May 5, 2013 Ephesians 2:1-10  Listen
Living Contrasts: From Death to Life in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
The Greek of this passage only contains 2 sentences, divided into three sections.  Last week we looked a sober and fair assessment of lost people in verses 1-3 and introduced the jubilant initiative of God in verses 4-7.  This week we will continue with the second section and look at the outworking of our response to God’s grace.

Section 2: A Jubilant Initiative of God (verses 4-7).
The main subject and verb of this passage is “but God … made us alive.”  This literally means He gave us life.  He regenerated us at conversion, takes us from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive.  Just as Christ was physically dead because of our sin and made alive in His resurrection by the power of God, so we too are also promised a physical resurrection from the dead, and in Christ’s life we are spiritually made alive if we turn from our sin and place our faith alone in Him.

God does this by his grace (repeated in verses 5 and 8).  Grace stands opposed to any idea of human work to earn or deserve salvation.  It is God’s free and unearned favor given to those whom God chooses. 

This grace is an enduring grace that will last through all future ages.
Section 3: The Christian’s Divine Consistency (verses 8-10).
Reports on charitable contributions reveal that there are a lot of “do-gooders” in our culture.  Sadly, most of these probably give in hopes of making it to Heaven because of their good works.  This has been the pitfall of religions since the Fall.  The burden of getting yourself to Heaven is truly an agony; we will never measure up to one another, let alone a holy God.
The Bible teaches that faith and grace are inseparable twins, both worked in one’s heart by the Lord alone.  Instead of working to earn God’s favor, we must trust the good work of One, Jesus Christ. 

This new reality of being alive in Christ transcends natural explanation.  God’s purpose was to create a new humanity out of Jew and Gentile.  In this realm, human works count for nothing; only Christ’s work is sufficient to save.

As God’s supernatural workmanship, we are re-created to do multiple good works (verse 10).  We now do these naturally as a demonstration of grace, not to earn grace but because we already have God’s favor.  Our good works are always for the glory of God and the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All these works are underpinned by God’s grace and not our own effort. 
Application Points
  •  Are you a “do-gooder”?  There is nothing wrong with charitable giving, unless you are hoping to earn Heaven with it.  God’s grace is something we will never earn, but it has been freely offered to everyone through Jesus Christ.  Will you turn from your own works and throw yourself fully on His mercy?
  • As a Christian, created and re-created by God, why are you in this world?  It is not merely to stop living in sin, but so that others may see your divine consistency and glorify your Heavenly Father.  Whether you are working hard at your job, caring for your home, or anything in between, everything you do is attached to a divine opportunity.  Do you remember that as you go about your busy life?
  • Life in our culture is exhausting.  Does your strength come from your own effort or God’s grace?  Divine ability will always support one pursuing a divine goal.  How can you flip your perspective and rely on Him this week? 
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Romans 3:23 – Summary of a sober assessment of the lost.
  • 2 Corinthians 15:22, Colossians 2:13-15 – Physical and spiritual regeneration. 
  • Romans 3:21-26, Romans 5:15-17 – God’s grace.
  • Hebrews 11:6 – Faith, grace’s inseparable twin.
  • Psalm 19, Genesis 1 – God’s creation initiative.
  • 1 Peter 2:12, Matthew 5:16 – We do good works to advance the Gospel.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “How Firm a Foundation”
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”
“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all Hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
April 28, 2013 Ephesians 2:1-10  Listen
Living Contrasts: From Death to Life in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
Paul often describes our lost state to set up a contrast with our new life in Christ. 
The structure of this passage reveals its main points.  The Greek only contains 2 sentences (verses 1-7 and verses 8-10) but three sections.  This week we will look at the first sentence, which outlines two different states of being: lost and saved, dead and living.

Section 1: A sober and fair assessment of the lost (verses 1-3).
Paul simply states the facts of the lost condition without any hostile attitude.  The truth is that a lost soul is like one wandering around aimlessly in the darkness and smut of sin, hopeless and in fear of death.  Any life outside of Christ is one of darkness, no matter how many good things one can do because we are made in God’s image.

Three powerful influences govern an unsaved life: the world, the devil, and the flesh.  The world is the age in which one lives. 

The devil or Satan is a definite spirit who is the prince of the world.  As ruler of a realm, he is leader of an organized structure whose purpose is to perpetrate evil.  Their influence is universal because their numbers are so great.  Satan is a powerful influence at work in all those who are disobedient to God. 

The flesh is one’s inner inclination to sin.  The unsaved person has no ability whatsoever to curb their appetite for sin.  There is some sin that they can’t help but constantly indulge, until God steps in.
A Note on God’s Wrath:
Many misunderstand God’s wrath, even among His people.  God’s wrath is not impersonal – He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked person (Ezekiel 33:11).  It is not vindictive – He punishes all the disobedient justly.  It is not unbridled or unrighteous revenge – He repays evil with a plan and rationality, after extending many opportunities to respond to grace (Romans 12:19).  It is not an outburst of passion.  It is not an attribute that’s outside of God – He is thoroughly wrathful just as He is thoroughly loving and merciful; He is not divided in nature.  A finite mind cannot explain it, but God’s wrath is never opposed to love and mercy.

Only a God who is purely wrathful can know and offer an antidote to “the children of wrath.”
Section 2: A jubilant initiative of God (verses 4-7).
The main subject and verb of this passage is “but God … made us alive.”  We also see the most important prepositional phrase of Ephesians – “with Christ” – repeated three times in these verses.  Our salvation had nothing to do with us.
God’s saving initiative originated in His own great mercy and love.  God acts out of His own kind nature.  God’s mercy or lovingkindness is His unwavering loyalty in love.  He is infinitely committed to what He has promised in Christ. 

At the moment we were born again, God gave us the complete ability to walk consistently.  We were made alive, raised up, and seated together with Christ, all at the moment of salvation.  We have union with Christ for all eternity.  Our resurrection and place in Heaven are guaranteed through Christ.
Application Points
Why should Paul review our former lost condition?  God knows our condition, our enemy, and our tendency to slip back into particular sin.  Reviewing what used to dominate our lives humbles us and reminds us that we cannot walk this journey alone.  Because we wrestle with spiritual forces of darkness, we need help from the right spiritual force: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). 

Are you struggling with assurance of your salvation?  Review your fellowship with God: Have you been reading the Word?  Praying?  Worshipping?  Are you connected to a discipler and the body of Christ for accountability?  Correct these things so that Satan will not have his way and hinder your growth!
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Jeremiah 17:9 – No one knows their own capability for wickedness.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Satan seeks to blind human eyes to the Gospel.
  • Romans 5:12-14, Romans 8:6-8 – Everyone is born with the flesh, making it impossible to please God.
  • Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:17-31, Colossians 3:5-9, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – ‘Big’ and ‘little’ sins are listed as equal.
  • Exodus 34:6, Psalm 103:8, Jonah 4:2, Micah 7:8 – God’s kind and gracious character.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of Thy redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by Thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for Thy courts above.
April 21, 2013 Ephesians 1:15-23  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 3 — Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ.
Pastor's Notes:
Paul continues to pray for believers’ understanding of who they are in Christ to increase.  As we pray the same for each other, it will be answered because it is the revealed will of God!  God is very proud of His Son.  He loves and longs for people to know more about His Son, and to keep learning more of Him forever.

A bamboo shoot can grow amazingly fast, but it takes 2 years developing an extensive root system before it even sprouts.  So it is with our Christian growth – the more rooted we are in knowledge of our Savior, the more stable and consistent our growth will be. 
Three Things to Pray that We Would Grow in Knowledge Of:
God’s Method of Saving Us (verse 18).
To understand our riches in Christ, we need to know more about the reality behind theological words like election, predestination, and foreknowledge (verses 3-14).  Stability comes with the spiritual nourishment of ever-deeper learning in Christ and resulting growth.

“The hope of your calling” – The Holy Spirit effectually calls people to repentance and salvation.  Your hope is as certain as your salvation is sure. 

Your spiritual strength will atrophy if you don’t exercise your mind on who Christ is and what He’s done for you.  We will spend the rest of our lives learning about everything that happened to us at the moment of salvation.  There is more to learn about our riches and inheritance in Jesus Christ than there is in a 1600-page tax textbook, and ours never changes!
God’s Supremacy (verse 19-20).
The words power, working, strength, and might are used as synonyms in this context to underscore how powerful God in Christ is to save you.  It is a transforming power that not only saves but gives you the ability to stand out in stark contrast to a dark culture.  Tempting desires lose their appeal when you are walking in the Spirit.

No one can imagine or explain how much power it took to raise Jesus from the dead.  It is a surpassing greatness of power.  We are so amazed and grateful for the privilege of experiencing resurrection power at work in our own lives.
The more you know about Christ’s power in you, the more stable, joyful, and hopeful you will be, and the more positive impact you’ll have on those you are leading.
God’s Person (verses 21-23).

God exists far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion.  These are four more synonyms in this context.  Later in the book, the same words are associated with demonic influence (Ephesians 6:12).  Jesus’ name is greater than anyone in our present culture or any evil power that will reign during the Tribulation age to come.

Christ is given to the church as her head.  We have been given a complete saturation of Christ; we can never be more full of Jesus than we already are. 

Strange as it sounds, Jesus can’t live without us.  A Head can’t exist without a body.  What is a Shepherd without sheep?  What is a Vine without branches?  What is a Bridegroom without a bride?  And we certainly cannot live without Him.
Application Points
  • Meditate on the myriad of blessings we receive in Christ through prayer.  We have been granted access to God’s throne room and the full attention of our Creator.  We learn God’s will through prayer and receive grace to do it.  Let these realities incline your heart to pray more.
  • Pray for this church and the believers around you to grow in their knowledge of who they are in Christ.  This is a prayer God longs to answer.
  • The less we know of our Savior, the more inconsistent and unstable our growth will be.  Is your life characterized by stability, joy, and hope?  Have you found yourself trapped by a particular sin?  The answer is found in praying this prayer and continuing to learn of Christ.  Regardless of your position in this spiritual journey, you need to keep learning and growing!  How can you increase your knowledge of Christ, His salvation, and surpassing greatness, this week?
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
John 17, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 18:1 – Reasons to pray.
Ephesians 5:11, Galatians 5:16 – God’s power to protect us from the unfruitful works of darkness.
Matthew 28:17-20 – The purpose of Jesus’ power being given to the church.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “My Faith Has Found A Resting Place”
My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed.
I trust the ever-living One;
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt.
A sinful soul I come to Him;
He’ll never cast me out.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s Name,
Salvation through His blood.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me!
April 15, 2013 Judges 13  Listen
During the time of Samson in the history of the nation of Israel, God's merciful providence even superintends His people's lethargy.
April 7, 2013 Ephesians 1:15-23  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 3 —Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
Paul continues his prayer that we started looking at in verses 15-16.  In these verses, his prayer turns from thanksgiving to request for the Ephesian believers, that they would continually understand more of all they were given in Jesus Christ the moment they were saved.
This morning, we looked at 2 of the 3 things that Paul wanted the Ephesian believers to understand:

The Greatness of Gods Salvation Scheme (verses 17-18).
The Hubble telescope recently discovered the most distant light from earth known to humanity: it is 13 billion light years away, or 13 billion times 6 million miles.  This is humanly incomprehensible and awe-inspiring.  But Scripture tells us that our value and who we are in Christ is far more incomprehensible than that!

We will spend all of eternity continuing to learn about the riches we have received in Christ.  Paul’s prayer is that we at least begin this process now.  All believers, whether newly or long- saved, weak or strong, have the same measureless inheritance in them.  As we grow in knowledge of these riches, that is how we mature in the faith.  We got all we needed of Jesus at salvation; now we go out and live in His strength. 
Paul prays for “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation.”  What do each of these words mean?  It’s important to know that this is properly translated “a spirit,” meaning a disposition or attitude.  Wisdom is applying biblical knowledge to life, and revelation is a grammatical synonym here indicating God’s Word.  Paul prays that believers would be inclined toward learning and living wisdom through God’s revelation.
Verse 18 mentions “the eyes of your heart.”  In Pauline language, the heart referred to the center for knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom.  He is not talking about the center of the emotions.  Information and doctrine must come first, and then joy will follow through doing what you know.  Emphasizing primarily emotions is dangerous.
The phrases “the hope of His calling” and “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” refer to the riches listed earlier in Ephesians 1:3-14.  The only way you will even begin to thoroughly learn these is through personal study of your own; attending church, even 4 times a week, will simply not do it.
The Greatness of God’s Supremacy (verse 19-20).
Synonyms in these verses are power, working, strength, and might, which we will explain more next week. 
God’s supremacy is shown in the resurrection, our miraculous salvation, and how God’s people live distinct from the culture. 
Application Points
  • How spiritually mature are you?  Our ability to walk with God has everything to do with how much we study Christ, and the only way to do that is through the Bible.  How consistently are you in the Word?  How can you improve your personal Bible study?
  • How much do you know and understand of the riches of inheritance that we have in Christ?  Again, this happens through personal Bible study and additional learning outside of regular church services.  Consider taking a GLBI class this year to aid your own study.
  • Does your life show that you live in resurrection power?  In a secular workplace or educational environment, how are you distinct?  Pray that you would understand and live more and more of God’s surpassing power.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Matthew 5:3 – a disposition of Christians.
  • 2 Peter 1:3 – There is nothing we face spiritually that God hasn’t already equipped us for in Jesus Christ.
  • Luke 24:31-32 – The disciples’ hearts burned when hearing information, but they couldn’t understand the significance without the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment.
 A Hymn to Encourage:  “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”
All hail the power of Jesus' name! 
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all. 
Ye chosen seed of Israel's race,
ye ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.
Let every kindred, every tribe
on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all. 
O that with yonder sacred throng
we at his feet may fall! 
We'll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.
March 31, 2013 Acts 3:15  Listen
The Prince of Life
March 24, 2013 Ephesians 1:15-23  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 3 —Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ
March 17, 2013 Ephesians 1:3-14  Listen
Our Eternal Foundation, Part 2 —Every Spiritual Blessing is in Christ
Pastor's Notes:
You may not have a million dollars waiting to be claimed by you, but Christ has something of indescribable value with your name on it.  Our passage today may be the most exhaustive description of the value of our salvation in Scripture.  Though these spiritual blessings are outlined as experienced in the past, present, and future, they all came to us at the moment we believed. 

Introduction (verse 3)
The word “blessed” means “good word” or “good praise.”  This passage is a hymn of praise to God.  We give back to God in our worship because He has given so much to us.  All the blessings of our salvation are sourced in God’s grace and come from the Spirit.
The Riches of God’s Grace in Eternity Past (verses 4-6).
Before He created the earth, God chose those who would be among the saved.  This word is the same used of the choosing of Israel.  God’s election is always linked to God’s kindness in Scripture; it is never associated with harshness.

God’s choosing had a moral aim, to be holy and blameless as a reflection of God Himself.  This can only happen when we are declared holy.  Praise the Lord, the ethical demand was put on God’s Son who did live a perfect life in our stead, and through Him we become acceptable to God.  When we get His DNA, we can’t help gradually becoming more like Christ as we grow.  Then we can meet the ethical demand to be holy for all who believe.

God’s adoption puts us into His family as a child who shares equally in the inheritance.  We are co-heirs with Jesus, and all the riches available to Him are ours as well!  This right is exclusive for those who are in Him.
The Rich Spiritual Blessings of the Present (verses 7-12).
We presently enjoy super-abundant riches that we have been given.  We have a “star-studded salvation,” with bright, shiny, sparkly layers of blessing far beyond what we deserve.
A new ruler in our hearts because of redemption.    We have been granted forgiveness and keep on being forgiven.  Recognition of God’s limitless mercy should evoke endless praise.

Lavished with abundant riches.  God’s gifts are always generous.  He gives us wisdom and insight through His Word to see and know things as they are.  The believer should never be stumped by how to act in a situation.  God’s will is no longer a mystery.

We anticipate a reign with Christ.  In the Millennial Kingdom, believer-saints will reign on Earth with King Jesus.
God’s Eternal Rich Blessings for the Future (verses 13-14).
These blessings are predicated on one requirement: that one listens and believes.  According to Romans 10:17, you must hear the Word of God and by faith surrender your heart to the truth.

The Holy Spirit certifies our future blessings as an engagement ring promises a future marriage.  We are sealed with the Spirit, showing the authenticity and authority of God’s work in us.  The Spirit is the first installment in our inheritance that we will enjoy for all eternity.
Application Points
  • There is simply not enough time to detail all the facets of the spiritual blessings in this passage.  Study verses 3-14 in depth on your own time with a good Bible commentary.  Your soul will be encouraged!
  • This passage is a doxology, a song of praise to God.  As you reflect on the myriad of spiritual blessings He has given us through salvation in Christ, respond to Him in worship and praise!
  • If you struggle with your security in Christ, take comfort in God’s choosing and adoption of you.  God must finish what He starts (Philippians 1:6).  Have you been acting as if your salvation was based on your own behavior?  If you could work your way into salvation, you could work your way out – but we do not earn our salvation; it is a free gift of God and irrevocable.  
  • If you are being discipled, you should naturally be becoming more like Christ in your character and behavior.  Do you find you cannot live an increasingly holy and blameless life?  Search your heart and ask God if you have been truly born again.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore: 
  • Matthew 7:13-14 – God chose a smaller number taken out of a larger group.
  • Hebrews 9:11-14, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Ephesians 5:25b-27, 2 Peter 3:14, Jude 24 – Christ is the spotless Lamb, and we will be blameless like Him.
  • John 1:12, Romans 8:17 – the incredible blessings of adoption.
  • Colossians 1:12-14, Galatians 3:29 – believers will reign with Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:5 – the pledge of the Holy Spirit.
A Hymn to Encourage:  “Jesus, I am Resting”
Jesus I am resting, resting in the Joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power Thou hast made me whole.
Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.

O how great Thy loving kindness, vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvelous Thy goodness, lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved, know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise, and have made it mine.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings; Thine is love indeed!
Ever lift Thy face upon me, as I work and wait for Thee;
Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, Earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory, Sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting; fill me with Thy grace.

2013 Sermon Archives