Sermon for Sunday February 12th, 2012




Alive In Christ by Steve Shepherd

Ephesians 2:1-2:10

INTRO.- ILL.- After dying in a car crash, three friends go to Heaven for orientation. They are all asked the same question: "When you are in your casket, friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?"

The first guy immediately responds, "I would like to hear them say that I was one of the great doctors of my time, and a great family man." The second guy says, "I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow."

The last guy thinks a minute and replies, "I’d like to hear them say...... LOOK, HE’S MOVING!!!!!"

Brothers and sisters, most people will fight “tooth and nail” to stay alive as long as they possibly can in this world. Why? A variety of reasons. People are in love with this world. If they’ve experienced anything good in life they want to cling to that good. They don’t want to give it up. Also, people are naturally afraid of dying. They don’t know what will happen or how it will happen. And most people are not sure there is another life beyond this one! And they may fear hell! Fear in that case should be a good motivator!

But the sad truth is this: many people are already dead and don’t know it! That is, they are dead spiritually. Dead to God and Christ. They are spiritually oblivious to God! How could this be? Sin has made them dead.

ILL.- Very few college football coaches have made a point against drugs as effectively as Erk Russell of Georgia Southern College. He arranged for a couple of good ol’ country boys to burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake onto a table in front of the squad. "Everyone screamed and scattered," Russell recalls.

"I told them, ’When cocaine comes into a room, you’re not nearly as apt to leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they’ll both kill you!"

Sin, in its various forms, has had a dreadful affect on our world. It has killed people. It has made them dead to real life. It has deadened them to God, Christ and all things spiritual.

ILL.- Gary Richmond, a former zoo keeper, said: Raccoons go through a glandular change at about 24 months. After that they often attack their owners. Since a 30-pound raccoon can be equal to a 100-pound dog in a scrap, I felt compelled to mention the change coming to a pet raccoon owned by a young friend of mine, Julie. She listened politely as I explained the coming danger. I’ll never forget her answer.

"It will be different for me. . ." And she smiled as she added, "Bandit wouldn’t hurt me. He just wouldn’t." Three months later Julie underwent plastic surgery for facial lacerations sustained when her adult raccoon attacked her for no apparent reason.

Sin, too, often comes dressed in an adorable guise, and as we play with it, how easy it is to say, "It will be different for me." The results are predictable.

Sin may appear harmless and be pleasurable but eventually it will turn on you and mar a person and often, for life. In fact, sin kills the life out of people. Sin takes over, controls and makes people essentially into the “walking dead.” But there is an escape and that escape is through Jesus Christ. He alone gives victory over sin.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 7:24-25 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

PROP.- Paul gives the path of how to become alive in Christ.
1- Dead in sin - That’s us.
2- Rich in mercy - That’s God.
3- Alive in Christ - That’s us.

I. DEAD IN SIN - THAT’S US (at one time)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 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. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Dead doesn’t sound good. This text speaks of the walking dead, however. That may sound like some kind of horror movie to some people. Dead and yet still alive!

ILL.- The man huddled on the cabin floor was slowly freezing to death. It was high in the Rockies in southwestern Alberta, and outside a blizzard raged. John Elliott had logged miles that day through the deep snows of the mountain passes.

As he checked for avalanches and as dusk and exhaustion overcame him he had decided to "hole-up." He made it to his cabin but somewhat dazed with fatigue, he did not light a fire or remove his wet clothing. As the blizzard blasted through the cracks in the old cabin walls, the sleeping forest ranger sank into oblivion, paralyzed by the pleasure of the storm’s icy caress.

Suddenly, however, his dog sprang into action, and with unrelenting whines, finally managed to rouse his near-comatose friend. The dog was John’s constant companion, a St. Bernard, one of a long line of dogs famous for their heroics in times of crisis.

"If that dog hadn’t been with me, I’d be dead today," John Elliott says. "When you’re freezing to death you actually feel warm all over, and don’t wake up because it feels too good."

This story illustrates the spiritual condition of many people today. They are cold spiritually, and sadly are oblivious of their true condition. Many people are dead and don’t know it!

ILL.- A Christian slave in America was overheard by his master.‭ ‬The black man was groaning,‭ ‬weeping and praying to the Lord for deliverance from the devil.‭ ‬His master said,‭ “‬You seem to have a good deal of trouble with the devil and he never bothers me at all.‭ And yet you are a good,‭ ‬praying Christian and I am not a Christian.‭ ‬Why doesn’t he bother me‭?”

The black man replied,‭ “‬I will explain this.‭ ‬When you are out shooting ducks,‭ ‬which do you send your dog after first,‭ ‬the ones that fall dead or the ones that are wounded and are trying to get away‭?”

The man replied,‭ “‬Well,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬I send the dog after the wounded ones.‭ ‬The dead ones we are sure of and can pick them up later.‭”

The man said,‭ “‬And so it is with Satan.‭ ‬He already has those who are not born again,‭ ‬fast and sure.‭ ‬But those that know the Lord are the ones that he sends his dogs after.‭ ‬He knows he can pick up the others later.‭”

‭Brothers and sisters, those who have not given their lives to Christ in faith and surrender are essentially dead. The devil already has them in his grasp. It doesn’t take much to lead them down the path of sin. They are already living in it.

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 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. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.

At one time, we all were dead in our sins. Maybe not as dead as some, but still dead. We followed the sinful ways of the world and followed the ruler of the kingdom of the air who is Satan whether we realized this or not. Everyone starts in this lane of life: dead in sin.

II. RICH IN MERCY - THAT’S GOD

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God is both merciful and gracious. He is rich in mercy. Mercy means we don’t get what we deserve, which is punishment. God is merciful. And grace means we get what we don’t deserve, which is salvation. Someone said, “The two greatest words in the Bible are: BUT GOD.” Dead in sin, BUT GOD!

ILL.- At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.”

Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead. (supposedly)

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”

Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.” The room fell silent. Lewis continued and said that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.

After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride. And Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.

Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements for people to be acceptable to him and in Islam God is a God of Judgment not a God of love.

At the end of the discussion everyone concluded Lewis had a point. Only Christianity dares to proclaim God’s love is unconditional, an unconditional love that we call grace.

Christians boldly proclaim that grace really has precious little to do with us, our inner resolve, or our lack of inner resolve. Rather, grace is all about God and God freely giving to us the gifts of forgiveness, mercy, and love. (sermon central - Martin Dale).

And God’s mercy goes along with His grace. Because of God’s grace or the fact that He is gracious, He is also rich in mercy and this is the path that leads to life which is truly life.

III. ALIVE IN CHRIST - THAT’S US

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 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.

I’m alive! I’m alive! We all can shout these words. They are true and they are true because of Jesus. He is the One who gives life more abundant and free.

Because of His great love. How great is God’s love for us?

ILL.- I received an email one time from Ted and Beverly Skiles who founded the orphanage, THE HOME OF GOD’S LOVE, in Taiwan, China, 35 years ago. The Home of God’s Love is an non-profit Christian orphanage that is located in Taiwan. Founded in 1975 by Ted and Beverly Skiles, two strong Christians that saw that God was leading them to take care of children. This is the only Christians orphanage on the Island of Taiwan.

Their main ministry is to provide a loving Christian home for children that cannot live with their family for some reason. In addition to caring for these children they have baptized hundreds of children and adults into Christ.

Ted and Beverly Skiles are two Christian people who have dedicated themselves to demonstrating love on a foreign soil! WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? Here’s another story.

ILL.- William Whiting Borden (November 1, 1887 – April 9, 1913) was a Christian missionary to Egypt with Samuel Zwemer and the heir to the Borden, Inc. family fortune. William Borden was a graduate of Yale University in 1909 and of Princeton Theological Seminary. Borden was converted to Christianity under the ministry of Dwight L. Moody.

He later decided to become a missionary to the Muslims of China, but died of spinal meningitis in Egypt during his training there at the age of 25. After his death, Borden’s Bible was found and given to his parents.

In it they found in one place the words "No Reserve" and a date placing the note shortly after he renounced his fortune in favor of missions. At a later point, he had written "No Retreat", dated shortly after his father told he would never let him work in the company ever again. Shortly before he died in Egypt, he added the phrase "No Regrets." "No reserve, no retreat, no regrets” in following Jesus and in going to Egypt to do mission work.

Why did William Borden do that? Why did he willingly give his life on foreign soil for others? And here’s another story and a question.

Philippians 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

The story is this: Jesus left His home in heaven for earth for one purpose only. To seek and to save the lost. Why did He do that? John 3:16 We are made alive because of His great love!

CONCLUSION------------------

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Satan wants to kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life and the ultimate promise of life after death.

ILL.- W. B. Hinson, a great preacher of a past generation, spoke from his own experience just before he died. He said, "I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, ’You have an illness from which you won’t recover.’ I walked out to where I live 5 miles from Portland, Oregon, and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ’ I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!’ "

We’re alive now, and shall live forever, and it’s all because of Jesus!

Steve Shepherd, Jonesboro Christian Church, AR
jonesborochristianchurch@suddenlink.net