Chapter 8 in Phillip Yancey’s book “Vanishing Grace” begins like this…
A monologue has been floating around in cyberspace, sometimes credited to George Carlin, sometimes to a Columbine High School student, and sometimes to the Dalai Lama. ‘The Paradox of Our Time,’ it turns out, actually originated with Dr. Bob Moorehead, a retired pastor near Seattle.
We have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints; we spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less; we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, yet less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgment; more experts, yet more problems; we have more gadgets but less satisfaction; more medicine, yet less wellness; we take more vitamins but see fewer results. We drink too much; smoke too much; spend too recklessly; laugh too little; drive too fast, get too angry quickly; stay up too late; get up too tired; read too seldom; watch TV too much and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we fly in faster planes to arrive there quicker, to do less and return sooner; we sign more contracts only to realize fewer profits; we talk too much; love too seldom, and lie too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.
One of the things that has been sacrificed to the altar of busyness and our current lifestyles is “kindness.”
We live in a confrontative world…it seems that many times people are looking for an excuse to get mad and leave or criticize…even in the Church world it seems many do things to cover the fact that they are not kind…or stay obscure to avoid the pain of unkind people…neither of these work.
As I was writing this sermon the number 1 topic of discussion on social media was about Ellen Degeneres…a gay comedian talk show host…sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys football game. The question…“Why would a gay liberal TV star be friends with a conservative Republican president?
The premise is…after all, we’re supposed to hate those we disagree with…ostracize them…humiliate them…hurt them! I really like Ellen’s response:
Degeneres said just because she doesn’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t mean she’s not going to be friends with them. “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
And as you can guess some famous people immediately drew up sides…some praised Ellen…some attacked Ellen…(some put up tweets and then immediately took them down – Reece Witherspoon).
It seems being kind to everyone isn’t everyone’s forte. And supporting someone who promotes kindness to your enemy should be destroyed.
It’s a really good thing for all of us that God, the Father, doesn’t deal with us like that…Listen to our text concerning the kindness of God:
EPHESIANS 2:4-7 (p. 814)
I. GOD’S KINDNESS FLOWS FROM HIS GREAT LOVE
So the first 3 verses of Ephesians 2 paint a picture of someone whose not real lovable.
EPHESIANS 2:1-3 (p. 814)
Dead…sinful…following the ways of the world…influenced by Satan…disobedient. Doing what we want because we feel like it or its what we desire. All of us deserved one thing from God…wrath…punishment.
God doesn’t give us what we deserve because of His great love for us…In mercy He extends to us the gift of life…even in our deadness.
Think about how different God is from the world…How different He is from all of us… “You hate me…therefore I hate you.” “You hurt me…therefore I will hurt you.” “You’re my enemy…I’m gonna be at war with you.”
BUT God has a great love for those who hate Him, hurt Him. He loves those who are His enemies and deserve wrath.
Please let me share that the first and primary attitude of a Christian is love…It’s the first fruit listed produced by God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:26). It’s the way we are identified as disciples according to Jesus. (John 13:35) “All people will know that you’re my disciples by your love for one another.” Not our doctrine…not our zeal about what we believe is politically right…not our works…BUT our love.
Religious people do stuff to feel good about themselves…Christ followers love people so God can be seen.
Listen to what Jesus tells us…
MATTHEW 5:13-16 (p. 677)
It’s important for us to realize the context of Jesus’ words…according to Matt. 5:1…these are words meant for His disciples…not the crowd. It’s a message for those who are part of the Kingdom of Heaven…and different than those who are part of the world or just religious.
Salt brings flavor and preserves things…light illuminates so you can see what’s hidden in the dark.
Jesus looks at us and says“You are to be those things in this world…and if you’re not…what good are you?” “Your job is to shine so others can see God’s glory.”
He lets us know “Doing right things is always right…but if you’re doing them for your ego instead of God’s glory there’s a problem!”
MATTHEW 5:20; 43-48 (p. 677, 678)
God’s kindness flows out of His great love for us…and if He lives in us…our kindness to others flows out of our great love for Him.
And the kindness that makes us most like our father…perfect…is when it’s directed at those who are unkind to us…it’s also the most difficult because there will be a struggle between our flesh and His Spirit. Our flesh wants to slap the one who’s hit us in the cheek. The Holy Spirit says, “Turn the other one toward them.”
In other words unless you fall deeply in love with Jesus and His love flows out of you…your righteousness is just noise…and it profits you nothing.
1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13 (p. 800)
Why is love the greatest of these 3? Because someday we won’t need faith…we’ll see Jesus face to face…one day we won’t have to hope for our inheritance in Heaven. One day our hope will become a reality! But love never ends…love remains…love is forever!
Verse 5 in Ephesians 2 lets us know that God’s purpose for us is:
II. A RESURRECTED NEW LIFE WITH JESUS
God…“made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace you have been saved.”
Once again let me remind you that dead people can do nothing to save themselves…dead people don’t need medicine, they don’t need a doctor…dead people need life.
[Wayne Smith used to tell the story of three elderly gentlemen who were sitting around talking to each other about their funerals…the topic was…What do you want people to say at your funeral? The first guy said, “I’d like for people to say I was a good husband and father.” The second guy said, “I’d like for people to say He helped anyone who had a need!” And the third guy said, “I’d like people to say Hey, look He’s still breathin’.”]
Life is precious…we’ve only got one shot at it…and if there’s breath then there’s hope.
God is in the business of resurrecting spiritually dead people through the gift of His Son…This has nothing to do with our worth…It has to do with His kindness…“This is not from yourselves…it is the gift of God.” (v. 8)
I read something the other day that helps us understand what this means.
“Remember that we are not a body with a spirit…but we are a spirit that lives in a body.”
The real us…created in God’s image. (By the way, “God is Spirit,” according to John 4:24, “and those who worship Him must worship Him in the Spirit and in truth.”) Spiritually, by nature, we are sinners. We followed the god of this world, we served the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is still at work in those who are disobedient…all of us lived among them at one time. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
We were dead spiritually in our transgressions and sins.
You can’t resurrect your spirit with good deeds…you can’t change the fact you’re dead spiritually by acting like you’re alive.
The Creator must breathe life into your soul…like He did for Adam in the Garden of Eden…His Spirit takes up residence in this temporary body and “God raises us up with Jesus in the heavenly realms.”
One day this earthly body will die…but our spirit is eternal…this is exactly what Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians:
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-6 (p. 805)
You see when we repent of our sins and are baptized into Christ, we receive His forgiveness and we receive the promised gift of His Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
Our resurrection spiritually takes place because “The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us.” (Romans 8:11) It’s God’s deposit on our souls… And if He lives in us…we are led by Him…this is what makes us God’s children (Romans 8:14-15). We’re not slaves anymore to death and sin. We are sons and daughters of God, born again with a heavenly inheritance. And we live like it!
When we die physically…our spirit goes to be with Jesus…in the heavenly realm…but God will resurrect our physical bodies one day. Listen…
1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-14 (p. 825)
God will bring with Jesus as His return the spirit (that which is really us) of those who have died beforehand…
1 THESSALONIANS 4:14-18 (p. 825)
This is the fulfillment of God’s kindness towards us…Resurrection…transformation…with the Lord forever!
How quickly will spirit and body be united…
1 CORINTHIANS 15:51-54 (p. 802)
A forever body now houses our forever spirit…a resurrected new life with Jesus.