Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance

Ephesians 1:18-19
… having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to his great might …

Reading through this passage today, I was struck for the first time by the phrase “his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Before, when I read this verse, I had always associated it with another nearby verse that says that the Holy Spirit is “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” After all, they both use the word “inheritance.”

The other verse, Ephesians 1:14, is referring to what God has promised those who have become His children in Christ. This includes righteousness, a face-to-face relationship with God, and a position in the New Heavens and the New Earth. We get these in part today through the Holy Spirit (our “guarantee”), but we will not fully “acquire possession of it” until Christ’s second coming.

But then I realized that that isn’t what Ephesians 1:18 is talking about. The idea in verse 14 could be called “the saints’ glorious inheritance in Christ,” but verse 18 is about Christ’s glorious inheritance in the saints.

What does THAT mean? Christ is God and has complete control of everything in the universe. Furthermore, our salvation was completely from God’s grace, not because of anything we give God, as the rest of Ephesians 1 (and the rest of Scripture) makes clear.

I think it means that Christ’s “glorious inheritance” IS the saints. Just as Israel was “a people of [God’s] own inheritance,” the saints, God’s people under the New Covenant, belong to Christ. Note that “saints” when used in the New Testament means all those who believe in Jesus. For proof, you can look at Ephesians 1:1, where the letter is addressed to “the saints who are in Ephesus,” meaning the whole church.

This is absolutely stunning. It means that WE are Christ’s glorious inheritance. God sees us as glorious. And the text doesn’t treat this as some curious opinion God has. It doesn’t say, “the inheritance God thinks is glorious.” No, it says “glorious inheritance,” like the thing in question is objectively glorious. And Paul is praying that the Christians he writes to may know “the riches of His glorious inheritance.” He wants them to recognize that they, as Christ’s possession, have become glorious.

What is glorious about us? I think the phrases on either side of this one answer that question. First, there is “the hope to which he has called you” – God’s reliable promise to bring us into His glory. God chose us to “be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1: 4), and when God decides to do something, it is as good as done.

The other thing that makes us glorious is “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” God’s power has already started working miracles in our lives. He has raised us from death in our sins to life. And just as Christ was raised from death up to heaven where he is now seated at the father’s right hand, God will continue to raise up until we too are given heavenly authority.

Part of me wants to stop and qualify this saying, “of course, we’re not there yet. Christians do terrible things, just like everyone else, and in many ways we are far from glorious." This is true. But what God is making us is far more fundamental to who we are than anything we do. Christ may not have fully come into His inheritance yet – that is, He may not yet have complete control of our lives. But that doesn’t change the fact that our core identity has altered – we ARE Christ’s glorious inheritance.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Heart, Mind and Lies

The purpose of this blog, reflected in the title, is to combine the mind and the heart, intellectual truth (logos) with passionate love. I firmly believe that both of these are essential for our spiritual health.

The “mind” half of the equation has always come pretty easily to me. I have a hunch that this has something to do with growing up around two very intelligent and highly educated parents, one of whom is a college professor who taught me the word “omnivore” when I was 3.

The “heart” aspect of things is a bit more confused. I do have a passion for God, which I express best in my poetry and hymns. But I don’t trust my feelings as much as I do my mind. For years, I’ve struggled with painful emotions that seemed to have no connection to reality. I eventually learned to call these emotions “depression,” but that label didn’t help me to understand its cause. I still haven’t figured out all the factors involved, but one has become very clear to me recently.

I’ve realized that many of what I had called “emotional” problems actually began in my thoughts. At some point in my life, I bought into some lies about who I am, which have formed the unconscious background of my thoughts and feelings. Putting words to this idea is difficult, in part because it has been unexpressed for all these years. Many of my conscious thoughts reflect it, but they are only smaller manifestations of it, like in video games when the boss monster sends out smaller monsters to attack you.

The lie at the core of my problems is something like this: I am valuable only if I do everything that is expected of me perfectly. Once it is put into words, I see how ridiculous it is, and my mind comes to poke holes in it immediately. Here are a few problems with it:
1. All human beings are valuable, not because of ability, and not as something they earn, but in virtue of being human beings made in the image of God. I argue strongly for this when faced with many social issues, and I had thought it was an established part of my thinking.
2. I can’t do everything perfectly because I am not perfect. I am not God, and no one expects me to be.
3. This idea doesn’t mention exactly whose expectations I must live. In practice, this means that I try to please everyone I run into, both in big things like doing my job well and in small things like not admitting that I don’t like a movie they like. But it runs into contradictions when two people expect different things. In those cases, it is simply impossible to please everyone.

As you can see, my mind is more than capable of trashing the lie once it is exposed to the light of reason. But of course, it isn’t that simple. This idea doesn’t step out and face a direct battle with my other beliefs and ideas. Instead, it sits in the shadows, sending out negative thoughts and painful feelings like bullets from a sniper. I hope that now that I know it’s there, I can be on my guard against it. I’m trying to fill my mind with truth about my identity and my value, leaving no shadows in which this lie can hide.

It’s obvious that lies affect one’s mind. The whole point of a lie is to get one to believe something false. But these ideas affect our hearts too – they cause us to react in unhealthy ways to the experiences and challenges of our lives. What lies might you have bought into that affect how you think or feel about things?