Amazing Grace!

February 22, 2009

Text: Ephesians 2:1-10

Grace is God’s goodness to those who do not deserve it, who deserve the opposite – namely, judgment.

Many Christians have lost a sense of wonder and awe about the grace of God. Some of us no longer know what it really means. I believe it has to do with these three reasons. First, this lost is due in part to our wrong view of ourselves before we became Christians. We know we are bad but most of us would like to think that we are not that bad anyway. Second, most of us do not realize how much God has done to put us to where we stand right now. Some would want to think that God is obligated to save us. Third, we don’t know what really took place in our conversion from darkness to light, from death to life, from misery to everlasting joy. Some of us believe that we have something to do with that.

I want to deal with that three reasons why we are not that amazed with the grace of God anymore. I will give you three reasons, based on Ephesians 2:1-10, why the grace of God is so amazing. Join me in this great task of Putting the Amazing Back into Grace, the burden of Michael Horton’s book. And as we do, may we humble ourselves before God and praise his name for his grace is so amazing. Even the least of what he has done for us is something that none of us deserve.

What makes the grace of God so amazing? Let me give three reasons.

The Depth of Human Depravity

We must first look to the depth of the pit where we have fallen, and where the grace of God rescued us.  We can separate our life into two: one before we came to know Christ, and one after. What characterizes our former life was the corruption that we have because we were dead in our sins.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (2:1-3).

The grace of God is so amazing because of the depth of the corruption of our hearts when we were still separated from Christ. 

To highlight God’s richness in mercy, great love and to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness, he referred in verse 5 to the fact that God made us alive “even when we were dead in our trespasses.” This was his point in the first three verses. He wants them to know the depth of the pit where they have fallen. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (2:1-2). They were dead men walking. To be “dead” is to be incapable of responding to God in a positive way. We do not have the ability to please God (Rom. 8:7-8). That is the meaning of being dead. Have you tried talking to a dead person? Have you tried giving flowers to a dead person? How did he respond? He did not respond at all. That’s how we were apart from Christ. We were dead.

We are showing the corruption of our human heart by following the ways of this world, by following the ruler of this world, and by following the lusts of our hearts. We were “following the course of this world.” We live in a world which hates Christ. Rebellious, violent, promiscuous, adulterous, idolatrous, liars, thieves, murderers – these are the kind of persons living in this world. We were running on that track. There is no such thing as “mabait na makasalanan.” We were all bad.

Aside from the world, we were also “following the prince of the power of the air.” This is not other than Satan, the ruler of the sinful world. When we were still outside of Christ, we were under Satan’s rule. We were children of the devil, “the sons of disobedience.” When we are sinning, Satan is at work.

The world and the devil are two external forces that contribute to the corruption of our heart because of sins. Yet we cannot blame these outside system for our sinfulness. We are responsible for our sins. We all “once lived in the passions of our flesh.” We want to get what we want. We want to live independently of God. We want to be in control.

Our “deadness” resulted in us being “by nature children of wrath.” We were not at all different from the rest of the world. What does “children of wrath” mean? It means that we are under God’s anger. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). If we have not known Christ, we were destined to suffer everlasting punishment in hell, shut off from the presence of God forever.

I just read last week in a newspaper that a 13-year old boy from London became a new father when his 15-year old girlfriend gave birth. Here in our country, there is a theatrical show entitled The Amazing Show, a show highlighting transvestites. We hear of these and react how bad our world has gone. But Paul wants us to realize that we were just like them! We are no better than them. We were all dead! There is no such thing as half-dead or sort-of-dead. It is either we were dead or we were alive. It is true that some is more corrupted than who we were before but we were still all dead.

Look at your past and do not ever forget the miserable state you were in. We have a tendency to forget who we were and what we have done. I am not good at keeping childhood memories. Unlike my brother who can remember the things that happened to me when even I can’t remember. In case you forget who you were and what you have done before, I am here to make you remember. We will be amazed at the grace of God if we will consider how dirty and unworthy and hopeless we were before. The next time you watched a TV and saw a murderer, or robber, or rapist, or corrupt politicians in the news, say to yourself, “It was like me before I knew Christ; or, It could have been me if I had not experienced his gracious work in my life.”

Right perception of his past life was what keeps Paul constantly amazed at the grace of God.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,  (13)  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,  (14)  and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

 The Riches of Our New Life in Christ

Like Paul, we also have good reasons to thank God. We had a miserable past because we were sinners by nature. But now is totally different. We have riches because of our new life in Christ. It is not enough to see who you were before, you need to see who you are now.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (2:4-7).

The grace of God is so amazing because of the riches of our new life now that we are in Christ. We were under God’s wrath then, but not anymore. What motivates God in doing this? His goodness by nature. He is “rich in mercy” and “because of the great love with which he loved us” (v. 4).

How did God show his rich mercy and great love and the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us”? Not by giving us health or wealth or success. He “made us alive together with Christ.” He “raised us up with him.” We are no longer “dead.” He rescued us from this miserable state by giving us life so that we may please and glorify God. And not only that, he “seated  us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We were destined for judgment, but now God has put us in the position of authority. God gave us all these things because of what Christ has done for us and because of our union with him through faith in his name.

Look at the difference. We were dead before, now we are alive. We were following the ways of the world and were disobedient before, now we are raised up to new life of obedience to and faith in God. We were under Satan’s dominion before, now we are now under the rule of Christ, and are co-rulers with him. Before God’s wrath is upon us, now we are recipients of his mercy, love, grace, and kindness.

What is God’s purpose in doing these? “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v. 7). God has poured out his blessings upon us so that he will be praised and glorified when his grace is manifested.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:3, 5-6).

He is worthy of praise for what he had done for us. He did not just cancel your debts; he has even opened a million-dollar account in your name. He did not just give you a presidential pardon; he also appointed you to a high position in the government. He did not just take you out of the streets when he saw you begging for food; he also brought you home to feast on his banquet table.

You owe someone very powerful millions of pesos and he has the right to send you to jail for the rest of your life because you cannot pay. One day this man came to you and say, “Forget the debts. Someone paid for it. And besides, here is a check worth one million pesos.” How will you respond? In deep gratitude, right? We must continually thank God because of the riches he bestowed on us. We must attribute it to the work of his grace. We do not deserve it. We deserve the opposite of his goodness. Thank him because he gave you what you do not deserve. Our thanksgiving must be in proportion to what we have received. Make it the first thing you will do every morning throughout the week starting tomorrow. When you wake up, say to God, “Thank you, Lord, for the gift of eternal life you gave me because of what Christ has done for me.”

What We Did to Earn It is…Nothing!

What really happened? How did we arrive at this position of riches in Christ? The answer is none other than the grace of God. His grace makes it possible for us to transfer from death to life, from darkness to life, from hatred to love. And this is the reason God’s grace would be revealed:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (2:8-10).

 The grace of God is so amazing because we did nothing to earn it. “By grace you have been saved through faith.” Everything we experience right now is because of his work. None of it can be credited to us. No Christian can ever say to God, “Look, God, for what I have done for you. I deserve to enter your kingdom, right?” Salvation is only by grace because it cancels any human boasting before God. We are so used to receiving pays during the 15th or 30th of the month that we forget that salvation is not something we received because we worked hard for it. Remember, it is all because of God’s work. We did nothing to earn his favor. What we did is earn his disfavor. Salvation and all of life is 100% God’s grace. It is not 50-50 or even 90-10.

We are not saved because of what we did. “This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” It is a gift that God has given to his enemies! It is not a wage that we earned because we worked hard for God. We are not saved because of our good works; we are saved for good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…”

What about faith? Isn’t is something that we did that makes us saved? It is true that faith is your response to God’s grace, but faith cannot be considered your “contribution” to your salvation. It is a means, yes. But not the ground or basis for your salvation. Faith is not something we do, it is just receiving what Christ has already done for us.

Let us say I promised to give my wife a frontseat ticket to the Eraserheads concert. But on one condition, she needs to make sure the house is clean when I get back home. I got home. I did not find her there. The house is still messy. I chose to clean the house myself. She got back home and remembered what I promised her. She’s sad because she knew she lost the ticket because the house is in mess when I arrived. But to her surprise, I still gave her the ticket. I did not violate my condition. The house is clean now so I can give her the ticket. That’s grace, right? Then, she received the ticket that I gave her. That’s faith, right? It is not something she worked for. She just received the reward of what I did for her.

We have no reason to boast before God because everything we received is only because of his grace. We cannot say that we are better or more righteous than our neighbor because we believed in Christ and they did not. We cannot say that God saw our potential for ministry when he chose us. We cannot say that God found something good inside us, that is why his heart was moved to save us. We cannot say that we deserve his goodness.

Meditating on God’s grace will keep us on the ground. Someone said, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” I was with more than a hundred pastors last week during ABCCOP’s National Assembly. I was tempted to say that I deserve to be there. “I am still young and now I am a pastor!” But no, I remember that I do not deserve to be there. Thinking about that will help us keep us from boasting about our accomplishments.

Just last night, I found it hard to finish preparing for this sermon. One reason is because I was tired. Another reason is because I felt inside me that I do not deserve to be here. I thought of what I have done to hurt my God in the past, and he will still be gracious to me. He gave me a lot more than I deserve. And it is not because of something I did for him. It is not because I worked harder than any of you. I lay in my bed that night and meditate on the grace of God, amazed of his undeserved goodness in my life. I listened to Chris Tomlin’s version of Amazing Grace over and over again.

We all need to be reminded of God’s grace over and over again. Don’t forget who you were before, who you are now, and what God did to make you who you are now from who you are before. Listen to God’s amazing grace and let us humble ourselves before him and praise his holy name.

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