Summary: You can’t get to where you need to go unless you know where you are.
Back at the tender age of 19 I landed an assistant manger job at the Radio Shack in Thomasville. As a lifelong Lexington boy I only knew enough about Thomasville to find my way to work. But I didn’t get out much and anything further north than DCCC was unknown territory to me. One day at work I was entrusted to deliver some merchandise from our store to the High Point Radio Shack which was then located on Westchester Dr. If I had to drive it now I could do it in 10 to 15 minutes. At that time I was unfamiliar with Thomasville … and High Point … forget about it. Nonetheless, I figured I could do it with directions, so one of the ladies I worked with gave me some simple instructions on how to find the High Point Radio Shack. I packed up my Ford Ranger and headed out on the trip.
After 45 minutes to an hour I realized that I was lost. I couldn’t find High Point or my way back to Thomasville. Looking back I think I ended up further east around Sophia. As a man it took all my effort to swallow my pride and stop and ask for directions. The place I chose looked something like a country gas station and café. I walked in and, much to my dismay, a bunch of good old boys were hanging out in there having fellowship I suppose. I went over to a man behind a counter who appeared to work there and asked him how to get to High Point. Rather than just tell me, he asked the one question I hoped he’d never utter: “Where are you coming from?” When I said, “Thomasville,” all of the good old boys erupted into laughter. After the mirth died down he gave me directions and I slinked out, completely humiliated. I did find the High Point Radio Shack, but burned up several hour of work.
What’s the moral of that story? I’m stupid. No, that’s not it. The moral is: you can’t get to where you need to go unless you know where you are. That’s why, when you walk into a shopping mall one of the first things you’ll encounter is a high display with a map showing the location of various stores. When you look at the map, in order to get your bearings, the first thing you have to find is the big, red dot that says, “You Are Here.” You can’t get to where you need to go unless you know where you are.
Today we’re beginning a brand new series on the book of Ephesians. Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Ephesus during his Roman imprisonment around 60 AD because he had a specific goal in mind. Ephesus was one of the most influential cities in Asia Minor. Paul first contacted the Ephesians with the gospel during his second missionary journey in 52 AD. He returned about a year later and developed a strong, growing church there. Knowing their pivotal position in the region Paul wrote this letter to instruct them how to live so that they might impact their world for Jesus Christ. Before embarking on theology and practical instructions for living, Paul begins with a simple greeting. The greeting is only two verses long and the words are so familiar to us that it’s tempting to overlook them and move onto the “meat.” Let’s resist the urge because this is an inspired greeting. These verses are kind of like the big red dot on the mall map with the words: “You Are Here.” Paul understood that the Ephesians could never get to where God wanted them to go unless they knew where they were. Here’s how he began:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-2
This greeting was not only for the ancient Ephesians. It’s also for us today. We like them are called to bring the world of God into the world of man. In other words, our task as Christians is to bring together two worlds that are worlds apart. To get to where you need to go you have to know where you are. Paul demonstrates this in two simple verses.
Approaches to Bring Worlds Apart Together
1. Understand culture to determine what to adapt or discard
The Ephesian Christians were Gentiles or nonJews. They spoke and wrote in Greek. Their literature followed Greek forms. It should not surprise us that Paul used a Greek letter writing style to communicate with them. In fact, all of his New Testament letter, which were written primarily to Gentile converts, follow the same pattern: 1) Identification of the writer; 2) Greeting; 3) Prayer or wish for good health; 4) Body of the letter; 5) and Greeting. He adapted a pagan form of letter writing to communicate the word of God. Paul understood the culture of Ephesus well and was able to bring the world of God to the world of man through a vehicle they’d understand.