How God Rescued a Bunch of Zombies
The room was dark—there were two tables with heavy plastic sheets over twelve cadavers. My brother, a doctor in medical school was giving me a tour. He pulled the sheet back, and I don’t know what I expected as I touched it—“Hey, I’m dead,” or, “Ouch!” or, “Stop it!” But there was no response–no one at home. That’s separation, the spirit from the body—they were DEAD. Have you seen death—from an accident, or illness . . . watched a loved one pass on?
The Word of God declares most living people today are actually dead, but they look alive because they walk around and speak. But they are separated–not from the body, but from God. Death means separation. Those without Christ are presented as zombies–living dead people. All those movies are true? No, the Bible is true—turn to Ephesians 2.
Picture an unsaved family member, co-worker, classmate, neighbor–even though they are alive physically, they are dead spiritually. They are not separated from their body, but from God. And what is really scary is not their zombie status—it is scary if they die. Then it means they will be separated from God forever in hell, and all because of one thing present in all our lives—sin. You say, “I don’t get it.” Good–God can teach you from His Word.
FBC loves the Bible. Before I came, you were studying Ephesians 1 through 4. Now we are reviewing chapters 1 to 4 by looking at a key section from each chapter, and today is chapter 2, verses 1 to 10. This is crucial to everyone here today. If you’re a Christian, this is meant to be a celebration for you to rejoice in what God has done for you. And it’s a tool for you to share with non-Christians–this clearest presentation of the Gospel in the New Testament. Learn these verses, memorize them, have them ready to walk through and share.
For those of you who don’t know Christ, listen up–today will show you how God can save you, why you are in trouble with Him, and how you can know Him, be forgiven, get to heaven and so much more. In these ten verses there are no commands, but Paul uses verbs that state facts, certainties on what it took for God to save you. As Paul writes the Ephesians, he is talking to Christians here–challenging them to live what they are, to practice their position.
Christian, you are not a pollywog blob with a tail, and one leg at a time pops out. When you are born again, you are like a baby. You come with all the equipment you will need. Just feed it, water it, deal with the consequences and it will grow. Christian, you are complete with all the parts you need to live—you are what you are.
In Ephesians 1:3 to 14 we read what God did for you–it is so profound. Then Paul takes the remainder of chapter one and prays they’d understand it. Now in chapter two Paul shows the process God used to save you. This is what God did for you, Christian. Non-Christian, this is not you, but it could be. So what should a Christian share with a non-Christian? What should a Christian celebrate?
#1 The Problem–without Christ, you were dead
Read verse 1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Your problem is not what you eat, that you married poorly, or are out of harmony with chi, have bad Karma, are single, are poor—the problem is you are dead. The word means corpse, verse 1 literally, you were a corpse.
Sadly, most of us are isolated from death—hospitals and funeral homes protect us from the harsh reality of dying. Again, death is separation. Physical death is spirit (immaterial) from body. Spiritual death is immaterial spirit from God.
Non-Christian, you are dead, but not inanimate, not motionless. You are death walking, spiritual zombies. All you Christians were zombies. A big problem though is you intrinsically know something is wrong–you don’t know just how serious your condition is, but you’re dead.
First The Problem is Sin
Why are you dead? Read verse 1, “in your trespasses and sins.” An old girlfriend 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 says three important things about sin in verse 1. Sin is . . .
1 Who you are–the word “in” means “in the sphere of.” In other words, not dead because of what we do–we are dead because of who we are. We are born sinful, born in the sphere of sin. You are not a liar because you lied, you lied because you are a liar. “Born sinful” means our natures are twisted and warped–often we are not even aware of the worst parts about us.
Every parent knows this is true about their children. I am in the high chair eating Cheerios, and Teddy is lying below looking for the inevitable droppings. I look, then dump the bowl on Teddy–no one taught me. Mom didn’t say, “This is how you do it.” I was sufficiently sinful enough to figure that out, because we are sinners by nature. Sin is also . . .
2 Acts violating God’s laws–notice the word “trespass”. You are dead because you trespass. You violated God’s sign that said, “No trespassing.”
What is it about us, when we see a sign that says, “NO,” we want to do it even more? God has set up some laws for our own protection–for our good. When we violate His design, we sin, we trespass. When we lie, cheat, steal, yell, are proud, complain or lust, we are violating God’s laws–we are trespassing, the things we do against God’s laws. And sin is . . .
3 Missing God’s perfect character–the word “sins” means “miss the mark,” fail to hit the target. God has a design for us called His perfect character. He had this for us–perfect joy, love, peace, and we missed it. 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, rejoiced–that’s sin too. That’s missing the mark of God’s perfect character.
And every human being alive has missed the mark. “I’m not that bad . . . I am not as bad as Owen Wilson or Anna Nicole.” You may be better than others, but you are not as good as God. Sin is bad, you are bad, I am bad–you are a sinner. You are a twisted violator of God’s laws who has missed God’s mark.
And what is your reward for sinning? Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Understand, when you’re dead, you don’t respond, choose, or speak—you’re dead. You are unable to respond. In Princess Bride they take the dead hero Wesley to Mad Max. “What can you do, he is dead?”
“No, he is only mostly dead–which means he’s partially alive.” Some believe that’s good theology. Lost people are not dead, they are just mostly dead, partially alive–and somehow can choose God. But God’s Word says you are all dead–no response, gone. So much so that Romans 3:11 says, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
Christian, you were dead, and non-Christian you are dead. Zombies are real and they are all around you, but not like in the movies. They are people who are alive–they talk, laugh, work, play, grow, and live all around you, but they are dead to God, separated, unable to respond– that’s bad. True, but it’s even worse than you think.
Second The Outcome of Sin
Look at verses 2 to 3 and see four painful results of being a spiritual zombie. Those without Christ are easily directed by the world, pawns of Satan–led by their own feelings and faulty thinking. Look at the first result in verse 2a, “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world.”
Death walkers (as the old Scottish preacher calls them from this text), non-Christians, spiritual zombies are all . . .
1 Going with the flow of the world
The world is the secular world system that leaves God out. The world causes you to think you must have more–he who dies with the most toys wins. The world tells you it’s okay to gossip about public people. The world declares you’re an accident of time plus matter plus chance and you don’t have a creator. And those who are dead within float down the stream wherever the world leads them–they are slaves to trend (style is okay, trend is not).
Another result of sin and spirit death is verse 2b, “according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Spiritual zombies are all . . .
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 and anything 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–like Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.” I am number one, it’s all about me, my opinion, my thinking, my judgment, my things, my family, my my my–me me ME!
So not only are you dead, drifting along with the world, listening to God’s enemy promoting pride and self, but the third result of sin, which 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, those who are alive but dead, true biblical zombies are all . . .
3 Enslaved to their own strong feelings and warped thinking
In verse 3, lust means strong desire, strong passion 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. In guy/gal relationships, it’s when passion rules over principle.
Plus notice in verse 3, Paul says,”the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Their mind is corrupt–they come with weird ideas about life, death, heaven, hell, what is true, what is not, what’s important and what’s not. Why? . . . because they are dead.
And a final result of being dead is a final phrase in verse 3, “and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Children of wrath—non-Christians are spiritual zombies who are all . . .
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. You demand justice if someone murders your friend—you want him to go to jail or get death. If the judge lets him off, you scream injustice. At a baseball game, when a foul ball is called in play, you cry foul. Hey, if NBA referee Tim Donaghy was manipulating playoff games so that the team he bet on would win, it is unjust–even if it benefited your team.
You and I want justice. A holy, righteous, perfect, beautiful God must judge sin to be just. He is just to condemn that which is rebellious and defiant and twisted. If you are a Christian, there is good news—you can celebrate, you WERE dead in your sin. If you are a non-Christian, there is bad news–you ARE dead because of your sin, and as a result, you are easily directed by the world, a pawn of Satan and led by your own feelings and faulty thinking and sadly judged. You are condemned and headed for hell without Christ—that’s the bad news. Now what’s the good news?
#2 God’s Provision–through Christ, you were made alive
Notice two of the most important words in the New Testament in verse 4–see them? . . . “BUT GOD.” Here we are helpless, hopeless, heartless and God intervenes–why? Verse 4 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” God is rich in mercy–God is wealthy in compassion and pity. Does your heart ever break over the starving, suffering, those without parents, single-parent homes, unequally yoked, shut-ins? That is God’s heart, except a billion times more, because He says He is wealthy in mercy, rich in compassion, and what else?
Verse 4 says 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. Genuine Christian, God didn’t pick you because you were going to turn out so wonderful, or do so many things for Him, or because you were such an attractive zombie. God picks us on the basis of His compassion and love.
In India, beggars are hard to look at–they are so deformed. They have been intentionally crippled by parents, sold to the mafia, and all of what you give them goes directly to crime. It breaks your heart. I asked my missionary friend, an Indian, what do you do? His answer—“You help some.” That was you, Christian, and God through His compassion helped you.
So what did God do to help us? Verse 5, “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” You are 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.
Now Paul makes a point here you might not catch. He writes verse 5 in such a way as to make it clear to the reader that God did it and made you secure. We were raised with Christ. The same power that raised Christ raised us to life. And nothing can stop God’s power–He created the universe. Do not doubt–if we’ve been raised spiritually in union with Christ now, then raising your physical body later is no problem.
Look at the end of verse 5, “(by grace you have been saved).” Paul says it’s complete. God gives us what we don’t deserve, His grace–it’s a gift. God did it. Why? Because we were dead and He loved us. You and I, genuine Christians, have been saved–literally rescued, delivered from sin and its consequences.
The verb “saved” in the original language is perfect tense, past completed action, present abiding results, meaning it’s done (you’ve been saved)–and it continues to be completed, done, finished to this day. You are secure. God lost you in the fall, found you in salvation and bought you back. I made you, I lost you and I bought you back–that is what Christ did for you.
I am so secure, verse 6 says, “And raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” I am so secure I am 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, serve, follow after and obey all that is in heaven.
Once I was gone for four-and-a half weeks to Israel and Egypt without Jean. In Egypt around the pyramids, all I wanted was to go home–my heart longed for home. As God’s child, I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and everything that matters to me is there with Him–so my heart longs to be there. Heaven is the home I have not been to, but my heart is already there, and I am there in Christ.
So look at what God did—verse 4, He loved us . . . verse 5, He made us alive . . . verse 6, He raised us up together with Christ. These are all active verbs–God is doing it, God is the subject. He saves and is the action, and sinners are the direct object. God saves sinners—WOW. But why?
#3 God’s Purpose–in Christ, you have a great future
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 God made a bunch of cruddy sinners come alive. Paul says so God could be kind to us forever. Isn’t that amazing?
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–we are on His wall of souvenirs, His wall of diplomas.
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. But God gets all the glory, because He did it all, even giving us the faith to believe.
Faith in simplest terms is dependence. If I say I believe a chair will hold me, I believe, but I do not have faith until I depend on it. You and I live by faith every day. In an elevator I do not see the cable holding me up. In the water I drink, I don’t see what’s in the water. When I buy food at a restaurant, I don’t know what is going on back in the kitchen. If you can trust that, you certainly can depend on Christ.
You see, Paul says, it is a gift–you didn’t earn it and still can’t. You didn’t work for it, and can’t–you were dead, remember? Therefore you can’t boast–you can’t take credit, you didn’t do it. A comedian I like makes fun of boasting–he says don’t ever tell a story about having your two wisdom teeth pulled because there will always be someone there who had four teeth pulled, and they’ll say, “Two teeth, that’s nothing–I had four, impacted, roots wrapped around my brain eatin’ cord the next day. Don’t be telling no two teeth story.”
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 through the Alps, boating on the Caspian Sea, skiing in Aspen, driving a Lotus in traffic on the Autobahn–but Mr. Moonwalker can sit back and stir his coffee. Because as soon as Mr. Aspen is done, the astronaut can say, “Speaking of walking, I walked on the moon. I was once in traffic in my Lunar Rover, but then I realized, hey I am the only one here!” You see, he caps all boasting.
God caps all boasting–He created it all, He made you, and then from grace and kindness He saved you. You and I did nothing but resist God in our sin. If you breathe spiritually it is because God slapped you on the bottom. If you hear with the hearing of faith, it’s because God unstopped your ears. It’s all of God. Salvation did not come by baptism, attendance, giving, membership, communion, being good, but by God’s gift of grace. And third, why did God save you?
Third As His masterpiece, to accomplish His pre-selected joyful 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 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, and they must all be according to the Word of God–plus, they will bring you joy.
Remember Eric Liddle, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” I would say, “When I preach and train, 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–it will be as you serve, are involved with 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 because they have to, but because they want to.
The problem–you’re dead in sin
The provision–salvation by grace
The purpose–to glorify God and produce good works
Are you celebrating, Christian, what God did for you? Are you passionately pursuing God’s works for you with service now? And non-Christian, I hope you’re ready to turn to Christ. Paul is teaching the Ephesians and us today several key truths.
#1 Christianity is unique
Every religion is a people reaching up for God 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, then cry out to be made alive.
#2 Christian, you are loved, shown kindness, compassion, given mercy and forgiveness–now live like it, sweet people
FBC–from membership to the core of our church, not once have people not been kind, gracious, accepting, tolerating to my face. From visitors and fringe this has not been so–but from the family, you have been like Christ to me. (I hope you are to each other.) Praise the Lord–keep living what you are, a loved, kinded, compassioned people.
#3 Those without Christ look normal, but they are 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. Only God can save you–God saves sinners. 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.
Christian, don’t get proud because you were a zombie. Only God can save them, but you have the message–share it.
#4 Pursue Christ
Stop sitting on the sidelines and being tentative about your walk with God–shyness, work, time, problems, whatever is stopping you. Picture yourself giving your excuse to Jesus and see if it holds up when He can see right through you. Seek to follow His Word in every area and let him put you in place where you are fulfilling His purpose for you–gift inside, Gospel outside.
Jesus Christ gave His life for you–He alone can make someone alive. Let’s praise Him.