A worthy meditation for us all is time spent in Ephesians 2:11-22. We are reminded of the Triune God working through all of redemptive history, and of who we are according to His truth (not one we attempt to write for ourselves). He is our peace, we do not make our own; but what does that mean? Let’s begin with verse 11.
”Therefore, remember that formerly you…” Sometimes, we think the only way forward is to completely forget the past. We take Philippians 3 to the extreme, forgetting what lies behind really means…. The Holy Spirit will lead us to put to death the deeds of the flesh and all of who we tried to be apart from Him (see Romans 8). Thus we no longer identify ourselves as our former sins, according to the flesh (cf 2 Cor 5). We do not look at past failures or successes as an indication of who we are.
Rather, our life is hidden with God in Christ! Not in ourselves. Not in the past. Not in our accomplishments. Not in our declarations of who we are, or what we have shown to the world. We forget those things, thinking them rubbish; that is not who I am.
The Former You
There is a former you to remember, and also to let go of as you realize that He is your life, and He has given you the right to become a child of God (see verse below). That former you is not you anymore, not now that your life is in Him. Paul was not exaggerating when he told the Philippians that looking back and remembering his old self, he considered it all rubbish. We sometimes want God to redeem all the rubbish, to clean up all the rubbish, to let us keep the rubbish and stay hidden in the darkness. The truth of who we were apart from Christ is a lot uglier than we are willing to remember.
But we remember that we were formerly…without God in the world. We were astray from the Creator of all things. We were not godly (see here for a discussion of this word), the image of God in us was tarnished.
Formerly, without God, we noticed creation, and with the world demanded that the theory of evolution be allowed to obscure the truth. We hid the truth, we hid from the Light. Or perhaps with other deists like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson we think there is a creator who stands back lets us be in control of the universe; wanting the Author of Creation to be subject to natural laws, unable to do miracles. Either way, we were uncomfortable with a Being more powerful than ourselves.
We were unable to hear His words, His word had no place in us (John 5). We denied the Creator. We denied the Source. We denied that He could uphold all things by the word of His power.
His light shines in the darkness, and the darkness neither comprehends it, nor overcomes it. His light was not dimmed by our darkness. And our former self did not stop Him from working, from being the Light and Life. He shone in our hearts, and we have come to know. To know! To understand! (Jeremiah 9; 2 Corinthians 4) To believe.
In these days of “inclusion” this word will not resonate with those not already abiding in the Word; but we cannot change His words. God chose, God worked according to His purposes, and nothing we did earned or changed His work. We were separate, and it is by His mercy (not our own righteousness, see Titus 3) that He draws us near. He draws us with His unchanging covenant-loyalty love. He is the loadstone, not we ourselves.
We remember that formerly, we 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…
In Christ. Emmanuel. God with us. Abiding.
We have been brought near. We are His, and in Him we have meaning, purpose, power, knowledge, delight, love, and continual growth! All that we sought for on our own, we failed to find apart from Him. But in Him, Psalm 16:11 becomes manifest, that truly at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Where else would we go? He satisfies our deepest longings, calms all our fears, answers all our questions, fills us with His fulness.
Take some time to ponder the wonder of the Incarnation. That God set His glory by, taking on the form of a man–taking on our humanity, and doing for us what only He could do. We needed a Mediator, to bring us close, to grant us provision in the covenants of promise, to fulfill the promises.
Do you remember the former you? Are you willing to admit who that former you really was? Are there parts of that former you that the Spirit would have you crucify, yet you think to do so would be worse than death? Have you allowed Him to speak of who you really are, are you listening?
The long expected Jesus came, and is knocking at the door.