Today, we are continuing our series called “If I Am in Christ.” Last week, we talked about how God designed us to be recipients of spiritual blessings. If we are in Christ, we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, purposed, and sealed. That’s the life God made us for, and it’s ours when we say yes to having Christ as our Savior.
Now this morning, we’re going to talk about God using us, his people, for good works and how He created us to live life through His grace.
You likely know the song “Amazing Grace,” and likely know many of the words to this popular song. I don’t know how anyone could figure this out, but this song is estimated to be sung approximately ten million times a year. For a 251 year old song, I’d say that’s pretty good.
This beloved hymn was written by a man named John Newton. He was born in 1725 in England and grew up in a Christian family. However, as he grew older, he strayed from his faith and became involved in a life of sin, working as a sailor and participating in the slave trade. During one particularly stormy night at sea, John Newton’s life took a dramatic turn. The ship he was on was battered by a fierce storm, and he feared for his life. And in that moment of desperation, he cried out to God for mercy and experienced a profound spiritual awakening.
After surviving the storm, Newton left the slave trade and dedicated his life to serving God. He became a minister and began to write hymns to express his faith and gratitude for God’s forgiveness and grace. “Amazing Grace” was one of those hymns and quickly became popular among Christians. The lyrics of the song reflects Newton’s personal journey of redemption and his deep appreciation for God’s amazing grace that saved a wretch like him.
And it’s that same amazing grace that sets God’s people free when we accept it for ourselves. Grace is the topic of the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
It’s believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians during his first imprisonment and did so to be a word of encouragement to the people of Ephesus. Here’s a man who has a lot of time on his hands and a lot of time to be thinking about this subject. In this chapter specifically, Paul explains that God’s grace is this overflow of His love for us. It’s like God loves us so much, but then He wants to give us even more.
POINT #1 – GOD’S GRACE IS AN OVERFLOW OF HIS LOVE FOR US
Paul begins by reminding his readers about their sinful states before they had Jesus’ grace. And how without that amazing grace, we would still be enemies of God. He stated that at one point everyone was set in their ways, living apart from God in their own sin. We can all relate to this so well because we’ve done this, everyone of us. And we know that before we can fully embrace God’s grace in our lives, we must first acknowledge that we are sinners, that we need to be rescued.
Sin separates us from God. It builds a wall. And the only way to take down that wall is to pay the punishment, pay the consequences. God loves us so much that He Himself came down in human form, died on a cross to pay for our punishment, all to save us from ourselves.
Many of us may not feel worthy or deserving to be rescued. Many are afraid that they’ve done way too much wrong and made way too many mistakes to ever have that kind of love and forgiveness. But God is love. He is our creator, and He wants to give us that love in spite of ourselves.
Verse 5, “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”
In our sin and in our flesh, we are undeserving of this grace. In our sin, we cannot cooperate with the plan God has for our lives. So Jesus says in John 3:3, “Unless a man is born again first, He cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus Himself is the gift of grace to give us new birth. God loves His creation so much that, out of His love, He sent Jesus. God’s grace is an overflowing outpouring of His love for us. It’s by God’s grace, and only by God’s grace, that we are made alive in Him.
POINT #2: GOOD WORKS ARE A RESULT OF GOD’S GRACE
Sometimes, we may find ourselves feeling like we haven’t done enough to deserve it. Others can develop a bit of an ego because they feel like they’ve done more than enough to earn it. But Paul says…
Ephesians 2: 8-10
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
The gift of grace is not ours to boast about. We didn’t do anything to earn it. It’s a gift. It can then be tempting to think we must pay God back for His grace in our lives. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth as well. It’s not about paying Him back. It’s about living into His plans. Plans that want the best for us, to prosper, not suffer.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
But again, in our sin, we cannot cooperate with the plan God has for our lives. But here’s where we can see the God’s plan all along.
In verse 10, Paul says we are God’s masterpiece. Some translations use the word handiwork or workmanship. The Greek word refers to something that has been made. In this case, we are considered an artwork made by God. How many of us need artwork? We don’t. God made humans out of an overflow of His love. Not because He need us. He wanted us. We’re like “divine pottery.”
Paul wants us to see we were created out of love for a purpose. We don’t just receive the love of Christ and then sit idly by waiting for heaven. We are called to bring heaven to earth. We were created for a purpose, for good works. It’s not our good works though that earn us the love of God. These good works are a result of God’s love for us.
Our ability to do good for the kingdom is all about God’s grace. It’s a “get to” with God, not a “have to.” When we experience salvation, we are made into new creations in Christ, living in a new way, including serving others, loving others, and meeting needs around us for the kingdom of God. God’s grace toward us becomes our grace toward others.
We didn’t earn God’s grace. There is nothing we could ever do to make God love us more or less. No amount of service or sacrifice will get us into heaven. It is only because of the sacrifice of Jesus that we get to experience eternity with God.
Paul has a lot to say about grace in other books as well.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
From the beginning of time, humans have wanted to hide their weaknesses. Especially today, it seems as if it’s better to hide anything that might make us feel less than. We want to present ourselves as whole and unflawed. We view our weaknesses as hindrances or the bad parts of us. But where does God say weakness is bad? Instead…
POINT #3: OUR WEAKNESS DRAWS US TO GOD
God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Our weakness allows God to fill in the gaps and to move in powerful ways. When we try to accomplish things on our own, it never works out well.
Our weakness also allows the Christian body to function in the way God desires. It emphasizes the importance of kingdom community and all the parts that make up the body of Christ. My strength might cover your weakness and your strength might cover my weakness.
Relying on God’s grace also allows us to refine our dependence on God. Paul’s a great example of this. Paul, first known as Saul, was a Jewish Pharisee who ruthlessly persecuted the early Christians. He considered them a threat to Judaism as a whole and wanted their influence eliminated. But God intervened. During a journey to Damascus, Paul had a life-altering encounter with Jesus. In that moment, Paul was struck blind and heard the voice of Jesus calling out to him.
Completely without sight, and I am sure full of fear, Paul spent three days in total darkness, weak and unable to eat or drink. It was during that time of weakness that he experienced a powerful transformation. Ananias, a faithful Jesus follower, was sent by God to restore Paul’s sight and baptize him. Paul’s physical weakness allowed him to rely fully on God’s strength and receive the spiritual revelation that ultimately transformed his life.
After his radical conversion, Paul became one of the most influential people in spreading the Gospel of Jesus. Despite facing so many challenges, Paul never lost faith in God’s power working in and through him.
Paul’s weakness allowed God’s power to be seen in him and magnified through him. His weaknesses and hardships became opportunities for God to pour out His love into his life. Paul’s life is a clear example of how weakness can be made perfect in God’s power. It’s through our humility and dependence on God that His strength is most evident, enabling us to overcome obstacles, sharing His love and bringing hope to others.
Paul’s an example of if in this life, all we have is Jesus, that’s enough.
I have often found that when I am closest to God, that’s when I am most dependent on Him. That relationship and grace should cause us to be grateful. When we get a full view of all God has done for us in Christ, we become exceedingly thankful. It’s because He’s there. He is never wavering. His love for us is all that satisfies. His grace in our lives is what gives our lives purpose. We should be so grateful for God’s grace that we gladly take part in His designed plan for our lives.
God made you intentionally just the way you are. He didn’t mess up. He didn’t leave anything out. You are not what you do; you are who you belong to. God’s grace is an overflow of His love for us, and good works are a result and overflow of our gratitude.
Father, thank you for your grace in our lives. Thank you for the tangible extension of grace found in your son, Jesus. Thank you for loving us just because we are your children. God, help us see and recognize your grace in our lives. Help us receive your love. Help us long to share our weaknesses with you so that we may be closer to you. Thank you that we are not perfect, but because of your grace, we get to experience your perfect love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.