August 1, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 2:4-7 (NIV)
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us 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 us in Christ Jesus.
According to Ephesians 2, through Christ we are already in Heaven in a sense. Yet we are still very much of this earth. We live in a mixed reality, experiencing God through the fullness of the Spirit and at the same time experiencing the limitations and pains of our physical existence. Yet, as we sample a bit of Heaven in advance, we are inspired by the certain hope of God’s good future.
When I was in junior high school, I invited my friend Danny to church camp. Though he was a good guy, Danny did not know Jesus in a personal way. I hoped and prayed that this might happen at camp.
One night, the camp speaker told the story of how God sent his Son to die for our sins. At the end of this message, the speaker asked everyone to close their eyes. Then he invited kids who wanted to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord to raise their hands. As the speaker acknowledged many hands in the room, I prayed as hard as I ever had prayed that Danny would receive Jesus. No, in case you’re wondering, I did not peek to see if Danny raised his hand. After the prayer was over, I looked at Danny, but didn’t see anything different about him. Did he pray to receive Jesus? I couldn’t tell.
On the way back to our cabin, my counselor took me aside and said, “Mark, do you know that Danny prayed to receive Christ tonight?” My heart jumped for joy. My prayers had been answered. Danny had become a Christian.
That night in our cabin time, the counselor asked us to share what the night had meant to us. I was surprised when Danny volunteered to talk. “I received Jesus as my Savior tonight,” he said. “I’m happy because I know that from now on I won’t have any problems in life.” At that moment, my heart sank. Danny didn’t understand that becoming a Christian didn’t make life perfect, at least not in this age. I feared that when Danny encountered the inevitable problems and pains of life, he might become discouraged and give up his faith in Jesus. Later, my counselor encouraged me to help Danny grow in his understanding of the Christian life. “You will help him stick close to Jesus when times are hard, Mark. You will help him learn what being a Christian is really all about.”
Danny’s mistake is something that many young Christians make. They read the promises of Scripture. They rejoice in the good news. But, at least for a while, they miss the broader teaching of the Bible about what life in Christ is really like. Shallow presentations of the Gospel don’t help, either, as potential converts hear only the attractive parts but not the call to discipleship or the promise of suffering for the Lord.
Yet, if Danny had read Ephesians 2:6, he would have had every reason to believe his life as a Christian would be amazingly positive. This text says that we have already been raised with Christ and seated with him in Heaven. Doesn’t that suggest a painless, even a perfect existence?
The full truth is that, through Christ, we are already in Heaven, in a sense. And we are still very much of this earth. We live in a mixed reality, experiencing God through the fullness of the Spirit and at the same time experiencing the limitations and pains of our physical existence. Yet, as we sample a bit of Heaven in advance, we are inspired by the certain hope of God’s good future.
If you were Danny’s counselor and he told you his life would be without problems now that he was a Christian, how would you respond?
Does it ever seem to you that the Christian life is much harder than it should be?
How do you make sense of the fact that, in some way, we are already in Heaven with Jesus, even when life can be so hard?
Let me encourage you to listen to a fascinating and touching conversation between Mark Labberton, President of Fuller Seminary, and Kate Bowler, a church historian who, as a deeply faithful Christian, is struggling with Stage IV cancer. You can find this conversation at the FULLER Studio podcast, Conversing.
Gracious God, how I thank you that we can come to you with simple faith and you accept us. You forgive us. You save us from sin and death. You adopt us into your family. You embrace us as your beloved children. Thank you, Lord, for not requiring that we figure it all out before you receive us. If that were true, we’d be lost.
Help us, I pray, to grow in a right understanding of you and your ways. Teach us your truth as we study your Word, as we attend to your Spirit, and as we share together in the community of your people. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus, the Image of the Invisible God (Colossians 1:15–29)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.