Lent 4B, Sunday March 15, 2015
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
PRAYER: Lord, open the eyes of our hearts that we may know you better
One of the things that really annoys me is when you start a journey somewhere only to get into that journey some way and discover you have to turn around to go home again because you have forgotten something really important.
You are instantly re-orientated from the hopefulness or excitement or just newness of trip somewhere only to then have to switch your whole focus and orientation (literally) as you do a U turn and trudge back home felling angry and silly.
Paul talks here in our text of being re-orientated as Christians. He uses a particular word for this. He uses the picture of “walking” at the beginning of this telling text and then again at the end.
Verse 1: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked when you followed the ways of this world…..
Verse 10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. so that we would walk in them.
So, this Word today is about our orientation in life. It is about deeper things than just pure behaviour or word or our choices. Walking is our complete orientation, or big goal or vision for life.
There are obviously two ways we walk.
- One is the way of death brought on by not trusting the Lord’s word.
- One is living in God’s purposes and design.
- One is being objects of God’s just judgement that is death.
- One is being God’s handiwork in the world – walking in the words and actions he has prepared for us already.
Now, we Western Christians often tend to believe that being a Christian is about simply making good choices. If we listen to God’s Word and do what it says we will make better choices and stay walking in the right direction. By “walking” we mean thinking, making choices, doing good actions, saying good words…
This belief about “walking” is a little surface level. Notice how there are other deeper forces at work that actually have a direct influence on the way we walk – the way we live.
One orientation for living is to follow “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient”.
So there are evil forces at work in this world and we can be heavily influenced by them. In Luther’s Catechism these are often named “the unholy trinity” – rather than walking in the way of Father Son and Holy Spirit, we walk in the ways of the evil one, our own old Adam trying to get us to trust in our selves so we get all the glory for any good we do, and the evil people and destructive events we experience in our broken world.
The deathly news is that all human beings are born into this orientation. We are by nature opposed to the works of God. Like a broken drill or a dead lawnmower, we are of no use in God’s will and way.
And the practical way in which we walk in this way of death is by walking with or giving in to or seeking, searching and “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts”.
This is not popular news! This is just really bad news; worse than realizing 240km’s into the long journey with family in tow that you forgot your wallet! (This has happened!)
Friends, until we hear this bad news and receive it in the head and heart, by ourselves, without Jesus, there are usually only two ways we keep on walking in death’s way;
- Despair: Give up because woe is me and woe I will always be, or
- Bold Disobedience: Who cares? I will take my chances and search for other news, other things or within myself to find a way to walk in better stuff than this.
Will you hear about your dead walking this morning? I pray you do, because as you do, what is about to come will change your orientation for the better completely!
Who is this God who tells us we are dead and what are his intentions anyway? That is a question everyone eventually needs to genuinely ask of us Christians and of God himself in his Word.
This is who he is and what he is like and how he treats dead men walking…
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
“Rich in mercy”. That’s God. Rich in kindness and love for dead sinners in despair or arrogant self glory.
Alive God. A God who alone makes dead people alive. And why?
GRACE – undeserved self-sacrificing, self-giving, self-costing love – more expensive than any silver or gold – given in spades in Jesus.
A God who is not silent or distant or unaware or incapable, impotent or irrelevant.
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Friends in this age he is displaying his wonderful grace and kindness for struggling sinners. We have heard him speak and by his speaking we are raised, first in the water at the font, then by the prayers the words enacted in this holy gathering, in the bread and wine of Christ’ body and blood for repeated forgiveness and never-ending life and healing.
Is he changing you orientation yet? You just came to church. He is re-shaping your heart and life.
You may be angry with him for calling you dead. He is loving you in making you alive.
You might be believing yourself to be quite independent of all of this and willing to trust yourself a little more. He is raising you up with Jesus Christ where your life is reorientated in total.
You might be trying very hard to be good and make right choices and be a “good Christian”. He just calls you dead and then makes you alive, and you now can give up on being good enough and simply be made new enough by him.
And then, when we have been turned around; when we have been raised, resurrected, re-shaped, re-newed we are set on a walking course – the way of Jesus of Nazareth that God has already mapped out for us.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are dead sinners anymore. We are God’s beautiful hand-made woman, man young person and child.
Can the news get any better today!?
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
No. No boasting in ourselves need. It is all him and he includes us. There is the call to walk on. Walk on in his grace. Depending on it to re-orientate your head and heart.
Be God’s handiwork in your place. Walk on this way and resist the first way. Let him spin you around today. It’s the only way to go.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,… 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
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