God has an economic plan!

Before you tell me I’m daft, let me explain. Our modern word ‘economy’ is just a transliteration (that’s changing the letters from Greek characters to English ones) of a common Greek word: oikonomia.

The ending ‘nomy’ is from the Greek word for law or rule. Hence ‘autonomy’ is ruling yourself, running your own life.

The prefix ‘oikos’ means house.

Therefore, economy means house-rule or house-government – the management of your domestic affairs. It has only more recently come to mean specifically to do with financial affairs in popular understanding.

So, when God tells us in Ephesians 1:10 that God has ‘a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.’ he is telling us that he has a plan, so big, so all encompassing, so complete that it will ultimately bring all things in heaven and earth to a right and proper conclusion!

This little verse is in the middle of a fantastic and full exclamation of all that God has done and is doing in his created universe. It should reassure us no end that in the middle of the uncertainty of this world there is One who knows what he is doing, and is able to do what he intends. There is One who can and will bring all the threads of life to a head, with God reigning supreme and all creation in its proper place.

There is a divine economy that needs no polls or surveys to discover what will happen. The plan is fixed and sure and to all who believe it is our sure and certain hope in an uncertain world. Let’s live by that.

Always be ready to make room in your hearts

“Make room in your hearts for us.” 2 Corinthians 7:2

The Apostle Paul was always getting caught in the middle of controversy and disagreements. Some were theological disputes, some were cases of immorality – plain old fashioned sin. Unfortunately, even when Paul was trying to do the right thing, it didn’t endear him to the people he was trying to help. Paul, as a believer was passionate about doing Christianity right – that passion often got people’s backs up. Yet, from Paul’s perspective, there was a genuine love for the other believers and a real desire to see them grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. As Paul is involved with the Corinthian church and the sinful behaviour of some of the members, there is a determination on his part to love all.

In the latter part of chapter 6 Paul is explaining how we as believers belong to God – his special people – and as such we belong to one another. That’s what a ‘people’ are. It takes no great leap of logic to realise the importance of loving one another within that ‘people’ community, not just because we are all first loved in Christ, but also because we are one people. That person who has sinned is part of God’s people, that person who you just don’t get, or get on with is part of God’s people. If they are God’s people, then they must be our people.

And so, on the back of this understanding, and in the thick of the conflict, Paul simply asks:

“Make room in your hearts for us”

And that is what we should all be doing. Our temptation is to close our hearts to that which challenges us, or hurts us, or that which we just don’t like. If God in his love opened his heart to us, to forgive, to redeem, to call, to make to be his people, then we should too.

Whatever that conflict, that disagreement, that dislike don’t let it control your relationships. You can disagree with someone and yet still make room in your heart for them. If you dislike another believer, then you should all the more make room in your heart for them.

In Revelation Jesus is pictured as standing outside the door of our hearts (and he’s speaking to believers here) knocking and asking for entry. Jesus is looking for room in your heart, fellowship, God with man. We should open the door, first of all to Jesus, and then in fellowship with him, make room in your hearts for all brothers and sisters in Christ. By this will all men know that we are his disciples…

Never, ever underestimate the significance of the Gospel

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 ESV

The Roman triumphal procession was well known in Paul’s time. The triumphal procession came after the victory – it was the returning emperor showing to all his power, glory and victory. It was the biggest boldest statement of triumph that he could make: look at my victory, look at what I’ve done!

When Paul stops to consider his own calling and commission he sees it is these terms. He isn’t fighting for victory, he isn’t hoping to win. The victory has been accomplished, Paul is announcing that victory to the world. Paul is pointing to Jesus Christ, to his death and resurrection and ascension as the victory. The battle is won and Christ is victorious. And so, as we share the Gospel, we are sharing the Good News of this victory and what it means, and displaying it to the world. This is our ‘triumphal procession’.

The triumphal procession was good news for the victor and for his followers, but it was bad news for the enemy. Often the defeated enemies were taken as captives and displayed for all to see in the triumphal procession – evidence of the victory, the spoils of war! In Ephesians 4:8 we are told that Jesus when he ascended to heaven took ‘captives captive’ – the enemy was defeated and taken. It’s past tense, a done deal. This is good news for those who are on Christ’s side; it’s already bad news for those who are enemies of Christ. I think that in 2 Corinthians Paul has in mind Satan, whose plans he has just referred to prior to these verses. They enemy is defeated and captured. This triumphal message of the Gospel is a life and death matter.

One thing that the Gospel message isn’t is insignificant. We’re not just another group trying to sell our wares, to gain some traction for a set of ideas or ideals in the marketplace of life. We’re not pedlars, we’re following the victor in the triumphal procession. As such we are commissioned directly by God and speak first and foremost before God in Jesus Christ. We are sincere communicators of the most stunning news this world has ever heard or will hear!

Paul and the Corinthians lived in a culture where to be a Christian was to be ridiculed and possibly persecuted. We live in a generation in which more and more we are being ridiculed for ‘believing in all that junk’. How can rational people take it seriously? The temptation is to retreat into justifying our beliefs, in trying to explain the reasonableness of our faith. This is allowing fear of others to trump our fear of God and our understanding of what is actually happening in this universe.

So, there is to be no fear in the proclamation, no cause to excuse repeating God’s dogmatism. Repeating truth is simply that: the sincere and honest announcement of the incredible victory won at the cross when Jesus Christ died for our sins and was declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead.

This is no insignificant thing!

The Gospel is too great to keep to ourselves

Through the prophet Isaiah we are told:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

(Isaiah 49:6 ESV)

What God was saying to the nation of Israel is this: the mission of the Messiah is so great, so global, so all encompassing that it could never be just for the physical descendants of Israel. That would be too light a thing for a mission so great.

When we think about it, the Fall of mankind was global, it affects us all. God’s plan through his Son, Jesus the Messiah was always to redeem all of mankind from this global Fall. And so, in the book of Romans, Paul when he speaks of the Church ‘with one voice’ glorifying God (Romans 15:7) he naturally goes on to consider the nations (or Gentiles). The word used in Isaiah for nations is the same word that the Jews began to use in a derogatory sense for all who were not Jews. The nations were in effect the ‘non Jews’. But praise God that he explicitly sent Jesus as a light to the nations, not just the Jews.

One of the aspects of the Fall was the joining together of people and nations to raise themselves up, but in Romans 15 we have a wonderful picture of true global unity. The Church, God’s chosen people come from every nation so that the ‘one voice’ of Romans 15:7 explicitly refers to Jew and Gentile alike. We all glorify God together. This is the antitheses of Babel which was mankind joining together to glorify man – the spirit of this world.

What could be greater than that men and women from every tribe and nation should join together, not to glorify self, but to glorify their God and their Redeemer, Jesus – the Messiah and the light to the nations?

If this Gospel is so great, it is too light a thing to keep to ourselves, it must break out of our lives and into the world in which we live. Do we realise how great this Gospel message and mission is? How can we not speak it out if we truly understand and believe it?

Christ became a servant in order to confirm the promise to the patriarchs and that the nations might glorify God for his mercy. That’s us – rejoice in the global redeeming mission of the Messiah, Jesus, and live in the light of the knowledge that we have the truth of the greatest news this world will ever know. It’s too light a thing to keep to ourselves, so let it out!

When Jesus foretold his death, he also promised his resurrection

It was just after Peter’s pronouncement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” that Jesus announced two things that would soon happen. First he would die, then he would be raised from the dead. Peter seems to have suffered from selective hearing, because his reaction to Jesus’ statements is to say “this shall never happen to you”! Peter heard the part about Jesus’ death but failed to understand the part about Jesus’ resurrection. So too, we can think about Jesus’ death and all that it has won for us without continuing on to consider the resurrection that is part and parcel of what Jesus did on our behalf. It’s not a case of one or the other, but rather that the whole is more than we tend to think about or live by.

Consider this:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

We are told that we are in Christ and in Christ we have died to sin, yet, in Christ we have also been raised to walk in newness of life. The life we live now is the resurrection life of which Jesus is the firstfruits. Our death in Christ broke the bond of slavery to sin and allowed us to walk the resurrection life in Christ.

So, as we look beyond Easter, let’s walk in the newness of life that comes to those who have died in Christ and have been raised with Christ. Let us live lives given to God, presenting ourselves – body, mind and soul to the God who raised us and sustains us – we’re living now not under law, but under grace. Let’s live day by day in the awareness of both our death and resurrection in Christ Jesus!