King and Kingdom – Ephesians 1.15-23
Sunday School Lesson: Spiritual disciplines help us keep Christ Jesus on the throne of our hearts and minds.
- According to Kenneth Kinghorn in his book The Heritage of American Methodism John Wesley encouraged five disciplines: prayer, scripture, fasting, communion, and conferencing.
- Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth offers a number of spiritual tools to strengthen our relationship with God: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
- Brother Lawrence in his memoirs entitled The Practice of the Presence of God offers a lifestyle of practicing the presence of God: every moment is devoted to God’s service and in relationship with him.
- Ruth Haley Barton in her Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation offers a new take on the sacred ways to connect with God: solitude, scripture, prayer, boundaries, self-examination, discernment, Sabbath, and rule of life.
- Leona Frances Choy in her book The Life-Changing Power of the Holy Spirit: Insights from Classic Christian Leaders writes about the great women and men of Christian history from the 1800 to mid-1900s. All of the people she researched found their relationship with the Holy Spirit to be the essential and key ingredient to their advancement of the Gospel.
Since it is Christ the King Sunday, let us reflect on the various names of Jesus that help us connect to God in our daily lives: Root of Jesse/David, Morning/Day Star, The Word, Son of David, Son of Man, Man of Sorrows, Jesus of Nazareth, Anointed One, Lamb of God, Bridegroom, Way/Truth/Light, Bread of Heaven, Hidden Manna, Rose of Sharon, Lily of the Valley, Rock of Ages, Stone, Foundation, Builder, Lamb of God, Tree of Life, True Vine, Prince of Peace, Great Physician, Shepherd, Teacher, Redeemer, Messiah, Christ, Son of God, Only Begotten Son, Emanuel, Holy One, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and Alpha & Omega. These names have great meaning for all of us, but today we are focusing on Jesus as our King.
Across the expanse of the Scriptures Jesus is known by many names. We can decorate this tree with the names of Christ as we prepare our hearts for the Advent Season and Christmas. We can finish the tree with a crown, a scepter, and a robe to remind us that Christ is our King, the ruler over all the heaven and all the earth. And, our tithe we will place under the tree as a symbol of surrendering our monies to the Kingdom of God.
Christ is our King on Sundays as well as the rest of the days of the week. But today Christ is proclaimed to the world that, indeed, Christ Jesus alone is our One True God. To state a claim such as Christ is our King is announcing with grand boldness that we together acknowledge our surrender to Christ as our leader.
On this day we awake from our stupor and rise from spiritual death to allow Christ Himself to shed his light broad in our hearts that our sins may be revealed (Eph. 5.14). On this day we proclaim God’s Kingdom has come into our hearts and upon the earth that all things have come under Jesus’ lordship. On this day Christ the King is lord over all the earth and everything in it.
Today we celebrate Christ the King and his reign both now and in his Second Coming. To understand this mystery of King and Kingdom we must remember the whole of salvation history. From Genesis to Revelation the story of God’s great love unfolds. When creation is plunged into sin from human hands, God set out to redeem the work of his hands. Creation had sold itself into trouble, and God planned to buy it back for his good pleasure. So God chose a family, a people, and a nation to become his own family, and God became one of us – a human being.
This God-Man was born and named Jesus. This Jesus walked about the land bringing hope and healing to the destitute. To accomplish this goal the God-Man Jesus had to die, be raised from the dead, and resurrected into the heavenly realm. He is seated in heavenly places to rule and reign over creation once more. He holds the doorway to a new life wide open to us, a doorway that no one can shut.
No longer are we separated from God by our sin (Eph. 2.10). No longer are we divided because of race or ethnicity (Eph. 2.14) or our nationality (Eph. 3.6). No longer do we remain in the dark about God’s plans (Eph. 3.5) by having a lack of wisdom (Eph. 3.10) or a lack of knowledge of God (Eph. 3.19). No longer are we divided because of our lack of love, humility, or peace (Eph. 4.2-6) because of immaturity (Eph. 4.14). No longer are we divided because of our deceitful desires (Eph. 4.22) that cause us to speak with impurity to one another (Eph. 5.19). No longer are we divided because of how we relate to one another whether gender, age or rank in society (Eph. 5.21). No longer are we divided because of evil schemes in the heavenly realm (Eph. 6.11-12).
Christ has become our King. Our true citizenship belongs within the Kingdom of God. We are heirs of a new world order that begins the moment we accept Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.
As we look more intently at our text in Ephesians we discover that Christ is the head of the cosmos. He is the leader of the church. The destiny of the universe is caught up within the fullness this God-Man Jesus, the Incarnate Babe. The fullness of God has come to us through the God-Man Jesus, and our work on this earth is to find our way into this new world order.
Anglican Theologian N.T. Wright in his Easter address to Wheaton College a few years ago provides a template to hear Ephesians in light of this new world order. Wright invites us to comprehend that the Kingdom of God has now come to earth. Often times we imagine that Heaven is up there somewhere in some far off distant place. But what Wright invites us to recognize is that the Kingdom of God is a reality just beyond our senses.
Wright suggests there are six key verses in which Ephesians can be comprehend: Ephesians 1.10, 2.10, 3.10, and then 4.15, 5.14, and 6.13.
- Fullness of Creation in Christ. He begins with 1.10 stating that in the fullness of time God has gathered up all things in Christ – both heaven and earth. Contrary to our modernistic view heaven and earth are no longer split apart and distant from one another but are held completely as one in Christ. The Christians inheritance is to see God’s Kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven, which Jesus proclaimed clearly at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Mark 1.14-15).
- Recovered Creativity. Wright points to 2.10 as our next stop along the journey through Ephesians. God has created us to offer good works of creative living joining both the orderly and playful sides of living.
- United with all Peoples. Our next stop along the route is 3.10 where Paul tells us that the wisdom of God has been revealed to bring all humanity together and united in love. And, now that Wright has established that God has restored the divide between heaven and earth, and our right and left hemispheres of our brains have been united, we are now able to go forth in order and creativity to be reconciled with all humanity through love.
- Gifted to be Reconciled. Our next stop in Ephesians is 4.15 where we discover that God has given each of us all the gifts to support one another in this good work of reconciliation. Paul tells us to grow up, and it is through the use of our God given gifts that we are to put aside our self-promoting attitudes and use our leadership abilities to help others be reconciled to God and each other.
- Coming Alive in New Ways. Our subsequent stop is at 5.14, and it is here that Paul commands the sleeping church to awaken through the power of the resurrection. Wright interprets Paul’s letter as an invitation for you and I to come alive in a new way. Our misunderstandings of sinfulness is a hindrance to our living into the fullness of Christ Jesus in the Kingdom of God. We are tempted to see sin as something we shouldn’t do because it is bad for us, but Wright suggests that we have this view all wrong. Of course sin is bad, but it is because it is keeping you and I from something that even better! When we put aside our sinful behaviors, we have an opportunity to come alive in a whole new way.
- The Kingdom faces Opposition. I final stop in Ephesians is 6.13 where Paul discusses strategies on how to defeat the enemy of our soul. This final topic could be a length discussion that we can take up at another time. But for now suffice it to say that the Kingdom of God comes with its own kind of opposition in both the heavenly and earthly realms.
Ephesians establishes that Jesus is our Lord and the King over all the earth. His kingdom has come to earth. We have received our inheritance as God’s own people who have received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Adoption that places us within the Kingdom gateway.
The role of the Holy Spirit is to help us comprehend our relationship with King Jesus. It is essential for each one of us to understand that God is always present with us, he knows us completely, and he has absolute power over us – whether we believe in him or not. God can only be who he is: always present, completely knowing, and absolutely powerful. And, it is these three characteristics of God that make Jesus our King: presence, knowing, and power. No other spiritual being or human being has these distinct characteristics of being fully human and fully God.
God is not far from each one of us for in him we exist; apart from God we are nothing (Acts 17.28). God completely fills the earth (Jeremiah 23.24). No space is without the divine presence of God (Oden, 67). God cannot be excluded from any person, place or thing in all of creation for God is completely aware of all of his creation. Because God is completely present, it stands to reason that he can completely know us as well.
There is nothing in creation that can hide from God. Everything lies bare and exposed before his eyes. God has an infinite understanding – meaning God understands all the possible outcomes before they even become to exist. Because God exists outside of time and space, God knows everything from the past, all opportunities in the present, and the infinite outcomes of our futures.
God see the ends of the earth, the whole of heaven, and the conditions of every human heart. Even before you or I have spoken a word God has already heard my thoughts (Ps. 139.3,4). Jesus even suggests that God has numbered the hairs on our heads (Mt. 10.30). You can be sure God knows every little detail of our lives (Oden, 70). If you believe that God only knows what you know about yourself, you are sadly mistaken. God doesn’t have to learn something, God already knows everything (Oden, 74).
Being present everywhere and knowing everything does not make one completely powerful but make no mistake about it… God is not impotent. Nothing is beyond God’s ability. If God conceives of an idea or wills a thought, it is within his ability to accomplish it if he so chooses. God influences his creation through his free will.
God’s influence is always to empower creation to choose rightly by its own free will. No power outside of God can defeat God. God’s power is best understood as self-giving love. God’s power is persuasive in nature. God’s power is so complete that other powers can challenge God yet God remains and will remain undefensive in his response. God’s power is guarded by his expression of his self-contained holiness and great love for his whole creation.
So now that we have this knowledge that Jesus is our King and he is everywhere, he knows everything, and he has power over every part of his creation – how do we apply this to our lives? … I think it’s important that God’s Kingdom is nothing like what we experience on earth. There is no government on earth like the Kingdom of God. God is not a democrat or a republican or a tea party person. God is not like the Queen of England. God is not a Prime Minister. God is not a dictator. And, God is not a President. God’s leadership is not determined by majority rule, although God does allow us to influence his decision-making. God’s leadership is complete, but without corruption.
And, most importantly God shares his power with his people. God has the ability to share his power with his subjects. This power comes by way of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit if the supernatural power of God’s transforming and recreating grace within every believer. King Jesus is the not subject to any other power in all heaven or on earth, and his resurrection proves the totality of his power. This is good news for us who are struggling with sin and death for King Jesus has conquered sin on the cross and death by his resurrection.
Today we reflect on what it means for Jesus to be our King. Today we remember that Jesus is Lord over all of heaven and earth. We remember Jesus is Ruler. We remember that he sees all, knows all, and has the ultimate authority. Now we wait for the final outcome of this grand and sweeping love story that began thousands of years ago. And, from time to time the saints over the course of history have caught glimpses of Jesus our King – people like Stephen, Paul, and John – and they’ve lived to tell about their experience and even write it down for us.
In these days when we find ourselves especially longing for the return of our King, we can open our Bibles to the final chapters. In the final chapters you and I can read about what one day will be our inheritance – a place where King and Kingdom will no longer be a mystery. Here the words from Revelation 19… and Revelation 21… These words invite us to imagine the awesomeness of our King and his Kingdom. And all the earth cried, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And, all God’s people said, “Amen!”