22nd Sept: ‘…but God’ – Maggie Gee

 

Here are two photos that I find really funny.

The first was Nik’s facebook post last year, joking about the huge numbers of parents posting photos of their children’s first day at school

Image from BBC News website

However this photograph, from the BBC New website, really made me laugh a few weeks ago:

This is Lucie from East Renfrewshire. She is 5 and “likes to be clean” and looked immaculate before she left home, mother Jill said. But by the end of a day of playing with her friends, her clothes were “a mess”.

First day of school photos – you either love them or hate them!
I love this photo because it shows the before and after.
Often our intention
Opposite of make over shows!

Ephesians has taken us on a bit of a before and after journey, but in this one the after is better than the before.

I feel this should be like the beginning of a tv show…’Previously in Ephesians….’

Last week, we began to explore chapter 2 and learnt about our human condition and  what God did about it.

So, previously in Ephesians…

  • We were dead in our trespasses and sins
  • We were walking with the world and the Devil
  • We were fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind.

And then, Ephesians tells us:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
Ephesians 2:4-5

How amazing is the beginning?

But…God…. These two monosyllables are set against the desperate condition of humanity – they are set against our brokenness, our failure, our fallenness. These two words show what John Stott calls ‘the amazing gracious initiative and sovereign action of God

We WERE objects of wrath – but God…
We WERE dead – but God…
We WERE travelling the wrong way – but God…

But God..

  • Took our dead lives
  • Made us alive in Christ – his resurrection became our resurrection
  • Saved us through His grace.

That’s a pretty good place to be!

In our passage today, Paul is digging further. He has already, in chapter 1, made a very clear case about our identity being in Christ:

I am blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven.

Now he moves from our mess, to God’s action, to the motivation for that action.

Let’s read a bit more…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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 2:4-10

We know what God did, but why would he do that? Why would God want to save us?

As we look through this passage, we can see four words that beautifully capture the motivation, the origins of God’s saving action:

  • Great mercy
  • Great love
  • Great grace
  • Great kindness

John Stott again:

“We were dead, and so helpless to save ourselves: only ‘mercy’ could reach the helpless, for ‘mercy’ is love for the down and out. We were under God’s wrath: only ‘love’ could triumph over wrath. We deserved nothing at God’s hand but judgement, on account of our trespasses and sins: only ‘grace’ could rescue us from our deserts, for grace is undeserved favour. Why then did God act? Out of his sheer mercy, love, grace and kindness”

What motivated God wasn’t something in me – I haven’t earned it; it was something in him.

Tom Wright points out that God’s saving grace is not a form of enrichment to enhance what is already there – we’re getting along nicely, thanks God – just need a bit of gracious topping up once in a while – no – it is rescuing us from imminent disaster. We were dead and the dead cannot raise themselves!

You might think the reason for His action is obvious and not worthy of much attention – all Christians know God loves them. But, pause for a second.

Do you?
Do you really live out what that means?
Are there times when you doubt it?
Are there times when knowing you’re loved by God doesn’t seem to matter?

Do you live that love when you know you’ve messed up, or do you hide from God because you are ashamed?
Experience his mercy, love, grace and kindness today!

Do you live that love when you feel judged, or do you believe and partner with the lies?
Experience his mercy, love, grace and kindness today!

Do you believe that love is graciously given – freely given, undeservedly given?

Have you perhaps become a bit immune or passive to this love? “Yes, God loves me, but I need x,y,z…

It might be , ‘I need the answer to my question‘ ‘I need the confirmation of my decision’ ‘I need God to do this thing, not just tell me he loves me

I think part of the awesome beauty of this letter to the Ephesians is that it is saying – get your identity in the right place.

You are in Christ – you are His. You are loved.
You are not the source of your success or salvation.
Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to operate continuously out of a place of being loved?

How freely would we give ourselves in worship if we truly grasped this love?

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

It all rests on…
But God.

But God, in his mercy, love, grace and kindness saved you.

Robby Dawkins (Vineyard Pastor) writes:

“The church has become nonchalant to the power of those words ‘Jesus loves you’. The world is dying to hear them”

And yet, there is even more!

and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

What does it mean to be seated in the heavenly places? We are sharers with Christ in both dignity and dominion.

Our seating and reigning with Christ is a position of authority, honour, and triumph — not failure and defeat.

Raising Christ demonstrates his great power

Raising us demonstrates his grace and kindness

Have you ever thought of yourself as ‘living evidence’? You are living evidences of God’s kindness.

I love the way John Stott puts this:

“A patient after a major operation is a living testimony to his surgeon’s skill, and a condemned man after a reprieve to his sovereign’s mercy. We are both – exhibits of God’s skill and trophies of his grace”

We demonstrate the loving kindness of God to those around us – and we know this is not our own achievement!

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.

 

Poiema (poy’-ay-mah)
This word workmanship / handiwork meaning ‘work of art, masterpiece’

You are God’s masterpiece – you!

And as his masterpiece, one that reflects his love, mercy, grace and kindness, you will walk that out.

We know we are not saved because of good works, but we are certainly created in Christ Jesus FOR good works – and these have been prepared beforehand for us so that we should walk in them.

I have always loved the words to this song. I had them on a card when I was a little girl and I have quoted it time and time again because the words ring so true.

As ordinary people, we might belittle ourselves – I’m nothing special, others are more suited we think. But God takes our ordinary and he says ‘masterpiece’ over us.

Just ordinary people
God uses ordinary people
He chooses people just like me and you
Who are willing to do as He commands.
God uses people that will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much as you place it in the Master’s hand.

There are good works for us to be doing. They have been created in eternity for us to do. They are not the means to our salvation but they are the consequence and evidence of our salvation.

We are to walk in them continuously.

Walk
This section both begins and ends with the idea of walking. A Hebrew idiom meaning the manner of our life.

How are you walking?
Before God, we walked in our trespasses and sin which the devil had trapped us in.
Now, we walk in good works which God eternally poured out for us to do.

Maybe today you need a revelation of God’s love for you?
We love because he first loved us
We can only give away what we have received – need God’s love & kindness.

Is your experience of God’s love a bit stale?
Perhaps it’s not enough of an answer for you anymore – come back to the source.

Let’s pray…