Hello and welcome to Monday’s foundations podcast. My name is Liam; I’m part of the team here at STC and it’s a real honour to be able to share with you this week as we dig into God’s word and look to Jesus.
Last week, Alan did a brilliant job kicking us off on our journey through Ephesians – this amazing letter that Paul writes to the church there. There’s so much we could take from these incredible passages but simply each day this week, we’re going to focus on one verse and we’re going to be considering this word: hope.
The Bible defines hope as a confident expectation or assurance about what is yet to come, about what our future holds. We live in challenging times. We’re on the brink of a general election. There is much division and unrest in our nation, in our politics, and in our communities. And at such a time as this, it seems that now more than ever people need to know that there is hope. That there is one we can trust completely. That there is one who has secured for us an eternal future with Him. That this hope has a name and that his name is Jesus.
As a church, our vision this year is to invite others to join us and grow, to experience and to know this hope that only Jesus can bring. Hope – it’s our theme this Advent and Christmas season. So it seems timely for us this week as we look at these scriptures which beautifully reveal Jesus to us to ask: how does He bring us hope, and how can we share that with others?
Today’s passage is Ephesians 2: 11-16. Here’s our focus verse for today:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians is a letter written primarily to the Gentiles, the non Jews. In the Old Testament these were people groups who were outside of the covenant God had made with his people. Paul describes how these were a people who at one time were called the ‘uncircumcised’, were ‘separated’, were ‘alienated’, were considered as ‘strangers’, as outsiders to the people of God and the promises He made to them. Paul writes that these were a people ‘without hope’.
Does that sound familiar today?
The Ephesians here represent the entire non Jewish population of that time. In essence the vast majority of the world’s population who were at one time seemingly far off from God. And whilst that was true then, and the Christian faith has since grown rapidly and is indeed flourishing in certain parts of the world, we still of course know that there are many parts of the world, and for us personally many places, many people who whether it’s through their own choices or through circumstances appear ‘far off’ from God.
‘But now…’ Paul begins our focus verse we these two words and in doing so he reveals to us why we have hope in Jesus.
Something has fundamentally changed. The old way has passed, Paul is saying. And something new is here. And that something is Jesus coming to the world which we await again throughout Advent and celebrate this Christmas. That through Jesus, through God himself coming to live amongst us and through his subsequent death and resurrection, those who were ‘once far off have been brought near’. Those who were once outsiders now have access to Him through the ‘blood of Christ’, through what Jesus did and won for us on the cross.
Why do we have hope? Because the ‘far offs’ were us. That was a reality for us until we met Jesus. For me, it was on an Alpha course, 7 and a half years ago. How about you? Can you point to the time when you realised that you were no longer an outsider and that through Jesus, God loves you and he welcomes you in. Let’s take some time to reflect on that today and let’s give thanks.
But let’s also reflect, particularly in these challenging and seemingly uncertain times, that there are so many people who we know who appear ‘far off‘. The ones who say they don’t need God. The ones who think God couldn’t love them because of what they’ve done in the past. The ones who are always on the edge. The one’s no one seems to talk to. The ones who are lost, hurting, depressed, confused or disillusioned. Do we know and can we relate somehow to these people? We should because let’s face it – at times these have been and perhaps still can feel like us!
Today’s passage speaks though of hope. Hope because through Jesus what was once our reality is no longer our destiny. The good news is that God is creating for himself a new community, a new people who are being restored, being reconciled to their heavenly father. A place where the ‘far offs’ are being brought near to Him. His church – a people filled with hope.
And that’s the big invitation that we as church are called to extend to others around us in these difficult times. Jesus changes everything. God doesn’t want any more ‘far offs’. He wants to bring us all near so we can know and experience his amazing love. To know for certain that our destiny is held in his hands.
As we consider Him this week and ahead of Advent and Christmas, let’s ask the question who is He calling us to be with, to love and to invite and experience this unfailing hope that we have found in Him?
Jesus, thank you that you through you we can know God. That we can know that we are no longer outsiders, that we have been welcomed into your family and that brings us hope! Open our eyes God today to those who appear far off, without hope and show us how we can love them and point them to you – Jesus Christ, our living hope. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Ephesians 2:11-16
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands) – 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.