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The ultimate rescue - Ephesians 2:1-10

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 24th January 2016.

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We live in a culture that finds it increasing difficult to hear and accept hard truth. Hard truth are facts that makes us feel bad.

 

We see this in many different areas of our lives.

 

We see this in paid employment. How nervous people are to critique those who work under them.

 

We see this in friendships. What is a good friend? Someone who is always there for you and always affirms what you say. Or someone who will sometimes say the truth thing that you don’t want to hear. That can range from the little truth that you have lipstick on your teeth to the big truth that you have a reputation of not doing what you say.

 

We also see this on entertainment shows like Strictly Come Dancing. The judge who tells hard truth will normally get booed.

 

In this type of culture the first part of this section from Ephesians will be increasingly difficult to hear and to heed. It contains much hard truth about the human condition outside a relationship with Jesus.

 

What are non-Christians like? How bad is their natural condition?

 

We discover the truth in verses 1 to 3 of Ephesians chapter 2.

 

 

 

Humanity’s desperate situation (Vs 1-3)

 

Three things are mentioned.

 

  • People are dead
  • People are disobedient
  • People are in danger

 

First, people are dead (Vs 1)

 

Look at verse 1. Read verse 1.

 

In what way are non-Christians dead?

 

They still walk and talk. They still think and plan. They still go to work and go out at the weekend.

 

In what sense are people without Jesus dead? In two senses.

 

First, without Jesus, people are cut off from the life of God. They are spiritually dead.

 

This is very controversial in an age which prizes spirituality. You will hear this phrase used all the time. So and so is such a spiritual person. Tell me about your spirituality. But according to God’s word the Bible there is no genuine spiritual life apart from Jesus. Yes there might be much rule keeping or much dedication to rituals. There might even be really feelings of calmness. But only Jesus can connect us to the true God who made us and loves us.

 

Is this how you think of your friends and family without Jesus? It is only when we do this that we see how urgently they need Jesus. They are not generally okay as they are. They are dead. They are cut off from the gloriously beautiful and joyfully transforming life of God.

Secondly, to say that non-Christians are dead is to say that by ourselves we are unable to response to spiritual things.

 

Have you ever seen a corpse? I think I’ve seen two dead bodies in my life. The first time was on a trip out from my bible college. We touched the corpse. Do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. They couldn’t respond in any way.

 

To say that without Christ people are dead is to say that such a person by themselves cannot express any real interest in real spiritual truth.

 

Second, people are disobedient (Vs 1-2)

 

This is declared at the end of verse 2 - without Jesus people are disobedient to God’s great commands to love.

 

Why do we disobey? The bottom line is that we choose. But other factors to consider as well.

 

In verse 3 we discover that we all have a sinful nature. We are born with desires and thoughts that are anti-God. But this doesn’t exclude us from responsible decisions. We are both captive and culpable.

 

This is vital to remember if you are a parent. You are parenting wonderful bundles of total depravity. It’s not all about your message and your model. Their is inherent sin. They still choose to sin. We do have a responsibility to discipline our children and pray for God to give them a new heart. Don’t just distract them. Follow through. Pray for the Holy Spirit. Pray with them for this. Talk to them about having sin within.

 

Don’t be surprised by the universal spread of sin in our world. We are not as bad as we possibly could be but we are all bad.

We are also very influenced by the ways of this world. It’s not just teenagers who experience peer pressure.

 

Behind the ways of the world is the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the devil.

 

In summary, without Jesus people are dead but disobedience.

 

And because of that…

 

Third, people are in danger (Vs 3)

 

Look at verse 3.

 

In this state we are objects of wrath. God’s anger is his settled hostility to all that is evil. This arise from his passionate concern for his own glory and for the good of the creatures he has made.

 

It is a good thing to want a God of wrath. We just hope we won’t experience it.

 

My experience of the unmarked police car on the motorway. I was so overjoyed when he caught someone else.

 

The truth is that without Jesus we are in great danger,

 

This is hard truth. Because of our cultural mood we will find it more difficult to accept this. But according to the Bible it is true.

 

However, it is not the end of the story. If it was we might wring our hands in despair. But it isn’t. It is the background to what comes next, what I’ve called…

 

 

 

God’s incredible solution (Vs 4-10)

 

We’ll ask two questions to help us understand this section.

 

  • What has God done?
  • Why has he done it?

 

What has God done? Look at verse 4. Read verses 4-6.

 

The first word of verse 4 completely changes everything. Yes it was this bad BUT now…

 

What has God done? Two things. God has raised a Christian from the dead. And God has raised a Christian up.

 

First, God has raised a Christian from the dead. That is, God has made them spiritually alive.

 

This explains why anyone is a Christian. God has made it possible.

 

When anyone becomes a Christian there is normally a process and a point. A process of learning more about Jesus. The time differs from person to person. There is also the point of new life, when a person is born again by the Holy Spirit. They may not remember the point.

 

The Bible is declaring that God was responsible for this new life - from giving people spiritual appetite to learn during the process and then connecting the person to Jesus at the point of conversion.

 

Second, God has also raised a Christian up and seated them with Christ in the heavenly realms.

 

This means that we are to rule the universe with Jesus. We start now as we obey his word and spread his word.

 

A couple of implications of this…

 

Let’s get our expectations right. Anyone can become a Christian. The process normally takes time. But know that God can give anyone desires to learn more.

 

What is our responsibility? Our task is to faithfully use the means of mission. To share in Christ’ rule by spreading his message. Let’s scatter. Let’s not judge the quality of the soil now or it’s potential in the future.

 

Why has God done this?

 

Not because of something in us. The repeated emphasis is that this salvation is not something we deserved. It is by grace. It happened when we were dead in our transgressions, not after we had handed in some outstanding moral performance. It wasn’t by good works so none can boast. God did not do this because of something in us.

 

Why did he do it? Two reasons.

 

First, because of something in him.

 

  • Verse 4 - because of his great love
  • Verse 4 - God who is rich in mercy
  • Verse 7 - in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace

 

 

Second, because of something he wants to see in us

 

Look at verse 10.

 

Christians are a new creation, made like this to do good works.

 

We must get the order right. I am not saved by my good works but I am saved for good works.

 

The truth of our new identity as Christians should motivate us to want to change.

 

  • What we have been rescued from. This should fill us with gratitude.
  • Our new position as those seated with Christ should encourage us to act according to our new status.
  • Our desire for others to join us in this new position should give us fresh zeal to us the means of mission.

 

In conclusion

 

Don’t just hear the hard truth of Ephesians 2:1-10, make sure we heed it.

 

Don’t stop at the end of verse 3. Let’s be convinced of God’s incredible solution. Let’s be filled with gratitude and confident for what God can do in any life he chooses.

 

Let’s pray.

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