What Is Christianity All About?
Book Sermon in Ephesians
Discussion: What is Christianity all about?
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins …
1) It’s not about what we’ve been …
It’s about what we are.
“God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ.” (Eph 2:1a, 4b-5a)
“In the gospel, we discover we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed.”
Discussion: What would you describe as your greatest accomplishment?
Illustration/Contrast - Private Ryan scene …
Tom Hanks – is sitting on the ground. He’s been shot and he’s dying. The battle has been won.
Private Ryan leans over to him, and Tom Hanks whispers something to him. Private Ryan bent down and Tom Hanks said, ‘Earn this.’ That statement runs counter to the motto of the Army Rangers, ‘Sua sponte, I chose this.’
You would never hear that from Jesus. So when you look at the cross and see Jesus hanging there, what you do not hear is ‘Earn this.’ You never hear Jesus say, ‘Earn this.’ He doesn’t say, ‘I’ve given everything for you. Now you need to gut it out for me.” What he says is ‘Sua sponte.’ I volunteered for this. You don’t have to pay anything for it.
2) It’s not about what we do…
“I’m not a practicant, but I pray. I read the Bible. It’s not the most beautiful book ever written. I should go to heaven; otherwise it’s not nice. I haven’t done anything wrong. My conscience is very clean. My soul is as white as those orchids over there, and I should go straight to heaven.” Sophia Loren, USA Today, February 4, 1999
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
It’s about what’s been done.
“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.” (Eph 2:8-9)
Illustration/Story – Good Works Inadequate
When a pastor named Michael was still in seminary, he took a required course in ‘clinical pastoral education.’ Each seminarian was assigned to be a chaplain in a hospital or other institution, and one night each was on call for emergencies. Late one night, the phone rang, and Michael was called to Alexian Brothers Medical Center in the Chicago suburbs.
A 16-year-old girl had been driving at night with friends, and she had backed into a light pole. The pole had broken off and then fallen forward, crashing down onto the car. A 12-year-old friend in the car had been severely injured; in fact, she was brain dead when she arrived at the hospital. Michael walked with the 12-year-old’s family as they went through the wrenching process of realizing the truth and allowing the life support to be removed.
The following morning, Michael visited the hospital room of the 16-year-old driver. Physically, she was recovering well, but emotionally, she was distraught knowing that her actions had killed her friend. “I’m going to be like a daughter to her parents,” she told Michael. “I’m going to go over to their house every day and baby-sit for them. I’ll wash dishes for them every night. I’ll go over there every week and mow their lawn.”
Michael gradually helped her realize the truth that no matter what she did, she could never replace their daughter. She could never do enough to make up for her actions. All she could do was ask for forgiveness and hope that the parents would find it in their hearts to forgive her.
The parents who lost their daughter, amazingly, did forgive this girl. She was set free from trying to pay back a debt she could never repay no matter what she did.
In our relationship to God, we have sinned so greatly that nothing we do could ever make up for it. But there is a way out: God is willing to forgive us.
3) It’s not about me …
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Eph 2:11-13)
We tend to make statements like this “Jesus & Me” statements. But if we continue further it is not just about Jesus and me. It is about overcoming an us & them.
Christianity is imminently personal. But was never meant to be private.
It’s about us.
“His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, through which he put to death their hostility.” (Eph 2:15b-16)
“As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-3)
In New York it is illegal to throw a ball at someone’s head for fun.
In Connecticut you are not allowed to walk across the street on your hands.
In Tennessee it is illegal to lasso a catfish.
In Vermont it is illegal for a woman to wear false teeth without the written permission of her husband.
In San Francisco people classified as ugly may not walk down the street.
4) It’s not about rules…
“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse … clearly no one is justified before God by the law.” (Gal 3:10a, 11a)
It’s about relationships.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph 5:1-2)
Timothy mimicking me – doing what I do.
Illustration – Remember who you are
On May 28, 1972, the Duke of Windsor, the uncrowned King Edward VIII, died in Paris. On the dame evening, a television program recounted the main events of his life. Viewers watched film footage in which the duke answered questions about his upbringing, his brief reign, and his eventual abdication.
Recalling his boyhood as Prince of Wales, he said, “My father was a strict disciplinarian. Sometimes when I had done something wrong, he would admonish me, saying, ‘My dear boy, you must always remember who you are.’”
It is my conviction that our heavenly Father says the same to us every day: “My dear child, you must always remember who you are.”