"NATURAL OR SPIRITUAL MAN"
(A Series on Ephesians)
Westgate Chapel 9/26/99 a.m. Ephesians 2:1-10
PROPOSITION: By nature man is dead, enslaved, and condemned for eternity BUT God made us alive together with Christ, raised us up with Him and seated us together with Him in heavenly places because of His mercy, love, grace and kindness.
- It seems that the media are increasingly able to let us see the extent of evil in the world, and in one thirty minute television news show we watch.....
* ...refugees fleeing East Timor, or Kosovo,
* ...children starving in Ethiopia,
* ...a plane crash in Hong Kong,
* ...a church full of young people shot up in Fort Worth,
* ...an Irish terrorist setting off a bomb in London,
* ...flood victims in North Carolina.
- IS it any wonder we get depressed?
- THE world condition is not necessarily a whole lot worse today than it was in, say, 1989. We just have more garbage exposed by the press today than 10 years ago.
- OUR condition in this fallen world is a stark reminder of the efforts of the natural man to manage himself.
- NATURAL man is incapable of managing his world, and especially of creating a just, free and peaceful society.
- AND, tragically, the church is not exempt from the struggle.
- THERE are....
* ...economic troubles in many churches,
* ...pastors in moral difficulty,
* ...married people getting divorced without properly considering the Word,
* ...people controlled by alcohol or drugs,
* ...teenagers getting pregnant,
* ...people gossiping and fighting with each other.
- WHAT'S wrong? Natural man is incapable of managing his own affairs, and gets everything all messed up every time he tries.
- AT the heart of the problem is the fact that natural man is, himself, off center. So then everything he works with becomes off center And his world gets all messed up.
- THIS is exactly the condition of natural man as described by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2.
- IN these first ten verses of Ephesians 2, Paul paints a vivid contrast between what man is by nature and what he can become by the grace of God, as a spiritual man or woman.
- READ Ephesians 2:1-10
II. MAN BY NATURE
- PAUL has given us here, the devastating description of the natural man.
- WHAT we must be clear on this morning is that this is the description of everybody.
- THIS is not some barbaric tribe in central Africa that Paul is describing, or a motorcycle gang in California, or the patrons of a local bar.
- THIS is a biblical diagnosis of natural man everywhere...in churches across America this morning, on Wall Street, in Universities, right here in this auditorium.
- THIS is YOU.
- IN fact, Paul says in verse 3, to the church of Christians in Ephesus, "we all once lived this way."
- HERE is the condition of every man who is without Christ.
- PAUL singles out three terrible truths about natural man......you and me until God had mercy on us.
1. YOU WERE DEAD
- PAUL says,
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live..." (2:1-2a)
- THIS is a factual statement Paul makes about the condition of the believers at Ephesus, when they were just natural man, outside of Christ.
- THIS is not a figure of speech.
- BEFORE God we were rebels and failures. And, as a result, we are dead...cut off from the life of God.
- IN other words cut off from true life and eternal life.
- SIN and transgression cut us off from God...He hides His face from us.......it is the natural consequence of sin. It is death.
- DEAD! You say? That doesn't make sense. There are people that I see every day who are not Christians who look very much alive.
* I know one that has the body of an athlete.
* I know one that has the active mind of a student.
* I know another that has the personality of a film star.
- HOW can they be dead?
- YOU see those things that I just mentioned, like our physical body, our intellect or our personality are elements of living that don't matter a whole lot...100 years from now they will be of no consequence at all.
- THESE people may have body, mind and personality, but they have no life in the sphere that matters supremely.
- YOU see they are,
* Blind to the glory of Jesus.
* Deaf to the voice of God.
* They have no love for God.
* No sensitivity to the reality of God.
* No reaching out of their spirit to Him.
- THEY are as unresponsive as a corpse.
- OH, they may play softball, eat health food, do aerobics, read Shakespeare and be gracious hosts but they are walking in a living DEATH...they are without God.
- AND this death is traced right back to "transgressions and sins."
- A TRANSGRESSION is a crossing of a known boundary or path.
- A SIN is a missing of the mark that God has established for holy living.
- PAUL says, this is the shape you were in before Christ found you.
- THIS is the shape the world is in this morning.
- MAYBE it is the shape you are in this morning.
2. YOU WERE ENSLAVED
- NEXT, Paul is not content just to say that you were dead...he goes on to say that you were enslaved.
- THAT walk in "transgressions and sins" was not a walk of freedom but of slavery...in bondage to forces over which you had no control.
- THIS is what lies behind sin.
- THREE things.
a) “......you followed the ways of this world..." (Verse 2a)
* Followed this society which is organized without any reference to God. (D.A. haircut that my Dad wouldn't let me wear. WHY? Because it was following a lifestyle of the world set in rebellion against God. That haircut in that day reeked of rebellion.)
* This society is jammed with clothes, cars, houses, food, drink, drugs, relationships, pleasures, styles, TV programs, movies that are organized without any reference to God.
* Paul says that when you were dead you followed the ways of the world...enslaved by its lifestyle...no mind of your own...just giving in to the bondage of our culture.
c) "......you followed....the ruler of the kingdom of the air...the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." (Verse 2b)
* These are the principalities and powers who work in the unseen world.
* There are many churches that don't believe in Satan and his demon powers.
* But Satan and his demons are real and at work in the world and in the lives of those who are dead in their sins.
* There is a spirit that works in disobedient people.
* He is not only the tempter but the destroyer of life and hope. You can trace all evil, error, tragedy and violence back to him.
* People who are dead in their sins are automatically under that control of Satan and his demons.
c) "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts..." (Verse 3a)
* This is the third thing Paul says about people who are dead in their sins....that they are in bondage to the sins of the flesh.
* These are the desires that appeal to our fallen, self-centered nature.
* These are our normal, physical needs for food, sleep and sex that are corrupted when they become perverted by sinful desires...appetite for food becomes gluttony...appetite for sleep become laziness...appetite for sex becomes lust.
* Then there are the illegitimate desires of the flesh like pride, false ambition, rejection of known truth, hatred, vengeance, unforgiveness...wherever self rears its ugly head.
- SO before Christ set us free, we were enslaved by the world, the flesh and the devil.
- WE rebelled knowingly against the loving authority of God as so fell under the dominion of Satan.
3. WE WERE CONDEMNED
- LASTLY, as enslaved dead people, Paul says that we were condemned
"Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Verse 3b)
- AS condemned people the only thing over our heads was the wrath of God.
- NOT some spite or hatred or bad temper that may fly off the handle unpredictably...never arbitrary...never evil....never based on His mood...BUT entirely predictable.
- IT is God's personal, righteous constant hostility to evil...His determination never to compromise with evil...His resolve to condemn evil and eventually pour His wrath out on it all, wherever it is found.
- HE always acts to evil in the same predictable way and always will. That is part of His moral constancy...and without it we would enjoy no peace ourselves.
- PAUL says, left to ourselves, and what we have become, we are children of wrath.
- THAT is the predicament of natural man. Is it any wonder we are in the mess we are in?
- IS it any wonder that, when that madman went berserk and shot 15 people years ago at McDonald's in San Diego, he screamed, "I have killed before and I will kill again."?
- DEATH, slavery and condemnation...that's the condition of natural man...no part or person of the human race is untainted by this slavery.
- IT is because we have failed to acknowledge the gravity of the situation in natural man that we have been satisfied with such anemic solutions in the world and in the church.
- A RADICAL disease requires a radical remedy.
III. MAN, BY GRACE
- HOW discouraging!
- WHAT a terrible way to preach to people on this sunny day!
- HAVE you read verse 4?
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy..."
- WHAT kind of God is He? A God of love....unconditional love directed to you and me.
- WHAT is His mercy? Not giving us immediately exactly what we deserved.....judgment!
- WHAT did this loving God do instead?
* He made us alive together with Him. (Verse 5)
* He raised us up with Him. (Verse 6a)
* He seated us with Him in heavenly realms. (Verse 6b)
- GOD took action to remedy man's situation.
- HE had to.
- DEAD men do not raise themselves.
- SLAVES don't set themselves free.
- WHY did He do it?
".......in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to use in Christ Jesus..." (Ephesians 2:7)
- HOW do we received this amazing grace?
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
- ARE you a natural man this morning or have you become a spiritual man through faith in Christ Jesus?