Text: Luke 24:50-53; Ephesians 2:1-7 Theme: When Jesus ascended, God seated us with him in the heavenly realms.
Where you sit matters. I’ll give two examples from my childhood. Mary was one of my classmates at Sheboygan Christian School. She was the smartest in our class. She was the best piano player. I liked her.
But in my school back then the boys hung out with boys and the girls hung out with girls. And I was timid. I certainly didn’t want to get teased.
So, I looked to school activities that provided natural interaction. For example, I was a starting guard on our basketball team; she was a cheerleader. There were the seating assignments teachers gave. I always hoped to sit near Mary.
Where you sit matters. Here’s a second story. Back in 1970, McDonald’s sponsored a competition called: Run-Throw-Bunt-Hit. I don’t recall how many kids entered the Sheboygan competition. In any case, I won.
Next came the state competition. It was actually held at the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium. I wasn’t as big and strong as some winners from other cities. But I practiced. In the competition I laid down three nearly perfect bunts- right down the third base line. Those bunts piled up so many points that I won! I was the Wisconsin champion!
Get this: the main prize was an all-expenses paid trip with my dad to the World Series! We flew from Chicago to Cincinnati where the Big Red Machine took on the Orioles. We were hosted there by home run king, Frank Howard, and all-star pitcher, Jim Kaat.
When my family went to a Brewers game, we always got cheap tickets in the upper deck. But I got to sit with Frank Howard + Jim Kaat in box seats at the World Series! Awesome!
Where you sit matters. People in Jesus’ day were keenly aware of that. Matthew 20 records the time when the mother of James and John asked Jesus a favor: Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom. These were seats of highest honor + power!
Where you sit matters. The Apostle Paul certainly knew that. In Ephesians 2 he highlights the great things God has done for us in Christ. Then vs 6: God raised us up with Christ + seated us with him in the heavenly realms. God’s people get prime spots in the heavenly realms- right there with Jesus! Seated with God in the heavenly realms. But, how should we understand that? After all, when we look around we don’t see God. Physically we haven’t gone to heaven. We’re are still here on planet earth. Clearly Paul refers to a spiritual reality.
When we recite the Apostle’s Creed we say: On the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. These three events are referred to as the resurrection, the ascension and the session.
Here in Ephesians 2 Paul refers to all three events. But notice: Paul isn’t talking about Jesus here! He’s talking about us! God made us alive; God raised us up; God seated us with him in the heavenly realms.
Have any of you done any mountain climbing? When mountain climbers scale a steep peak, they attach themselves to each other by rope. Being attached makes it more likely they’ll make it safely to the top. Well, by faith we’re connected to Christ: attached to him. And we end up seated with him in a spot loftier then Mt. Everest- in the heavenly realms.
And here’s something really amazing. Notice the tense of the verbs. It’s not: he will seat us. It’s not a future tense. It’s not something God will do in the life to come. No, it’s past tense. God made us alive; God raised us up; God seated us with him. It’s already happened! By faith in Christ we’re seated with God in the heavens- right now!
Now, this all sounds grand. But what does it mean exactly? What are the practical implications for us, here and now?
Let me highlight three benefits of being seated with God in the heavenly realms. First: being seated with God means we’re close to him. We are close to him.
After graduation from college, I volunteered to work at a church in the S. F. Bay Area. I’d never been there before. When I stepped off the train it was to meet virtual strangers. I enjoyed a great year of ministry, but I did feel lonely at times. I missed home + friends.
But at the same time I really felt God’s nearness to me. I felt God’s presence in some of the incredible beauty of northern California. In my Bible reading I was regularly impressed with God’s love and presence with me. I felt God’s nearness in the Christian brothers and sisters there.
So, physically I had moved 2,000 miles. But spiritually I hadn’t moved an inch. I was still seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. I was close to God; he was close to me. So, let this truth soak in! Fix it in your mind! Does God sometimes seem remote? Remember: in Christ God has seated you with him. Do you sometimes wonder if he hears your prayers? Remember, in Christ God has seated you right next to him; he certainly hears you. Do you ever feel very alone? You’re not: you are still seated with God right beside you.
Where you sit matters. Here’s a second practical benefit. We enjoy a position of favor. You know, it’s one thing for a teacher to assign a seat near a girl you like. But it’s much better if that girl invites you to sit by her- as a sign of her favor. Being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms means we enjoy his favor.
You know, we all have a certain self-image. Our self-image is shaped by many things: our height/weight or family or personality or education or job or friendships or nationality. In a sin-broken world, lots of us struggle with a low self-image. Sometimes we aren’t sure if others really like us. We fear we aren’t fully loved. To be cherished- to be held in honor and favor is something we all long for.
Here’s the gospel- the good news: your self-image should be shaped by this truth. In Christ I am seated with God himself! I have a position of divine favor and glory. God’s favor means more than any other opinion- any day.
So let this truth soak in! Fix it in your mind! Do you feel too insignificant for God’s favor? Remember: God has seated you with him. Do you wonder if God could love someone so flawed? God has seated you with him. Do you worry that some stupid actions have forfeited the favor of God? Not so: in Christ God has seated you with him. You are in a position of divine favor.
Where you sit matters. Third, being seated with God means we share in his mission. We share in his mission- just like the disciples shared in Jesus’ mission.
Suppose you were tapped to serve on the cabinet of the next president of the United States. What an honor! You’re part of the team. You sit at his/her table and plan strategy. And you work hard- to carry out the president’s directives to serve our country.
In the same way, being seated with God means we share his mission. We are part of God’s team. We get to be part of the most exciting enterprise on the planet.
You know, some people lack a sense of purpose in life. They drift along. They aren’t really headed anywhere. Days just come and go. They watch TV. They get bored. Some end up doing stupid stuff for kicks. Little sense of purpose. But people who sit with God in the heavenly realms know they are part of his mission. We’re on his team. We know our life matters. What we do has eternal significance. We get in on the action: loving our neighbor, seeking justice, showing mercy to the poor, healing the sick, visiting prisoners, aiding refugees, serving in God’s church + kingdom.
Let this truth soak in! Fix it in your mind! Do you wonder about the ultimate purpose in your life? Remember: God has seated us with him in the heavenly realms- to carry out his mission.
Where you sit matters. It matters in school, especially if you like a girl in your class. It matters at a baseball stadium, especially in the World Series. And it matters with God.
And here’s our sure and certain hope. One day our position won’t be only spiritual. One day Jesus will come back for his own; God’s people will be raised to new life. And we will see the Father and his Son face to face. We’ll have the thrill of being seated with them- body and soul, for all eternity.
Jesus died. He rose again. And he ascended into heaven. In Christ God has already seated us with him in the heavenly realms. It’s awesome! And that makes all the difference right now.
Let’s never forget it. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s live up to our position in Christ.