“Therefore remember . . . ” That’s how my reading in Ephesians (2:11-22) began this morning. I took it as a command to obey. Sometimes you need to recall where you were in order to appreciate anew where you are. Sometimes it makes sense to look back at what was, so that you might reflect afresh on what is. Sometimes it’s worth recalling the reality of the alienation of the past life so that you might wonder again, and worship again, because of the reconciliation we can take so for granted in the present life. Sometimes it’s good to remember how far off you were, so that you might thank God that now you are near.
And so, I remember. Like the Ephesians, I was a “Gentile in the flesh.” Separated from Christ. Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger to the covenants of promise. And so, I too was someone “having no hope and without God in the world.” Sum it up in two words, and I was “far off.”
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 ESV)
How easy it is for me to take “near” for granted. For the past three-and-a-half decades I have, for the most part, lived “near.” Because of a new nature, light has been preferred over darkness. By God’s grace, abiding as been the norm rather than the exception. But once, I’m told to remember, I was far off.
At one time, I was hostile toward God. At best, I thought if I left Him alone, He’d leave me alone, and then we could work out something in the end. At worst, His name was on my lips in a manner that now causes me to cringe in remorse and shame . . . maybe that’s why I don’t like to remember. While I’d like to think I lived in ambivalence, I reflect and concede that I lived in hostility.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV)
He Himself is our peace. The blood having brought us near, the cross having dealt with, once for all, the hostility. Therefore remember . . .
And so I pause. For, if not for the grace of God, where might I be today? If not for the offering of the Son of Man as the Lamb of God for the sin of the world, how wide would the chasm be? If not for the empty tomb, how bleak would the prospect of eternity be? If not for the gentle wooing of a Savior Shepherd who made His voice known that I might hear and believe, how lost would I be? If not for the life-giving power of the Spirit who dwells within me, how dead would I be?
And so I give thanks. For, though I once was far off, this morning I am near.
Near by the grace God . . . Near for the glory of God.