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 is to believe his promise, turn away from that rebellion and live.
Well, the academy awards have been announced. The beautiful people have been down the red carpet. And it’s all over. Did you watch it or just catch up on the news the next night? How many of you had seen all the movies that were up for awards? How many of you managed to pick the winners? I know that Di & I had a go at it and maybe got 1 or 2 right but not many. Actually, we haven’t even seen the top movie yet so we didn’t pick that one. But let’s face it, as important as the TV channels try to make it, it won’t actually make a bit of difference to the state of the world who won and who lost.
Still, there’s been lots of excitement and probably a fair bit of disappointment because with something like the Oscars there can be only one winner. The academy awards are meant to choose the actor or the film, etc., with the greatest merit. It’s an award for the best of the best; beyond anyone of us ordinary people simply because we haven’t had the training or the opportunities that you need to get somewhere in Hollywood. But you know, there’s an award going around that’s available to anyone, independent of their merit.
In fact that’s a very good thing because the prize I’m talking about is so far beyond our reach that we could never even get close. What’s this prize? It’s life with God. Let’s look at Ephesians ch2.
The Dilemma - Our Spiritual Death
Paul begins the chapter by talking about the dilemma we face as human beings. He describes us first of all as being dead. Without God’s intervention, he says, we can do nothing. He begins, “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived.” Here’s our problem: if we want to be good enough for God we need to change the way we behave. But you can’t change your behaviour if you’re dead. You can’t do anything if you’re dead! 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, the garlic and the 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. What does that mean? I don’t feel dead. I did feel close to it after the working bee last week, but I soon got over that. No he isn’t talking about our physical state, he’s talking about our spiritual state. 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, though 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. Just like Adam & Eve 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 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.
How many of us can say we’ve never been ruled by our passions? That may even be 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. It’s sad, isn’t it? But we find ourselves ruled by our desires and passions far too often.