Summary: Before we knew Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we were alive physically, but spiritually dead.
WE ARE GOD’S WORKMANSHIP
There is a story that I once read when I was in my freshman year of college. There was a man in a mental institution that had the delusion that he was dead. His counselor got sick of the ongoing routine of this man’s delusion. "Eureka," he thought to himself of the solution to cure this patient of his delusion after several failing attempts. He thought that he would prick the finger of this delusional patient and prove to him that he was alive. During his next session with this patient, he pricked his finger in much the same way they do in the field of medicine when they need a small sample of blood for the purpose of running tests. After he pricked the finger of this patient, he thought he might possibly be cured of his delusion as he exclaimed something like "look at there, you are not dead because you can still bleed". To his surprise, the patient responded, "That only proves that dead people can bleed." It is sad that there are many who cannot be cured of the delusions of false beliefs or opinions any more than this man.
We laugh when we hear about the kind of non-sense that this mental patient had---thinking he was dead. In the physical sense of being dead, he was very much alive. He was breathing. He was conscious. He obviously had a pulse. In spite of his delusion of being dead, he was able to speak and reason as well as all of these other signs of life. Yet, in the spiritual sense, if he was in his natural state---in the nature of the flesh, then we could say that he was speaking truthfully.
Before we knew Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we, too, were among the living dead. Before we knew Jesus, we were alive physically, but spiritually we were dead. The world is full of people who are physically alive, but spiritually they are dead.
THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD ARE DEGENERATES
If we call someone a degenerate, then we are saying that they are corrupt. To call someone a degenerate in the general sense is to say that he or she has fallen below what is morally appropriate and proper. To call someone a degenerate in the spiritual sense means that he or she has fallen from their normal condition. If we go back to the story of the Garden of Eden, then we can make sense of the fall of humanity. The fall of both Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden sheds light on how we ourselves had a fallen nature before we knew Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Before they fell, they were created in God’s image. But, when they disobeyed they fell, they fell because the covenant (the bond of their relationship with God) was broken by their disobedience (Hosea 6:7 (quickview) , cf. Romans 5:12 (quickview) , 5:14).
The nature of the flesh is corrupt because of disobedience. Ephesians 2:1-2 (quickview)  tells us about this kind of disobedience: "… you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient" (NIV). To live in sinful disobedience is to therefore live in death. Romans 6:23 (quickview)  tells us that the wages of sin is death. "Sin kills innocence, … ideals and … the will". (William Barclay. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Letters To The Galatians And Ephesians. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975, pp. 97 - 98). If there was an acronym for sin and what it does, then we would do well to say that sin spells disaster in a progressional way. We could say that the "s" of sin stands for subtle. We could say that the "i" of sin represents how sin is invading. And finally, we could say the "n" of sin represents how sin is nullifying. Sin separates us from God and each other. (quoted from my sermon "Called To Reconciliation And To Reconcile").