Sermon August 30, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1458

August 30, 2020 Ephesians 2.1-10

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“The Greatest Gift”

 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

 

  • The Walking Dead

 

One Halloween when I was a young lad, I wanted to dress up like a mummy. But I did not just want some cheesy costume from the Greenback store, I wanted to rip some of my mom’s sheets into strips and wrap myself up like all the mummies I had seen in the old black and white movies. Now the crazes is zombies. Some of you may know of the TV show The Walking Dead or perhaps you have seen games that involve zombies. We seem to have a fascination with things like this, the dead coming back to life or somehow the dead becoming undead.

The Bible has another definition of the walking dead, it is those who walk in sin. Paul reminds the believers that they were once dead in their sin. They may have had breath and a heartbeat, but they were spiritually dead. These are people without Christ and the life that only He can give. It is sin that destroys lives. It is the sin that our world ignores or gives other names to in order to avoid calling it what it really is. Sin seeks to end life, always spiritual and sometimes physical. What kills our spirit, our life? According to Paul and the Scriptures – trespasses and sins. It is not the occasional sin we are trying to avoid, but as Paul says it, “in which you once walked”. The implication is one who desire to live in sin as a way of life. These are the “zombies” and “mummies” of spiritual life and death.

Paul gives us three ways that sin manifests itself in a life that walks in this deathly path: the first is by walking in the ways of the world. Now we know that the term walking is used throughout the Bible to speak of living. We cannot live by the ways of the world. Identifying those ways means we must be familiar with biblical ways so that we can distinguish between the two. Learning the way of Scripture, the way of God takes time and effort and energy. It is a life long learning. But there is good news. It is not solely up to our own efforts. God is at work in us to train us in the ways of righteousness (Philippians 1.6; 2 Timothy 3.16). God is at work in our spirit by His Spirit to lead us in His holy ways and away from the ways of the world.

I recently heard someone talking about not letting the slogans of the world dictate how we are to communicate the gospel. I think they were specifically talking about the Black Lives Matters movement which is fraught with complexity that have nothing to do with the gospel and has certainly shown alternative motives in recent months. So, for instance, this person was saying that we need to be careful not to get BLM and the gospel mixed up together. There are many things of the world that we cannot wrap the gospel of Jesus Christ around and expect the gospel to be heard.

 

The second way of becoming the walking dead is following the devil. It was the devil who temped Jesus in the wilderness. It was the devil who deceived Adam and Eve in the garden. It is the devil who goes around like a roaring lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5.8). The devil seeks to lead us away from God and to disobey God’s commandments and God’s way.

 

The third way sin is manifest is through the passions of the flesh. These are our own sinful desire that come out of our fallen nature and the desires to satisfy our yearnings through bodily pleasures. That does not mean we cannot have physical pleasures, but it does mean that we do not live by them nor let them define our lives. This is one of the major problems with sexuality in the world today, people believe they are defined by gender or sex and therefore they can refuse what God has established as male and female. But it also deals with appetites and addictions and selfishness and the like. We are not to obey our thirst or obey our drives that depart from godly ways given us in Scripture.

Three ways we can be led astray: the world, the devil, the self. Some traditions lean heavily on one or another of these. You know how some people claim the devil made me do it. Others fall prey to the temptations of worldly standards or lack of standards. And others blame themselves for everything.

 

Against the ways of the world – Jesus prayed that while being in the world we would not be of the world or tempted by the devil… 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17.15-19).

 

Against the ways of the devil – James speaks of our fleeing from the devil. The goal is to make God’s desires our desires and to resist the devil so that he might flee... “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4.7).

 

Against the passions of our own flesh – Paul writes that we are to flee our passions… “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6.18). See also 1 Corinthians 10.14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

 

  • But God, Rich in Mercy and Love

 

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ

 

Perhaps two of the greatest words in the Bible are BUT GOD. The only way possible to get out of the Zombie apocalypse is through what God has done! The only way to shed the temptations of the world, the devil, and the self is for God to make us alive.

The transition of the passage is something of a metaphor for the transition God works in our lives. In the series called The Chosen, Mary of Magdala offers this line when speaking about her encounter with Jesus, “Here is what I can tell you, I was one way, and now I am completely different, and the thing that happened in between was Him." Of course, this is not in the Bible, but it is certainly indicative of meeting Jesus, that there is a “But God...” moment in our lives when everything is inverted, when everything is changed from being part of the walking dead to being made alive together with Christ. This kind of encounter with God is a “But God” moment. I guess we call it our “come to Jesus moment”. And I believe those moments are not just one time. Yes there is one time when God calls us to Jesus for our salvation and election, but there are many more moments when God opens our eyes to our sin throughout our journey of faith. There are many moments when we are ready to receive greater faith or greater gifts or greater insight and all with greater responsibility. It is much like we do with our children as they grow older we give them more responsibility.

This demonstrates the richness of God. He is rich in mercy, rich in love and rich in grace. He is rich in the things that matter most. Out of that richness is a tremendous generosity to give mercy and love to us by transforming us from the walking dead to the living. This is greatly illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son when the father tells the elder brother, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15.24). It is out of the rich deep faithfulness of our living and loving God that we have received mercy and love for He has completely transformed us.

 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3.18).

 

 

  • But God, Rich in Grace

 

by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing;

 

The other great richness of God is His grace. Amazing grace. We know grace as unmerited favor or God taking toward us an undeserved action to show love when one was not warranted. Paul greatest line to that end in this passage is “even when we were dead in our trespasses”. He says that another way in Romans 5.8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The grace Paul reveals in our reading for today is in what God has done in Jesus. He raised Jesus and He has raised us up as well, first from the deathly nature of sin and then into the living joy of heavenly things. God is revealing to us the immeasurable riches of His grace.

When I read this passage again, I think we all take this for granted. God’s grace is huge, immeasurable, unfathomable, and far exceeds anything we could do for ourselves when it comes to earning anything from God.

There is something else about grace that I discovered this week. Grace is our teacher.

Titus 2.11-12 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Grace as our teacher – saying no to self serving sin, yes to God, to correct us as we would a child. No to the world, yes to God. No to the devil, yes to God. Paul tells us that grace has appeared training us to renounce all the things that would draw us away from God, the world, the devil, or the self (flesh). It is all about God’s grace, everything we have ever learned from the Bible, everything we have sensed from the Spirit, everything we have received from God.

 

 

 

  • The Greatest Gift

 

it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

What might you say is the greatest gift you have ever received from someone else? I’ve received gifts that I did not deserve and gifts that overwhelmed me with generosity and I am appreciative of them all, but none of us have received a greater gift than God’s grace or God’s mercy or God’s love. In fact I look at this passage and see everything that follows “But God...” as God’s gift. To expand that even further, the whole of the Bible is a revelation of God’s gift to us. We sum up all these gifts in the term grace, specifically God’s grace. Grace appears 118 times in the New Testament. Listen to a few of those times:

 

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1.14-17).

 

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8.9).

 

And the Bible ends with this from Revelation 22.21, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

 

It’s all about that grace. It is not our own doing. It is God’s gift, and in that gift we are to live and breath and work. We are to walk in good works because of what God has given us, not out of a sense that we are earning anything, but totally out of gratitude for what God has done and given. Imagine our lives through this passage and let us go forth to give thanks, not taking for granted the greatest gift ever given in Jesus Christ, in God’s great mercy, love, and grace.

 
  September 2020  
SMTWTFS
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   
     
This Week's Events
Bible Search
Contents © 2020 Princeton Presbyterian Church • Church Website Builder by mychurchwebsite.netPrivacy Policy