Ephesians 2: 1-10 (the message)
It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive to Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
The last 3 mornings I haven’t gotten up as early as usual to spend my time talking with God and reading my Bible. You know…one of those weekends where you spend the day out-of-town and get home late…you push the snooze on your alarm too many times the next morning, etc. And today is labor day so my husband is off and I just wanted to sleep in with him until the girls come barreling in. I don’t fear that I’ve made God angry or that now my whole day is shot…I know that He loves me! But really, I just have to smile, and here is why…
I talked to God while riding in the car to my parents house Saturday and I read several chapters in my Bible. I talk with Him anytime I want to! But what I hadn’t done was get myself out of bed early enough to have the time with Him that allows Him to prepare my heart for the day ahead. So, this morning as I was up and around the kitchen with my family I was feeling annoyed and even made a snarky comment. Is that the end of the world??? No! But you know what it shows me? That every day I get up and respond to people and situations with patience or kindness it is truly because of Jesus. I don’t ever do it perfectly but the more time I spend knowing Him the more He is able to work in me. As the scripture above describes, it’s His work! He does the making and the saving! “All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.” I was sitting on my porch this morning thinking about this great proof of who He is in my life! I don’t have to prove or argue with anyone else about His existence. I don’t have to debate the validity of the Bible! I know, first-hand, the correlation between walking with Him daily and the kind of person I am. I know that as I seek Him I am much more likely to be compassionate and show mercy. I am much more forgiving and more likely to ask forgiveness. The reverse is true, also. When I do not take the time to let Him speak to my heart and prepare me for the day I am much more likely to be judgmental, moody, snappy, self-centered, etc.
If you have never walked closely enough with Jesus to know for yourself that He really can work in you and change you, then give it a try. The scripture above is so potent with truth. We all start out this life doing whatever we feel like doing whenever we feel like doing it. We all know what it’s like to live in a stagnant life of sin. And any of us that have been exposed to “church-world” probably know what it’s like to give it the old college try and hit the wall of failure. See, I myself don’t have it in me to live consistently in loving kindness…to maintain a right perspective on situations and people. And really, I appreciate that every now and then God gives me a reminder of how all the fruit of love in my life flows from directly from my time with Him. I have been “saved” since I was a little girl. My salvation has never been dependent on how much time I spend praying or reading my Bible. Salvation is completely found in the sacrifice of Jesus. I could never add anything to what Jesus did on the cross for me. He bore my punishment. I just receive it and believe that in doing so God has me where He wants me. So, I could be saved from Hell my whole life because I do believe Jesus died for me and asked Him to save me, but still be just as grumpy, ill-mannered, disloyal and unstable as ever. How come? Perhaps I was willing to pray a sinners prayer and I meant it, but I have not become willing to let God work His character out in my life. See, responding to God affects who we are…how we relate to others…the desires we hold in our hearts…the way we think about ourselves and others…the way we respond to situations and people…as we trust Him enough to let Him do it. How do you know someone trusts you? They might say they trust you but you won’t really know until you ask something of them and see how they respond. Trust is evident when we are willing to do something another person’s way, whether we understand it or not. We don’t have to know all the reasons, we just have to know the One behind the reasons. If we know that God is always good and loves us extravagantly then we can live a life that shows we trust Him. But if you don’t know that yet then your first show of trust is believing that He can and will help you if you let Him. Notice how the scripture says it’s “God’s gift from start to finish!” He loves us! He wants us! He isn’t rubbing His chin and looking us over, deciding if we are worthy…none of us is worthy! We all start in the same boat drifting on the sea of sin. But as we actually invite Him into our lives we come alive in Christ. All of the loving kindness of God, all of His glorious attributes, are brought to life in our hearts because of the Holy Spirit.
I can be “saved” and in a position of spending my eternity in Heaven because of what Jesus did but I will have to get to know Him every day to grow more like Him in my personality. Think of it…the very Spirit that raised Jesus from death resides in me if I have asked Him to come into my life! And in His Spirit is all of the power and love I could ever need for my life. The Bible says apart from God we can do nothing but with Him all things are possible. Even if you have been moody, insecure, or impatient for all of your life it is possible that you can change as you spend time learning to hear and respond to His sweet voice. But like any relationship, we can’t know His voice if we won’t stop to listen for it.
I love that sometimes I get a good ol’ flashback of my judgmental and crabby self! That sounds odd I guess but it just confirms the greatness of God in my life! I have to repent but it just serves as this awesome reminder that my time with Him is not wasted. Every day the first choice I make is who will be in the driver’s seat today? Will it be me or will it be Jesus? I can’t conjure up enough sweetness to last more than half an hour or enough patience to last through breakfast on my own…but I have come to realize that starting my day off with Jesus is the way I invite Him to work in me that day. It’s a show of trust that although I don’t have what it takes on my own, I know He lives in me and will help and change me through His Spirit. And really, once you can see the difference in who you are with Him vs. without Him it will be all the proof you ever need. The more you know Him the more you will trust Him…The more you trust Him the more He can work in your life. See, Jesus is the very best medicine for our wounded hearts and sin-sick lives. Our daily dose may cost us a little time, sleep or pride but the results are truly life-changing.