The Bible confronts us with a grim diagnosis. All of us are dead in our sins. The good news is God has provided the perfect remedy.
So what exactly has He done and what does it mean for us? We'll find out today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg continues our study in the book of Ephesians. Our Scripture reading this morning is from Ephesians chapter 2, reading from the first verse.
And I encourage you to follow along as I read. 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. But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Thanks be to God for his word. Gracious God, we thank you for the Bible. We thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit who illumines its pages to us. We thank you for that divine dialogue that you conduct whereby your spirit in and through and beyond human instrumentation speaks into the very core of our lives, calling us out of our deadness to life, out of our enslavement to freedom, out of our condemnation to the joy of your presence. Accomplish your purposes gracious God we pray for Jesus' sake.
Amen. Well we come to verse four now in our previous study. We were confronted by what we referred to as the divine diagnosis of the spiritual condition of all men and women outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. We saw the diagnosis to be clear, to be comprehensive, that there are no exceptions, no excuses, and it was also a diagnosis that was manifestly grave. Some of us have had occasion to be confronted in physical terms by a diagnosis that was quite inescapable and our immediate reaction was to ask is there any way to fix this, perhaps to address the physician himself or herself and to say is there any way that you are able to fix this?
And of course the saddest of all is when they have to say to us I'm sorry that there is nothing that can be done, at least nothing that we know about. Well of course humanity as it confronts the predicament of the human condition has all kinds of suggestions as to how it can be fixed. But that is in large measure because contemporary notions of the state of man are frankly unprepared to give any credence at all to this diagnosis which is not only here in Ephesians but runs throughout the Bible, whereby the Bible tells us that outside of Christ we are dead, we are enslaved, and we are condemned. It doesn't sound very good and it isn't good, in fact it is dreadful. And it speaks to the issues of our state every day that we live our lives, every newspaper that unfolds before us, every broadcast that comes across our screen confirms the reality of what GK Chesterton observed that whatever else may be in doubt, man is not what God intended for him to be.
And so the explanations that are given are fairly routine. The trouble is that man is simply sad or perhaps he is dysfunctional or we may be prepared to acknowledge that he is sick, that's why he does these dreadful things, why he kills and maims and rapes and turns in upon himself. This is explained in terms of sickness.
The one thing that is almost wholesaley rejected is the diagnosis that the Bible gives here, namely that man is sinful. And the reason that this is so crucial is because a superficial view of the human condition results inevitably in attempts to fix the condition in similarly superficial fashion. So that, for example, we may try if man is simply misguided to cure the predicament by increasing the level of education. If he is sick, by increasing the amount of medication.
If he's just rebellious, then perhaps by legislation or even by indoctrination or domination. And the story of social and political history throughout our world this morning can be understood in terms of all these different categories, different ways in which society as a whole and towns and cities and families and sports teams and businesses and academic institutions try and do something about the fact that man is messed up. Now that's why it's such a wonderful thing to have a Bible and to read it and to read it and to ask God to speak to us through it. Because the Bible declares that we are spiritually dead on account of our trespasses and our sins and that only God is able to raise the dead. Paul then goes on to say, and that of course is good news because that is exactly what God has done. And beginning here in verse four, he is going to explain to his readers and we're his readers now what God has done and then why he has done it. Now let me remind you that what we are by nature in our fallenness in our sin magnifies what we are then by grace. And if we have a trivial and superficial view of what we were before we turned to Christ, then probably our expressions will bear testimony to that. There are three things in particular that we should note under this heading, what has God done?
And they're there in the text and I can point them out to you. First of all, God has made us alive with Christ, made us alive together with Christ. Now don't worry about verse four, we'll come back to that later, but for now notice that little phrase made us alive together with Christ. The testimony of the believer is not that God has helped us to feel better about ourselves or somehow or another has improved our circumstances or our living conditions because in actual fact, some of us having professed faith in Jesus Christ have found that our circumstances have actually got worse. Some of us would testify to the fact that it is ever since we began to take seriously the story of the Bible that we just have not enjoyed many of the benefits that we once knew. Some of the friendships that we'd enjoyed so much have gone away.
We used to be in absolute harmony within our home, but we have now become followers of Jesus and our spouse doesn't follow Jesus and we wish that he or she did and it is always there all day every day as an underlying issue. So the idea that somehow or another Jesus comes simply to add to the sum of our total happiness, to clean everything up, to make everything absolutely better, we can't testify to that. We're not supposed to testify to that. No, the story of the believer is I was dead and Jesus has made me alive. We sang about it last Sunday night. I once was lost in darkest night, but thought I knew the way. We were so lost that we didn't know we were lost. Now we needed to be shown that we were lost before ever we were found because you don't need to be found if you're not lost. So you come to a talk like this and you listen and you sit and you say, well, I don't know who this refers to, but it certainly doesn't refer to me until you understand that it does refer to you.
And then you say, I once was lost in darkest night and I thought I knew the way, but of course I didn't. You see, at that point in our experience, Christian things actually seemed pretty foolish. And the reason for that, the Bible tells us in Romans chapter eight, Paul explains the condition of life. He uses a contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man or the flesh and the spirit. You can read it for yourself and he says in verse six of Romans eight, incidentally, that's why you bought those Bibles so that you can look up and see whether what I'm telling you is in the Bible for to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace. That's the contrast, death, life, death and life for the mind that is set on the flesh, which is the mind by nature, the mind that emerges from the womb, it is pre-programmed set on the flesh to please itself. And the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God and it does not submit to God's law. Indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
That's what it says. In first Corinthians, Paul is making very much the same point and illustrating the way in which we find ourselves outside of Christ. First Corinthians two, verse 14, the natural person, man by nature, does not accept the things of the spirit of God for they are folly to them, to him, and he's not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. It's quite a statement, isn't it?
In other words, spiritual things, the thing that we read in the Bible, the story of Jesus, and particularly this notion that in his death there is life and that in him exclusively and solely there is life and peace and there is freedom from our enslavement and there is triumph over all that holds us in its grip. And someone says, no, I'm sorry, that just seems absolutely foolish to me. Well, why would it seem foolish? Well, because by nature it is foolishness to us. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.
Who are they? Everybody. But to those who are being saved, who are they?
Those who have been raised up to life. It is the power of God. So in other words, when the Bible is proclaimed, when the gospel is proclaimed, it inevitably divides. It inevitably causes us to say, on which side do I find myself? As my mind at enmity with God, am I hostile to these things?
Do I naturally turn away from them? Do I believe this? Well, if you're in Christ, then you do, because this is what God has done. He has raised us up. Prior to that we were both death and we were dead until God called us to our senses. I say to you again, this has done a nice diagnosis, but it is the biblical diagnosis. If you take Luke 15, you have a lost coin, you have a lost sheep, you have a lost son.
In fact, you have two lost sons. One is lost in his self-righteousness and the other one is lost in his abandonment. One is slaving in his father's house when he should be enjoying the benefits of the provision, and the other one has run away from his father's house thinking that if he could only get out from underneath that, then he would find everything that he longed for. Then he would be free. Then he could do what he wanted. Then he could be with anyone he wanted. He could sleep with everyone he wanted. He could do what he wanted. And then it says that after he had spent all of his stuff, he began to be in want and nobody gave him anything. Now he was friends. Now he's busted. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of the country who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.
And he would certainly have just eaten the pig slop if he could. And then he said, When I came to my census, when I came to my census, I said to myself, I will arise, and I will go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. He said, It's not like I'm in a pigsty, and things are not going as well as I'd hoped. Could you please advance me a little more cash? My circumstances have taken a downturn, but I'm sure I'll be out of them before too long. Now I've sinned against heaven and in your sight. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son.
I'd be happy if you gave me a position as a servant in your household. Well, you know the rest of the story. If you don't, you should read it in Luke 15.
It's quite fantastic. It is the wonder of the call of God into his life in that situation. You know, there's a wonderful illustration of it as well in a story that many of you will know, the story of Lazarus. People who don't know much about the Bible know there was somebody called Lazarus, and of course, Lazarus had a couple of sisters, Martha and Mary. Lazarus wasn't well. The sisters sent for Jesus. Jesus, from the sisters' perspective, delayed in his arrival. As a result of his delay, Lazarus had died and had already been buried. He is then chided.
Lord, if you'd been here, my brother wouldn't have died. And Jesus said, all right. Jesus himself cried at this scene. And then we read in verse 38 of John 11, then Jesus, deeply moved, again came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. And Jesus said, take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead for days. In the King James Version, it says, Lord, he stinketh. That's very graphic.
It's also very honest. Decomposition has already set in. What possibility is there for anything other than the resealing of that cave? Jesus said to her, did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? And so they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank you that you've heard me.
I knew that you always hear me. But I said this on account of the people standing here, that they may believe you sent me. And when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out. And the man who had died came out. He speaks, and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive. When you get to chapter 12, there is a dinner party at the house in Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. And so they gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. What a dinner party.
Have you ever thought about what that must have been like? You get invited, and you go, maybe you've been out of the area for a while, and you come back, and you sit down, and everybody is introducing themselves. Hello, yes, I'm Simon. Hello. And your name is Lazarus. Oh, okay. So how is it going with you, Lazarus? What's been happening lately?
I mean, the usual kind of dinner time conversation that had been going on. You say, well, I don't know if you believe this, but I was a dead man. I was dead and buried. You got to be kidding me.
What are you talking about? No, Jesus here. Jesus raised me. He came and called my name. In fact, if he hadn't called my name, if he had just made a generic call, who knows how many people would have come out of the grave?
He simply called out Lazarus, and I came out, and they took all my clobber off me, and here I am tonight, and I'm having dinner with you. This is a wonderful illustration, loved ones, of what happened when you were converted. If you were converted.
If you are. You were dead. I was dead.
Physically alive. I was part of the walking dead. I heard his voice. He called me into life.
This is the amazing wonder of the transforming power of Jesus, and Paul says, this is what you were by nature, and look at what has happened to you now. God has called. Now, when you think about the idea of God calling to us, there is a call in creation, isn't there?
In all of this beauty, in all of this grandeur, in all of the budding of these flowers, and so on, it speaks to us of a glory beyond here. In your scientific work, in your lab work, in the intricacy of the universe, in the joy of wonderful music, there is a call from creation. There is a call also in our consciences.
Each of us by conscience is aware of God. God has made us with an innate sense of right and wrong. That is why when we go wrong, we know inside of us, we are wrong.
That is why we want either to try and cover up the fight that we're wrong, or to figure out a way to be put in the right, or to justify ourselves. It's the call of God, making us aware of the fact. There is also a call that comes in the preaching of the Bible, when the Bible is proclaimed. It is as if there is a knocking on the door of our hearts. But the real effectual call of God, the inner call of God, is that which unlocks and opens the door of our hearts. That's why we often say, don't we? I think I probably said it last week, I say it to redundancy, that my voice can unlock nothing, can unlock no heart. I can say to you as I'm saying to you now, you know, creation speaks, your conscience speaks, the Bible speaks, and you can still sit there and go, I don't think so. No, until God speaks, till God takes up his word and calls you by name, speaks into your life, says to you, I'm talking about you.
This generic description of humanity actually finds its focus in you. You know this to be true. That's something God does. That's what he did in the life of Lazarus.
He called him by name. He was deaf, but he heard him. He was dead, but he was alive. That is the transforming power of Jesus. And all of this is accomplished on account of the fact that Christ rose from the dead and sat down at the right hand of God.
Can you say I was dead and Jesus made me alive? That's the story of every believer. You're listening to Truth for Life. Alistair Begg with a message titled, But God, and be sure to join us on Monday for the conclusion. Each day here at Truth for Life, we bring the truth of the gospel to people all around the world. And we're particularly grateful to be able to make Alistair's entire library of online teaching free to everyone. It's our truth partners who are largely to thank for this, their faithful giving each month covers the cost of distributing Truth for Life to a global audience. So on behalf of all of the listeners who have been changed by God's word through this program, a sincere thank you to our truth partners. And if you've been listening to Truth for Life for a while, but haven't joined this amazing team, make today the day. It's easy to sign up.
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This is a book that brings up many of the most common arguments against the Bible and gives well-reasoned but simple responses to each one request your copy of the seven reasons to reconsider Christianity. When you sign up to be a truth partner, or you can request the book with a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now, if you're starting to look ahead for vacation planning for next year, let me encourage you to consider the deeper faith 2023 Mediterranean cruise. Alistair will be the guest speaker and the voyage takes place aboard the newest ship in the Norwegian cruise line.
It will set sail from Rome, Italy, August 26th of 2023. Each day on this voyage will begin in a new port. It'll include fascinating locations such as Greece, Malta, Venice, and you'll share evenings with Alistair as he teaches from the Bible. For further details or to book your cabin visit deeperfaithcruise.com. I'm Bob Lapine. Hope you enjoy your weekend and I hope you can join us on Monday when we'll consider why it's ultimately impossible for believers to die. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life and the Learning is for Living.
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