The Difference Between Mercy and Grace

Mercy: Withholding deserved punishment.

Grace: Giving of undeserved blessing.

Ephesians 2:4-7,

 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. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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.

Out of God’s love, mercy and grace we’ve been given three things:

  1. Made alive with Christ (I’m a new person!).
  2. Raised up with Christ (I have new power!).
  3. Seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (From the grave to the throne room!).

These verbs are all past tense. These are not things that will happen. We are already there! The transforming change of perspective comes as you begin to see things as God sees them. All we see is here and now but God also sees the there and then at the same time.

What Amazed Jesus?

We are easily amazed by things but what amazed Jesus, Son of the Living God?

Twice the Scriptures describe Him as being amazed. In Matthew 8:10-13 Jesus is amazed at the incredible faith of a Gentile. And in Mark 6:6, in Nazareth, Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith of his own countrymen and home townspeople. It is a paradox that the religious people of the day, who had the Scriptures, would lack faith, while the Gentiles should demonstrate faith.

Jesus lays out a paradox of his own. The religious, who would expect to participate in the heavenly banquet, were kicked out. But the foreigners were allowed in. The simple lesson is that Jesus respects faith, not ethnicity, background, religiosity, tradition, or other truly external things.

3 Things We Follow to our Spiritual Death

Ephesians 2:1-3,

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.

1. We follow “the ways of this world.” We act like everyone around us is acting.

2. We follow the devil. Here two names are given: 1) the ruler of the kingdom of the air; and 2) the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

Satan uses his measure of control and power to tempt us to go in the wrong direction. Why do we fall for them sometimes? There is a spirit who is at work creating this desire to be disobedient. His biggest weapon? Lies. John 8:44

3. We follow our own sinful nature. 3 ways our sinful nature speaks to us:

  1. cravings (something I need).
  2. desires (something I want).
  3. thoughts (something I decide).

Because we are spiritually dead apart from Christ, we are “objects of wrath.” Wrath is God’s response to sin. A holy God is not going to allow sin into His presence. Because of His love for us, Jesus allowed God’s wrath for our sin to be poured out upon Him on the cross. He took it for us.

Thanks be to God!

The Eyes of our Heart set the Direction of our Lives

Ephesians 1:18-20,

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.

Just as we have physical eyes to see what’s going on in the physical world, we have spiritual eyes to see what’s happening in the spiritual world. The eyes of our heart set the direction of our lives.

1. See the hope of His calling:

If we look at the world we’ll end up in denial or despair. But our identity is lived out in the calling of God. How does God help us see hope in everyday life? Through problems! (Romans 5:3-4).

How do problems produce hope? With problems we’re forced to rely on God or despair through self-hope. Problems help us loosen our grip on the things of this world and put our hope in God. Problems become hope when they cause us to look to the only One who can give true hope.

2. See the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints.

This is not talking about inheritance as in heaven, which is common New Testament talk. In this case Paul is talking about US as GOD’S inheritance! We (and all the saints in Christ) are the greatest treasures in heaven!

Most of us don’t see ourselves that way and don’t see ourselves for all that God has made us to be: rich and glorious.

An “I’m useless” attitude can be cured when you realize you were created to bring glory to God. It doesn’t matter what other people (or even you) think of you. It matters what God thinks of you! And we are His inheritance!

3. See the power available to you as God’s child (Ephesians 1:19-23).

God is willing to give us power and mighty strength. How do we see it? In the resurrection of Christ, in the rules of Christ, and in the church of Christ.

Resurrection power is experienced through a dual focus on heaven and on earth. On heaven, where Jesus is seated in power, knowing that He will provide the strength you need to do His will. On earth, where Jesus is the head of the church, knowing that this strength will be expressed through the Body of Christ for the world in need. It takes both an upward focus on the throne of God and an outward focus through the Body of Christ to see God’s power expressed through your life.

What Characterizes Being Filled With the Spirit?

Ephesians 5:18b says that we need to be filled with the Spirit.  How do we know if we are?

1-2. Speaking and Singing (Ephesians 5:19) within the context of worship.  But Paul isn’t just talking about vertical “God praise.”  It should be to one another.  There is a horizontal dimension to worship.  In praising God we consciously should be directing our worship so it edifies others.  Of course our hearts should be directed to the Lord (5:19b) and not in any attitude of “performance.”

3. Giving thanks (5:20).  Thanksgiving is a natural outflow of the Spirit-filled life.

4. Submitting (5:21). Despite the “break” in most translations, grammatically this fits with the previous section.  In submitting ourselves for the good of others, our crucified and risen Savior shines powerfully through us and we are filled with His Spirit.

Christian, You are the Richest Person in the World

Who is the richest person in the world? Ephesians 1:3 says that each Christian is blessed in the heavenly realms with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST!

God’s riches come based on our faith in Him. The moment we put our trust in Him, the riches are poured out on our lives.

“Every” means “every,” not some.

“In the heavenly realms” refers to the part of reality that God sees, and we don’t. Things that may look unsettled to us on earth are already settled in heaven. God already looks at us as holy. God’s inheritance is already ours. It may not feel that way but it is that way, based on the power of God’s person and promise.

There are Seven specific blessings:

  1. God chose me to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4). God sees me in light of where I am today. The Christian life is not about trying to become something you are not; it is living up to what God has made you to be.
  2. God adopted you into His family (Ephesians 1:5-6). God doesn’t force anyone into His family. Even though we are a part of God’s creation and because of that treat everyone with love and dignity, you have to accept His choice of you to be adopted into His family (Romans 8:15). “God’s will” means He wants to do it. “God’s pleasure” means it makes Him happy to do it. For God, it’s not just the right thing to do, it makes Him joyful. He wants you in His family.
  3. We are redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7-8). Redeemed: ransomed to deliver those incapable of freeing themselves. Forgiveness: our sins were atoned for by the blood of Jesus. Forgiveness comes from the blood payment. This comes from grace lavished on us.
  4. God has shown us the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9-10). The mystery Paul is talking about here is the culminating, unifying, and sanctifying event in all of history. It is the bringing together of all things in heaven and earth under one head, Jesus Christ. The mystery revealed is Jesus! When life gets confusing, that’s the answer to the mystery of life.
  5. We have been chosen to bring praise to God (Ephesians 1:11-12). Our choice and God’s choice are both involved in these verses. We choose to look to Christ for hope than other enticing things. We choose to believe. God chooses us. He sent Jesus Christ into the world to choose us. He sent His Spirit into the world to let us know we are chosen. We wouldn’t have a choice without God’s choice. Predestination versus free will is a straw man argument. They are two sides of the same coin. If you lean too far into predestination, it leads to fatalism and robotics. If you lean to far into human choice it leads to humanism. In these verses, the ultimate fulfillment in life is to bring praise to your Creator. We give Him our choice to love Him. That brings Him praise because it all started with God choosing to love us.
  6. We are blessed with a guarantee of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). We have been marked in Him with a seal. Like an envelope, God’s Spirit sealed us until we reach heaven. Sealing implies two things: ownership and protection. The seal of His Spirit proclaims that I’m not mine anymore. I’ve been bought with a price. The seal also protected the document from being opened or tampered with. God has put a spiritual protection over us.
  7. God’s guarantee of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). So not only is the Holy Spirit a seal but is the deposit that guarantees our inheritance. The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment in our lives. He gives us Himself as a guarantee of our future. It’s earnest money guaranteeing that He’ll keep His promise. If the promise isn’t kept, the earnest money is lost. God is guaranteeing our eternal salvation with no less than His own Spirit, His very Self. That is how deeply He assures us that He intends for us to be with Him for eternity.