Ephesians 2:19, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
We all know what it feels like to be excluded, left out, and disregarded. We often attribute the experience of being “left-out” to our younger years. Have you heard of the middle-child syndrome? I might have made it up, but it really is legitimate. Being a fellow middle child, I can attest to its accuracy! Being in the middle can put you in many vicarious positions, and sometimes you just don’t know where you fit in. Do you get the same privileges of your, in my case, not much older sibling? Do you share the same friends and experiences? Being the first always has its advantages (and of course, disadvantages).
A parent’s excitement is fresh when you are their first child. First to walk, first to babble a word, first to make friends, first to be in school events, first ups, and downs. For the most part, all is new for the firstborn, and first-time parents are attentive to every detail. Although no child is the same, by the second child the freshness wears off a bit and what was unique to us becomes much more common. Even still, the love for our children is not compartmentalized, we love all of our babies, firstborn, lastborn or second born. This is not a dig at our parent’s love or the order in which we were born. Rather those who receive the leftovers, hand-me-downs, and second-glances know the feeling of obscurity much more than those who have received the utmost attention, and all experience this in some form or another. In our lives, loneliness will be felt, being overlooked by someone greater will happen, and desertion by those we love will come to pass. This is precisely the emotional battle the Gentiles in Ephesus were facing. I love what James Forbis wrote, from a previous article in this series, about the state of those to whom Paul is writing to:
“They have all the spiritual blessings they could ever need and want, yet they’re seriously malnourished because they aren’t fully embracing the riches of Gods glorious grace through the Lord Jesus.”
Is it any wonder Paul spends a whole chapter pointing them to the benefits of being united to Christ? This is what Paul Tripp would call, “Spiritual Amnesia”–forgetting the spiritual reality of those in Jesus Christ. Who of us has not experienced this? Perhaps, reader, your soul right now is in a state of doubt and malnutrition, when a feast of privilege is right before your eyes. The Gentile-believers wrestled with the bountiful grace of their Lord, just as we do. These were men and women cast off, on the outside looking in, in need of a miracle. Unless you are an ethnic Jew, consider yourself in the gentile category. What does Paul say was our state before God made a way through Christ?
Ephesians 2:12: “…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth if Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Separated, alienated, strangers, hopeless, and without God— this is who we were, beloved.
If you grew up in a traditional Baptist congregation, you will most likely be familiar with the famous hymn “Family of God.” Remember its words?
“From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!
I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family,
The Family of God”
The cross shouts this to unworthy hearts who, by faith, believe in its power and the Lamb slain upon it! “I am not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!” When we experience spiritual amnesia our confidence lowers, our faith becomes faulty, and the hope of grace grows dim. What would the loving Father say to the middle-child who felt “on the outs” because of their birthplace? “Does the order of your birth threaten my love for you?” Absolutely not. So it is, and much more, with our Heavenly Father. God desires that His children love, adore, and exalt Him for His grace. Gentiles, lift up your gaze and see the love that unites us, and behold His glory. The Prince of Peace is His name, and He came to save. For decades the wall of hostility stood high, and in one instant perfect peace was made available.
Ephesians 2:14– “For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”.
At times it can be difficult to truly believe we are a part of the covenant of grace, co-laborers with those who always had an “in” to the special privileges of God. Let’s not forget the promise of God to Abraham:
Genesis 12:3b—“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Even then God was giving us a glimpse into a grace that knows no bounds. Race, gender, social status, affluent, poor, overlooked, diseased, impure—nothing could stand against the salvation purposed before time for those who repent and lay hold of the Son of God. There is no discrimination found before the cross on Calvary’s hill.
Isaiah 55:1a,4-5– “Come, everyone who thirsts…Behold I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.”
No longer strangers! Paul reminds us of the power of the gospel, the love of Christ, the heart of the Father, and the access now given to us by His Spirit. Grace cannot be retracted when it has been purposed by God to be received.
We are no longer on the outside looking in. Our place has been bought by the precious blood of Christ, our future secured with the seal of his Spirit, and our God will be faithful to us no matter our status here in the world. Perhaps, you have been abandoned and treated as a “Gentile.”
Maybe you are a grown individual still carrying the scars of abandonment from your youth, malnourished because of your weak faith in the riches of God’s glorious grace. It may be that you have had a beautiful childhood, believed on the Lord at a young age, yet are wrestling with sin and shame, forgetting the grace and love of your Father. Don’t live with spiritual amnesia today. Remember the grace of Christ, flee sin and pursue the joy of being fully His. We all have found ourselves on the outs. May Psalm 27:10 comfort all of us today:
“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”
Let this be a word of encouragement for a lone soul…”the Lord will take me in.” I think of children by the thousands who were cast off as unwanted by their birth parents; the Lord will take you in. The overlooked daughter, discouraged son, and misfit juvenile; the Lord will take you in.
Regarding the life that has been turned upside down by the God of the gospel, now disowned and cast out because of His name; oh, the Lord will take you in. And to the one who has failed repeatedly, broken every vow and has found themselves isolated due to their own choices; the Lord wants to take you in. Forsaken is not included in the kingdom of God’s vocabulary. The goodness of our God shouts against the victimization of the innocent and the abuse of the venerable. Yet, the overflowing spring of His goodness still pours forth, extending forgiveness to those who have penned themselves in by their own doing, dug their own pit to sit in and realized their inability to save themselves– the Lord will take you in. The heart of the Father is clearly seen in the work of the Son and in the comfort of the Spirit–our God is near to the brokenhearted and he sees the cries of the wounded. Though the war of loneliness arises against me, yet I will be confident. The Lord will take me in.
You are taken in by a faithful God, brother, and sister. I heard it said once:
“The same rod that comforts the Shepherd’s flock, is the same rod that violently drives away those who threaten them.”
Rejoice in this today! Our Lord deserves every ounce of our trust and assurance. Has He ever failed us?
Micah 5:4-5– “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.”