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A New Approach To Unlocking Purposeful Connections

My four years at Moore Theological College in Sydney from 2007 to 2010 were quite unique. At least four of my lecturers at the time have since gone on to be Principal’s of Bible Colleges. The new principal of Moore College itself, was at the time of my studies a doctrine lecturer and also a member of the church I attended for two years. He gave some key points of feedback on sermons I preached, which have shaped my approach to this day. Many of the lecturers were published authors and leaders in their fields of research. And there were even some semi-retired lecturers who were legends in the world of evangelical scholarship, who came back for shorter teaching periods which I had the privilege of hearing and getting to engage with them personally. Having access to the right people at the right time is crucial. How do we make sure we have the access we need?


Barriers To Connection


One of the things that prevents our access to others, and their access to us, are cultural divides. The divide between indigenous and non-indigenous. The divide between Israel and the nations. The divide between the blues and the maroons - ha! We often inherit these divides from our ancestors and even as we try to step over the divides, it is difficult to reverse trajectories that have taken decades or even centuries to set in place. How do we keep access between different people groupings?


Barriers to Connection With God


The most important connection to unlock is between us and God. Yet even for followers of Jesus, there can remain confusion, that keeps us locked out of the fullness of relationship that God desires. Christians can struggle getting their heads around the fact that they are forgiven and yet still battle against sin. Christians know that they’ve been freed from the grip of Satan, yet debate about the nature of the ongoing battle against demons, sometimes not really taking seriously the fact that demons were influencing them before they came to Christ. Christians can seem to flip between a very negative stance towards the world and the things of the world on the one hand, and yet at other points a blind love for the ways of the world. All of these topics divide Christians, but more seriously, they hinder Christians in having direct access to God. How do we make sure the way remains open to God through Jesus?


Access To God In The Son


Because of the barrier between us and God, Paul rightly describes us as being dead:


‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.’ (Ephesians 2:1-3)


Like Adam and Eve in the garden, Paul explains how we follow Satan and demons, while influencing one another to do the same. The reason Satan has access to us, is because there are desires and thoughts in our ‘flesh’ that are against God’s ways for us, and so Satan leverages the flesh to get control over us. This leaves us walking in sin, disobedient to God and so the summary of our relationship with God is that we are deserving of his wrath and punishment.


Yet, the New Testament brings us the Good News. Ephesians 2:4 literally starts with the words, ‘But God’. God is presented as rich in mercy, having great love, and what he does out of his character is he has:


‘made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:5-6)


Just like God raised Jesus above every rule and authority in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:19-23), well so in Christ Jesus all who believe in Him are likewise raised above the world, the flesh and the devil. We are to walk a new life believing that we are no longer enslaved by these forces, we can progressively put them under our feet. We are free to relate to God and to live for God in this world. God has unlocked our chains, he’s opened the door and he has brought us in Jesus back to himself. We sit at his right hand. What does all this practically mean?


Access To Others In The Son


Because of the way that Jesus has brought us back to God, He has also brought us back to one another:


'he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.' (Ephesians 2:14-17)


Previously the way to God was through the law and the keeping of commandments (which in the end no-one except Jesus could do anyway). This put the people of Israel within special reach of God, as opposed to all other nations. But now that we who come to Christ Jesus have been raised to God with Him, dependent on His grace and not on our works, we all have the same access to God together. The old barrier between the Israelite and the Gentile has been removed. We are being built together into one temple, to be a dwelling for God’s Spirit. There is no special inside running for certain cultural groups or genealogical lines. The church is formed in Christ and is about the presence of His Spirit. Hence the vital role of Holy Spirit led apostles and prophets in the church, as indicated in Ephesians 2:20. What do we need to do to promote this level of access to God and to one another, that has been granted in Christ?


Remembering Our Story From Barriers To Access


Writing to a gentile audience, Paul encourages them first and foremost to remember their story, so they don’t lose sight of the access they’ve been granted:


‘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.’ (Ephesians 2:12-13)


Don’t forget where you’ve come from says Paul, but also don’t forget that you have now been brought near by the blood of Jesus. Jesus death fulfilled the law, as punishment for transgression was offered. It is through his death that all the conditions for our relationship with God have been met so that now we all have access to God, Jew and Gentile, through the shed blood of Jesus. It is the blood of Christ, that allows our story to be connected to Jesus story. We now inherit through Jesus all God’s promised, we now have hope and God in the world.


If people try to claim they have greater access to God, to start setting up a barrier between them and us, we do well to remember that Jesus has opened up a way through his shed blood. We now have access to God and one another, no matter what anyone else says.

 

About the Author


Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.


You might like to think a little bit more about your spiritual health, by taking the Spiritual Health Check Score Card here.









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