Just so you are familiar with the inner workings of my thinking, I want to tell you that this morning’s message is one gigantic introduction to Ephesians 2:1-7. We’ll actually deal with the exposition of the text next week. However, with so much going off in my soul after PAN and with so much being dealt with in this text, the introduction is as long as a typical sermon on the text. So, there…
As we study Ephesians, we remember that we the church are a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-15). The church is the elected gift from the Father to the Son that the Son goes to the cross to secure through his suffering, death, burial and resurrection. The church is not a throw away Sunday activity that has no significance. The church is not a manifestation of a savvy business plan or a superior crafted strategy or a gimmick to attract unsuspecting stragglers.
The church is the community of the kingdom of God through whom Father is making his manifold wisdom known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10). The church is, despite appearances some times, the precious and loved bride of Christ that he is washing and cleaning up with the water of the word that he may present the church to himself without spot or blemish.
And since we are a real church it is necessary that we study what Scriptures say about the church, its leaders, its function and its position as being “in Christ”.
This is what we have been doing. We studied 1 Timothy and learned about our function and the precepts that guide our function. Since Timothy was shepherding the church at Ephesus, we deemed it necessary to study Ephesians in order to see our position and our mission as it was being lived out in the city of Ephesus and the surrounding areas.
We have discovered that our position of being “in Christ” is central. Who we are determines what we do. So Ephesians is going to give us plenty to engage in personally and corporately, but we are still digging into the glories of what it is to be “in Christ”.
In our text today, we will see the contrast of what we were “in trespasses and sins” contrasted with what we are “in Christ”.
This week we are not going to unpack the full details of the passage just yet. We will do that next week. This week I want to use the passage as a spring board (not the correct way to preach a text, but adequate when used as introductory to an actual exposition of the text) to encourage the body to continued action for the sake of the gospel.
We just came off of PAN. This church did itself proud. Your work to pull off PAN is the fruit of pouring into people, countless hours of preparation and teaching and discipleship and radical life group time and many other investments of time, emotion and energy. TRCC, you did fantastic! But its not just the actual conference that was cool. What is really encouraging is that this fellowship is known across organizations and on the field for its commitment to the task. TRCC, you do well.
But the work is not done.
We face the reality of being in the rebellion against the rebellion. Our enemy has dealt a grievous blow in the garden that has brought death and destruction to created order and to man as image bearers.
Jesus’ work as the ultimate missionary to come, take on flesh, show us glory, live perfectly, die, rise, provide atonement and justification has set in motion the rebellion agains the rebellion and the mission continues today until all peoples have representatives in the kingdom.
Our mission is to make disciples of all nations. But what work lies before us in taking on the mission?
1. We are in a war between the kingdom of God and the domain of darkness and this war is for the souls of people
A. There are 3 kinds of people: Free, Captors and Captives
1. Colossians 2:8 tells us to not be taken captive
2. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us to take every thought captive to obey Christ
3. 2 Timothy 2:22-26 tell us that there are people who are taken captive by Satan
to do his will
Those who are captive are captive because they are born into the rebellion as active participants in the rebellion and the values of the rebellion are lived out naturally their desires and actions.
Captives believe the lies of the kingdom of darkness and actively propagate those lies into systems and cultural norms.
Listen to Ephesians 2:1-3
Walking (living in) deadness
Following the course of the world – No such thing as “freedom” apart from Christ
Following the “prince of the power of the air” – Actively following Satan and his hoards of demons
Living according to the passions of the flesh
Carrying out the desires of the body and mind
Children of wrath
First, we need to understand that our work lies not so much in dealing with systems, but in rescuing individuals from the domain of darkness.
Second, because we seek to rescue people from the domain of darkness we do have to grope around in dark and broken systems that can be frustrating to deal with.
Third, as citizens of the kingdom we can begin to create new systems that are constructed on the the values of the kingdom. This takes Spirit gifted entrepreneurs who can be created in their own domain of society as a member of the Kingdom of God.
Fourth, we must realize that the Lord’s chosen instrument to any domain of society may be one of the domains own members and it will take us rescuing them by the gospel in order for them to be saved and discover they are the Ephesians 2:10 instrument to created a new system.
But all this starts with rescuing men and women from captivity to the rebellion by the powerful gospel.
2. The beliefs and values of the Kingdom of God stand opposed to the beliefs and values of the rebellion (world system / domain of darkness)
The problem is that from the fall on mankind has been a captive to a system of beliefs and values that stand opposed to the truth of God.
Our passage is a prime example of this.
We are told in our text that people who are not in Christ are dead due to being in sin, and therefore, following Satan as their leader.
You don’t think that stands opposed to those outside of the kingdom? Try conversing with a non-Christian about their status of following Satan.
Chances are that just hearing this offends sensibilities at some part of your own soul even now. How deep is the rebellion when even freed citizens of the kingdom find kingdom truths offensive?
With our discomfort about the bible’s truth claims comes a temptation to concede things we just can’t give up on.
C.S. Lewis said in God in the Dock, that Christians “…are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith…We must show our Christians colors, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent and concede everything away.”
Let me just give you a few places where we battle ideas.
Jesus taught that God created humans male and female (Mark 10:6). Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Huxley, Russell, Rorty and their disciples disagree. They insist that humankind is a product of chance, spontaneous generation, and evolution. Matthew D’Agostino says, “We’re not absolutely sure what life looked like once the process was fully underway: something like algae, the biologists suggest, a foamy blue-green pond scum.”
Jesus warns that we are not to fear those who kill the body, but rather those who can destroy body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). But Wundt, Watson, Skinner and other atheistic psychologists have developed various psychologies based on their conviction that we have no soul and there is no hell to avoid. These psychologists define man as evolving, physical, sexual animals with no spiritual dimension. We are animals seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
Jesus claims that he and the Father are one (John 10:30). But Freud, Nietzsche, Rorty, Dewey and their followers say that there is not eternal Father, that faith in God is a mark of weakness or insanity, and that persons and cultures create their own reality and morality.
Jesus says we should love God with our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). But Marx and Lenin assert that there is no God and that we must eliminate the bourgeois (conventional, middle class, conservative) by violence if necessary.
Jesus tells us he is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). But Dewey, Rorty, Foucault (Michael) and their disciples insist there is no resurrection and that life itself is an accident of nature.
Jesus promises that he will prepare a place in his kingdom for those who love him (John 14). But Freud, Marx, Nietzsche and their disciples believe that all religion is an illusion, wishful thinking, and an opiate of the masses.
Jesus teaches to give to Caesar (government) the things that are theirs and to give to God the things that are God’s. Humanists and naturalistic systems of thinking believe nothing belongs to God because there is no God to whom it belongs, therefore, we should get all we can, save all we can and get as comfortable as we can because this life is all there is.
Jesus teaches that people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). Richard Dawkins believes that “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
So, we can we do to prepare for this battle to rescue people and transform systems in bringing the Kingdom of God to bear?
3. Develop your ability to engage in the rebellion against the rebellion
These are just entry points. These are not full blow strategies for engaging the world. Those kinds of strategies come in community by listening the Holy Spirit and obeying your Ephesians 2:10 purpose for existing.
a. Don’t read your bible…Study your bible.
b. Read and digest other viewpoints on key issues (psychology, sociology, politics, education, biology, etc.)
c. Put yourself in difficult and challenging situations. Don’t go for comfort. Rather, go for training to be in the conflict.
d. Stretch your intellectual boundaries. Become a better thinker.
But don’t abandon truth or be taken captive with lies. Keep the Scriptures front and center and view all things through the lens of Scripture.
This will come as you challenge yourself with other viewpoints and difficult situations.
e. Engage in the domains of society as an analyzer of the culture and as salt and light for the culture.
f. Be a diligent manager of your time and portion it out to what matters most.
4. What are some goals in this rebellion against the rebellion?
a. Be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ not just a person looking for pragmatic means to some contrived successful end.
b. Strive to know what you believe and why.
If you engage people who need to be rescued you will get your belief system challenged. You must know what you believe and why you believe it.
c. Engage in the rebellion as Jesus taught: shrewd as a serpent but innocent as a dove…without compromise but without any one being able to blame for wrong.
How do you engage? You must learn to obey the Spirit as he lead you and leads your community of people (RL Groups).
d.Be a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ above all things. Don’t strive for success. Strive to be a person of biblical character and integrity that is willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Success is a mirage. Faithfulness is the target that you can hit.
e. Be a worshiper of Jesus Christ in all things everywhere!