Monday, May 28, 2012

Touching Base! Part 166

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 5
This Is It! – Ephesians 2:11-22

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Even if you typically don’t join many organizations, if you pause to count , you’re probably at least affiliated with many groups. You’re likely a citizen of a country, a member of a sports team, an alumnus of a university, a participant in AA, or part of a union, professional college, or group of like-minded friends.

The highly-educated, incredibly powerful, and ostensibly well-informed in our world are sometimes members of elite organizations that brainstorm for change and betterment for the global economy or international relations. On a smaller scale, many of us also invest a great deal of time, energy, and money into various groups whose goals we agree with - to better ourselves, help others, change a part of our world.

Question: How effective - and how Godly - are your major affiliations?

Most reading this Touching Base are also members of the greatest society the world has ever seen: The Church. It is the society that matters most on the earth. The Apostle Paul says a lot about this society in our text for this week, Ephesians 2: 11-22. Here’s an example:

“He has made the two [Jews and Gentiles] one....His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace....You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

Is this true?

You have citizenship as God’s people. You are members of God’s household. You’re stones in a holy temple building where God lives and Christ himself is the cornerstone. If a society with this description would let me join, I’d sign up in a minute. And this stuff is true.

This is it! This is the society that matters. This is the group that is commissioned by God himself and has great power. And Christ died to create it.

Question: Do you believe that the Church (capital ‘C’) is worth your time and effort?

In our text, Paul is saying that Christ died to remove the hostility between Jews and Gentiles and that now they are one - “brought near through the blood of Christ”. There is one Father, one Spirit. There is peace. If Christ’s death could bring together 1st-century Jews and Gentiles, it can bring together people of all walks of life, all races, all cultures to be “fellow citizens”. This is what Christ’s death has done. This is a breathtaking society to have membership in. This is it.

Then, why does it so often seem like the title of this sermon should instead be “This is it?”

This is it?

Question: Do you ever look around at other Christians and think, “This is it?” This is what Christ came to create? This is the society that matters most on earth? Maybe you’ve left off attending church because of the people in the Church, or because of what they were, ironically, attempting to do or change or accomplish.

If yes, you have a point. The exclamation mark becomes a question very easily.

How does the emphasis change back? How does the question mark become an exclamation again? It does so by seeing how we are to relate to one another.

Paul gives us this answer, too, in our text. He tells us how we must relate to each other in this new society. There are 3 points.

(1) First, we must remember what we were. We were “separate from Christ,” “without hope and without God in the world”. Members of elite and exclusive societies don’t think like this. “Remember before you joined this elite club you were just a...” No, they were invited into the elite club because before membership they were already the most influential and wealthiest and smartest people around. Paul says, “Ephesian Christians, remember what you were. You had nothing in this world. Not even hope. You can’t get poorer than that. Nothing in the present and no future whatsoever. Remember that?”

Pastor Mark told us in last week’s sermon (May 20) why that’s important: Because remembering your spiritual death, your spiritual poverty, your complete hopelessness, magnifies the Lord.

And why does the Church, this greatest society the world has ever known, not turn the world upside down every day, why do we sometimes seem so powerless? Because of Fear. But if you remember what you were - without hope and without God - you’ve got nothing to lose. By definition you don’t have a reputation to protect. Or anything else for that matter. You went from nothing to membership in this great society. And you’re afraid you might look bad?

(2) Here’s the second way we must relate to one another in this society. We must realize daily that hostility is likely if sin isn’t judged. “The dividing wall of hostility” is gone. Christ “put to death” the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. In 1 Corinthians 1: 26, Paul writes that most of us aren’t wise by human standards or noble or influential or necessarily very good at keeping the peace or even at interpersonal relations. So judge sin daily or our earthly differences and our sin will be magnified instead of Christ.

(3) But how do we do this? How can we relate to one another in this new society without hostility? The third, but most important, ingredient is Christ because “he is our peace”. He is our peace. He’s synonymous with peace, and, without him, there will not be peace among us. He must be acknowledged as the head of this “new man,” this body called the Church. He is the chief cornerstone and it’s only “in him” that the “whole building is joined together and rises”.

This passage tells us that we are reconciled to each other in Christ, and it tells us how to relate to each other in the new society Christ’s death has created.

We’re the body of Christ. The person in the pew next to you is your fellow stone in the building God is forming, where he dwells. “Not many noble are called, not many wise, not many influential.” God chose the weak and the foolish to confound the strong and the wise.

But remember: if we, in our lives as Christians, leave out Christ and we fan hostility again, we may be just the weak and the foolish sitting in pews. We will be separating and dividing what Christ died to gather together.

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