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Description: God’s Will For You: Grace and Peace!
God’s Will for You: Grace and Peace!
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn to Ephesians, the book that we’re studying? Last Sunday we studied Ephesians 1:1b, “to
the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus”. I’d just call back to your mind how we said that
“the saints” is the word “hagios” and it means people who have set themselves apart from the world,
and then people who have been set apart by God’s Holy Spirit to God. So there’s a human side and a
divine side and yet even the human side has a great deal of divine power in it.
I would just mention to us to remain commonsensical and practical about the setting apart. If you
set yourself apart from the world and you set yourself apart to God, that means you set yourself
apart in regard to your time and the way you think. We need to be practical about that. Even
though you may like planes and I may like boats, we set ourselves apart from the things we like and
we set ourselves apart to God in Jesus so that he comes first. So it’s a very practical thing. It
comes down to the way you spend your afternoons, the way you spend your evenings, it comes down to
time. So I’d just remind us of that. Don’t be theoretical about this. Let’s see that setting
ourselves apart is a very practical thing and it is not just a wish or intention.
This might be good to say to you too — holy intentions never saved anybody. Now, in the Catholic
Church we have the importance of purity of intention but still holy intentions themselves do not
save a person. Act, will, change in your behavior, that’s what saves. All that I said is just in
relationship to last Sunday’s verse.
Now this Sunday’s verse is Ephesians 1:2. You can see it there, “Grace to you and peace from God
our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Just keep your finger in that page and turn over to Romans
1:7b, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” it’s the same
greeting. Then turn to Philippians 1:2 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ,” the same greeting. Then over the page to Colossians 1:2b, “Grace to you and peace
from God our Father,” the same greeting and the same greeting in Corinthians. Now it’s easy because
of our own miserably passive minds to think, “The guy’s typewriter is stuck, or his Dictaphone is
stuck. He just repeated the same thing and it’s just like, ‘Hi, how are you. Hello.’ It’s not.
Every word in scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for training in
righteousness and for rebuke and reproof.
So ever word of scripture is what Jesus said. Not an iota or a dot shall pass from the law until
all is accomplished. An Iota in Greek is just like a little apostrophe. It’s a tiny little thing.
But Jesus said that every word is precious. So when we’re reading the Bible every word is full of
meaning. This is not just a kind of conventional greeting that Paul raps off but it has great
meaning. It actually is the whole gospel. That’s really what he’s preaching when he says that,
it’s the whole gospel. Because, it’s grace that brings the results of peace and the whole gospel is
really grace and peace.
So let’s just look at it a little more carefully. The Greek for grace is “charis” and “humin” is to
you. In a way it doesn’t give you the kindliness and softness of it unless you have an Italian
tenor who can sing “Charis Mia”. That’s because “charis” is the same as my Cheri, my dear, or my
love. You can see it even more in the English word caress. And then the “char” is found in the
word charity. And that’s what grace is. It’s not something cold and theological. It’s Paul saying
not even, “I hope that you will have grace,” or, “May God’s grace be to you”. He’s saying, “God’s
love to you. God is caressing you at this moment from heaven. He’s caressing you with his love. At
this very moment God’s love is surrounding you and caressing you, and he’s talking to you and
saying, ‘My dear.” That’s it. It’s very dear, and very kind.
So what is his grace? Grace is such that though God needed nothing, (he needed nothing because he
didn’t exist in isolation, he had Jesus his Son and the Holy Spirit, he was utterly complete in
himself and self-sufficient), even though his heart was filled with love, yet he had people to love
in his Son and in the Holy Spirit. But his love overflowed into a desire to make other people and
other beings that would enjoy his love and that he could enjoy loving.
Now, he could have made a lot of little animals, and he could have made lots of constellations and
universes. He could have made things that wouldn’t have given him much trouble, things that he
could control, things that he could enjoy looking at much as collectors collect antiques, or
pictures, or cameras. They enjoy looking at them. They can take them out, they can put them where
they want them to be and they do that, they’re just inanimate. Or, a little dog, or little birds,
you can control. So he could have made just other creatures like that. But his love is the kind of
love that is even prepared to be hurt in order to pour itself forth.
It’s not the kind of love that defends, or holds himself away from things that might hurt him. It’s
the kind of love that is willing to give the very best that it has and that’s what he determined to
do. He determined not to give something less than himself. Now, when you think of it, it was an
unbelievable risk to take. He is God, there is none beyond him. He is the one. He is the only
one. It would be perfectly reasonable in our minds that he should not give something as dear as
himself, or give someone the qualities that he himself had. But that’s what he determined to do.
He determined to give life to other beings, the same life that he had and so he actually made us in
his own Son so that we would have actually the same life in us that he and his Son had. He wanted
us to have the very best that he could give. And of course, that meant self-determination because
he himself can do whatever he wants to do. He’s free to do whatever he wishes and so he gave that
capability to us inside his Son.
If you don’t choose him, there’s nothingness. I mean, there is nothing, there is not an
alternative. There aren’t other gods. There’s just God himself and if you don’t choose him, you
actually choose nothingness and therefore extinction. And of course, he himself had to plant within
us a self-destruct capability because otherwise we would have wandered forever in nothingness and
darkness in an extinguished state. And so he planted within us what is stated in that verse in
Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” And so he planted within us a death that would take place
if we actually choose nothingness and extinction instead of him.
Really, whenever we choose ourselves, we choose nothingness and extinction (because we actually have
no life apart from Jesus). And so he planted within us that self-destruct mechanism. He not only
did that, but remember where he placed us. He made us inside his own beloved Son and he did that on
purpose so that we could choose ourselves if we wanted to. We could choose death and extinction if
we wanted to but he was continuing to choose his Father, and would overcome our death and extinction
and would raise us up in his own life.
It’s unthinkable but the closest I can come to it is swallowing a hand grenade. The blessed Savior
was swallowing not just the six billion explosives for the people that are here on the earth at
present but the billions, and billions of little beings that his Father made inside him, each one of
which had the ability to choose themselves rather than God and to experience that death and
destruction which would have wiped them out completely. Christ bore it in himself and raised us up.
He bore the tearing apart inside himself and yet raised himself up because of his love, affection
and trust in his Father and raised us up with him.
That’s part of what the grace is. It’s played out over the centuries, but it all took place in that
moment in eternity. Every time a savage murder takes place in New York every couple of minutes,
every time a caustic, sarcastic, cutting comment is made in the sophisticated business or social
circles of London, the Savior bears that explosion within himself and negates it. That is the
grace. He negates it so that we continue to receive grace from our Father.
That’s why, the Bible says there in Romans 5:8 that God commands his love towards us in that while
we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Even as we are sinning Christ is bearing the penalty of
that, the extinction of that, and the death and loneliness of it. That is why he cried, “My God, my
God why hast thou forsaken me?” He has to cry this every time we act for ourselves and act apart
from him. Yet the Father continues to give grace and this in a sense is unmerited favor. God
continues to stream down his unmerited favor upon us.
If you say to me, “Do you mean that whatever I do God still keeps me alive to do it, still loves and
accepts me?” Yes, that’s right. If you said to me, “Even if I don’t believe in him?” Yes, at the
moment, in this life, in these saving days, yes. There will come a time for death. The Bible says,
“Then comes the judgment”. But in what are called saving days in the Bible, Jesus does not condemn
us but instead saves us every second. If you say to me, “Do you mean that if I am thinking a
thought that is evil and filthy, I am actually cutting Christ?” Yes. He has one dear hand up to
shield himself and the other dear hand around our backs, to draw us into himself. That’s it and
that’s the grace. That’s the unmerited favor that is coming to us every moment.
It’s so ridiculous, such an insult, and so cruel when anyone says, “I can’t get God’s forgiveness.
I somehow can’t get his forgiveness.” How can you not get his forgiveness when at this moment he
holds you in his arms and is loving you even as you’re rejecting him? That’s grace loved ones and
he gives us that day, after day, after day. He has that same unmerited favor towards us.
So that’s part of what grace means. And what Paul is saying is, “Grace to you – this is what God is
sending down to you every moment. This is from God your Father. You have his unmerited favor every
moment whatever you are doing because his dear Son is bearing that.” I think during the Second
World War, there were a few instances when a hand grenade was tossed into the trench with about 20
men in it. And one guy went down on top of it. Of course he was killed, but his body kind of
smothered the hand grenade. That is what it is, except it’s a poor illustration, because the
soldier had one moment of agony and it was gone. The Savior’s agony has continued all down through
In a sense the Mass is right. We used to say, “The mass is the repeated sacrifice of Christ and
that’s not right because it was done once for all.” Well it was, and in a sense it was finished. In
a sense God himself experienced the whole thing in a moment. The lamb was slain from before the
foundation of the world. But in time that pain has been expressed down through the centuries and
that is the massiveness of the pain. It is not just one moment for God, it is all eternity, all the
years that have gone by. So that’s the grace.
I don’t know how often you’ve found yourself in this position, but you can make a choice between
doing something that is very good and commendable but does not risk anything for yourself and then
you can do something that is not only very commendable but actually puts you at risk — either your
money, your clothes, your property, your life, or your future. God chose the second — a mighty
event that has taken place in his heart. It is not something that cost nothing. It is a mighty
event that is taking place to enable us to experience that.
So that’s one thing that grace is. But grace is also his enabling power and that’s part of what
Paul is saying. Grace is not only God’s unmerited favor to us, but it’s his enabling power. Grace is
streaming down from God to us every moment. And even as you lift your hand to strike his Son, you
lift your hand by dint of the enabling power that he has given you. So he is actually giving us the
life to either live in trust in him or live in trust in ourselves. And so grace is his strength and
We’ve said before that that table is not really solid. It consists of lots of protons and neutrons
that are spinning around each other and held in position like that. And of course, our bodies don’t
seem as solid as that and are just protons and neutrons spinning around. During the explosion in
Nagasaki the heat of the bomb was so immense that it just burned a person right where they stood.
For a few minutes after the explosion you could see the whole person standing there but just as a
cinder. That brings it home to you how transient and temporary the body is. It can all appear to
be there, charred and blackened but really is a cinder, and then it collapsed like ash. And that’s
what our bodies are like. They consist of billions and billions of protons and neutrons that are
spinning round and held in position by his enabling power.
We talk about sight. There’s nothing to sight. It’s just like a little camera inside. But we never
think of all that connects the camera to the person I am looking at and the fact that God is holding
all those things in position. We talk glibly about radio waves. We think we can go buy the antenna
and that’s how the cellular phone works. But who holds in position the atmosphere and all the waves
so that they continue to work? It’s the Father. His enabling power holds the whole thing in
We think it’s an amazing fact that the earth that is spinning around the sun like that and staying
in orbit. It’s magnetic, of course but we just give a name to something we don’t understand. We
think, “Oh, that’s the only invisible means of support that we can see.” No, our lives are full of
it. Our lives are surrounded by God’s enabling power that is keeping us alive.
So that’s the love of this dear Father. That’s where you get the term, “charismata”. It becomes our
word charismatic. They are not only the gifts that are mentioned there in 1 Corinthians 12 but they
are all the abilities that God gives. That’s part of his enabling power. Whether James Galway at
this moment acknowledges Jesus or not, when he plays the flute it is still a gift that God gives by
his enabling power. You’re singing ability or the ability to play the guitar is a gift. We’re
continually surrounded and empowered by his “charismata”.
We have mutilated the whole thing by talking about charismatic people as something special. But
actually we have gifts that we’re using every second of our lives. So that’s part of what Paul
means when he says, “Grace to you.” He is saying, the unmerited favor of your Father is upon you
every moment and you live every second by his enabling power.”
Now if you live as if you’re on your own, if you live as if there’s no God looking after you, if you
live as if you’re your own God, then of course you end up having to protect and defend yourself.
You end up trying to make the world actually what you want it to be. You try to make it as
convenient for yourself as possible. That’s one of the things those of us that have lived in family
(community) like this for years realize. It is hell on earth to live in a situation like this if
you’re still trying to protect yourself because, so many things are wretchedly inconvenient. I
mean, people want to do things when you don’t want to do them. People ask you to do things when you
don’t want to do them.
So, it is hell if you still are in the situation where you’re your own God and you want to have
things just the way you want them. But if you’re in that situation, (as most men and women are),
then you have to exercise your will to get your own way at all costs. The dreadful thing is that
there are six billion others trying to do the same thing. With six billion people in the world
trying to get things the way they want them to be, standing up for their rights, trying to have
their own way, and trying to make the world in their image, you’re bound to end up with strife,
fighting, and disagreement. Of course that’s what the world is full of.
The very air is full of straining and striving. Most men and women are tackling it like a wrestling
match. You’re looking at the other guy to see where you can get a good hold and then you grab it
and kill the strife right there. Most people have an eye out for their best chance. They say, “How
will I work this set of circumstances for my own advantage? How can I arrange this so that I have
some semblance of comfort and ease? How can I do this so that I grab what that guy is trying to grab
before he gets it?” Most of the world is filled with that kind of striving.
Now, Paul says that all changes when you realize that your Father has set his love upon you and that
he is giving you his enabling power. When you realize that then you know, “I don’t have to fight. I
don’t have to strive. I don’t have to look out for myself. Whatever he wants me to have he will
ensure that I get.” And that’s what Paul means when he says, “eirene”. The meaning of the word
“eirene” is peace. And that’s the result when you receive God’s grace day after day. Suddenly you
don’t have to protect yourself. You don’t have to beat other people to the punch. You don’t have to
look for the best chance with another person. You don’t have to wrestle everybody else to the
ground. You don’t have to get your way.
You can trust God and a deep peace comes into your whole being and fills you with a rest. “Eirene”
is actually a cessation of striving. Whenever you sense striving then it’s good to spend a little
time with the Father and ask his Holy Spirit to reveal to you why he is not able to bring you into
Peace is two-fold; it’s first what is spoken of in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we are justified by
faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God is something we have
through our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s because we are in Jesus and he has borne all the consequences
of our independence. And so we have, at this moment in Jesus, peace with God. At this very moment
we’re all sitting in this chapel and God is not condemning us. At this very moment God is looking
upon us as his own dear children because Jesus has borne the death that we deserved. So we have at
this very moment, peace with God. You’d have to wipe out Jesus’ death in order to disprove that.
In other words, for you or I to become uncertain of our peace with God there’d have to be no Jesus,
there’d have to be no death. But God will not kill two people for the one sin. He will just destroy
one person and that has happened in Jesus. So at this very moment we have peace with God.
But I think what we’re talking about here, is our own need to have peace in the midst of the
business world. It’s this peace of God and that Jesus talks about if you’d like to look at John
14:27. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”
The only peace that the world can give is to make the circumstances fairly favorable to you, but
Jesus’ peace is deeper than the circumstances. It is consistent with the crowds jeering at him and
throwing insults at him on the Calvary road, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be
afraid.” The peace that Jesus gives is a grace of the Holy Spirit.
At this moment Jesus is not sweating. He’s not uptight, he’s not worried (even though he is bearing
all that pain), and he’s not troubled. He is at ease because whatever his Father wants for him he’s
content with. He doesn’t feel the crown on his head and say, “Thank you Father,” and then feel the
thorns on his head and say, “Oh, what have I done wrong? Why has God done this to me?” He looks up
and he says, “Thank you Father.” He doesn’t experience the palm branches thrown at his feet and the
crowd hailing him as the messiah and say, “Thank you Father,” and then as he goes down the Calvary
road and they thump him with their fists and they spit on him he doesn’t then say, “What have I done
wrong?” He says, “Thank you Father.” That’s because he believes that everything comes from his
Father, everything is under his Father’s control, and everything is an equally good gift from his
Father. And what he wants us to do is abide in him and accept that too. The moment you accept that
with your Savior, his peace, the peace that he enjoys with the Father floods your heart.
So that’s what Paul is saying when he says, “Grace to you and peace”. Then he says, “From God our
Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,” because that’s where it all comes, from God our Father and our
Lord Jesus Christ.