June 7, 2010 David Balzer

Core Value 1: We Value God’s Grace to Sinful People: Ephesians 2:1-10

Coming face to face with death should change your life and your priorities.

Glen McGrath is famous for TWO THINGS. As a cricketer, he’s taken more test wickets than any other fast bowler in the history of the game. He’s retired now, and his time is taken up with a much more important job – running the charity he set up, with his wife, to provide breast care nurses for sufferers of breast cancer.

The charity is called The McGrath Foundation, in honour of Glen’s wife, Jane, who died of breast cancer in 2008.

 

And I reckon if you asked Glenn which of those two things were most important, he’d have no hesitation. Because playing cricket for Australia might be exciting – with the attention and the travel and the money and the fun. But it just doesn’t match up with the reward and importance of saving lives and relieving suffering for breast cancer patients.

 

Because coming face to face with death should change your life and your priorities.

 

It certainly has for Robert and Rita. After Robert’s heart attack, after he died several times in Jacob’s backyard, they took a hard look at their life. And made the decision to make some changes.

 

Coming face to face with death should change your life and your priorities.

 

And if coming face to face with death changes your life and priorities FOR THIS LIFE, HOW MUCH MORE should being saved from ETERNAL death, and being given ETERNAL LIFE, change OUR life and priorities?

 

We’ve been given a MUCH greater gift than any remission from cancer. As wonderful as the work of the McGrath Foundation is. As fantastic as the news is of people in remission. It’s ALL TEMPORARY. It’s life that will only last DECADES. But God has saved us into ETERNITY.

 

Wrath and judgment and condemnation were waiting for us. But God RESCUED us. He showed his MERCY and LOVE and GRACE. And moved us from DEATH to LIFE. And he’s STILL showing us GRACE. Everyday, he keeps his promises. We CONTINUE in life only because of God’s grace.

 

That’s the riches of grace. And it’s something we VALUE. Above anything else. Nothing matters more. We value God’s grace to sinful people. That’s the number one core value of this church.

 

And if that’s true. If we really HAVE come face-to-face with death. If we really HAVE been given a second chance. Then it ought to change our life and our priorities. It should MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

 

What difference does God’s grace make to the way YOU live? How are you DIFFERENT from the guy across the fence, or across the hallway at work? Would anyone NOTICE the differences?

 

This passage is great  – my favourite one in the Bible (THIS week) because it reminds us of how wonderful God’s grace is. And gives us good reasons for VALUING it. So let’s look at it together.

 

1. Sinful people (1-3)

Our core value says we value God’s grace to SINFUL PEOPLE. And these first three verses paint a picture of sinful people. It’s really like the “before” photo on the Biggest Loser gym wall. This is what you USED TO look like.

 

Dead (1)

The first part of the BEFORE picture is that we were DEAD. Look at it there in v1.

(Eph 2:1 NIV)  As for you, YOU WERE DEAD in your transgressions and sins,

 

That’s not physically dead. But SPIRITUALLY dead. Deaf and dumb and blind to the spiritual world. Unable to understand the things of God. Hardened to them.

 

We were like cut flowers stuck in vase. We might LOOK like we were alive, but we were really DEAD. Cut off from our source of life. Give it a few days, and our petals start to turn brown. A few days more, and we wilt. A few weeks, and we smell.

 

(A good reason not to bother buying flowers I reckon!)

 

But that’s what we were – DEAD in our sin. And what can a dead person do to help themselves? NOTHING. ZIP, ZERO. We were helpless, hopeless, useless.

 

Disobedient  (2)

The second part of the portrait is there in v2. Disobedience.

(Eph 2:2-3 NIV)  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are DISOBEDIENT. {3} All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.

 

Not just incapable of pleasing God. Of helping ourselves. But Deliberately choosing NOT to obey God. Following what WE wanted, rather than what God wants. Not just unable to lift our gaze to HEAVEN. But deliberately dropping to the ground AWAY from God.

 

And there are three factors identified there that INFLUENCE that disobedience. The world, Satan, and the sinful nature.

 

THE WORLD. “Following the ways of the world” (there in v2). The number one rule for life “Look after number one”. That’s the way of the world. And they wrap it in pretty paper, and call it self-confidence, self-reliance, a positive self-image.

 

But it’s nothing more than disobedience. Selfishness. Idolatry – making yourself an idol to be worshipped, rather than God.

 

It’s so ingrained that we don’t even think there’s anything wrong when we hear comments like;

“I’m just putting everything else on hold until I get my career on track.

I’m not ready for kids

I’m not fulfilled.

I just need a little Me-time.

I’m learning to stand up for myself”

 

They’re all just ways of saying “I’m looking after number one” They’re all just worshipping before the idol of SELF.

 

It’s the way of the world, and it’s NOT the way of God.

 

The second influence on disobedience is THE RULER OF THE KINGDOM OF THE AIR (v2). That’s Satan. He tempts, he lies, he tricks, he exaggerates. He undermines. He’s a SNAKE. And he LOVES disobedience.

 

And the way of the world, is listening to HIM, rather than God. He says

“It’s not wrong, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else”

“It’s not wrong, it’s between two consenting adults”

“It makes sense to live together first. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test-drive, would you?”

“How dare you tell me I’m wrong or evil. It’s judgmental and discriminatory!

“God is LOVING, he won’t judge anyone!”

 

They’re SATAN’S lies. And it’s disobedience to listen to SATAN, rather than God.

 

The third factor in the disobedience of the world is THE SINFUL NATURE. See it there in v3?

gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.

 

The way of the world, and of Satan, is so seductive and attractive, and such a powerful force, because it’s about doing WHAT COMES NATURALLY.

 

It’s natural human instinct to PUSH IN. To take from someone else because YOU WANT IT. To control those around you. The urge to seek your own pleasure is stronger than any other urge.

 

Our nature is sinful. Our desires. Thoughts, cravings, orientations, desires, goals. You don’t have to TEACH a new baby to be selfish. Comes naturally. Don’t have to teach them to throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. Comes naturally.

 

And we get better and better at it the older we get.

 

Homosexuals argue they were BORN that way. As if that gives them an excuse. God’s MADE me this way. I’m only expressing my natural self. He can’t judge me for THAT.

 

But they’re no different to anyone else. Whatever their orientation. We’re ALL born that way! I was BORN selfish, and lustful, and greedy, and rebellious. It’s no excuse to say, “I’m just expressing who I am, God can’t judge me for that!”.

 

Gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature, following its desires and thoughts is DISOBEDIENCE. And it means we were DEAD.

 

Doomed (3)

And the third part of Paul’s BEFORE portrait is there in v3. It’s the result of it all. We were DOOMED.

…Like the rest, we were by nature OBJECTS OF WRATH.

 

Bound for destruction. We were under the threat of God’s judgment. We had big bullseyes painted on our chest. The red laser light was on our forehead. We were old car bodies on the conveyor belt headed for the compactor.

 

We were DEAD in sin. We were DISOBEDIENT. And so we were DOOMED.

 

What a BLACK PORTRAIT.

 

2. God’s grace (4-10)

But just like the Biggest Loser, this is a GOOD NEWS story. That’s only the BEFORE photo. Look at v4. There’s the AFTER photo. It’s THE BIG BUT – which has nothing to do with The Biggest Loser, by the way.

(Eph 2:4-5 NIV)  BUT because of his great LOVE for us, God, who is rich in MERCY, {5} made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by GRACE you have been saved.

 

LOVE, GRACE and MERCY. All things God displays towards US.

 

LOVE is a characteristic of God himself. And he EXPRESSES that love towards us by showing MERCY and GRACE. Love is the quality which REVEALS itself in the actions of grace and mercy.

 

One way of thinking about the two is that Grace is GIVING us what we DON’T deserve, and mercy is WITHHOLDING what we DO deserve.

 

Think about it for a moment. Grace is GIVING us what we DON’T deserve, and mercy is NOT giving us what we DO deserve.

 

We DON’T deserve saving, or forgiveness, or eternal life, or an eternal inheritance, but GRACE is GIVING us those things. We DO deserve judgment, and death, and separation, but MERCY WITHHOLDS those things.

(Eph 2:4-5 NIV)  But because of his great LOVE for us, God, who is rich in MERCY, {5} made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by GRACE you have been saved.

 

God SAVED us because he LOVED us.

 

And look at what SAVING means. Three things. There in v5 and v6. He made us alive WITH Christ. He RAISED US UP with Christ. And he SEATED US with Christ in the heavenly realms.

 

The three historical facts of Christianity. Christ’s RESURRECTION, his ASCENSION, and his SEATING ON THE THRONE.

 

And when God saves us, he JOINS US TO Christ. And so we receive everything CHRIST has. Those who belong to Jesus are made alive WITH HIM. They are RAISED UP with HIM. And they are seated in the heavenly realms WITH HIM.

 

We might look like everybody else walking around here on earth. But we’re bound for a different reality. We have a home beyond planet earth. It’s where we belong.

 

But it’s more than just a FUTURE. There’s a sense in which it’s begun NOW. Right now, we begin to experience that victory and new life. Life, and truth, and closeness to God have BEGUN, and they’re getting BETTER as each day goes by. And THAT’S all God’s grace too!

 

That’s what we have. It’s what we ARE – right now!

 

And when we get to v7, we see that God’s got a PURPOSE behind the whole plan. It’s part of our heavenly reality NOW. V7 begins with a wonderful little phrase “in order that”. In grammar it’s called A PURPOSE CLAUSE. God’s done something in v6 WHICH LEADS TO v7. FOR THE PURPOSE of v7.

 

It’s one of the wonderful things about being a Christian – we have a REASON FOR LIVING.

 

Follow the logic. God’s saved us by his grace. In order that (v7)

(Eph 2:7-8 NIV)  in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. {8} For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith

 

You are God’s EXHIBIT A. God values his own grace so highly that he wants to SHOW IT OFF. His grace is incomparable riches. Nothing else measures up.

 

His plan to show us grace and mercy through Jesus is SO WONDERFUL, and brings him SO MUCH GLORY that he LOVES TO SHOW IT OFF.

 

That’s what WE are. God’s self-promoting visual-aid. God’s presentation of his own excellence. As we live, and thank him, and proclaim him, and obey him, and honour him. We bring GLORY to HIM. Look at how Paul describes it back in Ch 1 v11.

(Eph 1:11-12 NIV)  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the PLAN of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, {12} IN ORDER THAT we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might BE FOR THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY.

 

What is our purpose in life? To BE – to EXIST- for the praise of his glory. In particular, we highlight the INCOMPARABLE RICHES OF HIS GRACE.

 

And we see how that idea works itself out in practice down in v10.

(Eph 2:10 NIV)  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

God’s workmanship. That’s us. His craftsmanship. He’s brought together the whole plan of choosing us, predestining us, adopting us, saving us. And here we are – the finished product.

 

Some of you have seen our dining room table. I made it. I’m pretty proud of it. I designed it. I bought the timber. I cut it. Assembled it. Glued it. Clamped it. Sanded it. Varnished it.

 

It’s my workmanship. And it’s been created for a purpose. And I get JOY out of seeing it being USED for its purpose.

 

And WE’VE been created for a purpose. To do the good works God’s prepared for us. It’s literally “we’ve been created for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we might WALK IN THEM.

 

WALKING IN THE GOOD WORKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS THE WAY WE SHOW THE INCOMPARABLE RICHES OF HIS GRACE.

 

THE GOOD WORKS ARE ALSO GOD’S GRACE FOR US. HIS GIFTS FOR US TO DO.

 

Good works like serving each other cheerfully. Putting others first CHARITABLY. Standing firm BRAVELY, putting up with difficulties SERENELY, bearing burdens EAGERLY, turning the other cheek GRACIOUSLY, giving GENEROUSLY, witnessing COURAGEOUSLY, accepting our lot PATIENTLY, standing up for injustice BOLDLY.

 

All good works that God’s prepared for us to do. And he’s PLANNED it that way to SHOW OFF how Good his grace is. He ENJOYS seeing how people show his grace in their lives.

 

I said at the start that being coming face to face with death should change your life and your priorities.

 

HAS IT? Have you accepted that offer of a rescue from death and judgment? That’s what you do with an incredible valuable, generous offer. You grab it with both hands.

 

God wants to show you GRACE – to give you forgiveness and purpose and eternity and life and his Spirit and his people and his inheritance.

 

He wants to show you his MERCY. To withhold his hand of judgement. To withhold his just punishment for your rebellion.

Accept his gift today. You won’t regret it.

 

For most of us, that’s something we’ve already done. So, how has it made A DIFFERENCE? Because it SHOULD.

 

If you really HAVE been come face to face with death. If you really have been saved by the riches of God’s grace, Then your life should be DIFFERENT. Different in attitude, in priorities, in joy, Different in purpose, in love, in patience. Different in hope, and in strength.

 

Valuing God’s grace should affect what your week looks like – in practical ways. What difference does it make in YOUR life?

 

Let me suggest three ways.

 

First, valuing God’s grace will mean declaring it to others. A church which VALUES God’s grace to sinful people will make evangelism a priority.

 

How well are WE doing at that? How can we do it BETTER?

 

Or individually. How often are you standing up for Jesus? Saying a word for him? Inviting friends to church? How is evangelism reflected in your prayer? What friendships do you have with non-Christians? Where are they headed?

 

Valuing God’s grace will mean that evangelism is a priority.

 

Secondly, valuing God’s grace will mean NOT BOASTING, but bringing glory to God.

 

If we HAVE been saved by grace. And if we CONTINUE only by grace. And it’s got nothing to do with our own efforts. Then there’s never any excuse for boasting. It’s there in v8 and 9,

(Eph 2:8-9 NIV)  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– {9} not by works, so that no one can boast.

 

Not boasting will mean recognising that your life is all about bringing glory to SOMEONE ELSE. Your purpose is showing the riches of his grace. Not showing everyone how impressive YOU are. Not how KNOWLEDGEABLE you are, or HARD-WORKING, or SUCCESSFUL, or GENEROUS, or HOSPITABLE, or even HOW HUMBLE.

 

And you’ll LOVE doing it, because you VALUE GRACE.

 

If all you have, and are, is by GRACE. Then you won’t BOAST. And you won’t compare yourself to OTHERS. You’ll keep turning the spotlight always back onto God. The incomparable riches of his grace.

 

Third, valuing God’s grace will mean TRUSTING GOD COMPLETELY. If the future’s in HIS HANDS. And it’s all about GRACE. Then let’s TRUST him with the future.

 

Modern culture encourages us to trust EVERYTHING ELSE to provide our needs. Our mortgage, or our strength, or our friends, or our financial plans, or our health. But valuing God’s grace will mean TRUSTING his PROMISES.

 

He WILL never leave us or forsake us. He WILL strengthen and uphold us. He WILL give us the material things we need as we seek first his kingdom. He WILL work all things for good. He WILL be with us even to the end of the age.

 

Valuing God’s grace will mean TRUSTING him. Every hour. Every day. Every week and month and year and decade.

 

Because our past, our present and our future are all because of his grace. And we show forth how the incomparable RICHES of his grace as we DECLARE it, as we bring glory to God by not BOASTING, and as we TRUST GOD COMPLETELY.

 

May our lives show that we’ve been given a second chance. That we VALUE GOD’S GRACE.

Comments (3)

  1. Hey Dave,
    Thanks for another exhortation.
    Why has the word ‘death’ and the word ‘nature’ been removed from the text?

    H

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