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From Separation to Security

November 23, 2014 Pastor: Don Green Series: Ephesians

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 2:12-13

49-022

Well, the thoughts of salvation, the Lord's mercy and grace to us are never very far from our thoughts as we gather together as Truth Community Church and for a true Christian, I think that's true. I mean, it's hard to go through a day or very many hours without just being cognizant of the fact that Christ has saved us from our sins. This is part of the new birth that God gives us a new mind and we think on these things that we find in the Gospel, we find in the reality of salvation, that which most rejoices our heart. And some of us when we were converted, experienced a great life change at the time. We were pursuing a life of sin that was evident to all around us and then the Lord saved us and our life changed and we loved his word and there was an external change that was visible to others as well as the internal change that we recognized in our hearts and the vibrancy of turning from a life of sin to devotion to Christ was a cause of rejoicing because of the before and after difference that that brought to us and we're grateful for that. At the same time, we recognize that for some, the change was not that dramatic from an external view. Perhaps you were converted at an early age to Christ or you were raised in a Christian home and you didn't have the opportunity to develop a life pattern of sin that you would cast aside when you were converted. God just quietly worked in your life and through the influence of a godly environment, brought you from death to life with externals that were different than what some of the rest of us experienced.

Now, I'm going to address that little condition because I know that for some, with that in mind, from an external, earthly perspective, the testimony isn't that dramatic or that doesn't seem to be that exciting to talk about. I realize that for some of you to talk about the change of conversion is almost frustrating because you feel like you don't have any great story to tell and you don't have a big difference to describe that's going to light people up and have people leaning forward in their seats to hear what comes next in your story. You were simply quietly converted in a way that the world wouldn't take notice of. Wherever you fall on that spectrum and whether your conversion was dramatic or whether it was quiet, today's passage is going to be richly encouraging for you and it's the common theme that underlies conversion that we want to see today and for those of you who think you don't have a dramatic testimony, you're going to see things from a different perspective that is going to be very healthy for your spiritual life today.

Ephesians 2:11 is the start of our passage and I'm delighted today to be able to preach my favorite passage in all of the Bible. Ephesians 2:11-13. For those of you who perhaps are visiting, I say that about every passage that I preach, that's why people were laughing. You're not missing a joke there. It's just that every passage is precious from God's word and your favorite passage is the one that is in front of you at that moment. Ephesians 2:11 says,

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands - 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded 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 formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

So, beloved, let's think about conversion today. Let's think about, as Christians, let's think about our testimonies. For those of you who have not yet truly repented and truly put your faith in Christ, let's see your life as well. But I'm primarily speaking to truly born-again Christians here today. This should be a sweet time for you in what we're about to see from God's word. There is a sense in which every conversion, every time God works in someone's life, there is a sense in which every story is different because every life is different. We've come to hear the Gospel in different ways. We've led different lives and the people who come and the sources that God used to bring his word to bear upon our conscience were all different. However millions of people there are that are true Christians, there are an equal number of different stories about the reality of conversion that we would all talk about in different ways in one sense, in terms of how it affected our lives and how it came to us in our lives.

But that's not what we're talking about today. We hear those kinds of testimonies in the waters of baptism and we are grateful for that but here's what you need to see today, this is what our focus is for this morning: in a very profound and biblical sense, every conversion is exactly the same. It is identical in that a sinner dead in sin and lost in transgressions, the Holy Spirit comes and brings a work of God to bear on their hearts that moves them from death into life. We need to understand that aspect of conversion biblically so that we think about our conversions in a transcendent way. Let me just say this and I say this to encourage you not to correct you, okay? Very important for you to understand the spirit in which I am speaking here this morning: if you've ever thought that your conversion was not that interesting or that it wasn't that dramatic or that it was somehow lesser than somebody else's who had a more dramatic external change, I want you to understand something and I say it to you gently, you're thinking about your salvation from a human perspective only. You're thinking about it almost from a self-centered perspective in terms of what it meant in your life here and now. We need to think about conversion differently because the Scriptures talk about it differently. The Scriptures talk about it from a God perspective, from a broad, eternal perspective and when you tap into the reality of the biblical testimony of what it means to be born again, to be regenerated, to be saved, when you tap into that, you realize that you're talking about the most magnificent thing that exists in the world today regardless of how it affected you. We need to start with how God sees our conversion, how the Bible defines our conversion and then only secondarily think about how it affected our lives.

If you think about your conversion from that perspective, the sense that, "Well, there wasn't that much dramatic about my testimony, about my conversion," you'll immediately see that that's the wrong way to think. If you are a born again Christian, you have the most dramatic story to tell throughout the ages of all eternity because something supernatural happened to you. You underwent a spiritual resurrection whether it happened to you at a young age at your mother's knee or whether it happened later in life, those external earthly circumstances are secondary to a great understanding and appreciation of what God does in conversion. For those of you without dramatic testimonies, God's work in your salvation was every bit the miracle that his work was in the thief on the cross. There is no distinction in that God moved a dead sinner from death to life and that's what we need to see and that's how we need to think about our conversions. Heaven forbid, heaven for bid that God would find us thinking about our salvation in a way that says, "Eh, it really wasn't that much." If we're thinking it really wasn't that much, we're obviously missing something. Today's passage will help correct us and move us in the direction so that we properly rejoice, give thanks and sing for what God has done.

What Paul has done here in this passage, we're going to focus on verses 12 and 13. Last week, we discussed verse 11. If you weren't here, if you've missed that message, I'm presupposing what I said last week. You need to get that CD and kind of treat these as a tandem together. But what Paul is doing in this passage in verses 11 through 13, is he is drawing a contrast between what it was like for his readers when they were unsaved Gentiles now that God has worked and brought them to faith in Christ. They are people who have undergone a spiritual resurrection.

Look up in chapter 2:1 just to kind of give us a running start into the passage. Paul says in chapter 2, verse 1, "You were dead in your trespasses and sins," and he goes on and says in verse 4, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us," verse 5, "made us alive together with Christ," verse 6, "and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." And so, if you're a Christian today, you are on the receiving end of a spiritual resurrection. Something has happened to you that only God could do. This is not about a moral reformation that you gave up smoking or that you stopped drinking on your own because you saw that the life consequences of that were not healthy. That has nothing to do with Christian salvation, really. We're talking about a spiritual transformation, a spiritual work that only God can do and so immediately when we start to understand the context of what Paul is talking about, we realize that we have entered into a spiritual realm that transcends the earthly and we rejoice in it, we are in awe of it because there is something great that God has done. If you're a Christian today, make no mistake about it, God has done something great and supernatural in your life that you could not have done on your own and that anyone you tell your testimony to could not make happen in their own lives as well. You have a testimony, you have something to declare that is beyond the the capacity of human achievement and when you start there, you start to think differently about your salvation.

What Paul is doing in the passage here that we're going to look at this morning, is he's making a contrast between the spiritual separation that marked the past of his readers with the spiritual security that they now enjoy. We're seeing a contrast: before and after, then and now, that and this. There is a contrast that is going on here and it's a contrast that is true for every Christian. To be a Christian means that you have been born again. There is a contrast, before and after, whether the before is just a sliver that externally doesn't look like it amounted to all that much, or whether the before was a long life of sin and you're only recently into the joy of Christ, the fundamentals are the same. That's what we need to understand. So we're going to contrast the spiritual separation that marks an unbeliever with the spiritual security that we now enjoy in Christ. That's the hinge of our passage and the hinge of your notes if you're taking notes today.

Let's look, first of all, at the reality of spiritual separation that Paul describes. Spiritual separation in verse 12. Here in verse 12, he is describing their spiritual past so that he can set up a contrast to show how conversion had changed them. The idea of the contrast, the before and after, is what you really need to see here this morning. So look at verse 12 with me again, Paul says, "remember," think on this, keep this in mind, here is something important for you to meditate on and to think through the consequences of, remember this, "remember that you were at that time," when you were unconverted, "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Now, beloved, notice this, there are just some things when you're interpreting the Bible and trying to understand it that are just so simple and are right there on the surface that you can easily see and get you oriented so that you have a sense that as a born again Christian, "I can read God's word and understand it." Well, this is one of those passages. Here in verse 12, I want you to look at the indications of past time that Paul is using here. Notice that he says in verse 12, actually going up into verse 11 and joining it together. Paul says, "remember that formerly you," there's an adverb, past time, "formerly," remember the past, remember how formerly you used to be, remember what it was like back then, remember that, Paul says. And he goes on in verse 12 and you see another past time indication right at the beginning of verse 12, "you were at that time," you were, past tense. This is what it used to be like for you back then, formerly, you were at that time.

So he's clearly looking back on their past in order to talk about it and what he's saying is, he says, "you were this way at that time." You know, there is the idea of this ongoing action, this ongoing state that existed back when you were not a Christian. He's saying, "This was the ongoing reality of your spiritual state. This is what it was like. This was your condition. I want to remind you from that which you have been saved from," and what was that state? What was that condition? Well, here in verse 12, he gives 5 descriptions of that Gentile condition of what it was like for them and we're just going to go through these rather quickly. We kind of talked about it all last week. I stole my own thunder last week, but still, we're going to see it from a little bit different perspective here. Notice that he gives 5 different aspects, 5 different descriptions of what it meant to be an unbelieving Gentile back then and this is the same state that all of us found ourselves in when we were born into this world. We were all born into a state of sin. David said, "In sin my mother conceived me." So you were born into a state of isolation from God right from the very start. This is true of all of us.

Paul is applying it directly to his readers and so he says in verse 12, let me just walk through this and then we'll go, I just want you to see the 5 things and then we'll go through them one by one. He says: remember that you were at that time, 1. Separate from Christ. 2. Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. 3. Strangers to the covenants of promise. 4. Having no hope. 5. Without God in the world. Those things just fall out. Those clauses just fall out so easily as you read through and just take the time to see it and so these 5 descriptions of the Gentile condition, we're just going to walk through them. And here's part of the issue, here's part of the reason why maybe sometimes we fall into a state of not appreciating our salvation as much as we should because we say, "You know, I don't have a very exciting story to tell." Part of the reason that we fall into that mistaken trap, the reason that you think that way is that you really haven't thought through sufficiently from a biblical perspective what your former state was like. You haven't grasped the weight of that, the weight of what it means to be separated from God. For those of you who are not Christians here today, the black darkness of the situation that you find yourself in, even if you're living in the midst of a bit of earthly comfort and prosperity right now. Don't let the externals fool you, that's the thing. Whether you're a Christian now or whether you're not a Christian, don't let the external circumstances trick you into thinking, lulling you into a false sense of interpretation or false sense of security about your state. Scripture says, James says that you are like a vapor that passes away and as you're thinking through what it meant for you to be a non-Christian, here you were a black, dissipating vapor and God saved you. Would you really diminish that and say, "Oh, it really wasn't that much"? No, not when you're thinking about it properly and that's what this passage helps us to do.

Paul says, "You are to remember this. You are commanded biblically to remember what your pre-salvation state was like." This is a command from God that we are to respond to. He says, "This is what you're to remember." Well, let's go through them one by one. First of all, "remember that you were without Christ," speaking to Gentiles. And what he's saying here, he's saying more than the fact that they were not Christians. He's saying that but he's saying that there's something more to your former state than simply the fact that you were not a Christian, that you were not born again but now you are. That would be a legitimate point to make but that's not the specific focus of what he's saying here. Christ is the word for Messiah and he's talking to Gentiles and what he's saying is that, "When you were an unsaved Gentile, in that state, in that condition, you had no promise from God that there was a Messiah coming for you." The Jews had that promise. Moses told them in Deuteronomy 18, "The Lord will raise up a prophet for you like me," and the prophets that followed after Moses were all pointing to a Deliverer who would come. In Micah 5, there will be one born in Bethlehem. Isaiah 53 speaks of a suffering servant. The Old Testament spoke to the nation of Israel and said, "There is a Messiah coming." Isaiah 40, "Prepare the way of the Lord. There is a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord." And so as a Jew, as an Israelite, you could go to the Old Testament Scriptures and say, "God has made all of these promises to our race. There is a Messiah coming for us. We can look forward to that." As a Gentile, nothing. God didn't make those promises of a coming Messiah to the Gentiles. It wasn't directed to them. They were, as we said last week, they were on the outside looking in.

So Paul says, "You had no expectation, you had no reason to believe that a deliverer would come for you. You were lost and you were isolated." So as we said last time in the first 3 verses of this chapter, he's emphasizing, "You were dead in sin. You were captive to hostile, evil powers: the world, the flesh, your own desires. You were subject to the wrath of God." Here he's expanding on that and he says, "If you look back and think rightly through what your spiritual condition was when you were unsaved, not only were you Ephesians 2:1-3, you were there without a promise that someone would come to deliver you. You were on your own and you were captive and you were utterly helpless to do anything about it. You had no promise from God that someone would come for you. You had no promise from God that you could approach him and say, 'What about this promise that you're going to come and help us?'" The Jews could do that, Gentiles could not. There was no promise made to them that was direct and pertinent and so they were without Christ in the sense that they were without the hope that a Messiah would come for them.

There was nowhere to turn. They were lost. They were isolated. It would be like being stranded on an overturned boat in choppy seas and you've got no radio to call for help. The storm is raging about, the clouds have descended and it's dark. There are no lights. There are no flares to shoot up for help. You're just tossed about, alone with nowhere to turn, with no expectation that help was on the way. Without Christ. For those of you who are not Christians here today, that's where you're at. Don't presume on the Gospel. Don't presume on the fact that you're associated with Christians in this room. You are separated. You are on your own before a holy God. That's a bad place to be. That's where the Gentiles were. They were without Christ.

Secondly he says, look back at verse 12, he says, "you were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel." He's kind of building on what he just said and that helps you understand that he's talking about the expectation of the Messiah, not simply that they weren't born again in that prior clause. He's contrasting the Gentile position with the Jewish position. The Jews had a promised Messiah. Israel had its commonwealth, had its nation, but as a Gentile, you were not part of that. Gentiles did not possess the rights and privileges of being a Jew and there in Jerusalem in the first century, the reality, the very construction, the very nature of the first century temple, reinforced this point dramatically and we have these stones that preserve this. They have found these and they are in museums now with what I'm about to describe. The Jewish temple had an open area that was called the Court of the Gentiles which was separated by a wall from the temple proper where the worship actually took place. Outside were the Gentiles, inside were the Jews. The very temple construction reinforced this separation of the races. Inside was where the worship happen, outside was the Court of the Gentiles. And on the wall that separated the Jewish place from the Gentile place, on the wall, at the entrance before you could go in, was inscribed in stone this warning and this is what archaeologists have recovered here. Josephus talks about it also in his writings. Placed in the walls were stones that had this inscription, translated into English it reads like this: "No man of another nation is to enter within the barrier and enclosure around the temple. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows."

Now, imagine you're a Gentile and you see this and there is this wall of separation, this place where worship is taking place beyond the wall that says you are not welcome. You are excluded. You are not to be here. That was symbolic of the spiritual reality that they faced. The men of Israel could enter into the temple area for worship but Gentiles were alienated from the people of promise. Maybe if they converted and became a Jew, but as a Gentile, you were left out and you were told, "Do not enter here. You do not belong. Step foot across this line and you will die." That was the Gentile position. Paul says, "You need to remember this. You were separate from Christ, you had no Messiah promised to you and you were separated by a wall both literally and figuratively. You were separated by a wall from the people who actually had those promises. You had no part in them."

So you start to feel kind of lonely. You start to feel kind of isolated and separated and alienated. Paul says, "remember what that was like." But he's not done. He goes on there in verse 12 and he says, "you were strangers to the covenants of promise." We looked at these last time but as you go through the Old Testament, you can see what he's talking about. God made promises to Abraham, to David, through the prophet Jeremiah. The Abrahamic, David and the new covenants, made all of these rich wonderful promises to the Jews. He says, "Abraham, I'm going to make your name great. I'm going to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. Through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed. I'm going to multiply your descendents." In David, the promises to David in 2 Samuel 7, "David, I'm going to establish your kingdom forever. You will never lack for a man to sit on your throne, you blessed Jew." It's not a matter of being fortunate or being lucky, it's a matter that they are on the receiving ends of the guaranteed promises of a good and sovereign God and this belonged to them. And in Jeremiah 31, God promised, "I'm going to forgive your sins. I'm going to give you a new heart. O Israel, I have untold blessing in store for you."

So you could read the Old Testament as a Jew and say, "Look at the promises that God made, the covenants that God instituted to be a blessing to our race. Through Abraham, through David, this new covenant. This all belongs to us as a race." And we saw last time that Paul in the book of Romans reaffirms that that one of the privileges of being a Jew is to participate in these promises. What Paul is saying is, he's not talking about it from a Jewish perspective here, he's saying, "Look at it from a Gentile perspective," he said, "You were strangers to that. You had no participation in that. You had no privilege. You had no right of expectation. You didn't belong to that. Those promises weren't made to you. God didn't enter into covenant with the Gentiles. He did with the Jews." Paul says, "Remember that."

They, as Gentiles, could no more expect blessing in that condition than you could if you went to an attorney's office for the reading of the will of a rich stranger who had just passed away. You could step into the office and listen to the reading of it but there's nothing there for you. You have no claim on this man's estate. He didn't know you. He didn't promise you anything and so when he is deceased and you go in, there is no reason whatsoever for you to think that your name is going to be included in the reading of his will, that he gave something to you. You were a stranger. Strangers don't do things, generally speaking, for other strangers. We just don't know. I'm not going to do something for somebody in South Dakota. I don't know anyone in South Dakota.

So here you were, no promise of a Messiah, excluded from the people of Israel. You know, they say, "Cross this line, you're going to die." Maybe you pick up, you picture somebody picking up and reading an Old Testament as a Gentile and saying, "It's all for them, it's not for me." And it just creates this thirst on your tongue that says, "There's nothing for me here." Israel, God said, would be blessed and forgiven. Gentiles, no such promises to be found in the Old Testament. They were on the outside looking in. Their nose was pressed up against the glass saying, "Man, it looks fun in there. It looks good in their. I can't get in. No ticket."

You see, as we talk about this, as we talk about it, I feel it as I'm speaking, there should be a sense coming upon you as well as we remember this, there should be the sense of the weight of that. This is really bad. This is desperate. You're in a box and you can't get out of it. There is no escape from it. Paul says, "Remember what that was like. Remember the reality of that position." And notice this in terms of the way that we framed the opening, the introduction of the message here today, this has nothing to do with the kind of sin that marked their life or did not mark their life. That has nothing to do with it. It's all about position. Positionally they were separate. They had no grounds upon which to approach God. And so quite apart from what their Gentile lives were like, the spiritual reality was the door was slammed shut and locked and they had no key and you just start to feel the desperation of it, the awfulness of that separation and say, "This is bad," and that's the point.

Paul goes on to say, verse 12, "having no hope." Having no hope. If God has made no promise to you, you have no reason to expect that good will come. What will come, while you may have certain things in the present world, what's coming at the end of it is death and at best from your perspective, I'm not talking about the reality of it, but from your perspective, what all that you can expect is death and then a dark unknown future. If they knew the reality of it, the judgment lie on the other side of the river of death, you'd see even more how desperate it was. But what Paul is saying,, "There you were as a Gentile, you had no reason to think that anything good would come out of this life for you," because you can see all around, just like we do today, people live for a while and then they die and they leave whatever they accomplished behind and they step alone into a world that who knows what happens apart from revelation. So Paul is saying, "There you were as an unsaved Gentile. You had this messed up world for a short time and that was as good as it was going to get." There was no reason to think that anything better lay ahead for you and you step into the certainty of death and the uncertainty of what lies beyond and the reality of it was that as Gentiles, as unsaved people could only know separation from God in hell.

Paul is presupposing that people are actually thinking about their spiritual condition as he says this and so he kind of summarizes it all up there at the end of verse 12 and says, "you were without God in the world." It's not the sense that they were literal, philosophical atheists but they did not know the real God. They were on their own, bankrupt, isolated, no strength, no wisdom, no reconciliation and their bleak condition had no prospect of improvement, from their own abilities, from their own knowledge, from anything that they could generate on their own.

Now, think with me as we apply this to today. Beloved, that's exactly where you and I were before we were Christians. That's just the reality of being born a sinner and alienated from God and Jesus says, "You must be born again." Without that saving work of God, that's your realm, that's to which you belonged and so even if you were a good kid before you became a Christian, you were isolated and separated from Christ. Being a good kid wasn't a trajectory that takes you to heaven, that takes you into the promises of God. It's not by works. It's not by anything that you could have done. So even at your best, what was true of the first century Gentiles in verse 12 was true of you too. You had no basis upon which you could demand a coming Messiah. You weren't a partner to the promises that God made. You had no inherent right to the promises he made in the Old or the New Testaments. You were without God. In that state, you had no hope and here's what you've got to think, here's what you've got to remember if you think you have a testimony that's not all that exciting because you were a pretty good person beforehand anyway: your morality was utterly irrelevant to your lost estate. The reality, the spiritual reality was that you were alone and lost and isolated with nowhere to turn.

Beloved, hear me on this because it's true of all of us regardless of whether your testimony is "exciting or boring." The outward nature of our lives as unsaved Gentiles, the outward nature, the outward attendant circumstances were only window dressing on a shared, fundamental reality of hopelessness that unless God did a work in our lives, we were horribly, miserably lost whether we were a young moral kid or we were a drunk and a drug addict. It's just window dressing and so when you're thinking about your conversion, when you're thinking about the work of God in your life, beloved, don't start thinking about what I used to be like during my earthly life. Think about it on a more transcendent level, "I shared in this fundamental reality of hopelessness that I had no merit of my own to get myself out of it. I had no power of my own to get myself out of it. I was just lost." And if you start your thinking with how the Bible defines the reality of being a non-Christian, it's going to go a long way to deal with that false sense that there is nothing that interesting about my conversion. Are you kidding me?

There's everything interesting about your conversion. That's what Paul goes into now with our second point here. We've talked about spiritual separation, verse 12, here in verse 13, now we get to the good stuff. Now we get to the reality of it all here as we stand now in Christ, point number 2, now we look at spiritual security. There was spiritual separation in our past, now as Christians, we share in the spiritual security that he talks about in verse 13. Paul is now going to give the other side of the contrast. Look at verse 13, he says, "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." That's my favorite passage in all the Bible. This is the reality of it and notice the contrast. I just want you to see the contrast. We're just making some superficial observations right now about it. Verse 11, "formerly." Verse 12, "you were at that time like this." Verse 13, "but now." But now. Emphatic in the original language, "But now!" Now it's different. It's like the contrast in verse 4, go up to verse 4. Paul talked about being dead in sin and dominated by the devil, doomed to suffer the wrath of God but in verse 4 he says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ." You were dead but God has made you alive in Christ. Great contrast at the start. Understand, he's making a similar point now here in verse 13. You were separated, hopeless but now, contrast. Now it's different and as a Christian, you read that and if you're a Christian, your heart should leap at what verse 13 says. "I was like that. I was dead but now everything has changed! Praise be to God! It's all different now!"

Notice the contrast: you were but now, formerly, verse 13, formerly you were far off, brought near. The change, the difference could not be more dramatic and the best one of all, the best one of all, again, I just want you to see the contrasts here. Look at verse 12, you were separate from Christ, verse 13, now in Christ Jesus. You didn't belong to him back then. You weren't a recipient of the promise but now, you're in him. You are united to Christ. You belong to him. His spirit indwells you. You are united with him in a spiritual reality, a spiritual union that can never be broken. You are in Christ. This is all different. There could not be a more black and white distinction described. You were separate from Christ, now you are in Christ. The past was like that, the present is like this. Now you are brought near in Christ.

Look at it in verse 13, "now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off," what I just said in verse 12, that's what it means to be far off, now what is it like? You who are Christians, you who are chosen, the beloved of God, what's it like for you now? "Now you have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Notice, there is just so much here. What brought you near was not what you did. What brought you near was blood shed by a Lamb before you even knew that you needed it, especially now 2,000 years later. I mean, some of these readers may have been alive and certainly were alive at the time that Christ died. You know, they didn't know that they needed him then but it occurred during their lifetime. For us, don't miss this, don't miss the Pikes Peak of the magnificence of this. For us as Christians today, 21st  century, for us, God made provision for that separation that we were born into, Christ made the provision 2,000 years before we were even born.

So great is the grace of God, so perfect is his omniscience, so great is his plan, so absolutely unwaveringly committed was he that you would one day be in his family that 2,000 years before you were born, what was necessary to address your separation was spilled at the foot of the cross. The blood of Christ was spilled for you back then. That is what brought you near. The redemptive work of Christ paid the price for your salvation so that you would not eternally remain in that separated condition of Ephesians 2:12, the whole point was that God intended to bring you to draw you near, to reach beyond the wall of the temple, figuratively speaking, to reach into the Court of the Gentiles by the power of his loving omnipotent arm and say, "I will bring you in myself."

This isn't the first time that Paul has referred to the blood of Christ in this epistle. Go back to Ephesians 1:7 which helps us understand, it sets a broader context for what he says here in verse 13, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us." Here in verse 13 of chapter 2, he says, "You have been brought near by the blood of Christ." The blood of Christ. The Incarnate God in fulfillment of his Father's plan, out of a sense of love and mercy toward sinners like you and like me, he, as it were, offered up his veins and arteries and said, "Let the blood flow that these might be brought from far away and brought near to me." That is lavished grace. That is unspeakable love. That is wondrous mercy poured out on us. And what makes it click in your mind, what turns on the switch of affection for Christ in your heart is when you realize where he brought you from. Separate. Without hope. No claim on the promises. Dead in trespasses and sins. Under the domination of the devil. By nature a child of wrath. Loving sin and pursuing it. Blind. Deaf. Mute. Unresponsive.

In this great magnificent passage of Ephesians 2, Paul has walked us through by the power of the Holy Spirit under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God has made it known to us all that we were saved from and we were so hopelessly, helplessly lost and Paul says, "Remember that so that when the power of the Gospel is brought to you through the word of God, so that when you remember your present condition, so that when you remember that an unobligated God motivated not by what he saw in you but what came out his own loving, gracious, merciful character, that a loving, gracious God, reached beyond the chasm which you could never have bridged on your own and said, 'I will bring you near and I will even do it at the price of my own blood.'" Paul says, "You remember that." Paul says and it is in the imperative, Paul says, "I command you to remember this. Don't ever forget what your prior state was like so that you will be filled with gratitude and joy at what your present condition is in Christ." One writer said, quote, "They have come near to God and to the Jews by means of Christ's sacrificial death. Sin separates people from God and only Christ's atonement can remove that sin barrier."

So, having remembered our horrible state of isolation, alienation and estrangement from God, realizing that there was nothing that we could have done about it, now what happens when you think about that as a Christian and you say, "How is it that I'm no longer there? How is it that that no longer marks my spiritual condition? How is it that I'm no longer hopeless?" And the whole point of that is to clear out the ground, to clear everything away, to pull away all of the rocks and roots so that there is nothing in your heart but fertile ground, fertile soil, that has been plowed and is ready to receive with gratitude a reminder that Christ Jesus came to save sinners like you and that Christ Jesus spilled his blood so that he might bring you close to God. He might take you from that state of hopelessness to his blessed kingdom of hope. That he might deliver you from sin and bring you into his kingdom, his church, to belong to him, to dwell in him and he in you by the Holy Spirit. And when you see that, when you see the cross just elevate in your esteem, when you see the wonder of the shed blood of Christ, that Lamb sacrificed for sinners, John the Baptist said, John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Behold it. See it lifted up higher and higher and higher." And you say, "In that I have been delivered. In that is the sufficiency of my salvation. In that is the perfect answer to the unsolvable question of what am I going to do about my miserable spiritual state." And Paul puts all of the past hopelessness in the past. He says, "It's no longer like that for those of you that are in Christ. You have been brought near," and you as a Christian say, "Oh," you say it irreverently, "Oh, thank God." The cross prepared for reconciliation before you knew that you needed it. The glory of what this passage says is that Christ is the Savior of the world, not only of Jews.

So how should you think about your conversion? This applies to all of us: in your thinking, regardless of how you speak about it, in your thinking, start your thinking about your conversion not with your earthly life, start with that condition of separation, alienation and sin and realize how bleak and hopeless it was and that that is that from which you have been delivered. You see, it's that condition of hopelessness, that condition of sin and separation, that condition of guilt and condemnation, it's that condition that you really needed to be delivered from. You didn't need to be delivered from a bad habit. "Oh, I don't want to smoke anymore. I think I'll become a Christian." That's not it. It's not being delivered from bad habits. It's about being delivered from the ultimate and spiritual alienation that leads only to an abyss of hell and judgment. That's where you start your thinking.

One of the things that that does, I was thinking about this as I was preparing, is when you think about your conversion from that perspective, there is a sense in which it moves you out of the center of the story. It's no longer about what your life and how this all changed you. It connects your testimony to the greater eternal realities that are in play that Jews and Gentiles alike are born into sin and separated from God and you think about it from that greater perspective, not how it affected you, this is about how God sees it and God sees a mass of humanity separated and alienated from him and you're just a part of that. We're not the center of the universe here.

Start with the biblical view of conversion, what it says about sinners in general. "Oh, what an awful state of alienation and I was part of that. Incidentally, you know, this is how it manifested itself in my life. But don't miss the bigger point because it's not about me. I was separated from God and I had no basis upon which to approach him but somewhere along the way, some faithful parent, sibling, a book, some pastor, spoke to me the words of the Gospel and said that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners just like me and that Christ spilled his blood as a sacrifice to satisfy the righteous wrath of God that was against me and I who once was separated and alienated from God am now brought near. I belong to him. God did a work before I was born and during my life. He did a work at the cross. He did a work in my conversion. God is such a great worker. He's such a powerful worker and he did that work in my life to deliver me from that state to this state of eternal blessedness. Before this world was as good as it got. For me now, this world is as bad as it will ever be because what's ahead is glory." That's the change that matters.

The externals, beloved, differ from one person to another. Don't get caught up in what externals God assigned to you. If you were born into a Christian home and you were saved at an early age, by all means thank God the most for that because there was the lesser amount of time for sin to drive it's scars into your soul and just thank God that he spared you from all of that without diminishing the fact that you were still separated and needed a miraculous deliverance yourself. And if you're like me and you came to Christ later in life and, you know, sometimes the memories of your past life can just flash and you say, "Oh, I was like that, wasn't I?" You all the more, still the same, "Oh, but thank God he delivered me from the state that produced that conduct and now has brought me near by the blood of Christ."

Beloved, we were all just lonely, black specks floating in a hostile universe when we were unconverted. Now God owns us as his chosen, adopted, redeemed, blood-bought children. He's done more than deliver us from separation, he has gone so far as to bring us into his very family. Brothers of Christ. We have a brother in heaven who is interceding for us right now. That, that is the greatness of conversion and may we never minimize it by the superficial externals of what mark our lives and ever view it biblically. View it from God's perspective and when we see it from that perspective, there is only one thing that we can do. There is only one appropriate thing that we can respond. When we remember, when we obey Scripture and remember what the reality of our former state was like and we remember also alongside of that what our present condition in Christ is, the price for redemption paid in full and we are now secure in Christ where no one, nothing, no one can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, from not belonging to belonging, from alienated to home in Christ, there is only one thing we can do: rejoice, give thanks and sing.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, help us to think rightly and biblically about what it means to be a Christian. Thank you. O God, in this week of Thanksgiving, thank you that we're no longer separate, that we're no longer excluded, that we're no longer strangers, that we're no longer without hope, that we're no longer without God, but that in every aspect of our need, the Lord Jesus Christ who interceded for us on our behalf, at your initiative not ours, now we are in Christ. Now we are included with the people of God. Now all of the promises of your blessing belong to us. Now we have a hope that extends into the Holy of Holies and into the all of the future ages of eternity. Now we have God in the world. O God, thank you for the one instrument that made that possible, the precious shed blood of our perfect Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Lord, all we can say is we marvel at your goodness, we are grateful for your kindness, we love you for your mercy. May that mark, that gratitude, that recognition, mark our lives from this day forward and forever more. We pray in Christ's name. Amen.

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