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The Way We Were #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
June 10, 2024 12:00 am

The Way We Were #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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June 10, 2024 12:00 am

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Welcome to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, Founding Pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hello, I'm Bill Wright. Thanks for joining us as we continue teaching God's people God's Word. Don begins a new message today, so without further delay, let's join him right now in the Truth Pulpit. We turn in our Bibles to Ephesians chapter 2 this morning, and I invite you to turn there with me. I'll be reading the first three verses of Ephesians chapter 2, and then we will go through it verse by verse here this morning.

Ephesians chapter 2, verse 1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. We're in a series that I've titled How to Know True Salvation. And there's no point in living life if you don't know what true salvation is because it all gets squandered in the end without Christ, without a true knowledge of salvation. And knowing true salvation is utterly essential to having a Christian mind, to having a worldview through which you understand everything else, to having a view of life through which you process everything else. And to have a Christian mind today, you need to know the way you once were.

You need to be clear on what it is that you have been saved from if you are a Christian. And there is a backward look in the passage that we have just read in Ephesians 2, 1 through 3. Notice the past tense references in verse 1.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. Verse 2, in which you once walked, past tense. Verse 3, among whom we all once lived. Verse 3, toward the end, we were by nature children of wrath.

Paul in this passage as he speaks to Christians, as he writes to Christians, is explaining to them the condition from which they have been saved, what they were saved from. Now there's a familiar phrase that, at least in the older generation, they used to use when people were remembering the good times. Scripture warns us about dwelling too much on that. But we would say that they're taking a stroll down memory lane. And they're walking down memory lane, remembering the way that things used to be. And in a sense, those times, I suppose, can be innocent as we just look back and give thanks to God for what He's done in our lives and the joys that we've had, perhaps with family, perhaps with the people of God, the way that He's blessed in times of service in the church, service to Christ.

And those things, you know, are good. The psalmist would remember the past in order to strengthen faith to today and to inform praise today. But you do have to be careful that, lest you develop a sense of nostalgia that causes you to think that things used to be better and it leaves you dissatisfied in the present. So we just have to use our memory for sanctified purposes, I suppose. Here in Ephesians chapter 2, the point of that is to simply set this up, Paul is taking his Christian readers down a stroll on memory lane. But it's a spiritual trip that he is making, and it is for the opposite effect. Rather than creating a longing for days past, he's creating a recognition of the danger and the guilt and shame that marked the past to help us appreciate what we have now in Christ and what it is that we have been delivered from.

My friend, if you're going to have a Christian mind, you need to realize how much the gift of salvation in Christ delivered you from. To understand that you have been delivered from a dreadful past that was leading to an even more dreadful future. Because only then will you have the proper estimation of the value of salvation, that pearl of great price, and be refreshed and renewed in your commitment to live for Christ and to live for His glory. So we look back today to the way that we were, that's the title of today's message, the way we were so that we would have a proper sense of Christian salvation.

And let me just say this by way of an early tangent. The failure of Christians to be joyful in the present and to be dissatisfied with circumstances and to grumble against God for this or that didn't go the way that you wanted to. The root of that discontent, the root of that dissatisfaction can easily be traced in large if not exclusive part to a failure to appreciate what it is that you have been delivered from. When you see and understand what the Bible says about your condition apart from Christ, then you realize that you have abundant grounds day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment to be grateful to the Lord for His kindness to you in Christ, having delivered you from what you once used to be. What Paul shows us in these first three verses is that you were born, my Christian friend, and my unsaved friend as well. You were born into a condition, into a particular kind of state. You were born into a particular kind of realm, an environment, a spiritual reality. And that realm, that state, that reality was one of utter alienation from God. It was a state of utter total depravity, which we'll explain another time. But every faculty of your life, every faculty of your mind and your being was fallen and marred and broken by sin. And in that state, you could not know God because your sin separates you from Him.

In that state, no one can go to heaven because without holiness, no one will see the Lord. And, beloved, what you need to see if you're going to have a Christian mind about salvation, if you're going to have a right appreciation of who Christ is and what salvation is, you need to understand that being lost, being separated from God, being a non-Christian is far more than simply occasionally doing bad things and being naughty from time to time. When you are not in Christ, when you were not in Christ, you belong to and you love a realm of evil which God Himself condemns. You were part of a wicked world, part of a wicked world system. You were a contributing member of it.

You were a fan club, you were a member of the fan club of a fallen world before Christ. And that's what you are apart from Christ if you are not in Him today. And when you begin to realize that and understand it, as I've often compared it to, it's like the feeling you have after you've just missed being in a really bad car accident. So you just stop just in time as somebody runs a red light in front of you. Or you're spinning out of control and you end up just on the edge of a precipice where you would have fallen and being seriously injured or fatally injured. And you have that sense of, whew, that was close. And your heart beats faster at what might have been had not the hand of providence spared you from it. Well, in that way, looking back at the way that we were, shows us a sense and gives us a sense of this was really, really bad, very, very dangerous.

I was in a dangerous position and I was vile and wicked and a rebel against God. And to recognize that is to enter into the realm of being able to appreciate what Christ has actually done for you in salvation. And so we should never, Christian, you should never look back with longing for the days before your conversion. There should never be that sense. There should be such a clean break in your mind and in your being.

Such a clean break that you realize the thought of going back to that is unthinkable. And so utterly distasteful and abhorrent to you that you turn against it all over again and renew your resolve to move forward in Christ and to pursue holiness because the way things were was so desperately bad. So what is it precisely that God has saved us from as Christians? Well, first point for this morning, you were captive to evil powers. You were captive to evil powers. Paul says that we were dead in trespasses and sins.

And we looked at this some last week, and so I won't spend too much time here. Look again at verse one, Ephesians two, verse one. He says, and you were dead in the trespasses and sins, dead without any spiritual life, dead in condemnation, and dead in the violations of God's law and the rebellion against him.

That's the realm in which you physically live, but you were a walking spiritual corpse. There was nothing, beloved, appealing to God about your prior way of life. There was nothing about your prior way of life that in any way commended you to God. If you are not a Christian, there is nothing about you to attract God to you at all. There should be nothing in any human mind that has any sense of self-congratulation about our goodness, our righteousness.

You know, I'm a pretty good bloke. None of that can stand. It all melts before the fiery heat of the revelation of the word of God and how God perceives unsaved men and what their reality actually is.

You know, and it's precisely at this point where the self-esteem movement over the past several decades and telling people how good they are and you need to love yourself and all of these things, all of that is exposed for the rot that it is, and it flatters people who should instead be looking at themselves with a sense of regret and repentance before a holy God. You are dead in trespasses and sins. There is nothing, beloved, there is nothing appealing about being in the presence of a rotting corpse. There's nothing about that that should appeal to us.

There's nothing, we wouldn't congratulate a corpse on how vibrant it is. Well, Paul, starting there, expands the thought to describe a threefold captivity to evil that you were in there. And again, this is so important to understand, that being a sinner is not simply a matter of occasionally having done bad things, having occasionally externally violated the commandments of God.

It's so much more than that. The reason that you sinned, you were not a sinner because you sinned from time to time. Beloved, you sinned a lot because you were a sinner by nature.

You were bringing forth what you were actually like, even if you covered it up from time to time. And so men sin because they're sinners. It's not simply external acts of sin that make us by nature sinful men. And so we just have to think about this. If we're going to think rightly about true salvation, we have to view it from the way that God views it.

Put aside the flattery of, you know, a broken education system. Put aside the flattery and conceit of your own heart, and come humbly before the Word of God, and let him tell you the way that you once were, if you are in Christ. And what was this threefold slavery that we were in before God saved us? And by the way, the word slave means that that you were under its power and authority. You were not free to leave. You were captive to it. A slave had no independent will of his own to exercise apart from his master. You were the son of your father, the devil.

You were the son of the father of lies, and that's why you lied and why you were deceptive in all of these things. We must understand this. And so we see a threefold slavery laid out for us in verse two. Let's look at verse two and read it, and then I'll break it down for you.

Ephesians chapter two, verse two. In the trespasses and sins in which, okay, so there's a key word. Paul has generally laid out the realm of trespasses and sins as a realm, and he says, in that realm, you once walked. It was in that realm, that realm of transgression and sin and guilt before God that you once walked. That was your pattern of life. It was your course of life. That's the sense of the biblical metaphor of the walk. This was the course and pattern of your life that you walked in those trespasses and sins in which you were dead.

And so going on in verse two with that little explanation, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. How were you captive to evil powers? Well, number one, the world enslaved you. The world enslaved you. So this is a sub point. The main point is you were captive to evil powers, and now we're going to break the evil powers down into three different components so that you can see fully what God has to say about the way that you once were.

And it's not a pretty picture. And I can understand in one sense, it doesn't excuse it, but I can understand why a lot of so-called pastors avoid preaching on this. They prefer to appeal to the pride of their audience, to flatter their audience, to make them feel good about themselves because they think, whether they are consciously reasoning all of this out or not.

But if I tell you that you're pretty good and all of that, then you'll like me in return and we can be superficially happy together. Well, I can understand at a human level why men would do that, because the biblical teaching on the reality of humanity is not something that's naturally attractive, and it's not what you would say if you're trying to win friends and influence people on a human level. But that has nothing to do with being in a Christian pulpit. That has nothing to do with being a pastor. It has nothing to do with teaching the Word of God. Our responsibility as pastors, as elders, is to show you what the Word of God says, help you understand what it means regardless of how it makes you feel in the moment, so that you can know the truth of God and respond to it accordingly. God will bless you if you embrace His truth.

God will embrace you if you think according to the way that He has made Himself known. He will not bless you as God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. We don't appeal to your pride. We don't flatter your pride here at all.

We're not looking to do that. If you choose to resist and reject the Word of God, that's on you. The responsibility that belongs to the man in the pulpit is to say this is what the Word of God says about you and call you to repent, call you to believe Him, call you to respond to His truth regardless of how it makes you feel, regardless of whether some resist and walk out in the process of it. And so what was our threefold slavery before God saved us in Christ? Well, first of all, the world enslaved you. The world enslaved you.

Look at verse 2 again. He said you were following the course of this world. You were following the course of this world.

This was the pattern of your life. People reject truth and they follow the thinking and the fashions of their time. Whatever the media puts before them, that's what they believe.

They adapt themselves to the shifting course of the world. Why do you think so many people make so much money running public opinion polls and talk about what the majority of Americans think? Who cares what the majority of Americans think? I want to know what's true.

I want to know what's real. But the fact that we're so concerned to be in the majority, we don't want to be left aside. We want to belong.

We want to be a part of the club. And so we follow the thinking and the fashions of the time without regard to any consideration of God's estimation of it all. And so, non-Christians, perhaps some of you today, perhaps some of you naming the name of Christ, I know that was true of me before the Lord truly saved me. You can mark somebody who's following the course of the world.

You can mark them in a negative way. They have no interest in the Bible, really. They have no interest in prayer except as a means to try to leverage God to give them what they want, no interest in His glory. They have no interest in repentance from sin, no desire to examine themselves and, as David said, test me and see if there's any hurtful way in me.

There's no concern about how their lives are viewed by a holy God. And even worse, there's no genuine love for Christ Himself. There's no love for the person of Jesus Christ, no appreciation for His humiliation in His first advent, no humbling and love for His death on the cross where He gave Himself a sacrifice for sinners and blood poured out in death.

No love, no thrill at His resurrection, no thrill at His ascension, no gratitude for His continuing intercession at the right hand of God for sinners. There's nothing of that. There's no affection for that. There's no inclination to that.

It's boring, it's dead, it's something that is of no consequence to their daily life and therefore they dismiss it. Why? I'm too busy. I've got better things to do. Other things are, you know, it's Sunday afternoon.

Are you ready for some football? Well, you know, at what point, at what point do we say, I'm ready to dive into Scripture, I'm ready for the Word of God, I'm ready for Christ, I want that. And so the course of the world is marked by this lack of interest in heaven, this lack of interest in the people of God, this lack of interest in His Word and all of these things that we've spoken about here today because their minds are just focused on the here and now, the visible as opposed to the invisible, what they see as opposed to that which has been revealed. They prefer their opinions to knowing what the Bible says.

And beloved, even in politics and with the year ahead, an election year ahead of us, it's important for us to remember things like this. Even those candidates which verbalize things that seem a little bit more consistent with biblical morality than the other side, they avoid Scripture. What they say, they don't root the things that they say in Scripture because that would offend voters.

And so they even borrow from the law of God in order to appeal to voters without actually giving honor to the God who's established what's true and right based on His own character. This is bad, beloved. It's bad, it's wrong that we were like that. It's wrong that non-Christians are like that. It is wrong not to give glory to your Creator. It is wrong to look at the skies and not see Him. It is wrong to not live for the glory of the One who gave you life and sustains your life and will one day judge your life. It is wrong to be indifferent to the Lord Jesus Christ who loved sinners and gave Himself up for them, who suffered for them, the weight of an eternal judgment. It's wrong to be like that in exchange for whatever the passing fads of today are. It's wrong to be so wrapped up in work and employment and careers or education or friends that there's no room in your heart for Christ. Just following after the course of the world.

And why do you do that? It's because you're a slave of the world system. You're not even free to get up and go. You're in chains and you don't know it.

And if you saw the chains, you would kiss them and say, but I like it this way. How often have you heard coarse, profane men say, yeah, I'm going to hell, but at least I'll be there with my friends. Paul says we were all like that, dead to the things of God, alive to the things of the world. And beloved, whether you were outwardly religious as you were like that, or you were defiantly immoral, or you were coldly indifferent, the world system drove you away from God and shaped the way that you lived. And remembering the motivations of my own early life, desiring power, desiring a sense of pride, wanting to show off and show people that I was better than someone else.

I spit on, I spit on the way that I used to be like that, because as Paul said, all of those things, whether it's things of self-righteousness or things of the pride of the world, he says it's all rubbish. And that's the things that enslaved us. What else can we say about your former captivity as a believer if you're now a believer in Christ?

What else can we say that God has delivered you from? Well, Paul goes on to show that Satan enslaved you. Satan enslaved you. The world enslaved you. The world system enslaved you.

You followed the opinions of the world. Paul goes further and says that Satan enslaved you. Beloved, before you were a Christian, you were subject to supernatural powers that were hostile to you and hostile to God. It's so critical to realize this, to let Scripture show us the unseen realm so that we can see the way things really are rather than just judging by our material senses. Look at verse 2. He says you were following the course of this world.

That's what we just looked at. And then there was another thing that you were following. You were following the prince of the power of the air. You were following the prince of the power of the air. Your former way of life, beloved, there are parallel statements that he makes about this. As you were following the course of this world, you were also following the course of the ruler of the power of the air.

This is so... This is so... appalling, frightening, revealing to think about. The non-Christian has a life that is in line with the world and is in line with Satan. The interests are aligned.

The thinking is aligned. It's all in accord with these evil, supernatural beings capstoned by their leadership of Satan. The book of Ephesians emphasizes this evil realm and warns us against it. It tells Christians to be mindful of it and to seek the protection and the righteousness of Christ in the midst of it. Paul doesn't only mention it here in verse 2. Look at chapter 4, verse 26. Chapter 4, verse 26. And since we've mentioned the idea of walking and having a pattern of life, go to chapter 4, verse 1, actually, as you're turning there, so we can just see the context of what Paul is setting forth in what he says in the passage that I'm going to point you to in just a moment. Paul says in verse 4, I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. You used to walk according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air. That's how you used to walk. But Christ has saved you.

He's broken those powers. You've been caused to be born again. God has made you alive in Christ, my Christian brother, my Christian sister. God has made you alive in Christ. Therefore, walk in a manner that accords with your new life, not your old life.

That is the idea. As part of that new life, he points us in verse 25, chapter 4, verse 25, to this. Actually, I can't help but going back even further to this, in verse 17, because you see the idea of walking yet again.

We have to consider not just what we're doing day by day, but what is the course of my life? Chapter 4, verse 17. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do in the futility of their minds. Don't walk like unsaved people.

Don't walk like you used to. They're darkened, verse 18, in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to their hardness of heart. They become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ. You see, it's the difference between darkness and light, between sin and holiness, between judgment and heaven, between hell and heaven.

That's how sharp the distinction is. And so he goes on in verse 20, he says, But that is not the way you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. You see, over and over again, look at the way you were and reject it, turn away from it, consciously disown it. Embrace Christ and walk in the pattern of holiness. Verse 23, Be renewed in the spirit of your minds. Put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Now he goes on and he gets more specific, beginning in verse 25, Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each of one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. There's a supernatural foe who enslaved you as a non-Christian who is still very much alive and active, working to undermine your Christian life today. The idea taught by all millennialists that Satan is bound cannot survive biblical scrutiny. That Satan is bound today cannot survive biblical scrutiny. He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He blinds the minds of the unbelieving.

In what sense is he bound if he's doing all of that? That's Don Green here on The Truth Pulpit. And here's Don again with some closing thoughts. Well, my friend, just before we close today's broadcast, I just wanted to give a special word of greeting and thanks to the many people that listen to our podcast internationally.

It's remarkable to me. The last report that I saw listed 83 different countries that in one way or another are listening to us. And I just want to send a special word of greeting to those of you that are in lands that are distant from my own home here in the United States. You know, we've seen people from every continent, except maybe Antarctica, and people from countries like Ireland and Australia and Singapore, Canada, the UK, India.

I have friends in all of those countries. And whether you've met me face to face or whether you only know me as a voice through your favorite device, I just want to say God bless you. Thank you for your interest in the word of God. And may the spirit of God work deeply in your heart as you continue to study God's word. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for your prayers. God bless you. My prayers and love are with you as well. And we'll see you next time on The Truth Pulpit. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you so much for listening to The Truth Pulpit. Join us next time for more as we continue teaching God's people God's word.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-10 05:25:51 / 2024-06-10 05:37:45 / 12

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