By Grace I’m Saved
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
By Grace I’m Saved
Text: Ephesians 2:1-5, 8-10
It depends on where you look and what you read, but researchers claim that there are somewhere between 10 and 40 new diseases or viruses that are discovered every single year. That’s a little scary. Imagine if only 100,000 people out of seven billion caught each new disease or virus. That would be one to four million people that doctors have absolutely no diagnosis or cure for. Right now research says that between all seven billion people in the world, 450 million years worth of quality life are shaved off the lives of humans each year due to infectious diseases. Now add to that new diseases that they don’t know how to cure! That’s a little scary.
Unfortunately, we know it doesn’t stop there. In addition to diseases and viruses, there are also plenty of deadly medical conditions out there. Some are extremely rare and incurable. Some, like cancer, are very common but very hard to stop. Sometimes even the best doctors, nurses, and specialists can’t do anything about these medical conditions and people are left helpless. That’s a little scary.
One condition in particular I know of is very scary. It’s a horrible condition or disease. When people become infected with it, it quickly goes to work. It affects nearly every aspect of a person’s life. It brings out the worst in people. It has terrible side effects. It’s conditions are impossible to stop. It is completely deadly. And worst of all, everyone has it. This horrible condition and disease that we all have is called sin. And it’s very scary.
Take a look again at the first lesson this morning as the apostle Paul describes the horrible condition of all mankind: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
Maybe you know the famous Bible verse, “The wages of sin is death.” The cost, or price for disobeying God is death. That really means death in every sense of the word. If you sin you are separated from our holy and perfect God. That means you are spiritually dead. That means you will not live forever and you will physically die. That also means that you can live in God’s holy heaven and you will eternally die. If you follow the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit at work in this world—the devil—then you will be doomed to death with the devil forever.
That’s a problem. It’s not like you can eat more fruits and veggies and avoid this. You can’t run three miles a day and drink protein shakes and do a half hour of yoga to stay away from this condition. It is impossible for humans to avoid the disease called sin.
Look at what verse three says, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.” All of us have lived in this world gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires.
Go ahead and try. Try and not sin, even for only one day of your life. Try it. Try not to gratify your own personal desires. Try not to get angry at the guy who nearly runs you off the road while texting and driving. Try to control your frustrations with doctors and insurance and your medical bills. Try to go to the beach without eying somebody up with even the smallest inappropriate thought. Try going to church and listening to the entire sermon without even once staring off into the corner wishing you were somewhere else because you have so many other things you could be doing.
You can’t do it. I can’t do it. We all have a sinful nature that we are born with. You are born into this world crying and whining. You want to be held. You want milk. You want a new diaper. You want your parents to never get a good night’s sleep ever again. It’s somewhat innocent, but they’re still craving desires.
But as we get older, those craving desires only get worse. As toddlers we want our toys, our snack, our “blankies” and we certainly don’t want to share because we learn an all important word—“Mine.” Toddlers and preschoolers learn to crave what they think is “mine.” And if they don’t get it, they cry and whine and push and bite and then cry and whine some more.
Then we grow to be adolescents and teens. Then we get really good at wanting what we think is “mine.” We think we can try anything we want and do anything we want. We think we can lie to get away with anything. We think our parents are horribly oppressive dictators who want to ruin “my life.”
Then we get to college and we think we are the smartest people on the planet. No one knows more than I know. No one can tell me what to do. I’m going to sow my wild oats. I’m going to party it up. I’m going to have a good time. Why? Because it’s “my choice.”
By the time we are adults, we are masters of craving and desires. And we are masters of doing and getting what we want. We learn to change numbers on our taxes so we can get more money. We learn to talk and text and Email behind people’s backs without getting caught. We learn how to blow up at someone and give a good piece of our mind if we aren’t happy. We learn to cover up our shameful thoughts and actions. We learn how to put on a fake smile for people and a flowery exterior so everyone thinks we are the nicest person in the world. “Haha. If only they knew what I really was like.”
Oh. Now I see how bad my disease is. Now I realize how much I can relate to what Paul says, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.” The apostle wasn’t just talking about serial killers and pedophiles and terrorists. He was talking about all of us. We all have gratified our own sinful desires and disobeyed God.
And disobeying God is a huge problem. He continues, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” By nature, from the very beginning of our lives, we are infected with the disease of sin. That means from the very beginning we are not holy, perfect, and righteous like God. That means from the very beginning we are objects of his wrath. And that’s why Paul says in the first verse this morning: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
“Well thanks a lot, Pastor Phil. Thanks for being a Negative Nancy, Debbie Downer. I came to church to feel good this morning. I wanted to see the VBS kids sing. I wanted to be filled with joy. I had a smile on my face but now I feel awful with all this sin and death talk. Thanks a lot.”
But you see those first verses of this lesson in Ephesians are critically important. You need to understand the disease you have and the condition you are in. You need to know exactly how bad it is. No one knows how much they need a doctor until they realize how bad the problem is. The same is true with you. Until we fully understand how dead we are in our transgressions and sins, we can’t fully understand how much we need a Savior.
But when we do, when we do fully understand that we are dead in our sins and deserving of punishment, that makes the following verses that much more astonishing and amazing. Look at how Paul continues in verse 4: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Because of God’s great love for us, because his mercy is rich and overflowing, he made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in sin.
Have you ever been to Arlington National Cemetery before? It is an impressive sight to see. Row after row after row after row forming a nearly endless sea of white stones as you walk through the rolling hills containing more than 400,000 graves. But if you have ever been there, or to any other cemetery, could you ever imagine all of those dead bodies crawling out of their graves? Would you ever expect that during the changing of the guard the unknown soldier would rise out the tomb and say, “Hi! My name was really John Smith.” That would be impossible! Once you are dead you are dead. You can’t come to life unless something—unless God—brings you to life.
That’s the astounding message of this verse. We were dead in our sins. Absolutely no way, no how could we get to heaven on our own or get our way out of the punishment that we deserve. We were dead. But God, who is rich and mercy, made us alive with Christ.
This is why it’s called “grace.” Grace is undeserved love. We haven’t earned or deserved anything God has done. Why would God want to rescue us? Why would God send his Son to die when he was innocent but we were guilty? Why would Christ give up the comfort and glories of heaven to spend time in this imperfect world and to spend three days dead in a tomb? Why would God give the victory of Christ’s resurrection to me? Why would God wipe away everything I have done, give me a fresh and clean slate, and then welcome me into his heavenly dwelling some day? You and I don’t have an answer to any of those questions, except this: It is by grace that we have been saved.
As if that’s not clear enough, Paul continues in verses eight and nine to make it more clear. These are two of the most important verses in the entire Bible: “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.”
There are a lot of times that my children make my blood boil. I can’t believe the things that they say or what they do or how they act. I’m sure all parents can relate that sometimes the thoughts we have about cruel and unusual punishment are not always so good.
But for as much as they might drive us crazy or cry or whine or sass back, Becky and I still love our children unconditionally. We still give them gifts for Christmas even when they deserve coal. We still give them gifts on their birthdays, as well many other times throughout the year. We give these gifts not because they deserve them, but because we love them that much.
That’s what Paul is saying to you today. “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.” Everything about your being saved is a gift from God, from first to last. God’s Son is a gift to us. His life and death are a gift to us. Forgiveness is a gift to us. Even the faith to believe and trust in him is a gift from us. And certainly eternal life is a gift to us. If ever we would boast, we could only boast in how great and loving our gracious God is.
And so, our response to God’s amazing grace is a very natural and obvious one. Look at the final verse today, verse 10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We are God’s workmanship. We are forgiven children of God and a part of his kingdom—that is completely God’s work. We are created by God to have a new life in Christ Jesus. Look at how different this new life is. In the first verses we heard about living a life of gratification, following our own sinful and shameful desires. But God gave us a new life in Christ Jesus for a new purpose—“To do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
There are a whole host of ways that you can show your thanks to God. God has laid out the path for you to do those good things. You can be patient with the jerk who cut you off on the road. After all, hasn’t God been patient with you? You can be understanding and loving and even forgiving with those who don’t treat you well or respect you. After all, hasn’t God forgiven your disrespect and disobedience against him? You can come to worship God and learn about God every week, and you can have devotions every day, and you can pray every chance you get. After all, hasn’t God made you the center of his attention by sending his Son for you?
This last week some 220 children attended Vacation Bible School at Christ the King. You could hardly take two steps on this campus without nearly being run over by a herd of children. And when it was over, there was mulch everywhere. Finger prints covered every pane of glass on campus. Walls were dirty. Bathrooms were trashed. It looked like a storm had passed through inside our building.
But you know what? It was totally worth it. And you saw why. You saw the joy. You heard the enthusiasm. You saw and heard those kids singing with all their hearts I love you Lord and I lift my voice to worship you and By grace I’m saved and Amazing grace how sweet the sound! This whole week the kids heard about God’s amazing grace given through Jesus Christ our Savior, and they were more than happy to share their joy in God’s grace with you.
Now today, you have heard about God’s amazing grace. You heard the apostle Paul remind you just how dead in sin we all have been. You heard Paul remind you how helpless we all were. But you also heard Paul tell you that God’s love is so great and God’s grace is so amazing that he has given you the gift of a new life in Christ Jesus. Not only that, God gives you eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Learn from the VBS kids this week. Have a pep in your step. Be filled with joy. Sing with enthusiasm and excitement. Tell everyone you know the good news of what God has done for us. Today and every day rejoice in this truth: By Grace I’m Saved.
Christ the King Lutheran Church and School is a Christian church and Christian school / private school located in Palm Coast, FL.
Christ the King Church and School
5625 N. US HWY 1
Palm Coast, FL 32164
Posted on June 23, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged Amazing Grace, By Grace I'm Saved, Church, Ephesians, Ephesians 2, Grace, Grace Alone, Jesus Christ, Paul, Sermons, Vacation Bible School, VBS, Work Righteousness. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.