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Even When We Were Dead…

August 11, 2011

Despite accusations to the contrary, one of the great strengths of Scripture, aside from the drama of the story of redemption, is the inclusion of historical, verifiable details.  If you read through Acts 15, you cannot help but notice that it is told with particular clarity regarding the historical undertaking that we know today as the Council of Jerusalem.  We’re given the reason for the gathering (the circumcision question), who was there (Elders, Apostles), that it occurred between Paul’s first and second missionary journeys (c. 50AD), and that it took place in Jerusalem.  And if we aren’t careful…we’ll let that be the totality of what we take from it.

 This is a bit different from the normal pattern…but it would be great if you would read through John 8:31-36 and Ephesians 2:1-10.

 You see, at the heart of the issue that they were discussing in Jerusalem was a simple question…a question that was asked often of Jesus…a question that we still wrestle with today.  It was this: What must I do to be saved?  What they wanted to know was whether it was necessary for a man to be circumcised…to be saved.  Not if it was a good idea…not if God would like it…what they were doing was adding an act of the self to the equation of salvation. 

 John 8 is this really peculiar passage because it depicts Jesus doing something and really never explains it.  When He bends down and writes in the sand…whatever He was writing…it has a dramatic effect.  And I just love the scene where those who would test Him just sort of cruise away without saying a word.  What takes place next, is that Jesus unpacks for those who are left to hear, that they are being called to something they mistakenly think they have…freedom.  He tells them that “The truth will set you free.”  They don’t get it…He explains it.  He says in verse 34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”  So before we go any further we have to understand this.  You and I are not sinners because we commit sins.  We commit sins because we are sinners.

 I know some of you aren’t going to like that…it’s not comfortable…and I get that.  I’ll just tell you this; I never had to teach my children how to lie.  I never told them about how you can make up a story to cover up what really happened.  I never had to teach them to be selfish.  They came that way.  I love my kids to the point that I feel guilty sometimes…but they are sinners…and I pray every single day that God will redeem them and make them His own.  Paul understood this reality.  That’s why he wrote to the Ephesians that they were “dead in the trespasses and sin in which you once walked, following the course of the world.”  The thing about dead people is that they can’t do anything for themselves.  There are no more requests, no more desires, and no more opinions….and this is us in our sin…dead in our trespasses.

 But there is good news.  Paul continues that thought and says in verse 4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”  That’s the answer to the question in Acts 15.  By grace you have been saved.  We have to stop thinking that we can somehow earn it.  Nobody thinks that’s by circumcision today.  But if we can clean up our lives, learn to act right, talk right, dress right…God just might like us.  That is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The good news for us is that salvation for us is by grace alone.

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