ONE CHURCH – One Faith
Ephesians 2:1-10 (p. 814) July 17, 2016
Paul tells us we are saved by “grace through faith.”
Let me give you a real quick definition of grace…Grace means receiving something you don’t deserve…it’s different than mercy…mercy means you don’t receive something you deserve.
Like when you were a kid and you took some of your mom’s chocolate chip cookies that she’d made for Christian Women’s Club (this is purely hypothetical you understand) and your mom says “I should give you a spanking…but I’m not.” That’s mercy!
Grace would be mom saying, “Ricky, do you want me to fix you a milkshake to wash those cookies down?” Why yes mother, yes I would.” That’s grace.
There’s a huge difference between mercy and grace…most of us as human beings have extended mercy…even though it’s not easy we don’t speak hateful words back, even if it’s deserved…we don’t hit back…we don’t return hate for hate…that’s mercy…and most of us give out small measures of mercy every day…and need small measures of mercy every day…sometimes large measures.
But grace is different…grace is a gift. And its given not because its been earned…but simply because it’s needed.
[I remember reading a story by Chi Chi Rodriguez, the golfer. He grew up in abject poverty…and one day his father caught a neighbor who had broken into their backyard and was stealing a bunch of bananas. Chi Chi watched his father give the man the bananas…but also a bag of food that amounted to about half of what their family had for the week…THAT’S GRACE.]
Most of us think “that thief” deserved a beating with a stick…and you’re right! But he didn’t get what he deserved…He got mercy…And he got what he needed instead…grace…Grace is a gift.
I. WHAT DO ALL OF US DESERVE?
EPHESIANS 2:1-3 (p. 814)
Paul’s not just telling the Ephesians that they were dead in their sin…that their former life and former choices proved it. He says “All of us also lived like this, like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath…”
Adam and Eve opened the door to sin…They would never be the same after “having their eyes opened because of their disobedience.” Their natures were changed…sin brought selfishness and death into the equation. The serpent had lied when he said, “You will not surely die!.” Adam and Eve surely would…Adam lived 950 years and then died…950 years is a long time…but it’s not forever!
And every descendent of Adam and Eve would inherit this same nature…a selfish one…a sinful one…and the consequence would be the same…death. We as Adam and Eve’s grandchildren times 100 are not responsible for their sin, but we are the recipients of their nature.
“All have sinned” according to Romans 3:23. It’s in our nature…and because of that, we deserve that “beating with a stick.” We deserve “God’s wrath.” We deserve death… “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
Until we experience this truth we cannot truly accept grace by faith.
You see we cannot be saved because we start being nicer…or start doing a bunch of good things to try and make up for the bad things…grace has nothing to do with us…it’s not from us… “it’s the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.”
[It’s so hard for us…in fact for everyone, to not put the cart before the horse…by nature we minimize our sins…by nature we forget them quickly…by nature we maximize the good things we do…we forget them…NEVER! We want to think…good people go to heaven…and because of our nature, guess how many of us think we’re good…statistics say, “1 out of 1” of us. Let’s say some Hail Mary’s, let’s put an extra $20 in the collection plate, let’s help our neighbor cut his grass, like money in the spiritual bank…We’ve earned God’s approval. It’s still selfishly about us…but we’re trying to put more good on the scale than bad so our sins don’t seem so…deadly.]
This way of thinking and living requires no gift of grace…it just requires more good than more sin…It’s almost the exact way the Pharisees lived in Jesus’ day…and it’s why they rejected the need for a Messiah.
Good works don’t cover our sins and cancel them out…the blood of Christ covers our sin and His righteousness justifies our unrighteousness. “All are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of blood – to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:24-25)
“The wages of sin is death…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
II. GOD GIVES DEAD PEOPLE WHAT THEY NEED
EPHESIANS 2:4-6 (p. 814)
Silly question, but “What do dead people need?” You could say, burial…and you’d be right…but if you could give someone whose died anything, what would if be? Life right?
If you love someone dearly and they’re dead…and you could give them anything. You’d always choose another chance at life before you chose a beautiful casket.
I’ve shared this before but I need to share it again here. God did not send his son to die for our sins to make good people better. he gave His son so that sinners could have forgiveness and dead people could have new life.
God’s love is so great that instead of wrath. He extended mercy and grace. He made us alive, even when we we’re dead in transgressions. God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him.
Your Spirit (or soul) and my spirit (or soul) is one that goes on forever…at least that’s what scripture teaches and I believe. But as we’ve already said…it’s wrapped up in sin and selfishness. It’s bankrupt when it comes to living forever…unless something changes what it deserves. Wrath and death are its destination…everyone’s destination…But God’s rich spiritually…God is spirit…and He desires to change our natural destination…supernaturally. So He offers a gift…His Son, who will pay for the wages of our sin with His death…He will conquer the wrath of sin which is death by defeating it with a resurrection.
What is the response of dead people who choose God’s gift of life. There’s only one.
III. FAITH IS ACTIVELY ACCEPTING GOD’S GIFT OF GRACE
[I was cleaning out the trunk of Karissa’s car the other day and I found all these Christmas presents in the back from my niece and nephew who live in Chicago. There was this really cool flashlight and tool kit with my name on it…I said what’s this…and Kari said, “Oh, those are from Leann and Jax. I asked Karissa to bring them home from Granny’s. By the way it was the end of May when I found them. I immediately opened the gift…put the tool on my keychain and used the flashlight to look for more presents. My question…when did my niece and nephew’s gift become what they wanted it to be? Only when I saw it, opened it, and started to enjoy it.]
God’s gift is new life through His Son. It’s offered to spiritually dead people through His Spirit of life. When does it become what God wants it to be? When we see it, open it, and start enjoying it.
Faith is our response when we see the gift…If you leave it in the trunk unopened it does no good at all.
Holeman Hunt has a really famous picture called, “The Light of the World.”
It’s Jesus standing at a door, holding light for the darkness and knocking to be let in. And the artist did something intentional in this beautiful painting…anyone notice what’s missing on the door? There is no doorknob or latch on the outside. it can only be opened from the interior.
This is the picture of faith…God will knock on the door of our hearts…The Holy Spirit will reveal our sin…He will knock with conviction…The answer starts just behind the door. A Savior holding light for our dark lives…but He won’t kick the door down…we have the doorknob…we have the latch…we must choose by faith to open the door of our lives and invite Him to come in. This is the response of faith.]
If you invite Him in through faith…If repentance leads you to be changed by the death, burial and resurrection of baptism, Jesus isn’t just a houseguest. he makes it His home. His Spirit turns your shack into a temple. “His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Rom. 8)
And that Spirit creates the masterpiece God planned for all along…an instrument to do the good things that bring Him praise and glory…forever. This is the one faith that makes us one family.