Ephesians 2 (NIV)
2 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 flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving 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 is 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 handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
A number of years ago after about 10 years in the ministry, 43 years ago to be exact, I had a joyful Epiphany. It was the eve before Easter Sunday. I could not sleep. The next morning I had a Sunrise Service to preach. Then, later, I was to preach at the usual 11:00 A.M. service. I had a message for the Sunrise Service. However, try as I might I could not settle on the tack to take for the Easter Message. I rolled around in my bed long into the early morning pondering and praying. My heart was full of joy but words would not come. That morning this was the message I preached after reading the text of the visit of the women to the empty tomb of Christ:
“It has finally happened. All of my life I have had dreams of standing in front of a crowd speechless. In that dream I could not find my notes and I was at a loss of what to do. Well, I am facing that anxiety today. I tossed and turned last night trying to find a way to give expression to the joy and fullness which I feel today regarding the resurrection of our savior, Christ. In my reflection regarding the message for this morning I offered a desperate prayer. I said, ‘Lord, is there something I am not seeing? Is there some block in my heart? Is there some condition of which I must repent? Or, are you trying to expose my pride and let me kindly know that there is nothing I can add to the resurrection?
I am here to tell you this morning. The moment when I said, “Are you trying to expose my pride,” I was filled with a giddiness of joy such as I have never had before. It was cathartic. And so I stand here today to declare to you today that we have read the story, the story of Christ’s death and resurrection speaks for itself and there is nothing which I can add. Please stand for the closing prayer and benediction.”
Needless, to say I found a freedom that day which has returned again and again every time I feel under the “obligation” to “perform.” Christ is a very present help in times of need and sets us free, indeed. Amen.
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.