Finding Peace in A Hostile World

Sermon from Ephesians – Rooted in Christ series (Ephesians 2:14-18) – Sunday 2nd January, 2014

  • Ephesians 2:14-18 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

At first glimpse, one might find these verses confusing, but with a little bit of background knowledge we are able to understand what Paul was saying here. Before Christ entered the world, the Gentiles and Jews were hostile towards one another; there was a definite “wall of division” between them. The Gentiles for example, were excluded from entering the Holy Temple. Only the Jews were permitted to proceed beyond the five foot wall which separated the inner courts from the outer Temple area. In fact, “No Entry” signs were posted in three different languages to ensure that the Gentiles clearly understood the boundaries. Failure to comply would result in immediate death. It doesn’t get much more hostile than that.

Paul attempts to explain however, that Jesus’ death and resurrection changes everything, for those who believe. Through the cross, he says, Christ established a new covenant (in His blood), resulting in peace between sinners and God, and peace between Jews and Gentiles. For those of us who have repented and are now following God, we get to enjoy peace in Him. In addition, God’s peace in us, enables us to put aside our pride and work towards peace in our human relationships.

If you think about the many relational conflicts we often find ourselves engaged in, it’s easy to explain why the “other” person is always wrong. Differences in upbringing, color, age, gender, job position, religion, etc., all lend towards potential conflicts between spouses, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and on a larger scale, countries. Many attempt to solve conflicts by working on the problems causing the conflict, while others refuse to back down at all. But Paul says, in verse 14, that He, Himself is our peace; in other words peace must be found in a reconciled relationship with Christ, and Christ Himself will show us how live in peace with others.

I watched a great video sermon recently, by Andy Stanley. He spoke about taking responsibility in all areas of life. With regards to conflict between spouses, he used a pie chart to demonstrate a very good point.

Blue Pie Chart 10 - 90 percent

 

In his counseling sessions with spouses whose marriages were in trouble, Stanley said he would draw a circle on a whiteboard and then ask either the wife or the husband to mark an area (or percentage) of the circle which represented their part in the problems they were having. As you can guess, most indicated that their “piece of the pie” was smaller than that of their spouse’s.

Stanley would then ask the wife or husband to look for a moment at their piece of the pie, and to describe all the things that went on in that smaller piece. He said that very few spouses could do this; their tendency, he said, was to keep moving their focus from their piece of the pie, to their spouse’s piece of the pie. His point was that angry hearts can be softened, arguments can be resolved, and divorces may even be prevented – if we each resolve to take responsibility for our own piece of the pie. Pride, that stems from self-righteousness is sin, and Proverbs 8:13 says that God hates it.

The second part of the peace equation has to do with the “tearing of the veil.” Matthew 27:50-51 says that “…. Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” In the inner most court of the temple, the High Priest would have to pass through a long, woven curtain, that was purple, scarlet, and blue. This curtain, being 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 1 inch thick, was so heavy that it took three hundred priests to manipulate it! Yet, when Jesus let out his last breath, the curtain tore, by itself, from top to bottom.

What is so significant about the tearing of the temple curtain, is that we know it could only have been torn by God Himself. It was His way of showing us that there is no longer anything separating us from Him, that the veil has been removed and we are all (Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female……Galatians 3:21) now invited into His throne room. Jesus’ sacrifice has made that possible, and it can be beautifully summed up in the following verse:

  • Hebrews 19:19-22 “Therefore, brothers, since we have Confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”

God is inviting us all to walk into the inner most court room and draw near to Him, that we might find peace in Him, and peace in a hostile world.

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