United in Vision – the Family of God
Ephesians 2:11-22 July 3, 2005
229 years ago, our nation had a vision. It was a vision of becoming a nation of semi self-governing states where people would have the freedom of self-determination without fear of colonial or governmental tyranny and oppression.
We were already a nation of ‘religious refugees’ set out to find freedom of spiritual expression in a new land, and it was that faith in Almighty God that gave us the courage to declare our independence from the British Empire and fight the Revolutionary War of Independence that we celebrate this weekend.
In short, we had a vision of becoming a family of states governed by democratic and religious principles – a new national concept on the world scene that had never quite been seen before.
And in the years since the Revolutionary War, we have set out to carry that message of freedom around the world – to help other peoples achieve it wherever tyranny and oppression are still found.
Those principles have continued to guide us, even through our major ‘family feud’ called the civil war that would guarantee freedom for the slaves that still had none.
And the principles of freedom are still hard to agree on as we still have ‘family feuds’ of sorts over the legal issues of today: abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is hard to keep a ‘family’ together as different states pass different laws and the federal government tries to achieve some common overlay for the common good.
This ‘family’ vision we have undertaken as the United States of America was hard to achieve and even harder to keep going. The European Union is now trying to do the same thing – and finding it hard to carry out a vision of a unified Europe (with their struggles to arrive at a constitution).
Around 6,000 years ago, God had a vision too. He had a vision of semi self-governing churches that would carry on the struggle for independence from the domination, tyranny, and oppression of sin and to proclaim the freedom that Christ has won on the cross – “the year of the Lord’s favor”.
“17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."” (Lu 4:17-19 NivUS)
And this is where we have been going in our messages in Ephesians so far – the proclamation of God’s vision for us, what it means, how we can keep it alive, how we can live it, and what its end result is to be. This is where we are this morning – its end result in making us united in his vision as the ‘family of God’.
God’s Vision for Us – intentional, purposeful, eternal, foreordained, abundant blessings
Keeping God’s Vision Alive in Our Hearts – the power of prayer to enlighten our hearts and to persevere in his blessings
Living God’s Vision – by grace alone
Coming Together in God’s Vision – his family/temple/church
Ephesians 2:11-22 (Transline)
That formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, the ones being called “the uncircumcised” by the one being called “the circumcised” (one done-by- human-hands in the flesh) – that you were at that time without Christ
Having been excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise
Having no hope, and without-God in the world
But now in Christ Jesus you, the ones formerly being far-away, were made near by the blood of Christ
For He Himself is our peace – the One having made both one, and having broken-down the dividing-wall of partition, the hostility
In His flesh having abolished the Law of commandments in decrees, in order that
He might create the two in Himself into one new man, making peace
And He might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility by it
And having come, He announced-as-good-news
Peace to you, the ones far-away, and peace to the ones near
Because through Him we both have the access in one Spirit to the Father
So then, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow- citizens with the saints, and family-members of God
Having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets – Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone
In Whom the whole building being fitted-together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord
In Whom also you are being built-together into a dwelling- place of God in the Spirit
“11 ¶ But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways 12 had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. 13 Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything. 14 ¶ The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. 15 He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody. 16 Christ brought us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. 17 Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. 18 He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. 19 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. 20 He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone 21 that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, 22 all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.” (Eph 2:11-22 Message)
A. Remember what life is like since Christ came: reconciliation and peace
1. We were far off and separated from God
a. We were barricaded from God: were Gentiles and uncircumcised
b. We were without Christ
c. We were aliens from God’s people (Israel)
d. We were strangers from God’s covenant and promises
e. We were without hope and without God
2. Christ brings us near to God
3. Christ brings us peace
a. He made all men one
b. He broke down all barriers
c. He wiped out all rules
d. He creates a “new man”
4. Christ brings us reconciliation
a. By the cross
b. By the preaching of peace
5. Christ brings us access to God
B. Remember who you are: six pictures of the church
1. Picture 1: a new nation
2. Picture 2: God’s family
3. Picture 3: God’s building
4. Picture 4: a growing organism
5. Picture 5: a world-wide temple – the universal church
6. Picture 6: a local temple – the local church
“Family” is an important thing --- (you don’t have to do it alone)
Family – pick up garbage
Home Alone is a dangerous concept
The “family thing” in the Bible (Noah, Heb. 11:7) (genealogies [Jesus]) (Abraham)
Family vs. ‘slave woman’ in Gal. 4:21-31
Angie: bar family – ‘friends’ leave
Radical concept of family in the church, being unrelated except by faith and Spirit
God’s family reconnects all that has been fractured by sin
The family in Lk. 18:1-8
The family in the rapture – 1Thes. 4:13-18
ILLUS.: Billy Graham Center CENTERLINE, “Post-Prison Ministry: Ways Christians are Helping”
ILLUS.: Chicago Tribune, June 22, 2005, section 1, page 13, “Boy, 11, survives 4 days lost in Utah wilderness”
Family in the picture at the rear of the sanctuary
Family with Jesus (Heb. 2:11)
Family – prayer list
Wednesday’s Child – adoption
Community-wide marriage guidelines for churches – Marriage Savers
The family in Rom. 8:31-39
ILLUS.: Zion’s Fire, “History’s 4 Most Important Questions”, vol. 16, no. 3.
(history’s 4 most important questions – what family is all about)
1. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
It is not a question of opposition against you – there may be plenty of that. But, it will never prosper. And of this you can be certain – God is for you.
2. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”
It is not a question of whether or not charges are leveled against the child of God. Indeed they are – sometimes by men – constantly by Satan, the accuser of our brethren (Rev. 12:10). But charges, however numerous, however strongly argued, cannot succeed, for God alone is the Sovereign of the universe.
3. “Who is he that condemns?”
It is not a question of whether some try but whether they can succeed.
4. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
It is not a question of whether the child of God may well face trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword. But even though life may be hard, obstacles may be large, suffering may be acute, there may be no let-up – the problems of this life do not abrogate/do not nullify/do not cancel out/do not even modify or mitigate the eternal promises of God for the life to come.
So as part of God’s family, we are enabled to live in an imperfect world, rejoice in our position of justification, grow in our process of sanctification, and hope in the process of glorification.
No one and no thing – not in heaven and not on earth – not in time and not in eternity – can threaten the security of those whom God loves in Christ.
Would you like to become a part of that kind of family?
I believe that Billy Graham would ask you that question, even as he experiences nearing the end of his life, because he knows what family is all about.
ILLUS.: Chicago Tribune, June 22, 2005, section 1, page 14, “Billy Graham: I’m ready to see God”