I’ve been spiritually dry lately. This morning I decided to let God’s word remind me of Jesus Christ’s position at the center of everything, for which I turned to Ephesians 1:3-14. It begins, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. . . ” It continues by listing some of those blessings: forgiveness, sharing in God’s holiness, being adopted into the family of God, knowing the mystery of his will, experiencing the promise and presence of the Holy Spirit, and more. One phrase sums it up: “the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.”
Read through this at the link above, and you may get the same sense I do: that Paul (the author) was fairly tripping over his words, trying to express the inexpressible. Translators have trouble telling where one sentence ends and another begins (the original Greek had no punctuation). The passage is packed with meaning. Paul uses some rather technical language to accomplish this, so some readers will prefer to read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message instead of a more literal rendering. Even there, though, Paul’s sense of praise and glory overflows; the computer screen (if that’s where you are reading it) is fairly dripping with the deluge of Paul’s gratefulness for God’s blessing.
It is all centered in one place: six times in this passage it says “in Christ” or the equivalent, “in him.” All of this goodness we receive, we receive in Jesus Christ. Jesus had said (John 10:10), “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” or to the maximum.
Somehow, incomprehensibly, some people have gotten a picture that following Christ is dull, rule-bound, and restricted. Nothing could be further from the truth. My dryness of late has come from being distant from him as the source, not from following him! It’s like life without music, without trees and grass and flowers. But the closer I’m connected to him, the more alive I am!
Contemplating Christ is uplifting just because of who he is. No person in history has taught such a high standard of love and giving; and no person has so clearly lived out that standard. There is something energizing in thinking thoughts of greatness. There is more than that going on here, though. It’s not just Christ’s example, it’s his actual gift of life to us. He is not just an uplifter of life, he is the source of all true life. Fullness of life comes only in him, for he is Creator, Redeemer, the only true Son of God.
We have passages like this in God’s word to remind us of this. We grow dull (as I have) by forgetting (or rejecting) his gift of lavish love and grace, thinking that we have what it takes apart from him. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who attest to the huge, qualitative change when they have committed their lives to Christ, as if the scales fell off their eyes and they saw and felt what’s real for the first time. I experienced the same. I continue to experience it, and I can (once again) attest to the difference it makes when I draw close to Jesus Christ as my source of life.
The truth, explained by God in his word, and demonstrated in the experience of millions of Christ-followers, is that real life is in Christ alone. And what a great life it is!
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