The Lord’s Message August 30, 2015
Intro: We have a Filipino saying, “Ang hindi lumilingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi maka-karating sa pato-tongonan”. In English it says, “One who does not look back to where he came from will not get to where he is going.” I believe there is a good lesson in this that when we look back and remember where we came from and are now experiencing fulfilment and success in life we will be more appreciative, thankful and grateful to where we came from. On the down side, there are those who are now successful in life that tends to forget where they came from. What if you were once poor and have now become rich and your status in life have gone high so that you do not associate with the poor and downtrodden. Or because you are now well educated and have studied in Ivy League schools that you look down on other Filipinos that could not speak good English and would not even associate with them. Or you may come from a rich family and grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth that you look down on the poor which we call in our language “mata pobre”. Wherever you are today and whatever is your status in life do you look back once in a while to appreciate where you came from? I hope you do not forget what your parents have done for you for without them you will not be where you are even if they were poor, less educated and now growing old in age.
What about in the spiritual life, is there a parallel to this? Yes, very much so. So let me go straight to the truth found in our text the Lord is giving us today. I titled this message as…
“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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph. 2:11-13
Since we are all Gentiles, then this applies to all of us. The first truth that we ought not to forget is that we are Gentiles by birth. In the Old Testament there were only two classifications of people. You are either a Jew or a Gentile. And if you are a Gentile you are not part of the chosen race by God. Was this by their choice or not? Certainly not! In the same way that I did not chose to be born as a Filipino. What if my parents were Iranians or Syrians, what would I be? I would probably be raised in the religion of Islam. I thank the Lord that I was born with Filipino parents and some of you to American, Hispanic or other nationality. But as far as God is concerned we are all Gentiles and not Jews and equally lost. Jews from the time of Abraham were also called the “circumcision” to distinguish them from the Gentiles. Circumcision was commanded by God for their identity as His people.
So now, as Gentiles and that is all of us, what are we to remember next? We were separated from Christ. To be separated from Christ means there is no salvation for us for we have no Savior. We must also remember that Jesus was sent initially to Israel or Jews, descendants of Abraham. When Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon a Gentile area, He was approached by a Gentile woman who was seeking His help for her daughter who was demon possessed, but… Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. Matt. 15:23-28
We see here that although Jesus was sent only to the Jews, He saw the faith of the woman and her desperate need for His help. Why did Jesus use dogs to describe those who are not Jews? This is the description of those who are not saved at the end of the world after they are judged. “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood”. Rev. 22:15
But because of her faith, she was shown mercy and healed her daughter. Jesus was setting the stage for the salvation that will come to the Gentiles. And this was affirmed by the apostle Paul when he was sent with the gospel to the Gentiles. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
Gentiles were not only separated from Christ but excluded from being a citizen of the kingdom of God and heaven. Since the kingdom of God starts here on earth we are like illegals with no papers and birthright. We are foreigners in God’s kingdom and are only temporary residents of earth and belonging to the devil’s kingdom. Jesus said that the devil is father of the unsaved.
Then the worse is we have no hope and without God in our lives. Many today are hoping to go to heaven even though they are going the wrong way. Ask anybody if they are certain of going to heaven and most will answer “I hope so.” But their hope is to a hopeless end. They also think that they know God just as we did before we got saved, but the God most people believe today are idols, idols of wood, silver and gold, idols of different religions or idols of a god created by themselves.
Do we now realize that this is where we all came from because we were followers of religion, ignorant of the truth, and helpless because we were spiritually dead? But by God’s mercy, that is God withholding our punishment and by the grace God, He saved us, unworthy and undeserving sinners and this is what we are now because of what Jesus did by laying His life and be punished for our sins: one with Israel and circumcised in the heart by the repentance of sins, no longer separated from Christ but one with Him and in Him, citizens of heaven - no longer foreigners but legal and permanent resident, with an endless hope in God in salvation both now and forever having and possessed by God, Christ in us and the Holy Spirit
When did this change of our standing with God happen? In God’s time when He gave us this new birth and have been born again. Here’s how that happened. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:6-8
Three things we could not do ourselves: We were powerless so we cannot save ourselves. We were ungodly because we were wicked. And lastly we were sinners and objects of God’s wrath.
But all these changed when by God’s grace He saved us according to His will. “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Eph. 1:4c-8
Even if we know this truth already, we ought to look back in order to remember and not forget how God saved us. Did we do anything to get saved? Nothing! Was it our will to get saved? No! It was because of God’s love that He saved us. Were we lovable? We were wicked and rebellious. And when did God love us? “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.” Jer. 31:3
So when did God love you? He loved us from eternity past even before the creation of the world. Another truth is we did not come to Him but He drew us to His Son. Here’s now a warning for those who have been saved a long time now. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Rev. 2:2-4
What is Jesus saying to His people here? How can we be guilty of forsaking our first love? Just as Jesus said, we can be working hard for the Lord, persevere, endure hardship and not growing weary and are able to discern false prophets but how does Jesus evaluate what we do? We then ought to examine ourselves why am I doing what I am doing? What is my motive in doing what I am doing? Am I doing it to earn God’s favor or am I serving the Lord out of my love for Him?
What really matters to God and our Lord Jesus Christ is to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind.” And when that is the focus of our life, then God will work through us to do whatever He wills for us to do. Remember the test of our love for Jesus is to obey His commands. It is our love for the Lord that motivates our obedience to all His commands and does according to His will. And this will be carried out by God the Holy Spirit who is in us. “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil. 2:13
What then should we not and never forget? The love of God for you and me. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:9-11
Today we are going to remember what Jesus gave up for you and me in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. This is not to save us or improve our salvation but it is a reminder of what Jesus did to save us from the wrath of God and hell. But before we can partake of the elements, let us examine ourselves if there is any sin that we have committed against God or even unaware of sin against God. We are exhorted and warned by the apostle Paul as instructed by Jesus that… “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” 1 Cor. 11:28-29
And the only one who can really examine our hearts is the Holy Spirit, so we ask, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Ps. 139:23-24
And if the Holy Spirit reveals a sin in your heart then take your sins to Jesus… “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Then come to “The Lord’s Supper.”