Holiday dinners have always been a big thing in my family. Especially since I come from a family that, thanks to my moms cooking, likes to eat. Preparation for these extravaganzas usually begin days in advance. Grocery shopping must be done. Meats must be selected. Side dishes are carefully planned for. Seasonings are chosen. A tentative time is picked to eat, and everybody clears their schedules. Then the day finally comes to pass when everybody gathers together to feast upon the delight that is set before us all.
Such festivities never just happen in life. You never just come home and find a banquet set before you. Barbeque ribs and potato salad never just prepare themselves. The final product that everybody enjoys is the total sum of several days of labor. A lot of activities and events take place, which, when you add them all up, gives everybody something to rejoice about.
I think here we have an illustration that gives us insight into what the apostle Paul was talking about regarding the ultimate purposes of God. In the opening of Ephesians, Paul talks about the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, His securing of our salvation, and all of the awesome blessings and benefits that are given to us as a result of what He accomplished 2,000 years ago. Through the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the cosmos were fundamentally changed forever. Blessings of Messianic proportions were released into this world.
For what purpose did these actions occur? What was Gods ultimate intent? To simply save men from hell? So that we might live our best lives now? So that we could be greater husbands, wives, parents, leaders, and overall better citizens?
If you were to survey the vast array of Christian literature available at Wal-mart, or to sit in on the average Sunday morning sermon in America today, you might get the impression that everything that Jesus did for us was so that we could ultimately have all of these things. And no doubt, God wants to see sinners saved, and see people getting the most out of life. No doubt, God wants to make people better husbands, wives, parents, leaders and citizens.
But Jesus Christ did not conquer the gates of sin, death, and hell simply so we could smile over our lives. Rather, His eternal purpose was much greater than any of these things. Everything that God has done, is doing, and will ever do has been for one ultimate purpose. And that is what the apostle Paul calls the summing up of all things in Christ. (Ephesians 1:10; NASB)
God has a goal that He is laboring towards. He is passionate and zealous over it. He has committed the entirety of who He is to this purpose. Like my parents when they are preparing to serve a feast for the holidays, the sum of all the days leading up to that banquet is what makes it all ultimately come together. The feast they prepare is simply the result of everything theyve done adding up. Likewise, God is at work in our lives to the end that when everything is ultimately added up, the result is Christ.
Creation in all of its glory was horribly marred in the Fall. Adams rebellion introduced sin, suffering, and death into the world. Utter darkness overtook man at that time. So much so that man could no longer see God, and instead of looking to find Him, he plunged into deeper levels of darkness by trying to hide from Him. No longer being able to see God, the sum of all things became man.
But God is a God of redemption. He is not content just to let things be the way they are. He doesnt just passively watch the world spin out of control, and do its own thing. Instead, He looks to intervene and restore that which is broken. He is intimately involved with the smallest of details of lives and happenings in this world. He was at work in your life before you were ever born. Hes been looking to take hold of you, to shape you, and to mold you through all of your lifes experiences. Hes been there with you in the good times, and Hes been there with you in the bad. No situation has taken Him by surprise, nor has His hand ever failed to be at work. Hes been there with you through it all.
With this perspective in mind, I think this is why the apostle Paul, when writing his letter to the Ephesians, could call himself, the prisoner of the Lord. (Ephesians 4:1) Paul, having the eyes of his heart enlightened learned to see things as God sees them. We are all in need of such eyes. Because lets face it, if most of us would have been a prisoner of Rome, we would have seen ourselves simply as thatprisoners of Rome. But instead of saying that he was the victim of great injustice, and that he was being unfairly incarcerated by Caesar, the apostle Paul looked at his situation and identified Christ in the midst of his tribulation. He saw God at work.
How about you? Do you see God at work in your life? Do you see Him in the good times as well as the bad? Do you see His handiwork every step of the way? Or are you among those, who after passing through the fires of life, come through them and say, Where was God? If so, you are probably among the countless millions who think Gods ultimate end is to put a smile over their lives.
But if you were to rightly understand God and His ultimate purposes, then you would understand that Gods ultimate purpose is not to make you happy. Rather, His ultimate purpose is to make the sum of everything that is your life equal to that of Christ. So that when you or others look at your life, they see Christ there. God wants you and the world to see Christ in everything that is your life.
God wants you to see Christ in the new job you get as well as He wants you to see Christ when you get laid off from work. God wants you to see Christ when your marriage begins as well as He wants you to see Christ when your marriage comes to an end. God wants you to see Christ in the birth of a child as well as He wants you to see Christ when tragedy strikes home, and that same child is put into an early grave. God wants you to learn to see Jesus Christ in all things. For Gods ultimate end in our lives and the history of this world, in the midst of the good times as well as the bad, is the summing up of all things in Christ.
Make no mistake. This viewpoint isnt fantasy or make-believe. Nor is it any sort of positive confession mumbo jumbo. This perspective is the Divine perspective. It is prophetic. It is theology at its finest. It is the surrendering of your own perspective for that of Gods. Its the recognition that God has a plan that is bigger than you, and that God has called you to participate in that plan in every aspect of your life.
God is looking to again make Christ the sum of all things. And Hes not just waiting until we all get to heaven to start doing that. He wants us to not only start seeing His hand active in every aspect of our lives, but He wants us to participate in what He is doing. He wants us to start actively making Christ the sum of everything we are about. Everything from entertainment, to our careers, to our personal relationships, to our families, and anything and everything else in between.
But if we would be honest with ourselves, and would allow the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts today, we would probably all discover that there are some areas of our lives that we would admit that we dont see God at work. We would admit, that there are some things we do in which we take no thought of God whatsoever. We would admit that if we added up the sum of our lives, not everything equals Christ. Indeed, we would probably discover the sum of everything in our lives is still man.
Such begs the question then: Is it possible, on this side of eternity, to come to a place in our lives where the sum of everything we are is Christ? Such may be a sharply debated point depending on which theological circles you run in. But you know what? Even if some well meaning theologian could clearly show me such is not possible, and for the sake of argument, I concede it might not be that is not something that should detour any single one of us from actively participating in what God is doing and ultimately looking to accomplish.
There is one thing I am sure of. I am sure that God has a plan, and He has called me to participate in that plan. I believe God is looking to sum everything up in Christ. Things in heaven, and things on earth. And most importantly, everything in me. So let some well meaning theologian say what he may. I am not going to allow that to harden my heart, and keep me from attempting to see Christ established as the sum of all things. Nor should you.
1 + 1 = Christ