Grace and Peace - Part 4
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
June 11, 2017
Have you ever seen any of those makeover shows? You know, those reality shows where they offer to transform a person’s look using the best makeup artists, hair stylists, and wardrobe specialists. Some are ambush-style where a person is approached on the street and some recommendation-style where a friend or family member recommends them.
The funny thing is that in accepting the offer, those folks were also admitting they needed help, that they were unattractive. It was good news with a catch.
I love watching those shows. The best part, though, is at the end when you get to see the before and after.
In our text on grace today, Paul writes to the Christians at Ephesus. He shows them how God gave them an ultra-extreme makeover. He shows them who they were before and after.
Ephesians 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
Note the tense here. The Ephesians Christians “were” dead in trespasses and sins. This is what they used to be. This is how they used to walk before meeting Jesus. This is the before picture.
Walk is used consistently in the Bible to represent a way of life, an ongoing behavior that comes from who you really are at your core. It can be good or bad, depending on the way you’re going.
Genesis 6:9 (ESV) — 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
Genesis 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
Proverbs 4:14 (ESV) — 14 Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.
One day, years ago, I needed to get gas. Every station I came to had a bag over the pumps (I hate that). I might have squealed away from one of them. I finally found a gas station with gas but in my anger had pulled on the wrong side. I might have vented a little at that moment.
I was so caught up in my drama, I forgot that sitting in the back, strapped in her little car seat, was my middle daughter, Chloe, sucking on a sucker. After observing her dad’s behavior through all this, she calmly slurped the sucker out and said, “You following the devil’s path, daddy.” Then popped the sucker back in.
Many scholar’s believe the prince of the power of the air is a reference to the devil or at least some dark being in league with him. Before we come to know God through his son, Jesus, we walk the devil’s path whether we know it or not and it shows up in our behavior, the way we live (it shows up after too, but it shouldn’t as much!).
This before picture gets even worse…
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Here’s that depravity thing again. For this to come up over and over must mean it’s important.
It is. I think the church’s strength these days may be its weakness. There is much focus on God’s grace, and rightly so, but there isn’t as much focus on why we need his grace. A balance must be struck.
We’ll never understand God’s grace until we understand our need for it. We’ll never appreciate the after picture until we come to terms with just how ugly we were before. We’ll never know true life until we know just how dead we were in our trespasses and sins. We’ll never enjoy real freedom until we realize how enslaved we were to sin and death. We’ll never experience eternal peace with God until we fully comprehend we were his enemies, destined for wrath because of our sinfulness and disobedience.
Now look at two words in verse 4, two words that, when you see them together, represent a power to undo even the most dire situation, two words that can change the universe, the world, and certainly you and me. Two words that keep us from going over the edge into despair when we grasp how ugly we were before grace came into the picture…
Ephesians 2:4–7 (ESV) — 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
One pastor says of these verses, “… Paul has the audacity to put all this in the past tense. We have been raised. We have been seated. It means when you believe, the moment you believe, the love and acceptance God gives you is so great, it’s possible to talk about you virtually already being seated in his presence. He already sees you as seated. He already sees you as perfect. He already sees you as righteous. Your condemnation is gone. How else do you explain such traumatic and radical language? It doesn’t say a Christian will be seated in the heavenly places; it says you are.”
Verse 7 gets me. God makes us his grace trophies to show off for all eternity. This is the after picture. What a contrast to the before.
This text is so full of God’s grace it drips honey. How sweet to the taste it is! I wish we had time to break it down more this morning.
Let’s move on to where we want to be in our last message on grace.
Ephesians 2:8–10 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Last week we talked about grace being a gift given us by God. This highlights the difference between religion and true Christianity. Religion wants to work for what it gets. Religion wants to earn God’s favor so it can boast. You can’t find God that way. You must humble yourself and receive his grace like a gift.
That sounds easier than it is. Tim Keller is one of my favorite preachers. He has built a solid, conservative, thriving, Bible believing church in the last place on earth you’d think to find one: New York. In a sermon on our text he discussed what many say, what some of you might be thinking, when it comes to understanding the before picture of all Christians (which is also a “right now” picture of those who aren’t Christians).
“I can’t believe someone in the middle of New York City [in this modern day] with more than a fourth-grade education would say such a thing! How primitive! How psychologically unhealthy. Blood atonement. Wrath of God stuff. Yeah, people believed that a hundred years ago, but come on! This is a modern place.”
Look out. Underneath all of your intellectual objections you got in Religion… might be a heart that sees the real threat is grace itself. If you think it’s beneath you to admit you’re so sinful that only the Son of God’s death could save you, if you think that’s demeaning, if you think that’s primitive, if you think that’s beneath you, look out! Isn’t there, underneath all the intellectual objections, a heart that’s saying, “I can pay my own way. Who are you to say this is true of me?”
The problem with grace is, though it’s wonderful, it’s threatening. It’s costly to the one who gives. It’s shocking and surprising to the one who receives, but it’s also deeply threatening because the minute you receive it, you know your life is changed forever." -- TK
No story illustrates these grace truths more than what we see in…
Luke 7:36–50 (ESV) — 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Simon the Pharisee was too proud to accept his need. He was too blind to see that his debt was just as great as the prostitutes. Grace threatened him because it required approaching God from the same place as the sinful woman. She understood grace, though. She understood her sinfulness. She realized she desperately needed a makeover and humbled herself before the only one who could give it to her.
Look at Jesus’ beautiful response…
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
That last verse connects with our main text today and the last teaching on grace before we move on. Look back now at Ephesians 2:8…
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Do you see the connection?
The key to unlocking the immeasurable riches of God’s grace is faith.
Sometimes I think we over-explain the concept of faith. Faith, at its simplest, is believing God at his word.
It is a matter of the mind, but it’s more than that. It is a matter of the heart and emotions, but it’s more than that. It ultimately is a matter of the will, that unseen organ of in soul created by God where we choose to accept him at his word or not.
And what does his word say? All those who call upon him will be saved. You have to know you need saving, like the sinful woman. You have to believe he will save you. Even if you want to believe, he can work with that.
When you by faith accept God’s gift of grace given through Jesus, you are made over into a new creation. If that isn’t an extreme makeover, I don’t know what is.
Conclusion: Let’s go back and finish with verse 10…
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
That’s even more to the after picture.
Makes me think of those makeover shows where the husband waits to see what his wife looks like. When she walks out looking stunning, he cries, overwhelmed by it all. That’s us when we walk out dressed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness, radiant with God’s glory in us, having accessed God’s gift of grace through faith.
So what have learned about the grace in “grace and peace”?
Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward us.
God’s grace, God’s favor toward us is unmerited because of our depravity.
Jesus is the living embodiment of God’s grace.
Grace is a free gift that can’t be earned, only given, and it’s offered by God exclusively through Jesus.
The key to unlocking the immeasurable riches of God’s grace is faith.
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