Summary: "I see dead people."
One of my all-time favorite movies is The Sixth Sense. It stars Bruce Willis as a child psychiatrist working with a young boy played by Haley Joel Osment who claims to be able to see dead people. The kid figured out that the dead people, who he alone can see and converse with, don’t know that they’re dead. Willis’ character helps the boy solve the murder of little girl. What makes the move great is the ending. Just when you come to believe the story is about Willis’ character helping the boy with his unique ability – surprise! – the psychiatrist is the one with the real problem and the kid helps him to realize that he’s dead. Willis’ character was shot and killed at the beginning of the movie and only the kid can see and speak with him.
After this morning’s message you will be able to say, like the kid in the film, “I see dead people.” We live and speak and work with people who are dead, but they don’t realize it. They look very much alive, but inwardly they are dead. Their present existence serves no meaningful purpose. They may be religious, but they are apart from God. They may have plans and goals, but ultimately they are without hope in this world. Unless they awaken to new life, their drifting, zombie existence will continue for all eternity.
There’s even the possibility that you might make the same shocking discovery as Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. You might find that you are, in fact, dead though you thought you were alive. Don’t be afraid if you do because, unlike the poor psychiatrist, God revealed your condition so that you can have life with Jesus Christ.
Let’s turn our attention once again to the book of Ephesians. Whereas chapter one instills confidence in Christ, chapter two begins by balancing that confidence with an appropriate humility. The believers at Ephesus like us needed to comprehend the truth: “It’s not about you. It’s about God.” Paul’s letter to the Ephesians brings us face to face with the truth of our situation before the Father intervened to rescue us through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son and by the power of His Holy Spirit. He begins bluntly:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins …Ephesians 2:1a
We need to grapple with this statement. What does Paul mean by dead? We should start by altering our idea of transgressions and sins, the things that we’re dead in. We typically think of sin as doing bad things. That is certainly the outworking of sin, but we have to go back a step to figure out what makes sin sin. Transgressions literally means “false steps.” The picture is of one who takes the wrong road which will lead him to the wrong destination. “Sins” is a shooting term meaning “to miss the target.” Dead in transgressions and sins means more than doing bad things and going to hell. It has more the flavor of a life moving in a completely wrong direction and failing to live up to its potential by missing the mark. In other words, wrong path and wrong target.
In his book, The Reason for God, pastor Timothy Keller makes this observation about sin:
“The famous Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard … defined ‘sin’ in a way that is rooted in the Bible, but also is accessible to contemporary people. ‘Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God … Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.’ Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get and identity, apart from him.”
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, p. 162
Dead in trespasses and sins doesn’t mean hell bound, although that will be the outcome if something isn’t done. I don’t think it means an inability to respond to God or the things of God. Dead in this case is an identity separate from God. If we were created by God and for God then we are not truly alive apart from Him. St Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Because we’re dead apart from an identity rooted in God we will seek life by trying to find ourselves in other things and other people. All transgressions and sins have their origin in our restless pursuit of identity apart from God. It’s a zombie-like existence. It’s the plight of the living dead. Your life will miss God’s mark if your identity is not grounded in Him.
A few years ago Starbucks launched its “The Way I See It Campaign:”