Ephesians 2:11-13. 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Over the next several days we will answer the question that Paul is answering in the letter to the Ephesians: What is the church? Ephesians 2-4 are possibly our greatest resource on understanding what the church is and your relationship to it and of course ultimately to Christ Jesus the Head of the church.
Remember in Ephesians when Paul is talking about “we” he means the Jews. And when he is talking about “you” he means the Gentiles. In verse 11 above he makes it really simple for us by saying you Gentiles, so we know exactly who he’s talking about. My guess the majority of people reading this blog today are Gentiles, so there is good news here for us!
The great deception of our Enemy, his greatest trick and lie, is to convince us that we are consistently far from God. Think about how Christians talk to each other:
“I feel closer to God than ever before.”
“What are you doing to stay close to God?”
And one of my favorites: “If you’re far from God it’s not God who moved.”
I simply typed “Closer to God” into a Google search and all kinds of articles and blogs and books came up about how to get closer to God. I clicked on an article called “5 Ways to Grow Closer to God” on a very highly trafficked Christian web site and it listed things like 1. meet with God before anyone else, 2. get into God’s word every day, 3. join a small group, 4. record your blessings and answered prayers, 5. pick a theme verse for the year.
So basically a to-do list of things to improve your relationship with God.
Listen to me.
THIS IS NOT THE GOSPEL.
Read Ephesians 2:11-13 again. Did you read it? No, actually read it. It’s up at the top.
OK I’m gonna have to trust you.
What does Paul say is the basis of our nearness to God? You (Gentiles) who were once far off have been brought near by ________.
A blessings list?
A theme verse?
What about reading the Bible every day or joining a small group (two things I highly recommend btw)?
What if we experience closeness to God by trusting that we are as close to God as we are ever going to get? What if we are made near to God by the blood of Christ alone. Full stop.
So many of us (me included) are plagued every day with feelings of distance from God and his grace. We can list a thousand ways we have drifted. A million reasons why God would turn his back.
But he hasn’t. He doesn’t. He won’t. Ever.
Because it’s not about you. It’s about Jesus and his shed blood. Christ alone. Never your performance or supposed “drifting.” Christian you are united to Christ. In Christ. Christ in you. Holy Spirit sealed. Even the Father is living in you. You’ve got the whole Trinity residing in you. They’re in you relaxing, enjoying the journey with you and yet you think you’re still far from God? Do you really think that the sinning you do, or your failure to read your Bible and pray every day can override everything God has done in redemptive history to bring the Gentiles into his covenant of promise? Including the work of Jesus? Trust me you don’t have that kind of power.
George McFly wouldn’t leave Lorraine, and God won’t leave you.
What about the church?
Now that’s the actual problem. You see, you can’t lose your closeness to God but you can drift from the church, the body, the family. And many of you have.
Satan wants you to feel far from God so that you stay far from his church. He knows that the church is where the gospel is displayed. Forgiveness granted. Love shown. Kindness displayed. Grace received. Holiness pursued. So if he can keep us feeling distant and dirty in relationship to God, he knows that we will eventually stop showing up to church, or consistently change churches over petty issues.
The only cure is the gospel. The truth that you ARE NEAR TO GOD. By the BLOOD OF CHRIST. Only truly believing that we are near to God will allow us to draw near to each other in true humility, honesty, and authenticity. Not worrying about what everyone thinks of us, while at the same time bearing the burdens of one another in the love of Christ.
The gospel (especially Ephesians 2:1-10) teaches us that every person is either far from God or close to God. There’s two options. That’s it. Separated or united. Alienated and distant or accepted and close. Without God or with God. Outside covenant with God or in covenant with God. Enemy or friend. Dead or alive.
“To live is Christ” means that we are close. Constantly close. Not close one moment and far the next. It may feel that way. But it is not our reality. The reality is that the blood of Christ has made us near to God forever. That’s the church.
Is that enough for you? Is the death and resurrection of Jesus enough to remove all doubts and feelings of distance? May it ever be.