Sunday 10 March 2024 Lent 4
The transforming love of God
Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
Context: an informal, vibrant Communion service with mostly young families in a large village (sermon is to the adults only)
Aim: to grasp the dramatic transformation and new sense of purpose that union with Jesus brings
OUR HUMAN CONDITION
Whether at a global or personal level, we seem incapable of achieving our aspirations for living better, more kindly, and less selfishly. Writing to the Ephesian Christians, Paul was blunt in describing our common human condition (vs 1-3). Life without Christ is bleak, in fact it is no life at all. No matter how physically fit or mentally alert we may be, our soul is dead when our wrongdoing separates us from the source of life. No matter how free we feel, we are enslaved by both external spiritual forces and our own inner disordered desires, unable to live up to even our own standards (cf Romans 7:15). No matter how favourably we might compare ourselves to others, the uncompromising justice of God finds us wanting, and we stand condemned (John 3:18-19). Of ourselves, we are powerless to do anything about it. There is nothing within our own framework that can remedy our condition. However, the loving initiative of God in sending his Son, Jesus Christ, brings a dramatic reversal.
GOD’S LOVING INITIATIVE
‘But. God.’ (v4): these verses are full of God’s initiative. Compelled by his own nature of love, God has taken action to transform our hopeless human condition. It is through the gifting by God of his Son, Jesus Christ, that this great reversal is made possible. By being united with Christ, we receive a new nature and new status. Once dead, we are made alive as we share in his life. Once enslaved, we are raised up with him, set free and given dignity. Once condemned, we are seated alongside him in his heavenly presence, a place of great honour.
It is our union with Christ that brings about this great transformation. It is as we become a member of his body that we share in the blessings of his life, freedom and status. To become a member of a health club, we pay usually a joining fee and then regular payments according to the level of services we want to enjoy. Is it like that with our membership of Christ’s body? What are the payment options? None. Nothing to pay, nothing to contribute. This is gift membership - for life. Following the gift of sending his Son, God adds the gift of union with him. ‘It is by grace’ (vs 5, 8) – the free and underserved favour of God towards us. ‘Through faith’ (v 8) - the humble trust with which we receive the gift offered and rely upon it. So, unlike the health club, there is no joining fee and no ongoing payments. We are united to Christ by grace, and we continue in Christ by grace, enjoying the full benefits of union with him. Have you received that gift offered? In what ways are you enjoying the life, the freedom and the honour that Christ gives?
OUR NEW PURPOSE
Paul describes those transformed by Christ, as ‘God’s workmanship’. A great painting or a beautiful building reflects something of the artist or architect and prompts those looking at it to praise the one who crafted it. So, our lives, his ‘work of art’, the result of God’s re-creation, are to reflect something of God’s character and prompt those around us to give praise to him. Whilst we make no contribution to our new life and status, we are to live it out. Whilst we are not saved by any good works we could muster; we are saved for good works. Our life in Christ is full of purpose! By uniting us with Christ, God has drawn us into the work he is doing in the world. He has even gone ahead of us and prepared opportunities, unique to each of us, to demonstrate to others what we have experienced from God: mercy, kindness, grace, love, generosity, dignity, honour.
As we receive and celebrate God’s loving gift of union with Christ, and the new life, freedom and honour that he gives, may we be alert to the opportunities he has prepared for us in this coming week. Opportunities to reflect his character to those we meet and join in his work in the world around us.
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