I was a twenty something year old pastor when a man walked into my office saying he wanted to speak to the main pastor. I stood to greet him and asked what I could help him with. He wanted to talk about God, faith and life after death. What intrigued me is that he was not a young man or even a middle aged man. He was an elderly gentlemen who was looking for a serious conversation.
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He wanted to know what I thought happened when someone dies. He asked me what I thought about God and specifically Jesus Christ. I will never forget when he looked at me and said, “I have no problem with God. It’s Jesus Christ I don’t believe in.” I was shocked, but more than that, I was saddened that this man was missing the very door to Heaven.
I tried my best to explain to him that if he rejected Jesus, there would be no hope for him and only an eternity separated from God awaited him. Christ made this clear in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But the man would not budge. He was resolved to die a part from Jesus. I’ve often thought of him and prayed for him. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Ephesians 2 and Good Friday
Ephesians 2 is among my favorite chapters of the Bible. It has taught me so much through the years. Each time I read over this portion of Scripture I walk away with a renewed love and appreciation for Jesus. It is a very personal chapter to me. It especially has significance at this time of year as we look to Christ’s death and its meaning. I want to share with you why Good Friday matters to me and why it’s important to me that we celebrate it together as a church family.
For me, Good Friday is not an event. It is not another church gathering. Rather, it is very personal and meaningful way that I can thank Christ for his obedience, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8).
What the Cross Teaches
Paul uses fascinating language to describe the calamity of sin upon us. I think we miss the weightiness of sins effects because most of us are taught from childhood that God loves us. While it is true that God loves us, what is equally true is that sin has separated us from God. So I think what happens is for those of us who have grown up in the Bible belt, our attitude can be, “Sure, God loves me. Why would He not?”
This not what the Bible teaches. When Scripture shows us the love of God, it also teaches how undeserving we are. In other words, the Bible magnifies God in a greater way for loving an unlovable people.
The danger I see in teaching my 5 year old and 3 year old girls that God loves them is that they will never see their true lost condition. If they grow up thinking God should love them because they are loveable, they will miss the point of the Gospel. God is not glorified in us being loveable. Rather, because we are sinful, rebellious, hard hearted and prideful, He still chooses to love us and redeem us. That is the love that glorifies God and not ourselves and it’s the love of God the Bible teaches.
So listen to the language Paul uses when describing our lost condition…
- Verse 1, And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.
- Verse 12, You were at that time separated from Christ
- Verse 12, Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel
- Verse 12, Strangers from the Covenants of Promise
- Verse 12, Having no Hope and without God in this world
I don’t know what you would call this, but I call it calamity. I call it devastating. Theologians call it Total Depravity.
What the Cross Accomplishes
As devastating as verse 12 is, read the gospel filled hope of verses 13 and 14, “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…”
Paul describes our lost condition as “dead”, “separated”, “alienated”, “strangers”, “having no hope and without God in this world” and “far off.” Then he gives us hope! “But now in Christ Jesus…” Isn’t that amazing? What a difference Jesus makes! We who were hopeless now have access to the Father. Why? Because we were “brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Each Good Friday, I drink deeply from God’s grace. I think upon His sacrifice and what Christ accomplished for me. I realize, through the Bible, my lost condition and the magnitude of God’s salvation plan. It causes me to worship with humility and gratefulness.
What the Cross Provides
I find it interesting that Paul uses the word, “hostility” twice in this chapter. Again, I was raised in a godly home in the Bible belt. I never thought of myself as “hostile” toward God. However, I never saw my love for sin, my pride and arrogance, my tendency to rebel and a craving to have my own way as hostile. But this is exactly how Paul describes my heart toward the Lord.
Now watch how Paul explains the work of Christ upon the cross. He has taught us that we were helpless and hopeless without God in this world. But because of Christ’s accomplishment on the cross, we are can be brought near to God through His blood. As a result Christ himself becomes our peace! Because there is enmity between us and God due to the calamity of sin, and because we love darkness rather than light (John 3:19) and because we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:19) there is hostility standing between humanity and God the Father.
Yet verses 16 and 17 teaches that Christ came to, “…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…”
So now that Christ is our peace. Now that the cross killed the hostility between man and God the conclusion is verse 19, “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…”
For me, Good Friday is not a time to gloat in God’s love. No! It is a time to humble myself and see that my sin tainted all of me. Sin taints my will, my emotions, my intellect and most important, my ability to love God. So what hope do I have? Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
2 Corinthians 9:15