“He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever received a gift that wound up being even better than you imagined it would be? When you get married, you receive all kinds of different gifts. Some people are really good at picking out practical or meaningful gifts. Other folks…mean well. My parents still laugh at a wedding gift they received. It was a serving dish shaped like a Weiner dog and you could pull out its tail to find a little knife for spreading dips. On the other hand, we received a set of basic utility knives from a friend’s mom that we used for fifteen years before they were finally so dull (and had been sharpened so many times they wouldn’t maintain an edge anymore) that we had to replace them. The gift of salvation is a little like our knives (not so much like the Weiner dog serving dish). In our verses yesterday, Paul told us about the salvation we have available in Christ. Here, he invites us more fully into it to see the real riches our God has in store for us.
In Christ we are given new life from the dead. If you’ve been around the church for very long (and especially if you’ve grown up in it like I have), that statement expresses an idea so common that you might barely give it any thought. But we should. The trouble is that it expresses a spiritual reality that is hard to see with our eyes. When it has really and truly happened, it begins to bear itself out in our lives in very much visible ways, but if you’ve lived with it for long, familiarity can start to breed contempt. We have new life in Christ and blah, blah, blah. But we still struggle. We still fall on our faces before even minor temptations. We still harbor judgmental and angry thoughts toward the people around us. The righteousness of God’s kingdom is sometimes…often…much slower to take in our lives than we would prefer. And even when it seems to be taking okay for us, it’s not often doing so in the lives of the people around us which makes our road hard anyway.
Yet when we pause long enough to process some conscious thoughts about it, the gift of salvation in Christ is amazing beyond description. We who were dead in our sins can be made alive in Christ. If you have received His offer and accepted Him as Lord, death no longer characterizes your life. Its hold on you has been broken. You have the ability – with the Spirit’s abiding help – to not sin. You can say no to it. You can refuse to let its destructive potential unleash kinetic fury in your life and the lives of the people around you any longer. None of these changes are instant or easy, but they are possibilities whereas once they were not. The brokenness of a life apart from Christ doesn’t have to be your only option any longer.
The world tries to cover up and deny the potency of that brokenness. That’s part of why we keep drifting back into it. Just about every show on television right now makes the brokenness of sin a front-and-center feature of its storytelling. And in almost no instance is it presented as anything other than a mild irritation in the lives of the people who are experiencing it. There are rarely any lasting consequences from it. In most cases, it is presented as something humorous and even beneficial. Lying, cheating, stealing, and so much casual and illicit sex and gratuitous violence are all presented as simply normal parts of life. They are glamorized and reformed into twisted virtues. Sin is simply how the world works. And it invites us into the party. What it doesn’t tell us, though, is that all the guests are dead or dying. It also doesn’t tell us that when we try on any of what we see, it will invariably ruin us.
Jesus saves us from all of that.
But as Paul shows us here, it is actually even better than that. God doesn’t plan for us to simply be made alive in Christ where we were once dead in our sins. His plan goes beyond new life to our glorification in Christ. He wants to take us from the filthy rags of our sinful past and array us in garments of splendor and glory so that we can sit alongside Him, in His very presence. It’s like we are living the story of Annie. We were trapped in the squalor of sin, but God reached to bring us out of it in Christ by no effort or particular worth on our part (as Paul wrote at the end of yesterday’s passage and will make explicit tomorrow, we are saved by grace) to give us a new life. But with this new life from our immeasurably wealthy benefactor comes all the trappings of wealth. But unlike Annie’s feeling badly that none of her fellow orphans were similarly delivered, this offering is made available to everyone.
And the end result of all of this is not just our glorification in Christ, it is God’s glorification as the most glorious of all. Our salvation increases His glory. As the jewels of His kingdom, He will one day point to us to show how great and wonderful He truly is. In the ancient world, kings would throw elaborate parties during which time they would bring out trophies of their various conquests so their people could marvel at how great they were. This was all an act of sinful hubris on their part because their greatness was never more than something gained on the backs of others and at the pleasure of the God who truly is great. With God, though, His greatness is inherent. He truly is glorious. And He will demonstrate all of this not by showing how He has conquered, but by showing how great His kindness is to us in Christ. God’s glory is found in His power and might, but it is found even more powerfully in His humility and kindness. And we are the evidence of it. Our changes lives are what put this all on display.
As for what form that display takes and what its impact is intended to be, that, Lord willing, is what we will talk about tomorrow. See you then as we wrap up this short series, and then on Friday we’ll talk about a Netflix show whose worldview confusion keeps it from becoming all that it could be.