As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Did you know the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” opens with a verse from the story of the prodigal son? The line, “I once was lost, but now I’m found,” parallels Luke 15:24, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
“Amazing Grace” was penned by John Newton, a foul-mouthed slave trader who came to recognize God’s sovereignty after surviving tumultuous seas like the sailors in the book of Jonah. Though Newton had renounced God, he called on God’s mercy when facing an almost certain shipwreck. The ship was severely damaged but did not sink. His prayer granted, Newton felt compelled to acknowledge the power of the One he had been defying.
Healthy respect that brings wise living is known as the fear of the Lord. This fear is likely referred to in the lines, “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” Newton’s hard heart was cracked open by God’s mercy. Awareness that he did not deserve grace made him fearful. Yet the same thing that caused his fear took it away.
Newton needed help to change his ways. While surrounded by men doing the things he was trying to avoid, he could not put his old life to death. Newton finally broke free of his corrupt habits after giving up sailing and eventually, he became a clergy member and an abolitionist.
Post-conversion, Newton confessed he previously served Satan, wanting to win all of humanity away from God. In today’s passage, Paul talks about spiritual warfare, reminding us we once followed the ruler who is at work in the disobedient. Spiritual transformation is not achieved by willpower alone. If you have received grace, the same power that resurrected Jesus to conquer death and evil can transform you.
We cannot save ourselves by trying to behave better. As Ephesians 2:1-5 reminds us—we are saved by grace. However, only when we understand we are lost can we truly be found.
One of Willow’s Rooted Rhythms is breaking strongholds which are typically prevailing problems. You can access the resurrection power of Jesus by praying for transformation and protection. Connect with your church community and ask someone trustworthy to pray with you.