Tuesday, June 13, 2006

But God … Before & After

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)
My wife will tell you that I am a sucker for “before and after” pictures. Before and after the diet; before and after the makeover; before and after the plastic surgery; before and after the home improvements. This is why I like to watch This Old House on PBS, to see how a decrepit old structure is renovated.

Paul gives us a before and after snapshot in Ephesians 2:1-10. The before is seen in verses 1-3, about how we were dead (not merely sick, but dead) in trespasses and sins; how we walked according to this present age and the prince of the power of the air; how we conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh; and how we were by nature under the wrath of God.

Then he shifts gears in verse 4 and gives us those beautiful words, “But God …” The before shot was pretty grim; the after shot is absolutely glorious. And it all turns on “But God …” There are volumes in that little word “but.” Whatever our condition was before, it makes no difference, for God is much greater than all of that and it cannot stand up to the pleasure and power of His will.

Satan may come and say, “See, God, I have all these under my power and influence — they are spiritually dead to You.” Then God utters one Word, “But …,” and reveals something that strips the devil’s claims of all force:
  • The richness of His mercy
  • The greatness of His love
So rich and so great are these, see how far they lift us up and set us free. For even though we were dead in trespasses — willful rebellion against God — He has:
  • Made us alive together in Christ
  • Raised us up together with Christ
  • Seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ
One we were spiritually dead, but now we have been given new birth by the Spirit of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. We have also been raised up together with Christ. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us, so that we now truly live and move and have our being in Him. God has also seated us together with Christ on the throne of heaven, the place of ruling and reigning.

How far we had fallen; how greatly we have been redeemed; how highly we have been lifted up in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God. “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Once we lived according to the corruption of this present age, but now we are part of the age that is breaking into this world, an age that powerfully demonstrates God’s grace and favor.

Now, it is not about us, but all about Him.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
It is not about our works, but about His grace. This grace brings salvation, which we receive through faith, but even that faith does not come from us — it is a gift that comes to us from God. Once we walked in the works of the world, but now we can walk in the works of God. There is no room for bragging here, except in God, who has created us anew in Christ Jesus.

Do you find yourself in the “before” shot of Ephesians 2:1-3? God has a wonderful “after” for you, and it can begin now, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.