul through the world alone – it is meaningless since all who know us, and even those who esteem us favorably, will like us soon pass away and be remembered no more. Solomon in Ecclesiastes expounds on the meaningless of the mere material view of life. He wrote:

Then I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what more can the king’s successor do than what has already been accomplished? And I saw that wisdom exceeds folly, just as light exceeds darkness: The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I also came to realize that one fate overcomes them both. So I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will also befall me. What then have I gained by being wise?” And I said to myself that this too is futile. For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise, just as with the fool, seeing that both will be forgotten in the days to come. Alas, the wise man will die just like the fool! So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind. (Eccl. 2:12-17)

The solution that Solomon came to, as the Spirit led him, is to “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13). The idea of fearing God is the Old Testament way of describing dependent faith in God. The fear of God is the fear that takes away all other fears, for we find that though He is just and holy, that He is also faithful and loving and compassionate.

When we respond to His call in our hearts in faith and surrender, we experience His love and His grace. This is the good news of the gospel. God calls us to a living hope, to an eternal redemption, and to an intimate relationship with Him. We must simply respond with faith and surrender. 

Ephesians

The Surpassing Greatness of His Power

January 16th, 2019

The surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. (Ephesians 1:19)

It is the nature of a thing that in the end will determine its acts. We distinguish between tameable and untameable animals along these very lines, that the untameable may eventually turn on their host, no matter how kindly they have been treated.

With God, however, the opposite nature predominates, that His kindness, His love, His compassion brought about the cross of Christ. Just as His holiness demanded a payment be made for sin, so His love demanded that He Himself make the payment. But love and holiness are not the only eternal attributes of the Creator. There is also the undeniable and inseparable attribute of power that cannot be restrained.

God is neither eternal holiness that is locked up and incapable of executing justice on the sinner, nor is He eternal love that is shut away in an eternal heart unable to express its dearest and most deeply held affections. Patience does not equal weakness or the inability to act on the part of God. And while we wait for the culmination of the age, the righting of all that is wrong, the total fulfilment of His promises to us, God does not sit idly by twiddling His eternal thumbs, so to speak.

He acts. He acts with the power that is uniquely His – the very power that raised Christ from the grave, that breathed life into the dead and lifeless body of Jesus of Nazareth as it lay in a tomb just outside of Jerusalem.  The power that ushered universe into existence, that spoke and it was done, now expresses this divine and measureless love toward those who believe. His power as He directs it toward us is described in different ways.

In Ephesians 3:7 Paul wrote of the “effectual working of His power,” emphasising the efficiency of God’s power in achieving His purposes. Philippians 3:21 stresses the overcoming nature of God’s power who is able “subdue all things to Himself.” In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul stressed the inward working of God in our hearts and lives as he wrote saying:

We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.

There are several different Greek words that are used for this idea of power, but they all support the biblical idea that God’s power is “inherent power.” This means that the power derives from God Himself, as there is no one greater than He who could bestow it upon Him. To know God is to know divine power, power that is efficient, effectual, overcoming, and inward working.

Surpassing greatness

The meaning here is power that goes beyond our expectations. “Over throw” is the literal meaning of the word huperballo, and means to excel, to transcend, to overachieve, to exceed. It means that the exercise of God’s power is constantly surprising. It is greatness that we are constantly unable to grasp or always anticipate. In dealing with God and His Spirit we are very much like a man holding a live electric wire in his hand uncertain of the amount of kilowatts or what it will do to the things it touches.

Does this comfort, surprise, threaten, or confuse you? Or does it do all of these things and more to you? Many of the promises of God are clear enough for us to grasp, concepts such as redemption, pardoning, forgiveness, regeneration, etc. But their extent is unknown to us. A Christian is like a man starting a journey knowing only the destination, but entirely unsure of the valleys he will descend into, the mountains he will ascend up to, the deserts he will cross, or the vistas he will view, or even the company he will keep, but we can be sure that through it all the overcoming, efficient, and inward working power of God will be there for us.

To us who believe

The words here do not yet explain the working of God within us – the inward working nature of God’s power is stressed in many other places of scripture. Here, however, the emphasis is upon the intent of God to direct His power toward those who believe. It takes God’s power in order for us to believe – His Spiritual power that convicts us of sin, and convinces us that Christ is the solution to our sin, and stresses the urgency of this matter of faith  (John 16:8-11). Yet faith also invites more of God’s power to be at work in our lives.

Later in Ephesians Paul will speak of “the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). So the power of God is not merely an outgoing reality for the Christian, but in His power He alters our very nature. We become new people in Christ by the power of God. In Romans he wrote: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (Rom. 6:8).

Let this be enough for today, the awareness that God’s limitless and unchainable power is directed toward us who believe. So many people I have met do not understand this. They still look at faith like they are drinking water, and they thirst again immediately afterward. They keep asking for salvation because they do not understand the power of God. Christ spoke of the living water He provides that will really satisfy our hearts (John 4:14). God raises us with His limitless power and transforms us inwardly and eternally.

Daily Devotions, Ephesians