20161009_keynoteAlive in Christ

Ephesians 2

Apologies: the full audio unavailable, the recorder battery died before the end of the message. Mark blames the preacher. The full transcript is below. 

After dying in a car crash, three friends arrive in Heaven for their induction process. They are all asked the same question: “When you are in your coffin, friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?” The first fellow immediately responds, “I would like to hear them say that I was one of the great doctors of my time, and a great family man.” The second one says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” The last chap. thinks a minute and replies, “I’d like to hear them say…… LOOK, HE’S MOVING!”

Most people will fight “tooth and nail” to stay alive as long as they possibly can in this world. Why? A variety of reasons. We. love this world and If we experienced anything good in life we don’t want to give it up. Also, we are naturally afraid of dying. We don’t know what will happen or how it will happen. And most people are not sure there is another life beyond this one! Some fear hell!  Sadly, many people are already dead and don’t know it. Spiritually dead. Dead to God and Christ, because sin has made them dead. Sin, in its various forms, has a dreadful affect on our world. It has killed people. It has made them dead to real life. It has deadened them to God, Christ and all things spiritual.

What is Sin?  Sin is ‘missing the mark’ – we aim for the bullseye of pleasing God, but miss every time. LEGALISTIC REMORSE SAYS, “I broke God’s rules” WHILE REAL REPENTANCE SAYS, “I broke God’s heart” – Tim Keller. I read a true story about raccoons, as told by a zookeeper in the United States. Raccoons go through a glandular change at about 24 months. After that they often attack their owners. A 30-pound raccoon can be equal to a 100-pound dog in a fight, and when a friend of his kept one, called Bandit, as her pet, he felt compelled to mention the change coming to the animal. She listened politely as He explained the coming danger. “It will be different for me…Bandit wouldn’t hurt me. He just wouldn’t.” Three months later she underwent plastic surgery for facial lacerations sustained after her adult raccoon attacked her for no apparent reason.

In a similar way, Sin is often dressed in an adorable guise, and it is easy it is to say, “It will be different for me.” The results are predictable. Sin can appear harmless and be pleasurable but eventually it will turn on you and mar, often, for life. Actually, sin robs us of the life God wants for us. Sin takes over, controls and makes us into the “walking dead.” But there is an escape and that escape is through Jesus Christ. He alone gives victory over sin.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” and Romans 7:24–25 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  So, the apostle called Paul explains how we become alive in Christ.

1- Dead in sin – That’s us.

2- Rich in mercy – That’s God.

3- Alive in Christ – That’s us.

I. DEAD IN SIN – THAT’S US (at one time)

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. ** Dead, is not good in our context. This text speaks of the walking dead, not like characters from a zombie movie, but human beings who are dead inside even though they are still breathing.

This is a photo of how we all naturally imagine a St. Bernard dog, doing what they are bred for. John Elliot was born in Scotland, and went to Canada after the Second World War. One day in 1949 he was huddled on a cabin floor, slowly freezing to death. It was high in the Rockies in southwestern Alberta, outside a blizzard was raging. He was a park ranger and had walked many miles that day, through the deep snows of the mountain passes. Concerned about avalanches, it was dusk and exhaustion overcame him so he had decided to “hole-up.” He made it to his cabin but was dazed with fatigue. He did not light a fire or remove his wet clothing. As the blizzard blasted through the cracks in the old cabin walls, the sleeping ranger sank into oblivion, paralysed by the pleasure of the storm’s icy caress. Suddenly, however, his dog sprang into action, and with unrelenting whines, finally managed to rouse his near-comatose friend. The dog was John’s constant companion, a St. Bernard, one of a long line of dogs famous for their heroics in times of crisis. The dog nuzzled him awake, and then lay down beside him to keep him warm. “If that dog hadn’t been with me, I’d be dead today,” John Elliott said later. “When you’re freezing to death you actually feel warm all over, and don’t wake up because it feels too good.” This story illustrates the spiritual condition of many people today. They are cold spiritually, and sadly are oblivious of their true condition. Many people are dead and don’t know it!

Back in the terrible era of slavery, an American slave who happened to be a Christian, was groaning, weeping and praying to the Lord for deliverance from the devil. His master said,You seem to have a good deal of trouble with the devil yet he never bothers me at all. You are a good, praying Christian and I am not a Christian. Why doesn’t he bother me?” The slave replied,When you are out shooting ducks, do you send your dog first, after the dead ones or the wounded ones that are trying to get away?” The man replied,Well, of course, I send the dog after the wounded ones. We can pick up the dead ones later, they are going nowhere.” The slave said,And so it is with Satan. He already has those who are not born again, fast and sure. But those who know the Lord are the ones he sends his dogs after. He knows he can pick up the others later.” If you have not given your life to Christ, in faith and surrender, you are essentially dead. The devil already has you in his grasp. It doesn’t take much to lead you down a path of sin because you are already living in it. That is exactly what the first three verses of Ephesians 2 is all about:

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, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Ephesians 2:1–3

The simple truth is that at one time, all of us were dead in our sins. Maybe not as dead as some, but still dead enough! It was manifested as we followed sinful ways our world models, and whether we realised it or not, we were following the ruler of the kingdom of the air who is Satan. In fact, this is everyone’s starting block, being dead in sin.

II. RICH IN MERCY – THAT’S GOD

Let’s look at verses 4 and 5, and 8 – 10 of Ephesians 2: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2: 4–5 and 8–10

God is both merciful and gracious. He is rich in mercy. Mercy means we don’t get what we deserve, which is punishment. God is merciful. And grace means we get what we don’t deserve, which is salvation. Someone said, “The two greatest words in the Bible are: BUT GOD.” Dead in sin, BUT GOD! What is unique about Christianity, against all other religious faiths? Is it that God a human form in Jesus? Nope, there are other religions who believe their god appeared in human form. Is it that the tomb of Jesus was found empty? Nope, their are other religions which have claimed their leader returned from the dead. The story goes that C.S. Lewis walked into a room where this kind of argument was happening between students. In his tweed jacket, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation, he sat down listened to the conversation, by now evolved a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?” Everyone looked at him. “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.” The room fell silent. Lewis continued that only Christianity uniquely claims that God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.

It is true. Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride. And Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions. The Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements for people to be acceptable to him and in Islam God is a God of Judgment not a God of love. Only Christianity dares to proclaim God’s love is unconditional, an unconditional love that we call grace. Christians proclaim that grace really has very little to do with ourselves. It is not about how much inner resolve we have or don’t have. Grace is all about God and God freely giving to us the gifts of forgiveness, mercy, and love. And alongside this mercy of God comes the grace of God. He is rich in mercy, and he calls us to take a path that leads to life which is truly life.

III. ALIVE IN CHRIST – THAT’S US

**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. 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. ** Ephesians 2:4–7 I am alive because of Christ! I’m alive because I am in Christ! I am alive as I continue to walk with Christ! here are words we can shout because are true and they are true. Jesus has made this possible. He is able to and freely gives a life that is more abundant and free.

And people who become alive in Christ get the freedom to do things with their lives that live out the purposes of God as they also live in the power of God. Like William Whiting Borden (1887 – 1913) who was a Christian missionary to Egypt with Samuel Zwemer and the heir to the Borden family fortune. William Borden was a graduate of Yale University in 1909 and of Princeton Theological Seminary, having been converted to Christianity under the ministry of D. L. Moody.

He later decided to become a missionary to the Muslims of China, but died of spinal meningitis in Egypt at the age of 25. After his death, Borden’s Bible was found and given to his parents. In it they found in one place the words “No Reserve” and a date placing the note shortly after he renounced his fortune in favour of missions. At a later point, he had written “No Retreat”, dated shortly after his father told he would never let him work in the company ever again. Shortly before he died in Egypt, he added the phrase “No Regrets.” “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets” in following Jesus and in going to Egypt to do mission work. Why did he do that? Why did he willingly give his life on foreign soil for others? And here’s another story and a question.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5–8

You see, we need to remember the story is this: Jesus left His home in heaven for earth for one purpose only. To seek and to save the lost. Why did He do that? Because God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son so that all who believe in him will not perish but will be given everlasting life. John 3:16. We are made alive because of His great love!  Let’s wrap things up today.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Satan wants to kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life and the ultimate promise of life after death. John 10:1   

W. B. Hinson, was a great preacher of a past generation, who spoke from his own experience just before he died. He said, “I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, ’You have an illness from which you won’t recover.’ I walked out to where I live 5 miles from Portland, Oregon, and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ’ I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!’”  We’re alive now, and shall live forever, and it’s all because of Jesus!