Everyone loves stories about those who rise from the depths of despair and hopelessness to find meaning and purpose in life. One of my favorite movies of all-time is the movie Blindside, the story of the life of Michael Oher. You can probably count on one hand those who have not seen the movie, but it is worth retelling.

Michael was one of twelve children born to Denise Oher and Michael Williams. Denise struggled with drugs and alcohol and Michael’s father was in and out of prison until he was murdered in prison when Michael was a senior in high school. Michael repeated first and second grade, he attended eleven different schools during his first nine years as a student, and he was placed in foster care at the age of seven. Michael moved in and out of foster homes and was at times homeless until he moved into the home of Tony Henderson, when he was a freshman in high school. Tony is the one responsible for getting Michael into Briarcrest Christian School when Michael was a freshman.

Michael only lived with Tony Henderson a short while before he went back into the foster care system in Tennessee. He had been living with several foster care families before he met Leigh Ann and Sean Tuohy in 2004. The Tuohy’s had a son and daughter who attended Briarcrest and when they learned of Michael’s living situation they allowed Michael to move in with them.

What the movie didn’t make clear was that Michael was an outstanding football player before he ever met the Tuohy’s. In 2003, Michael was named Lineman of the Year in Class 2A and first team All-State. Scout.com rated Michael a five-star recruit and the No. 5 offensive lineman prospect in the nation. Michael was a star on the basketball court as well. He averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds a game and was named first team All-State.

Where Michael struggled was in the classroom. The Tuohy’s hired a tutor to work with Michael so that he could get a football scholarship to go to college. Michael worked with his tutor twenty hours a week in addition to his football training and his required class work. By the end of Michael’s senior year he had taken some online classes to replace some of the D’s and F’s, he had worked countless hours with his tutor, and the result was that he raised his GPA from 0.76 to 2.52 and he was a full qualifier for a Division 1 football scholarship.

Michael had offers from dozens of Division 1 football teams, but he choose to attend The University of Mississippi where he was an instant star. He was named First Team Freshman All-American in 2005, Second Team All-SEC in 2006, First Team All-SEC in 2007, First Team All-American in 2008, and he was named to the Honor Roll twice during his college career. He graduated in 2009 with a degree in Criminal Justice and was chosen as the 23rd pick in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL draft. Michael signed a five year deal worth $13.8 million. What a story!

Unlike many stars who rise from the depths of what seems to be a hopeless situation to finding fame and fortune, Michael doesn’t take his blessings for granted. He is using the talents God has given him to bless the lives of many young people in Baltimore and across the nation.

Anyone who hears the story of Michael Oher is deeply touched by the tenacity of a teenager who refused to give up and by the love and generosity of the Tuohy family who took Michael in and provided what he needed to help him get into college. If the story of Michael’s life is the stuff of movies, then the Scripture we will study today is worthy of an Oscar. Let’s take a look at Ephesians 2:19-22.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV)

Many who would hear about the childhood of Michael Oher, without hearing the rest of the story, would quickly conclude that his future would be no different than countless other inner-city kids who come from homes of addiction and incarceration. They would have forecast that he would spend more time in juvenile hall than the halls of higher learning. They would have predicted a life of addiction instead of excellence. They would have concluded that he would be working on a chain gang instead of anchoring the offensive line of the Baltimore Ravens. And Michael has proven them all wrong.

If Michael’s situation was dire, dismal, and discouraging then the situation that you and I were in before God intervened was downright hopeless, without any hope at all. Remember what Paul said about our situation in the opening verse of Ephesians 2? Paul said, 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… (Ephesians 2:1 NIV) As long as there is life there is hope, but Paul says that spiritually we were dead, there was no hope whatsoever. Midway through Ephesians 2, Paul chimes in once again to remind the folks in Ephesus how hopeless their situation truly was before God intervened. He writes in Ephesians 2:12,

12 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. (Ephesians 2:12 NIV)

That is where we were. We were alienated from God. That is what we were. We were outsiders without hope and without God in the world. Could there be a more desperate or hopeless place to be? Yet, God intervened through His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ. Paul explains how God did it in Ephesians 2:4-5.

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV)

Not because of anything we have done, but because of what God has done our situation has changed. Let me rephrase that—for those who have turned to Jesus and trusted Him as their Lord and Savior, their situation has radically changed. How has it changed? Well, just take a look at our Scripture for this morning. At one time we were strangers and aliens, but now we are “no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people…” At one time we were alienated from God, without God in this world, but now we are “members of God’s household…” We were once hopelessly lost because of our sin, but now we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, members of God’s family, and part of the temple in which the presence of God dwells. You want to talk about a radical transformation? You won’t find a more radical alteration of reality than that my friend! I want to show you an amazing progression of intimacy that is found in our Scripture for today. Let’s go.

From Aliens to Citizens

For many years American Express used the tag line, “Membership has its privileges,” for all of their commercials. I don’t have an American Express card, but membership does have its privileges. I know from being a “member,” or a citizen of the United States. As a citizen I can vote, I have the right to reside and work in the United States, I have the right, if charged with a crime, to a trial by a jury of my peers, I have the freedom to leave and reenter the United States whenever I choose, and I have the right to run for public office. If you ever hear that I’m exercising that right then please get me some help! Citizens have rights that aliens and foreigners simply do not have. There is a great illustration of this in Acts 22:25-29.

Paul was in Jerusalem and he had infuriated the people because they believed that he had taken Gentiles into the Temple. They began beating Paul with the full intention of killing him when the Roman authorities stepped in, arrested Paul, and bound him with two chains. The Romans didn’t know what all of the fuss was about so they were going to flog Paul and have him questioned to try to get to the bottom of everything. In Acts 22:25-29, we can read about what happened next.

25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. 28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains. (Acts 22:25-29 NIV)

As a Roman citizen Paul had certain rights. Paul had the right to a trial. He couldn’t be punished just because the Roman authorities wanted to find out what was going on. As a citizen of the Roman Empire, Paul was entitled to all of the rights of citizenship.

Paul was a Roman citizen like you and I are citizens of the United States of America. As citizens of the United States we belong, we are not rootless, wandering nomads, we are citizens. We have an identity. We are not outsiders, we are citizens! As grateful as I am to be a citizen of the United States of America I am even more grateful that I have been made a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Paul wrote to the people in Philippi and drew a contrast between the people of the world and those who have trusted in Jesus. He says, “But our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20 NIV) Once we were outsiders, we were not citizens of God’s people, but now we have been made citizens of a Kingdom, an Empire, a Nation far greater than the Roman Empire or the United States of America! James Montgomery Boice writes,

This is revolutionary thinking—and it has proved itself to be revolutionary historically. When Paul wrote these words the kingdom of Rome was at the heights of its territorial expansion and glory. Rome dominated the world. Roman armies kept peace and dispensed justice. Roman roads linked the far-flung reaches of the Empire. Rome had stood for hundreds of years and was thought to be able to stand for thousands of years more. But Paul looked at Rome and saw it, not as one great united Kingdom, but as a force imposed on mutually antagonistic factions: rich and poor, free man and slave, man and woman, Jew and Gentile. And in its place he saw this new humanity, created by God himself, transcending boundaries. This kingdom was destined to grow and permeate all nations, drawing from all peoples. It is a kingdom that cannot be shaken or destroyed. (Boice, James Montgomery, Ephesians. pg. 90)

I told you this is the most radical change you will ever have the opportunity to learn about in your life didn’t I? History has shown that nations and kingdoms come and go. The Roman Empire collapsed from within, the day will come when the United States will be no more, but the Kingdom of God continues to grow and expand and will continue to do so. God’s Kingdom is not bound to a geographical location. His Kingdom is spread throughout the whole world, wherever His people are, His Kingdom is there in their midst. We belong! We have an identity far greater than that of being an American! We are citizens of the Kingdom of God! Let’s move on.

Members of God’s Family

As wonderful as it is to discover that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are only getting started. I told you that there is an ever-increasing intimacy that unfolds in these verses. Paul says that we are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…” The second picture that Paul paints for us concerning our new reality is that of a family. Citizenship is a loose affiliation compared to that of a family. To be part of a family you either have to be born or adopted into it. Scripture teaches us that we have both been “born again” and we have been “adopted” by God into His family. In the first chapter of Ephesians we read,

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV)

He has chosen you, He has adopted you, claimed you as His very own through His Son Jesus. If you are in Christ then you are in God’s family. You are no longer an outsider, you belong.

In John 5, Jesus was speaking to one of the religious leaders of Israel, a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus. He was impressed with Jesus, he knew that He was a teacher who had come from God, but he didn’t understand the heart of Jesus’ mission or message. Jesus said to Nicodemus,

3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:3-7 NIV)

We are born physically alive, but spiritually dead. It is only by the grace of God through the work of the Son of God on the cross that the Spirit of God takes those who are dead in their trespasses and sins and makes them alive to God. That is what it means to be “born again.” We are born of the flesh when we come out of the womb, but we are born of the Spirit when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life.

When we are made alive we are also made a part of God’s household, a family member. That is mind-boggling. I was once at odds with God. I was once an enemy of God. I once thumbed my nose at any thought of “giving” God my heart. I once mocked those who loved God. Yet, God brought me near and made me part of His family. Do you remember what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:18? Let me read it to you.

18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18 NIV)

I want you to understand the magnitude of that statement. We have access to God. He is our Father. He is not distant; He is closer than your next breath. In the middle of the night, when your heart is breaking and your mind will not rest, you can cry out to Him and He is there—He is with you. As you go through your day and you are faced with decisions that could easily paralyze you—you can be still and know that He is God.

This past week I was meeting with Tre and Ryan when I heard about a couple of little girls in Study Buddies whose father is not a part of their life and whose mother just went to prison. The little girls were placed with some distant relative that they don’t really even know. We talked about how scary that must be for those little girls. They need to know that God is with them. He is the Father who will never leave them.

This past week I met with a lady that I had never met before. She is in her early 40s and fighting a losing battle with cancer. I asked her how she was doing and she said, “Well, I’m dying.” I listened to her story as she told me that she was pretty much alone. I shared with her that as she walks through this “valley of the shadow of death” He is with her and He will be with her until the end.

I visited with Ann Brown as she is getting ready to begin chemo and radiation. Ann and I talked about the Sovereignty of God and the assurance she has that He is fully in control. Cancer has not caught Him by surprise. Ann is at peace as she gets ready to begin her treatments because she has access to the Father. He is near. He is close. He is her Father and she knows her Father’s love for her. For those who are in Christ, we are part of God’s family. What a comfort! What a blessing!

We are God’s Temple

As we continue our study we learn that we are not only citizens, we are not only members of God’s family, but we are also the temple of Almighty God. Paul writes,

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV)

The temple in Jerusalem had been the focal point for the Jews for almost 1000 years. Solomon began work on the first temple in about 983 B.C. That temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. About 70 years later, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the second temple was built. Herod gave the temple a makeover, expanding and updating it, and it stood until 70 A.D. when the Romans completely destroyed it. The temple in Jerusalem has not been rebuilt, but a much more beautiful and glorious temple is under construction.

Paul tells us that the foundation of the temple is the “apostles and prophets.” He says that Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone. He says that you and I, all of those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, those who have been joined together with Jesus, are “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

The foundation is the “apostles and prophets.” In another of Paul’s letters, the letter to the church in Corinth, he says, 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV) Is this a contradiction? Which is it? Are the apostles and prophets the foundation or is Jesus the foundation? This isn’t a contradiction at all. Jesus is the foundation and the apostles and prophets of the early Church were those who, before the New Testament was put together, shared the message of Jesus. He was the object of their every sermon. What they taught and what we have as our Bible are the foundation documents of the people of God.

Paul also says that Jesus is the cornerstone. The cornerstone was essential in the building of ancient buildings. John MacArthur writes,

The cornerstone was the major structural part of ancient buildings. It has to be strong enough to support what was built on it, and it had to be precisely laid, because every other part of the structure was oriented to it. The cornerstone was the support, the orienter, and the unifier of the entire building. That is what Jesus Christ is to God’s kingdom, God’s family, and God’s building. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. pg. 82-83)

Last of all, Paul says that we “are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” What an amazing thought! We Gentiles, who at one time while the temple was still standing, were not even allowed where God’s people worshipped, are now the temple of the Living God. Now, because of what God has done through Jesus, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, but we are all the people of God, the temple of God. MacArthur says,

Through the blood, the suffering flesh, the cross, and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, aliens become citizens, strangers become family, idolaters become the temple of the true God, the hopeless inherit the promises of God, those without Christ become one in Christ, those far off are brought near, and the godless are reconciled to God. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. pg. 83)

Oh my friend, how can we spend the time we’ve spent this morning taking a look at this Scripture and ever wonder about the love of God? How can we learn the things we have learned and question God’s concern and care for us? Can you see how God has acted on our behalf, how He has taken those who were stumbling in the darkness and brought us into His family through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior? For those who are here this morning and have never received God’s gift of His Son Jesus, I want to invite you to call out to Him at this time. Confess your need for Him. Confess that you’ve done your own thing, you’ve lived your life for yourself, but today you want to live your life for His glory. Won’t you do that even now?

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
February 19, 2012

Once Hopeless. Now Family.
Ephesians 2:19-22