I spent this past week up in the northern woods of Wisconsin with our church’s high school ministry for their summer camp. The entire week can be summed up in three words: Exciting, challenging and changing. The entire week was full of moments of fun with friends, but what absolutely was the hearts of the students and their willingness and openness to fully be present for what the power of God could do in their lives. It was humbling for me to watch as many of the students came to Christ for the first time and many relit the fire in their hearts. God did some incredible things during the week and I was blessed to get to watch them first hand.
One of the most incredible moments of the week came every day at 6am. I went to bed usually between 12AM and 1AM, but woke early every morning for a Bible study with some of the fellow leaders and students. The first day, there were probably 12 people total. By the last day, there were over 20 people that were ready to grow in their hearts and minds to glorify God. What was especially unique is that we studied Ephesians during the week going through verse by verse. The students were fired up to go through verse by verse and unpack what Paul was writing to Ephesus. Never before have I seen this kind of excitement from students to study the Bible in this capacity.
Ephesians 2 may be one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. Paul starts out by telling the Christians of Ephesus (us) how they were dead. In 2:1 he starts by saying ‘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…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.’ Those who walk with the ways of this world, driven by their sins and desires of the body are all children of wrath. We are ALL children of wrath. Just like all of mankind, you were dead.
Here is the most meaningful three-letter word in this entire chapter: BUT. In vv.4-6, Paul says this: ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raising us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ These verses right here can sum up the Gospel in an incredibly beautiful explanation. Through mercy and grace, we are saved.
Mercy is not getting something you deserve; Grace is getting something you don’t deserve. Understanding the difference between mercy and grace helps to fully comprehend God’s love for us. Without mercy and without grace from God, we are all dead. But when God sent His son to the cross to propitiate our sins, God was mercifully sparing us of His wrath and was gracefully giving us the opportunity to be raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly place when we die. Just like the week of camp for these students and myself, understanding the power of mercy and grace will be exciting, challenging and changing.