Saving Private Ryan is a movie that is based on a story of a World War II soldier whose brothers died in various battles in the same war. The US Army leadership felt that that family had paid enough for their freedom and wanted to send a rescue team behind enemy lines to bring Private Ryan home. Most of the squad that was sent gave their lives to save this one man. Even Captain Miller was fatally wounded. In Miller’s final breaths, he looks at Ryan and says, “Earn this.” I am thankful that as Jesus was on the Cross he never said earn this. Jesus did travel behind enemy lines to snatch us out of the hands of Satan and gave His life to save our lives, but in His last words, He cried for our forgiveness. Still, does God want us to “Earn” our salvation? No! Our passage today is clear that this grace that we have received is a gift. A gift is something that is freely given, not earned. Think back to a time when you received a gift that you really wanted. You may have thanked the giver, then you threw it down on the ground and left it there… ABSOLUTELTY NOT!!! At least I hope that none of us would act that way. Instead, we thank the giver over and over again; we take this gift and display it on a prized shelf, and we take care of this gift and cherish it. This is true appreciation. Paul was writing to the Church in Ephesis, and in chapter four, he uses a phrase that reminds me of what Miller said in the movie. Paul writes, “Walk Worthy”
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Ephesians 4:1-7 (NKJV)
It is so easy to take the passage “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and run with it. Some may use this as an excuse, claiming God told me I wasn’t perfect, so why try to be? The answer to that question is that God commanded us to be holy as He is holy. The other side of the argument is that we must walk worthy to receive our salvation. “For by grace we are saved not works lest any man boast.” Verse seven in today’s passage reminds us that this is a gift. I believe we are called to works, not in order to receive salvation, but out of appreciation for that salvation. Time and time again God in His Word has called us to action, and it’s time we get busy. I also want to emphasize that it is not only about doing things, but it’s about how we live. This passage gives us a short list of Paul’s definition of what walking worthy looks like. A man named Randy in my Sunday School class made this comment, “If Pastor Kelly followed us all day tomorrow, would we live that day a little differently than we normally would.” If our pastor was with us would we say the same things, go to the same places, and tell the same jokes? I know that is the way that the world lives, but we are not to be of this world. I know it is so hard to live a life that is worthy of what Jesus did for us. I recently returned from a Youth Ministers Conference. A speaker at the conference said, ” When we give in to temptation in our lives, it is not that our fleshly desires are too strong to resistance, but that our faith in Christ is too weak.” His point was the same that Randy made in our Sunday School class. If we walked closely with Jesus, it would be harder to stray and sin. If we truly recognize the pain that Jesus suffered, we should find it easier to follow through in our faith. The closer to Christ that you are, the easier it will be to walk worthy, just like having your pastor with you all day. Oh, by the way, even when your pastor is not around, Jesus is still in you. At the end of the movie Saving Private Ryan, the now senior citizen Ryan is standing over the grave of Captain Miller. He turns to his family and says, “Tell me I’m a good man, tell me I have lived a good life.” Ryan wanted to know that he did his best to keep that promise made to Miller. When our life is over will we hear, “well done my true and faithful servant”? Captain Miller said, “Earn this”, Jesus said, “Forgive them”, and Paul called us to “Walk Worthy”.
God, be with us today and everyday as we walk through life. I pray that our actions attitudes and words would all be worthy of what you have done for us. Not that walking worthy saves us, Lord, but that by walking worthy we show you our appreciation for your sacrifice. Allow your spirit to fill our spirit so that we can bring you glory by walking worthy. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.