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Paul reminds us we were…
Spiritually Dead…"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins".
Slaves to Satan…"you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience".
Slaves to Sin… "we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others".
Paul reminds us that…
God Loves Us…"God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us".
God Made Us Alive… " made us alive together with Christ".
God Raised Us…"raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus".
Paul reminds us that we were saved…
For God’s Glory…"that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus".
By God’s Grace…"by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God".
As God’s Workmanship…"not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works".
Once I was lost…Now I am found
Once I was dead…Now I am alive
Once I lived to satisfy self…Now I live to satisfy Christ
Once I was Slave to Satan…Now I am a Servant to Christ
Once I was a son of disobedience…Now I am an adopted son of God
TITLE: Gentle Reminders…
FOCUS: God’s Amazing Grace
FUNCTION: Reminder of God’s Amazing Grace!
TEXT: Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)
I. Before Salvation…
A. Spiritually Dead
B. Slave to Satan
C. Slave to Sin
A. God Loved Us
B. God Made Us Alive
C. God Raised Us
A. God’s Glory
B. God’s Grace
C. God’s Workmanship
I trust that as you sang your praise and worship this morning and approached the Lord in your prayers that you were preparing your hearts to hear what God has for you today...for it is there that He will meet you…
…in your heart!
In studying for today’s sermon, the word "Reminder" continued to pop up. Everything I read and thought about seemed to point towards our need to be reminded of different things. It seems that we are a forgetful people. We have a tendency to forget to do things like take the suit to the cleaners, or forget important dates like our wedding anniversary, or forget where we put something like our car keys. We need reminders.
There are different kinds of reminders and ways to remind us of things. Some use a calendar to remind themselves of important dates. Some use to-do lists to remind them of what they are supposed to do. Some use a grocery list to remind themselves what to get at the store. Some use other people to remind them of certain things they don’t want to forget.
Reminders…they are necessary…we need them because we are a forgetful people.
You may not believe this…but some people forget what God has done for them…CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? As surprising as that may seem, it happens…because humans are a forgetful and prideful people. In fact, humanity has had the problem of forgetfulness many times in Biblical history. Here are a few:
Jud 3:7 - The Israelites did what was evil in the LORD’s sight. They forgot about the LORD their God, and they worshiped the images of Baal and the Asherah poles.
Jud 8:34 - They forgot the LORD their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them.
1Sa 12:9 - But the people soon forgot about the LORD their God, so he let them be conquered by Sisera, the general of Hazor’s army, and by the Philistines and the king of Moab.
1Ki 9:9 - And the answer will be, ’Because his people forgot the LORD their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead. That is why the LORD has brought all these disasters upon them.’"
Job 22:18 - But they forgot that he had filled their homes with good things,
Ps 78:11 - They forgot what he had done – the wonderful miracles he had shown them,
Ps 78:42 - They forgot about his power and how he rescued them from their enemies.
Ps 78:43 - They forgot his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders on the plain of Zoan.
Ps 106:7 - Our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the LORD’s miracles. They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them. Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea.
Ps 106:13 - Yet how quickly they forgot what he had done! They wouldn’t wait for his counsel!
Ps 106:21 - They forgot God, their savior, who had done such great things in Egypt –
Ho 13:6 - But when you had eaten and were satisfied, then you became proud and forgot me.
I don’t know about you…but I never want to forget what God has done for me in my life and the many lives I have seen transformed over the past few years. One of the first things I noticed about this church when we started attending was "testimonies". Personal testimonies are a way that we Nazarenes remind ourselves of what God has done in our lives and those testimonies also serve as a witness to each other for encouragement. It is good to be reminded of what God has done, to remind ourselves that "Once we were Lost…Now we are Found".
That brings us back to reminders…remember :-) we were talking about "reminders" :-)
Reminders can be used to encourage each other. Sending cards and letters is a great example of that. When I get a card or letter in the mail from someone I find it encouraging to me personally. Just the fact they thought enough of me to send it and put a little note in it is an encouragement me. It reminds me that whoever sent it cares about me and I feel good about that…it gives me a little boost to press on…it reminds me to appreciate how fortunate I am to have people who care about my well-being.
2000 years ago, in a letter to the churches at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul did just that…he reminded a group Christians of what God had done for them and encouraged them to press on. And I believe that the words Paul wrote to the Ephesians are an important reminder of not only what God did for Christians 2000 years ago, but also what He continues to do today…provide His Amazing Grace.
If everyone will turn in your Bibles to Ephesians, Chapter 2, we will read verses 1-10. I will be reading from the New King James Version. The scripture is also provided in your worship folder if you prefer to follow there:
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. AMEN.
Near what is now modern Izmir, Turkey, there was a major city named Ephesus. Ephesus was a port city at the mouth of the Cayster River on the Aegean Sea and was a central departure point for trade routes into Asia Minor. Ephesus was the Roman capital for Asia and at its pinnacle had a population that was probably close to half-a-million people. It was well known for its political, cultural and religious activities and was an important center of Pagan religion…you could call it "Paganville".
Ephesus had all the trappings of any large city. You name it and you could find it in Ephesus…all manner of vice was available. It was not much different than any large city we now have in America. And I am sure the pull between this world and Heaven was as strong then as it is now for Christians.
The Apostle Paul had a soft spot for the churches in Ephesus. Sort of like I do for this church :-) We find in the Book of Acts that he spent a lot of time there developing the churches and mentoring the converts. The actual reason Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Ephesus is a subject of debate, but it is clear that it is not one of chastisement like some of his letters. In fact, this letter is filled with tremendous encouragement for these new Christians in Ephesus and I believe for us today.
Paul uses this letter to remind the Christians at Ephesus that once they were all sinners and that through faith in Jesus Christ they were saved by God’s grace. I believe we too can use this letter to remind ourselves of what God has done and still does for us today…provide Grace.
There are two types of people sitting in here today...the "Saved" and the "Unsaved".
And God provides Grace for each of you.
For those who are "Saved" He provides Enabling Grace:
Enabling grace is: God, doing supernaturally what you cannot do naturally (live the Christian life). He provides this Grace knowing that you do not deserve it, You cannot repay it, and you may not even appreciate it.
For those who are "Unsaved" He provides Saving Grace:
Saving grace is: God, doing supernaturally what you cannot do naturally (save yourself from your sins). He provides this Grace knowing that you do not deserve it, you cannot repay it, and you may not even appreciate it.
I provide this information up front…because this sermon, like the letter from Paul, is aimed at those who profess to be saved…those who profess to be believers. But there is always that possibility that there is someone who has not met Jesus yet and if you happen to be one of those who are seeking…then I invite you to listen carefully as Paul reminds us who we, who profess to be Christians were before our salvation, what God did for us and why He did it. And I trust that by the end of this message you too will want to be counted as a believer with everlasting life. Amen?
We all have a history. We all have a past. We all have sinned…"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)". We all have a "Before Salvation Story" of who we were, how we lived, what we did. Most of us do not like to reflect back on that person the scriptures call the "old man". There is no need to remind ourselves of the "details" our "old man’s" life, but we can still remind ourselves of some basic facts about our condition in order to be thankful for the "new man" we have become and in order that we not forget what God has done for us. Paul provides us with the basic, but hard truths of who we all were at one time…no one was exempt…
Paul reminds us we were…
Spiritually Dead…"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins". We were hopelessly lost in our transgressions and sin…totally disconnected from God. There was absolutely nothing that any of us could do to save ourselves. Like a man who falls overboard in a stormy sea without a life preserver. We were tossed about in the raging waves of this world, trying to keep our heads above water with our own intellect and strength, but regardless of our human efforts the storm would eventually consume us. What a sorry condition to be in. And if that isn’t bad enough, we were all…
Slaves to Satan…"you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience". Because we were not "connected to God" we were connected to Satan. We were born as slaves to Satan. As his slaves we did his bidding. Some of us were better slaves than others, but regardless of "what types of sins" we were committing, we were all lost and we were all sinners condemned to be slaves to Satan for eternity with no hope of becoming free from his rule. And Paul reminds us here that Satan is "still busy"…"the spirit who NOW works in the sons of disobedience". Satan is still making slaves of humanity! And being slaves to Satan makes us…
Slaves to Sin… "we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others". Every one of us sitting in this room was a slave to sin. We were unable to avoid sin or its consequences. It should be noted that Paul was deliberately letting both Jew and Gentile know that BOTH were guilty…both were just as much a slave to sin as the other was…no one is exempt…no one has a Get-out-of-Jail Free card. All human beings are naturally born sinners who seek after the lusts of the flesh and mind.
Sounds pretty grim doesn’t it? We were truly in a sorry condition. I was reminded as I wrote this of the old saying, "I’ve fallen down and I can’t get up". How true that is. How true it is that we are incapable of saving ourselves.
But remember…this letter from Paul is a "Reminder"…a source of encouragement…and here comes the good news. Here comes the hope, the life-preserver, the conqueror, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the one who will free you from the bondage of Satan and set you free and raise you from the dead just as He did Jesus!
For those that have experience salvation, we can readily identify with the marvelous transformation that has occurred in our lives since that day that we accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts. Some even recall the exact day and time of that experience. Others, like myself, can’t remember the day and time, but do remember the overwhelming experience and sensation of being set free from the "old man" and feeling the presence of God consume my very being creating the "new man". I was an undeserving soul that knew his life was out of control and that at some point in God’s plan there is going to be a day of reckoning. A day when He was going to reveal to the world everything I had done in my life. And as I realized what a pitiful condition I was in I fell to my knees and begged for God to forgive me for those sins…I wanted them erased from His book of Life and I wanted His help to keep me from living a life of sin. I wanted Him to know me and be pleased.
But why did God even provide a way to accomplish what I was asking for?
Paul reminds us that…
God Loves Us…"God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us". We cannot read this verse and not immediately think of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life". It is impossible to comprehend the kind of love that God showed us by sending His Son to die for our sins. But He did. We have already seen our sorry condition…nothing could save us except God Himself.
And by sending Jesus to die for our sins, to be the ultimate sacrifice, to be the lamb slaughtered for our sins, a very miraculous and marvelous thing occurred…
God Made Us Alive… " made us alive together with Christ". Even though we were spiritually dead, dead in our own transgressions, God sent Jesus to die for those transgressions. And on the third day after His crucifixion, Jesus arose from the grave and on that very day, that very moment, we were "made alive together in Christ". "You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins (Colossians 2:13-NLT)".
And He not only made us alive in Christ but…
God Raised Us…"raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus". And when God raised Jesus He raised us up at the same time. And we are no longer the outcasts of the heavenly realms and servants to Satan but we now have a seat right next to Jesus Christ at His table in Heaven. We were dead, the walking dead. In spite of that God, because He loved us so much, sent His Son to die a criminals death so that you and I may could be made alive in Him and raised in Him and become His adopted children to the Kingdom of Heaven instead of orphans in the Pits of Hell. "And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you (Galatians 3:29-NLT)". AMEN.
Aren’t you glad that we have a God that loves us so much that He was willing to literally come in the form of a man, be ridiculed, spat upon, rejected, and hung on a cross so that you and I could have life eternal? So that you and I could be saved from not only ourselves but from the clutches of Satan? God did that for us in Jesus and God is the only one who can take credit for our salvation. We come by faith, and God provided the means, Jesus Christ, God provides the Grace. There is nothing we can do or say that can save us. It takes Jesus and God’s Grace.
Humans, being the prideful creatures they are, have a tendency to fall back into our "self sufficiency" mode after salvation and they begin to take credit for the things that are good in their lives, the accomplishments they believe they were responsible for. Well, Paul has just a few more reminders about who should be getting the credit…here are the last of the reminders about our salvation.
Paul reminds us that we were saved…
For God’s Glory…"that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus". God wants us to shine. He wants for us to be a reflection of His amazing Grace and to be a witness to the love, mercy and kindness that He has for His creation...man. By saving us, and changing us in a dramatic way, we became a walking billboard for Christ. Everyone who sees us sees a new creature and that is all to God’s Glory. There isn’t one thing I could have done to save myself. I cannot buy my way in to Heaven, I cannot talk my way in, I cannot work my way in…there is absolutely nothing that I can do by myself or even with the help of a thousand fellow human beings.
I was saved…
By God’s Grace…"by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God". Isn’t this really the amazing part of God’s Grace? We are sinners and God gives us a gift! When was the last time you gave a gift to someone who was a scoundrel? Here we are, dead in sin, spiritually dead, and God decides that He would like to give us a "gift"…the gift of salvation…which results in eternal life, which is a First Class ticket to Heaven. Unbelievable!
And why?…because He loves us. And He knows we cannot do it on our own. He doesn’t want us to be able to do it on our own. He wants us to give Him all the Glory and for the coming ages to give Him all the Glory. He has made it so there is no way to get to Heaven except to accept His free gift…what an awesome God! So…
"Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith (Romans 3:27-NLT)".
As God’s Workmanship…"not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works". We are reminded that our salvation cannot be bought, claimed, or earned by our works. There is nothing that you can do to receive your salvation other than to accept God’s gift. Without God’s Grace there is no salvation. Without Jesus Christ there is no salvation. God has made sure that when it is all said and done, He gets the Glory. "As the Scriptures say, "The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done (2 Corinthians 10:17-NLT)".
Is it important that we take the time to reflect back on who we were "Before" Christ entered our lives? I believe it is. Paul has reminded us that "We were dead…doomed forever because of our many sins". Each of us is doomed until we accept Christ and accept God’s saving grace.
Paul reminded us that we "used" to live like the rest of the world. We lived as the world…we were a part of the world, we didn’t have any choice but to be a part of the world…we were born into it, reared by it and learned to survive in it. Like the human baby raised by a pack of wild wolves…we learned how to survive like a wolf…not realizing we were meant to be something else…a child of God. It wasn’t until we were shown that there was a difference that we realized God has a different plan for our lives. We were not born to be wolves...but that is how we were. We were living worldly, sinful lives and it wasn’t until someone revealed to us the danger in that that we allowed ourselves to be transformed from a pack of wolves into a flock of sheep with Christ as our Shepherd.
God wants to remind you today that whether you have never been saved, were saved yesterday, last year, or 25 years ago…we all have one thing in common before our salvation…we are all sinners…no one worse than the other…we are all Spiritually Dead until we accept Christ into our lives!
Some of us didn’t even realize we were lost. We were just tripping along life’s merry road, thinking life is good, when all the sudden, from out of nowhere, came a tugging on our heart that something was missing, something was wrong. An empty spot appeared where there wasn’t one before. A sense of loss, a sense of loneliness, a sense that all is not well within me. That tugging comes from God via the Holy Spirit and we must heed to that tugging.
Maybe you have noticed that you can be in a room full of people and yet feel alone and helpless. It is that point when God reaches out and says, "It is time to come home now".
Like children playing outside when evening is falling. We would probably play all night without regard for our safety…but be it for our parents reminding us it is getting late…time to come home now.
Can you hear God calling you, "It’s getting late…it’s time to come in now…come home".
As we tarry just a moment…the altar is open. Is God reminding you of something today? Something you have left undone? Someone you have forgotten to forgive? Is He reminding you that it is time to stop running and to come to Him and accept His free gifts of Grace, Jesus and the Holy Spirit?
Have you accepted Jesus already, but you realized that it has been a long time since you felt His presence in your life? Maybe you have forgotten what God did for you back then and have wandered out of His sight. He is reminding you today that He loves you as much today as He did the day you first committed your life to Christ, but He needs for you to come back to Him.
As we leave today, may God go with you…may you remember Him always…for He never forgets you.
The NIV Study Bible,
A Survey of the New Testament 3rd Ed., Robert H. Gundry (1994)
Encountering the New Testament, Walter A. Elwell/Robert W. Yarbrough (1998)
Crosswalk.com(TM) Copyright © 1996-2001 Crosswalk.com, Inc. , http://bible.crosswalk.com/OnlineStudyBible
"Ephesus," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001, http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2001 Microsoft Corporation
The Discerning Eye, Copyright 1996 http://www.the-eye.com/ephesus.htm
Russell Kelfer, Discipleship Ministries, "Grace"