‘But God,’ -Ephesians 2:4a.
God spoke and all things came into being. He gave freedom for man and woman to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve was deceived and Adam deliberately disobeyed God. And then death came upon all mankind, but God promised to put enmity between the serpent and the woman, between her seed and his seed. Satan would bruise Messiah’s heel, but Messiah would crush his head. And then Cain murdered his brother Abel, Lamech boasted of his bloodthirstiness, and God regretted that He made man because He saw that man’s ways were always evil, continually. But God raised up Noah, a preacher of righteousness, who preserved the human race as the world suffered the judgment of a world wide flood. And then man again sought to be like God by building a tower to the heavens and God dispersed them and gave them many languages. But God made a covenant with Abraham, declaring that he would be a father to many nations, that all the nations would be blessed through him. And then Jacob lived as a con-artist, incurring the wrath of his brother Esau. But God sent the angel of the Lord to wrestle with him and change him to become a humble, worshipping servant. Later Joseph, whom God raised up to make provision for God’s people during a time of famine, died; and a new Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph. He plunged the people of God into 430 years of slavery. But God heard the prayers of His covenant people and raised up Moses, a servant of God, to be their deliverer. Later, Israel foolishly asked for a king, and God gave them Saul who proved to be a major disappointment. But God raised up David, a man after His own heart. And then David fell into adultery and murder, but God raised up Nathan to rebuke David and he repented. And then Solomon followed David on the throne of Israel, and went after strange women, plunging God’s people into idolatry and judgment. But God raised up a few godly kings like Hezekiah and Josiah who served God faithfully. And then God sent the Assyrians against the northern kingdom of Israel and later the Babylonians against the southern kingdom. But God moved the Medo-Persians to conquer the Babylonians.
In Paul’s third missionary journey he made his way to Ephesus, a place where paganism reigned supreme. There was much demonic possession and worship of the false goddess Diana. The preaching of the gospel by Paul the apostle wrought a remarkable transformation of the city of Ephesus. Demons were being cast out of people, the worship of Diana began to dissipate, and the very economic fabric of the city was challenged as the majority of the people were turning away from idols to serve the living and true God. While in prison in Rome Paul writes back to the believers in Ephesus, commending them for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their love for all the saints. He reminds them that they had been dead in their trespasses and sins, that they were far away from God, being strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. They had been living according to the course of the world. That is, they were living as though this world is all there is, giving no thought at all to their eternal souls and what to come of them after death. They were in the ‘hip pocket’ of the devil, doing his bidding, blinded by him to the truth of God in Christ, not being able to see the light of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. The spirit of disobedience reigned supreme in them. That is, their flesh or indwelling sin had an irresistible urge to live in licentiousness and perversion. Furthermore Paul reminds them that they had been living according to the flesh, they had been indulging (the Greek word is poema from which we get our word poem-they had their own, individual brand of sinning) the desires of the flesh and the mind. They sinned creatively, not just in their flesh but also in their vain imaginations of false religion, atheism, or idolatry. Because of these things, they were very clearly, though they knew it not, under the just wrath and condemnation of God, just like every other human being living on the earth.
This was a bleak and hopeless picture indeed, but God. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved them, made them alive together with Christ. For by grace they had been saved. God raised them up with Christ, having seated them in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Why? In order that He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward them in Christ Jesus.
My dear friends, you were like the Ephesians, but God. There have been times, since your conversion, where things looked terribly bleak, but God. You were afraid, bewildered at the troubling diagnosis of your doctor, but God. You lost your job when your company was purchased by another, but God. You lost a child to an illness, but God. You lost a parent or a spouse, but God. Your heart breaks because you have children who have turned away from the Lord, but God. And one of these days, your end will come, you will close your eyes one last time in death, but God.
When you pass through the waters, the Lord will be with you, through the deep waters, they will not overflow you. When you pass through the fire you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you, for the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel is your Savior. He will never leave you or forsake you. You have denied Him, but He will never deny you. In the world you have tribulation. Take courage. Jesus has overcome the world. Let not your heart be troubled. Nor let it be fearful.
But God. Nothing will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As you begin a new year, begin with this glorious truth, the greatest two words in the Bible-but God. Such love, such mercy, such grace! Hold onto Him. Draw near to God and He promises to draw near to you. When you are fearful in the middle of the night, paralyzed by the events you perceive to be unfolding before your very eyes the next day, never doubt God’s love for you in Christ.
But if you are not yet a true Christian, then my friends you do not fear enough. Your only hope in this life and the next is the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Run to Him now. Humble yourself before Him. Cry out to Him, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner.’ He is ready, quick, and able to save you. Seek no other refuge but Jesus.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.