This sermon was delivered on March 11, 2018. Enjoy!
–Grant, the Nerdcore Theologian
At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. 2 You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. 3 At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.
4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! 6 And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. 7 God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.
8 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith.[a] This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. 9 It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
You were dead once.
Yeah, that’s a weird thing to say out loud, especially to a large group of people such as yourselves. You were dead. So was I.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who were by all medical measurements “dead” before. People whose hearts stopped for several minutes, only to be revived by CPR or a defibrillator. These people tend to tell wild stories of their experience of death. Some are beautiful, some are terrifying. All of them are revealing. To be able to say that you were technically “dead” is a badge of honor for many. To say they were revived, that’s a modern miracle.
But according to the writer of Ephesians, we were all dead. Every single one of us. Not just the ones who underwent a harrowing physical death. Everyone.
You may not feel like you were dead. You might actually feel like you were alive, more than just alive even. You technically, according to science, were alive. Your heart beat, oxygen flowed in your veins, your brains pulsed with chemical electricity. You had a pulse, a temperature, and everything in your body worked. But even being technically alive, you have been dead. Your spirit lied as stiff and as lifeless as a husk, like the old skin of a cicada stuck to a tree. That is, until you were given something. Until you were given grace.
The Gift Unlike Any Other
It is a privilege to be able to preach grace to you today.
It is a privilege to be able to testify with a Spirit that is alive. It is a joy to be able to acknowledge that you, and I, and all of us, at one point were dead, but given a gift. The gift? Was grace. That gift was resurrection of the Spirit. That gift was unlike any other gift that could be given, because it can only be given by God.
That gift, that grace, was given for one reason: God loves us. God has always loved us. And God cannot bear it to see his creation dead. God’s grief for a lost child is immeasurable–and how many people live today without accepting, without acknowledging that the life they bear today is because of God! How must it grieve God to see people deny the loving gift of life he gave to us all!
But grace is the key that unlocks the mystery of life, and grace is given to everyone, because even though we might revel in our dead-life, God shares it with us in small ways, ever nudging us towards the way God wants us to be. It moves us so that we become the people God created us to be.
When by grace God gives you credit for that work of Jesus, you become alive again. Only grace can do that.
That’s why Paul did not say, “It is by your resume you were saved.” Paul did not say, “It is by your bank account you were saved.” Paul did not say, “It is by your being a good little moral person you were saved.” Paul did not say, “It is by your nice investment portfolio you were saved.” No, he said it is by grace you were saved, and this has nothing to do with you at all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. You were dead. All you could do was receive what God had to give to you. It’s not about doing, but only about receiving.
A Gift with a Purpose
So being saved by grace is one thing, but there’s more to it than just simply being made alive in the Spirit. You are given life for one purpose–to do good.
This is perhaps where things might get a little sticky. We’re very comfortable saying that by grace we are saved, but there is an expectation attached to that salvation. What good is salvation without sharing it with others? It’s not necessarily a catch, but it is an expectation.
Put it this way. Say you’ve never been fishing. You want to go fishing, but you have no way of actually doing it. You don’t even have a rod. Seeing this, an old wise fisherman comes along and gives you his rod. He sits there a while, telling you the basics. He even gives you some bait to get started. The expectation there is that you get to fishing, right? You’re not going to just go home after this man has taken his time to share his wisdom, his rod, and even some bait, are you? No, you’re going to put it to use.
Most gifts are given for a purpose, aren’t they?
You give a gift, expecting some measure of thankfulness. You give a gift because you love or care for someone. And perhaps most of all, you give a gift because you want that person to enjoy what you gave them, and use it for its best purposes. The best example? Think of a wedding shower. Wedding gifts are usually gifts of usefulness. Plates, towels, cookware, household keeping products of every stripe, and when in doubt, gift cards! You give these gifts in the hopes that the happy couple uses them to make a house into a home.
Just as you give a gift to someone so that they can be happy and use it, God gives you the gift of grace as well, so that you can –shock of all shocks– be happy and use it!
Grace is not meant to be hoarded, nor is it something to lord over people. It’s meant to be shared. You were dead. Now, you’ve been given life! So go out there, and rejoice in the new life you have! Rejoice, and give joy to others!
Become Who You Were Born To Be
All of this comes down to purpose though.
All preaching, all reading scriptures, everything we do as faithful Christians is to fulfill our purpose. We are made alive by the Spirit, alive in Christ, all so that we can be the restored Creation God designed us to be.
See, God designed us with grace in mind. God wanted us to be fully alive. We allowed ourselves to be consumed by sin. In doing that, we became dead, in the ways that mattered. Our spirits lie dead when we embrace sin. But when we see the Grace God has for us? We are resurrected. More than that, we are remade.
We were made to be something entirely new. We aren’t who we used to be. We’re made to be something more like God is. We’re now remade with Grace. And that grace wants to be given to others.
It wants to be shared through compassion, kindness, generosity, and love. It wants to be shared through a phone call to an old friend. It wants to be shared over the table with a neighbor, or even a new acquaintance. That grace wants to be given new form through good works, through forgiveness, through reconciliation. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we go to church, why we take part in religion at all.
So now is your invitation. Become who God made you to be. Become a new creation, revived by the spirit. Live a grace-filled life. You used to be dead, but now life is given to you. You are alive now, here, and that life is a gift ready to be shared, used for good works. God delights in us using our gifts. So get out there. Live the good life. Become who God made you to be. Amen, and amen.