Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Response to God's Grace

Part 35 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible (6:21-24).

The Story 

What kind of book do you think the Bible is? Some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy.

The Bible does give us God’s rules and does tell us about some heroes, but it’s much more than a book of rules or heroes. As The Jesus Storybook Bible says, “The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!” (Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 17).

We’ve now come to the end of one of the Bible’s books: Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians begins by reminding us of the Story--the story of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. It also shows us that our motivation for pleasing God is found in a proper under-standing of the Story.

Paul's Closing 

In the days before post offices, telephones, email, and text messaging, letters had to be carried from one place to another. Tychicus , “the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (v. 21), was sent by Paul from Rome (where Paul was a prisoner; 3:1; 4:1; 6:20) to Ephesus and probably delivered Paul’s letter. Paul also mentions that Tychicus would be able to given the Ephesians an update on the apostle (“So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing,” v. 21; “that you may know how we are,” v. 22) and “encourage [their] hearts” (v. 22).

God's Action 

Paul began his letter by writing, “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” (1:3). These blessings are gifts of God’s grace. “Grace” is “undeserved kindness.” Grace is a recurring theme in Ephesians (1:2, 7; 2:5, 7, 8; 3:2, 8; 4:7). Paul praises God for his grace, not Christians for their religion. (Religion is about what I can do; grace is about what God has done.)

Without God’s grace, we would be hopeless in our helplessness. 

Right living flows from right doctrine. What you believe affects how you live. For example, a proper understanding of electricity will save a person from electrocution. A person who has a correct understanding of God’s grace will have a right response to God’s working in his or her life.

Our Response 

Paul ends his letter by saying, “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love in corruptible” (v. 24). Jesus was once asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?” He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37; cf. Deut. 6:5). Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The proper response to God’s grace is to love him, which results in our obedience to him. 

“In many ways the benediction is an appropriation of the entire letter. God has provided all you need in Christ; therefore, live worthy of the gift” (Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, p. 366).

Motivated by Love 

Love is always the best motivation for what we do. Recently I watched a video on the internet called “What Is Love?” It shows a man named Bob caring for his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In the video, Bob says, “You see, God has loved us so unconditionally, and I understand that God has put his love in my heart. And because I realize how much God has loved me, that’s how I too can love my lovely wife.” 

When we think about what God has done for us through Christ and his cross—none of which we deserved—we respond with love and strive to glorify him.

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