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Living With the Past

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Living with the Past

 Title of Sermon

o Living with the Past

 Text to be preached:

o Ephesians 2:1-10

Ž    Introduction

#1: John Newton

Who am I? I was an only child and lost my mother when I was seven years old. I went to sea at the tender age of eleven and later became involved “in the unspeakable atrocities of the African slave trade.” I plumbed the depths of human sin and degradation. I was so depraved that even my crew became disgusted with me. Once in a drunken stupor I  fell overboard, and my crew, in order to rescue me, threw a harpoon through my leg in order to reel me back aboard. I still walk with a constant limp to remember how God could save such a wretch like me. Who am I?

#2: Nick Cruz

Who am I? I was only 3-1/2 years old when my heart turned to stone. I was one of 18 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents. I lived in Puerto Rico in 1957 where bloodshed and mayhem were common occurrences in my life. I suffered severe physical and mental abuse at my parent’s hands, one time I was declared the "Son of Satan" by my mother while she was in a spiritual trance. Tough, but lonely, by age 16 I became a member of the notorious Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus (named after a bloodthirsty African tribe). I was Lost in the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and brutal violence, my life took a tragic turn for the worse after a friend and fellow gang member was horribly stabbed and beaten and died in my arms. I was arrested countless times, a court-ordered psychiatrist pronounced my fate as "headed to prison, the electric chair, and hell." No authority figure could reach me - I even met a skinny street-preacher named David Wilkerson. I beat him up, spit on him and, on one occasion, seriously threatened his life. Who am I?

#3: Joni Erricson Tada

Who am I? I was born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland. I have three sisters; my father; was a creative, artistic man who could turn his hand to anything. My family and I enjoyed outdoor activities like, tennis, hiking and swimming. I was an immature and headstrong teenager. And on July 30th, 1967 I had a diving accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. After weeks in a special frame I began rehab and physical therapy at a nursing home- I battled with depression and self pity. Who am I?

Now if you had a choice, to be one of these people and live their life as described just moments ago…who would you pick?

drunk, gangster, quadrapalegic?

Was it impossible to pick? Was there a part of you that rejected that choice? Did you look at your life and compare it to yours? Are they really all that different from us?

  Transitional statement to proposition

Did you know their life would eventually turn around?

Now I will tell who they are at the end of the sermon but for now let me ask you, How could something so tragic turn out to so good? How did they persevere from such a disastrous past? What changed in them to overcome there sinful past?

How were they able live with past?

  Proposition

Tonight, let’s explore 3 foundational truths that will teach you and I how to live with the past and be transformed from “mess to masterpiece”.

          ‘  Transition statement to overview

These three foundational truths are as follows:

’    Overview your outline

I. We Were Ruined By Sin (Ephesians 2:1-3)

II. We Were Rescued by God (Ephesians 2:4-9)

III. We Were Redesigned for Service (Ephesians 2:10)

“  Transition to Outline

Let’s now open our bible to Ephesians 2:1-10

Background of the Book

Now The Ephesian church was located in Ephesus, a leading center in the Roman Empire. Paul had spent a short time in Ephesus during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-22). And three years (Acts 20:31) during his third missionary journey. In Ephesus Paul baptized a dozen of John the Baptist’s followers (Acts 19:1-7). He preached to the whole province, both Jews and Greeks (19:8-10). Unusual miracles occurred (19:11-12) and sorcerers were converted (19:17-20), and the city rioted while he preached the word  (19:23-41).

Did you know, that Paul was a prisoner at the time he wrote this letter (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20) We know from the book of revelation the Ephesian church kept out false teachers (Rev. 2:2) but many years later after Paul’s ministry they had failed to love Christ (Rev. 2:4). In fact, one-sixth of all the references to “love” appear in this small epistle to the Ephesians.

The Book of Ephesians focus is on the church:

Chapter 1 – The church is a body, temple, mystery, new creation, a family, and a soldier.

Chapters 1 – 3 focus on the calling of the church, that is how it came about

Chapters 4 – 6 focus on the conduct of the church, that is how it is to obey.

Let’s now look specifically at Chapter 2 verses 1 through 10.

Let reading together verses 1 through 3:

Ephesians 2:1-3 1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.(NASB95)    


¤ Door of Emotion

Imagine surfing the internet and you come to a web page:  www.y o  On the web page  at, is a series of photographs of yourself. When you were a baby, toddler, adolescent, teenager, adult, etc. But these are no ordinary photo’s, they have you in series of special poses, curiously you notice there are no photos of you doing anything good and pleasing for God, instead they are special photos catching you disobeying God. Then under each photo is a caption, trespasses, sins, lusts, indulgences, pride, and the headline over all these picture is “child of wrath”.  Now you are thinking, how can I turn off that website!

But Here Paul, unashamedly, writing to the believers does not ignore their past. He reminds them! But Paul is not writing to condemn them. Notice he is not naming names nor naming specific sins.  He is trying to help them understand their past life of sin and to look at their past properly from God’s perspective. He does not want them to minimize their past nor re-write their past and say it was not all that bad.

Œ  Homiletical Point:

In summary, these 3 verses tell us they  “We Were Ruined By Sin (Ephesians 2:1-3)


Look at his description:

You were Dead!

This death is not physical death but spiritual unresponsiveness.  This describes “a person unable to respond to God because of moral badness or spiritual separation and alienation, in other words they are powerless to please God” They are unable to respond to God rightly. This person is alive physically, but spiritually dead.

This deadness is further defined by two key words: Trespasses and sins.

First, notice that they are plural. Meaning- more than just one, more than even a few, inummurable, too many to count.  These two words also cover the whole person….trespasses describes the choices that a person makes who knows what is right to do and chooses not to do it.  Sins describe their core nature as corrupted.

Ephesians 4:17-18 affirms this: We Walked, in the futility of our mind, being darkened in our understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in us, because of the hardness of our heart;(NASB95)

The Old Testament says in Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.(NASB95)

But there is a clearer picture found Romans 3:10-18

As it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” …verse 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”(NASB95)

Look at your past, how has sin ruined you? What has it done to certain relationships?  Maybe you are living with regret? Are there financial decisions still impacting you today?  Or are you not convinced that this describes you! Do you think, that maybe, you are not as bad as the Bible says you are?

As we read the text further we see more details about our sinful past..

2 in which you formerly walked

This walk is really our pattern of behavior…The Ephesians when they placed their faith in Christ were changed! Paul again talks about this change by using the word “formerly”.  But Paul soberly reminds them of their old ways:

according to the course of this world,

The course of this world is describing how they were in step with the times, whatever the world was doing they were doing, there was no difference between the culture of the world and the culture of their life. This is arena they played in.


Paul moves from describing this arena they played in and describes the architect behind this wicked system they used to conform to “according to the prince of the power of the air” This is a reference to the devil. John tells believers in 1 John 5:19 that We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.(NASB95) Ephesians 6:11-12 further defines the realm of power. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.(NASB95)


The third description describes the Attack!

of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

Here we find the former Christians and the unbelievers being influenced by an unseen power.  It does not imply demonic possession, but no doubt that does exist in the world.

Why does Paul go into such great detail? Why does he describe the arena, the architect, and this attack… Is it not simply enough to say we were sinners and move on? NO! Paul is helping you and I understand the big picture. It is important that you and I don’t underestimate the enemy nor fail to understand why the world is so wicked! This infection has spread across humanity. And we who are believers are no longer acting or behaving like that anymore. Paul is not finished yet…he moves from the proverbial “forest” to the “trees”.

How does this wicked spirit attack and operate? How does the spiritual realm reach into every day lives?

3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.(NASB95)  

Notice the description of the world and our former selves, Living in Lust – this word “living” has the idea of “being a slave to physical passion”. It is not merely, an occasional activity but an established pattern and The indulging the desires – has the idea of manufacturing a product. 

So here is the picture before us…In your flesh you were a slave to your passions and in your mind and in your body you were constantly manufacturing sin. Do you see the pitiful condition of our past! Everyone is infected, because the Bible states everyone is born a sinner!  Oh there may be different degrees, but no one is immune. Our past was a pursuit of selfish pleasures.  To one degree or another we are lusted and were prideful.

And the final outcome is we are children deserving punishment!

Now please don’t miss Paul’s emphasis. See that word FORMERLY again! This is the third time!!! If you say you are a Christian, can you say with confidence you are not the same person anymore since trusting in Christ!  Paul says you are different now! You are supposed to be growing in Christ.  You are to look less like the world and more like Christ. 


Now some of you are parents with kids and we know there are good days and bad days, but sin is constant. If your child acted like this description in verses 1 through 3…what would you do? The world would medicate or lock them up!

Now consider this: If we are willing to discipline your kids for their disobedience, why should we think that God would not punish our disobedience!


Now let me ask you to do something…let’s read through verses 1 – 3 and replace you with I, so repeat after me….

Ephesians 2:1-3 1And I was dead in my trespasses and sins, 2in which I formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3Among them I formerly lived in the lusts of my flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and I was by nature a child of wrath, even as the rest.(NASB95)

These can be hard words to say but reading them out loud can help these truth be truly heard!


Can you admit this is a description of you! But can you say today,

I was formerly like this!!! Can you live today with this description of your past! 

You know a man named LP Harltey said, “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there!”

Now Let’s look next at verses 4-9:

Let’s look and see how We Were Rescued by God (Ephesians 2:4-9)

Ephesians 2:4-9 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.(NASB95)

Imagine if you were part of the crew of the submarine Squalas. Suddenly you find yourself helpless at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, two hundred and forty feet below the surface. Oxygen is limited. Time is running out.  The ship is damaged and taking on water. You will drown! How would you view your condition:  Would you think, I need to be rescued?  If someone offered to rescue you will you say to yourself “I will think it over,” or “I will wait for a more convenient time,” or “I am in good condition as I am,” or “We can fix this problem on our own”.  However, This crew sent up smoke flares, hoping that their location would become known. A ten-ton diving bell was lowered several times, bringing to safety the thirty-three surviving members of the crew. All of the crew instantly and gratefully accepted the means of escape from death because they knew their true condition.

This is a picture of a rescue operation. Unless the crew recognized their helplessness and sought help outside of themselves, they would have been permanently shipwrecked!

And now look at verse 4!  “BUT GOD” If I stopped reading at verse three and read no more, it would be a terrible ending! It would read like a tragedy!

“But God” the text reads! “But God” comes to rescue!

Why would God do this?

Verse 4,       “because of His great love” – nothing in you, nothing you could do. This word “great” is emphasizing degree and magnitude of the love of God!

          “He loved us” – this love is not simply a feeling but it is actionable!

          This word love really means “love at ones own expense, a tangible, self-sacrificial love that extends to others” We read about this love in

Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.(NASB95)

Titus 3:5 reads He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,(NASB95)

          This is why our God is awesome…Who can loves like this! Who can love their enemies like this! Remember the words of Christ, Matthew 5:43-44 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,(NASB95)

While nailed to the cross, in front of the scoffing, in front of the persecutors, Peter writes:

1 Peter 2:23 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;(NASB95)

Christ puts himself in harms way in order to love and to rescue! And verse 5 reminds us again, we were not loveable, we were not a bit interested in being loved because we were dead in our trespasses and sins!. 


I remember the first time I heard the gospel…and remarked to the evangelist…If I understand what you are saying I have to submit to God, submit to His bible, and turn from my sin…I don’t want to do that! I was dead! I rejected!

But thank God for his patience with me! You see the love of God goes further, not only in great degree, not only is it actionable, but it is personable! “He made us alive together with Christ” This speaks of that incredible truth, that we have union with our God! Right now through the Holy Spirit that is placed within us at moment we receive salvation.  But also, we are placed into the Body of Christ. We don’t have time tonight to explore this incredible profound truth but we are joined to our creator through Christ and this joining was made possible by grace! This grace is how we were saved, undeserved, unmerited, unearned! This is explained further in verses 8 and 9.

But Romans 11:6 makes it clear what grace is not.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.(NASB95)

So this unearned love, that joins us to Christ results in our resurrection. Paul speaks of the future with such confidence that the language here is the present tense.  Such is our guarantee in Christ that we will be raised from the dead and seated in the heavenly places.  This seating is referring to the fact that we have a place of authority alongside Christ.  We will rule with Christ one day.

Galatians 4:7 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.(NASB95)

Revelation 3:20-21 20‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.(NASB95)

Listen to the promise of 1 Peter 1:3…

1 Peter 1:3 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,(NASB95)

1 Peter 1:4 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,(NASB95)

1 Peter 1:5 5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.(NASB95)

Does all this seem too extravagant, hold on! Look at verse 7 the purpose , the reason is given:

To  “show the surpassing riches” or to put it another way…to “show beyond all comprehension his vast treasure of grace”. Each word used here has such magnitude! Not only is God’s love in great degree, not only is it actionable, not only is personable, not only is it undeserved, not only gives us life, and position, but we become objects to reflect His grace for all of eternity! We become god’s trophies of grace! We become true reflections of the grace of God!

And now verse 8 and 9, Paul clarifies, how this all came about. In part, Paul is to remind you and I as well as the Ephesian church to be humble. It is to remind us that we did not some how make ourselves acceptable to God. 

If these truths do not motivate you to praise God and worship Him and love him, oh how hard your heart toward God has grown! And if your heart has not turned toward Christ for salvation what more do you need as proof, as evidence of His great love that he has loved you!

So How do you live with the past!

Rightly look at the past and rightly look at the future!


You know when I was boy learning to cross the street, I am sure you remember learning to look both ways before crossing the street. This is what the lord is teaching us….look left to the past then look right to future.  Then cross the road…

Think of driving a car, we use the broad view through the windshield as we move ahead, but we also use the rear-view mirror for reference, making quick, periodic glances into it for information to aid in making driving decisions. Although we cannot safely move ahead by staring only into the rear-view mirror and ignoring the view from the windshield, “proper” use of both views ensures a safer, smoother trip to our destination.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(NASB95)

We are God’s handiwork that is the idea of his workmanship, we did not make ourselves! The greek word is where we get the word poem, a piece of literary workmanship…This term for “created” is exclusively used of God.  Notice again the link to Christ. There is no other way we can be saved! It has to be through Christ. 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,(NASB95)

But the saving is with purpose for good works! Notice now how opposite we are now to verse 1.  And notice that Paul points us back to the father’s plan. He had prepared before hand that we should walk in them.  You ask what are these good works…read the rest of Ephesians! Read the Bible!

So I ask again, How do you live with the past? Remember the past rightly, from what you have been delivered from…Look to the future, to what you will be delivered to.

We can’t live in the past, nor live in the future, for we live in the today. And in verse 10 it tells us what to do with today - Serve God! Walk in those good works! No matter what has happened, you can still serve today!

Let me offer some additional advice, what ever your past was, there are others with a similar background who have yet to be delivered. You can go and find them and help them.  I was saved out of drugs and alcohol and therefore I share the gospel to those in that kind of bondage.  You know your life better then anyone, what ever you have been delivered from, there are others who need to hear your testimony and who need to hear about Christ and the Gospel and your new life in Christ!  They need to hear from you, your changed life, your victory over sin, and your relationship with Christ!

Do you recall those three individuals I mentioned at the beginning, do you know who they are and what became of them in light of their sinful past?

The first individual, the drunkard slave trader was John Newton who later would write amazing grace and help stop slave trading in England.

The second individual, the ganster, was Niki Cruz who later would help kids get out of the violent life of gangs.

The third individual, handicapped is Joni Ericson Tada who would learn to paint beautifully with her mouth and help children to adults deal with disabilities and trials and depression.

Remember, believer!, although you Were Ruined By Sin, you have been Rescued by God, and have been Redesigned for Service! I praise God for each of you who have repented and place your faith in Christ and are serving him today!

So How do we live with the past! Serve God today, be humble over your past, and be hopeful for  the future… before we close in prayer….I’ll leave you with this challenging question…Think back to your past, how did you use your time and treasure to pursue sin and self to ends of this world for your glory?

Now, as a new creature in Christ, here is a test of your sincere faith…How are you today using your time and your treasure to pursue righteousness and Christ to the ends of the world for His Glory.  If the energy and passion you used to pursue sin is not minimally the same energy and passion you are now pursing Christ, then you examine your heart! If you are pursuing Christ, excel still more! Let’s pray!


If you have not repented, today can be the day of salvation by acknowledging to God the father that you are dead in your transgressions and sins.

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