Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:11-22
Do you have a past? Is it glorious, and therefore a faded memory of wonderful days gone by? Or is it ignominious: something you wish you could live down and you hope no one knows about? Or is it just a plain vanilla past: a ho-hum that-was-then-this-is-now kind of history. No big deal?
Most of us don’t realize we have a past that requires an intervention of God in order to be his children. We were, at one time, pagan. As my friend and colleague once pointed out: “We’re all converts.” None of us were born Lutheran, Baptist, or Christian. We were all born dead in sin, in need of God’s redemption, and the Holy Spirit’s work of conversion.
The Ephesian Christians, prior to encountering God’s grace and the message of Jesus, were considered outsiders and usurpers of the blessings of God. Gene Peterson in the Message version of the Bible says that they were outsiders to God’s ways, had no idea of any of this, [and] didn’t know the first thing about the way God works.
While we don’t often think in terms of our status apart from Christ, we too have no innate claim on God’s grace. We are not by nature members of the household of God. In fact we can easily get the idea that we’re doing God a favor by worshiping him. we can imagine that we’re a blessing to God, rather than being in desperate need of God’s grace.
This is something we should call to mind regularly. We have no claim on God’s love, grace, favor, or blessing. It is a gift of his grace. It’s all up to him. And God’s decision is to invite us into his family. God’s decision is to save us by his grace. Our choice is to remember how far we’ve come. Better yet, how far God has come.
We all have a past. That past – whether natorious or mundane – has been redeemed. And now we have a future. It is a glorious eternal future founded on the grace of God and secured by Jesus death and resurrection.