Left Behind

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 

Matthew 19:28-29

We will face hardship in the world. Some of it will be just the inevitable result of the brokenness of a sinful world. Some of it will be the result sinful choices of people around us. Some of it will be the consequences of sin in our own life. Some of it will be opposition from the enemy trying to hamper who we were created to be and what we were created to do.

Yet, there is another category of hardship that comes with following Jesus. There will be times when Jesus asks us to leave behind something that we love in order to pursue His calling on our life. There will be times when we are called to take up our cross and follow Him.

He may call us to give up food at certain intervals in order to fast and pray. He may call us to get up earlier to exercise or spend more time with Him. He may call us to change jobs, move to a new place, or give our money to an organization in a sacrificial way that feels painful. He may call us to leave behind the American dream in order to pursue His dream for our life.

Whatever it is that we are called to leave behind, Jesus gives us a promise in its place. Whatever we give up for the sake of the name of Jesus will be repaid to us a hundred times over. Whatever we allow to die will be planted in the ground and will produce a harvest much larger than whatever we gave up. Our inheritance from the Lord will be much bigger that whatever we sacrificed.

How gracious is our God! If He tells us to leave behind something not good for us, like sin, it sets us free and makes us whole. If He tells us to leave behind something that is good for us as a sacrifice to Him, He ends up paying us back a hundred times over anyway. This is the generosity of the Lord! This is the grace of God!

What is God asking you to leave behind as He calls you further into Himself?

New Family

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

1 Peter 1:3-4

We might see someone born into a royal family or an extremely wealthy family and catch ourselves wondering what it would be like to be born into such wealth and power. Yet, those of us who are in Christ have experienced exactly that reality even if we don’t realize it.

When we surrendered our life to Jesus and received the Holy Spirit in us as a deposit, a guarantee of the coming inheritance of the Kingdom of God, we were born again or born from above. We experienced a second birth. And in this birth, we were born into the Royal Family of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We are now sons and daughters of the King. We are princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus told Nicodemus:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (from above – literally in the Greek).” …

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

John 3:3, 5-8

When we are physically born into this world, we start with our body. Our bodies are a part of the family that we are born into. Then, in time, our soul (mind, will, emotions) and spirit become a part of the family as we learn to communicate and build relationships with our family members.

When we are born again, when we are born from above–from the kingdom of heaven–we start in the reverse order of our physical birth. We begin with our spirit. Our spirit is united with the Holy Spirit. Then, in time, our soul (mind, will, emotions) becomes more and more saturated with the Kingdom. Then in the day of the resurrection we will get a resurrected body, a glorified body fit for the Kingdom of God.

We don’t have to wish we were born into a different family, one with less dysfunction or more money. This is the beauty of the gospel. No one is locked into the inheritance of their earthly family. When we accept Jesus as Savior and King, when we surrender to Him and receive the Holy Spirit, we get a new family and a new inheritance.

We are born into a living hope that never dies. Our inheritance from God is one that will never perish, spoil or fade. It is an eternal inheritance that will last forever and that we have access to now through obedience and faith.

Inheritance (Part 2)

Paul writes down some of his prayers for the Ephesians. By looking at what he prays for we can learn more about what parts of our inheritance in Christ are available to us now. These things that Paul prays for aren’t automatic or he wouldn’t need to pray that the Ephesians receive them. Instead, they are available but must be pursued.  

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”

Ephesians 1:17-20

Here are more things that come with the inheritance of Christ. Every believer has access to these but must pursue them:

  1. “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation”: this is when the Holy Spirit in us begins to supernaturally download God’s wisdom to us. It is insight that can’t be attained through natural means. God reveals things to us by His Spirit. When we get glimpses of the mind of Christ, we get to know Him better.
  2. “eyes of your heart…enlightened”: this is the ability to see and sense things that we couldn’t before. Sometimes it is sensing things about another person. Sometimes it is an “ah ha” moment when reading Scripture. Sometimes it is just the ability to view a hard situation from God’s perspective. Specifically, Paul prays that the Ephesians would have the eyes of their hearts enlightened so that can come to know two things – hope and power.
  3. “the hope to which he has called you”: hope is part of our inheritance as believers. Part of the reason we can have hope in any situation is because of the riches of this glorious inheritance that has been given to us by Christ. The hope of the gospel is an unconditional hope not dependent on circumstances. But this hope isn’t automatic; it must be pursued and held onto.
  4. “his incomparably great power”: believers have access to the same power that rose Jesus from the dead. This is part of our inheritance! This power comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Romans 8:11 says, “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you.” This power is not something to take likely. More power is entrusted to those who are good stewards of what they’ve already been given. Miracles become a more regular part of a believer’s life when they begin to operate in more power from the Holy Spirit.

As one can see, we’ve not only been given salvation in Christ but so much more!

Imagine a teenager living in poverty with a huge inheritance sitting in his bank account untouched. He doesn’t know it’s there and he doesn’t know how to access it. When family members have tried to tell him about it, he doesn’t believe them. When family members tell him that the first step in receiving what’s in the account is believing it is really there, he skeptically responds, “If this inheritance was real, I shouldn’t have to believe it is there for it to exist.” He ignores their response as they tell him his unbelief doesn’t change the reality of its existence but instead hinders his ability to access it. The longer he refuses to access his inheritance (or learn how to access it) the more he struggles in poverty.

This is much of the American church. We live in such spiritual poverty that we struggle to believe in the reality of the inheritance that has been given to us. The “riches of his glorious inheritance” is beyond measure! Are we willing to pursue it and receive it?

Inheritance (Part 1)

An inheritance is something sons and daughters receive when a parent dies. Throughout the New Testament, this language of inheritance is used to describe what has been made available to believers in Jesus because of His death and resurrection. Sometimes it has been taught that this inheritance is something believers get in eternity when we die, but that is only partially true. What is different about this inheritance is that, because Jesus already began to usher in the Kingdom of God and continues to do so through those who belong to Him, much of the inheritance is available to us before we die. It is available now!

Paul starts his letter to the Ephesians trying to explain this to them. He writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). In other words, as believers our inheritance in Christ is already in the heavenly realms collecting interest. It is already ours because of Christ.

Some of this inheritance is already being poured out to us. Paul lists some of the pieces of the inheritance that are ours now: “adoption to sonship,” “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace,” “the mystery of his will ….which he purposed in Christ,” being “included in Christ” (Ephesians 1:5,7,9,13).

All of these things are part of the inheritance, but maybe the best part of the inheritance that we get to experience now is this: “you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession”(Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit is a foretaste, a deposit, of the full inheritance that is awaiting us in eternity.

Paul isn’t done listing all the pieces of our inheritance that we get to experience now. So much of the letter to the Ephesians is Paul helping the Christians there understand all that is rightfully theirs as sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords. If we don’t understand how our inheritance works and its significance in our life right now, we’ll never step into all that is available to us in Christ. We’ve been given so much more than salvation. That certainly would have been enough! But our gracious Father has given us so much more!

And we’ve been given so much more so that we could give it away. Jesus told His disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give”(Matthew 10:8). If we don’t know all that we’ve been given in Christ, we’ll never be able to give it away to the world!