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Jack Graham - Saved To Serve

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    Jack Graham - Saved To Serve
TOPICS: Much More, Serving Others

MUCH MORE is our study, our series in the book of Ephesians. So, take God's Word, turned to the second chapter of this letter to the Ephesians from the Apostle Paul. And today we're speaking on the subject "Saved to Serve". And this is a portrait of the grace of God in our lives who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a portrait it is. It was true of the Apostle Paul. One hundred and fifty-five mentions of grace in the New Testament, and 130 of those come from the Apostle Paul. A former terrorist, a self-confessed murderer of Christians who experienced the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that terrorist was transformed, that murderer was made into a missionary. And he never got over it, the grace of God in his life, as he begins and ends his letters throughout the New Testament. Two-thirds of the New Testament was given to us from the pen of Paul, often from prison.

As we look at the book of Ephesians, there are three strategic significant parts of Ephesians: chapters 1 through 3 speaks of the wealth of the believer, our worth in Christ; chapters 4 and 5, the walk of the believer, how we are to live out our faith; and then chapter 6, the warfare of the believer as we by prayer and spiritual union with Christ can overcome the evil one. But these letters are given to us to teach us the great truth regarding our salvation. And here we see once again the Apostle Paul giving us grace, grace and more grace as he proclaims the Gospel. One thing you might want to do, just put a heart all around this passage of scripture in your Bible. Just draw a heart around chapters 2, verses 1-10, because herein you see the heart of God. Well, I can’t wait to share it with you.

Verse one says: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air", that's Satan, "the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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 one may boast", and then verse 10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them".

We are saved from sin. That's the first recognition we make in this passage of scripture; that we are saved from sin. We are then saved unto salvation for good works, for service. And that is the message in a sentence today. We are saved from sin. We see here a dark backdrop to the beauty and the glory of grace in our life. It is a portrait of our life BC: Before Christ. And all of us are included in this terrible picture of sin and the consequences of sin in our lives. You could take quite a bit of time just to describe this sin and what sin has done to us. But we can simply say that because of sin we are dead spiritually, we were dead in trespasses and sin. We were deceived mentally following the course of this world, the prince of the power of this air, we were the devil's dupes.

The devil said, "Jump" we said, "How high"? We were disobediently deliberately. In other words, we chose on our own our own way, our own life without God. We are defiled without Christ. We were defiled morally. Sin had depraved every inch and every ounce of our soul, our bodies. And we are not only defiled morally, but we are doomed eternally. What a picture! Spiritually dead and the result of that deadness is depravity and disobedience and delusion and ultimately damnation. A life forever without God. Dead in our trespasses and sins. Which means while we have physical life, without Christ, BC, before Christ in our lives, we have no connection with God, no life, no light. We were darkened spiritually, dead spiritually. As someone said it's not that we needed resuscitation; we needed a resurrection, because we were dead; not just sick, but dead in our trespasses and sin.

John Newton who wrote the words to Amazing Grace, most of them, was a slave trader. He was a human trafficker, a vile, by his own description a vile and wicked man, a wretched man. So when he wrote the words of Amazing Grace, he included this stanza: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me". Now I just have to wonder, when you sang those words earlier, "saved a wretch like me", what were you thinking, if anything? I hope you were thinking something. But "a wretch like me"? You know, we live in a culture today which basically describes humanity as good and getting better, or not so bad. Psychologically I'm okay, you're okay. But not a wretch! That word wretch, it means miserable. It's even akin to the word retch, vomit. It's saying garbage like me!

Now that's not typical language for the church in our generation, is it? Because we think the problem is, you know, we just got a bad brain, we get the right prescription of drugs, we get the best kind of therapy, and therapy can be good I will hasten to say, but not as a substitute for what we really need for the soul, for the spirit, which is salvation. God's amazing grace that saved a wretch like me! As we read these words, the apostle spoke of sin and trespasses. Two words, and there are multiple words in the Bible for sin, and these are the two most familiar. Sin and trespasses. The word sin hamartán, that means to miss the mark. You've been around church for a while, teaching and preaching for a while, you've heard this. It's like an archer pulling back the bow and the arrow falling short of the target.

It's a word picture. For us baseball fans, it would be like a pitcher throwing, missing the target and putting it in the dirt to the backstop. That's the picture of sin. Falling short. And the Bible says we have all fallen short of the glory of God, the high and holy standards of God. "There is none righteous, no not one". And even our human righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of a holy God. And then the word trespass means to slip or to fall or to cross a line, to go in the wrong direction, to do the wrong thing. The word that Jesus used when He taught us to pray. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".

So, if you get the idea then that sin is falling short of God’s high and holy standard and it is veering off, choosing our own way over God’s way. It is to fall or to slip; it is to fail before God. And from this we have been saved. For this we need something beyond our best efforts or our best chance. We need God's grace. And our God is the God of all grace! Much grace. When Jesus came, John 1:14 tells us that He lived among us and He was "full of grace and truth". Grace and truth! We are saved by this grace. Look again at verses 4 and 5: "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".

Let me give you a five-letter way to spell grace. A different way to spell grace. Grace is spelled G-R-A-C-E. But let’s spell it today J-E-S-U-S. Jesus. God’s grace in Christ. And because of this grace we are saved from our sins. Bible teacher and pastor John MacArthur, in reflecting upon what we were and how God has saved us, said this: "Throughout history people have varied greatly in their levels of human goodness and wickedness. But in relation to achieving God’s holiness they are equal failures. That is why the good, helpful, kind, considerate, self-giving person needs salvation as much as the multiple murderer on death row. The person who is the good parent, loving spouse, honest worker, civic humanitarian needs Jesus Christ to save them from the eternal condemnation of hell as much as the Skid Row drunk or heartless terror. They do not lead equally sinful lives, but they are equally in the state of sin, equally separated from God and from spiritual life".

So, an innocent child needs the grace of God as much as an old man. It takes just as much of the grace of God to save the smallest child or the oldest adult! It is the grace of God that saves us and cleanses us and changes us; conquerors us and then controls us! Grace is what? Everything for nothing. That’s why it’s called the gift of eternal life. That’s why salvation is not a goal to be achieved, but a gift to be received.

Now we are saved by grace, according to this, by faith. And faith is an action that we take. But faith, listen to me, faith always comes to God with open hands, to receive the gift with open hands. "Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to the cross I cling". And by grace through faith we receive Christ. But that's not the end because the faith in Christ alone, by grace alone: it is alone but it never stands alone; it is always followed, faith is followed by works, "for without works, faith is dead," according to James, according to the New Testament. What did Jesus say? He said, "Let your light so shine before men", before people, "that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven".

So we are saved to serve! "We are saved unto good works". If you get those prepositions right in the text, you've got your truth, your theology correctly aligned. "Saved by grace through faith unto good works"! But let's think about this workmanship in Christ Jesus. We are His workmanship. It's the word poiema which we get our word poem, and it really can be described as you are God's masterpiece, you are God's valuable, virtuous, work of art! And when it comes to the work of art that we are in Christ, we are valuable, we are God's masterpiece, we are God's work of art, because the Master Craftsman, the Master Painter, the Poet, the Storyteller of our lives is working in us and shaping us and taking our mess and making it a masterpiece!

That's what God has done for us! He has saved us to be a beautiful testimony and exhibit A of God's grace in our lives. And when he speaks of eternity here and the future when we are with Christ one day, he’s saying that in all eternity we are going to show forth the glory of God because of the grace of God. And we will be testimony forever and ever and ever! Again, a beautiful exhibit A of what God and only God could do! His workmanship created; physical life given to you in the womb; life begins at conception. And yet in the new life and the new birth we are made alive in Christ and raised up, elevated to be with Him in the heavenly places now and forever! Only grace. And because this is true, how can I spend my years on earth doing anything but serving Him? How could I waste or throw away what God has done?

Again, look, what makes a piece of art valuable? I got some Valentines from some of my grandkids this past week. And, you know, the artwork wasn't great, but the artists, they're fantastic! And so you put them up on the refrigerator and you put them in scrapbooks because of the love of a child. And because of the love of God we now are God's Valentine to the world. I'm going to wrap this up. There's so much more I could say. You know, God is not finished with us. We're not perfect by far. God keeps chipping away chunks in this big stone.

One day Michelangelo was chipping away at a huge chunk of rock and someone asked him, "Sir, what are you doing"? And he said, "I saw an angel in this marble and I'm carving him until I set him free". God is carving us and shaping us. "He who began the good work", Philippians 1:6, "will perform it, will perfect it until the Day of Jesus Christ". These are the good works. Sometimes through pain and problems and it's hurtful when the chisel digs deep, but He's shaping us and He's making us by His grace. And the same grace that saves us, sustains us and strengthens us. "Through many dangers, toils and snares". Quickly, you may want to write these down, and then we're finished. What are these good works? I mention five good works. I believe all, every message ought to have a call to action, so here's your call to action.

Here are the good works. Number one, glorifying God. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven". That means it is a good work to honor God, to fear God, to love God, to serve God. This is what a Christian wants to do. Glorifying God, making Jesus large in our lives.

Number two, growing in godly character. This is a work of grace. The Apostle Paul said in the book of Philippians, "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling". God works it in through grace; we work it out by faith. And godly character, integrity is the light; it is the good work. What does your spouse see? What do your children see? You know, you don't really see faith. You can hear about faith but you can't really see faith. What you can see is works! So what would your coworkers say about your faith? What would your classmates say? What would your children say about your faith? Do they see your good works? If there was, if you were, as it's been said, arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? The proof. So, growing in godly character.

Three, gathering with God’s church. That’s a good work always. Don’t minimize the call and the command of Scripture to gather with the people of God, to get in the church of God and to show up! When you show up here today as you have done, that’s a good work! That’s a good deed! It pleases God. It blesses people. And it changes our lives. Gathering with God’s church.

Fourthly, giving to God's work. Did you know the word grace and the gift are charis and giving, the same kind of word? All the same. Grace gives, love gives. And so a good work is our generosity, our giving to people in need, our giving to God's Church. It's giving with grateful hearts. That's good works. How are your good works doing? What does your calendar say about your time? What does your debit card or your checkbook or bank account say about your treasure?

And then finally, giving, or going in spiritual power. A good work is to go in Jesus' name, to be a laborer. The fields are white unto harvest. Call to the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth workers! We have many shirkers, but so few workers! God help us because of His grace and goodness to us, God, You've been so, so good to me! Because of this grace. You’re not saved to sit and soak and sour, to be critics and cynics and consumers of religious content. But because we are His workmanship, we are created unto good works. Glorifying God, growing in godly character, gathering with God’s people, giving God’s tithes and offerings, and going in the power of the Holy Spirit, to tell the world of this great grace in our life. Amen.
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