Marvelling at the Before and After

Last week a friend of mine, a Personal Trainer, posted two photos online. They were “before” and “after” shots of a client she had been working with.

It was impressive, the person had clearly lost a lot of weight, and there had been a complete and startling transformation, which was clear to see as I looked from one photo to the next.

It was this that came to mind when I read Ephesians chapter two this week.

Paul introduces us to an even greater transformation, and certainly a more improbable one.

The transformation of a lifeless corpse into a living person.

Paul says to the Ephesian Christians:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh
and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

It’s a damning description and assessment of them, and of us – members of the same human race.

What hope is there for a dead person?

What help is there for someone facing and deserving the just and righteous wrath of the God of the universe?!

If we understand Paul’s message here and take it to heart, it should scare us.

But thank God that the story doesn’t end there!

We breathe a sigh of relief as Paul continues “But…”

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,

And what are the reasons for this incredible rescue? A dead person has no hope, no powers of persuasion, and nothing to bargain with.

Because of his great love!

Because of his rich mercy!

God has resurrected us with Christ. We are raised to new life as surely as Jesus rose from the grave three days after dying by crucifixion.

But what happens next? Why is this rescue and transformation put into action?

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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

In fact, Paul shows us that God is not satisfied to simply rescue, transforming the dead into the living. He is committed to the future life of those he has restored.

He has determined to show immeasurable grace and kindness to us, in Christ Jesus, for the rest of eternity!

There is a great moment in the newest Bond Film SkyFall where Bond, tied up and face to face with his captor is asked what his hobby is (!) He says “Resurrection”.

It’s funny because it’s so defiantly arrogant.

But Christians worship a God who can and does resurrect the dead, and he loves to do so!

We have done nothing to deserve anything except his anger. All our best deeds pale into insignificance when compared to his eternal sinless perfection!

And yet God makes clear to us his mind and motives in the rescue that Jesus has carried out. Love, mercy, grace, and kindness.

I need this reminder frequently, because my gaze is often on my failings as a Christian. I begin to think that I live to earn God’s favour, that I cannot be certain of it, or that I might irreparably lose it.

I can fall into thinking that God puts up with me out of pity, or regrets ever saving me from my sin.

These verses cause me to rejoice, to relax, and to praise God for his wonderful grace and kindness to me in and through Jesus Christ.

I hope they do the same for you