Amphitheater at Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey.
Sometimes I think we lose sight of what the Church actually is and what the purpose of the Church is. I also think that we have a tendency to think that our secular political systems can bring about the Christian objectives that we aim for in the Church. To ignore the reality that we live in a secular world that is being controlled by, as the Apostle Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”, is to ignore the spiritual reality.
What we too often try to do is change the reality of our external earthly world to the ideal of our internal Christian values without reaching the people who follow the ways of the world, with the Gospel of Christ. That’s kind of like trying to convince a wolf that they don’t want to eat the sheep in the flock we wish to protect. The only way that is going to happen is if the wolf is reborn as a sheep, which as I’m sure you recall, is why Jesus said it was absolutely necessary for us to be reborn again (John 3:7).
In Ephesians 2:12 NIV Paul reminds the Christians at Ephesus that “ remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
Non-believers in Jesus do not hope in Jesus or view Him as God in the world. They are literally “without God”. We can’t expect them to value Christian values if they don’t value Christ or His commandments.
When we become Christians, we are as Paul indicates in Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Notice the words “In Him”. Remember how Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing (John 15:5)? That’s the Church we’re talking about. What we continually try to do is convince the general populace that doesn’t believe in Jesus or God, that the principles we value should be honored and followed, without a rebirth taking place.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we should abandon the political rights we have to vote for legislation and politicians that adhere to Christian values, but playing the game or stacking the deck so to speak, so that the probability of implementation of our desired values is more likely, is not going to change the basic secular beliefs of the general populace until such time that the Christian values become the basic beliefs of the general populace. And that won’t happen unless we reach more of the general secular populace with the Gospel of Christ. Change doesn’t happen externally of Christ, it happens internally because of Christ. Big difference.
In Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV Paul tells us: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
How often do we hear that we are a divided nation as of late? Is it a truthful statement? I think it is. The values of the general secular populace differ from the Christian values of the Church, the body of Christ. And when desperation starts to set in and we as the Church begin to abandon our Christian values of honesty, humility, unselfishness and compassion, so as to sustain a hope of maintaining what’s left of our Christian values, what does that say?
It says that the realization of the expected results of a majority secular belief system and the values of a minority spiritual faith system as in Christianity, are setting in and in desperation some within the Church end up justifying the secular means utilized to hopefully accomplish or maintain the spiritual end goals we wish to hold on to or change. Do you really think that’s going to fly?
And in this desperation process, are we abandoning mercy, compassion, justice, fairness, forgiveness, hope, rendering assistance or honesty to others? Are we not becoming more like the Pharisees who spoke the word but ignored the essence of the Law and the Prophets?
In Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV Paul tells us: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Do we seek these gifts, do we use these gifts? Are we being built up and working towards unity in the faith and becoming more mature or have we decided to use our own logic and means to achieve our “righteous” goals?
And then there is Ephesians 4:15 NIV where Paul says: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
I don’t know about you but I don’t see too much of that happening today. We have our political agenda, our legislative agenda, but what ever happened to Christ’s agenda?
Maybe if we got our goals centered on Christ, within our Church, with our families, with our friends, our neighbors and strangers within our land, the tide would change. But that would mean in too many cases, that we would need to change.
And finally, in Ephesians 4:16-20 NIV Paul tells us: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned.“
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!