Dreams that Shape the City / Week 6

BIBLE READING

Ephesians 2: 11-18

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

SUMMARY OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE

On Sunday morning we looked at the second half of Ephesians 2 and saw that every significant dream that God wants to fulfil in our lives and in our cities requires the active participation of a “dream team”. We were never meant to live the dream all alone, but in community, in partnership with one another. God’s desire throughout history has been to gather a family for Himself, His dream team, who would represent Him throughout the earth and fulfil his mission and passion of reaching the nations with His saving love.

Paul reminds us of our status before we encountered Jesus:

“…you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” 

It wasn’t a pretty picture but it does help us to be deeply thankful for all He has done.

The problem throughout history has been that God’s people have often forgotten that we have been saved by grace alone through faith alone. We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it. And so, over time we become conceited, arrogant, proud, develop a sense entitlement and may even think that we are slightly superior to other people. That’s what happened to Israel in the Old Testament.  The outward mark of their identity – circumcision - actually became a source of racial superiority. They constructed walls that separated them from other people - Gentiles or ‘the uncircumcised’.  Paul calls these ‘walls of hostility’.  These were physical walls in the temple keeping them out of certain areas but they were also spiritual walls indicating that only Israel had exclusive access to God’s presence.

However in verses 13-14 Paul describes what Jesus has done:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility....”

When Jesus took our sin upon Himself at the cross, the wall of hostility and separation was totally destroyed – not only the wall between us and God, but also the wall between us and other people.  In God’s family we are all equal, we all have the same access to God.  The blood of Jesus covers all of us indiscriminately, His grace is poured out lavishly, His mercy is distributed liberally and His forgiveness applied scandalously.

With God as our Father, all other Christians are our spiritual brothers and sisters which is incredible - but, like any family, this can also be difficult at times.  We are brothers and sisters but not identical twins.  We seek unity – not uniformity.  Our differences mean that at times we will have conflict, we will struggle to get along, we will have tensions and may become offended by the actions of others.

Christ doesn’t call us together because we’re all the same but because we’re all part of His family and our vast differences and diversity demonstrate to the world that Jesus Christ has the power to break down every wall. 

I recall watching President Ronald Reagan on TV in the late 80s, standing in West Berlin, demanding: “Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down this Wall.”

What God would say to some of us today is: “Tear down that wall.”  Walls that we have constructed through hurt, offence, unforgiveness and differences of opinion or personality.  Tear down those walls.

Have the difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding; send that email or text message; own your part of the division; choose to forgive; invite the peace of Jesus into that situation.  Replace the wall separating you with the cross which unites us all.

Jesus blood was shed to destroy the wall - don’t build it back up again.