Bethel CRC Lacombe

January 14, 2024 The Lord and Giver of Life Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:1-8

January 17, 2024 Bethel CRC Season 1 Episode 2
Bethel CRC Lacombe
January 14, 2024 The Lord and Giver of Life Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:1-8
Show Notes Transcript

Today we continue our series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We will reflect on Ephesians 2:1-10, The Lord and Giver of Life. In this part of his letter, Paul contrasts the difference between being dead in our sin and alive in Jesus. Paul focuses heavily on God’s grace in Jesus that brings about our salvation and new life. Love, mercy, grace, and faith are all things Paul touches on as being rooted in God’s kindness to us.

The Lord and Giver of Life

Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:1-8


Have you been born again? If you're honest, this is a question that sounds a bit odd to many of us this morning, it's a question we might expect in a church from a different tradition like a Pentecostal church. Yet this is what Jesus tells Nicodemus we all need, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'" Paul also talks about new life, contrasting the new life with being dead in our transgressions and sins. In both Ephesians and John, new life is found in following Jesus and accepting him as our Lord and Saviour. Paul tells us again in Colossians that we are dead in sin, but made alive with Jesus; a powerful word of hope!

Paul talks about being dead in our transgressions and sins, talking about our spiritual condition, a heart and soul thing, not a physical body thing. But there’s also a lot of brokenness in our county that creates a death of hope, a dying of peace and safety, hurt inside that kills any chance of dreaming of something better. I volunteered for years at a downtown ministry in Thunder Bay with men whose families had shattered, with children from broken homes, many filled with parents struggling with addictions. I saw the scars and trauma in their eyes. They came looking for hope, for help, for a new start again. Many of them only knew of God as a someone who hated people who broke his rules. The family brokenness, the breaking down of being community together into a society focused on 'me first,' has led to lots of loneliness and brokenness.

Paul's not saying that you can't experience joy, satisfaction, accomplishment or even love in your life without being made alive in Jesus. I have many friends who don't want anything to do with God or religion and have happy and fulfilling lives. They are accomplishing a lot and doing a lot of good things with their lives, as they remind me. They don't feel dead. So, what's Paul getting at?

Without Jesus, without the Holy Spirit, the good things in life, the good things we accomplish, the happiness we achieve all depends on us and our ability to make life go well, but what happens when life goes hard? We often discover that the things we put our trust in for happiness end up failing us at some point. In small and large ways, we've made the good things God has given us, God’s blessings into gods small "g" gods that we lean on to make us happy and satisfied. We judge life by how we feel and the responsibility is on ourselves to make sure we surround ourselves with stuff that makes us feel good. Yet in the end, everything you've done comes to an end because it’s focused on this life. If death and nothingness is all that you have to look forward to, life loses its meaning and purpose, two things we need to find deep long-lasting happiness and contentment, no matter the circumstances of our lives. 

Rob, an old friend who continues to say 'no' to Jesus, has admitted that he sometimes wonders why he bothers working hard, why do good things, and help others, and his only answer is because it makes him feel good. He's been married and divorced twice and was living with his girlfriend. His happiness depends on keeping her satisfied enough to stay with him. This is what Paul's talking about when he talks about “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” This is what Jesus is getting at with Nicodemus, when life and happiness depends completely on what we do, the “flesh giving birth to flesh” idea instead of the “Spirit giving birth to spirit.” I've always been a "God" person in Rob's life and so we would talk about happiness and having something constant in our lives instead of things that keep changing. We talked about God and why Jesus is that constant in my life. I talked about how Jesus makes me a different person, one that he keeps talking to about someone he says he doesn't believe in. Being born again for Rob will look like exchanging his small 'g' gods for Jesus. This is a decision we all need to make. 

Tim Keller mentions how some of the unhappiest people he's met are those who've succeeded in life but then found that as they accomplished all their dreams, they were still restless. The more they achieved, the more they needed in order to feel fulfilled and happy. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a member of the ruling council, a man dedicated to fulfilling all the laws and requirements of the Jewish faith, but still he’s seeking more, finding that doing the law wasn't filling that emptiness in his heart and soul that needs more. Nicodemus shows up one evening at the place Jesus is staying; hoping to find something to fill those empty places in his soul. 

Jesus identifies Nicodemus' heart longing, that emptiness in his soul as a longing for the kingdom of God. Jesus tells Nicodemus, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." Nicodemus misunderstands Jesus, "How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!" You have to wonder how can someone as educated as Nicodemus not understand that Jesus isn't talking in literal terms, but pointing to something deeper. Jesus is trying to help Nicodemus see is that, instead of seeing life through the lens of following all the rules or his accomplishments, Nicodemus, and many of us, need to see and experience life from a new starting point. Jesus points to the need to have the Holy Spirit renew your heart, soul and mind so that you approach and live life through Jesus instead of yourself. We've messed up our hearts and souls through sin so much that it is described as death. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the only ones who can un-mess them up again and bring us into new life. 

I was talking last week with someone about how faith is a heart and soul thing, not a rules and law thing. Faith is rooted in relationship, this is what Paul’s getting at when he tells the Ephesians, “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 wen we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” There’s that word “grace” again, rooted in our relationship with God, rooted in God’s great love for us; a love that looks like sacrifice, that looks like Jesus on a cross reconciling us with God our Father again. There’s a whole lot of death and life talk here by Paul; our souls are dead in our sins, but he keeps pointing us to the offer of new life and the generosity and grace of God, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

Receiving the new life that flows out of God’s grace, is all about letting go of your old life and all the unpleasant stuff inside; letting God take charge and shape your life his way instead; inviting the Holy Spirit to wash the old away and dress you in new clothes with a new family name and identity anchored in Jesus. You will begin to embrace new priorities and cultivate a new focus in life based on accepting Jesus completely, letting go of your fear and embracing trust and faith in Jesus and his plans for you. You may be called to embrace some of the chaos that comes from loving the prodigal as God does; reaching out to the hurting and broken, coming alongside those that are rejected and ignored by loving those Jesus loves, helping them know they too can have new life, that there’s hope because of God’s amazing grace.

You’re invited by God to embrace his grace. You are God’s handiwork, created to do good works, to be grace to others. Living our new life in and with Jesus frees us to accomplish God things because the old stuff no longer holds us back. It may seem small to you to lead someone to Jesus, but the angels in heaven celebrate every time someone comes to Jesus, making that small thing in your eyes, something that has eternal consequences. Your new life allows you to continue the things Jesus was doing as he told his disciples in John 14, " Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." 

Your new life is a sign of hope to others looking for healing and hope in their own lives. You’re witnesses of the power of Jesus in the world still today; of the power to hope again after life throws you a curveball. Jesus sees who you are and all the potential he’s placed in you when he created you. The church is here for the world, Jesus has put us here, not for ourselves, but to go out wherever Jesus has placed us to serve and to bring healing, and to make disciples. We don't do this on our own, we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

The power of the Holy Spirit in you can bring change into our community that will ripple out in ways that you can't even imagine because the Holy Spirit blows wherever it pleases. You are part of building a community of strength and hope and health by being a picture of what the kingdom of God is, where people focus on living for others in God’s grace because we are children of God created in his image.