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25th May 2014
At the start of Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul gives us a reality check. He says that all of humanity is in the same boat – we are all dead in our trespasses and sins. We can see that there is bad in the world, but the reality is that there is bad in all of us. We don’t have to be taught to be naughty or defiant.
We can imagine that God has set us lots of rules and regulations, but actually He gives us warnings about what is good for us and what isn’t. He also tells us about the consequences of wandering outside of what He knows is good for us.
God’s love and holiness aren’t competing – they’re complementing each other. Everything was permissible for Adam and Eve, except eating from one tree. When God told them that to eat from it would lead to death, He wasn’t threatening them with a punishment – He was warning them of an inevitable consequence. Just like a phone will eventually die if it’s not plugged into a power source, so death is the inevitable consequence if we are not connected to the source of life: Jesus.
Does this make you feel like the good news is more like awkward news? We can feel uncomfortable when people ask us how a God of love could send people to hell, but that’s as ridiculous as asking how dare a police officer give us speeding tickets when we drive too fast! We need to take ownership of our sin and the consequences of it.
But the answer is grace! The Bible is the greatest rescue story ever written – it’s about the God who loved His people so much that He grabbed hold of people who were running hard and fast away from Him, towards death, and set them free. Jesus took all of the debt that we owed – the consequences of our sin – and in return we get all of His riches. ALL OF HIS RICHES!
We receive blessing after blessing after blessing – “the incomparable riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7). God’s grace is excessive and it is wonderful!
Now that Jesus has died and risen, a right standing with God is no longer based on what we do, but on whom we are. We cannot earn our salvation; no amount of good deeds can buy favour with God. We don’t receive faith or grace by doing ‘good works’, but then Paul writes that we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works”! But the order of what’s written in this passage is very important: there’s nothing wrong with faith, grace or works, but if you get them in the wrong order, you don’t have Christianity.
It’s not supposed to go ‘do this, do that, keep busy, perform well, and PS there’s grace and faith to help you’. No. The truth is that you were saved by grace, through faith – and PS these will equip you to do the good works that God has planned for you to do. Just like a baby’s first cry is just a sign of life rather than giving the baby life, so your good works don’t bring you life, they are signs of life.
Our ‘good works’ are whatever God has called and planned for us to do. Everything you do that is a blessing from God that is done for God’s glory is a good work. There’s no such thing as a sacred job or a secular job for the Christian – if you love Jesus, whatever you’re doing is a worshipful job. It’s a good work. Do it for Him. Don’t underestimate the value that God has placed on you or the things He has called you to.
Q1. Are you plugged into the life-source, Jesus?
Q2. Think about what it means to get all of God’s riches. What does that include?
Q3. Are your good works flowing out of grace and faith, or have you got them in the wrong order?
Download the sermon 'So what about grace?' here.
Posted by Aled Cousins