Magnifying The Message Of Grace David L. Larsen January 1, 2006 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 GARDEN 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! I. BEFORE – THE HUMAN TRAGEDY (2:1-3) 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). II. AFTER – THE DIVINE MERCY (2:4-10) 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 School Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.