Where God Lives
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Where God Lives

Ephesians 2:19–22  (ID: 3177)

Though we were once alienated from God, those who have been reconciled to Him will also be transformed by Him. Alistair Begg reminds us that when we come to faith in Christ, we become citizens of God’s kingdom, members of His family, and stones in His temple. As we live out our new identity in Christ, our concern should be for the kingdom instead of our own interests. We bear with one another because we have the same Father and we display the reality that God is building a people for Himself from every tribe and nation.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ephesians, Volume 3

One New Man Ephesians 2:11–22 Series ID: 14903

Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, I invite you to take your Bible and turn with me to Ephesians chapter 2, where, in the course of our studies, we’ve come to the concluding four verses, from verse 19 to the end of the chapter. As you turn there, let me read them for us:

“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.”

Father, we pray that with our Bibles open, that the Spirit of God will be at work in our thinking so that as we understand the truth of the Bible, that we might then be embraced by it, that we might live in the light of it, that we might increasingly become all that you intend for us to be. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we said before that the flow of the second half of this chapter, the section that begins in verse 11, can be seen by noting three straightforward phrases. The first of these, in verse 11: “at one time.” “Therefore remember that at one time…” That’s the first phrase. And then in verse 13: “But now in Christ Jesus…” And then in verse 19: “So then you are no longer…”

I just reminded myself of what we have recorded for us here by means of an acronym, and that is ART—that we were alienated, we have been reconciled, and we are transformed. Let me just tease that out for us for a moment.

First of all, “at one time.” The reference there is, of course, to the pre-Christian days, particularly of these gentile believers. And when we studied that, we noted that it is actually a description of humanity without God. And while all of us lived in that realm, whether we understood it, whether we were graphically aware of it or not, the fact is that what it says there concerning us is true: that we did not believe; in fact, by nature we are unbelievers; that we did not belong to the community of God, and our behavior testified to the reality of that.

Back at the beginning of chapter 2, we were those who “lived in the passions of our flesh,” we “carr[ied] out the desires of the body and the mind,” and we “were by nature children of wrath.”[1] That is all covered by “at one time.” And what Paul says there at the beginning of chapter 2, by way of summary, is that we were absolutely helpless. If you think about it, what can a dead person do to make themselves alive? Absolutely nothing! And so he says, “We were spiritually dead and unable to quicken ourselves. We were helpless.” And in the second half of the chapter, essentially, he goes on to say, “And we were hopeless.” In fact, in verse 12, he uses that very phraseology: “Having no hope and without God in the world.”

Now, it’s very important that we understand that that is a description not of a special group of people that happened to be living in Ephesus at the time of this letter but that it is descriptive of men and women, by nature, without God.

Second phrase is in verse 13: “But now…” “But now…” We were previously, at one time, alienated not only from God but also from those who loved and followed God. And now, but now, we are reconciled to God through the cross. And that reconciliation that we now enjoy with God, who once was predisposed to us in his wrath, has been dealt with, in that Jesus has borne God’s wrath, has settled our account, and we have been put in a living relationship with God, who made us for himself, and with one another. And so he’s saying there that all the kind of barriers that are inevitably erected—whether it is the barrier between a Jew and a gentile, or whether they are barriers of race or of class or of culture—these things have now been dealt with in Jesus.

“At one time” alienated, “but now” reconciled. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens.” In other words, the result of the work of Jesus is that for those who have believed, there has been a change in our nature and there has been a change in our status. As a result of Christ’s achievement, as a result of the announcement of that achievement to these people in Ephesus, they have come to believe, and having come to believe, they now belong. So, to the extent that it is helpful to you, if you just think ART, then you can remember: “At one time” alienated, “but now” reconciled, “so then,” transformed.

Now, let me pause here for just a moment and acknowledge something with you. You will notice what he then goes on to do is to speak first of all in negative terms: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens.” In other words, “You are no longer what you once were.” Paul is not describing here some kind of marginal shift in thinking—a sort of rearrangement of philosophical underpinnings or a gradual slide from one religious persuasion to another religious persuasion. No, what he’s describing here is a decisive and a dramatic change.

And what he’s pointing out is simply this: that there is a real and observable difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. If, however, by Christian we simply mean somebody who is remotely interested or tangentially interested in the things of Christianity, then we use a description that is not the way in which Paul is addressing it here. And we belabored that, didn’t we, a couple of Sundays ago? “In Christ Jesus.” To be a Christian is to be placed in Christ Jesus. As a result of God’s grace and his favor as revealed in Jesus, as accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit, all of a sudden the person says, “‘I am a new creation, no more in condemnation,’ and ‘here in the grace of God I stand.’[2] And that means that I am now markedly different from what I was before.” I want to say to you again that it is important we recognize this.

Now, in Paul’s case, his conversion was dramatic, wasn’t it? You can read of it in Acts chapter 9: a voice from heaven, and a light that shone brighter than the noonday sun, and him being struck with blindness, and so on.[3] All of that was unique to Paul. I would be surprised if anybody here, professing their testimony as a Christian, would be prepared to say that a similar thing had happened. But it may be that you have had a very dramatic conversion. You may have found yourself completely up against life. Perhaps you were at life’s extremity, and when you turned in childlike trust and believing faith, your life was turned upside down so amazingly and instantaneously that the people in your office, in your school, in your home knew, “Something dramatic has happened to this girl, has happened to this character.”

There again, it may not be that for you. Over a period of time, as you listened, as you read, as you thought, you suddenly realized that your heart was being changed, that your mind was being opened to the truth, that your eyes were being made clear. And you suddenly realized that the way you had begun to sing the songs and listen to the Bible and appreciate the fellowship was an indication of the fact that God had actually changed you.

You see, when a person is truly converted—truly converted—they will have an awareness of these things. A truly converted person has an awareness of the “at one time.” “At one time”: “I once was lost in darkest night [and] thought I knew the way.”[4] The person who’s sort of just marginally interested in religious things doesn’t use terminology like that. That’s the terminology of a Christian: “‘I once was lost in darkest night.’ I know that, because that’s what the Bible says. I actually was going to church as a small boy and so on, and I didn’t realize what a rascal I really was. I knew enough to know that I needed a Savior, but I didn’t know I was lost in darkest night and thought I knew the way. But now I know that! And I know that if I’d continued in that position, I would have been… There’s no saying what I might have ended up!”

So, they have an awareness of what they once were; they have an awareness of the love and the mercy of God. Verse 4: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of [his] great love with which he loved us…” So the person is saying, “You see, I was overwhelmed by the love of God. And when it suddenly dawned on me, this good-news story—that it was while we were enemies that God reconciled us to himself[5]—the love of God for me overwhelmed me. I was caught up like the Prodigal Son in the father’s embrace. And that is my testimony, you see. I have something to say about what I used to be. I have something to say about the love of God. I’m convinced about the saving work of Jesus. And I am also aware of the fact that although I have come to this position as an individual, that God has brought me into an entire company of others who love Jesus. And it is this which has actually, in this community, given me the structure, the framework, the teaching, the accountability, the opportunity to discover my giftedness and so on. And I’m converted!”

You see, the converted individual doesn’t ask, “Do I have to go to church?” A converted individual does not actually ask, “Why do I have to go to church?” A converted individual is not saying, “Why is the church so important? I have an iPad. I have a phone. I can do this here. I can listen on my own.” If you are truly converted, you may think that from time to time because you want to do something other than attend church, because it puts a demand on you. But in your heart of hearts, you know that’s not what you’re saying, if you’re converted.

Well, you see, the converted person is saying, “Where can I find God’s people?” They go out of town on a business trip, and they say, “I need to find some people that love Jesus.” The converted individual is saying, “Where can I enjoy Christian fellowship?” The converted individual is saying, “Where can I hear the Word of God taught to me? Where can I hear the Bible expounded?”

You see, the non-Christian doesn’t say that! An unconverted person doesn’t say that! It never occurs to them. I guarantee you, you can walk up to somebody in the street and say, “When’s the last time you were walking down the street and you said to yourself, ‘Where can I find the Word of God taught to me?’” And if they answer “Yesterday,” then you know the Spirit of God is at work within their hearts, so you get the Four Spiritual Laws out and take care of the problem right there. Okay? The fact is, it is a radical and it is a dramatic change.

Faith makes the greatest of distinctions. Faith in Jesus makes the greatest of distinctions. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”[6] There’s one group. “But to those who received him, who believed on his name…”[7] There’s another group. You can’t be in two groups at once. By nature: “No thank you.” By grace: amazed.

When a person is made a citizen of the kingdom of God, then all other citizenships fall into line.

Now, you see, this is what Paul is making absolutely clear. And that’s why I’m making it clear to you. Because of the hundreds and thousands of people that come in this building week by week, it is incumbent upon me as a shepherd of the flock, as a teacher of the Bible, to labor, as I’m enabled, to say to you, “Loved ones, do you believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead? Do you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?” You say, “No.” Then you are unconverted. Do you?

Matson, who was born in Hackney—West Hackney, in London—in 1833, went to St John’s College, Cambridge, wrote a number of hymns. Probably the best known is his most autobiographical, and this is how his hymn begins: “Lord, I was blind: I could not see in your marred visage any grace.”[8] That’s his testimony. “Lord, I was blind. I couldn’t see it. I went to the Easter services. I read the Bible. I heard people talk about things. Never got it at all.” Till he was twenty years old at Cambridge University, and the lights went on. His hymn continues: “Lord, I was blind. … Lord, I was deaf. … Lord, I was dumb. … Lord, I was dead.” And here’s the triumph of the close: “[For] thou hast made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the dead to live.”

This, you see, is conversion. And when a man is converted, when a woman is converted, then they are no longer what they once were. “At one time… But now… So then…”

Citizens of God’s Kingdom

Now, let’s come to this “So then…” “So then” what? “So then,” what is the implication? What is the result of this? Well, it’s not the complete result, but it is the result that Paul, by the Holy Spirit, wants us to focus on just now. We are now, he says, “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Now, remember, when we were studying this earlier, we said that by nature we were both stateless and friendless. We were outsiders. We did not belong. Verse 12: “at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.”[9] We were far away. But now, in Christ, he’s gone on to say, we have been given a new identity, and we have been made part of a whole new community. We are, if you like, kids of the kingdom. We are citizens in God’s kingdom. And our new identity secures us, because now we belong; and our new identity transforms us, because now we behave.

Now, you see, we’re surprised by the behavior as well. If you’ve come to faith in Christ, you know what your Sunday usually was, just by way of example: “I used to do this. I used to do that. I would get up. Nobody could take me from this or from that. It was sacrosanct for me,” and so on. “And I don’t know what in the world’s happened to me. I get up on a Sunday morning, and I said, ‘You know, I want to go with the people of God.’” Yeah, well, you’ve been made a citizen. You see, you are now a citizen of the kingdom. Before this, you were stateless. You did not belong. You had no access. It’s an amazing thing, you see. And as a result of that, we have all the rights of being members of the kingdom.

I lived for a long time before I became a citizen of the United States of America. But on that day when I did, when I went down there to East Ninth Street and did what they said I should do, then everything that was my wife’s by birthright, having been born in these fair shores, became mine immediately—all of the rights, all of the responsibilities, all of the privileges—because now I was included.

And you see, when a person is made a citizen of the kingdom of God, then all other citizenships fall into line. People want to know all the time: “What is that pin in your lapel?” It simply says “Scotland.” Okay? I happen to like it. But I also wear one that has a Scottish flag and an American flag, often when I travel. I like that too! But it’s very subservient, because the real citizenship into which we’ve been brought is that we’re made citizens of the kingdom. That’s what Paul is saying in Philippians [3], isn’t it? You know, they were separated from Rome by distance in Philippi, and he’s reminding them, “Actually, you’re separated from the kingdom to which you really belong by virtue of your engagement here in Philippi.”[10] And the great concern of being a member of the kingdom of God, of being a citizen, is that we will long to see his kingdom extended. That’s why we sang this morning, “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun…”[11]

I know you’re fed up with me mentioning it, but it never stopped me before and won’t stop me now. But remember when Eric Liddell left Edinburgh to go to China? And eventually he was to die in China. Eric Liddell was—1924 Olympics, won gold, made a new world record, played rugby for Scotland, was highly intelligent, well-respected, and yet he gets on a boat and buries his life in China to teach boys and girls not only mathematics but about Jesus. What in the world are you doing, Liddell? Are you crazy? And when his trained pulled out of Waverley station, the last thing that he did before he left was roll the window down and lead the vast crowd gathered in Waverley station, underneath the castle—many of you have been there—and he led them in the singing of

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
[And] his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.[12]

Why did he do that? Because he’s a citizen of the kingdom! You have been made a citizen of the kingdom. That’s what he’s saying. And the mystery of it—you go back all the way to chapter 1: before the dawn of time, he loved you, he drew you to himself, he made you what you’ve never been,[13] not in order that we might just enjoy ourselves and sit down and please ourselves but in order that we might understand what a mystery it is that I’ve become a citizen of this great kingdom. And let that also help us in our citizenship in this kingdom. And that’s what Paul is saying. “At one time… But now… So then…” Citizens.

Members of God’s Household

Secondly, and quickly: “members.” Included with the saints, all of God’s people; made members of God’s household. God has a house, as it were. There’s a metaphor here. It’s a picture of… The same word in Greek for family and for household; it’s virtually synonymous. So, members of the household of God, or members of the family of God.

Our identity is an intimacy. To have a passport is one thing, but to have the same father is quite another. And our relationships in the body of Christ to one another are relationships of intimacy. That’s why we sang last Sunday night, “Loving each other, with God as our Father.”[14]

The church, you see, is not just an aggregate of diverse people. The church is individual people united to each other on account of their union with Christ. That’s the church. That’s the membership. You know, attachment to a local church by means of profession of faith and whatever else is involved is simply to give an outward, understandable dimension to an internal, decisive reality: that you belong to me and I belong to you in Christ, whether you like it or not! You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. And you can’t choose your church family!

Oh, some people do. That’s why they come for a little while, and then they go to the church down the road, and then a church up the street, and then they listen by themselves, ’cause they can’t find the perfect church, so they just listen on the radio, and then… No, come on! Come on! You love your sister, don’t you? I mean, she’s a pain in the neck sometimes. I’m talking about your siblings now. Sometimes your brother is a little uppity—in fact, a lot of times! He may be that and may be many more things. But the Bible’s realistic about this. That’s why the picture of family’s so helpful.

Paul doesn’t address it here, but in Colossians he does. He says, you know, “Since you are God’s chosen ones, you’re holy and you’re beloved—that’s what you are.”[15] So he’s saying, “Become what you are,” not “Try and make yourself something you’re not.” You see, religion says, “Try and fix yourself. Try and clean up your deal.” Christianity says, “Look what Jesus has done in dealing with your sins, in making you his own. Therefore, become what you are.” You’re holy and you’re beloved. In other words, you’re set apart for God, and you’re loved by God. Okay? Implications: “Make sure you have compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Bear with one another, and if you have a complaint against another, forgive them; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”[16]

Grace humbles, and pride creates disintegration.

So, the community of faith is to be a community, by God’s grace, that is marked by these elements: compassion rather than insensitiveness, humility rather than pride, meekness rather than aggression, forgiveness rather than holding grudges. Do you know how many… The microcosmic dimension of it is expressed in our own families, where you’ve got siblings, physical siblings, that won’t forgive each other. And people want to come to the family of God and duplicate the same mentality: “If he doesn’t, if she doesn’t, if she this, if he that, then I won’t this.” Listen: How long—how long—did the Lord Jesus wait for you to finally clean up before he loved you? No, he loved you, and the clean-up process began right there.

Now, when you think in these terms, you realize what a wonder this is. Because grace actually humbles, and pride creates disintegration. And who we think we are individually shapes the flavor of our family relationships. Who I think I am as an individual shapes my family relationships. If I think I’m very special, then I will expect people to treat me as someone who’s very special. If I think that I should always be heard, then I will wait for everybody to silence up so that I can be heard—whatever it might be. And what happens is, when we see ourselves as we really are, when we remember “at one time” and we realize the wonder of Christ’s redeeming love, then we say, “This is fantastic!”

And this household, this family’s not a flimsy family. It’s built on the solid foundation of the apostles and the prophets. The apostles and the prophets, you remember, the beginning of it all, Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit, wait in Pentecost.”[17] And out they come onto the streets of Jerusalem, and the building goes. Jesus is the cornerstone. He’s the capstone. Everything else fits into it from there. And there is a sense in which, since the apostles and the prophets spoke the Word of God as it was revealed to them and recorded by them, the very foundation of the family is in the Bible itself.

Now, you see, this was anticipated in the Old Testament. Isaiah writes as follows: “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation [stone] in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, [and] a sure foundation.”[18] And in the New Testament, that picture is picked up here. It’s picked up, for example, in 1 Peter chapter 2: “You are all living stones,”[19] he says. And to that we must come in conclusion.

Stones in God’s Temple

First of all, we’re citizens of the kingdom. Then, we are simultaneously members of his family. And thirdly and finally, we are stones in God’s temple. Stones in God’s temple. He is building something. We used to sing it in Scotland as children:

He is building day by day,
As the moments pass away,
A temple that this world cannot see;
And every victory won by grace
Will be sure to find a place
In that building for eternity.[20]

Christ Jesus, the cornerstone, “in whom [this] whole structure, being joined together” in Christ, “grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” Notice again: “in Christ,” “in the Lord.” Notice again, verse 22: “In him you [are also] being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Where on earth does God live? There’s a grandchildren question, grandchild question. Where on earth does God live? Let’s say they ask you that this afternoon: “I was thinking, Grandpa. I was just wondering: I know where you live and we live, but where does God live?” What are you going to tell them? Well, I hope you’re not going to tell them that he lives in a temple in Jerusalem, but we’re just waiting for it to be rebuilt. I hope you’re not going to tell them that he still lives in a tabernacle somewhere in the wilderness, but we’ve lost the tabernacle, and we’re not sure. No. He doesn’t live in a tabernacle in the wilderness, he doesn’t live in a temple in Jerusalem, but he lives—the dwelling place of God is in the church. Is in the church. The people of God are the dwelling place of God. And that to which the tabernacle in the Old Testament and the temple in the Old Testament pointed is the church itself.

Go back for homework and read Exodus chapter 25 and the instruction that God gives through Moses to his people: “This is how you’re to construct the ark. Here is where the mercy seat will be. And I will meet with my people there.”[21] And when they moved through the wilderness, when the cloud that hovered over it moved, the people moved. When the cloud remained stationary, they remained stationary. Because they recognized that this was symbolic of the presence of God himself.

So, when the psalmist wrote “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!”[22] he was thinking in physical terms. He was thinking in terms of the temple. Of course he was! It is here, in this great structure, that the sparrow can find itself in safety, and the swallow can build a nest beside the altar, and the people can come, and they can sing, and they can rejoice, and they will be in this place.

The people of God are the dwelling place of God.

But when we sing Psalm 84, in paraphrase, which we’re going to do in just a moment, and we sing “How lovely is your dwelling place,” we’re not singing about a temple in Jerusalem. We’re singing about the fact that God is creating a multinational temple constructed of living stones—that the plan and purpose of God is to so indwell his people in all of their gatherings and all of their different places… Which is why, incidentally, you can travel the world internationally; you can go in church buildings and read, you know, like, “In 1829, the so-and-so and so-and-so, and the building itself is of historical…” and so on. There may be nothing in there of any particular impact to you at all. And then you can meet someone in a coffee shop, and you begin the conversation with one another, and then you realize, “I never met you before in my life, but we have the same Father. We have the same Elder Brother. We love the same Savior. We sing the same songs. We’re different by virtue of our background, by our intellect, by our race, by our class, by our culture, but we are now part of a multinational temple that is being created. And one day the world will see it!” Jesus says, “They don’t recognize you because they didn’t recognize me!”[23]

And that is why, loved ones, we have to have the Bible adjudicate on our identity, on the nature of our community. When we come together tonight outside, and we share with the young people who have graduated from high school, and we listen to this young couple from Singapore, and we hear from somebody else who was converted in Brazil—when we do all of these things, it’s simply an expression, again, of the community of faith. It’s what God has done.

What a wonder! What a privilege! Because think about it: the stones—you’re one, and I’m one—we don’t fit together real easily, do we? I mean, there’s certain stones that you like in the church. I like to sit next to stone forty-nine, and forty-two likes always to sit in the same seat next to twenty-seven, and whatever it might be. But there’s some, I don’t want to get anywhere close to them at all. Because if we’re going to fit together, there’s going to be some hammering and chiseling going on in here to get these two together. And, of course, there is, both individually and communally.

That’s why in Mere Christianity, you know, C. S. Lewis says, you know, if you think about your life as a house, and you become a Christian, and you think everything’s going fairly well—and all of a sudden, a bunch of workmen show up and start smacking your house around, bashing it and crashing it and changing it and fixing it. And he says that is exactly what you should expect. Because you thought that God would be content for you just to be a little cottage, but he wants to make you a mansion for himself. And what he does individually he does corporately.[24]

You see, loved ones, the privilege is immense, and the need for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to this is huge. It should be here at Parkside that the sparrow can find a place. Paul Simon has a song that begins, “Who will love a little sparrow that travels far?”[25] I can’t remember anything beyond that. But think about the sparrows in the greater Cleveland area—small and vulnerable and needy people. Do you think a little sparrow will be okay here? Do you think somebody who’s been married four times, is living with somebody, and knows that her life is a moral disaster would be okay to come clean about it here at Parkside Church? Do you think that the person who has become a religious snob, who’s so stuck on himself at how well he knows everything, would be able to be absorbed into the community and have some of those arrogant, rough edges knocked off his big, fat head so as to make him a happy, productive member of the community?

See, our culture right now—and with this I’ll close—our culture right now is manifestly chaos. There’s virtually no level you can touch that is not saying “Ugh!” So it’s a phenomenal opportunity for the church. It’s a phenomenal opportunity for the church. What’s bad, if you like, for the culture, in terms of its disintegration, is an opportunity.

There are people saying, “I don’t know where I’m from.”

Well, in the church we can tell you: “You’re not a bunch of plankton. You’re not molecules held in suspension. You were created by the living God. And he pursues you in Jesus.”

“I didn’t know that! I don’t know that there’s any hope in life.”

“Oh, we can tell you about this. Jesus brings us to a living hope by the resurrection.” “The what?”

You see, loved ones, to the extent that we think about “going to church,” we’ve missed it. What we have to realize is we are the church.

The elders wouldn’t go for this, but years ago, I wanted the sign outside to say “Parkside Church meets here,” as opposed to “Parkside Church.” ’Cause this isn’t the church. Where in earth does God live? In his people. “Well,” people say, “but in the sanctuary.” What sanctuary? There is no sanctuary! Do you think Jesus is more in this room than in the messy choir room back here, or the ladies’ john? No!

No, see, we think all wrongly. So you are me, and I am you, and we’re stuck—gloriously, wonderfully stuck! And the way in which we view ourselves controls the vibe. If we see ourselves in terms of our achievements or our acquisitions or our merits or our privileges, then only those who can match our achievement, share our privileges, and so on will feel comfortable amongst us. But if we’re prepared humbly to acknowledge, “At one time I was… But now I am…”

Do you see, the character of a local church, the character of Parkside Church… And our character is growing, I hope. In each of our lives, we’re hoping that as time passes, we’re making progress. But the character of a local church is molded by the self-perception of the individual members. The character of Parkside is essentially the aggregate of the perception of those who are truly members of Parkside.

Can we put that slide up? Do we have that slide, as I close? Maybe not. Yeah? What I wanted to put up there… Yeah, there you go. I was driving not so long ago, and I came on the back of a Volvo. And I hope it’s not your Volvo. But it certainly is in “the birthplace of aviation.” And I said, “Oh, I got to take a photograph of that.” “I am special.” How do teachers—how do you teach with thirty of those in your class? “I am special.” How do you run a sales force of fifteen people, every one of them coming in going, “Hey, I am special!”

“Well,” you say, “but in Jesus, we are special.” Yes, but you just used the correct phrase: “in Jesus.” Outside of Jesus…

We’ve got to pray that God will make us “wise as serpents and [harmless] as doves”[26]—that we will be seen to stand firmly on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. ’Cause we differ on multiple levels. We differ on innumerable levels. But that is not the issue. The issue doesn’t lie in trying to make everybody the same as us. The issue lies in recognizing that the God who has redeemed us has been putting us together purposefully so that this multinational temple that involves every nation and tribe and people and language[27] will be brought to fruition. And that God would give us any part in that is a quite wonderful mystery.

We look away from ourselves to you, our Lord and King, thanking you that your Word is both understandable and clear. Any fogginess is on our part.

Lord, I pray you’ll look upon us in your mercy and in your grace, as a church family—that you will help us, Lord, to tolerate no man-made barriers of culture or class or of race. We’d rather be here. We’d rather be amongst your people, quite honestly. Deep down inside, we would rather, actually, be amongst your people. Because amongst your people, we’re in the place that you desire for us to be. And heaven and earth will pass away, but your Word will never pass away.[28]

Lord, draw to yourself those who as yet have never trusted you, strengthen those of us who have, and make us all that you desire for us to be. To the glory of your name we ask it. Amen.

[1] Ephesians 2:3 (ESV).

[2] Dave Bilbrough, “I Am a New Creation” (1983).

[3] See Acts 9:1–9.

[4] Jordan Kauflin, “All I Have Is Christ” (2008).

[5] See Romans 5:10.

[6] John 1:11 (KJV).

[7] John 1:12 (paraphrased).

[8] William Tidd Matson, “Lord, I Was Blind” (1868). Language modernized.

[9] Ephesians 2:12 (ESV).

[10] Philippians 3:20 (paraphrased).

[11] Isaac Watts, “Jesus Shall Reign” (1719).

[12] Watts.

[13] See Ephesians 1:3–5.

[14] Marty Goetz, “And We Being Many” (1984).

[15] Colossians 3:12 (paraphrased).

[16] Colossians 3:12–13 (paraphrased).

[17] Acts 1:4–5 (paraphrased).

[18] Isaiah 28:16 (ESV).

[19] 1 Peter 2:5 (paraphrased).

[20] Fanny J. Crosby, “We Are Building.” Lyrics lightly altered.

[21] Exodus 25:10–22 (paraphrased).

[22] Psalm 84:1 (ESV).

[23] John 1:10 (paraphrased).

[24] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952), bk. 4, chap. 9.

[25] Paul Simon, “Sparrow” (1964). Lyrics lightly altered.

[26] Matthew 10:16 (ESV).

[27] See Revelation 7:9.

[28] See Matthew 24:35; Luke 21:33.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.