Until being made alive in Christ, every one of us is considered dead in sin. Though physically alive, those who follow the ways of this world and the desires of their sinful nature are described in Ephesians as being spiritually dead in sin. God's grace alone can bring us out of that death and into true life, allowing us to follow His ways and experience His plans for us.
It's good to be with you guys. Some of the greatest theologians in the world have been asked, "What is the truth that has stood out? What is the truth they know? What are they absolutely sure of?" and when backed into that corner, many of them have said, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
That is why I hope we come here every week and gather around the Scriptures and give ourselves to the teaching of the apostles, the teachings of Christ, and the reading of the Scriptures. Just the other day, I was in a circle and someone said, "Watermark has this crazy young adults' ministry, and I hear people just go there to hook up." I was like, "How are you doing? I'm JP. I go there every now and then."
There are a lot of places people could go to hook up, but we read from the Scripture for about 30 to 45 minutes, so that's kind of an expensive price to pay to just meet someone to hook up with. I know some of you are here, and we're glad you're here, and we hope the Spirit of God does something in your life. I also know a lot of you and get to hear your stories all of the time that God is just doing tremendous work in your life.
I love that God is changing the world through the singles and the young adults of Dallas, Texas. I have gotten to see him do it, and I, frankly, with all of my heart (I believe this to my core) believe this is just the beginning. He has just begun to do what it is he is going to do through this town and through this city and through this place through you guys. I hope you're tracking with us through Ephesians. We're back in Ephesians 2.
I read this story in the news. I don't know if any of you follow me on Twitter. I tweeted it out, and some of you responded, "That's crazy." The story happened this month, specifically on the third of this month. Analia Boutet had a child. She was pregnant. She was with child, and she gave birth two and a half months early, and the doctor (specifically, four medical professionals) came around that child and pronounced it stillborn.
A stillborn baby is when a child is born deceased. It is born without life. They determined upon looking at the child she gave birth to that it was stillborn. She was heavily medically sedated and had to remain in the hospital for 12 hours. She gave birth around 10:20 a.m. The child was nailed shut in a coffin by 11:00, so just 30 minutes later in the morgue of that hospital.
She was there for 12 hours, and 12 hours later when she had come to her senses, she had communicated to the doctors that she wanted to say goodbye to her baby. She wanted to say goodbye to her child, so 12 hours later, after the child had been in the morgue for 12 hours, they took her to the morgue because she insisted.
The baby's father actually had to pry open the nailed-shut coffin with a crowbar. Now, they got to say goodbye to her little girl, but then something really crazy happened. The baby cried. Her child, who had been in an icebox in a nailed-shut coffin for 12 hours, who was stillborn, cried and breathed and was alive. This happened! This is amazing.
They took the baby and rushed it to the neonatal professionals. The baby's name is Luz Milagros Veron which means light miracle. Her daughter is still alive today and being nursed back to health in the hospital. They don't know what happened. Some say it's a miracle. Some say malpractice. I don't pretend to know, but here's what I do know. It's an amazing story. Why is it an amazing story? Because there is a gap, a huge chasm, between death and life.
There is a tremendous contrast between that which is dead and that which is alive, and to say that which is alive is dead is crazy, and to say that which is dead is alive is crazy. The Scriptures say this is the journey we've been on, that those of you in the room who have professed faith in Jesus have crossed over from death to life, and today at work, at lunch, when you woke up, when you drove on the interstate or on the highways or the roads or through your neighborhoods, you passed both the dead and the living.
There is a tremendous chasm, but in Dallas it's so blurry, because in Dallas everyone kind of thinks they're a Christian or they're spiritual or they have some kind of faith, but the Scriptures leave no room for this. They say the chasm is huge. It's the difference between heaven and hell. It's the difference between the dead and the living.
Today, we're going to talk about the journey in Ephesians, chapter 2, that says it is our journey from death to life. We're going to talk about what you were, as Paul calls us, what he did (God), and what you do now (our responsibility again). God is going through this plan in Ephesians (Paul's letter to the city of Ephesus). It's this grand plan of God changing the world, God recruiting his people, calling them to know him, assembling the forces, and then putting them to work. You're going to see this progression.
We saw it in chapter 1. To look back briefly, chapter 1 is essentially that God takes sinners (those dead in their sins) and he makes them saints. Then, he connects them or plugs them into the body of which Christ is the head, and they come under his authority. Every single one of you, everyone here, is somewhere in that process.
We're looking at it dead in our transgressions as sinners, and the Holy Spirit is coming into our lives and making us alive. We've been made alive or we have been plugged into a body of which Christ is the head, and we are actively living out our faith and changing the world for his name's sake and for his glory. We are making God famous with our lives, the lives we live (not making us famous but making God famous).
Everyone here tonight… You. I'm talking to you. You are somewhere in that process. All of us. I've just learned through meeting hundreds and thousands of people that we are not the best judge of where we are in that process. We are not the best judge for ourselves of where we are in that process. As I say that, maybe you thought, "I know where I am. I'm alive and plugged into the body and doing work." Probably not many of us say, "I'm dead. I'm on the other side of that."
The crazy thing is some of us are here, and we think we're alive, but we've never even tasted life. The thing we tasted is simply something much inferior and much different (a completely stark contrast) to life, and we've called it life. We're going to be in Ephesians 2, verse 1. "As for you…" Paul is talking to believers, to the church in Ephesus, to his people in this church he helped begin.
"As for you, 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 [Satan] , the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." That's Satan. "All of us also lived among them at one time…" We were all there. "…gratifying the cravings of our [sinful nature] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath." That's us. That's everyone.
My first point tonight is simply you were dead. This is not talking about a physical death but talking about a spiritual death. It's really crazy to think about this idea that we were dead. If we're on this journey to life with God, this journey begins somewhere, and that starting point for all of us is essentially spiritual death. You were not born good. You were not born neutral. You were born spiritually dead.
There should be for every believer in the room a point we look back upon. I'm not talking about a moment or some date with the minutes and seconds or anything, but there should be a time we look back upon when we were dead. "Oh, yeah! I remember I was going to those things like a dog to his vomit (that which seemed right to me)," but Proverbs 14:12 says it ended in death. The way that seems right but leads to death… That was me.
What does spiritual death look like? It is described here by Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus. It says the spiritually dead follow the ways of this world. They invest in this world. Their focus is this world. They're making a kingdom for themselves in this world. The way I've illustrated this in the past up here is I just had this long rope that went all of the way to that wall. I'd say to just pretend like it runs forever and ever and ever and pretend it's a timeline.
There is Adam and Eve and Abraham and Moses and Noah. Then, there's this little bitty red tape, and the line just keeps going. It's a timeline of existence forever and ever and ever. There's this little bitty tape. That's your life. That's your 50 to 80 years. That's what you have, and you can invest that for the tape.
You can live for your life or you can invest it in the kingdom where rust and moth do not destroy, Jesus says. You can invest it in eternity. You can invest your treasures in heaven, Jesus says, or you can invest your trinkets and toys here for yourself and for your name's sake. This is one of the descriptions of those who live spiritually dead. They live for the world.
The second is they followed the Ruler of the Kingdom of the Air. We're going to look at three things they followed. The first is the world. The second is Satan, the Ruler of the Kingdom of the Air. First John 5:19 says it like this. "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one."
The world is under control… We know how this happened. There was the first fall where Satan (Lucifer, who is actually an angel) bows up to God and says, "I can be like you. I can be a better god." God says, "Prove it," and throws him down to earth and says, "You can be god down there. We'll see how well you do."
From the beginning of time he has been leading people astray. He has been running them off cliffs. He has been running them to that which they think leads to life but ultimately leads to death. It's really weird to think there are people around us spiritually dead, and they're being controlled by that which they cannot see and that which brings death. Isn't that weird?
It's almost like sci-fi or something. I'll give you an example of this. Did you know until the late 1800s they didn't know why people got sick? Here's what I mean. They didn't understand there were germs. They couldn't see germs. They're not seen. There was this little hidden world no one could see that contaminated life. When ingested into the human, the human would begin to decay either temporarily, only to be restored or to death.
A true story. Until a scientist came about by the name of Louis Pasteur who said, "I've discovered why people are getting sick…" You may recognize his last name from the process of pasteurizing (that which kills germs to keep it or prevent it from going bad). Louis Pasteur uncovered this hidden world of things that were manipulating us or causing us to get sick and die.
This is much like Satan, a scientific analogy of what Satan does. He comes in our lives and manipulates us and persuades us. Those spiritually dead people follow him. Here's this idea that we're on one team or the other. There are only two teams. There is God's team, and there is Satan's team. God is in this process of making this place new again. He's going to win.
We know how it ends. We've read Revelation. Jesus comes back on his horse as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and defeats the Enemy and builds the new heavens and the new earth. Then, we are here, and we get to live forever with him or we're thrown into the lake of fire with Satan, so Satan is recruiting, but he doesn't really have to recruit. You're born on his side.
Then, God calls some of us to follow him as God recruits his team and builds his team. We're on one of those teams or the other. Like I said earlier, some of us were here forever. My whole entire life I thought I was on God's team only to come to the realization that I was not surrendering to the Holy Spirit in my life and I was following the kingdom of the one who is the Ruler of the Kingdom of the Air. When faced with a decision, I did what I wanted to do.
Some might say I followed my flesh or my sinful nature. That's the third force we follow. You have the world, Satan, and our sinful nature or our flesh. This says in verse 3 that the dead gratify their sinful nature. This is simply this idea: I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to do what I want to do.
I meet with some of you and you'll say this. This is interesting. You'll say, "If God didn't want me to do it, he wouldn't give me this desire," but you open the Scriptures and see you have these desires that are really bad for you. You have these desires which ultimately lead to death. You have a sinful nature, a craving for destruction.
"Oh, wow!" Maturing in the faith means not trusting those desires but yielding or surrendering to his influence, his Holy Spirit in our lives. It says the dead follow their sinful cravings or their thoughts. We give way to our thoughts. Our thoughts rule our lives. Our thoughts control us, but 2 Corinthians 10:5, says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
What kind of thoughts? Lustful thoughts we make obedient to Christ. Desperate thoughts, suicidal thoughts, thoughts that we want to end our lives… Our lives are not our own. It has been purchased by Christ. It belongs to God. We take those thoughts captive. Greedy thoughts… "I need more. I want more. I want to build my kingdom." We take those thoughts captive. Selfish thoughts, self-centered thoughts, and thoughts about us we take captive and conform them and make them obedient to Christ.
I've learned in doing this, and I'm a victim of this as well, that we just think about ourselves a whole lot. I believe personally a lot of mental illness I encounter comes just from self-centeredness, from being too big in our world to where we walk into a room and wonder what everybody thinks about us.
They're talking about us, and the conversation stops, and we know it's because of us. Everybody is going around thinking about us. We relive conversations and we replay game tapes as we lie in bed at night. We think, "If I could have just had that conversation differently, or if I could have just said this or manipulated this or twisted this or pulled this lever or turned this knob."
It's just exhausting! It's not about you. This book isn't about you. It's about something a lot bigger than you. It's about the one who created the world and is claiming it back. He may use you. You may play some small cameo in that, gang, but it's just not about me and it's not about you. It's not about us.
The dead follow their desires. This is portrayed in movies. This plot is played over and over in horror flicks. You know. I'll go here to vampires in Twilight or whatever your deal is. You can go old school if you want. Whatever vampire movie you've seen or like, the vampire is alive, but he's dead, and he has to find blood to drink so he can have some kind of life. He's dead, but he has to satisfy this desire in him. He's controlled by this desire, so he wakes up and seeks that which brings death to his life and to other's lives, but it's all just so he can continue to go on.
I'll go zombies with you. We've talked about this before. They're dead, but they're somehow living. You see them and they're recruiting people for themselves trying to eat hearts or whatever it is that zombies do. They're just trying to find people to devour. There is this clan or this group of folks who are going around moving. They're dead, but they're seeking something they desire.
They're essentially completely and totally controlled by that desire, and it's not dissimilar to us. We wake up. "I have to get promoted. I have to get more. I have to get mine. I have to get her attention. I have to get her to like me. I can't stop thinking about him. I hope he notices me today. I'm so lonely. I'm so afraid. What if they don't like me? What if I get fired? What if this happens? What if that happens? Anxiety controls my life. Whatever I feel and whatever I think, that is what moves me throughout the day."
God says, "No. That's the life for the dead. I have come so you may have life and have it to the full." The Enemy comes to seek, steal, kill, and destroy, but Christ came to give you life. We're just desperate for the next whatever it is (the sinful craving in us). Maybe it's the next drink, the next attention from someone, the next sexual encounter, the next accomplishment for our glory, the next promotion, or the next attaboy from the boss.
This is the description of those playing for the Enemy's team. Let me just say this. When was the last time you really wanted something when you had a craving or a desire and you just said, "No, I'm not going to go after that"? That's when I really realized when I said I was a Christ follower but I wasn't following Christ, because essentially I was following the sinful cravings in me. Whenever I wanted something I went after it.
Then, I read the Scriptures that say, "No. There are those desires that are bad for us." There is the idea that we want something and we refrain from it. We practice restraint. We yield and we surrender to the Spirit of God. The person who goes through life and gets whatever they want is set up for tremendous failure in life.
It's the adult version of My Super Sweet 16. Have you guys seen this on MTV? It's the 16-year-old's birthday, and they always gets the red convertible Mercedes or whatever, and the parents are always so concerned about how they're going to like the party. The party is crazy. Like Cirque de Soleil is there. It's just crazy stuff. There is always a pony, because everybody wants a pony when they're 16, I guess. You feel for this person. You know they are going to be a disaster, a complete and total disaster in life.
Whoever gets whatever it is they want is set up for tremendous failure in life, because at some point, you're going to be called to serve someone else, and you're not going to know how. At some point, you're going to wake up from the dream that it's not about you, and it's going to be a tremendous letdown.
It says in the Scriptures that naturally we are objects of wrath. Here's the idea. God set us up here and said, "I just want you to love me. I created you, and I created you out of the manifestation of my love, and I put you in paradise, and I love you. I just want you to love me." The second he set us down we just ran from him as fast as we can. The second he set us down we were running for the cliff. The moment he brought breath into our lungs we were running for the cliff.
I see this even in my daughters at a young age. Something can well up in there where they can just be defiant and say, "No!" I'm like, "What?" He puts us down, he breathes life into our lungs, and we run to the cliff. For some of us, he says, "You're mine. Come back. Come back. You! Come back." It's this idea that we were all objects of wrath. Naturally by nature we were all objects of wrath, but for God…
He comes. He changes us. Just because you are an object of wrath doesn't mean you have to stay an object of wrath. God is big enough that he changes. You were dead. Then, verse 4. It starts with one huge but. It's a tremendously large but right there. "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy…" What does it mean to be rich in mercy? It means he has an abundance of it. He is wealthy in mercy. He has enough mercy for everyone. He has enough mercy to go around and then some. He is wealthy in mercy.
"…made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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."
My second point is simply this: God made you alive. You were dead, but for God… God made you alive. Who made you alive? God made you alive. Describe God to me, Paul. He is the one who loves you. He is the one who is rich in mercy. The Greek word for mercy is directly translated as undeserved kindness. He is kind beyond what we can deserve. He has given us kindness undeservingly. He is rich in mercy. He has an abundance of it. He is wealthy in mercy, and he's choosing his team.
Most of us have probably experienced this in junior high or high school at some point when we got in a line shoulder to shoulder with two team captains. They're like, "I'll take him. I'll take her. She looks fast. Give me her. He can dunk. You're on my team." They're just choosing. I don't know what you felt in that, like if you were the last one or the first one.
I always got to experience both. If they knew my skills, I was last to be picked. If they didn't know my skills, they were like, "That guy has a pituitary gland problem. He's on my team." I've always been this way. I came out of the womb 6' 7". If they didn't know I had no skills, they were like, "You're on my team." Then, the joke was on them, because they're like, "You've never held a basketball? Okay."
Here's what I'm saying. We pick people and we choose people based on our criteria, either based on our knowledge of their skills or based on some appearance or based on some athletic ability. God does the same thing. God chooses based on criteria. Don't we want to know what that criteria is? He chooses us based on criteria.
Here's the criteria by which God chooses us: his grace. It makes no sense. "Give me the uncoordinated one. I'll take the ugly one. I'll take the pretty one, too, and the fast one and the slow one and the one in a wheelchair and the black one and the white one and the Asian one. Give me her. Give me him. I'll take the smart one. I'll take the dumb one. Come to my team."
"God, what do you see in me?"
"Grace. My Son. The price I paid. Just come here. I have a gift for you. I want to give you life so you might have it to the full and so you can walk in it. I want you to be with me forever and ever. I want to show you my kingdom with streets of gold and all of that. It's even crazier than that. Angels with six wings and hundreds of eyes and voices like thunder. That's how it is where I'm from. Come to my kingdom."
He's just recruiting. He's recruiting the team and defeating the Enemy, and it's all happening. He sits in a place where he sees it (even the finished product). How does he do this? He did this through Christ. This is the gospel. This is Jesus. This is what we celebrated at Easter. This is Jesus Christ dying for your sins in the great exchange of you being a sinner and him paying the price for those sins, dying for those sins, and coming back to life. This is what God did with Christ. With Christ, he made you alive. That's verse 5. God made you alive in Christ.
Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3 that he must be born again. Through Christ there is a second birth. There is this second life. We were spiritually dead, so Christ was made physically dead. Then, Christ was made physically alive, and when we trust in that provision we are made spiritually alive. There is a great exchange there.
It says, "And God raised us up with Christ…" This is verse 6. Colossians 3, verses 1 and 2, say it like this. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above…" Remember to invest not in the world but in eternity. "…where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." We have been raised with Christ. Our minds are with Christ in his kingdom. Then, it also says in verse 6 that God seated you with Christ. Colossians 2, verse 13, says it like this:
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your [sinful nature] , God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the [written code with its regulation] , which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
Remember those forces. You have the Enemy. You have the world. You have your sinful nature. This is what God did. He bought you from the Enemy. Spurgeon was once preaching on this. Spurgeon was famous. He's a famous pastor of old times. He was famous and would often walk the streets of London before the night he would preach a message, so Saturday night.
One day he was walking the streets of London, and he sees a boy with some field birds in a ratty old rusty cage. The boy was flinging the cage around. The birds were shaking and making noises, scared for their lives. Spurgeon goes up and says, "Son, what are you doing with those birds?" He said, "These birds?" He said, "Yes." He goes, "I'm just having fun with these birds. I caught them in that field over there, and I'm just going to have fun with them."
He said, "What are you going to do?" He said, "I don't know. I'll take them home and pull out their feathers. I have a cat at home. He likes to taunt them and play with them. Sometimes he'll bite off their heads." Spurgeon looked at the birds that were scared in the cage. He said, "How much for those birds?" He said, "These birds?"
"Sir, these birds are worthless. They're field birds. You can go catch all you want. I got them right there."
"How much for those birds?"
"I don't know."
"How about a dollar?"
He took the cage and opened the door, and the birds flew free. "I found you. You were dead, but I bought you with Christ." He paid the blood of his Son. It was a very expensive price to give you life. All of those things you did that you are ashamed of you're freed from. He purchased them. He said, "You can't count those against them any longer. They are no longer under your influence. I have bought them from you. They're mine, and now what I have to offer them is they're free. I've opened the door."
You say, "Free from what?" Well, free from the desires of this world. You don't have to want the world anymore because what happened when Christ died for you is you became an heir with Christ, so everything that is Christ's… Whenever you create everything… You know, Christ was there in the beginning. In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh.
When you create everything, it's all yours, so you just became an heir to everything, to his kingdom, the place with streets of gold and all of that. You'll walk on that which is valuable in the kingdom of heaven. That's the kingdom you became an heir to, so you don't have to desire the things of this world anymore.
"What else?" What about the pleasures in us that war against our souls? The Scriptures say they wage war against our flesh. The Spirit makes you aware that there is nothing in this life that is going to satisfy those pleasures. Only God can satisfy those pleasures. If you're not a believer and you're here and you're not a Christian, that's gibberish to you. That's crazy to you, but here's what I would have you consider.
Do you know anyone who has been satisfied? Have you ever met the guy who says, "I've just had enough sex, and for the rest of my life I'm done having sex"? Have you ever met a guy who says, "I have enough money. I have all I want, and I'm done, so I don't want to make another dollar"? Have you ever met a guy who says, "I have enough trinkets and treasures and things and toys, so I don't need anymore"?
Have you ever met that guy? No. You could cram all of the stuff into that void of pleasure and nothing is going to fill it except for God. You may have met the Christian or the believer or the Christ follower who says, "I'm content. I don't need more. I don't need less. Do with me whatever you want. Burn me up, if you please. I'm his. He has me. I don't care what they think of me. I don't care what they do to me. To live is Christ and to die is gain. I'm his."
All of a sudden you start auditing things. Maybe not as many people are as alive as I thought. Maybe more people are dead than I thought. As I run the tape in my head, everybody wants more stuff, and everybody wants more things, and there are not that many people who are satisfied in God. You're here, and you're like, "I don't know." Just beg him for mercy. He has abundant mercy. He has a lot of mercy, so beg him for mercy. Seek him. He can…I promise…make you alive.
The last point I'll end with is that we were dead, and he made us alive, so we must live. You must live life to the fullest. Wherever you are in your work or your play, wakeboarding, skateboarding, writing poetry, journaling, blogging, shopping… Whatever it is you do, do it to the fullest for him. Live it for him. Verse 8 is a recap, a beautiful verse. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works…" Not by what you've done, not by obeying sacraments or reading or spending quiet time or being in community or by praying or whatever it is you do…
"…not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's [workmanship] …" The Greek is masterpiece. We are… You are his work of art. "For we are God's [workmanship] , created in Christ Jesus…" He made us alive in Christ. He raised us with Christ. He has seated us with Christ. "…created in Christ Jesus to do good works…" The Greek, literally, is to walk through the good works "…which God prepared in advance for us to do."
We hold this life loosely. We use our freedom to walk through the works he has prepared in advance for us to do, that he has made you uniquely to do (some problems for you to solve or some ways for you to change the world), and all you have to do is lose yourself, gain Christ, and walk in them. Walk in those works.
One question I ask a lot is, "If you were to stand before God and he asked you this question…" I don't think this literally would happen, by the way, but it's a great clarifying question. If you were standing before God and he says, "Why should I let you in?" what would you say? I'm asking. Get a thought in your head as to how you would answer that. If God says, "Why should I let you in?" what would you say?
What I hear so often… The first response is, "That's a good question." You'd better believe it's a good question. The second response is, "Because I've tried hard. Because I tried to live a good life. Because I wanted to do right. Because I knew him. Because I loved him. Because he loves me. Because I wanted to honor him. Because I tried to honor him." Wrong! If it were any of those things, the gospel (the death and the resurrection of Jesus) is completely and totally irrelevant. It didn't need to happen if you can.
God says, "Why should I let you in?" and you say, "Because of me or because I," then what you're saying is, "God, it wasn't good enough. What you did wasn't good enough. You didn't need to send Jesus to die for me. I didn't need it. I could have just tried and gotten into heaven. I could have tried to live a good life and gotten into heaven. I could have done good things and gotten into heaven. I could have just loved you and gotten into heaven. You didn't have to send Jesus to die for me. The gospel was irrelevant. You wasted your time on the cross."
But for God… He didn't waste his time because it took a perfect sacrifice dead to give you life. He raised him from the dead to show you he's bigger than death to give you life. You are his masterpiece. We don't gather here to celebrate that we're good or that we're clean or that we have it figured out.
We gather here to celebrate that we're not good and we're in desperate need of a Savior, so God sent us one. We gather here today because we realize we're not clean, so God cleaned us. It took him. That's why we gather. That's why we celebrate. But for God… The work of God… It is by grace you have been saved.
I love that it says through faith. It's this idea that we receive grace through faith. Grace is God's greatest blessing. Faith is us trusting him. We receive God's greatest blessing by trusting him. If that's true, I always wonder why we don't put ourselves in situations where we have to trust God more and why we always have to store up abundance and why we always have to have more than what we need and more than our fair share.
I believe the freedom God came to give us is freedom from having to use all of our resources on us, freedom from having to think about us all of the time, freedom from constantly worrying about what everybody else thinks about us, freedom from being afraid of losing our jobs, freedom from being afraid of what others think, freedom from being afraid of how we might live in this world as strangers and aliens in contrast to a dark night like stars, Paul says, in Philippians.
God set you free from that, so walk in the freedom, freedom from the distractions of this world, freedom from the voice of the Enemy, freedom from the desires of your flesh. Christ died to set you free. This morning we sang a song called, "Where Would I Be?" at staff prayers. Staff prayers is this amazing time of us praying for you guys and praying for tonight and praying for our staff and for our elders and our leaders. We just sang this song, "Where Would I Be?" It's Patrick Ryan Clark's song. We've sung it here many a times.
Then, we just went around, and the staff of a church in America began to share where they would be, and people said, "Divorced." People said, "I would be in prison because of my crystal meth addiction," or "I would be on abortion number three." People said, "I would be an alcoholic enslaved to the bottle." I said, "Well, it's about 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday. I would be waiting for the strip club to open, having an ex-wife who hated me and two kids who I didn't get to see but for the weekends."
Where would I be but for God? This is what he did. In John 5, Jesus tells the account of a man lying by the pool of Bethesda. The pool of Bethesda was in Jerusalem, and they were known as a place where people would find healing. It was believed and it was the superstition of the time that angels would come down and stir the waters, and the first one in the pool would be healed.
Around the pool were the deaf, the mute, the blind, and the lame. There's this guy who is crippled on a mat. Jesus walks up to him and says this question: "Do you want to get well?" Do you know what he says? He doesn't say, "Yes, Lord. Heal me." He says, "But when they come and stir the waters, everyone jumps in ahead of me and I can never get in on time."
"I just need help. I just can't, Jesus, beat this pornography thing. I can't stop spending money I don't have. I can't stop thinking about her. She's with him, and I just feel bad. I can't stop thinking about him, and I really want that job, and my boss doesn't notice me."
"Do you want to get well?" Jesus responds, "Get up!" There's an exclamation point in the Scripture. "Take up your mat and walk." What does he say to do? Did he say, "Get up, take up your mat, and go tell everybody about me," or "Get up, take up your mat, and follow these rules," or "Get up, take up your mat, and do these things like one hour of quiet time, prayer, and community"? No. "Get up, take up your mat, and walk."
We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. We walk. The Greek is that we literally walk in the works which God has prepared in advance. Wherever you are, you're all there, and you're all God's. He brought you to life, so live fully there. Represent him fully there and hold this world loosely. It doesn't matter what they think of you. It doesn't matter. Get over it. Live this life fully for him and go to the place where people have life and where people live.
How crazy would it be if that mom pulled that baby out of the morgue, pried open the coffin, and the baby cries and breathes, and she shut the coffin door and put it back in the morgue? That's not where people who are alive belong. That's where people who are dead belong. So often, like a dog to his vomit, we return to death.
We run in those circles where death happens and where death is. We run to be with the dying not for the purpose of making them alive but for the purpose of being dead with them, to do that which seems right to a man or a woman but in the end leads to death. I love this verse in John in chapter 5, verse 24, in the same place with the pool of Bethesda. He says, "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be[condemned]but has crossed over from death to life."
They're going to come up and sing a song over you. As they do, I just want you to think about the death you've been delivered from. What is the death you've been delivered from? Where are those places where you go where there is death? Places of anxiety, places of worry, places of lust, places of drunkenness, places of the world, places of materialism, places of greed, places of jealousy, places of obsession with self. What death have you been delivered from? Let me pray.
Father, we acknowledge we were dead. God, to make us alive you paid a tremendous price. Father, we thank you for the sending of your Son, for it is by grace we have been saved through faith, and even this is not of ourselves. It is your gift to us. You have awakened our souls. You have turned our hearts and our minds to you. We ask for you to turn our hearts and minds to you. As this song is sung over us, Lord, would you bring to mind those places of death we visit, and would you free us from them? Because you are God.
It says to strip away all of me, but Christ in me, and I promise… I don't know what you believe about the Bible, but my guess is the answers to that question would be all over the map, but I know some of you here believe it's true and that it's God's Word. What it says is that God comes into your life, and he has brought you from death to life and he's going to use you.
He's going to use you to make this place he has intended, to bring his kingdom here, and all you need to do is get out of the way to remove you from the equation so that Christ in you would be inserted, that he would go and he would do these things. If you want something practical to do, leave this place and get a paper and a pen and just journal, "Where would I be if God didn't make me alive?"
For some of you, what you're going to realize is that it's right where you are. That doesn't have to be this ugly picture. It might be, "I have so much stuff in my life that I'm completely distracted from God. I can't even see him past me." Pray that very scary prayer. "God, remove all of the things in my life that distract me from you," and he will. He'll do that.
Plead with him. "God, remove all of the things in my life that distract me from you. Father, live in me and do amazing things for you. If no one notices me for your name's sake, that they would notice you." We don't have much time left. I don't mean tonight because I went long. I mean in life. I don't know (20, 40, or 2 years). I don't know. You don't know. Right?
But I know he paid a great price to make you alive, so life fully, completely, totally, and radically for him and learn the Scripture and write it on your heart. Bring your Bible to this time, and let's study the Word of God together. We're going verse by verse through a book. Write in the margins. Take notes. Know it. Memorize it. Memorize Ephesians 2:8, 9, and 10, and live according to them.
I love you guys. I love you guys so much. Let's change this place for his name's sake, for his glory, and for his honor by his power, by his courage, and by his Spirit. Let's do it. Let's leave a mark not for us but for him so when he comes to finish the process he doesn't have to touch that which we already have.
He can say, "Brandon, Fred, Kelly, or Jennifer has already been here. They've already done the deal. They've already made visible my kingdom in this place." Go in peace and love and serve the Lord. I'll be in here. If we can pray for you, we'd love to do that. If you're here in search of community, the Open Community Group will be right here in this room over here. You're welcome to hang out over there. Go in peace and love to serve the Lord.