Membership #2 – Our Common Salvation: How God Rescued a Bunch of Zombies (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Sunday, January 20th, 2013
Sermon Series: Membership

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Our Common Salvation

Membership #2–How God rescued a bunch of zombies,

from Ephesians 2:1 to 10

 

The room was dim–there were twelve tables with heavy plastic sheets over twelve cadavers.  My brother, the med student, was giving me a tour–and never one to miss an opportunity to shock His brother, at his table with one dead body he pulled the sheet back.  AAAHHH!

He made me poke the dead body–I expected it to say, “Ouch,” or “Stop it,” or “Hi, I’m Mr. Dead, who are you?”  But there was no response–no one was home.  His spirit had left.  Once the immaterial separates from the material, it’s called death.  Once your spirit separates from your body, that separation is death.

Have you seen death?  Possibly from an accident, or an illness, or been with a loved one as they transitioned from life to death?  Allow me today to expand your understanding of death, for the Word of God declares most living people today are actually dead.  They look alive, because they walk around, talk, eat, work and sleep.  But they’re separated–not from their body, but from their God.  They’re physically alive but spiritually dead, since death means separation.

In fact, those without Christ can be viewed as zombies–living dead people.  All those zombie movies are not true–but the Bible is true, so let’s open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 2 and find out why people are separated from God, spiritually dead.

We’ve just begun a series, One Heart One Mind–calling Christians to be functioning members of their local church.  Our hope is for each of you to be intimately interconnected to our local church in membership.  But to do that, we all have to get on the same page as it relates to the Gospel–the good news from God describing the way one can be made right with God, and be certain to end up in heaven through Christ alone.

And as a church, if we’re to be an effective witness to the watching world, move together in unity, determine who can shepherd in our midst, then we must fully understand our common salvation.  If you love the Groom, you will love His Bride.  If you are part of the universal Church, you’ll join a local church.  If you are an organ, you will function as a part of the body.  If you are a sheep, you will follow the shepherd with the flock.

A Christian without a church is like an NFL player without a team, a teacher without a classroom, and a soldier without an army.  And the root issue that binds us to Christ and His Church is our common salvation, being born again, bound for heaven through the work of Christ on the cross for our sins and His resurrection from the dead.

You and I are not going to Heaven, nor are forgiven by God for our sins because we made a decision once, prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, attend church, or have Christian friends or family.  We’re rescued from our sins when God gives us eyes to see, raises us from our spiritual deadness so we can turn from our sin in repentance to follow Him and rely upon Him to save us by faith.  We don’t save ourselves–God is the one who saves us.  That’s why it’s called good news–God initiates salvation, but it all begins with bad news.  We are dead to God in our sin.  So this morning, ask yourself . . .

#1  Have I embraced the true Gospel of Scripture?

Test yourself to see if you are in the faith–are you a genuine Christian?  “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and He will say, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you.’” (Matthew 7:22,23)

#2  Am I thankful for what God has done for you in Christ?

#3  Are you passionate to share the Gospel with others?

#4  Are you committed to believe God’s Word over weak teaching, or your thinking of what is fair or just?

You are going to react to today’s sermon–you are.  You may love it, you may struggle with it, but I guarantee it is all God’s Word.  Why such a reaction?  Because people do not like to see themselves as helpless, hopeless, unwilling, unable, enslaved, blind, rebellious, defiant sinners in need of God to initiate their rescue from themselves.  But that is what the Bible teaches.

Where?  In Ephesians 2:1 to 10, a great passage on salvation in the New Testament.  In these ten verses, there are no commands, but Paul uses verbs that state certainties on what it took for God to save you.  These verses describe what God did for you, Christian.  Non-Christian, this is not you–but it could be.  What does Paul teach here?

#1  Predestined for Salvation by God in Eternity Past  Verse 1a

As Paul writes the Ephesians, he’s addressing Christians, challenging believers to live what they are–to practice their position.  Christian, you have everything you need to live as a believer.  In Ephesians 1:3 Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

When we are born again, we have all the equipment we need to grow into spiritual adulthood.  But we didn’t start that way–each of you is in big trouble.  Read verse 1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”  Dead–meaning separated from God because of your sin.  Can you see one of the most important words in verse 1?  What is it?  The very first one—“and”, connecting this to chapter 1.  And that connection is crucial to your understanding of salvation.

Ephesians 1 describes what God did for you–it is so profound, Paul takes the entire chapter 1 to explain it.  Then he even prays they’d understand it.  Look at chapter 1–what God says in Ephesians 1 is God chose you for salvation, God predestined you to be saved, God initiated the rescue from your sins.

Look at Ephesians 1:4, 5 and 11, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

God literally determined beforehand that you would be saved—why?  Because you were dead–that’s why!  God must choose me, because as a spiritual zombie I won’t choose him.  Terms like “chosen, election, foreknowledge, calling and predestined” bother people–but they’re freely used by God in His Word.

Predestination is God deciding our eternity in advance

Foreknowledge is God’s predetermined love relationship with His children

Calling is God awakening His own to give them faith

Election is the action of God where He graciously chooses out from among sinful people the ones who will be saved

The chart shows you there’re two views–one view shows God is ultimately responsible, and the other shows man as responsible.

 

God Ultimately Responsible Man Ultimately Responsible
God’s choice unconditional God’s choice dependent on man’s choice
God chose in eternity past God’s choice determined by present events
Fallen man cannot choose God Fallen man can choose God
Faith is a gift of God Faith is possible for all men
Justice is found in God’s character Justice is found in equal opportunity

 

Yet Scripture declares that God is responsible for your salvation.  God doesn’t look ahead to see who will respond in faith.  God doesn’t look ahead and see who’ll be good or work real hard, but for His own glory, God elects some to be His children.  Jesus says clearly in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.”  2 Thessalonians 2:13 adds, “Because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”  The Word of God clearly teaches the only reason you chose to follow Christ is that God first chose you.

Some believe God elects by knowing beforehand what we will decide.  They wrongly interpret foreknowledge to mean God knew in advance who would respond to Him, and therefore He chooses those people.  But foreknowledge is just another way of describing God’s choice–not merely knowing beforehand, but a predetermined love relationship.

The Bible makes a loud point about salvation not being conditioned on people’s choice at all.  In Romans 9:11 to 13, Paul is in your face, “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls,12 it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

God chose Jacob, not Esau.  God didn’t look down through history and see that Jacob would have faith, and as a result choose him.  No, that is exactly the opposite of what this passage is teaching.  The point is, Jacob’s future actions, his faith nor attitudes had absolutely nothing to do with God’s choice of him.  Why?  Verse 11, again, “In order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls.”

Why?  So God, not Jacob would receive 100% of the glory.  John 6:65b, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  But why does God have to choose us?

#2  The Problem of Sin–without Christ You were Dead  Verses 1 to 3

Read verse 1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”  Your problem is not your diet, or that you married poorly, being out of harmony with your chi, bad Karma, single or poor or badly educated, have a disease, or were born with a funny face.  Your problem is, you are dead to God because of your sin.

The word dead refers to the stench of a corpse–a person so dead they smell.  There’s absolutely no life.  If you have ever been to a funeral, you know that a corpse has no ability to choose anything.  Sadly, most of us are isolated from death–hospitals and funeral homes protect us from the harsh reality of dying.  Yet the stats are compelling–each of us is going to physically die, unless we’re alive when Jesus returns.  But none of us has to spiritually die–we don’t have to be separated from the God who made us.

Death is separation–physical death is spirit (immaterial) from body (material).  And spiritual death is immaterial spirit separated from God right now and forever in eternal punishment.  Non-Christian, you are dead–but you are not inanimate, you are not motionless.  You are death walking–spiritual zombies.  John MacArthur says men apart from God are spiritual zombies–they are the walking dead who do not know they are dead.  They go through the motions of life, but they do not possess it.

And the biggest problem is this–though you intrinsically know something is wrong, you don’t know just how serious your condition is.  So Paul tells us just how serious our problem is in verses 1 to 3.  What is wrong with you?  Or as a Christian, what was wrong with you?  Verse 1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”

A lost friend of mine told me, “Sin is whatever you think sin is–if you don’t think it is wrong, then it isn’t sin.  Is that it?”  No!

God gives three direct facts about sin in verse 1.  Sin is . . .

1 WHO you are

The word “in”—“in your trespasses and sins”, means in the sphere of.  You’re not dead because of what you do, you’re dead because of who you are–you’re born sinful (born in the sphere of sin).  You are not a liar cause you lied, you lied cause you’re a liar.  Born sinful means our natures are twisted and warped–often we are not even aware of the worst parts about us.

You’ve seen your 1- to 2-year-old do evil things–I know you have.  From their high chair, they dump Cheerios on their dog on purpose, or grab an electric wire you told them not to touch while looking at you.  You didn’t teach them to disobey.  You didn’t show them how to put their tongue in an electrical socket–they’re rebels internally.  They’re little sinnerlings–sinners by nature, and we never grow out of it.  Paul also says sin is . . .

2 ACTS violating God’s laws

See the word trespass in verse 1?  You are dead because of trespass–you violated God’s warning sign that said no trespassing, keep out.  Remember the teachers’ lounge, or the doctors only room?  Why do most of us want to know what is behind the door that says, “NO ADMITTANCE”.  What is in us that makes us want to enter the area that says, “NO TRESPASSING”?  Answer:  rebellious sin.

God has set up some laws for our own protection, for our best.  When we violate His design, we trespass.  How many of you have lied?  You’re liars.  Cheated?  You’re cheats.  Lusted?  Perverts!  When we lie, cheat, steal, yell, are proud, complain or lust we’re violating God’s laws–it’s sin.  Sin is also . . .

3 MISSING God’s perfect design

The word “sins” in verse 1, “dead in your trespasses and sins”, sins means to miss the mark–to fail to hit the target.  God has a design for us, based upon His perfect character.  He designed perfect joy, love, peace for us–but we missed it.  Therefore, sin is not merely the things we do–sin is also the things we don’t do or failed to do.  When we could have loved, cared, denied our preferences, overlooked something we don’t like, expressed thanks, but didn’t–that’s sin too . . . missing the mark of God’s perfect character.  And every human being, each of us here, has missed the mark.

The internet says about 4% of the population is evil–only 1 in 25 people are bad.  But God says we are all bad.  You say, “I am not as bad as Hitler.”  You may be better than others, but you are not as good as God.  If we all line up at the beach and try to jump to Catalina, 26 miles away, some of you will jump farther than others, but none of you are going to make it to Catalina.  Some of you are better or worse outward sinners, but none of you are perfect, none of you are as good as God–meaning you’re in trouble with God because of your sin.

Now Paul clearly tells us the results of our sin in verses 2 and 3.  There are four painful outcomes of sin, of being a spiritual zombie.  Those without Christ are 1) easily directed by the world, 2) a pawn of Satan, 3) led by their own faulty thinking, and 4) under God’s judgment.  Do you see this problem?  Verse 2a, “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world”–non-Christians . . .

1)  Go with the Flow of the World

The world is the secular world system that leaves God out.  He who dies with the most toys wins.  The world tells you it’s okay to ruin people with your talk about them.  The world declares you’re merely an accident of time plus matter plus chance–from the goo to the zoo to you, that you don’t have a Creator you’re accountable to.  And those who are dead within float down the stream wherever the world leads them–they are slaves to trend.  Style is okay–being a slave is not.  Because Paul says our sin makes it even worse in verse 2b.  Another result of sin is, “According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”  Those who sin are . . .

2)  Following the Lead of God’s Enemy

Satan was the most beautiful and powerful angel God created until the sin of pride welled up in his heart, and he led an angelic rebellion against God–the creature tried to take on the Creator.  Now he seeks to corrupt everything about Christ and His character.  He encourages you to live a life that is all about you.  What you think is better than what God thinks in the Bible–like Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.”  I am number one, it’s all about me, my opinion, my thinking, my judgment, my family–he wants you to think you’re the captain of your own soul, but hides the reality that your ship is sinking.

So not only are you dead, drifting along with the world, listening to God’s enemy promoting pride and self, but a third result of sin is verse 3a, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind.”  Non-Christians are . . .

3)  Enslaved to Their Own Strong Feelings and Warped Thinking

In verse 3, lust means strong desire or feeling.  Those without Christ are slaves to their own feelings and desires–they do whatever they feel like doing, regardless of the consequences, and regardless of whoever it hurts.  You know what this is like as a teenager, when passion ruled over principle–it was like you were enslaved to your desires.  They were so strong–in fact you are enslaved (plus in verse 3 Paul says, “desires of the flesh and of the mind.”)

Their mind is corrupt–people begin to adopt weird ideas about life, death, heaven, hell, what is true, what is not, what’s important and what’s not–why?  Because they’re dead.  A final result of being spiritually dead is a final phrase in verse 3, “And were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”  “Children of wrath” means non-Christians, are . . .

4)  Under God’s Judgment

We deserve God’s wrath for our sin–we deserve to be judged and condemned because we have sinned against God and His Law.  God is just–therefore He must judge and condemn sin.  We all want justice.  If someone murders your friend, you want him to get the death penalty.  If your team is in the Super Bowl and a ref makes a bad call, you want it to be corrected.  We want justice, and a holy, righteous, perfect, beautiful God must judge sin to be just.  God is just to condemn that which is rebellious, defiant and twisted.

You are totally depraved–that doesn’t mean you walk with a limp, have a hunchback, drool, growl and smell like garbage.  Total depravity speaks of the inability to choose.  Being spiritually dead means no ability to respond to God.  As a result of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, all people are spiritually dead, unable to either comprehend or believe spiritual truths.  This is why Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.”

Why must God do the choosing?  Simply because we can’t.  You say, “What a minute–I chose God.”  Let me ask you, “Was that you?  Or did God enable you?”  Did you choose Him, or were you dead, then God awakened you in such a manner you could respond by putting your faith in Christ?  When you’re dead, you can’t choose–you can’t respond.

There are some theologians today who think even though you’re dead, you are still sort of’ alive and can respond.  They hold the same theological belief as Miracle Max in the movie The Princess Bride–do you remember his theology?  After they bring Wesley’s dead body to Miracle Max, Inigo says, “What can you do for him, he is dead?”  And Max mocks Inigo–he says, “It just so happens, your friend here is just mostly dead.  There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.  Mostly dead is slightly alive.  All dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.”  “What’s that?”  “Go through his clothes and look for loose change!”

Friends, the Bible says, apart from Christ you are “all” dead.  We’re not sinners cause we sin–we sin because we’re sinners.  Read Romans 3:10 and 11, “There is none righteous, not even one. 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God.”  Men are not mostly dead, they are totally dead/all dead.  We are spiritual zombies, who don’t know we are actually dead.

So what does a dead man need?  Life!  And true life is only found in Christ, as He says in John 10:10b, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”  So does a natural fallen spiritually dead man have the ability to become alive and turn to Christ on his own?  What’s the answer?  No!  This explains why some of your friends and relatives you plead with just don’t get the Gospel.

Underline two words in John 6:44—“Jesus says, ‘No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”  The Greek word unless is a necessary condition–this must happen before something else can happen.  Unless the Father draws, they cannot come to Christ.  The Greek word draw is very strong–it means compel.

Look at how the same word “draw” is used in James 2:6b, “Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”  The same word “draw” is also used in Acts 16:19, “They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities.”  Unless the Father compels me, drags me into life with Him–unless He drags me into salvation, I’m not going to respond.

Does natural fallen man have the ability to come to Christ?  No.  Wait–don’t I have a free will?  We think free will is the ability to make decisions free of any inclination, disposition or prejudice–totally undistorted.  So do I have that kind of free will?  No, you don’t–not a completely free will!  You and I are not going to make choices without any prior influence.  So what is influencing the natural man?  Sin–he is a slave to sin.  His nature is corrupted by sin.  You and I have a sinful prejudice, inclination and disposition.  And what is my bent?  Pride, sin, and rebellion–this is what I naturally do.

Martin Luther said, “Free will without God’s grace is not free will at all, but [free will] is the permanent prisoner and bond-slave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good.”  That is from his famous book, Bondage of the WILL.  The point is, my will is in bondage to my nature.

Have you ever seen a big lion at the zoo?  I have seen them there, and in Africa “live”.  Let’s imagine a lion being here today, and this lion has not eaten in a week–so we decide to test this lion.  I will put a head of lettuce right here, and a big steak here.  Question:  is the lion going to go for the lettuce or the steak?  How do you know?  Maybe it’s a lucky guess, so let’s get another lion–and we keep doing this, not one time, but fifty times.  And fifty times the lion goes to the steak.

But we’re still not convinced, so we get lions from all over the world and give them the choice of lettuce or steak and let them go.  The lion from Russia goes to the steak, from South America goes to steak.  The lion from Santa Barbara goes to the lettuce–no steak.  We get every lion alive and give it the choice, and every single time it goes for the steak.  Get this–they have permission to go to the lettuce, they have free choice, but they don’t have a free will.  They are in bondage to their will.  They have permission to go for the lettuce, but they only have the ability to go to the steak.

Natural man has the permission to come to Christ, but only has the ability to sin and reject Christ–that’s total depravity.  If you don’t believe in total depravity, you don’t believe what the Bible says about sin, and you’ll never see just how sinful you really are and how much you need Christ or Christ did for you.  Christian, good news–celebrate, you WERE dead in your sin.  Non-Christian, bad news–you ARE dead because of your sin.

I can share the Gospel to an unsaved friend repeatedly, but unless something happens to change his spiritual deadness and make him come alive, he will reject God’s Gospel time after time.  So God must act–and He did.

#3 God’s Provisionthrough Christ you were made alive  Verses 4 to 6

Notice two of the most important Words in the New Testament in verse 4–see them?  “But God”–here we are, helpless and hopeless, and God intervenes.  Why?  Read verse 4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.”  God is rich in mercy.  Does your heart ever break over starving children?  That is God’s heart, except a billion times more, because God is wealthy in mercy, and rich in compassion.  And what else in verse 4?

God is great in His love.  His love is literally superior in amount to anything you have ever known–not a feeling toward you, but sacrifice desiring only your greatest good.  God didn’t pick you, Christian, because you would turn out so wonderful, or do so many things for Him, or since you were an attractive zombie.  God picked you on the basis of His compassion and love.

In India, beggars are intentionally and horribly crippled by parents to be sold to an organization like a mafia that takes all the money they collect.  I asked my missionary friend, “What do you do since there are so many and the money doesn’t help them?”  His answer was, “You help some, care for some, get to know some.”  That was you, Christian–and God compassionately helped you.

So how did God help us?  Read verse 5, “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”  You’re alive–what does a dead man need most?  Life.  Paul says, “When Jesus rose, we who’d be His children, rose with Him.”  We were dead and now we are alive.  Instead of . . .

a nature twisted by sin, we now have God’s nature

violating God’s law, we now have a heart that wants to obey

being under wrath for disobedience, all God’s anger for our sins fell on Christ on the cross–we are made alive by God

Did we have to earn it, pay for it?  No.  Read the end of verse 5, “(by grace you have been saved)”.  God gives us what we don’t deserve, His grace–it’s a gift.  God did it.  Why?  Cause we were dead, unable–but He loved us.  You and I, if we are genuine Christians, have been saved–literally meaning delivered from sin and its consequences.  The verb “saved” in the original language is in the perfect tense, meaning it’s done (you’ve been saved) and it continues to be completed, finished to this day.  You’re secure when you are in Christ.

I am so secure.  Read verse 6, “And raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.”  I’m so secure I’m already in heaven–we are as good as there.  Since I am one with Christ, I am seated with Him.  I am still here physically, but I worship, long for, am blessed by, follow after, and obey all that is in heaven.

I was gone once for 4½ weeks to Israel and Egypt without Jean.  The end of the trip was Egypt, around the pyramids–incredible.  But all I want is to go home.  My heart longed for home.  As God’s child, I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and everything that really matters to me is there with Him–so my heart longs to be there.  Heaven is the home I have not been to yet, but my heart is already there.  I am there in Christ.

So look at what God did in verse 4, “He loved us,” verse 5, “He made us alive,” verse 6, “He raised us up together with Christ”–all active verbs.  God is doing it.  “God” is the subject, “saves” is the action, and “sinners” is the direct object.  God saves sinners.  God lost you in the fall, found you in salvation, and bought you back.  But why?  We are predestined because of the problem of sin, yet we have hope because of the provision of Christ.  But what is the . . .

#4  Purpose–in Christ you have a great future  Verses 7 to 10

What is God’s purpose in all this?

First  For His glory and our good  Verse 7, “In order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  Salvation shows us just how gracious God is.  Why would God make a bunch of rebellious sinners come alive?  Paul says so God could be kind to us forever.  Isn’t that amazing?

John MacArthur writes, “The purpose for which God saved us was not primarily to keep us out of Hell, we were saved primarily so that God could shower His grace and kindness on us.”  Instead of children of wrath, we become display cases for Christ’s grace and kindness.  For each of you who are genuine believers, we’re His shelf of trophies.  We are the Lord’s wall of diplomas.  Also . . .

Second  For our Dependence–not our doing  Verses 8 to 9

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”  If we were responsible for our salvation, who’d get the glory?  Us.  God gets the all the glory cause He did it all, even giving us the faith to believe.  Faith, in simplest terms, is dependence.

If there is a chair, you can say, “I believe,” but it’s not faith until you depend, by sitting in it.  Same with an elevator—“I believe it will hold me,” but it’s not faith until I get inside.  When you buy a meal at a restaurant you can believe it’s okay, but you only show faith when you eat it.  You don’t know what they’re doing back there.  You may believe Christ is the only way of salvation, but you don’t have faith until you depend upon Him with your entire life.  And that ability to have faith, Paul says, is a gift—“and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works.”  You didn’t earn it, work for it, work it up, and you still can’t.

“But,” you say, “Chris, it was my faith that let me choose!”  Really?  First Peter 1:1 says, “Simon Peter, . . . to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Peter acknowledged they had received their faith.  They did not work it up on their own, they received faith.  Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”  The Philippian believers had been given their faith.  God gives us the faith to believe.

But Chris, if I believe this, then I have to believe God elects some to eternal life, but not everyone.  Why doesn’t God choose everyone?  The issue is not–why didn’t God choose everyone, but why did God choose anyone?  Men and Women, God reserves the right to have mercy upon whom He will have mercy.  Some of fallen humanity receive the grace and mercy of election.  The rest God passes over, leaving them in their rebellion.  The non-elect receive justice, the elect receive mercy, but no one receives injustice.  If you and I received justice, then we’d be sent to Hell.

God isn’t obligated to be merciful to anyone.  It’s God’s decision how merciful He chooses to be, yet He is never guilty of being unjust toward anyone.  God’s answer to this question of why He didn’t choose everyone is found in Romans 9:20.  “Who are you, O man who answers back to God. The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this will it?’”  In other words, “Be quiet and know I am God, I’m the potter, you’re the clay.  I’m the creator; you’re the creation.”

If you don’t believe in election, you’ll never understand just how gracious God has been to you.  You didn’t work for it and you can’t (you were dead, remember?)  Therefore, you can’t boast–you can’t take credit, you didn’t do it.  Look at the end of verse 9, “Not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

Comedian Brian Regan makes fun of boasting–he says, “Don’t ever tell a story about having your two wisdom teeth pulled, cause there will always be someone there who had four teeth pulled.  They’ll say, ‘Two teeth–that’s nothing, I had four, impacted, roots wrapped around my brain.  And I was eating corn the next day.’  Be careful about boasting–someone will always cap you.”

He also talks about the ultimate boast being one of the few men who walked on the moon.  You can be in conversation in a group and some rich guy will talk about walking on Mount Everest–but Mr. Moonwalker will sit back and stir his coffee and be silent.  Because as soon as Mr. Everest is done, the astronaut can say, “Speaking of walking, I walked on the moon.  I once thought I was in traffic in my Lunar Rover, but then I realized, ‘Hey, I am the only one here!’  He caps all boasting.”  That’s the point.

God caps all boasting–He created the Universe, He made you, and then from a heart of grace and kindness He saved you.  You and I did nothing but resist God in defiant sin.  Verse 9, “No one should boast.”

If you breathe spiritually, it’s cause God slapped you on the bottom.  If you can hear the Bible with a new heart that wants to obey Christ, it’s because God unstopped your ears–it’s all of God.  Salvation did not come through baptism, attendance, giving, being good, a decision, family, but by God’s gift of grace.  Finally, why else did God save you?  His glory, our dependence, and . . .

Third  As His Masterpiece–to accomplish His pre-selected tasks  Verse 10

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Workmanship means masterpiece–God designed you to show off His Son in a masterful way.  Only God can take an ugly, dead walking zombie and turn him into a Christ-like masterpiece.  The original term “workmanship” is where we get our English word for poem–you are God’s poem to point to Christ.

And how do I show off Christ?  Pre-ordained, literally prepared beforehand good works, John 15:8 says, “By this is My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  There are works only you can do as a Christian, and only we can do as a church.  We can’t do it in our own strength–they must always be done according to the Word of God, depending on His Spirit.  And when they are, they will bring you incredible joy.

Remember Eric Liddle, of Chariots of Fire?  He said, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”  I would say, “When I preach, lead and train, I feel His pleasure.”  I do get tired, there are difficulties, but I feel His pleasure.  It’s the same with you, when you find those tasks, ministry, service He wants you to do–you will sense His pleasure.

How do you discover those pre-ordained good works?  It won’t be by sitting around, or merely attending church.  It will be as you serve, get involved in ministry to the body, develop a passion for Christ and His priorities–then it will become obvious.  But don’t miss the point here–God’s true children do good works . . . not cause they have to, but because they want to.  That’s why true membership includes an expectation to serve in ministry in the church, because the born again heart will want to.

The predestination of you to salvation was necessary because of . . .

The problem, you were (and some still are) dead in sin, so God gave . . .

The provision, salvation by grace through Christ, for . . .

The purpose, of glorifying God and producing good works through you

#1  Christianity is Unique–every religion is the same, except one

Religion is a people reaching up to God to try to earn His favor.  Christianity is God reaching down to man to receive God’s favor.  Those of you who know you’re not saved, are you ready to surrender?  Those of you who think you’re saved, are you ready to stop the external show and cry out to God to save you?  You are dead, but if He’s working in you, cry out to be made alive–God made it possible.

#2  Christian, you are Loved–you have been shown kindness, given mercy and forgiveness

Now Christ expects you to live like those who have been pursued and given grace.  The FBC membership is known for being the kindest of people.  People care for each other before we can organize care.  The fringe of our church, not as much–so become a member.  Remember what He did for you and He will change you to be like Him.

#3  Those without Christ Look Normal–but they’re zombies

Alive bodies and dead spirits who are doing what everyone else does.  Listening to the wrong voice, a slave to their desires and warped thinking–and only God can save them.  They must turn to Christ in repentance and faith.  Your friends need to hear the message–God will save His own in time, but you need to tell them.

And Christian, don’t get proud–because you were a zombie too.  Only God can save them, but you have the message.  Remember, Acts 13:48, “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”  God appoints people to eternal life, but they must believe.  Acts 16:14, “Lydia, . . . the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

#4  Don’t Neglect Your Responsibility

The Bible teaches that God is sovereign, but you are responsible.  God knows everything, but you are responsible and honored to pray.  God accomplishes His work, but you’re responsible and blessed to serve.  God works through us, but we are responsible and empowered to obey.  God saves people, but those same people are responsible to respond in repentance and faith.  Be responsible.  Let’s pray.

 

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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