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You Were Dead…but God
Ephesians 2:1-10
Skip Heitzig

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Ephesians 2 (NKJV™)
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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...but God

This is the tenth and final study in our series ...but God, and today we get most personal. Rather than considering Joseph, David, Nehemiah, Isaac, or Daniel, we focus on our own story. Four simple phrases describe for us the spiritual journey all believers take through this life on our way to heaven. If you are a believer, all four of these things should happen. Unfortunately, too many stop with the first two and never successfully engage the last two. Let’s look at each one and evaluate how our lives can be lived to the full potential.

All of us experience times of desperation, but as James Montgomery Boice said, "If you understand those two words, 'But God,' they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely." In this series, Skip Heitzig explores the "but God" moments of David, Jonah, Moses, and other biblical figures, encouraging us to let the Lord turn our personal periods into pivot points.

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Outline

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  1. Wandering from God (vv. 1-3)

  2. Waking to God (vv. 4-6)

  3. Watching for God (vv. 6-7)

  4. Working with God (vv. 8-10)


Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: July 15, 2018
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "You were dead…but God"
Text: Ephesians 2:1-10

Path

Four simple phrases describe the spiritual journey all believers take through life on our way to heaven. If you are a believer, all four things should happen. Unfortunately, too many stop with the first two and never successfully engage the last two. Let's look at each one and evaluate how our lives can be lived to the full potential.
  1. Wandering from God (vv. 1-3)
  2. Waking to God (vv. 4-6)
  3. Watching for God (vv. 6-7)
  4. Working with God (vv. 8-10)
Points

Wandering from God
  • Like distinct stages of human development, there are stages of spiritual growth.
  • Four words in our text describe a Christian's spiritual journey from our past to the present, into the future, and beyond the graveyard into glory.
  • All people are born spiritually dead—separated from God. We're not just sick, we're stiff—dead to God.
  • If you put a person in school, they're an educated sinner, in therapy they're an adjusted sinner, and in church they're a religious sinner. The solution: we must be saved.
  • Unbelievers do not understand spiritual things; they are what Paul called "natural men" (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). Because we're spiritually dead, we must be born again and given new life.
  • Before Christ, we were "dead in trespasses and sins" (v. 2).
    • The Greek word for sin is harmatia, an archery term meaning to miss the mark1.
    • To trespass means to cross a known boundary—a willful, deliberate act of disobedience.
    • If someone does something against God, the first time it's a sin; the second time it's a trespass—a deliberate sin.
  • The Greek word for to walk isperipateó. Its meaning is ethical: to conduct one's life2. It means to order one's behavior, to follow along a path, and to walk about. One scholar suggests it implies to meander or to browse. This is what we do in life without Christ: we meander with no real purpose.
  • Probe: Without getting into great detail, how was your life prior coming to Christ? In what ways did you wander about, browsing with little purpose? How did Christ redirect your priorities?
Waking to God
  • James Montgomery Boice said, "If you understand those two words—'but God'—they will save your soul." And Martyn Lloyd-Jones said those same two words "in and of themselves contain the whole of the gospel of Christ."
  • You were sleeping the sleep of spiritual death and God woke you up. Why does God wake us up? It's because of His great mercy and love. We are poor because of sin, but God is rich in mercy and love.
  • God "made us alive together with Christ" (v. 5). The Greek word for alive is best translated reanimated—a synonym for raised from the dead.
    • God made us alive. We didn't because we can't.
    • God loved us even while we were dead. He loves us before we love Him.
    • Christ died for you. Christ is the mediator and demonstrator of God's love.
  • Probe: Why does salvation have to be a work from God and not man (by works)? Why can't good deeds save a person? See Ephesians 2:8-9.
Watching for God
  • One of Paul's favorite phrases is in Christ Jesus. It's used eighty-five times in Paul's letters. As believers we have new life in Christ.
  • Verse 6 affirms we are seated together "in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." It describes our current position: since Jesus ascended into heaven, we are positionally with Him. But one day we'll be with Him literally as verse 7 implies, looking forward to "the ages to come."
    • We will be with Jesus in the future. Salvation is not the end of our story; it's the beginning.
    • We have peace and forgiveness now and in heaven.
  • The Bible tells us to watch for Jesus' return (see Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Our hope is not necessarily in the coming of the Lord, but in the Lord who is coming.
  • God loves us so much it will take all eternity to show us how much. Eternity will be a continual revelation of His love.
  • Probe: Why is the second coming of Christ essential to our understanding of the Christian faith? Consider these truths: Christ taught it (see Matthew 25), the New Testament supports it, and the early church explained it in creeds/statements of faith.3
Working with God
  • Until we get to heaven, we work with God here. That work has two parts: God's work in you, and God's work through you.
  • The word for workmanship is poiéma andmeans a thing made.4 It implies a handiwork or work of art, a masterpiece.
  • We are a work in progress. While sculpting, Michelangelo stated, "I'm liberating an angel from this stone." God is the Master Sculptor. He has never thrown away a stone and will complete His good work in us (see Philippians 1:6).
  • God's toolbox is filled with flawed tools: people. He is changing the world with sinful people, bringing healing and hope.
  • God saved you from sin and He saved you for service.
  • Probe: What are some characteristics that make a work of art a masterpiece? Likewise, what makes a Christian a masterpiece in Christ? What are the good works that give God the glory?
Practice

Connect Up:Take time to praise God together in song.

Connect In:Take time to pray for one another and the church.

Connect Out:Take time to prepare your hearts to preach the gospel to unbelievers, praying for specific names and open doors.


1 Bible Hub, "harmatia," 2011, http://biblehub.com/str/greek/266.htmaccessed 7/16/18.
2 Bible Hub, "peripateó," 2011, http://biblehub.com/str/greek/4043.htmaccessed 7/16/18.
3 For more Scripture references, visit http://ipost.christianpost.com/post/44-bible-verses-about-second-coming-of-jesus-christ-besides-the-gospels http://ipost.christianpost.com/post/44-bible-verses-about-second-coming-of-jesus-christ-besides-the-gospels
4 Bible Hub, "poiéma," 2011http://biblehub.com/str/greek/4161.htm, accessed 7/16/18.

Transcript

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You Were Dead…but God - Ephesians 2:1-10 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Ephesians, chapter 2-- we're going to be looking at the first 10 verses. And I want to talk to you a little bit about your growth, your spiritual journey, the path that you are on, and some of the steps that you have taken in that journey.

You know, when we were babies, we couldn't move. And life was very, very primitive for us. I know you can't remember that far back-- none of us can. But when you were born, you were basically held and carried to different places. You really couldn't do much. You drooled, and you kind of bobbed your head. You didn't have much strength in that either for awhile. And you were only focusing about as far as your eyes to your mother's face. That's about all that you could focus on initially.

But then you grew. Then you got strength in those neck muscles. You are able to move a little bit better. And your eyes were able to focus on objects further than your mother's face. You could see down the hall. And as soon as you saw those objects, you wanted to get to them. You did. So you were put on the floor, and you managed to crawl your way over to them.

But then you kept growing, and eventually you were able to stand up. And you took your first step, which was an abysmal failure, by the way, because you fell down as soon as you took it. But you got up again, and you took another step. And soon you were able to walk. You were making progress.

And before long, you were able to walk well. You were able to run. Then you were able to ride a bicycle. And then several years later, that once helpless creature is now behind the wheel of an automobile. You've got a driver's license. And sky's the limit.

Now, that's normal development. It's normal human development to go through different stages and phases. And we applaud that. And we only get worried when that doesn't happen or if that is delayed.

So the first words you ever said were probably not much more than "bah." Or maybe something else, but not much different than that. And as soon as you said that weird sound, your parents were so excited that you are talking now. You said a word. Nobody knows what that word is. But you said it, and your parents were excited.

Now, if you were to say that word at age 25 to your parents, they would get greatly worried, because they would expect much more development than just that single, little, monosyllabic "bah."

Well, we also have spiritual growth. And there are certain steps that every spiritual person ought to be taking toward maturity. I want you to consider that today.

I read something that got my attention this week from the Barna Research Group. You've heard me quote them over the years. They study the lifestyles and beliefs of Christians in different eras of our history. And the Barna Research Group noted that nine out of 10 adults in our country say that their faith is very important to them. Just ask a person-- how important is your faith? Nine out of 10 say very important.

So they surveyed those nine out of 10. And they surveyed them about how they would personally rate their own spiritual maturity. And they noted that most considered themselves to be above average in several areas of spiritual maturity. Now, that really got my attention, because it made me realize that we are living-- either we are living in a country that has above average spiritual people, or we're not that great. at self-evaluating. Maybe we're a little too generous of how mature we really are.

Today, I'm going to ask you to consider and evaluate your own spiritual journey. Now, we're doing a series. And this is the last study in this series called "...but God." And over the last about 10 weeks, we have noted God's ability to intercept a person's life and change their course. That's the whole premise behind the series "...but God" that he has the power to radically change how a person is at a certain point-- or for that matter, a nation is at a certain point-- and change their future.

So we studied David and how he was hated by Saul and hunted by Saul. But God, it says, would not permit Saul to hurt him. We looked at the life of Joseph, mistreated by his brothers, misunderstood and ignored by fellow prisoners. But God had a different plan for his life. We looked at the world, how at the time before the flood it had become so corrupt that God was practically forced to judge the world in a flood. But God remembered Noah.

We look to the nation of Israel through the lens of Nehemiah, how that prophet noted that Israel failed, and because of their failure God allowed them to go into captivity in Babylon. But God is merciful to forgive. We looked at Jonah, how Jonah ran from God, ran from God's calling. But God got his attention, gave him a second chance, and sent him to Nineveh.

We noticed how Jacob came from a dysfunctional family-- remember that-- but that God was able to function quite well in the midst of their dysfunction. We looked in Psalm 49 at death and how death is universal, common to all mankind. But God counteracts death with the promise of Resurrection.

Then we looked last time at the future through the lens of Daniel-- how the future is uncertain to us but well known to God. And God reveals certain parts of the future to us.

But now in Ephesians 2, we come to the last and the most personal of these studies because it's about your life. And I could, by looking at this chapter, there are four words that describe your life past, present, and future-- four words-- wandering, waking, watching, working. Now there are many more steps. But time only allows us to look at these four major categories. You were wandering from God. Then the second is waking to God. Then watching for God, and in the meantime, working with God.

Let's at least get familiar with the passage in Ephesians, chapter 2, beginning in verse 1. Paul said, "And you He has made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

Those 10 verses are the panorama of our salvation. They tell us about our past, our present, our future, and the steps of normal Christian development. I suppose if you wanted to give a title to Ephesians 2, verses 1 through 10, you could call it "From the graveyard to glory"-- "From the Graveyard to Glory." Or if you prefer, "From Death Valley to Graceland." And I don't mean Elvis's Graceland, but God's Graceland.

So verses 1 through 3 explain what we're saved from. Verse 4 through 10 explain what we're saved for.

Now, one of the problems I face as a Bible expositor is I have the first 10 verses of Ephesians before me this morning, which deserve about an eight to 10 week series in and of themselves that I could do. And you're going, yes, we know you could. But I only have the time to just skip over so many of the details and just glance at some of the highlights. So I want to do that.

I want to go through these phases with you-- these stages, these steps and levels-- of development. And the first one is where you were before you met Jesus Christ. You were wandering from God, wandering from God. He says in verse 1, "And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins," but watch this, "in which you once walked according to the course of this world." You were the walking dead essentially, Paul says.

We were DOA, dead on arrival. As soon as we were born into this world, we were dead-- that is, separated from God because of sin. Now that's an important thing to get into our little heads. Unbelievers aren't just sick. They're dead. They lack the capacity to respond to stimuli-- in this case, spiritual stimuli.

So that's important because it shows us they don't need a self-help course. They don't need a personality adjustment. They need salvation. They need a divine "but God" moment, an intervention.

It means that you can put a person in school, and they'll just come out a well-educated sinner. You can put a person in therapy, and they'll come out a well-adjusted sinner. You can put a person in church, and they'll come out a religious sinner. It's only when you put a person in Christ that they are a saved sinner.

Now, according to Paul the Apostle-- and we don't have time to get into it-- but in Romans 5, he said, basically, it all started with one guy. His name was Adam. And when Adam sinned, he immediately died and began another process of dying.

Let me explain. God said, and the day that you eat of this fruit, you will surely what?

Die.

Die-- that's God's promise. So as soon as he took it and ate it, he died instantly spiritually. He was separated from his creator. He began the process of physical death at the same time.

So in Romans 5, Paul says, through one man-- that's Adam-- death entered and it spread so that all have sinned. Death entered, sin entered, death spread.

This is why an unbeliever cannot understand spiritual things apart from God revealing it to him, waking him up. They can't do it.

1 Corinthians 1, the apostle said the natural man-- remember that phrase? It means who we are by nature. When you are born, you are born a natural man, a natural woman. The natural man does not understand spiritual things or the things of the Spirit. They are foolishness unto him. Neither can he know them. It's impossible for them to understand it.

That's why an unbeliever says, yeah, you know I read the Bible. I don't get it. I don't understand it. I can't understand it. You're right. You can't, any more than a corpse can understand something. You're dead. You lack the capacity to receive and react to stimuli. A corpse can't hear anything, can't see anything, can't feel anything, can't react to anything.

I've been in enough funeral situations at funeral homes where I've been by the casket, and I've been with a friend or a relative of the loved one, and they're kind of talking about the loved one. And they get spooked. And they go, I don't think I should say that in front of him, as if he can hear you. He cannot. He is dead.

And a dead person can do nothing to improve their condition. You can't get less dead than somebody else. There may be different phases of corruption. Put 20 corpses on a battlefield, they're all decaying at different rates. But they can't be any more dead.

My mind goes back to Princess Bride. And you know where I'm going with this-- where they go to Miracle Max, and they said, my friend is dead. [IMITATING MIRACLE MAX] Oh, he's only mostly dead. And everybody knows there's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.

God says, you're all dead. And that's why Jesus put it a very interesting way. He said, you must be born again. Why did he use that terminology? Because he understood the concept of being spiritually dead. If you are dead, you need a new birth. You must be born again.

Now, what causes this death? Well, it's our nature. It's the sin nature. You are by nature the children of wrath or the children that incur wrath, God's wrath. But look what it says-- you he made alive who were dead in trespasses and sin.

Now most of us know that sin, hamartia, means to miss the mark. I've told you before that it's an archery term. You can aim at the target. You can miss nine of them, hit the last one right in the middle. You've fallen short. You're a sinner.

It's a common word in the New Testament used 173 times-- you fall short. It's what you don't do. You don't make God's mark. That's sin.

A trespass is a different thing. A trespass is deliberate. Trespass means to cross a known boundary. It's a willful act of disobedience.

So the first time Junior walks across your waxed floors out of ignorance, that's a sin. He didn't know. You told him. So he will know. The second time he does it, that's a trespass, because now he knows better, but he does it anyway.

Or to put it in my own example. When I was a kid my parents took me to Disneyland. And it was shortly after it was originally built by Walt Disney. It wasn't that big. But I was so enamored with where I was that I wandered off where I shouldn't go. When I wandered off where I shouldn't go, that was a sin. I did it in ignorance.

But years later, as a teenager-- an unsaved teenager, you need to know-- I climbed over the fence into Disneyland to get in by the Interstate 5 freeway and managed to get into It's a Small World, was caught on camera, and apprehended by the police. That was a trespass.

[LAUGHTER]

I knew better. And I was being apprehended while-- (SINGING COMICALLY) it's a small, small world, duh, duh, dah.

[LAUGHTER]

That was a trespass.

So he says, you were dead in trespasses and sins. But verse 2-- you once walked according to the course of this world. You are a walking dead person.

The word walked-- "peripateó" is the word used here in the Greek language-- means to order your behavior. That's what it means. You waled. You lived. You ordered your own behavior. You walked about or walked around. But one source suggests that it means to meander or to browse, that it means to wander about loosely without a goal or a purpose.

Have you ever gone into a store and bought something you really didn't need? You just said, well, I'll just look. You're window shopping. You're just sort of meandering. You're killing time. So you walk into a store, and you buy something.

How did that happen? It's called browsing. You were just browsing. And you browsed your way into buying something. Maybe somebody said, oh, that looks good on you, or you need another one. Or whatever it was, you came out with that thing because you were you were browsing.

Paul's point is you're just sort of browsing what the world had to offer, up and down the shelves of the world, without any goal or purpose. You were meandering.

Remember what it says in the words of Isaiah the prophet? All we like sheep have what? Gone astray. That's the natural human proclivity, or propensity, to go astray, to wander. And Paul says that's what you were like before you were saved. That's what all unsaved people are like right now-- dead men walking, wandering.

There was a guy named Robert Robinson who came to Jesus Christ at age 20, became a Methodist preacher and a songwriter. You'll know his song. This is back in the 1700s. And he wrote a song, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"-- you know it-- "to My Heart to Sing Thy Praise." But there's a line in it. every time we sing it we go, yep, I know that to be true. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.

That is the human nature. Even after we're saved, we have that draw and that pull. But that's stage one, wandering from God. Stage two-- waking to God.

Verse 6, here's our phrase-- but God-- love that. But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved, and raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Those two words, there they are again.

This little phrase, one of the most significant, eloquent, inspiring transitions in all of holy scripture. They appear 45 times. We've looked at just 10-- 45 times, two little words, three letters each. So easy to say. But so, so significant in what happens after those words appear.

James Montgomery Boice said, if we understand these two words, "but God," they will save your soul. And Martyn Lloyd-Jones noted, these two words in and of themselves contain the whole Gospel of Christ. I would add to that and say these two words, "but God," are part of the testimony of us all, of all y'all. They're our testimony.

You were sleeping the sleep of death until God woke you up. God woke you up. He made us alive together. We all have a moment like that. We all have a "but God" moment. If you're a saved person, you have a moment.

I never got when people say, well I've always been a-- I've always walked with God. I've never known a time without Him. Listen, there was some moment in your life where you realized I really need him. This has to be real and personal. I'm going to make a decision that God has awokened me to my need. And that's the "but God" moment.

For me it was that afternoon in San Jose that I've told you about on a number of occasions, when I was watching television in my brother's apartment. And I swore I wasn't going to cave in and get saved. And I found myself at the end of the broadcast praying to receive Christ. It was my moment, my "but God" moment.

Described in the hymn-- another one you also know very well-- I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see. Now, let's just pause on these couple of verses for a moment. Let me ask a series of questions that are answered here.

Why did God do it? Why bother with interrupting the normal course of a person's life to do this? There's a couple of words I want you to notice. The first word is mercy-- because God is merciful, that's why. Notice what it says, but God who is rich in mercy. We were poverty stricken in sin. But God who is rich in mercy can match anything we dish out. He is rich in mercy.

Lamentations, chapter 3, through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. His compassions fail not. Great is thy faithfulness. Those mercies are new every morning, said that prophet. So because of his mercy. Also notice what else-- God who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us.

I recall when I first heard-- when somebody first told me that God loved me. Somebody walked up to me, maybe a friend of mine who was a Christian, and said, you know, God loves you. And I remember how I felt when he said that. I was sort of cynical. I said, you think? Really? You think God loves me? I did. I wasn't sure God even like me. In fact, I was pretty sure He didn't.

But to take it a step further and go, He really loves you. And when I came to discover God's love, it was monumental. It is so unique. It is so great. And as he says here, and His great love with which He loved us. And I want you to get that.

And I hope that in this series, over many weeks, that one of the underlying themes you have seen with this "but God" notion is that God isn't out to get you, or hurt you, or He's not in heaven wanting to punish you. He loves you. He wants to save you. He wants to intercept your life and change the way things are going and where you are going. That's why.

And what is it exactly that He did? Well, look a little more carefully at the phrase, He made us alive together. He made us alive together. Let's see-- four words-- made us alive together. I counted right-- made us alive together.

Now, I'm bringing this up because in the original language it's just one word, a single word that God did, a single thing in a single word. But it's put in four words in the English language. That's because it's difficult to translate this one word. He made us alive together. The one word is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].

I'd never expect you to remember that, or say that, or think about that after now. But I'm just bringing that up to get that out-- [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. He made us alive together. It's a single word.

And if you happen to have an old King James Bible, I think it actually captures it. It says, and you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sin. "Quickened," that's the one word. The word means to reanimate.

So you have somebody dead, and you reanimate that. When I read that, my mind went back to Frankenstein, and the Shelley book, and then the movies that have come, and that phrase were the mad scientist says, (IMITATING MAD SCIENTIST) it's the reanimation of dead tissue.

Well, that's sort of what God did. He reanimated somebody dead spiritually to be alive, to be awake. He reanimated you. The New Testament scholar Markus Barth says, in the majority of occurrences in the New Testament, this verb to make alive is a synonym of to raise from the dead-- to reanimate dead tissue.

So God made us alive together. Now, how did that happen? How did that happen to you? Somebody might say, well, I sort of had my own epiphany. Or, well, I just sort of reasoned through it on my own. No, you didn't. You can't. You're dead. Dead people can't do that.

Something, someone, from the outside has to do something to reanimate somebody who is dead. God made us alive together. A corpse can't crawl out of a casket. You were dead. But he made you alive. He reanimated your dead spirit.

Now, there's something else I just want you to notice before we move on in this little progress thing. When did God start loving you? You know, we talk about God loving you. OK, get that-- God loved me. It's unique. It's great love. It's mercy.

When did that process start of God loving you? Did He love you when you were lovable? Did He love you when you realized, yeah, I really need God. I better turn to God. I'm going to give my life to Jesus. Is that when God said, OK, now I love you? No, He loved you when you were unlovable. He loved you when you had no capacity to love.

It says, He loved you His great mercy was given to you when you were dead. Paul, in Romans, says much the same thing. But he gives a little more fodder to it. He says in Romans 5, in some cases you'll find somebody who's willing to die, give their life for a good person. But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

So He loved you when you hated Him. He loved you when you ran from Him. He loved you when you had no thought of Him at all, and you were very unlovely. That's how long He loved you. So we go from wandering from God to waking to God-- third level, watching for God.

Now watch what Paul does. He goes from past, present, to future. Verse 6, he raised us up together, made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I'll explain briefly what that is. Verse 7, that in the ages to come-- now he's pivoting us to have us look toward the future-- that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Now, have you noticed something in Paul's writings? There is a phrase Paul likes. And he uses it over and-- he uses it 85 times. It's the phrase "in Christ." He likes to say you are in Christ or in Christ Jesus. He says that over and again. In this epistle, 10 times he says you are in Christ. Here he says you are not only in Christ Jesus, but you are seated in heavenly places. Verse 6, raised us up together, made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Now what he means by this is you are in heavenly places positionally-- not literally, because you're seated here at Calvary, second service Sunday morning. You don't look like you're seated in heavenly places. But you are positionally, though not literally-- though one day, you will be actually with him literally in heavenly places. And Paul is so sure of it that he speaks as though it has already happened. It's a done deal. That's the process of salvation.

Now in verse 7, he definitely points us from the positional in the heavenly to what you're looking forward to when he says, that in the ages to come. Notice it's not singular, the age to come-- the ages to come, so in 100 years, in 500 years, 1,000 years, a million years, in a billion years, in a trillion years as we know it in time. In the ages to come-- that's the future.

So what he's saying is what is true positionally will be true eventually-- literally, physically you will be in the heavenly places. In the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. So we're still going to be around then for that to happen.

So let's get back to this little journey thing we're on. We were dead, walking around dead people. He woke us up to our need, and we got saved. And something happens.

In the natural, normal progress of the Christian life something happens. I realize here I am forgiven, a child of God. But this isn't the end. This is just the beginning. There's much more to follow. In fact, suddenly all eternity opens up before me, and I start to realize this is not my home. Heaven is my home. And I start getting homesick. In my Father's house there are many mansions. I'm going to go prepare a place for you. Oh really? Well, what's that going to be like?

Now I'm starting to think about where I am going to go after I die. This is normal. This is healthy. So not only do I have peace now, forgiveness now, purpose now, I have something that's going to happen afterwards. There are ages yet to come.

Because of that, the Bible tells us that as believers we ought to look forward to that. We ought to expect that. We ought to be watching for His return. Titus, chapter 2 says, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ-- looking for it. 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1, you turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven. Philippians, chapter 3, for our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

How are we to wait for him? Eagerly. Question, do you eagerly wait for Jesus to return? Or is your waiting more like a passive resignation, kind of a bored indifference? Well, yeah, [YAWNS] Jesus is coming soon. What's for breakfast?

I mean, does that excite you that he is coming? That's the normal growth of the Christian life.

[APPLAUSE]

You were dead. You're awake. You're alive. But you are also now aware and watching eagerly for his return. I think of Dorothy in the movie The Wizard of Oz. Sorry for all these film things today. But you know, she goes, [CLICK HEELS] there's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. And she wants to go to Kansas from Oz. So figure that out.

We're on earth thinking about heaven. And we're going, there's no place like home. That's our home. There's now an awareness-- not only that, but a watchfulness-- we're eager about it.

An old Scotsman, I think his name was Duncan Matheson, used to pray, (SCOTTISH ACCENT) Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.

That's such a great prayer. As I look and process life and I make decisions, I always want to think about the eternal dimension and what this means in the eternal realm.

And why is it that we're so eager about that? Why do we watch for it? Well, there's something in verse 7. I don't know if you've ever really realized what this means, but I'd like you to glance at it and hope it just really settles in. It says, that in the ages to come-- this is your future, Christian-- He, God, might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Let me loosely retranslate that. God loves you so much that it's going to take God all eternity to fully reveal that love to you. That's what you have coming. Eternity will become the unfolding revelation of His love. So you get saved now, that's not the end. That's just the beginning. You go to heaven, that's not the end. That's just the beginning. And God will take all of eternity up to show you and reveal to you over and over again how much He loves you.

Well, that's something to look forward to. Sometimes we Christians are accused by unbelievers as, well, you're so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good. You also talk about heaven. You're a bunch of escapists. You always talk about you want the rapture to come to get out of this mess.

No, our hope is not in the coming of the Lord as much as our hope is in the Lord who is coming. We're not looking for an event but a person-- a real person that we're really going to be with in heavenly places.

[APPLAUSE]

The great C.S. Lewis, who taught literature at Oxford University, said this, and I quote, "a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not as some modern people think, a form of escapism or wishful thinking. But it's one of the great things a Christian is meant to do. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were those who thought the most of the next. And it is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one."

So we go from wandering, to waking, to watching-- watching for God, watching for His return. But there's something else, and that is working.

Now, I'm going to have you go down to verse 8, where he says, for by grace you have been saved through faith-- wish I could spend a couple of weeks on that phrase-- and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast or brag. Verse 10, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

So look at what he does. Paul says in the past you were dead. But then He woke you up. He gave you life. He made us live, made us raised up together in the present. In the future, you're looking forward to the ages upon ages, when He's going to reveal His love. But in the meantime, you have the present. In the meantime, there is a job for you to do. While you're watching for His return, there are still things for you to do here.

Now verse 10, I want to draw your attention to as we close-- this verse has two parts, and please make a note of them. The first part is God's work in you. The second part is God's work through you.

The first part is we are his workmanship. That's what God does in you. The second part is you were created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Think of the first part-- we are his workmanship. It means literally we are His work of art, His masterpiece. You could translate it. The Greek word "poiema" is where we get the word poem, an exquisite masterpiece where somebody expresses himself or herself in a literary form, a poem. We are God's poem. We are His masterpiece. We are God's work of art.

Now as I say that, some of you are thinking, well, I sure don't feel that way. I don't feel like I'm some masterpiece in a museum. I feel like God put a yellow mark on the canvas and tossed it in the corner and started somewhere else. And that is because you are aware of your own failures. You are aware were of your own shortcomings. You see your own flaws. I'll just respond to that and say that's because you are still in the process. You are under construction.

If you go out soon and go down to the freeway, they've been working on that on ramp for how many months? And for a while it did not look pretty. I don't know that it really does all that much now. But one day, they'll be done. But for a while there was cement blocks and things-- dirt and wires, and roads narrowed and torn up. It's under construction.

You are God's masterpiece under construction. You are His masterpiece. You might not feel like it. It might take you a while to live up to that title. But God has an end in mind, and He will work on you. God is committed to working on you to the end. He who has begun a good work in you, Philippians 1, will complete it till the day of Christ Jesus.

One day, Michelangelo, the great sculptor, the great artist, was asked what he was doing as he was chipping away on a shapeless rock. And his answer was classic. He said I'm liberating an angel from this stone.

God is the master sculptor in the business of liberating masterpieces from those stones. And he has never yet thrown a single stone away. You are His workmanship.

So that's what He's doing in you. But you look at the rest of the verse, and you discover that work in you is for a reason, and it's that God might work through you. And let me just add and say, you are never totally fulfilled in life until you get to this level. The real fulfillment-- it's great to be saved from sin, but then to be an instrument through which God works to the world is awesome.

He says, you are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Let me just tell you something. You don't have to reach a certain level for God to work through you. I say that because you go, wow, man. One of these days, I'm going to get involved, when I'm just a little more usable and less rough around the edges for God to use.

No, you don't have to wait to get to a certain level to be used by God. You could say, I've blown it, and I feel so foolish. Well, I've got good news for that. The Bible says, God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.

You say, oh, but I feel so weak. I've got good news for that. God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the things that are mighty. See, if you look in God's toolbox at all the people God uses, all of His instruments, you'll find them all severely flawed because that's the only tools He has to work with are human beings. And because God does glorious work with imperfect tools, He gets more glory.

Think of it this way. If a surgeon can operate in a jungle with a pocket knife, that's a good surgeon. If a builder can erect a home with an old hammer and a bent handsaw, that's an exquisite builder. If somebody can play Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a flute made from a piece of bamboo, that's an accomplished musician. And if God can change the world through dead people-- sinful people, reanimated, saved-- that's a great God. That's His toolbox.

[APPLAUSE]

So you're saved for good works, not by good works. You're not saved by good works. You're saved for good works. He saved you from sin. He saved you for service.

Paul asked two questions. And I close on these two questions. We've all asked the first one. We may have not gotten around to asking the second one. When he was on the road to Damascus and he was on his back, he said first of all, Lord, who are you, Lord? And most of you know the answer to that question. He's Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. You have received him as your Savior, forgave your sins. You have new life.

The second question he asked was this, Lord, what do you want me to do? What are the good works you have prepared for my life in advance so that no matter what occupation I serve, my real calling is to serve you in that place and to reach people in that place? Because you see, God wants to make your life a masterpiece, but you only get one canvas. And that's your life.

And the "but God" moment that you had at salvation, I hope you have many more of them for service.

Let's pray together. Father in heaven, you are such a great God, and you take broken, beat up rocks and you make masterpieces out of them. You're in the business. You called us that. We're your work of art. We're your poem. We are your masterpiece. We don't feel like it. We know we're far from it. But we're working our way by your grace-- not by our works, but by your grace. You are staging our way all the way through to that end product.

[GUITAR MUSIC]

We've been reanimated. We've been awakened. We've been saved. We who were once dead and wandering, now we walk with purpose. And we live not on our heels digging in against you, but on our tiptoes awaiting for you to come.

In the meantime, Lord, use us for your glory. Intervene in our present situation so that we might become instruments fit for the Master's use, in Jesus' name, amen.

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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4/1/2018
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Jesus Died...but God
Skip Heitzig
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4/15/2018
completed
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Haters Hate…but God
1 Samuel 23:14-18
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I want to help you today to view the circumstances of your life correctly; I’d like to clear up your spiritual vision. This week and next, we will examine the lives of two well-known characters in Scripture who were attacked by people close to them, but God changed the outcome. Their evil hatred couldn’t stop the great plans that a good God had set in motion. Today, a five-verse pericope gives rich principles that clear up our vision.
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4/22/2018
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Evil Happens…but God
Genesis 50:15-21
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The story of Joseph is one of the Bible’s most compelling tales. And the most gripping feature is the difference between Joseph’s outlook and that of his eleven brothers. After all the intrigue, the ups and downs of Joseph’s life and career, and the years of deception and selfishness by Joseph’s brothers, the finale comes after their father, Jacob, dies. This is one of the Bible’s best but God moments,as forgiveness eclipses failure. Let’s consider Joseph’s brothers as they approach him one last time.
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4/29/2018
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Judgment Is Coming…but God
Genesis 6-8
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The two worst days of the human race are days of destruction. A near total annihilation happened in the distant past and will happen again in the future. Both are directly the result of God’s judgment. Just as certain as the sun will shine tomorrow, judgment is coming eventually—but God has a better alternative. As we examine His past judgment on the earth, we will be able to better understand His future judgment and how we can find purpose in His plans for His world.
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5/6/2018
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We’ve Failed...but God
Nehemiah 9
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Most all of us know that we are not what we should be or could be. Sin has scarred our lives. We are aware of personal failures. The really good news is that we may fail but God forgives. The whole reason for the atoning death of Christ was to provide clemency for transgressions and mercy for our offenses. Nehemiah knew the history of his people, and after gathering them back in the land after the captivity, he prays on their behalf. We learn four vital lessons in this prayer about the human condition and the divine solution.
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5/27/2018
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You Can Run…but God
Jonah 1-2
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I’ll bet you played hide-and-seek as a kid (or as a parent with your kids). After a while, you get really creative in finding places to hide. But can you imagine actually trying to hide from God? This is the story of a prophet of God who found out that you can run but you can’t hide. As Jonah runs from the call of God, God pursues him. In this scene we discover three principles every one of us should remember.
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6/3/2018
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Families Are Dysfunctional...but God
Genesis 31
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One of the most used (if not overused) terms of our culture is the term dysfunctional. It has become the chic descriptor of flawed and broken people and especially families. Too often this expression is used as an excuse to justify bad behaviors in other people. But this story of Jacob and Laban yields much insight into human behavior as well as divine intervention. Here we discover three levels of relational interaction and family dynamics.
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6/24/2018
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Death Is Certain...but God
Psalm 49
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We have all heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quip, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Given death’s sure nature, why is it that most people try to avoid talking about it? And why do most people place all their energy and stock in this life alone? Death is the enemy of us all (see 1 Corinthians 15:26), and it is the assured fate of us all. But God changes this enemy into a friend and provides confidence to face it.
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7/8/2018
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The Future Looks Uncertain...but God
Daniel 2
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Prognosticators and forecasters abound all around us, from weather reporters to psychics. Even the National Geographic Channel hosts programs about aliens who are trying to tell us poor earthlings a thing or two about the future. And everyone seems amazed that someone as distant as Nostradamus could’ve predicted life in our modern culture—or did he? The future is shrouded in mystery for us all but God specializes in knowing and predicting the future. To what end? What is the purpose of God showing us today what will happen tomorrow?
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There are 9 additional messages in this series.