February 15, 2012

Sealed with a Down-Payment

While going through some files, I found a document that I had put my seal to. A friend had given me a kit to make a seal and this was likely the only time I used it. The kit consisted of a stick of wax shaped like a flat carpenter’s pencil with a wick instead of lead, and a round metal stamp with my initials on it. Similar seals have been used to authenticate documents. Countries, states and provinces, leaders, and individuals use them. Some are ornate and complex, others, like mine, are simple.
Seals were more common in the ancient world. Today we have digital signatures, holograms labels, and a myriad of electron devices to authenticate ownership or prove that documents are what they claim to be. Back in Bible times, seals were made in several ways — from signet rings to cylinders used to mark goods traded in business. Seals also marked collections, even gems. 

In Asia, individuals and organizations use official seals, often in multiple sizes and styles depending on the need. Most bear the names of the people or organizations represented, but they can also bear poems or personal mottoes. Because seals are so important in East Asia, foreigners who conduct business there also commission the engraving of personal seals. When we visited China, we were given Chinese names and a seal or a “name chop” to stamp them on our possessions.

This morning’s devotional reading reminds me that God also has a seal. He uses it to mark those who belong to Him. This seal is not a hunk of metal, nor does it require wax or dye. Instead, it is the person of the Holy Spirit.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13–14)
Besides the task of marking me as belonging to God and being an authentic Christian, the Holy Spirit is God’s deposit or down-payment to me. He promised full redemption, that is, total freedom from the tyranny of sin, even freedom from its presence. This will happen when I step into eternity, but in the meantime, the Holy Spirit is my guarantee of that full redemption to come.

With the heart problem that I have, I’m coming to grips with the fact that barring a miracle, it will not heal. It may stabilize somewhat, but in time my health will deteriorate. When I think about all that I want to do before then, I feel anxious. When I think about my future with Jesus Christ in eternity with no more troubles or sorrow, I feel calm, even excited. 

When Paul wrote Ephesians, he must have known that these early Christians also struggled with their future. They may not have had heart or health problems, but they did experience persecution with threats of death. Perhaps it was for those pressures that he told them how he prayed for them.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:17–18)
His prayer was not for their safety or health, but for their relationship with God. He wanted them to know fully the hope or glory that was ahead, the riches of that inheritance. The Holy Spirit was their guarantee, but even more, He is the One who enlightened the eyes of their heart. 

Lord, no matter what is going on in my physical heart, You are still able to enlighten my inner self with deepening understanding of my glorious inheritance. I’ve been sealed and given the down-payment. Eternity is a certainty and the Holy Spirit is my taste of it. Keep my mind and heart centered on You today and for my remaining days, that You may be glorified in me.

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