This sermon was preached on Sunday, October 17, 2010.
Let’s go to the New Testament, Ephesians, chapter 2. Part of what’s been happening with me here recently is I’ve been getting even more revelation. I have for the last year or so been getting stuff but it’s at a new level. In fact, just this week, I was asking the Lord why the intellectual elite in America are so enamored with Islam when there are so many unattractive features of Islam. And I’ve understood it politically, intellectually and religiously, but I was asking spiritually what’s going on, and I felt like the Lord showed me something this week, and sometime I’ll share that with you, but what’s more relevant today is this morning, I was out prayer walking at 5:30 and the Lord downloaded about ten to fifteen minutes more worth of stuff for this message than I had prepared so the message is going to be maybe a little longer, a little heftier. You say to the person next to you, “It’s the steroids.” [and he laughs at the serious medication he is taking to battle the cancer] So I said, “Yeah, but there’s going to be a few people there Lord, who love Big Ben [Roethlisberger-quarterback for the Steelers, and the Steelers played this day at 1 pm] more than they love You.” [Some in the congregation chuckle.] And He told me not to worry about it, so I hope you’re not one of those who love Big Ben more than Jesus. [as if to God] Should I say it? It’s not nice though. [back to us] Jesus wasn’t always nice. He was nice 98% of the time. Paul was not always nice. If I had to be in a room alone with either Jesus or Big Ben, I’d rather be in the room alone with Jesus. Amen. Okay.
Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 1 through 9. Would you stand with me, please, as we read together God’s Word? [Pastor reads this as if on an exciting roller coaster ride, with great feeling. I have underlined the words he emphasizes. Read it aloud for yourself with the same inflections and see how the Word comes alive.] 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 sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 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. 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.
[Prayer] Father, I thank You for this precious word. Thank you that we are saved by Your amazing, amazing grace. Father, I pray in this moment You will accomplish by Your Holy Spirit what You desire in our hearts. We’ve come, Lord, not to hear a man. We’ve come not to evaluate a church. We’ve come not to go home and say what was good and what was bad. Lord, we’ve come to hear from You. And Holy Spirit, I pray that You will speak to us. If You don’t speak to us, we just went to a social event. I thank You for Your presence in this room, so powerful, and what You want to do in our hearts and lives in the minutes to come. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Your precious Name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.
These nine verses, some have said, is the most beautiful, succinct, complete, description of salvation anywhere in the Bible. Isn’t it beautiful? I mean, it starts with where we’re at and what God has done for us, and it tells us that we’re saved by grace, not by works. You know, you ask most Americans, “How do you get to Heaven?”, and they’ll tell you–and polls have said, most Americans–by doing good. Warren Buffett, when he gave away well over a billion dollars, he said, “There are many ways to get to Heaven but this is the most fun.” It’s not true, it’s not true. We are saved by grace. In this passage, there’s us before grace, there is satan’s activity, there’s God activity through Christ, and then there is us after grace. So there is the before and the after, and in the middle there’s a whole lot of supernatural activity going on.
Let’s start with where we’re at, before, verse 1. As for you, you were—and they are believers now–you were dead in your transgressions and sins. Now some make the distinction between transgressions and sins, that transgressions is trespassing. You step over a line. You know you shouldn’t do it, like a rebellious little kid, and the parent says don’t do it, and they defy. Or you do something you know you shouldn’t do, and that’s a transgression. Sin, αμαρτία in the Greek, means missing the mark. You haven’t purposely defied somebody; you haven’t purposefully broken the law. You just fail, you just fail. You don’t quite make it. You haven’t achieved what you hoped to. You’re not quite there. Well, whether there is a distinction between the two—I think there is, but some say there isn’t—it involves all of us. All of us have done that, all of us have missed the mark. We’re all in the same boat. We are all in the same boat. We are all actually lawbreakers. We’re all lawbreakers. You know, the Ten Commandments, one of them is don’t bear false witness. There is do not murder; do not steal. What do you call somebody who murders somebody? What do you call them? A murderer. How many times do you have to murder to be [called] a murderer? Once. So someone who lies, once, is a what? A liar. Have you ever taken something that wasn’t yours? Yeah, so if you’ve stolen something, you are a what? A thief.
I don’t think there is anybody out there that hasn’t broken part of the Law. [I believe he is speaking here about Biblical Law and not governmental law.] There is nobody. We are lawbreakers and we need to start there, understanding what condition we are in. I want you to turn with me to I Timothy, chapter 1, verse 15. I want to show you something that I think is very important. I Timothy 1:15. It’s only about 20 to 30 pages ahead of where we’re at. This is the apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, and Timothy happens to be in—look at chapter 1, verse 3. Where is Timothy when he [Paul] writes to him? Anybody? Ephesus, staying in Ephesus. It keeps coming up, doesn’t it? It’s everywhere in the New Testament, and as we go through the series you are going to see lots and lots more connections. Verse 15: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. And then he goes on, the apostle Paul: But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. Now let’s go back to this saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. The question is, for translators and interpreters, which is the trustworthy saying? Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, quote, unquote, and then Paul says, by the way—of whom I am the worst, and then goes on. Or is the saying, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst, unquote. Which is the saying that Paul is saying that we should adopt, the trustworthy saying that we [pats himself on the chest] should say? “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” or “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst”. You with me? That’s the question for an interpreter. I would say it is the second, because the first doesn’t make sense; it is not complete. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Well, that is not quite a saying. It’s a fact, and yes, it’s true, but the saying is the complete one: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. And then he goes on and applies it to himself [patting himself on the chest again].
Here’s the problem in churches that are losing their spiritual vitality, and that is, we start to really think good about ourselves and our own innate righteousness, rather than the imputed given righteousness that we have been given and we put on. And it’s who we are, but we have lost this. You know, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” If you’re okay, you don’t need a Savior. And I’m going to show you at the end of the message how deep this goes and how important this is.
So we are all sinners. Some have been saved by grace, some have not yet been saved by grace. Most people resist sin to some degree. A lot of us try to do it in our own strength, and there is a lot of things out there to help people to try to resist sin in our own strength, but Jesus came not only to save us from the consequence of sin, but to give us power to overcome sin and to live a holy life, amen? He did! He did. Now obviously there are people in society who celebrate sin, and we have more and more and more of that going on. That is the politically correct thing to do, in most groups, to celebrate sin, and we have to resist that. And many are resisting it.
By the way, I have good news. There is so much bad news all the time, I want to share some good news. I just read this week, of all high school students in America, 70% are virgins. [from an article published in the October 2010 issue of Journal of Sexual Medicine] Isn’t that awesome? Seventy percent. Who would think? You watch TV and watch the movies, the pressure is so great to celebrate what God has not ordained, that you would think, “I’m the only one left.” No, you aren’t. No you aren’t. That shocked me, that study.
However, we need to take seriously our own sin, and realize that without Christ, we are under condemnation. Now He didn’t come in to the world to condemn the world [John 3:17], because the Bible says the world is condemned already. So we are under the curse, but He in His kindness and love–we’ll get to that in a minute–has redeemed us.
Verse 3 talks about the before picture. We’re talking about us before right now. This is the before picture, not the after. We’ll get to the after, and the glory of the after. Verse 3 talks about: all of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature. There are so many cravings, there are so many deadly sins, the seven deadly sins. Some people reduce it to three: power, sex and money. I think, really, what comes home to us, I say: sex, sugar, and shopping. [congregation laughs] Those are the big three. That’s where we live, right? Gotta bring something more home, gotta get more storage, gotta have more sugar. The reality is–gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts—sin is like gravity. It pulls you down, right? You know that song, “Lord, lift us up where we belong?” [“Up Where We Belong”, written by Joe Cocker, 1984, has the original lyrics as, “Love lift us up where we belong.” Patti LaBelle recorded a gospel version using, “Lord, lift us up where we belong.”] It’s like the opposite. The gravity, it just pulls you down. If you don’t fight against it, you fall. And that’s why we use the term earthiness, you know, we’re more earthy. The curse and the state of the world pulls you, like gravity, down. But God has made us to fly like eagle’s wings. Reality is you are on a plane and it’s going down. You know, if Jesus tarries, you are going to die. Did you know that? And when you are on a plane going down, what do you really need? A parachute, you really do. It makes no sense; a lot of people in life, they’re on a plane going down, and it’s like, “Stewardess, can I have another bag of peanuts?” [Some in the congregation laugh.] Or “Ma’am, I know we are going down, but I saw a seat in first class that’s empty. Can I go up and sit in first class for a while before I die? I’ve always wanted to be in first class. Can I sit up there?” Most of what you see in society is absurd, because people aren’t dealing with the reality of life and death. The reality is that we’re only on this earth for a little while and what is after this life is going to continue for eternity, so you’d better prepare. You better be ready for that! That’s more important than anything else. Once you’ve cared for that, then you can enjoy the goodness of God and all of the wonderful things that He has, once you have your parachute on.
It goes on further to say, in verse 3: Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. So I’ve got to talk about wrath for a minute. We don’t like to talk about wrath. And the Bible does not dwell on wrath, particularly in the New Testament. [Quoting a portion of verses 5 and 8] By grace, it dwells on grace; it doesn’t dwell on wrath. But wrath is there and you see it in the Book of Revelation, [wrath] poured out [several places, among them verses 6:16, 14:19, 15:1, 15:7, 16:1]. So it’s there. In the beginning of the New Testament, John the Baptist is saying, “Oh wicked and perverse generation, or you brood of vipers, who is going to save you from the what? The wrath to come. [Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7] There is wrath. Now when we talk about the wrath of God, we get very uncomfortable; does God have wrath? Does God have wrath? The short answer is yes. It’s part of His justice and holiness. He has love and he has wrath, but I came upon some writings that said wrath is part of the created order, just like choice is. God created choice and freedom, part of the created order. Wrath is part of the created order, and I discovered something I did not know before. There are times in the New Testament that mentions wrath that the translators add the words “of God”—wrath of God, and in the Greek it only says “wrath”. One of those places is in Romans 12 [verse 19], where it says, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. If someone harms you, leave room for wrath, it says. Well, a lot of translations say God’s wrath. They are trying to help us out so that we are not confused. And this writer says wrath is part of the created order, it’s part of the curse. [He never says exactly who “this writer” is, and I failed to ask him.]
There a lot of things in life that are a mystery. Aging and death is still largely a mystery. Your cells are replacing themselves all the time; did you know that? Now I’ve heard various estimates of how long it takes to replace all of the cells in your body. Some say some cells are never replaced, like in your teeth and so forth, but others say roughly—your blood cells are all replaced in four months, 120 days, they are all new cells, a whole new supply. How ‘bout that? The dead ones go and the new ones come. But someone said that about every seven years, all the cells in your body are replaced. I don’t know if that is factually true or not. Someone said ten years and others say not all of them. Whatever. But think about this: if all the cells in your body are reproduced every seven to ten years, then you are more than your body. Think about that. If every cell in your body is a different cell than it was ten years ago, then who are you? Maybe we should take out a new name every ten years, right? [and he chuckles] Who are you? You know, the brain–I don’t know how all that works; I don’t know, but who are you?
You are a spirit being, created by God, with a body. Your spirit is going to exist forever. Your body is not, so don’t get too focused on your body. You only have it for a while. Use it for God’s glory. Dedicate it to Him—that’s what Romans 12 says—which is our reasonable service [he is referring to the KJV of Romans 12:1]. Give it to Him. So it’s a mystery. You know viruses are kind of a mystery. No one really knows where viruses came from. Evolutionary theory cannot explain viruses. Where did they come from? How does that benefit anything, for viruses to attack us? There is a whole lot of negative evil things, but I mentioned aging and dying. Why do these cells get tired? You know, if they are reproducing all the time, why don’t you just continue to be what you are in your twenties? Why do you slow down and why do you age? I’ve not found a good explanation for that. I haven’t found an explanation for viruses. There is a whole lot of mystery about this part of nature that is entropy. It slows down. It is destructive. It dies.
Well we know that it’s rooted in the curse in Genesis 1 and 2. We understand that, but how does that work? We don’t understand. Where am I going with this? I’m going to say justice, sometimes we understand, brings righteous anger against it. And in this season of great grace God is holding back so much. I don’t think we understand and appreciate how much His grace is. My goodness. If God zapped everybody for everything they did, and societies of people, we’d be gone. We’d be fried toast. Fried toast? Mixed metaphor, whatever; it’s the steriods. [congregation laughs] His grace is that amazing.
Have you ever watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, the movie [from 1981, starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones]? At the end, the Nazis are there before the Ark of the Covenant, and power comes out from the Ark of the Covenant and just fries them, just fries them completely. I don’t know of anybody watching that movie that would feel bad for the Nazis, saying, “Oh, that’s so unfair. That’s so bad.” You know, a lot of Americans believe there is a Heaven but they don’t believe there is a Hell. My Bible says there is, and it’s a reality. It doesn’t dwell on it. It doesn’t dwell on it, like we are going to say it doesn’t dwell on satan either, but it’s a reality, and we need salvation from the wrath to come. It’s part of the created order and the curse that has come upon it.
satan. I said us before. Let’s talk about what it says here in verse 2. There’s another player in this. Verse 2 says: you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler [repeats: and of the ruler] of the kingdom of the air. Now the words here in the Greek, “of the kingdom”, is εξουσία which means power, so in the King James it says the prince of the power of the air, talking about satan. We’re talking about satan’s status. How big is satan? How powerful is he? Well, he does seem to have quite a bit of power that he’s exerting and as Christians so many times we say, Well, we want to focus on Jesus so we don’t want to talk about satan,” and here’s the problem. When you reduce satan down to this much [thumb and index finger apart about an inch]—and by the way, the Third World and most nations of the world understand supernatural evil better than we do in the West; the last 300 years we’ve denied supernatural evil, in the scientific era but it does exist; it happens–when we reduce satan down to this size, then we only need a Jesus this big [using two hands to indicate about 12 inches]. You with me? Be careful. You diminish satan too much, you’re diminishing Christ. The Bible tells us, I John 5:19, that the whole world is under his control. Wow, that’s pretty big. There’s a satan as big as this globe but Jesus is bigger than the universe. And they do not compare. They are not on the same page. You know, you pull back into this universe. You don’t have to go very far and this earth just disappears. It’s not even a dot anymore. The sun disappears; it’s not even a dot when you pull back to the galaxy level and beyond. We’ve done that before here on video.
So our God is great! He’s so much bigger than satan, but satan does have power, and he is here called the ruler, the prince of the powers of the air. Now what does it mean, the air? This also includes cable, air and cable, and Dish, Dish Network. It means it’s outside of us; that’s why is says air, ruler of the air. It’s around us, just like air is around us. It’s in the air. Now, we’re not called to be phobic about it; we’re not paranoid. We’re not looking for the devil under every rock, but again, it needs to be part of our world view that we understand that it’s there. Otherwise, we become objects of manipulation.
I want you to think about that word this morning, manipulation. The spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient, verse 2. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. satan is at work manipulating people. You’re either under the control of God or satan. And here is what the Lord was showing me this morning. If any of you have a background in physics, you’ve heard the term string theory. I think God has given me a supernatural string theory, and that is that the enemy is manipulating things both globally and personally. I’ll come to the personal because that’s where we live, but first let me say a certain thing about global. For the last 15 years God has been showing me, I think, some things in our nation and beyond, of what’s been happening, and I want to tell you something. I don’t know if I’ve ever put it this way. I grew up in central Pennsylvania, in a hard-working family where we paid our taxes. Sometimes we got behind, but Dad would catch up and pay our taxes. We lived by the law, worked hard and except for Dad early on, were serving God. He came to Christ later. And I developed over time, I was built that I could deal with the intellectual elite and so forth, but I developed a resentment toward liberal elites and their condescending, demeaning attitude toward the people I grew up with. Can you understand what I’m saying? I don’t know if you ever pick it up. Looking down their nose, they live on the upper West Side of Manhattan, and we’re flyover territory, we’re nobodies, we’re hicks, we’re this, we’re that. In me–and particularly I was involved in the early 90’s in some social and political engagement here in this town– part of that was a resentment toward those folks who demean you because I love you, and I felt I was defending you and your values, not just defending God’s values. There was a personal element that I felt that you were being manipulated by society to do things that you would not otherwise do, pressures on you to bear that were pushing you, so I had resentment toward the liberal elite. And then in the mid-nineties, God showed me that the conservative elite were manipulating you as much as the liberal elite was. Really! The country club conservative elite. Now I have a problem. So what am I, liberal or conservative? So I went back to discover that Jesus is both; He is both conservative and liberal, and I’ve done that before, so we won’t do that today.
And you say, “Well then, okay, if they are both manipulating, they are being manipulated by the enemy. Are they doing it together? Are the liberal elite and the conservative elite working together to manipulate things for the enemy?” Not necessarily. They actually hate each other. [and he chuckles] You know, the Dick Cheneys [46th Vice President of the US, Republican] and the Pat Leahys [US Senator from 1975 to the present, Democrat] of the world, they really do hate each other. So you have to go to another level, and here is the problem a lot of Christians get stuck on when they discover that there is manipulation behind the scene. They want to ask, “What human beings, what groups, are doing this? Is it the Illuminati? Is it the Bilderbergs? Is it the Trilateral Commission? [Illuminati (definition copied from Wikipedia) Historically the name refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on May 1, 1776 to oppose superstition, prejudice, religious influence over public life, abuses of state power, and to support women’s education and gender equality. The Illuminati were outlawed along with other secret societies by the Bavarian government leadership with the encouragement of the Roman Catholic Church, and permanently disbanded in 1785. Bilderberg (definition from its own web page) Founded in 1954, Bilderberg is an annual conference designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America. Every year, between 120-150 political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media are invited to take part in the conference. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America; one third from politics and government and the rest from other fields. The conference is a forum for informal, off-the-record discussions about megatrends and the major issues facing the world. Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued. Trilateral Commission (definition from its own web page) The Commission was originally created in 1973 to bring together experienced leaders within the private sector to discuss issues of global concern at a time when communication and cooperation between Europe, North America, and Asia were lacking.] And I’m not saying people never get together to do good things or bad things. That happens all the time. That happens everywhere, people agree to do something, whether it’s good or bad, that’s part of life. But I think we give these human beings too much credit when we get into, you know, who’s in the Illuminati, who’s all that, we are giving them way too much credit. Those people come and go. “Who’s really pulling the strings?” is the question. And the answer to who is pulling the strings in the supernatural string theory–and there’s supernatural stuff that happens that gets covered over and denied–who’s really pulling the strings is the same enemy who is trying to pull your strings, if you let him.
So let’s go to the personal. This is where we live. Let’s say, okay–prince of the air, around us, above us–let’s say we have ten strings. I’ve never done marionettes and all that stuff, but let’s say you have ten strings. Someone who is not living for God—how many are still with me, by the way? You hanging with me? Okay, we’re going somewhere today. We’re going deep. Is it okay if we go deep? I won’t leave you there for 69 days, I promise [reference to miners in South America who were trapped in a mine for 69 days and survived], but we’re going deep. I won’t leave you in the mine.
If you are living for the enemy, he is pulling strings. People don’t understand; they think they are making all their own decisions. They think, you know, they’ve got total freedom to do whatever they do, and they do not understand the spiritual forces that are at work, nudging them to do what they do. You with me? That’s why the Bible talks about slaves to sin. You’re a slave to sin, and you don’t know it. How many students at Penn State, they come here, “oh, I’m free!” And they are not free. They walk right into bondage of various kinds, and “Now, what do I do? How do I get out of this mess? I can’t tell Mom and Dad. Who’s going to cover the attorney’s fees? Who is going to pay bail for me?” Slaves to sin. Someone is pulling the strings.
Now with God, when we come to Christ, he starts operating our life, pulling the strings. Now you are going to say, immediately, “Does that mean we’re just puppets?” And this goes back to what I preached four weeks ago. No, you have choice. We are not inanimate objects like a puppet, you with me? We are not marionettes, we are not made of wood. [hits his head with the microphone] Ouch, if you are made of wood, it didn’t hurt. Just pinch yourself. You are not made of wood! [his voice rising in volume] We have freedom, we have choice. You with me? But there are strings, and you can work against the strings or with them. You with me? So God may be pulling you one way and you are resisting God. Some of you come on Sunday mornings and God is pulling at you, pulling at your heart and you are resisting Him. [voice lowered now] Why? Is that smart to do? Why would someone do that? The enemy pulls strings, and like I said, there are those who resist sin.
And so the question theologically, and we were talking about this in staff meeting this week. Let’s say someone comes to Christ, and you’ve got ten strings, okay? And God’s working, and you’re working, and you are doing things, and God’s moving on you and He will lead you and guide you. He’ll pull you over here, and you’ll do this. You’ve got your own decision, you’ve got your own mind, you’ve got your own choice, but you’re still linked to Him and you are just doing this wonderful performance with God, but one of those strings, let’s say the enemy is tugging on that string. And then theologically we ask, “How can that be?” If you are a Christian, and that can be like–you know what’s it like, you’ve got, maybe, an area of your life where you just keep doing the same thing. You’re kind of there and then—whoop—it’s like strings being pulled. And you fight it, you are trying to keep your hand down, but that string is pulled and then there you are [raises hand], back to where you were before. You said it, you did it. You said, “I’d never do that again,” and you did it again. And it’s a habitual, chronic thing, you with me? So then we ask the question, “If satan can pull that string on a Christian,” some would say, “then they are not a Christian. Unless all ten strings have no influence of the enemy at all, this person isn’t a Christian.” I’m not ready to go there. I’m not ready to say that someone who satan is pulling on one of those strings in your life, one area of your life where you haven’t got total victory on yet, that you are not a believer. I believe you’re in Christ and He is working in you, and that string needs to be cut to the enemy and turned over to God.
So these strings are pulled, supernatural string theory. We are being led, we are being influenced, by supernatural reality. Now if you have a hard time understanding all this, there is a book I am going to recommend to you. C.S. Lewis, one of the greatest authors of the 20th century—Chronicles of Narnia and all that are great books, but there are two books that you really should read from C.S. Lewis. One of them is Mere Christianity; it’s the essentials of the Christian faith. The other is The Screwtape Letters. How many have read The Screwtape Letters? Wow, a lot of you. You are so well read. And in The Screwtape Letters you will be introduced to the whole idea of how satan manipulates people, and you’ll understand it and you will be better prepared to defend yourself against that. So even though, in this passage, satan is not focused on—you see, he is mentioned and it kind of goes on from there–because the focus is grace in this passage, we need to understand he really is there and is really a part of the picture.
Number three, God through Christ. God through Christ, that is the focus. That’s the focus of the whole Bible, what God does. Verse 4: because of His great love for us—we know what the motivation is. Why did He do it, to prove a point to some other god in some other universe? [shouting] No! Because He loved us! That’s it, period! Because He loved us! For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [John 3:16], [regular voice now] because of His love for us. God, who is rich in mercy. Are you rich in mercy, by the way? You know, we tend to want mercy for ourselves and justice for others. [pauses for a moment] Right? [back to reading the Bible] God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—we’ll come back to that concept–it is by grace you have been saved. Look at verse 6: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Wow! Seated with Christ. By the way, this “seated” is not on a throne; we don’t all have thrones in Heaven. This is a meal, a feast; we are seated with Christ at the banquet, the marriage supper of the Lamb and beyond. Verse 8: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. It’s a gift, it’s a gift, it’s a gift, it’s a gift, [his volume rises with each repetition], you can’t earn it! There is nothing you can do to save yourself! It is a gift of God, and you either receive it or you reject it! It’s that simple. And when you receive it, everything changes. You become new, you become new, because of what God has done through Christ.
Here’s what we need to understand. [Dietrich] Bonhoeffer—there are so many parallels between America and Weimar Republic in Germany [in the 1930’s], and we may come back to that–Bonhoeffer was writing, the great Lutheran pastor, and saying the problem with Germany at the time was people believed in cheap grace [in The Cost of Discipleship, first published in German in 1937]. I fear that, every time we celebrate Communion, I am concerned; are people celebrating cheap grace? Do they really understand what God did through Christ for us? Do they really understand how the ugliness, the parable, the death of our own sin? Do you really understand the situation we were in when Christ rescued us? You think, “Hey, I’m pretty good. I’m as good as the next person.” You start thinking that way, then what do you need a Savior for? Maybe just help a little bit here and there. When I get in trouble, He becomes a 9-1-1 call, an EMT. You don’t have a relationship, most of you don’t, with EMTs. God has brought us, not only rescued us from death, but brought us into His family. We’re family with Him; we’re family this morning. [spoken almost as a whisper] How rich that is. [regular voice] And we’re seated with Him. That is part of the after picture. It is glorious. Grace is not turning your head away from wrath. Grace takes wrath on head on, and that’s the cross. You with me? Jesus, because of His love for us, took on the wrath that is part of the fallen nature, part of the curse, part of the order. He took it on, full brunt! It all came at Him! And it killed Him! [voice lowered, softly beckoning] And then God raised Him from the dead, as He raises us. That is what God did through Christ Jesus.
Let’s talk about us after. Verse 4: We’re alive in Christ. Verse 6: We’re seated with Him. Verse 7: the incomparable riches of His grace. The glory of the rescued. Here’s where I want to go. We’re going to go to Chile this morning [referring again to the August 5, 2010 Copiapó mining cave-in which resulted in 33 miners being trapped for 69 days]. The glory of the rescued. Look at verse 23 of chapter 1. I didn’t dwell on that because we are going to come back to the Church. Ephesians talks about the Church a lot, so we’re going to come back to what that means. Verse 23 says: which is His body,–the church–the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. We’re designed to be glorious. There is nothing in and of ourselves that made us worthy. Yes, we were created in the image of God but we were marred, we were dead in our sins, but because of His love and His grace, He has made us not only valuable and precious, but glorious, the glory of the rescued. Think about in Chile, how it wasn’t just the rescuers. Who did people focus on in Chile, the rescuers, the six that went down to bring them up? The drillers? They’re the real heroes, right? No, they focus on the glory of the rescued, even though, yes they were courageous and they did what they had to do, but they were powerless to save themselves. Think of it, the glory of the church is the glory of the rescued [emphasis on rescued] and it’s an awesome thing. It’s an awesome thought. What happened in Chile, I can’t think of a more powerful picture of what we are talking about today. We are dead and buried in our sins. Here you are, trapped half a mile below ground. There’s an air pocket; you are able to survive for a while. There is enough air and you can get by for a while. You are with a group of people and you say, “Party on ‘til we die.” That’s what a lot of people say in the bars, don’t they? You party on and then you die. Just like those miners could have. You are half a mile below earth. [shouts this sentence] You cannot save yourself! [now a pleading voice] There’s nothing you can do, but someone from above, who took a drill manufactured in Pennsylvania, drills down half a mile, and miraculously reaches the exact point that they should, and they prepare. They send down nourishment, and they communicate, and they keep you going. “We’re going to get you out. We’re going to get you out. We’re going to get you out.” 69 days later, unparalleled in human history, and some of you young folks, yeah, there’s already been a man on the moon before I was born, so you don’t think, you may not be impressed by this. Those of us who are older, we are impressed. It’s a miracle. 33 miners, 69 days, a half mile underground and they are all rescued.
Think about it. That tube coming up is a birth canal, isn’t it? They were being reborn. They were being reborn, just like you were born—unless you were Caesarian—just like you were born, and just like we’re born again in Christ, brought through that birth canal. And we emerge, and one billion people were watching on television. The angels in Heaven rejoice when you give your life to Jesus, when you’re born again. They celebrate in the Heavenlies.
So what happened down there 69 days? A lot. We’ll never know everything that happened. A lot of them began to pray for the first time in their life. How ‘bout that? They knew without a miracle they weren’t getting out alive. We’re told at least two—I’ve heard estimates of ten—committed their lives to Christ while they were down in the mine. There were a couple of Christians, born again Christians, who witnessed to the other miners and many of them came to Jesus for the first time in their lives. Campus Crusade for Christ got the idea of making up some t-shirts and they sent them down there, and twenty-some of the miners decided, by their own choice, to put these shirts on to bring glory to God. Watch this video with me. [It’s a video of the rescue. I could not find the same video which Pastor used but the t-shirts and the full story can be found on either of these web sites: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/14/the-story-behind-the-chilean-miners-jesus-t-shirts/ or http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/c/chile-miners.htm#.Ub9nVZzhf_A] [Pastor speaks as the video continues] Gracias, Senor—thank You, Lord in Spanish. Psalm 95, verse 4, in Spanish, now in English: “Thanks to God in Whose hand are the depths of the earth, and the peaks of the mountains are His also. To God be the honor and the glory.” Twenty-some of them wore this shirt, by their choice. What is on the sleeve of these dirty shirts? Jesus, see it there? It says Jesus. They are giving glory to God. The secular media did not talk about this; they are giving glory to God.
Let’s give praise to the Lord. Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen! But that’s not the whole story. There are lots of stories. You are going to work one day, just going to the mines, just going to work. Managing my life, I’ll work, I’ll put my hours in, I’ll go home, I’ll continue to do what I’m doing.” And everything changes. Your life totally changes. One of the miners had a relationship, a continuing relationship with four women, who did not know about each other [he pauses], until now. [Congregation laughs.] He was managing. See, the enemy tells you, “There are no strings. You are totally in control. You can manage this, you can manage your sin—no problem!” And then the cave falls in, and if you get out alive, you’ll be dead. [He chuckles and the congregation laughs again.] You with me? That can happen to you. That’s why your mother wants you to wear clean underwear if you are in an accident. [laughter again] I told you, there is a lot in this message. This message could be three times longer. How many of you know it could be? How many of you know me well enough [to know] it could be three times longer? Okay. You still with me? Okay, I’m trying to give you good stuff. This isn’t fluff.
[voice raises to a shout] Are you wearing the robes of righteousness when you leave the house? Are your loins girt? Do you have the full armor of God on? Are you wearing truth? My mother—you know, I’ve never preached on this verse, but this verse came up all the time in my home, and maybe you. How many, I want to ask, how many, Numbers 32:23, you know what that verse says? How many? A few of you know, okay. It says: Be sure your sin will find you out. My mother said it all the time: Be sure your sin will find you out. I may not be there. You put your hand in the cookie jar. You watch something on TV you’re not supposed to watch, whatever. You may think you got away with it, but be sure your sin will find you out, and guess what? It will. If it doesn’t on this earth, it will on Judgment Day. Be sure it’ll happen, and that ugliness will be exposed. You thought you had it under control. Anyone who thinks that is a fool, is a fool. It will come, and yet God’s grace is so great.
I gotta tell you, I was communicating with someone who used to attend here, who got saved here, and this lady, she grew up in a Christian home, a Christian youth group like these young ladies here. She rebelled against God. She actually went to a Christian college, but then she rebelled against God. She went to France to study. She met a Muslim man and married him. He abused her, she divorced him, and then she became a Unitarian. She was in this town—we’ve had several Unitarians who’ve come to Jesus in this town, by the way, through this congregation—she came to Jesus, her life was changed. Right now she is writing something that her knowledge of French, her knowledge of Islam, and her knowledge of Unitarianism are all being used in what she is writing for the glory of God. [voice raised now] That’s God’s grace! And you say, like Paul said in Romans [6:1-2]: Should we sin all the more then, to show how gracious God is? He said, “God forbid!” [shouting] Don’t do that, don’t do that! But, but, if you sin, now the enemy is lying to you, saying, “God won’t forgive you.” No! He will, if you’ll come to Him! He’ll use it all! He’ll use it all! He’ll use it all, for His glory, for His glory! [voice softer again] He will, if you give it to Him. That’s how amazing His grace is.
I’m about to end. Jesus said [Matthew 18:3]: Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom. So many times we think, okay–like a little child—humble and believing, open, flexible. That’s all true. But you know what? There is something more. I was saved at the age of seven. At the age of seven, I became convicted of my own sinfulness and how wretched that sin was, and that I needed a Savior. How wretched was it? You say, “How many banks did you rob, Pastor? How many people had you killed? What corporate corruption were you involved in on Wall Street? Had you invented a pyramid scheme in first grade?” I can’t remember any sins I did before seven, I can’t. And yet, as a seven-year old, I understood how ugly sin is. The Holy Spirit made it real to me, that I am dead in my trespasses and sin, and I needed a Savior to give me a new birth. I needed amazing grace.
Many of you know the song, “Amazing Grace”, was written by a former slave trader [John Newton]. The problem is that knowledge says, “Well, I haven’t been a slave trader so I don’t need amazing grace.” This morning, I don’t want you to sing a note. I know you know this song. I don’t want you to sing, I want you to listen to a seven-year old girl sing “Amazing Grace.” I want you to hear it through the voice of a seven-year old and you’ll understand that you cannot enter the Kingdom unless you become like a child. Let’s play it. [We listened to Rhema Marvanne here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIQl6ygRqhw]
[Pastor’s voice is very soft now] Would you bow your heads please? I appreciate your patience this morning. We’ve gone a lot longer than we normally do, but I’ll tell you why. Because what is at stake is so important. We don’t come here to play church. Eternal destinies are at stake. Freedom from the manipulation of the enemy in your life pulling strings is at stake. Receiving the grace of God is at stake. I wonder how many this morning, you’ve got it, you’ve got it. You’ve heard from God. The Holy Spirit has touched your heart. You are not right with God right now. If Jesus were to return or you were to die, you’re not really ready to meet Him. You’re not ready to say, “My sins are all forgiven, under the blood of Jesus. By His blood I’ve been cleansed. I stand in the righteousness of God. Yes, my sin was ugly, but it’s all been washed away.” How many would lift a hand and say, “I am not right with God when I walked in here today, but I want to be right with God when I leave this place.” How many would raise a hand right now? Please. If it is just one, yes, thank you. Even if it is just one, it is worth it. Are there others who say, “I’m not right with God.” Either you’ve never committed your life to Jesus before or maybe you’ve gotten away from Him and He is calling you back. Are there others? Are there others? I just knew in my heart today, there would be at least one. Are there others? Would you stand with me? Let’s sing together. [The service ends with “Amazing Grace” words by John Newton, 1779; music 19th century USA melody]