Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are You Different: The Gospel Changes You

Sermon Introduction:

In his book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World C.J. Mahaney asks a very penetrating question that I want you to think about. “Imagine I take a blind test in which my task is to identify the genuine follower of Jesus Christ. My choices are an unregenerate individual and you. I’m given two reports detailing conversations, Internet activity, manner of dress, iPod playlists, television habits, hobbies, leisure time, financial transactions, thoughts, passions, and dreams. The question is: Would I be able to tell you apart? Would I discern a difference between you and your unconverted neighbor, coworker, classmate, or friend?”

Are you any different from those in the world? Are you any different from your classmates that do not love Jesus? Let me tell you up front where this question is coming from. Ephesians 2:1-10. In Ephesians 2 you have the description of those that are dead and how they walk and you have the description of those that God has made alive and how they walk. They are different; which means that if you have truly been born again then you walk according to Ephesians 2:4-10 and not Ephesians 2:1-3. If you are no different from the world and you are no different from those that do not love Jesus then something is radically wrong.

That is a dangerous question to ask. It is dangerous because there are ways that we can wrongly answer it. If we use the wrong framework for answering that question then we will be in trouble. There are those that have no saving relationship with Jesus that would say they passed C.J.’s test and there are those that have a saving relationship with Jesus that would say they have failed miserably C.J.’s test. So, we need to be careful to have a biblical understanding of how we go about answering that question. It is important question. We need to answer it, but we need to be answering it correctly.

Let me give you a brief history of the Old Testament to help us understand a religious group that was around in Jesus’ days on earth. God chose a people for himself. These people rebelled. God continued to lead them. The people kept rebelling. This is a perpetual cycle in the Old Testament, with occasional times of repentance and restoration. All in all it outlines God’s faithfulness to his people. Towards the end of the Old Testament times God sent his people away in exile. They lost their home country. This is the story behind many of the Minor Prophets in the last twelve books of the Old Testament. God sent them away because of their sin. Now fast forward about 500 years and you have a group called the Pharisees. The Pharisees interpreted God’s actions correctly and responded appropriately—we need to be more faithful to God and serve Him alone. We need to obey God with everything we have within us; nothing wrong with that.

But we see what happened in Jesus’ day with the Pharisees. They no longer were concerned about a passionate relationship with God but had fallen into a cold and dead formalism. Rules became their god. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

That Pharisaical spirit has ran like a thread all throughout our history. Usually as a response to rampant worldliness, sin, and the like the church decides to become hermits and concerns itself with rules and eventually falls into dead formalism. They keep rules but neglect the heart. This is, in many ways what happened in the days of Martin Luther. Now what does that Pharisaical spirit look like in our day? It looks like the lady that refuses to play with the devil’s cards but instead decides to gossip about other church members. It looks like the guy that only lets his kids watch Veggie Tales and listens to only Christian radio but inwardly is filled with anger and pride toward all those that watch those secular shows like the Beverly Hillbillies. It looks like the guy that makes certain to votes Republican, pickets at abortion clinics, and takes a stand on all the big social issues but never reaches in his pocket to give a quarter to a homeless guy.

The Pharisaical spirit has a list and lives by that list. It’s a long list of do’s and do not’s. So you ask someone with the pharisaical spirit (or even someone that interprets Christianity wearing Pharisaical sunglasses) this question: “Are you any different from those in the world? Are you different from those that do not love Jesus?” What then does the Pharisaical person do? He reaches in his pocket, pulls out his list and starts doing some calculating. He considers the externals. The music he listens to—yep, it’s all Jeremy Camp, Avalon, Underoath, INLOW, Steven Curtis Chapman, Flame, LeCrae, and Shane and Shane. The television he watches—he tries to scan his mind to remember if he saw any bad movies lately, or stopped on a bad show, (of course bad being defined by his own standards). He makes sure he has only watched Veggie Tales and that Jesus movie from the 80’s.

And this is what happens with the person that has a Pharisaical spirit. Either he wins and gets filled with pride because he is not like the world and he could answer our question the way every good follower of God should. Or he loses and is filled with despair and hopelessness. He lost. He beats himself up because he remembers watching that movie that he should not have. He remembers the sexually explicit lyrics he listened to. So, he feels bad about himself. Well, for a little while. And then he gets that Pharisaical resolve back and decides to go on a mission—of course all by the flesh, and all relying on external’s as his standard.

Ah, it’s easy to make fun of the Pharisee isn’t? He’s such an old codger. When is he going to understand grace and our freedom in Jesus? Look at everything he is missing out on. What a lame duck. Doesn’t he know that there is so much more out there? This guy needs to understand grace.

And thus we are introduced to our second strain that has constantly been present in history—those that ignore God, view him as unconcerned about their lives, and those that live lives that reflect that belief. Earlier I spoke of the cycle in the Old Testament. What do you think caused that cycle? It was none other than worldliness. This is what Spurgeon said about that cycle:

“Never were there good times when the Church and the world were joined in marriage with one another. The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.”

Typically, especially in Christianized church circles it comes from a misunderstanding of God’s graciousness. We see this even present in the New Testament. As Paul is talking about grace many wrongly assumed that it meant the more you sin the more you exalt God’s grace. This is why he asks the rhetorical question in Romans 6:1, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound”? And it is a faulty belief like this that we see as a reason why Paul qualifies his statements in Galatians 5, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve on another.” And again we see this present in the church at Corinth. They really latched on to this idea of Christian freedom. And because of it they engaged in all sorts of sexual immorality and their church serves where such chaos that Paul said, “It’s better if you do not meet together”.

Just as the Pharisaical spirit is typically a response to worldliness, the worldly spirit is a response to the dead formalism of the Pharisaical spirit. What does this worldliness look like in our day? If I could be blunt it looks like many of our lives. We are unconcerned about holiness. We are not broken for sin. We laugh at the Pharisee because we identify with the worldling. We think he’s stupid for tithing mint, dill, and cumin. We think he’s stupid for only listening to only Christian music and for making sure to only watch Christian movies. Meanwhile, we look like the world, we think like the world, we love the things the world loves, and we think that is a virtue. But I want you to notice again what Jesus said to the Pharisees. Notice how he says, “These you ought to have done without neglecting the others”. Listen to what God says to us through the apostle John—you cannot get around these words, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

How would the worldly man answer our question? Are you any different from those in the world? Are you any different from your classmates that do not love Jesus? He would probably answer with pride—no, I’m not, thank God. Or perhaps with indifference, I did not know that I was supposed to be different. Or maybe he would say, yeah I think I am worldly—boy, I sure am thankful for grace. What marks the worldly man is a lack of struggle against sin and worldliness. It is indeed a love for the world and the things in the world. He fails C.J.’s test but he really is not all that concerned about it, there is no brokenness for sin.

You see the Pharisee looks at the worldling and compares himself to him by externals and thinks he could answer the question in the affirmative. Yes, I am different from him. Look at my iPod…well you can’t I do not own one I am not worldly. And he looks at the worldling judges him casts him off to hell and never deals with his own heart. The worldling on the other hand laughs at the Pharisees legalism. Could it be that the worldly man is laughing at the Pharisee’s legalism all the way into hell and the Pharisee is checking his list and judging the worldling all the way into hell? Could it be that neither understands grace and does not understand grace because they have not received it?

Tonight as we look at Ephesians 2:1-10 (and primarily verses 7-10) I want us to try to provide a biblical framework for answering those questions. More than just giving you information it is my prayer that the Spirit of God might change you through His Word. It is my prayer that we might ask the question whether not we are living in Ephesians 2:1-3 or Ephesians 2:4-10. It is my prayer that you might be motivated toward holiness—but not the legalistic kind. It is my prayer that you might find freedom in the gospel—but not the worldly kind of freedom. Again, as we read this text consider the contrast between 2:1-3 and 2:4-10.

READ EPHESIANS 2:1-10

Let’s consider briefly where we have been so far in Ephesians. As we opened up this letter we noted that its central theme is that God’s Redeems Broken People and His Broken World. The first three chapters are about what God has done, the latter chapters are how we live in response to that. So far, as we looked at 1:3-14 we noted the Electing Love of the Father, the Redeeming Work of the Son, the Sealing and Confirming Work of the Spirit. Then we moved to 1:15-23 and looked at the prayer that Paul has for the Ephesians and for us: that God might open our eyes so that we “get” the gospel—so that we “get” what has happened to us in verses 3-14. For the last three weeks we have been in 2:1-10. At first we looked at the radical disease that we have (dead in sin; enslaved to sinful society, Satan and self; and under the wrath of God). And we also looked at the radical remedy of the gospel. Last week we looked at the power of God in curing our radical disease and as we looked at that we noticed the power of God in evangelism. He can change anyone—no sinner is too hardened and that includes you.

Tonight we look at grace. We look again at what the gospel has done and we look at where the gospel is going to take us. We look tonight at grace. Grace is what is missing in both the Pharisaical spirit and the worldly person. The problem with the Pharisee is that he forgets that God is the author and finisher of salvation. The problem with the worldling is that he forgets that God has saves for the purpose of changing people making them holy. So tonight I offer two things about grace and its power to change.

I. Grace changes you because grace is from God

The title of this point is really rather silly. It is silly on two fronts. One if you understand what grace is then obviously it comes from God. And it is also silly because if you know that it is from God then you know that it is something that changes—it is something that has power. This is the argument of John in 1 John.

I am not sure if you remember the letter of 1 John but it was written to a church that had a heresy running wild in their congregation. This heresy denied who Jesus was, it denied the impact of sin in the Christian life, and it created either a beat yourself up type of Pharisaical spirit or an eat, drink, and be merry type of worldly spirit. So, this heresy caused this congregation to ask—who is really saved? How do we know if we have rightly believed? What is the mark of a true follower of Jesus? And 1 John is the answer to that question.

Foundational to that letter is John’s belief that the Holy Spirit changes you. You cannot have the Holy Spirit and be unconcerned about holiness. If God lives in you and has given you this new life then you are changed; so, if you want to know if you have rightly believed in Jesus then look at the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life. This is why John says in 3:9, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” He is not talking about sinless perfection here. What he means is that your attitude toward sin is changed. You cannot take a Pharisaical, “I’m okay look at my list” type of view in which you minimize the battle of sin in your heart. But you also cannot take a careless worldly approach to sin, “ah, grace will take care of it, sin is no big deal, and everybody does it”. The Christian life is an all out war and hatred of sin. It is a battle. It is agreeing with God about your sin.

Now Ephesians is going to have a different tone because it is not written to people that are struggling with heresy. It is not written with the same tone as Galatians where they are abandoning the gospel for a works-based religion. It is not written in the same tone as 1 Corinthians were they are abandoning the gospel for worldliness. It is written as an outline of the wonderful work that God has done in salvation. But nevertheless, Paul’s point in all of this is to say that grace indeed changes you. But Paul really wants everyone to know that salvation is from God. He is outlining for those in Ephesus and every believer that comes after what happens in salvation. And he wants everyone to know that ever bit of salvation happens by grace.

Now, what is grace? Someone has once said that G.R.A.C.E. is Great Riches at Christ’s Expense. That is a pretty fair definition. I like how Jerry Bridge’s defines it: “Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against him”.

Grace is God’s free decision to treat sinners the way that they do not deserve…it is his decision to treat sinners with the love and affection with which he loves His Son Jesus. It is his decision to raise them from the dead and bring them to life. It is his decision to raise us up with Jesus and to seat us in the heavenly places. It is God’s decision to treat those of us that deserve hell as sons. Anytime you see an action of God in the Bible on our behalf it is grace—free, undeserved, a gift and a gift not because we are worthy or deserve it but a gift because the giver is phenomenal.

This grace is what Paul means when he says in our passage, “For by grace you have been saved”. Verse 8 is a tad confusing because of the way that it is constructed in the original language. Let’s take a look at that. For by grace you have been saved…that part is clear. Then Paul says you are saved by grace through faith. Faith is what links you to grace. Faith means believing what God says. Faith is the only fitting response to grace. Faith believes what God says about your sin and believes what God says about Jesus. Faith believes the radical disease and it embraces the radical remedy.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing.” And here we have a difficulty in the text. What does “this” refer to? What is not our “own doing”? Is it faith? Well, that would seem to fit somewhat with the rest of Scripture. That faith also is a gift of God. But there is a problem with that…it does not grammatically fit. Now, it can. That is a possibility, but is not likely. I’ll save you the Greek lesson—and just say that it is possible that “this” could be referring to faith but it is not likely. Well then is the “this” referring to grace? Again that would not make much sense in the context. Why would Paul say you are saved by grace and this grace is not of yourselves? That’s what grace means.

So, more than likely what Paul is saying is that “salvation” the whole process (which includes faith and grace) is not from us—it is not something that we conjure up—it is something that God gives to us. So, yes, I believe from this text—and others that faith also is a gift from God. Faith happens after grace. Faith happens as a response to God’s grace. Faith happens when God in his grace causes the dead man to come alive. And when faith happens justification happens. That is why Paul says “By grace through faith”. No, you will never be made right with God apart from believing in Christ. And no, you will never believe in Christ apart from the grace of God awakening your heart to believe. So—what do you worry about from your side of things? You do what the Bible says—faith and repentance. You believe the gospel.

We continue with our text, “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”. That means that human energy does not accomplish your salvation. And this is where I think we need to understand that when Paul is talking about salvation he is not just talking about that one past event that happened…he is not talking about a specific day necessarily. He is talking about the entire process of salvation. He is talking in Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 2 language—salvation is our being brought into this cosmic plan of redemption. Salvation is being brought in on the process of God redeeming broken people in a broken world. So—what this means is that this entire process is by grace through faith. This is what those with the Pharisaical spirit miss. They forget that the entire Christian life is lived by grace. In essence they forget the Cross. And because they do not live it by grace through faith they live the Christian life in the flesh. And that is why you see all of the works of the flesh cropping up.

So what does this mean in your battle with sin? What does this mean as far as answering C.J.’s question? It means that when the Spirit of God brings conviction you do not attack it like a Pharisee in your own flesh. It also means that when the Spirit of God brings conviction you do not deaden like a person in love with the world. It means you agree with God and you change the channel, you resist the urge, you throw out the CD, you refuse to respond to someone in anger, you fight the bitterness. It means that you battle worldliness and any aspect of sin with the Cross of Christ. It means you rest in the fact that God has done a work of grace. It means that you get on your knees and brokenness and you cry out to God in repentance, but you do so in faith. You do not sit there in despair but you believe that the price for your sin of worldliness was paid for Jesus on the Cross. It means that you preach the gospel to yourself. It means that you believe what Paul says here that salvation happens by grace through faith.

I like what John Owen says about our battle with sin. “When someone sets his affections upon the cross and the love of Christ, he crucifies the world as a dead and undesirable thing. The baits of sin lose their attraction and disappear. Fill your affections with the cross of Christ and you will find no room for sin.” That is what grace does—grace causes you to be enamored with Jesus.

II. Grace changes you because grace has a destination

Grace has a goal. Grace is not simply to pardon you and to clean you up and to make you a good person. It does that. But primarily grace is meant to get you to God. Grace has a destination in mind. Even though it hurts I like what John Piper says, “Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel”.

Now, I would like to qualify what Piper says in that last sentence just a tad. I think he should add the world “ultimately”…”If we do not ultimately want God above all things…” Because, the way it is written sounds like if you do not have a 100% 24 hour consuming desire of God over all things then you are not saved. If I had a 100% 24 hour consuming desire for God then I would never sin. And I know that Piper does not mean that…Piper believes biblically that we will continue to struggle with sin. But, his point still stands the grace of the gospel has a goal in mind—to get us to God. And part of that “getting us to God” is the rooting out of sin and unbelief. That is what we see is happening in our text. We see one side of this in verse 7 and one aspect in verse 10.

1) We are meant to be an eternal display of God’s grace and kindness

Verse 7 is one of my favorite verses. This verse is what lies as the foundation for 2:1-6. You were dead, you were enslaved, you were under wrath; but God made you alive, raised you up, seated you at His right hand. Why? Why did he do that? Well we have learned that He did it because of His love, because of His grace, and because of His mercy. We know from this text that He does it because when He sees us He sees our union with His Son Jesus.

As you look at verse 7 notice the word, “so that”. This is a word that tips us off to the fact that this is what is grounding the entire passage. This is the reason for everything that comes before it. So, why does God do everything in 2:1-6? He does it “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.

Coming ages is probably not necessarily a reference to time that is way out there. It is probably referring to everything that is future from the moment he has done this. So, what it means is that every day that once was a tomorrow is meant to “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”. What does that mean? It means that your life is a giant billboard that shows the grace and kindness of God.

Now if we look at what this is saying from God’s perspective it is saying that He will be glorified for His grace and kindness forever by what He is doing in the life of us rebels. As one commentator has put it “throughout time and in eternity the church, this society of pardoned rebels, is designed by God to be the masterpiece of his goodness.” God is glorified through his activity on our behalf. For all of eternity praises will ring and worship will be directed toward the God that pardoned rebel sinners.

Now if we look at what this is saying from our perspective we see the unimaginable blessing of this. If we are meant to be the billboard that shows God’s immeasurable grace and kindness then how do you think that happens? It happens by us receiving immeasurable grace and kindness. It means that God for all of eternity will continue to relate to us with grace and kindness. It means that we will forever be enjoying that which is joy itself—namely God. It means that grace happens to display the worth of God—and to do that by getting rebels to worship before the face of God in their enjoyment of Him forever.

Again this fact of our being an eternal display of God’s grace and kindness has something to say to both the Pharisee and the worldling. To the Pharisee it says it’s not by your effort that the beauty of God is displayed. The beauty of God is displayed in His grace and kindness to you. To the worldling it shows you that your purpose in life is not to be spent on the world…your purpose in life is to be enamored with God. That is why there is no place for sin. Sin is looking away from God and finding a treasure in something else. Worship is finding God as your treasure. We are made to marvel at the infinite worth of God for all of eternity. To do anything less is ripping you off and falling short of the intention that God saved you for. God saved you to enjoy Him not to be seduced by the fallen world.

2) We are meant to be a present display of changed lives through grace

Verse 10 is kind of an odd verse. In verse 9 Paul says that works have no place in the Christian’s standing before God—but then he says in verse 10, but yeah they do. What he means in verse 9 is human exertion, human effort, and fleshly attempts at pleasing God. You cannot get to God by what you do. You get to God by grace. And then in verse 10 he says basically this—and grace changes you. Grace is as phenomenal as creation. He creates you again but this time with a heart for Him. And this time it is created for good works—good works that He has prepared beforehand that you should walk in them. What does this mean? I have to be honest and say that I am a tad confused by what Paul means by these good works being prepared beforehand. I know that it means that when God saves us He saves us not so that we can keep sinning but so that we might be changed. And I think that this aspect of beforehand is Paul’s way of keeping us rooted in grace. So that we come to understand that all of salvation is by grace through faith. But what God is saying to us is that there is a marked difference between those that live in Ephesians 2:1-3 and those that live in Ephesians 2:4-10. Notice the walk in verse 10 and the walk in verse 1.

Again we return to that “blind test”. Have you been changed? Here is how you go about answering that question. If you look at those questions and have to say that you look quite a bit like the world then you need to ask yourself a follow up question. Is there a battle? If there is not a battle then you need to be really concerned. I am not saying that you are not saved, I am merely saying that I cannot give biblical evidence that you are. As we have seen here in Scripture, grace changes you. If you do not see the process of change happening in your life then you need to be concerned. Of course the way this concern expresses itself is at the foot of the cross. You do not go on a quest to conjure up feelings of concern. You go to Jesus. Now, if there is a battle then that is a good thing. But do not rest. Continue engaging in battle. As we continue going through Ephesians we will be given tips for battle. For now, it is enough to say that the war was won on the Cross and victory in individual battles will be won there too.

If you passed the test then you also need to ask a follow up question. Are you serious? If you are dead serious, and are checking your heart for Pharisaical tendencies and find none then you need to be thanking God for the change he has brought in your life. You too need to go to the Cross and thank Jesus for what He has done and what He has produced in your life. God is the Hero of your story that is what Ephesians 2:1-10 is all about.

Hope No Matter How Broken

Scripture Introduction:

Isaiah has a tendency to break things. And he does a really good job at it. Very seldom is something only slightly broken. Often it’s not just a chip off the corner of a glass the entire thing is shattered. As we analyze the situation, make sure he is not cut, and then look at the carnage he has left behind we often come to the conclusion that the glass, plate, CD, DVD, pot, lamp, is best served in the trash can. It is irreparable—it’s too broken. And you know I think sometimes as we step back and look at the carnage of our lives we can think that same thing—it’s too broken, irreparable. Or maybe it is not your life that you are looking at. Maybe it is the life of a friend; someone that seems to be throwing their life away. It seems as if it is too broken, it cannot be fixed.

Tonight, as we look at Ephesians 2:1-10 we will consider two things the character of God and the power of God. And because of those two things there is hope for any sinner—no matter how broken. If you are broken here tonight I want you to hear the hope in this passage. I want you to know that God is able to repair any carnage; you are never outside the realm of God’s ability to save you. If you have already experienced the saving grace of God and you are in Christ yet you are struggling with the effects of having been broken. Whether it is sin or the fallen world you live in, I want you to hear from this message that if God is able to raise the dead he is able to fix your broken hearts and your broken lives. God redeems you fully and God redeems every area of your life. If you are here tonight and your life seems to be going smoothly, you know Jesus, you enjoy Jesus, then I am certain that there are those in your life that you love that do not know Jesus—and this ought to, as I am sure it does, bother you. I want you to know tonight that there is no sinner that is too broken to be fixed.

As we are reading this text I want you to think about last week (if you were here). Feel the first three verses. Think about what it means to be dead in sin. And feel the huge contrast in verse 4. Tonight we are going to look at verses 4-6 and next week we will look at 7-10.

READ EPHESIANS 2:1-10

Sermon Introduction:

Last week we saw that “a radical disease required a radical remedy”. We focused on that radical disease and discovered that our only hope is the radical remedy of God raising the dead. We looked in depth at what it really means to be dead in our sins and trespasses. We noted that apart from Christ not only are we spiritually dead but we are enslaved. We are enslaved to the godless society we live in, Satan, and ultimately our sinful self. Because of our spiritual death and our enslavement we will never choose life. And because of this while we remain in this sinful condition we are under the wrath of God. It is not a pretty picture. We have a radical disease and the only hope is a radical remedy.

Again, though, in order for us to feel the hope in this passage we have to come to grips with just how broken we are apart from Christ. If you are not yet saved then you need to know your perilous condition. If you are praying for a brother, sister, mother, father, or friend then you need to know how perilous their condition is. Because as we saw last week if you think that their problem is a lack of education, or a need for better morals, or a need to start coming to church, etc. then you will not be able to see clearly the beauty of the gospel. We need to come to grips with this radical disease before we can see the certainty of the radical remedy.

There are a few analogies that we like to use in church culture that describe the horrible state of the sinner, the love of God, and the need for faith. Let me share a couple. . You have a horrible disease (that might even kind of be like the language we used in the last sermon) and there is only one remedy. You are so weak that you cannot get the medicine. You cannot even put the spoon up to your mouth to take the medicine. Some gracious person takes the spoon up to your mouth, opens your mouth, and pours it in. This is the activity of God. But whether the medicine works or not is up to you—you still have to swallow the medicine.

Here is another. You are drowning in the ocean. You have no hope of survival. You are so weak that you cannot swim towards the life raft or reach up and grab the rescue ladder from the helicopter. Your only hope of survival is that someone takes the lifesaver and throws it directly around your hand. That is the activity of God. But whether you are saved or not is up to you—you still have to curl your fingers around the life raft. You can refuse help. It’s up to you to curl your fingers.

Now, these analogies have their strong points. They do a good job of showing that faith (and I think these analogies would also make room for repentance) is our necessary response to the initiative of God. Our text tonight shows that same thing—You are saved by grace, through faith. Faith is the curling of the fingers, faith is the swallowing of the medicine; and that is a decent picture of faith. But there is a problem with these analogies--they do not go far enough on the radical disease part and because of that we kick the legs out from underneath or hope.

The biblical picture is not that you are drowning, or on your death bead; the biblical picture is that you are dead in sin, you are enslaved and you love it, your heart is messed up and your desires are messed up, and because of the fact that you continually sin the wrath of God is upon you. The point being, dead people cannot and will not grab a lifesaver. Dead people cannot swallow medicine. And because of this our hope must lie elsewhere. I think Spurgeon sums up what I am trying to say quite nicely:

I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself." My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will.

Spurgeon’s point is that if sinful man is left up to the freedom of his will then he is never going to turn to Christ because He is spiritually dead. Even if we would use the analogies earlier the truth is that sinful man would be too stubborn to swallow the medicine, he would be to prideful to curl his fingers around the life raft. The point Spurgeon is making is that if we are to be saved then God must first do a work of grace on our hearts. Or to say it the way Paul does in our text the dead man must be made alive. And because this is not mere fiction but the truth of the gospel this is why we can claim—and have hope as Spurgeon did—that God will save. Or as we will phrase it tonight, “there is hope for any sinner no matter how broken”. And we see this first because of the character of God.

I. Because of the character of God there is hope for any sinner no matter how broken.

Again because of our culture I think we are in danger of missing the significance of this text. We should be utterly shocked by verse 4. It would not be against God’s character to have left us in the state of verses 1-3. God is just and God is holy. Love, grace, and mercy are never requirements. If they are then they are not truly love, grace, and mercy. I think our culture is in danger of missing this. We presume upon the love and mercy of God. We reflect what a famous German poet said on his death bed, “Of course God will forgive me, that’s his job”. Do you see what happens to the beauty of this text when we presume upon His grace? We are not shocked by “But God…even when we were dead in trespasses…made us alive together…” It’s assumed. Well, yeah God is nice, that’s what he does. I think Sam Storms brings this out well when he says:

When we say to Jesus: 'Who were we that led you to do this for us? Jesus does not then says: 'You were a treasure hidden to yourself but seen by Me. When we ask, "Who were we that led you to do this for us?" the only answer is: "You were hell-deserving rebels who had no claim on anything in Me other than to be the recipients and objects of eternal wrath. I did this for you not because you were a treasure or because of anything in you; indeed it was in spite of what was in you. I did this for you solely because of what was in Me, namely, sovereign and free and gracious love for those who deserved only to be hated."

The point is that if it is left to our character then we will not be saved. If it is left to your beloved unbelievers character then he/she will not be saved. Our hope is not in our character or our intrinsic worthiness. Our hope is in the merciful, loving, gracious character of God. And this is what we see in this text about the character of God.

A) Because God’s mercy is richer than our deadness we have hope

How beautiful this “but God” statement is. No man can raise himself from the dead. No man can raise another person from the dead—ultimately. We are dead. We are enslaved. We are under wrath. But even in that lowly position, even as enemies of God He has mercy on us. I love how Paul phrases this—“rich mercy”.

I love how Paul says “rich mercy”. What a combination. Mercy is the heartfelt compassion that results in action. It is looking at someone with pity and rather than passing them over you act for their benefit. I think Paul Tripp defines mercy well when he says that it is “the kind, sympathetic, and forgiving treatment of others that works to relieve their distress, and forgiving treatment of others that works to relieve their distress and cancel their debt.” And it is also, “compassion combined with [patience] and action”.

Tripp continues. “Mercy has eyes. It pays attention to your distress and notices your weaknesses and failures. But mercy looks at these things with eyes of compassion. It doesn’t criticize you for the tough situation you are in or condemn you for your sin. Mercy wants to relieve your suffering and forgive your debt. It looks for ways to help you out of your struggle and remove your guilt and shame. Real mercy is restless. It is not content with the status quo. It doesn’t rest until things are better for you. It works hard, costs a lot, and is ready to hang on until the job is done.”

Now combine this with the word “rich” which means overabounding, without measure, unlimited. What this means is those upon God shows mercy He has an unlimited amount of it to give. One bible commentator (and it’s dated) said this about God’s rich mercy: “It has no scanty foothold in his bosom, for it fills it. Though mercy has been expended by God for six millennia, and myriads of myriads have been partakers of it, it is still an unexhausted mine of wealth.”

Rich Mercy. That means that no matter how broken you are, or how sinful you are, or how broken or sinful your friend is God’s mercy is greater. If you do not know Christ then you should ask God to have mercy on you. He is merciful, He loves to give mercy. Ask Him for it. If you have a lost friend then be praying that God might show them mercy. Pray that God will show them mercy. And furthermore, the rich mercy of God is a call for us as believers to reflect that mercy.

B) Because God’s love is greater than our deadness we have hope
I have heard it said before that mercy would take care of a patient in his distress. Mercy would watch out for you, change your medicine, dump out your bed pan, change your clothes, give you bathes, etc. But love would fluff your pillow. Love would hold your hand. Mercy is great but love is better. And our text shows that God does not stop at mercy but goes deeper. It is not simply that God had mercy but he had a “great love by which he loved us”. And there is really no way of defining this love. As William Hendriksen has said, “it defies all definition. We can speak of it as his intense concern for, deep persona interest in, warm attachment to, and spontaneous tenderness toward his chosen ones, but all this is but to stammer”. God’s love is so deep. And I think it would do us quite well to understand something about God’s love. It is not merely unconditional love.

Speaking of God as having unconditional love is in a sense true. But it really does not go quite deep enough. I like the term contra-conditional love—in spite of the conditions love. I think saying that God’s love is unconditional can be dangerous. And I think it can be dangerous because of what it assumes. It assumes that “God loves you just the way you are” and it assumes that God will not do anything to change you. You are okay just as you are. And there is a sense in which God does love you where you are—but He loves you so much that He is not going to keep you there. Look at what this love of God does. It does not keep you in Ephesians 2:1-3. It moves you out of that and saves you from that. So, yes God loves you where you are but He is not going to keep you there. And we have to be careful how we say that God loves you unconditionally. Because if God loves you with the type of love that is being spoken of here then every single person is going to be saved. But we know that this is not true. Yes, there is a sense in which God loves everyone—but not with this type of contra-conditional love that is being spoken of here. I like what David Powlison says about this:

“God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love. Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions. Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.

. . . You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns. You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain. You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You need forgiveness. You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus.”

And I think it is this contra-conditional love of God that Paul is concerned with in this passage because he says, “even when we were dead in our trespasses”. That means that God’s love for us what in spite of who we were. Even as God hating rebels God gave us mercy and deep love. He acted on our behalf for our benefit even while we spit in his face.

Your hope tonight is not that you change your mind about Christ. Your hope tonight is that God changes your mind about Christ. Your hope tonight is that God pours out His love upon you. You will happily stay in your sin and be cold towards His general love and will not blink an eye at hearing that you are under His wrath. Your hope is that God might pour out His contra-conditional love upon you. And our hope is great because God’s love is great. You cannot be so vulgar that God will not redeem you.

C) Because God’s grace is bigger than our deadness we have hope

In verse 5 Paul sums up what he has been saying with these words—“It is by grace that you have been saved”. This is the theme throughout this entire passage. Everything that happens to us as Christians happens to us because of grace. Grace is the unmerited favor. Grace cannot be earned. Grace is freely given and freely bestowed.

I like how JI Packer defines grace: "The grace of God is love freely shown towards guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity, and had no reason to expect anything but severity”. And I like the point that Sam Storms brings out in light of Packer’s quote: grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human demerit. Indeed, grace is seen to be infinitely glorious only when it operates, as Packer says, "in defiance of" human demerit. Therefore, grace is not treating a person less than, as, or greater than he deserves. It is treating a person without the slightest reference to desert whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God.

And because of this we can have great hope. If you are outside of Christ tonight you have the hope of grace. If you have someone that you love that is outside of Christ tonight you have the hope of grace. Pray in this regard. Pray that God will give them grace.

This is all well and good that God has mercy and God has love and God has grace. But these are just a mere sentiment if not matched with our next statement. What I mean is that it is but little hope if God is unable to change that stubborn human will. If God is not able to raise the dead then it does not matter how much He loves us, or how much He has mercy upon us, or how much grace He gives us—It will not raise the dead. Every day people have loved ones die. But that love is not powerful enough to raise them from the dead. You can shed a million tears and that person will remain in the grave. But this is not so with God. God’s love, mercy, and grace is matched with power. And this is what our final point is.

II. Because of the power of God there is hope for any sinner—no matter how broken.

This is why the statement in verse 4 is so beautiful, “BUT GOD”. It is beautiful because it is matched with power. Yes you are dead. Yes you are enslaved. Yes you are under wrath. But God because of His character has decided to save you—and because of that—because that is matched with power we have hope. If God wants to raise the dead then the dead is going to be raised. This is what Paul wants us to see in this text. God’s grace has power. The power of grace, love, and mercy raises people from the dead.

This is what Paul is saying when he says, “even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins”. That means that God is more powerful than that death. God is more powerful than death itself. It is God’s power that makes us alive from the dead, raises us up and seats us at the right hand of God. Oh, the beauty of this passion and how it shows our union with Christ; that everything that Christ has, we now have. We will look at this union with Christ in depth next week.

What does this mean for you? It means that God is powerful enough to make the dead alive. It means that God is powerful enough to make slaves into king. It means that God is powerful enough to absorb His own wrath and turn sons of hell into sons of the living God. It means that no matter how broken you are you are not outside of God’s ability to save you.

I want to share a hymn with you tonight. The story behind this hymn is really quite amazing. It was originally composed in the 11th century as a Jewish hymn. But the origin of a third stanza is a bit of a mystery. Actually, we are quite certain that it is part of the hymn. However, for quite some time it was believed that the third stanza was written in an insane asylum. Apparently, the words were found carved into the wall of an inmate’s cell after he had died. I doubt that he had composed them, but nonetheless the words were indeed precious to him.

I want to share with you the first and third stanza:

The love of God is greater farThan tongue or pen can ever tellIt goes beyond the highest starAnd reaches to the lowest hellThe guilty pair, bowed down with careGod gave His Son to winHis erring child He reconciledAnd pardoned from his sin

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill
And ev’ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

The words of this hymn are an echo of the beauty of Ephesians 2. God does indeed reach to the lowest hell to rescue his sheep. And because of that we have hope. There is nowhere that you are out of God’s reach.

Apply this for believers—Hope in prayer. Solid Foundation for your salvation. Your fitting response is worship and taking the gospel to the nations.

Apply this for unbelievers—your fitting response is repentance and faith. How you respond to God’s love, grace, mercy, and power is not by running from him or waiting and doing nothing. Your fitting response is to repent and believe. Do not hear of the mercy of God and use it as a reason to continue sinning. His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. The sun is still shining today—and because of that you should repent and believe—not continue in sin and unbelief.

How Broken Are We?

Scripture Introduction:

I read a quote this week that struck me deeply: “We all, one day, will hear our last sermon”. That strikes a deep chord with me because I believe, with the Puritan Richard Baxter, that my task as a preacher is to “preach as a dying man to dying men”. I am struck by the seriousness of what this text is saying—your relationship with Jesus is a life or death issue. There are no neutral people here tonight; you are either spiritually dead or spiritually alive. And because this could very well be your last sermon—either because of death, your own stubbornness, or Jesus coming back tonight is a life or death issue. Every time I step up here to preach the gospel it is a life or death issue. As an old preacher (Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs) once said with each sermon you are either nearer or further from hell. And it is that way not because of any magical words I say; it really has very little to do with me. It is this way because of what is being proclaimed—the gospel message.

Tonight we continue in Ephesians. As we have looked at Ephesians we have titled it thus: God Redeems Broken People and a Broken World. We have looked at the amazing work that God has done in redeeming us. Yet, there has been something that has yet to be asked—“exactly how broken are we”? Is “broken” even the right word? And our answer to this question will have consequences. How much we really grasp, as well as enjoy, the fact that God Redeems Broken People will be determined by our understanding of exactly how broken we are. As John Stott has aptly put it:

“It is a failure to recognize this gravity of the human condition which explains people’s na├»ve faith in superficial remedies…A radical disease requires a radical remedy.”

Let me try to make this point by asking two questions—I do not want you to answer it out loud. 1) What will it take to change the world? 2) What will it take to change your life? But there is an assumption there isn’t there? That something is messed up and needs changed. In order to really answer that question you have to first answer this question: What is the problem that needs changed? So, what needs to change in your life? How you answer that question will affect how you answer the previous question.

Are you thinking of circumstances? If so, then your change will be superficial—actually, probably non existent. You will simply wait for the circumstance to change. And you will probably be discontent and even tempted to blame God or others until your circumstance changes.

Are you thinking of behavior? If so, then your change will be superficial. You will be like the Pharisees that clean the outside of the cup but neglect the inside—the deep heart change. You might change your behavior. You just might become quite the moral person. You just might look very Christian and very churchy. But inwardly, I bet things like pride, laziness, anger, lust, greed, etc. will be running wild.

Are you thinking of knowledge? If so, then your change will be superficial. You will be the puffed up person that Paul is talking about in his letter to the Corinthians. You will have knowledge, you will pursue education, you will read a bunch of books, you will grow in knowledge but real change will not take place. You will not be deeply in love with people and more importantly not deeply in love with Christ.

Are you thinking of self-esteem? If so, then your change will be superficial. You will be constantly consumed by thoughts of yourself, fixing your world, fixing how you feel about yourself, and have little time for anyone else because you are too busy watching Oprah or applying the latest 10 steps to self improvement.

The problem with each of these “solutions” is that it does not adequately get to the core of our problem. And when we do not understand the depth of our problem we will not offer correct solutions. As John Stott said “a radical disease requires a radical remedy”. All of those things that we mentioned can be good but they do not go deep enough. They are like offering Tylenol to someone with a brain aneurysm or cough medicine to someone with tuberculosis. So, if we really want change in our life we need to know the radical nature of our problem.

So, how messed up are we? What is our basic problem? And what is that radical remedy? Tonight we will look at Ephesians 2:1-5 to not only answer that question but also point to the remedy. We will 2:1-10 but only focus on the first five verses tonight.

Sermon Introduction:

So, how messed up are we? According to this text we are spiritually dead, we are enslaved, and we are condemned. I would say that if we really stopped to think about this we would come to see that our position apart from Christ is very dire indeed. But, I think there might be a few barriers that keep us from really seeing this text for what it is really saying.

The first barrier is that many of us have a very small concept of death. We do not like to think about death—so we do not. And because of this, especially in our teenage years we feel that we are immortal. So, when we hear a text speaking about spiritual death we kind of gloss it over and do not think about its implications.

The second barrier is what I will call the George Bailey barrier. George Bailey was the main character, played by James Stewart, in the Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life. After very difficult circumstances George decides life is not worth living, and the world would be a better place without him, so he decides that he will jump off the bridge. Then George’s guardian angel Clarence stops him. What unfolds in the story is a picture of how life would have been had George Bailey never been born. George’s probably in the beginning was that he was unable to see the changes in his own life and the change that he brought about to the world. We are often that way, and especially the longer you have been a Christian, you tend to forget. Perhaps our tendency to forget is why the first instruction that Paul gives in this letter is to “remember”.

The third barrier is that we do not necessarily feel dead so we do not see the great depth of the problem. This swings both ways. If you are a Christian you might look back upon the change that has taken place in your life but you do not see it as all that drastic. So, it’s hard for you to feel like you have been brought from death to life; so, again, you kind of gloss over the implications of this text. If you are not a Christian then you are looking at your life and thinking that things are not quite as good as they could be—but “death” seems like such a strong word to describe your life. You do not feel dead.

This leads to our fourth barrier, we can be tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We can be tempted to think that when this text says that we “were dead” or that we “are dead” that some people are “more dead” than we are. The ignorance of such a statement is even revealed in Microsoft Word. I get the green squiggles when I type “more dead”—it says that sentence does not make sense. Because once you are dead you are dead. Ronald Regan is not less dead than Abraham Lincoln. Dead is dead.

Now, because of these four barriers (and there are probably more—perhaps one being that dead people don’t hear so well) we often assume that we are not as bad off as we really are. My hope tonight is that the Lord might do a work of grace and cause us to get over these barriers. Let me be up front about what my hopes are for this sermon. First and foremost my hope is that God will use this as he sees fit…and use it to bring glory to Himself. And this is one of my hopes in that…if the Lord sees fit…it is my hope that everyone in here, including myself, will be hung over the pit of hell and will feel the absolute despair of life without Jesus. And I hope that not to be mean, and not to “scare you into heaven”, but so that when we see that from which we are rescued we will give God all the more glory for rescuing us. I want us to see, feel, taste, experience what God is saying to us in this text. So, how broken are we?

1) Apart from Christ we are spiritually dead

In our text it says, “And you were dead in your transgression and sins”. Let’s look at that for a moment. What does it mean to be spiritually dead? Now this dead does not mean morally and spiritually lifeless. That is clear from the other statements that are made about man apart from Christ. What this means is that we are dead to spiritual things. I have used this illustration before: Do you remember the scene in the movie Mr. Deeds were Adam Sandler takes off his shoe and we see his hideous black foot? Apparently he had lost all feeling in his foot and you could jab it with a fire poker and he couldn’t feel a thing. That is the same case with us spiritually. We are dead. We can hear the gospel numerous times and it will never take root. Yes, we have free will; free will to choose what we most desire. But if we are dead to spiritual things will we just up and believe? Will we treasure Christ though we are dead to him? Of course not, so that leaves us in a state where we will never believe.

Not only will we not believe, trust in, and treasure Christ but we will actively do just the opposite. This is why RC Sproul has said “to be spiritually dead is to be diabolically alive”. In fact what the Bible says is that everything we do apart from faith is sin. It says that apart from Christ all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags. It says that in our flesh we cannot please God. Listen to what Romans 8:6-8 says about the spiritually dead: 6) For the mind of the flesh is death, and the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; 7) because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, for it does not submit to God's law, for it cannot. 8) And those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You can clearly see what it means to be spiritually dead if you contrast it with being spiritually alive. I take you to this passage often but look at 2 Corinthians 4. It is a beautiful picture of spiritual death and God making us alive. In 4:4 it says that Satan has blinded their minds, “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In other words the spiritually dead cannot see the beauty of Jesus. Verse 6 simply states that God has done a work of grace and recreation and has “shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In other words those that are spiritually alive can see the beauty and worth of Jesus. This is confirmed by what Jesus says about life in John 17:3, “and this is eternal life that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

In our text here Paul says that we are “dead in our transgressions and sins”. Paul uses those two words for a specific reason. A transgression is crossing a known boundary. A sin is falling short of a specific standard. So what we have here are the active and passive aspects of sin--that which you do and that which you fail to do—the sins of omission and the sins of commission.

Here is the point being made about how broken we are. Our problem goes to the core of our being. We do not sin because we need more education. We do not sin because of our circumstances. We do not sin because we need behavior modification. We do not sin because we have a poor view of ourselves. We sin because we are sinners. We sin because our heart is messed up. We sin because we do not treasure Christ as we ought. For unbelievers this is your constant state. Yes, you can do “good” things. And yes, you are not as “bad” as you could be. Nonetheless, every thing that you do—even if it is helping an old lady cross the street is heaping up more wrath against you. Why? Because it is not done in faith—and it is not done in faith because your heart is opposed to God. You are still in rebellion. And you are in rebellion until you come to Jesus Christ.

So, we see that the first description of our brokenness is that we are spiritually dead. To be spiritually dead will require a radical remedy. But that is not the only thing that is said about our condition.

2) Apart from Christ we are enslaved

Notice how Paul phrases verse 1 and 2. You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked. How do dead people walk? Again this confirms what we said earlier and what Sproul said that “to be spiritually dead is to be diabolically alive.” What does it mean to be diabolically alive? It means to live like the devil. The picture that is set before us is that we are enslaved. Or perhaps a better image might be that we are like lemmings.

You have heard of lemmings have you not? It is of course, a myth that they engage in mass suicide. And really it’s not quite as simple as the entire group following one idiot lemming. But I think that is somewhat what happens. Once the population of lemmings gets too big a large group of them decide to migrate. So by the thousands they migrate. Problem is they usually do not stop going. They typically keep migrating until they hit the ocean where they keep swimming until exhaustion and drown. But, for years lemmings have been the typical example of “If your friend jumped off a bridge would you”? So, that is why I use them as an example because it is a pretty decent picture of what Paul is saying in our text. We are like lemmings enslaved to our sinful impulse, following all the other lemmings, and being led by the chief lemming--Satan.

The picture that is painted for us in this text is that we are enslaved to three things: sinful society, Satan, and self. All three of these are interlinked and work together to lead us to destruction. When Paul says, “the course of this world” what he means is that apart from Christ we suffer from cultural bondage. We follow the ways of the world. We laugh at what the world laughs at. We strive for the things the world strives for. It is an entire system that is set up in opposition to God.

In high school I must confess I loved the band Rage Against the Machine. Their lead singer is Zack DeLarocha. He is hugely politically active. He is part of all kinds of groups that try to “buck the system”, “stick it to the man”, etc. One of the things I like to say about DeLarocha is what really his slogan is…”Come on everybody lets not conform”. Think about that. It’s what Mark Driscoll has said about rebellion. “Everybody is in rebellion. You cannot claim to be a rebel and do what everybody else is doing. If you really want to be a rebel read your Bible because nobody is doing that”. Apart from Christ we think that we are expressing our individuality but the truth is we are being robbed of our individuality. We merely follow the course of this world. You think you are free but really you are enslaved to the culture.

The second thing that we are enslaved to is Satan. Satan is who is being described here in these descriptions. It will not serve our purpose tonight to consider exactly what is meant by him being the “prince of the power of the air”. We will get to that, but not tonight. The point being made in this text is that Satan has a powerful influence in the life of unbelievers. As we have already seen from the text we read earlier he blinds the minds of unbelievers keeping them from seeing the truth. The point is simple. Satan is at work. He is using the world system and he is using our own selfish impulses. Those outside of Christ are living in the kingdom of darkness and serving the king of darkness.

The third thing that we are enslaved to is our self. And I really think that this is the central problem. I say that because look at what God changes. He does not yet fully conquer the devil—although he disarms him in the life of the believer. And he does not change the outward circumstances or the pervasive culture. He does call us to be salt and light—but he does not annihilate the darkness nor the prince of darkness—at least not yet. But what I find interesting is what he does do. He changes us. That is why I think the foundational problem is really our own wicked hearts that sit in opposition to God.

This is what is being said in verse 3, “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”. What does that mean? It means much the same thing that we discussed with spiritual death. This means that we do what we want. And what we want is not Christ. We want to exalt ourselves. We want to be the center of the universe. We want to gratify all of our desires. We want what we want. And this drive in us enslaves us. We are in bondage.

Hopefully you can see that we need a radical remedy. We are dead and we are in bondage to sinful society, to Satan, and to self. That means that we will not even try to get out of our condition. It means that you like your condition. It means that you think death is really a good thing. But there is yet one more thing about our condition that we must look at.

3) Apart from Christ we are under wrath.

Paul closes out this section by saying that we “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”. What this means is that you are not born in a happy state with God. This means that you were born under wrath. It means that you did not get this condition because you committed your first sin. It means that you committed your first sin because you were born with this condition.

You could really take this text one of two ways. You could say that even as children we are guilty before God. And I think that is what this text is saying. Or you could lessen it a little and say that we become children of wrath when we actually commit sin. The principle and possibility for sin is present in a child but they do not become children of wrath until they knowingly commit sin.

Even if that is permitted the point is still the same—apart from Christ we are under God’s wrath: His terrible fierce wrath against sin—and the sinner; His fierce anger and hatred toward sin. We get a glimpse of the outpouring of God’s wrath in a picture in the Old Testament—from the prophet Joel. Joel lives in a day when locusts are consuming the land. They are leaving it utterly barren. These locusts are devastating. They eat everything. They destroy the economy. Everything about this locusts invasion is horrible. He paints a picture of it like this, “Eden before them a barren wasteland behind them.” They destroy. And then Joel sees God speaking through this locust invasion. If locust can do this what will happen if God Almighty is bent on destruction? And this is what God’s wrath will be like. It’s a picture—but a decent one.

So, this is a summary of what is happening in verse 3. And I would like to challenge you to do something this week. Think about what your life would be like apart from Christ. Think about your past and if given the imagination you might consider your future. Think of everything you would have missed or will miss. Think about spiritual death. Think about being enslaved. Consider what it is like to not have freedom. Consider what it is like not to have a relationship with Jesus. Think about it. Dwell on it. And then, if you be in Christ, breathe a sigh of relief. Come to see that your rescue required a radical remedy.

Let’s imagine that we have a dead person laying on the floor. What will it take to give him life? Let’s say I start teaching him a bunch of facts. Even facts about Jesus. What will happen? What if I start telling him how amazing he is and that he needs to have more confidence in himself? What will happen? What if I start encouraging him to change his behavior and stop acting so dead? What will happen? What if we try to change his circumstances and make him more comfortable? What if we write him a check and pay for his bills? What will happen? What will give this man life? Can this man live?

This is the question that was asked of Ezekiel in Chapter 37. And what was his response? Ah, Sovereign Lord you know. Only you know God if dead men can be brought to life. Why? Because Sovereign Lord only you can bring dead people to life.

II. The Radical Remedy

And we will spend far more time on this next time but I want you to notice what happens to dead people. If you are in Christ this is what has happened to you. Chapter divisions, which again are not part of the original text, are sometimes unfortunate. This is one of those times. Because of that big giant 2 on our paper we often fail to see how 2:1-10 is connected to the tail end of chapter 1. But it is…and it is beautiful.

Do you remember last week? We looked at Ephesians 1:15-23, at Paul’s prayer. We saw that Paul’s prayer is really that the eyes of our hearts might be opened so that we can see Jesus. And we noticed that God wants our hearts to be enlightened in three specific areas: 1) that we would know the hope to which we are called 2) that we would know the riches of his glorious inheritance and 3) that we would know the greatness of his power toward us who believe. We noted that Paul really spends quite a bit of time on that last point because it is very significant. He gives an example of this mighty power of God that is at work in us and toward us. He gave the example of Christ. And remember what he said about that: Christ was dead, the power of God raised him, and the power of God seated Him at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places, and the power of God put Him over all things.

Do any of those same themes appear in our text tonight? Of course they do. Notice verse 1—dead. Notice verse 5—made us alive. Notice verse 6—and raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Notice the connection between the “age to come” in 1:21 and the “coming ages” in 2:7. Paul is showing how the mighty power of God that raised Christ from the dead is the same power of God that raised believers from spiritual death and gives us new life.

What is the only thing that could raise this dead man? Life. God is living. God is Life and God imparts life. And this is what He does. He gives us new life. He causes us to see the beauty of Christ. He rescues us from slavery and bondage. He redeems us. He forgives us. He no longer looks to us with wrath but now with love. And He does all of this not because of anything we do but because of His rich mercy. He does this because of His deep love. No other reason. He does this because He wants to. “But God” that is your only hope. That God might do a work in you.

If you are in Christ then realize this. Live in this. Realize that your only is and has always been the power of God in your life. Realize that he intends to change you deeply and that is precisely what He is doing. Pray that God might help you to see the beauty of the gospel a new.

And realize this about other people to. Realize that you are in the midst of dead people. Do not expect them to live as if they have life. Expect death and offer mercy. Give them mercy. Pray for them. Love them. Pray that God will raise the dead.

And if you are unbeliever tonight you need to know that your situation is desperate. There is a good chance that you will not give a rip about what we have talked about tonight. You either do not believe it, you do not care about it, or you are not ready to submit to what God is saying. No difference the way of your rebellion—you are in rebellion. Know that we have described your present condition tonight and not what you were. I am going to pray now that God might raise you to life. And if you begin to see the beauty of Christ—if something breaks in your calloused heart then cry out to Him. Cry to him for mercy.

You've Already Got It: Living in what Christ has Purchased

William Randolph Hearst was a wealthy and successful newspaper tycoon in the early 1900’s. If you have ever seen or heard of the movie Citizen Kane it is loosely based on the life of Hearst. Hearst was also an avid collector of art work. On one occasion he read of an extremely valuable piece of art, which he decided he must add to his collection. He demanded that his agent hunt this piece down. The agent went to numerous galleries throughout the world to find the masterpiece. Hearst assured the agent that he was willing to pay any price for this extremely valuable painting. Months went by of agonizing search for this painting and it was no where to be found. Finally, one day the agent found the painting. It was owned by one William Randolph Hearst—and had been stored away in his warehouse for years. He already owned this valuable painting and did not even know it.

Is it not sad that many Christians spend their life searching for that “something more” when we already possess everything in Jesus Christ? We are like Hearst. We scour the world to find the thing that we already possess. If we would but stop and enjoy that which we already possess how different our lives would be.

This is not how we were created to be. If you look back at the beginning of Creation you see man how he was intended to be: walking in intimate fellowship with God, enjoying God’s creation in unhindered community, living lives that are fulfilling and passionate, and all the while they are happily reflecting and rejoicing in God’s revealed glory. And then the second (perhaps third) most catastrophic event happens in history—Adam and Eve rebelled against God. And the effects of that touch us even today. In Adam all die. Now, we are born not walking in intimate fellowship with God but instead guilty and as we will learn next week as children of wrath. Instead of being in unhindered community our relationships are shallow, broken, self-protective, and often non-existent. Community is shattered. Our work—both for man and woman—is no longer fulfilling and done with passion but it is subjected to futility. We now are confined to asking the question—“what’s it all about”. Now, rather than happily reflecting and rejoicing in the glory of God we pursue our own glory.

Really the key question for us—not only in this sermon but in all of life—is this: Is God enough? That is the same question that was put before Adam and Eve. There was nothing mystical or magical about that piece of fruit. What was the issue in the garden of Eden is the same core issue that we face today—Is God enough? Is what you already have enough to sustain you?

And the truth is many of us live lives that say with our lips God is enough but our actions reveal something different. The truth is we all live with gaping holes between what we believe and what we practice. This is what some have called the “gospel gap”. The problem is that we do not believe strongly enough what we say we believe. Tonight as we look at this in Ephesians Paul is revealing his prayer for the Ephesians. At its core what Paul is doing is praying that the Ephesians might “get” everything that God has done in verse 3-14. His prayer is that they might get the gospel—or to put that another way his prayer is that the gospel gap might shorten more and more each day. Listen now to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, again it is one long breath-taking sentence in the original language.

READ EPHESIANS 1:15-23


Sermon Introduction:

Why would someone, particularly in our case, Paul, tell somebody what they are praying? Let’s imagine that I take one of you aside and let you know that I have been praying for you specifically that God might take all conflicting passions out of your heart and give you a single-minded focus on Jesus Christ. What would that stir in you? I wonder what the Ephesians thought when Paul said, “I’ve been praying for you”.
As they listened to Paul’s prayer did they get all defensive? “What, Paul, you think your better than us? You think you’ve got it all together? You think we need to work on all this stuff, huh? Well, you don’t preach too well. You need to work on your eloquence.” I doubt this was their response.

More than likely their response was one of encouragement. It is kind of a messed up way of thinking but there are some people when they say they are praying for you it causes you to pause. First, because you know that they really are praying for you. They are not those typical people that speak in Christian code where “I’ll pray for you” is synonymous with “Ok, stop talking about this now and lets move on to something I feel more comfortable with—I really don’t want to deal with this issue right now”. Secondly, there are some people that you assume have a better hearing with God. Now this is the part that is messed up. All believers have a hearing with God, and I would say that all believers have an equal hearing with God through Jesus Christ. But, you have to admit there’d be certain coolness to Paul praying for you. It’d almost have to be heard wouldn’t it? And I think Paul’s prayers were heard because they were so gospel focused. I think this prayer would serve as an encouragement to the Ephesians.

If you remember anything about Paul’s letter to the Colossians you might remember the historical situation. The culture at Colossae as it is here in Ephesus was one that was inundated with magical practices, fear of all these demonic power, big powerful gods, and little gods, and cults, and spirits, and all of this weirdness controlled their every day life. How comforting it must have been to know that Paul was praying for them that they would understand that God is enough; but underlying that prayer is a question and a declaration that we need help. Sometimes God is not enough. That age old question was being asked of the Ephesians and it is being asked of us today—is God enough?

Paul’s hope in this prayer is that the eyes of the Ephesians hearts might be opened so that they can see the gospel. That the gospel might penetrate so deep into their lives that it shouts through every aspect of their lives that God is enough! God’s intention is the same for us tonight. He is enough! We will now make this song by Jeremy Camp our prayer. As you are singing this song think about the words and make them your prayer to God. Acknowledge the truth of the words and pray that this truth might go deeper.

LISTEN TO JEREMY CAMP--ENOUGH

Tonight we will look at the three areas where the gospel proclaims God is enough. But before we do that, let’s try to paint a picture of what happens when we have a gospel gap in our life. Or to put that another way what does it look like when God is not enough?

The truth is it will be tough to distinguish this because we often live our lives with a huge gospel gap. Perhaps we should rewind again to the garden of Eden and see how Adam and Eve were. We see four prominent things in Genesis 1 and 2 that are radically altered in Genesis 3 and in our experience today.

1) walking in intimate fellowship with God,
2) enjoying God’s creation in unhindered community,
3) living lives that are fulfilling and passionate,
4) and all the while they are happily reflecting and rejoicing in God’s revealed glory.

That is what our lives should look like and that is what the gospel has come to restore. When God saved us he began the process of restoring us to those four things. Whenever we are not experiencing the fullness of those four it is because we are living in that gospel gap. It is because the gospel has not yet fully changed us. The gospel is not quite as deep as it should be. So rather than those four things what do we often see.

1) hiding from God, pursuing lovers less wild, rebelling from God,
2) shallow and superficial community that is marked by self-protecting, self-advancement, and creature worship. Anger, bitterness, blame, slander, gossip, murder, lust, greed, covetousness, lying, stealing, sexual sin, envy, enmity, jealousy, rivalries, etc. comes from our rejection of God and because of that we are changed and our community is changed. Whenever you do not believe the gospel this will be what it looks like.
3) not only is our relationship with God and others marred but our relationship with creation is messed up. Work is no longer passionate and fulfilling it is draining, boring, and a four-letter word that we hate. We live lives without purpose and wander around with a nag inside of us of not being fulfilled.
4) And rather than happily reflecting and rejoicing in God’s revealed glory our lives are marred with all sorts of sin. We live for ourselves and the works of the flesh become obvious in our lives. We do not reflect the beauty of God and we certainly do not rejoice in the beauty of God.

This is painting probably the ugliest picture possible and moving downward. You can probably relate to a few of those and if you would be really honest with yourself you could see all of those (at least seeds of them) present in your life. But permit me to make a few pointed statements that might help us to see that the gospel has not gone as deep as it needs to:

When I am more concerned with fixing the outside, noticeable, and easier to fix sins than I am about fixing the deep, inward, painful, and personal things I do not believe the gospel.
When I hide my sin and constantly defend myself with others I do not believe the gospel.
When criticism crushes me and I get defensive I do not believe the gospel.
When I am frequently worried, anxious, and fearful I do not believe the gospel.
If I am more worried about my bank account, my clothes, or a pimple than I am worried about whether or not my neighbor will be in hell in 100 years I do not believe the gospel.
When the buttons on your cell phone are more worn than the pages of your Bible you do not believe the gospel.
When I am wasting my life on a bunch of trivial junk I do not believe the gospel.
When I choose fleeting pleasures over temporary discomfort that comes from the gospel I do not believe the gospel. What I mean is when the fleeting pleasure of safety trumps the momentary discomfort of sharing the gospel I do not believe the gospel. When the fleeting pleasure of pornography trumps the temporary discomfort of turning off the computer and squelching those desires I do not believe the gospel.
When I get angry I do not believe the gospel
When I refuse to forgive someone I do not believe the gospel.

This problem will continue to plague us. Until we stand before Jesus we will be tempted to forget the gospel. Many times we will succumb to that temptation and live lives that do not reflect the gospel. This is why Paul is praying what he is. Because Paul needed it, the church at Ephesus needed it, and we need it. Lord, may the gospel go deep into our hearts. Or as Paul prayed, “Lord, open the eyes of our hearts.”

You know what I really like about this passage. Paul is not praying that they will do these things to merit favor with God. He is not saying do all of these things so that you will attain everything in verses 3-14. He is not saying I pray that you might know your calling so that God will adopt you. He is not saying I pray that you know the riches of your inheritance so that God will be sealed with the Holy Spirit. He is not saying I pray that you know God’s power so that he might redeem and forgive you. No, he is praying that we realize what God has already done. God has done these things! You do not earn them. Whether this prayer is answered in your life or not does not dictate your standing before God….it does not dictate whether you receive verses 3-14…it does dictate your experience of it. And that is what Paul is praying: that we might “get” what has already happened to us.

This is the way Paul starts his prayer. He says in verse 15, because I have seen the fruit in your lives I know that verses 3-14 have happened to you. And because of this I give thanks to God—He is doing this great work in your life. And I pray that God might give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. What does that mean? It means I pray that the Spirit might show you who God really is. I pray that the Lord might show himself to you in such a mighty way—and that this knowledge of God is not just pie-in-the sky but actually works its way out into your everyday life.

And then he restates it in verse 18, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened”. The heart is the wellspring of life. If our heart is “enlightened” then all of us will be. This is the core of your being. And Paul’s prayer is that God might open up the eyes of your heart so that you can see Jesus. Now that we know that God is often not enough lets cry out to God with another song. Let’s pray as Paul did—open the eyes of our heart. We want the gospel to go deep.

LISTEN TO OPEN THE EYES OF MY HEART

As Paul is praying that the eyes of our heart might be opened to see Jesus—that the gospel goes deep, he gets specific. There are three things that he prays.

1) Pray that God will enlighten our hearts so that we know the hope to which we are called

This looks back at the calling of God and it looks forward to the hope to which he has called us. Specifically, Paul is saying that he prays that the eyes of our hearts might get a glimpse of our destination—that we might know where we are going. One commentator put it this way, Paul is praying that, “we may know in happy experience the expectation which God’s saving calling of us has [created] in our souls; and that we may know also what that calling has secured for us and reserves for us in the heavenly life which awaits us.”

As we look at Scripture there are many things that God has called us to. He has called us to belong to Jesus. He has called us to holiness. He has called us to freedom. He has called us to fellowship and peace with one another. He has called us to suffering. He has called us into his kingdom and to share in His glory. In reality what he has called us to is a radically new life here in preparation for a radically new life that awaits us.

We have looked at this in the past couple of weeks because Paul has already dealt with where we are going. He has already opened up for us what God is doing in verses 3-14, so remember some of those things. Think again upon the heavenly scene of Revelation 7 or Revelation 21. Think again about what it means to be redeemed. Think about that God’s global purpose chart.

Knowing where we are going begins to restore those four things that we saw in the garden. It stirs in us passionate worship as we wait for that blessed day when we will know God more fully. And again if you are not stirred to worship thinking about heaven then something is radically wrong, because worship is what you will be doing in heaven. Knowing where we are going transforms are relationships with others as well. It helps us to see what is significant. It creates in us forgiveness. When we get a glimpse of heaven and realize we will not be the only ones there it changes us. It reminds us that community is not optional but that it is our destination. So it motivates us to work on relationships. It motivates us to fight for love instead of loving to fight. Knowing where you are going also transforms your passions and your pursuits. Instead of living for the trivial you begin living for that which really matters. Our mandate becomes the one in my office, “so live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, be the only boast of this generation.” And more than anything knowing our destination stirs in us a passion to reflect and rejoice in the glory of God. We want to be holy because we have seen God. We want rejoice in His glory and in the spread of His glory to the nations because His glory has captivated us. We see this big picture and it changes us. So, let’s pray that the gospel might go deeper and that we know the hope to which he has called us.

2) Pray that God will enlighten our hearts so that we know the riches of His glorious inheritance.

Again we have the same issues that we had a couple of weeks ago with translation. Is this saying that we are God’s inheritance or that we get an inheritance from God? Either way I think it does not matter, the end is the same glorifying and enjoying God Himself. Paul’s first prayer is that we might know where we are going. This prayer is kind of like Paul praying that we will know what it is like once we get there.

Let’s say that Paul is saying that we get an inheritance. As we look at Scripture we see various pictures of this. We see this inheritance called eternal life. We see it called sharing glory with Christ. It is called immortality and it is called the kingdom of Christ. Furthermore, we see a picture of this in Revelation 21:2-7 as it describes the heavenly city. What Paul would then be saying is I pray that you might get the beauty of what will be yours. But notice how he says “yours”. this glorious inheritance is not something that we have individually it is something that we have together with all of the saints. I think we should probably drop the mental picture of streets of gold with a million different personal mansions. I would say it is probably more like one big mansion where we all hang out in the family room.

What if Paul is saying that we are the inheritance? Well, then he is saying that I pray that you might know how amazing it is the position you are in. I pray that you get the glory, honor, and wonder of this privileged status. Does it not absolutely transform your life and way of thinking when you realize that you are God’s treasured possession? That in a very real sense God has determined that His joy in heaven is intimately tied up with your joy in heaven.

This too changes our perspective on life. It makes forgiveness easier. It makes anger stupid. It helps us to realize that really the only things we take to heaven are the things that we have given away. When we get a glimpse of heaven we get a glimpse of what really matters.

Catch a glimpse of heaven—Be Unto Your Name

3) Pray that God will enlighten our hearts so that we know the immeasurable greatness of his power.

Paul spends the most time on this third point and I think that is intentional. It is one thing to know where the gospel is taking you as well as to know what it will be like when you get there. That has a huge implication on the way we live our everyday lives. But it is quite another to be informed of the power that is at work to get you there. What Paul is saying is this—I pray that you might come to know that it is the very power of Almighty God that is at work in you to accomplish His grand purpose.

Do you get the idea that Paul is straining for words here to describe God’s power. He stars by using a word like “immeasurable”. So it is huge and so huge that you cannot measure it. You cannot weigh it because it cannot be confined by weight. You cannot measure it with a ruler because it cannot be confined by height. You cannot try to decipher it’s volume, or barometric pressure, you cannot put it to a theory like E=MC2. It cannot be measured. His power off the scales and is more powerful than any scale that could be created. But, that does not quite get to describe the power of God.

This power is great. Does this mean that it is good? Or does it mean that is beautiful? Well, whatever great means that is God’s power. It is great. And notice what it is directed toward…”us who believe”. Are you serious? God’s immeasurable, great, awesome, holy, magnificent, wondrous, glorious, power is directed toward me.

Well what does that mean, what does that look like? Again Paul is stretching for words because at the tail end of verse 19 he uses more big words, “the working of his great might”. He intentionally uses words that convey the idea of power in action. It is not just power that he could use if he wanted to, but it is power that is actually at work to accomplish His purpose. And it is the exact same power that is working in us that raised Jesus from the dead.

Who is the most powerful person you can think of? You can think of someone with big muscles or you can think of someone with great intellectual power. You can think of a political leader you can think of a star athlete; even if you think of the most powerful doctor. No matter how powerful they are there is one thing they cannot do—raise somebody from the dead. Oh, sure we can muster CPR but you have not overcome the principle of death. Raising someone from life in this way is only delaying the inevitable. When this says that God “raised him from the dead” it is saying something far more significant. It is saying that the very principle of death has been conquered in Christ. He is immortal. Death has lots its sting. Death cannot hold him in the grave, because death is not the all-powerful, God is.

No, something amazing is happening here. It is the power of God that takes Jesus from the grave and not only resurrects him but also seats him at the right hand of the Father. He places him over everything. Do not get tripped up over the language about God “putting him” above all things. It is not that God the Father is giving something to God the Son that he has not always had. He has always had the blessing of being at the Father’s right hand. He has always been above all things. But there is something unique that is taking place here. Psalm 8 is being fulfilled where the Son is being exalted.

It is always scary dealing with Christology and trying to understand how Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. Trying to answer this question has caused people to fall into numerous heresies throughout the ages. So, I will cautiously walk on very holy ground. This chart kind of helps to explain what is taking place here.

EXPLAIN THE CHART.

Paul is pointing in this text to the exaltation of Christ. Christ has not only been raised from the dead but he has been put in a position over everything. And this too is for our great benefit. This is why it is important for us to get the gospel on this point. Jesus is our captain. But our captain is also in charge of the entire world. Our captain has all the power in the world. When we know this oh, the difference it makes.

Verses 22 and 23 are kind of strange. What do they mean? I like what Bible commentator Peter O’Brien says, “Christ is the one who completely fills everything, that is, the whole of creation, the earthly and the heavenly, comprising all of humanity as well as the entire angelic realm, especially the rebellious powers. The nature of this filling is not to be explained in a physical or spatial sense: Christ pervades all things with his sovereign rule, directing all things to their appointed end (cf. Heb. 1:3), and this entails his functioning as the powerful ruler over against the principalities (1:21) and giving grace and strength to his people, the church (4:13,15-16) (151)."

Now, what is the point of all of this? If the power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God above everything…if that power is at work in you and for you…what do you think is going to happen? You are going to arrive at your intended destination. So, believer this text ought to create in you deep passionate worship. Again, catch the beauty of this passage. It is a prayer. Do not look at this passage as a list of things to do—look at it as a cry of the heart. God help me to see, feel, get, adore, treasure, enjoy, be consumed by, everything that you have done in the gospel. Help me to reflect that in a life of worship. Help me to reflect your glory and rejoice in your glory. Look at what God has done and stand amazed that this is not something that is a possibility—this is reality. Everything that God has done for us he has actually done for us and we will be brought to our destination.

Now, there is also another way to look at his power. If the power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God above everything…if that power is standing in judgment against you…what do you think is going to happen? This is why the Bible cries out, “behold the kindness and severity of God.” God is kind and God is merciful and God accomplishes his purposes. What should your response be if you stand apart from Christ?

One, look back at God’s creation. He has created you and He cares for you, yet you stand accountable to him. He created you for His glory. He created you for worship. He created you for community. He created you for meaning. He created you to reflect and rejoice in His glory. Yet, you have chosen to rebel. You stand against the all-powerful God. Your hope is not to try better, your hope is to plead for mercy. Your hope is to repent—believe what God says about your sin. Stand in agreement with God about your rebellion. And you need to believe—believe what God says about Jesus.

May the gospel go deep in every heart that is here tonight.