Summary: God makes us a free offer to bring us back to life. All that’s needed to receive all of the bounty that God offers is to believe his promise, turn away from that rebellion and live. And for those who do that God has good works prepared for us to do, that
How many people here watch House? I love it. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a TV show about a physician. In fact he’s the world’s best diagnostician. Generally the plot line is that someone comes in suffering from a rare and usually life threatening condition and there’s nothing they can do about it. They’re entirely at the mercy of House and his team of physicians and surgeons. Of course House always manages to work it out in the end, but unfortunately that means he’s developed something of a God complex. The patient is doomed unless House can find a cure. Therefore any risk is worth taking if it means House can save them. The people who work with him are driven crazy by this approach because they know very well that he’s not God. In fact he’s far from perfect even if he’s usually right. Still, there is some truth to the plot line. There are times when people find themselves so sick there’s only a doctor and a few nurses between them and certain death. That’s a situation no-one wants to be in.
In fact we don’t want to be in any situation where we have no control over our future do we? Yet that’s the very situation that every member of the human race finds themselves in. Everyone faces the dilemma that no matter how much they try they can never maintain a sufficient level of godliness to please God for more than a few minutes or maybe a few hours at the most. I mean we can’t even seem to break those bad habits we’ve developed: biting our nails, or whistling, or talking too much, let alone making any change that might improve our status before God.
The Dilemma - Our Spiritual Death
When Paul talks about our condition in Ephesians 2 he describes it as being dead. Without God’s intervention, he says, we can do nothing. He 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! We’re in a far worse situation than any of House’s patients. At least there’s something that can be done for them if the medical team are clever enough. But there’s nothing that can be done for us if we’re dead already!
Well that’s a bit depressing isn’t it? It might even be a bit confusing because we’re always being told we need to live a godly life. What’s the point of trying to live a godly life if our spiritual state is beyond redemption?
Well it’s important that we get the order of things right isn’t it? It’s no use putting the meat in the curry before you’ve cooked the onions and the garlic and spices.
Here Paul’s speaking about a time before we became Christians. He’s saying that spiritually, before you became a Christian, you were dead. So what does he mean? Well, this goes right back to the beginning of time, to that very first act of rebellion by Adam and Eve. Do you remember what it was that God told Adam and Eve about the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil? (Gen 3:3) "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? 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 certainly part of that. 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 2 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, the path Adam and Eve set out on by listening to Satan instead of obeying God is still being followed by people. People still do what Satan wants rather than what God wants. 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, that is) 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.