But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5
Once while on vacation, my wife and I were enjoying the scenic back roads of North Carolina. We planned our day using the road atlas I had owned for several years. The plan was to get from point “A” to point “B” in time for dinner. Unwittingly, we ran into a problem. The paved road we are traveling, marked on the map as a state road, gradually became a gravel trail leading deep into the woods. I had confidence in my map and continued to follow it. Not too much longer we were faced with a decision; follow the map, or listen to the voice inside our heads encouraging us to turn around. As it turned out, using an outdated map I followed the wrong road. This is closely akin to what Paul teaches the Church in our reading of Ephesians 2:1-7.
Paul reminds the people of God that once dead in our sinfulness, all have traveled the road of disobedience and selfishness. It is a familiar road, one well traveled and if left to ourselves, we would choose this road most often. Along this road the “prince of power in the air” strives to lead humanity away from God and into a false sense of independence. All too often those who follow such a road are confident in their decisions and become convinced it is the right path. We church people even have a saying that exudes such confidence; “It’s the way we have always done it.” Yet, unless our actions are rooted in Christ and our path illuminated by Holy Scripture, we will certainly find ourselves heading in the wrong direction.
All too often we tend to look at our past and attempt to make our present resemble the good old days. The trouble with this thinking is that, neither the world of our past, nor of the present day resembles the world God intends for the future. Christians live with the temptations of our age old rebellion; we are continually being lured away from God by the “powers in the air.” More often than not, these powers seem pleasing, fulfilling and rewarding. The ugly truth, however, is that they are the most destructive force leveraged between God and humanity. We must learn to recognize the path leading in the wrong direction, especially when the one most comfortable and familiar is not actually rooted in Christ. The difficulty is, “It’s the way we have always done it.” So what’s the answer?
Paul is clear that it is God who has rescued us from earthly powers. By grace through faith in Christ we are saved. Through the teaching of the apostles, Christians are afforded the example of Christ like living. Jesus himself provided the example for all to follow. Turning to Scripture, which is our unfailing guide and never outdated, we can recognize the path of righteousness. Even as we find it difficult to follow such a path, God promises to strengthen us and lead us by the power of his Holy Spirit.
In most cases, no one who is in control enjoys being told to turn back. We become convinced the old ways, the tried and true ways, our ways are best. Yet, our decisions left absent of Christ Jesus and his teaching will most certainly lead in the opposite direction. Rooting our processes and traditions in Christ, we soon realize there can be only one way, and we are best advised to follow it.