April 25, 2011

Brick by Brick, Stone by Stone

God has been working from the beginning of time building His Kingdom.  Even though we don’t deserve His love and forgiveness, He still showers us with his grace and mercy.  Then He allows us the privilege of joining Him in what He is doing around the world… how humbling! 

During the late 1700’s when the United States was establishing freedom of religion, France was establishing freedom of religion in 1789, which actually really began the process of freedom from religion.  French philosophy has become the dominant thought for the French people.  The core of this philosophy makes the concept of absolute truth foreign and inconceivable to the highly educated population.  Although the city of Lyon, as well as the country of France, has chosen to turn their backs on God, we believe the God has not yet given up on these beautiful people.  Their hearts are cold, hurt, confused, and without even knowing it, they are desperately searching for something to fill the void in their lives.  The church is asleep in all of Europe and God is working through this hard and desolate land to wake up the church and bring a new generation who have never heard of God’s love and forgiveness to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

While visiting Lyon recently, we had the privilege of hearing a few testimonies from French believers of how God worked in their lives to draw them to Him.  The first gentleman shared how, even during his childhood years, he had a yearning for spiritual things.  In his search, he spent his early years as an altar boy in the Catholic Church.  As a young man he decided it was probably good to pursue the priesthood.  During this time he began reading the Bible on his own for the first time.  He was amazed at what he was reading; the priests had not taught much of what the Bible was saying.  It caused him to search further for the Truth.  At university he began talking with a Christian and began learning about Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  He finally understood and believed after years of the Spirit’s prodding amidst all that was taught to the contrary.  He has such a testimony of God’s blessing on his life!

The second young Frenchman also shared about a yearning in his heart that he kept pursuing to find the Truth, though he didn’t know what it meant.  When he met his wife, who was a Christian, and began learning about Christ’s death and resurrection, he realized that was what he was longing for and chose to follow Christ.

How encouraging it was for us to hear these testimonies.  Even with more than 200 years of denouncing God, His Spirit is still working in the hearts and lives.  We are simply asked to join God where He is already working and be there to share about His gift of salvation to those who He is preparing.  With such a small role in His plan, we are guaranteed to not take any credit but, instead, to give God all the glory and power for what He is doing!!! 

Paul puts it so well in Ephesians 2:

“It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

But don't take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God's ways had no idea of any of this, didn't know the first thing about the way God works, hadn't the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God's covenants and promises in Israel, hadn't a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.

The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then He started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, He created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.

Christ brought us together through His death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through Him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.

That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”  Ephesians 2 (The Message)

May God continue to work in the French people living in Lyon, and may we be ready to share the truth of the Gospel when He brings them across our path!  To God be all the glory!

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