There are two world views on this planet. Two starting points that lead to just two types of men.
There is the world view that success, however that is defined, is dependent upon us. There is a standard we must meet by our choices to reach our goal of fulfillment, happiness, freedom, heaven, conservative government, liberal government, moderate government, 72 virgins, good marriage, hot lover, big house, beautiful well-mannered kids, good food, respect, fame, money – whatever standard of success you or the crowd you run with has determined as “it” – there is that set of standards by which we judge ourselves and everyone else.
Place of the Two
Under that worldview, you are constantly working to achieve perfection in those standards and looking down on everyone else who does not share those standards and who is not striving to meet those goals. The religion of human achievement, whatever form it takes, is the most dominant worldview. It is the core principal in Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, liberal Christianity, Hinduism, Wicca, Scientology, legalistic fundamentalist Christianity, Atheism, Agnosticism…you get the picture. Each of these says I can achieve [insert metaphor for Heaven here] by what I do. In this worldview, we are all hypocrites. We know that we’ll never be good enough to achieve the ideal, yet we ridicule others whom we perceive to be further down the chain than us toward the ideal. Liberals ridicule conservatives as intolerant cavemen. Conservatives ridicule liberals as air-headed extremists who have no concept of cause and effect. And both keep working, working, working…toward human achievement that never fully arrives.
One New Man
Then, there is the other world view. I have been working at memorizing the book of Ephesians lately. I’ve stopped and started quite a few times over the years, but I have actually stuck with it for an extended time here lately. When I’m practicing, sometimes I don’t get all the way through because I start thinking through Paul’s train of thought. If you’ve never read it, the Bible is not just a series of disjointed statements. There is a logical flow moving toward an end. Each of the 66 books has a point and the content was placed in the order it was placed for a reason. That is especially obvious in Paul’s letters to the churches. So, I was walking with the dogs one morning, reciting Ephesians, and I got stuck around chapter 2. Not that I couldn’t remember what was written, it just hit me. Here it is.
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… (Ephesians 2:11-22)
Now, what hit me is by no means new. I guess I’ve always known this. But, it hit me for real. Christianity is the only worldview that promises heaven based on what God has done, not what man is doing.
Specifically, the accomplishment of the Person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a set of moral ideals or regulations. It is the result of Divine purpose, selection, and ultimately the created transformation of a people remade to be like One Man. He Himself is our peace. Peace? Isn’t there war in the Middle East? Genocide in Africa? Oppression in China? Land grabs in the Ukraine? Where is this peace?
The peace about which Paul is speaking is peace with God. Paul talks about it earlier in chapter 2.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
By nature children of wrath. Whose wrath? God’s wrath. But, I thought God is love. How can God judge anyone?
Christ is Our Peace
Well, I have posted on this elsewhere. Suffice it to say that we are all born condemned by God because our nature is one of rebellion against Him. We act upon that nature and worship created things rather than the Creator. (John 3:17-18, Romans 1:24-25) Those created things – Mother Earth, trees, animals, the human body, chemical escape from reality – or things formed by our hands – work, politics, the ambiguous idea of “freedom” – all of these things are simply lesser gods and not worthy of the devotion that we give them. Thinking that we are free or seeking to be free, we become slaves to the temporal and blinded to the eternal. After laying out the deadness of our hearts in rebellion against God, Paul then pens probably the best two words in all of Scripture – But God.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
The message that God has revealed through His Word is that Christ Himself is our peace. There is no “do this and you might reach Nirvana” in Christianity. There is “He lived the life you should have lived and died the death you should have died” so that you might be reconciled to God – made clean, made new in Christ if you put your trust in Him alone as your substitute. He Himself is our peace…Who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility…
All of the geopolitical dreams of peace can only be fulfilled in Him. You will never solve the Israeli – Palestinian issue until Jew and Palestinian no longer see themselves as Jew and Palestinian, but see themselves as Jewish brother in Christ and Palestinian brother in Christ. He Himself is our peace, Who has made us both one…the focus in Christianity is a Person. Not a set of ideas, but The Ideal.
We see this in the radical new society created as the New Testament Church. How can you put a devout Jew and a sexually promiscuous Greek together in such a way that they view each other as family and no longer moral enemies?
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.
Both the conservative Jew and the liberal Greek must undergo a rebirth of the heart and a washing of the mind. (Hebrews 10:16, John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:3-5) They must be transformed from one nature to another, from the world view that follows the course of this fallen humanity – the religion of man’s Sisyphean effort – to the world view that looks to the Divine accomplishment, the finished work, of Christ on the Cross. Those who cling to their own effort for their own ideals will waste their lives here and eternally. What a colossal mistake…
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
I find it interesting that Paul equates the sin of homosexuality with reviler and swindler. To mock and distort the created order by our lives is the essence of rebellion against God. Sin is sin. Some are more obvious than others. Nevertheless, none who practice such things will ever achieve the good and perfect that they were created to seek. But, even those who have lived what we consider the vilest of lives are not without hope.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
Notice that all of the verbs are passive. They were washed. They were sanctified. They were justified. This washing, sanctification, and justification were not the result of human achievement, but His finished work on the Cross. He takes the unholy and transforms them into holy. Not immediately, but step by step, little by little, hardship upon hardship, pain upon pain, they are conformed, chiseled like living art, to His image. (Romans 8:28-30)
How about you? Do you keep rolling that stone uphill only to have it fall to the bottom again? Put your trust in Christ, not in your own effort. Trust that in your place He stood condemned on the Cross and absorbed the full judgment of God that you deserve even now.