Loving Kindness

In my previous post I quoted some verses from Ephesians 2. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since, although my thoughts have moved in another direction – God’s word is packed with goodness! And it’s not that I’ve learnt something new, but it has hit me with fresh impact, so here are some thoughts on the kindness of God towards us:

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…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.  Ephesians 2:4-7

These are truly incredible verses!

Paul explains to the Ephesian Christians and to us that 1) our merciful God loves us with a great love. (He loved us even when we were “dead” in our sin)

2) Because of his love he has rescued us from sin and death through Jesus’ sacrifice in our place,

3) We have been raised and seated with Christ in heaven (spiritually for now, but one day physically too!)

4) The reason for this is so that “in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us”

WOW.

It’s easy to miss that last part amidst all the other amazing things that Paul says, but it is an incredible truth.

Most people whether Christians or not, know that Jesus came to die on a cross for sinful people. But how often do we reflect on his motivations and feelings in doing so?

We’re grateful, and amazed at such a painful, generous sacrifice. But perhaps we sometimes think that God’s forgiveness is him hauling us out of trouble because he is merciful and good, but that he views us as trouble makers whom he cares for semi- reluctantly. ‘We’re more trouble than we’re worth, but what’s a loving God to do but keep on loving us?

But this verse explodes that theory.

the incomparable riches of his grace” 

The Besotted Bridegroom

God’s purpose? Not a grudging one-time rescue, but an enthusiastic resolve and determination to love you and I, and keep on showing his kindness to us for the rest of eternity!! He can’t wait to show us greater depths of his love in Christ Jesus, like a bridegroom who looks past the wedding to a lifetime of finding new ways to love his bride.

This is not a reluctant love, or an abstract, theoretical, ‘textbook’ love. This is real, sacrificial, passionate, unfailingly kind love.

Please don’t misunderstand me, we are not at the centre of the universe as we like to imagine. He is! God is not like us, and first and foremost he glorifies himself. Nevertheless this is a biblical picture of how he feels about us. It is even more wonderful a truth when we consider how ‘other’ God is, how far above us in every way, and how undeserving we are!

Christ's Bride Ephesians 2

The Blushing Bride

The more I consider this, the more I feel like the blushing bride that scripture says I am! (Is 62.5, Rev 19.7) His love for us is so undeserved!

Perhaps I seem ‘spiritual’ writing this blog, but trust me that the depths of my heart show my great need of Jesus Christ every single day. To hear that this good and holy God loves me and wants to show unfailing kindness to me, gives me confidence to draw near to him. How can I help but respond to this kind of undeserved, freely given, frankly declared love?

We are blessed people with an eternally loving God, I hope you’ll join me in rejoicing in his love.

Nim

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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

Nim