Ephesians 1-2, Psalm 8
In 2012 the percentages of those around the world adhering to a particular religion was: Christianity (31.5%), Islam (23.2%), Secular/nonreligious/atheist (16.3%), Hinduism (15%), Buddhism (7.1%), Judaism (0.2%), and other(6.7%). What the bulk of these religions have in common is they all trust and rely on their good works. Whether it be most "Christians" who when asked if they will go to heaven after death and why, say yes because they are pretty good, or Muslims who trust in following Islam's code of ethics, or Hindus who work to achieve Karma, or Buddhists who work to follow the 8 fold path; everyone is working hard to achieve favor from their respective god on the basis of their own efforts, hard work, and inherent goodness. When judging others we tend to do so based on their actions, but judge ourselves based on our best intentions. Doing so we tend to cast more weight on the good things that we do, then comparing ourselves to others feel pretty good about ourselves. So many like to say that God sees their heart, so He knows how good they really are and He sees. This truth should scare us not reassure us, and only illustrates how oblivious we are to the reality of sin in our own lives.
What separates true Christianity from every other belief system is grace. Paul said in Ephesians 1:7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." What is so beautiful about the Bible is there is nothing gray or relative about it, it speaks in absolutes, it is in Him only. Not a little of Him and a little of us and our good works. Paul goes on to write what should be one the most memorized portions of Scripture in the entire Bible in Ephesians 2:8-10, "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." Chuck Smith says the word "workmanship" comes from the Greek word poiema from where we get the word "poem". A poem is a work of art from the artist seeking to express himself in his work. We are God's poem, His workmanship, and He wants to express Himself in us.
Before Christ, all of us were led around by the nose by the whims of society, which is still how most of the world operates, and most feel pretty good about themselves. But there is no way that we can earn our salvation. If there were, why would He have sent His Son to earth to suffer and die for our sins, if all we had to do was become a little better. Salvation is by grace and grace alone, that unearned, undeserved blessing from God. If you add the word, "and" to grace, it is no longer grace. The amazing thing is that God's offer of grace is free. Paul reveals this one sided gift in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God didn't say for us to clean up our act first and become good and then maybe I will send you My Son. He so loved us that all of us deep in our own sinful state have been sent this free offer of salvation which is solely based on what He did and only our heartfelt acceptance. Knowing this truth, we should eliminate all of the other barriers that separate us. In Ephesians 2:14-16, Paul writes, "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,...so as to create in Himself one new man from the two,..., and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross." Paul says in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Jesus came to break down all the barriers that separate us and unify us under the banner of grace, on the basis of what He did. How tragic it is that most still prefer to rely on their own goodness and erect walls of separation based on their man made rules. Thank you Jesus, for providing us with your grace, completely out of your love for us, your undeserving followers.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: