Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Passing from Death to Life


An expression used by folks to describe the full extent of life as we know it is, “from the womb to the tomb”…which is sort of quaint, I guess…something like “a homer for Gomer” (from Hosea, of course :-).  The point of the former saying is that we all have a physical beginning and ending. I guess this is a message that only a mortician could fully appreciate, but we can all learn a thing or two about death and life. In this second chapter of his Ephesian letter (2:1-10), Paul shares a different perspective – here, he says that the believer in Christ is raised from the dead and seated on the throne.  By the grace of God, a precious miracle takes place, and people are given an opportunity to have life…and live, not only physically (from the womb to the tomb), but also eternally (from the graveyard to a heavenly dwelling).  The only reason this is even the remotest possibility is because of what has taken place through Jesus, the Son of God. Peter Larson shares this, "Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin's womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked 'No Entrance' and left through a door marked 'No Exit.'" As our Lord, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and exalted to be with the Father in heaven, so every Christian will also share in the same experience.  This should be the goal of every human.

Paul begins this section indicating the characteristics that describe an “unsaved person.”  First, they are "dead"…spiritually.  They are unable to understand or appreciate spiritual things.  Why?  It is because of sin (Romans 3:23).  This describes every person before they come to life, spiritually, in Christ. What is striking is how certain people respond to such statements concerning the viability of their spiritual existence. They will say, either “I am not a bad person,” or “I am not that bad.  So, there is a self-deception that goes on with unbelievers or those who have fallen away. Paul does give us some good news…there is a solution – resurrection!  Those who are dead can be brought back to life.  This is certainly not of anyone’s own doing, but is the work of God. In order to get to this point, the “spiritually dead” must recognize some things – spiritual death is the result of sin…and sin is the result of disobedience to the will of God.  So, whether folks like it or not…they have been bad. There are three forces at work…the world system, the flesh (pride, lusts, etc.) and the devil. They are all working against us, seeking to keep us at odds with God. We simply can’t change our own nature or overcome the flesh, the world or the devil on our own…we must have help and this can only come from God, from His Spirit. And all of this is not to say that the unsaved person only does evil, or that he or she is incapable of doing good.  But, no one can do anything in order to be saved, or meet God’s holiness without His help.

Let’s consider some other things that Paul has to share -- God’s nature is love (v.4). This is a primary attribute, and when it is related to sinners, it becomes grace and mercy.  This makes it possible for anyone and everyone to be saved. In His love, grace and mercy, Father God allowed His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross in order to bring us salvation.  In this was displayed God’s hatred for sin and His love for sinners. Also, in this, He quickens us (v.5)…that is, He makes us alive when we were once dead in our sins.  He accomplishes spiritual resurrection by the power of His Spirit through His Word. He exalts us (v.6).  We are not “spiritually” raised from the dead to be left in the graveyard.  If we are united with him while we live, we will be united for eternity with him when we are raised eternally from the dead.  He keeps us (vv.7-9).  He keeps us for eternity…it is His eternal purpose.  We who are in Christ are all saved by God’s grace through faith.  Some have asked, “Is this the faith of Christ or our faith?”  Yes.  For a long time, many believers were conditioned to view many passages as an “either or”…that it had to be one or the other…rather than a “both and” which makes more “spiritual” and realistic sense.  Nonetheless, we must understand, salvation is not our work…it is God's -- this is what Paul says.  Yet, so many people have known in my life have said things like, “well, I hope I have been good enough, or have done enough…”  This is trying to "work for" or "to earn" our salvation.  It is never going to be enough, because God’s work in His Son, Jesus…and our acceptance of it, and response to it. Salvation is His gift to us. The elements of belief, repentance, confession, baptism, spiritual living are all a part of this process. Then, God wants to work in us to glorify Him.  He wants to make us what He wants us to be…more like His Son. For some, conversion is it – nothing else follows (so it is questionable as to whether there has been a conversion truly take place).  Yet, it is only to be just the beginning of doing good works. As I shared concerning Lazarus not long ago – Jesus said, “get him loose from those grave clothes and let him go”.  We can’t stay in grave clothes, but live as citizens of heaven!  Believers work because they are saved!  We do good because of our salvation.  Our goal in life is to glorify God.

Every human that has ever lived deserved to die on the cross of shame…including you and me.  Every person is deserving of death because of sin – no exceptions. It was our cross…and Jesus took our place.  We would die if not for Jesus’ sacrificial substitution. It really makes so much sense!  How could we choose the counterfeit “gifts” of the world system…the false hope of self-service…the deception of the flesh? We have all of the blessings in the universe right in front of us…all we have to do is reach out and grasp them!  Reach out and hold on to eternal life. Because of the loving grace and mercy of the Father, we have the opportunity to choose life!  As Paul shares in 4:1ff, we all have the challenge to “live worthy of the calling we have received.”  And so we can with the help of our Lord and His Spirit.
Blessings, Don

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