Summary: A sermon about the kindness, grace and love of God.
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN www.eastridgeumc.com
Several years ago, before GPS systems were the norm, I was driving across the country, and among the people I wanted to meet up with was an old high school buddy.
He lived on the edge of Baltimore…so I was in new territory.
We made plans that I would drive to his apartment that he rented with some other recent college grads, and stay a few days.
He gave me detailed instructions on how to find him.
But, when I was on my way it was dark, and raining, and I managed to get on the wrong highway.
Or, rather, it was the right highway, but I was going the wrong direction on it.
Since he had told me to go ten miles or so before looking for the signs to turn off, I didn’t worry until I’d gone at least twelve or fifteen miles and none of the signs were making sense.
Can any of you relate to this kind of situation?
Anyhow, finally, I turned off and asked for directions.
The guy at the convenience store hadn’t even heard of the part of town I was looking for, never mind the street!!!
I was totally in the wrong part of the city.
Only gradually, when I studied the map, did I realize my mistake.
I had been driving confidently, believing I was doing the right thing, but with every minute I had been going further and further and further away from where I wanted to be.
The story ended happily.
But it illustrates a bit of the point that Paul is making in the first three verses of this chapter.
We live in a world where we human beings, left to ourselves, not only choose the wrong direction, but remain cheerfully confident that it is in fact the right one.
It is, after all, a fine road, much travelled and well worn.
Paul calls it “following the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…”, and it will lead to disaster and absolute ruin!
The problem is, though, even if we recognize this, what can we do about it?
If we are already heading the wrong way down the road, with no hope of turning off, let alone turning back, and apparently no brake on the car to enable us to stop—what hope can there be?
There are forces which pull us, lure us, and compel us to keep going in the wrong direction.
What power do we have over them?
What power do we have to resist?
And, to top it off, often, what seems right, actually isn’t.
Satan’s deadly ideas and schemes for defacing God’s beautiful creation and in particular—God’s image-bearing human creatures, are, as Paul puts it “in the air.”
So, what is the answer?
The only answer is the one provided by God.
The only way to be saved from the total destruction of our human-ness is provided by God through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Listen again to verse 4: “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…”
The sheer, almost unbelievable, magnificent kindness of God!!!
In 4 short verses Paul describes God’s kindness in several different ways!
God is rich in mercy…
God loves us with a great love…
…God’s sheer grace has saved us…
…God’s grace is beyond words…
…God has lavished kindness upon us!!!
If anyone tries to imply that God is a bit stingy, or mean, or small-minded, look at these verses and think again!!!
It’s possible that lots of people who are heading at a high speed in the wrong direction might want to think of God as a joy kill—just as people who are enjoying their drive don’t like it if someone tells them they are going the wrong way, and that they are about to pass the last chance to turn off and head back again.
But God is not a “joy-kill”; God is a “Joy-Giver”!!!
And the crucial factor is Jesus Christ.
Take away His Resurrection, and for all anybody knows, the road to death is the only road there is!
But thanks be to God, there is another way!!!!
And we are all urgently called to turn around and follow it.
But how do we “jump the tracks”?
How do we get going in the right direction?
What can we do?
We have been born with a sinful nature.
That’s where the astonishment and relief come in!!!