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Sunday Night Live Sermons

WHAT GOD DOES IN YOU

Ephesians 2:11-18
24th August 2003

In one of the most debated court sentences ever given, Pauline Hanson and party co-founder David Ettridge were both found guilty of fraud by a jury in Brisbane and were each sentenced to three years jail. Their crimes were serious. The political requirements for registering a political party are rigorous and clear. But these were deliberately flouted and the party was fraudulently registered and some of its own members complained about the use of their names. Signatures could have been forged. Eleven members of this party were elected to the Queensland Parliament. The democratic process was under-mined and people's trust in the process damaged. $500,000 public funding was paid to the One Nation Party. That money has since been repaid. Mrs Hanson did not personally benefit from this money.

A conviction may bear a ten year jail punishment. A 3 year jail sentence was imposed. Is this a fair sentence? People who believe Pauline Hanson expressed their views, think it is excessive and a witch-hunt. Others say Pauline Hanson went through due process of law before a jury, was found guilty and an appropriate penalty imposed. Others say a prison sentence is excessive. Premier Bob Carr said, "Requiring Pauline Hanson to do community service would have been more humane and more applicable than putting her in prison. A prison exists for people who are a danger to society, a danger to you and me and our families, when we're walking down the street. Prison is basically there to get violent people away from us. Community service in a nursing home for a prescribed number of hours per week in a good cause would have been better. That's the way you approach a case like this - almost a crime without a victim." Other people say such a penalty is too light for the damage One Nation has done.

The rise of the One Nation Party permanently changed the relationships between people in Australia. Pauline Hanson declaimed grievances and offered no solutions. Her approach played on the fears of poor, the disenfranchised, the powerless, the unemployed, the ultra-conservative and those who feared they were losing what little they had. But they pointed to the wrong enemy: to aborigines, immigrants and others at the bottom of the heap.

I was re-elected as one of 21 people to the NSW Legislative Council against 280 opponents, one of whom was Pauline Hanson. I did not respect some aspects of her campaign. But I felt sorry for her on election night. She looked so forlorn after having been convincingly rejected by the NSW voters. But are we filling our jails with people who have committed minor offences while people who commit major offences get off too lightly? Is a jail sentence appropriate? Pauline Hanson, in her maiden speech in Federal Parliament attacked Asian immigrants and indigenous Aboriginals with the result that hundreds of them were vilified by red-necks who took her attacks as a license to make their own. They were unjustly treated and should be recompensed. Instead of jail sentence, she could do community service in an Aboriginal youth hostel or aged care centre, or in an immigration detention centre among Asian immigrants. But an even more Christian attitude is that Pauline Hanson should be released on bail and if re-convicted, do community service to benefit others. I pray she reads the Bible in prison and is converted like Charles Colson. Upon release she could speak on behalf of the majority of prisoners (the poor and illiterate, Asians and Aborigines) and work on their behalf.

Pray for Pauline. Dominant personalities who think they are invincible and always right, often collapse when they are rejected and become broken and depressed. She does not deserve that for doing what she considered was right for the unheard people of Australia. Meanwhile we have to work to overcome the alienation between people that marked her campaign and seek reconciliation between groups in Australia that have been vilified. There is alienation because of political, racial, economic and spiritual alienation in the lives of many people. Professor Charles Birch, once wrote incisively: "There is chaos in the world on four levels today. There is an inner chaos which is revealed by the person's inability to live with himself. There is a social chaos revealed in man's inability to live with his neighbour. There is an environmental chaos where man is eliminating his natural surroundings for a concrete jungle. And there is a metaphysical chaos where man feels he has no relationship with the universe about him. Man is alienated, estranged, disintegrated and diseased."

1. ALIENATION

The Apostle Paul agrees. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about how people are alienated from themselves, their neighbours, the environment and from God. Alienated from the people of God, the promises of God, the purposes of God, the presence of God and consequently had neither peace with God or man. But God has acted as to reconcile them, to bring them back to Himself. The purpose of Jesus was to come to those who are alienated and to reconcile them to themselves, to other people, to the world in which they live, and to God. Paul speaks about that sense of alienation and how it was evidenced in the lives of both Jews and non-Jews.

11-12 "You Gentiles by birth-called "the uncircumcised" by the Jews, who call themselves the circumcised (which refers to what men do to their bodies)-remember what you were in the past. At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God's chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God's promises to His people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God." If you are apart from Christ, you do not have any of the blessings that people have in Christ. You live without hope and without God. What damning alienation! The Jews used the word "foreigner" to mean anybody not of the Jewish race. At the Temple in Jerusalem there were a series of courts; and the outer court alone could be entered by Gentiles. Surrounding the Temple was a wall with many warning notices. That wall divided Jews from non-Jews. Anybody who was not Jewish, who went inside of the wall, could be put to death on the spot.

Archaeologists have discovered warning signs from the days of Jesus. The signs were written in Latin, Hebrew and Greek "No foreigner may enter this barrier and enclosure around the Temple. Anybody caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death." Even today, although the Temple has been pulled down and only part of the base of the Temple still stands it is in a fenced off area. Jewish men may go to this area, but there are guards. No female may enter. No Muslim. That wall of separation still exists in the heart of Jerusalem today. There are many walls of separation of class, economic status, social class, religion. Israel is building a huge concrete wall 6 metres high around Palestinian villages to stop terrorists and everyone else from entering Jewish communities. The world is divided by walls of separation.

When you are apart from Christ you are a foreigner, not belonging to God's chosen people. You have no part in the covenants. You do not receive the promises that God gives. You live in a world without hope. So many people today are without God, without hope, feeling alienated, rejected, separated from the rest of society. There are many living without God. You have no part of the covenants when you live without hope and without God. You are spiritually dead, morally enslaved and eternally condemned. It is a miserable future outside of Christ.

2. RECONCILIATION.

"But now, in union with Christ Jesus..." v13 Notice the difference? Once you were apart from Christ, but now you are in union with Him. No longer are you foreigners, living without hope and without God. Instead, you are a part of God's chosen people. In Christ you are brought into the family of God. v14 He continues, "For Christ Himself has brought us peace…" That was the whole purpose for the coming and ministry of Christ, to bring us back to God. Paul wrote to the Colossians in a very similar fashion. He said, "He is the firstborn Son, who was raised from death in order that He alone might have first place in all things. For it was by God's own decision that the Son has in Himself the full nature of God. Through the Son, then, God decided to bring back the whole universe to Himself." Colossians 1:18-20. Not alienated but brought back, reconciled. "God has made peace through His Son's death on the cross, and so brought back to Himself all things both on earth and in heaven. At one time you were far away from God because of the evil things you did and thought. But now, by means of the physical death of His Son, God has made you His friends in order to bring you, holy, pure and faultless into His presence." Colossians 1:21-22.

We read: "With His own body He broke down the wall that separates them and kept them enemies." Ephesians2:14 The wall separated Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, part of that division which still exists in the Jewish community. With His own body He has broken down those walls. During the crucifixion, in the Holy of Holies, the curtain that separated people from God, was ripped from top to bottom. God opened His presence to all. He broke the barriers that separate us. He ripped the curtains that divide us. He made us a new people by making us one new humanity. Paul continues v15 "He abolished the Jewish Law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with Himself, in this way making peace." This does not mean He abolished the Ten Commandments but all the ceremonial commandments, the ritual regulations, the laws about Kosher food, and the laws about cleanliness and even circumcision. He made us a new people, not dependent upon these outward signs, laws, regulations and rules. He created from two races one race of people, a new people those who are in Christ. It is a new nationality. It is the church. For everyone who belongs to the church, regardless of colour, is now a brother or sister; regardless of race, now belongs; regardless of economic or social states, now is part of the family of God.

v16 "By His death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross He united both races into one body and brought them back to God." This cross is the means of bringing us back together into reconciliation. Whenever we come close to Christ, we come close to each other, regardless of our race, background or anything else. Colossians 3:11

Paul puts it beautifully, "As a result there is now no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, between circumcised and uncircumcised, between barbarian, savages, slaves and freemen, but Christ is all, Christ is in all." Or to those in Galatia Galatians 3:28 he writes: "There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and freemen, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus." To those in Ephesus Paul wrote: "So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all-to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father." Ephesians 2:17-18 Is not that a beautiful thought! Jesus came and preached that great news that peace had been made with God, and all you need do is accept that message.

You can be reconciled, part of the family, if you accept what God has done in you. Will you? Ephesians 2:19-22 "So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God's people and members of the family of God. You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. In union with Him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit." God has done it - all of it - in you! From being lost and alienated, you have been found and reconciled! God has done it in you! All you need do is accept it by faith. Through His grace, your faith will see you reconciled with God because of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross.

Wesley Mission, Sydney.