The Real Breakthrough

How come we need Jesus Christ to be strong and ready to live?

The answer is partly because of the battle that’s going on. We’re living in God’s world, but there’s an undercurrent that says you can stay in charge by assuming people and the environment are all there is.

I’ve shown what can happen when we think we’re only dealing with what we can see. Life can become a cycle of blame shifting and discontent. The anger we see and feel gets out of control.

In fact, our problem is Satan—because he’s messed with us relating to God.

It’s Jesus who makes the real breakthrough.  

So, let’s look at how he—in this world—goes about being the one who is strong. We need to know this, and know him, if we are going to trust him with our life.

We may have the impression that Jesus is always being ’nice’ to people, but if you read the story of his life—the four Gospels—it’s clear that he’s not just someone who responds to need. He takes the initiative to make sure we deal with life’s real issues—not just circumstances.

Jesus doesn’t begin with us! His first job is to go to a desert, alone, and there wrestle with Satan—for over a month (Luke 4:1).

In the place where the first man—Adam—gets everything wrong, this second Man gets it right. He knows the real enemy. And he knows that his only defence against Satan’s cunning is what God says. He sends his enemy off unheeded! And he begins his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:13-14). Notice, he is strong—in his Father God.

He continues by showing he is stronger than the devil (Matthew 12:28-29). He isn’t just healing people. He is pushing back against the inroads of the devil.

When it comes time for Jesus to die, he says, ‘Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out’ (John 12:31). Notice, he’s called Satan this world’s prince. Drifting along with the world isn’t all it seems! There’s unseen powers behind what we are experiencing.

Jesus says his death will throw Satan down—unable to achieve his goals anymore (John 14:30). And as he dies, he says, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30).

But now we come to why we can be ‘strong in the Lord’.

God raises Jesus—our Saviour—from death. He does this to demonstrate his great power, not just in Jesus, but for us (1:18-23).

Our collaboration with the enemy, our sharing of his rebellion and God’s judgement on it, have all been worn by a loving Saviour. We have forgiveness through his blood. And God raises him from the dead to show that this rebellion doesn’t have a future!

Satan no longer has us on his team. By trusting Christ, you can be strong and ready to live.

Now, anger with one another doesn’t need to rule us. We will deal with antagonisms, but they won’t be the main game. Rather, we will wrestle against ‘spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’—in the space God has created for us to relate to him. ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’ (James 4:7). There lots of ways this happens and Paul is going to show us how to ‘take up’ and ‘put on’ this strength of Jesus Christ.

The real world (revised)

If you’re a Christian, you’ll know that life is not just drifting. There are things to know, decisions to make and battles to fight. In the life we have been given, we will need to be strong.

Paul writes about this at the end of his letter to the Ephesians (6:10-18). He has described God bringing us to himself, sending his Son to make it happen, and told us how we are to live. Now, we need to take up the strength he will give us through Jesus Christ.

And he says we will need to stand in an ‘evil day’. There’s a battle on—something particularly difficult and threatening.

When anything goes wrong, our immediate instinct is to blame someone, protect ourselves or attack someone. But if we do this, we are not seeing what’s really going on.

In the real world—as God reveals it to us, our battle is not with people we can see. It’s against ‘powers of this dark world’—headed up by the devil or Satan. And although they are powers of this world, they are operating in ‘the heavenly realms’.

We need to know this space well, because it is where our struggles are happening.

It sounds strange to hear of evil in heavenly places! But it will help if we notice the other things that are happening in this area.

It’s here God blesses us with the full blessing of being in Christ. It’s here we find out we are chosen, called sons and daughters of God, forgiven through Christ’s death, and told many things about the future we will share (1:3-10). It’s the space where we know and relate to him.

Then, it’s the place where Christ is reigning—seated beside God (1:20). In other words, Christ is totally in control of the place where we relate to God. We should be enormously grateful for this.

But there’s more. We have been raised up from our spiritual death to sit with Christ in God’s presence—in ‘heavenly places’ (2:6).  It’s the space where we enjoy his friendship.

But then, this space is also where God displays the greatness of his work in us for others to see—the rulers and authorities in heavenly places (3:10). Who are these other creatures inhabiting the space we share with God?

Our passage now makes this clear. They are ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (6:12).

So ‘heavenly places’ is not heaven. Satan can’t be there. And we are not in heaven yet. But we are in these heavenly realms and so is Satan. In other words, he and his hordes come to mess with our relationship with God.

It turns out that ‘the heavenlies’ are the arena we are living in now! It’s the way things are. The real battle in life is about relating to God. If you are ignoring ‘the heavenlies’ you’re not dealing with your God, or with your real enemy. You’re not really ready to live.

Having to battle in this space is how things have been from the beginning.

God puts Adam and Eve in his Garden of Eden—the space in which they can relate to him. Everything is wonderful and there is unfettered companionship between God and his creatures. Satan enters this space. He sows doubt about who God is. He suggests to Eve and Adam that they should decide things for themselves.

In very short time, he has moved them over to his side (Genesis 3:1-6). They eat the forbidden fruit and immediately are ashamed. Satan has others with him now who are experiencing God as an enemy rather than as a friend.

Our first ‘parents’ got us all involved in Satan’s plan. That’s the battle that’s going on.

If you think this is just something ‘spiritual’—in the sense of being unreal—think again. The battle is being worked out in a very domestic way.

In Eden, Adam and Eve immediately start blaming others. They don’t deal with the real problem. They start fighting each other. And it goes on. Their oldest boy kills his younger brother.

Notice, they have given opportunity to the devil by not accepting that their enemy is Satan. The blame game goes on amongst us humans and the devil gets free points!

Everyone has this problem. The world tries to deal with its own community angers, but, all too often, it uses anger to try and resolve anger.

If there’s no one to resolve our dispute with God, our social battles become messy and complex. We are surrounded with hostilities and power plays. While we think the problems are merely human, and solvable, we are living in ‘fairy land’!

Paul has already given us some idea of how anger can play into Satan’s hands. He says, ‘be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil’ (4:26-27).

There are some things that ought to make us angry—enough to make us speak up, or act. But anger can take us over. It can move from being right, to being wrong—in a flash! Satan will have us being furious with each other while we don’t even admit he exists—and he’s laughing.

Given this is the battle we are in, Paul will tell us how to be strong in the Lord. We are going to need all of who he is and what he has done. We are going to need to take it up and to put it on. But more of this in the next articles.

Truth really matters

This series of articles all have to do with being ready to live, and ready to live in the real world. We’ve seen that this arena is not just the one we can see. There are ‘heavenly places’ where we relate to God and know his blessing. It’s a place where Christ reigns. And it’s also a place where Satan works with hateful constancy.

Paul says we need to be strong and stand our ground (Ephesians 6:10-13). And our first line of defence is truth.

An editorial in this morning’s paper claims that lies have become a way of public life in Australia. It says that much of what we hear is carefully crafted (it’s now a major industry), not to inform, but to exert power.

But lies are not the way to win in the real world we are in. We need truth!

Notice that it’s not a truth that originates from us. Paul uses imagery that shows we pick it up and put it on. What is this truth? Paul doesn’t leave us guessing.

Truth is Jesus himself (4:20-21). He’s come to our world and said what is true. But he’s also lived it. His goodness is real. And his love is real. And it has encompassed us, and saved us. Where truth is concerned, we have to start with him.

It would be worthwhile reading one of the Gospels through, and ask if this man Jesus is true. Paul is saying, we’ve heard about him, we’re surrounded by him—heard him speak in a way. In this way, we’ve discovered that the truth is in Jesus.

Our Lord towers over the make-believe, the ideologies, the excuses and straight out lies that make up so much of what we see and hear around us. Many have given up believing there is such a thing as ‘truth’. So, there’s nothing that can tie us together as a community. Nothing that can lift us out of the world we’ve imagined.

Compare this with Jesus. He challenges people to prove him to be false—a bold public claim. And he calls the devil the father of liars (John 8:44-47). He tells Pilate, in court, that he has come into the world to reveal the truth and that everyone who is true will come to him (John 18:37).

In the process, Jesus exposes us all as sinners, but he loves us and brings us to God. That’s not only the truth of Christ. It’s now the truth about us as well (John 3:20-21).

The Lord knows we don’t have the ‘stomach’ for this battle—in this case, the battle to live truly. Prophecies have told us how God clothes himself in righteousness (a breastplate) and salvation (a helmet), and deals with the godlessness himself (Isaiah 59:16-20). He intervenes.

In fact, the Lord comes to us as our King, wearing righteousness as a belt and faithfulness (or truth) around his waist (Isaiah 11:1-5). In other words, God must take up the fight or we are lost. And he sends Jesus to do the job, wearing righteousness and truth.

It’s ‘no secret that this intervention is done by Jesus on his cross (see Isaiah 53:12). It’s here that he goes to war with Satan and disables the apparatus—the lies and the accusations—that Satan uses against us (Colossians 2:15).

So, here’s an end to our self-importance and self-justification. These are the things that stop us speaking the truth to each other. They make us unreal. They lead to conflict or withdrawal from meaningful relationships. But now, our inclination to massage the truth, to make it palatable to our ego, or to further our ambition, is gone.

We can acknowledge we are unworthy sinners whom God has loved and for whom Jesus has died. In the light of this, we can speak the truth to each other (4:15, 25). Because we’ve lost our need to be the one who is right, we can see and speak about things as they are.

We’re free to say we were wrong. We can enjoy what others are doing. We can disagree without ceasing to love. We can investigate something that is new. We are free—in the truth!

Our truth telling doesn’t need to be brutal—exposure for the sake of being factual. It comes from the perspective of Christ being Lord. It’s about what will build up another person, not what will tear them down (Colossians 4:5-6). It’s about what will heal a community, not what will serve a party interest.

It’s important to actually do this! Apart from Christ, our life is a lie, and Satan will use this to his own advantage. But if we receive Christ as our truth, and stand in him, and relate to others by him, Satan is foiled. And wonderfully, a community is born where people live for each other rather than for themselves.

We’re doing something real, in the real world—and something that’s eternal.