Summary: (Theme adapted from theme by Rob Willis.)
What’s the greatest miracle in the Bible? The crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites? The feeding of the 5,000 by Jesus? I suppose it depends how you define “greatest.” If you mean what single miracle had the largest impact, you’d have to say Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest miracle. Because of his resurrection all who believe in Jesus are assured that they too will one day rise from the dead.
But now what’s the greatest miracle you’ve witnessed? Parents might be quick to say, “The birth of a child.” As wonderful and amazing the birth of a child is it technically is not a miracle. A miracle is something that God works outside the natural laws he created at the beginning of time. Since God designed women to have children it’s not a miracle when they do - unless like the Virgin Mary they conceive and give birth without the help of a human father. Still our text today explains that your children and you are among God’s greatest miracles. Let’s give the Holy Spirit our attention as the Apostle Paul explains how God took us from major mess and turned us into masterpiece.
When’s the last time you flipped through your family photo album? Have you ever been able to look at pictures taken years ago without bursting into laughter? How can you not when you see the wardrobe choices we made in the ‘70s and the funky hairdos we had in the ‘80s? The way we once looked on the outside is worth a few chuckles but the same can’t be said of the way we once looked on the inside. Paul describes what we once looked like spiritually when he wrote: “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” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
What a mess Paul describes! He first of all says that we were dead in our transgressions and sins. In the 1999 movie “Sixth Sense” a little boy had a problem. He saw dead people all around him who didn’t know they were dead. God sees that all the time. Those who do not have faith in Jesus are spiritually dead to God though they don’t know that and may look very much alive. That’s how you once were. You may have thought yourself quite spiritual but before you came to faith in Jesus you could not do anything that was pleasing to God – nor did you want to says Paul. Instead we followed Satan and the ways of this world. That was most obvious in how we eagerly gave in to the thoughts of our sinful nature. Just take the sin of grumbling for example. Like the Israelites in our Old Testament lesson this morning we find it easier to complain than to be thankful. Instead of being grateful that we have eggs to eat in the morning we complain that they’re too runny or too cold. Instead of being happy that we don’t have to walk to school in –30C weather we grouse that the family car is too small or too old. Saying thanks takes an effort doesn’t it – like keeping your teeth clean and flossed. Not so with grumbling. Murmurings waft from our mouths as easily and as offensive as morning breath.
Our problem with grumbling is only one example of how we so easily follow our sinful nature. If you can picture all your other sins we can easily see from God’s point of view that we are quite a mess. What do you do with messes? You wipe them up and throw them in the trash. But listen to what Paul says God did. “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. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Instead of sweeping us up and throwing us away God saved us. Why? Because he is rich in mercy and because he has great love for us. A little girl was once asked: “What does love look like?” She responded, “Love is when I let Johnny get in front of me at the drinking fountain.” “Oh, you must really love Johnny,” the interviewer continued. “Love him? I don’t even like him!” retorted the girl. That is what God’s love looks like. God loves us and therefore serves us although by nature we’re not even likable.