Sermons

Summary: Those who are outside the people of God are in rebellion against Him and are therefore spiritually dead. But God makes them a free offer to bring them back to life. All that’s needed to receive all of the bounty that God offers is to believe his promise,

I guess everyone in the world is aware that not all is right with either the world or themselves. If I were to ask you to name 3 things that were wrong with the world, I imagine that most of you would answer within a few seconds. If I were to ask you the same question about yourself you might take a bit longer depending on whether you were asked to admit it out loud or not. But let’s say all you had to do was think of 3 things you’d like to change about yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone, just tell yourself. - Well, have you all come up with 3 things? My guess is that it wasn’t very hard. None of us find it hard to come up with things that are wrong in our lives, whether it’s a bad habit like biting our finger nails, or talking too much, or not talking enough because we’re a bit shy, or whether it’s something a bit more serious like an addiction, or some sort of mild neurosis. We’ve all got something that annoys us or worries us about ourselves. But of course the problem is that as easy as it may be to identify our faults, it’s much harder to change. One of the growth areas of our world today is the field of psychology and psychiatry. More and more people pay more and more money to experts who offer hope of change and self improvement. Some manage to effect changes while others fail.

The Dilemma - Our Spiritual Death

But the difficulty becomes even greater when we think about our ability to please God; our ability to change sinful habits for good ones. What we find is that without God’s intervention, we can do nothing. Today’s passage from Ephesians 2 explains why. Paul says, "You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived." Well, of course you can’t change your sinful habits if you’re dead. You can’t do anything if you’re dead! That’s why it’s so important that we don’t put off doing important things until later in our lives. Because we don’t know when our life might end and then it’ll be too late. But Paul isn’t saying you’d better do something about living a godly life before it’s too late. No he’s actually saying the opposite. He’s speaking about a time when we weren’t Christians and saying that spiritually, before you became a Christian your life had never actually got started. He says that before you became a Christian you were dead. So what does he mean? Well, I think what he’s talking about goes right back to the beginning of time, to the very first act of rebellion, by Adam and Eve. What was it that God told Adam and Eve about the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil? (Gen 3:3 NIV) "God said, ’You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, or you will die.’" But they did eat it didn’t they. And what happened? Did they die? Well, not physically. We’re told that Adam lived for 930 years before he died, and then, presumably, he died of old age. No, the death God warned them of wasn’t just physical death, although their eventual death was surely part of it. No, the death he spoke of was a spiritual death. It was a death to the ability to do what was right. A death to the ability to please God in all things.

As we read on in Ephesians we discover more of the reason for this. He describes their life as following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that’s still at work among those who are disobedient. That is, they were led by Satan rather than by God. Now you might think that’s a bit harsh. After all not many people actually deliberately follow Satan. But listen to how he continues (v3): "All of us once lived among them (those who are disobedient) in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses." That is, our desire was to please ourselves rather than God. That’s how we followed Satan. Our desires and passions ruled us. How many of us can say we’ve never been ruled by our passions. Perhaps that’s your normal experience. Our passions and desires are very strong forces aren’t they? Just think about how you act when you lose your temper: the things you say that you would never say at other times; the way you’re happy to hurt those you love the most. Yes, sadly we still find ourselves ruled by our desires and passions, far too often. And what was the result for those who lived like this?. "We were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else." That is, our very nature meant that we were under God’s judgement. This is the trouble with those people who claim to be good people; who claim to live a pretty good life. Although they do do things from time to time or even habitually that are good, even godly things, they can’t overcome their basic nature, which is flawed. We all know people who are really nice, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, whose mouths butter wouldn’t melt in. But even they, believe it or not, are ruled by their desires and passions if they’re not ruled by Christ. Even they get carried away by anger or desire or covetousness or a desire for power, or some other vice, from time to time.

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