Ephesians 2:1-10

“God loves you as you are, but he loves you
too much to allow you to stay as you are.” So spoke one of the
leading characters in last summer’s widely viewed film, JUNEBUG.
This familiar insight from an unexpected source flies in the face of a
maudlin sentimentality which is widespread in our time. God’s holy
love is not resigned to our remaining dismal clumps of narcissism and
spiritual dysfunction. God’s purpose is life transformation
by his glorious grace through the finished work of Jesus Christ by
the Holy Spirit. Nothing less is the religion of the New Testament.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the
new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Christian can exult: I am not
what I ought to be; I am not what I shall be; but praise to God, I am
not what I was. Substantial spiritual healing from the disease of sin
and selfishness is the birthright of every true believer in Christ.

How well I remember as a child paging through issues of HOUSE AND
magazine and considering the before and after pictures of
various structures. Many times unimpressive and ramshackle buildings
looked forlorn and depressing. They were run-down and bleak. But then
an architect proposed a total renovation. The new house emerged in
such striking contrast. “We are God’s workmanship!” the Apostle Paul
exclaims in our text today. No one needs to languish in despair! God
proposes drastic change!


As in his epistle to the Romans, Paul begins with our hapless plight
and predicament as lost sinners. We are “dead in transgressions and
sins” (1). The metaphor of death does not mean that the sinner is
incapable of any response or responsibility. Even unconverted people
can be expected to obey the speed law and pay their taxes in a timely
manner. But ours is a disability so drastic as to render
us totally unable to save ourselves or to contribute any positive
virtue as meritorious. Repentance and faith are beyond us other than
through the prevenient work of the Holy Spirit in relationship to the
quickening Word of God (Romans 10:17). We are not simply ill – we are
dead! We are sinners by nature and by choice and modern
listeners may not be inclined to accept this divine diagnosis. The
fact is that as P.T. Forsyth used to say – we need to hear the bad
news before we can really appreciate the good news. Paul shares the
biography of every one of us humans as he traces our servile bondage
to the ways of this world, the wiles of Satan who is “the god of this
age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the waywardness of our own sinful natures
(2-3). God’s intelligent design has been battered and deeply bruised
through our sinful rebellion against him. So grim and so gory is
human life and experience that even many social scientists are
arguing that it is not enough to blame bad child rearing or social
pressure or DNA – they are admitting it is time to use the “E” word –
we are evil. In Erick Larson’s bestselling study, THE DEVIL
IN THE WHITE CITY, he describes the valiant effort of Daniel Burnham
and his associates to build the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. It was
an extraordinary projection. But there is the constant undercurrent
of evil in the city – the murderous Dr. H.H. Holmes perpetrator of
mass murders and madness. With all of the uplift in human experience,
there is a relentless downward pull of our depravity. Even our
noblest altruism is tinged with pride – and we are “objects of
(God’s) wrath” (3).


But the hole in which we find ourselves is not deeper than God’s great
love and rich mercy can handle – we can be extricated and saved by
God’s grace [at this point wallow abit in the super-abounding grace
of God. Share some word study of charis and some definitions. One of
our avocations is collecting definitions of grace – like: something
for nothing when you don’t deserve anything]. The metaphor of
resurrection links us to Christ’s bodily resurrection and his victory
over sin, death, the world and the devil. His deliverance extends even
to our session with him “in the heavenly realms” (6) and our becoming
collectively God’s eternal exhibit of his kindness to undeserving
creatures (7). And this miracle is performed entirely AB
EXTRA, i.e. from outside of ourselves. Not a shred of merit or
boasting is allowed on our part because this is the work of grace –
it is “the gift of God” (8). Not a scintilla of merit remains for our
Pelagian hearts – “Not by works, so that no one can boast” (9). The
effecting of this change is to pass from death to life and is what we
speak of as conversion. Conversion is both a birth certificate and a
driver’s license, since it propels the believers and motivates us
“to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (10).
[At this point consider giving your own personal testimony of coming
to faith in Christ or use a recent convert in the church].
In a recent course on evangelistic preaching, a student brought an
unconverted cousin to class. After hearing the gospel proclaimed, he
led he r to Christ on their way home. She in turn led her suite mate
at college to the Lord and her suite mate led her father to Christ.
So God’s merciful and gracious work of salvation continues around the
world to this hour. There are many lines in the sea and people are
coming to Christ in great numbers, particularly in the two-thirds
world. The Graham Crusade in Colombia last year resulted in 704,844
documented commitments to receive Christ. ALL PRAISE AND GLORY TO GOD!


Sermon brief provided by: David L.
Larsen, Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Trinity Evangelical Divinity

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