Faithlife Sermons

Rags to Riches

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Ephesians 2:1-10

Born the youngest in a family of 14 children, Celine Dion suffered tremendous poverty because her parents could not make ends meet to provide equally to all their children. Nonetheless, ‘her heart went on’ with her love of music. She started performing in small events, slowly acclaiming fame as a teen star with an angelic singing voice. With the support from her loving family, she endeavored to win multiple awards at a young age, and more as she grew up to be a hit singer. Her current net worth of $800 million speaks volumes of what she has achieved in her lifetime, because she had to mortgage her home just to release her first record. It also points out Dion’s never-ending dedication and passion for music.
Even as Christians we can appreciate a rags to riches story, especially one that is inspiring. If we are honest, we may have even day dreamed about that happening to us, and how we would spend the money. Of course ours would be pure and we would think about how we would help others (tongue in cheek). However, what if I told you that you, as a believer have a better rags to riches story than Celine. In fact better than anyone unbeliever!
Our Three Points Today
The Walking Dead Vv 1-3
A New Life Vv 4-7
New Humanity Vv 8-10
The Walking Dead
Zombies are real! You heard it first, all those movies were right and we need to heed the warnings as they are coming for you. All Jokes aside we are going to be talking about those who are dead that walk amongst us. It is of course not physically dead people who walk amongst us, but there are those who are spiritually dead! If you are in Christ, this was your condition too and so we ought to have compassion and empathy for those who are spiritual dead, and it is important to note that you have access to the the cure. That of course is the Gospel/God’s Salvation plan.
An alledged murderer has been extridited from Perth to over East for the murder of German backpacker 17 Years ago in Lismore NSW. This reminded me of the spait of backpacker murders by notorious evil man Ivan Milat between 1989-1993, in fact some of the bodies were found near where we used to drive. I remember the fear we all had at that time as these bodies started being discovered . It is easy to equate spiritually dead to these two murderous people, but what about this person?
Shirin Ebadi, (born June 21, 1947, Hamadan, Iran), Iranian lawyer, writer, and teacher, who received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2003 for her efforts to promote democracy and human rights, especially those of women and children in Iran. She was the first Muslim woman and the first Iranian to receive the award.
Thats a bit harder to reconcile, however the bible is very clear that those who are not walking with Christ are walking according to Satan, or to put it another way, your life conduct (as a whole). Why? Becasue when your will is governed by Sin your whole disposition is against God and what he stands for, the bible states that our good deeds outside of him are as filthy rags. Thats the point, it is not about doing a perceived good with corrupted intentions. Its about their relationship with the one true God who made them. You see they fall into
Ephesians 4:18 NIV
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
that is, with respect to their true spiritual nature they are dead through trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1–3 NIV
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
V1) The trouble with men and women is not merely that they are out of harmony with their environment and with their fellows. They are ‘alienated from the life of God’ .There is probably no essential difference between the two nouns: the root meaning of the first is ‘missing the mark’ and of the second ‘slipping’ or ‘falling from the way’, and thus both express the failure of people to live as they could and should. They were made in God’s image to live as children in his family, aware of his presence, rejoicing in his direction. Freedom was given, but with it a warning that it involved the possibility of disobedience, and that disobedience would lead to death
Genesis 2:17 NIV
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Ephesians 2:2 NIV
in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
V2) Paul here when talking about following ‘The prince of the power of the air’ the grammar is a bit clumsy in the english and could lead us to believe he is meaning that the air is the home and realm of evil spirits. Basically, his thought was of an evil power with control in the world.
Ephesians 6:12 NIV
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
but whose existence was not material but spiritual. So to put that into perspective, the old life devoid of God’s energy is not under the rule of God and his kingdom, but is under the influence and energy of the powers of evil from the evil one’s source.
Ephesians 2:3 NIV
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
Speaking to the only two possible rulers to follow, here is a verse if you are sitting on the fence as an unbeliever and if you are a believer this is a great reminder and encouragement.
1 John 4:4 NIV
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
V3) Refers to the selfish part of human nature that causes people to put their own needs ahead of everything else. Paul includes himself and Paul the Christian had come to see that the possession of the law of Moses was no protection against desires of body and mind, i.e. the promptings of instincts and false ideas.’ Apart from their restoration to God and the indwelling of God’s Spirit, men and women are not only dominated by self-centred passions, but found actually following the desires of body and mind. People outside of God are following selfism which is a direct result of the source of the evil one. And like Paul states Jew and Gentile alike are under God’s wrath outside of Christ.
I made a statement before about Shirin Ebadi and the rest of the walking dead that the bible states that our good deeds outside of him are as filthy rags. Their rags (like we once were) are their grave clothes. But She and all others can go from Rags to riches, on these two short words ‘But God’.
A New Life.
Ephesians 2:4–7 NIV
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
V4) You see, all of God’s wrath, all of the condemnation we deserve, was poured out on Jesus. All of God’s demands for perfect righteousness were fulfilled by Christ. The moment we see (by grace!) this Treasure, and receive him in this way, his death counts as our death and his condemnation as our condemnation and his righteousness as our righteousness, and God becomes 100% irrevocably for us forever in that instant.
That mercy proceeds from love, the great love with which he loved us. There is longing in the heart of God for humanity—the us now means Jews and Gentiles alike—to be restored to the highest and best that he had planned for them.
Exodus 34:6–7 NIV
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Ephesians 2:5 NIV
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
V5) God’s abundant mercy, which characterizes Him throughout the Bible. is epitomized by His willingness not to punish “children of wrath” but instead to save believers through His grace Eph 2:5. You see his loved stooped down to us even though we were dead in our sins.
Romans 5:6–8 NIV
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In Christ’s death and suffering he removed the barrier to having true companionship with God, rising from the dead showed was a physical display of his spiritual triumph over death and sin rendering their power useless. The forgiveness of sins means the establishment of the right relationship with God, a switching of energy from the source of the evil one to the source of the everlasting God.
So what is our participation in this, we see the words ‘in Christ’, ‘with Christ’, used a bit over these short 3 verses. What does all that mean, what part do we play? Let me begin with a short story.
In all of my baby/toddler photos with my older cousin she was always smothering me like a doll, I tease her about it now that I couldn’t get away from her even if I had tried. Along with this she always would pull me along in my little wagon which was hitched to her bike as I was too small to really ride any where. So not matter where she went she would pull me along with her. So I had to trust her in taking me where I was going. Or if you like I had to have faith in her.
While faith is more than intellectual assent, it necessarily involves a declaration, a promise, and ultimately, a person. The Bible commends a variety of expressions of faith, including belief in covenant promises, submission to divine commands, worshipful attitudes toward God, and adherence to doctrine. In the Bible, faith moves from Old Testament trust in the usually unseen God (Yahweh) to New Testament belief in and active submission to the person of Jesus, God in human form.
Hebrews 1:1–3 NIV
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
When Christ goes through death, if you have faith with Him, and his person and work, that is the lynch pin that locks your wagon to his. He pulls you through death with Him. When He is resurrected, then you, because you are connected to Him by faith, you are resurrected also.
When He is seated in the heavenly realms, then you also, spiritually, are seated with Him in the heavenly realms. It’s a very important concept, and it’s especially important for understanding the argument in Eph 2.
Our participation with Christ is what makes it possible for the dead to be raised to life. It’s what makes it possible for us to go from rags - being garve clothes to riches, or to put it another way, from being six feet under in the grave to being seated in the heavens above all things. It’s an extraordinary reversal that can only be explained through participation with Christ and due to God’s mercy and love.
How do we ensure our towball of faith has a strong connection? Strengthen the faith you have by hearing the gospel often, deepen your devotion to that gospel by deep diving and spending unadulterated time in your word, without another source like book, youtube clip, podcast or article.
New Humanity
I remember in High School reading Othello and acting it out in English class. It is penned by Shakespear, who is known well for his beautiful prose, in his writtings/plays. With Othello, lambic pentameter is used for the majority of the play - a line of verse with five metrical feet, each consisting of one short (or unstressed) syllable followed by one long (or stressed) syllable, for example Two households, both alike in dignity.
Ephesians 2:8–10 NIV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
V10) There are of course countless other authors who have written incredible and breath taking prose. However, there is one author that stands miles apart from the crowd and that author is the author of life - God. We see his beautiful expression in everyday creation, the sky, a rugged coastline, beautiful bush or amazing sunrise/sunset. But there is one piece of his craftsmenship, that stands out and that God is very pleased with and that is you, you are God’s poem.
The Greek word Paul chose for this sentence is “poiema,” and what he had in mind is a work of masterful creativity. You can already tell that this is where we get our English word “poem.” Paul selected this word carefully.
You are an epic poem, a God-imaging poiema — become flesh and spirit. Your poem contains all the comedic and tragic drama of an existence more real and more meaningful than you have yet to comprehend. If you think you are a boring work of prose, you don’t yet see things as they really are. You are afflicted with a sin-induced cataract in the eye of the heart. But it is God’s intention and delight to heal your sight.
We must note that its ‘His work’ and ‘His action’ and not ours, the artwork can’t say it painted itself. The gulf between God and sinful humanity must be bridged by God’s action. The new life in fellowship with God must be God’s creation and cannot be our work. But nevertheless the essential quality of the new life is good works.
Vv. 8-9) All these 3 verses are about his work and his grace and his mercy to his Imago Dei, those created in his image that have been restored and are being restored back into that perfect piece of craftsmanship that we should have been before sin. Because by grace you have been saved. This salvation is God’s work entirely, the bestowal of his infinite love. The human part in receiving it can be described simply by the words through faith. Why does Paul harp on about not being by works, why does God keep harping on about this? Because, such is the human heart and so great is the temptation of people in every age and race to deceive themselves into thinking that their lives are good enough for God, that the reminder of this is needed still. But also, because of the power source of this age trying to tear down our faith or trying to convince us that we are not one of his that we also need to be reminded that we have been saved by Grace becasue of his Love for us.
This should help us be assured of who we are, and what we are so that we can display in us the full intention of Gods affections upon those he has redeemed. To also display it to one another as encouragement and hope of the things to come in his ruling age of kingdom glory.
That is to know that we were spiritually dead, and no dead person can resusitate themselves to life again. All of us, Jews and Gentiles, black and white — “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh . . . and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). All of us, every person, every ethnicity, were “following the course of this world” — and to do so, mark this, is also “following the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), that is, the devil.
You are first and foremost a Christian, not first and foremost Jew, or Gentile, white or black, Australian, or Asian. You are not separated by voting Labour or Liberal, or if you are vaxxed or un-vaxxed, or if you follow the Eagles or Dockers.
The only us and them divide is Believers or Unbelievers. The question should be “am I different than a Spiritually dead Labour or Liberal voter, or a Spiritual dead white or black person, or a vaxxed or un-vaxxed person. In my gravitating toward a “side,” am I becoming “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14)?
In Christ, we see the world not primarily through the lens of race but through the lens of his person and work. “In Christ” or “apart from Christ” are the biggest and most significant categories, not our race or other distinctives. Remember that deeper than skin colour is the blood of our common humanity, and deeper still is the blood of Christ.
This then reminds us that every person of colour, creed, ethnicity etc. are also part of the fractured imageo dei and need to be prayed for and gospel loved by us through word and deed, the gospel is colour blind and cuts across all cultural barriers, languages, pro-nouns, sexual identity, ideologies, etc. So should we ignore the things that would naturally divided. We should recognize only two ethnicities, two groups of identities - Believer and Unbeliever. It makes it easy to cut through all the rubbish of a million and one other forms of identity.
Becasue God does the work and draws the rebel in to redeem himself. It frees us up not to try and do that work for him, we are free to share the truths and joy of the gospel and give our own testimonies as proof.
Lastly and in closing.
Would you not love to hear what daniel heard “You are greatly loved”?
Three times this happened to Daniel.
“At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.” (Daniel 9:23)
“O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” (Daniel 10:11)
And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” (Daniel 10:19).
Ephesians 2:3–5, 8: We “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,…
If you have seen Jesus as true and received him as your supreme treasure, that is, if you are “alive,” you are greatly loved. Greatly loved by the Creator of the universe. Just think of it! Greatly loved!
You, Christian, are greatly loved by God and not just these verses, but the whole passage points to it, both in the love that the Father has for his son, and what he has done for us through his son - displays his immeasurable love for you.
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