Monthly Archives: October 2014

Ephesians – Dwelling Place for God

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Being Built Together for a Dwelling Place for God

October 26, 2014

Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

As most of you know, Michelle and I had the privilege of being at a pastor’s conference in Dallas Texas this past week. During the week, we received great teaching and encouragement from some of the nation’s top pastors and leaders. This morning, I must admit to you that we are in overflow mode which means that throughout the next few weeks I am sure that you will hear many of the truths we were presented in my messages and in our conversations.

This morning we pick up with our series in Ephesians. As we review the passage before us this morning, we find that we belong to Christ and we are connected with others. It is noteworthy that Paul begins this section with the idea that we are no longer strangers or aliens but that we are fellow citizens. He also notes that we are no ordinary citizen, we are citizens of the household of God. We are connected and we belong to God and with those who are believers in Christ.

From the beginning of created time, there has been a innate desire for man to belong and to be apart of the group. Even for the greatest of all introverts there is still a desire to connect and belong. In the world today, there are many who have a desire to connect to others. They want to feel connected. They want to feel they are a part of something. If is for that reason gangs and false religions seem to gain so many followers. They present a platform where people can feel connected and welcomed as a part of the group. They are accepted by those in the group. But too often, this feeling of acceptance is exchanged for a price that is exacted against the members.

As believers, we have had the dream of connecting fulfilled. We are now a part of the body of Christ. We are connected with one another. We are a part of something bigger than we are.We can belong and be a part a great family. And yet there are many who do not feel connected. They feel they are disenfranchised and rejected. They feel condemned and judged by their sin rather than the church being a place of grace and love. This should not be a result of our actions.

Secondly, we are built together on the unmovable, unshaken foundation of the apostles and prophets. You see we are not just connected, but we are built on something that is solid and secure. This foundation assures us that we remain connected. This foundation is one that focuses on the biblical teaching of hope and life. It is the life of Christ. We need to recognize and be sure to understand here that the foundation is not the apostles and prophets. That would be foolish. We do not build on a man’s idea of God but we build on Christ. Paul later helps us see that the foundation being discussed here is that of the apostles teaching that point to Christ. He notes, in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, that there is no other foundation to be laid but that one which is laid in Jesus Christ. He is the foundation.

Listen to Paul’s words. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. You see, what one builds on determines what one becomes. What one builds on will determine how one lives their life.

Thirdly, we are identified with the cornerstone which aligns us to His word and His ways. The cornerstone was the principle stone placed at the corner of the edifice. The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid and the most carefully constructed of any in the edifice. The cornerstone in essence held everything together. The cornerstone also helped to align the rest of the building. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. It is an important stone since all of the other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. As a body of believers, we are built on the foundation of Christ and we are aligned by the cornerstone of His word and His example. Both of these are focused on the work of Christ in us.

Notice too what David said in Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. You see what the world rejects as the answer, has become the answer for all mankind, but He is the connecting factor when it comes to believers. For those without Christ, they attempt to reject Christ as an answer to their problems. They try to align themselves with false ideas and social concepts that they believe that will guide their lives. But we must remember that Christ is the only cornerstone.

You see all of this occurs because we have been joined together for a purpose. We are made to be a place where the Spirit dwells. You see the main purpose for coming together as a body is that we are a dwelling place for God’s presence. The purpose of the Old Testament temple was two-fold. It brought honor to God and provided a place for God’s presence to dwell.

This is in reality what God wants to do in our earthy temple as well. Too often we invite God over when we need him, but when He is no longer needed, we ask him to leave or at least we live like he has no place in our life. How sad is that. But God wants to dwell in us. He wants to dwell in our church. He wants to be an active part of our lives.

This passage reminds me of the prophecy in Ezekiel 37. The prophecy takes place in the valley of the dry bones. The bones were disconnected and strewn about, therefore, they had no purpose. They were without life and they could not accomplish anything. But the Bible says the prophet commanded them to come together. The Bible says there was a rattling taking place and the bones began to be reunited and joined together.

One of the interesting things here for me is that the bones came together as they should be and not as disconnected madness. The ankle bone was connected to the leg bones and the leg bones were connected to the knee, and so on, and so on. The point is they came together as they were intended. It was not God’s will that they be disconnected because in this state they were useless. After that the bones were united the realization came that they still did not have life. You see we can be in the same room with other believers. We can go to church but we can still miss out on life because God has not breathed his life into us. This life represents the Spirit of God. In Ezekiel, the prophet prayed and the breathe of God was breathed into the lifeless form and it lived.

God wants us to be a dwelling place for His Spirit. He wants to dwell with us. Someone has posed the question? If the Holy Spirit left the church, would anyone notice? If our doors were to close would we even be missed in the community? If He we were to abandon us, (and I am not suggesting He will or could) would we know it or would we continue to live as we have without any knowledge that Christ has departed. Remember the story of Samson? He was a strong man. His strengthen was a result of his commitment to God’s way.  But when he compromised, and shared with Delilah the secret to his success, he lost his power. The saddest part of the story is that he arose and went out as he always had and did not even know the spirit of God had departed from him. He was no longer empowered by God.

The question that is raised then is how do we maintain the presence of God in our lives? First, we must be a people of prayer. Prayer changes things but it also changes people. Be a people of the word. We hide the word of God within our hearts so that we do not sin against Him. Be a people of worship. Worship invites God’s presence. Be a people who are resolved to keep a short list of wrongs. Be a people who will practice the presence of God in their lives, by living like He is in you. Be a people who understand what they have been called to do for God and for others. Be people who live out grace and mercy.

We must also realize that by being joined together, we are to take the Spirit into every part of our lives. We are to effect our community for Christ. We are to effect our sphere of influence by carrying with us the Holy Spirit. When this occurs we are positioned for people to see Christ in us. We are able to present Christ through our words and by the way we act.

When the Spirit is dwelling in us, we will treat people differently. When the Spirit is dwelling in us we will live with a greater level of integrity, even in the little things. When the Spirit is dwelling in us, we will be sensitive to the needs of others. When the Spirit is dwelling in us, we will be burdened for the lost.

Is the Spirit dwelling in you or is He a guest that comes and goes?

For an Audio Version of this message go to www.pccministry.org

Copyright © All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Reconciled to Reconcile

Peninsula Community Church

October 12, 2014

Ephesians – Reconciled to Reconcile

Ephesians 2:13-22 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, 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. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

I am sure that you would agree this morning that we have all experienced a time in our lives where we were at odds with someone. In the process, we felt distant and alone. Quite often there was no known reason for the hostility, other than it existed and that is all you knew. Sometimes there is that hostility that comes as one feels they have been wronged, hurt, or abused. Regardless of the reason, this feeling of hostility can have great negative results. The Jews and Gentiles had just such a hostility between them. It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the hostility, although many reasons could be given. It appears that most of the issues were religious in nature.

Paul begins this section with the amazing words, “but now in Christ Jesus.” This phrase provides a transition between what was, what is, and what could be. As we witnessed earlier, Paul paints a desperate picture of mankind without Christ that is contrasted by the life committed to Christ. While Paul in verse 11-13 paints a desperate picture of one without Christ, he transitions here to paint the masterpiece of one who accepts Christ as their personal Savior and the effect it has on our relationship with other members of the body of Christ.

One of the keys here is that Paul opens the window into God’s heart to see that God is not a respecter of persons. He does not pick and choose who will be with Him and who will not. He is open for all to come to Christ. In fact, in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12), for those who have accepted Christ, God has united our hearts together as one body. Jew and Gentile. Male and female. Slave and free. The boundaries that separated man from God and God from man have been destroyed by the work of Christ.

Let us look at the words of Paul together. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. What Paul is saying is that in our sin we were once distant from God and from one another without any way to approach God or others. In this is evidenced the great question of the centuries. How does a sinful man approach a holy God? The issue at hand is how does one approach God, because in doing so they were to be consumed by God’s holiness. That was the penalty of approaching God because sinful man could not face a holy God without a negative effective (Exodus 33:20). But in Christ the gap between sinful man and the holiness of God was bridged once and for all. What man could not do, Christ did by tearing down the wall of separation by His sacrifice upon the cross.

In our journey with Christ, we can feel distant and disconnected from God. This is a difficult place. It is perhaps one of the most lonely places to be. Think back to one of your first dates. How did you feel? Your palms were sweaty. Your heart rate was up. And then she or he slipped his hand into yours and you fell in love. How awesome was that moment? There is another moment that is just as exciting. It is that moment that we realize that we are loved by a heavenly Father and He wants to draw near to us. Paul notes that those who were once a far off have now been brought near to Christ.

You see the separation between God and man and thus between man and man began in the Garden of Eden when man fell (Genesis 3:8-11). Prior to man’s disobedience Adam and Eve would walk with God on a daily basis. They had a unique fellowship with God, but all of that changed the day man fell into sin. Notice that when God showed up for His daily stroll with man, man could not be found. He was cowering in fear and guilt because the relationship he had with God had changed. It is critical to note that nothing with God changed, but man’s attitude and his heart changed.

With Paul’s words it strikes me that there is no one that is too far from God or any relationship that is beyond the touch of God. Such spatial language of near and far was not uncommon in the Old Testament. It reminds me of Sesame Street where the children watching the show would learn spatial depth by the character on the show proclaiming the two comparisons: “Near,” “Far.” Here in this passage, Paul paints a picture of the one who is far from Christ, but now has the privilege and the right to draw near to God. Through the death of Christ, who took on man’s sin on man’s behalf, man now has entrance into the ways of God. Man, once regulated to a distant relationship, is now brought near to God in this new relationship.

Paul gives us two reasons for this being worked out for us. First, Paul states that this occurs in Christ. This represents our personal union with Christ. Christ became the bridge that would span the chasm between a holy God and sinful man. The second aspect is that this work is accomplished through the blood of Christ or the cross. It is through the cross that the door has been opened for us to enter into a personal relationship with Christ. Without this personal relationship, we cannot experience the reduction of hostility and separation against mankind. We cannot be close to God without coming to God through Christ.

Through this act, several important things took place. First, the partition that separated man was removed. It is interesting to note that in the previous verses that one of the reasons given for the division between the Jew and the Gentile was the ordinance of circumcision. In Christ, the need for the ceremonial law was removed. What was removed was the impediments the law brought, in that the law was great about pointing out one’s sin, but had little power to deal with the sin. Rather than relying on a man focused act, we now focus on Christ’s work which has the power to save and change lives. This today remains a problem. We often look to outside sources to remove sin from our lives, but it is only through the work of the cross that true freedom comes.

The second aspect here is that the work of Christ on the cross has made it possible that mankind can be reconciled. The Jew and the Gentile were simply representative groups. You see in Paul’s day the division was not just between the Jew and the Gentile but between the rich and the poor. It was between the those who had much and those who had little. It was gender related. It was against those who were in places of authority and those who were servants. It was recognized between the slave and the freeman.

You see the body of Christ is where Christ’s work of reconciliation is best witnessed. God has called us into a reconciling relationship with other believers to assist the nonbeliever to come to a reconciled relationship. John Piper has stated that “We must be a reconciling people because we are a reconciled people.” It is for this reason that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are to help others come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The story is told of a missionary that was officiating a communion service in a remote section of Africa. Sitting at the table next to the missionary was tribal chief of the people called Ngeon. He was known as Manly Heart. The chief shared with the missionary that he remembered a day before they met Christ that the warriors of Ngeon would send their fighters to bloody their spears with the blood of the neighboring tribes, the Sanga and the Timbuka. They would return with a trail of blood behind them, their villages were burned and they raped the women. But the chief said all of that is different because sitting to his left were the elders of the church from among the Sanga and the Timbuka tribes. Tribes once thirsting for one another’s blood were now one in the blood of Christ. How awesome is that. That is a testimony to the reconciling work of God. It is a testimony of what is available to us all in Christ.

For an audio version of this message go to PCCministry.org.

Copyright © Robert W. Odom All Rights Reserved

For an audio version of this message go to PCCministry.org.

Copyright © Robert W. Odom All Rights Reserved

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Ephesians – Don’t Forget

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Don’t Forget

October 5, 2014

Ephesians 2:11-22 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, 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. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

As we grow in Christ one of the challenges we face is that we can easily forget where we have come from spiritually. This is always a challenge for us in that it is so easy to become stagnate in our growth because we forget where we have come from. We can become spoiled because we forget all that has been accomplished on our behalf. To forget where we have come from is to forget the blessings of God which He has bestowed upon us. To forget where we have come from is to void the testimony of God in our lives that He uses in the present. To not remember is to forget that we were darkened by sin but through Christ we have been made alive and have been filled with His life and light.

To remember is an interesting concept. It can be challenging for some of us as we can be held captive by the past memories of those who have failed us or wounded us. We are also reminded of our personal failures which seem so hard to overcome. In the first case, we develop a mindset of mistrust where we struggle to trust anyone, especially those that remind us of the person who has hurt us. In the second, we succumb to the lie that we are failures and that we will never succeed because that is just the way things are.

As we look back, we must reach a balance. If we stay focused on the past, we will be unable to move beyond the failures and reminders of where we have been. We will stagnate and become fruitless because we do not have a forward looking perspective. And yet on the other hand, we must look back long enough to remember our life without Christ so that we have a healthy view of where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed. A healthy view of where we are, will be a way to remember that where we have been is not where we are. Where we are, now, is not where we will end up. We are growing and changing daily. We glory in the testimony of God’s work in us and yet we find that we are yearning for continued change and growth.

To help the church at Ephesus to remember where they had been Paul paints a desperate picture of their life without Christ. He was reminding them of the state of their spiritual condition and their life before Christ came to restore them. He reminds them that they were rejected by the Jews. He reminds them that they were separated from Christ. They were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. They were strangers to the covenants of promise. They had no hope. They were without God. This sounds like a terrific place to be in life. The message here is one that sounds desperate and it is.

To fully understand the words of Paul, we need to also understand the atmosphere that was evidenced during this period of history. There was no love loss between the Jews and the Gentiles. To say they despised one another would be an under statement. While the Gentiles had their issues, the Jews made it difficult for the Gentiles to come to Christ. The Jews ostracized the Gentiles from their way of life. The Gentiles were only allowed to worship the God of the Jews from a distance. In fact, in the temple, the Jewish leaders had erected signs which stated that if the Gentile was to enter specific areas of the temple, they could face death.

The Jews of that day had developed a prideful, arrogant attitude toward those outside the faith. They had taken the calling of God to a misguided place where they began to misrepresent the calling of God on their lives. They saw themselves as the elite of God. You see they were effective at bringing up the name of Abraham but they forgot that the promise Abraham had been given. In Genesis 12, God promises Abraham that he will be a blessing through the nations.  God promises that… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. How quickly we can forget the purpose of God in our lives.

Look at the place the Gentiles found themselves. They were lost and dead in sin. They were rejected by the religious leaders of the day. They were rejected by those who had the answer. Once again, Paul could have placed a period here but he did not. But rather than putting a period here and closing the book, he makes a transition that changes everything. He transitions this passage much like he does in the earlier verses we studied. He uses this defining transitional phrase “But now in Christ.” From there, Paul masterfully shows the reader what one looks like when they have been impacted by the work of  Christ.

We will continue this next week but before we close I want to discuss something I think that is critical for us. One of the things that came from my study and preparation for this message was that we often erect barriers that make it hard for others to come to Christ. Some of these are the same problems faced by those in the New Testament. One of the first things we find is that the Jews were often heavy on the law but light on grace. The Jews were more interested in the sign of the circumcision than what the circumcision represented. They rejected those who had not been circumcised. But when Christ came, He replaced the requirement of circumcision with Himself. You see what Jesus is after is not the foreskin but the heart. The Jewish leaders were masters at forcing others to obey the law when they themselves could not follow their own law.

Now let me give a counterpoint to this as well. We can also come to the place where we are heavy on grace but light on truth. We find ourselves compromising the truth of the gospel in order to minister to others. In our church in New York, we had a young man that was heavy on grace but overlooked sin in his life. He was one that minimized sin in his life to a fault. We found  out that his wife had been a man at one time but had a sex change operation to become a woman. You see rather than deal with the truth he overemphasized grace without dealing with the sin with his heart and the heart of his wife. They needed grace but not apart from the Gospel of Christ.

With that said, the Jews set boundaries that kept the Gentiles separated and therefore disconnected from God. If we are not careful we can be in the position to reject those who are not like us, who do not  look like us, or who do not have the same social or hereditary background. You see all are welcome at the feet of Jesus but too often we act and live as if we are the only ones called to his feet. The one who had the sex change operation still has a place at the feet of Jesus. This may blow us away but it is true because God came to save those who are lost regardless of who they are.

One of the ministries I admire is Brooklyn Tabernacle. I have had the privilege of meeting Pastor Cymbala and also attending the services at Brooklyn Tabernacle. Over and over again they have shared testimonies of God’s miraculous power to bring healing to the heart of those who were in bondage. They have seen gays and lesbians come to Christ. They have witnessed drug addicts coming to a saving grace with Christ. The lost have been found.

The problem with the Jews is that they were spiritually isolated. They did not associate with those outside their sphere of influence. Do you know any one that is unsaved? Do you have a relationship with those who do not know Christ? Where is your sphere of influence? One of the reasons I have decided to be a part of the SCEMS as a chaplain is that it opens the door for me to associate with those who do not have a relationship with Christ. Recently, I was introduced as the chaplain before a group of about 50 EMTs. During a question and answer period, one of the medics asked how personable I would be. You see the resources of help they have available to them serve them from afar. They do not understand what they go through. I was able to answer the question in a way that I did not understand until that moment. My answer was that is why I ride on the trucks a couple times a month. I listen to the broadcasts on the website. I will be taking the first responders class. Why? I want to know what they experience so that I can be better at pointing them to Christ and effectively ministering to their needs.

Copyright © Robert W. Odom All Rights Reserved

For audio version go to http://www.pccministry.org

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