Roger Ramsden - Visiting Worker to Maroota - 2012

Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Five times in this letter, Paul wrote about heavenly places or high places. Paul was not always speaking about heaven itself, but about higher places and higher powers. Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” I feel that Paul was speaking about heaven itself here, and the blessings we have received from God, treasures that we highly value.

We have already heard about some of these treasures, and the first one is joy. The way to have joy is to give ourselves to the Lord and be willing for all that He asks of us. I enjoy hearing others say that they have joy, because it is the result of their service to God. One of the first things we lose if we are not serving Him as we should, is our joy. Joy is the result of something we are doing. If we deny ourselves as the Gospel teaches us, we are going to have joy; with our human reasoning it just doesn’t seem to be the way to have joy. The world would tell us that the way to have joy is to do what pleases us, but that is not the way to have real joy. When we are giving ourselves to the will of God, the Lord will have joy. Someone said that when the Lord has joy in our service to Him, we will have joy too. When we don’t have joy in our service, it is because the Lord doesn’t have joy in it either. Many people have a little joy in some activity, but the moment the activity finishes there is no more joy. But the Lord’s people have deep joy that continues with them, a blessing from the Lord that keeps us.

Another thing we could consider a blessing is the love of God. We hear about the love of God many times and don’t want to forget what it is. I like the thought, “I love the Lord because He loved me.” God is still sacrificing today because He loves us, and Jesus proves His love towards us by giving Himself in sacrifice. The way to enjoy this love of God is to share it and show it to others.

Something else we hear about is peace. It comes with a price and we don’t have it because we desire it; we have to be willing to pay the price. Peace comes when we are willing to give in to the will of God. That is the first step. One woman told us she had been looking for the Truth for 25 years, and she didn’t just recognize it in the first visit. But as she listened in the meetings, she felt a sword piercing her heart and revealing things that were there, not a very pretty picture. She thought she was a good woman, but the Lord revealed what was in her heart and she couldn’t let the Truth go. After about three months she received peace she had never felt before. When there are decisions to make, maybe we see what we would like to do but we should ask: Is it going to bring the peace of the Lord or take it away? If it is going to bring the peace of God, we can be sure it is the way to go.

I was thinking about the grace of God. Where would we be if not for the grace of God? When we heard the Gospel our past wasn’t so good, but God could wipe it away as we accepted the Gospel message. It is not our past that is important to the Lord, it is our future and the choices that we could make. When we make the right choice, the Lord is willing to show His grace towards us. When we bow down and plead for His mercy, He is willing to wash our past away. The grace of God is very important and we wouldn’t want to forget its value.

Paul spoke about the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 1:13, “In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” This is very important to us. We could never serve God without that Spirit. It is a down payment of what we are going to have in the future; a sign to us that we have hope beyond this life. The thought was expressed: Do we really have the Lord’s blessing? Having the Holy Spirit is a sign that we have the Lord’s blessing and are accepted. The Lord has given the Spirit to guide and help us, but it is possible to lose the Holy Spirit. We could ask ourselves, “How do we know that we have the Holy Spirit?” When we read the word of God or hear the word of God spoken, what is the response in our heart? If we feel the Lord’s touch and feel encouraged, we know we have the Holy Spirit.

Then it speaks about our inheritance. We are not serving the Lord just to have what we enjoy today. That is not the end of it. The Lord has given us the hope of a future, that we would be with Him. Verse 20, “Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” That was the place Jesus was given because of His faithfulness to God. If we seek His face, that is going to be the place we have for all eternity, our inheritance. Colossians 3:1, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above . . Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” If our purpose is to be like Jesus, our thoughts are going to be in heaven also. Ephesians 2:6, "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is what those Ephesians were experiencing at the time they received this letter. Paul was referring to heavenly places here on the earth and we are thankful for these heavenly places where we can have a little taste of the fellowship we will enjoy for all eternity. It is the result of an experience that opens the door for us to enjoy all that is in these heavenly places. Something is planted in our hearts, then we desire to follow Jesus and this new life is what enables us to enjoy fellowship in heavenly places. Without that new life, we would not enjoy being in the Lord’s presence today.

Before Paul heard the Gospel, he was doing what he thought was right. But he began to understand the Gospel and it brought a big change into his life. It would never have been accomplished in his life if the Lord had not been in it. I was raised in the Truth and at about 11 years of age I made my choice to serve God. When I was 16, I had a struggle. Was I serving the Lord because my parents were, or was it for me? I knew that if everyone else left the way of God, I knew I had no choice but to go on serving the Lord. It brought a change in my heart and I was so surprised, it was a change I didn’t expect. About three days later, some of my close mates asked me what had happened because they had noticed a change in me. I hardly understood it myself, and it scared me to think that not only did I feel a change, but others around me felt it, too.

I remember a sister saying that she had been listening to the Gospel for a while. She admired the Lord’s people but she felt she couldn’t do what they did. But the day came that the meeting was tested and she found herself standing, hardly knowing that she was doing it. She went home and prayed, “I can’t do this in my own strength,” and the Lord extended His hand and gave her the strength to do what others were doing and enjoy fellowship. It is the power of God; Paul wasn’t ashamed of it and we are thankful for what it can do in our lives.

Ephesians 3:8, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Paul understood that the Lord was using him to bring the Gospel of peace to high places. He was speaking of the higher powers of this world, powers that we have no control over. Even if the Lord’s people in all the earth were joined together, they could do nothing against these higher powers. Philippians 1:13, "So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace.” He also refers to Caesar’s palace in this letter. He used every opportunity to tell the Gospel story. In spite of all that was happening, the way was opening up for God’s people to let others know the work that the Lord was doing on the earth. Paul didn’t regret his place in prison; he saw it as an opportunity. Even when so many told him what awaited him at Jerusalem and that he would be taken prisoner, Paul knew it was the Lord’s plan and he was willing to fit into it. We don’t know what the Lord’s plan is for us and we realize that the Lord can change our plans.

I spent a few years in Colombia at a time when the terrorists seemingly could do what they wanted and had control of about 40% of the country. They had a practice of stopping buses and taking prisoners, to get money by ransom. We came so close so often to falling into their hands, yet it seemed like something was keeping us safe. We felt it was the Lord’s hand that was protecting us. But if the Lord had allowed it to happen, it would have been in His plan. Maybe there could have been someone He wanted to reach against all our reasoning. Some of the workers did have a few scares, but those conditions don’t exist in Colombia any more.

Philippians 2:17, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” The Spanish Bible refers to this as a drink offering. If he had to deny the Lord’s work in his life or die, he was willing to be poured out like a drink offering for the Gentiles. He was doing something against the thinking of the Jews and he was taken prisoner for preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles. Colossians 1:23, “And be not moved away from the hope of the gospel . . whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you.” Paul was willing to suffer so that the Gospel could be extended to other parts of the world.

Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” I feel he was referring to religious powers that were hand in hand with political powers. We don’t have to worry about that in this country, but there are places where the preaching of the Gospel is affected by these things. The Lord can open and close doors and there are places where the Gospel is prohibited, but it has brought a bit of prosperity. Paul knew that there were things at work to destroy the faith of those who had believed. Colossians 2:4, “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” He was afraid that some would try to deceive them with their talk, maybe to give in to the flesh or be taken captive by the things of the world.

Verse 8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Some of those philosophies, ideas and theories still exist today and we don’t want to be taken up with them. Verse 16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” The Jews told people that they must obey the Ten Commandments, but Paul knew they were just being deceived. We wouldn’t want to go back and try to find our righteousness in the Old Testament.

Verse 18, “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen.” Some could use the Gospel story to deceive us to believe something that is not going to bring the Lord’s blessing, and may take us away from the Truth. We may not have a struggle with the religious powers of the world, but perhaps a friend or relative could try to convince us to think in a way that is not according to Truth. It is one way the enemy of our soul tries to deceive us. Ephesians 6:13, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God . . Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” If we clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Jesus and follow Him, the same thing will be produced in us. Verse 17, “And take the helmet of salvation.” The Lord has revealed to us that this is His way and we need to keep that before us to protect our mind.

A young professing lady was waiting at the Doctor’s office with a sick child. She was feeling quite troubled at the time because of different things that were happening, and when her turn came the receptionist asked her, “What church do you go to?” So she tried to explain the Truth and what she had. The other lady said, “I saw such peace written in your face.” It was the day she had felt the most troubled in all her life, but this lady saw peace in her face. We are thankful we can prepare our hearts with the Gospel of peace. If we cannot speak to others, maybe we can give this testimony of true peace.

We can use the shield of faith to protect ourselves. Sometimes we could hear a thing and not know if it is true, but we can pass it through our faith and if it passes the test of faith, maybe there is something in it. But if it doesn’t pass the test of faith we wouldn’t want to allow it to have any place in our heart or thinking. When Jesus was tempted by the enemy, His response was the word of God, the sword of the Spirit. He used the word of God to close the enemy’s mouth. When Paul was taken prisoner, one of the things he used was his testimony in defence of the Gospel. This is also the defence we have. Don’t forget the real experiences you have had; they can help us in our struggle with the enemy of our soul. I have appreciated thinking about these heavenly places and the privilege of enjoying fellowship with God. We hope these four days could be like that to us.