Summary: how God graciously gives us wonderful gifts
March 30, 2003 Ephesians 2:4-10
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
What is the most exciting time of the year for your child? It would have to be Christmas and birthdays, wouldn’t it? I remember as a kid, I couldn’t wait to receive those gifts, and open them up. When I look back on it, I am glad that the Santa Claus song wasn’t true, “you better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town. He knows if you’ve been sleeping, he know if you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” If my parents would have gone by this criteria to give me gifts, I wouldn’t have received much. The truth is, that Christmas is a time when parents give you gifts in spite of the way you’ve been. St. Paul says that God is the same way. We have not been good, yet His grace, or his love for us, which is undeserved, drives Him to give us give us gifts anyway. Today and we are going to concentrate on how God’s grace gives you three gifts, three gifts which you need to live, thrive and survive.
God’s Grace Gives You Three Gifts
I. A New Life
Gifts are easily taken for granted. Walk into a nursing home and look around at the elderly people there. All of them were younger - like you. When you think about it, you will become painfully aware of the fact that all of us are dying - some slower and some faster. Eventually, if we live to be older, all of us will most likely lose the abilities that we associate with life. Like it or not, you may need someone to change your diaper some day - feed you - and put your clothes on. When you think about it, it will make you appreciate the life you have right now.
In a more graphic manner - Paul doesn’t take us to a nursing home, but to a graveyard. Even more scary is the fact that he walks you past a gravestone that has YOUR name on it. He says, we were dead in transgressions. Death is the ugliest thing there is in this life. Back when I was in Norton I happened to find a dead rabbit in my backyard a week or two after I moved there. Not knowing what to do, I threw it in my garbage can in the middle of summer. The garbage wasn’t emptied for another week, and by the end of the week, that rabbit was full of maggots and the stench was completely disgusting. Even after I poured cleaners in the garbage can and sprayed it out several times, it still stunk. That’s the picture Paul draws of us - we were not just ugly, not just lazy, not just stained with a little smudge of sin. We were dead in transgressions - absolutely helpless. There was nothing attractive in us that made God choose us for salvation. God didn’t look at you and say, “hey, that corpse isn’t too ugly - it’s only got a little decay and stench - I think I’ll choose that one.” Don’t get the idea that we were more spiritually attractive just because we are now believers. We were just as spiritually dead and stinky as any other unbeliever in the world. We were there because we went where we weren’t supposed to be in the first place - in transgressions.
Nobody loves to look at a dead body. Neither does God. But there’s one more dead, lifeless, pile of flesh and bones we need to look at - on the cross. When we see this lifeless body - it is repulsive. It is terrible to look at a Holy God let His wrath out on His only Son - who was also perfect in every sense of the Word. He shouldn’t have been on the cross - he had no trespasses. Why did God do this? Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. The sight of this dead body gives life to our souls, because it assures us that our God is a God of grace - who sent Jesus to die for us - and bring us to life. Instead of leaving this body to rot, this dead body of Christ was raised from the dead, proving that God’s anger over our sins of arrogance and unthankfulness was satisfied. So we thank God for His gift of life - for giving us faith and life in Christ. Without it, we would still be rotting in the grave.