Everything, Everywhere / Day 1

BIBLE READING

Ephesians 4: 4-10

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

‘When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.’

(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Psalm 24: 1-4; 7-8

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god....

...Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
 

SUMMARY OF SUNDAY'S MESSAGE

We are beginning a new series: 'Everything, Everywhere'.  We believe that Jesus came to accomplish more than simply personal transformation.  Rather His mission and mandate impacts the whole of life. Redemption is not just for individuals but for institutions; salvation is not just available for us today but it is for the whole of humanity and the whole of history.

One day everything will come under the glory of God and give glory to God.  Therefore the goal is not better church services but to see Jesus glorified in every sector of society and every corner of culture.

Psalm 24:1 says "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

It always has always been and it always will be.  Everything belongs to Him.  He is the King of kings, Lord of lords, President above all presidents.

Ephesians 4: 7 says: "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people."

The image Paul is communicating is taken from the Roman Empire. When Roman generals conquered enemy territory they would return with their defeated foes and parade them through vast areas of Rome, bringing attention to their humiliation and defeat. It was a way of demonstrating that the war had been won, victory was secure and freedom was being declared. As the crowds would cheer and celebrate, the generals and their troops would begin to give out favours and treats to the crowds, gifts as a sign of victory.

This what Paul is alluding to when when he says that when Jesus ascended on high, He took many captives and He gave gifts to His people.  While much of the church today is focused on spiritual gifts, it's important to recognise that the gifts are given in the context of exaltation and freedom. This means that the gift isn't primarily about us, it's just a sign that Jesus has won, He has conquered, He is marching the defeated foe through the streets and on the way He is just letting you in on the victory with His favour.

"He ascended on high" means that Jesus reigns over governments and galaxies. He is the one with supreme authority, who is before all things and above all things.  He is the only uncreated one, pre-existent before all history and humanity, all powerful and all knowing. 

However in order to understand the ascension we need to understand what went before that: "...he also descended to the lower, earthly regions..." (v. 9) His descent speaks of his debasement as a human.  He became like us.  The God of glory became flesh, entering our world as a baby, totally dependent on others. He chose to limit himself to human capacity and relationships. Yet, even as a man, his authority kept leaking out over disorder, disease and demons.  Even in his incarnation, His power was being revealed.

He then descended even further.  The Bible tells us that Jesus didn't just become a man, but He became unrecognisable as a man, such was the beating and scourging He endured.

He descended even further in the separation from His Father. On the cross, the darkness descended as the full weight of our sin was laid upon Him.  As Jesus hung naked on the cross, the hordes of Hell gathered around Him mocking, sneering, celebrating their apparent victory as Jesus cried out: "It is finished."  The Giver of life, the One who is life, descended into death.

However, the Apostle Paul elsewhere reveals that while His lifeless body was hanging unrecognisable on the cross, it was in that moment that Christ was making a public spectacle of them. (Col 2: 15)  While it looked like they are executing their judgement on Him, it was actually the other way around. He was executing His judgement on them and removing from them the power they'd held over broken humanity since the Fall.  He was stripping every demonic principality and authority of their power, while delivering all of humanity.  His humiliation was their ruination and condemnation.  What they assumed to be their greatest victory, was in fact the Lord of glory taking captivity captive.

As He descended into death, He was bringing life to everything, everywhere. He didn't stop His descent at death, descending even further to the very gates of hell where there was a party taking place. Spirits of pride, mockery, shame, betrayal and violence were rejoicing.  The spirit of death announced his claim to have ruled over all humanity. Everyone was apparently subject to his power.

The satanic celebration was interrupted by an unexpected sound - the gates of hell were shaking.  Christ was entering, the King of kings walked in through the door, declaring boldly: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Cor 15: 55)

Jesus took the keys of death and hell and proclaimed freedom for the prisoners.  The Apostle Peter speaks of how, "After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits..." (1 Peter 3: 19) These are the saints, throughout the ages, who had held onto the promises of God as they looked forward to the coming of the One who would take away sin, once and for all. They are looking at the one they prophesied of and longed for. The doors were opened and they were liberated, joining with Jesus in His ascension.

As they walk up the steps of ascent, they come to the very ramparts of Heaven. Psalm 24 asks the question:

"Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god." (vv. 3-4)

Only one person in the whole of history satisfies these requirements - Jesus.  The One who lived sinlessly, died sacrificially, raised victoriously. Therefore when He arrives at the gates of glory, the proclamation of Heaven is:

"Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle." (vv. 7-8)

We are His followers.  As believers we are co-heirs in Christ. There is nothing that He has not already done for you and nothing that He has not already defeated on your behalf. There is nothing that you could suffer that he has not already endured. He has entered the darkest place we could ever go and announced His Kingdom in that dark place.

The gates swing wide, Jesus steps in and approaches the Father, who in vindication pronounces: "Sit down at my right hand and reign until your enemies become your footstool." (Acts 2: 35; Heb 10: 13)

The Son takes rightful place and the angelic host gather in worship. His presence fills not only the church, but He is receiving the fruit of His labour, as every city, every industry, every place is filled with His beauty, majesty, authority and glory.  All things everywhere are coming under one head, one Lord, that is Christ.

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2: 9-11)

His name is above all other names including death, disorder, disease, debt, rejection and fear. He has risen in victory and today is reigning in supreme majesty. Our role is to enforce His rule and authority here on the earth.  Every power influencing our lives, He has already descended to break.

This is the story of God, the kerygma, our proclamation, held through every generation of the church, from AD 33 until the present day.