THE GLORY OF GOD ON CAPE COD

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He Himself is Our Peace

by Myron Heckman on June 28, 2013
He Himself Is Our Peace
Myron Heckman, Pastor, Cape Cod Bible Alliance Church, Brewster, MA
 
When I was a teenager in a church youth group, one spring we had our annual youth banquet, and the theme was “For He himself is our peace.” I knew it was a Bible quote, and I assumed it meant that Jesus Christ is the giver of personal peace in our hearts. It was a great thought, and certainly true, but just not a good understanding of that declaration in its context. As I later learned how to exegete Scripture I was frustrated and disappointed that the context of that statement didn’t support my interpretation, try as I might to shoehorn it my preferred way.
  But I have since come to realize it is a great blessing as understood in its context (Ephesians 2:11-22). It is speaking of normally disparate groups, even groups normally hostile to one another, finding peace with one another in Jesus Christ.
  And as we pray for the glory of God to be manifested on Cape Cod, this is a key shining excellence of God to be on display in His Church here.
 
In the New Testament setting the main ethnic conflict was between Jews and Gentiles. They repulsed one another. And then those two groups came together in the church. They didn’t stop being Jews and Gentiles when they came to church, so how could they get along with one another?
 
The Apostle Paul addresses that question in the Letter to the Ephesians. In it he has concepts for us to know, believe, and hold onto with a strong grip. If we get this, we can help bring unity and peace to our churches to the glory of God.
 
Paul emphasized the Gentiles’ spiritual distance from God and His chosen people so they would appreciate the immensity of God’s grace. Eph 2:12
 Therefore remember…that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
John Newton, the slave trader who later wrote Amazing Grace, put it this way –
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a…nice guy like me"?
No, he wrote "that saved a wretch like me.” That is what made grace amazing. We do better in relationships when our pride has been demolished by a unblinking, sober look at our own heart. And so
 
  Vs 14 starts with the phrase we’re especially focusing on.
For He himself is our peace, who has made both one
  Both = Jew and Gentile
He has broken down the middle wall of separation, the dividing barrier of hostility having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandmentscontained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two,
It was the Law that was the dividing wall of enmity between the two groups. The Jews sought to keep the Law, and saw themselves as righteous.  That led to a disdain for the Gentiles, who in turn felt judged. One group, the Jews, saw themselves as inherently righteous – and the other group, the Gentiles, looked for any flaws and hypocrisy they could see in the Jews.
  One group was self-righteous, the other feeling condemned.  A law-based spirituality will always create divisions.
  Both groups needed to see that Jesus Christ is the only one who fulfilled the Law, and is the One whose righteousness covers them. Thus they are both brought into Christ – and if I am in Christ and you are in Christ, then we must be reconciled to one another. As Paul put it: Christ made one new man from the two.
  This is a key concept – that you see each one who has faith in Christ as one who like you is in Christ. If you are each reconciled to God in Christ, then you are positionally reconciled to each other. You will need to act in accord with that.
 
Two stories:
1)   A.B Simpson was a successful Presbyterian pastor in uptown Manhattan in the late 19th Century. He was also an inveterate evangelist, and every quarter a new group of 20 -30 people was presented to the session (governing elders) for membership, the majority by profession of faith rather than by transfer. Simpson also did street preaching in the “Italian Quarter” in lower Manhattan, and found a response among the new immigrants. He had a class of 100 prospective members to present to the session, which declined to receive the heavily-accented, rather shabbily dressed rag-tag group. After all, how would the church reach the well-to-do people of its surrounding neighborhood. To agree with the pastor would not be easy, and would change the character of the church.
  The session won the battle but lost its pastor, who in several months left his well-paid position on a faith venture to begin the New York City Gospel Tabernacle further down the island. It was born of a conviction the Christ makes two humanities into one.
 
2)   A few years ago I attended an adult Sunday School class with my brother and sister-in-law in the suburbs of a Midwestern city. A woman there told the story from decades earlier, when the church was well inside the city line. During those years African American were moving into the surrounding area, with the usual tensions of a changing neighborhood, with fears and resentments.  She invited an African-American female co-worker to attend the church. The black woman told her that people like her were not welcome at that church. The church member was taken back and confused by that reply, and went to her pastor to ask if it were true. The pastor said that under the previous pastor the congregation did have an unwritten rule that blacks were not welcome. That woman, then a young adult, did not realize that was the case. She and the pastor then set about to change the church culture to be welcoming to all, as befits the Gospel. As I heard that story it was a powerful moment in the Sunday School class, to hear how a church brought itself into line with Ephesians 2. The meeting of cultures is not a simple problem to overcome, or to be thought of as having a Pollyannaish solution. But the church is to be a leader in reconciliation and is to express the encompassing power of Jesus Christ.
 
There are wonderful benefits to this unity.
We become “a holy temple in the Lord” (v 21) and here is the marvelous blessing. – in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.(vs 22)
 
The most beautiful, desirable building is where God dwells. That is the people of God, the Church, those disparate in the flesh, living in harmony. What better place can we be in, what better place can we be a part of?
 
Psalm 133 tells the great benefit:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!...
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.
It’s encouraging to think of God commanding a blessing to our churches – “Send a blessing of life down to the churches on Cape Cod.” Yes, Lord, do it. And our part is to live in the knowledge and obedience that we are one new humanity in Christ.
Applications:
1)       Put aside any racism or prejudice – that is, any thought that your ethnic group or race is inherently superior to another, or that one ethnic group or race is inherently inferior to another. Warmly welcome in Christ any who are of different ethnic or racial backgrounds.
 
2)   See others in your church and in the Church as being in Jesus Christ.
  Consider yourself in one new humanity, not two or more. There may be someone you aren’t angry with, but you don’t have “chemistry,” and you avoid that one. Make a point to talk to that person, and to meet those who are different from you.
   You likely can easily call to mind someone with whom you are angry, or at least frustrated. Those are most challenging situations, and each one seems unique.  Draw a circle around yourself and apply Romans 12:18 to that one within the circle.  
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
 
3)   See our unity in Christ as expressing the glory of God.
  Revelation. 5:9
And they sang a new song (to Jesus the Lamb), saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation
You are part of a great congregation, that by its gathering into one from all the nations and tribes and languages of this earth, gives glory to God.
 
There is a story about three stonemasons who were working on a building. The first one, as he chiseled at a rock, was asked what he was doing. Somewhat bored, he answered: “I’m making a stone.” A second craftsman, doing the same thing was asked what he was doing. With an even voice he answered: “I’m building a wall.” A third man doing the same thing was asked the same question. He looked up and with a glint in his eye and energy in his voice he said: “I am building a cathedral.”
 
Let’s grasp the big picture, that we are stones in a building for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. That is a great privilege, and a great satisfaction.
 

 

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