The Prince and the Pauper

It has all gone a bit wrong! Despite having not watched either Season 1 or 2, the NTV and I now own two copies of Endeavour: Season 3. The really silly thing is that we purchased both of them ourselves!

We picked up the first copy in a charity shop for £1, but before watching it we decided to watch season 4 as it was broadcast. Somehow during this time we got it into our heads that it was Season 1 that we had purchased in the charity shop and looked forward to starting from the beginning at the end of Season 4. As Season 4 drew to an end we had the added satisfaction of finding Season 3 at a table top sale. Now we only needed to get Season 2!

Picture the confusion as we searched in vain for Season 1. What had we done with it? And why did we have two copies of Season 3?

It will probably get even more ridiculous as it may well be cheaper to ask for a box set of Seasons 1-3 for our birthdays rather than 1 and 2 individually – making us the proud owners of three copies of Season 3! Do let me know if you want one!

Have you ever received the same gift twice? Do you remember the time before wedding lists when people received 3 toast racks, but no toaster? Don’t get me wrong – these are very minor ‘problems’ to have! – but there is an embarrassment and an element of waste that comes with the repeated gift isn’t there? Particularly when you by them both yourself!

So why does Paul pray as he does in Ephesians 3:14-19?

Paul has already made it clear in his letter that the Ephesian Christians have the Holy Spirit, that they are united with Christ, that they already have the fulness of God in them and yet he prays here that Christ will live in them. Is he not already living in them? He prays that they would know his love. Don’t they already know his love? Are the Ephesians blushing a little as they read this prayer, embarrassed that Paul is going to all this trouble when they already have every spiritual blessing in Christ?

No – of course not. So what is going on? Let’s go to Tim Keller (and through him to John Calvin and others) for some help. Indeed, these thoughts are entirely prompted by my reading last year of Tim Keller’s book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God and his thoughts in chapter eleven on “being rich, but living poor”. Of being in possession of princely riches beyond imagination, but living as paupers struggling to get by.

The Prince and The Pauper. It can go both ways of course. There are plenty of times when we, like the pauper who chances upon the prince’s clothes, strut around hoping desperately that no-one will notice our grimy hands and face, the poor fit of the clothes, or the rags underneath. But in the case of the blessings we have in Christ, Keller points out that we are more akin to the prince who chooses to dress like a pauper: walking around in tattered rags despite having all the very finest togs at our disposal.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3

Paul needs to pray for the Christians in Ephesus not because they don’t have every spiritual blessing in Christ, but because they are not experiencing every spiritual blessing in Christ.

 

Keller describes prayer as a ‘conversation that leads to an encounter with God’ (pg 165). The Westminster Larger Catechism speaks of a “working and quickening in our hearts”, but it is a “working and quickening in our hearts”  that it acknowledges does not take place “in all persons, nor at all times, in the same measure.” Calvin was convinced that many of Jesus’ people do not experience Jesus’ gifts to them. Do not experience the enjoyment that can only happen through “communion with Christ” and “the secret energy of the Holy Spirit by which we come to enjoy all his benefits.”

In other words we conduct our day-to-day lives as spiritual paupers despite the wealth that has been lavished upon us. We know and yet we do not grasp. We intellectually assent to this state of spiritual abundance being true of us in principle while never “fully appropriating it, using it and living in it” in our inner beings.

Could it even be said that we sometimes speak and act as if to want to experience this wealth in the here and now is a greedy expectation beyond out station? Is there a suggestion in the way we speak and behave that while it may be right for an elite few to inhabit the spiritual penthouses, to experience the spiritual high life, it is certainly not for us common or garden Christians?

And yet Paul’s prayer is for each and every one of his Ephesian readers, and by extension for all those in Christ.  Paul wants God to answer his prayer in Ephesians 3 for all Christians throughout their lives. He is certainly not asking our generous Father – who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine – for “a nearly unattainably high, rare occurrence.” No! Paul is praying that “by the Spirit’s power we may have our hearts and affections engaged and shaped by the truths of the faith we hold in mind.”Keller continues: “Such a sense of heart can come in many degrees, from a mild and gentle warming to an explosive epiphany.” Whatever the particulars – whether it is a moment you remember for the rest of your life, or simply a particularly beautiful time of prayer on the way to collect a child from school – God longs to give us “a sense of the power of what [we] have been given in Christ so that [our] attitudes, feelings, and behaviour are altered.

Friends, we who are in Jesus have everything that is good and wonderful – kept in the heavenly realms yes – but for the purposes of security not obscurity. In the heavenly realms our blessings enjoy a protection better than that of the most secure facility on earth while at the same time remaining as available to us as the loose change in our pockets.

Thanks to Adrian Reynolds of the Proclamation Trust for drawing this out in his recent talks on Ephesians 1 at the Spring Wives Conference.

Some of us may need a reminder that the blessings are indeed ours in Christ. What news to receive – like Harry Potter when he first discovers the wealth that waits for him in his parents’ vault in Gringotts Bank.

But I suspect that many of us know of the wealth, we receive the bank statements as it were and believe them, but we file them away under sound doctrine and simply do not act on them.

What would it look like I wonder to live as who we are? What impression do we give people of the resources available to us from the way we walk through this world? I fear when they look at me they may see something of a pauper trying to scrape an existence out of nothing, bowed down with care and fearful of what tomorrow will bring – or not bring.

If only I had a wealth of blessings and a loving heavenly Father to patiently help me change! Oh yes, I already do – along with at least two copies of Endeavour Season 3!

A prayer:

Lord, you love me. You love me as you love your Son Jesus. You are showing this to me not to berate me, but to bless me. Help me to hold the whole truth of scripture together as I explore this idea of living as rich as we are.

To live as both a soldier in a very real battle and a princess who lacks absolutely nothing. To expect and even rejoice in persecution, and yet to walk through my days with a joyful confidence in your lavish provision.

Please give me a heart of gut wrenching compassion for the lost, a relentless readiness to serve and build up your people and a passionate desire for your glory and yet teach me to so cast my cares on you that I can walk through each day of unfinished to-do lists and opportunities spoilt or missed with a carefree spring in my step.

Help me to live rich in godliness and poor in complaints, grumbling and fear. Lord, in Jesus, you have removed the pressure of spiritual poverty and debt – please forgive me for continuing to struggle as one who is still under that burden. Help my days to be saturated with the freedom and generosity that should accompany spiritual wealth. Help me to use that freedom to love and serve your people in complete trust in your lavish goodness to me. In the name of Jesus, my faithful saviour, Amen.

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