First Mennonite Church
May 17, 2020
Hearts Made Alive by Love
Texts: Ephesians 2:4-10; 1Jonh 4:19
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
We love because he first loved us.
We live in a world where transactions are a way of living. We give something in exchange for something else. Children are given the opportunity to get a basic education but they have to go to school, earn good grades, and get a certificate. People go out to work; in return, they get paid for their labor or services. We go to the supermarket or department stores to get what we need but in exchange we give money to the cashier before we leave. As we all know, “There is nothing free.”
It is, therefore, not surprising that sometimes humans are tempted to approach God with the same mentality. Some people believe that giving something to God will secure them God’s love and or protection in return. There is no question that this “transaction mentality” about how to get God’s benevolence and favor has created many good people in the world. So, they give to the poor; once in a while, they attend a religious service on special occasions; and some even say a prayer once or twice a day. There are many people who strive to be kind, honest, yet not necessarily religious, but who think that by being kind and honest God somehow will look at them favorably. Many of these people avoid organized religion, because, in their minds, religion is a private matter between them and God. They believe that they, in their own ways, please God and gain his favor by way of a transaction.
Have we Christians been able to escape completely the transaction mentality in our relationship with God? I am afraid not. We, too, sometimes fall into believing that doing something for God will also secure for us God’s favor. We should be watchful about our motivations for doing the things we do. Why do we attend church services every week? What motivates us to give? Why do we practice some spiritual disciplines, like prayer, worship, fasting, and almsgiving? Can we earn God’s favor by doing any of those things? Why do we try to obey God’s commandments? It is simply to have high morals and good standing before men? On the other hand, how do we feel when we fail God? Does God love us less when we fail to live according to his expectation? Is God’s protection removed when we disobey God? Are we loved by God more when we stay away from sin or overcome our weaknesses?
In John four, verse 19 we read: We love because he first loved us.” What John says is not only that God loved us first but that even our ability to respond in love to God is a gift from God. In other words, we did not know how to love. It is until we got to experience the love of God that our heart’s ability to love was awakened and enabled.
This idea is clearly illustrated in the way the apostle Paul describes God’s redemptive initiative. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved useven when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Dead people cannot carry on a relationship, only the living can. We were dead in our sins and trespasses but God out of great love and mercy revived us in the resurrection of Jesus. Our relationship with God, through Christ, is a gift to us and not something we could device for ourselves, or could achieve on our own. Out of the blue came the love of God for the world. The apostle Paul call this: “God’s grace.” We could not produce it, we did not deserve it, and we were not worthy of it. But God in his rich mercy and out of great love, made us alive together with Christ.
This is the gospel message: God longs to breathe life into the dead and to shine light into every heart that is in darkness. God wants every man and woman to experience the abundant life he offers in the resurrected Christ. He desire everyone to have the honor and joy of being seated with his Son in the heavenly places. God wants to be in close relationship with every believer.
Because of God’s everlasting love, those who are in Christ Jesus should not fear abandonment, shame, nor judgment. Jesus is the Immanuel—God is with us. When Jesus was dying on the cross he suffered for us God’s abandonment because upon him were our sins that separate us from God. We should not fear being abandoned by God, even when we fail him. We can fail, but God’s love will never.
Those who are in Christ should not fear shame. Shame in the Hebrew and biblical use of this word is not a feeling of embarrassment, but the disillusionment in unfulfilled expectation. It is like for parents who raise their child, with love, care, and good principles, yet when the child is grown up turns out to be antisocial. Shame comes out from failed expectations. For us, our hope is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Again the apostle Paul said: “No one who believes in him will be put to shame” (Romans 9:33; 10:11). Faith in Christ Jesus has given the greatest and most enduring hope the world can ever know. “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die,” Jesus said in John 11:25, 26. It seems ironic for us to make this confession when at the same time we are confronted by our own mortality. But everyone who puts his or her trust in the Lord will not be put to shame. The day will come when once again we will open our eyes in that glorious morning of our own Easter.
Those who are in Christ should not fear God’s judgment. As the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the sacrificial death of Jesus: But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). What we and our sins deserved in terms of punishment and condemnation Jesus willfully took upon himself as Yahweh’s Suffering Servant. Christ continues to intercede on our behalf, day and night before the holy throne of God. There, he pleads with God to keep us from the Evil one. And even when we fail and despite our weaknesses, his pleas on our behalf keeps God’s love, grace and forgiveness flowing on us as we acknowledge and confess our sins to him.
My dear brothers and sisters, God loves us dearly. He has seated us to share the honor and glory of Son who died to save us. There is nothing we can give in exchange for the grace of God. Our hands are empty. We do not have anything worthy that God would take in exchange for his love, except a heart that is willing to accept his unconditional love. Our sins and weaknesses do not make us less loved by God if we humbly admit them before him. Let us receive God’s love and grace given to us through Jesus Christ. And let us be thankful. Let us seek to honor the Lord in response to his love. Amen!