'From exclusion to inclusion' by Mal Calladine - March 10th 2019
Our past experience can give us a sense of identity which contradicts what God says about us. In this talk, Mal looks at how Jesus changed our identity and reconciled us into close relationship with God.
Our current season is an adventure to discover our identity in God. We consider this an "inner journey", so that understanding and being empowered in who we are can lead to us being more effective and empowered in what we are called to do.
We have been looking at Paul's letter to the Ephesians, writing our names in as Paul addresses Christians about our identity. We start with what God says about who we are, because we need to come back to this when faced with challenges.
3:18 The SHAPE of you
There is much more to us than our physical shape. One influential church has expressed this as S.H.A.P.E.:
S: Spiritual gifts
H: Heart passions & desires
E: Experience & journey, heritage and household
4:05 Pain where we came from
Our experience in particular can be painful and different from what Ephesians 1 and 2 say about us. Some people can identify an early "first formation" experience which defined them more than their understanding of their identity in God, and they normally find this out when under pressure.
For example, a difficult encounter Mal had in childhood led to making "a vow that, effectively, I would never trust authority."
7:00 Hope ahead
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18-19a, NIV)
It is possible be defined by this hope more than by our bad experiences.
9:05 Where Paul says we came from
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:11-12)
Paul wrote to people who were trying to be faithful and holy that they were once outsiders, rejected and not part of God's promise to be with his people. We share this identity if we are not part of the Jewish family. However, there is hope!
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility." (Ephesians 2:13-16)
Two main things change when stop being outsiders and take on the identity Jesus gives us - we receive peace and inclusion into things could not previously have.
13:25 We receive peace
Working with couples, Mal has observed that true reconciliation can only happen when both partners want the other to be in their preferred future. Jesus showed that his preferred future is with us.
Dan Green, who runs the charity Bridges For Communities, shared his recent experience in Athens meeting Bridges Athens. Athens is a gateway to Europe for refugees whose faith backgrounds may have divided them from Christians, but are finding reconciliation as they are welcomed by the community. The group leader is a Syrian Christian who once hated Muslims after a fight, at the age of 13, led to him being burned and scarred. However, he credits God for changing his heart and working in faith to build bridges.
20:50 Peace from God leads to inclusion and closeness to God
"He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near." (Ephesians 2:17)
The peace that Paul referred to is "shalom" in Hebrew, which is not an absence of war but the presence of God in a situation. God's preferred future is to bring his presence into the situations we carry.
"For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Ephesians 2:18-22)
Paul assures people following Jesus that we are no longer foreigners and strangers but members of God's household, sharing a heritage with his holy, chosen people. Temples were only for Jewish people to attend, but Jesus' followers actually become part of a holy temple and a dwelling place for God.
25:00 Praying for the Holy Spirit to bring peace where we need it
The Holy Spirit can work and change us. This talk concluded with a time of prayer and prophetic encouragement.