This article has been edited and now appears in Frank’s Titan.
The New Testament repeatedly says that since His ascension, Jesus has been sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heavenly realms (Acts 2:33; 5:31; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22).
The “right hand” is a metaphor that speaks of the authority, power, and universal rule emanating from God’s throne.
Yet when Stephen was being stoned, he peered into the heavens and saw Jesus standing—not sitting—at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55–56). This, to me, indicates that Jesus was cheering for Stephen, awaiting his arrival in heavenly places.
From the book of Revelation, we learn that Jesus also “walks” in the midst of His churches, typified by golden lampstands (Rev. 2:1). So Christ sits, Christ stands, and Christ walks in His present-day ministry.
Interestingly, Paul told us in the book of Ephesians that the Christian sits in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 1:20; 2:6), walks in the world (Eph. 4:1, 17), and stands against the Enemy (Eph. 6:11, 13). Thus we mirror the same three postures our Lord uses.
Because Jesus is our great high priest, we have a friend in high places. We have connections with the Creator. So we can always come to the throne of grace and pour out our hearts to the Lord, and we will not be turned away.
Jesus Christ is a perfect high priest, a perfect advocate, a perfect intercessor, and a perfect mediator who has given us a perfect covenant with God.
As such, He saves us from the wrath to come. He saves us from guilt and condemnation. He saves us from ourselves. As we saw in Hebrews 7:25, Jesus “saves us to the uttermost” (ESV).
He is also a priest after the order of Melchizedek, which means His priesthood is eternal, universal, and perfect (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6–10; 6:20; 7:1–26).
Like Melchizedek, Jesus is both priest and king. He is a mediator who is both God and man, one person in two natures.
Hebrews 13:20 speaks of the eternal covenant. Jesus has no successor as high priest because His once-and-for-all sacrifice obtained eternal redemption for us. In other words, the eternal Son gives us eternal salvation in which we can be secure forever. There’s nothing that can be added to it.
Remember: There’s a throne of grace waiting for you. Consequently, don’t run away from Jesus when you sin. Run to Him.
The Christ we live with daily is a practical high priest! He has invested in us, moment by moment. It’s not about a ritual, or some sort of useless head knowledge that doesn’t effect our everyday lives. It’s about reality and experience. Because Jesus is your high priest, you cannot lose. Get ahold of these realities and believe them. They will change your life.
by Frank Viola author of Jesus Now.
The following article is an excerpt from the book Jesus Now by Frank Viola Author
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life …
This is a great promise. Almost too good to be true. Romans 8:28 contains echoes of it:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (KJV)
No matter what is thrown at you in this life, “surely”—which means “of a certainty”—goodness and lovingkindnness will follow you all the days of your life.
Your shepherd’s love will never leave you. And He will see to it that all things in your life—whether pleasant or unpleasant—will work for your good. I’ll never forget after one particularly dark period in my life. When the smoke cleared, I came out on the other side with a sense that God’s goodness and love had not only followed me, but they hounded me. It was as though I couldn’t escape it even if I wanted to. Like Jonah attempting to sneak away from God’s will, only to find himself being accompanied by the Almighty in the belly of the whale—we often discover that our bleakest hour is lined with God’s companionship. His goodness and mercy hunt and chase us down.
A wonderful promise, indeed, especially during the dark seasons. Our good shepherd will eventually bring beauty out of the chaos.
Interestingly, if sheep are mishandled and poorly managed, as we mentioned earlier, they can destroy a piece of land in no time. On the other hand, if they are managed properly by a good and wise shepherd, they can be some of the most beneficial animals for the land. They can clean up and repair a piece of wrecked turf in a short period of time.
It all depends on the kind of shepherd who is managing the sheep.
So too, those who follow the chief shepherd don’t have goodness and lovingkindness simply coming to them. Rather, goodness and lovingkindness follow them wherever they go, benefitting and blessing others.
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever …
This is where the twenty-third psalm is lifted from being simply a meditation on sheep to a direct commentary on the daily love-life between a believer and their Lord. It is the shepherd’s presence that makes all of things previously listed (green pastures, refreshing waters, anointing oil, etc.) a possibility. That presence isn’t found everywhere. It’s located in one very specific location—His House. In the New Testament we discover that we, collectively as believers, are God’s house. By holding onto Christ, we are transformed from individuals into the solidified household of God. In this Psalm we read a similar reality—that by being in relationship with the chief shepherd, we are brought into connection with His House.
The psalm ends by promising that the presence of the great shepherd will always be with His sheep. The Lord’s sheep will remain in His house forever. Over the years, I’ve had many people express skepticism about the experience of Christian community that I have often described in my earlier books. (See Reimagining Church and From Eternity to Here for details.)
I have a friend who calls my view and practice of church “dormitory-style-Christianity.” This is pretty close to the mark. But keep in mind, if it’s uncomfortable to imagine being in close relationship to believers today, some of us may be disappointed in eternity—as we will dwell in His House, His body, forever. There is an eternal connectedness among those who follow the Lord that extends endlessly in every direction.
This is not only a promise of being part of God’s flock—the ekklesia, His house. But also a promise that His presence will never leave us, in this life or in the life after.
When hard times come our way, the Lord may sometimes appear to have quit His job. But although He may not seem present, our good shepherd is never absent. The guardian of our souls never sleeps. He never forgets to watch over us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. His ear is always attuned to our cries.
In John 10, Jesus made clear that because we are His sheep, we know His voice. Jesus is not our shepherd because we believe. We believe because He is our shepherd and we are His sheep.
Insofar as we follow the voice of the chief shepherd, we will remain safe, secure, and pleasing to His heart.
There’s a lovely little story about a skydiver who drifted over a hundred miles off course and landed in a dense forest. Strung up in the tree, tangled, and terrified that the night was fast approaching, he began to yell out for help. After a few minutes, a man who was out for a walk chanced upon the skydiver.
“Hello! I need help! Where am I?” called the man in the tree.
“You’re stuck in a tree, with no way out. You’re surrounded by a forest, and it’s getting dark,” the other man replied.
“Of all my luck,” said the skydiver to him, “I get stuck with a minister as a rescuer!”
Hearing this, the passerby wondered aloud how the distressed man knew his occupation as a religious teacher. “Well—I just assumed you must be a minister, as what you’ve said is both utterly true, and absolutely useless in helping me.”
When this story is told to professional ministers, they usually get a chuckle out of it—in part because they can detect the grain of truth it holds. So much of our conversations about spiritual things, while perhaps good and even spot on, are nearly devoid of relevant impact. It’s not only Christianity that gets targeted by this critique—most academic or philosophical movements struggle to reach us where we really live.
One of the greatest concerns I have for the “good news” today is that we often present a gospel that is more “true” than “useful.” This is never more true than when we’re considering the subject and actor of our entire faith: Jesus Christ.
Think about it: The story is familiar to all Christians. The Gospels introduce us to the earthly ministry of Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in the ill-starred town of Nazareth, where He labored as an artisan. Around age thirty He was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and He began His ministry.
Interestingly, Jesus’ ministry lasted less than four years. He was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem, rose again from the dead three days later, and spent forty days on earth in His resurrected state. He then ascended into heaven, taking His seat at the right hand of God the Father.
In our book Jesus: A Theography, Leonard Sweet and I retold the incredible story of Jesus’ earthly ministry, using all the biblical material from Genesis to Revelation. We also discussed in some detail His preexistent state before creation and His promised second coming at the end of the age.
To my knowledge, few books have been dedicated to exploring the present-day ministry of Jesus. By “present-day ministry,” I’m referring to what Jesus has been doing from His ascension until His second coming.
Herein lies the aim of this book. It’s an exploration into the present-day ministry of Christ. And it seeks to answer the question, what is Jesus Christ doing right now, and how is His present-day ministry useful to me?
As we reflect back on the Lord’s earthly ministry, the following aspects stand out:
He preached the gospel of the kingdom.
He revealed His Father.
He healed the sick.
He performed miracles.
He cast out demons.
He fed the poor.
He befriended sinners.
He rebuked the religious.
He trained and sent disciples.
He went to the cross and dealt with the effects of the fall.
He rose again from the dead, ushering in the new creation and becoming Lord of the world.
The Lord then ascended into heaven to take His place of authority and power. Yet Jesus Christ isn’t sitting at the Father’s right hand passively waiting to return to planet Earth. No, He is still active today. And “the Man in the glory” has a very specific ministry.
Concerning His personality, plan, and purpose, Jesus is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Concerning His ministry, however, it has changed somewhat from “the days of His flesh” (Heb. 5:7).
In this book we will explore the different aspects of the present-day ministry of Christ. We will find out what Jesus is doing now and its relevance to you and me.
Yesterday in Hebrews 13:8 has in view Christ’s ministry before creation as well as His earthly ministry. Today has in view His present-day ministry. Forever has in view His ministry that moves into eternity.
Our focus in this book will be upon Jesus Christ’s ministry today. Or to put it succinctly, Jesus now.
Let’s begin …
From Jesus Now by Frank Viola Author
Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ.
When it comes to the matter of living out the gospel, most believers can be divided up into two camps: the libertines and the legalists.
Here is a description of the libertines: They have accepted Jesus as their Savior. They go to church, own a Bible, and believe in God. However, they appear to have no vital relationship with the Lord. And they hold to many of the same values as non-Christians.
If you were to examine their lifestyle, you would discover the behavior of libertines to be scarcely different from non-Christians. Their attitude is that God wants us to believe in Him, be nice to others, and try our best to be good. Beyond that, the Almighty doesn’t particularly care how we live. So long as a person mentally assents that God exists and Jesus is Savior, they are worthy to bear the name “Christian.”
The libertine is a product of a certain kind of gospel. Note that I am using the word gospel in a very specific sense to describe one’s message about Christ and the Christian life (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8). I am not using it in the more general sense to describe the gospel story as it is presented in the New Testament (Mark 1:1).
In broad stroke, the gospel of libertinism can be described as follows: Believing in Jesus is intellectual assent to certain faith propositions. God has little interest in the way people live their lives; He simply expects us to do the best we can. Believing in Jesus has little impact on a person’s lifestyle or values. It’s more of a privatized intellectual belief system. Here are some libertine statements:
“We are all sinners, and we all sin. God understands.”
“The Bible isn’t completely relevant for us today. We can’t expect to hold to the same values as the people did in biblical times. We live in a different world with different values.”
“I live the way I want. God loves me, and I am saved, so I can do anything I please.”
“Yes, I’m a Christian. But regarding my sin, that’s just the way I was made. I don’t want to change, I can’t change, and I won’t change.”
The gospel of libertinism is aimed primarily at the flesh. Its message gives the fallen nature free reign to do whatever, whenever it pleases. At the same time, this gospel suppresses the voice of one’s conscience.
On the other end of the spectrum is the legalist. Like the libertines, legalists are the product of a certain kind of gospel. Legalists have a strong desire to please God. Their conversion to Christ has produced a change of values and lifestyle. They take God seriously, they take His Word seriously, and they try to honor Him in their conduct.
However, they have added a bundle of man-made rules to the Scriptures, and they tend to be judgmental toward those who fail to keep those rules. They are intent on fulfilling the Christian standard; they may not always make it, but they’ll die trying.
The gospel of legalism can be described as follows: God is holy, and He has made clear demands on the human race. We must warn, exhort, rebuke, and admonish ourselves and others to fulfill those demands. What follows is the language of the legalist:
“You must …”
“You need to …”
“You have to …”
“You had better …”
“If you do … then God will be happy with you.”
“If you don’t … then God will be angry with you.”
The implication of such vocabulary is that if we fail to obey God’s laws, then He is displeased with us. Embedded in the gospel of legalism is the tacit threat that the Lord’s love and acceptance of His children are tied to their conduct. This is rarely stated explicitly, but actions and behavior speak louder than words—just watch closely.
The gospel of legalism is aimed directly at the will. It gives human volition the illusion that it can keep the standards of God. At the same time, it weakens the conscience, causing it to believe that certain practices are sinful when they are not (1 Cor. 8; 10; Rom. 14—15.) Theologian Alister McGrath rightly calls legalism “the dark side of evangelicalism.”
There are obviously degrees of legalism, from mild to extreme, just as there are degrees of libertinism. I have probably described the extremes, but edit the descriptions slightly, and I believe you’ll agree that the overwhelming majority of Christians can be put into one of these two camps.
Thankfully, there is a third gospel. Unfortunately, however, it’s rarely preached today. This gospel is the one we find dominating the letters of Paul. It is the gospel of the new creation, if you will. It is neither libertine nor legalistic.
Instead of focusing on the demands of God, Paul’s gospel focuses on the spiritual reality of what actually happens to those who have trusted in Christ when He died and rose again. It takes its view from behind the eyes of God—not from the earth but from the heavenlies.
Paul’s gospel confidently proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth is the earth’s true Lord. It declares the glories of Jesus and unflinchingly proclaims what God has done for all who submit to His Lordship.
In Paul’s gospel, the standards of God are neither ignored nor rationalized into irrelevant oblivion (as in the gospel of the libertine). On the other hand, the standards of God are never presented as demands by which our acceptance by God is tied (as in the gospel of the legalist).
Contrary to the gospel of libertinism, Paul’s gospel doesn’t reduce faith to intellectual assent. (If you affirm the right propositions, you have “faith.”)
Contrary to the gospel of legalism, Paul’s gospel doesn’t reduce good works to legalistic compliance. (If you perform these prescribed actions, you have “good works.”)
Instead, Paul’s gospel is rooted in the unconditional acceptance, security, and wealth that those who have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior enjoy. For this reason, whenever Paul presents a standard of God, he always presents it from this vantage point: It is the conduct that those who are in Christ naturally exhibit.
In his epistles, Paul never teaches the standards of God as universal rules or laws to be obeyed. Rather, he mentions the Christian standard only when he is addressing a highly specific problem wherein God’s people are not living according to who they are in Christ.
Paul’s gospel is aimed directly at the renewed spirit of humans, the new creation. Its message strengthens the spirit to take charge of the mind, the will, and the emotions. At the same time, it strengthens the conscience, causing it to be responsive to the Holy Spirit.
A crucial, but little accepted fact is that the New Testament is not a book of rules to regulate human behavior. Instead, the New Testament is a spiritual narrative made up of the following: history books that narrate the life of Jesus and the life of His church (the Gospels and Acts); personal letters to churches and individuals that are in crisis (the Epistles); and a majestic vision of Jesus Christ’s triumphant victory over the world (Revelation).
Virtually all of Paul’s letters were written in response to a particular crisis that God’s people were experiencing. Remarkably, Paul’s custom throughout his communications was to address the crisis in a first-second-third order:
First, he reminds God’s people of their true identity in Christ. He also reminds them of the all-sufficiency of Christ who has come to dwell inside of them.
Second, he describes the behavior of those who are new creatures in Christ.
Third, he exhorts the believers to live according to their true identity rather than according to their false identity. That is, he exhorts them to walk in line with who they are in Christ rather than who they used to be.
Paul took this approach in virtually all of his epistles. It was his custom for addressing problems in the Christian communities under his care. The following statement from Ephesians is a perfect example of how Paul exhorts God’s people to walk in a way that matches their high and holy calling:
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. (Eph. 5:8)
In other words, you are light in Christ. Now live that way.
The gospel of libertinism, the gospel of legalism, and Paul’s gospel represent three very different postures when it comes to matters of sin and morality. For the sake of illustration, let’s take the issue of lying, which the New Testament condemns. (Feel free to insert any other sin that the Scriptures clearly address.)
Concerning the practice of lying, the libertine gospel essentially says, “This issue is irrelevant. We live in a different world than the people of the Bible did. Our values are different and more advanced. God loves us all and understands our needs. We all sin. Everybody lies. God loves everyone, so you are judging others if you tell them that they are wrong or immoral for lying.”
The legalistic gospel says, “God will judge those who violate His commandments. Christians must not lie or else God will punish them.”
In contrast, Paul’s gospel exhorts, “Let me remind you that you are part of a new creation. Jesus Christ lives in you, and you are in Christ. As such, your old fallen nature is dead. Christ exterminated it by His cross. Therefore, put off the old lifestyle of lying. Such is the conduct of a fallen creation. It’s not your conduct. Live according to who you really are and by the higher life that dwells within you. Jesus Christ is truth and honesty. Live out of what the Lord says you are … for that alone is truth and reality.”
Paul’s gospel is built on the understanding that the key to spiritual transformation is not found in trying to improve oneself. It’s found in being reminded again and again who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us. Remember!
For Paul, the Christian life is becoming what you already are. Our behavior as Christians stems from our identity. Consequently, the common approach he takes in his letters is to remind God’s people of who they have become as new creatures in Christ. All of his exhortations flow out of that reminder.
The church of Jesus Christ is called to embody and proclaim the gospel that Paul preached—which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel is the good news of His kingdom coming and His will being done, that God is becoming ruler of the world He created, and that Jesus, who God the Father raised from the dead, is the world’s true Lord. Jesus Christ has defeated the powers of evil, sin, and death and has brought forth a new creation of which we are now a part. And one day, that new creation will fill the whole earth.
This is the full-hearted gospel, if you please; the others are impostors. Paul’s gospel is one of liberty and lordship—the lordship of Christ and the liberty of the Spirit. It provides freedom from the fruitless attempt to keep a moral standard. It also provides freedom from the mastering power of the fallen nature.
The Christian life is rooted in liberty … the liberty that is in Christ Jesus (Gal. 5:1). This is a liberty that sets us free from trying to be good. It is also a liberty that sets us free from practicing evil. It is a liberty that brings us into a living knowledge of the One who indwells us … who happens to be the greatest liberator in the universe as well as the Savior and Lord of the world.
So the next time you hear someone preach or teach, ask yourself, “What gospel am I hearing? Am I being exhorted to feel comfortable in my sin and justify it (libertinism)? Am I being exhorted to try harder and be a better Christian (legalism)? Or am I being presented with my beautiful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and reminded of my high standing in Him as a son or daughter of God (the gospel)?”
Embracing the gospel of libertinism or the gospel of legalism will tether you to the flesh. The fruit of libertinism is the defiling acts of the flesh. On another branch, but just as deadly, the fruit of legalism is the self-righteousness of the flesh.
Both gospels produce carnal activity and generate death rather than life. As a result, both clash with the new creation and have no place in the full-hearted gospel of Christ.
Only Paul’s gospel—the glorious gospel of grace … the gospel of Jesus Christ—has the capacity to bring you and me into the freedom that is ours in Christ. And the end of that gospel is the ageless purpose for which our Lord burns.
The Pattern in Galatians
The truth …
He has rescued you from this present evil age (1:4).
You have been justified by faith apart from the works of the Law (2:16).
You have died to the Law so that you may live to God. You have been crucified with Christ. You no longer live, but Christ lives in you. He loved you and gave Himself for you (2:19–20).
You received the Holy Spirit by believing (3:2).
You are children of Abraham (3:7).
Christ redeemed you from the curse of the Law (3:13).
Since faith has come, you are no longer under the supervision of the Law (3:25).
You are sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. You were baptized in Christ, and you are clothed with Christ. You belong to Christ, and you are heirs to God’s promise (3:26–29).
You are sons of God, and you have the full rights of sonship. Because you are sons, God has given you His Spirit. And that Spirit testifies that God is your Father. You are not slaves, but sons and heirs of God (4:4–7).
The heavenly Jerusalem is your mother (4:26).
You are children of promise (4:28).
You are called to be free (5:13).
You belong to Jesus Christ, and you have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires (5:24).
What counts is a new creation, of which you are a part (6:15).
Because of the above …
Stand fast in the liberty that Christ has given you, and don’t be burdened by the yoke of slavery to the Law (5:1).
Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, but rather, serve one another in love (5:13).
Live by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of the sinful nature (5:16).
Since you live by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit. Do not be conceited, provoking and envying one another (5:25–26).
Carry one another’s burdens (6:2).
Do not become weary in well-doing. Do good to all people, especially your fellow brethren in Christ (6:9–10).
The Pattern in 1 Corinthians
The truth …
You are holy in Christ and you are called “holy ones” (1:2).
God’s grace has been given to you in Christ. In Him, you have been enriched in every way. You do not lack any spiritual gift. He will keep you strong until the end so that you will be blameless on the day of Jesus Christ (1:4–8).
Because of God, you are in Christ Jesus who has become your wisdom, your righteousness, your holiness, and your redemption (1:30).
You have received the Spirit of God, not the spirit of the world, that you might know what God has freely given you (2:12).
You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you (3:16).
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you. You are not your own. You were bought with a price (6:19–20).
Because of the above …
Be of the same mind and have no divisions among you (1:10).
Since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like “mere men,” contrary to who you really are? (3:3–4).
Do not deceive yourselves (3:18).
Judge nothing before the appointed time (4:5).
I urge you to imitate me (4:16).
Get rid of the old yeast among you … expel the wicked man from among you (5:7, 12).
Flee from sexual immorality … honor God with your body (6:18, 20).
The Pattern in Colossians
The truth …
You are holy and faithful in Christ (1:2).
The Father has qualified you to share in His inheritance. He has rescued you from the dominion of darkness. He has transferred you into the kingdom of Christ. In Christ, you have redemption and the forgiveness of sins (1:12–14).
He is the Head of His Body, the church, of which you are a part (1:18).
Once you were enemies alienated from God. Now He has reconciled you by Christ’s death to present you holy and blameless in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation (1:21–22).
Christ is in you, the hope of glory (1:27).
You have received Christ Jesus as your Lord (2:6).
You have been given fullness in Christ. In Him, you were spiritually circumcised and have put off the sinful nature. You were buried with Christ by baptism and have been raised with Him through faith in the power of God who raised Him from the dead (2:10–12).
God made you alive with Christ. He forgave you of your sins. He canceled the written code that was against you and opposed you. He nailed that code to His cross (2:13–14).
You have died with Christ to the basic elements of this world (2:20).
You have been raised with Christ (3:1).
You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is your life. When He appears, you will appear with Him (3:3–4).
You used to walk in the sinful nature. You have taken off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of your Creator (3:7–10).
You are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved (3:12).
You are members of one body and are called to peace (3:15).
Because of the above …
Continue to walk in Christ, just as you received Him (2:6).
See to it that no one takes you captive by deceptive philosophy that is not according to Christ (2:8).
Do not let anyone judge you in what you eat or drink, or in regard to keeping a religious festival, a new moon celebration, or a Sabbath day (2:16).
Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (3:1–2).
Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature (3:5).
Rid yourselves of such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. Do not lie to each other (3:8–9).
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Put on love. Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. Be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God (3:12–17).
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (4:2).
Let your conversation be always full of grace (4:6).
The Pattern in Ephesians
The truth …
God has blessed you with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. He chose you in Christ before the creation of the world so that you would be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined you to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ. He has freely given you His grace, and you are accepted in His Beloved Son. In Him you have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He has lavished the riches of His grace upon you with all wisdom and understanding (1:3–8).
In Christ, you were chosen and predestined according to His eternal plan. You have been given an inheritance in Him (1:11).
You were included in Christ. You were marked in Him with a seal of the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance. You are God’s possession (1:13–14).
You used to be dead in your trespasses and sins. You used to follow the way of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of darkness (2:1–2).
God who has a great love for you and who is rich in mercy made you alive in Christ, even when you were dead in transgressions. You have been saved by grace. God raised you up with Christ and seated you with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to you in Christ Jesus. You have been saved by grace, through faith. It is not of yourselves, but it is the gift of God. Not by works, lest any person should boast. You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do (2:4–10).
You are now in Christ Jesus. You were once far away, but you have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:13).
He Himself is your peace (2:14).
Through Christ you have access to the Father by one Spirit (2:18).
You are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (2:19).
You are being built together to become a dwelling place in which God lives by His Spirit (2:20).
You are members of one body (4:25).
You are dearly loved children (5:1).
Christ loved you and gave Himself up for you as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (5:2).
You are God’s holy people (5:3).
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (5:8).
Because of the above …
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (4:1–3).
You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking … you didn’t come to learn Christ that way. You were taught to put away your old self … to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor. In your anger do not sin. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work. Do not let any unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for the building up of others according to their needs. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ has forgiven you (4:17, 20–32).
Be imitators of God and live a life of love (5:1–2).
There must not be sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse jesting among you which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (5:3–4).
Do not be partners with those who practice these things (5:7).
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (5:11).
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Always giving thanks to God. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:17–21).
This article is an excerpt from Frank Viola Author, the book Revise Us Again
Revising Our Awareness of the Divine
In 1993, what came to be known as the “Toronto Blessing” hit the United States. Rodney Howard-Browne held his first convention in the Carpenter’s Home Church in Lakeland, Florida.
That convention went on for weeks. From there, it quickly spread to other parts of North America—most notably Toronto, Canada; Melbourne, Florida; and Pensacola, Florida.
Upon hearing about the new move of God in March of 1993, I traveled to Lakeland and sat in on those first meetings where “the blessing” had just begun. In January 1996, I traveled to Melbourne, Florida, and attended a meeting officiated by Randy Clark when the phenomenon had spread there in full force.
I will not share my observations in this chapter. But I’m glad I went to those meetings.
Ever since I’ve been a Christian, I’ve had an insatiable hunger to know my Lord more deeply. If I hear a report that God is uniquely at work in a given place, I’ll move heaven and earth to visit it. This is what prompted me to check out those early meetings in Lakeland and Melbourne.
One thing I saw in those meetings is something I have observed ever since I’ve been a Christian. Namely, a large portion of the Christian population is seeking a fresh touch from God. They are seeking to experience His presence.
Some, however, appear to be almost pathologically dependent on trying to “feel” God’s presence. For these souls, “feeling” the presence of the Lord becomes a benchmark to measure their spiritual condition.
I spent most of my early Christian life drinking deeply from the wells of a particular movement that stressed the miraculous power of God. While I learned many valuable lessons in that movement, I also have a few reservations. One of them is that the propensity to seek “the felt-presence of God” in that movement is central and overwhelming.
I watched many Christians struggle with this quest to the point of concluding that something was wrong with them—that God loved them less—all because they weren’t “feeling” or “sensing” His presence on a regular basis.
On the other hand, I have known Christian women and men who were utterly devoted to the Lord, extremely gifted, spiritually insightful, and fruitful. Yet in private, their confession was that they had never “felt” the presence of God.
I’ve also personally known Christians who were in dire spiritual straits. Some were living double lives. Yet they didn’t wince at their poor condition, because during worship services or prayer times they regularly “felt” the presence of God.
This being said, I believe there’s a great deal of confusion over the matter of God’s presence. Part of it is rooted in semantics. Another part is rooted in bad theology. Either way, it’s an area where revision is desperately needed.
Let’s look at the semantic problem first. (Semantics refers to the words we use to express certain concepts.)
From Revise Us Again by Frank Viola, author
We all were born into Adam. We were all born into an old, fallen, corrupt humanity. Strikingly, God has chosen not to renovate, improve, or correct the old humanity. Instead, He has chosen to do one thing with it.
We got into Adam by birth. The only way to get out of him and his race is by death. And the only way to get into Christ is by birth. New birth.
Note Paul’s words: “Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Christ” and “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
You aren’t really human until you’ve died and risen again. The good news is that this has already happened (Rom. 6—8).
The old Adam cannot be cosmetically adjusted, repaired, or improved.
He must be put to death.
Jesus Christ was a living portrait of God’s thought for humanity. He was the true human.
In His resurrection, Jesus became the Head of a new humanity that transcends the old distinctions of race and gender (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:10–11; 2 Cor. 5:17). The man, Jesus, is what God intended humanity to be. He was a person who lived by God’s life. In the same way, every person today who lives by the life of God is revealing their true humanity.
It takes God to be a human.
Adam and Eve were offered the tree of life in the garden. But they never partook of it. God’s intention from the beginning was for humans to live by divine life.
And here’s the good news: Jesus Christ is the reality of the tree of life. He has been offered to us today to partake of (John 6:57). We can partake of Him now and thus be fully human and part of a new humanity—a new creation—a new kind of human.
What a beautiful way to present the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus: Here is a way to become fully human. Receive Jesus Christ, the Head of the new humanity.
No other religion offers such a glorious thing.
5. Everything Wears Out Except for Christ
Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I often feel that way about contemporary Christianity. As an observer of the passing parade, I’ve noted the following: Most of what’s put on the table with respect to reforming and renewing the church are the same ideas repackaged from decade to decade.
There’s very little new in any of them.
But more critical, these “renewing” and “reforming” ideas and solutions lack one critical element. That element is best illustrated by what Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, said once during an interview:
Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together. Otherwise, you can get great pieces of technology all floating around the universe. But it doesn’t add up to much.… There were bits and pieces of interesting things floating around, but not that gravitational pull.
Jobs’s metaphor is an apt description of the great need in the church today. Christians have made the gospel about so many “interesting things floating around” but without the gravitational pull that brings them all together.
And that gravitational pull is the Lord Jesus Christ.
That said, if there’s anything I’ve learned by being a Christian over the last thirty years, it’s this:
- Any solution, cure, or remedy that doesn’t have Jesus Christ at its center is doomed to fail.
- Everything in the Christian life eventually wears out. The only thing that doesn’t is Christ Himself. He is new every morning.2
Consequently, all of our methods, techniques, innovative ideas, strategies, and solutions don’t stand a chance if the Lord Jesus Himself isn’t front and center of all of them.
He and He alone is God’s method, technique, idea, strategy, and solution.
He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Christ and Christ alone is the gospel (2 Cor. 4:5). Everything else tastes like plain yogurt.
From Revise Us Again by Frank Viola, author