In Romans 13:11, Paul reminds you, “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” But how do we open our eyes from our sleep? What will secure us from our own nightmares of ignorance and sin? How do we prepare for our salvation?
This article by Pastor John A. Vieths from Forward in Christ (Volume 103, Number 7, July 2016), encourages you to find security in God’s promises and love.
All things are under the power of Jesus, even when they seem to spiral out of control. Everything he does is for our benefit.
We crave security from the moment we are born. Infants find it in their mother’s arms. Toddlers and preschoolers look for it in a blanket or a stuffed animal. The older we get, the more we look to the acceptance of friends or classmates for a sense of security. As adults we hope to find security in landing the right job or making the right investments.
The concept of security takes another twist for soldiers fighting a war. When they move forward, they speak of securing first an area, then a city, and finally an entire country. These things are “secure” when there is little threat of the enemy launching a successful counterattack.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he had secured more than a strategic crossroads, or a city, or even an entire country. He secured the universe. The whole thing was and is under his power, for his people.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul described Jesus’ position this way: “[God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every names that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (1:20-22). It’s hard to imagine a description of more absolute power. Jesus has “all things under his feet.” When an ancient conqueror invaded new lands, defeated the king, and claimed the territory, he sometimes stood on the neck of the defeated king, literally putting him “under his feet.” It was a public sign of total domination.
Not everything under Jesus’ total domination was fighting against him. The forces of nature have always served him. Nor does he humiliate those whose hearts he has conquered by faith. He led those hearts to surrender through love rather than violence. Still, Paul’s picture makes an emphatic point: All things are under Jesus’ power. From where he sits in heaven, Jesus has complete control of the universe and everything in it.
Things still seem to spiral out of control
Is that hard to believe? Many things challenge this faith. Every day it seems as though the forces of evil are gaining the upper hand. In just a few years we have seen sweeping changes in how most of America—even “Christian” America—views gender, sex, and marriage. Do any of us believe that we will reverse it? Fundamentalist Islam is said to be growing faster than Christianity worldwide. It spreads its message of oppression and violence faster than Christians can spread God’s forgiveness and love. Visible Christianity crumbles from the inside as church after church caves in to secular culture, gives up its biblical heritage, or joins hands with those who worship gods that don’t even exist. Does that look like everything is under Jesus’ power? Can we really say that Jesus has secured our little planet, much less the entire universe?
The apparent contradiction often strikes closer to home. If Jesus is actively running the show and he claims that he loves me, why does he let my son land in the hospital or allow a host of other problems come just when we need help? That’s how my Savior runs things!?
The temptations at this point run in a number of different directions. We can sit and sulk and feel sorry for ourselves. We can get mad and complain that he isn’t being fair. We can declare open rebellion and try to wrestle him for control of our lives and the world. We can simply despair that he loves us at all.
Jesus is head over everything for the church
None of those responses lead us anywhere good. They cannot improve our situation. Worse yet, they undermine our faith. They cut us off from Jesus just at the time we need him most. The truth remains that Jesus is in power. He has secured control of the universe. The answer to our trial of faith is not found in greater demonstrations of Jesus’ power. Rather, we find the answer in his promises and in his love. Paul made it clear that Jesus secured the entire universe for us, his people. “God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”
For a moment, look away from how he has been running our lives. Look at how he ran his own. Why did he leave heaven and become one of us? He wasn’t improving his own living conditions. He did it to save us. Why did he expend so much of his time and energy healing the sick? He was not padding his own pockets like some who sell promises of a miracle today. He was showing genuine compassion and mercy. Why did he spend time with the outcast, the sinners, and the poor? He was not building his personal social standing. He sincerely wanted them to be his people. Why did he let enemies use him as a punching bag, shred his back with whips, and nail him to a cross? He owed no debt to society. He did it because he loved us, the church, and gave himself up for us to make the church “a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). Jesus has always been for his people.
That didn’t change when he returned to heaven and secured the universe under his power. God placed all things under his feet and appointed him head over everything for the church. It’s true his own living conditions improved immensely when he returned to heaven, but he hasn’t forgotten us. Once he gave it all up for his people. Now he has taken it all back, but still for his people.
I may not understand why he runs the world the way he does. But then, I don’t have to. I don’t understand why he suffered hell for an unappreciative, self-centered sinner like me, either. It is enough to know that whether he is making the ultimate sacrifice or securing and running the universe, he does it for me and for you and for everyone else who belongs to him by faith. In the end, everything he does will serve and benefit us.
Blankets and teddy bears, popular best friends and hefty bank accounts can’t give us lasting security. Jesus can. He has secured the entire universe under his power, real security for the people who know his love.
This is the third article in a four-part series on Jesus’ ascension and the work he continues to do for us. Click here to read these and other Christ-centered articles from Forward in Christ, the official magazine of WELS.
By John A. Vieths, from Forward in Christ © 2017 WELS.
Image credit courtesy of Forward in Christ and WELS.