Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul is telling us, in essence, “All who follow Jesus are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where Christ is.” What an incredible promise to God’s people.
Yet, this promise becomes mere words if we don’t know what these spiritual blessings are. How can we enjoy the blessings that God promises us if we don’t comprehend them?
Paul wrote this epistle “to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). These were believers who were sure of their salvation. The Ephesians had been well trained in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. They knew who they were in Christ, and were assured of their heavenly position in him. Indeed, they were well grounded in the truth that they were made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6).
These “faithful ones” fully understood that “God … raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). They knew they’d been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4). They grasped that they were adopted “by Jesus Christ to himself” (1:5). God had brought them into his family, because when they heard the word of truth, they believed and trusted it.
The Ephesian believers were truly a blessed people. They rejoiced in their redemption through Christ’s blood, knowing the great spiritual blessing of being forgiven of their sins. Indeed, they were so knowledgeable about the riches of God’s grace, most were capable of teaching others. If they met people who were hungry for God, they could show them the glory of the Cross. They could teach of God’s mercy and love, of his holiness, of walking blameless before him. They could speak of the Resurrection, of God’s goodness, of heaven and hell, of the consequences of living in sin.
I trust that most who are reading this message are like those Ephesians: faithful, well-taught believers. You know the redemptive power of the gospel of Christ. You know the doctrine of the new birth. You’re well schooled in the knowledge of grace, accepting the victory that comes by faith alone and not by works.
If this describes you, I have something more to say. That is, many Christians have never entered into the joy that God has promised them. Let me explain.
I believe a majority of Christians, including ministers, never get beyond forgiveness of sins and a hope of future glory in heaven.
Many forgiven, cleansed, redeemed people live in misery. They never have a sense of being fulfilled in Christ. Instead, they continually go from peaks to valleys, from spiritual highs to depressing lows. They’re always nagged by a sense of, “Something is missing. I’m just not getting it.”
As I look back over my life, I’m amazed by all the devoted Christians I’ve known who were never sure of their salvation. This was especially true of many godly men and women who’d served the Lord for up to fifty years. They knew all the doctrines, truths and teachings of the faith, and they ministered faithfully. But they never entered into the supernatural joy that was available to them in Christ.
The truth is, it’s possible to know about all these things — Jesus’ sacrifice for us, the cleansing power of his blood, justification by faith — and yet never enter into the fullness of God’s blessings. How could this be, you ask? It’s because many Christians never get past the crucified Savior to the resurrected Lord who lives in glory.
In John 14, Jesus tells us it’s time for us to know our heavenly position in him. He explained to the disciples, “Because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:19–20). We’re now living in “that day” Jesus speaks of. In short, we’re to understand our heavenly position in Christ.
Of course, most of us do know our position in Christ — that we’re seated with him in heavenly places — but only as a theological fact. We don’t know it as experience. What do I mean by this expression, “our position in Christ”? Very simply, position is “where one is placed, where one is.” God has placed us where we are, which is in Christ.
In turn, Christ is in the Father, seated at his right hand. Therefore, if we’re in Christ, then we’re actually seated with Jesus in the throne room, where he is. That means we’re sitting in the presence of the Almighty. This is what Paul refers to when he says we’re made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
You may say, “But I never feel like I’m in a heavenly place. I always sense I’m in a wilderness, suffering affliction and harassment. If that’s being in a heavenly place in Christ, then I’m just not getting it.” I assure you, your seasons of trials are common to all believers. No, the phrase “in Christ, in heavenly places” (1:3) isn’t something you can attain. It’s what God says of you. If you’re in Christ, then in the Father’s eyes you’re seated near him, at his right hand.
The fact is, the moment you place your trust in Jesus, you’re taken into Christ by faith. God acknowledges you in his Son, seating you with him in the heavenlies. This isn’t merely some theological point, but a truth, a factual position. So now, as you surrender your will to the Lord’s, you’re able to claim all the spiritual blessings that come with your position.
Of course, being “in Christ” doesn’t mean you leave this earth. You can’t manufacture some emotion or feeling that takes you up into a literal heaven. No, heaven has come down to you. Christ the Son and God the Father came into your heart and made their abode there: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
Yes, Jesus is in paradise, the Man in glory. And yes, his Spirit moves over all the earth. But the Lord also abides in you and me specifically. He has made us his temple on the earth, his dwelling place. Consider Jesus’ powerful statements about this:
“He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (14:21). “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us … And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (17:21–23, italics mine).
Take another look at the verse in italics. Jesus says, in essence, “The glory that you gave me, Father, I have given to them.” Christ is making an incredible statement here. He’s saying we’ve been given the same glory that the Father gave to him. What an amazing thought. Yet, what is this glory that was given to Christ, which he in turn has given to us? And how do our lives reveal that glory.
The glory we’ve been given is open-door access to the Father.
The glory Christ has given us isn’t some aura or emotion. No, very simply, the glory we have received is unimpeded access to the heavenly Father.
Jesus made it easy for us to access the Father, opening the door for us by the Cross: “For through him [Christ] we both [we and those far off] have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The word “access” means the right to enter. It signifies free passage, as well as ease of approach: “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (3:12).
Do you see what Paul is saying here? By faith, we’ve come into a place of unimpeded access to God. We’re not like Esther in the Old Testament. She had to nervously await a sign from the king before she could approach the throne. Only after he held out his scepter was Esther approved to come forward.
By contrast, you and I are already in the throne room. And we have the right and privilege of speaking to the king at any time. Indeed, we’re invited to make any request of him: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
When Christ ministered on earth, he enjoyed full access to the Father. He said, “I can do nothing on my own. I do only what the Father tells me and shows me” (see John 5:19, 30; 8:28).
Moreover, Jesus didn’t have to slip away to prayer to obtain the Father’s mind. Of course, he prayed often and intensely, but that was about fellowship with the Father. It was a different matter in his everyday activities, whether he was teaching, healing or casting out demons. Jesus knew at all times that he was in the Father, and the Father was in him. He didn’t have to “go up” to the Father to know what to do. The Father was already dwelling in him, making himself known. And Jesus always heard a word behind him, saying, “This is the way … here is what to do…”
Today, we’ve been given the very same degree of access to the Father that Christ had. You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, that’s mind-boggling. I have the same access to the Father that Jesus, the Creator and Lord of the universe, did?”
Make no mistake: like Jesus, we’re to pray often and fervently. We’re to be seekers of God, waiting on the Lord. But in our daily walk — our comings and goings, our relationships, our family life, our ministry — we don’t have to slip away to beseech God for a word of strength or direction. We have his very own Spirit living in us. And the Holy Spirit reveals to us the mind and will of the Father. His voice is always behind us, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”
The truth about our union with Christ was a hidden mystery to the church until Paul came on the scene.
The Holy Spirit used Paul to open this mystery, which is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Of course, the church had learned about saving grace. They knew salvation was by faith and not by works. After all, they’d been serving Jesus before Paul came along. They knew about repentance and had experienced the Father’s mercy.
But then Paul showed up, declaring, “Repentance and good works are not enough. It’s not enough that you came to Christ and believed, or that you now have great spiritual knowledge. You need something more than simply believing in Christ. Now you must walk in the blessings and fullness in him.” “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Colossians 2:6).
What was Paul talking about? What did he mean by “walking in Christ?” Hadn’t these believers been doing that for years? Simply put, Paul was speaking of the blessings of being in Christ. And he was telling the church in no uncertain terms that they didn’t know the full revelation of those blessings. He described a different attitude, which says:
“I don’t want a mere head knowledge of my salvation. I want to experience it. I want to know what it means to walk in the fullness of Christ’s salvation. I don’t want just to know about heaven. I want every heavenly blessing that God has made available to me today. He has promised ‘every spiritual blessing,’ and he died to bring me near him, where I can enjoy those blessings. I want my life to reflect that fact. I want every spiritual truth of heaven to be a part of my daily walk now. These blessings can no longer be just theological concepts. They have to become a reality.”
Beloved, this is not a complicated issue. Simply ask yourself: have you received Jesus not just as your Savior, but as the enthroned Lord in heaven? And have you accepted that the enthroned Lord lives in you? If so, what effects do you see in your life? What has been the effect of waking up each morning knowing Christ not only saved you from sin, but lives in you? What is the effect of knowing he gave his life to break down walls of separation so he could be near you, to love and fellowship with you?
We’ve been given heaven here in our souls. Yes, that taste of heaven is meant to be a foretaste of the glory that awaits us. But it’s also given as a portion of our inheritance to use right now. Our Savior Jesus Christ came to give us much more than redemption. He came so that we might have fullness of life every day.
That doesn’t mean we no longer experience pain or sorrow. Every Christian will continue to face temptations and hardships. But in the midst of our trials, we’re able to abound with thanksgiving, because of his everlasting kindness toward us. Paul tells us this is exactly why God has made us to sit together in Christ: “That … he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
Here is the effect we’re to see in our daily lives: God has shown his loving, warmhearted kindness to us. Therefore, we can wake up shouting, “Hallelujah! God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit want to be near me.”
Another blessing becomes ours when we’re made to sit in heavenly places.
What is this blessing? It’s the privilege of acceptance: “He hath made us accepted in the beloved [Christ]” (Ephesians 1:6). The Greek word for “accepted” here means highly favored. That’s different from the English usage, which can be interpreted to mean “received as adequate.” This signifies something that can be endured, suggesting an attitude of, “I can live with it.” That’s not the case with Paul’s Greek usage. His use of “accepted” translates as, “God has highly favored us. We’re very special to him, because we’re in our place in Christ.”
You see, because God accepted Christ’s sacrifice, he now sees only one, corporate man: Christ, and those who are bound to him by faith. In short, our flesh has died in God’s eyes. How? Jesus did away with our old nature at the Cross. So now, when God looks at us, he sees only Christ. In turn, we need to learn to see ourselves as God does. That means not focusing solely on our sins and weaknesses, but on the victory that Christ won for us at the Cross.
The parable of the Prodigal Son provides a powerful illustration of the acceptance that comes when we’re given a heavenly position in Christ. You know the story: a young man took his inheritance from his father and squandered it on a sinful life. Then, once the son became completely bankrupt — morally, emotionally and physically — he thought of his father. He was convinced he’d lost all favor with him. And he feared that his father was full of wrath and hatred toward him.
At one time, this young man had been an honored member of the household, at one with his father. He’d tasted the blessings, order and favor of being in his father’s house. Indeed, the prodigal son represents backsliders, those who’ve failed God miserably.
The prodigal almost died of starvation before he thought about going back home. Yet, finally, when he grew tired of his sinful life, he decided to return to his father. This represents the road to repentance.
When he first left home, his father probably assured him of access to return. Any loving parent would have done so: “My door is always open to you. And I want you to remember that as you leave now. Know that my heart goes with you. When you get to the end of yourself, please come back. You’ll always be welcomed home.” Here was unimpeded access, a father who was always available. So the prodigal told himself, “I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18). He was exercising his blessing of access.
Now this broken young man was full of grief over his sin. Scripture says he cried out, “I’m unworthy, I’ve sinned against heaven.” This represents those who come to repentance through godly sorrow.
Are you getting the picture? The prodigal had turned from his sin, he’d left the world behind, and he’d accessed the open door his father had promised him. He was walking in repentance and appropriating access. But he wasn’t yet in acceptance.
What a tragic place to be. Here was a believer who was walking right, truly sorry for his past sins. He was tired of carrying all his guilt, shame and condemnation. Yet he didn’t know if he was accepted by his father. He thought, “My father has to be angry. He probably hates me for squandering all that he gave me. He’s going to be full of wrath and judgment when I face him.”
The prodigal must have grown weary as he thought about all the ways he’d tried to change on his own. He was dog-tired from thinking about how to improve, how to keep himself from falling. He’d already made a long list of empty promises to himself, only to fall again and again.
Sadly, I believe this is the state of multitudes of believers today. In fact, Jesus gave us this parable in part to open our eyes to our position in him. And he emphasizes, “If you’ve seen the Father, you’ve seen me. I and the Father are one.”
As the prodigal drew nearer to home, I’m sure he encountered messengers who told him, “Your father grieves for you. He calls you ‘his lost sheep.’ He’s gone out looking for you, time after time.” But the young man probably answered, “I know my father is a loving man. But I’ve sinned so horribly. If you only knew what I’ve done.”
He had no peace, because he didn’t know his position. How sad to lack the joy of heaven, the peace that passes all understanding, because you don’t know whether you’re accepted. Like the prodigal, multitudes of believers who’ve failed are convinced, “I’m not worthy. God can’t accept me.”
So, what happened to the prodigal son? “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). What a beautiful scene. The sinful son was forgiven, embraced and loved by his father, with no wrath or condemnation whatsoever. When he received his father’s kiss, he knew he was accepted.
This is where many Christians think the story ends: “The prodigal has been accepted by his father once again. Isn’t that what matters most?” We picture our own relationship with the Father in the same way. We’ve known his loving kiss, his mercy and forgiveness. But that’s as far as we take the relationship. We stop in our knowledge of God’s love for us.
The fact remains, we’re still not back inside our Father’s house yet. We haven’t taken our seat at his feast. According to Jesus’ parable, there’s more, much more. Our Father will never be satisfied until we enjoy all the blessings that come with being accepted by him. He wants us seated in his house, near him at all times, enjoying the festivities and joy of his household.
Indeed, it’s the father who says, “Let us eat and be merry” (15:23). The Greek word for “be merry” here means, “to put in a joyful, rejoicing state of mind.” Consider the joyful scene that takes place: “The father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it … And they began to be merry … [with] music and dancing” (15: 22–25).
Notice what has just happened in this scene. The prodigal wasn’t asked to dust himself off and get cleaned up before coming to the feast. No, his father prepared him to come inside. And he didn’t just clean up the old clothes. He gave him a whole new set of clothes, signifying a new life. The son might have objected, “But father, I’m not worthy.” Yet that father would have replied, “I’m not looking at your past. I’m rejoicing that you are accepting my love. We are reconciled, and we are one. That is my joy.”
Do you claim to be accepted in Christ? Maybe you’ve experienced what the prodigal did: being kissed by the Father, embraced by his love, accepted into his house. If so, you probably believe, “I am seated with Christ in heavenly places.” If so, then where is your joy? Where do you see the Father’s feast in your life, the singing, the dancing, the merriment of heart?
Perhaps the most telling scene in this parable is the final one, when the older brother comes home from work. As the feast takes place inside the house, he stands outside, looking in through the window. To his surprise, he sees his father dancing in delight over his prodigal brother.
Keep in mind, this older brother is also accepted. But the parable makes it clear he’s sad and miserable. Why? In all his years with his father, he has never entered into the enjoyment of his father’s house. He’s never enjoyed the blessings his father has made available to him. In fact, at the end, his father reminds him of the blessings that have been his all along: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine” (Luke 15:31).
I ask you: have you experienced the full blessings of your acceptance? Jesus makes it crystal clear we are the joy and delight of our heavenly Father. He rejoices over us. But if we never enter his house and rest in our acceptance, we rob him of that joy.
I urge you: leave your sins and worldly pursuits behind. Lay aside every fleshly weight that so easily besets you. And go inside and take your position in Christ. He has called you to enter into the joy of your acceptance. Then, when you wake up tomorrow, you’ll find yourself shouting, “Hallelujah, I’m accepted by God. My heart abounds with thanksgiving and joy.”
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