God has a purpose in everything that he does.
Occasionally, we forget that fact.
And when we do, our joy in Christ grows dim - our love for one another fades into putting on a nice smile…and that’s the limit, the extent of how much we’ll put ourselves out for the sake of someone else.
But God still has a purpose in everything he does, and - even when we forget that fact - God’s purpose, God’s intent, God’s work, God’s miracles still happen.
Take, for example, the remarkable way in which God designed and carried out his plan of salvation: Adam and Eve sinned by breaking the one command God had given – and with that sin, they drew a stark, thick, black line separating THEMSELVES from God – separating unholy from holy, sinful from perfect.
And the relationship they enjoyed with God? Gone.
But rather than tossing the whole world in the trashcan & starting over, God said: Through your descendant, through your child at some point down the line, I will make everything better.
In other words: where humans drew a big, thick, ugly, black line – God drew a thin, red line. The line of the Savior.
There could be no better picture for how completely, how fully God has redeemed you and me: that God himself shares our humanity! God preserved that thin red line throughout human history, even to the point where he himself progressively narrowed that thin red line until it was barely more than a thread: the family of Seth, the family of Noah, the descendant of Abraham, the house of David.
And when that thin red line was almost extinguished - when the household of King David was narrowed to one descendant – God preserve his thin red line, that thin red line which promised destruction for the thick, black, ugly line of sin.
You see - God has a purpose in everything that he does, and - even when we forget that fact - God’s purpose, God’s intent, God’s work, God’s miracles still happen.
And look at how he did this miracle! The way God carried out his plan of salvation, his purpose of salvation - such a miracle! That from Abraham, God created a new nation; as Paul says, Theirs is the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, the promises - and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
And with his purpose of winning forgiveness for the world, Christ Jesus was born with a human nature he inherited from his mother.
God has a purpose in everything that he does - but occasionally we forget that fact.
Before we even get to our reading from Ephesians, we’ve got to take a step back…and remember how God’s plan of salvation actually happened – because we’ll overlook a lot of the beauty, and we’ll miss out on a lot of the joy in our text if we forget how God actually brought his Son into the world.
Jesus was a Jewish man.
He didn’t look like you & me.
Most of the pictures we see of Jesus are of a handsome, bearded, European man.
But Jesus wasn’t. He was Jewish, probably with a skin tone & hair color that we still see among the Arab and Jewish people today.
And if we forget that fact, if we forget that God has a purpose in everything he does; if we forget the fact that you & I were the outsiders…then our joy in Christ grows dim, our love for others fades away.
And when we forget the fact that Jesus is Jewish - and we, generally, are Gentiles, non-Jews - then our Christian joy grows dim and our love for others fades away.
Because if we rewind back to that very first thick, black, ugly line which separates our human race from God…even then, people turned away in disgust when they heard of or saw God’s thin red line.
And separated from God by that thick, black line – people took to drawing their own thin, black lines everywhere. After all, everyone still had a conscience which condemned them; and the only way to salve that conscience was to comfort oneself with the knowledge that somehow, some way, I am not that bad – and at least I’m better than HIM or HER, and this thin black line that I draw shows exactly how.
Lines everywhere: THIS [make drawing motion] is what I’ve done, and you haven’t done; THIS is who I am, and who you’re not; THIS and THIS describes the family I was born into, the country I call home, and my time and standing here; THIS is the work I’ve put in, and HERE & HERE are my morality, my righteousness; and just for good measure, let’s draw a goodly little circle all the way around myself – that’s my looks, the shape of my eyes, the tone of my skin.
Sound familiar? Because you and I know that’s exactly what happens today. Republican, Democrat - each one drawing a line, staking out the “better” or “superior” position. This is what I’ve done, how much I’ve given to God; I’ve been a Christian THIS long, I’ve got my life in order and have these characteristics.
Whatever the core belief is - when we forget that we are the outsiders, the Gentiles, the ones who were far away and who have now been brought near – when we forget this fact, then our joy in Jesus is replaced with a sense of self…that it’s something about ME, something I’VE DONE that sets me apart, that I have my life in order and that’s why God loves me.
The whole picture is turned upside-down, simply because we’ve forgotten how much effort and suffering and grace it took to bring you! me! into the family of believers - that it wasn’t some foregone conclusion, simply because we are such good and nice people, or at least people who are better and nicer than the average drug addict.
And today, Paul obliterates that sense, that idea that we ourselves are - in any way - the reason why God loves us.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
In other words: There’s nothing left for us to do! Your standing with God depends totally on Jesus - and that’s a good thing!
- We cannot add any obedience that would make God love us more
- We can’t add any action that would make God more willing to forgive us
- We can’t add any attitude that would give us a higher standing in God’s eyes.
Maybe that makes you a bit uncomfortable. After all - what sets a Christian apart? And aren’t we supposed to obey the commandments? And why would we obey the commandments, or serve God in ANY way, if we don’t get any extra recognition for it?
Right there is exactly what God has in mind.
I said earlier that God has a purpose in everything he does. Really, his purpose in EVERYTHING he does is to reveal his glory to the world and bring glory to himself - and since God is perfect and holy and above all, that’s really our goal as well.
And God has that purpose in everything he does; where even today, God is praised within the confines of your own heart, my own heart, as we recognize the attitudes that crept in - as we repent of the selfishness we find - as we admit the lines we have drawn between ourselves and others, totally unBiblical lines - because if any lines needed to be drawn, God should have been drawing them . . . .
but instead of drawing lines – God erased every line.
God erased every line between us and him.
God erased his accountant’s book that stood against us - blotting out each sin with the blood of Christ, balancing and reconciling each demand of his law with the perfection of Jesus – and that thin, red line, from Adam to Jesus? Ending in a pool of blood, erasing every sin. Your sin, my sin, erased - blotted out - covered; our best efforts and our worst attitudes, forgiven and forgotten through Jesus.
Mark Twain once quipped that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why.
Among all people on earth, you know why.
We’ve covered some of those reasons WHY in our look at Ephesians over the last couple of weeks: You were chosen by God, put in this place, made a member of this unified body of Christ; entrusted with a set of talents, abilities, resources; Given the everything of eternity, forgiveness, a life without a hamster wheel, all for the purpose of bringing glory to God.
And God has entrusted you with all that you have and all that you are - entrusted you with these things for a time in order to use them for God’s glory, to manage them for a while, to bring the message of Jesus to more people. To help them off the hamster wheel of life – and to show that they don’t need to be drawing lines so that they feel better about themselves (although no one would ever admit that - that’s the reason why we draw lines). Why? Because God erased the line that separated us from himself, and he’s given us a Church - a building - a family - where our petty lines don’t matter any more, because those lines don’t bring glory to God.
Rather, God is glorified as we see - shout - proclaim how God himself erased the lines that stood against us - and erased the thick, ugly, black line that separated us from him. God is glorified as we share that we’ve been brought from foreigner to family - and that’s a joyful occasion, every time we realize it! AMEN.