This week we kick off a new part of our RE: sermon series, RE:orient. Pastor Dave Dawson shares from Ephesians 2:12-22 as we look for the answer for: "Who are we"?
Hey, Pastor Jason, Adam Phillips, our new West Pasco campus pastor, and I, have started a podcast called Deeper Dive.
And in Deeper Dive, we, it's kind of what it sounds like – we go deeper into some aspect of the message of the week. It could be a theology thing, a history thing, a practical thing, but the idea is to go deeper into it and not just regurgitate the message. And I'll admit when we first started it. You know, I wasn't nervous at all because I didn't think anybody's listening, that we're just talking these microphones.
Well, come to find out…yeah, a good number of you guys are listening! So now I do kind of feel kind of nervous. I also feel totally Ben Shapiro knowing that we're kind of doing our podcast thing here. So anyway, if you haven't listened to it, just, we encourage you to go to the website and click on Deeper Dive.
So, on this week's Deeper Dive, the concept that we went into was Identity. Identity. Who we are. Because identity is a big deal. You know, it runs, in the Bible from Revelation, or Genesis all the way to Revelation. The Lord really wants us to know who we are.
So, to know who you are, to know who we are, is one of the keys to successful living. It enables us to make good decisions. When we don't know who we are, when we're really struggling with our identity, it can make life very difficult.
So, I'll give you a couple of examples. I've probably told enough stories that everybody knows that I was in South America for quite a long time. So, we were down there for over a dozen years. And then when we came back, I really struggled for probably two years.
I had no idea how much my own identity was wrapped up in being a cross-cultural minister, a missionary. And I wasn't that anymore. I'll give you another example, alright? I'll kind of lift the veil on some young people here in the Tri-Cities.
We have a good number of second-, third-, fourth-generation, Hispanic Americans, Mexican Americans, Guatemalan Americans, whatever, here in the Tri-Cities. I have heard from a number of them, from these young people, they struggle with their identity. What did they say? What you'll hear them say is, “I'm not brown enough for my parents and I'm not white enough for my friends.”
So this is, you know, this can go down deep into us. By the way, I think I would add, that right now, our country is going through an identity crisis. And it's almost like we're asking ourselves, “Man, are we good? Are we bad? And by the way, how do you act in a country that is going, that is so chaotic at this present time?”
So, let's let the word speak to us. We're starting a new series today called Re:Orient. And the first message in there comes out of the second chapter of Ephesians and it's reorienting who we are. Okay, so, may the Lord bless us as we go into this discovering who we are in Christ.
Okay. Here we go. This is the Ephesians 2:19-22. Those are the three verses that we’ll zero in on. And here's what it says. Paul says, “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 (that is, in Christ) 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.”
Okay. So here's our first point. Who are we? Well, in this first verse, in verse 19, it tells us. So here's our first point. We are no longer strangers, but citizens.
So sometimes it's good to remember what we were before we met Christ, right? And to see how far we've come, you know? It's good to look back and realize, wow, I have really come a long way. So the author, Paul, reminds the Ephesians of what they were before they met Christ.
If we bump up a little bit up to verse 12, it says this, he says, “Ephesians, remember, that at that time, before you got saved 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.” So, the fact is, this is just where most people in the world are.
They are cut off from God. They don't know His covenants and His agreements and His Word. They are without hope. And they are without God in the world. The fact is we were all like that at one time, you know, the Bible says we were, we just read it. We were aliens and strangers. So, an alien is somebody who lives in a country that is not his or her own country.
They don't necessarily have all the legal rights that a citizen has. That was us. But then something happened. Something good happened. We, the outsiders became insiders. Those of us without hope, we became hope full. Those of us who had no status, we were strangers, we were aliens. Now we become citizens. So what happened?
Alright, well let’s bounce back up in this chapter. Verse 13 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” So we were far away, and we've been brought near. Real near. How did that happen? It happened by the blood of Jesus Christ. It was by that blood, by paying that price, that you and I were brought into a legal relationship with God and made citizens in His kingdom.
So as citizens, we have certain rights and legal status. We belong. And then of course, that also means that because we have those rights, we also have responsibilities – which by the way, in the rest of the book of Ephesians we find out what many of those responsibilities are.
Okay. Citizenship. Citizenship is great! But it is not everything.
So Paul goes on, and here's what he says, right? Let's remind ourselves of verse 19. I'll read it again. It says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people.” Here we go. “And also members of His household.” All right. So we've just seen that we are now full-fledged citizens of God's kingdom.
That means we have a legal status that we need to live out. Once again, we have responsibilities. But Paul isn't content just to stop there, just to stop with us being citizens, he's going to step it up. He's going to take us a little deeper and show us who we are. He's going to build on our legal citizenship.
So, let's pause here for a second. All right? As Americans, as United States citizens, we are held together by a common Constitution. We hold some certain core values. Hey, we pledge allegiance to the flag and we follow certain laws that have been established. You know that really is an awesome thing. Those few things have resulted in us having the most prosperous country that has ever been on the face of this earth.
So it's pretty cool to be a citizen of this country. But we desire more than a legal relationship. We desire more than just to be citizens. I mean, as wonderful as it is to be a citizen, it's not the same as being family. We don't want to just be connected to something external. Once again, as glorious as it is, we are built for family. We're built for intimacy. We're built for relationships.
So Paul, the author, once again, brings us into this whole new reality. We aren’t just citizens. He says we are family with God. We are His children. We are members of His household. Here's a great verse. It comes out of 1st John, chapter three. It says this, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”
All right. So here's our second point. Not only are we no longer strangers and citizens, but we are no longer orphans in the world, but children of God. You know, if you happen to be, and some of you probably were, were aliens that came to this country and then you became a citizen, you know, man, that alone would be something awesome. Right? It's like you, you have these rights. I mean, that alone is a wonderful thing.
So if God Himself, through Jesus, were to simply have changed our legal status and made us citizens of God's kingdom, that would be a wonderful thing. It would be, I mean, that alone, God says, “Look, I'm going to change your legal status. You are now legally bound for heaven. You're not legally bound to what was your eternal destination before.” Which is a place that the New Testament calls hell. That alone would be phenomenal. But that's not where God stops. God is not interested in simply having people who are legal in His kingdom. Once again, as wonderful as that is. He wants children.
Hey, remember the prodigal son. So the prodigal son leaves his dad, leaves his family, leaves the family farm, takes the money, and goes out. We all know the story, right? He squandered it on just, you know, partying – loses all his money, loses all his friends.
You know, he's out feeding the pigs…not a great thing for a Jewish young person to do. While there he says to himself, “What am I doing? I'm going to go back home to my dad. I'm going to say, ‘Dad, look. Take me back as a hired hand. I just want to come back into a legal relationship with you and the farm.’”
So he does. He comes back. The father sees him from afar, you know, picks up his robe and runs to his son. And his son says, “Dad, take me back. I just want to be…just treat me like an employee. Just. I want to have somewhere to live, somewhere to stay. I want to be safe.”
And his dad says, “No. Go out. And we're going to kill the calf. We're going to have a party.” He puts a ring on his finger and robes around him. Why? That dad was telling that prodigal son, “I'm not interested in just changing your legal status. I want my son back. I want you in my family.” And that is who we are. We are citizens. We have rights in God's kingdom. But we're family.
“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 (that is, in Christ) 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.”
You know what that means? That means we have a Father. That means that we can actually go and talk to our Father. Verse 18 (Ephesians 2) says this “For through Him” (that is, through Jesus) “we both” (that is, Jew and Gentile) “have access to the Father by one Spirit.” You know, any child, any child who has a decent father, knows that they can go running up to their dad anytime at home, almost regardless of the situation, and the father will receive them.
So, you and I have the same thing. We have access. That means we can boldly go into the presence of our Father. We can talk with Him. We can pour out our heart to Him. When can we do that? Anytime we want. In fact, here's the family relationship. We enter the presence of the Father by the work of Jesus.
So, you know, when we pray, we pray something, then they go, “in the name of Jesus.” That is part of what this is. We come to the Father, not because we're so awesome. Not because we're a great son, or a great daughter. We are able to come to the Father, to boldly speak with Him, because of what Jesus has done.
You might think, and you might say to me, “Yeah, I know that. But man, I feel so weak. Man, I just feel like I can't. I'm ashamed…” and all that sort of thing. Well, guess what else we have? The Spirit Himself – it says it is by the Spirit. That means the Spirit comes alongside us, encourages us, teaches us, and enables us to go through Jesus, to the Father.
You see how all this works? So, in that sense, we have a Father. We have Jesus as a Brother. And we have the Spirit who comes alongside us. That is who we are.
Okay, so we can sum up what we have said, like this. You've got an outline that we're working through, but here are some “P’s”, here are some “P’s” we can follow as an outline. We have a “Place” which is God’s Kingdom. We have a “Place” that we are legally part of as citizens. That's the first “P”. Second of all, we are a “People” and we belong to a people.
So we are a “People” who have a “Place” to go to. Now, we're going to go to this third “P”. We discover that, not only do we have a Place that we belong to, not only are we part of a family, the “People” of God, but we have a “Purpose”. We have a purpose on this planet. Let's take a look at that.
Last two verses 21 and 22: “In him,” (that is, in Jesus) “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 place in which God lives by His Spirit.” All right. So, let's get into this third thing of who we are about the “Purpose”. Let me do it this way.
Some of you that are watching this, you're just starting out. Right? Maybe you're 20 years old, 24 years old. You're just kind of just getting rolling. In fact, all your possessions, you could probably put in a backpack. You can put them in a lean-to. So you go out into the world, you do some things and you start accumulating some more possessions. Then, hey, maybe you can't fit all your positions in that lean-to. You get to put them in, like, shall we say a shack?
You could put them in a shack. Time goes on, and pretty soon, you know, if you're like the rest of us, you've got so many possessions, you almost fill up your garage. You need to go out and rent a space to put your possessions in, which is kind of ridiculous. Right? Well, if we think of our lives like that, think of our lives like a building. You know, we start off and then we build up and we're like a lean-to. Our lives are like a lean-to, we've done something with our lives.
We do better. And we become like a small, nice looking shack. You know, we've got a job and maybe we get married. It’s like, hey, we got some things going on. And then finally, you know, we turn into a nice, shiny stand-alone building. You're like, eh, that was great. So there is nothing wrong with that. We're meant to build. We're meant to make something of our lives. We're meant to progress, to get better.
But I'm not sure we were meant to be a stand-alone building, as shiny and as awesome is that is. For those of us, who are members of God's household. For those of us, who are citizens in His kingdom. We also have a “Purpose”.
Here's our third point. We'll put it like this. This might be a little bit lame, but let's see if it works. Here's the third point. We are no longer a stand-alone building, but a temple under construction. So, the entire building of all Christians together is becoming this holy temple. Jesus Himself is called the Cornerstone.
Like the foundation stone. Everything is built on Him. Everything is measured from Him. Everything comes together because of Him. So, if we are supposed to be this holy temple, H-O-L-Y. A holy temple, all of us together, us Christians, all together. God is forming a holy temple out of us. Like how on earth can that happen?
Like, you look around at your fellow Christians, and look in the mirror, and you're like, “You gotta be kidding. We're becoming this holy temple, like who could bring about something that good?” And by the way, who can even bring people together? Who has the power to bring people with different political viewpoints together? Who has the power to bring together people who may not even speak the same language? Who has the power to bring together people who have different backgrounds and cultures? You know, the Jewish person and the Gentile were so far apart. And yet, through the blood of Jesus, through what He did on the cross, He is the one who brought them together. He is the one who can bring people of all different persuasions together. And He is the one who can help us to do something good together. I think He's the only One who could do it.
What has he done for us? All of us together in this holy temple? Well, we've seen part of it. Jesus gives us all access to the same Father, all Christians. Jesus brought hostility to a halt – you can look that up in verse 14 – but the hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile, Jesus paid for. Jesus obliterated the wall that there was between them.
But here's the deal. It says this building is rising up. That means this building. That is you and I together, all of us together, this holy temple that's coming together – this living temple – is under construction. You have a part to play. I have a part to play. But we need to recognize who we are. We are not stand-alone buildings – awesome as that is. No, in one sense, we are a holy temple that Jesus Christ is building. He is bringing us. He is joining us together. He is moving us toward this good that He wants us to accomplish.
You know a temple in the Old Testament, we all know was a big deal. It was like the center of community life. The temple was where the people of God went. You know, Isaiah prophesies this in Isaiah 66, he talks about the temple here. Here's what it says. It says, “And they will bring all Your people from all the nations to My Holy mountain in Jerusalem, as an offering to the Lord.” This looks forward to a time when people from all nations will stream to this temple, to this Holy mountain in Jerusalem.
But here's what the Lord is teaching us right now in Ephesians. That temple, that draws people from all walks of life, that temple where the presence of God is, that temple is now you and me. It's us. The presence of God is us. We are the temple. That’s mind-blowing.
So as the dwelling place of God, we're supposed to seek God's rule. He is the One who's the King over this temple. We live by His rules. Let's give a little bit of a summary here, and then I'm going to introduce some tough news. So here's what we've seen. Here's the summary part.
As citizens of heaven, then we have a King and we have a playbook that shows us how to live the King’s way. Jesus is our King. We live by His playbook. That is, we live by the Bible. However, we live on a planet that does not recognize our King, nor does it recognize our playbook. It does not live by our rules.
Number two, we've seen that we are family members of God's household. We are the children of God. We are a family. We have a blood connection to one another, and to God. That blood connection was Jesus Himself. However, we are a family on this earth that has an enemy that will do everything he can to come in and tear us apart. So we have to be aware of that.
Number three. We've just been looking at the fact that we are a holy temple under construction. That means we have a strong purpose to be a unique temple. It's a temple different than any other temple on this planet.
Here's the tough news. There is also a deceiver on this planet, the evil one, who will seek to pollute this temple. So as citizens, as family members, and as those who have a purpose of building a holy temple, showing the presence of God. We have an enemy who is seeking to come against every single one of these.
So, where do we start then? We know we've got this enemy who's trying to keep us from being who we are. What do we do? Well, here's one place where we start, we start with recognizing who we are. We don't get lost. We pull back. We recognize who we are, so that we can live well, and we can make good decisions.
You might say, “You know what? Okay, that's what I want to do. I totally want to do that. But man, I just feel like our country's coming apart. I just feel like things are so crazy right now. I can't believe it. Like I can't even think about these other things.” That situation reminds me of one of my first experiences.
And here we go, you guys knew I was going to give a Venezuela story. Something happened to me down in Venezuela. All right. So, I'd only been in Caracas, the city, for a short while, and I went into the city center, that little briefcase, right? I thought that was cool at the time. I don't think it was, but anyway I had a briefcase. Got on the subway, went into the center of the city, and came up.
Now this is in the middle of a city of 5 million people. There are thousands and thousands of people around. So, I get out of the subway, go up, came up out onto the Plaza. And as I came up, I heard, Boom! Boom! And all of a sudden, the place is…there's pandemonium!
Everybody in the street for miles is running. Old people are running. Young people are running. People are running like they're running from Godzilla. And I'm just standing around with my briefcase going, wow, okay. I have no idea why people are running. I'm just looking around. I'm thinking, like, I probably should run but I don't even know why. Then I looked, I saw in the distance that the police were way down there.
The police were firing these projectiles up into an apartment building. I was like, oh, okay – that's a long way away. And then, and then it happened. As I was standing there by myself and everybody else is leaving. Uh, it was tear gas. The first wave of tear gas hit me. Boom. At first, I didn't even know what it was.
I was like, “Oh my gosh, what's going on? My contacts are messing up!” No, it was tear gas. So, I'm standing by myself trying to figure out what to do. I saw a tree, so I went over, and crouched down behind the tree, (which by the way, that does absolutely no good. Don't do that.) If you ever get tear gassed. So, I mean, it was getting to me, I have no idea what to do in all this chaos.
Well, I saw a couple of street kids go down this little path. I'm like, okay, I'll follow the street kids. Maybe they know what's going on. They went down to the air conditioning system, the air flow system of the subway. So clean air from the subway was coming up to these grates. So, I follow the street kids over. Leaned over the grates and got this breath of this heavenly cool, awesome, pure air. So we all just stood around these grates and gathered my wits about me.
All right. Why did I tell you that story? Right now, this is what we feel like. It feels like things are chaotic – people running here and there, and going there and here. And we're like, wow, what is going on?
We need a place where we can go and breathe. Orient ourselves. Remember who we are. Not buy into the chaos. Not just run amuck. Not just follow these persons, or those persons. We need to pull back. We need some fresh air and we need to remember who we are. The more we reflect on who we are – not just looking inward, but looking at what God has done, is doing, and has made of us, the more His presence will live in us.
If we get caught up in the chaos, if we start running around and doing this and doing that, we will not set our minds on the things above. We will not remember who we are. And how can the presence of God manifest itself through us, if that's what we're like?
So, in this chaos, let's find that place where we can stop and breathe – and breathe in cool, draughts of air, collect our thoughts and move away from being disoriented to being oriented, to become re-oriented. All right, Citizens, Children, People with a purpose, Building a temple.
That is who we are. That is who you are. So Bethel, in these insane times, let's remember who we are and let's each of us remember who we are as individuals. I'm going to go ahead and pray.
Lord, I love this scripture. I thank You that Paul took pains to tell the people, teach the people, remind the people who they were.
Lord, I think we've moved away from that. We need to be reminded. We need to be reminded. We need to reflect on it. May we do that, Lord? Guide us. Make of us what You will. Thank You. In the name of Jesus, Amen. Lord bless you guys.