This past Sunday I continued our series on the letter to the Ephesian church by sharing about God’s grace.
I began with an illustration from a book entitled “The Sunflower.” It is a true story of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who was brought face-to-face with a dying Nazi soldier who offered a confession to this Jewish man. Given the opportunity to extend forgiveness to the soldier, he instead walked out of the room without saying a word.
As this illustration suggests, unforgiveness is the logical response to acts of wrong. The opposite of unforgiveness is grace, which is the most illogical response to wrong in the history of creation.
I began in Ephesians 3:1-3. Here Paul mentions a “mystery” that was made known to him that he in turn made known to the Ephesian church. This mystery is found in a passage just one chapter prior in Ephesians 2:4-5.
“...by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:5)
The mystery is grace, and God chose a man who enslaved, imprisoned, stoned and persecuted those who believed in Jesus. He chose a man whose reputation for violence and persecution against the church spread like a cancer over the land. This man was Paul, and God chose him to share his grace with His people.
Grace is one of those concepts that we hear a lot about but many people find it difficult to really understand it, so here are a few definitions:
– Grace is the most illogical response to wrong in the history of creation.
– Grace is forgiveness without repayment.
– Grace is forgiveness as an act of war against everything that is evil. – Grace is forgiveness without even payment for damages done
– Grace is forgiveness without even payment for damages done.
But the most accurate, all-encompassing definition of grace is this:
There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.
To many, this can seem too good to be true. Surely there should be something that we have to do – Sacraments? Memorizing verses? Classes? Baptism? The truth is that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less!
This is such amazing grace. The grace that we can give is shallow and limited. The grace that God gives is limitless. It is so high you can’t get over it, so low you can’t get under it, and so wide you can’t get around it.
But what about repentance?
You might be asking “what about repentance?” It is so important to understand that repentance does not bring about grace. Ephesians 2:5 says that we received grace when we were “dead in our trespasses.” Dead people cannot do anything!
Repentance is, however, the opening of the door to grace. It is simply admitting that you are wrong and that God and His Word are right. Repentance opens the door to grace and shuts the door to barriers such as pride, religion and sin.
This is a beautiful Old Testament picture of God’s grace. Israel had rejected Him, despised Him, and given themselves to foreign Gods, and yet God cries out:
“How can I give you up?
How can I surrender you?
My heart is turned over within Me!
All my compassions are kindled!
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One in your midst.
I will not come in wrath.”
God’s grace for His people is overwhelming as is His love for you. His grace, my friends, is for you. Receive it!
Going back to my opening illustration, I do not know how I would have responded in that moment. The truth is, I have not been asked to forgive the sin against an entire race, nation, or people. The enormity of what this man was asked to forgive is unfathomable, and I only know of one man who surpasses this story: Jesus.
God sent His son to become flesh and blood like you and I, but live the life of the most perfect man in history. It was on the cross that Jesus gave us an example of His great Grace. He said of His executioners “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
What great, great grace!
Possible Discussion Questions:
– What are some barriers to accepting the grace that God has so freely offered to us?
– How has God’s grace been evident in your own life?
– What are some ways that we can make sure we show grace to others?