Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Believing the gospel is massively inconvenient, and it makes all kinds of demands on you. It makes you do things with your money you wouldn't want to do.
It makes you reach out to people sometimes in ways that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If you don't understand the absolute necessity of the gospel, it will be nothing but a burden, and it will be cumbersome in your life, and you'll resent it. Welcome back to another week of teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch, and we are so glad that you're back with us today. You know, believing in the gospel sometimes feels a little inconvenient, right? When we don't understand how necessary it is in our lives, the demands it can make on us can often seem pretty bothersome.
I mean, giving generously and reaching out to people who are different, those are not always easy tasks. Well, today Pastor J.D. helps us see that until we fully understand the problem of sin, we can never fully cherish the gift of grace.
We know you don't want to miss a single message here on the program, so if you ever find yourself falling behind, you can catch up on previous broadcasts online at JDCreer.com. So why don't you grab your Bible and take some notes, and let's learn more about the riches of God's grace. Here's Pastor J.D.
All right. Well, the passage that we are going to dive into deeply today is regarded by many theologians to be the single most important passage in the Bible. I would say in many ways, this passage serves as kind of a litmus test for whether or not you understand what the Christian gospel, the good news, actually is.
The passage is Ephesians chapter 2 verses 1 to 10. In this passage, you're going to see Paul introduce a word that a lot of Christians today use as a kind of shorthand for how they summarize their relationship with Jesus, but it's a word that really confuses outsiders, sometimes even scares people on the outside, and that word is saved, saved. I have admitted to you that I sometimes cringe when I hear that word because I get this image of a pudgy Southern Baptist preacher wearing a too-small, out-of-style suit, yelling the word at the top of his lungs with his eyes kind of bulging out and the veins in his neck popping out, and he says the word in four syllables, saved.
You know, and you're just like, I just, it makes me cringe. Or I think of awkwardly placed billboards along interstates throughout the Southeast or confrontational tracks left in public bathrooms posing the question, you know, are you saved? But what I hope you will see from this passage is that while it is a word that might make you and me cringe, there really is probably no better word that summarizes what happens to us when we meet Jesus. In fact, one of the reasons it makes us cringe, I think, is because it encapsulates the helpless state that Jesus had to rescue us from. It's where Paul starts his explanation of the Gospel.
What is true about us that made Jesus's rescue operation necessary? In Ephesians 2, 1-10, the Apostle Paul is going to dispel two very deeply ingrained myths in our culture that nobody really even questions about evil. The first of those myths is that the main problem in the world is other people. I mean, everybody recognizes that the world we live in has evil in it, but we always assume that other people are the primary problem.
So we put locks on our doors and filters on our internet to keep evil out. Or we think it's people unlike us that are the main problem. So conservatives, of course, think that liberals are the problem. Liberals are destroying family values. They're undercutting the backbone of society.
They're trying to remove gluten from everything that we eat. They're the problem. Liberals repay the favor by thinking conservatives are the problem because conservatives, they say, are prideful and bigoted and they don't recycle.
So they're the ones who are the problem. Well, see, all that goes hand in hand with the second myth. And the second myth is that deep down, we're not really that bad.
We're not really that bad. We're basically good people who just get confused or we get in the wrong political philosophy or we lose our way or we're just weak. The famous psychologist, Carl Rogers, expressed the predominant thinking that has shaped our culture's view of man pretty much throughout the last century. Carl Rogers said that man was basically good in his heart and that our main problem is that we've lost touch with our inner goodness. It's oppressive and distorting societal structures that have obscured our access to our inner goodness. Of course, Rogers never really stops to consider where those societal structures came from or, you know, who invented them. But that's what we think. We think man is basically good.
He just is a little confused and he needs some external changes. Paul is going to blow up both of those myths, both of them, in the first sentence. In fact, the first part of the first sentence. Here's how Ephesians 2 begins. And you were dead in trespasses and sins.
First thing you should notice right there staring you in the face is the word you. You were dead in trespasses and sins. Not other people, but you. There's only one category of people, sinner. Sin is a fatal disease that exists in the heart of every single person. And that is the second word that challenges how our culture thinks about itself, the word dead.
You were dead. Our problem is not that we're good people who occasionally lose our way. Our problem is not that we sometimes do bad things because we're weak. Our problem is not our environment or our parents or our privilege or our lack of privilege.
Our problem is not our politics. Our problem is we're spiritually dead. Many people think of sin as bad actions that we do, right? So we talk about sin. They're thinking about the act of stealing or lying or adultery or something like that. But the word dead shows you that sin is not so much an action as it is a condition. In fact, our bad actions are simply symptoms of our dead condition, right? You don't have the flu because you cough and sneeze and run a fever.
You cough and sneeze and run a fever because you have the flu. One the same way, we're not sinners because we sin. We sin because we're sinners. I've explained to you that every parent, of course, sees this in their kids. I've explained to you that nobody had to teach my kids how to be jerks to each other. I didn't have to teach rebellious or selfishness to them. They didn't get that from their environment.
When my youngest daughter was two years old, when she didn't like what we'd put down there for her to eat, she would take the bowl of whatever it was, she would look us right in the eyes and just dump it on the floor. She was cute, but she was born a sinner. And that's because all of us, Paul says, are spiritually dead. Now I know what you're saying. You're spiritually dead? Well, that makes it sound like we're a bunch of moral monsters and we're not really capable of doing anything good. And I know that's not true, but that's not what being spiritually dead mean. Seriously dead doesn't mean that we're all as bad as we could be. It doesn't mean that we all sin in the same ways.
Think of it like this. If you walked onto a battlefield and there were 20 dead corpses all around the battlefield, some may look worse than others. Some of them may be severely damaged, barely recognizable anymore. Others may show little to no signs of damage at all. Some of them may be advanced in the decay process. Some of them may look like they could still be alive.
But in the end, it doesn't matter if they look okay. The important detail is they're all dead. I read a groundbreaking study recently.
I think it came out of UNC. New research, brand new research shows that 100% of people who die, 100% of people who die are dead. Not partially dead, not sort of dead, not theoretically dead, just dead.
100% of dead people are totally, completely, and entirely dead. And see, because we're dead in our sins, no amount of religious behavioral change can fix us. Because behavior change only affects the behavior on the outside.
It doesn't deal with the condition on the inside. You ever see that Tupperware container at the very back of your refrigerator? And you're like, how long has that been there? And you pull it out and there's a piece of chicken in it. And so you kind of slowly open it up and you smell.
And then like four hours later, you wake up and, you know, like you just, right. So how many of you in that moment, when you have obviously a piece of rotten meat, how many of you think, you know what that needs? It needs some Lowry seasoned salt and some Frank's red hot sauce. And that thing will be good to go. Because then you can cover up the taste of the rotten meat.
No, no. The problem is, is that it's dead and it's decaying. It was dead when you put it in the refrigerator.
You can preserve it for a little while, but because it is dead, it has already started the decay process. We are, the apostle Paul says, in our nature already spiritually dead. And we are decaying. We may smell okay for a while. We might even learn to cover up the areas of stench in our lives with religion or manners or culture, but at the core, we are dead. You say, well, this sermon has started.
Awesome. Just wait. It gets worse.
Verse two and three, Paul begins to unpack for us what spiritual deadness actually looks like. So let's go back here. In which you also once walked following the course of the world. Watch this.
Following the prince of the power of the air. That's a reference, by the way, to Satan. The spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.
Let me translate that for you. Not only are you dead in sins, you are followers of Satan. The core of Satan's rebellion is I'm going to do what I want to do instead of what God wants me to do. Isaiah 14 records the fall of Satan from heaven. And what it records that Satan said is five different phrases that all start with the two words, I will. I will be like the most high. I will ascend to the mount of the assembly.
I will be above all the stars of heaven. Sin's core, I've explained this to you. It's the way I explain it to my kids. Sin's core is that I want to be in the middle instead of God. You can see it in the very word sin.
S-I-N. It's that I want to do what I want to do instead of what God wants me to do. I want to be the point. I want to call the shots.
I want to do things my way. I want this whole thing to be about me and not him. And when you and I joined Satan in that rebellion, look, did you see it? You became his son or daughter. You became his son or daughter. And even more, his spirit went to work within you. His spirit, when you were a follower of his, went to work in the sons and daughters of disobedience.
You may not be demon possessed, but his spirit was working in you and shaping you. From there, Paul says, we began to live in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and of the mind. What that means is that something besides God became our master. We were created so that we could carry out the desires and the will of God. And what happened is we began to let other things hold ultimate sway in our life. So our body, the desires of our body said, have sex.
And we said, okay. Our body says, eat. Our body says, be the best. Our body says, get angry. And we obey. Our mind says, do things your way. You should call the shots.
You should be the best. And we obey. And because of this, Paul says, because of this, we were by nature children of wrath, just like the rest of mankind. Now you say, J.D., wait a minute. Surely, surely you, and I guess Paul the apostle here, surely you guys over speak. I mean, I've made some mistakes.
I get that. My kids make mistakes, but dead, spiritually dead? Followers of Satan, his sons and daughters, his spirit at work in us, children of wrath? I mean, come on, I know people who don't even believe in God and they still do a bunch of good things. I mean, what about the guy who throws himself on a grenade in the foxhole to save the life of his buddy? Even if he doesn't believe in God, that's a good thing, right? How about the mom who's not a Christian, single mom, but she sacrifices everything to give her kids a shot out of poverty and she's not a Christian. Aren't those good things?
Well, sure they are. But see, the point is, in light of our biggest sin, in light of our biggest sin, and that is replacing God's authority in our lives with our own and living for our glory instead of His, because our core sin is following the satanic rebellion of I will instead of God wills, our good things, even our good things, our good things, even our good things don't really seem that good. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. I hope this message is bringing you hope even as you listen right now. We are taking a quick break so that I can tell you about a daily email devotional from Pastor J.D.
that's available to our Summit Life family. Couldn't we all use encouragement first thing in the morning to remind us of God's love for us? I know the busyness of life can quickly choke out any joy that we feel in our walk with God. So why not start each day with an encouraging word from the Lord? The devotionals follow along with our current teaching here on the program so you can stay plugged in regardless of your schedule.
Sign up for this free resource right now at jdgreer.com slash resources. And while you're there, take a look at our full sermon archive, transcripts and other free resources meant to help you in your walk with Jesus. But right now, let's return for the conclusion of today's message on Summit Life.
Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Think of it like this. Imagine that you were able to have a bird's eye view in an ISIS camp where you were watching some ISIS fighters that were plotting to commit some act of terrorism where they blew up a school bus and killed a bunch of innocent children. But you noticed that as they were planning this thing, they took a break for lunch. And one of the ISIS fighters notices that his friend doesn't have anything for lunch.
So he takes his sandwich and he divides it in half and gives half of it to his friend. Now, that's a genuinely generous thing to do, right? It's a genuinely good deed. The problem is it's in the context of something so horrifically evil, it's hard for you to even see that as good.
Does that make sense? What if our cosmic treason against God was like that, but a billion times worse? What if our rebellion against God was so evil that it's even hard to call our goodness good? And by the way, just because you haven't experienced the full outworking of your depravity doesn't mean the seeds of that depravity aren't present in you. The capacity to do evil is in all of us.
And a lot of times, conditions outside of our control, like your family situation or the things that you've experienced, keep that depravity from growing out into full fruition. There's a few TV shows on right now that I think have some actual great insight into human nature. My wife and I were watching one the other night. It was a documentary on Lance Armstrong. Now, you know Lance Armstrong's story.
I know how his life, I know how his things turns out. And you kind of look at the end of his public life and you're like, how does that happen? I mean, who would do that to their friends and who would live a lie like that and become a fraud in the face of a disease that he's trying to... Who does that? How do you get to that level of deception and depravity and wickedness?
And then you watch the documentary and at least to me, it starts to make a lot more sense. You got this drive to succeed that causes you to, I'm just going to cut a little corner here. Well, I can see myself doing that. And then, you know, once you start doing it, you got to start lying to cover it up because you don't want to be exposed.
And I can see myself doing that. And then all of a sudden the money gets bigger and the reputation and all that stuff gets bigger. So now you got to lie in bigger ways to cover up this path. And then you go from one step to another. And now you got to smear even your friends who are threatening to expose the lie.
Now you got to isolate everybody. And at every point in the way, I'm saying, I could see myself doing that and that and that and that and that. My wife said, it feels like we're watching like a live episode of Breaking Bad.
We watched another one on Allen Iverson. If you know anybody named a professional athlete who ended up in a really bad place, my philosopher wife said. She said, you know, if I had grown up in a situation like that and I'd face temptations like he did, who's to say I wouldn't have become exactly like that?
We shake our heads at these people, but honestly, who am I to judge? In those circumstances I might very well have turned out the same. The point is what the old Puritan John Owen used to say, the seed of every sin is in every heart. Recently I had somebody in our church tell me about a trip she took to Rwanda. If you know anything about recent history, Rwanda was a place of unspeakable genocide carried out by the Hutus against the Tutsis. And on her trip, this mission trip, she said, we drove into the mountains of a Tutsi village that had been wiped out during the 1994 genocide. Our Rwandan ministry leader stood at the very spot, the very spot where his family, his children, and hundreds of people, his friends and neighbors had been slaughtered in front of him. Through a translator, she said, he described the horror of what he had experienced that day.
She said, I literally felt sick. Afterwards, we held hands on that spot and we prayed. I'll never forget when our ministry team leader opened the prayer this way, God, listen to this, forgive me. The wickedness that drove these men to commit these crimes is the same sin in my heart. I am no better, I am no closer to salvation, but for your grace.
Our church member went on to say, she said, I always thought that I had a pretty boring testimony, but standing there on that scene of that massacre, I realized that I have been saved from the same depths of depravity as a mass murderer. You and I deserve the wrath of God. We really are dead in our sins. Our blasphemy against God deserves the eternal punishment of hell.
Hell is a terrible place and educated people don't even like to talk about it, but Jesus believed in it and he talked about it all the time, even more than he did heaven. And Paul starts his explanation of the gospel here because in order to really understand the gospel, in order to place any value on the gospel, you have to understand what you were saved from. You see, a lot of times I think we try to jump right to the good news of the gospel without really grappling with the bad news. But every physician knows that if you misdiagnose the disease, you're also going to misprescribe the cure. And if you don't really understand the problem as the patient, you're never going to embrace the cure.
Brad Hambrick, who's over our, all of our counseling here, says he sees this all the time in marital counseling. He says, people come in and marriage problems and they want the solutions. Fix it. But what they really don't want to talk about is the problems because, well, that's uncomfortable.
So just fix it. Paul's point in Ephesians 2 is that this is what we do with God. We want the answer, but we really don't want to hear about the problem. But if you don't wrestle with the extent of the problem, by the way, not just your problem, but he says the rest of mankind's problem, if you don't wrestle with that, then you're never going to love the gospel. You're never going to be committed to the gospel. You're certainly not going to be committed to spreading the gospel. Listen, I'll just go ahead and tell you this.
This past moment of pastoral honesty here. Believing the gospel is massively inconvenient. I mean, it makes all kinds of demands on you. It makes you do things with your money you wouldn't want to do. It makes you reach out to people sometimes in ways that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
If you don't understand the absolute necessity of the gospel, it will be nothing but a burden and it will be cumbersome in your life and you'll resent it. I kind of think of it like this. Imagine you were getting on a Delta flight and you had to set an economy. You know they give you about four and a half inches of leg room back there. So you're kind of crammed in there. And the other thing that you got to do in your seat is you got to wear a parachute.
How many of you have actually worn a pair, like had a parachute on your back before? Kind of raise your hand. All right.
Okay. So they're not little tiny backpacks. They're like huge.
They're very cumbersome. So you got to sit in economy with a parachute. You're annoyed.
You're complaining. But let's just say that you knew that 30 minutes into the flight, that flight was going down. All of a sudden that parachute doesn't seem nearly that annoying, does it? It becomes your favorite possession. You begin to brag about it.
You begin to try to persuade people around you if they have a parachute that they need to put theirs on also. You see, if you understand really what you're safe from, then suddenly being devoted to the gospel starts to make a lot more sense. Many of you don't love the gospel and you don't spread the gospel because you have never really wrestled with the extent of the problem that you and I were under when Jesus came and rescued us. Until you understand the problem, you will never cherish grace. Until you understand the problem, you'll never really love Jesus.
I love what Charles Spurgeon used to say. He said, those who think too lightly of the Savior do so because they think too lightly of sin. You show me a man who has felt the noose of God's judgment around his neck and been delivered from it.
That's the man who will weep for joy at the pardon he has received and then will hate the evil that he has been forgiven of. So my friend, hear it, all right? Hear this.
You are dead in sin. The problem is not your environment. The problem is not your parents. The problem is not your poor self-image.
The problem is not confusion. The problem is not temptations. You didn't get around a group of bad friends. You are dead in sin. You're by nature a child of wrath. You're a son and daughter of disobedience. You're a follower under the influence of Satan.
And yes, I know that you're not going to hear that verdict on humanity from Oprah or Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz, but Paul says it's what's true and it's why you needed to be saved. See? By the way, that's why I can't get away from the word saved. You understand?
What's a better equivalent? I didn't need to be improved, edited, updated, rebooted, or enhanced. I needed to be forgiven, restored, redeemed, and resurrected. I needed to be saved because sin didn't knock me down onto God's JV team.
It didn't put me on probation. It didn't put me on a slower track to get up to my mansion in heaven. Sin wiped me out. It killed me. So I needed, I needed Jesus who would come as a life coach who would help me turn over a new leaf. I needed a resurrected Savior who would give me new life. Verses one to three is a lot of bad news. There's a lot of bad news and it could have stopped right there. Verse four contains probably the largest conjunction ever uttered in human history. But God, but God, that's it.
John Stott calls those the two most significant words ever uttered in the English language. But God, would you just let the force of that hit you for a minute? You were dead. You were helpless, but not hopeless because hope wasn't going to come from inside of you by your ability to help yourself. Hope was going to come from outside of you when God in mercy looked at you and bared his mighty arm and began the process of salvation. When you were dead in sin, but God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us.
Let's talk about those for a minute. Great love. Some theologians, some Christians talk about salvation so coldly and mechanically. Like it's just this doctrinal thing that's being worked out, but our salvation was birthed in the love of Jesus Christ for sinners that he didn't want to see die.
But God, the greatest words in the whole Bible, where would we be if God hadn't stepped in? You're listening to Pastor JD Greer on Summit Life. So this month, our resource is an eight-part Bible study called Ephesians, Your Place in God's Plan. And not coincidentally, we're also working our way through a teaching series in Ephesians. So Pastor JD, what do you hope listeners will take away from this resource we're offering right now? Well, as I hope you're picking up, just as we work our way through the book of Ephesians, Paul's message to the Ephesians and to us is this, God's eternal plan is bigger than Caesar's plan, it's bigger than your plan, and that ultimately the most important thing that is happening in your life is what God is doing in it. And Paul wants us in the midst of the mundane, in the midst of the dangerous, he wants to perceive a larger plan, an incorruptible love that is guiding, to use his words, all things according to his will.
How does a believer respond to what is sometimes feels like very discouraging news? How do we respond with the hope of the gospel? That's what the book of Ephesians is about. We've got a Bible study that we're going to offer you this month to go along with the messages here on Summit Life. And that Bible study is called Your Place in God's Plan, that will help you connect some of these incredible gospel truths in Ephesians to situations and moments that you're going to experience day to day. We'd love to get you a copy of this Bible study called Your Place in God's Plan today when you give $35 or more. Give us a call at 866-335-5220 and remember to ask for the Ephesians study guide. That number again is 866-335-5220.
Or you can give and request the resource online at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Gbidevich. Thank you so much for being with us today. Be sure to join us again Tuesday here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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