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The Conquering King

Published: 2 years ago- 5 December 2021
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Paul quotes Psalm 68, which gives us a portrait of a conquering king, parading in triumphal entry back to his capital. With anyone who had been standing against him now in train, declaring his great victory. Imagine being there. Standing and watching a procession like this. Watching the soldiers walk past, people who’d scare the life out of you if you met them in a dark alley, one by one, beaten, defeated, now paraded in submission to the emperor. Their purpose now being a testimony to the greatness of the king. While the psalm probably refers to the ark ascending the hill of Jerusalem, here Paul uses it to describe Jesus’ ascension to the heavens – the spiritual realm. Jesus’ return to heaven is in glorious victory. And verses 9 and 10 point out the extent of his conquest. Now, I happen to have this kind of thing in my blood. The Russian side of my family are descended from the trans-Baikal Cossack horde. Basically, they were mercenaries who had a deal with the Tsar that if they extended his borders they didn’t have to pay tax. So every now and again they’d move east through Siberia and Mongolia, ‘conquer’ a few villages – take whatever goods, money and women looked good – and send word back to the Tsar of his glorious victory and tales of his magnificent military might. Not terribly impressive. Jesus’ reign is something else. In Jewish thought, the universe consists of the heavens above (which have multiple levels) and the earth below. Jesus has descended to the depths of the earth… And he has ascended higher than ALL the heavens. Higher than the highest place. Now there’s debate about what Paul means about where Jesus descended to. Is he referring to when Jesus descended to earth from heaven, when he became human? Or is it referring to when he was buried and descended to the place of the dead? Either way, it doesn’t really change Paul’s point, does it? What’s the extent of Jesus’ lordship? From the depths below to the heavens above. He has claimed it ALL. – The regular, dusty, fleshly, messy earthly realm of humanity. – The divine, realm of the spiritual. It’s all His. And not just to lazily hold notional title over it, like a Cossack warlord. He is intimately connected with each element of his universe in verse 10. “in order to fill the whole universe”. But can you see in this section about the church, that the extent of his conquest is far greater. It’s over Saudi Arabia. It’s over Canberra. It’s over the CCP. It’s over KPMG and PWC. It’s over Allah, Buddha, Krishna… It’s over the AUD, the USD and then Yen. There is not one sphere of your reality… Not one space in which you exist… where Jesus is not the boss. Whether you’re in a Westfield or on your computer. Middle of the day or late at night. With friends or all on your own. In Summoner’s Rift, 4chan, Netflix, YouTube or TikTok… Jesus fills that space, and is Lord there. He’s the risen king of the universe, and he’s present in every inch of it.
the gift-giving king (vv11) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
Now, in a return parade like this, the conquering king would give gifts out to his favourites from the booty that they’d plundered. Maybe this is where the ‘bring back a gift from your trip’ tradition came from. But, like a dad returning from a business trip to a popular tourist destination, Jesus has come with gifts. It’s exciting! What are they going to be? The gifts Paul’s talking about are people. Specific people. The Apostles, the Prophets, the evangelists and the pastor/teachers. Maybe… not as exciting as you’d thought? Finding me and Doug wrapped up in a bow under your Christmas tree I don’t think is too many people’s dreams… But these people really are the greatest gift that God could give anyone, because they give people Jesus himself. See, Paul isn’t talking in the abstract. Engineers, Musicians and He’s talking about specific people. THE apostles. THE prophets. THE evangelists and THE pastor/teachers. See, the apostles are a specific group of people. The witnesses of the risen Christ, sent by him to tell what they saw. Specific people. They have names. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thaddeus… These are the people who walked with God in skin. Who broke bread with the king of the universe. Who laughed with him, smelled him after a fishing session, saw him die… and witnessed him resurrected and glorified. And as they wrote it all down, it became the New Testament. And then there’s the next group of known people. The prophets. Now this could mean the people called prophets in the NT. Anna, the four daughters of Phillip, Agabus. people who shared revelation from God about specific events. Or it could be, like it was in 1 Peter, shorthand for the Old Testament. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Malachi… These are the ones who recorded the story that Jesus finishes. The evangelists are the ones the elders laid hands on and sent them out to share this story all over the world. Paul, Barnabas, Timothy… And the pastor/teachers (which is probably the best way to understand the grammar) who took that message and brought it into the life of the early church. They’re the overseers in the local churches. Do you see the pattern starting to emerge? These people were gifts because God used to them to connect the good news of Jesus with people alienated from God. They’re conduits for the message that Jesus is king of the universe, and that God has declared peace with everyone who trusts him. They are precious gifts. We’ve been incredibly blessed to have Gary as our interim moderator, guiding us through a difficult 13 months. But even so… It’s going to be so good when Hamish and Sam arrive. To have a full-time senior minister again. The reality is: Hamish, Doug and Sam are Jesus’ gift to MPC. As pastor/teachers they will speak the message that the one who died for sin is king of this world. And they bring it to bear in our hearts and our church life. And that will be obvious when they’re applying the word of God in ways that nourish our hearts and lift our eyes. And we’ll love that. But there will be other times. When it’s harder to feel the gifting. When they’re human. Limited. Fallible. Sinful even. Will we continue to recognise them as a gift then? Or when they call us to make changes in life. To do difficult things… to obey Jesus. What about when they call us on sin? A sin that a part of us still loves. Will we think of them as a gift then? Or ignore their words? Be angry? It’s that day when it’s hardest that they may be the gift through which God saves your soul. My soul. From the sin that wants to destroy us.
to equip his people (v12) 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
Now, it’s worth noting two interesting things over the next few verses here. Firstly in verse 11. Why did Jesus give these people as gifts? What result did he want for his people? He wanted them equipped. These people with word-based gifts are meant to equip God’s people for ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Now this is significant. Because it doesn’t say that their job is to build the body. Their job is to equip God’s people for works of service so that the body is built. 6 months ago I had a knee reconstruction. Which means that I’ve spent a lot of time with physiotherapists. Yes, that’s me there if you were wondering. Doing my rehab. And if I don’t do that hard work on rebuilding strength, stability and control, then all that’s going to happen when I go out and play soccer again is that I’ll blow out my knee again. The physio is super important for rebuilding my knee. But you know what’s annoying about the physio? My physio doesn’t do any of the flipping work. Every day, I’ve gotta do my exercises. She’ll tell me what to do! She tells me I’m doing it wrong; she even tells me how to make them harder and more painful. But my physio hasn’t done one single-leg squat this whole 6 months. Ok, so she did do one to show me how, but that’s it! I’ve had to do it. Pastors are annoying… in exactly the same way as physios. Their job isn’t to do the body building for us. Their job… is to equip us to do it ourselves. Physiotherapist, not a builder. Body building, not house building. Ministers not the boss, not a CEO, but more like blood. They deliver oxygen to nourish cells, like the minister delivers the word of God to all areas of the body. They carry building blocks to construct new cells, training and repairing. They deliver anti-bodies to protect the body against attacks. Enabling each part to do its work, effectively.
to build complete human beings (vv13-14) 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
Now, why is it like that? Why is it up to us all? It’s because of the nature of the task. You can see it there in verses 13-14. See WE are the body that needs building up. It’s US together that needs to mature. Its US that need to be unified: in our knowing Jesus. and our trusting Him. The body only grows muscle mass when it does the hard work. Which is how it gets the strength to withstand the winds of doctrine. The fads of teaching. The latest trend that sounds so right to anyone born in this age, but runs contrary to the word of God. And God means this. It’s as pastor/teachers equip the body with the word of God that the body builds itself up. Just listening to sermons aren’t going to do the building. That’s like my physio giving me the sheet of exercises. Powerful. Necessary. But ultimately futile if I don’t do what it’s equipped me to do. My knee will be just as floppy and bendable by outside forces after reading that sheet as it was before… if I don’t do the exercises. And churches that don’t exercise what their teaching equips them to do are also floppy: tossed back and forward by the waves of doctrine.
how we grow (vv15-16) 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
So what do we do to not be floppy? How do we build up the body? vv15-16. There is so much gold in those two verses. You could do a sermon and more just on those two verses. But let’s just pick up three things. #1 We’re going to need to be connected. The members of the body need to be in relationship with each other. Did you notice that every second word of verse 16 is about being connected, joined, united, ligamented… together. Christian congregations do not grow into maturity, the unity of the faith, without being connected. There’s no online training course that will mature you as a Christian. That will complete you as a human being. For that, you need to be relating to people. For some of us, that is very scary. We’ll need to take baby steps. Find good, safe people to start with. People you can trust. Like the first few weeks of rehab, you might need to start out with things that seem small, but are quite hard for you. Not saying that you need to know everyone at church! But the body needs to be connected in order for each part to do its work. And each part doing its work is needed, for the body to grow. You are needed here. You are necessary. Arms don’t function without bones, muscles, ligaments… You might be the fingertip and I might be the armpit but we’re all needed to pick up a fork. We need to be connected. The body needs YOU to be connected for it to be whole. Which also means that those of us who ARE connected have to look out for people who’re not yet connected, doesn’t it? Because we won’t be complete without them. What could YOU do, to bring people together at church? What do we need to do in those relationships that we build? #2 We tell the truth. The word ‘speaking’ isn’t even there in the Greek. It’s literally, ‘truthing in love’. We need to bring more of ourselves into the light. To become more known. To share the real us with each other. But, perhaps more importantly, having been equipped with the truth about God from our pastors, we speak that truth to each other’s hearts. Because we need to hear it from each other. We need to hear each others’ struggles with it. We need to build the truth about God into our hearts to overcome the lies that sin tells. In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul tells us that God’s love for us is so great your heart cannot handle it. And so Paul PRAYED for the Ephesians hearts to be strengthened so that they could BEGIN to comprehend what God’s love for them is TRULY like! Lastly, where do we go next? We go to Jesus. #3 We pray. Together. See, what KIND of growth is Paul hoping for? v16, growth up into Christ. Just as there is no true Christian growth when you’re disconnected from the body there is no true Christian growth that is not growth towards Christ. The very definition of growth here is Christians, together, praying. Relationships in which the love is so real. So palpable. That you can share LOTS and LOTS of truth. The real you can come out. And then, because we’ve been equipped with the truth by our pastor/teachers, we know the real God. This is how we’re going to grow to become a mature church. #1 – we connect with each other #2 – we truth with each other #3 – we pray together Maybe this has opened up wounds for you. Come and connect with me. Talk to me about it. I’d love to listen.