Some things the Lord wants us to forget! But others he wants us to NEVER FORGET. In today’s scripture Paul twice uses the word, REMEMBER (Eph. 2:1 and 2). REMEMBER is Paul’s swift kick in the pants ~ don’t forget the appointment, it’s important! .
Paul kicks us in the pants to remember our past so that we will always thankfully rejoice for our salvation. “Therefore” in Eph. 2:11 refers to Eph. 2:1-10: you have been saved by grace therefore remember what you were like. God wants us to have awareness of the great contrast of before and after. One person noted the new identity that Ephesians describes ~ He compared it to a kitten looking in a mirror and seeing the reflection of a lion….I get it… but for me, the mirror needs to be like those old triple panel department store mirrors that I used to play in as a kid when I was shopping with my mother ~ three angles….the lion is definitely reflected in one of the panels, but in the other is still a kitten. Never forget you were once a weak, helpless, dependent kitten.
I became a Christian when I was 4. If I were to write my autobiography of my faith journey, I would give it the sappy title, “I’m His Little Yam” because when I was a kid my parents used to bribe me with a chocolate bar to sing in front of this congregation, “Jesus is my shepherd, guess who I am, such a lovely secret, I’m his little lamb” only I could not pronounce lamb and it came out YAM. The words became embedded in my heart…. While I was always a Christian, there were times I strayed and felt faraway… all of you have your own faith journey. As you consider these words of Paul and the command to remember, think of your own faith journey…
REMEMBER is a kick in the pants. Remember what you were like. The Message paraphrase brings clarity to Eph. 2:11-12: But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large.
Remember what it was like when you were not a Christian. / when you were searching/young in the faith. In Eph. 2:12 there are five descriptions of what was like before you knew Christ: Separate, excluded, strangers, no hope, without God. Paul piles on the descriptions to make the before and after contrast greater! These descriptions should overwhelm us….it’s humbling/hard to think of your friends and family today that are not Christians, could be described this way… only God knows the heart of course….
- Separate: cut off from Christ. Before the gospel went to Ephesus, they had not heard of Jesus ~ no idea how to have their sins forgiven. They worshipped the idol Artemis, they feared evil spirits, used magic to keep evil away…. Artemis is not in our world, but there are idols, there is a need for forgiveness with many people rejecting the cross. Remember what it is like to be separated from others, feeling alone. It keeps a healthy perspective on who you are as well as what others may be feeling…
- Excluded: I’ve had reasons to walk into the casino. I feel I don’t belong, not wanted, some is my own problem… the main reason is those times I’ve seen people I know and they obviously don’t want me to see them… I’m in the wrong place. I feel excluded. Many people who walk into the church have the same feeling… If there is one nut I could crack that would be it… There have been times my thought life and actions were distancing myself from God. Remember the sense of being excluded. It keeps a healthy perspective on who you are as well as what others may be feeling…
- Strangers (i.e. foreigners, aliens): there was a time the promises of God did not apply to us because we rejected him… I feel bad when people reject me, how much more God… Remember the great discomfort of being a stranger. It keeps a healthy perspective on who you are as well as what others may be feeling…
- No Hope: In my deepest moments of discouragement, the sense of No Hope is the worst… Remember what it’s like to have no hope. It keeps a healthy perspective on who you are as well as what others may be feeling…
- Without God: The world is an evil, cruel, violent place. Even if you live a relatively comfortable life without God, the best you can hope for is expressed in the old bumper sticker: “Eat healthy, exercise, and die anyway!” Remember life without God, it keeps a healthy perspective on who are are as well as what others may be feeling.
Life in Christ is about mountain top and valley experiences. The good news: the Lord wants us to spend more time on the mountain top than in the valley. When Paul speaks of remembering you were Separate, excluded, strangers, no hope, without God you are on the mountain looking down. Eph. 2:13 takes us to the mountain top. Eph. 2:13 is an AMEN verse….READ.
- A GREAT CONTRAST! “But now!” What wonderful, amazing words! This is similar to Eph. 2:4, “But God!” Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Is there a ‘but God’ in your life?” Before the gospel, we were separate from Christ, excluded from the people of God, strangers to God’s covenant promises, with no hope and without God Himself. “But now!” Hallelujah! When God breaks into your life with the gospel, you cannot be the same person that you were before. All things become new (2 Cor. 5:17).
- No longer separated but IN CHRIST: Paul loves the phrase, “in Christ”. He’s used it over a dozen times so far! It means we are totally identified with Christ in His death, resurrection, and present position at God’s right hand.
- BROUGHT NEAR contrasts with excluded. God acted to bring us near to Him.
- THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. The blood of Christ is the promise fulfilled in how God made it possible for us to draw near to Him. Jesus Christ shed his blood to cleanse us from all sins. In a few moments, we will share in communion. What does it say on the front of the communion table…this same communion table that was built in the 1950’s has the same message today as it did 2000 years ago as it will in 1000 years… Christ’s blood reminds us of the great price He paid to secure our redemption. Rejoice that His blood covers your guilt and condemnation, once for all!
REMEMBER who you were without Christ so you understand the great contrast in who you are in Christ. It makes a difference in how we live as people of faith.
- Remembering what we were and who we are CURBS OUR PRIDE. How could you possibly look at any other person, saved or unsaved, as inferior….
- Remembering what we were and who we are DEEPENS OUR LOVE FOR CHRIST. In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus was dining with a Pharisee when a woman with a bad reputation came in and anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. She wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair as she kissed them. The pharisee was shocked Jesus would allow a sinner to touch Him in this manner. But Jesus told Simon that this woman loved much, because she was forgiven much. He added (Luke 7:47), “but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” He did not mean that the Pharisee had fewer sins than this woman. Simon was filled with pride and self-righteousness, which are abominable to God. But, he didn’t see himself as a sinner, and so he didn’t love Jesus much. Remembering your past sins deepens your love for Jesus, who gave Himself for you.
- Remembering what we were and who we are DEEPENS YOUR COMPASSION FOR THE LOST/SEARCHING. You can identify… one of my heros of faith is a woman named Ruth Glass…. I remember in my early days in Nooksack, there was a young girl that was pregnant. I knew it but most people didn’t. You could not tell till the end. I will never forget near the end of her pregnancy she started showing. One Sunday it was obvious… in those days I met with the older ladies for prayer on Thursday mornings and I remember what will they say… I brought it up, and without missing a beat, Ruth said, “But for the grace of God there go I.” that set the tone…. Compassion for others because you can identify…
- There are other results: thankfulness, a desire for reconciliation (next weeks message)… you can add to the list….
- I want to add one more crazy idea of what Remembering the great contrast of what you were and who you are in Christ does for you. In our everyday world, what role does remembering have? It’s important to tell stories… my mother is growing weaker, but she still has stories. And for the most part they are accurate. Stories are the primary way we define ourselves, it’s where we came from, our roots… a reminder of who we are. As we tell stories, we gain identity.
When I hear the word “Remember” I play a trick in my mind. I add a hyphen: Re-Member. it’s not a true history of the word, it just makes sense to me. The RE part means to do it again, like to rewind a tape… re-do ~~ do what again? To become a MEMBER again. RE-Member. Sometimes we need a kick in the pants to Re-Member, to Re-New my relationship with the Lord. Re-Member ~ Become a Member again in Christ. Amen.