The Paradox of Promotion
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds onto life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
-Jesus (John 12:24-25 The Message)
We are citizens of an upside-down kingdom. The path to the top is a journey to the bottom. Success is not measured by the earthly standards of how many people answer to you but rather of heavenly standards of how many people you affectionately served. Jesus was the manifestation of this kingdom, the kingdom incarnate. Serving was not just His message but also His mission and His manner of life. Jesus, the King of kings, declared over His own life, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NKJV). His words pierced the hearts of the disciples—dealing a deathblow to the worldly mindset of position. This simple statement is the quintessential paradox of promotion.
In order for us to operate in this paradoxical kingdom, we must understand the process that Christ walked through. The scripture says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV). We, the body of Christ, have the riches of the kingdom. Christ Who was rich (heavenly) became poor (took on flesh) so that we who were poor (already flesh) could become rich (heavenly) through Him. Two questions come to mind. What is our appropriate position in Christ and how do we apply that truth? Paul, in writing Ephesians, often called the Epistle of the Heavenlies, declared our position. He said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJV). Question one – answered! Our appropriate position as the body of Christ is to be seated with Him (Ephesians 1:20 NKJV) in heavenly places. That is good news. But how do we take our seat? How do we operate in this truth? Let me break the cardinal rule and answer that question with a question. How did Christ take His seat? The answer to the latter question establishes a pattern that in turn answers the initial question.
Question one answered! Our appropriate position as the body of Christ is to be seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20 NKJV). That is good news. But how do we take our sear? How do we operate in this truth? Let me break the cardinal rule and answer that question with a question. How did Christ take His sear? The answer to the latter question establishes a pattern that in turn answers the initial question.
So, how did Christ take His seat? There are four strategic moments in which Christ demonstrates the process to promotion.
The Gethsemane Place
The second garden. Adam lost all of humanity in the first garden, Eden. Christ began the process of the redemption of all humanity in the second garden. Gethsemane literally means “an oil press.” It is a place of great pressure and a place of great decision. The Bible notes that as Jesus began to pray in the garden His sweat became like great drops of blood. Why the intensity? Why the press? Because the Gethsemane place is the place of consecration. The prayer of Jesus indicates the process He was engaging. Let’s look at the most powerful words ever spoken in Gethsemane: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV). The prayer of consecration is the prayer to do the Father’s will regardless of anything else. The cup that He spoke of was the punishment for the sin of the world. Notice He says, “if it is Your will” and “not my will, but Yours be done.” Sound familiar? Of course, this is the very same thing that Jesus taught us to pray. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as [it is] in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV). If we are to take our seat in heavenly places we must first consecrate our lives to His will. His will should be paramount in our lives. Food for thought: if our will supersedes His, then who is Lord? When we place our will above His, we place ourselves on a fleshly throne and disqualify ourselves from sitting in the heavens with Him. We must live the consecrated life. We must have a Gethsemane moment in which we cry, “Not my will but Your will be done.”
The Golgotha Place
The second tree. Adam indulged the flesh with the first tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the one tree God said he could not have. Christ crucified the flesh on the second tree, the cross of Calvary, the one tree that God could not avoid. Golgotha was the name of the hill on which He was crucified. It’s defined as “the place of the skull.” The imagery is so rich; some have said that the hill itself actually had the similitude of a skull. Golgotha is absolutely the place of death; it is the place of the crucified life. The agony of this place is hard to imagine. It was at this place where our Lord endured. The writer of Hebrews said it like this, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV). Too often, we the body, try to negotiate with our flesh. We struggle with fleshly desires and attitudes. But the Bible gives only one clear way to handle the flesh – crucify it. I find it interesting that this place is called
the place of the skull. I am convinced that the battle for the crucified life begins and ends in the mind. Paul explained this to the Philippian church when he wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV). Let this mind be in you…humility and obedience to the point of death. More food for thought: if I don’t die to myself then does Christ fully live in me? Could this be why Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV). The crucified life is critical to following The Crucified One. Christ, Himself said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).
The Grave Place
The second death. Adam died the first death in disobedience in the garden resulting in separation from God and banishment from the garden. Christ died the second death in absolute obedience resulting in the reconciliation of the world back to the Father and citizenship to His kingdom. This is the place of change. Everything changed when Christ was in the grave! I oftentimes liken the grave to the secret place. The secret place is secret because it is your place to meet with God and deal with you. The grave to me is the place of change or transformation. Think about the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The caterpillar creates a grave-like place, a cocoon, in which the old dies and the new is formed. We need a grave-like place, a secret place in which the old man dies and the new man is formed. The writer of Romans articulated this incredible need to be buried with Christ when he said, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death” (Romans 6:2-4 NKJV). We are to deal with the sinful nature of the flesh by burying it through baptism into death. Keep in mind this is the paradox of promotion. These truths are not always easy to follow because they are so contrary to the fleshly nature. Yet more food for thought: if I do not bury the old man can a new man rise? Jesus went to the grave, and so should we.
The Glory Place
The second life. Adam lost the first life in the garden—a life that was meant to be eternal. Christ overcame sin and death, conquering the grave and establishing a new life in Him – life eternal. Our Lord did not stay in the grave; He was resurrected and took His seat at the right hand of the Father in the heavens. This is the place of the champion life, the life of the over comer. This is the place we need to reach, the place of absolute victory. Paul prays an amazing prayer in Ephesians that describes this victory. He states, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set [him] at his own right hand in the heavenly [places], Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:17-21 NKJV). The story does not stop there; if we are in Christ, then the apostle continues further in the letter to the Ephesians to say, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJV). We are to be seated in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus – the seat of victory. The road of redemption is completed when we enter into the fullness of this new life. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4b NKJV). Food for thought, if we don’t take our seat how do we overcome? We must live the resurrected life in Christ Jesus.
This paradox of promotion is the essence of His kingdom. Let me leave you with this statement made by Jesus, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35 NKJV).