Ephesians 2:1-13 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 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. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
If you are a Christian, you have been made alive with Christ.
Great love and rich mercy (verse 4) became the catalyst for you to go from spiritually dead to spiritually alive. Look at it again: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. Can you comprehend that? As someone has said, Jesus didn’t die to make bad people good. He died to make dead people alive.
You were born alive physically but spiritually, you were born dead in your transgressions and sins. We were created in the image of God, but we were born with the nature of Adam and Eve. We need the nature of God in order to express the image of God and in order to fulfill the plan of God for our lives. The sinful nature was passed on to every person who has ever lived, because of Adam and Eve’s sin. I know that can sound strange to you if you didn’t grow up in church or haven’t studied the Bible, but it’s true. Whether you are a person of faith or not, you can see and understand that human nature is evil. We are all born with a propensity to want the wrong things, to be enticed by things that are bad for us and to act on those impulses. That is because we have a sinful nature.
That means we can’t be who we really are as people created in the image of God. It means we can’t be who we were meant to be. It means we cannot become who God created us to become. It means we were born with this potential for a relationship with God, but sin has suffocated that part of our being to the point where it is dead in us. Sin causes separation from God and spiritual death which means it causes separation from God’s design and our current state of being.
A guy who lived over 2000 years ago named Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, came to Jesus to talk about his spiritual condition, and Jesus talked to him in terms of being re-born. Because he was spiritually dead, he had to be re-born. He needed spiritual life which would require a spiritual rebirth to recreate the spiritual nature that was dead.
So, Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:7, “You must be born again.” I’m sure that sounded strange to Nicodemus. I am confident that Nicodemus understood how he had been born into the world in the first place. He knew he had be a nine-month resident inside of his mother’s womb and then made his way through the birth canal into this existence, and I’m sure he thought, “How in the world can I be born again? I’m already here.” But he didn’t write Jesus off as crazy. He listened to the whole discourse. He asked some questions, and he let Jesus keep on talking. And during that conversation Jesus dropped the blessing bomb that changed the course of history and the life of anyone who would be humble enough to believe what He said. He said in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Elsewhere we read that “He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life.” (I John 5:12) Let me break that down for us. Whoever has Jesus, has life. Whoever doesn’t have Jesus, is spiritually dead.
As Nicodemus processed this, he needed to understand that birth was something had had no control over, and it is something a person cannot do for himself. Just as you couldn’t be born on your own the first time without the miracles of conception and gestation, you can’t be born again the second time apart from a work of God. You are physically alive because you have experienced a physical birth. In order to be spiritually alive, you have to have a spiritual birth.
And if you haven’t had a spiritual birth yet, you can be born again today. Because Jesus took our sin upon Himself on the cross, paying the penalty we should have had to pay, and because He rose from the dead to overcome the power of sin, His victory becomes our victory. What kept us from God was sin. Because Jesus overcame the power of sin on the cross, that which kept us separated from God is defeated in Jesus, and His resurrection from the dead enables us to have new life, to be made alive in Him. I honestly don’t know of any better news for us this morning than this truth. If you are a Christian, you are spiritually alive!
If you are a Christian, God has seated you in the heavenly places with Christ.
Did you realize that? Did you realize that you are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus? Sound strange to you? If you are a Christian this morning, I want you to repeat this after me, “Literally, I am here. Legally, I am in Heaven.”
Spiritually speaking, what is Christ’s now is now yours. You have been made alive in Him. You have been united with Him. Think about how when two people get married, that when they are united, when they come together, what is theirs individually becomes each others legally, whether money or real estate. It belongs to the other person because of the union. You and I as the Bride of Christ are the recipients of all Christ has at His disposal. Because He is seated in the Heavenly Realms and is ruling above sin, above Satan, above the things of this world, because we are in Him, we are in the same position in a spiritual sense. We have spiritual authority. We have spiritual victory.
This idea of being seated ought to help us see how secure we are in Christ. I won’t be pushed over. I won’t be knocked down. I am firmly seated in Christ. Scripture gives us many names for Jesus and one of them that is pertinent here is “High Priest.” The Old Testament priests were the ones who made atonement for sin by sacrificing the blood of animals on an altar. It was a temporary means, sort of a band-aid approach, until the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, whereby people could be relieved of the penalty of their sin. It could never give them a permanent victory. It was something that had to be repeated on an ongoing basis by the priests.
Well, Jesus, our High Priest, while on the cross, cried out, “It is finished.” When He said that, He wasn’t saying, “I’m done.” He wasn’t saying, “I give up.” He wasn’t saying, “I’ve had enough.” He wasn’t saying, “I’m finished.” No! He was saying that the work of redemption was now done and would never need to be repeated. No more band-aids. No more sacrifices. No more need for priests to be a go-between man and God. Sin was atoned for, past, present, and future, forever (Hebrews 10:10). Jesus took care of the sin problem forever, and when He did, after He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven He sat down.
This is significant because in the Old Testament temple there were no chairs. The priest never sat down. The lack of a chair indicated that an Old Testament priest’s work was ongoing, unfinished, never complete, but when Jesus sat down, He was saying we were good to go forever because what needed to take place in order to set us free from sin and to keep us free from sin was finished!
Because of Jesus, we can take a seat. Because of Jesus, we can rest in His victory. I don’t have to wonder if I’ll be in Heaven. I don’t have to worry if I am good enough or do enough good to qualify. I don’t have to wear myself out jumping through spiritual hoops to try to impress God. God has said that what Jesus has done on my behalf and on your behalf has taken care of the problem we all deal with, and that I am already seated in Heaven with Him, in a spiritual sense, and one day the rest of my being will catch up to that reality.
The fact that we are described as being raised, as being lifted up is so awesome to me. No matter what happens to you in life, you can respond to it from the position of up. From your position of upness you can be given Christ’s perspective. (Yes, I said, “upness.) Upness give you the opportunity to see things you couldn’t ordinarily see. Listen, even if you feel like you are getting knocked down you are still up because you are up above anything that could truly destroy you.
Look at Ephesians 1:20-22 …God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet…
If this is the position of Christ, and we are seated with Him, we are also above those principalities and powers that seek to cause us harm. If Satan is under Christ’s feet, then he is under ours as well because of our “upness”. I never have to be a victim. I am a victor. This is my reality. I live above the realm of Satan, and I will enjoy it. I won’t be enticed to come down and live a drama-filled, fear-filled, weak and indulgent life because I’m not stooping to that level after having been elevated to the position of being seated in Christ Jesus. Does anyone agree with me this morning? If you are a Christian, you are seated in a place of victory with Jesus.
If you are a Christian, you are God’s workmanship, created to do good works.
Listen, people who have spiritual life, people how have spiritual authority, need to live their spiritual lives to the fullest and for the glory of God. Allow me to remind you of verse 10 of our text: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
You and I are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. The life of Christ is supposed to be expressed to the world through us by the things we say and do. You are to live as spiritual beings in this earthly life in the same way Jesus did. He exerted His spiritual authority and lived to do the will of God.
Maybe we have grown up so much hearing about the grace of God, and, yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but maybe we have emphasized God’s grace so much that we have wrongly convinced ourselves that God doesn’t want anything from us or that He doesn’t want anything more for us than to give us life in Heaven. That’s not what Ephesians 2:10 tells me. We are made alive in Christ, created in Christ, to do good works. This is the plan of God. This isn’t just a good idea He came up with one day. This isn’t an afterthought, like God said, “Now that they are forgiven of their sin, hmmmm what should I tell them to do or become?” No, verse 10 tells us that God prepared these good works in advance for us to do.
We don’t just exist to worship God, but we are here to serve Him, to work for Him, and to help others discover all He has to offer to them through the good works we accomplish.
Matthew 5:16 tells us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Paul said he wanted to magnify Christ in his body whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20-21). He wanted everything he did to point others to the One who had given him spiritual life. In II Cor. 9:8 we are told to “abound in every good work.” In Col. 1:10 we are exhorted to be “fruitful in every good work.” One result of a knowledge of the Bible is that the believer is “thoroughly equipped for every good work” II Timothy 3:17. Hebrews 13:16 tells us that our good works become an act of worship to God.
Our good works become a testimony. They become evidence that we have gone from spiritual death until spiritual life. A pastor told the story about a Christian lady who often visited a retirement home near her house. One day she noticed a lonely man sitting, staring at his dinner tray. In a kindly manner she asked, “Is something wrong?” “Is something wrong!” replied the man in a heavy accent. “Yes, something is wrong! I am a Jew, and I cannot eat this food!” “What would you like to have?” she asked. “I would like a bowl of hot soup!”
She went home and prepared the soup and, after getting permission from the office, took it to the man. In succeeding weeks, she often visited him and brought him the kind of food he enjoyed and eventually she led him to faith in Christ. Yes, preparing soup can be a spiritual sacrifice, a good work to the glory of God. Her good works connected a non-Christian to the grace of God. That is how it works. That is how works works. Are you working? How are you currently serving the Lord? God has recreated you in Christ to do good works.
I love people who know how to re-purpose things; people who know how to take something that was used one way and re-create it to be useful in another way. Look at these repurposed creations:
Someone took a toddler bed and turned it into a potting station. (SHOW PIC)
Someone creatively used a ladder as a shelf to display books. (SHOW PIC)
Take a vintage suitcase, (SHOW PIC) add four spindles to it, (SHOW PIC) and “voila” you have a chair. (SHOW PIC)
I am loving this picture of a man who hung four chairs on the wall (SHOW PIC) and then opened the seats to give him a place to store stuff as well as a spot to hang clothes. That is some amazing re-purposing.
How about these tennis rackets (SHOW PIC) that became mirrors?
Look at this magnificent piano (SHOW PIC) that once played music but that now is a gorgeous place to display books and photos.
This might be the best re-purpose ever. (SHOW PIC) From bathtub to sofa. Wouldn’t you love to meet the person who came up with that re-purpose idea?
Here’s an out of the box thinker: Let’s take some tabs off of soda cans (SHOW PIC) and put them together to make a new purse. (SHOW PIC)
Ever wonder what you should do with your old console TV? Think no further. (SHOW PIC) You can turn that bad boy into your new aquarium!
No longer ride your bicycle? Don’t sell it at your next yard sale. Turn your bathroom sink into this beauty. (SHOW PIC)
And finally, how clever was the person who re-purposed some kids’ skateboards into an outdoor picnic table? (SHOW PIC)
Re-purposed. Re-furbished. Re-made. Sin marred our purpose. God created us with a purpose to fulfill, good works to perform, but sin messed it all up. Sin caused us to perform for ourselves, to perform based on our fleshly, selfish desires. When we were created anew in Christ Jesus, when we were made alive in Christ, God said it was time to re-purpose us for the good works He intended for us to accomplish. He gives our lives a makeover so that we can be used according to His purposes. If you are a Christian, you have an awesome purpose to accomplish through good works you can choose to do every day.
Finally, If you are a Christian, you have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ.
Whether you are a brand-new Christian or you have walked with Jesus for years, when you think about the blood of Christ, allow it to help you remember how far you have come. Look again at verses 12-13: Ephesians 2:12-13 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Can you get a hold of the description of your spiritual journey? You used to be separate from Christ. You’ve come a long way. You used to be excluded from citizenship in Israel (which means you weren’t one of God’s chosen people). You’ve come a long way. You used to be a foreigner to the covenant of the promises of God. You’ve come a long way. You used to be without hope for eternity. You’ve come a long way. You used to be without God in the world. You’ve come a long way. BUT NOW, everybody say, “But now,” in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through His blood. Look how far you have come!
I don’t know if you see the theme in this passage yet or not, but let me point it out to you. You were made alive IN CHRIST, you were raised and were seated IN CHRIST, you were created IN CHRIST to do good works and now IN CHRIST you have been brought near through His blood. These are the amazing opportunities and experiences we can have when we are IN CHRIST. WE don’t get to experience them outside of Christ. Before we met Christ we were in bad shape. Our condition was terminal. There was no way things could be any different, but when the blood of Jesus was applied to our hearts and lives, when all things became new, when the eyes of our hearts were enlightened, when the breath of the Holy Spirit entered our souls, when we began to hear the voice of God and understand the truth of His Word, we who were far off, far out, and in the far country, were brought near to God.
The blood of Christ has made us family. The blood of Christ has given us a home. We aren’t foreigners to the covenants, to the promises of God. We aren’t on the outside looking in. We are never without hope. Never.
I want to do something different for our invitation this morning. I want this large cross to remind us where the blood of Jesus was shed for our sin. I have post-it notes on the cross that are blank. If you haven’t been made alive in Christ, if you haven’t been raised with Christ, if you haven’t been re-purposed for God’s purposes, if you haven’t been brought near through the blood, and you would like to be, I am going to ask that during our song of invitation, which is going to be an upbeat song of celebration, that you just come forward and write your name on one of the post-it notes that are being placed on the cross. We have markers here on the edge of the platform for you to use. While we sing and celebrate all that Jesus has done for us to enable us to be God’s children and enjoy our best possible life, just come and write your name. You don’t have to talk to anyone or do anything up front except write your name on a post-it and go back to your seat. Let God make you alive. Let Him raise you. Let Him re-purpose you. Let Him draw you near.
For those of you who have been made alive and have been brought near, if you are living low instead of living with authority, instead of living with victory, if you are ready to start walking in the confidence of Christ, I invite you to come to one of the altars and write your name on a post-it note that is by the altars and place the post-it with your name on the altar.
If you haven’t been engaged in those good works that God has prepared for you in advance in Christ Jesus, and you want to find a ministry, you want a way to serve, I’m going to ask that you come to the communion table and write your name on a post-it note you will find there. Just leave it on the communion table.
After we finish singing, I’ll lead us all in a prayer of commitment and a prayer for salvation, and we’ll all do that part together.