"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
A five letter word that we scatter around like confetti, but do we ever stop to ponder it? To think about what it means?
We get so caught up in the going and the doing and the moving, that do we ever stop and rest in the being? Being still. Being overcome by the love. Being filled with the grace.
I love the beginning of this chapter of Ephesians.
I read over the first few verses and I know the darkness of it. The darkness of a situation that mankind was powerless to change.
From the time Adam and Eve committed the first act of disobedience by eating that forbidden fruit, we were all on a crash course to destruction. We were all born with a sin nature. A nature that convinced us we could do things our own way and our way was better than any other way.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
As these verses and the ones in Ephesians tell us...there was no way we were getting out of this on our own. We were condemned to death because of what we'd done.
Two words that when placed together make the setting for the most beautiful story ever told.
Ephesians 2 says: "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)."
But sometimes we get this whole grace thing a little mixed up, don't we?
We get this gift a little bit confused.
And that's when we focus more on the going and the doing than the being. We get so caught up in earning the gift that we never slowed down long enough to just embrace it.
Grace...grace is a gift. A beautiful, priceless gift that was given to us by the God who stepped into our story and changed our course because He loved us too much to lose us forever.
But the works, they confuse us.
So we try to earn grace in every way possible. Dressing a certain way, going to church every Sunday and Wednesday, reading our Bibles out of duty every day and saying quick prayers before every meal, only talking to a certain kind of friends. We do all of these "good, Christian" things not because we want to, but instead out of duty or our own foolish, vain attempts at earning our salvation.
Let's say your dream was to visit the Grand Canyon. For your birthday, your parents give you an envelope with a letter and plane tickets detailing a huge trip they planned to send you to the Grand Canyon. They've paid for everything. Your dream is being handed to you as a gift.
What if you stared at the envelope for awhile and then handed it back and said, "Thank you, but I will do everything I can to earn it before I fully accept it. I'll work extra hours to save the money to pay you back."
It wouldn't really be a gift then...would it?
Or let's say you had a car accident and your car was rolled over and you were trapped inside. There was absolutely no way you were getting out on your own. Before long, the paramedics and rescue squads arrived and assured you that they would get you out. They were going to rescue you.
If you replied by saying, "Thank you, but first let me do a bunch of nice stuff for you," you would be considered crazy, right? After all, you're stuck. You aren't getting out of there and you aren't going to be doing anything to earn that rescue.
You see, when we make grace more than a gift, we forget the wonder of it.
We lose sight of the amazing love of God that He lavished on us so freely. We forget to just be still and remember His love.
Friends, what I'd love for you to take away from this is that you can stop striving to earn the grace you've already been given.
It's that gift that God has already offered to you and pushing it away while you try to earn it is the most futile thing you will ever do. You can't earn a gift. You can only accept it.
Now, before I close I did want to address one more thing.
While grace cannot be earned by good works, our good works should be the evidence that we have accepted the gift of grace.
Look right here: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
Let's talk about that gift to the Grand Canyon again. Instead of trying to earn the gift this time, after opening the envelope and seeing the news, you jump up and down excitedly and thank both your parents with big hugs.
But the next day nothing changed in your behavior.
You complain to your parents about little things and show them no respect. You show no gratitude and maybe even forget about your surprise dream trip coming up. Accepting the gift did not change you.
Let that not be said of us as children of God.
No, you can't earn the gift. But if the gift doesn't change you, what good is it in your life?
Instead of doing good works or living according to the Bible out of duty or a sense of obligation to earn something, may we live our good works as a way to thank God for the gift He has given us. May we live to glorify Christ in every action, word, and deed. May we make our lives a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the One who gave us everything because of His love. Let's love Him enough to live for Him.
And today I pray that you can take a moment to just be still and breathe.
Breathe in grace.
Boundless, limitless grace given to us every day.
What do you think about this idea of grace? What ways have you tried to earn grace instead of just receiving the gift? Share some ways that you think we could live a life of thanksgiving for the gift of grace so freely given to us, so that it changes us inside and out.
What are some things that you learned from Ephesians chapter 2?