This morning I want to begin with a question. I want you keep this question in your thoughts as we discuss a specific situation. The question:

How do you pay that back?

Now consider the situation. I want to use a situation that everyone of us, without exception, has experienced. Each of us has been a child. Not one single person here, regardless of your age, has not been a child. Our childhood experiences were not alike, but all of us were born to someone and all of us had a childhood. No one's childhood was perfect. No one had perfect parents. No one grew up in a flawless environment.

Think for a moment about an exceptional childhood experience. In an exceptional experience: (please remember that we are talking about the exceptional experience--there is no intent or desire to dredge up horrible memories or stir regrets)

  1. The child has a nurturing mother and a nurturing father and is allowed to grow up in a two parent family.

  2. The child has a mother and father who love each other, and the child is the product of that love and a recipient of that love. Thus the child grows up in a love environment created by a father and mother.

  3. The child is never emotionally or physically abused, never victimized by the parents' anger, never emotionally or physically neglected, never emotionally or physically exploited.

  4. The child is only expected to be, not expected to prove.

  5. Therefore the child is encouraged, challenged, guided in helpful directions, provided with good examples.

Now ask the question. If any child is fortunate enough to have that exceptional experience for eighteen years, how can he or she pay his or her parents back for that exceptional experience? The child cannot pay his or her parents back for an exceptional childhood. The child can only allow that exceptional experience contribute to who he or she is and what he or she becomes.

Sometime ago I was talking to my daughter who is in California. She was thanking Joyce and me. That week she was with a group of girl friends, and they were discussing in specifics their horrible experiences they had in their homes as children. She said, "I could not relate to what they said. I never had those experiences."

My point is not that Joyce and I were ideal parents. I will not presume to speak for Joyce, but it surely would have been wonderful if I understood forty years ago what I understand now. My point: some experiences are gifts to be appreciated. All we can do is appreciate them. We can never pay them back.

I would be surprised if anyone did not understand that truth in his/her heart of hearts.

  1. With that question and that understanding in mind, allow me to direct your attention to salvation and judgment.
    1. Allow me to give you some contrasts regarding salvation and judgment.
      1. Salvation is a gift that flows from God's mercy and grace; godly living is our response to God's gift.
      2. Salvation is God's gift; judgment is an evaluation of our lives as the saved.
      3. Forgiveness is the gift of God's mercy; obedience is expressed appreciation for forgiveness.
      4. Redemption focuses on God's gift; judgment focuses on the redeemed's life.
    2. There is nothing we can do to deserve the mercy in God's forgiveness.
      1. Nobody deserves to be saved from his or her sins.
      2. The only response we can give to this gift is a godly life.
      3. We can appreciate salvation and show our appreciation by obedience.
      4. We cannot pay God back for what He does for us in saving us.

  2. I do not ask you to take my word for what I have just said. Instead, I ask you to listen from your heart as we read Paul's words in Ephesians 2:1-10.
    And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
    1. As Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, note these things in your full awareness that Paul spoke to Christians who were converted from idolatry.
      1. "First, you need to understand that you had no life in you."
        1. "You were dead."
        2. "You were a bunch of lifeless corpses."
        3. I seriously doubt that any people any where at any time would respond to Paul's observation with, "Yes, indeed! Are you ever right, Paul!
        4. You would not! I would not! In fact, we would fight Paul's description.
      2. "Paul, what ever do you mean? We were religious! We believed in some form of deity! Why would you ever say we were corpses back then?"
        1. "I would say that because of the way you lived and what you allowed to control your lives."
        2. "What are you talking about?"
          1. "You allowed ungodly influences in society to determine what you thought and how you acted."
          2. "How you behaved was controlled by Satan, not by God--and Satan specializes in spiritually killing people, not in giving them life."
          3. "In fact, if anyone looked inside you and looked inside people who defied God, he or she would not see anything different."
        3. "Just look at how you lived and acted:"
          1. "Your passions determined your behavior."
          2. "You indulged your body and your emotions on the basis of desire."
          3. "The way you lived and acted insulted God and rightly filled Him with wrath toward your ungodliness."
      3. Paul: "All the credit for your salvation goes to God, not to you."
        1. "You were saved because of God's great love."
        2. "You were saved because of God's mercy."
        3. "God through Jesus Christ gave our dead bodies life."
        4. "Never forget that this life came from God's grace."
        5. "Just like He resurrected Jesus from the grave, God resurrected you."
      4. "The most astounding act of God's grace goes far beyond God giving our dead bodies life through Jesus Christ--the most astounding thing God gives us through grace are the gifts He provides us when we are in Jesus Christ."
      5. "There are two things I want you to understand:"
        1. "I want you to understand your salvation comes from God, not yourselves."
        2. "You have no reason or right to brag because salvation is produced by God's kindness, not your achievements."
          1. "God is the master craftsman who brought you into existence--you are God-made, God-designed as Christians."
          2. "The master designer had a specific reason, a specific purpose for creating you in Jesus Christ."
          3. "God created you in order for you to do good works" (understanding that God defines what is good)."
          4. "God designed your purpose before He designed you--before Jesus came, before Christianity existed, God determined that those who accepted salvation in Christ would live their lives doing good works."
    2. Today we must not miss the over-all point Paul made to these Christians.
      1. It matters how the man or woman who has received life in Christ lives!
      2. Christians cannot and must not live like people who do not even know God!
      3. When a Christian appreciates the salvation that God's mercy and grace provided, he or she will show that appreciation in the way he or she lives!
      4. We cannot live and behave like godless people and appreciate our salvation!

  3. Would you allow Paul to illustrate this truth in this letter in Ephesians 4:25-32?
    1. Read with me.
      Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
    2. The reason Paul mentioned these things: they were happening among Christians right there in Ephesus in God's family.
      1. Some Christians were liars.
        1. They were liars before they became Christians.
        2. They kept on lying after they became Christians.
        3. Christians speak truth to others because they now belong to the God of truth.
      2. Some Christians were angry people.
        1. They were angry people before they became Christians.
        2. They were the same angry people after they became Christians.
        3. Because they nursed their anger, they did all kinds of ungodly things.
        4. Paul said give anger a short life instead of letting your anger create opportunity for Satan.
      3. Some Christians were thieves--they existed by the selfishness of stealing.
        1. They were thieves before they became Christians.
        2. They continued to be thieves after they became Christians.
        3. Paul said because becoming a Christian changes you, you cannot continue to steal.
        4. Instead:
          1. They work instead of steal.
          2. They do what is good instead of what is evil.
          3. Their motivation was not to be selfish--their motivation was to help those who had needs (a total reversal of stealing!).
      4. Some Christians just said anything--they did not care who was hurt or offended.
        1. They had an evil tongue before they became a Christian.
        2. They had the same evil tongue after they became a Christian.
        3. Paul said Christians do not have evil tongues!
        4. They are encouragers who give grace to listeners--they care, and what they say shows it.
      5. Some Christians were working against God's influence in their lives and gave the Holy Spirit which lived in them grief.
        1. Paul said the existence of the Holy Spirit in your lives is the mark that identifies you as a person who belongs to God.
        2. The seal Paul spoke of is a mark of identity.
        3. "Don't make it hard for God's presence in your life to encourage you to be closer to God."
      6. "Purposely get rid of negative, ungodly emotions in your life."
      7. "Give your life to kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness--and allow God's forgiveness to be your example."

The person who accepts God's salvation shows his or her appreciation to God by living like a person who belongs to God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 17 August 2003

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