4th March 2014

Are You Near or Far Away? 

“‘Peace, peace, to him who is far off [both Jew and Gentile] and to him who is near!’ Says the Lord.”
Isaiah 57:19 (AMP)

It might strike us as strange, but the people in first century Palestine didn’t think primarily in terms of sin and its solution. Rather, the real issue for them was separation—it was about feeling lost, rather than being wrong. 

Just like the parables Jesus told in Luke 15 of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son, it is very obvious that he is speaking about sinners who are lost and “far off” from God, and tells us that there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents and is brought near through Jesus—the One who gave his life for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd, and I know those that are mine and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I am giving my life for the sake of the sheep.” (John 10:14-15 Phillips). In this act of sacrificial love he bridges this gulf—this separation, this feeling of being “far off” from God, he kills off the hostility and brings sinners close once again. So, they no longer feel lost, alienated, lonely, separated and at a distance. “And He came and preached the glad tidings of peace to you who were afar off and [peace] to those who were near. For it is through Him that we both [whether far off or near] now have an introduction (access) by one [Holy] Spirit to the Father [so that we are able to approach Him]. Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God’s own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God’s [own] household.” (Ephesians 2:17-19) 

That’s Good News! Now everyone has the same access to God and we are only as far away or as near as we want to be—it’s up to each of us individually. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’” says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 NLT). These words were written to the people of Israel while they were held captive in Babylon; they were at that time far off from God but he hadn’t forgotten them and here he promises them a new beginning—notice how he ends verse 14 here, telling them; “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you home again to your own land.” 

Just like the lost sheep was brought home to the fold by the shepherd who then calls his neighbours together to rejoice because the sheep that was lost and far off was found and brought near! All heaven rejoices together in the same way over one sinner who comes home! (Luke 15: 3-7). 

Gentle Father, thank you that your greatest desire is for all who are lost and far off to seek you out and come home, just like the Prodigal Son.

Study by Cliff Neill


cliffneillAbout the Author:
Cliff Neill is an Elder in Grace Communion Church Luton.

Local  Congregation:
Grace Communion Church Luton
Farley Hill Methodist Church
North Drift Way
Farley Hill

Meeting time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Harry Sullivan
Phone:  01908-582222
Email: harry_sullivan@wcg.org.uk

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