“Barrier Breaker” - Ephesians 2:11-22 - Pastor Scott
Jesus destroys barriers and allows believers to be citizens of His Kingdom.
How do barriers affect us and our relationship with God and with one another?
This summer, our series is, “What is a Healthy Church?” We will be teaching from Bible passages that will help us work together to be a healthy church. We pray that this series will be a blessing for each of us and as a church as a whole.
Sadly, this year, there will be no 3 on 3. The gym is not available so hopefully we will have one in 2022. I love the 3 on 3. Besides a fun day of basketball, it is our biggest outreach event. One of the past speakers was Wat Misaka, the first minority to play professional basketball. That barrier was broken in 1947, a few months after Jackie Robinson did it in baseball and three years before the first African American played in the NBA. Mr. Misaka made the drive all the way from Utah. It was an honor to have him there and get to know him and his wife.
Some barriers can be good. Some not so good. Some are man-made and then there are some barriers that are self-made and created to keep things out of our own life. As we dive into Ephesians 2, we will see that Jesus destroys barriers and allows believers to be citizens of His Kingdom. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus to encourage them and to explain the nature and purpose of the church. It was written about 60AD and, even these days, we need encouragement in understanding the nature and purpose of the church. So, the question this morning is: How do barriers affect us and our relationship with God and with one another?
1) Barriers separate us from God. (vv.11-12) 11 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— 12 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.
In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul says we 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.
These are not great things. But then he goes on to say… 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. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. These are all great things. It’s because of God’s grace. Not our own works.
In verse 11, Paul uses two terms to describe two groups of people: The uncircumcision = Non-Jews or Gentiles. Anyone not a Jew is considered a gentile. The circumcision = the Jews. Circumcision is basically cutting off the foreskin of a boy’s private parts. Pious Jews looked down on all non-Jews because they felt they were ceremonially unclean. They considered themselves clean because of their heritage and their religious ceremonies. But Paul points out that both Jews and Gentiles are all unclean and in need of being cleansed in Christ. No one is perfect and without sin so we all need God’s forgiveness which can only be found in Jesus.
Paul says in verse 12, we were once outsiders. We were separated from Christ. We were alienated. We were strangers. We were hopeless and without God. This is your life before you came to Christ. Think about your life before you came to Christ. How did you think? How did you act? When you give your life to Christ, you are a new creation. If you haven’t done that yet, it may be hard to understand. But when you give your life to Christ, a barrier comes down. Like a wall in your heart crumbles and allows you to understand your purpose in life, to see meaning in who you are and to finally live the life you were created to live! You are no longer separated from your Creator, from your Savior, from your God. You are no longer an alien or a stranger. You have hope. You have God. Barriers separate us from God.
2) God breaks down barriers (vv.13, 19-22) That is true for those who have asked Jesus for forgiveness and have allowed Him to be their Lord and Savior. Verse 13 says, “We were separated and far away but Jesus broke down that barrier.” And in verses 19-22 it says… Blood of Christ – Because Jesus died and rose again, it allows us to have a personal relationship with Him. There is no barrier between God and man now. The barrier was sin. God cannot have fellowship with sin. But man is sinful so that barrier is there. But Jesus was 100% man and 100% God and He became the perfect sacrifice and the only way to reconcile sinful man with holy God. Only Jesus could take away sin and He did that when He died on the cross.
Have you accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation? He can break down that barrier for you. In verse 19-22 it says, we are called “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” How cool is that? Fellow citizens! Members of God’s household! You can be a part of God’s family. God has made a way so that we all have an opportunity to know Him personally. We can be a part of His family. He can be our Heavenly father. And we can dwell with Him for eternity. And eternity is a long time.
Billy Graham once said, “Heaven is real and hell is real, and eternity is but a breath away.” Allow Jesus to break down the one barrier that will impact your eternity.
3) Without barriers, God’s peace rules us. (vv.14-18) In verse 14, it says, He is our peace = “absence or end of strife.” It’s the idea that God’s mercy has brought about deliverance and freedom from all distresses that are experienced as a result of sin. Paul goes on to say that God has made one new man in place of the two – that is the Jews and Gentiles. They are the same now in terms of salvation. One is not better than the other.
Jews knew more about God because they studied the Scripture and worshipped Him in their religious ceremonies. Gentiles knew very little of God. There was resentment between the Jews and Gentiles because Jewish laws favored the Jews and excluded the Gentiles. But Jesus abolished that whole system when He died on the cross.
But both were in need of God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. They are in the same boat. All the religious activity of the Jews would not save them. Only a relationship with Jesus could do that. And this brings peace. Peace from God to both Jews and non-Jews. Peace that should exist amongst all believers. Quite frankly, there are a lot of different walls that can be built among God’s people. But God breaks down those walls and allows us to all fellowship together. As I think about our church, I see so many differences that we all have. There are many differences amongst His people. Contrasts in age, appearance, sports teams, schools, neighborhoods and jobs. There are Socio-economic, ethnic, geographical, cultural, educational and many other differences that could and maybe should divide His people. And yet when I think about my brothers and sisters, I see that we have one thing in common that supersedes anything else. And that is Jesus.
If you choose to be, you can be a part of God’s family. You can allow Him to tear down any walls you have up. You can finally find what you have been looking for. You can have that emptiness inside you filled. You can have peace not only with other believers but with yourself and, most importantly, with God.
I mentioned Wat Misaka at the beginning of this message. A friend from Utah introduced us and that’s how I invited him to our 3 on 3 basketball tournament. He said he was not comfortable sharing his faith so I just invited him to come, take some photos, meet people and sign autographs. Then, years later, I heard that Wat wasn’t doing too well, not only physically but spiritually. My family happened to be passing through Utah so I called him and asked if we could stop by. While we sat in his living room, I started to share the Gospel with him. I wanted to make sure he knew Jesus personally. As I was sharing, his wife called out from the kitchen, “He accepted Christ last Christmas!” I said, “You did?!” Awesome! We spent more time and then we left.
A couple years later, I thought it would be a good idea to visit him and record a Play4Him video. We had started a non-profit ministry where we make videos of professional athletes sharing their testimonies. He agreed and we flew to Utah. Unfortunately, Mr. Misaka was already starting a decline in health and he would repeat the same stories and as much as I loved hearing all the basketball stories, he wasn't saying much about his relationship with Jesus. So, after half an hour or so, I asked him more pointed questions about his faith. I asked him, “How did you become a Christian?” And he said, “I don’t really know if I am.” Uh oh. We end every video with, “My name is so and so and I play4Him.” It wouldn't be great for him to say, “I’m Wat Misaka and I don’t really know if I play4Him.” The video became secondary. I wanted to make sure my friend knew Jesus personally.
I started sharing the Gospel and I asked him the big question. “Mr. Misaka, would you like to make the one decision that will impact your eternity? Would like to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?” And he looked at me and said, “I don't think so.” What???? No way. I was shocked. I didn't want to pressure him so we talked for a little bit but eventually we went to dinner and I flew home. I know Jesus is the one who breaks down barriers; not us. But I still felt like I failed. I was sad. I didn't care about the Play4Him video. I was sad for my friend. I was sad that maybe he hadn’t asked Jesus into His life.
Then I heard a few months later he had passed away. But I received a text from Wat’s daughter, Nancy, saying something amazing happened on what turned out to be Wat’s last day on earth. Wat’s pastor, Brad, went to visit Wat and shared the Gospel. Pastor Brad prayed for Wat and Wat thanked Brad in a very heartfelt way. Soon, Wat’s neighbor came to visit and she said to Wat, “You look very calm.” Wat replied, “I am calm. I talked to Jesus today.” Nancy said her father never said things like that. Wat then added, "Well, He did the talking. He said that He was in control and that everything was going to be alright." Wat also said that he wasn’t going to be around much longer. He said the same thing to other visitors that day. Later that night, Wat passed away peacefully in his sleep.
It took Wat almost 96 years but his barrier between him and God finally came down. And when it did, on his final day on earth, it gave him a peace that could only come from the one who created him. Do you still have your barrier? Whether you have faithfully gone to church your whole life or you are hearing this for the first time, you have an opportunity to make a decision that will impact your eternity. You can finally have the peace that only God can give. You cannot get this peace by simply believing in God. Or by coming to church each week. You need to allow Jesus to come into your life and break down that barrier. You need to accept His free gift of eternal life and to allow Him to be your Lord and Savior. Are you ready to do that? If so, then you can live the life He meant for you to live.
Build Your Kingdom Here, Good Good Father, Living Hope, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Doxology