By Pastor Wu
25 Mar. 2012 Sunday
Prayer: Presider Cathy Zhang
Eternal God, you feed the hungry, and satisfy the thirsty. You’ll be friend to the lonely, travel with those who are desperate, and comfort those who mourn. We have no need that you cannot meet, you lift us when we are depressed, and your power humbles us when we are proud. Your courage strengthens us when we are afraid, and your peace comes to us when we are in paddle. We thank you for your love, and we pray for great capacity to love. We thank for the beauty of the Spring, and we pray that you will bless your church today, as it continues to struggle to make the ancient truth relevant to the new times and the new problems. As we are preparing our heart for the Easter, please strengthen us and teach us through all kinds of ways. We pray for those who are sick and in need, and pray for everybody who has come to your church today. We pray for the worship service today, pray for the pastors, and also the worship team. Pray for those who are coming here for the first time. May you open their hearts, so that they may hear your word, and know your love. With all the praise we owe you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature g and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Greetings to you, my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Every time when we are singing Amazing Grace, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”. Whenever I sing this song, I think of the second chapter of Ephesians 2:1-10, especially verses 1-7. Let me read verses 1-7: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages, He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus”. When I was reading verse 7 of the second chapter of Ephesians, there was a picture in my mind; a picture in which God is speaking to me, God is showing His passion and love to me.
Brothers and sisters, you know, in less than two weeks, we are going to enter into the Passion Week of 2012. It is the time when we celebrate Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the only begotten Son of God who was sent to this world to save people who have trust in Him. So whenever I was reading this passage, the picture that our Heavenly Father is showing His love and passion to us shows up in my mind.
Today we just had a wonderful and very passionate worship; because two worship leaders, who also have the passion for the Lord, are with us, leading the worship. They are from a church in
Last year from September to December, three pastors from
Good morning. I'm very, very happy to be here with you today, because we have a lot of friendship with people in this congregation: Pastor Wu and Rachel and Gloria, and now with other new friends we’ve met here today. We love this country, we love you, and we love this church. We pray for you often and you are in our hearts, and it is fun for me to come and get to see you face to face. I love the passage of Scripture we read this morning: Ephesians 2.
Ephesians 2 is a great statement about what it means to be a Christian, what is life in God really about. The apostle Paul wrote this letter while he was sitting in the prison in Roman. Because of his faith in Jesus Christ, he was put in jail and he wrote letters to Christians around the world, to encourage them in their faith in God and to remind them that everything they have as believers in Jesus Christ, and today those words that he wrote are still encouraging us. And they bring out of our heart thankfulness, and they bring out our heart awe in worship, because of the goodness, love, mercy and kindness of God towards us. And he showed to us in sending His Son Jesus, and there are three places that we understand what God has done for us in this passage of Scripture, there are three snapshots we want to look at, three pictures we can see this morning.
The first has to do with who we used to be. What is life like without God? When we don't have God in our heart, we don't have God's love in our life, what is that person like? But what happens when God comes to that kind of person? And how does God come to that kind of person? And when He does, what happens in that person's life? And who do they become? And so there are three pictures: who I used to be? Then what God did for me? And who I am now in God because of Jesus’ love for me?
My wife was putting together a photo album recently of pictures that we have taken over the course of our 23 years of marriage, and we have three sons: Joseph, Samuel and Thomas, so we have taken a lot of pictures. We were putting those pictures on the computer and we were making a photo collection of them, and my wife showed me a picture from when we got married 23 years ago. How many of you have seen a picture recently of what you used to look like a long time ago? Anybody? I looked at that picture of me from 23 years ago and I said: who is that guy? He’s so skinny. Look at him, he does not have any gray hair, he does not have any tired wrinkles under his eyes, who is that guy, that’s who I used to be. I used to be single, now I am married; I used to be skinner, now I am, not so skinny; I used to be younger and now I am older than I was then. I have changed.
I run into a friend recently who I haven’t seen for a long time, and there was something that is so different from how I used to know him to be. I knew him when we went to high school together. He was mean, he was a nasty, mean guy, and he was always picking on me because my faith in Jesus Christ in high school. But there was something different about him and when I saw him, I immediately began to have the feelings that I did from long time ago when we were in high school together. But as I talked to him, I could tell that he had changed, I could tell that there was something different about him, and I asked him this question and I said: “Todd, are you a believer in Jesus Christ?” And he said: “Yes, how did you know?” And I said “because you are different.” This is the way he said to me: “I’m not that same person anymore. Jesus has come into my heart and he’s changing my life." And I said: “I know, I can tell by the way you’re even talking to me, I can tell by the way you treat people, by the way you treated me like a jerk when we were in high school. But I just get that in the record.” But if you look at verses 1 to 3, this is not a pretty picture of what life is without God. And some people think that God has just come so that he could make bad people good, but that’s not what Christianity is about. Christianity is not how we can make jerks like Todd into nice people. That is not what Christianity is about. It’s one of the effects and one of the out-working that Jesus works in our hearts to change a person. Jesus came to make dead people alive. Jesus came to people who were spiritually without life. We were cut off. The Scripture says “we were without hope in this world; we had nothing that we could look to as a future of eternal life apart from God”.
The picture that is painted in Verse 1 to 3 says: “This is what you were like. You were dead in your transgressions and sins; you used to live like this when you followed the ways of this world and of the rule of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient”. We also live among them one time and we did what our sinful nature wanted to do, we glorify the cravings of our flash. We followed its desires and thoughts. And this is what we were by our very nature. “We were deserving of wrath”. We were doing what came naturally to us; we were without God and we were acting like a life without God can only act like. This is how I used to be; this was my future to be cut off to be separated, to be eternally removed from God. It is not a pretty picture.
But this is what we see in Chapter 2 verse 4, it says: But because of His great love for us. This is the difference. When I looked at me before God came into my life to change me, I would not want God to love me, but God loved me when I was like that, I said a minute ago that I have three sons, when they were little, we went on a trip.
We came to the airport in our hometown and as we came to the terminal to the came up with the we all came off, we had to walk down this hallway and downstairs to get on the subway, that will take us to the main terminal where we will get our luggage and baggage. We had all of the stuff you carry when you travel with little kids, big tubs of food, crackers and toys, blanket and all of the diapers and all those things that you have to carry.When we were coming down the steps and there were so many people coming down those steps, and as we got to the bottom of the steps, I could tell that the train was filled with people that we would have to wait for the next one. As we got to the bottom of the steps and I turned to tell my wife we needed to wait for next train, and just when I said that, my three-year-old son Sam ran and jumped onto the subway, and I turned around and I saw him as he turned around and looked at me, the doors closed and off he went. I looked at my wife and said: “ I am sure glad that we’ve got two other kids because I am going to miss him.
You know what happened? In my heart, everything became very clear as to what my life was about. In that moment, only one thing mattered, the only thing that mattered was that my son was lost and I wanted him to be with me. My three-year-old son could not read, he didn’t know “oh I should get off the next station and wait for my parents to catch up to me”. He was vulnerable, he was at risk, it was dangerous and this father’s heart had one goal and one purpose, that’s to find my son! I would have to go to him because he couldn’t come to me. When mankind sinned, it separated us from the love of God; it separated us from the presence of God. God made us for Himself and when we disobeyed and sinned, it separated us, we are blind, we don’t know how to get to Him. We can’t see. We have no spiritual life. But God does not stop loving us. So God said, I will come to them. And he clothed Himself in humanity. And he was born of a virgin. And he grew up and lived on this earth for 33 years. He was without sin. He went to the cross. He laid down his life, for the punishment of our sins. The death that we deserved. And Jesus paid that, so that we could be brought back into a relationship with our God, who loves us and who never stops loving us.
When you look at words like these, this is how we used to be, but God, shall we say those words together again, did something. It’s not what something that we do, but God does, but God loves us, God in his rich mercy shows us His kindness. God came to people like us, who were lost and who were separated from God. When something is lost, you look for it. That is a statement of value. It means that which is lost is precious to you. I lost a watch recently in my house. I looked for that watch for about 5 minutes. You know why I looked for that watch for only about 5 minutes? I stopped looking for it. That watch was about 15 years old. It did not even work about half the time. So, I figured. Good. It’s gone. I can get a new watch. If that watch had memory, if it was a gift, if it was special to me, I would still be looking for it right now. I would not quit until I found it.
And God comes to people like you and me all over this world in every generation. And He brings this to Himself. He helps us see the truth of who He really is. And what He could be in our life. He wants to do in our life because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ. What did God make us alive? Because we were dead. We had no spiritual life. And he came to our life by bringing us into his life. And the life that we had been alive is the life of God when we put our faith and our trust in the person of Jesus Christ.
If you look at verse 7, it says that in the coming ages, he might show the incomparable riches of his grace. Grace is something God does for us, to provide for the need of our life that we can’t do for ourselves, and expressed in his kindness to us , in Christ Jesus. God has been kind to us.
Verse 8. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Verse 9. And it is not by works, so that no one can boast. What is that saying is that God loves us, wants us to be alive, not dead, God wants to give us a gift. By faith, we receive it. And we can’t earn it. There is nobody who is good enough to earn what God gives us freely by grace, if we receive it by faith.
I don’t know if this morning you have a difficult time believing God loves you or not, because this is what it is like in my country, where I am from. People feel like they have to deserve God’s love. God must love me because…… I don’t know what it is like for you. What if you would fill in that blank….. God loves me because I am a good person. God loves me because I am so handsome. God loves me because I got a great sense of fashion. What are the ridiculous things people could think about why would God love me because I am kind to the hurting, because I share with the poor, Does God love me because of those things?.
How many of you in this room are married? Would you raise your hands? How many of you who are not married think that someday you might be married? Would you raise your hands? You guys are looking at each other. You never know. May be you would swap cards, phone numbers or something. You never know. No, you did not come to the church to do that.
So, let me give some advice to married people for a moment, and to those who might be married one day. Sometimes, your spouse… Let just say for me. If my wife would say, honey, do you love me? And I would say, yes, I love you. And she might say, why do you love me? If I say, it is because you are pretty, because you are so smart, because you are so talented, If I say to her I love her because of these things, she may think that her value, and what secures my love for her, is based on those things. What if those things would change? She might be insecure about my love for her. Listen, in Jesus Christ, this is what God says, I love you. And we might say, God, why do you love me? You know what God says. I love you just because I love you. That is what God says. Not because you earned it. Not because you are so doctrinally sound, so spiritual and good. He loves you just because he loves you. It’s that love we respond to in Jesus Christ that began good work in us. It brings us into the life of God that began to change us. It’s what God did for me, because I could not do it myself.
One night I was praying next to my kids. Every so often, I would go into my kids’ bedrooms and knelt beside the beds while they were sleeping and pray.. When they were younger, I did this a lot. I was praying next to one of my sons. His name was Sam. The little one who ran onto to the train. He is the one giving me the biggest challenge. And he is not here, so I can say that about him. And don’t tell him. But I was praying that he had a rough day.. He did not behave the best. He is my son. That is not going to change how I love my son. I wanted the best for him. I was praying for him. I began to feel in my heart that this love for my son was strong in my heart that it hurt. Have you ever love somebody so strong like a pain in your chest? I began to have this thought that I can’t imagine anybody would love me as much as I love my son right now? The minute I had that thought, it’s like God whispers into my heart and says, I love you more. Something changed my heart that night. I stopped striving. I stopped trying to work so hard to prove something to God.
I began to understand that I am a child of God and it freezes me to serve God with all of my heart and with joy, not as a means to obtain His love, but because I am loved. If you look in verse 10, we see how that love transformed us, because this is who I used to be, but God did something, which made it possible for me to be somebody else. Verse 10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV.
God wants us to do good things. Through our life, He wants us to do good. Not so we earn His love, but because we are loved. This is what He says, you are God's workmanship. Wow, I am big. Look how big I am that we are God's workmanship. If you were studying that word in the Bible That word is translated out of the word in the originally written in the Greek language and it is the word for poem. Have anybody heard the word poem? It is a word from which we get poetry and poem from. And when you look at this verse and it says for we are God’s workmanship. We are God’s poem. We are God’s masterpiece. God puts a lot of creativity. God puts a lot of thoughtfulness into shaping and forming our life so that we could be who He made us to be. So that we could do what He made us to do. All for His glory and all for our fulfillment and joy in Him. The motivation is different. I am not trying to earn and prove that I worth something, but I am secure in God’s love and now can do and be who He made me to be and do what He calls me to do, because before the world even began, God purposed something in this world that you would do that in your city, in your nation, in your world, that your family your neighborhood. That is something in His good purpose of plan for you to do.
I finish with this story. A year ago, I was in the nation of
There was a young boy standing right next to me and I looked up to him and I said what is your name? And he says my name is Wassin. I said: Wassin, how old are you? He said I am eleven years old and I said really? Do you go to school? And he said yeah and he pointed down to the valley and he said I go to school down there and that where I live and I said look great and then he said to me with a big smile on his face and he said in three days is my birthday! And I am going to be twelve years old. I said: Wassin, No way! I have a son named Thomas. He is eleven years old and in three days, he is going to turn twelve. I am going home late tonight to get on the airplane and I am going home for his birthday! And he got a big smile on his face and he said maybe someday you could meet my son Thomas and you could become friends. And he got big smile so then I reached into my pocket and I pull out some money that I had, Shekels. It is really Shekels. It is their money and I like a hundred Shekels or something I do not know the rate of exchange would be for them but it was a lot. I said: Wassin, can I give you this? I want you to go buy yourself a trip for your birthday. On your birthday, you go buy yourself a trip. Will you do that? And he got a big smile on his face he took the Shekels and he went bang, and he run away.
And I went up, it was fun and I looked around and all of a sudden, I see Wassin talk to this man over there and they was talking and also they pointed me. He was holding the money, and I went uh, did I do something wrong? Was that a cultural no no. Now here comes at this man. He was coming over with Wassin and he said, you gave my son Shekels. And I said, yeah, I did for his birthday. He said I was Wassin’ father and he reached into his pocket and he pull out this a little coin that in the Bible it is called widow’s light. In the day of Jesus, it was of the least value, but Jesus talk something about generosity of the little lady who gave a widow mind. Jesus said, look at her. She gave more than anybody else, because she gave everything that she had.
So one of the things I wanted to do in
I want to pray and I want to ask God to send his holy spirit to help us understand the truth and the life and the way he has made for us in sending his son. Because I know who I used to be, as the apostle Paul says, he was dead in his trespasses and sins, he was not free the way he was by all kinds of passions of desires. But God who is rich and mercy who loved you and loved me and showed us His grace and kindness through His son. It is nothing but we can earn, but is His free gift for those who put their faith and trust in Him and because of that we are now his workmanship. We are His handiwork. We are loved by God. We have been set free and saved by God who has forgiven our sins and given his life. He has made our life in Christ and now we can do good works that He has prepared for us to do. Good works in consistence with the way He made you, but He made you foremost to love Him and to know Him. That is where life begins.
This morning I just want to invite you if you want to know God’s love. If you want to know the freedom from fear, the forgiveness of sin that the life has created by God. Jesus is a spiritual miracle, because we do not have that capability and potential by ourselves. So God came to us and gave to us and just where you see and you can say Jesus I trust you. Jesus I open my heart to you. Jesus I turned from my sin, I turned from a life apart of you just as I am. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your salvation. Thank you that your are so passion of pursuing come to me, when I am not come to you and thank you for making us to do good works to bring about and show faith about your kingdom and glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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|Worship song: Amazing Grace||video||audio||lyric|