Today, many of us will be gathering with family around tables for a Christmas feast. Graduating from the kids’ table to sit with the grownups is a rite of passage in most families. The adults get to gather around a nice oak dining room table, and the kids sit at an old card table on the back porch. There’s always that moment when you feel like you’re too old to sit at the kids’ table, and you start begging your parents to graduate to the dining room.
Then there are those times when the adult table fills up too quickly and one of the last adults getting food ends up slumped over the card table with their knees sticking up into the table. Looking at these scenes in many families, you can tell a lot about someone’s identity from where they sit. For years in my wife’s family, my father-in-law has sat at one end of the table and my mother-in-law sits at the other end. The rest of us sit in the middle where we are busy passing food back and forth throughout the meal.
Even in most living rooms, you’ll find mom’s favorite chair, dad’s chair, and all the open seating for those of lesser status! Or maybe you’ve waited to get on an airplane lately. Business class, select class, preferred, priority, and then cattle call. You can tell a lot about someone’s identity from where they are seated.
Believe it or not, the Bible ties together identity and seating as well. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Paul prays for people to know two things. First, “the wealth of his glorious inheritance,” and second, the “immeasurable greatness of his power.” Once our eyes are open to these two realities, we see the reality of where Christ is seated, “ He exercised this power in Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens— far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”(Ephesians 1:20-23) Here we see Christ is raised and seated at the right hand of God the Father. As a result, he is given all power and authority and dominion. No one has a higher title than Jesus. No one has more power than Jesus. No one has more authority than Jesus.
As Ephesians continues, we discover our identity before we have a relationship with Christ. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Apart from a relationship with Jesus, we are dead in sins and trespasses. We follow the ways of the world, and we are led by a spirit of disobedience rather than God’s Holy Spirit. However, out of God’s amazing grace, we are saved, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4)
Without the grace of God, we are easily led astray by every whim and desire of our hearts. Paul says we are headed for wrath. John Stott describes God’s wrath as, “neither an impersonal process of cause and effect (as some scholars have tried to argue), nor a passionate, arbitrary or vindictive outburst of temper, but His holy and uncompromising antagonism to evil, with which He refuses to negotiate.” God moves to destroy the evil that is destroying us.
But God is rich in mercy and through his great love, he makes us alive with Christ, saves us by his grace, and gives us “upgraded seating.” “He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7)
We are not just saved by God, but elevated. As Christians, we are seated at the big table. We are seated at the best possible table with an all-access pass to the presence of Jesus Christ. This is a table spread out with immeasurable riches. Out of this upgraded seating, we have a number of benefits.
First, we realize our proximity to Jesus. Hebrews 4:12 affirms this as well, “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” Jesus is with us and we are with him, no matter what situation we face in our life.
Next, wherever we are currently seated in this world, we gain the perspective of eternally upgraded seating. When we realize we are seated in heavenly places with Jesus Christ, the other places we are seated matter far less. We often get caught up in “if only” thinking. If only I had a better job. If only my marriage were more like so-and-so’s marriage (I hate to break it to you, but so-and-so still leaves their toothbrush on the counter). If only my kids were like their kids. If only we could go on vacations all the time like everyone I see on Facebook. If only I had their circumstances, and on and on.
Recognizing you are a child of the king, seated with Christ in heavenly places changes all of this. I can have the best seat in the world or the worst seat, but the spiritual reality is that I am seated with Christ and have access to the King. This King hears my prayers, knows my name, and holds my life in the palm of his hand.
Finally, we are called to embrace the power and potential of walking as sons and daughters of the King. We have the power to shift the spiritual atmosphere of our neighborhoods and communities. We are commissioned as Christ’s representatives in the world. We can stop denying the potential we have to bring healing, grace, and transformation to whatever environment we find ourselves in.
When my wife and I were getting off our plane on our honeymoon, someone heard that we just got married. They said, “why didn’t you tell the airline?? They often will upgrade newlyweds free of charge to first-class!” We didn’t realize our identity carried more benefits than we had taken advantage of that day. This doesn’t have to be you. There are several tables. Which one do you want to be seated at? The table in the world: dead in sins and trespasses, following the ways of the world, dominated by your own will and inclinations? The table of self: saved from hell, but focused on yourself? Or the table of Christ: seated with him in heavenly places.
It is time to leave the kids’ table. It is time to recognize our true identity and boldly approach the Father who has not only saved us, but lifted us up with Christ and seated us at a table filled with mercy, grace, and power.