Back in April, I was asked for the first time to give a message at MountainSong Church – the church Heather and I moved to Montana to be a part of. I had briefly shared a few times at MountainSong, but never had I given a full message. A communion reflection, a post-worship transition time, a closing reflection and prayer, a testimony or two… those were about it. Needless to say, I was honored and excited about the opportunity.
I knew God wanted me to discuss three of the major works of Christ – His death, resurrection and ascension – and what it looks like to realize the power of each of those works in our lives. What I didn’t know was the incredible well of living water He was going to break open in the hearts of Heather and I as a result and the profound impact it was going to have on our future!
What started as an Easter- and Pentecost-season message on Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, ended as a call-to-arms of sorts to carry unwavering HOPE into and throughout each and every situation we encounter. As Christ’s ambassadors and as ones presently seated with Him in heavenly places, we can boldly live out and exert the hope of our salvation in all of our experiences. This is our inheritance as His sons and daughters!
So, let me share with you a few of the main points and then leave you with a parting reflection.
Forget Not His Benefits
Psalm 103:2 says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” The author then goes on to recount several of them, which include forgiving all our iniquities, healing all our diseases, redeeming our life from the pit, and more.
Those are amazing benefits, for sure, but it’s obviously not an exhaustive list. I don’t know that one such list exists (if you know of one, please send it to me!). Understanding all of His benefits is important because if you don’t know what the benefits are, you can’t take advantage of them and actually “benefit” from them!
Let’s use a credit card as an example. For the longest time, I didn’t know that my Discover card offers price matching. Up to 90 days after a purchase, if I find out that something I already bought can be purchased for less than I already paid for it, I can submit proof to Discover and they will send me a check for the difference. Many stores sorta do this by “price matching” their competitors, but I had no idea my credit card did. Therefore I’ve never taken advantage of it. Discover also doubles manufacturer warranties by up to one year — something else I wasn’t aware of that may very well come in handy some day.
So, it’s important to know and understand all our benefits – especially of being sons and daughters of the Most High God!
So, what are some of these benefits? In my message, I decided to look at a few of them in light of those three incredible events at the end of Jesus’ ministry on Earth: His death, resurrection and ascension. The perspective I took was that there are distinct and unique benefits available to us because of each work. We can limit ourselves when we leverage, say, only the benefits of the cross and not His resurrection and ascension.
As amazing a work as the cross was, Jesus didn’t stop at the cross and neither should we. “It is finished,” was actually just the beginning!
When we live solely within the cross’s “benefits package”, we experience forgiveness of sins, but not newness of life! We may believe our heart is still “deceitfully wicked” as described in Jeremiah, but not understand that we were given a new heart when we were born again. We may believe we are “Just a sinner saved by grace” – which has elements of truth, but isn’t the entire truth. We’ve since been made into a royal priesthood, priests unto our God.
Even embracing the “silver benefits package” of the cross and resurrection isn’t embracing all God has to offer. While you may be experiencing the transformation of being a new creation that is dead to sin and alive to God, you may still be lacking a degree of spiritual authority and power. Maybe you believe Jesus is the powerful one because He defeated death and rose triumphant, but don’t understand how that now empowers you.
That’s where the ascension comes in! This “gold benefits package” of the cross, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is the fullness of what God has for us. Because Jesus ascended to heaven, we became the dwelling place of His spirit. He said that it was better that He go, so that the Spirit could come. And as incomprehensible as it is, we are actually seated with Him, right now, in heavenly places. That is our spiritual reality and that changes everything. It is how we came to be “endued with power from on high.”
We need to embrace the fullness of what Jesus did for us! To summarize: His work was finished at the cross, His authority over sin and death was demonstrated by His resurrection, His preeminence was established and enforced through the ascension, and His power was multiplied and released in us at Pentecost.
A Forgotten Benefit?
In Ephesians 1:16-20, Paul shares this prayer:
“I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Paul was constantly praying this over the Ephesians because they were struggling with the very same things we struggle with: sustaining a right perspective. The demands and stresses of day-to-day life can beat us down can cause us to “forget His benefits” (Ps 103:2) and lose touch with reality. Reality is “the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him” and “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms” (Eph 2:4-7).
Paul longed “that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called…” Because of all that Jesus did… Because of the mighty work accomplished through his death, resurrection and ascension, we can always, always, always have confident hope. Hope in every situation is one of the oft-forgotten benefits of being a Kingdom resident.
Hope is defined as “Grounds for believing that something good may happen.” Fair enough. That’s warm and fuzzy. But I’m about to propose a new definition.
When I was preparing this message, I wanted one solid take-away for people. One of those: “If you only remember one thing about this message, remember this…” points. I felt like I was supposed to construct a HOPE acronym – something to help people as they resist the day-to-day beating life tends to deliver. This is what Heather and I came up with:
HOPE = Heaven’s Overriding Perspective, Every-time
Overriding is defined as “More important that any other considerations”. So what we’re saying with this acronym is that the most important perspective the Kingdom of Heaven and its residents can have in any and every situation is one of hope.
I initially struggled with this a bit because I felt like surely Love had to be “more important than any other consideration”. But God showed me that love wasn’t a perspective, but was an act or expression.
If we take the “big three” from 1 Corinthians 13 (faith, hope and love), this is how they work together:
- Faith is heaven’s currency
- Hope is heaven’s perspective
- Love is heaven’s expression
When we look at every situation life throws us through the lens of Heaven’s Overriding Perspective, we always see HOPE. At all times, on every occasion, Heaven has a decidedly triumphant outlook. And that was made available to us when Jesus filled us with His Spirit and God seated us with Him in heavenly places.
As Paul further reminds us:
“But thanks be to God, who in the Messiah constantly leads us in a triumphal procession and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of what it means to know him!” (2 Cor 2:14), and “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)
Because of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, heaven knows no defeat and hell knows no victory.
Embrace HOPE: Heaven’s Overriding Perspective, Every-time as never before in 2015!
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13 NLT)