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Life is Great | Place of Grace Fellowship

Life is Great

April 3, 2022

Today is the fifth sermon in our series on Ephesians Chapters 1 & 2. We are examining our identity as followers of Christ. What does it mean? How do we act? This week, we will frame Paul’s letter to the Ephesians a bit differently. Previously we talked about how we have been blessed with the grace and peace of Christ and anointed with the Holy Spirit. We are the Children of God sealed by the Holy Spirit. God has inducted us into the Kingdom of God, and he has good works for us to do. In reading Paul, he gives us a bleak assessment of a life without Christ. Because of Paul’s bleakness, we can miss how awesome Paul thinks our new life is with Christ.

 

Our reading is: Ephesians 2:14-22 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, ||that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. 

 

Before we begin, I have a question for you. You have two choices. Choice one: are you a sinner? Choice two: are you a son or daughter of God? Pick only one. The answer we pick is important. On the one hand, if we choose son and daughter of God, then our life is awesome. It is awesome because it is big and eternal and blessed. When God looks at us, God sees a son or daughter. We have been born again in Christ and are no longer that sinner we were before we accepted Christ. On the other hand, if we still see ourselves as sinners, then life can feel small.  We are holding on for the day when Christ will save us. We are much less likely to change the world and to invite others to follow Christ. 

 

As sons and daughters of God, our glass is full, in fact overflowing. If we see ourselves as sinners, our glass is half empty. How we see ourselves matters. Paul says the Ephesians are no longer strangers or aliens. He wants them to see themselves as sons and daughters of God. 

 

In prayer and reading Ephesians this week, it struck me. Paul believes life is great. Lost in all his warnings and admonitions. Lost in his vivid descriptions of life before Christ is his belief in life with Christ. Life with Christ is spectacular. Life is great. We are citizens with the saints. We are members of the household of God. We are united into the dwelling place of God. These are awesome descriptions of our identity as Christians.

 

We read passages like this, “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.” We think that it is being done or that it will happen in the future. Paul believes it has already happened. However, for us the glass is not yet full. We have not arrived at a place where the peace of Christ is a reality. It is a reality in heaven at the seat of Christ, and it has happened here spiritually. We just can’t see what Christ created or brought into reality. 

 

Because of our inability to see what has happened in the spirit realm, we see the glass as half empty.  If we are optimists, we see the glass as half full. However, we see the glass, it is not full. 

 

I don’t think that is how Paul saw the glass. I think he was so kingdom focused and not here on earth focused that for him, the glass was full. Christ fills our glass to the brim. Because Christ fills our glass to the brim. Life is great.

 

Paul has no illusions about how difficult life can be, but difficulty doesn’t mean that life isn’t great. For Paul, life with Jesus Christ is always great.

 

It reminded me of fishing. Fishing is always great. I know, I’ve lost some of you already, because you don’t go fighting. For me, when I go fishing, it is usually in miserable weather. Rarely is a fishing trip comfortable. Steelhead fishing happens in the cold. When I go, I am standing in icy water on a very cold day, freezing. I need to shake my rod tip in the river to get the ice off. No matter how many layers of clothes I put on, it is still cold. If I am in the boat, it is still cold. Jan used to go with me on these trips and then one very productive, but cold day, she ended her Steelhead fishing days forever. I can’t blame her; I did take her fishing in a blizzard! My other trips are for saltwater fish. They are the opposite weather extreme. It is very hot and humid. The sun is very hot. I am covered in sun protective gear. All exposed skin has SPF 100 on it. I am standing on my feet for eight hours casting a fly rod. After the day, I am drained and exhausted. There is nothing comfortable about the day. Yet, life is great when I am fishing. I love being in nature, and the discomfort doesn’t matter to me.

 

Paul tells us that with Christ in our life, life can be great. With Christ as our Lord, the circumstances of our life cannot diminish our peace and joy. We feel happiness and we feel sadness, but the peace and joy we feel in Christ lifts us and supports us in the circumstances of our life, whether in moments of joy or sadness.

 

There are seasons in our lives that are sad and challenging, yet they can be life affirming too. Over the last months, I have shared life with friends that have lost loved ones. The grief they share, and the depth of their loss are truly heartbreaking. However, it also shows how deeply loved their dear one was. And it shows how great life was with their dear one in it. 

 

In our Scripture passage, Paul affirms how great a life we have in Christ, but he also warns us about forces that can take our peace and joy away. I want to focus on two – the forces of hostility and disunity. These forces diminish our great life in Christ, and we should guard against them in our individual lives and our collective life as Place of Grace Fellowship. 

 

Life is great destroyer one, hostility:  Tribes, cultures, people groups, clans and any other segmentation of humanity that led to hostility no longer exists in God’s kingdom. Paul warns against anything that would cause a follower of Christ to strike out against another believer. We cannot use our social status, denominational beliefs, politics, opinions or bad mood to hurt or exploit another believer. Our cultural differences are not relevant in the born-again life. In fact, in Paul’s Ephesus, life was great because people could accept the differences within the Ephesus church. Life is great because in Christ we find peace in ourselves and among each other. 

 

We lose peace if we harbor hostility. If we want the peace of Christ, we cannot let ourselves feel hostility towards others. Hostility comes in many forms. One writer I read suggested that we avoid any input that is negative. Negative input makes us feel bad. Feeling bad leads us to sharing our bad mood with others. It reduces our peace and as our peace declines, our hostility increases. A bad mood is a form of hostility. The writer went as far as to say that we should give up country music. After all, losing your wife/husband, having your boyfriend cheat on you, having you girlfriend walk out on you and then losing your house, your dog and your truck were not positive inputs. I happen to like country music, and it doesn’t bring me down or bring out any hostility in me. Personally, I needed to avoid cable news channels. I now read the Wall Street journal and let that be my news source. What creates hostility in your life? What disrupts your peace? 

 

Life is great destroyer two, loss of unity:  Christ’s death and resurrection unified humanity. Once Jesus rose from the dead, humanity became one people in God’s eyes. Anything that causes us to wreck our unity with others reduces the greatness of our life. Paul’s encouragement of very different Christian communities is amazing, especially in the first century. Paul doesn’t use the differences between believers to divide them. He never prescribes how each individual group should worship or what practices they should do. If a church follows Christ, is sealed by the Spirit, loves their neighbor, and lives a moral life committed to God, family and church, then they are good with Christ.

 

We sacrifice our unity over so many things. Our hills to die on are often numerous. If we sat down and prayed about it, I think we would have very few hills. Is our relationship or unity with others more important than our differences? How often have we defended a hill only to end the conflict and sit there in sadness wishing we had never started that part of the conversation. 

 

If we harbor the hills, we will defend the hills. The only way to avoid defending hills is to not have hills to defend. We need to bulldoze down the hills before we engage with someone. In our passage, Paul flattens hills that Jews and Gentiles would come close to dying on. Unity in Christ is more important. 

 

I have come to believe that Paul’s entire letter is written to encourage the Ephesians to protect their peace in Christ. As children of God, our lives are great. Paul believes we can live filled with the Spirit and filled with grace and peace. 

 

At Place of Grace Fellowship, we value being a welcoming community. Next week is the Easter Egg Hunt and Palm Sunday, followed by Easter. These are events where people visit our church. If we see life as great, we become inviting. We become a family people want to join. Our church aspires to increase our family and start a student ministry. The church has middle and high school students as part of its body. To serve these students, and hopefully their friends and other students in the neighborhood, we need to show them that life is great. How can it not be, if we follow Christ? 

 

When we celebrate communion, we celebrate our unity. There is only one body of Christ, and we are part of that body. Communion calls us to bear with each other in love. It asks us to be gentle and patient. Instead of guarding hills we guard the unity of the Spirit that holds us together in peace. Let us take a moment to prepare our hearts for communion.  Amen

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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