Ephesians– overview of 3:1-9; tapping into the power of God, part 4.
Friday October 24, 2019
In an interview with the Hoover Institute, Jimmy Lai, who is a leader of the protests in Hong Kong his final statement struck me. He was a stowaway on a boat as a child, making it to Hong Kong from mainland China. He began working for a month as a child and by the time he was in his 20’s he owned his own business which he turned into a multi-million-dollar company. After the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, Mr. Lai went into publishing and started magazines intent on disseminating ideas on democracy. An assassination was made on his life in 2009, his house has been fire-bombed in 2015, pictures of his children have been posted so that they might be harassed, and the government has pressured businesses not to advertise in his magazines, lowering their revenue. Near the end of the interview he was asked, in light of all this trouble, which is only bound to get worse in Hong Kong’s struggle with China, what is his future; will he flee the city? He replied without hesitation, “I cannot leave Hong Kong. I am one of the trouble makers and I can’t make trouble if I go.” He continued, “I long ago gave up being afraid of fear. If they want to take my life, if they want to harass my wife, I cannot stop them. I tell myself, ‘Don’t think about the consequences, do what is right. If I always think about the consequences [what doing right is going to cost him] I can do nothing. I do what is right and go on with my life.”
I speak of this because the attitude of this brave man is essential in Christianity. Very few people have courage, but every Christian should possess it. Christ told us that we are blessed [happinesses] if we are persecuted for His name’s sake. If we see Christ, the treasure and the fine pearl, for what He is, nothing is as valuable and nothing, be it comfort, acceptance, wealth, ease, is worth setting Him and His way and His kingdom aside.
“The treasure and the pearl are alike Christ. To “find” Christ, to “gain” Christ, to “possess” Christ, to “have” Christ for his very own, is the ultimate truth of the Kingdom for all that have really grasped its significance.” [Winterbotham, The Kingdom of Heaven]
Luk 9:23 "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Luk 9:24 "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
Luk 9:25 "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
Luk 9:26 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
“The utmost that can be said is this, that the invitation to part with everything and to embrace a life of “evangelical poverty” [willing to give all that God desires and willing to lay aside all things of the old man] cannot be enforced on anyone from without. There it is, and the rich man is at liberty to take it or leave it. If he take it he will have no less reward than the rich man would have if he had followed Christ. If he leave it he will suffer the same loss – no more and no less – which that man suffered: [for a believer] not the loss of eternal life, or of his “soul,” or anything of that kind; but simply the loss of a possible happiness, of an attainable freedom, in the spiritual life, worth more than all the riches of the world.” [Winterbotham, italics mine]
Life is much more than having enough supplies to live comfortably, or even more than enough to live extravagantly. Life must have meaning. The soul must be fulfilled by love and freedom and the pursuit of goodness and life. And we must never arrive. We must always be searching, climbing, learning, knowing, finding, and thus exalting ever in our infinite God.
He continues: “Meantime it is clear that we ought to realize the gravity of the situation. We stand accused of profound hypocrisy. We are told over and over again that Christ can only be ours at the price of everything else which we value. In point of fact we cling to everything else with a vigilant and eager tenacity, and we claim to have Christ too. We have so accustomed ourselves to this attitude (in the very teeth of His words) that we have got to look upon it as the very essence of enlightened religion. Nothing could be more fatal. The one chance we have is to exercise ourselves continually in an inward renunciation of all wealth, all happiness, for Christ’s sake. It is possible to detach oneself from all one’s belongings, to survey them, as it were, from without, to realize what the loss of them would be and to make an offering of them all to God – a freewill offering – if it would please Him. It is possible to regard all one’s belongings as not one’s own, as blessings renounced and only retained from day to day until it please Him to take them. In such ways one may test and strengthen one’s readiness to part with all that one has. It is not altogether satisfactory, but it is the best we can do, short of actually impoverishing ourselves, and we are bound to do it. The common attitude of mind, according to which a man clings to every possession he has to the last possible minute, and when he cannot keep it any longer tries to content himself with the thought of having the heavenly treasure instead, is unspeakably dreadful.”
How utterly opposite that temperament is to what is depicted in the parable: and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.
The necessary readiness of the believer to sacrifice everything for the sake of Christ is not in opposition of the doctrine of salvation through free grace, salvation by faith apart from works. It is amazing that Christ uses commerce in His depiction of the kingdom of God, but it is only to depict the value of His kingdom. As subjects of that kingdom, saved by grace though we are, would we not be tragic and dire if we thought anything more valuable than Christ?
Eph 3:4 And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
Eph 3:5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
Eph 3:6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
Eph 3:7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.
Set apart from the womb, called to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and subsequently and specifically called by God to go to various areas of the Roman Empire to preach the gospel, Paul chose the path that God foreordained.
Once the decision is made to follow the path that God determined for you, there is only one path to which you are obligated, and on this one path you will be empowered by God.
Paul states in 1Co 9 that he had no choice and that he was under compulsion. His personal choice was to either accept the stewardship that God selected for him or not. There were no other options in the plan of God other than that one stewardship.
Since it is under compulsion it is not applied for, as one would a job in our culture, and so it is not rewarded with compensation, but that is not to say that there is no reward.
The reward for taking the path that God has chosen for you is that you will complete it and that God will empower you to do so.
Mat 13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.
Mat 13:45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls,
Mat 13:46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Those who find the treasure/pearl, which is the Lord Jesus Christ, will eventually determine that all other things have lost their value by comparison.
The men sell all that they have, which does not mean that we have to buy the kingdom of God, but that we must eventually find that compared to it, to Christ, nothing else is of any value, and if something is getting in the way of life in that kingdom, the Christlike life, it has to go.