But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
One of the main overarching themes of Scripture is that royalty and priesthood were re-wed in Jesus Christ. As we dig into the story of the garden in Eden, we understand that Adam and Eve were not merely stewards of the original creation, but sacred stewards...they were ordained by God to be the high priests of creation, ministering to and communing with God in the original holy of holies and ministering to the earth with delegated divine authority out from that place. There is "temple" language in the first chapters of Genesis, long before the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon were established. After the fall of our first parents, God separated priesthood and royalty in the constitution of Israel, apparently to balance power between different parties. But as Psalm 110 and Zechariah prophesied (and Melchizedek prefigured), royalty and priesthood come together again as one in Jesus. The writer of Hebrews picks up this theme and elaborates on the new order of royal priesthood embodied in Christ as the high priest. And...the implications for us as His sons and daughters, are great as well, as Peter's, quote above, confirms. To jump to the bottom line for us...we are called to live in a priestly and royal fashion in this world. We are sacred stewards of 1) the gospel or the "big news" of Christ...the power of the new creation. And 2) God's original creation, the "good earth", that is promised redemption and renewal through the resurrection and ascension of Christ. As such, we are honored to take up into our metaphorical "arms" the nations of people and the raw materials of creation that God has invested in the earth, add to them our creative love and service and offer it all back up to God as an offering. From this way of worship, God promises to bless what we offer, crown it with His salvation grace and give it back to us to employ and multiply for His honor and that of His Son and the good of all creation. Being a royal priest by being joined to Jesus, as a core element of our personal identity, changes the way we awake in the morning, engage our world and go to bed at night.
I believe that we have entered a new era or phase in the history of God's work upon the earth in this generation. 500 years ago a central and essential biblical revelation was all but lost to the world. It was buried beneath the rubble of Western "churchianity" and all the wars, illiteracy, religious superstitions, sociopolitical oppression and hardship that accompanied the "dark ages". But God's Spirit was on the move and He raised up various breeds of spiritual reformers who rediscovered the vital apostolic truth that it is "by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) If God's prophets at that time had predicted that this simple truth and experience would, over the next 500 years, transform the understanding of Christianity and that it would spread like a fire around the world drawing multiplied millions and millions of people from every continent to childlike faith in Jesus of Nazareth, they probably would have been quickly written off as wacko's. But that is exactly what has happened in the earth...with exponential acceleration in the last century. This foundational truth has now taken such deep root in the hearts and minds of so many people, it will never be lost again. God has won the intense spiritual battle over the true nature of personal salvation.
However, there is another intense spiritual battle that has reasonably followed that must also now be won in this age. It is a battle for God's precious daughters and sons to experimentally discover many more facets of God's true and better nature and how we are being invited to access, demonstrate and enjoy the greater inheritance that Jesus died, rose again and ascended into heaven to freely share with us. Seeing the "face" of God as our Savior, is meant to inaugurate an unfolding dynamic relationship and journey by which we see and experience many more facets or "faces" of God that naturally-supernaturally leads us to partner with Him to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We do not stop with the experience of Ephesians 2:8-9, as too much "fundamentalism" has unwittingly done, but we experience it as a Divine platform set beneath us to launch us into the wonder and awe of Ephesians 2:10 - "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works that comes from powerfully discovering that God is bigger and better and closer to us than we have imagined. By the way, this second reformation has already been inaugurated by the Lord and it will spread like a fire all over the earth!
In cultural terms, hope is often equated with mere wishful thinking that is not very substantial and is often scorned as living in a kind of fantasy world. But in Biblical terms, hope is a powerful grace to be received as a gift from God and also a virtue to be cultivated. The Spirit of God whispered to me that hope has been a "Cinderella sister" to faith and love, but that "she is a queen" and that He is going to give her "a coming out party" in the coming days and "put her on display". After much study, prayer and pondering, this is the working definition that I am working with for hope: Hope is a present joy...a state of being that confidently anticipates a better future reality based on God's commitment to demonstrate His goodness and greatness here and now and forevermore.
People who live in divine hope are not living with their heads in the clouds. Rather, they are living with their heads above the clouds! They perceive the face(s) of God, or facets of His nature, with the eyes of their hearts. Furthermore, their feet are planted firmly on the earth and they become channels of bringing heaven to earth through the power of the Holy Spirit working within and through them in practical and tangible ways. God is raising up millions of "hope reformers" in our generation who do not curse the darkness in the world, but who simply turn on the light within their sphere of influence. They won't live in reaction to the pains and perplexities of the world, but will live in joyful and peaceful response to what the Spirit of God is saying and doing. Ask God to include you and me "in that number"!
And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb, as though it had been slain.... Revelation 5:5-6a
The Scriptures are full of Divine paradox and I have been thrilled at pondering how these matters come to be resolved within the larger paradigm of God's great kingdom. John the Revelator came face to face with one of these outstanding tensions. God has already won a lion-sized victory over all that is evil in this world through the "finished work" of Jesus Christ. And yet, in His inscrutable wisdom, all such evil was profoundly defeated through the loving sacrifice of a lamb. This is a mind-bending and heart-fueling means to such an end. Moreover, this grand victory has not yet fully played out in human history and so, ironically, there is still much work to be done. As our Lord, we are called to reflect and model, in all our ways and work, this strange and mysterious blend of such strength and humility and...of Spirit-empowered labor that flows from rest. Too many times and too many people and movements, in the name of Christ, have expressed a counter-productive, imbalanced and stilted caricaturization of these virtues. On one hand, some presumptively pose as a lion for God as they stridently confront the cultures of the world with mere human bravado beneath all the rhetoric and drama. On the other hand, others superficially mimick the gentle vulnerability of a lamb by avoiding the challenge of facing down with an inner peace what is most truly wicked - the greed, pride and lust in both their irreligious and religious varieties and...in both their personal and institutional manifestations. Still...I am seeing signs of hope as many are rising above the fray. Help us Lord, to do your loving will, in your way, with your strength flowing through us!
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, Matthew 6:22
I have always been drawn to this intriguing statement of Jesus. As I think of the larger context of Matthew 6, it addresses our view of God...His goodness, greatness and especially...His intimate concern for and involvement with us as He meets our practical needs and attends to the affairs of our daily lives. Embracing this belief and mentality is truly a stretch for us. Left to ourselves, we tend to think that He certainly must have larger and more important matters on His mind...given the billions of people in His world and all the global problems...but we would be quite mistaken and do ourselves and others a tragic injustice in the process.
In this part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses our basic needs for money, food/drink, clothing/shelter, our physical survival and the way that we tend to waste all kinds of energy worrying, being frantic and sometimes being anxious and even manipulative about taking care of ourselves rather than trusting God. Jesus makes it quite clear that our Heavenly Father is profoundly committed to taking care of us and these genuine needs that we have and that everyone else has too. In essence, He is teaching us that if we can simply lose our fear and anxiety about these matters, we will be empowered to focus on His very real presence and goodness all around us, thereby liberating us to joyfully work, give to others, pray and help usher Divine solutions into our Father's world. The entirety of our lives (our "body" of our life and work) becomes radiant through the very light of God burning within us.
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.