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God's Grace -- A Creative Masterpiece

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God’s Grace – A Creative Masterpiece
Good morning! I am so glad to be here with you this morning! Thank you so much for inviting my family and me up here to spend this Lord’s Day with you. I consider it a great honor to be invited into your pulpit to not only share God’s Word with you but to also be considered for the Senior Pastor position here at the Baptist Fellowship of Randolph.
This is not our first time here, some of you might remember. In 2014 my family, including my two oldest who are not here today because they have grown up, came here to present our ministry to plant a church with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) on the Island of Saipan out in the Pacific Ocean. You guys lifted us up before the Lord during our 4 years of ministry in Micronesia. Thank you for that!
If you were able to come to the potluck last night, you got to hear the about the Joneses, so I will not go over all that again this morning. If you were not here last night, the short version is this.
I am Billy Jones, that talented lady that I just sang with is my wife Joy. My youngest child William is sitting over there. My wife and I have been married for 25 years this coming June. We have been doing ministry together even before that. We met at a Christian University and started ministry in a Chinese church! I started teaching the Bible when I was just 15 years old, 10 years after I was saved… I don’t know what took me so long… God Saved me when I was just 5 years old. I still remember kneeling in the cinder block hallway outside of my Sunday School room, asking in earnest for God to forgive me of my sins and to save me from the punishment of Hell. He did, He saved me by the richness of His Grace!
That is what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about Grace. That same Grace Joy and I just sang about. Our text this morning is Ephesians 2:1-10. Let’s start by reading God’s Word.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Grace is the topic this morning and it is the central thought in this passage. The title of the message this morning is “Grace – God’s Creative Masterpiece.” I want to walk you through this passage and show you how the message of the Cross is a message of beauty. The most beautiful painting ever painted, the best story ever written, the most glorious sculpture ever carved, and how you can be a trophy in that masterpiece He has created.
It is going to take me a minute or two to get there, so strap in and hang on, lets look at our text again.
Ephesians 2:1-3
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
My first point for you this morning is this:
We must REALIZE our sinful state, that we are stillborn, we are spiritually dead.
We all are born dead because of our sin nature inherited from Adam and we live as a slave to our sin nature, accomplishing the goals and whims of Satan.
Every single one of us came into this world a sinner. There are no exceptions. God’s Word tells us, “All have sinned, all have fallen short of God’s standard.” Every single one of us.
“One who is dead spiritually has no communication with God; he is separated from God.” We are all born totally separated from God.
Paul explained to the Ephesians and to us that when we are living in that spiritually dead state, we are serving the Master of the Word. The Prince of Power of the Air, this Spirit is working in the Sons of disobedience… Who is that you ask, who are the “sons of disobedience? Well, that is you if you have not experienced the Grace of God. That is me before I accepted Christ. That is every person born on this planet who does not have faith in the saving Grace of Jesus Christ.
I want to make sure you get this. Everyone who enters this world does so in a spiritually stillborn state. As such, you have no relationship with God, without faith in God’s Grace, you serve Satan. This verse tells us that every person without Christ lives “in the lust of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, …. Children of wrath.”
Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Max Anders said it like this, “We followed the ways of this world. That is, we lived according to the non-Christian value system. This value system is created and energized by Satan (the ruler of the kingdom of the air). This does not mean that non-Christians realize that their values are created and energized by Satan. In fact, most would probably deny it. Nevertheless, Satan, in his craftiness, places the things in front of us that we, in our sinful condition, find attractive, and, therefore, pursue as though they were our ideas… Our Satanically energized value system motivated us to gratify illicit desires. As a result, we were objects of wrath, meaning God’s wrath, just like all other non-Christians.”
But wait pastor, you said this sermon was something about a beautiful masterpiece… a trophy…
I am getting there! Listen to this story.
Satan thought for sure this time that he would add Martin to his trophy collection. He had his game plan outlined in sinister detail: blind him from seeing the gospel during his formative youthful years, offer him the lie that he could take care of his own problems, hook him with addictions, and destroy his marriage. “By the time I’m through with him, he will be all mine,” Satan thought to himself. So confident was he, that he began his celebration early by giving a thumbs-up to his demon henchmen. “Boys, take some time off. Martin is going in our trophy case.”
Martin lived most of his adult life in the gutter. Over the years, his heart had become as hard as a rock. He would scoff with disdain whenever anyone would share the gospel with him.
“I don’t need any religion. I’m a man’s man,” was his rehearsed speech. Over the course of life, he became an alcoholic which ruined his career and marriage. By the time he was 50 years old, he was as good as dead, an accident waiting to happen.
Unknown to Martin, God was at work in his life. Martin did not know that God also has a trophy case that is filled with trophies that resembled Martin. God takes personal pleasure in redeeming people just like Martin and in showing them off as trophies of His mercy.
Thus God had a plan for Martin’s life: replace his heart of stone with a heart of flesh, open his eyes to see his need for a Savior, and allow other believers to have a burden for him. God wanted to heal Martin from his addictions.
The result: Martin became a trophy of God’s mercy. He was saved. He was added to God’s great trophy case of believers, of people who have experienced God’s great mercy.
Now, whose trophy are you?
The first step in refusing to be in Satan’s trophy case is REALIZING our sinful state, that we are still born, we are spiritually dead.
For our next step let’s look at:
We must REPENT of our sins, turning to faith in the salvation offered by the creator.
Ephesians 2:4-8
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
I am going to look at each of these verses, but I want to start with the last one, verse 8. “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”
That’s it! What a miracle of God’s grace! We are taken out of the great graveyard of sin and placed into the throne room of glory. By Grace… Through Faith!
Before I can explain the previous 4 verses, I need to explain this faith. It’s really simple, as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “… Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”[1]
That is the Gospel. Christ died to pay for your sins, to offer you a new life. He died and was resurrected, so that you, who in your sin state are already dead, can be raised to a new spiritual life with Him!
Paul told the church in Rome, “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”[2]
The Gift of God. That is what Paul means by saved through faith. God is offering us Salvation. If we believe that He is God, that He died willingly on the Cross, that He rose again on the third day, and that belief results in your repentance and turning from your sin, then God has given you the gift of Salvation. Faith is accepting that gift and relying completely and totally on Him. By Faith not by works!
Let’s go back to verse 4,5, and 6…
Paul tells us that God’s mercy restrains his wrath. He refrains from punishing us even though we are sinners. Why? This mercy flows out of his great love for us. He desires to do good for those he loves, not evil. As a result, he has done three things for us.
He made us alive in Christ!
The only way a spiritually dead person can communicate with God is to be made alive, and that must be done by the One who is Himself alive. He is the living God, “who gives life to the dead” Romans 4:17
He raisedus up with Christ! And He seated us with him in the heavenly realms.
This new life, power, and position demand that believers have a new set of values, as Paul stated in his companion letter to the Colossian believers: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col 3:1-2
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.[3]Col 2:13-14
What does this mean? It means that we already exercise power with Christ over the powers of this age. We can live lives reflecting Christ’s kingdom, not Satan’s. We do not have to be Satan’s trophy! We are not Satan’s beat up ole ugly lump of rusted scrap metal thrown in a corner… We can be polished precious metal reflecting the Glory and Holiness of God.
Why does God offer us mercy and grace? Verse 7 “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
The word show means “display.” In the same sense that an artist might display his canvasses to reveal his skill, or as a champion might display his trophies to reveal victories, so God displays his redeemed children to the universe to demonstrate his grace.
So Why? He didn’t have to, but because he loved us, he wanted to. That is grace, and that is what saved us, or delivered us, from eternal judgment. God’s offered escape belongs to him and to his initiative alone. No part of it can be credited to you. The whole of salvation, the grace as well as the faith, is a gift of God.
Remember, faith is giving up on being able to provide what you need for yourself and letting God give what he alone can provide.
So again, We must REPENT of our sins, turning to faith in the salvation offered by the creator.
Then what? What does a person do after they have accepted by faith the gift of Salvation? What do you do when the Grace of God enters your life? I am so glad you asked.
Finally, We must RE-PURPOSE our lives, living to complete the good works God has designed for us instead of the works of the evil one.
I said before that God is working on a masterpiece. He has designed this masterpiece and set it into motion before the foundations of the world were laid. When you accept His Grace, become a born-again believer, leaving death behind you, you become a part of that masterpiece.
Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
His purpose in offering this grace is to display his craftsmanship through our good works.
Paul tells us here and in Titus that God’s workmanship is not achieved by good works, but it is to result in good works (cf. Titus 2:14; 3:8).
In other words, God has prepared a path of good works for believers which He will perform in and through them as they walk by faith. This does not mean doing a work for God; instead, it is God’s performing His work in and through believers
You see, the Grand Masterpiece is the Church! The Church existing in this world doing these good deeds that God designed at the beginning of creation. Isn’t that beautiful? It is Glorious!
Even though people were spiritually dead and deserving only God’s wrath, God, in His marvelous grace, has provided salvation through faith. Believers are God’s workmanship in whom and through whom He performs good works.
Before you were stillborn in sin, God had a plan for you. God had good works all set up for you to do! Once you accept His Grace by faith, you are reborn to life and able and equipped to go out and do those good works in His Name!
2 Corithians Chapter 5
17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
“As we, his children, stand on display throughout eternity, we will be recognized as God’s workmanship. “Workmanship” (poiema) is not just a result of effort or labor. It is a result of artistic skill and craftsmanship. If we could earn salvation by our own good works, we would not be a work of God but a work of our own selves.” – Max Anders
You have done absolutely nothing to earn salvation by being or doing “good.” God’s plan of salvation by grace places all humans on the same footing.
So, what do you do with this new life? You repurpose it. A Believer, a Christian, cannot continue to live like the world. We cannot continue to love what the world loves. We cannot be ok with the standards of the World. Our focus must be different. Our motivation must be different. Our purpose has changed! We have to re-purpose to stop achieving the goals and desires of the evil one and begin to achieve the goals and accomplish the good works of our Savior.
This is hard work! This re-purposing, this transition that every new believer, and old believers too, must go through is really a lifelong process. The process of deprograming the secular world view and adopting a Godly worldview. So much of what God asks us to do, these good works, this new lifestyle of love, sacrifice, and service, goes polar opposite of what everyone else around us is doing. It is hard!
Do you know how to tell if a man walks into a room if he is a pilot? Wait five minutes and he will tell you…. As you know, I am a pilot, I studied missionary aviation in Bible College. I have been using aviation to support my family for the last several years and have become a check airman, a pilot who teaches and checks other pilots to make sure they are safe and that they follow procedures.
In clouds or on black nights, when pilots cannot see outside, they keep their wings level by watching an artificial horizon on the instrument panel. The artificial horizon is a gyroscopically steadied line, which stays level with the earth’s surface.
Pilots sometimes become confused about what the instruments are telling them.
As turbulence tilts the airplane to the left, the pilots, tilting with it, notice the artificial horizon line dropping to the right. Vertigo usually sets in about here… your body starts telling you are turning one way and the airplane is actually going another. Reacting instinctively to the indication of motion, pilots try to correct that motion, often trusting their body and turning the wrong direction. The result of such a reversal is deadly. Pilots turn to the left just when they should turn to the right, and then in confusion they bank harder. While cruising calmly inside clouds, a pilot can suddenly flip the airplane upside down, or worse, induce a stall or a spin and lose control. The solution is to trust the instrumentation. Do not trust what your body is telling you. That artificial horizon is telling the truth. If it says the plane is level, the plane is level! Even if your body is telling you, it is upside down!
The same kind of disorientation can happen when we try to follow God. We need to be in God’s Word, attending church, listening to God’s Word being taught. We need to trust His word over, above, and beyond what we might feel in our minds and hearts is right. God’s word is our instrumentation! Trust it and we will not go wrong.
As your repurpose your life to align with what God wants of you, as your begin to accomplish the good works He has for you, you begin to add to this glorious and beautiful masterpiece of Grace that God is painting to bring honor and glory to Him.
So let me close with these thoughts.
Today we are going to participate in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus commanded us to remember Him, His sacrifice on the cross, His shed Blood and broken Body. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of who did all the work for our salvation.
Little Johnny a boy of 5, had been going to church since the day he was born. At his church they celebrated the Lord’s Supper every first Sunday of the month. On Communion Sundays, the offering plates were passed twice: before the sermon for regular offerings, and just prior to Communion for benevolences. Johnny’s family always gave to both, but they only passed a single dollar bill to Johnny to put in the regular offering.
One Communion Sunday Johnny’s mother, for the first time, gave a Dollar Bill for the benevolent offering also. A little later when the folks in Johnny’s pew rose to go to the Communion rail, he got up also. “You can’t take Communion yet,” his mother told him.
“Why not?” he said. “I paid for it!”
I tell this humorous story because I think it shows a very adult attitude. We may think we can earn God’s salvation. But it is a gift.
Everyone in this room was born a sinner. There are no exceptions. Christ shed His blood on the cross to pay the sin debt of everyone in this room. He rose from the dead defeating death and hell so that you can also be raised from the dead.
He asks that you realize that you are sinner. He then asks that you repent of those sins and trust in His grace that has provided you with salvation. He then asks you to repurpose your life to align it with His goals for you, accomplishing the Good Works that He has designed for you.
Whose Masterpiece are you?
What will you choose to do today?
[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 15:3–4. [2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 10:8–10. [3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Col 2:13–14.
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