July 28-30, 2012
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Ephesians 2:19-22
1. Shut out.
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV1984) “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Relief from unpleasant things in life is longed for and appreciated. Think of some of those things where it is a joy to say, “No longer!” When your summer is hot, dry and rainless and you get that needed rain, “No longer are we in a drought or under a burn ban.” When you have attended a loved one who is lingering as cancer grows inside or has a breathing disease and the Lord takes them to heaven and you can say, “No longer any suffering, any pain.” When there is bad blood, hard feelings, in a family or friendship and the relationship is reconciled, “No longer the strain, the stress, the hurt.” God’s word for us today reminds us of some “No Longer” blessings that we have had as long as we have been believers in Jesus and will continue to have but that are easy to forget. So let’s approach these words of God with the prayer that He will lead us to appreciate and hold on to our “No Longer” blessings.
The first is that we are no longer shut out. Now there are times and places in life that you will find yourself on the outside looking in, shut out of some grouping you want to be a part of. Maybe it is a social circle of friends but you’re not welcome or invited. Maybe at school the other reindeer won’t let you play their reindeer games. Maybe there is a power clique at work. You’re shut out. If that has happened or is happening you know it’s not fun. It doesn’t feel good. It’s unpleasant. However there is a grouping you are not shut out from.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” Now I know it might be hard, but try to imagine being one of the people who first heard this word of God. You lived in Ephesus, a city filled with idol worship and immorality. You were most likely Gentile, that is not Jewish. But God called to you. Jesus called to you. Forgiveness of sins. Heaven as your home. You gather with the other worshipers and quickly you realize you are not like them. The Jewish believers grew up trying to serve God. They had lived their lives much more morally than you. They knew the Bible better. They dressed differently, ate different foods. Now they said you didn’t have to do those things but you just couldn’t shake this feeling that you didn’t belong. You were on the outside looking in. You were shut out. “No longer,” God had Paul tell them. No longer foreigners, outcasts, but legitimate members of the household of God. Why? That’s the “consequently” part. Because they were saved by grace through faith in Jesus. It wasn’t by their works or ways of living. It wasn’t for the Jews. It wasn’t for the Gentiles. Jesus had made them one.
This is true for you and me too. Whatever your background, whether you grew up in a church going family, are new to the faith, had it, left it and are back again, you are not shut out of God’s family. You belong because of Jesus. Do we daily appreciate this that we are no longer shut out of God’s family? We need to because not everyone has this blessing. Those who reject Jesus as Savior, who choose themselves, their own way, a fake god, they are shut out. They are the ones Jesus describes as weeping and gnashing their teeth because their home is hell. But by God’s grace you and I are not. Do we appreciate this? Or is it more important to fit in at work even though it compromises living for Jesus? Is it more important to us to be part of a social group or friendship circle than members of the family of God? If so no longer!
Because our no longer blessings continue. By God’s grace we are no longer foundationless. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” The picture is of a building, God’s house. It’s made of people. The foundation is the Scriptures, what God had the apostles and prophets write down, all centering on Jesus Christ. It is a firm foundation. It cannot be shaken. What a blessing. Recently I was at a get together at a lake. There was a raft. Some teens were playing “King of the Raft.” I decided to join them. They tried, did I say, tried, to knock me off of it. It wasn’t easy, though. That raft was not a firm foundation. Up. Down. Rocking. Not so the foundation of our faith. Rock solid. For the Ephesian Christians, they used to be foundationless. Did you listen to the priests of Diana or Zeus or Apollo? Did you follow your own way? Did your hard life lead you to be godless? No longer. They had the Bible. They knew absolute right and wrong. They knew Jesus as the sure way to heaven. They had a foundation. No longer were they foundationless.
We aren’t either. Our world isn’t really all that different from theirs. Ours offers all kinds of fake gods and various forms of godlessness. Our has plenty of hard times and unfairness, evil and hurt. But through it all we have the firm foundation of God’s Word to rely on. When the unforeseen tragedy strikes, when you get the news that has you reeling if not fainting you have the foundation. “I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. I will work all things for your good. I will command my angels to attend you.” When right is called wrong and wrong is called right and you are under attack so hard you might question God’s ways you have the firm foundation of God’s Word to go back to. Some recent examples. One of our young teens in a nice way was defending another on Facebook who had stated that same sex marriage and homosexual activities are sinful. He was barraged, threatened, himself his family. This is our world folks. You heard about the owner of Chick Fila restaurants who publicly acknowledged his beliefs on God’s rights and wrongs and mayors want his restaurants out of town. If we want to stay faithful to Jesus when the going gets rough we need a firm foundation and we have it.
And the no longer blessings continue. No longer alone. “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” The Ephesian Christians, we too, are never alone because God is always with us. Sometimes though it’s nice to have people you can see to support you and encourage you and help you. God knows that and He provides that. In Jesus the whole building is joined together. You too are built together. For the hard difficult times the Ephesians would face through trial and temptation, for the tests to remain faithful they would have the Holy Spirit and each other, the fellowship of their church. No longer would they be alone. That’s a blessing some of us have enjoyed for as much of our life as we can remember and some are still getting used to it. What a blessing to be able to gather together regularly. You get bombarded with all kinds of garbage all week long but then we get together. We are not alone. We know the same truth. We believe the same truth. We can support and encourage each other. Don’t hesitate to do that when the opportunity arises to be the ear to listen, the shoulder to cry on. Don’t hesitate to reach out when you feel alone because you are not and never will be. God says so.
Because of God’s great mercy you have and will continue to have no longer blessings. No longer shut out, no longer foundationless, no longer alone. Hold on to them brothers and sisters. Appreciate these spiritual blessings over physical ones. For the time is coming when today’s no longer becomes God forever, the joys of heaven. Amen.