Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ephesians 2

Read the passage from The Message: Ephesians 2
Read the passage from the New International Version: Ephesians 2

Please take a moment to read through the scripture passage above in The Message. It's simply amazing! I do love the way Eugene Peterson has made this so real to us, in language that makes so much sense. I read through Chapter 2 in the NIV 3 times and now I see a few more things that are really exciting.

I let the world - which has no idea how to live - tell me what living is all about. It occurs to me that is like my sister telling me how to fix a computer when she has absolutely no idea how to do most things on the computer. We all believe that we are experts in the field of life, when we have absolutely no idea how to live our own lives.

Paul tells us over and over again how much God loves us. He has spent time drawing us to Himself ... even when we drive Him crazy. He could easily choose to destroy us, but in His great mercy He chose instead to love us.

Like many others, I memorized verse 8 - For it is by grace you have been saved through faith - and this not from yoursleves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that non one can boast.

I took Evangelism Explosion training in the 70s, and memorized scripture while trying to learn how to tell people about my faith. I understood this passage, but I never fully applied it to my own life. But, it makes so much sense. If I had been involved at all with God's process of creation and His saving grace, I would spend time boasting about it. If not out loud, at least in my own mind I would believe that I was so much better than anyone else. Fortunately for me, God took that away from me. He did all of the work. He created me ... He created me to be in Jesus Christ ... and He saved me ... He saved me simply by giving me a gift. The gift of grace.

Paul admonishes us to not take any of this for granted. Now, while he was talking to the people of the day and using examples that they understood - it translates quite easily for us today. We tend to get so arrogant when we think about our relationship with God. We are so much better than anyone else. The Gentiles that were circumcised versus the Jews. Their changed lives made them believe better about themselves.

There is nothing worse than a person whose life changes through things that they have done - they have lost weight, or stopped drinking or smoking, or began a strong exercise regimen, etc., etc. Nothing worse! All of a sudden they are a spokesperson for that particular issue and consider themselves an expert. Every conversation revolves around it, and they no longer have compassion for others struggling with the same issue.

This is why it is all about God causing the changes in our lives. We can't boast in what we have done. We can only boast in the Lord. And we can't separate ourselves from anyone else because it is God that has caused these changes in us. Verse 14 says that Jesus is our peace, he destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. As long as we (humans) are in charge, we build walls. Jesus Christ died on the cross to tear apart those walls.

Jesus preached peace to those of us who draw near to God easily and to those who are far away from God. (vs. 17). Through Jesus, everyone has access to God the Father. Hmmm ... this kind of changes the way I look at this verse and the verse in John (14:6) - I am the way, the truth and the life - no one comes to the Father but by me. Many use this as a threat to the rest of the world. Unless you believe in Jesus Christ - you can't get to heaven. But, Paul says something quite different here. It's more of a positive aspect - "Through Jesus we both (Gentiles / Jews, or Christians / non-Christians) have access to the father by one Spirit."

Rather than beating it over people's heads and believing that we are so much better because we already know Jesus Christ and live with the Holy Spirit in our presence, we need to be fully aware that God is offering the gift of access to Him through Jesus Christ by the Spirit.

Wow ... read verse 21-22 a couple of times! That temple that was destroyed in Jerusalem? Where they no longer offer sacrifices on the brazen altar? Where the curtain was torn in two and God no longer resides?

He's building that temple again, but this time he is using us as part of the building process. He has already set the foundation with the apostles and the prophets. Christ Jesus is the cornerstone - in him the building joins together and becomes a holy temple. This is the dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.

Well, that's just too cool!!! Three temples were built during the Old Testament / New Testament times. The Temple of Solomon, The Second Temple (Ezra), Herod's Temple. At one point or other, these became simply buildings. God's presence left them. Now, however, God is building the temple, piece by piece through his people. The building of this temple has continued over the centuries. Each person that is a part of this temple is more precious than any of the stones that went into the building of the original temple. David spent years gathering the the materials so that Solomon could build the temple. Yet it was temporal. God has spent eons preparing us as the material for His eternal temple.

When Jesus Christ anchored the foundation of the present temple, I believe this was the final temple. We are in the process of building God's temple on earth. His sacrifice was the last one necessary to bring God's Spirit into our midst. He is our peace. (vs. 21) In Him the whole building is joined together.


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