So this past week (6.5.11) Lane walked through an immensely important passage of Scripture and brought out a few solid key points. Over the last couple of months as we’ve dug into the first two chapters of Ephesians, I’ve been struck at the beauty of how our God serves us and loves us. It’s so easy a lot of the time to take that love for granted and to just bypass all of the blessings that God has poured out on us. But when I take a closer look at my life and dive into Scripture and really read the text for what it says and means, I am overwhelmed by the God who has chosen me and enabled me to love and glorify him. And then, as I think about my life and how God’s sustaining and persevering grace has grown and shaped me over the course of my 27 years, I cannot help but worship him. Which is exactly where Lane took us this past week.
So when God works in and through our lives like we saw in the first chapter of Ephesians, it has a profound impact on who we are – God doesn’t leave us as we were; there is a transformative aspect of grace. And this transformation isn’t just a change of appearance or activity – it’s a holistic change of being.
First, there is a change from death to life (vv.1, 5)
Before we know God and follow him, we are dead in sin. We have no godly motives, we have no true life, and we are only going about in rebellion against God. But we see that God, who is rich in mercy and grace, breathes life into us and we are given a new heart with new motives and new goals. By its very nature, the grace of God in our salvation completely transforms everything about who we are. To be sure, we are in the same body with the same physical appearance, but our focus, our reason for living, our purpose in this life has been irrevocably changed.
This change that we experience isn’t just for the sake of change – it’s for the glory of God. In our dead life before we were saved by God, we pursued whatever we wanted: food, sex, ambition, cash, etc.; we were under the rule of Satan. But in our new life in Christ, we have a new king, a new heart, and a new desire to make God known in and through our life. And this is what God saves us for. We are citizens of a new kingdom, and we live under his authority as we glorify him and follow him. When we are freed from the oppression and dominion of sin in our lives, we are given immense freedom in Christ to serve him to his glory and for our good. This doesn’t mean that we are free from sin completely – rather, we are free from being dominated by sin. And this is a key point – when Christ died on the cross and God resurrected him, the power of sin was broken, and our ultimate freedom in Christ was guaranteed. But this ultimate victory far in the future is not absent today – we have the Spirit of God to lead us, sharpen us, and to sanctify us as we live in this world.
And this has a far-reaching impact for us as people of God – there are several key areas where we can see this transformation of grace.
Is the life I live really all that different from that of a regular ‘good person’?
Death and sin have no power over me… but am I giving in to their bluff and denying the security and power of Jesus’ cross and resurrection by still living in sin?
Second, there is a change in Community and Communion (v.6)
After we are given the gift of spiritual resurrected from our formerly dead state and have a new life in Christ, we are also given another monumental grace in the form of Christian community. Though non-Christians have friends and can develop very deep relationships, there is an inherent beauty and depth with which we relate to other believers. People from completely different cultures and generations can come together under the banner of Christ’s name and glorify him together. And this unity that we live in is not just for the heck of it – it is another view into the glory of God as seen in a covenant community of believers. This is why church membership and intentional relationships are so important. They are not only beneficial for us, but they are also a testimony to the greatness of our God who brings people from all walks of life together and demonstrates his glory in and through them.
So we are given much grace in the community that God gives us when we are known by him. The integral part of this particular truth, though, is that our community is an outpouring of the communion that we have with God. Each one of us is who we are in the corporate Church because we are a new creation and have a beautifully personal walk with Christ on an individual level. And this intimate communion with God as we experience the Spirit working within us drives us toward deeper relationships and greater fulfillment in everything.
It is no secret that non-believers long for things – the aforementioned sex, power, money, material things, etc. But the trouble is that the same longings and sins that we find in those who don’t claim the name of Christ exist and are readily apparent in those who do claim the name of Christ. So what are we to say about this? Lane correctly diagnosed the root cause and offered a biblical solution in saying that we cannot satisfy with any substitute that which only Christ can fulfill. In other words, we have a fever and the only prescription is more Jesus. That’s right… I just went there. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, do yourself a favor and Google ‘more cowbell.’ If you don’t know what I mean by what I just said, I can’t help you. I digress. In short, we must strive to know Christ and make him known in our relationships, and our relationships with others should drive us to know Christ. It’s a really cool gospel cycle of doing relationships to the glory of God.
We must show him to be the glorious King that he is.
Am I loving those people I work with and interact with like they’re people, or projects?
Am I currently being fulfilled by Christ, or something/someone else?
Third, we are transformed in our Emotions (v.3)
As we drill down into the passage more deeply, we see that at the seat of our relationships are our emotions. And there is a contrast set up between our emotional and mental states before we were saved and now after we’ve experienced salvation. You see, we were completely opposed to God in every way – hardened blatant sinners against him. But God then showed us the immeasurable riches of his grace in Christ; he showed us that we are infinitely loved. And this brought us to a crisis of sorts. Would we then surrender our emotions, our motives, our lives to this God, or would we cling to that which was familiar and wallow in the secure familiarity of our sin? If you claim the name of Christ, then you will see that though there is still a struggle, and though there are many dark seasons in the lives of Christians, that surrender was immensely freeing. It seems that laying down our arms is the best way to win the war within us. And this is a precious grace – we no longer have to worry, we no longer have to wonder where our security will come from, for we know it is completely fulfilled in Christ and he will take care of us in every way. We are free, we are secure, we are at peace. What a glorious transformation we have in Christ if we set our lives toward his purposes and his glory.
So then I ask myself… What am I living for? Where do my emotions and thoughts go? What do I quietly worship?
Fourth, all of Creation is transformed (vv.8-10)
In Genesis we see that God creates, man sins, and God redeems. He saves us from ourselves, from our rebellion against him. In this way, God brings unity and re-creates us as he redeems us. Our desires (formerly sinful) are transformed into holy affections for him. Our deeds (formerly wicked) become good works for his glory. Our shame and disgrace becomes a testament to his glory and grace; we look at our past and see that God saves us from it. Truly we are new creations in Christ Jesus. And not only us, but all of creation is being renewed. Jesus is making all things new, including all people groups, all cultures, all nations. The Church is a grace of God to this world, and we are constantly pushing back the darkness that we see on a daily basis. As God goes about the business of renewing creation he is using the Church to accomplish those plans, and we have the joy of serving our King in his mission.
Jesus has redeemed me for a purpose – am I pursuing that purpose with more fervor than daily earthly wants?
What is God using me to accomplish, and what does he want to accomplish in me?
Where is the Spirit calling me to obedience?