Saturday, November 7, 2015

Closing the Gap between our Heavenly Position and Earthly Experience

Oh, “that I may know Him” and “attain to the resurrection of the dead.  Not that I have already obtained it...however, let us keep living by the same standard to which we have obtained” (Philippians 3:10-12, 16).

In these portions of Scripture cited above, Apostle Paul is striving to obtain what he already has obtained in Christ Jesus.  Positionally he is seated in the heavenlies while experientially he is somewhere between earth and heaven on that idiomatic stairway to heaven.  By his own admission, we are “raised...up with Him, and seated...with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6) as a forgone conclusion, not something to still be striving towards.

This seeming dilemma of having something declared ours but not experiencing it is not without precedence.  In fact, it is exactly the experience of the Israelites throughout their history, and alas—not having learned our lessons well—also throughout the church’s history.  Though God physically gave Israel the Promised Land, they still had to physically dispossess flesh and blood nations to obtain it; likewise, God metaphysically gave the church the Promised Land, but we still have to metaphysically (via the metaphysical/spiritual weapons of our warfare [prayer primarily]) dispossess the spiritual forces of darkness to obtain it (to bring down and establish heaven on earth).  “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

In other words, we must clean the air that hovers over the earth we are inheriting, because the kingdom of God is not about the earth straightway, but straightway about the spiritual forces that rule the earth first.  “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [physical and earthbound sustenance], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit [metaphysical and heavenly sustenance]” (Romans 14:17).  We need a clean atmosphere of holiness in which to possess our inheritance.  The standard position of ourselves seated in the heavenlies is unrelenting and permanent, and it is sitting with Jesus Christ on His throne.  In Him we live and move and have our being, and everything is as He declared it to be from the cross: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  Then—seemingly to complicate things—words like these come along: “The one who says ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.  By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2: 4-6).

I don’t know about you, but I still don’t walk as He walked, and if I said I did, I’d be that liar Apostle John spoke of.  Nonetheless, there is no escaping the ideal: “Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Without a demand to reach beyond our current level of holiness, complacency would no doubt hold us back, but also, with too high a demand to reach beyond our current level of holiness we are apt to be discouraged by the daunting impossibility of its realization.  This delusion of ours—thinking we cannot obey the command to be holy like Him—is dissolved by the fact that all things are possible with God.  On the one hand, give flesh an inch and it takes a mile—therefore give it no room by ambiguous commandment; perfection is the only standard allowed.  On the other hand, our God is a God of miracles.  Basically, the ideal must exceed today’s ability or it isn’t ideal.  The poet Robert Browning put it this way: “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

In the end, just as the kingdom of God comes without observation, so our seat in the heavenlies comes without observation.  The establishment of our salvation and the justification of our lives is eternally secure—with or without our experiential stamp; God never placed the foundation of redemption on man (corporately), and therefore, He didn’t place it on any of us (individually).  We need to always remember that even when “our heart condemns us”—justified perhaps by our own honest judgment based on the light we have—still the final verdict is not in; the final verdict can only be made by our Creator, Almighty God, who “is greater than our heart and knows all things” (1 John 3:20).  The gap between our heavenly position and earthly experience is really only a small gap that spans the width of our head from ear to ear.  The affliction of time and this body of death of ours often deceives us.  When we see Him as He is—without the proverbial beam in our eye—we will be like Him, and then that gap between our Heavenly Position and Earthly Experience will close in on itself and be removed forever.