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But God . . .

Notes & Transcripts

But God . . .

(Ephesians 2:4-9)


A Buddhist Monk strode into a Zen pizza parlor (do we have those in Eaton?  I don’t think I’ve seen one.  Probably only in LA).  Anyway, this Buddhist Monk strode into a Zen pizza parlor and said, “Make me one with everything on it.”  When he got his order, he gave the proprietor a $20 bill, which the guy pocketed.  “Hey,” asked the monk, “where’s my change?”  “Change,” replied the owner inscrutably, “must come from within.” 

Okay – for the last three weeks, we’ve been examining God’s perspective of man outside of Christ.  Man in his unregenerate state.  And I think you would conclude, he’s in an absolutely helpless and hopeless condition, would you not?  Now, suppose that someone comes along, as many do, and says authoritatively, “Change must come from within.”  You must find your inner zen!  Yea, I’ve been looking for that guy for years.  Find the power within.  Find that inner you who will give you the power to change.  Well, isn’t he the guy or gal that has created this mess in the first place.  “Change must come from within?”  Forgive me, folks, but that’s like asking the Roto Rooter guy to clean up your house.  Man, he doesn’t clean up messes; he makes messes.   “Change must come from within”?  Good luck!  That’s where the problem is to begin with. 

So what are  we to do – as those who are dead in trespasses and sins, disobedient to God and ultimately doomed?  What are we to do?  Glad you asked and glad you are here because beginning in verse 4 we get the wonderful, glorious, one-and-only solution.

We’re looking at verses 1-10 of Ephesians 2 under the title “Amazing Grace”.  It divides into three parts.  Verses 1-3 – “Dead Men Walking”.  It speaks of our sin and the absolute impossibility of our helping ourselves.  Verses 4-9 – “But God . . .”  We will see in this section what God has done given that we could not help ourselves.  Then verse 10 – “New Men Walking”  -- life after salvation.  Another way to look at these verses is man without God, but God and man with God.  Or you could title them, our sin, our Savior and our service.  It is clearly one of the great passages in all of Scripture and I hope that you are beginning to get the drift.

Now, we have left mankind in a sad condition – dead men walking, enslaved to sin, without God and without even wanting God.  It is dire straits and tough messages to preach.  But now we come to verse 4 and those wonderful words, “But God . . .”  Without question this is my favorite transition in all of Scripture.  Those two little words still send shivers up and down my spine every time I hear them.  “But God . . . “  What we could never do for ourselves, He has been willing to do for us, and from here on out it is a wonderful message. 

But there is still one little catch.  A defendant stands up and says, “I want to change my plea to Guilty.”  The judge says, “Why didn’t you do so at the start of the trial?”  The defendant says, “Well, until I heard the D.A, I didn’t know I was guilty.”  You see, in order to take advantage of all the things we are about to study – in order to have God’s salvation applied to your heart, you must be willing to stand up and plead guilty.  You must accept the Lord’s verdict in verses 1-3.  Then and only then can you be the beneficiary of amazing grace.  I pray that you already are and that this will be a wonderful lesson in exactly what you already have in Christ.  But if not, I trust that you will be drawn to Him and find it impossible to ever turn Him down.  Let’s look at God’s solution to the sin problem in four parts – His Passion; His Power; His Process and His Purpose.  You’re gonna love this.  Here we go.

I.                    His Passion


Look with me at verse 4: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us.  Here we see the passion of our God.  And it is this that separates Him from every other God that people talk about.  We often hear it said, “God helps those who help themselves.”  Actually, just the opposite is true.  God helps those who are absolutely incapable of helping themselves and therein lies the differentiation between this God of the Bible and other gods. He loves sinners.  He has mercy on sinners.  He gives grace to sinners.  And He acts with kindness toward sinners.  He is a God whose is passionately involved with His creation and in that He is like no other.   

I want you to underscore that comment.  We serve a God like no other.  That is a very important phrase.  We live in an age of relativism when even some of our very good Christian friends are trying to find the good in other religions.  But listen, whatever good you may find – whatever positive human instincts they may appeal to, there is one fundamental difference that is critical and it is this.  Every other place you look you will find a God who demands.  In Christianity, you find a God who gives.   Do you see that that is a fundamental and fatal difference?  Every other religion says, “Do this to get to God.”  The Bible says, “Here is what God has done for you to bring you to Himself.”  Good works and all the rest should and will follow.  But they are not ever, never the way we get to Him in the first place.  Mark it down.  Fundamental difference.  So as we look at these two aspects of God’s passion, understand and appreciate that these are characteristics of the God of the Bible and not found in any other representation of God.

  1. He is Rich in Mercy


The first thing we see is that He is rich in mercy.  He is rich in mercy.  So, what is mercy?  Well, let me give you a very easy insight that perhaps many of you have heard.  Justice would be God giving us as sinners what we deserve.  Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve and grace is God giving us what we do not  deserve.  Let me repeat that.  Justice Would be God giving me as a sinner what I deserve (which will happen, by the way, to those who refuse his gift of salvation).  Mercy is God not giving me what I deserve and grace is God giving me what I don’t deserve.  Obviously mercy and grace come as a package deal.  Apart from Christ and His death on the cross, God could only give us justice.  But because of Christ’s death and resurrection, God can show us both mercy and grace – but we have to choose it.

The story has been told of a mother who sought from Napoleon the pardon of her son. The emperor said it was the man’s second offense, and justice demanded his death. “I don’t ask for justice,” said the mother. “I plead for mercy.”  “But,” said the emperor, “he does not deserve mercy.”  “Sir,” cried the mother, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.”

“Well, then,” said the emperor, “I will show mercy.” And her son was saved.

Paul says that God is rich in mercy.  He isn’t just merciful – He is rich in mercy.  He is drowning in mercy.  He is so totally opposite to us in this regard.  As He looks on mankind, going on their way, totally ignoring Him and His laws, what is His reaction?  He has mercy.  His heart cries out for them not to get what they deserve.

Have you ever noticed that we are not like that?  We like to think that we are, but what is our first reaction when we see someone who has committed some hideous offense, even if it is not against us?  We are most apt to say, “Well, I hope they get him and I hope that he gets his.”  I have to tell you, I grew up as the oldest of 11 children, the first 6 of whom were boys, and when there was an offense committed around our house, the first reaction was not mercy.  We not only wanted justice imposed – we wanted to help with it and often tried to do so!  Isn’t that our response?  We are like the artist who painted a rather unattractive dowager.  She disliked the portrait and said, “It doesn’t do me justice.”  The artist said, “Forget justice.  Lady, you need mercy.” 

If we are outside of Christ, we are all like that lady.  We think ourselves rather attractive.  We think ourselves rather good.  We think that we want justice.  But when we finally understand our walking dead condition, what we need is mercy.  Thank God He is merciful and there is plenty to spare.  He is rich in mercy.  He oozes mercy. 

We had to fire someone at work one time.  To me it was never pleasant to have to do this, but this fellow had more than earned the right to be fired.  It was not for a single offense but for a whole raft of offenses over a long period of time, so this led to a discussion of who should fire him and one of the fellows who worked for me at the time said, “Let me do it.  It will be a pleasure to fire this guy.”  He was not exactly rich in mercy, see.  But that is not like God.  God is overflows with mercy, even when we deserve none.  The Bible says in II Peter 3:9 that God is, “9) . . . not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  He will never impose justice gleefully or with a feeling of satisfaction, but make no mistake, He will impose it.  Why?  Because not all will come to repentance.  But He is merciful in His character and will ultimately only let go those who have blatantly said, “I do not need you.”


J. Vernon McGee tells the story of a poor woman from the slums of London who was invited to go with a group of people for a holiday at the ocean.  She had never seen the ocean before and when she saw it, she burst into tears.  Those around her thought it was strange that she should cry when such a lovely holiday had been given her.  “Why in the world are you crying?”  Pointing to the ocean she answered, “This is the only thing I have ever seen that there was enough of.”  May I assure you that mercy is something that there is enough of.  God has oceans of mercy.  The problem is not on His side.  If we are not experiencing forgiveness from the overwhelming flood of His mercy, it is because of our own pride and stubbornness and unwillingness to accept His verdict of our lost condition.   

B. He is Lavish in Love


Back to verse 4: 4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  It’s not just mercy that God has toward His creation, but He also has great love.  He is lavish in love.  You know, it would be possible to have mercy toward someone in need and react toward them out of pity but with no real love.  Not so God.  He loves according to Isaiah 54:8 and Jeremiah 31:3 “with an everlasting love.”  His love for us is without condition and without limit.  If we’ve heard of it all of our life, we take it shamefully for granted, but believe me, the world has never seen anything like it.  There is nothing like the love of God.

Now, we should note that this love is not some overwhelming emotional reaction.  It’s not like God looked at humankind and found his heart moved by the attraction.  You understand, I trust, that we were not very attractive.  What we speak of as love is almost always a response to some attraction in the thing or person loved.  Had that been what moved God, I’m afraid we would all have been left out.  There is nothing attractive about our basic rebellion against Him.  Brennan Manning says it this way:  “We love for what we find in other people.  God loves for what He finds in Himself.  God loves us the same at our worst and at our best.”  I mean, just ponder that for a moment.  God loves us the same at our worst and at our best.  God love for what He finds in Himself.  Does that stir your heart?  Aren’t you glad that’s true? 

The problem is that we are so programmed that you have to earn love that we find is next to impossible to grasp this kind of unconditional love.  And even among those who are supposed to love us the most – our parents, our family – we know full well that there are things we can do that will end it.  To accept that God really truly loves us is almost too much.  And it would be were love just an emotional response.  But this is αγαπη love.  This is love that is a decision, not an emotion – that gives, not takes – that seeks the good of the one loved, not seeks good from the one loved. 

You do not have to earn God’s love.  In fact, you cannot earn God’s love.  It’s just there.  It is because He is.  It’s not like human love.  You probably have not heard of Jane Addams, but she gained a certain amount of notoriety in the early 20th century as a suffragette.  She was president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.  In 1900 the Daughters of the American Revolution elected Jane Addams to honorary membership.  Now I want to make it clear that I am not picking on the DAR as I know that we have some honored members in our church!  Neither am I defending the actions of Jane Addams.  But when Jane Addams took an antiwar stance during WWI and insisted that even subversives had a right to trial by due process of law, the DAR expelled her, perhaps rightfully so.  But I found her reaction interesting.    Her comment was, “I thought I was elected for life, but I now understand it was for good behavior! 

That is exactly what the love of God is not.  God’s love is consistent, never-changing, always seeking the good of the one loved.  It is intrinsic with Him.  What sets Him apart from other Gods is the fact that He loves sinners, requiring nothing of them except their facing reality and confessing their sin,  and He continues to love them whether they repent or not.  It’s just that He can’t save them if they do not confess. 

So many verses in Scripture speak to how God loves sinners.  We read in Romans 5: 7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  God loves sinners, though, of course, He wants them to repent.  Look again at Ephesians 2:4-5: 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—  How could we possibly turn down His offer of salvation?

Remember the quote we used earlier:  “We love for what we find in other people.  God loves for what He finds in Himself.  God loves us the same at our worst and at our best.”  We cannot always count on this to be true in human terms.  Tennessee Williams story, “Something by Tolstoy,” about a man named Jacob Brodzky, a shy Russian Jew whose father owned a bookstore. The older Brodzky wanted his son to go to college. The boy, on the other hand, desired nothing but to marry Lila, his childhood sweetheart -- a French girl as effusive, vital, and ambitious as he was contemplative and retiring. A couple of months after young Brodzky went to college, his father fell ill and died. The son returned home, buried his father, and married his love. Then the couple moved into the apartment above the bookstore, and Brodzky took over its management. The life of books fit him perfectly, but it cramped her. She wanted more adventure -- and she found it, she thought, when she met an agent who praised her beautiful singing voice and enticed her to tour Europe with a vaudeville company.  Brodzky was devastated. At their parting, he reached into his pocket and handed her the key to the front door of the bookstore.  "You had better keep this," he told her, "because you will want it some day. Your love is not so much less than mine that you can get away from it. You will come back sometime, and I will be waiting."  She kissed him and left.

To escape the pain he felt, Brodzky withdrew deep into his bookstore and took to reading as someone else might have taken to drink. He spoke little, did little, and could most times be found at the large desk near the rear of the shop, immersed in his books while he waited for his love to return. Five years passed.  Ten years passed.  And then one day near Christmastime, nearly 15 years after they parted, she did return. But when Brodzky rose from the reading desk that had been his place of escape for all that time, he did not take the love of his life for more than an ordinary customer. "Do you want a book?" he asked.   That he didn’t recognize her startled her. But she gained possession of herself and replied, "I want a book, but I’ve forgotten the name of it." Then she told him a story of childhood sweethearts. A story of a newly married couple who lived in an apartment above a bookstore. A story of a young, ambitious wife who left to seek a career, who enjoyed great success but could never relinquish the key her husband gave her when they parted. She told him the story she thought would bring him to himself.

But his face showed no recognition.

Gradually she realized that he had lost touch with his heart’s desire, that he no longer knew the purpose of his waiting and grieving, that now all he remembered was the waiting and grieving itself. "You remember it; you must remember it -- the story of Lila and Jacob?" After a long, bewildered pause, he said, "There is something familiar about the story; I think I have read it somewhere. It comes to me that it is something by Tolstoy." Dropping the key, she fled the shop. And Brodzky returned to his desk, to his reading, unaware that the love he waited for had come and gone.

Tennessee Williams’s 1931 story "Something by Tolstoi"

This story teaches us a couple of things about the love of Christ.  First of all, we need never fear that when we finally come to our senses and come to him that He will have forgotten us, or reject us for our sin.  Nothing can ever stop His love.  But this story also reminds us how easy it is on our side to forget Him.  It may be the appeal of the world, the familiarity of the message or it may be that we are just so completely absorbed in our selfishness that we completely lose who we are and we cannot recognize our heart’s desire.  Tragically, we may miss Christ’s love or reject it in favor of temporal things and dreams.

Beloved, God’s love is overwhelming.  Just when you think you have a grasp on it, you must realize that it still goes far beyond what you think.  We must not sin against His love.  Do not reject it.  Do not trample it underfoot by saying it is not real or that you do not need it.  This love of God is so great that it defies all definition. I truly do not begin to know how to illustrate it for you or to describe it to you.  We can speak of it as his intense concern for, deep personal interest in, warm attachment to, and spontaneous tenderness toward his chosen ones, but all this is but to stammer. Those, and those only, who experience it are the ones who know what it is, though even they can never fully comprehend it.

How do you experience it?  You confess your sin to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.  You get rid of that burden you have been carrying consciously or unconsciously.  You step out of the darkness into the sunshine of His love which has always been there just waiting for you.  You trade your sin for His righteousness, because the most important thing about His love is that it is a love that acts.  You have only to look at the cross to see love depicted such as the world has never seen.  And it is all yours if you will just reject you (deny yourself) and accept Him (follow Him).  Jesus said, “If any man (or woman) will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.”  That’s the best trade you could ever make.  Your sin for His righteousness.  He’ll love you regardless, but He can accept you only if you accept Him.

In His mercy and His love – both rich beyond out comprehension, the passion of God for His creation is demonstrated.  On any given day, God may seem far away and uninterested, but we’re fortunate.  We live on this side of the cross.  We have only to look there to see that God has given objective proof in human history of His great love and mercy.  It stares us right in the face and should compel us to come to Him.

II.                His Power


In verse 5, we are coming to the heart of this passage.  We have seen how mankind without God is dead in trespasses and sins, morally bankrupt, totally without hope.  Then we have seen the Lord’s passion as expressed in the richness of his mercy and the lavishness of His love.  This is what separates Him as we saw last week from any God in any other religion.  This God does not demand; He gives.  He clearly wants to do something for mankind, and He has the power to do so.  He not only wants to, but He can.  And because of what Christ has done, he can be just and yet merciful.  He can be fair and yet kind.  We have had no finite verbs in Ephesians 2 up to this point.  Now, in verses 5-6 we have three of them.  Everything else has been preliminary to this.  God has seen our plight.  He has had great mercy and love which caused Him to send His own son to die in our place and as a result He is able to make us alive, raise us up and seat us with Christ in the heavenlies. That, folks, is power. 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,

We have seen this power before.  It was described in 1:19 19) and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.  And it was on display in the physical earthly life of Jesus Christ as we saw in 1:20 20) that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

No one could deny the power of God displayed in Christ, both His ministry and His resurrection.  It was visible, it was verifiable and it was attested by hundreds of witnesses.  Now, he says, whether you realize it or not, what He did for Christ physically, He has done for you spiritually – and get ready, because that same power will be applied to you physically one day too.  It’s a package deal and oh, what a deal.

Paul uses three wonderful words here.  He coined them – to make a point.  He took three well-known words and then he added the Greek prefix συν to each which means “with” and so Paul is saying God “made us alive with Christ, then he “raised us up with Christ”, and He “seated us with Christ”.  So everything that happened to Christ has also happened to us if we are believers.  Brother, that’s good company to keep, don’t you think? 

Now the gist of all this is that we’ve been given new life, raised from spiritual death, and given a place spiritually in heaven with Christ.  Left unsaid here, but well-documented from other Scripture is that we will experience the same physically one day.  But each one of these words looks at this event from a slightly different angle, so let’s take them one at a time.  We are resusitated (resurrected) with Him, raised with Him and are reclining (seated) with Him.  What do they all mean?

A.    Resuscitated With Him (A New Disposition)


Paul’s first comment is that he has made us alive together with Christ.  What absolute joy attaches to that statement!  It is in direct and immediate contrast to our condition as dead in trespasses and sins as described in verse 1.  Make no mistake.  God is in the life-giving business.  Jesus says in John 5:21 21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.  Imagine what it would be like to be sitting by a loved one who has just passed away – unresponsive, unmoving, unfeeling – and there is nothing that you can do.  But imagine the joy of somehow seeing that one suddenly begin to move and then to sit up, brought to life, fully responsive and engaged and joyful.  Wouldn’t that be something? And that is just what Christ has done for us spiritually.

Paul says in II Cor 1:9:  9) Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  Isn’t that amazing?  Even our sentence of death was intended to make us stop relying on ourselves and commit to Christ so that we could share in this life.  By the way – have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?  Has he raised you together with Christ?

So depraved and dehumanized by drink was Melvin Trotter that he sneaked into the room where his baby lay in a little white casket, and removed the little white shoes from its feet. He went to a saloon, plopped the little shoes down on the counter and said, “Give me a drink! I’m dying for a drink!”  However, not every spark of humanness had died in the sordid soul of the saloon keeper, because he said, “Here’s a drink, but you go and put those shoes back on the feet of your dead baby!”  Sometime thereafter Melvin Trotter came to know Jesus Christ. When he did, here’s what he said, “There was not anything that I knew about that I had not gone through. I had taken cure after cure. I had taken everything known to science, and had made resolution after resolution.  But just one glimpse of Jesus Christ, and I have never wanted a drink from that instant to this!”  Folks, he had been made alive together with Christ, and it made a difference.  Is there a difference in your life?  Can you truly say that you are alive to Christ, that you love His Word, His people, His Person, His grace in your life.  Are you alive to all that?  If it is only dullness, deadness, lack of desire and maybe even antagonism, I must tell you, you have not been made alive together with Christ because just as physical life produces a response to the stimulus of this world, so spiritual life brings a response to the spiritual world of Christ. 

If you’ve been raised with Christ, you are a new creature.  You will absolutely see a difference if you’ve really come to Him.  Paul says in II Cor. 5:17:  17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  Here’s what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says of that new creature:  “He is not given a new brain; he is not given a new intelligence, or anything else. He has always had these; they are his servants, his instruments, his ‘members,’ as Paul calls them in the sixth chapter of Romans; what is new is a new bent, a new disposition, a new heart.  He has turned in a different direction; there is a new power working in him and guiding his faculties. This is the thing that makes a man a Christian .”    

Beloved, Christianity is not mere doctrine or a sense of having been forgiven or even believing that God will forgive you. Christianity is Christ—Christ alive in his people, Christ in us. No one who has been made alive with Christ can ever be the same afterward. No one who has been united to Christ can ever again die to God or take up with old sins as before.

If we’ve been raised with Christ, we are suddenly alive to the things of God.  His Word begins to make sense.  We suddenly want to be around God’s people.  There is a response that simply wasn’t there before.  We get it.  And if that hasn’t happened for you, there is only one explanation.  You are still dead in your sins.  To be made alive with Him you have to give Him your heart.

  1. Raised with Him (A New Priority)


Now, let us look at verses 5-6 again: 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,  You will note that right in the middle of Paul’s speaking about our resurrection with Christ, he interjects “by grace you have been saved”  He is so moved by grace that he can hardly wait to speak about it, but he will come back to it in verse 8, so we are going to skip over the phrase for the moment to concentrate his next main verb found in verse 6.  He has raised us up with him. 

Now there is a bit of difference of opinion as to what is meant here.  Some take it that since Paul has already spoken of our being “made alive”  in verse 5, the “raising” spoken of here must advance the idea of by speaking of our being raised to the heavenlies, equivalent to Christ’s ascension.  It is surely a truth that we are as expressed in the very next phrase where He has

seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. 

However, I do not believe that is the intent of the phrase “raised us up with him.”  The reason I say that is that the root word, “raised” (εγειρω) is a word that inevitably means to rise from a resting position.  So it is used to speak of Joseph rising to take Mary and the young Jesus to safety in Egypt in Matthew 2.  It is used in Matthew 8:15 to speak of Peter’s mother-in-law rising from her sick bed in response to Jesus’ touch.  The root word is also used many times in the New Testament to speak of resurrection from physical death.  It always has the idea of “getting up” if you will, but never the idea of ascension.

So, as used here, I believe that the idea advanced by Paul is this.  Christ has first made you alive, spiritually able to respond to God and assured now of an eternity with Him.  Having made us alive, He didn’t just leave us lying in that graveyard, He has raised us up, got us on the move, and in a spiritual sense removed us from the cemetery where, as one wit has stated it, only dead people live!  In raising us up He is getting us out of Zombieland, the place of the living dead.

One other thing suggests this intent.  The word “raised up” combined with the little prefix “with” was, as mentioned earlier, a word made up by Paul.  He used it only two other places, both when he wrote to the Colossians a few weeks earlier.  In Colossians 2:12, Paul uses it to speak of the symbolism of baptism in which we have been “raised up with him” through the powerful working of God.  But Colossians 3:1 is even more instructive for our purposes.  Now, get this.  Listen closely.  There we read:   If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Here we have specific application attached to the fact that we have been raised up with Christ – and the instruction is, seek the things above.  In essence, this is very clear guidance for living the resurrected Christian life.  Set your minds on things above, on heavenly issues and concerns.

Listen – we are in this world, and we have to be concerned about things here, right?  You cannot, as the Millerites did about 170 years ago, sell everything and go wait on a hilltop for the return of Christ.  He’s coming back all right, but unless your timing is spot on, you are going to starve!  You have to work.  We have to get cars fixed and lawns mowed and children reared and insurance claims filed and bills paid and maybe even take in the occasional basketball game, right?  We’re in this world and we can’t ignore it.  Neither did Paul or the Ephesians or the Colossians. 

But the guidance is, make your priority something else.  All of the things I just mentioned and thousands more, whether good or bad, are just parts of the cemetery in which we find ourselves.  Hear me now – none of them will last.  50 years from now, none of it will matter, let alone 1,000 years from now.  So the instruction is, don’t spend all your time and energy and resources on those things.  Seek things above – seek as your priority in life things that have eternal value.  Seek your own spiritual growth.  Seek your children and your grandchildren’s spiritual enlightenment.  Seek things that will matter in 50 years, and in 100 years and in 1000 years.  That’s his point.  You now have a capacity for that.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:30-33:  30) But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32) For the Gentiles [here representing the living dead, those living in Zombieland – those with no spiritual sensitivity or life who seek only this transient world’s good and pleasure because it is all they can respond to] The Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

You see, in the midst of all that we are doing to stay alive in this world, there is to be a priority given to learning, living and teaching principles of the kingdom of God.  We must not get overwhelmed and committed to transient things.  It will kill us.

I shared with our Young Married’s group a few weeks ago the story of Dale Webster.  Dale Webster is a pretty average guy in some ways, but pretty extraordinary in one.  As of May, 2008, every single day for the past 32 years, 59-year-old Dale Webster has launched himself on his surf board into the 50 degree water of blustery Bodega Bay in northern California and gone surfing.  He’s caught waves during howling storms, while wracked by kidney stones and once, within snapping distance of a Volvo-sized great white shark (“never paddled so fast in my life,” he says).  He’s gone through 35 wet suits and as many surfboards.  He delayed marrying his girlfriend, Kaye, for ten years because Guinness World Records doesn’t recognize feats witnessed solely by relatives.  It started when he was surfing one day in 1976, leap year, and it just occurred to him:  Why not keep going daily until Feb 29 of another leap year – say 2004?  It became his obsession. 

Never a vacation inland – totally dedicated.  When he actually made that 28 year mark, Guinness assigned the record to him, all the media were there, parties abounded, and he thought it was over.  Then – the next morning – absolutely alone this time with no reporters, not cameras, no friends, just a steady rain, he went surfing.  And before he knew it, he kept right on going.  32 years and counting now.  He says, “It started out as a string, then a streak, then a quest.  Now it’s almost like it’s become a toll – how much it’s taken of my life.”  Yet – he keeps on going.  He says, “For me it comes down to this.  We have this short time on earth – what are we going to do with it?”  What indeed?  Go surfing every day?!  Really?!

I must agree – that is indeed the question.  Hopefully the answer is something other than surf it away.  Now, that is an extreme example, but don’t you see that we could all find ourselves in the position of having been miraculously raised together with Christ himself – and for what?  What are you doing with your life?  Are you just muddling through?  Listen, I want you to get this.  We may think we’re not doing something so foolish as surfing our life away, but I tell you to do nothing but just “go along” – to give all our time, attention and priority to temporal things that are over when our physical life is, is just as foolish.  In the midst of the necessities, pleasure and joys of this life, a priority needs to attach to seeking things above, spending time with Christ, working for His kingdom in whatever capacity He gives us.  We are just flat out missing it if we are not setting priorities according to His guidance.  We have been given a life; surely we don’t want to stand before Him one day and report, “I wasted it.”

C.    Reclining With Him (A New Intimacy)


Now we see in verse 6 the third thing that God has done for us – in Christ Jesus.  Notice that all of these things are in Christ Jesus.  This speaks, as we’ve noted before, of the fact that it is His death and resurrection that makes this all possible.  So, number 3:  6) and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  So – just as God the Father raised Jesus, took Him back to heaven and seated Him at His right hand physically, so He has seated us spiritually now and physically later with Christ in heavenly places as well. 

This, of course, hearkens back to chapter 1 and verse 3: 3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,  However, there is a slightly different emphasis here.  There, the emphasis was on the fact that there is no blessing of God denied us.  All the resources of heaven are at our disposal and we can never have the excuse that we were not properly supplied for whatever God calls us to do. 

Here the emphasis is on the fact that spiritually, we are actually seated with Christ in heavenly places (same word as 1:3, by the way).  We may still be living in this old world, but we’re not cemetery residents anymore.  Our home is in heaven and with Christ. 

Now there is no question that this is the seat described in Psalm 110:1 where we read, “1) The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”  This is a verse often quoted in the New Testament.  To be spiritually seated with Christ in the heavenlies is to have security, privilege, resources, rejoicing and accomplishment.  But that is not the primary meaning.  We see the primary meaning of “seating” with Christ in John’s gospel.

Do you remember that beautiful account of the Last Supper included by the apostle John in his Gospel? Do you remember how he describes himself as reclining next to Jesus? As John describes it, Jesus had announced that one of the Twelve would betray him, and Peter, disturbed at this revelation, motioned to John to ask Jesus which of the disciples he was speaking about. John then wrote of himself, 25) So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”   26) Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  John was seated by Jesus and was therefore the one who received the revelation. Now read Ephesians. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (vv. 6–7). That place, in Christ at the right hand of God the Father, is the place of intimacy and revelation. It is where God opens up his heart. And notice: It is where we are now. We are seated with God in Christ in the heavenly realms now. Now God is speaking to us intimately. This is the great privilege Paul had chiefly in mind as he composed this portion of Ephesians. 

A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the Twenty–third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor’s recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis, for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher’s voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied, “I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

Beloved, it’s just like Mary in the first sermon I was ever privileged to share with you from Luke 10.  Remember how Mary chose the good part, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  It’s our privilege to know him in just the same way.  When we don’t take advantage, the only person who loses out is us – us, and, of course, any other family members, friends, acquaintances, people to whom we might share the gospel if we were right with him – our whole world now that I think about it, misses out when we miss out.  Beloved, don’t miss out.  You’re seated with Him in heavenly places.  Act like it.  Talk to Him.  Listen to Him.  Be intimate with Him. 

III.              His Process


Now we come to 2 of the greatest verses in all the Bible.  This is the pinnacle.  These verses are elegant in their simplicity and they offer hope in a world dead to God.  We’ve arrived at amazing grace.  We’ve already seen from Christ’s perspective our need for reconciliation and the fact that there was nothing we could do on our own to achieve it.  But God has been moved by his passion, His love and mercy, to provide a solution.  By His power, He has made believers alive, literally establishing us spiritually as residents of heaven where we will one day dwell spiritually.

Now verses 8-9 will explain His process for accomplishing this reconciliation between God and man.  I have called this section “His Process” for two reasons.  First it is His process because being God, He sets the rules.  It is very common today, very common to hear – “Oh, there are many ways to God.  He is not exclusive.  What makes Christians think they have a market on God?”  To that we can only humbly reply, while that may make sense from a human perspective, we don’t make the rules.  God does.  It is His process, not ours and it is decidedly narrow even by the words of Jesus Himself in His parable about the broad way that leads to destruction and the narrow way that leads to life. 

Second, it is “His Process” in the sense that He is fully and completely invested in it and He does it all.  It’s his process because it cost Him the life of His son.  It’s His process because in our rebellion we would never come to Him apart from His call.  It is His from start to finish.  So how does God bring us from spiritual death to life?  How does he reverse the curse of the Garden of Eden?  How does He save us?  Three simple but profound points:  He does it by grace, through faith and apart from works.  Here is the basis for the watchword of Reformation theology: sola gratia, sola fide, soli Deo Gloria (by grace alone, through faith alone, to God alone be glory).  Let’s look.

A.    By Grace

Look at verse 8: 8) For by grace you have been saved through faith.  Note the words “you have been saved”.  They are very interesting.  The verb used here is in the perfect tense which in Greek indicates a past action with continuing results in the present.  A good literal translation would be, “you are constantly in the state of having been saved.”  It emphasizes  nothing can take that away from you once it is achieved.  It is yours forever. 

Now, we might ask, saved from what?  And the answer from this context, of course, is saved from the state of death brought on by sin.  That is what we have been saved from.  That is what he has just explained when he talked about being made alive with Christ and raised with Christ and seated with Christ.  That is being saved.

And what is the objective means by which that happens?  It is by grace.  Love put into action – grace.  Here is that wonderful word that we have seen before.  Grace.  What does it mean to be saved by grace?  Listen closely now.  You have heard this many times, but hear it again.  Being saved by grace means that our salvation is based on God’s completely unmerited, unearned, undeserved, unfathomable favor.  Being saved by grace is the opposite of being saved by merit.  It is the opposite of being saved by inherent goodness which we might suppose we have or by strenuous effort. 

The great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “Because God is gracious, therefore sinful men are forgiven, converted, purified and saved. It is not because of anything in them, or that ever can be in them, that they are saved; but because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy and grace of God.”

C. S. Lewis once joined a group of academics just in time to hear the question posed, “What separates Christianity from other religions?”  “Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.” And when he said that, the room fell silent. Lewis continued on saying that Christianity makes the unique claim that God’s love comes free of charge with no strings attached. Lewis cited that NO other religion on earth makes this claim.

After a moment of shocked silence, one of the scholars in the room commented that Lewis had a point. He stated that the Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment, theirs is NOT a free ride. 

He also informed the crowd that had gathered that Hindus believe in karma. Which means that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you, and thus how God sees you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.  Another scholar spoke up and observed that the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements for people to be acceptable to Him and that in Islam God is a God of Judgment… that He is NOT a God of love. In Islam you live your life to appease His judgment!  At the end of the discussion everyone concluded Lewis had a point. And it is true, only Christianity dares to proclaim God’s love for humanity is unconditional.  Salvation can never be earned; it can only be accepted.  As we have seen before.  Every other God demands; the God of the Bible gives.  Every other religion says, “Do this to get to God.”  The Bible says, “Here is what God has done for you.”  Christianity is all about amazing grace – blazing grace – out of control grace!

Christian acting groups have done this skit for years.  A man dies and of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates.  Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.” “Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”  “That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”  “Wow, just three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and talents.”  “Terrific!” says Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”  “Only one point?” the man begins to sweat, “How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”  “Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” Peter says, “You are up to 6 points. You only need 94 other points.”  Flabbergasted, the man cries out, “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”  Peter says, “That’s all the points you need. Come on in!”

Now, I grant you, the entrance does not happen in just that manner, but the truth of the story is the truth of Ephesians 2:8.  What breaks my heart and I’m sure the heart of God it that so many people simply will not accept that they can do nothing to inherit eternal life.  They insist on presenting their dirty laundry – confident that because it is more white than stained that it will be acceptable.  We forget who makes the rules!  Beloved, it is by grace and grace alone that anyone is ever saved. 

B.     Through Faith


We’re back to verse 8: For by grace you have been saved through faith.  Grace is the objective side of salvation.  Faith is the subjective.  It is that which activates.  Grace is the “basis upon which”.  Faith is the trigger.  Grace is the engine.  Faith is the starter.

What is faith?  We make it unnecessarily complex.  Faith is simply trust.  Perhaps one of the reasons it seems so complex is because, simple as it is, there are many misconceptions about faith.   We talk about all you have to do is believe.  Just have faith.  We have the fairytale Peter Pan version of faith – if you just believe hard enough, you can do anything including flying.  Anyone who has lived long enough has probably had that nonsense knocked out of them, but other misconceptions persist. 

One young schoolboy defined faith as “the act of believing what you know ain’t so.”  H. L. Mencken defined it as “an illogical belief in the occurrence  of the improbable.”  Then it really gets cynical.  Ambrose Bierce said faith “is belief without evidence, in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.”   One anonymous writer said that faith is “the boast of a man who is too lazy to investigate.” 

All in all, I like J. I. Packer’s definition best.  He said faith is “Forsaking All, I Take Him.”  It’s an acronym.  “Forsaking all, I take Him.”  Faith is simply putting one’s trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone.  Faith has content.  It believes that Jesus Christ died and rose again and that I can have His righteousness for my sin if I will trust Him.  But it is not enough just to believe that.  I must place all my trust in that fact for eternal salvation.  Forsaking all, including self, I take Him.  Jesus said that to follow Him a man or woman must “deny self”, take up their cross daily and follow Him. 

It is possible to believe and not be saved – to give intellectual assent and not be saved – to honestly believe that a man named Jesus died and even rose again and still be as lost as sin.  James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe – and shudder!”  What’s his point?  His point is that even demonic beings believe in God and they even have enough sense to shudder at the thought of His power – and yet they are not saved.  Their “belief” does them no good.  It is not accompanied by a complete submission of one’s eternal destiny upon Christ.

I had a friend once named Win Arn.  He was an interesting character who got involved in many things.  On one occasion he was photographing circus trapeze artists for some reason and was talking into giving it a go.  I always suspected that the artists thought they had a “live one.”  Anyway, he got talked into getting up on the trapeze and then making a transfer to a second trapeze.  Of course, he had a net below.  In telling the story later he emphasized that he learned two things.  First, in order to grab a second trapeze, you have to let go of the first, and second, you don’t have much time to make up your mind. 

That’s a pretty good illustration of faith, folks.  Win could see that other trapeze out there.  He believed that it would hold him.  His mind was clear, but none of it counted until he actually let go of the one and grabbed the second.  That’s faith.  You have to let go of “you” and grab hold of Christ.  Let go of “you” and grab hold of Christ.  Have you let go of “you” and grabbed hold of Christ?  I don’t know how much time you have.  But neither do you – so why not make that transfer NOW? 

C.    Excluding Works


We come now to our third point under God’s process.  Salvation is by grace; it is through faith, and now we see that it excludes any works.  Nothing at all that man can do can add to the process.  It is all of God. 

Paul has been at pains to made this point all the way through this passage.  Notice the first phrase 8) For by grace you have been saved.  As we saw, the word grace itself means unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor.  But look at the verb – “have been saved.”  Even that indicates the truth we are not looking at.  It is in the passive voice meaning, as you grammar experts will recall, that the action is done to the subject rather than by the subject.  It’s not “you saved”, but you “have been saved.” 

Now, let’s look at the clause at the end of the verse that we are studying now.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing.  Some question revolves around what “this” refers back to.  In English, the rules of grammar would dictate that it refers to the closest antecedent – faith, right?  So Paul would be saying that even that faith is not your own doing.  However, the Greek has a nuance here that is not visible in English.  Now follow closely here.   Every noun in Greek has a gender; either masculine, feminine or neuter. The word “faith” is a feminine word.  But the word “this” is a neuter word.  Ordinarily you would not have a neuter word referring back to a feminine word, so many take it that “this” refers back to the verb “saved” and thus envisions the whole concept of salvation.  This is a very possible and acceptable interpretation.

However, while you would not ordinarily have a feminine word as antecedent to a neuter word, it does happen sometimes.  And perhaps the greatest Greek grammarian of the past century, A. T. Robertson, says that while in general these words agree in gender, they do not always do so.  It’s not an absolute rule.  He goes on to say, “Paul’s words may be paraphrased thus, ‘I had the right to speak about “the surpassing riches of his grace” for it is, indeed, by grace that you are saved, through faith; and lest you should now begin to say, “But then we deserve credit, at least, for believing,” I will immediately add that even this faith (or: even this exercise of faith) is not of yourselves but is God’s gift.”   Given the proximity of the words here, I believe Robertson has got it right.  In Greek, just as in English, only the little word “and” separates “faith” and “this”.  But however you interpret it, he is clearly indicating that this is nothing we can take credit for in any way, shape or form. 

So Paul’s point is -- God gives the grace, and  He also gives the faith.  It is all a magnificent gift.  A gift of God.  In the original, the word “God” is given emphasis.  It reads, “Of God, it is a gift.”  How could we miss his point?  No part of it can be claimed by the human recipient.  It is all of God. 

But just in case we still didn’t get it, Paul adds verse 9:  9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Now, do we get it?  There are no works.  You’ll recall that George H. W. Bush famously said during the 1988 election campaign:  “Read my lips.  No new taxes.”  And then, when things got tough, guess what?  New taxes.  But that will never apply to God.  When he says, “NO WORKS,”  that is exactly what He means.  So, if you are here this morning and counting on baptism or church membership or your good “works” outweighing your bad – or anything else other than the grace of God for your salvation, you need to reevaluate.  It is all by grace through faith.  Salvation is all about a turning of my heart to God, trusting Him completely for my eternal destiny, surrendering all my life with its good and bad, sin and ugliness – all to Him in exchange for the free gift of His salvation.  That’s it.  There is nothing more!   

When God says,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast, it is crystal clear that even faith, the act of believing, is not a work.  Otherwise we could one day reach heaven and boast, “Yes, I was saved by grace, but I added the faith.”  No you did not.  You will not be able to boast that.  God has specifically eliminated that from any possibility. 

The old hymn had it right:

Nothing in my hands I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to thee for dress,

Helpless, look to thee for grace;

Foul, I to the Fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in thee.

The great church father, St. Augustine, said it this way; Even our fidelity is a gift.  ‘If we but turn to God that itself is a gift of God.  My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” 

Think of it this way, Beloved.  No life ever comes at the instigation of the one being born, does it?  Not physical or spiritual.  When that new baby is born, and enters this strange new world and looks around, he immediately says to himself, “Whoa – I’d better get breathing!  Don’t seem to have Mom to depend on anymore and if I’m going to survive, I’d better get with it.”  Smart baby, huh?!  Knows if he’s going to stay alive, he’s got to breathe, right?  Of course, not.  That baby knows nothing.  He breathes because he gets whacked on the bottom and in a reflex action to the shock, he breathes. 

It’s no different spiritually, folks.  We were dead in sins.  We are made alive at the mercy of Christ who sparks the faith within us that brings about salvation.  Yes, from our side it looks like we are the ones.  I do not dispute at all the perception that it is us putting our trust in Christ, making that decision.  It is proper that we speak of it that way, but the truth behind the scenes is that it is all prompted by God Himself.  If you’re feeling the shock of God’s slap today to be initiated you into his family by faith, by all means, thank Him and respond, for it is indeed him knocking at your heart’s door.  Take the gift.  Take it and thank Him eternally.

IV.              His Purpose


We’ve looked at God’s passion, power, process and now His purpose.  We take a very proprietary view of salvation.  Obviously the point is to get me saved!  To get me alive from the spiritual death I was in.  But God takes a broader view.  While He is absolutely and infinitely interested in us as people and as individuals, He has a striking and dynamic purpose in mind that far exceeds the interests of any one individual.  Verse 7: so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

The plural ages pictures for us the timing.  It is one age supervening upon another like successive waves of the sea, as far into the future as thought can reach.  In the light of this meaning it may thus be claimed: Throughout time and in eternity the church, this society of pardoned rebels, is designed by God to be the masterpiece displaying his goodnessm -- to memorialize in all ages the remembrance of so great a goodness. The new life now begun will endure forever, to display the wonders of His goodness. 

We are his sparkling jewels.  A Roman matron when asked, “Where are your jewels?” calls her two sons, and, pointing to them, says, “These are my jewels.” So also, throughout eternity the redeemed will be exhibited as the monuments of  “the marvelous grace of our loving Lord,” who drew us from destruction’s pit and raised us to heights of heavenly bliss, and did all this at such a cost to himself that he spared not his own Son, and in such a manner that not a single one of his attributes, not even his justice, was eclipsed.  It is brilliant and wonderful.

Listen – if you have taken your salvation for granted, or it has become kind of  “no big deal” to you – or if your love has grown cold – or if it all seems commonplace – Beloved, we must think again.  This is how big a deal God thinks it is.  We will be on display forever as a continuing lesson and indication of His overwhelming goodness, kindness and love – trophies of His grace.

Look at the verse again.  For all ages to come He will show the immeasurable [mega abundant] riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  Paul uses similar language in Romans 5:20 when he says: 20) Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.  Do you get it?  Where sin left us hopelessly and helplessly dead to God, grace came in even more overwhelming abundance to effect our resurrection, giving us undeserved and unwarranted life!  Folks, we are jaded.  We understand neither our sin nor His grace, but consider that what Christ has done in us is going to be on display for eternity to make the point with all created being how wonderful God is and it should light a fire of gratitude in our hearts.  This is what He died for – so that this miserable, wretched, hopeless sinner, Dave McNeff, could be here in God’s presence, a trophy of the grace of God.  It should drive us all to our knees. 

Hardened sinners will be there.  Murderers like Paul and Moses – trophies of God’s grace.  Prostitutes and thieves and rapists and sleazeballs and defrauders and felons will be there, side by side with their victims in many cases – all trophies of His grace because it will be evident that they could never have qualified on their own.  Only the grace of God could have brought them there. 

But you know what I think will have even more impact?   A lot of just regular good people will be there – not all by any means, but many.  Why will they have the greatest impact?  Because they are hardest of all to save.  Did you know that?  Perhaps you are one.  Reprobates understand that they are sinners.  Good people have a hard time accepting that verdict.  That’s why they are so hard to get saved.     

Many years ago in London there was a large prestigious church had three mission churches under its care. On the first Sunday of the New Year all the members of the mission churches came to the big city church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, which were located in the slums of the city, were some outstanding cases of conversions — thieves, burglars, and so on — but all knelt side by side at the Communion rail. On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England — the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and become a Christian worker. Yet, as they knelt there, the judge and the former convict, neither one seemed to be aware of the other. After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the Communion rail this morning?”

The pastor replied, “Yes, but I didn’t know that you noticed.”  The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, “What a miracle of grace.” The pastor nodded in agreement. “Yes, that man is a marvelous miracle of grace.” But the judge said, “I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself.” The pastor, surprised, replied: “You were thinking of yourself? I don’t understand.” “Well,” the judge replied, “that man is a miracle, but the truth is when he heard about Christ, it was evident to him and everyone that he had nothing to offer; he knew he must have Christ’s righteousness if he was to have any.  But look at me. I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman; that my word was to be my bond; that I was to say my prayers, to go to church, take Communion and so on. I went through Oxford, took my degrees, was called to the bar and eventually became a judge.  Only God’s grace could show me my sin in the midst of all that.  Pastor, it was God’s grace that drew me; it was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive it. I’m a greater miracle of his grace.”   Are you a miracle of God’s grace this morning?


It’s decision time, folks.  We’ve seen the awful condition of man without God.  He may be the life of the party humanly speaking, but without God he is as dead as a doornail spiritually. 

But God . . . But God.  God has provided a great salvation.  We’ve seen His passion by which He is willing that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance.   We saw His power – all that went into raising Christ from the dead and seating Him in glory He is ready to apply to any willing heart.  We saw the process – by grace through faith excluding works.  You couldn’t get through heaven’s gates if you were baptized a hundred times and spent your whole life feeding the poor and disabled.  But that door will open instantly the moment you say, I can’t, but He can, please do! 

The big question this morning is, have you?  Have you invited Him in?  Have you said, forsaking all, I take Him.  Have you opened your heart to the great and merciful Lord? Please don’t make excuses any more.  Don’t worry that someone else will think you strange if you admit your need for Him.  Don’t spend an eternity away from Him for fear of being ridiculed now by someone you won’t even know in 2 years.  Don’t find yet one more excuse to not need Him.  Don’t push Him away.

It was almost 1:00 in the morning when the phone rang.  Dr. Leo Winters, the highly acclaimed Chicago surgeon, was abruptly awakened.  There had been an accident and his skilled hands were needed for immediate surgery.  The quickest route happened to be through a rather tough area, but with time being a critical factor, it was worth the risk.  At one of the stop lights his door was yanked open by a man with a gray hat and a dirty flannel shirt.  “I got to have your car!”  the man screamed, pulling him from his seat.  Winters tried to explain the gravity of the situation, but the man would not listen.  When the doctor was finally able to get a taxi to the hospital over an hour had elapsed and it was too late as the patient had gone to the chapel wondering why the doctor never came.  Dr. Winters walked hurriedly to get to the chapel and when he entered he saw the father . . . was wearing a gray hat and dirty flannel shirt.  Tragically, he had pushed from his life the one person who could have saved his son.

If the Bible is true – then there is only one person who can save you from the sin you were born with and have chosen to harbor since the day you reached accountability.  Without Him, you are lost, dear one.  But God . . . He’s ready to deliver you – now!  Take Him.

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