GETTING A GRIP ON GRACE
"1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 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. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. "
I didn't hear much about grace when I was growing up. It was more of a "God's gonna get you for that" kind of spiritual climate back then. If you expected to get anything from God apart from "got" you had better be really good. I guess I sort of equated God with Santa – big guy, white beard, keeping a list of who's naughty and who's nice. And I was pretty sure I didn't make the "nice" list. I was really surprised when I started reading the Bible. It was full of people like Abraham the liar and David the murderer and Paul the hater; you know, people that God seemed to love who didn't seem to deserve it. And another thing I noticed; for the most part the big heroes in God's book were people who weren't even looking for God . . . they were all just busy living and taking care of business when God stepped into the scene and changed their lives. God would tell them what He was going to do and then they got credit for just believing Him. That seems odd doesn't it? Couldn't God find anybody to love who was actually trying to be loved by God??
And the more I studied God’s Word the more often I found surprising little things tucked away in the narratives. Little things like, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" --1 Jn. 4:10 and "The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt" -- Deut. 7:7-8 and "You did not choose me, but I chose you" --John 15:16.
Listen, we who have come to know Jesus like to think that we are somehow wiser that those who don't know Him, or that we are naturally more moral, or just generally more worthy of God's attention. I guess the people in that early church in Ephesus must have thought like that too, and that's why God used Paul to send them this message: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins . . . gratifying the cravings of your sinful nature . . . by nature objects of wrath. You know, He kind of put them in their place; peeled the pride right off their hide. And then God told them about His great love and His abundant mercy. He reminded them that He had touched their dead hearts and given them real life. He had opened their deaf ears and whispered good news to them. He had cleaned out their foul mouths and filled them with praise. He had even made a place for them in His own house where they could live forever. But it wasn't because they were worthy; it was because He is rich in mercy. He didn't do it because they were beautiful in His eyes; He did it because His is an overcoming transforming love.
Friends, the truth is that all of us also lived like them, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. But because God came and saved us we have new desires and thoughts and a new nature. Instead of being doomed to follow the ways of this world we can follow Christ. But it's all because God came. It isn't because of our wisdom or our goodness or any kind of worthiness; it is by His grace that we have been saved!
--- Pastor Keith Andrews