Tag Archives: grace

You Are Adopted (Eph. 1:5-6)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky, on the 2nd day of September 2018, during the morning service:


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their two dogs, Susie and Aries.

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Review: Finally Free by Heath Lambert

The use of pornography is a prevalent problem today among nearly every group of people—men and women, teens and adults, and believers and unbelievers. It has devastated hundreds of people, wrecked marriages, and even destroyed lives. Many great minds have put forth an abundance of resources about pornography and its devastating effects—books, self-help articles, and documentaries. Frankly, the amount of information on the internet about pornography is innumerable. But Heath Lambert’s work is refreshingly distinct. This book is not a book about pornography—this is a book about overcoming it. Lambert is an experienced counselor and a wise teacher who knows about the gripping power of pornography. In Finally Free, Lambert offers a persuasive and compelling case for incapacitating the sin of pornography through the grace of God in Christ.

Summary

The premise of the book is simple: believers who struggle with the sin of pornography can overcome it through the grace of God. Lambert begins the book by taking the reader to the start of the road to sexual purity—beginning where one should begin in overcoming sin: the grace of God. God’s grace is the foundation in the fight against pornography (and all sin). The grace of God both forgives and transforms, Lambert argues, and the grace of forgiveness and transformation are exactly what sinners engulfed in pornography desperately need. He contends that God’s grace to change a person is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy a person. At the same time, Lambert does caution readers that if they are drowning in pornography, they should read subsequent chapters and immediately start implementing the radical measures he describes in order to overcome pornography.

Flowing from the Bible’s teaching about grace, Lambert then unfolds eight grace-empowered strategies for overcoming and defeating the sin of pornography. This is the main part of the book and in it (chaps. 2-9), he asserts that pornography can be defeated through biblical, practical, and radical approaches. Lambert explains that Christians can use godly sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, spouses, humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Christ to overthrow the grip of pornography. Each of these emphasize that overcoming pornography requires strategies that are thoroughly biblical, intensely personal, and sometimes hurtfully sacrificial. But they are all worth it and all empowered by the grace of God.

The book concludes with a stunning and encouraging call to holiness and hope. In the conclusion, Lambert compels readers to holiness and purity but also points them to the hope in Jesus Christ as they wage the battle against pornography. There are other features of the book that are extremely helpful in the battle with pornography. One is the practical suggestions found at the end of each chapter. Lambert lists three or four proactive ideas for how to employ the strategy explained in the preceding chapter. Another great feature of the book is the appendix—Lambert offers much help for people who know others who are struggling with pornography. One final feature which is excellent are the many testimonies laced throughout the book. At every turn, Lambert has included real-life stories of shame, defeat, and even victory that both warn and encourage the reader.

Interaction and Evaluation

Lambert’s approach to this book is the only approach to take—overcoming sin by God’s grace alone. I found that regularly and refreshingly helpful. In previously counseling others, I have often heard very self-dependent statements like, “If only I could quit this,” or “I swear that I am not going to do this again!” I struggled with pornography long ago and I said those exact things. Lambert has pointed out why focusing on “I” will always result in failure. We must focus on Christ and the grace He gives in order to overcome pornography or any sin, for that matter.

I have also found that the failure of many other books on pornography is that they only give you information about pornography. They try to tell you how bad pornography is, but not how to overcome it. Certainly, we need to know how bad it is—which Lambert himself explains. But struggling Christians need more than information—we need transformation. And this only occurs by employing the grace-empowered strategies outlined in the book. There is sufficient application in this book—I don’t think Lambert could have applied the teaching of Scripture more than he did.

Conclusion

Finally Free is aimed at helping people become just that—finally free from the choking grip of pornography—finally free to live a life of joyful purity. For those engulfed in this egregious sin—you don’t need to try harder and you don’t need to have better intentions. What you need is the grace of God and Heath Lambert will point you right to it. He shows you what tools you can use in this fight and how you can stay on the path to victory. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone else, Lambert offers the most biblical, practical, and urgent solutions for becoming finally free from pornography.

Buy on Amazon here. 

Turning Away from the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-7)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 26th day of November 2017:

Understanding Spiritual Riches (1 Cor. 1:4-6)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY in September 2017:

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you” (1 Corinthians 1:4-6, ESV)

Riches Beneath Our Feet

There is a large gold mine over in Queensland, Australia known as the Mount Morgan gold mine. Mount Morgan was a copper, gold and silver mine in Australia and it was the largest gold mine in the entire world at one time. To give you some perspective, they mined for copper, gold, and silver from 1882 until 1981—and during that time the mine yielded about 262 tons of gold, 37 tons of silver, and 387,000 tons of copper.

Before discovery of the gold mine, there were people who lived on the mountain’s barren surface. They were the original land owners, and they lived very poor lives. If you look at pictures of Mount Morgan you can clearly observe that, and see that whoever lived there obviously had a hard life of poverty—there isn’t a lot of good farm land, vegetation, or trees. And so for many years, the original land owners lived in deep poverty there. Even though the vast wealth of the gold mine was completely out of sight to them, it was beneath their feet the whole time.

If they had only discovered the wealth they already owned, they wouldn’t have lived impoverished and poor lives—instead they would have been wealthy, enriched, and supplied throughout the rest of their lives and the generations which would follow them. The only thing that separated them from living a rich life was their failure to discover the riches they already had in their possession.

And you know, I find that many of us as believers are in a similar situation. We are not living spiritually wealthy lives because we have failed to understand that God has made us spiritually rich in Christ. He who has ears to hear, let him hear that it is a serious mistake when we as believers fail to understand that we have been made spiritually rich.

Scripture teaches that God has given us a wealth and abundance of spiritual riches and resources to enable us to live the Christian life—to live lives which are spiritually wealthy to His glory. But often times, we are either completely unaware that God has done this for us, or we don’t believe it because it is so unheard of. When was the last time you heard a sermon on this? When was the last time you heard someone preach on how we have been given great spiritual riches to live a spiritually rich life?

Most of the time, we are struggling along in our Christian lives. Our devotional life, evangelism, discipleship, and church involvement would be more appropriately called poor than rich. But the truth is—God has made believers spiritually rich at conversion. He has given us everything we need to live a spiritually wealthy life. He has given us everything we need to be rich in pleasing Him, rich in glorifying Him, wealthy in magnifying His name. Christ did say, “How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23), but it is just as true that those who are in the kingdom of God are very wealthy spiritually. The only problem is, we often fail to discover the spiritual riches which are beneath our feet—spiritual riches which God has given to us that we therefore have in our possession.

Spiritual riches, if you don’t know, are good things which God has given to us through Christ which either affect who we are or how we live. There are spiritual riches pertaining to who we are—our identity; and there our spiritual riches pertaining to how we live—things which God gives us to obey Him in this life. There are spiritual riches or blessings concerning who we are (Ephesians 1:3-13), and there are spiritual riches or blessings concerning how we live (2 Peter 1:3).

Paul speaks of the spiritual riches which concern our identity in Ephesians 1 saying, “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” (v. 3, emphasis mine). Paul goes on to mention several of these spiritual blessings as they relate to who we are. Believers are chosen by God, adopted, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, recipients of His grace, and sealed for eternity (vv. 4-14).

The apostle Peter best captures the idea of spiritual riches which concern our living in 2 Peter 1 saying, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (v. 3). The power of God has given us everything which pertain to our lives and our godliness. We have all spiritual riches we need to live obediently for the Lord. And those riches—those good things which God has given to believers to enable them to live the Christian life—these are precisely Paul’s concern in this passage. It is clear that Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that God has made them spiritually rich at conversion. After describing the fundamental truths to which they needed to return (1:1-3), he now calls them to understand yet another fundamental truth—namely, that they are made spiritually rich.

The Corinthians certainly thought themselves to be rich—but in the wrong sense of the word. They considered themselves self-sufficient, rich in worldly things—and certainly they were. They were wealthy, no doubt—wealthy in sin, disorganization, division, strife, and disunity—they were wealthy in sin and poor in obedience. And so in this passage, Paul calls them to understand and comprehend once again how God has made them spiritually rich. They needed to understand this and we need to understand today that we have been made spiritually rich at conversion. We will spend all of our time together here discovering, believing, defending, and applying that truth. And we will see in this passage:

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)
II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)
III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

Let us discover this morning how exactly God has made us spiritually rich.

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)

If the Bible states clearly that we have been spiritually enriched, then how have we been spiritually enriched? Where do spiritual riches come from and how do they come to us? Clearly, everything has an origin. If the Bible is true in saying that we have been “blessed [in] Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3), and here that we have been “enriched in him,” then where does “every spiritual blessing” come from? How have we been made so rich in spiritual things? According to Paul, the answer is the grace of God. This is the first thing we need to comprehend—we need to understand the source of spiritual riches—the grace of God. Every spiritual blessing we have, and every spiritual possession we own is owing completely to the grace and kindness of God which comes to us through Jesus Christ. That’s the first thing Paul says in the passage—it’s clear that he first wants the Corinthians to understand that the grace of God is the source of all their spiritual riches and blessings, and also that this very grace has been given to them as well.

The grace of God is where it begins—the grace of God is the fountain from which every other gift of God to us flows. The grace of God to us is like a waterfall where a great amount of valuable treasures were dropped. Like a man in a forest who follows the upward path of a stream in the morning, finding valuable gold and silver, as he walks for miles towards the source of the stream, filling up his pockets as he goes. The stream carries the treasures downward, as they get caught on the bank where the man can pick them up—but they are all coming from the waterfall where all the treasures were dropped. If the man is wise, he will not only collect all he can possibly contain in his pockets, but he will travel onward until he finds the source of the treasures floating downstream. So it is with spiritual blessings and riches. We too will be wise to discover where they are coming from, while at the same time appreciating the ones we have picked up along the way. So where do spiritual riches and blessings come from? Paul says, “the grace of God in Christ,” which itself has also been given to believers. Let’s see how this idea is developed in this verse—let’s read it one more time: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (v. 4).

First, observe here that Paul gives continual thanks to God for the Corinthians. Paul begins this passage by expressing thanksgiving to God, and this is his usual pattern—he does this in just about every letter. It’s really a matter of perspective—before Paul deals with problems in the churches to whom he is writing, and before he gives them instructions, he thanks God for them. They are believers just like he is, no matter their problems or issues, and so Paul gives thanks for at least that reason. And he says here, “I give thanks to my God always for you.” Also, gratitude is not just an attitude here—thanks is actually something which Paul gives. He says, “I give thanks.” Thankfulness and gratitude is something that he gives to someone—who is that someone? He says, “to my God.” Paul gives thanks to God—not to the Corinthians. His thanksgiving is directed towards his God, not towards the Corinthians or anyone else. And notice also the frequency of Paul’s giving of thanks towards God.  He gives thanks, “always for you.” He is continually thankful to God for them.

But how can Paul possibly be thankful for such a twisted church? I mean, the whole letter itself is a correctional epistle written to a church that was in urgent and dire need of correction. They were divided over leaders, sexually immoral, misunderstanding marriage, mistreating the Lord’s Supper, failing to comprehend the fullness of Christ’s resurrection, and a whole host of other problems! What reason could there possibly be in Paul’s mind to give thanks to God for this Corinthian church? Because “of the grace of God that was given [them] in Christ Jesus.” That’s the reason why Paul gives thanks, found in the last part of v. 4 here. Paul gives thanks to God for the Corinthians, not because they are living right or because of anything they have done, but because of what God has done. And what God has done is give them His grace in Christ. He states here that the grace of God has been given to them in Christ Jesus—that is, the saving and sustaining grace of God. This grace has been given to them—they have received it. Also note that it is the grace of God in Christ Jesus, that which is because of Jesus, for Jesus, and through Jesus. This grace is in Christ. And since there is nothing but time separating us from the Corinthians, we can be sure that this grace of God in Christ has also been given to us. We too have received the grace of God in Christ, because He has made it accessible to us. The Spirit enables us to receive grace daily to obey God, and it is because of Jesus, and for the purpose of serving Jesus.

That which we and the Corinthians have received is the grace of God. That’s the reason Paul is thankful—because the “grace of God” has been given to believers. The word “grace,” here in the Greek means the favor and kindness of God. It is the undeserved kindness of God toward us. It is the outpouring of the mercy of God through Christ toward the undeserving. This grace is of God—it is related to God in every way conceivable. It is of God He alone is the only possessor of it, and it is of God because it comes from Him. Probably the best way for us to understand the grace of God is to look for a second at how Paul describes the grace of God in this passage as a whole. In this passage, he describes the grace of God not as an abstract object which sits by itself, but something which does. For Paul, the grace of God does things in the lives of believers. This grace of God saves, sustains, and secures.

The grace of God saves. Clearly, this is the emphasis in the passage we are considering (vv. 4-6). All of these things in the passage are past tense, implying that Paul is talking about a past act of God’s grace—which would be salvation. Notice, the grace of God has been “given,” it is through that grace that the Corinthians “were” enriched, and proof of that enrichment is that they received the gospel—the testimony about Christ was “confirmed among them.” When you are saved from the penalty of sin, and regenerated to new life, it is because God saves you by His grace (Eph. 2:8-9).

The grace of God sustains. It is also by this same grace that you continue to be saved. God saves you daily from the presence and power of sin by His grace—it is the kind act of God to give you His Spirit to be obedient to Him and overcome sin. This is what the Bible calls sanctification. The grace of God ensures and enables your obedience as you continue to live as a Christian. The grace of God supplies you with everything you need to continue being saved. You have everything you need through His grace, as you are waiting on the next big event in redemptive history: “you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7).

The grace of God secures. The grace of God secures you for eternity. It is by this same grace that you are saved, sustained, and secured for an eternity with God. Paul says that Jesus “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). He will keep you to the end—you will persevere because of the grace of God.

Knowing that the grace of God exists is enough reason to get excited and praise God, but even more, Paul says that we have been given this grace. “I [thank my God] because of the grace of God that was given you.” Even though the grace of God itself is the source of all spiritual riches and blessings, even this grace itself has been given to believers. Again, we are certain that Paul is referring to salvation here, considering the past-tense language here. This grace was given. “Was,” used as a reference to a time in the past, and “given,” the past-tense rendering of the verb “give,” or “to give.” Paul is recalling the Corinthians’ conversion and regeneration—when they came to faith in Jesus Christ. Even more to that point, how this grace was given to believers is explained in the last part of this verse.

This grace was given in Christ Jesus. The way in which God’s grace is both expressed and received is in Jesus Christ. God expresses and shows His kindness towards us “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), but we also receive God’s grace in Jesus because He made it available to us, and secured it to us as well. In God’s giving of His Son Jesus as the atonement for our sins, He gives us His grace. By giving us Jesus, He has given us His grace.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that they have been given the very source of all spiritual riches and blessings—and we need to understand this as well. We have not only collected treasures along the stream, but we have been given the waterfall from where all treasures flow. This means that we have everything we need to be pleasing to God. Do you believe that today? Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? Are you rejoicing in that truth this day? Every time you do something good for God, remember that it’s because you have been given the source of everything good—God’s grace. It is all owing to His grace. It is splendidly explained in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

We need to understand the source of spiritual riches, the grace of God—which we have been given in Christ.

II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)

If the grace of God is how we have obtained spiritual riches, then what spiritual riches have we actually obtained? If we have found and claimed great treasures at the waterfall of God’s grace, then what are they? In what ways have we been spiritually enriched?

In v. 5, Paul explains this. We have been spiritually enriched both generally and specifically. He says that we have been spiritually enriched in every way, but specifically in our speech and knowledge. There are ways that God has enriched and supplied all of us, and there are ways that God has enriched and supplied some of us. This too is something we need to contemplate—we need to understand the content of spiritual riches. In this verse, Paul deals with what we’ve been spiritually enriched with.

He unfolds exactly what ways the grace of God has been manifested among the Corinthian believers. This is fitting, because the grace of God does more than save, it supplies. This is what the grace of God does when it is given to believers. You are not just saved, regenerated, and given new life at conversion. You are also supplied with spiritual riches to live the Christian life—God gifts you in various ways to bring Him glory in your Christian life. Paul says, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, [in] that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and knowledge” (vv. 4-5). The Corinthians were made rich in general ways and specific ways to be obedient to God, and so it is true of us as well.

First, they were made rich generally. The first way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich –  generally. Paul says, “in every way you were enriched in him,” denoting a general enrichment. And in the last half of the verse he spells out some specific ways, “in all speech and in all knowledge.” In the first part of v. 5, he says that believers have been enriched in every way. In everything believers are enriched. There isn’t one area of our lives that God has left in spiritual poverty. God has made us spiritually rich exhaustively—He has given us everything we need to be spiritually wealthy in everything. And again, this has already occurred – “you were” enriched in him. In every way and in everything, we were at one time in the past enriched. The word enriched here means “to be made rich.” There are only three occurrences of it in the NT, this being one of them—it was not a term Paul used often. One example is in 2 Corinthians 9, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11). Paul speaking there of how God will enable the church to give financially to God’s work (see also 2 Cor. 6:10).

So generally speaking, every believer has everything he needs to be obedient to God—all believers everywhere have been made rich in Christ. We have all we need in Him. But also, there are some ways that God has specifically made believers rich—ways in which God has enriched believers as individuals—ways we may or may not have in common. The second way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich is specifically. This is definitely something the Corinthians misunderstood—for Paul deals with specific spiritual gifts at length in this letter. And here he notes two ways that the Corinthians have been specifically enriched. Paul likely chose to point out these two precise gifts because these were precisely the cause of some of the issues they had in the church. They misunderstood and misapplied these gifts, resulting in problems, and Paul is calling them back to understand the true purpose of them.

First, in their speaking they were enriched. They were able to prophesy, speak in tongues, and do many other miraculous things through their words. Again, they clearly abused this gift or Paul wouldn’t have dealt so much with clarifying its use and nature in chapter 14. Second, in their understanding they were enriched. They were a wise people, discerning, able to understand great truths. They were able to tell forth the truth (in all speech) and to grasp/understand the truth (knowledge). We too have been made spiritually rich in ways applicable to all, and in ways applicable to some. Paul speaks of those specific ways in chapter 12,

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

I read a story a few years back that may help us understand this truth further. It’s told by Dr. John MacArthur about a wealthy London businessman who lost his son. This man was your typical London business man—drinking hot tea, making deals, carrying around a suitcase, and making lots of money. But one day his son left him for a fuller life—and he had been searching for many years after his runaway son. One afternoon this father was preparing to board a train to London when he spotted a man in ragged, dirty clothing begging for money from passengers along the station platform. His first impulse was to avoid the beggar, but there was something strangely familiar about him.

When the beggar approached and asked if the man could spare a few shillings, the businessman realized he had found his long-lost son. With tears in his eyes and joy in his voice he embraced his son, crying, “A few shillings? You are my son—everything I have is yours!”

How foolish this son was to live like he was poor—he had a wealthy father who wanted to give him everything he had. And how foolish we are to live lives which are spiritually poor, considering that we have a heavenly Father who has said the same to us! There is no fuller life than a life of spiritual wealth—where our life’s greatest pursuit is being rich in obedience to God. We need to understand that we are like this runaway son at times, starving what could be a well-fed spiritual life, but often living as though we have nothing, when we possess everything that matters!

And that is the center of this passage—this is the key thing Paul wants us to understand. You have been made spiritually rich in Christ, given everything you need to glorify God—you should therefore have no excuse for living in spiritual poverty! If we have everything we need, but we live as though we are still in need—what’s the problem? Most of the time it is because we are not accessing it or acknowledging it. We need to access the spiritual resources and riches God has already given us, and we need to know that they exist! And how else do you know you have been made rich in Christ, other than by discovering it in the Bible? Find out from Scripture what kind of riches you have! Ignoring what Scripture says about how you’ve been made spiritually wealthy is like having five million dollars in the bank account, but not knowing it because you never went there to see if you had it! You have everything you need for obedience to God and joy in Christ, but you may not know it because you’ve never went to the Bible to see if you have it! Rest in this promise—you don’t come up with what it takes to be obedient to God, you just use what God has already given you and find out more from Scripture.

We need to understand the content of spiritual riches—that we have been made rich generally and specifically.

III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

We have seen the source of spiritual riches (v. 4), and the content of spiritual riches (v. 5), now I want you to notice in v. 6, the proof of spiritual riches. I’ll be honest with you—I have really struggled in preparing this message, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, the idea of being spiritually rich, having everything we need to live an obedient life—that is not something we speak of very often, is it? I was questioning whether or not I was in the right in preaching such a matter—considering that it is not something we talk about very often. And secondly, look at the majority of our Christian lives. Does it look like we are living rich spiritual lives? Our devotional lives—are they rich and wealthy? Our evangelism and discipleship—is it rich, fruitful, and wealthy? Our churches—are they spiritually rich and abounding with spiritual growth and maturity? The answer is more often no than yes.

With all of these things in mind, it makes a little difficult to believe that we have actually been spiritually enriched at all. With an observant look at how little this idea is taught and preached, and how spiritual poverty seems to be more prevalent than spiritual prosperity—have we really been made spiritually rich? It would seem not. Is there any way we can be sure that we enriched? Can we be assured without even the lightest breeze of doubt blowing upon our hearts that we have been enriched in Christ? Is there any concrete evidence or proof that we have obtained spiritual riches?

Certainly the Corinthians would have had trouble believing they were made rich in Christ. They lived wealthy lives, make no mistake—but not spiritually wealthy lives. They were rich in sin and poor in obedience. So is there any proof that we have been spiritually enriched? There is, and it’s what Paul explains in v. 6. To eradicate any doubt that might be in their mind or ours, Paul presents the impenetrable, solid, and concrete evidence that we and the Corinthians have been spiritually enriched. So to what does Paul direct our attention as the absolute proof that we have been enriched? The fact that we have believed and received the gospel! The way we can be absolutely sure we have been made rich for obedience to God is to reach back into our past and see if we believed the gospel and see if from His precious hand we received salvation. If we have believed the gospel, then we have been given spiritual riches. That is how we know we have been spiritually enriched. Paul says, “[I give thanks to God for His grace given to you in Christ, namely in that you were enriched both generally and specifically] even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.” Paul points to their reception of the gospel as the proof that they have been enriched for spiritual living. If they are saved, they are spiritually rich—it’s as simple as that.

This word testimony in the Greek is similar to the word martyr—someone who dies because they have testified about Jesus, because they have proclaimed Him. This word testimony means witness, this is the witness about Christ—the gospel of Christ—the witness and testimony about Him. The eyewitness account of who He is and what He has done—it is the gospel, the message about Christ. That is what is meant by the phrase testimony about Christ. When you believed the gospel and were saved, you believed the testimony or witness about Christ. So was true of the Corinthians, which is why Paul says secondly that this testimony was “confirmed among [them].” It was confirmed, established, and believed among them. This testimony about Christ wasn’t rejected and it hadn’t hit the surface and moved on—it penetrated their souls, thus enabling them to believe. It was established among them.

When a lawyer wants to prove his point to the jury and to the judge, often times he will call a witness to the stand. You hear and see it all the time: “I’d like to call Johnny Big to the stand, your Honor.” This witness can then testify to the events he saw or the things he experienced, and thus be convincing proof that what the lawyer is saying is true. And Paul in this passage is trying to get the Corinthians and us to understand that we have been made spiritually rich in Christ—and the witness that he calls to the stand is our conversion through the gospel. Paul is saying, “You Corinthians act like spiritual paupers, living like God has withdrawn every spiritual blessing from you, rather than living spiritually rich. Don’t believe me when I say that you have been enriched in Him in every way? Look at what you did when I preached the gospel to you! You believed it and it was confirmed among you—this testimony about Christ was established among you. If you weren’t made spiritually rich, you never would have believed the gospel in the first place! But because you believed the gospel, and God doesn’t leave you like you are, He has enriched you in every way to bring Him glory to the maximum degree in this life!”

If you have believed the gospel, God has made you spiritually rich. Conversely, if God has not made you spiritually rich, perhaps you haven’t believed the gospel. We need to understand the proof of spiritual riches—our receiving of the gospel. If you know at least that much about your Christian life—then that’s all the assurance you need to know that you have been spiritually enriched. Because that’s what God does for Christians—that’s His business.

Conclusion

We are standing on a gold mine folks—let’s dig in. We are basking in a waterfall of treasures—let’s pick them up one by one. We have a wealthy Father who says to us, “Son, everything I have is yours.” The great Scottish Bible expositor Alexander MacLaren once wrote, “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key to the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” Let me just ask you today: If God has made us spiritually rich at conversion, then whose fault is it if we live spiritually poor?

The source of all our spiritual riches is the grace of God, and we have also received this grace. Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? The content of our spiritual riches consists in being made spiritually rich both generally and specifically. Are you accessing the spiritual riches you already have, such as the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the Scripture? And are you acknowledging the many other spiritual riches yet to be discovered in the Bible? Additionally, we have absolute proof that, at the moment of our conversion, these spiritual riches were secured to us. Do you believe it?

By God’s grace in Christ, may we understand truly that we have been made spiritually rich.

Spurgeon on Confidence in God

Once again, as I was reading Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening, I stumbled upon a theological gold mine that I’d like to share with you:

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”  (Psalm 138:8)

“Most manifestly the confidence which the Psalmist here expressed was a divine confidence. He did not say, “I have grace enough to perfect that which concerneth me—my faith is so steady that it will not stagger—my love is so warm that it will never grow cold—my resolution is so firm that nothing can move it; no, his dependence was on the Lord alone. If we indulge in any confidence which is not grounded on the Rock of ages, our confidence is worse than a dream, it will fall upon us, and cover us with its ruins, to our sorrow and confusion. All that Nature spins time will unravel, to the eternal confusion of all who are clothed therein. The Psalmist was wise, he rested upon nothing short of the Lord’s work. It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is He who has carried it on; and if he does not finish it, it never will be complete. If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost; but this is our confidence, the Lord who began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do. Unbelief insinuates—”You will never be able to stand. Look at the evil of your heart, you can never conquer sin; remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of the world that beset you, you will be certainly allured by them and led astray.” Ah! yes, we should indeed perish if left to our own strength. If we had alone to navigate our frail vessels over so rough a sea, we might well give up the voyage in despair; but, thanks be to God, He will perfect that which concerneth us, and bring us to the desired haven. We can never be too confident when we confide in Him alone, and never too much concerned to have such a trust.” ¹

I’ve really struggled with giving God my best in my personal life and ministry here lately. I’ve prayed, “Lord, today I’m going to get back with the program,” or “God, I just need to get back to the way things used to be.” Now while I may have good intentions, I was missing the main point the whole time. I am weak, and I always will be. God is strong and He always will be. He just calls me to be confident in Him that He will work through me and give me the strength I need to be fully obedient to Him. God will “perfect that which concerneth me.”


1. Spurgeon, Charles H. Morning and Evening (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 304.

 

Jonah: Storm and Sacrifice (1:4-12)

Jonah: Storm and Sacrifice (1:4-12)

Introduction

“You can run but you cannot hide.”—American Boxer, Joe Louis.

Boxer Joe (not Joe Boxer) probably hadn’t read the story of Jonah, but what he said makes for a great summary statement about this passage of Scripture, and the book of Jonah as a whole. There is no escape from Almighty God.

In the previous section (1:1-3), the author set the tone of an interaction between God and Jonah. God called Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, and he boarded a ship to Tarshish to get away from “the presence of the LORD” (1:3). Now the author has set the tone for this part of the story by telling us about the sailors’ involvement with Jonah and his God.

The Text

“4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

God Can Do That

Jonah had boarded this ship to get away from God’s presence, but “the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up” (v. 4). In this verse, you can almost hear the creaking of timbers as waves pound the sides of the ship. You can visualize a ship being tossed back and forth on sharp, unforgiving waves, while lightning strikes the sail. You can feel as if you are being tossed with Jonah and the crew.

So Jonah’s running from God has now caused problems for other people. He has put the sailors in a lot of danger. Now, while it is true that your disobedience to God can cause problems for those around you, there is a grander truth to be seen in this verse as it relates to the entire book. Note, God sent this storm. In fact, he “hurled a great wind upon the sea.” God can do that. And God used this storm to bring about His purposes—the salvation of the Ninevites, in this case. God sovereignly worked through this storm to bring about salvation for these sailors (1:16), Jonah’s repentance (chapter 2), and the salvation of the Ninevites (3:6-10). And so, the glorious truth to be observed here is the sovereignty of God.

The Sovereignty of God

What does it mean to say that God is sovereign? It means that God has unlimited rule of and control over His creation. He is free from outward restraint. Psalm 115 reads, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (v. 3). Job confesses, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Similarly, in Daniel the prophet says, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”” (Daniel 4:35). And in the New Testament, “Which he will display at the proper time—he who is blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). There are scores of other passages that affirm God’s sovereignty, but the point is, the Bible teaches the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

God is sovereign over everything, but from this storm and the results, we can note two things that God is sovereign over:

1) Suffering. The storm they experienced brought them face to face with death. They were struggling to survive. God used this storm to bring about His own good purposes. Surely they didn’t think they were going to survive, but God was in control the whole time. Trials in our lives today happen unexpected, like this storm. The struggles we face today may make us feel like we aren’t going to survive, but “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

In addition, sometimes we may suffer as a direct result of our sin. When we feel remorse, guilt, and shame after we sin, the suffering we are experiencing is what the Bible calls discipline. You think God was disciplining Jonah? Of course. One of the reasons God sent that storm was so Jonah could face his calling and be obedient to God. God disciplines us when we sin: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7).

2) Salvation. God was using not only the storm, but many other elements in creation to bring about salvation to the sailors and the Ninevites. Did they expect to be saved? No. But God brought salvation to them, and sovereignly. The New Testament teaches also that God is sovereign in your salvation:

  • God initiates your salvation and plans for you to be saved in eternity past (Acts 13:48; Ephesians 1:4).
  • God carries out your salvation. He sends Jesus to accomplish the mission (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
  • God applies your salvation through the Holy Spirit (John 6:44; Titus 3:5).
  • God secures your salvation and keeps you to the end (John 10:29; Romans 8:30).

Now which one of those are you responsible for? None. That’s why God is sovereign. Because He is sovereign in our salvation, that takes away from us any right to take credit. God gets the credit and God gets the glory, because God makes all moves.

Jonah in a Dream State

The ship is threatening to fall apart because of the great storm, so we read “the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep” (v. 5). So all of those on board are searching for every possible way to end their deadly situation. . . except for Jonah. These sailors cry out to their gods. They throw the cargo overboard. The question I know you are asking is, “How can Jonah sleep through all this?” The captain asks the same question in the next verse. The author of the book of Jonah intends for you to ask that question. That’s the way the author crafted this book. Because asking that question reveals an important truth about Jonah’s character—he was careless. His deep sleep reveals his carelessness about his own life and the lives of others.

Like Jonah, sometimes we are careless about other people’s lives. Perhaps we are careless about their needs or their struggles. Perhaps we are careless about their salvation. Maybe you know someone living in deep sin, but do not believe they deserve God’s grace. You might think they are so wicked that they are beyond forgiveness, so you go your own way thinking that “God’s gonna get ’em one day!” It is right to understand that we will all face the judgment of God (Hebrews 9:27), but it is not right to be careless about someones salvation. “If you have no desire for others to be saved, then you are not saved yourself”—C. H. Spurgeon. And still, while it is true that no one deserves salvation, we shouldn’t be careless about their eternity if we truly care about them.

Jonah—Prophet in Disguise

Sleeping through a mighty storm is quite foolish, so we read in the next verse, “So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish” (v. 6). You can hear the accusation language here: “How can you sleep at at time like this?” (NLT). The captain tells Jonah to call out to his god. For these sailors, one god is as good as any as long as it saves them. The captain hopes what Jonah already knows—that Jonah’s God is a God of compassion: “Perhaps the god will give a thought to us. . .” Even more, the literal rendition of this phrase really means, “It may be that haelohim will take notice.” Haelohim in Hebrew here means “the true God.” So the captain acknowledges the possibility that Jonah’s God is the true God.

Why doesn’t Jonah reply to this captain? Why doesn’t he say anything? He doesn’t even bother to help the crew until verse 9. The captain’s request for Jonah to pray to his god was an incredible opportunity for Jonah to give witness to God’s power, but he remains silent. Jonah knew God was sovereign. He knew that God was present. He knew God could have calmed the storm. But he keeps his mouth shut instead.

Making Much of God

Jonah swept this opportunity to glorify God right under the ship. Like Jonah, sometimes we do the same thing. God gives us situations every day where we have the opportunity to put in a good word for Jesus. Your house. Your workplace. Your classroom. Your gas station. Are you making much of God in those aspects of your life? Live in a way that makes much of God. Live and act in a way that draws peoples’ attention to Him. Don’t hide your faith like Jonah did here. Jesus talks about how ridiculous it is to keep your faith hidden: “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:15-16).

Searching For a Solution

The sailors want to know who is responsible for this storm so, “they said to one another, “Come let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah” (v. 7). Casting lots was a way of decision making in Bible times. This is similar to drawing straws or casting a pair of dice to determine who goes first, or what direction to follow. So these sailors cast lots, and the lot falls on Jonah. Did the lot just coincidentally fall on Jonah? Of course not! We know it was God’s sovereign hand in the process. The random process of casting lots. God would not let Jonah go. God has used the storm, these sailors, and now lot-casting, to expose Jonah to these sailors and bring him to face his calling as a prophet. All of these things are being used by God as agents for this purpose.

“Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”” (v. 8). You can hear these rapid fire questions that the sailors are asking Jonah. They want to know more. Again, Jonah is given the chance to be a witness of faith to these sailors. First when the captain told him to cry out to his god. And here, he has another chance to be a witness of faith to the one true God. Jonah’s reply catches us by surprise: “And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land”” (v. 9). He confesses boldly. This confession itself is a fulfillment of his calling as a prophet. He testifies that God is.

However, it probably sounds a little absurd to these sailors. You fear the God who controls the sea, but you are on that sea running from that God? Jonah recognized the sovereignty of God and knew that He was the “God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” but still makes the choice to flee from Him. That sounds foolish because it is. But we do the same thing: we know God is watching our every move, but we like to think, “God can you turn Your head a minute, while I have premarital sex?” or “God close your eyes a second so I can watch this dirty movie” or “God can you look away while I hold back my tithe?” But we know that God is ever present but we continue to declare our independence by sinning. When we sin, we say to God’s face: “I don’t need You to satisfy me. What sin has to offer is greater. I am fine on my own.” But we know in reality that we need Him for our very existence; He is sustaining us, and giving us life every day. It is a struggle, but we must fight sin daily (Romans 7:15-25).

Death or Death Decision

“Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them”” (v. 10). Now that Jonah has told them who his God is, they are exceedingly afraid. This tremendous storm is the primary evidence that Jonah’s God is powerful. They then ask the equivalent of “Are you crazy!?” Who runs away from the God of the sea. . . on the sea? It’s like running from the cops on foot, while they are tracking you down in their squad cars. They’re going to catch you bro.

Now knowing that Jonah is responsible for this, and because the storm was getting worse, the crew asks Jonah, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous”” (v. 11). Jonah is now at an interesting point in this story: whatever happens, he will die. If he says nothing to these sailors, the storm will eventually kill them all (Jonah knows that he is responsible for this great storm). If he confesses, he knows that he alone will die. They will throw him overboard. God has done something amazing here. Jonah is again faced with the same decision he faced when God called him in the first place: Will your life/death save the lives of others? In the case of preaching to the Ninevites, Will you go to save their lives by preaching repentance? Jonah makes the decision to run. In the case of this storm and the deathly fate of these sailors, Will you sacrifice to save their lives? This question is put to him so close this time, that Jonah cannot help but notice. He knows this is God again. He knew God had called him to preach to the Ninevites. And he knows that this is the same God that is calling him to do the same thing—sacrifice himself to save others. Except this time, God doesn’t speak directly, but uses elements of creation to get His point across.

Going Overboard

Jonah doesn’t have the will to jump himself, so “He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you”” (v. 12). Why doesn’t Jonah just seek forgiveness from God and ask Him to calm the storm? He could have made things right with God and committed himself to go to Nineveh. But he doesn’t. Maybe Jonah believes that he has messed up too much already—and forgiveness isn’t going to happen for him. Maybe he is not sure if God can forgive him. Jonah prefers to believe in a God who only judges. Not in a God who also forgives (that’s why he ran in the first place). He would rather die in the sea than to suggest to the sailors that they turn around and return him to Joppa so he can fulfill his call to Nineveh. Yet, Jonah does have compassion on the innocent sailors. He does not want them to die. He will accept death for them, not in obedience to God but, as it was—an act of heroism born from a desperate situation.

Maybe you are like Jonah. Maybe you believe that you have gone too far for God to forgive you. But God has something to say about that. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). God’s love is not based on what you are, or what you have done. There is nothing you have done that makes God love you any less, and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more than He already does. If you believe that God can forgive you, what should you do now? “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

Ephesians: Salvation By Grace Through Faith

The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church on the 8th day of September 2013:

What God is Like in Salvation

Let me just say this: the more you know God, the more you want to know God. The more you feast on His fellowship, the hungrier you are for deeper, richer communion.

And the truth is, that clear knowledge of God from the Word of God is the kindling that sustains fires of affection for God. This is a great reason our love for God sometimes grows cold, because we’re not immersing ourselves in the Scriptures. And probably the most crucial kind of knowledge you can have is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation. And that’s where Ephesians 2 comes in. Let’s look at it together.

Introduction

Paul wrote Ephesians to the churches around Ephesus. He had a very close relationship with the Ephesians (and you can read about that in Acts 19, 20). We read of Paul’s last encounter with them in Acts 20 where Paul says to the Ephesian elders that “the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” He then gives them careful exhortations to take care of the church and then we read that “when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all. . . they embraced Paul. . . [and were] sorrowful most of all because. . . they would not see his face again” (vv. 23, 36-38). So he had a close relationship with them. He wrote this letter during his imprisonment in Rome, and what makes this letter different than many of his others (Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians) is that there is no specific problem that seemed to have inspired this letter. Unlike the “problem churches” of Galatia (O foolish Galatians!) or the sexually immoral church at Corinth.

The Text

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in 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— 3 among 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

What Has Brought Us to This Place in Ephesians?

Paul has just prayed that his Christian readers might know the greatness of God’s power towards them, and then praised God for exercising that same mighty power in raising Christ from the dead and exalting Him to be head over all things for the church. Now we come to our text which can be divided into three sections.

Dead In Transgressions and Sins (2:1-3)

Following this prayer, he now concentrates on his readers in a special way. He is describing their pre-Christian past in terms of their being “dead in the transgressions and sins” (v. 1). Concerning “dead in trespasses and sins,” Paul was telling the Ephesians, “Hey, dead is dead.” He was telling them that they were dead in trespasses and sins, they were totally unresponsive to God. They were dead.That they had no natural tendency to desire or want God, and they as human beings, being sons and daughters of Adam, enter the world spiritually dead. Now what did God say of Adam if he were to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? God said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV). This is exactly what has taken place. Paul teaches elsewhere that “just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12) Paul teaches in Romans 5 that we have been set in the mold of Adam’s sin. And what we have inherited from Adam is guilt, shame, and yes death. The “trespasses and sins” refer to offenses against God in thought, word, or deed.

Dead is Dead

This passage is describing all of humanity and that includes us! Dead is dead and apart from the grace of God, we too are “dead in our trespasses and sins!” Every one of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and the Scripture says “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Before Christ, before God transformed us through His Spirit, before He made us a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), before God justified us (in one moment), before God grafted us into the family of God (the universal church), before we were reconciled to God, before we were ever “born again” we were dead in our trespasses and sins We have been born of the seed of Adam, and we have absolutely nothing good in us! Nothing. We have no natural tendency to want God, “there is none that seeks God” (Romans 3:11).

Paul also says that the Ephesians followed the “course of this world” that they looked, thought, and acted like the world. In the same way, we too were following the course of this world right through the gate that is “wide and the way [that is] easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matthew 7:13). In addition, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6) The apostle also says that they followed the “prince of the power of air” which is a reference to Satan himself. And as has been well said before “Satan’s not concerned about the lost; he already has them in his grips. It’s Christians he is trying to tear down.” And how true is that. Those without Christ are in his grips.

Recalling The Past for Magnification of God’s Mighty Action in Christ

What I want you to notice is that Paul is recalling their pre-Christian past, not to humiliate or depress them, but to draw attention to God’s mighty action in Christ! That what happened on the cross was the blazing center of the glory of God and the greatest outpouring of His grace and compassion that the world has ever seen. The fact that the God who is “rich in mercy” has acted on their behalf when they were totally depraved, totally undeserving, totally unresponsive, totally separated and in fact dead is what makes the good news Good News indeed! Have you ever heard of what the most popular Bible verse is? “God helps those who help themselves.” You’re eyebrows are raised justly, because you know as well as I do that it’s not in Scripture. The Ancient Greeks came up with the phrase “God helps those who help themselves,” and Paul is saying the exact opposite: God helps the helpless. What’s more is God helps His enemies who have transgressed His holy law!

Bankrupt Without Jesus

How are we to see the cross as Good News if we don’t first understand the weight of our sin? How can we see Christ as the greatest treasure if we don’t realize that we are totally bankrupt without Him? How can we know we need eternal life if we don’t first realize that we are dead, hostile to God, and enemies of God? If you don’t realize you’re a sinner, you won’t recognize your need for a Savior. Certainly, one of the most humbling things for us as believers is realizing how undeserving we are of what God has done for us through the cross.

Because of His Great Love and Mercy God Made Us Alive With Christ (2:4-7)

Paul then tells the Ephesians what mighty acts God has done for them through Christ. This is the total opposite of what Paul has already said about the sinful state of man. Just when things seem hopeless, Paul utters the greatest phrase in the history of the universe: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us. . .” (v. 4). It is essentially important to understand that Paul is saying here that God’s “great love” flows completely from God’s own heart, not from anything good foreseen in us and not anything we have done to deserve it.

In v. 5, Paul resumes his thought from earlier by saying “even when you were dead. . .” And he is saying that the Ephesians have experienced the same power of God that was effective at Christ’s resurrection! The Bible says that the same Spirit that rose Christ Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that lives in us and has given us life (Rom. 8:11). Furthermore, he is talking about the amazing miracle of salvation. That all in one moment everything changes. God gives you spiritual life at conversion based on nothing that you had done. In v. 6 Paul says that because of Christ’s resurrection, those who believe in Him are given new life at conversion and will be given renewed physical bodies when Christ returns. Of course, “seated us with him in the heavenly places” is a reference to heaven.

Heaven: Everlasting Enjoyment of Jesus

There aren’t many things more comforting and overwhelming than to know that because of God’s immeasurable grace, that we will spend eternity with Him forever! Just to know that we will forever be in the presence of Almighty God in never-ceasing worship! Everlasting enjoyment of Jesus! Listen to what Revelation says, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21). Read that again. And again. What grace is this! Hallelujah! He isn’t saying that we will be receiving the worship, but He is describing an intimate, everlasting love that we will experience forever. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is to be on that throne with Him.

No more disease or sickness is great. The greatest family reunion you’ve ever experienced will surely be pleasant. No more sorrow, pain, death or sin is eradicated. Mansions, streets of gold, a place prepared for us, and walls of jasper will be great. . . But what makes heaven good? We don’t ask ourselves this question often enough. The supreme good of heaven is the fact that God is there and we will finally see and savor God Himself! What makes heaven good is the everlasting presence of Almighty God and how we will never, ever be separated from Him! Glory to God. Thus, you have the beauty of God’s mercy and grace that Paul talks about: That the gospel is the story of how God did everything necessary, most painfully in the death of Jesus, His Son, to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying: God Himself!

And before we move to the next section, Paul tells us God’s further purpose of why He lavished His grace upon us when we were undeserving: “so that in the coming ages. . .” (v. 7). That God saving us was a demonstration of His grace for all eternity. So that we will forever marvel at the great mystery of God’s love and grace for a humanity who are fully deserving of capital punishment.

God’s New Creation (2:8-10)

Now we come to one of the most favorite sections in the Bible. This salvation which met the dreadful needs of the human predicament involved delivery from death, wrath, and slavery, described in vv. 1-3. This entire passage implies that everything about salvation is a gift. Here’s why it must all be about grace: If there were one iota in this entire salvation process where credit could be given to you, then you would get the glory. But because salvation is something God directs, carries out, and sustains, He gets all the glory. God’s passion is for His glory and anything that wounds that glory is sin. Concerning v. 8, the point being made, then, is that the response of faith does not come from any human source but is God’s gift. Paul teaches here that salvation in every aspect is not your own doing.

God’s Workmanship

Now Paul talks about how we are “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. . .” (v. 10). Paul is saying that salvation is God’s workmanship from first to last! God initiates salvation. He directs our salvation (Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6), He carries out our salvation (by sending Christ to absorb our punishment; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32), and sustains our salvation (those God saves are eternally secure; John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-30). Let me say again: God loved us before time (before the foundation of the world He chose us as a people for His own possession, Ephesians 1:4; Romans 9), He carried out our salvation by sending Christ to atone for our sin and to die in our place (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24), and He sent us His Spirit to indwell us with His life and give us the power we need to live the Christian life (Romans 8; Ephesians 6:18-20), and He sustains and keeps us to the end. Paul attests to the perseverance of the saved to the Philippians : “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:8).

Good Works Are the Consequence

Good works are the results of a changed life and this is in direct contrast to what Paul said we previously walked in. Now he says to “walk” in good works (v. 10) Of course we know, just by the facts stated in this text that salvation is “not a result of works” (v. 9); however, as we know the Scriptures teach that good works are the results of a life changed by the grace of God: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17 ESV). Salvation is not based on works, but the good works Christians do are the result and consequence of God’s new creation work in us. Some argue here that there is a contradiction in Paul’s teaching on good works and James’ teaching on good works. However, Paul is emphasizing the purpose of faith: to bring salvation; and James is emphasizing the results of faith in Christ: a changed life. There is no contradiction. This truth can even be discovered without bringing James into the picture. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works. . .” (v. 10)

Faith or a Delusion?

Faith is more than a feeling. As we see in Hebrews 11, faith should have a story attached to it. Recently I was reading an article about a psychiatrist and his wacky patients. In the article he addressed the beliefs of his patients that had no basis in reality. A patient may sincerely believe he could fly—but  that didn’t mean anything because there was nothing to back that up. The patient might be an abusive husband that sincerely believes abuse is wrong—but he doesn’t really believe that because his stated belief is contradicted by reality. The psychiatrist didn’t call these things “beliefs” that his patients had. He called them “delusions.” And folks, a belief, no matter how sincere, if it’s not reflected in reality, it is not a belief; it’s a delusion. What’s more, is if you think you’re on the right road because of what you have done, then you’re wrong! We are saved, as our text says, because of the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”(v. 7).

For example, if someone asks you “Are you a Christian?”. . .and your mind immediately goes to the fact that you teach a Sun. School class, you go to church, you put some money in the plate, you volunteer from time to time. . . then we need to get our perspective in a different place!

Because do you really want to take credit for your salvation when you stand before God at judgment (Heb. 9:27)? No you don’t! You want to say “By grace I was brought to faith! By Your immeasurable love and grace!” It was that grace that triumphed over your resistance to God.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I ask you this morning, What will you say at the judgment?

The Bible says in the gospel of John, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God” (1:12). Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?  He will not turn away anyone who wants to come to Him. I plea to you that you would run to the cross for the “immeasurable riches of His grace.”