On the recent RML Romans weekend away we saw that, amazingly, the church is God's master plan to bring Christ glory. But the question we were left with was: how do we ourselves come to be included in this plan? It's all to do with being joined to Jesus.
There was a lot in this, the second session of the weekend, but I'm going to pick out two bits in particular that hit me and made me ponder.
1. The present reality of being raised up and seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6)
How often do you think of yourself as sat alongside Christ in the heavenly places, who is ruling the world?
My guess is, like me, pretty much never.
Yet it's true, because what has happened to Jesus has happened to his body, the church. Though we're not yet physically raised from the dead (on the outside, as our speaker Matt put it), yet we're well and truly raised on the inside.
When someone showed me this verse for the first time at uni I thought "Surely not, surely Paul doesn't quite mean that!". But this is the inside reality of the Christian because the Christian is 'in Christ' - united to him in his death, and in his resurrection too. In Ephesians 1:20 it is Jesus who has been seated at God's right hand in the heavenly places. In Ephesians 2:6, Christians have been put there as well.
So will this truth of being seated with him in the heavenly realms cause you to rejoice at just how much God has done for you?
2. Seeing how the church shows God to be breathtakingly wise (Ephesians 3:10)
This is often hard to believe when we look around at seemingly mundane gatherings of a handful of people at RML or on Sunday at 4pm or 6pm, tucked away and largely unnoticed by this vibrant exciting city with 1001 apparently more impressive and spectacular things going on. And doubly hard for those of us who've had wrong ideas seep into our minds over the years about the Church being primarily an organisation or institution with the role of giving a spiritual slant on the nation's events, into society's pot of voices.
But the church displays God's wisdom more than anything else. Because by uniting Christians to Jesus, God also unites us to one another. Jews and Gentiles, once hostile to Jesus and to each other, now together united around his gospel through the Cross. Only now, in the church, has the full breadth of God's wisdom been made known to Satan and the other rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Those who were once hating one another are now loving one another!
Even during my relatively short time being a Christian, some of the most exciting moments have been seeing those who would naturally steer well clear of each other, now through the gospel really loving each other, and putting one another first. What a wise God we have.
For me, it has forced me to repent and have a bigger view of God's church (across the globe and down the ages) and his plan for it to glorify Christ has made me want to invest more in stuff which will help strengthen God's people to collectively display God's wisdom.