Connections 03.14.2021: Amazement

Ephesians 2:1-10

I am constantly amazed at the things human beings are capable of accomplishing.

I am amazed by the things gymnasts can do with their bodies. I am amazed by the things scientists can accomplish with their minds. I am amazed by the things singers can do with their voices.

I am constantly amazed at the good and constructive things people are capable of doing. I am even more amazed when they actually do them!

People amaze me when they develop their talents, hone their gifts, marshal their energies, and focus their efforts in order to reach a major goal, overcome a major obstacle, or achieve a major accomplishment. People amaze me even more when they do such things in an effort to contribute to the betterment of society and to the improvement of the human condition.

I am also constantly amazed at the bad and destructive things people are capable of doing. I am even more amazed when they actually do them!

People amaze me when they think only about themselves and don’t consider other people at all. People amaze me when they squander their gifts, talents, and efforts on plans and projects that damage and even destroy human community. They amaze me when they don’t care.

The writer of this week’s lesson text is aware of the evil that people are capable of doing and actually do. He says that he and his readers used to be included among those people (vv. 1-3). He also says that God saves his readers and him from living in such evil. God does so by God’s grace, which only God can do. God in God’s grace delivers us from doing the evil we can do.

We recognize that we need God to rescue us from the evil we can do. But do we think about our need for God to rescue us from the good we can do? We should think about it, because God does that too: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (vv. 8-9).

We need to keep that truth in mind. That’s because we have no trouble understanding that doing evil gets us nowhere with God, but we might be tempted to think that doing good will get us somewhere with God. But the truth is that for all the good we’re capable of doing, we can’t do enough good or be good enough to be right with God. Knowing this could frustrate us. After all, we like to accomplish things for ourselves. We like our efforts to be recognized and our accomplishments to be rewarded. And somewhere down deep, we’d like to be able to think that we’re better than other people.

But having to be good enough is too heavy a burden to bear. And the good news is that, by the grace of God, we don’t have to be.

God in Christ saves us from both the bad we do and the good we can’t do.

Now that’s amazing.

Discussion

  • What are the symptoms of being “dead through trespasses and sins” (v. 1)?
  • How do we know that God is “rich in mercy” and loves us with “great love” (v. 4)?
  • What does it mean to be “alive together with Christ” (v. 5) and “raised…up with him and seated…with him in the heavenly places” (v. 6)?
  • How will God “show the immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace” “in the ages to come” (v. 7)?
  • On one hand, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (vv. 8-9). On the other hand, “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (v. 10). How are even our good works the product of God’s grace?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara, grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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