As Alice sat in the doctor’s waiting room her mind began to imagine the highly invasive medical treatment her body was about to endure. This was last resort treatment! Radical! Unknown in most countries! She faced treatment that might or might not work! She needed a deep assurance of God’s love and presence. As she thought about her God and her relationship with Him, a passage of the Bible came into her thoughts. As she meditated on the passage she was filled with an incredible sense of peace as she later described it. All fear and trepidation vanished and she was ready to face the coming medical assault by the grace of God. What was the passage that brought her such a sense of security and peace? Might it help us in the difficulties we face?
In fact the passage has brought great peace to millions who have begun to live by its truths. There are many sensitive people in the world who are very conscious of their own failures. Many of them wonder how God could put up with them when they feel that they keep on failing Him. They think, I have been a believer for so many years now, but I don’t seem to have matured a great deal. I still face the same difficulties and temptations and they are still hard to overcome. Or they may begin to think that they are being hypocritical in not living more victorious lives. The enemy, Satan the accuser, uses the opportunity to get them to doubt their commitment and their motives. The hymn writer Canon Henry Twells put it so well in his hymn, “At even ere the sun was set”. One verse describes those who are sensitive in nature about their short-comings and explains in his words, And they who fain would serve Thee best, Are conscious most of wrong within. It is those who want to draw closer to God and to have more victories in their lives who are the most conscious of their own short-comings and sin. On the other hand those who are far from God and have no desire to draw closer to Him are not really conscious of their sin. It just doesn’t matter to them. How then can the passage we have in mind help sensitive people who want to have more peace in their lives?
The passage which helped Alice and can help people today is from Ephesians chapter 2 verses 4 to 7. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Alice had been taught that she had to see herself as God saw her. What she came to understand from these verses was this. She understood that God saw her as sitting at His right hand “with Christ”. She initially didn’t feel that to be true. However she also had come to understand that reality is how God sees things, not as we see them or feel about them. The objective truth was that Alice was sitting in the doctor’s reception room as she meditated on this passage. But she recognised another objective truth. At that very moment God saw her sitting at His right hand with Christ. So as she sat in the waiting room she “practised the presence of God”, and turning to her left she said, “Father, I thank You that I am in Your presence. I commit my whole future to You”. She experienced a deep peace in His presence. The more she thought about the passage and affirmed its truths to herself, the more they became a part of her. The peace remained following the invasive medical procedures. As she continued to picture herself sitting with Christ at God’s right hand and handing all her concerns over to God she experienced what Paul described in Philippians 4:6-7 as the peace of God, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What does it mean for the believer today that they are “seated with Christ” in the heavenlies through their faith-union with Christ? It means three things in particular.
1). It means they are seated in the place of honour. Christ had perfectly fulfilled the will of His Father through His life and death. God had honoured Him by raising Him to life and seating Him at His right hand. He was and is now in the place of honour. But so too is the believer who is seated with Christ. God honours those who honour His Son by raising them with Him in His sight. There are few on earth who honour Jesus as they should. That is why God honours all those who take the gift of His Son seriously. Jesus is precious to His Father. He sees those who trust in His beloved Son as precious because such commitment to Jesus is so rare. Believers bothered to take Jesus seriously. God takes them seriously and has honoured them by seating them in the place of honour with His Son.
2). It means that they are seated in the place of acceptance with God. God accepted all Jesus had done on earth as sufficient for His plan of salvation. The law of God had been fulfilled by Jesus’ life and obedience. Human sin had been died for by Jesus. Believers who accepted Jesus as Saviour were in turn accepted by God. In other words God accepts all those who accept His Son. There can be no greater acceptance than to be in the place of acceptance with God, at His right hand with Christ. Believers may do many things to become more available to God in His purposes, but they can never become more acceptable to Him than they already are through their faith-union with Christ.
When believers really understand this truth it means the end of trying to become more acceptable to God through trying to do more and more things to please Him. People are either accepted by God or they are not. All those who become believers will be accepted. All those who refuse to accept Christ as Saviour will be rejected. It also means the end of mental self-flagellation. We can so easily mentally punish ourselves for not meeting our own expectations, let alone what we imagine God’s expectations to be for us. To understand that God has raised us up with Christ and has already seated us with Christ means He has accepted us as we are. Our striving to live only for Him will be motivated by our love for Him and not by a desire to become more acceptable. We never can be! We are accepted now!
3). It means that they are seated in the place of authority. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God to be the King of kings, the Lord of lords and the ruler of this universe. Believers have the privilege of praying in His name, calling on His authority. This authority was given to believers in the Great Commission in Matthew 28, 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It means that believers can experience victory in their personal lives as well as in their work or ministry for God. They are not struggling for authority in life. They have it through their relationship with Jesus in whom all authority resides.
Every believer is going to have a difficult time living in a difficult world. There are times when we may feel that we are trudging through mud, so slow is our spiritual progress. At other times the enemy Satan (as the accuser) tries to get us to doubt God’s love for us. He may feed into our minds thoughts that suggest we don’t measure up. That we are hypocrites. That we will never have victory in some areas of life. That we are not very nice people. Or he may try to put fear into our minds that we are not yet ready to meet God.
But as Alice proved in the most extreme situations, it is possible to know God’s peace and power to cope when you know you are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies. She began to base her whole life on the assurance of her acceptance by God. She often visualised herself sitting with Christ in the heavenlies in the place of honour, acceptance and authority. It meant she could trust Him for every moment of her life. In the opinion of her close friends, she did! Continually!
But this truth was not just for Alice to reflect and act on. It is true for ever believer and has been from the moment they believed. There is no need to struggle for acceptance with God. Believers ARE accepted by Him. There is no need to keep on hoping that one day God will accept us. No, He tells us that we are accepted in Christ. From the firm basis of our acceptance we reach out to Him to give us the grace we need to live for Him. This is what St Paul had in mind in Philippians chapter 2. He said we were to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”, 2:12. He didn’t say that we had to work FOR our salvation. Rather from our sure security as believers seated with Christ in the heavenlies we are to work out in practice what God Himself is working in us in the power of His Holy Spirit.
So today as you read these words what might it mean personally to you if you believed and acted on the truth that you are, as a believer, already seated with Christ in the heavenlies?
Blog No.107. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 13th January 2013