“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.” ~Ephesians 2:1-5
I can’t help but wonder at the author of these words. Before he became known as Paul, Saul was a man who actively pursued the persecution of Christians. He gave his approval for their murder (Acts 7:54-60) and was passionate for their imprisonment (Acts 9:2). He was not indifferent or apathetic, rather he was a man on a mission of destruction. And yet the Lord spoke these words about him, “this man is to be my chosen instrument to carry my name to the Gentiles and their kings, and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
Here was a man who so obviously did nothing to earn salvation and everything to earn God’s wrath, even so grace was extended to him.
When I think of Paul, I regard him as an amazing person. Yes, he did unspeakable acts, things that could have lingered in his soul and tormented him under the revelation of his new life in Christ, but he boldly shared the gospel. Imagine if Paul had allowed his sin to weigh heavily in his memories; the persecution of people whose only crime was to follow Christ, a “crime” he himself was now committing. His sins would have been like the proverbial ball and chain around his ankle hindering him, slowing him down. Instead, Paul allowed the recognition of what the cross had done for him, an acceptance of this gift freely given, to remove the potentially crippling effect of sin on his life. Moreover, he used the revelation of his salvation to fuel him forward. He professed the gospel with zeal because he fully understood from whence he had come and the hope into which he had been reborn. He professed and lived this truth:
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:16-21).
I often reflect on the active spiritual battle that wages war on our heart, soul and mind. On any given day there is a conflict of great consequence taking place in the Heavens; one that endeavours to make us remember and hang onto our sin, to keep our eyes fixed on ourselves and not on Jesus, and thus interfere with the race marked out for us. But we are called to “throw off the sin that so easily entangles,” to remember the undeserved place we have been given. Although sometimes challenging, we must simply accept that we have been fully forgiven because of the grace extended to us. When we do this, we proclaim Jesus as the victor. The alternative is to carry sin with us and thus shift the victory into enemy territory.
Paul’s story is also our story. Our conversion moment may not have been as dramatic as Paul’s, but the salvation story is the same for all. We have all been washed clean by the blood of Christ. We have all been rescued from the pit and covered with sacrificial love and gracious provision that required nothing from us but surrender. We have received redemption from the death due us, and the life of freedom we cannot earn. We need to live in this truth! Allow it to penetrate our heart, soul and mind, to cut through things that hinder because God sees us as His instruments. Like Paul, he has chosen each of us for a purpose. With abandon, let us turn away from the anchor of sin and humbly accept God’s beautiful gift of grace and so boldly testify to the power and love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.”
P.S. Follow along with the continuation of this selected passage with the upcoming blogs of this lenten season here.
Rina is quickly becoming one of the “oldies” in the church. She has been around since just after the doors of this church opened 28 years ago. Rina (along with her husband) raised her four children in this church and while some have strayed from the truth, Rina knows that God is faithful. After all, He saved her from complete darkness and so she knows without doubt that He is able to do the seemingly impossible in anyone. Rina loves to walk her dogs, drink coffee and exercise. She enjoys the Fall and Winter rains with their grey days, the Spring rains that reveal rainbows, and the brief sunshine of the Summer. Odd duck? Probably. Content? Very. Rina loves to pray for others. Need prayer? Ask:)