Clarion Word Classics: The Dangers of a Shallow Faith

 

What are Clarion Word Classics?

The Clarion Word Classics (CWC) is a learning series WordBytes has launched to share faith writings that will strengthen and enrich our spiritual lives and faith walk.  Some of our classics come from sage theologians.  Others introduce contemporary writers who offer spiritual answers to the challenges of 21st century living.

The word “clarion” comes from the Latin word that means “clear”.  Used as an adjective, it means “loud and clear”.  Our intent with this quarterly series is to make “loud and clear” what is ours in Christ (Rom. 8:17) and the relevancy of our faith for this present generation (Matt. 24:34).

This quarter CWC, will introduce A.W. Tozer, a self-taught theologian, pastor, and writer whose powerful use of words continues to grip the intellect and stir the soul of today’s believer.  He has authored more than 40 books, the best known are The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy.  The Dangers of a  Shallow Faith is a never-before-published compilation.

How does it connect with our faith walk?

Lethargy is a lingering tiredness that is constant and limiting. Spiritual lethargy may be defined as a state of indifference or inertia with regard to one’s own spiritual growth and vitality.

The Apostle Paul urged the Thessalonians to avoid succumbing to spiritual lethargy: “so then let us not sleep as others do but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thess. 5:6).

Tozer describes this condition well: “there is little communion and little joy in the Lord. To have a cold heart with little pity, little fire, little love and little worship is spiritual lethargy.”[1] 

Some of the most common symptoms include any combination of the following:

  • Chronic indulgence in sinful thoughts and actions
  • Little or no desire to pray
  • Engagement in exclusively Christ-less entertainment
  • Avoidance of personal accountability
  • Decreased appetite for Bible study
  • Selfish and materialistic orientation
  • Reluctant and sporadic church attendance

Spiritual lethargy renders us “unserviceable” in God’s Kingdom.  Deceived by Satan’s lies, tempted by the world, and weakened in our flesh, we are, as the mothers of the church would say, “no earthly good.”  Satan’s most successful strategy is not to kill our faith but to silence our witness.

Tozer’s insights

Tozer urges us to be aware of the times in which we live.  We are to “gird the loin of our mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).   While Tozer’s dangers were centered on the evangelical church, its application is “spot on” for us individually as we move from “glory to glory” in our walk of faith (2 Cor. 3:18).

In the Word Ministries provides CWC in our effort to “inspire authentic communities of faith, fellowship, and learning.”  It is in that spirit that we share this book.  This is not an endorsement or agreement with the views shared.  Here is an introductory reading  from The Dangers of a Shallow Faith:  Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy. 

[1] The Dangers of a Shallow Faith:  Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy. 

Our Faith Walk: Who are You? Part 2

Who are You? Part 2

Identity in crisis

Last week we presented identity as the set of characteristics that constitutes individual personality.  It is influenced by both internal and external factors.  Our identity is dynamic, in that it can be influenced by situations and circumstances that surround us.  Therefore, our identity is to be carefully guarded and protected.  This is especially true when we consider our spiritual identity (Prov. 4:23).

It is difficult to maintain our identity in Christ while living amid the 21st century.  Temptations offered by Satan, the influence of worldview, and the weakness of our human flesh, create conditions for a “perfect storm” that can negatively impact our walk of faith.  Considering these tests, how can we protect our identity in Christ?

A Change in Identity

Why do people change their identity?  Because of change.

Human beings have a complicated relationship with change. While it is both inevitable and essential for growth, change can also be deeply uncomfortable — especially if it feels involuntary, or out of our control.

As researchers focused on social change, we’ve spent the last ten years studying how people react to drastic changes in their lives. We’ve conducted hundreds of interviews with people who lost a desired identity, such as former white-collar professionals forced to move into lower-status careers, as well as with people trying to shed an undesirable or stigmatized identity, such as former prisoners working to reintegrate themselves in their communities.

Interestingly, regardless of whether the changes were ostensibly positive or negative, many of the people we talked to struggled to move on from their past identities and embrace their new selves. This feeling of stuck-ness — a phenomenon we call identity paralysis — often left people feeling angry, frustrated, and hopeless about their current situations.[1]

Changes in identity are normal and to be expected.  We live in a world of constant flux.  However, it is important to embrace those identity traits that best accomplish the plan and purpose God has for our lives (Jer. 29:11).   Why?  Because our identity influences how we live our life!

Our Behavior follows our Identity

Behavior and identity are linked.  In the Old Testament, God continually warned His people to remember who they were and their covenant relationship with Jehovah (Deut. 6:4-9).  God knew that their identification with the wrong things and people would affect their faithfulness.  They would be drawn away from the plan and purpose God had for their life (Deut. 8:11).  The same is true for us today.

In the New Testament, especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul, the Church in its infancy was continually reminded of their “new identity in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17).  Ministering in countries that didn’t worship God nor honor the teaching of Jesus would be challenging.   Their worldview would be very different, just as it is today in the 21st century (1 John 1:7).

Paul’s exceptional testimony of his previous identity as an Orthodox Jew, speaks to the transforming power of Christ to change our identity.  It is probably the most thorough testimony in Scripture.

Circumcised when I was eight days old, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews [an exemplary Hebrew]; as to the [observance of the] Law, a Pharisee; as to my zeal [for Jewish tradition], a persecutor of the church; and as to righteousness [supposed right living] which [my fellow Jews believe] is in the Law, I proved myself blameless. But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life].  (Phil. 3: 5-7, Amplified) 

Paul’s identity changed his behavior and his life forever.  What can we say about Jesus’ entry into our lives and the change it has made in our identity?

Do we know who we are?

Our identity is founded in Christ Jesus.  It has been revealed in both His living Word and reflected in His love for us.  It is based on a firm foundation that is eternal and abides forever (Ep. 1:4).  Jesus has made it possible for us to become partakers of God’s grace and power.  Knowing our identity, we can hold firm our “confession of faith without wavering” (Heb. 10:23).

CAUTION:  If we as believers are unable to accept the identity God has communicated to us, we need to enter a time of prayer and examination as to why we choose not to believe God (choosing rather to believe the lies of Satan, self, and the world).

[1] “When a Major Life Change Upends Your Sense of Self “, Harvard Business Review.

Our Faith Walk: Who Are You? Part 1

Who are you?

Who are you?

In the story, Alice in Wonderland, we are told of a young girl drawn into a world of contradictions and challenges to her way of thinking.  How did it start?  She chased a rabbit with a watch.  In the process, Alice falls into a “proverbial rabbit hole”, entering a new reality that tests everything she claims to believe.  My favorite character is the plump caterpillar who, positioned on a posh pillar, asks of Alice, “Who are you?”

Joseph, being sold into slavery by his brothers, found himself in new and perilous circumstances that challenged his faith and godly beliefs (Genesis 37-39).  Daniel and his comrades, exiled in Babylon where continually tested and dared to “hold fast to their confession of faith”, even at the potential loss of their life (Daniel 1-3).

One of the challenges in living in the 21st century is understanding, “who we are”.   Our identity.  Why is it important?  Who influences the choices we make daily?  There are rabbit holes, temptations, and risks to life we must acknowledge as we continue our walk of faith.  That’s why it’s important that we hold firm to our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.

Who do you identify with?

Identity is the set of characteristics that constitutes individual personality.  It is our essential self and our personal uniqueness.

Our identity is shaped by personal traits, talents, values, and beliefs. External factors such as friends and family, social groups, and cultural heritage also shape who we are.

While identity deals with personal uniqueness, it also describes a person’s sameness with others.  For example, one’s identity may be tied to a particular area (Midwesterner, New Yorker), a certain group (Boomers, Gen-Xers), or a cause (Save the Whales).  It can also be tied to a political affiliation or religious denomination.

Our world is daily challenging us to “choose” who we identify with.  The results are that we, as a society, are experiencing an identity crisis.

Identity crisis, in the psychosocial sense, is a condition of disorientation and role confusion as a result of conflicting pressures and expectations.   Identity crisis seeks a clearer sense of self and acceptable role in society.  Spiritual identity crisis is very similar, in that it occurs because of the conflict exerted from Satan, the world, and self.[1]

Unfortunately, rather than celebrating our God-given uniqueness, the world and Satan is using our identity to polarize us and to weaponize who we are.

Identity and our faith walk.

For believers, our identity is rooted and grounded in Christ Jesus (Col. 2:7).   Through His work of redemption, we have been reconciled to the Father (Rom. 5:10).

Satan challenges our identity in Christ Jesus by first targeting our mind.  He uses as his weapon, lies.  These lies are designed to deceive and discourage.  Satan’s purpose is to make us ignorant of God’s will and plan for our life.

The world also attacks our mind and our body.  It creates an insatiable desire for “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

Lastly, self contributes to identity crisis by demanding freedom to exercise its personal will.  The desire to rule self and operate independent of God leads to self-promotion, self-elevation, and selfishness.  Left unchecked, man’s attention shifts from “what God desires” to “what feels right.”

In Christ we are now sons and daughters of God (John 1:12), endowed with a new identity and power.  Through spiritual regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17), we have become partakers of His divine nature, the Holy Spirit, who is daily conforming us to the image of Christ (2 Pet. 1:4).

We must continually be on the watch for social, political, and yes, religious “rabbit holes” that challenge our identity in Christ. Next week, we will continue our discussion on identity and its importance in our faith walk.

[1]   https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/identity-crisis

 

Our Faith Walk: Keep Your Eye on God

A Message for Fearful Times

Historical trauma

We’ve experienced many horrible events in the tapestry of our nation’s history and in our personal lives.  Natural disasters, war, health pandemics, and social upheaval, just to name a few. These events create trauma and fear that must be navigated daily.

But I come today with a message of encouragement and hope from the God who sees and Who is in complete control of what appears to be “out of control.”  Keep your eye on God!

Keep Your Eye on God

It is important during these troubling times to keep our eyes on the Lord.  As believers, we are aware that in this world we will have tribulation and trials (John 16:33).  But we are also reminded to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.  One writer reminded me, “it is the tension between ‘overcome’ and ‘taking heart’ that cause us problems.”

Our trust in the Lord is not the result of positive thinking or some new age approach to stress management.   Brian Morykno with Renovaré encourages believers during fearful times to follow King David’s example of magnification.

Imagine David, with the war cry of enemies rising all around, settled of soul and unafraid.  How was that possible?  It’s not that David was out of touch with reality; he was in touch with it.  David understood magnification.  He knew that what we dwell upon becomes large in our spiritual field of vision.  And David dwelled upon God (Ps. 95:3-5).     

Our reality is this.  God is sovereign and is moving forward with His plan of salvation.  God is not the cause of the terrible events we see in our daily social media feed and news broadcasts.  Such events come from “heart issue” of sinful men (James 3:16-18) and the work of Satan (Eph. 6:12; John 10:10).

Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.   But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace (James 3:16).

A Plan for These Times

To help us move through these times, I offer this three-prong approach to help us navigate through these difficult times.

Prayer.  This should be our first response to the troubles we face.  We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  The reason for this mandate is because our prayers connect us directly to God—the Power Source who can resolve our dilemma.  The “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) is there to guide and direct our steps, comfort our heart, and ease our stress (Phil. 4:6-7).

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  (Romans 12:12)

Practice the Presence of God   We are never alone regardless of the situation we face.  He alone can make good on His promise that He will “never leave nor forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).  He is ever-present.  Regardless of external appearances, God is with us even amid our trouble.

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. (Ps. 139:7-8)

Praise.  Yes, I said praise.  Why?  Because it is the quickest way to experience the presence of God (Ps. 22:3).    Ruth Meyer, author of the book, 31 Days of Praise, offers this insight on the power of praise.

As you praise and pray, you make your circumstances and your life a test tube that demonstrates the existence of a personal God, a God who is present and involved and who controls the natural Universe. It turns your attention to spiritual and eternal values versus the pleasures and success mentality of our age, which resists all pain and discomfort and delay.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Ps. 22:3)

A Message for Trying Times

As we continue our walk of faith, we will be faced with trials and trouble.   Although these may be difficult, we have the blessed assurance that we are not in these things alone.  Neither are we powerless (Luke 10:19; Eph. 1:19).

I don’t know how these tumultuous times will end but I do know that God has the final word (Ps. 119:89-91).  God is and will continue to be the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Col. 1:16).

In Response: Living the Resurrected Life

Living the Resurrected Life

Last week’s teaching on Eastertide and “Living in Resurrection Power” has led to many questions from you with regard to its application for 21st century living.

In response,  I invite you to a  follow-up  WordBytes entitled, “Living the Resurrected Life.”   I am pleased that we are continuing to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (2 Pet. 3:18).  His plan of salvation continues even into this present age.  Hallelujah!

Throwback Wednesday: Living in Resurrection Power

Throwback Wednesday: Living in Resurrection Power

Easter, for Christians, is  more than a one day event.  It is a 50-day celebration. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost (see Acts 2).

Eastertide, is also, an excellent  opportunity to expand our  understanding of the power Christ’s resurrection continuous to offer, even in the 21st century (Eph. 1:19-20).

That being said,  we offer for your reading, “Living in Resurrection Power”.   This is an excellent follow-up to our series, “Spiritual Blessing for Victorious Living.”

Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living: Living Victoriously

 

Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living: Living Victoriously Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NKJ)

What does it look like?

At the beginning of this series, we put forth the proposition that spiritual blessings, outlined in Ephesians 1:3-14, will result in victorious living by believers.

As we conclude this series, it is a great time to share exactly how spiritual blessings accomplish that.  What exactly does victorious living look like?  There is much written on “how” to live victoriously.  It often includes a recommended list of spiritual disciplines accompanied with a list of “do’s and don’ts”.  Yet, more than often,  the specifics on victorious living are unclear.

Clarity in the Scriptures

For me, there are several biblical truths that contribute to understanding what victorious living looks like.  The most important being how “we look” in Christ.

In Christ, we are “new creatures” (2 Cor. 5:17) and are continually being  “transformed by the renewing of their mind” (Rom. 12:2).  It is God’s expectation that we “be holy as He who called [them] is holy” (1 Pet. 1:15-16) with the ultimate objective to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

As we are conformed to Christ’s image,  we live out our purpose or  “good works, which God has ordained” for us to do (Eph. 2:10).

This process of spiritual transformation is ongoing in us who confidentially trusts God and understands that “He that began a good work is able to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6)—until Christ’s Second Return or the believer’s returns to Christ.

Victory in God

Victorious living finds its genesis in the Triune God.  Chosen by God.  Redeemed by Christ.  Sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Victorious living is achieved by our walking in the reality of the spiritual blessings “gifted” to us by God resulting in our new identity and capability.  All these blessing are to the praise of God’s glory—lavish and abundant blessings on which to live victoriously.

I once believed that living victoriously was dependent on me.  I am so glad that God provided the “true secret to victorious living”.   For it in In Him “we live, and move, and have our meaning” (Acts 17:28).

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  (Titus 3:4-7)

In your quiet time, read Ephesians 1:3-14.  Feel free to read it several times using a different translation or paraphrase; then journal how this scripture can help you live more victoriously.

Spiritual Blessing for Victorious Living: A Foretaste of Glory

In whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13a-14 (NKJV)

God’s Work of Salvation

To this point in our study of Ephesians 1, Paul has focused on the work of Triune God in fulfilling the work of salvation. 

Jesus Christ the Son, offered Himself for the redemption and forgiveness of sin for those who accept Him by faith.  Through His blood, Christ paid the righteous demand for sin for without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption (Heb. 9:21-22).     

As we approach the conclusion of our series, Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living, Paul describes the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit as He fulfills His role in the work of salvation.

The Spirit of Promise

The Holy Spirit would seal those in Christ “until the redemption of the purchased possession” in eternity future. A seal, in biblical times as today, is used to guarantee security or indicate ownership.

Ancient seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personalized imprint of their guarantor.  In both the Old and New Testament the significance of the act of sealing was dependent on the authority of the one doing the sealing.  

It would authenticate the guarantor’s ability to “make good” on that which was promised within the sealed document; in this case the promise of the believer’s salvation and future inheritance. 

The Holy Spirit of Promise not only endows the believer with power to accomplish the purposes of God (Phil. 1:6; 4:13) but He also gives assurances that God will do and can do all that He has pledged—promises and blessings for today and an inheritance in the future. The Holy Spirit seals those who trust in Christ (Eph1:12, 13) and His presence is God’s guarantee that believers are owned by Him and secure in Him.

Blessed Assurance

Since the Holy Spirit’s task is to apply Christ’s work to God’s people, He anoints those in Christ the moment they believe (2 Cor. 1:21-22).  The believer is then secured as a member of God’s family, not in their own power, but because the Spirit is applying the promises made possible by God through our relationship with Christ.  

His sealing comprises the initial down payment or the earnest of the full redemption of God’s possession (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).  In reading Ephesians 13a-14, the words of the hymn, “Blessed Assurance” echoes within my heart and mind.

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine

Oh what a foretaste of glory divine

Heir of salvation, purchase of God

Born of His Spirit, Lost in His love

Foretaste of Glory

This song captures in totality the work of salvation and the interceding role of each member of the Holy Trinity. 

Blessed Assurance describes in its opening lines the work specifically of the Holy Spirit who gives us a foretaste of the glory that belongs to those who are in Christ. 

“Foretaste” is made up of two Latin words:  ante which means “ahead, before or previously” and gustus meaning “flavor, zeal” (this is where we get our word gusto). 

Foretaste is described as a taste before possession; a limited awareness of something to occur.  This is a good illustration of what the sealing of the Holy Spirit accomplishes—it whets the spiritual appetite for those things which God has reserved for believers until the day we all shall see Jesus for ourselves (1 John 3:2).

This is my story, this is my song.

Praising my Savior all the day long.

Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living: An Irrevocable Inheritance

 

 

Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living: An Irrevocable Inheritance

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

Ephesians 1:11-13a (NKJ)

Where’s the Money?

At the death of famous celebrities, there always seems to be some uproar with reference to inheritance.  Emotions overflow into the media as children and siblings fight over monies they feel are rightfully theirs.

Family members are often excluded—fairly or unfairly—while others are left  huge sums of monies for the rest of their life.  And if they don’t spend it up, then they too will leave an inheritance for those left behind.  This week we will discuss another spiritual blessing afforded us who are in Christ—an irrevocable inheritance.

What is the Inheritance?

Legal inheritance refers to actual property or goods received after a family member’s death. While Jewish inheritance customs were linked to family blood lines, Greek and Roman laws also provided for the disposition of family possessions through the adoption of an heir.

The Scriptures transform the concept of inheritance to include the acquisition of spiritual blessings and promises from God.  As part of the plan of salvation, God predestined those in Christ to adoption as sons (Eph. 1:5).

This inheritance was part of the plan of salvation designed at the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).  It was all part of God’s predestined purpose.  A plan written without input from man but according to God’s “perfect will”.

Believer’s inheritance is the possession of salvation; more specifically, the experience of joyful existence with God.

Who are the heirs?

  • Christ.  Jesus Christ is heir in a very unique way because of His eternal relationship with the Father. God has placed all things under His only begotten Son’s feet and given Him all power to both judge and rule (Heb. 1:2b-3), including the future Millennial kingdom.
  •  The Jews.  The nation of Israel also has a special relationship with God as a result of His promises to Abraham. Through these Old Testament promises, the Jews “first trusted” (Ep. 1:12).  They were to be “living testimonies” to the goodness and faithfulness of God .  But like Abraham, they too would need to receive their inheritance by faith (Rom. 4:1-3).
  • Believers.  The Gentiles “also trusted” based on their belief after hearing “the word of truth—the gospel of salvation”.  As the word of faith is preached, access to God’s inheritance is found by mply in confession and belief (Rom. 10:8-13).   As both heirs and joint heirs with Christ, we receive the same things that Christ receives (Rom. 8:17).

An inheritance shared.

In Christ,  the collective “we” (Eph. 1:11),  stand justified at the foot of the Cross (Rom. 5:1-2) “having obtained” (note this is past tense) our inheritance of salvation.

Concurrently,  we “trust” in Christ and receive salvation that delivers us from the penalty and power of sin until the awaited “redemption of the purchased possession” in eternity.  Then believers will be delivered from the presence of sin (1 John 3:2; Rev. 21:4).

Thank God, our heavenly Father has given us an inexhaustible and “incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4).  We do not have to argue over whether we are the “rightful heirs” of this inheritance.  It is a spiritual blessing given to us by the glorious grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Col. 3:24).   There is no need to wait until there is a death to receive it, for it is available now to those who believe.  It is an irrevocable inheritance to each of us who are in Christ.

Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living: Begin with the End in Mind

 

Spiritual Blessing for Victorious Living: Begin with the End in Mind

The Possibilities

A child gazes into a new box of Legos and begins to fantasize about that special robot they have always wanted.  A young lady searches for that one “special” dress.  She knows the silhouette, color, and fabric.  She has already envisioned wearing it on Saturday.  I stare at the picture of shrimp and grits.  Reviewing each ingredient, I imagine its succulent taste in my mouth.  All three of us with our own unique desire will bring into reality what we have each imagined by beginning with the end in mind.

“Begin with the end in mind” is one of the principles from Steven Covey’s best seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey puts forth the idea that by clearly seeing the goal we desire at the beginning, we will more likely be able to accomplish that goal in the end.

Before the foundation of the world, God had a specific end in mind.  It was two-fold:  first, to redeem mankind, and secondly, to restore the Kingdom of God.  Both purposes were fulfilled and will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ (Is. 9:6-7).

Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  Ephesians 1:9-10 (NKJ)

The mystery has been made known.

The mystery (musterion) of God’s will can only be known because of God’s willingness to make it known.  The word literally means “to shut the mouth” and in this context, it refers to a truth once hidden but now made known (Rom. 11:25; Col. 1:26).

The mystery “was made known” when Christ came in the flesh (Titus 2:11) and the long-awaited plan of redemption was initiated according to God’s good pleasure.  God knew what was needed to resolve the issue of sin.  He “purposed in Himself” a plan that was to be carried out in Jesus Christ, His Son.  This mystery has now been revealed “to us”—His Church.

The purpose realized—in part.

Dispensation refers to the management or oversight of other’s property.  God gave Christ oversight over all the elect, not only in the physical world, but also those already in heaven.  The Apostle Paul revealed to the church at Ephesus God’s eternal purpose to “gather together” not only them, but all who have by faith accepted Christ.

This “gathering together” began with a chosen people who ultimately became a nation called Israel (Ps. 132:11-13).  This “gathering together” continued with a rejected people, the New Testament Church (1 Pet. 2:10), who became heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

The “fullness of times”, however, is yet in eternity future, when Christ begins His reign in the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 21).  Then the purpose which God began before the foundation of the world will be realized in full.

What about us?

What has God purposed for our life?  It’s much more than “living happily ever after”.  God has gifted us with spiritual (and material) blessings to bring into reality what was always the plan for mankind and His Kingdom.

Let our life “in Christ” be centered “on Christ”!  This season of Lenten is a great time to realign and reprioritize our plans with God’s vision for our life.  Let us remember to keep the “main thing the main thing.”