Freedom Series: Freedom from Yourself
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves , it is the gift of God.
Sin has the ability to be both comforting and despairing. Sometimes when people are imprisoned in something, they are not sure they want to be free because there is comfort in that place. Some of you today are being held captive in your own sin. There is a prison around your soul. You find yourselves coming back to sin for comfort when you need it. With all of our progress, education, technology, research, medicine and funding, we still find that sin pervades. The real problem with the world is sin. The problem starts in us. The effect of sin cuts deep within you and I. Evil isn’t something out there; it is something very much in here. We all struggle with sin. We can say all day that there is sin out there in the world, but we need to first acknowledge that there is sin inside of us. There are some of you reading this message that are not sure how you got to this place. If you are real honest with yourselves, you may even look in the mirror and wonder how you became the kind of person you are today. You wonder: How did I ever get here?
Today we will examine a passage of scripture. We will look at Ephesians 2:1-10. There are two parts of this passage. The first is the bad news. We have a sin problem that we cannot solve. Verses 1 through 3 of Ephesians say this: “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 flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” Paul paints for us this picture of a deep hole in which sin has left us. There are “3 Ds” we should examine.
The first “D” is that we were Dead. In Romans 6:23 Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Before we came to Christ, we were objects of death. We lived under the reign of death because we lived with sin. The word “live” in this verse describes a position, like you live as a carpenter or you live as a teacher or you live as an accountant. Our position as described here is to live as ones who are dead. Sin is not an inconvenience or a minor distraction or something that causes us to get off track for a short time. Sin is devastating in our stand before God. It is who we were before Christ. We were enslaved and hopelessly lost.
The second “D” is that we were Disobedient. Not only did we have a position of death, we were actively disobedient. We used to follow the ways of the world. The culture and the context we lived in. We gave into the ways of world by allowing the tides of culture to sweep us away from the tides of Christ. Our situation and circumstances determined how we used to act and react. There is a satanic influence that caused us to be disobedient too. We also had a disposition to sin. We gave in more often than not. In other parts of scripture, Paul calls this our flesh. These realities pushed us out of control into destruction. Not one of us can say we have not sinned against God. Not one of us! For example, we have all looked at something someone else owned and wanted it for ourselves. This is covetousness. What this says is that we are not content with what we have. We look around and want things we don’t already own. This is sin. We have all disobeyed our parents at one point or another. Are you perfectly patient or gentle or self controlled at all times? Of course not! We are disobedient against God’s very basic laws and principles. Every one of us is guilty. We have this thing inside of us, however, that seems to overestimate our own goodness. We do this with athletics, smartness, looks and skills. Nowhere is this more prominent than on the spiritual side of things. You will hear people say constantly, “I am a good person.” We are only good if a Holy God does not exist!
The third “D” is that we were Doomed. Paul reminds us that not only do we do bad things through our actions, we have something inside of us that is deeply sinful and there isn’t much we can do about it. We can curb our behavior to a point, but there is this sin nature that pervades everything. We gratify our sinful nature inside of us with our sinful cravings. Paul has a really strong statement here: He says before we came to Christ, by nature we were objects of God’s wrath. Sin is not just outward action; sin is an inward essence. David in Psalm 51:5 says, “I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” In the womb of our mothers when we were stitched together, we were sinful. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Sinful nature happened at the Fall and has been distributed to the rest of humanity throughout the generations. Some people would say that we are good when we are born and then our environment corrupts us and the goal is to go back and to reclaim that goodness that we had when we started life. People who say this must not have children! Children learn to do bad things before their parents gave them a sense of right and wrong. There is something inside their little souls that is broken, evil and corrupt. Children may model bad behavior, but sometimes they just exhibit bad behavior that no one has ever shown them. Sin that has infected our nature makes us incompatible with God. He is consistently angered by sin and consistently filled with grief over sin and He will ultimately punish sin.
This is the bad news: Before we accepted Christ in our lives, we were all dead, disobedient and doomed. Ugh! It gets worse: Without Jesus, we cannot do anything to fix it. We are captive to our own depravity, and there is nothing we can do to get ourselves out of this mess. What does a captive need when he is out of options and has no other choices? He is in need of rescue. When we are held captive by something we cannot control, we need someone or something to intervene on our behalf.
Finally, we have some good news! Let’s read Ephesians 4:10: “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. 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The best word in this whole passage is the first word in verse 4: but. Paul paints this picture in the previous verses that we are all hopelessly lost and broken. BUT…God solves our sin problem! God intervenes on our behalf. God grants us grace and mercy because of His love for us.
God sees our condition and our plight, and His love overflows in two forms: 1) in mercy and 2) in grace. Mercy is when we are spared from something bad that we truly deserve to receive. Grace is when we get something good that we don’t deserve to receive. God gives us both. He spares us from the punishment coming to us, and He lavishes us with grace and with gifts we don’t deserve. God gave us grace and mercy not when we were doing our best to try to be good, but while we dead in our trespasses. We do not need to get ourselves cleaned up before we come to Christ! Paul says in Romans 5:7, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us while we were still messed up and in this deep hole of sin. Paul says that his life is a testament to God’s grace. He claims to be the worst of sinners–the chief of sinners. And he acknowledges that God has rescued him.
The message to all of us is that there is nothing that could have disqualified you from the grace and mercy of the love of God. It is by grace that we are saved! There is nothing in you or that you have done that is intrinsically good that has deemed you savable. God does not pick and choose who will be saved. He doesn’t take the most popular, talented or wealthiest people and save them. In fact, God goes just the other way. Most of the time God is saving not what is pretty but what is ugly. Your ability to have right standing before God is based solely on God’s grace and not on your performances. We are not saved by church attendance, by not smoking and drinking, or by getting confirmed at age 12. We are not saved because we were baptized as infants. We are saved by confessing Jesus as Lord and trusting Him to pay for our sins and make us right with God. God knows every stupid thing we will ever do and He saves us anyway. This is grace, and this is why we sing songs about it being so amazing.
God makes us alive and He raises us up and He seats us next to Him in heaven when we come to faith in Him. Those same promises given to Jesus are thrown open to the rest of us. Why would God do this thing? He does this to show the incomparable riches of His grace. God wants to show us off! We are trophies of God’s grace. God chose us not because of how great we are but because He wants to show off how good He is and how He can fix the broken. God not only saves us from something; He brings us to something.
God not only saves us from Him, He brings us to a brand new life in Him. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. God saves us so that we can do the good works He has prepared for us in advance to do. We are God’s workmanship. We are God’s poetry, spoken unto existence. Being a Christian does not mean to be boring and to say no to everything. This is a complete misconception. We have this heart-pounding life that is continually trying to seek Jesus. We have been set on a new course that is against the grain of our culture and is different than the way we think we are wired inside. We are called to live this radical mission for Him. It is why we were created. If we try to find our purpose in anything else, we will not be happy or fulfilled. Our life for Him and the good works we do are not to earn His favor. They are a response to the love that has been granted to us. We live our lives in response to the love of Christ. God is extending grace to us today.
Some of you are reading this today and are quite certain you were made for more than what you are living for right now. If you are not yet a Christian who has accepted God’s grace and mercy, you can be. It is simple. You must repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of your sin and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. When God extends His grace to people and they receive it, they have faith in God and what he has done, they receive God’s forgiveness, they repent and turn away from their sins, and then they get baptized to proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ. Your life can change forever. You heart can be quickened, and you can come to know Jesus. Your life will be dramatically and radically changed as a result of what Jesus is doing in you! God can take a heart of stone and put in a beating heart of flesh. God can change your whole perspective and the whole trajectory of your life.
Are you one of those who are dead? Are you living under the wrath of God? By grace you can be saved through faith. Maybe your faith and hope have been buried, and you are far from God. You long to get past all of the lies and excuses and you want to participate in the love of God and be rescued from your captivity today. As of right now, you are sitting in an electric chair waiting to receive the penalty for your own sins. Jesus Christ says to you, “Get up, and I will sit there for you.” The same power that brought Jesus back from the dead is available to you. God is calling you to create a brand new future and destiny for your life. God is calling you to live a life in response to His love. If you are living under the full weight of death, disillusionment, discouragement or if you are feeling disheartened, God is calling your name, He is addressing your situation, and He knows your heartbreak. He knows who let you down, and He knows about your circumstances, and He wants to save you from your sin and bring you into the life that He has planned for you. God is calling you, wooing you, beckoning you, and you may know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the case. You know it has been going on for some time now, and you haven’t done anything about it. This might be the day for YOU. Take a bold step today and just come to Jesus. Nail it down today. Just come. You will be so glad that you did!
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