Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dead Men Walking- Ephesians 2:1-13

Ephesians 2 Sermon Notes
Dead Men Walking

My mom had few jokes but one of them was whenever we drove past a cemetery. She would say how many dead people in that cemetery? And the answer was, “All of them.”
         I ask you, "How many dead men do we have in this room?"
         Now, we can take the title of this sermon, Dead Men Walking, in two ways. And by Dead Men Walking, I mead dead men, women, boys and girls. All of you are dead men walking. So, the answer to my question, How many dead men do we have in this room is, “All of them.”
         But you might protest, “I am not dead. I can breathe. My heart is beating.”
         True, but you need to understand that your heart beating is not what makes you alive. What makes you alive is Jesus Christ’s heart beating.
         Well, you might say, then Christ’s heart is beating in me. And if that is true then it is true that you who were dead in your sins has He quickened, that is, made alive.
         But maybe there are those in whom only a sinful heart beats. That is not life but death. We need Christ for life.
         So, we have two types of dead men walking.
         One is the kind who was dead. He is like Lazarus come out of the tomb. Look, a dead man walks. But he really is no longer dead. He might be known as one who was dead and is now come to life but he is really alive.
         The other is the one who is dead in his trespasses and sins. He walks about but there is no life of Christ in him. Though he is alive, he yet remains in his trespasses and sins. He needs life. He needs a new heart.
         What we have to deal with is that all of us have been that second man, the one who is dead though he seems alive. Every human being that is alive must have been quickened by the Holy Spirit of God to be in Christ and thus made alive.
         Now, it is not necessary that we fully understand this, how or when, exactly it happened. But we do need to grasp that it happened. The reason is twofold and given in our text.
         First, we need to know this happened so that we give God the glory. We cannot bring ourselves from death to life, so it takes away our boasting for having done so.
         Two, particularly as our children grow up in this church, they need to be taught not to boast of their upbringing, God’s favor on them, the gifts of salvation and godly living. These are all good things but not things to boast of. They are all gifts. If our children understand that they are gifts and render thanksgiving for them, then this reveals their heart, a heart of gratitude, a heart transformed by Jesus.

         But if they stubbornly cling to their advantages as either earned or deserved, then they are not revealing a heart of gratitude. This more likely reveals the heart of a dead man walking. And if they think this way, one response of theirs might be that, "I was never dead." It is okay if you do not remember being dead. But you were once dead and are now made alive by Jesus, if, in fact, you are really alive. If you are live, this is a fact. If this is not a fact for you, then you are not alive.
         So, the Scriptures and Jesus and the preacher, call you to life. Like Lazarus from the tomb, come forth into the light, the light of Jesus and be not dead, but living. 

Where Are We?

Last week, I asked the question, “Where is Jesus?” He is at the right hand of the Father. 

This week I ask, “Where are We?” In one sense, we could say that we are at Providence Church or Lynchburg or on the Earth. All of those answers are true but only partially.
       
We are with Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father. There is much we could say about this. It is a place of privilege and responsibility before the Father. It represents both a present reality and a future certainty of Christ’s rule and our rule with Christ. But what I really want to say about it is simply that it is true. We can theologize, philosophize and theorize but what we need to do is simply realize. We must understand this is real.

       
Jesus is real. He is alive. He has a body. We are in Christ and we are His body, the Church. As the Church, we are in the place of final authority with Jesus. Do you understand the manifold and magnificent ramifications of this? 

Jesus cannot be toppled, therefore the Church cannot be toppled. The Church and those of us in Christ are absolutely secure in the place of ultimate and final authority, now and forever. This is God’s exceeding great power towards us who believe. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Wherein Time Past Ye Walked

As we look at Ephesians 2 today, we are reminded of two important things. One is God’s great unmerited grace towards us. The Father loved us and called us to Himself through Jesus. This grace is monergistic. We didn’t have anything to do with it. God did it because He wanted to. Our response is simply faith, gladness and thanksgiving.
         The Second thing is that God saved us to faithful living not just from disobedience and wrath. We are saved to walking in His grace and He expects that a certain number of our sins are now fully behind us. I do not say all of our sins for we continue to be tempted, struggle against sin and sometimes fall, until we are Resurrected.

But he says that some sins are not even to be named among Christians. Christians should be done sinning in this way.  Among them, he names fornication, pornography, talking like a sexual moron, course sexual jesting, covetousness-especially related to someone else’s husband or wife, and such things. These things need to be confessed, repented of and done with in the life of the Christian. So, let us live in the Spirit and be done with these deeds of the dead.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sermon Notes- Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:15-23
True Enlightenment
August 10, 2014
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         In the letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul gives us a wonderful example of how to craft a sermon. He starts off with glorious statements about God. He reveals tremendous theology to us. He declares, unequivocally, that God is absolutely Sovereign. But he doesn’t leave it there. He moves on from there to what we should do about what God has already revealed and done.
         The first verse of chapter four is, Eph. 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.
         He walks them from what God has revealed and done in them to what their responsibilities are in Christ. Because God has worked, they are to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, as the Scriptures say. Our work does not save us but having been saved by the great grace of God, we are to leave behind the ways of death and walk in the ways of life.
         In our passage today, the Apostle prays that the eyes of your understanding be enlightened. It is clear from this that Paul understands that if God does not give you understanding, you will not understand. This must be revealed to you. And yet, he embarks on the process of revealing the truths of God and the Son and the Spirit, all the while trusting that God will reveal these truths to them through the power of the Holy Spirit and Paul’s words.
         So, the enlightenment comes from the Sovereign God, the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and then a command follows. In 4:18, he tells them not to walk as other Gentiles walk, in a darkened understanding. And then he gives them a list of ways in which that understanding is darkened, lying, stealing, foul speaking, bitterness, wrath, envy, fornication, course jesting, visiting prostitutes, filthiness, drunkeness. He is telling ‘enlightened’ saints, if indeed you are enlightened, not to do these things.  And he warns them that the wrath of God comes upon those who do such things.
         It is not my intent in preaching these evangelical sermons to cause all of our saints to doubt whether they are in Christ. Much of the ministry is assuring the saints that they are in Christ. But we need to be honest with God and with ourselves. There is a sort of ‘saint’ that sits in the pews with a darkened understanding. He is lying to himself, to God and the saints. He is living in sin but trying to show himself in Jesus. To that individual, I do intend to cause them doubt whether they are in Christ because light has no place with darkness.
         If you are not convinced in your heart that Jesus is indeed Lord of all. If you are not drawn to God in worship and the love and fellowship of the saints. If you chafe at confession of sins, particularly your own personal sins. If you ensnared in the sins that Paul mentions and cannot get free, then you have reason to be concerned about whether you have really seen the glory that is in Christ. Paul prays for you in this letter. I pray for you as well that the glory of Jesus Christ will be revealed to you.
         This is true of the children in this church as well as the adults. As our church grows and with the number of our many children, we are likely to see that one who just does not seem to get the gospel of grace. And the result is a sinful way of living coupled with a hypocritical attendance at church and maybe even the Lord’s Table. Thus, the things that are meant for blessing to you are working against you.
         I say to you what the Apostle Paul says to the saints at Ephesus. 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. You are to do this even though only God can do it for you. That is not a contradiction. Submit yourself to Jesus Christ.
         What do we say to the bulk of you who are growing up in Christ with your mind enlightened? Do you say, “Look at us, we see the light, we are so great! We’ve got the truth and those other saps cannot see it!” Listen to me, if that is your response, then what you think is light may be darkness. I am sorry. I do not mean to speak in riddles. But the very one who is proud of his enlightenment does not really have it. True enlightenment only comes with true humility. That is why Paul can say of himself that he is less than the least of all saints and the foremost among sinners. Paul understands that enlightenment is a gift and there is no room for pride in it.
         But for you who say, Christ is my all and I have no hope without Him. I don’t deserve all this grace and peace and love of the saints. I am glad to confess my sins to get them away from me that I may be all that I can be in Jesus. If that is the way you are thinking, then True Enlightenment has been granted you and my desire is to speak words of grace and peace to you.
         Finally, parents do not panic about your children. They are growing up in these truths. If they love Jesus and have a childlike faith in Him, then this is enlightenment. If they are learning to confess sins, to walk in discipline and obedience, this is the leading of the Holy Spirit. Do not speak doubt to them when they need assurance.
But do not presume upon God, either. If your children show rebellion by failing to have faith in Jesus, by a failure to confess sins, by failing to love Christ’s Church and His people, by walking in darkness, fornication, filthiness, anger, wrath and bitterness, then they need repentance and life. Do not speak assurance to them when they need repentance and faith, except for the assurance of hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
          It is my express hope and prayer that as we make our way through Ephesians, every single saint at Providence Church will have the eyes of their understanding enlightened to the glory that is Jesus Christ.

EXEGESIS
         12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
This sentence is somewhat convoluted but it all runs together and is to be understood together. He is saying that to God’s glory, the Apostles and Disciples were first called in Christ. His sense is that just as we were called in Christ to give God glory, so were you.
We were given the seal of the Holy Spirit and you were given that same Spirit. This Spirit that has come to both Jew and Gentile is the earnest of our inheritance, the redemption of the body. This will to God’s glory.

The Word of Truth- The gospel, The good news. Essentially, it is this, that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, who was born of a Virgin and lived a perfect sinless life. He is also the Son of God. He died for sinners, rose for our justification and is seated at the right hand of the Father. We partake of Christ by grace through faith.
Without Christ you are without God and without hope in the world and are by nature an object of God’s wrath. But God chose to send this message that all who believe in Jesus and call upon Him will be saved. God will forgive them and give them His Holy Spirit so that they will receive His grace and peace.
The Spirit is the earnest of our promised inheritance. When you put down earnest money on a car or a house, the property cannot be sold. It is yours until you take full possession. The Holy Spirit is God’s earnest money.
In a real estate transaction, the buyer might not fulfill his obligation to purchase. In such circumstances, he loses his earnest money. He made a promise and there is a price to pay if he does not keep his promise.
But God always keeps His promises. If He has given us the Holy Spirit as earnest money towards fully purchasing us in the Resurrection, then rest assured that He will fulfill His promise. He will pay the full price and we will receive the full inheritance, the redemption of the body.
The Holy Spirit administers assurance to us through grace and peace, faith in Jesus and love of the saints. These are the tell-tale signs that God has given us His earnest. If you have these, or have had these, then look to Jesus and believe Him. If you do have grace and peace, or have never had grace and peace, then repentance is in order. Repentance brings grace and peace, not trying harder. This is because grace and peace is a gift not a wage.

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,  16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 
What are the qualities that characterize the faithful?
1. Faith in Jesus
2. Love unto the saints
The Apostle give God thanks for this because he sees that this cannot be without the present work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces faith in Jesus and love unto all the saints. If there is no faith in Jesus, then the Spirit is not present. If there is no love to the saints, then the Spirit is not present.

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 
Who is God?
He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the Father of glory- God is a Father. We Christians must insist that God is a Father. Any god who is not a father is not the God of the Bible.
This realization comes from God by the Holy Spirit in a spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of Jesus. This is given, not simply understood.

18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 
What are godly prayers?
1.   For a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus.
2.   That the eyes of the understanding should be enlightened.
3.   That you may know the hope of His calling.
4.   That you may know the riches of the glory in His inheritance in the saints.
5.   That you may know what is the exceeding greatness of His power.

         We believe according to the working of His mighty power. Even our belief is a gift from God. We who have come to believe understand this. It is unnatural to the fallen man. A dead man does not have capacity for belief. Thus, it must be given to him. This is part of what is revealed in the raising of Lazarus and the raising of Jesus. God did this unilaterally. There is a theological term for this. Monergism. Our faith is monergistic. This means that God gets all the credit for His grace to us. He gives us faith, the Spirit, new life, holiness and it is all ours. But we must understand that it is all gift from Him. That is grace. That is monergism.

20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 
The apostle places a huge emphasis on the Resurrection of Jesus. To some extent this does not surprise us. We have all grown up with Easter being important. To some extent, many of us thought Good Friday more important. Much of the evangelical faith focuses on the death of Jesus for sinners. Of course, this is true. Jesus did die for sinners. But for many of us, there was no clear connection in the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. They were all separate events, with the main emphasis on the Cross and Empty Tomb. Granted, highly important. But I want us to see this chain of events as one event, the glorification of Jesus to the right hand of the Father as our head, the ruler over all things.
         If we simply focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus, we do not rightly see that He not only raised from the dead but was raised to the right hand of the Father. Paul is driving at a point here and the point is not that Jesus rose from the dead so that He could go to Heaven and fly around with the angels. The point is that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the position of power and rule. The point is that Jesus Christ is the ruler of all things in heaven and earth and that we who are in the Church are ruling with Him.
         We have sometimes referred to this as the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is true. He is Lord but we have emphasized a truncated version of His Lordship. We mean that He is Lord of my life. And of course, we must start there. Each of us needs to submit completely to the Lord Jesus Christ, admitting that He is Lord and is our Lord. But Paul is making the claim that Jesus is Lord of everything. He is Lord in the Heavens but He is also Lord on the Earth.
         I hope we are beginning to see how this changes everything. The Apostle has prayed for us that we would be enlightened and see how it changes everything.

EXHORTATION
         Divine Partnership
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,  23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
         Just because the beginning of our relationship to God is monergistic, it does not follow that we have nothing to do with the growth and establishment of the kingdom of God on the Earth.
         Jesus is our captain. He is ruler of all things. And the Father has made all things subject to Jesus. But in doing this, He uses ordinary means to accomplish this. All things are subject to Christ but we do not yet see all things in subjection. What does this mean? It means that Jesus Christ is the absolute ruler of absolutely everything. But some people do not know this. It takes heralds to go out and proclaim the authority of Jesus. The world is a big place, so this takes a while. It takes a few thousand years to get it done.
         Jesus is patient towards His subjects. His patience is long but not infinite. Accountability is required.

         With Christ as our head, we should have confidence to be His heralds. Our task is simply to proclaim the Word of Truth. This Word of Truth is the gospel of your salvation. It is that Jesus is Lord and that He has granted international amnesty to all that would submit to His Lordship. Free forgiveness of sin and all outlaw status.