God is Merciful

God Is... June 9, 2024 Ephesians 2:4-10 Notes


The saying goes: only the strong survive. From marketing campaigns and sports teams to climbing the corporate ladder, strength is one of the highest values in our culture – we spoke about that last week as we explored the mightiness of God. Mercy, on the other hand, often doesn’t make the cut when we talk about things we value. In a society placing more and more emphasis on power, mercy has almost become a foreign concept. So, what is mercy all about and should it even matter to us?

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he told the believers that they could know God’s rich mercy. We can know this rich mercy of God.

Audio

Transcript

Well, good morning, church. How y'all doing this morning? It is my distinct pleasure to be here. Two out of three weeks, this is just charging me up. I love to be able to share with you.

This is exciting. This is week three of Pastor Gary's mini break. This week he's at the beach, but we've given him four weeks off. Two weeks of that were vacation. And two weeks of that we've had him lock himself in his office because we've been giving him some pretty hefty lifting to do for the future vision of this church.

And if he has to devote 30 or 40 hours to sermon prep during the week, that's going to take a significant bite out of that. And so that's why we're filling the pulpit for these four weeks. He'll be back on week five, so you'll see him again in two weeks. But for now, my name is Mike Laramee, and I am just overjoyed to be here with you. We're continuing our sermon series, talking about God's attributes and God is.

How do we know who God is? This is a lifelong pursuit. In week one, we talked about knowing God by knowing that God is love. And last week, we talked about knowing God by knowing that he is mighty. And this week, we're going to talk about knowing God because God is merciful.

We're going to talk about God's mercy today. Now, this is funny, because this was a hard shift for me from yesterday. Most of you probably don't know this, but I'm on a formation flying team that we do a lot of events around. We have all the NC state home football games. We do some NASCAR events and stuff like that.

We do formation flybys flying by for the flag. And there's a lot of training involved. And so I'm on this team. It's a wonderful thing for me because I am the junior guy, okay? Which is nice to be in.

It's nice to continue to develop your craft, right? Because I'm flying with these guys that have been doing it even longer than I have, okay? Former fighter pilots, airline pilots, all these guys. And we're doing this thing, and it's a very formalized thing. We had some nationally certified people coming down to give me a check ride, give other people a look see, and that kind of thing.

So I'm hanging out with these guys yesterday, and Cindy and I had gone to the dinner that we had, and we're on a rooftop restaurant in Little Washington, North Carolina, and you might have been there it's really neat. We're out there eating dinner, and I was saying, yep, it's time for me to get going, you know, Cindy and I are going to get heading on back home. And the guys were saying, well, what are you doing? Why do you leave? Because they're continuing to train today.

I said, well, I got to go preach at church. And you could see the gears, just what, you know, like, you're going to do what? And now all of a sudden they say, what? You're a preacher? I said, well, you know, kind of part time, you know, I do this from time to time.

And you could see them trying to figure me out. And I just kind of had to say, look, I'm just another guy that God has shown mercy to. That's just all I am. You know, whatever God has done in and through me, it's just through his mercy. And so that's what we're going to talk about today.

We're going to talk about his mercy, which flows out of his love that we talked about on week one. Let's remind you of the series theme, verse that's in John 17 three. And it reads, and this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. And going with this, we've got a quote from the famous theologian ji Packer. We're going to remind you of what he said, too.

He said, what were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. Disregard the study of God and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you.

This way, you can waste your life and lose your soul. What's the life's purpose? To know God. That is what we are put on this planet for, is to know God. Now, the saying goes that only the strong survive.

Stephen spoke last week about God's mightiness, and one of the things that he spoke about was superheroes in today's culture and how that's kind of a reflection of how we like to see power now. He really loves those superhero movies, I can tell you. I haven't seen a superhero movie since the second Spider man. I've checked out of that whole genre. If you enjoy those superhero movies, by all means, have a good time.

Just don't ask me to go. I'm not going to go see them because I find it kind of silly personally, but it reflects the society's desire to deal with power because we like that idea. Right? So when we talk about values, you know, power's one of those things that shows up a lot. Strength shows up a lot from marketing campaigns and sports teams, and maybe perhaps you're climbing the corporate ladder.

Strength is one of the highest values in culture. Mercy, on the other hand, well, that doesn't make the cut. We generally don't think about mercy when we talk about things that we value, that we really want to emulate in society that places more and more emphasis on power, mercy has almost become a foreign concept. So what's mercy all about? Should it even matter to us?

We don't talk much about it. Instead, we talk about people getting their rights right. People are suing each other at the drop of a hat, and they take revenge when they feel like they've been wronged. Right. They lash out at situations that they think are wrong or unjust.

We have an entire part of our media in the form of social media, that is just designed to lash out at other people and to take offense. We have become the culture of the offended. We talk about our rights all the time. Recent talk show had a woman who had been accused of murder. She'd been cleared by law enforcement and by the court.

She had been declared not guilty, but in some form of social media. I don't know which platform it was. People took her to task and basically declared that she was a murderer in spite of what the evidence had said. See, in this world, mercy is sadly lacking. And it's so desperately needed.

We need mercy. See, really, mercy is a true picture of strength, like last week, being used as a blessing, strength being used as a blessing and as a benefit to others in need. Mercy is strength being used as a blessing to those in need. This is at the heart of why God sent Jesus for you and for me. See, the challenge for us is that we do not want to admit that we have a need, especially we who are Americans.

We like to think that we are self sufficient. I don't need a need. I don't have a need for that. But this is at a heart. This is at the heart of why Jesus was sent for you and for me.

The challenge for us, we don't want to admit that we have a need. But for us to understand mercy, we need to recognize that need. See, the Bible shows us that our need is great. See, we fall short. We need someone to step in.

We need a savior. We need a savior who sees all of our actions, our thoughts, and our deeds, but does not give us what we, in fact, deserve. After he sees all of those. Instead, he looks upon us and he took what we deserved upon himself and gave us mercy. See, he saw our true need and did something about it.

It's his mercy that makes us worthy. As a result, we are set free to live a life of mercy towards others. Because Jesus had mercy on you, you are to be merciful to others. God's mercy is closely tied with that idea of forgiveness. Right?

What we do in response to God's mercy sends a very important message to the people in our lives. If we understand mercy, people will see it in how we live. James in his letter says that even though deeds or works are not required to earn God's favor or even to be a Christian, that repentant heart that loves God will be evident in how we live our lives. In his article in Christianity Today entitled Have Mercy on me, David Mathis said, when God shows his mercy, he does so with utter intentionality and strength, and we as his creatures, get our deepest glimpse of who he is, not just in his sovereignty, but in his goodness. So what David is saying there is when God shows his mercy, what he's really showing is his strength.

He equates that mercy and strength. Now, in the apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he told the believers that they could know God's rich mercy. See, we can know that rich mercy, too. How can we get to know this rich mercy? Well, the text is going to give us four ways we can know this rich mercy of God.

And if you would join me in reading, this will be on the screen. But you can also join me. I'm going to join. I'm going to read out of a real Bible. If you want to use your phone, you can do that if you wish.

But I'm going to read out of a real Bible. If that doesn't bother you, we're in Ephesians chapter two, starting in verse four. But God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved, and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. 1 may boast, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. And may God bless the reading of his word.

Amen. We're looking for four ways to discover the rich mercy of God. Here's the first, by understanding God's great love. By understanding God's great love. Now, our text is from Ephesians 2410.

But to understand, because Paul starts here saying, but God. Well, we got to figure out what that's all about. What was he talking about in verses one through three? Well, we didn't read it, but let me summarize it for you real quickly. Paul is describing man's fallen condition.

In verses one through three, he starts off saying that we were dead. In our trespasses, we were dead. And then he says that we followed the ways of the world. We lived only to gratify our fallen condition, and we lived by our own thoughts and desires. And then in verse three, he cuts to the quick, and he says that we were by nature objects of wrath.

In verse three, he says, that's what we deserve. We deserve wrath. But then verse four says, but God. But God. So all that stuff being said, we were very much in need of mercy.

But God steps in, and what does he give? He gives his rich mercy. That word rich here is abounding in, or wealthy. Figuratively, it's this overflowing with wealth. Now, I know I'm dating myself here, but I remember when I was in high school, I used to watch Scrooge McDuck jumping into the pile of gold coins and swimming around.

He had just these piles and piles and piles. That's the wealth we're talking about. You can jump in and swim around in God's piles and piles of mercy. That's how much mercy he's got for you. He's rich.

He's fabulously wealthy in mercy. Mercy, though, what does it mean? Compassion? It means compassion. This kindness or this goodwill towards those who are miserable and afflicted.

It shows up in this desire to help. That's that mercy. Theologically, it's the mercy and clemency of God. And in offering salvation by Jesus Christ, mercy. God is so rich in this mercy that you can swim in it.

But where does the mercy come from? Right there in verse four, it says that it comes out of his great love. Out of his great love. Now, the word translated great here is normally in Greek, it's normally megos, which means big. But that's not what shows up here.

That's not the same word. The greek word here actually means many. Okay, many or much okay. Or like a high capacity, abundant. This could be this great love.

Could be this overflowing, abundant love. Okay. Like, if I pour my favorite cup of coffee and it's just pouring all over the place, not making a mess, but just, you know, more and more and more and more, right? There's this idea of just overflowing and this word love, just like I introduced two weeks ago. It's the word agape.

And let me remind you of that definition. It's this unconditional, sacrificial love that God offers to us. It's not those other forms of love. This is the highest form of love. God is so overflowing in his richness of mercy that he has this abundant love for us.

All right, sounds great. Right, sermon done. Let's go now. There's so much more to unpack here. There's so much more here.

Verses five and six, we look at the expression of this love, and we can see how this mercy and love play in. Because in verse five, it says, even when we were dead in our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ. By grace, you have been saved. I love that phrase. We're going to come back to that in a moment.

And he raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Simply put, what Paul is saying here is the richness of mercy is his indiscriminate compassion, meaning he has compassion for everyone. It's indiscriminate that affords us this unmerited favor. No matter how bad off we were, he has just this overflowing mercy that goes all over the place. See, some of us really don't realize how much we're in need of mercy.

But you know what? Every one of us needs mercy. We needed so much mercy that the infinite, everlasting, eternal God had to send his only begotten son down here to live a perfect life, to die a sinner's death on a cruel cross. That's how much mercy we needed. We need mercy.

Some of us don't feel loved. You know, we may feel unloved from time to time, but God shows us here in these verses that he loved us so much that he poured out that mercy, and he demonstrated it by Jesus death on the cross. Romans five eight says that God demonstrates his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There's a demonstration of mercy right there. We didn't deserve that mercy, right?

We didn't deserve that. But God showed it anyway, and he showed it in a very famous passage of scripture. And this is not just the one that you see at sports games, you know, John 316. Actually, it's the two verses right after it. John 317 and 18.

Look at how God shows mercy. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, which is what he should have done, right? But to save the world through him. There's his mercy in action. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only son.

You know, if the apostle Paul were standing here right now, he might tell you just kind of what kind of person he was, the self absorbed person who was persecuting the church. And if you listen to his pedigree, he names it out, right? He was a jew of the tribe of Benjamin. He went to the school of Gamaliel, which is basically Hebrew. Harvard.

Right? So he was a rabbi's rabbi, okay? He was a pharisee, which was the strictest form of rabbinic Judaism, right? So he was so zealous for the faith that he persecuted members of the way he killed christians, thinking that he was serving God. And yet on that road, he met Jesus and got mercy.

He was a killer. He was a murderer, and he got mercy. He would tell you that right now that God loved him so much that he showed him mercy in spite of the fact that he, at the time was, as in verse three says, an object of wrath. I think Paul understood that very well. Many of us need to realize how much in need of mercy we are.

We do. We need mercy so much. See, just like Paul, you and I need to avail ourselves to the mercy of God. We need to understand how much he loves us. You may feel unloved right now, but you are so loved.

You are so loved right now that God took the time in eternity past to make the plan for you to be loved. Right now, look towards Jesus. Some of you, too, might be a little confident. You're like, okay, yeah, I'm not that guy. I'm not the one that I really need all this mercy stuff.

I'm good. I'm good to go. You know what? You need mercy even more because you're prideful. And that was me.

So when I say that, I'm telling you where my heart was. I need mercy. See, we need to see that relationship between love and mercy. But as we look at that and as we learn about that, there's the next step in figuring out what God's mercy looks like. And here's verse in part two is, by experiencing God's immeasurable grace, by experiencing God's immeasurable grace, we can know more about his mercy.

So we're here at the end of verse five. Through verse seven, we see how the mercy of God plays out, and it plays out through his grace. You see, grace and mercy are very closely related. And some people would say that they're synonyms, but they're not quite synonyms. Mercy and grace, they're very close.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Okay, imagine you're a little kid again, and your brother or sister or whatever, you're in the house and you break your little brother's toy, right? And you deserve whatever punishment that you got in your house. Now, I got spankings. Okay?

We got wooden spoon spankings. You know, or maybe it was you're standing in the corner and you're in time out, or whatever it is that was happening in your house. And your mom or dad says, okay, well, you deserve this banking. Well, I'm not going to give it to you. I'm going to give you mercy.

That's mercy. Okay? Grace is. Then, well, you know what? You broke that toy.

But you know what? Here's another one, okay? You get what you don't deserve. That's grace. Mercy is not getting what you deserve.

Your Grace is getting what you don't deserve. So they are related. See, we deserve hell and punishment for our rebellious lives. We deserve that. But God didn't give us that.

He showed mercy and offers grace. That word grace, you've heard it from this pulpit before. It's that unmerited favor. It is a divine benefit of knowing God. It is what we get for knowing him.

So God reaches down when he doesn't have to, even though we were enemies of God. And because he's merciful, he extends his grace and he does it. And he does three things. According to Paul in this section of scripture, he does three things. The first thing he does is he saves us.

Now, this might sound like old news to us, right? Because we have been in the church for a long time. We use that word a lot. Oh, I got saved. We got saved.

You know, I've been saved. You know, and so we may lose the impact of what that word really means, that saving, that salvation, that's important because it's saving you. From what? From the danger or destruction. And, you know, for example, when I was.

I was an instructor at Naval Station Pensacola for a while, it was a joint command, air force, Navy, Marine Corps and one of the requirements for flying Navy jets is you had to go through the helicopter. Dunker. This is, imagine, if you will, a huge, what looks like a 55 gallon drum. It's got seats inside and it can sit, I think, eight guys sitting in there and you're sitting in these. It's to pretend to be a helicopter, right?

And so you're sitting in these seats and you're strapped in and it's in this huge pool. It's 18ft deep. They drop this big drum into the water and it starts to sink. And, oh, by the way, when it sinks, it rolls inverted. So now you're strapped into this thing.

And by the way, did I mention at this point, I'm terrified of water, okay? Now we're sinking in this thing, in this drum, upside down in the water. You're not allowed to move until the drum stops at the bottom of the 18 foot pool. Okay? Yeah, I'm afraid.

Okay. And they tell you, you know, hey, look, no one's ever died doing this, okay? I had to literally tell myself, no one has ever died doing this, but I am terrified. Okay, you release. One of the things I did not notice, there were divers in the pool and they were there to save you, okay?

In case you messed it up and you didn't release or you couldn't get out, they were going to reach in and grab you and save you. Salvation is available. And that's what Jesus did for you. You were in that helo dunker and you are drowning. And Jesus is there as that rescue diver to save you and pull you out of that.

But that's not where it stops. God's grace extends to save you, but he also raised you. He raised you up. He lifts you up. And yes, we talked about this in our heaven series.

He's going to raise us up, right? But he raises you up right now. He offers you not only eternal life, but life. Now he raises you up and look at what happens. He seats you, he seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Positionally, you are already seated with Christ. You just don't see it right now. As we talked about in the heaven series, we've got that coming. But you are seated right now and it doesn't matter who you are right now. If you are a believer within the sound of my voice, male, female, you know, adult child, you are adopted as a firstborn son in the family because he has seated you next to Jesus.

You are adopted into the family with all the rights and privileges of that. Now we need to experience God's grace. And one of the ways that we can experience God's grace is by continually seeking him. Look in colossians three one. It says, therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, so keep seeking him.

Another way to do that is to be on mission with him. And if you think of the story from the acts of the apostles, you got all these apostles and disciples, they really don't know a whole lot. They've got the spirit. Jesus has just risen. That's not like they've been through a theological seminary at this point, but they're on mission for Jesus at this point.

And look at what happens in acts 14 three. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. You see, they were not, they didn't have the power, right? But Jesus did. And they were on mission for Jesus.

And so, signs and wonders and all these, the word of his grace was revealed through them. See, I can flip a switch, but I don't provide electricity. I can turn a faucet, okay? But I can't make that water flow. There will be no light and no liquid without someone else providing it.

God's grace is like that. It's essential to our spiritual lives, but we don't control the supply. We cannot make grace flow. But God has given us those circuits to connect and pipes to open in case it's there. See, we need to put ourselves in the path of God's grace.

How about consider Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus, if you went to Sunday school when you were little, you probably sang that song, and I'm not going to sing it. But Zacchaeus, a wee little man. A wee little man, was he right? Climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see, right?

Put himself in the path of Jesus. And what happened? Jesus said, hey, come on down from there. I'm eating dinner at your place, right. Zacchaeus put himself in the path of God's grace.

This also happened with blind Bartimaeus, right? He put himself in the path of Jesus and called out, Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me, Jesus. What do you want? I want my sight. Blind Bartimaeus would have never gotten his sight back if he didn't put himself in the path of God's grace.

See, he knew that Jesus was coming. How can we see God's mercy? Well, how can we experience his grace in the process. We need to avail ourselves of that grace. See, some of us are still closed off to the Lord.

You may be sitting here in the building, but you're not really here. You're not really here. You know, you might be ticking the box. Okay, I'm here on Sunday. I'm good.

I got my. Got my fire insurance for the week. Seek God. Seek him. Allow him to work through him.

Allow him to work through you. Allow yourself to fully receive his mercy and be available for him. See, some have gone on mission trips and you see God's grace in action. I've been there. You go out there and you can really see it.

It's really neat to get away from the United States, away from our normal life, get into some country that you've never been before. And God's grace is increasingly and overwhelmingly obvious. You can see it play out, but you don't have to do a mission trip to make that happen. You can step out in faith, in a new ministry. You can create a new ministry or just do something that's new to you.

Okay? Step out in that ministry. You don't know necessarily how it's going to work out. You don't know if you're going to be good at whatever it is that you're starting to do. But I tell you what, your willingness to put yourself in the path of God's grace, you'll see it.

You'll see it play out. But you know what? It can also be even more simple than that. Okay? You can look for grace all around you.

A beautiful sunset, a day at the beach, a child's laughter, a good cup of coffee. That's one I love. And the joy of spending time with people that you love, that's all. By the grace of God, you know that you are not guaranteed another day, but by the grace of God, you can experience those things. And here's one more.

We've got a table sitting out in the lobby right now called Compassion International. It's literally mercy. Go out there and consider adopting one of those children. I've met those guys. Okay?

When I was in Uganda, I met Alex. Alex was a child of compassion. And he will tell you, it's because of him that he got an education. He even got his food. Now, I will tell you, compassion does great work.

And other organizations like world vision and the like, they do great work. But the need is so great that when we were in Uganda, compassion could only afford to pay for one child per family to be able to go to school. The parents are in a difficult position to actually pick which child gets an education. And there are other organizations that have tried to step in to touch the gap. Well, there's a way that you can be merciful.

Consider stopping by the table and seeing what you can do. That's one way to experience his grace. Here's the third. Receive God's free gift by faith. This is another way we can see mercy, receiving God's free gift by faith.

We're in verses eight and nine, and these two verses have very special meaning to me. 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.

1 may boast. And it says here that by grace you've been saved through faith. Now, faith. First of all, if you have this saying in your mind, or you're thinking blind faith, I want you to remove it. I don't ever want to hear you say blind faith again.

There is no such thing as blind faith. Faith means you are convicted of the truth. You are convinced that you believe something is true. That's not blind faith. This actually believes.

This sounds more like trust. You all are experiencing faith right now. And it's not just in the words that you hear from scripture, it's in your rear ends. You're sitting in these chairs, right? None of you made these chairs.

None of you know the engineer that designed these chairs, right? You don't even know if we cleaned them. Okay? You walked in here and you sat down and you, by faith, figured out you're not going to end up on the floor, right? You demonstrated faith because you trusted that the chairs are in good repair and that they would support you and you'd be able to sit up.

That's faith. So it's belief with this idea of trust. So by grace, you've been saved through that belief and it is a free gift. This is not your own doing. This gift is the same idea from the Old Testament as a sacrifice, as we bring a gift to the Lord.

It's a sacrificial gift, but gifts cost you nothing. You don't pay for a gift. You don't do anything for a gift. And here, don't miss this. But Paul is saying that the gift itself is faith.

Faith is a gift. Now, the response is ours. What you choose to do with that gift, whether you receive it or not, that's your choice. And he says it's not a result of works. We don't do anything to get that faith.

It's not an effort on us. And we're going to talk about this in the next point so that anyone would boast. And what does it mean to boast? Nowadays? We think boasting and we think about bragging.

Okay, that's not what it is. Boasting is to glory in a thing or to take credit for it. What Paul is saying here is, since there's no way you could have earned that faith, you couldn't do anything for that faith. There's no way you can take credit for it either. Don't boast in it, right?

You didn't do anything. God gave it to you. There's no point in taking the glory for it now. We see this going all the way back to Genesis. The earliest example that we have of how this salvation occurs, how someone is declared righteous, happened with the story of Abraham.

At the time when Abraham was still Abram, he was great father is how it was defined. God changed his name to Abraham. Father of nations, father of many. Right. How did that happen?

Abraham was called by God and said, look, you're going to have descendants that outnumber the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. Right? He didn't even have a single child and he was old. But Abraham believed God. Look at Genesis 15 six, it says, and he believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness.

God here equivocates. He equals the belief with righteousness. Faith comes from righteousness, and that gift is free. John 521 says, for as the father raised the dead and gives him life, so also the son gives life to whom he will. Let me take you back to August of 1993.

I was in the military. I was at Inserlik air base in Turkey. I was on a combat deployment flying over northern Iraq. At the time, my daughter was 15 months old, just walking in diapers. And I had a one year old son at home.

I'm deployed, which was my normal. I'm gone. My wife is at home with two in diapers. And, oh, by the way, she's on active duty working full time. So yeah, I'm deployed flying combat, and I get invited to a Bible study.

Well, at the time I was a Catholic, and I'm not here to beat on Roman Catholic Church. But I will tell you, there are some Catholics that believe in the Bible and that believe in Jesus and are genuinely saved. I wasn't one of them. Okay. I went to church out of duty.

I went because it's Sunday. We're supposed to go to church. That's what I did. Okay. And I thought, I'm invited to a Bible study.

Great, let's go do this right. I've studied the Bible, and I was taught that in the lectionary process that the catholic church reads through the entire Bible in three years. And I've been going to church for a lot longer than that. So I figured, okay, I know the Bible. Well, guess what?

We're in verses eight and nine of ephesians, chapter two. And I read, for by grace, you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing. It's the gift of God. And I went, I have never heard that verse in my life. And I thought, what does this mean?

Well, I stewed on it and I studied on it, and I tell you what, I can return from that deployment. And Cindy, who had been a Christian for much longer than I had been, had been praying for me, and I gave my life to Christ based upon that Bible study. I got saved in August of 1993, 31 years ago in Turkey. And I credit the Lord, but I also credit a man, John Kenny, who was an a ten pilot. He was actually a strike eagle pilot when I knew him, and we were deployed together.

He's now a delta captain. I still communicate with him today and go say, you know what? You helped lead me to the Lord. And it was through this passage we need to receive that free gift of faith. Some of you may not have received that gift of accepting the free gift of God.

You can do it now, that's a free gift that he offers you. Would you do it? What's the next step? We're going to become God's workmanship, which he's prepared us for, so we can explore the mercy of God by becoming God's workmanship, which he prepared us for. We're in verse ten.

Here we are. His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. That word workmanship is a wonderful word. It's a greek word called poema. It's this idea of a product, something that's been made.

It's like a masterpiece. Okay, sounds a lot like poem, right? For those of you who are artsy types, okay, this is something that's made, and it's literally the workmanship of God. Now, I have traveled the world and I've seen a lot of beautiful things, okay? And you might think of, you know, wonders of the world.

The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, for example, or maybe the Grand Canyon. Those are all beautiful things. But you know what? There is something more beautiful than that, right here in this room. And it's each one of you, because you are made in the image and likeness of God.

You are his poemma. You are his workmanship. He has made you. He says, you have been created in Christ Jesus for good works. Now, it's funny, when we were studying this week, we're trying to find, you know, preacher types.

You know, we try to find the perfect verse that illustrates what we're talking about, right? We're trying to find the perfect verse describing what good works is. You know what? We couldn't find one. Lots of verses talking about works.

Lots of. Lots of verses talking about the effects of good works, but nothing really. What is good works? You know why I think that is? I think we kind of know what good works is, right?

I think you kind of know that even from when I was little, you know, that meme ish kind of thing of, you know, the boy scout leading the old lady across the street. We know what good deeds are. We just naturally have an understanding of that. So, good works, we kind of understand that, right? We were created in those good works.

But here's the interesting part. In verse ten, it says that they were prepared beforehand. Okay? Literally, God ordained those good works that you are doing from the beginning of time to bring glory to him. God has foreordained the kingdom.

Work in our lives, in your life, and in mine. He's made us for these things. You are the poemma, the workmanship of God, to do those great works. And then at the end of that verse, it says, so that we may walk in them. As we walk in them.

Paul is borrowing a hebrew idiom, this idea of walking. It's the same idea that we use in the church, you know, like we have a christian walk. This idea of sanctification growing closer to be who the Lord is. Paul is borrowing that. In other words, what he's saying is, as you walk, as you go through your life, as you continue to go to work and go home and visit and do all the things that we do, God has got these works, these good works that he's prepared beforehand from the beginning of time, that you can be part of his workmanship.

Now, sometimes all we need to do is realize that's what's going on. And for me, that can be a real challenge, because we're, you know, we walk like this a lot, or we walk like this a lot, right? I can't tell you how many times I walk around in some of the cities that I visit, and I'm having to weave through people that are looking down right on their phone. Okay. If we would just pay attention, we could see as we were walking in them, we were walking in that walk, we could see those good works that God has prepared us for.

Sometimes for me, God actually hit me with a two by four in the back of head for me to see it. Okay? And a lot of times, maybe, perhaps, you see it in the rear view, you're like, oh, there was an opportunity, right? Oops, I missed it. So you might be asking me, why did you include this last verse, verse ten?

It doesn't seem to speak of God's mercy. It doesn't mention mercy. What's up with that? On the contrary, this demonstrates the mercy of God really well, because why in the world would God use fallen human beings like me and you to be on mission for him? I'm broken.

I'm messed up, but God can use me to accomplish great things. If I were perfect, how much glory would God get out of what I do? But we are broken, and God gets all the glory for what? The great things that believers have accomplished. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, once a man has truly experienced the mercy of God in his life, he will henceforth aspire only to serve.

What he's saying is, once you've tasted that mercy, you're going to want to pass it on. You're going to want to be merciful to someone else. Remember, Jesus was all about being on his father's business. You know, he was left at the temple in Jerusalem when he was twelve, and his family came looking for him. And he said, hey, man, I'm doing God's work.

Look at Luke 249, he says. And he said to them, why do you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about my father's business? We have business to do. Jesus modeled that for us, and he calls out the difference between the works of God and those of man.

In Matthew 23 23, he says, woe to you, scribes and pharisees. You can imagine him yelling at them. Here he's really calling them to task, because he calls them hypocrites. For you, tithe, the mint and dill and cummin, and you've neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy, faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others.

Don't miss what he's saying. He's saying, you pharisees are trying so hard to live by the law that you're tithing out of your spice rack. Can you imagine going home and going, okay I got this much paprika. Here's 10% for the church, and here's some salt for the church. I'm going to bring it in and, oh, I'm going to make sure I do everything right.

But he's saying they neglected justice and mercy and all these greater things. You can tithe out of your spice rack, but you can miss the forest for the trees. Scripture teaches us that there's a clear progression there from God's grace, which is received by faith, which produces works. And here we'll finish where I started in the introduction with James 218. Someone will say, you have faith and I have works.

Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. What James is saying here is that if you really do have faith, you're going to do stuff about it. Okay? We're not earning our salvation by doing it, but we're going to demonstrate that Jesus really lives by how we live. See, we see this all the time in this church.

We do. Someone walks in the door and they come as they are, right? They walk in broken and messed up, and what happens? They get touched by the love of Jesus and they are forever changed. Then what happens?

We get them involved, right? Hey, maybe you should go help out here in guest services. Or you know what the coffee ministry could use? A smiling face. Or hey, come on over to community group.

We get them involved and they start to grow. Maybe soon they start getting discipled and they start discipling others. Soon they're leading ministries of their own. I see people in this room right now that fit that description. Later on, they're witnessing to others and they're leaving a godly legacy.

But you know what? It's not about filling those volunteer rosters that I'm talking about. Yes, I want you to volunteer to serve in ministries, but it's not just to make sure that we have somebody there. It's because you are God's poemma. You are his workmanship.

You've been created for these things so that you can walk in them. Those opportunities to show mercy to someone else are because God himself showed you mercy. First will you lead, then will you yield to the Lord's work in your life? See, he's already prepared this kingdom work for you. He's already got it set up.

He's prepared you also to accomplish it. Even if you don't feel like you're up to it. Will you then follow him and accomplish that mission that he set in front of you? See, we can be a people who've come to know God better by knowing his mercy. See, we can know that rich mercy of God by number one, understanding that great love of his number two, by experiencing his immeasurable grace.

Three, receiving that free gift of faith and four, becoming his workmanship. You can do this. You can learn that mercy. Let's pray. Father, I thank you for your mercy that you pour upon me a broken vessel, and that you can do great things through those of us who admit our need for your mercy.

And I thank you for that mercy that you pour on us. Every day you renew your mercies day by day. And father, I want to pray, especially with those people who have never experienced. And if you're one of those people within the sound of my voice in this room, the next room, or online, I want you to pray with me, especially if you've never received the mercy of Jesus Christ and pray along and say, jesus, I recognize my need. I need your mercy because I'm broken and I messed things up and I have missed the mark.

Would you forgive me? Would you show me mercy? I want you to be my savior and my lord. I want to live for you and I want to experience this mercy always. If you prayed that along with me again, there's nothing magic about those words, but welcome.

God has just adopted you into his family. There might be others here that really need a fresh look at mercy. And let me pray for you too. Father, I pray for my friends within the sound of my voice here who really need to examine their need for mercy, that really need your mercy. We've messed up.

We need your forgiveness and mercy. But we also have issues giving mercy ourselves. So I pray, spirit, work through us, work through us to show mercy to a lost and dying world that needs you. And I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.


You're caught up!

Here's a random sermon from the archives...

On Parenting

August 14, 2022 ·
Ephesians 6:1-4