Who Am I? Seeing Your True Identity Through God’s Eyes ❧ Part 6
We do not need to look very far to recognize racism is rampant across our nation as well as around the world. History is chalked full of disturbing reminders of humanity’s racial arrogance, national superiority, and class elitism. Racism’s method is always the same – dehumanize, demoralize, and demonize. And racism’s goal is always the same – divide. We see it at work in the great national divisions of North Korea and South Korea, North Vietnam and South Vietnam, Ireland, Africa, and America. Recent gender confusion has only served to thrown gas on an already raging fire.
I recently read about a school bus driver in Australia some time ago carrying whites and aborigines. One day when they were far out in the country and tired of all squabbling, the driver pulled the bus to the side of the road. He looked at the white boys and asked them, “What color are you?” “White,” they responded. “No, you’re green. Anyone who rides my bus is green. Now, what color are you?” “Green” they answered. Then he went to the aborigines and said, “What color are you?” “Black” they responded. “No, you’re green. Anyone who rides my bus is green. What color are you?” They answered, “Green.” The situation seemed to be resolved until, several miles down the road, he heard a boy in the back of the bus announce, “All right, light green on this side, dark green on that side.” (R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians, p. 92).
What is the root cause of our divided world? Mankind is alienated from his Maker. The Bible tells us the cause of all our problems began when our first parents, Adam and Eve, chose to rebel against God. At the point of their revolt from God, sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12). Strife, enmity, racism, murder, jealousy, division spread like gangrene in every human relationship. We know intuitively the world is not as is should be. Attempts to restore unity and harmony in the world through cooperative efforts of kindness, good deeds, or social reform are myriad. The Bible tells us there is only one way to restore a right relationship of mankind with God and to reestablish harmony and peace in the world and that is through a personal relationship with God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13, NAS). Through the blood of Christ, the separation between God and man has been closed. Only in Christ can we be reconciled with God and reconciled with each other.
This morning we’re going to look at the sixth message in our series: Who Am I? Seeing Your True Identity Through God’s Eyes. Answering the question: Who Am I? Is the most foundational people have been asking for centuries. This one question, writes Michael Cooper Jr. in his book Identity Crisis, has been the center of philosophical, psychological, sociological, and theological discussions…At its root, it is bot anthropological, (what does it mean to be human) and existential (what does it mean to exist). Who am I? goes down to the very cory of the human experience and existence (p.3). The ultimate answer to knowing who you are, who made you, and why you’re here is not intellectual or political or social, but spiritual. It is knowing Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
Today, we’re going to look at a sixth truth of how God sees you: I am reconciled. Open with me to Ephesians 2:11-18. (Read, NAS). Paul divides his readers into two groups: their life before Christ (BC), that is without Christ, and their life with Christ now. He says life will never make sense or be fulfilling until we know Christ. First, Without Christ. . .
I. We are without answers. Before Christ our lives have no answers. This is what Paul is saying in 2:11-12. 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—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:11-12). Paul is saying in essence, without Christ we did not have any real understanding why we’re here or what it all means; we were without Christ, without answers.
When Paul penned these words the world’s leading belief systems of the Greeks, the Romans, had long passed their zenith leaving people feeling lost in an ocean of meaninglessness. Life was pointless and history was going nowhere as far as they were concerned. They had no real answers as to who they were or why they were here, or what is the meaning of life. Theognes in the 4th century
B.C wrote, I will try to have a good time while I am young, because I will lie under the earth for a long time – voiceless as a stone, and I shall leave the sunlight that I have loved… then I shall see no more. Have a good time, my soul, while young; soon others will take my place, and I shall be black earth in death. No mortal is happy under the sun. (William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians, p. 129). It was an age of suicide. Tacitus tells of a man who killed himself in indignation he’d been born (Hughes, p. 90).
Someone has observed our culture is more like that of the first century than any other. Christianity, the Bible, God have been marginalized. God of the Bible, Christianity, is merely one belief among a smorgasbord of beliefs. All beliefs are equal. No one is right. Truth is relevant.
Even though our nation was founded on God, it has largely forgotten, even rejected God the schools, the courtrooms, the hospitals – the very institutions founded by Christians! We’re seeing a parallel effect of what the world witnessed in Paul’s day. When you reject God, you reject the only solid answers to life. It’s not surprising suicide rates are skyrocketing today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says suicide is the leading cause of death in the US. Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state more than 30% since 1999 (cds.gov/vitalsings/ suicide/ index.html).
I. We are without God. Paul goes on to say we were not only separate from Christ, but we were strangers to the Bible’s promises having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). Over the last number of years there have been a growing number of people who say it is not rational or intellectual to believe in the God of the Bible. Science, after all, has shown the God of the Bible to be an archaic myth. Yet, the irony is the more science learns about our universe the more the evidence points to God. The Bible declares God created all things whether visible or invisible (Col. 1:16). His creative fingerprints are all over the universe. One of the most powerful pieces of evidence for this is what is known as the Anthropic Principle or the Fine-Tuning Argument. It says: the universe we live in, with all the galaxies and stars, had to be so precisely tuned in order for life to be possible. Physicists stumbled on this principle when they asked the question: “Why does the universe operate according to the laws it does?” There are a number of constants or universal rules that don’t change (speed of light, gravitational pull, the earth’s rotation, distance from the sun, axle tilt). All of these constants have to be in perfect simultaneous calibration in order to make life possible on earth.
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross maintains a growing list of 122 constants – “Anthropic Principles” that are set on a razor’s edge. Alter any one just ever so slightly and in most cases, we would cease to exist. Here are six: 1. If the universe expanded at a rate one millionth more slowly, the universe would not exist. 2. If Jupiter was not in its current orbit, its gravitational force could not protect us from comets that could destroy earth. 3. Earth’s rotation: if longer, temperature differences would be too great, if shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would be too great. 4. If the Earth’s 23-degree axle tilt was altered even slightly, temperatures would be too extreme for life. 5. Oxygen to nitrogen ratio in the atmosphere: if larger, life functions would proceed too quickly, if smaller, life functions would proceed too slowly. 6. Magnetic field: If stronger, electromagnetic storms would be too severe; if weaker, no protection from solar wind particles.
To help us wrap our minds around this a little better imagine if God is a kind of master technician setting behind a control panel of dials in front of Him. Each dial represents one of the constants needed to sustain life (Princeton astronomer Lee Smolin offers a similar argument). What if someone were to move one of the dials that sets the rate of the earth’s expansion while God was not looking, just for fun? What if they moved it, not 5% or even 2%, but an infinitesimal amount, say one part in a hundred thousand million, million? Life would cease to exist. The odds of us being here are – astronomical.
Social Darwinist Herbert Spencer wrote: “My own feeling respecting the ultimate mystery is such that I cannot even try to think of it without some feeling of terror so that I habitually shun the thought” (H. Lewis, Modern Rationalism, p. 390). The Bible says it is appointed for man once to die and once to be judged (Heb. 9:27). Man intuitively knows he is separated from God and trying to live as though God does not exist and the man does not have to give an account of his life to God. But the Bible tells us every human heart knows God is and that they will be held accountable to God (Rom. 1:19).
Without Christ we are without answers and without God. We really do not know who we are or why we’re here.
Paul now switches to the second group – those who who’ve found Christ. Because of Jesus Christ. . .1) We have peace with God and 2) we have peace with each other.
I. We have peace with God. To get to the heart of Paul’s thoughts here, we need to remember Paul is writing to Gentiles. In terms of racism, there is probably no sharper separation than Jew and Gentile. The Jews of Paul’s day believed the Gentiles were created to fuel the fires of Hell. God, they said, loves only Israel of all the nations He made. It was unlawful for a Jew to aid a Gentile woman giving birth, that would bring another heathen into the world. The Gentiles, on the other hand, saw the Jews as homicidal enemies of the human race (Barclay, pp.125, 132). The real reason for this sharp division was not cultural, social, or political. It was spiritual.
In their racial pride, the Jews forgot where the founding father of the Jews came from. Abraham was not Jew by birth, but an Iraqi! He came was an ancestor of godless people; just another sinner like you and me. But God, in His unsearchable grace, reached into Abraham’s life making him one of the greatest men in human history. The Jews forgot where they came from.
Hanging in our hallway is a picture my wife took of me some years ago looking at the mountains. She outlined the picture with a verse from Isaiah: Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn And to the quarry from which you were dug (Isa. 51:1). These words were originally written for Israel to reminder her never forget what made her a great nation. It was not Abraham; he was just another sinner. It was God. God told Abraham that through him God would bless the world (Gen. 12:3). The fulfillment of that blessing to the world is Jesus Christ. This is what Paul is saying when he says, But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).
No matter how far you are from God, Christ’s shed blood brings us near Him. let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:22-23). We can approach God with confidence. Pastor Mark Driscoll points out: Apart from Christ you are farther from God than you feared. In Christ you are nearer to God than you hoped (Driscoll, p. 90). There is no other way to come near God or be at peace with God then through Christ.
II. We have peace with each other. Through Christ we are reconciled to God, and we’re reconciled to one another. God’s way of settling the age-old argument of racism was to create one new race. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-16). As Christians, we are a new race related to one another through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. By your faith in Christ, you became a part of God’s family. You may still be Jew or Gentile, white, yellow, red, black, rich, poor, young, old, but that no longer defines who you are. Your primary identity doesn’t come from your cultural ancestry, but your spiritual ancestry; you’re now a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). This changes how we relate to one another as God’s children.
In Robert Lewis Stevenson’s story: Picturesque Notes of Edinburgh, he tells the story of two unmarried sisters who shared a single room. As people apt to do who live in close quarters, the sisters had a falling out, which Stevenson says was on some point of controversial divinity. In other words, they disagreed on some aspect of theology. The controversy was so bitter they never spoke again. There were no words, either kind or spiteful – just silence. It seems they both chose to stay in the small single room because they didn’t have the means to go anywhere else. Or because of the inherent Scottish fear of scandal, they continued to live together. A chalk-line was drawn across the floor to separate their two domains. For years they coexisted in hateful silence. Each woman’s
meals, baths, family visitors were exposed to the other’s unfriendly silence. At night each went to bed listening to the heavy breathing of her enemy. So, the two sisters continued the rest of their miserable lives (Hughes, p. 94).
It is questionable they were really followers of Christ. As true believers, we’re called to reconcile and forgive. Unforgiveness is a sign of not knowing God’s grace. It is reveals a lack of knowing who we are in Christ. Because we now belong to God’s family, God both commands us to reconcile and He gives us the power in Christ to do so. . .
Let’s take this to the heart of communion