When God was about to create man, according to a Jewish legend, He took into His counsel the angels that stood about his throne. “Create him not,” said the angel of Justice, “for if Thou dost he will commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellow men; he will be hard and cruel and dishonest and unrighteous.” “Create him not,” said the angel of Truth, “for he will be false and deceitful to his brother-man, and even to Thee.” “Create him not,” said the angel of Holiness, “he will follow that which is impure in Thy sight, and dishonor Thee to thy face.”
Then stepped forward the angel of Mercy (God’s best beloved) and said: “Create him, our Heavenly Father for when he sins and turns from the path of right and truth and holiness I will take him tenderly by the hand, and speak loving words to him, and then lead him back to Thee.”
I have just introduced you to one of my best friends in life, mercy. As we go on today I will introduce you to a couple more, for we are going on a journey together. And if you embark on this journey with me you will never be the same. Oh, I promise you this journey will be like none other that you have ever been on, this journey will not only save your life, but rescue your very soul.
Before we leave on this journey it is important to know where we are at present. If you leave on a journey, embark on an adventure, or head off on a great quest it is important that you prepare for the trip. With that said would you please turn to Ephesians 2:1-10 with me this morning?
This scripture not only tells us where we were or are, but it tells us where we are going, as well as how to get there. Ephesians 2:1-10
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. 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. 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.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)
So who was the apostle Paul talking to in this passage? He says in the very first verse. Paul says he is talking to those who were dead. Now the people Paul was talking to were not some kind of freaky zombies or vampires. They were not the undead we would see in the horror movies, but those that were dead in sin. It was a spiritual death not a physical death for sinners are very much alive. Fact some sinners on the surface seem to have everything going for them. Paul was talking to those separated from God because of their sinful lives. If God was over here, these people were over here. (walk from one side of the stage to the other)
There was a chasm between God and these people. Sin literally separated these people from God. They could not cross over by themselves. Some of these people over here had it made in the world. They had it all, except for God. Some were seen by their friends and family members as outstanding people, yet they still had sin in their lives and were thus separated from God.
And some of these people were down right nasty. They might have been the worst of the worst, the pit of society. These may have been the people you would never invite home to meet your parents; they were evil in every way. Yet, they shared the same side of this chasm with those that seemed to have it all together.
You see sins is a tricky subject. It means you miss the target. Imagine with me that behind me is a big round red and white target. You have all seen targets like that. Right in the center is the bull’s-eye; it is God will, his desire. To sin means you hit the target somewhere else. Some arrows miss the target altogether and some may hit the target, yet without hitting the bulls eye, it is considered a sin. Sin is the failure to hit the bulls eye, it is the failure to hit the bulls eye of life, to do something that is outside of God’s will or outside of His desire.
A girl knelt in the confessional and said, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
"What is it, child?"
"Father, I have committed the sin of vanity. Twice a day I gaze at myself in the mirror and tell myself how beautiful I am."
The priest turned, took a good look at the girl, and said, "My dear, I have good news. That isn’t a sin - it’s only a mistake."
If only our sins were merely mistakes and not sin. For the Bible says to take sin very seriously. In Romans 6:23 it says that the wages of sin is death. So now our scripture comes full circle. The people Paul was talking to were dead in sin. They were missing the bulls eye, they were missing the desire of God. They were not merely making mistakes but were making deliberate acts against God and His righteousness and thus were failing to live as they should. The scripture says they were following the world and not following God.
The middle of the target is not only God’s will and desire but the middle of the target is Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not the center of our lives, we can not hit the bulls eye no matter how carefully we aim. If you do not know Jesus Christ then you too are a dead man or a dead woman. If He is not the center, then you are as lost as the people Paul was talking to.
But there is hope, there is hope for sinners. Paul does not end the story there. He gives us all hope for our lives. Look at the next couple verses. It says, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead.” Praise the Lord. This is the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. My friends here is the good news, there is hope.
God made these dead people alive, those who were once dead and now living. Here is where we will meet my friends again. We met the first one, mercy already. The next friends we will meet are Love and Grace. The scripture says that God, because of his great love, his mercy, and because of grace made us alive once again. I have heard mercy and grace explained this way. Grace is giving us something we do not deserve and mercy is not giving us something we do deserve.
His great love literally means he is seeking out the greatest good in us. He wants the best for us. God loves you just how you are right now. His love for you is not dependent of what you have done in the past. You do not have to be a great person to earn God’s love. It is there already. He made you and so He loves you. In fact God loves you so much he refuses to leave you they way He finds you. His love is so great that God always wants something greater for us.
God is also rich in mercy. We said before that the wages of sin is death. Therefore, if we sin we deserve death; we deserve to have the spiritual death that Paul was talking about. We deserve to be separated from God. Remember the chasm? We deserve to be over there, away from God. But God in His great love says if we would just cry out to Him and accept his gift He will literally close the gap between us.
Wait a minute. What gift? That is where we meet our third friend, grace. Remember that because God loves us and because of His mercy towards us, He gives us a gift. Read verse 6 with me, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” So what is the gift?
The gift is Jesus Himself and though Jesus we are saved. You probably know the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It says that if we accept the gift of Jesus into our hearts then we will be seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms. The gift is Jesus and eternal life but it is because of grace. Remember grace is getting something that we do not deserve. We do not deserve Jesus. We do not deserve the price he paid for our sins. If the wages of sin is death, then Jesus already paid our wages for us when he died on the cross. We do not deserve such a gift. Yet, it is available to all who choose to accept it.
The scripture says that if we accept this gift from God then will be raised up. I believe that Paul was also talking about a new status, God will raise us up to a new level if you will. If we accept Him we will have a new life. Col 3:1-2 says, “Since, then you have been raised up with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things above, not on earthly things.” We are to be raised up to a new mindset, one where we will start following God and not the ways of the world.
God will do to us what He did for His own son. Jesus died physically for our sins, we are dead spiritually because of our sins. Christ is seated physically with God right now, if we accept Jesus and His sacrifice for us we have claimed a spiritual seat right next to Jesus. We no longer belong to this world, we are no longer earthly citizens, we belong to a heavenly realm.
So how do I get this gift? How do I accept it? Those are two of the most wonderful questions because we get to meet another friend this morning, faith. Read with me verse 8, “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
God is freely giving us the gift of salvation through his grace. He is giving us a gift we do not deserve but it is ours anyway, because of our faith in Him. All we have to do is believe in Him, trust in Him and the gift is ours. It is as simple as that. Just accept what God has done for you because of His great love for you and the gift is yours. It is by God’s grace because of our faith in Him.
It is not by works, you may be the best person on earth. The world may see you as the most kind, generous, bighearted person around, but none of this means anything. You can never work your way into heaven, you can never earn more of God’s love. On the other hand, you may think you are the worst person around. You may be thinking of something that you did right now, something that you think will forever separate you from God. You may be thinking that God could never love you, that He would never accept you, that He wants nothing to do with you because you are so vile. There will never be a person on this earth that God does not love, including you. The gift of His son is free to all. It can not be bought. You can not get it on the racks at Wal-mart, you can not get it on clearance, you can not get it at the food pantry up town, you will never find it.
One Sunday night D. L. Moody preached in a big circus tent near the Columbian Exposition in Chicago from the text, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save the lost.” After he had finished, a little boy was brought to the platform by an officer who had found the child wandering in the crowd, lost. Mr. Moody took him in his arms and asked the crowd to look at the lost child. Said he: “The father is more anxious to find the boy than the boy is to be found. It is just so with our Heavenly Father, for long years He has been following you, oh, sinner. He is following you still!”
At that moment a man with a blanched face elbowed his way to the platform. The boy saw him and, running, threw himself into his father’s outstretched arms. The multitude that witnessed the scene, broke into a mighty cheer. “This is how,” cried Mr. Moody, “will God receive you if you will only run to Him today.”
I want to invite you to an exciting new experience in your life, a continuation of the work Christ began, for He who began a good work in your life is faithful to complete it. I want to invite you to continue on this journey that Jesus has in store for you. I want to invite you to slip out of your pews this morning as Kathryn comes up to play something for us.