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Faithlife

GRACE ALTERS OUR STATE

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HE WE STAND  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  54:33
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We’ve been in a series in which each week we look at one of the attributes of God according to the Bible, one characteristic of the character or the nature of God. This passage, a very famous passage, also a very rich passage, has a theme that’s not that hard to discern. Three times … In verse 5, it says, “By grace you’re saved.” In verse 7, it talks about the incomparable grace of God. Then again in verse 8 it says (just in case we didn’t get it yet), “It’s by grace you’re saved.”

Over and over again, we’re being told in this passage about the God of grace and the grace of God. Now right off the bat, people will say, “Oh, I like that idea. The idea of a gracious God, a forgiving God. I like that idea very much. I think I understand that.” I think I’m here to tell you you probably don’t.

If you have been raised in the church, or if you’ve been around the church or around Christians, or if you’ve grown up very much inside the church, and Christianity has not been a life-changing power to you, it has not been a power that you see changing you from the inside … If that hasn’t been your experience, it’s probably because you don’t understand the grace of God. This is the missing ingredient.

Here’s why. How do you define grace? Well, at the heart of the definition … It comes out. This is one of the classic texts. What does grace mean? It means at least this: gift. Down here in verse 8 it says, “It is by grace you have been saved.” God’s salvation is a gift. Then, for emphasis: “Not of works.” A gift is something you haven’t worked for, you haven’t paid for, you haven’t earned, you haven’t achieved. It’s free. So whatever else grace means, it’s a free gift.

But I want you to consider there are all kinds of gifts that are absolutely free, that you haven’t paid for, but they don’t change your life. For example, if you go to an event sponsored by an organization, and they give you a little gift bag … You get home and open it up, and in it there’s a writing tablet with the logo of the organization on it. Is it free? Yes. Is it a gift? Yes. Has it changed your life? Even after you use it, will it change your life? No. Of course it’s not going to change your life. Why? Because even though it’s free, it’s not indispensable or costly.

It’s not indispensable. You probably already have things you could write on right now. Even if for some reason you’re one of the only people in the whole of America who has no tablets at home with little logos on them to take notes on by the phone, or something like that, it would be so easy for you to get one. Extremely easy. So the reason it’s free but it’s not life changing is that it’s neither indispensable nor expensive. It’s not costly to you. It would be very easy for you to do it yourself.

But what if you were a poor person in a foreign land where you needed an operation? Your life depended upon it. You were going to die if you didn’t have the operation, but either the medical treatment there was unobtainable or too expensive for you to obtain. Either it wasn’t accessible or it was economically unattainable. What if you knew someone who was not as poor as you but who liquidated almost all their assets in order to come up with the money to give you that surgery? What is that? It’s a free gift just like the tablet, but it’s different.

First of all, it’s indispensable. You have to have it. Secondly, it was so costly. This person went into poverty in order to get you the surgery. Imagine that. That’s life changing. Why? It’s not the freeness that changes your life or doesn’t; it’s how indispensable and how costly the gift is. I’d like to show you here that in this great passage, which we could essentially take weeks and weeks on (I’m going to give you a kind of summary look at it) …

In verses 1–3, we see that God’s salvation is not just free; it’s indispensable. Secondly, in verses 4–7, it tells us not only that God’s grace is indispensable, but it was infinitely costly for him. Lastly, at the bottom, we’re going to see that if you understand the absolute indispensability of God’s grace and the infinite costliness of his grace, it will bring you traumatic tranquility.

1. God’s grace, his salvation, is an indispensable gift

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins …” Let’s stop right there. There is a big difference between being sick and being dead. I may not have to belabor this point much, but let me do it a little bit. If you’re sick and you need healing, well, there are degrees of sickness. You might be a little sick or you might be very sick.

Then, of course, you go find a doctor. You do some research and get a doctor, and the doctor gives you medicine, or the doctor suggests and proposes that you eat these things, or exercise in this way. So if you’re sick, first of all, there are degrees of sickness, and secondly, you have something to contribute. You can admit you’re sick. That’s the first contribution. Then you go to the doctor and listen to the doctor and do what the doctor says, and so forth. So if you’re sick and you get better, you contributed to it in some way, and there are degrees of sickness.

If you’re dead, well, first of all, there are different ways to die, but frankly, whether you’re pretty dead or ugly dead, you’re still dead. If what you need is a resurrection because you’re dead, then not only are there no degrees, but there is nothing you will contribute to it at all. If somebody resurrects you, you contribute nothing at all.

The Bible says we are not sick in our sins, calling for “Dr. God.” We’re not saying, “I need something.” If we believe we’re sick in our sins, then there are degrees. I’ve had many people actually say to me, “Well, I do need God, but I’m a pretty good person. I’m not one of those people on skid row or in prison who need a born-again experience. I just need a little help.”

If we’re sick in our sins, there are degrees and there’s contribution. In other words, God’s help is not absolutely indispensable, and maybe some people need it more than others. But if we’re dead in our sins, if we’re spiritually absolutely dead to God and we need to be resurrected, then the salvation of God is absolutely indispensable for all of us.

By the way, when the Bible says we are dead in our sins, it’s not saying every human being is as bad as they could be. In fact, we’d better look at this; otherwise you will still not understand the grace of God. It doesn’t say every human being is as bad as they could be. We’ve talked about this before. The Bible indicates that in order to make this world a more livable place, in his goodness, God gives all sorts of people, regardless of what they believe about him, gifts of wisdom and the ability to do good things.

We’re not saying everybody here is as bad as anybody else. What we are saying is everybody is as equally spiritually dead to God, or, as Paul says in Romans 3, no one seeks God. There are moral people and there are immoral people, there are nice people and there are nasty people, but nobody seeks God. You say, “That doesn’t make sense to me. The polls say that most Americans pray, that most Americans believe in God.” You say, “I see all kinds of people trying to be good and trying to seek God.”

Wait. Over the years, whenever I’ve talked to people who have been in families with an alcoholic and who have gone, say, through something like Al-Anon or counseling in other ways, I’ve heard this story. Over and over, I’ve heard the spouses or family members of the alcoholic say something like this:

“You know, for years I thought I was loving him. I’d bail him out, I’d sacrifice for him, I’d cover for him, I would do all of these things for him, and I thought I was loving him. But I found out that what looked like selflessness was really selfishness. I needed him to be messed up. I needed to feel good about myself and, therefore, I needed to feel like I was his rescuer, his savior. Therefore, even though I was doing all of these things I thought were for him, I was doing them for me. It was my way of actually using him to feel better about myself.”

The Bible says something like that happens in every person, especially in the people who look good, the people who are trying to be good people, the people who may go to church and may read the Bible, who say, “I’m trying to be a very good person.” But why? “So that God will bless me, so God will have to bless me, so he’ll have to listen to my prayers, so he’ll have to take me to heaven, so people will have to respect me.” What are you doing? Your selflessness is really selfishness.

Now here’s the immoral person out in the street, doing bad things. It’s very clear that they are wanting to be their own masters. But here are you, being a really good person, saying, “Oh, I’m trying to obey God, I’m trying to listen to God, I’m trying to be a good person,” and yet why? To get control of him. In a sense, you’re being your own savior, your own lord. You’re rejecting the grace of God.

If you get mad because you’re a pretty good person and you live a pretty good life and God is not answering your prayers, you have no idea what the grace of God is about. Your selflessness is really selfishness. It’s a way of getting God to do what you want. Don’t you see? It’s the same thing.

We’re all dead to God, the good people and the bad people. There are no degrees. There are no levels of contribution. There aren’t some people who need a little bit of inspiration, a little boost from God, and other people who need a radical conversion experience. We’re all dead. Therefore, God’s grace is absolutely indispensable to us.

The first thing this means (I’m trying to show you how this changes your life) … When that begins to sink in, it’s radically humbling in more than one way. Oh yes, it’s radically humbling. It says in Matthew 5:3, the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” What does that mean? He doesn’t say, “Blessed are the poor.” He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Almost all commentators say what that means is a Christian is someone who recognizes not that you are spiritually in financial trouble and you could use a new investor or you’re spiritually in financial trouble and you could use a loan or a handout or a little bit of charity; you’re spiritually bankrupt. You have nothing before God and, therefore, unless God comes in with radical charity, unless he utterly saves you, you can’t be saved.

When you know you are a sinner saved by sheer grace, that makes you spiritually poor. What does that mean? It means when you look at a really poor person or a morally failed person, you never treat them with superiority. Never. If you look down on anybody right now in your life … What if you’re the good kid in your family, and you have siblings who are married or not married and they’ve done awful? You feel like you’re the good one, and you look down your nose at them.

If you’ve done well financially, you look at the people who haven’t done well, and you say, “They just haven’t worked as hard as I have.” You don’t know the grace of God. Maybe you believe in it, maybe you know it’s free, but you don’t see it’s indispensable. It hasn’t really affected your life. When I say it’s humbling in more than one way, let me give you one more example of this.

I remember years ago, I was a young minister, counseling a guy who had committed adultery. Because he’d committed adultery, been unfaithful to his wife, he hated himself. He was down on himself. He couldn’t seem to get free of it. I would be, like a good pastor, trying to say, “Well, you have to accept God’s forgiveness. You have to accept God’s forgiveness.” “No, I’m too bad. I’m too awful.” He was depressed, and he was filled with self-loathing.

I don’t even remember the man’s name; I just remember the talk. One day he came in, and it was like he was all better, pretty much. I said, “What happened?” He said, “I realized something. I realized I was beating myself up and beating myself up and saying how awful I am and how could I have done this to her and how even God couldn’t … Then I realized how proud that was, that by my self-flagellation I was trying to say, ‘I’ll show you all. I’ll show God. I will be so self-loathing that you’ll have to respect me. I’ll be so good because I’ll be so hateful of my badness.’ ”

He realized the self-flagellation and the self-beating and the self-loathing was really a way of earning himself back into the good graces of his wife, earning his way back into the good graces of God. He says, “That was just as proud as if I was a Pharisee.” See, the grace of God, when you see its indispensability, begins to change your life by humbling you in all sorts of ways.

2. The grace of God is costly

That comes up in the middle part of this passage. The first part (verses 1–2) says, “You’re dead. You’re enslaved.” In verse 3 it says, “You are an object of wrath. You’re condemned.” Years ago, by the way, we preached through Ephesians, and we spent eight weeks on these 10 verses. I could easily do that now, but I won’t. On to verses 4–7. See how I’ve improved over the years, how much better I am at moving through a text?

Here we’re told what God does about our sin and our condemnation, and we’re told he does three great things. He makes us alive with Christ, he raises us up with Christ, and he seats us with him in the heavenly realms. Now if you read this in Greek, what’s intriguing about this (and there’s no good way for the English translators to get this across) is each of these three verbs: he makes us alive, he raises us, and he seats us in the heavenly places …

Actually, each of these three verbs has the same prefix: syn, which, of course, was the Greek way of getting across “together with.” Synonymous. What it’s actually saying (but it would be a little redundant to say it in English) is “God made us alive together with Christ, he raised us up together with Christ, and he seated us in the heavens together with Christ.” All past tense.

This is an amazing statement. This is saying that when you believe … See how much different this is than the kind of religion that says, “If you just live a good life, then someday maybe God will take you to heaven”? This says the moment you believe you become united with Christ. You’re so united with him that these past tenses matter.

It says, “We have been seated in the heavenly places with Christ.” You say, “What?” Oh, not literally. We’re not literally in heaven, but we’re legally in heaven. That means we are as loved and as accepted and as delighted in in God’s eyes as Jesus Christ himself is, as he sits there in glory beside the throne of his Father.

Or when it says we’ve been raised up with Christ, it doesn’t mean we’ve been literally physically raised, but it means we’re so united with him, we’re virtually physically raised. We will be physically raised from the dead because he has, because we’re united with him. If he has been, we have to be. It means that when you become a Christian, when you believe in Christ, you’re united with him, so that everything he has ever done and everything he deserves becomes yours.

You are as honored, you’re as loved, you’re as accepted as his actions deserve. But do you know what the dark side of this is? Do you know what the implications of this are? If we’re so united with him that we get everything his life deserves, he then is so united with us that he got everything our lives deserved.

Second Corinthians 5:21: “God made him sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” In other words, God treats us according to Christ’s righteousness, but God treated him according to our sin. What does that mean? What do we deserve? We deserve physical death. We deserve eternal death. What do our alienation and our rebellion against God deserve? Jesus got it all.

On the cross, of course he got physical death. Oh yes, he got that. But on the cross, what did he cry out? Did he cry out, “My hands, my hands, my feet, my feet” because they had nails through them? Did he cry out, “My head, my head,” because it had thorns in it? He didn’t cry out, “My hands, my hands.” He didn’t cry out, “My feet, my feet.” He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

He lost God. He lost his Father. Somehow he experienced not just the physical death that sin deserves, but he experienced the eternal death, the eternal separation from God that sin deserved. It all came down on him. That’s quite a price, and he paid it. Now if you put together the first point, how indispensable it is, with the second point, how costly it was, now, and only now, are you beginning to understand the value of this gift.

See, a free gift is not going to change your life unless you see … what? Well, just how big the gift is, how much you need it, and also how expensive it is. I’ve never forgotten this illustration. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a British preacher, gave something like this illustration. Imagine if a friend of yours said, “I was at your home, and you weren’t there. I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked, but I saw a bill on the table. I looked at the bill, and I said, ‘You know, because I’m your friend, I’m going to pay that bill.’ ”

So imagine that your friend actually wrote out a check, put it in the envelope, and sent it in, and said, “I paid your bill. I just wanted you to know that.” How would you feel, everybody? It all depends on how big the bill was. What if it was your last month’s phone bill? What would you say? You’d say, “Wow. Thank you.”

What if it was that letter from the IRS about the seven years of back taxes, threatening you with jail, saying in kind of governmentese, “I’m going to get you, sucker”? What if that was the bill your friend sent in? You’re not going to say, “Well, thank you.” What are you going to do? You’re going to fall down on the floor, kiss the feet, and say, “Command me. What would you have thy servant do?”

It all depends on how big the bill is. It all depends on how indispensable that payment was. It all depends on how costly it was to the payer. If the knowledge that you are saved by the grace of God does not utterly thrill you all the time, doesn’t infuse your whole life with joy, it means you don’t know how big a sinner you were. It’s as simple as that.

I’ll never forget … I almost shudder to use this illustration. This was not my church. I wasn’t the pastor of this church. It was another town. It was actually in Philadelphia. I remember sitting in a group of elders, and we were actually looking at elder candidates. There was one man whose name came up, and we were talking about him. The senior pastor said, “You know, he’s a fine guy and I love him so much, but I don’t think he’s ready to be an elder.”

Everybody said, “Why?” He said, “He is not happy enough a person, and therefore, I believe he doesn’t know how big a sinner he is. His life is not infused enough with joy, which shows he couldn’t possibly know how big a sinner he is, because if he knew how big a sinner he is, he would be happier at the knowledge of the grace of God.” Of course, it was brilliant, it was fascinating, it was counterintuitive, it was convicting, and we all went home saying, “I hope he doesn’t think that about me.”

How would you stand up to that? If you saw a professing Christian whose life was not infused with joy … You know that one place in The Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf is talking to Pippin? It’s like the darkest hour, and the world is about to be enveloped in evil, in darkness. At one point, Gandalf laughs, and Pippin looks at him. It was surprising to hear this incredible laughter at a time like this.

He looked into Gandalf’s heart, and it says, “… under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.” This kind of deep reservoir of mirth and joy that nothing, no bad circumstance, can possibly put out. If you understand the grace of God, you have that.

How do you understand the grace of God? Only by seeing the magnitude of the bill Jesus paid, that was on your table. Only if you see the cost of it. Do you? If you say, “Sure I do,” then why aren’t you happier? By the way, this is also an answer to the people who want to say, “Well, if I really thought I was saved by grace alone, that God just always accepted me no matter what, I wouldn’t have any incentive to live a good life.”

You know that’s just not true. If you understand what your friend did, or if you’re that poor person who had that surgery and you saw somebody else impoverish himself in order to save your life, you don’t say, “Yeah, well, that was free, so I have no incentive to be kind to that person who did all that for me.” Are you kidding? Love awakens love. If you know what was done for you, you can’t help but want to please. You can’t help but want to love back.

So first of all, the grace of God is indispensable, which leads to all sorts of counterintuitive humbling. Second of all, the grace of God is costly, and that leads to all sorts of joy infused into your life, which also directs the way in which you live. It changes the way in which you live.

3. If you see the indispensability and the costliness of God’s grace, it will come into your life as traumatic tranquility

I get that from the last section. Here’s what I mean by traumatic tranquility. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Thomas Brooks, a Puritan, seventeenth-century British writer, wrote a book called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. (They had longer titles back then.) One of the parts of the book that has always surprised me was where he says all classes of human beings get their self-esteem by boasting over and despising other classes of human beings. That’s how we get our self-esteem.

Then he went through and took the rich, the middle class, and the poor. It’s very interesting. He took the poor. He said, “I know a lot of poor people, and they despise the rich and the middle class because of their suffering. They say, ‘The system has abused me. I’ve been trampled upon. These people up there think they got there because of their hard work, but I know it was largely luck.’ ” As a result of that, he says, very often the poor say, “The system has abused me, so I don’t mind ripping people off.”

Then you go to the middle class. He says the middle class look down on the poor, because they think, “The only reason I have my lifestyle is because I’ve worked very hard. Period.” They also despise the rich. “Well, they got really lucky.” The poor say the middle class got lucky. The middle class say, “It was the rich who got lucky.” The rich look down at everybody. They say, “You weren’t as smart as I was, or you didn’t know how to do the investments that I did.”

This is in seventeenth-century Britain. He goes through and says the way everybody gets self-esteem is they boast by looking down on other people. But when the gospel of grace hits you, when the knowledge of how lost you were and how costly the payment was hits you, it’s traumatic, because it takes that thing away. It takes away boasting. “That no one may boast.”

Now there has never been a place (this is only one example), I think, that has depicted this in a more masterful, artistic way than in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Some of you know how the story goes. The main character, Jean Valjean, is put into prison as a young man very unjustly. He goes to prison. He’s thrown into this hellhole for years, and it’s completely unjust. While he’s down there, he gets hard. He says, “Because of my unjust suffering … I have been harmed and I have been hurt.” He starts to feel superior to everybody else around.

When he gets out, he becomes a real criminal. He says, “The system abused me; now I’m going to abuse everybody else.” But some of you know how the story goes. At one point, he’s taken into the house of a Catholic bishop who’s very hospitable to him and warm to him. When the bishop goes to bed, Valjean steals the silverware and runs. The police catch him and bring him back to the bishop and say, “We caught a thief.”

The bishop looks at him, and to Jean Valjean’s amazement (grace is always amazing), the bishop says to the police, “Oh, no, no, no. I gave him the silverware, and here,” and he grabs the silver candlesticks, walks over, and says, “You forgot the candlesticks. I gave you those too.” The police said, “We could have sworn he was acting like a thief.” “Oh no, no, no. I gave all these things to him. These are his. You are dismissed.” And the police leave.

There’s Valjean, staring at this grace. The bishop says, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you. I withdraw it from your black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.” Now you may have seen this on Broadway, you may have seen it in a movie, but the only way you’re going to get the full artistry and wisdom of Victor Hugo’s novel is to read the book, because the next chapter after that incident talks about this incredible struggle Jean Valjean had over the trauma of grace.

The text says something like this: “There came over him a strange emotion, opposed to the hardness that he had acquired during the 20 years in prison. He perceived with dismay that the frightful calm, which the injustice of his misfortune had conferred upon him, was giving way. He was conscious that this pardon, this celestial kindness, was the greatest assault and most formidable attack he had ever addressed.”

Do you know what he’s talking about? Victor Hugo is brilliant here. It’s self-righteousness. “I have suffered.” See, we all boast. “I’m a good mother. I’m a good father. These people aren’t. I’m a hard worker; these people aren’t. I’m this; these people aren’t. I’m on the right side of the political spectrum; these people are the evil ones.” We boast. We despise. We look down.

In his case, Jean Valjean was self-righteous. His unjust suffering gave him a frightful calm as he stole from people. It gave him a hardness of heart about everything. The grace he had experienced he knew was a formidable challenge, because it was humbling him. If he accepted the grace, if he accepted himself as a sinner who needed the grace, he knew that if he yielded to the grace, he would be obliged to renounce that hatred with which the actions of other men had filled his soul through so many years.

You know what happened, do you not? The way the chapter ends is with the mailman who, at 3:00 a.m., goes to the bishop’s neighborhood to deliver the mail and sees this strange figure kneeling in prayer in front of the bishop’s house.

One of the main themes of the Bible … Jeremiah 9:23: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches.” Then in Romans 3, after Paul is talking about justification by faith alone, justification by free grace, costly grace, he says, “Wherein is boasting? It is excluded.”

When grace comes to you, it does give you that humility, it does give you that joy, but first it traumatizes you, because it says, “No more boasting.” Everybody has a kind of self-righteousness. Everybody, even those of you who hate self-righteous people. Why? You feel better than them. “I don’t denounce people. I’m not bigoted. I’m not narrow-minded. I’m not always telling everybody they’re wrong. I’m not like them.”

Grace comes and says, “You are like them; give it up.” It takes you so low and builds you up so high at the same time, and here’s how it does it. You say, “How does that really work?” It gives you a new identity. But how does it restructure identity? Like this. Everybody in the world, until the grace of God comes, gets their self-image by looking down at somebody else. When the gospel comes, you finally start looking up at somebody.

Do you know who you look up to? There’s only one man in the history of the world who, because of the life he lived, could have boasted. There’s only one who could have said before God, “Look at my life. Look at what I’ve achieved. Look at what I’ve done. Now give me what I ask. Give me the world.”

He could have done that. He’s the only person who could have boasted, and yet what do we read about him? Philippians 2: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, made himself of no reputation but took upon himself the form of a servant. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Why did he do that? Why has the one person who could have boasted made himself of no reputation at all? Here’s why. The ultimate Somebody became nobody, and the one person in the history of the world who deserved to have God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” in his heart on the cross heard God say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting punishment.”

He did it so we who deserve to have God say on the last day, “Depart from me,” hear in Christ, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s traumatic, but it brings you into tranquility. Why? The last verse: “For we are God’s workmanship.” That word workmanship is the Greek word poiema, from which we get our word poem, which means you’re a work of art.

When God comes into your life, you will find that everything that has happened to you in your whole life, even your tragedies, even your troubles, everything about you, your age, your ethnicity, your gender, your sufferings, your talents, your weaknesses, makes it possible for you to do certain good works in this world that only you can do, that are prepared for you. You no longer have to get your self-image out of performance, which means you’ll always be radically insecure.

If you know the grace of God, it’s the end of suspicion. It’s the end of accusation. It’s the end of always making sure nobody is getting ahead of you. It’s the end of always being anxious that you’re not living up. It’s the end of always comparing yourself to other people. It’s the end of all that. There’s a certain person God has turned you into, and there are certain great deeds he has and only you can do. You’re saved by grace.

Has grace changed your life? Have you seen its indispensability and its costliness? You know, I’ve had people actually say, “Well, okay. God gives you everything, but you have to have faith, right?” Did you read verse 8? “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God …” He won’t even grant that, because he gives you faith. If you have faith to receive God’s grace, that itself is God’s grace.

You say, “That’s a weird idea.” No, it’s a beautiful idea. Have you ever kissed awake somebody you love? Have you ever gone up to them and kissed them and they wake up and see that you’re there and then they embrace you? Don’t you realize that’s what God has done in Jesus Christ? You’re asleep. You’re spiritually sleeping the sleep of death. You’re not calling on him. You’re not looking for him. But he comes and kisses you awake. He gives you the faith. Now embrace him. Let us pray.

Thank you, Father, for giving us what we need in order to have a changed life. So help us now to take the gospel of grace and work it into our lives a little bit deeper, because we’ve been here, we’ve worshiped together, we’re about to go to the Lord’s Supper, and we pray that you would take the grace of God and put it more deeply in our hearts so we can be more and more conformed to the image of your Son, in whose name we pray, amen.

This passage has a theme that’s not that hard to discern. Three times … In verse 5, 7, and verse 8 we find the word grace.
Grace is a universally loved word. Amazing Grace is the most recorded song of all time with over 7,000 different recording. Grace is a word that most people believe they understand and comprehend. However, it is my belief that those who believe they understand grace don’t.
When you experience grace your state is altered.
If Christianity has not been a life-changing power to you, then I would say that you have never experienced or you do not understand grace. This is the missing ingredient.
How do you define grace? What does grace mean? It means at least this: gift.
Ephesians 2:8 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
It’s a gift. This is emphasized by: “Not of works.” A gift is something you haven’t worked for, you haven’t paid for, you haven’t earned, you haven’t achieved. It’s free. So whatever else grace means, it’s a free gift.
Consider for a moment all the free gifts you have received that haven’t changed your life. Why? Even though it’s free, it’s not essential or expensive.
It’s not essential.
What if you were a poor person in a foreign land and you needed an operation? Your life depended upon it. The surgery is essential because without it you will die. However, the medical treatment is either unobtainable or too expensive. But what if you knew someone who liquidated all their assets to pay for your surgery? What is that? It’s a free gift but it’s different.
We first must understand that grace is essential and secondly that it is expensive.
In our illustration someone went into poverty so that you could receive this essential surgery. This is grace that alters our state.
A free gift will not alter your state unless you know how essential and expensive it is.
In verses 1–3, we see that God’s salvation is not just free; it’s crucial. Secondly, in verses 4–7, it tells us not only that God’s grace is crucial, but it was infinitely costly for him. Thirdly we’re going to see that if you understand how absolute crucial God’s grace is and its infinite cost, it will bring you traumatic tranquility.
Verses 1–3, we see that God’s salvation is not just free; it’s essential. Secondly, in verses 4–7, we see that God’s salvation was expensive. Thirdly we’re going to see that if you understand our first two points that grace will cause traumatic tranquility.

God’s grace is an essential gift

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins …” There is a big difference between being sick and being dead.
Many people view those without Christ as suffering from some type of disease. A disease is in need of healing. An the degree to which you need to be healed is in proportion to the severity of your disease.
The discovery of a disease requires you to find a doctor. This doctor will then begin to treat your sickness with a prescribed medicine. Treatment may also include suggested changes in diet.
Once you have admitted your disease by seeing the doctor you then begin to administer his determined course of treatment.
In this view of salvation you become the initiator and a vital instrument in your healing.
However, verse 1 does not describe our situation as a sickness but deadness. There are degrees of sickness but no degrees of deadness. If you’re dead your dead. What you need is a resurrection not rehabilitation. If somebody resurrects you, you contribute nothing at all.
The Bible says we are not sick in our sins, calling for “Dr. God.” We’re not saying, “I need something.”
If we’re sick in our sins then there’s contribution. In other words, God’s help is not absolutely essential, and maybe some people need it more than others. But if we’re dead in our sins, if we’re spiritually absolutely dead to God and we need to be resurrected, then the salvation of God is absolutely essential for all of us.
When the Bible says we are dead in our sins, it’s not saying every human being is as bad as they could be. The Bible indicates that in order to make this world a more livable place, in his goodness, God gives all sorts of people, regardless of what they believe about him, gifts of wisdom and the ability to do good things.
We’re not saying everybody here is as bad as anybody else. What we are saying is everybody is as equally spiritually dead to God, or, as Paul says in , no one seeks God.
We don’t all live equally sinful lives but we are all in a equally sinful state and therefore equally separated from God.
There are moral people and there are immoral people, there are nice people and there are nasty people, but nobody seeks God. You say, “That doesn’t make sense to me. The polls say that most Americans pray, that most Americans believe in God.” You say, “I see all kinds of people trying to be good and trying to seek God
Over the years, as I have spoken with or counseled people who had a family member battling addicition whenever I’ve talked to people who have been in families with an alcoholic and who have gone, say, through something like Al-Anon or counseling in other ways, I’ve heard this story. Over and over, I’ve heard the spouses or family members of the alcoholic say something like this:
I have notice a common theme over the years, as I have spoken with or counseled people who had a family member battling addiction. This understanding comes, for most, comes after years of toil with the addict they are attempting to help. This common understanding sounds like this . . .
“You know, for years I thought I was loving him. I’d bail him out, I’d sacrifice for him, I’d cover for him, I would do all of these things for him, and I thought I was loving him. But I found out that what looked like selflessness was really selfishness. I needed him to be messed up. I needed to feel good about myself and, therefore, I needed to feel like I was his rescuer, his savior. Therefore, even though I was doing all of these things I thought were for him, I was doing them for me. It was my way of actually using him to feel better about myself.”
The Bible says something like that happens to people who are trying to be good people, the people who may go to church and may read the Bible, who say, “I’m trying to be a very good person.” But why? “So that God will bless me, so he’ll have to listen to my prayers, so he’ll have to take me to heaven, so people will have to respect me.” What are you doing? Your selflessness is really selfishness.
Now here’s the immoral person doing bad things. It’s very clear that they are wanting to be their own masters. But here are you, being a really good person, saying, “Oh, I’m trying to obey God, I’m trying to listen to God, I’m trying to be a good person,” and yet why? To get control of him. In a sense, you’re being your own savior, your own lord. You’re rejecting the grace of God.
If you get mad because you’re a pretty good person and you live a pretty good life and God is not answering your prayers, you have no idea what the grace of God is about. Your selflessness is really selfishness. It’s a way of getting God to do what you want. Don’t you see? It’s the same thing.
We’re all dead to God, both good and bad people. There aren’t some people who need a little bit of inspiration, a little boost from God, and other people who need a radical conversion experience. We’re all dead. Therefore, God’s grace is absolutely essential.
We do not live equally sinful lives but we are all in a equally sinful state and therefore equally separated from God.
When this begins to sink in, it’s radically humbling in more than one way. In , Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” What does that mean? He doesn’t say, “Blessed are the poor.” He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
This means a Christian is someone who recognizes that they are not spiritually in financial trouble and need a new investor but that they are spiritually bankrupt. They undestand that they have nothing before God and, therefore, unless God comes in with radical charity, you can’t be saved.
When you know you are a sinner saved by sheer grace, that makes you spiritually poor. What does that mean? It means when you look at a really poor person or a morally failed person, you never treat them with superiority. Never. If you look down on anybody right now in your life … What if you’re the good kid in your family, and you have siblings who are married or not married and they’ve done awful? You feel like you’re the good one, and you look down your nose at them.
If you’ve done well financially, you look at the people who haven’t done well, and you say, “They just haven’t worked as hard as I have.” You don’t know the grace of God. Maybe you believe in it, maybe you know it’s free, but you don’t see it’s essential. It hasn’t really affected your life.
I remember years ago, I was a young minister, counseling a guy who had committed adultery. Because he’d committed adultery, been unfaithful to his wife, he hated himself. He was down on himself. He couldn’t seem to get free of it. I would be, like a good pastor, trying to say, “Well, you have to accept God’s forgiveness. You have to accept God’s forgiveness.” “No, I’m too bad. I’m too awful.” He was depressed, and he was filled with self-loathing.
I don’t even remember the man’s name; I just remember the talk. One day he came in, and it was like he was all better, pretty much. I said, “What happened?” He said, “I realized something. I realized I was beating myself up and beating myself up and saying how awful I am and how could I have done this to her and how even God couldn’t … Then I realized how proud that was, that by my self-flagellation I was trying to say, ‘I’ll show you all. I’ll show God. I will be so self-loathing that you’ll have to respect me. I’ll be so good because I’ll be so hateful of my badness.’ ”
He realized the self-flagellation and the self-beating and the self-loathing was really a way of earning himself back into the good graces of his wife, earning his way back into the good graces of God. He says, “That was just as proud as if I was a Pharisee.” See, the grace of God, when you see its essential, begins to change your life by humbling you in all sorts of ways.

The grace of God is expensive

2. The grace of God is expensive
That comes up in the middle part of this passage. The first part (verses 1–2) says, “You’re dead. You’re enslaved.” In verse 3 it says, “You are an object of wrath. You’re condemned.”
Here we’re told what God does about our sin and our condemnation. He makes us alive with Christ, he raises us up with Christ, and he seats us with him in the heavenly realms. Now if you read this in Greek, what’s intriguing about this (and there’s no good way for the English translators to get this across) is each of these three verbs: have the same prefix: syn, which, of course, was the Greek way of getting across “together with.” Synonymous. It’s actually saying “God made us alive together with Christ, he raised us up together with Christ, and he seated us in the heavens together with Christ.” All past tense.
Actually, each of these three verbs has the same prefix: syn, which, of course, was the Greek way of getting across “together with.” Synonymous. What it’s actually saying (but it would be a little redundant to say it in English) is “God made us alive together with Christ, he raised us up together with Christ, and he seated us in the heavens together with Christ.” All past tense.
This is an amazing statement. This is saying that when you believe … he is saying that the moment you believe you become united with Christ.
It says, “We have been seated in the heavenly places with Christ.” You say, “What?” Oh, not literally. We’re not literally in heaven, but we’re legally in heaven. This means we are as loved and as accepted and as delighted in in God’s eyes as Jesus Christ himself is, as he sits there in glory beside the throne of his Father.
Or when it says we’ve been raised up with Christ, it doesn’t mean we’ve been literally physically raised, but it means we’re so united with him, we’re virtually raised. We will be physically raised from the dead because he has, because we’re united with him. If he has been, we have to be. It means that when you become a Christian, when you believe in Christ, you’re united with him, so that everything he has ever done and everything he deserves becomes yours.
You are as honored, you’re as loved, you’re as accepted as his actions deserve.
See how much different this is than the kind of religion that says, “If you just live a good life, then someday maybe God will take you to heaven”?

Do you know what the implications of this are? If we’re so united with him that we get everything his life deserves, he then is so united with us that he got everything our lives deserved.

2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
: “God made him sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” In other words, God treats us according to Christ’s righteousness, but God treated him according to our sin. What does that mean? What do we deserve? We deserve physical death. We deserve eternal death. What do our alienation and our rebellion against God deserve? Jesus got it all.

In other words, God treats us according to Christ’s righteousness, but God treated him according to our sin.

What does that mean? Everything that our sin deserve, Jesus got it all.

On the cross, of course he got physical death. But on the cross, what did he cry out? He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
He lost God. He lost his Father. Somehow he experienced not just the physical death that sin deserves, but he experienced the eternal death, the eternal separation from God that sin deserved. It all came down on him. This was the price he paid. Now if you put together the first point, how essential it is, with the second point, how expensive it was, now, and only now, are you beginning to understand the value of this gift.
See, a free gift is not going to change your life unless you see how expensive it is.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a British preacher, gave something like this illustration. Imagine if a friend of yours said, “I was at your home, and you weren’t there. I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked, but I saw a bill on the table. I looked at the bill, and I said, ‘You know, because I’m your friend, I’m going to pay that bill.’ ”
So imagine that your friend actually wrote out a check, put it in the envelope, and sent it in, and said, “I paid your bill. I just wanted you to know that.” How would you feel, everybody? It all depends on how big the bill was. What if it was your last month’s phone bill? What would you say? You’d say, “Wow. Thank you.”
What if it was that letter from the IRS about the seven years of back taxes, threatening you with jail. What if that was the bill your friend sent in? You’re not going to say, “Well, thank you.” What are you going to do? You’re going to fall down on the floor, kiss the feet, and say, “Command me. What would you have thy servant do?”
It all depends on how big the bill is. It all depends on how essential that payment was. It all depends on how costly it was to the payer. If the knowledge that you are saved by the grace of God does not utterly thrill you all the time, doesn’t infuse your whole life with joy, it means you don’t know how big a sinner you were. It’s that simple.
A group of elders at a church in Philadelphia were concerning a group of elder candidates. There was one man whose name came up, and we were talking about him. The senior pastor said, “You know, he’s a fine guy and I love him so much, but I don’t think he’s ready to be an elder.”
Everybody said, “Why?” He said, “He is not happy enough a person, and therefore, I believe he doesn’t know how big a sinner he is. His life is not infused enough with joy, which shows he couldn’t possibly know how big a sinner he is, because if he knew how big a sinner he is, he would be happier at the knowledge of the grace of God.”
I found this story brilliant, fascinating, counterintuitive, and convicting”
How would you stand up to that? There a place in The Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf is talking to Pippin? It’s like the darkest hour, and the world is about to be enveloped in evil, in darkness. At one point, Gandalf laughs, and Pippin looks at him. It was surprising to hear this incredible laughter at a time like this.
He looked into Gandalf’s heart, and it says, “… under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.” This kind of deep reservoir of mirth and joy that nothing, no bad circumstance, can possibly put out. If you understand the grace of God, you have that.

How do you understand the grace of God? Only by seeing the magnitude of the bill Jesus paid, that was on your table.

Only by seeing the magnitude of the bill Jesus paid, that was on your table. Only if you see the cost of it. Do you? If you say, “Sure I do,” then why aren’t you happier? By the way, this is also an answer to the people who want to say, “Well, if I really thought I was saved by grace alone, that God just always accepted me no matter what, I wouldn’t have any incentive to live a good life.”
Do you? If you say, “Sure I do,” then why aren’t you happier?
You know that’s just not true. If you understand what your friend did, or if you’re that poor person who had that surgery and you saw somebody else impoverish himself in order to save your life, you don’t say, “Yeah, well, that was free, so I have no incentive to be kind to that person who did all that for me.” Are you kidding? Love awakens love. If you know what was done for you, you can’t help but want to please. You can’t help but want to love back.
So first of all, the grace of God is essential, which leads to humility. Second of all, the grace of God is expensive, and that infuses your life with joy, which changes the way in which you live.

If you see the essential and expensive nature of God’s grace, it will bring into your life as traumatic tranquility

Here’s what I mean by traumatic tranquility.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-9
Thomas Brooks, a Puritan, seventeenth-century British writer, wrote a book called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. In one section of the book he says all classes of human beings get their self-esteem by boasting over and despising other classes of human beings. This is how humans obtain their self-esteem.
He takes the rich, the middle class, and the poor. Listen to his observation as to how the poor receive self-esteem,
“I know a lot of poor people, and they despise the rich and the middle class because of their suffering. They say, ‘The system has abused me. I’ve been trampled upon. These people up there think they got there because of their hard work, but I know it was largely luck.’ ” As a result of that, he says, very often the poor say, “The system has abused me, so I don’t mind ripping people off.”
Listen to his observation of the middle class and the rich.
“The only reason I have my lifestyle is because I’ve worked very hard. Period.” They also despise the rich. “Well, they got really lucky.” The poor say the middle class got lucky. The middle class say, “It was the rich who got lucky.” The rich look down at everybody. They say, “You weren’t as smart as I was, or you didn’t know how to do the investments that I did.”
He says the middle class look down on the poor, because they think, “The only reason I have my lifestyle is because I’ve worked very hard. Period.” They also despise the rich. “Well, they got really lucky.” The poor say the middle class got lucky. The middle class say, “It was the rich who got lucky.” The rich look down at everybody. They say, “You weren’t as smart as I was, or you didn’t know how to do the investments that I did.
He says the way everybody gets self-esteem is they boast by looking down on other people. But when the gospel of grace hits you, when the knowledge of how lost you were and how costly the payment was hits you, it’s traumatic, because it takes that thing away. It takes away boasting. “That no one may boast.”
Do you understand what he is saying? The way everybody gets self-esteem is they boast by looking down on other people. However, when the gospel of grace hits you, when the knowledge of how lost you were and how costly the payment was hits you, it’s traumatic, because it takes that thing away. It takes away boasting. “That no one may boast.”
One of the best depictions of this thought is found in Victor Hugo’s masterful book Les Miserables. The main character, Jean Valjean, is put into prison as a young man very unjustly. He goes to prison. He’s thrown into this hell hole for years, and it’s completely unjust. While he’s down there, he gets hard. He says,
“Because of my unjust suffering … I have been harmed and I have been hurt.” He starts to feel superior to everybody else around.
When he gets out, he becomes a real criminal. He says, “The system abused me; now I’m going to abuse everybody else.” At one point, he’s taken into the house of a Catholic bishop who’s very hospitable to him. When the bishop goes to bed, Valjean steals the silverware and runs. The police catch him and bring him back to the bishop and say, “We caught a thief.”
The bishop looks at him, and to Jean Valjean’s amazement (grace is always amazing), the bishop says to the police, “Oh, no, no, no. I gave him the silverware, and here,” and he grabs the silver candlesticks, walks over, and says, “You forgot the candlesticks. I gave you those too.” The police said, “We could have sworn he was acting like a thief.” “Oh no, no, no. I gave all these things to him. These are his. You are dismissed.” And the police leave.
There’s Valjean, staring at this grace. The bishop says,
“Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you. I withdraw it from your black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”
Now you may have seen this performed as a play or at the movie theater, but the only way you’re going to get the full artistry and wisdom of Victor Hugo’s novel is to read the book, because the next chapter talks about this incredible struggle Jean Valjean had over the trauma of grace.
The text says something like this:
“There came over him a strange emotion, opposed to the hardness that he had acquired during the 20 years in prison. He perceived with dismay that the frightful calm, which the injustice of his misfortune had conferred upon him, was giving way. He was conscious that this pardon, this celestial kindness, was the greatest assault and most formidable attack he had ever addressed.”
Do you know what he’s talking about? Victor Hugo is brilliant here. It’s self-righteousness. “I have suffered.” See, we all boast. “I’m a good mother. I’m a good father. These people aren’t. I’m a hard worker; these people aren’t. I’m this; these people aren’t. I’m on the right side of the political spectrum; these people are the evil ones.” We boast. We despise. We look down.
In his case, Jean Valjean was self-righteous. His unjust suffering gave him a frightful calm as he stole from people. It gave him a hardness of heart about everything. The grace he had experienced he knew was a formidable challenge, because it was humbling him. If he accepted the grace, if he accepted himself as a sinner who needed the grace, he knew that if he yielded to the grace, he would be obliged to renounce that hatred with which the actions of other men had filled his soul through so many years.
You know what happened, do you not? The way the chapter ends is with the mailman who, at 3:00 a.m., goes to the bishop’s neighborhood to deliver the mail and sees this strange figure kneeling in prayer in front of the bishop’s house.
One of the main themes of the Bible …
Jeremiah 9:23 ESV
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,
: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches.” Then in , after Paul is talking about justification by faith alone, justification by free grace, costly grace, he says, “Wherein is boasting? It is excluded.”
Then in , after Paul is talking about justification by faith alone, justification by free grace, costly grace, he says, “Wherein is boasting? It is excluded.”
When grace comes to you, it give you humility and joy, but first it traumatizes you, because it says, “No more boasting.”
Everybody has a kind of self-righteousness. Everybody, even those of you who hate self-righteous people. Why? You feel better than them. “I don’t denounce people. I’m not bigoted. I’m not narrow-minded. I’m not always telling everybody they’re wrong. I’m not like them.”
Grace comes and says, “You are like them; give it up.” It takes you so low and builds you up at the same time. It accomplishes this by giving you a new identity. Until the grace of God comes everyone gets their self-image by looking down at somebody else. When the gospel comes, you finally start looking up at somebody.
Do you know who you look up to? There’s only one man in the history of the world who, because of the life he lived, could have boasted. There’s only one who could have said before God, “Look at my life. Look at what I’ve achieved. Look at what I’ve done. Now give me what I ask. Give me the world.”
He could have done that. He’s the only person who could have boasted, and yet what do we read about him?
Philippians 2:5–8 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The one person who could have boasted made himself of no reputation at all? Here’s why. The ultimate Somebody became nobody, and the one person in the history of the world who deserved to have God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” in his heart on the cross heard God say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting punishment.”
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, made himself of no reputation but took upon himself the form of a servant. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Why did he do that? Why has the one person who could have boasted made himself of no reputation at all? Here’s why. The ultimate Somebody became nobody, and the one person in the history of the world who deserved to have God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” in his heart on the cross heard God say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting punishment.”
He did it so we who deserve to have God say on the last day, “Depart from me,” hear in Christ, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s traumatic, but it brings you into tranquility. Why? The last verse: “For we are God’s workmanship.” That word workmanship is the Greek word poiema, from which we get our word poem, which means you’re a work of art.
When God comes into your life, you will find that everything that has happened to you in your whole life, even your tragedies, even your troubles, everything about you, your age, your ethnicity, your gender, your sufferings, your talents, your weaknesses, makes it possible for you to do certain good works in this world that only you can do, that are prepared for you. You no longer have to get your self-image out of performance, which means you’ll always be radically secure.
If you know the grace of God, it’s the end of suspicion. It’s the end of accusation. It’s the end of always making sure nobody is getting ahead of you. It’s the end of always being anxious that you’re not living up. It’s the end of always comparing yourself to other people. It’s the end of all that. There’s a certain person God has turned you into, and there are certain great deeds he has and only you can do. You’re saved by grace.
Do you understand how essential and expensive nature of grace? Has grace changed your life?
Have you ever kissed awake somebody you love? Have you ever gone up to them and kissed them and they wake up and see that you’re there and then they embrace you? Don’t you realize that’s what God has done in Jesus Christ? You’re asleep. You’re spiritually sleeping the sleep of death. You’re not calling on him. You’re not looking for him. But he comes and kisses you awake. He gives you the faith. Now embrace him. Let us pray.
Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
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