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The Presence of God in Community

Jesse Reeves    /    May 25, 2014


Jesse Reeves speaks on Ephesians 2:19-22

Series: The Book of Ephesians




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Sermon Transcript

We were far away from God. We were enemies of God who were dead and there was nothing we could do about it. But God, being rich in mercy sent His Son Jesus Christ to be a sacrifice for our sins. It was the gift of salvation. We were unable to earn it. By receiving it, we are restored back to God.

Most Christians today would tell the full gospel story using some version of what’s above. But Paul tells us this isn’t the end of the story.

God plans to do more than just restore us back to Himself. He also wants to restore us back to each other.

Last week Tyler talked about the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. Because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, that wall was abolished and torn down. We’re no longer separated from God. But we’re also no longer separated from each other.

In Christ we are brought together and unified.

God’s Seemingly Foolish Plan

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)

We see almost the exact same thing in 1 Peter.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 (ESV)

The wall is no longer there. Jesus broke it down. We’ve been restored to God. And now Paul gives us three images showing us we’re brought together as citizens and as a family being built up as the temple.

God’s plan to bring the gospel to the world, bringing all men into Himself, is you and I. His plan to take the gospel to every living person, whether across an ocean or simply across the street, is us. His power and wonders will be displayed through the body of Christ, His Church.

We’re the plan!

At first this seemed like a horrible plan to me. What a foolish idea. I know me, my sins, and my struggles. I know the leadership of this church; they have sin and struggles too. I know a lot of you have sins and struggles. So this plan seemed crazy to me! But as I prayed about this, God reminded me of the story of Joshua and the city of Jericho.

Moses had led the Israelites out of captivity from Egypt. They walked out of Egypt with Pharaoh’s army chasing them. They came to the Red Sea where Moses puts his staff in the water and parted it so they could walk through on dry land. The Egyptians chased them in, but the sea swallowed them up. God’s people were delivered and set free. So what did they do?

They started complaining and grumbling. As a result God said, “Ok, you’re punishment is forty years in the desert and wilderness before you can see the Promised Land.” In the meantime, Moses died and Joshua rose up as the new leader.

After forty years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites finally came to the Jordan River. On the other side was Canaan, the Promised Land and on the side of a mountain was a city called Jericho. We all remember this story from Sunday school as children. However, we all learned this story wrong. Archeologists have found the city of Jericho and dug it up.

The whole city was twelve acres big. The maximum amount of people that could have lived inside the walls was only 3,000. It was quite tiny. How many Israelites crossed the Jordan? We don’t know for sure, but in the Book of Numbers Moses took a census of all the able fighting men of Israel (Numbers 36:51). There were 601, 730 of them! That’s not including children or students up to the age of 20, or the women and elderly. Most scholars believe there were probably around 2 million Israelites that crossed the Jordan Rive into the Promised Land. How easy it would have been for those 2 million people to take over the land of only 3,000. But that wasn’t God’s plan.

God’s plan was for Joshua to walk around the city once a day for six days in complete silence. Then on the seventh day He wanted him to walk around the city seven times then blow his trumpets, shout, and watch what happened.

Can you imagine being one of the children of Israel? There are 2 million of you, but you have to walk around the city in silence for six days. You know while they were walking they were thinking how dumb this plan was. Then they blew their trumpets and began to shout. What happened?

The walls came down.

Why would God use such a foolish plan?

If Israel went up there and knocked down that wall by force, they would have received the glory. But if Israel obeyed the word of God and the walls still came down, God got the glory.

When I started reading Ephesians 2 in light of this, it gave it a whole new meaning. We couldn’t knock down the wall in-between Jews and Gentiles that separated us from God. Only Jesus Christ could. But He didn’t knock it down by force. He came and humbled Himself to death on a cross. Then the walls came down. He gets the glory for it.

Compared To God

Let’s look at Ephesians 2 one more time in light of the story of Jericho.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)

Paul is giving us three pictures of what it looks like to be the body of Christ and how God’s plan is going to come into being through unity in the body.

Unity comes in your identity, not in your behaviors or actions.

Unity is not a bunch of people rallying together around the same cause, like an election campaign. It’s not people rallying together against a common enemy, like in a time of war when nations come together. It’s not coming together as a body and trying to break down the walls of race, religion, politics, or age. We can’t break down those walls. Only Jesus can.

We are unified as a body when we realize we can’t compare ourselves to each other, but rather compare ourselves to God. It’s not actions and behaviors that create unity. It’s identity.

If I said we’re going to show how unified we are by meeting at Zilker Park, at midnight, and to bring a light. You would show up with your friends and you guys have brought your taper candles. Then the next group of people shows up with big mag lights. Now you and your buddies start feeling insignificant. Even though both groups have lights, there’s division because you feel incompetent and they feel cocky. Then another group shows up with a big truck with a row bar with four K-C lights on it and deer spot lights. You still feel insignificant, but now the mag light people feel insignificant too. There’s division even though you’re coming in the name of unity, because you’re comparing yourselves to each other.

It’ll be like that until the sun comes up. The surface of the sun burns at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. You can fit 1 million earths into the sun. Once it comes up you can’t even see your light and the other groups can’t see theirs either. When you look at a true light, you’re suddenly all on the same playing field. That is unity.

Horizontal & Vertical Unity

Unity is found when we, as believers, quit comparing ourselves to each other and start looking at God, realizing we are all dust without Jesus Christ. That is unity found in identity.

Paul gives us three images of unity:

  1. Citizens
  2. Family
  3. Temple

All three images have a horizontal relationship, how you relate to each other, and a vertical relationship, how you relate to God. They’re like a funnel; as the funnel gets smaller, your identity becomes more clear and intimate with more unity.


Verse 19 tells us we are no longer strangers and aliens, but are now citizens of the kingdom of God.

Our horizontal relationship with each other is that we share things in common. We have a common culture, common laws, and we share common land. Vertically, our relationship is now we all have the same King.

There’s not a better king in the world to be under than our King Jesus. He knows who you are and has time for you. You can see it in His life. As Jesus, surrounded by a crowd, was going to Jerusalem, He passed a poor blind guy who yelled out, “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!” All the people who were walking with Jesus tried to quiet him down. But Jesus heard him, turned and gave him His time and compassion and healed him. He did the same thing with Zacchaeus, and with the woman who had the issue with blood. She just reached out and touched the hem of His garment and was instantly healed.

That is the King you want to serve. He has time for you. He listens to you, to your heart, your dreams, your fears, and your cries.

But we’re not just citizens of the kingdom of God.


… and members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19b (ESV)

The funnel is getting narrower. How is being a family different than being citizens?

Families share blood.

My dad used to say blood is thicker than water, meaning when you share blood in a family, there’s a bond and nothing comes between you. Family takes care of family.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1 (ESV)

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

We, as a family, carry each other’s burdens. That’s the goal of the church. That’s why Christ has created a community and identity with us. This is the horizontal relationship.

As citizens we have a King together. But now as a family we have a Father together. A Father is more intimate than a king.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11 (ESV)

He’s our Father. He’s listening and wants to give you good things. This is the vertical relationship.

We’re not just citizens. Nor are we just part of the family of God. We’re also part of the temple.


I know a temple doesn’t sounds more intimate than a family, but when you look at the horizontal and vertical relationships, you can see that it’s way more intimate.

When you’re in a family nothing can separate you, but you can do your own thing, go your own ways. However, when you’re being built into the holy temple of Jesus Christ you are connected with mortar to each other. You have one purpose, to build up the temple of God. Nothing can separate you.

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets…Ephesians 2:20a (ESV)

If you’re in Christ, you’re being built up as a temple; the same structure as Paul, Peter, Matthew, and even Elijah are in. You’re even connected to Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, John and Charles Wesley, and C.S. Lewis!

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…James 5:17a (ESV)

God can do the same thing as He did with the prophets and the apostles with you and me. This is the vertical relationship. It’s awesome when you’re a member of the kingdom and have access to your King and His power. You also have access to your Father, which is amazing. However, both these relationships are external.

But when we’re part of the temple, God lives inside of us. That’s when this crazy plan starts making sense. It’s not you; it’s Christ living in you.

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (ESV)

That’s the plan!

It’s not just you and me being connected. It’s Christ in us that is going to carry out the plan. And then who gets the glory? Jesus does.

Living Stones

We’re being built up as a living stone. It doesn’t say we’re building up the temple using living bricks.

A brick mason is different than a stonemason. A brick mason, grabs a brick, slaps it down and puts some mortar on it. Then grabs another brick and slaps some mortar on it. Every brick is exactly the same. But that’s not us. We don’t all look the same. We’re living stones.

A stonemason is an artist. They search for the specific stone they want, not just any stone. Then they grab a hammer and chisel and chip away, shaping and molding it until it’s perfect.

This is the reason for church, why we come together. God is shaping us to be perfect stones that are connected to each other. When we’re connected to each other, in biblical community, we experience the fullness of the presence of God.

That’s the rest of the story of the gospel. That’s why living in biblical community is not optional. It’s not just icing on the cake that happens after we get saved. It’s God’s plan.

His plan is to indwell you with His presence while you’re living together in biblical community.

For the people of God, the presence of God is everything.

The chipping away is not comfortable. It can hurt. It’s not fun. But it’s absolutely essential to what God wants to do in your life and how He wants to shape and mold you until you’re the perfect stone that will only fit in it’s place. Then you’re a part of the temple forever.


People will give you a lot of reasons why they don’t want to be in the community of believers.

“I don’t want to go to church because it’s full of hypocrites.” You’re right, it is and you’re one of them. The only person who ever lived that wasn’t a hypocrite was crucified for your hypocrisy.

“I don’t want to go to church because all they do is ask for money.” Maybe God is shaping and showing you that your security is based on what you can do, instead of realizing Jesus Christ is worthy of everything and is your security.

“I don’t want to be involved in a missional community because you have to be vulnerable with people which means you’ll get hurt and I’ve been hurt by Christians in the past.” Maybe God is trying to show you that your worth and identity is not found in what other people think of you. Your worth and identity are found in what Jesus thinks about you.

“I don’t want to go to church and get involved, because Sunday is my day to play.” Maybe God is trying to show you that there’s no such thing as your day to play. The very breath you’re breathing is a gift from Him.

“I don’t want to go get involved in church because I feel like I have a lot to offer, but everybody else around me keeps getting elevated and I just get overlooked.” Maybe God is showing you the reason you come to church is build up the kingdom of God, to worship and serve Jesus instead of building up your own agenda.


I want to share one story where I’ve seen a seemingly foolish plan from God be something beautiful.

In 2001 there were seven people who got together in my living room in the Woodlands, Texas. Matt and Jennifer Carter, Brad and Kathy Cauley, my wife and I, and a country boy from Grand Saline, Texas who I played bass for named Christ Tomlin.

The seven of us gathered in my living room to pray about moving to Austin and starting a church together. It sounded like the start of a really bad joke, “Four Aggies, a teacher, and two musicians walk into a bar…” What in the world could God do with these seven people in Austin that would bring Him glory?

You’re sitting in it.

This was the plan and though it seemed foolish Jesus knew what He was doing. And who gets the glory, the seven of us? No way. Jesus does.

Today there are 8,000 people that come to the Austin Stone every Sunday.

What if 8,000 people actually grasped their identity in Jesus Christ and started living in community, praying for visions and dreams of what they could do to build up God’s holy temple? What if your community started asking for courage to step out on faith?

The city would change. The nation would change. The world could change for the glory of God the Father through Jesus Christ.

What God is building is being built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ. That is why we can stand together and sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”