Dear friends, grace and shalom to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Messiah!
We tend as people, sadly, to seek to divide ourselves from others in every way possible. Whether by color, nationality, neighborhood, income bracket, sports team, clothing label, you name it, we sadly seek to divide ourselves from one another. We as humans, sadly, naturally seek to become hostile to one another in every way and every place. Since this is our natural tendency, it is absurd that we would imagine or proclaim that “peace” and “reconciliation” with one another can take place—as realities and not mere propositions—by our own efforts. If we are naturally divided and at odds with one another, then natural means will not change that. We need something MORE than natural, something super-natural to do that. Praise be to the Lord that we do have such a reality made possible to us in the Messiah Jesus!
When reflecting on the realities—not imaginations—that occur when one enters into salvation by turning and trusting in the Lord Jesus, Paul writes this:
Now in Messiah Yeshua [Jesus], you who once were far off [i.e., Gentiles, meaning everyone who was not a Jew and covenanted to God within Israel] have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our shalom [peace, wellness and wholeness], the One who made the two [Jew and Gentile] into one and broke down the middle wall of separation. Within His flesh He made powerless the hostility… He did this in order to create within Himself one new man [meaning mankind, humanity] from the two groups, making shalom, and to reconcile both to God in one body through the cross—by which He put the hostility to death. And He came and proclaimed shalom to you who were far away and shalom to those who were near—for through Him we both have access to the Father by the same Ruach [Spirit]. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household… In Him, you also are being built together into God’s dwelling place in the Ruach [Spirit].
(Ephesians 2:13-19, 22, TLV; bracketed information added for clarification).
Within that passage, Paul addresses profound truths regarding the realities of the separation and hostility that existed and continue to exist between people—a hostility and separation with other people and with God. There is a dividing wall, a real separation of hostility—not mutual love—that naturally exists between people. Praise be to the Lord Jesus that He Himself is our shalom—our peace, wellness and wholeness! He Himself is the one who destroys that existing separation and hostility! He Himself is our reconciliation, both with God and one another! Though we cannot by our own natural means bring an end to the hostilities and separations that, sadly, naturally exist between peoples, we can nevertheless experience a real—not imagined or simply philosophical—peace and reconciliation with one another in and through the super-natural means of a new life trusting in Jesus! He is our shalom and reconciliation that destroys our previous realities and creates a new reality for us to experience. No longer hostile and separated, but in Messiah we are united together as a fellow citizens, fellow family members, and as a united dwelling place for God’s Presence here on earth. This is not a mere propositional truth—that sounds good, but is not actualized. Rather, this is an effectual reality for those who live their lives lovingly trusting in Jesus!
The problem is, that rather than living our lives trusting in Jesus, we who claim to be in Messiah far to often do NOT experience His realities. Why? Because they are mere propositions and not reality? Not at all! Rather, we often treat Messiah’s realities as mere propositions and the world’s propositions as realities. In doing so, we begin to—like all people—attempt to live out the realities we accept as real. We then live frustrated lives, for just as we cannot live a reality that is not real, our inner beings constantly cry out for what is real and true. We see this in every sphere of life when there is an apparent disconnect between what should be and what is. In those moments, we cry out for what is real and true. When there is no apparent disconnect, we are satisfied in non-real, untrue “realities.”
By rejecting Messiah’s realities, we fail to experience them, just as a child who rejects their father’s invitation to come home fails to experience their homecoming reception. The existing hostility and separation between peoples is real, not a mere proposition. Those realities are not overcome by mere propositions, but by reality. Hostility and separation is only overcome through new life in Messiah Jesus. If we reject Messiah’s reality of existing shalom and reconciliation to be experienced between all people who are in Messiah, and if we instead accept the world’s propositions—that we are all good and naturally lovingly inclined towards one another, and that we can experience peace and reconciliation devoid of God—as our reality, then we will be frustrated as we find out that the world’s propositions are not reality AND we will have robbed ourselves of the real peace and reconciliation that is available! My brothers and sisters, this is sadly what happens! But this should NOT be! Bottom line, we who are in Messiah have too often stiffened our necks as many of our forefathers have done. We have rejected our God’s ways and commands for our lives, rejected His real shalom and reconciliation, and we have instead enthusiastically sought to live like those in another “kingdom,” which is no kingdom at all.
Do we not recall God’s command to us through His word? “I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, TLV). We are not to allow the propositions of this world to shape our minds and actions, but rather allow the Holy Spirit to transform us through His Word that we may know—intimately experience—God’s will for our lives. May I raise a question to us? What are we allowing to influence our thinking, our speech, our relationships? Is it the Word of God and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as effectual realities within us? Or, is it the erroneous propositions of people, who—just like us—without Messiah can do nothing?
The sad truth is, that we who have received in Messiah Jesus the effectual reality of shalom and reconciliation with God and one another are often far more divided than those who have not yet received such things. I write this to OUR shame. Lord, forgive us, for because of us—Your people—Your Name is blasphemed among the nations! Just as history has shown us the ability for sinful humanity to unite against God’s people Israel, against the churches, against God’s Word—Incarnate and written—history has also shown, time and time again, God’s people sadly refusing to unite as God’s people, and rather desiring to be divided like the people of the world. This needs to stop—for our sake, for the world’s sake, for our God’s Name’s sake.
In the devotional quoted below, we who are part of the church—the community of those trusting in Jesus the Messiah—are challenged to look at any ongoing barriers that we are keeping or putting up. In the Name of the Messiah Jesus, they must come down! For if Messiah’s community is divided, and continues to be divided against itself, how can it stand? How can it be a light in darkness? How can it bring praise, glory and honor to our Great God and Savior? How can it effectively call those who are truly separated from and hostile towards others and God to experience peace and reconciliation as realities in Messiah? The answer is a resounding, “It cannot.”
Rebecca Van Noord writes:
Peter testifies, “In truth I understand that God is not one who shows partiality, but in every nation the one who fears him and who does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34).
Strangely, Peter’s speech still needs to be heard today. We tend to confine our faith within comfortable borders—cultural, regional, or racial. We need to be challenged to see people from other ethnicities and cultural backgrounds as fellow followers of Christ. If God does not show partiality, then neither should we. The reign of Jesus extends over all people; God will draw His children from all corners of the earth, and there will be no “foreigners” in His kingdom.”
(Quote is from September 12’s devotional in Rebecca Van Noord’s book, “Connecting the Testaments”).
My brothers and sisters, it is time to live out Messiah’s realities and not the propositions of our world. It is time to reenter into Messiah Jesus’ shalom—peace, wellness and wholeness—and reconciliation. Will you join me?
With love to all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of all,
Pastor Christopher Montgomery