All of Grace

Like many others, Ephesians is a favorite of mine. I could spend an inordinate amount of time in this one epistle (if inordinate were possible). Now, as we venture into Chapter 2, we begin to explore the depths of Paul’s revelation about our position and inheritance in Christ.

The first thing we see is that we were dead (v. 1). We may have thought we were alive simply because we could eat, drink and be merry. But, when we look back on our life before Christ, we realize that any merriment was contrived or forced. We had to DO things to find a moment’s joy. There was no sense of lasting joy.

Most evangelical Christians recognize this reality and that is why they proclaim the necessity of being born again. However, the terms and phrases they use put a lie to the truth that is given here and in many other places in Scripture.

We are told to “make a decision for Christ,” “to accept Christ” in order to be born again or to be saved.

While that is true insofar as it goes, the emphasis on our “personal decision” for a “personal savior” leads many to believe that it is their intelligence, their strength, their effort that placed them within the Kingdom of God.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Gal. 5:9), and this subtle error creeps in at the beginning and ruins the life of many a believer.

A dead person has no ability at all. There are no laws that affect the dead, for there are none that the dead can obey. Even the “law” to get saved cannot be fulfilled by a dead person. (This becomes important to understand when considering Jesus’ teachings about dying to self.) {for an excellent treatment of the practical application of dying to self, click here.}

Therefore, what are we to do?

We can’t DO anything unless God intervenes.

That is the plain teaching of scripture beginning with the first mention of being born again by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3. Even Nicodemus wanted to know what he had to do, and Jesus said, “Can’t. If it doesn’t happen by the Spirit, it won’t happen.” (my rendition of John 3:3-6)

And that is what Paul reiterates here in chapter 2:5 “…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved…”

Other passages for your consideration of this important truth:

John 1:13  – who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Deu 30:6  – And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Eze 36:26  – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Jhn 5:21  – For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

Jhn 6:44  – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.

Act 5:31  – God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Phl 1:29  – For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

1Pe 2:9  – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Jhn 17:2  – since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

Rom 9:16  – So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Jam 1:18  – Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Act 13:48  – And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Eph 2:8-9  – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version. 

I was dead.

He made me live.

Glory to God!

It’s So Easy!!

Galatians 5:16       But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.

Here we have the formula for success in the Christian life and walk: Live by the Spirit and you won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Nothing could be more simply stated than this; yet the struggles to not sin in the Christian life are tremendous–and for some, seemingly insurmountable.

The problem is that too many of us spend our time trying to NOT sin. This will only yield weak and temporary results at best. Following this method usually ends as an exercise in futility.

One of the main reasons this occurs is called the Law of Focus: what you focus on is what you get.

When you go on a diet, and you decide (for instance) that you will not eat banana splits anymore, it seems that the opportunity for a banana split is everywhere more accessible than ever. Just like when you buy a new car–all of a sudden, you see the same car on the highway in numbers you had never noticed before. It’s the Law of Focus. You will eventually cave in and eat that banana split you were so determined to avoid.

Safety courses in driving teach the same thing, especially when in dangerous situations. Do not look at the thing you want to avoid, because you will most likely hit it. Look, rather at where you want to go. (Does that not remind you of Hebrews 12:2—Looking unto Jesus?)

The exact same thing is true with sin–whatever its particular appearance may be in our life. Trying to not sin, to avoid committing that particular sin, almost always ends in failure at some point. Then we must throw ourselves on the mercy of God yet again.

Thank God for His mercy. Without it, we would all be totally lost and undone without remedy.

But, there is a better way. And Paul tells us what it is in this verse from Galatians.

Utilizing the Law of Focus, let us decide to live by the Spirit. Make that your ambition, your matter of prayer for help in time of need.

The one whose focus is on living in, with, by, through, and for the Spirit will find himself doing the will of God more easily and readily than the one who is trying to avoid offending the Lord.

Ephesians 5:10 tells us that we should be trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord–not trying to learn what offends Him.

If you can see this Law of Focus as it applies to pleasing the Lord, and begin to apply it on a moment-by-moment basis, your life will change dramatically for the better.

Try it. You’ll like it.