Transformations. DIY SOS, Restorations, Homes Under The Hammer, House Doctors, Grand Designs, Tattoo Fixers, Embarrassing Bodies.
But none of them attempts: the transformation from death to life.
V5 ‘God made us alive even when we were dead.’
1. Before, 1-3
A threefold tyranny: –
The tyranny of the world: v2 ‘You followed the ways of this world’. ‘Those places, persons, pleasures and pursuits where God is left out.’ Those without Christ are slaves to secularism, materialism, peer pressure, religious fads, and the dubious role models of celebrities.
The tyranny of the devil: v2 ‘You followed the ways of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.’ The idea seems to be that the devil, and his schemes for defacing God’s good creation, are ‘in the air’: in the very atmosphere of certain places (a room, an organisation, a city).
The tyranny of the flesh: v3 ‘Gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.’ It is sometimes argued that because sexual desires (for example) are ‘natural’ to us, it would be wrong to put any restraints on them. But that’s absurd. It’s like saying that because it’s natural to want food, we should eat what we like; or that because some people (men, especially) are ‘naturally’ aggressive, it’s OK for them to go around punching people on the nose.
Result: v3 ‘We were by nature objects of wrath.’ God’s settled opposition to anything that is contrary to his holy nature.
Summary: v1 ‘You were dead in your transgressions and sins’.
An absolute condition. You can’t be more or less dead. You can be ‘good, better, and best’, ‘dumb, dumber, and dumbest’, but you cannot be ‘dead, deader and deadest’.
The unbeliever may not look dead. A person may have the body of an athlete, the mind of a scholar, or the personality of a stand-up comedian. But ‘in the sphere which matters supremely (which is neither the body, nor the mind, nor the personality, but the soul) they have no life.’ (Stott)
A universal condition – you, v1f…we, v3…all of us, v3. No exceptions. The only difference between that pillar of the community and that convicted paedophile is the state of decay.
Gandhi: ‘I hope to acquaint the reader fully with all my faults and errors…Measuring myself by [the standard of truth] I must exclaim: ‘Where is there a wretch so wicked and loathsome as I? I have forsaken my Maker, so faithless have I been.’
A helpless condition. Jeremy Bentham stipulated to University College, London, that after his death his head and skeleton should be preserved and put on public display. According to legend, once a year he is wheeled into the council meeting, and the chairman announces: ‘Jeremy Benson: present, but not voting.’ He can’t raise a hand, or raise a glass, or raise a smile, or do anything else, because he’s dead.
The house is not merely in disrepair; it is in ruins. The patient does not merely have a weak pulse; he has no pulse. The ship has not merely sprung a leak; it has sunk to the bottom of the ocean. And, obviously, a collapsed house cannot rebuild itself; a pulseless patient cannot resuscitate himself; and a sunken ship cannot raise itself from its watery grave.
We need help from outside.
2. After, 4-10
‘But God…’, v4. ‘But God made us alive with Christ, v5, raised us up with Christ, v6, seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ, v6.
There is a superhuman power at work here. 1:19f ‘(God’s) incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exterted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.’
The same tide that raises that ship will also raise all those small dinghies.
Why did he do it?
(a) v4 ‘Because of his great love for us’.
Deut 7:7f. ‘The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you…’
(b) v7 ‘…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.’
God did it so that we might be ‘exhibit A’ of his love and kindness, just as a painting witnesses to the skill of the artist, or a patient to the skill of the surgeon.
(c) v9 – ‘Not because of works’.
The feeling that we must make a contribution runs very deep. Julie Andrews: ‘…I must have done something good.’
Glastonbury: ‘If you prefer to spend an evening in heaven, where the sofas are trimmed with fur, and the bars have working fountains, you must first convince an “admin angel” that you are worthy of the honour.’
‘I try to be’.
Another way of putting this is to say that it is ‘through faith’, v8. Faith is: –
- the eye by which we look to Jesus.
- the foot by which we run to Jesus.
- the outstretched hand by which we receive Jesus.
- the tongue by which we taste how good the Lord is.
(d) v10 – ‘We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’
Do you see? Good works have been dismissed as a means of earning God’s favour. But as means of expressing gratitude to a gracious God, they follow inevitably, as day follows night, as spring follows winter, as carts follow horses.
Don’t put the cart before the horse, or you’ll end up in a grand muddle. But make sure that your horse is pulling a well-laden cart.
I walked past a house recently that displayed a board saying: ‘Let agreed – another happy ending.’ Agreeing a let may be a happy ending, but it’s also a happy beginning.
Receiving new life in Christ is both a happy ending and a happy beginning. It is the end of death; of the tyranny of the world, the flesh and the devil; of condemnation. But it’s also the beginning of a great adventure.
A man wrote to his wife the day that he came to faith in Christ: ‘There has been a complete change in my life. Now my whole life and aims and ambitions are changed. I feel now that I want to serve God in any way that he can use me.’