Summary: Grace makes a difference for eternity, and a difference already for this life.
Since 1993 magazines have carried ads featuring famous people wearing a milk moustache. Do you remember the tagline that goes with the ad? That’s right. “Got milk?” The point of the ad is clear. If you drink milk, you too will be strong and handsome like the person featured in the ad.
Milk is certainly good for you, but there is something else that we all desperately need. This “thing” makes a difference not only in this life, but also for eternity. What is it? It’s grace, God’s undeserved love. “Got grace?” we might ask, because without it you have no life and you have no future. Thankfully our sermon text tells us that we can give a resounding “Yes!” to that question. We’ve got grace! Let’s learn again why God’s grace is such a treasure and how it makes a difference for eternity and for this life.
In order to understand why God’s grace makes a difference for eternity we need to first go back in time and look at how God once viewed us. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said in the verses before our text. “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).
When you get out the family album to look at old pictures, you usually end up laughing at the kind of fashion and hairstyle choices we made decades ago. Why did anyone ever think that big hair, and baby-powder blue suits with wide lapels were cool? Old fashions and hairstyles are a laughing matter, but the way we once spiritually looked to God is not. Paul says that at one time we were dead in our sins. We shouldn’t think that we were passively dead, like a battery that no longer has any charge. Such a battery is certainly useless, but it’s hardly offensive. You can keep a bag full of dead batteries around and it’s not going to start smelling, change color, and attract flies like old hamburger meat would. That’s why when you’re cleaning up after dinner, you dump food scraps into a bin which is taken out every night and not left in the house to rot and to stink.
But that’s the kind of dead we were – a rotten, offensive kind of dead. Oh sure, you’ve always felt alive, but before you were brought to faith you gave into your sinful nature without a fight. You may have been in the habit of spreading gossip around the school and office about others. Or like the Israelites in the Old Testament, you might have been a chronic grumbler never satisfied with the food set before you, complaining that it was too hot, too salty, too slow, or too cold. And even when you did something that was good and kind, you always had an ulterior motive, even if only it was to have someone thank you. Come to think of it, we’re often still this way!
Like a piece of rotten meat that is thrown out with disgust, that’s what God should have done with us. But listen to what Paul announces: “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” (Ephesians 2:4, 5). Paul helps us understand what “grace” means when he said that God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our sins. In other words, God doesn’t love you because you managed to clean up your act. He loves you even though you continued to be his enemy and continued to remain mired in sin. He demonstrated that undeserved love when he sent his Son to pay for the sins of the world. That’s why the theme of this sermon is not “Got grace?” with a question mark, but “We’ve got grace!” with an exclamation mark! You do have God’s love and that makes a difference for eternity. It means that you don’t have to fear death or hell. Because of God’s grace you are forgiven and heaven and eternal life are yours.
Treasure this grace which has saved you. Treasure it by remembering the effort it took. God didn’t simply push a “save” button on a cosmic computer up in heaven like you do when you’re saving an important document. No, the saving of sinners took blood and suffering, not the simple push of a button. God’s Son Jesus went through hell to save you and me. Paul hammers home that truth by saying six times in seven verses that grace comes to us “in” or “with” Christ. Yes, God has been gracious to all, but not everyone will go to heaven. That’s because heaven is only given to those who have faith in Jesus as their savior from sin. The good news is that even this faith is something that God gives to us, as Paul wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).