God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
I absolutely love the Book of Ephesians - all of the Pauline Epistles, in fact. As this chapter begins, we find the words: "Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins." If that doesn't explain things well enough, Paul goes on to say: "You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else." Obeying the devil, following all of those passionate desires and weird inclinations of our sinful nature - just 'living' as we wanted to, but not really all that concerned with living as we were 'created' to! Then we have one of those 'but then' moments - those moments in scripture where all that has come before is somehow explained or 'dealt with' in the following portion: "But God is so rich in mercy...gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved) ...God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus." I just absolutely love those 'but God' transitions!
We ALL live in sin - none of us is without the need for grace, no matter how 'good' we have lived our lives. The very presence of a 'sin nature' means we all need grace. It is kind of sobering to know that there is a 'power of the unseen world' who works overtime to get people to follow the passionate desires of their own hearts, but it also explains how we can be just going along and then be tempted with things we haven't really been considering all that closely. The truth is, we were considering these things - at least with a seed thought at some point - then we find ourselves focusing on them intently. We wonder where that desire came from and then we get all 'down' on ourselves for even having the thought. The most amazing part of grace is that 'but then' moment - 'but then' God's Spirit made us aware of the futility of following that desire. 'But then' God's Spirit gave us the power to turn away from that desire, urge, pull, or craving. We count on grace's pull to be stronger than our own passionate desires and those weird inclinations that seem to 'come out of nowhere', don't we?
I may not always make the right choices, but this one thing I am certain of - God's grace is always there for me when I am facing any choice! You and I can be faced with one of two paths, knowing full-well one is going to bring immediate enjoyment or thrill, but lead us into some not so enjoyable consequences. 'But then' God's Spirit reveals just a bit of what some call that moment of 'conviction' about that choice, and we pull back, taking the other path that may not promise all the same thrill and excitement, but that we know will bring us better things in the long run. Conviction is an 'anti-terrorism' weapon in our arsenal of weaponry as Christians. Think as the enemy of your soul as a terrorist of sorts and you will certainly understand the need for effective weaponry to be used against him! Those who have said a loud and resounding 'yes' to Jesus in their lives have received grace and all the 'fire-power' they need to resist the enemy's advances. Just sayin!
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