Not the Absence but the Presence

The 260 Journey
The 260 Journey
Not the Absence but the Presence

Day 170

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 2

I love the bumper sticker that says, “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.”

Ephesians 2 reminds us what real peace is and the source of it. “Peace is not the absence of problems but the presence of God in the midst of our problems.” Paul tells us that in verses 13-17:

“Now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near.”

Three times Paul mentions “peace” in those verses:

1. “He Himself is our peace.” That’s the Source. He is.

2. “He came . . . establishing peace.” That was His mission. Peace between humans and God.

3. “He came and preached peace.” We are the recipients.

When Jesus came and preached peace, these are the recipients: “To you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” This is really important that Paul uses these two phrases: those who were far and those who were near. They are good reminders that whether you were far or near, you still needed Jesus to bring you to God.

Some people are born far from God. They were not raised in a Christian home. Some were from a country very antagonistic to the gospel. They needed Jesus to die for their sins to bring reconciliation between them and God. We see that clearly. They were far from God.

The part we sometimes forget is that you could have been born in the church pew or in the choir loft, like I almost was, and hear about Jesus in your childhood and throughout your life, but make no mistake, no matter how close you think you were to Jesus, you still need Jesus’ death on the cross to get you to God. The close are not close enough regardless of how close you think you are.

The far and the near can be best explained by a contest that’s prize is one million dollars to anyone who can swim from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Let’s say several great swimmers—the best swimmers in the world—enter to win the money. Obviously we all know that all those swimmers will ultimately fail. But each one will try really hard. Some will get farther than others. Regardless of how far you get, though, you will not make it to Hawaii, because you can’t make it to Hawaii on your own swim stroke. Some are far away from Honolulu, and some closer to it. Remember, it doesn’t matter how far you swim, you can’t make that swim. That distance needs outside help—a boat, a plane.

The distance from here to heaven is even farther than Honolulu and LA. No matter how hard you try, you do not have the capability to make it to heaven on your own; you need outside help. Enter Jesus. The far and the near all fail but He came to get both groups to God. As Brennan Manning said, “The gospel declares that no matter how dutiful or prayerful we are, we can’t save ourselves. What Jesus did was sufficient.”

In the article, “Perfection Required for Acceptance at Stanford University,” Brian Kohout wrote:

Stanford University ranks as one of the toughest schools to give an acceptance letter. The university recently updated their admission standards and stated that only five percent of applying students are accepted. In 2017, 42,497 students applied, and 2,140 were accepted.

On their website, they give students realistic answers for the question “What is the academic standard to be accepted?” An ACT score of 33 or higher will put you into the top 50 percent of applicants, however the average score for accepted students is 35. The perfect score is 36.

Accepted students will also need an average SAT score of 1520 (out of 1600), an average GPA of 4.18 (out of 4.0), plus a robust “resume” of extracurricular activities, leadership qualities, references, and recommendations. Of course new students also have to pay for Stanford at $60,000 per year.

Thank God He doesn’t have the requirements of Stanford. The far don’t have a shot and the near aren’t close enough. Because Jesus came, we all have the opportunity to get in—regardless of where we live, what we have done, and who we know. The far need Jesus and the near need Jesus. Just remember, the one place that matters to be accepted is not Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. It’s heaven. And Jesus has made that happen.