Are we missing out on our inheritance?
“the word of his grace, which can . . give you an inheritance”
I can’t help feeling that if it weren’t for our newly blessed state, there would be one or two us, who, arriving in Glory, would have a strong urge to give ourselves a kick!
Suddenly seeing the truth and integrity of all of God’s Word come true before us, and IN us, we will in that moment fully appreciate the gift that God has given us. The gift that God began to make known to us the very day we first gave our hearts and lives to Him. And I sense, that somewhere in the background of the exultant joy that would envelop us on arriving in Glory, there might be a certain amount of dismay at our own stupidity for not realising WHAT we had, and not making full use of it, while we were still wearing these old bodies here on earth.
The penultimate verse of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s classic chapter on love, describes the PRESENT state of our understanding. It says: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
But if I believed in wishes, and I don’t, top of my list, at that first moment in Glory, I am sure, would be that I had REALLY - really, really(!), trusted the ABSOLUTE integrity and trustworthiness, of God’s Word.
Behind my message this morning then is the possibly painful process of considering whether Paul could really say to us this morning what he was able to say to the Thessalonians when He wrote: “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
So I want us all today, to ask, and then give ourselves a really honest personal answer to the question: “Am I really among those who THINK, LIVE and ACT like God’s Word IS GOD’S WORD?”
Hopefully, as we individually think about this this morning we’ll find ourselves some rock-solid reasons why we really need to learn to do that a whole lot more than some of us do now. Reasons apart, that is, from the obvious ones of avoiding the painful kick we’ll otherwise have to give ourselves on arrival at Reception in Glory, and trying to avoid turning that deep shade of red, (or even purple!) with embarrassment on seeing our own stupidity in full 3D!
Mark, in his gospel, gives a very disturbing account of Jesus’ visit to Nazareth, his home town, where it says: “He could not do ANY miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:5–6) It is both staggering and a very sad indictment to see that in the company of those who perhaps knew him best, his neighbours, Jesus, the Son of God, could not do ANY miracles because of a basic lack of faith on the part of his hearers.
It is perhaps particularly painful too that we 21st Century Western Christians, who by this time should also know our Saviour well, have so often to admit that we do not see His miraculous ministry as much as we would really like.
After all, it is not that we are lacking a need for such miracles in our lives and in the lives of the community we serve. But like Jesus’ neighbours in Nazareth, since we are talking about God’s Son here, we need to recognise that to see God working in OUR midst, is not a matter of seeing more of God’s power but rather, of Him seeing more of OUR BELIEVING!
In 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul tells us something very special about our relationship with the promises contained in God’s Word. He says this: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by US to the glory of God.”
It seems to me that this amazing scripture holds a secret to an experience of God moving wonderfully, even miraculously, in our midst. And I don’t know about you, but I earnestly and urgently want to see more of that in my life - especially as it seems to me to be telling us that Christ, because of His perfect sacrifice for us, is already the “Yes” for us, to ALL of God’s promises, and that our part is only to make the “Amen” of faith.
Let’s look for a moment then at Colossians 1:9–12. Paul writes: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, WHO HAS QUALIFIED YOU to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
This is a fabulous portion of God’s Word. But are we really believing it? This scripture tells us that GOD HAS QUALIFIED US to share in His inheritance. God has done that for every one of us. We didn’t qualify ourselves – God did it! If an examiner were to scrutinise our claim to be included in this inheritance, they would find no flaw in our application whatsoever. We are in. God himself has authorised it! Whatever we may think; whatever we may feel; and whatever anyone else may say; YOU and I QUALIFY to share in God’s inheritance for the saints. It’s official; it’s legal; – because it’s God who says so. FULL STOP!
On the day I took my driving test, like many people I guess, I had a warm up lesson with my instructor before going to the Test Centre. Before the Test, and during the Test, I was unqualified and I couldn’t drive on my own – that would have been illegal. But just about an hour after passing my test, there I was sat in the car all alone for the very first time, driving back from High Wycombe to Milton Keynes to teach my class of 9 and 10 year olds. And, though it felt very strange at first – it WAS legal. Why, because now I had QUALIFIED.
Well, God says that you and I are qualified right now to share in the inheritance of the saints. And while we may feel a bit strange and uncertain about it, it’s legal. God has Himself qualified us to do so. We need revelation to see that, but it is true. And Paul knew how important it is that we have this truth revealed to us. Listen to his prayer in Ephesians 1:18: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may KNOW the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his GLORIOUS INHERITANCE in the saints,”
So let’s just clarify a few key things about this inheritance that we have received, so that we don’t write off or miss out on what is rightfully ours through Christ.
This inheritance of ours isn’t provided through some wealthy relative with a bank as the Executor. Hebrews 9:15 makes absolutely clear, that this inheritance of ours has been provided and is underwritten by no less than Jesus Himself. It says: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance . . . ”
Also, this inheritance is actually our BIRTH RIGHT, our “new-birth” right, as Christians, not just for the “best examples” of Christians amongst us, but for ALL of us – even you and I! Listen to Peter: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and INTO AN INHERITANCE that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:3–4). This inheritance then comes with the new birth - it’s part of the deal! And, it’s an inheritance that is eternal, and however profligate we are in making use of it, it’s an inheritance that just never runs out!
But perhaps most importantly, we need to appreciate that this inheritance is in fact only available as we are “in Christ”. Listen to Hebrews 1:1–2 on this: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed HEIR of ALL things, and through whom he made the universe.” Now, if the Father has appointed Jesus “heir of ALL things”, and, since in the Bible “ALL” really does mean “ALL”, we don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Christ’s inheritance subsumes, or includes, ALL others – and that we therefore can only have our inheritance as, “in Christ”, we share and enjoy those benefits and blessings that Jesus has the full title to.
Right, let’s go now to a really key scripture. In Acts 20:32, as part of his farewell to the Ephesian Christians, Paul says: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an INHERITANCE among all those who are sanctified.”
Here then, I think, is the key to unlocking this inheritance of ours for those of us who are “in Christ”. It is “the word of His grace” that can GIVE us the inheritance. By God’s grace we SHARE in this inheritance in Christ, BUT it is the WORD of his grace, the Word of God, that actually GIVES it to us. It is the Word of God that enables us to unwrap, use and benefit from this inheritance in our lives.
So, Colossians 1:2 tells us that we are QUALIFIED to receive the inheritance and Acts 20:32 tells us it is the Word of God that GIVES it to us.
Good old Abraham, well strictly speaking he was just Abram at the time, illustrates this point for us. In Genesis 12:1 we read “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Then in verse 4 it says: “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him;” And then we pick up the story in Hebrews, where in Hebrews 11:8 it says: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his INHERITANCE, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Notice the sequence of events here. It is simple, but very significant. God spoke to Abram; Abram heard what God said; then Abram acted in obedience to what God had told him.
And what was the result of Abram’s act of obedience? Well, we know that he obtained his inheritance and indeed, if we are Christians we are part of that inheritance. And even more excitingly, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:29 “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE.”
But there is what I think is a significant additional phrase in this account in Hebrews 11 because it goes on to say in verse 9 “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country;” I think that this suggests that living like this, living by faith and acting on God’s word, does not always FEEL very natural. It’s not what the world in general would think of as “normal”. It is a way of life that looks and feels alien to us. It is not the easiest or the most relaxing or comfortable way to live from a human perspective – BUT, it is THE way to move into all that God has for us in this amazing inheritance that He has provided for us.
What we really need to see from this example though is the critical importance of our BELIEVING God’s Word to us. We need to understand, really and practically understand, the absolute integrity of what God says, in His Word. We can depend on every Word of it – as Jesus declares in Matthew 5:18: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” And THIS is the foundation on which our faith walk is based – simply taking God at His Word.
But, if we’re honest this is also something that we can really struggle with because our experience with those around us, and with our own practice, tends to undermine such an approach.
We are all very used to taking what others say to us with a “pinch of salt” because we have had so much experience of hearing people promise something, but then not deliver. And, truth be told, many of us don’t always keep a totally clean sheet in this respect ourselves either – though, of course, in our own case, we can usually find a way to justify our own actions, or inactions!
BUT, the integrity of GOD’S WORD is absolute. Just think about the characteristics of God’s Word for a moment:
GOD’S WORD NEVER CHANGES:
Psalm 89:34 I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered.
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
GOD’S WORD STANDS FOREVER:
1 Peter 1:24–25 For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
GOD’S WORD DOES JUST WHAT HE SENDS IT TO DO:
Isaiah 55:10–11 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
GOD’S WORD IS ALIVE:
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
GOD WORD EQUIPS US FOR GOOD WORKS:
2 Timothy 3:16–17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
GOD’S WORD IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE AND HEALTH:
Proverbs 4:20–22 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.
So, if God’s Word never changes, stands forever, does whatever it is sent to do, is alive, equips us for GOOD works and IS the source of life and health, shouldn’t we centre every moment of our lives around it. Shouldn’t we be brave and determined enough to BELIEVE it, whatever our feelings may tell us?
It is no wonder then, that Paul urges the Colossians to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . .”. (Colossians 3:16). And that’s something that WE have to do for ourselves. It does not happen on its own. We have to “Let the word of Christ dwell in” US “richly . . .”. And why wouldn’t we when God’s Word is matchlessly powerful when loosed in our lives?
God’s Word is not just clever or wise Words. These words come from the creative heart of God. They are TRUE. True not just in the sense of their perfect integrity, but also true in the sense that an arrow must be true to hit the target, or that a friend is true if he can trusted and is faithful, or that a measurement is true when it’s precision is flawless. God’s Word, unlike the word of any mortal, can be UTTERLY depended upon. This is why God’s Word is the source and generator of faith as Romans 10:17 tells us: “. . . faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
The nature and the testimony of God’s Word gives us every reason to BELIEVE in it and to have the confidence to ACT upon it. So how about our answer to that question of mine: “Am I really among those who THINK, LIVE and ACT like God’s Word is GOD’S WORD?”
Like Abram, when we HEAR God’s Word will we choose to ACT on it even though it sometimes feels alien to us?
One thing is sure, this is THE way to really benefit from the amazing inheritance that Christ has qualified us to share and incidentally, it’s also the way to reduce any embarrassment we may feel on arriving in Glory!
So, let’s make up our minds right now, as we stand on the threshold of 2016, to make much more use of the amazing inheritance that God has qualified us to receive and benefit from.