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Alive In Christ

"And you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

Good Morning Beloved,

Welcome to worship this Lord's Day.
We're so thankful for each one of you.
You should no longer evaluate yourself on the basis of the way you lived before you came to Christ, because you have become a new creation since then. Now, your only true standard of self-evaluation is what God says about who you have become in Jesus. As you repeatedly declare who you are in Christ according to God’s Word, you will begin to override the old, negative self-talk and learn to accept yourself. After all, God has already forgiven your sin. And if God has forgiven it, who are you to remember it?
Far too many people know about God, however, in our last message, Paul prays that we would grow in our experience/experiential knowledge of God, our relationship with Him. The only way that we can experience God, is to live lives of obedience, like the Ephesian Christians did. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit will guide you, give you wisdom, give you revelation, to help you understand it as you read. That's what Paul was praying for.
In our study of Ephesians, we’ve seen how God has chosen us from before the creation of the world and predestined us to be adopted into His family. We’ve seen how Jesus has redeemed us from slavery to sin and an destructive, hell bound life. We’ve seen how the Holy Spirit is in our lives as a guarantee of our spiritual inheritance. And we’ve seen how God fills our lives with His resurrection power. As we move forward in our study of the book of Ephesians, we come to chapter 2, here Paul takes his readers back to what their lives were like before they experienced God’s grace.
Let us bow our head in prayer.
Heavenly Father, 
Thank You for the truth You have for us today. Thank You for the Holy Spirit, who grants us clarity and wisdom to understand. Help us Lord, to make application to our lives, that we might lead lives that not only are pleasing to You, but glorify You. 
Lord, thank You this is a great time to be alive, because it’s our time. We are so thankful to be alive, at a time when we can share the gospel with a world that desperately needs to hear Your Word. Thank You for giving us this amazing honor and privilege. It’s the time these great truths and realities, that we are so blessed to receive, cannot only impact our lives, but the lives that we touch, all for Your increase.
Lord, cause us to be more grateful, more au courant of the tremendous power already exhibited in our lives. We’ll give you the praise and ask that you would bring to yourself those who don’t know you.
Reignite the passion in our hearts as we worship, strengthen our resolve to grow deeper in relation with You and Your Son, Jesus Christ.
In Christ's precious name, the name above all names!

Today's Message: Alive In Christ

In preparing for this message, I began thinking about what an amazing artist God is, taking ordinary materials and with them, creating magnificent displays, breathtaking sunrises and picturesque sunsets, astonishing landscapes, majestic mountain views, all evidence of His greatness.

This is one of the great sections of the Bible about salvation, and much of this is not new to us but it’s so refreshing to our hearts to go over these wonderful truths. You know this study of Ephesians is so very vital. Understanding what you have in Jesus Christ is really essential.  

Though the general theology of Ephesians is very direct, unambiguous, and presents no ideas or interpretations whose meanings are seriously contended. There are, however, some portions of the texts that require careful thought to rightly interpret. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I'll attempt to do that today.

Open with me your Bibles to the 2nd chapter of the book of Ephesians, as we study the first ten verses of this wonderful, treasure in Ephesians 2:1-10.

"And you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

There are a great number of people in our society, as we know, claiming Christ, claiming to be born again that it’s very obvious don’t know the meaning of it. I am deeply dismayed, that there seems to be lot of confusion about what it means to be a Christian, what it means to have Christ, what it means to be born again. However, as we will see today, as we study Ephesians 2:1-10, I believe it ought to eliminate any doubt and remove any question, as to the true meaning, because it’s here in black and white. 

There is a sense in which we don’t want to get too caught up in what our lives were like before Jesus redeemed us. The Bible is clear that our present lives are not to be paralyzed by thinking too much about what has happened in the past. Old things have passed away. 

However, at the same time, I don’t think that we can ever fully recognize the significance of what God has done for us without understanding exactly what we were all like before He entered our lives. So as Paul continues writing in chapter 2, it’s like he holds up this gigantic mirror that allows his readers to look and see what they were like before God entered into their lives. Let’s take a look in the mirror of God’s Word and see what are lives were once like apart from God.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul says, "And you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."

Quite frankly, it’s not a very pretty picture. In fact, there is a sense in which is one of the hardest truths in the Bible because most of us don’t really want to hear just how bad we are apart from Christ. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the distinction of Christianity. This is the truth of God. This is the crux of the Christian faith. Apart from God, all men are dead. Dead. Nekrous in the Greek, meaning a corpse, dead, lifeless, subject to death.

So let’s talk about that living death. As we take a closer look at it in verse 1, "And you were dead." He’s writing to those who now believe and reminding them that they used to be among those who were dead. Were they physically alive? Yes. Spiritually? They were dead. They were spiritually and eternally dead. 

Why do we need a Savior? I think that most Christ followers would answer that question something like this: "Because I have sinned, I am guilty before God, so I need a Savior who can forgive my sins and take away the punishment I deserve." And while that statement is true, let's be honest, it just doesn’t go deep enough. 

What Paul makes abundantly clear in this passage is that without a Savior, we’re not just in God’s proverbial dog house, we are dead and in the spiritual morgue. Why we’re in the spiritual morgue? Paul uses two words to describe the behavior that leads to our spiritual death. Although the words are often used as synonyms by Paul and other New Testament writers, they have a slightly different meaning.
In the Greek, it's the word "paraptōmasin," meaning to take a false step. go off a path, slip, or fall. As used here it is a picture of us wandering from the right path, whether that occurs as a result of inattention or a deliberate act.
Not only was it true of the ones to whom he wrote, but you’ll notice at the end of verse 3 that little phrase, “Even as the rest,” and he throws in all humanity. This is a universal condition; not just only you, but everyone else as well. Nobody would begin to deny that our world is in trouble. Nobody would deny that we have got some significant problems. We have problem solvers, people who claim to have all the answers all over the place. People tell us the answer is found in changing this or changing that, its better education, better understanding of each other, the lessening of racial tension,
There are people who will claim that the real problems that man faces are social problems. The inability to live in harmony with his social environment. He can’t get along with the people around him. He needs to be socially aware, socially sensitive, socially educated, to have an overall acceptance of this or that. 
While others will insist man's real problems are himself. It’s not social. It’s not about his relationships with others. It’s about his relationship with himself. He can’t get in touch with his own inner feelings. He can’t calm down his own inner anxieties. He needs to somehow find a way to be at peace with himself.

Then, we have those people who claim, that the real problem is not social, its not psychological, its environmental! It’s the way man has been treated. People have traumatized him, abused him, beaten him down, oppressed him and done all kinds of things to him, and now he can’t get along in the complexity of the world. He is misunderstood, therefore, he cannot achieve his dreams. The real heart of the issue, is his environment, its really messed him up.

However, I would like to clear all those theories up for you today. None of those are the problem! They are only symptoms of man's real problem! Man’s problem is he’s dead. He’s absolutely spiritually dead. He’s alienated from the life of God. He is estranged from God! Living a life in opposition to God’s moral standard. He is missing the mark, failing to do that which God has commanded us to do. The transgressions and sins in our lives do not just make us sick. They are our spiritual cause of death.

I know, some of you may be thinking, "He's a pastor, of course he's going to say that!" Let’s think for just a moment about a couple characteristics of a dead person, shall we...

What are the characteristics of a dead person? First of all, a dead person is unable to respond. Something that is dead is completely unable to respond to its surroundings or to others in any way. Before God entered into our lives, we were completely unable to respond to Him in any way, since we were spiritually dead. While his body lives, spiritually, he is dead. He is destitute of the life that recognizes God. He cannot know God. He cannot understand God. He is insensitive to God. He cannot comprehend God. He is unable to have a relationship with God. Therefore, he cannot do God’s will.

That’s why it’s crucial that it is God who is the one who initiates our relationship with Him as we’ve already seen in Chapter 1 of Ephesians.

Paul, in His letter to the church at Rome, in chapter 8:6-9, explains this in even more detail:

"For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him."
Paul makes it exceptionally clear, that apart from the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are incapable of submitting to God or pleasing Him. And we’ve already seen that the only way to get the Holy Spirit in our lives is through the grace of God which God provides for us through His Son. When a person dies, his or her body begins to decay immediately. Without Christ, that is a very accurate picture of what is happening to us spiritually. Since we’re spiritually dead, and there is not a thing we can do about it on our own, we’re decaying spiritually. Our lives are becoming more and more corrupt each day.
In preparing for this message for us, I was thinking about this whole idea of being spiritually dead, I thought about the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. When we read that account in John 11, we find that by the time Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days and his sister, Martha, commented about the odor that resulted from the decaying of his body. The other thing that became apparent to me, is that Lazarus didn’t do anything in order to be resurrected. He was completely dependent on what Jesus did for him.

Before God initiated a relationship with Him, we were all spiritual Lazarus', rotting away, completely helpless to do anything about our condition. We were helplessly dead in our transgressions and sins.

Another characteristic of our life apart from God is that we really have any control over our lives. Our lives are dominated by three powerful forces that we can’t break free of on our own: The world, Satan and the flesh. In verse 2, Paul tells us, " which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air." We were walking in the ways of the world. Paul is describing here a life that in which we habitually conform to the ways of this world. Our behavior is determined by the powerful influences of our culture’s attitudes, habits, preferences and desires.

In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul writes about how we were slaves to that system of beliefs without Christ, in Galatians 4:3, "So we too, when we were children, were held in bondage under the elementary principles of the world."

If you look at this verse in context, you’ll find that when Paul writes "when we were children," he is clearly referring to our lives before we became followers of Christ. And just as he writes in Ephesians, it is clear that without Jesus Christ in our lives, we are in slavery to a worldview that is totally and completely hostile to God. The Scriptures are filled with warnings to us as believers to not succumb to such a mindset. 

Romans 12:2 tells us, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

And in I John 2:15-16, we are told, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."

The heart of the problem is that without Christ, we’re just not capable of freeing ourselves from the ways of the world. And, if that was the only force that dominated our lives, that would be bad enough, but the additional powers that dominated our lives without Christ, only compound the problem.

At the end of verse 2, Paul tells us, "...the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."

I'm sure you will remember, at the end of chapter 1, that Paul wrote about the rulers and powers. And there, we discovered, that Jesus has been raised to the right hand of the Father, far above all these other powers. We also learned that all these other powers have been placed under the feet of Jesus. Therefore, we need to remember that Paul is writing to believers in his letter. And while there are forces that can try to influence our lives, those of us who are Christ followers are not under the dominion of those powers since we belong to God and we are part of His family. We must also identify with what Paul means by the "kingdom of the air." Paul was obviously familiar with the Jewish concept of the heavens of his day.

According to that model, there were three levels of heaven, the air is the atmosphere in which human life takes place here on the earth. The universe beyond the earth where the other stars and planets are located. And, the third heaven, which is beyond our human vision, is the place where God resides.

And so, the "kingdom of the air" is just another word for the earth where mankind makes his abode. And according to this verse, there is a ruler who has power over this "first heaven." There is no doubt that Paul is writing about Satan and the demonic forces that he controls.

Fortunately for those of us who are in Christ, He already defeated Satan on the cross. But Even though he is already defeated, Satan does not surrender without a struggle and he continues to make his influence felt among the earth. Before we had Christ in our lives, we were completely powerless to battle that influence. There was no hope. In fact, the literal interpretation of this passage is that the ruler of the kingdom of the air is the spirit who is at work in the "sons of disobedience." I can’t help but think that Paul was influenced here by the words of Jesus, when he spoke to some of the religious leaders who questioned His divinity. 

In John 8:44, He said "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies."

In other words, before we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, that is the disturbing reality of what our lives were like. We were sons of disobedience and the devil was our father! Furthermore, there was nothing we could do on our own to get out from under the control of his influence. Before Christ, we were dominated by the world and by Satan, and that brings us to the third force that dominated our lives.

The flesh: In verse 3, Paul tells us that, "Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest.

Every person who comes into this world enters it with this sin nature. No one has to teach us how to sin because, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, every person is born with this sin nature. Our sin nature is kind of like a worm in an apple. Do any of you know how a worm gets into an apple? 

I always assumed that it ate its way into the apple from the outside. However, I later learned that the worm actually comes from the inside of the apple. What happens is that an insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Over time, the egg hatches in the middle of the apple and the worm eats its way out. Beloved, we’re born with that sin nature inside of us and it continues to make its way out, little by little, day after day. So just like the world and Satan, this sin nature, or flesh, dominates our lives until Christ enters our lives to redeem us!

In Romans 8:6-8, Paul teaches us, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

I am so grateful for God's plan of redemption! Because apart from God, I was dead and I was dominated. I was eternally doomed! And the result of my spiritual death and my domination by the world, Satan, and the flesh is that I was under the wrath of God. What that means is that all of us are inherently deserving of the divine judgment of God.

Since God is a Holy God, He cannot sit idly by when people transgress His law, fall short of His standards and live their lives according to the principles of this world, Satan and their own sin nature.

Quite frankly, we don’t like to think about the wrath of God a whole lot, do we? I think we often get a wrong picture of what that wrath is like. We tend to picture it as God getting angry from time to time, lashing out in anger and then forgetting it.

However, what Scripture teaches about His wrath, is that His wrath is consistent, controlled and judicial. I believe, that is what makes it so frightening to men. God’s wrath, is an inevitable response to everything that stands in opposition to His righteousness and holiness. God’s wrath is both a present and future. 

Jesus Himself spoke of the present aspect of God’s wrath, in John 3:36. "The one who believes in the Son has eternal life; but the one who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."

Jesus made it quite clear that those who reject Him have God’s wrath "remain" on them. The word used in the Greek, "menei," means in the present, it is not in the future tense. In other words there is an aspect of God’s wrath that we experience here and now, when we choose to reject God. I believe that is what Paul was referring to in Romans 2:5, when he described how God gives those who reject Him over to their shameful lusts and that they experience the painful and deadly consequences of their behavior.

"But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,"

In verse 4, Paul tells us, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us," I believe that is two of the most exhilarating, encouraging, most powerful words in all of Scripture, "But God..."

It’s no wonder Paul chose to use them at this point and juncture in his letter. He just finished writing about the total hopelessness of man apart from God. But with just these two simple words, Paul immediately restores a sense of hope. Things looked really bad for all of us. We were dead, dominated and doomed. But with God! There is hope! Paul is about to reveal how God entered into our lives to deal with the death, domination and doom that we all experienced at one time. Paul addresses each of the three problems that we faced.

We were dead in our transgressions and sins but God made us alive with Christ. 
We were dominated by the world, Satan and our flesh but God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms. 
And we were doomed but God showed us His kindness instead of His wrath.
Since we are obviously unworthy, why did God save us? We could answer that question in very simple terms. God saved us because of His nature. That’s really what Paul described in Chapter 1. It is God’s nature to choose us, to redeem us, to secure our future and to pour His power into our lives. But in this passage, Paul describes three particular attributes of God’ nature that bear particular relevance to God’s work in saving us.

He responded to our lostness with His love. "....because of His great love with which He loved us."

I am truly astonished at how God chooses to respond to our lost condition! What we deserve is His justice and wrath, His anger and even His disgust. However,  God instead, responds to us with His love. I think that one of the reasons that we have such a hard time understanding how God could do that is that we don’t really understand that kind of love.

When we think of love, we tend to think of an emotion or a feeling. But the kind of love that God demonstrates toward us, and which by the way, He commands us to show towards others, is an act of the will, not an emotion. God is moved with compassion toward us, but that is not the primary expression of His love for us. In fact, in this passage, Paul has a particular expression of God’s love for us in his mind.

"...His great love..." The first thing we notice is the greatness of God’s love. Paul uses both the verb and the noun forms of the word for "love" or "agapēn" in the Greek, meaning love or goodwill. It is from the root word, "agapáō," which means to take pleasure in, to esteem.

And so God’s love is also described as "His great love." We have already seen several times, Paul likes to use this kind of grammatical structure whenever he wants to emphasize the greatness of something. For instance, we saw back in chapter 1 when Paul wrote about God’s "incomparably great power." The love Paul is describing here is without a doubt the greatest love the world has ever known. 

However, I believe that there is something amazing about what Paul writes here, it really caught my attention. When Paul writes "His great love with which He loved us", I'd like you to notice that he uses the past tense of love: "God loved us."

Our initial reaction, might be to think that Paul really must have meant to use the present tense, because God loves us. After all, we know that God still loves us. But after further reflection, it appears to me that Paul really chose the exact words he wanted to use here. And he uses the past tense because he is writing about one particular action that God took in the past to demonstrate His great love for us.

To get a clearer picture of what Paul meant, we need look no further than Romans 5:8. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Paul is clearly referring to Christ’s death on the cross as God’s greatest demonstration of His love for us. God didn’t just say he loves us. He demonstrated that love in the greatest possible capacity, by His actions, by the death of His Son.

However, to go deeper, not only does God respond to us with His love, there are two other closely related aspects of His nature that Paul writes about in this passage. He responded to our misery with His mercy. "But God, being rich in mercy..."

Paul again, uses a superlative to describe the magnitude of God’s mercy. God is not just merciful, "But God, being rich in mercy."

Mercy is one of those terms that we tend to use a lot as believers. And we often tend to use it interchangeably with His grace. And while those two terms are quite similar in many ways, they are, however, not the same. So let’s look at those a bit closer, to gain a better understanding of God’s mercy and His grace.

Mercy is God’s attitude toward those in distress. When God looked down from heaven and saw us the way that we were without Christ, He saw that we were miserable. A life that is characterized by death, domination and doom could result in nothing else. Anyone who is a parent, can certainly relate to God’s mercy. God has the power to do something about our misery, and He does! What God has done for me in my life, is most assuredly, one tremendous act of love.

If mercy is God’s attitude toward those in distress then grace is God’s attitude toward those who break His law, those who rebel against Him. Even though we deserve it, God does not want to leave us to suffer from the guilt that comes from being dead in transgressions and sins. So in His grace He reaches out to set aside the demands of law and to relieve us from the due punishment of our guilt and to set us free. It is the grace of God which has dealt with our guilt. Grace also involves God’s power and His enabling for us to be able to do what He calls us to do.

We can best see God's grace in II Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Though Paul's reference to his "thorn in the flesh", the general principle is very clear. It is God’s grace which gives us the power and ability to do what God calls us to do. This is especially true when it comes to our salvation. When Paul writes that it is by grace we have been saved, he is saying that it is God who provides the ability for us to be saved completely independent of anything that we are capable of doing on our own. Mercy and grace, is God's solution to man's sin. He removes the pain and covers our sin. Then, He withholds what we do deserve, in order to give us what we do not deserve.

Though mercy and grace are not the same, there is something else they have in common, we do not deserve either of them! We are at our best, unworthy of His mercy and grace. We deserve His judgement and wrath! 

That is what Paul is talking about in verse 5, "even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," What a tremendous demonstration of His great love!

In verse 5, Paul uses three really unusual verbs to describe what God has done for us. He takes common verbs and adds the three letter prefix "sun," which is Greek for "with." He does this to emphasize the fact that each of the three actions that God has taken to meet our deepest needs has been accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We were made alive in Christ!
We were raised up together with Christ!
We were seated together with Christ!

Jesus, Who was made alive, raised up and seated at the right hand of the Father as a result of His resurrection. And because of my identification and relationship with Christ, God’s grace has allowed me to experience those same three benefits.

It is beyond fascinating to me, that all three of these verbs are in the aorist, or past, tense. My initial reaction is that doesn’t seem right. I haven’t yet been resurrected from the dead or been raised up or been seated together with Christ in the heavenly realms. Upon further reflection, however, I believe what Paul is trying to communicate two things by using the past tense here. The point I believe Paul is trying to make is that all this is a "done deal." God has already done everything He needs to do to guarantee that we will experience all three of those benefits in the future. 
I don't know about you, but that’s a really encouraging thought. But perhaps even more importantly, Paul seems to be indicating that there is a present aspect of all three of those actions that I get to experience right here and now as I live out my life on this earth.

Before God came into our lives, we were in a spiritual morgue and the cause of death was our transgressions and sins. We were helpless to do anything about those sins and the spiritual death that resulted. So we have a need to be made alive and we can’t do that ourselves and no one else other than God can do it for me either. But thankfully, God met that need for us!

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace we have been saved. Because God is loving, merciful and full of grace, He chose to make us alive together with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions. God didn’t wait for us to become a better person, to engage in some religious ritual or complete some spiritual task. When He raised Christ from the dead, there is a sense in which He also made us alive, too.

In order to answer that question, let’s turn to Luke 15:24, the parable of the prodigal son for just a moment. You’ll remember that the younger son asked for his inheritance, which he squandered on loose living. Finally after he had a change of heart, he returned to his father. And when he returned, here is what his father said.. "For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found." And they began to celebrate his return.

So, what exactly did his father mean by that? Obviously his son hadn’t died, well, at least not physically. But when his father described him as having been dead and now alive again, I believe he was making a statement in reference to the fact that his son now had a new disposition, a new attitude. He had been transformed from a selfish, ungrateful son to one who now recognized the blessings he had and who was grateful for them.

He hadn’t gained any new abilities or skills. He hadn’t been transformed physically. The transformation had taken place in his heart. 
Beloved, isn’t that exactly what God does for us through our union with Christ and our sharing in his resurrection? God doesn’t give us a new brain, new intelligence or any other new skills or abilities when we become believers. But what He does do is to give us a new disposition, a change of heart. 
Psalm 51:10 teaches us, "Create in me a clean heart, God and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

And in II Corinthians 5:17, it says "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

When we are in Christ, He transforms our hearts, so that we are able to do all the seemingly impossible things that Jesus has called us to do: Love the unlovable

I don’t know about you, but when Jesus commands me to love my enemies, sometimes, I have a hard time with that. Occasionally, I have a hard enough time loving those I really do love. But because Jesus has changed my heart, He makes it possible for me to love those who are hard to love. And fortunately for me, He enables others to love me, even when I am difficult to love!

He also enables us to endure the unendurable.

I'll be honest, there are a number of people I admire greatly. I know that they’re experiencing all kinds of pain in their life. For some of them, it’s consistent physical pain that they live wit day after day, with no end in sight. For others, it’s the horrendous emotional pain of losing a loved one or watching someone that they really care about go through some difficult times in their lives. For others, it’s the spiritual heartbreak of family and friends that don’t have any desire for a personal relationship with Christ. Yet, through it all, they have endured through all that pain, through the anguish and torment. Not because of any great supernatural power that they possess, but because of God’s grace, He has given them a new disposition that allows you to endure. Enabling them to achieve the unachievable. He does that!

This, I speak from personal experience. God often calls us to do things that are far beyond our own abilities. I know that when I first became a pastor, I hated to read, making it difficult to teach something, that I felt like I didn’t know, or frankly what to say. And its likely, most of you didn't even notice. Not because I have some great ability to pull off some wonderful sermon, or weren't paying attention. 

"But God!" He spoke through me! Since that time, God has completely transformed my mind and my heart. He has given me an insatiable hunger for His Word! A whole new disposition to the point that I actually enjoy reading, studying and growing in His wisdom and knowledge and truth. In fact, I am frequently told, I am consumed by it. Beloved, only God could make that kind of transformation in my life!

He enables us to forgive the unforgivable.

I know that many of us have been hurt deeply by the words and actions of others. In fact, as I say that, for most of us, some hurt comes immediately to mind. And without the new disposition we are given through Jesus Christ, it would be impossible for us to ever forgive those people. Or ourselves, for the people we've hurt. But as a result of God’s grace I am enabled to forgive even "seventy times seven" just like Jesus taught Peter.

We were dominated, but God gave us a new environment

In verses 2 and 3,"in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest."

Without God, we were powerless to overcome the powerful forces of this world, Satan and our own flesh, or sinful nature. But once again, God met that need for us. In Jesus, He provided the way for us to overcome those powerful forces which once kept us in bondage.

In verse 6, Paul tells us, "and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." The truth of resurrection! That’s exactly what we needed. We, who were spiritually dead, eternally dead, we can come alive!

In verse 5, "He made us alive," and in verse 6, "He raised us up." We deserve to be sent to hell, we deserve to be punished and He withheld what we deserve and gives us what we do not deserve, His mercy! Psalm 103:10 says it like this, "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our guilty deeds." 

God hates sin. God hates the sinner. God is angry with the sinner every day. God will not have sin in His presence. God despises iniquity. That's all Scriptural. Yet, God comes to the sinner with mercy, which withholds the judgment and grace, which releases His forgiveness.

When we become Christ-followers, we are not immediately physically raised up from this earth. That will indeed occur one day in the near future, but for right now, we’re still right here, on this earth. But from the moment we become Christians, our citizenship is changed. We are no longer citizens of this earth, but rather citizens of the kingdom of God. We are aliens, foreigners. Being citizens of the heavenly realm gives us a whole new outlook on our lives. We begin to evaluate and live our lives based on the standards of the heavenly realm rather than those of this world. Since we have been raised up with Christ, we must set our hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Though God does not completely remove us from the influence of the world, Satan or our flesh, by being united with Christ, we are placed into an environment where it is now possible to overcome those powerful forces. Without our union with Christ, we wouldn’t even be aware that there was a heavenly kingdom, let alone be a part of it.

We were doomed, but God gave me a new intimacy. Like all the rest, we were by nature, objects of wrath. Without Christ we were doomed to face the wrath of a Holy God.

In verse 7, we're told "so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Do you know when the ages to come begin? From the moment you were saved. That's when the ages to come began. And in the ages to come, He wants to show the exceeding riches of his grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 

We were saved for far more than the purpose of keeping us out of hell, we were saved in order that God could just shower His grace and shower his blessing and shower his riches on us! WOW! How amazing it that? In other words, the purpose of seating us with Christ in the heavenly realms is so that God might reveal Himself to us and that He might demonstrate His kindness to us. This is in sharp contrast to the wrath that we face without Jesus in our lives!

I hope you're getting this, I pray that you understand, though I have to wonder if we're even capable of fully understanding the implications of what God has done for us. In Christ, He accomplished what we could never do on our own. God has made us to be new creations. Ones with new dispositions, new environments and new intimacy. From the rest of the ages throughout eternity, He is unloading on you the riches of His grace. That's genuine Christianity! Lives that have been completely transformed through Christ. Unfortunately many Christians have settled for something that it far inferior to a life where all of our greatest needs have been met by God. They have settled for what I call "fire insurance" Christianity, they pray, hoping it will make it to God's ears and He'll answer. Meanwhile, they just continue to live as they have hoping to make it to heaven when they die. Only the genuine, authentic, life-transforming work of God that Paul describes in this passage can do meet our greatest needs. 

I want to tell you something, only God can meet the needs that you will never be able to satisfy on your own. Let God meet your deepest needs by giving you a new disposition that allows you to accomplish what is impossible for man. Let God help you overcome the domination of this world by lifting you into the new environment of the heavenly realms. Let God reveal Himself to you as you sit with Him in His presence. That kind of authentic Christianity always satisfies.

Verse 8, Paul tells us "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" It’s not that complicated! It’s a gift of God, not of yourselves! Therefore, we must give God all the glory. That is why, in verse 9 Paul tells us that our salvation is "not a result of works, so that no one may boast." The work has already been done, "It is finished!" Our salvation is by faith.

I have heard a number of people exclaim, they're not a Christian, they don't have "faith," Yes you do! We’re all creatures of faith. Christian or not, we live by faith every day of life. Every time you open a can of soda and drink it, it’s an act of faith. You don't have any idea what's in there! You can't see inside it, you take a leap of faith, that the contents is what you think it to be. 

When you stick your car key in the ignition to go to work, you have "faith" that it will start. When you go on vacation, you book your room ahead of time. Placing "blind faith" in the person, whom you've never met by the way, not to steal your credit card information. And, when you arrive, you have faith that there will be a room reserved for you. And if you happened to fly to your destination, you had blind faith, in a person you've never met, whose ability you haven't verified, sitting in the cockpit, will get you there safely. You do all this by faith, blind faith.

Unfortunately, our culture has developed an "all about me" attitude. Unfortunately, we’ve taken that same attitude and in may aspects, applied it to our relationship with God. So in many cases, even in our churches it has become all about me and not about God. So I want to pick which attributes of God that I’ll believe and accept. I prefer the theology is that God is love, period. End of story! I will not accept the other things, which are written on the Bible by the way, are from God. 

I will be the first to acknowledge that yes, God certainly is love. His character does not stop there. He is also holy, righteous and just. But since a particular church or pastor doesn’t want to deal with those aspects of God’s character, because they have made the conscious decision to just ignore those parts of the Bible, people have grown to believe a version of God, or Christ, that just doesn't exist.

The Ephesian culture of Paul’s day wasn’t all that much different than today. There were many different religions and many different "gods." And the people had engaged in the process of syncretism, in which they would pick and choose the elements from among these various religions, and gods that they liked then tried to reconcile them into their own religion. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

However, there is a piece of the puzzle missing! Our relationship with God starts and ends with God, not with us. I hate to burst some of your bubbles, but its not about you! It's about God, it's all about God. I think Paul emphasizes that fact, because he was dealing with a culture that was much the same as ours.  

Let's look at verses 8 and 9 again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Do you see it? It's a gift from God, not a result of anything you did or even can do, so no one may boast." It's not all about me. It's about God, it's about Jesus Christ, it's about what He has accomplished that you or I never could. When God saves you, He wants to see good works in your life, because that manifests His power. He had the power to save you, and the manifestation of that power in your good works is to His glory.

Now, let's look at verse 10. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

We not talking about a salvation by works, we're talking about good works as a result of salvation by faith. Listen, if God before ordained that you should walk in good works, believe me, then He also gave you the power to do that when you were saved. That’s Paul’s point. You don’t need anybody to prove to you the power of God, the exceeding greatness of His power toward us! 

This is likely one of the most familiar Scriptures in the entire Bible for many Christians. In a sense, it is the essence of what Christianity is all about. Yet, in modern Christianity, there seems to be a lack of understanding or a complete disregard for what Paul is telling us here.

Listen, the Bible couldn’t be more clear, it is impossible for anyone, regardless of their religious faith to attain salvation based on his or her own efforts and good works. Paul wants to make sure that he leaves no doubt about that fact. He has already described what we were all like before God entered into our lives. We were dead, dominated and doomed. And we were utterly helpless to do anything about that condition. It is only a result of God’s actions in our lives that we have been delivered from that hopeless estate. However, in spite of the indisputable evidence in God’s Word, it seems that Christians still struggle with the fact that we can’t earn our own salvation. However, I am painfully aware, that not everyone that hears the truth believes it.

So allow me to make this as clear as I can, God chooses to save us, not because we deserve it, but because of His grace. We can never do enough good works to earn our salvation! It ought to be pretty apparent to all of us that a gift is not something that we earn or even deserve. By definition, when someone gives us a gift, it is not a result of anything that we have done.

In Closing...

For those who do not respond to the grace and mercy of God, there is a future judgment to be faced. And at that time, those people will experience the wrath of God and be separated from Him for eternity in a place of eternal torment.

In a sense, this has to be one of the most depressing messages I’ve ever preached. There’s really not a whole lot that I can do to put what Paul writes here in a positive light. The fact is that all human life apart from God is just not a pretty sight. 

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are exactly as Paul describes you in these verses. Dead, dominated and doomed! I pray that God has been speaking to your heart and drawing you to Himself, as you've heard this message.

And, it is also my prayer, that you will not leave today, until you respond to His call. And, that you can do that right there wherever you're sitting, just by praying to God, thanking Him for drawing you to Him, telling Him that you realize you are a sinner and that you’re sorry for your sin. Then, asking Him to forgive you, and place your faith in Jesus Christ alone, as the payment for your sins. You don’t have to use fancy words, just be sincere in your heart. 

While it’s not my place to determine whether or not you have in indeed been saved, however, as your pastor, it is my place to lovingly, yet firmly, warn those of you who have chosen to try to come to God some other way rather than the way God has provided. I don’t just take my word for it. Listen to the words of Jesus, in John 14:6; "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me." 

May it be so..

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

Copyright © 2019-2020 All Rights Reserved

The Brian Monzon Ministries



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