When the apostle Paul went to Athens and preached the gospel, he walked around the city and saw that it was completely given over to idolatry. Athens was known for its cultural learning. It was known for its incredible edifices. And it was also known for spirituality.
The people of Athens were very religious. They worshiped many gods. It was said in that time that it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man. Idols were erected for every conceivable deity imaginable, including one with an inscription that read, "To the Unknown God" (see Acts 17:23).
Historians tell us there was a great cloud of hopelessness covering the ancient world. Their philosophies were empty. Their traditions were disappearing. Their religion was a vain attempt to reach God by their own human efforts, and it was powerless to impact them in this life or to prepare them for the life to come.
In spite of their numerous gods, they did not have a relationship with the one true God.
Is that not a picture, in many ways, of our culture today? We have made incredible advances in technology. But I think more and more Americans are asking the big questions such as: Why am I here? What is the meaning of life?
Unfortunately, many are looking for truth in all of the wrong places. We want the benefits of faith, but we don't want the restrictions of it.
The Bible says this will be a sign of the last days. As one translation puts it, "They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly" (2 Timothy 3:5 NLT).
So in Ephesians 2, Paul was basically saying to the believers at Ephesus (and to all of us), "You were without God. You were separated from Him."
But then comes a blessed interruption in verse 13: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (NKJV, emphasis mine).
We were on our way to a certain judgment, but God sent Jesus. Because of His death and His shed blood, we have now been reconciled with God.
That was really the essence of the angel's message to the shepherds as they watched over their flocks on that first Christmas Eve. Part of that message was, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14 NKJV). A more literal translation of this statement would be, "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men with whom God is well-pleased."
That is the key to peace on earth, peace between nations, and peace in a family: Peace on earth among men with whom God is well-pleased.
How do we please God? It is only through Jesus Christ, only through the way of reconciliation He has made available to us. So if we want to be reconciled to God and want to be reconciled with others, then it must be through Christ.
So many of us need reconciliation today. Husbands need to be reconciled to wives. Parents need to be reconciled with children. Sinners need to be reconciled with God. We all need reconciliation.
Sin is the great separator. Ever since it entered the world, it has divided people throughout human history. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, sin immediately began its work of separation. It separated Adam and Eve from God. It ultimately separated their sons, Cain and Abel. It was all because of the separating impact of sin.
But at the cross of Calvary, Jesus eliminated the wall that separated us from Him. He brought about reconciliation. And Paul was saying that because of this, we need to be reconciled to one another.
In the Old Testament, an animal was sacrificed for sin. But in the New Testament, Jesus Christ fulfilled all that the Old Testament pointed to. He became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Now the only way that I can know God is through the shed blood of Christ. It is only through Jesus Christ that I can approach God.
This is the great truth: We have open access to God through Christ. We can be reconciled to Him. And He wants us to be reconciled to one another.
Let's rejoice that God has given us this access to Him.
Greg Laurie pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship (one of America's largest churches) in Riverside, California. He has authored several books including the Gold Medallion Award winner, The Upside-Down Church, as well as Losers and Winners, Saints and Sinners and The Best Is Yet to Come. You can find his study notes in the New Believer's Bible and The Seeker's Bible.
Host of the Knowing God with Greg Laurie television program and the nationally syndicated radio program A New Beginning, Laurie is also the founder and featured speaker for Harvest Crusades-contemporary, large-scale evangelistic outreaches, which local churches organize nationally and internationally. Laurie has also appeared on CNN's Larry King Live, ABC World News Tonight, Fox News, and MSNBC, sharing how the Bible is relevant for people today.
Whether speaking or writing, God has gifted Pastor Greg Laurie with the ability to apply biblical principles to current events in a way that is relevant and easily understood by people of all ages, from all walks of life. The trademark of a Greg Laurie sermon, book, or broadcast is his contemporary, yet straightforward style and format. He resides in Southern California with his wife, Cathe.
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