Summary: If we want to live the life God designed for us to live, we must remember where we came from, realize where we are today, recognize how we got here - purely by God's grace.
In 1992, a Los Angeles County parking control officer came upon a brown El Dorado Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day.
The officer dutifully wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the driver's wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the $30 citation on the dashboard.
The driver of the car made no excuses. He didn’t argue with the police officer – and with good reason. The driver of the car had been shot ten to twelve hours before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward, with blood on his face. He was dead.
The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away. (Greg Asimakoupoulos in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching)
Sometimes, we get so preoccupied with people’s faults, we miss the real problem. We write tickets (so to speak), citing people for various offenses, but we don’t notice their real need.
People don’t need a citation; they need a Savior. We ALL do. We don’t help anybody by being critical or judgmental, and we don’t help ourselves by putting ourselves down either. Guilt never works to change lives. Guilt never makes us better people. It can only show us how bad we are.
So then, how can we become better people? How can we become less critical and more compassionate? How can we live the life God designed for us to live? How can we be all that God has called us to be? How can we do all the good things God has prepared for us to do? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians 2, Ephesians 2, where God shows us how.
Ephesians 2:1-2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. (ESV)
The Apostle Paul, a Jew, reminds his Gentile audience where they came from; and if we want to be all that God has called us to be, then we too must first of all…
REMEMBER WHERE WE WERE before we knew Christ.
We must not forget where we came from.
We can’t forget that at one time we were dead in our sins. That means we were separated from God. Death in the Bible always means separation. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of us from God and all that is good, and that was our condition before we trusted Christ.
We were separated from God, because we were disobedient to God. We followed the ways of this world and of Satan himself.
In fact, not only were we pagan gentiles dead and disobedient. The Apostle Paul says that even all the so called “good people” were also dead and disobedient. Notice the subtle change in verse 3.
Ephesians 2:3a Among whom WE ALL once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind…
Even good Jews followed the sinful desires and thoughts of their own hearts. Now, that’s quite an admission for Paul, a so-called “righteous Jew,” to make. He’s basically saying, no matter what your background, if you grew up in a religious home or not, we were ALL separate from God because of our own sin. We were ALL dead in our sins because of our disobedience.
And as a result, we were doomed. We were destined for hell.
Ephesians 2:3b [We] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
That word, “children,” implies an intimate relationship with wrath. At one time, we were not close to God’s love; we were by nature close to His rage against our sin. That was our condition before we came to know Jesus Christ. And even the thoughtful unbeliever recognizes this.
Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and the author of The Science of Good and Evil, writes:
I once had the opportunity to ask Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List, what he thought was the difference between Oskar Schindler, rescuer of Jews and hero of his story, and Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp. His answer was revealing.
Not much, he said. Had there been no war, Mr. Schindler and Mr. Goeth might have been drinking buddies and business partners, morally obtuse, perhaps, but relatively harmless. What a difference a war makes, especially to the moral choices that lead to good and evil.
Shermer goes on to quote Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (Michael Shermer, Something Evil Comes This Way)