Ephesians 2:1-10 - Habits of Grace

Pursuing Habits of Grace: The Spiritual Disciplines in the Christian's Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:41
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The grace of God is gloriously beyond our skill or technique



Everyone these days is looking for some kind of stress relief—some way of relieving the tensions and worries of these tumultuous times. And over the years I have found one surefire, never-miss, 100 percent guaranteed remedy for stress relief—bluegrass music. But not just any old bluegrass—you have to go for the cream of the crop. Ricky Skaggs, Bill Monroe, Alison Krauss, the Osborne Brothers—the high octane stuff. And for me the pinnacle of bluegrass comes from two gentlemen by the names of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and the group they created, the Foggy Mountain Boys. I guarantee you, it works—next time you’re listening to the evening news, just pull up a YouTube video of Scruggs and Flatt Flint Hill Special, and play it in the background on a loop. Everything sounds better when there’s bluegrass playing in the background!
I was reading through the comments section of that video the other day, and one of the commenters said, “Every time I listen to this it reminds me how much I stink at banjo!” (And another commenter replied, “If it’s any consolation, Earl Scruggs made a deal with the devil—nobody knows what Earl got, but the devil got banjo lessons!”) The rest of the replies went along the lines of “Then practice more!”
Now, if you want to get better at a musical instrument, you practice more, right? (That’s the old joke about the guy in New York City holding a violin case, asking how to get to Carnegie Hall— “Practice!”) If you want to have a better golf swing, or get better at writing poems, or improve your volleyball serve, you keep practicing.
And when we read the Scriptures, we hear the same thing about our Christian lives as well. Back in January we studied Paul’s words to his disciple Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:7 ESV
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;
But is that really all there is to it? Is the process of becoming a better Christian really a matter of training? Evidently Paul thought so, because he is constantly using metaphors from athletic and military backgrounds to describe the Christian life:
2 Timothy 2:4–5 ESV
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Galatians 2:2 ESV
I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.
Philippians 2:16 ESV
holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Throughout the history of the church, teachers and theologians and spiritual leaders have written and studied and taught about the “spiritual disciplines” of the Christian life—things like praying, studying the Bible, worship, and so on. Over the centuries various Christian traditions have included other disciplines, such as meditation, fasting, silence, solitude, frugality, sacrifice, submission, (and more).
In fact, that’s part of the issue—whenever we as human beings begin to think in terms of disciplining ourselves in one way or another, all of a sudden the little legalism factory inside our hearts starts churning out all kinds of rules and regulations and thresholds for what is truly “spiritual”. We start measuring our righteousness in terms of our ability to discipline ourselves—and before you know it, we’ve fallen into the same old trap again—believing that our own works of “spiritual discipline” become the reason that God pours out blessings on us.
Now, I want to argue in this sermon series that we really do need to exercise the kind of discipline and striving and hard work in our spiritual lives that the Apostle Paul is talking about—we really are called to “train ourselves for godliness”, and that training really does involve real effort and work on our part. Lord willing, we will spend the next six weeks studying what But what I want to guard against is the notion that our efforts at particular habits of Bible reading, prayer, worship and so on do not earn us any grace or favor before God.
And so before we set out in future weeks to explore what it means to pursue these spiritual disciplines—or what one author calls the “habits of grace” in our lives—we need to spend some time laying this absolutely essential, non-negotiable foundation to our study of the spiritual disciplines:
The grace of God is gloriously BEYOND any of your SKILLS or TECHNIQUES
So as we begin this study, I want us to spend some time in the passage that we read a few moments ago, Ephesians 2:1-10 (it’s on page 976 of the pew Bible). Paul is writing to the church in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor (one of the churches that received the Book of Revelation from John). They were a church that was composed of both Jew and Gentile believers, and so much of the first part of the book is taken up with Paul’s encouragement to them that they represented the new unity that God had brought to Jew and Gentile together in Christ.
And as he is describing the unity that they have together, he makes it a point to highlight the grace of God in bringing them to salvation. And so this is a good passage to remind us that we cannot “manage” or “earn” God’s grace.
The grace of God is far beyond any of your skills or techniques, because

I. Grace RESURRECTED you out of your SPIRITUAL GRAVE (Eph. 2:1-5)

Look at how Paul describes your spiritual condition before we came to Christ in verses 1-2:
Ephesians 2:1–2 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
The grace of God resurrected you out of your spiritual grave
Even though you were DEAD in your SINS (vv. 1, 5)
Before you came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible says, you weren’t just uninterested in Him—you were dead to Him! You had no interest in following Christ, you wanted to follow “the course of this world”. There was nothing in you that wanted to obey Jesus Christ—instead, you had the spirit of the “sons of disobedience”. If God said “jump” you crouched, if He said “go left” you went right. If He said the sky was blue, you’d say “it’s green”. Paul says it again in verse 5, that you were “dead in your trespasses”. But look at what he says there:
Ephesians 2:5 ESV
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
The grace of God resurrected you out of your spiritual grave even though you were dead in your sins!
You had no control over whether God’s grace reached down to you in your spiritual grave, did you? It was nothing to do with your ability to call on God, because you were spiritually dead, and unable to call on Him! God’s grace was poured out on you when you were dead spiritually—you had no control over His grace then, and you do not control it by your skills or techniques now!
Even though you were dead in your sins, the grace of God resurrected you. And His grace saved you
Even though you were a CHILD of WRATH (v. 3)
Look at verse 3:
Ephesians 2:3 ESV
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Not only were you dead in your sins, but you were also a “child of wrath”—God’s anger burned against you because of your sin! Now, it’s amazing enough that God should reach down into your spiritual grave and bring you to life out of the death of your sins. You were not just dead to Him because of your sin—you were His mortal enemy! He could have left you in your spiritual death, He could have looked at you in your rebellion and sin against Him and turned His back on you forever, letting you live out your days of living in the passions of your flesh and carrying out whatever urges you desired, and at the end of your life would have been perfectly just and righteous to cast you into Hell forever.
But instead, His marvelous, matchless, infinite grace saved you out of that wrath! You had nothing whatever to do with God’s gracious decision to rescue you from the eternal torment of Hell that you deserved! Even though you were dead in your sins, even though you were a child of wrath, God’s unmatched grace resurrected you out of your spiritual grave!
The grace of God is gloriously beyond any of your skills or techniques—it resurrected you out of your spiritual grave, and

II. Grace makes you HOLIER than you ever THOUGHT POSSIBLE (Eph. 2:8-10)

One of the most monumental statements of the grace of God in our salvation is found in Ephesians 2:8-9:
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Once again—the grace of God that saves you through faith is not of your own doing. The grace of God is gloriously beyond any of your skills or techniques! The faith that saves you is a gift of God’s grace, and not your own doing! God’s grace
Gives you FAITH to believe beyond your ability (vv. 8-9)
So follow the logic here—if the faith that saves you came as a result of God’s gracious gift to you while you were still dead in your trespasses and sins, you have nothing to boast about, right? You can’t say, “Well, God saw what a good person I was, He saw how nice and kind and noble I was in my unbelief, and so He rewarded me with the faith to call on Him for salvation!” It was nothing to do with your ability to attract God’s favor, was it? You were dead in your sins, you were an object of God’s wrath. You cannot boast about attracting God’s grace or favor by your behavior before you were saved, right?
And so that means that you can’t boast about attracting God’s grace and favor AFTER you were saved, either! As we study the spiritual disciplines—the “habits of grace”—we are not studying ways to “tip God’s hand” or “maneuver” Him into showing grace to us—His grace is gloriously beyond our skills or techniques!
If we read one verse further, we see that not only does God’s grace give you faith to believe beyond your ability, but His grace
Prepares GOOD DEEDS for you to do beyond your ability (v. 10)
Ephesians 2:10 ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
There are two marvelous truths on display in this verse—first of all, God in His grace created you for good works. Christian, when God raised you up out of your spiritual death by His grace, He transformed you from the object of His wrath into a tool in His hand for good works! Not of your own doing—He did this for you!
You may look back at your past and think that there’s no way you could ever be considered anything but a scoundrel, that you’re too broken, too deeply stained by your past rebellion for God to ever use you, that you’re not fit for serving Him or accomplishing anything worthwhile in His Name. But that’s what is so unbelievable about the grace of God toward you--He transformed you to make you fit for His service! When the Apostle Paul was struggling with his weaknesses in the flesh, God says to him in 2 Corinthians 12,
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God doesn’t see you as “damaged goods”, or too weak for Him to use—He specializes in using your weaknesses to glorify Himself! That’s grace! In fact, Ephesians 2:10 says that you are an example of His workmanship (the Greek word there is where we get our word poem)—you are a beautifully-crafted example of His work, harmonious and beautiful, with the rhythms of your life beating in time with His gracious purposes! And this was all beyond your own ability to cause! You can be far holier than you ever thought possible, and it was all from His grace!
And not only has He crafted you into a worker of good, He has already laid out the good deeds for you to do! You don’t even have to look around and try to figure out what “good works” to do—He has arranged them on your workbench, all laid out and prepared for you to step into! “Good works which God prepared beforehand that you should walk in them!”
The grace of God transforms you into a finely-crafted worker of good deeds for God’s glory, and His grace lays out all the good works that He has for you to do. And when you “walk in those deeds”—when by His grace you pick up the work that He’s laid out for you, then someday when you stand before Him in Heaven, He will reward you for doing the works that His grace laid out for you to do!

III. Grace GLORIFIES you beyond your WILDEST DREAMS (vv. 6-7)

The grace of God simply runs amok in a believer’s life! His grace raises you from your spiritual death, and then His grace rewards you in glory for the faith that He gave you! His grace crafts you into a finely-tuned worker of good deeds, lays out the deeds for you to do, and then rewards you in glory for being a finely-tuned worker of good deeds! Peter tells us this in his first letter:
1 Peter 1:7 ESV
so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus returns, He will reward you for the genuine faith that He gave you! He rewards you for the good deeds He graciously enabled you to complete, and verses 6-7 of Ephesians 2 says that it is by His grace that God
ENTHRONES you in GLORY with Him (v. 6, cp. 2 Thess. 1:12)
Verse 6 says that God’s grace
Ephesians 2:6 ESV
and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Think of the glory that we saw promised to us as we studied through Revelation—the innumerable company of the redeemed, seated on thrones with crowns on their heads and white robes of the victory of God, with palm branches of victory in their hands, seeing Christ face-to-face as they reign with Him—this is all of grace! As Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1:12:
2 Thessalonians 1:12 ESV
so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ glorified in you and you glorified in Christ—all according to the grace of God! When you are seated there someday, Christian (and make no mistake—you will be), you will look all around you at the glory and splendor and holiness and power and authority that you have been given for all eternity, and you will say, “This is all of GRACE! There is NOTHING I did to deserve ANY OF THIS!” The grace of God is gloriously beyond any of your skill or technique—it all comes to you apart from anything you could do to deserve it—because if you could deserve it, it wouldn’t be grace anymore, would it?
And that undeserved grace doesn’t stop with enthroning you in glory with Him—verse 7 of Ephesians 2 says that in His grace God
Spends eternity LAVISHING us with His KINDNESS (v. 7)
Ephesians 2:7 ESV
so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Do you know why eternity is so long, beloved? Because that’s how long it is going to take for God to show you the extent of His kindness toward you! Every day (however time is measured, whatever we perceive of as “time” in glory)—every “day” will be a brand-new manifestation of His kindness toward you! You will never wake up one day and find that He has repeated an act of kindness, or that His grace and love and joy toward you is less than it was the day before, that you are bored or disappointed or underwhelmed by the riches of His grace that He lavishes on you! And every day you will receive a million-metric-ton mountain of grace, and every day you will say, “I don’t deserve ANY of this!”, and that realization will only heighten and sweeten and sharpen your praise and worship of the glorious grace of Jesus Christ that saved you and sanctified you and enthroned you with Him in Heaven for eternity!
Christian, you are called, like Paul said, to “train yourself for godliness”—run the race so as to win, strive ahead for the prize, discipline your body so that you may grow into the holiness that Christ has for you. But you must never allow yourself to believe that somehow your spiritual discipline will earn you anything of God’s grace! The grace of God is gloriously beyond any of your skills or techniques! You were brought to life out of your spiritual death by grace alone, you are made holy by His grace alone, and you receive the immeasurable riches of His grace in his kindness to you for all eternity! There is nothing that you do in the habits of grace that you cultivate in your life that will earn you God’s grace, or cause Him to be more gracious to you than He already has!
So, if that is the case, what is the relationship between God’s grace and our spiritual disciplines? That is what we will spend the next five weeks exploring, Lord willing. As one preacher put it, “The essence of the Christian life is learning to fight for joy in a way that does not replace grace” (John Piper). We cannot earn God’s grace, or cause it to flow to us apart from His free gift. But what we can do is like what we see one man in the Gospels do. The story is found in Mark 10:46-52 (page 847 in the pew Bible). Here’s the story:
Mark 10:46–52 ESV
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
Did Bartimaeus coerce or maneuver Jesus into having mercy on him? Did he earn God’s grace? Not at all—what did he do? He simply placed himself in Jesus’ way. When he heard Jesus was passing by, he simply made sure that he was in the path of where Jesus was going, and he cried out to Him!
Christian, there is much more to say about spiritual disciplines and how we cultivate them in our lives, but let this picture of Bartimaeus crying out by the roadside of Jericho form the definition of these “habits of grace” in your heart:
The habits of grace are the means by which we can SEEK God by PLACING ourselves in the PATHS of His GRACE
But never forget, Christian, that the reason you seek to place yourself in the paths of His grace is not just because you want Him to do something for you—you do not cultivate hearing His voice or speaking to Him in prayer or worshipping Him together with others simply because you want to get something from Him—it is because you want HIM!
That’s how the story of Bartimaeus ends, isn’t it? Jesus says to him in verse 52, “Go your way—your faith has made you well”. Go ahead Bartimaeus, you have your sight, now you can go anywhere you want! And “immediately Bartimaeus recovered his sight and followed Jesus on the way!”
There it is, beloved—that is the reason that we place ourselves in the paths of God’s grace—because we want to be with Jesus! Jesus Himself is the great reward of our spiritual disciplines! We devote ourselves to reading His Word because it’s Jesus’ voice that we want to hear, we devote ourselves to prayer because it’s His ear that we have, we commit to worshipping together as a body because it is His body that we are joining!
The grace of God is gloriously beyond any of your skills or techniques, but He delights to lavish His grace on you! So make it your aim to place yourself in the paths of His grace in every way that you can, because the grace of God that saved you, the grace of God that makes you more holy than you ever thought possible, the grace will glorify you beyond your wildest dreams is the grace that invites you to follow Jesus on the way, walking with Him and hearing His voice and speaking with him and treasuring Him and standing for Him and fighting for Him and enduring for Him and suffering for Him and dying for Him until that Day when you finally see Him face to face, and you reign with Him being glorified by Him, “bright shining as the sun” with “no less days to sing God’s praise than when you first begun” in the infinite grace of your Savior, Jesus Christ!
2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.


Why is it so easy to believe that we can cause God to be more gracious to us if we practice certain good habits? What does this passage teach us about the relationship between our deeds and God’s grace?
2 Timothy 1:9 says that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace”. How does this verse help you understand that your own works do not earn your approval before God?
How does the story of blind Bartimaeus show you the purpose of the spiritual disciplines in your life? In what ways are you like Bartimaeus as you “place yourself in the paths of God’s grace” this week?
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