July 6, 2021
What is the Gospel? Is it the story of Jesus? Is it the good news that God has made a way for you to be forgiven? Is it the most powerful force in the universe for changing a life? What is the Gospel?
Well, to be honest with you, it’s all that and more. The Gospel is the good news found in the life of Jesus. The Gospel is the good news that God has made a way for you to be forgiven. The Gospel is the most powerful force in the universe for changing your life!
However, there is much confusion surrounding the Gospel today. And the reason for this is that people in general have little or no clear understanding of the nature of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. Another reason stems from the fact that it is a message of good news. It’s actually a message that needs to be heard. It is a message of good news. It is a message of life to those looking for life. It is a message of freedom to those enslaved. And it is a message of hope to those who have little or no hope. Therefore, if it is a message of good news, it follows that there must be some bad news that precedes it. In other words, you can’t have good news without the bad news.
So today as we return to our Rock Springs Reboot series, we are going to take a fresh look at The Gospel:The good news of God’s grace that changes everything for us. And there is one passage in the New Testament that places the good news right alongside the bad news. That passage is Ephesians 2:1-10, where in writing to the Ephesian Church, Paul shows us how bad the bad news is by contrasting it with the amazing grace of God to us in Christ Jesus. So, this morning we are going to look at three ways God’s grace changes everything for us.
And the first way is this: Prior to the Gospel we were dead to God, but by God’s grace we are now alive with Christ!
Here’s the bad news: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins”
Apart from God’s grace to us in Jesus, every person living today is spiritually dead. A spiritually dead person has no ability to know God, please God or make themselves right with God. A spiritually dead person has no spiritual life. A spiritually dead person is separated from life with God because they are dead to God. And they need some outside help to be made spiritually alive. This is where God comes in. And the One who helps us become spiritually alive is the Holy Spirit. The work of spiritual birth is brought about by the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus. Titus describes this rebirth saying: He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 You see, only God can make us spiritually alive. We can’t make ourselves alive when we are dead. That’s the bad news. Prior to hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, every person is spiritually dead to God. And here now is where God’s Word reveals to us the cause of our spiritually death: you were dead in your transgressions and sins
Transgressions: What are they? They are those false steps we take from God’s righteous path. In other words, God’s Word reveals to us how we are to live. We are to love God and love our neighbor. When we don’t love God or love our neighbor, we’ve crossed the line with God. If you’re a golfer, you understand this. When you hit your ball out of bounds, you’ve crossed the line, you’ve transgressed the boundary marker, and you suffer the consequences. If you drive your car and cross the center line, same thing, you’ve transgressed the boundary marker, and you suffer the consequences. In fact, we live in a culture that has set up all kinds of lines we’re not to cross, or there will be consequences. So, here’s the thing: God has revealed a path of righteousness (the way we should love one another) with boundaries we are not to cross. However, if you choose to cross the lines He has set up; your transgression has consequences. Your transgression identifies you a rebel who knows the right path but refuses to take it. And as such your transgression separates you from life with God. Your transgression results in spiritual death. Same thing is true with sin:
Sins: Failing to measure up to God’s Standards. Paul uses an archery term picturing our failure to hit the target. We sin when we act in a way that falls short of God’s holy standard for life. How do we fall short? Whenever we look to something or someone other than God for our satisfaction or joy in life, we fall short of God’s standard, because we are refusing to trust Him. When we covet what is not ours, we fall short of God’s holy standard. When hold malice in our hearts toward someone, refuse to forgive or even condemn someone, we fall short of God’s Holy Standard. It is this falling short – our failures to live up to God’s holy standards is what the Bible calls sin.
You put these two together: our transgressions and sins, the result is this: we are dead to God. Scripture says it this way: “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.” Isaiah 59:2 This is WHAT WE WERE apart from the grace of God. We were the walking dead, spiritual zombies, alienated from the very One who created us for a life of love. We were without God in our lives because we separated ourselves from Him by our rebellion and sin. That’s the bad news. Aren’t you glad there’s good news?
So here now is the good news: Look at verse 6, 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. Ephesians 2:6 Even though we are the ones who separated ourselves from life with God; God loved you enough not to leave you that way. Out of the riches of His mercy, God sent Jesus to die in your place, so you could have new life with Him. The good news is that the very moment you put your trust in Jesus, God put His life in you. You went from having no life with God to being alive with Christ. He made it possible for you, who were spiritually dead, to be spiritually alive to God. Now you can know God, please God, walk with God and enjoy the love and acceptance of God forever! That’s the good news of God’s grace that changes everything. God took you: a rebellious sinner who was dead to God; and made you alive with Christ. And now because of God’s grace to you, you are no longer alienated from life with God; but are totally accepted by God with access to His presence anytime and anyplace. You are fully alive to God, because of His grace to you in Jesus. Now, I’d have to say, that’s pretty amazing. That’s God’s amazing grace. That’s the first way God’s grace changes everything.
Now, let’s look at the next way: Prior to the Gospel we were enslaved to an empty way of life, but by God’s grace we’ve been given a new way of life!
Again, we begin with the bad news: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Ephesians 2:1-3
To say it another way: Without God in your life, you were left to follow the demands of this world, the deceptions of the evil one, and the desires of your flesh. These are the forces at work outside and inside our lives that enslave us and cause us to seek a life apart from God. Let’s take a brief look at each of these forces:
First, the world: The world expresses a whole social value-system which is alien to God – which is opposed to God. It is a value system of unbelief, a system where mankind determines what is what is true or good for life. In this way the world seeks to influence your heart, your mind, and your will so you’ll chase after lesser joys then what are found in God.
It’s the value system that declares there are no moral absolutes except for looking out for number one. The way of the world is about gratifying self and exalting self, often at the expense of others. On an everyday scale we see this fleshed out in an endless pursuit of meaning: We chase after material things, become thrill seekers, and search for meaning in relationships, possessions, and experiences – but we are always left wanting. That’s the world, a world that demands we follow its ways.
A second of these forces is the evil one. The “prince and power of the air.” This is another way of referring to Lucifer – the archangel of heaven who rebelled against God’s authority and was cast to earth. He is known today as the devil, or Satan, the tempter, the destroyer, or the deceiver. He works today to deceive you into thinking it is ok to disobey God and live for self. He is the force that influences the world to ignore and disregard God. This is the spirit of the anti-Christ that constantly attacks Christianity and seeks to undermine true faith in God.
Therefore, he is described here as the spirit – or attitude that is at work within anyone who wants nothing to do with God. Anyone who has an anti-God attitude who wants to twist that which is good about God and make it sound bad has this “spirit.” It is this attitude infiltrates the world and makes people so self-focused, ambitious, and godless. It is the attitude that deceives us into pursuing everything but God for life and meaning. That’s the spirit of the age – the prince and power of the air – who works to enslave you, so you won’t look to God for life or meaning.
The third of these forces is the flesh. This is not the living fabric which covers our skeleton but our fallen, self-centered human nature: the distorted cravings of legitimate human needs. Now, there is nothing wrong with natural bodily desires for food, sleep, or sex. God has made the human body for these. But when the appetite for food becomes gluttony, for sleep becomes sloth and for sex becomes lust, our natural desires have been perverted into sinful desires. And again, the world works in concert with our flesh, telling us it’s our right to pursue these desires. That’s why we live in a culture today that has legalized marijuana and same sex marriage; and that wants to legitimize transgender lifestyles and continues to denounce and demonize anyone who doesn’t support them.
Don’t be deceived. The world, the flesh and the devil want you to live under the delusion that this world is all there is, to find satisfaction in a world that continually pushes God out of the picture, and to keep searching for life in a culture with no moral compass. That’s the bad news. That’s why Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10
The bad news is that the evil one is working overtime to prop up his grand delusion – that you can have a full, satisfying, and meaningful life apart from God. But his real agenda is to enslave you to a life without God, without meaning, and without hope. He’s real agenda is to steal, kill and destroy you. That’s the bad news.
But now the good news: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 The good news is this. We were once held captive to the ways and forces of the world: striving, boasting, craving after a life that could never satisfy. But now because God saved us through faith in Jesus Christ, because God gave us a new life with Christ, we have become His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for a new way of living.
The good news is that God has given you a new identity. He’s grace has changed you from a pawn in Satan’s scheme, to a masterpiece of God’s grace. You are His handiwork. The word God uses to describe you is the word used to make a poem. God is the poet, and He did His best work in you when He saved you. He literally recreated you in Christ. The old is gone and the new has come. You’re a new person in Christ. You are a miracle of God’s grace. You’ve been set free from guilt, shame and deception. You are freed from being enslaved by the world, the flesh and the devil.
You no longer need to define yourself by who the world says you should be, but by who God says you are. You are His forgiven, redeemed, recreated child in Christ Jesus. You are a masterpiece of God’s grace. That’s the good news of God’s grace that changes everything. That’s the power of the Gospel. God’s grace to you recreated you in Christ to do good works. God saved you from an empty way of life to give you a new life where you get to impart grace in a world devoid of grace. You are no longer enslaved to the world, the flesh, or the devil. You’ve been given a purpose and your life has meaning. You’ve been blessed to be a blessing. That’s amazing grace. That’s the second way God’s grace changes everything – by changing you.
Now let’s look at the final way God’s grace changes everything: Prior to the Gospel our future looked bleak, but by God’s grace our future looks bright!
Here’s the Bad News: Paul gives us the conclusion to a life that disregards God and goes its own way. He says, “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” What this means is that apart from God’s grace our future looked bleak. Why because it was a future not only without God, and a future without meaning, but it was also a future without hope. For if I read this correctly, apart from the mercy of God, you and every other person who disregards God will eventually face the wrath of God.
What is God’s wrath? Here again is where we often fail to understand God. For God’s wrath is not like man’s wrath. It is not bad temper, where God loses control flies off the handle at any moment. It is neither spite, nor malice, nor animosity, nor revenge. No God’s wrath arises from God’s character. First, His righteous character. In this sense, God’s wrath is His personal, righteous, and constant hostility towards evil, His settled refusal to compromise with it, and His resolve instead to condemn it. In other words, His righteous nature refuses to let anyone get away with sin. His righteous nature is His natural opposition to evil.
Secondly, God’s wrath rises out of His loving nature. What? God’s wrath is connected with His love? Yes, as difficult as that may be to conceive, God’s wrath is an expression of His love and deep attachment to His people – the people He made in His image and likeness… In the third century, the theologian Lactantius wrote that “He who does not get angry does not care.” If God can look at the sin and injustice of the world and not get angry, He is not much of a God. The God of the Bible is not some unmovable, unfeeling force, but He is a God who cares deeply about His creation.
We live in a world today that wants to deceive us into thinking that God is only love; that God will not destroy anyone for their sin. There are those who want you to believe God will be tolerant of all evil – that He will let our sin us slide. After all, “you are only human.” But that’s a lie. God’s righteous nature will not allow Him to let evil slide. He must treat all sin the same. He must deal with all sin, or He is not God, and He is not loving. There are no exceptions… except one.
It’s the exception that God has initiated out of His love for us. Let me repeat that exception: 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. Ephesians 2:4 This is how God’s grace changes everything: God’s mercy has made it possible for His wrath to be removed from your life. This is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross. In His justice, He allowed His Son to stand in your place, and receive in His flesh the punishment for you deserved for your sin.. God’s wrath for your sin was poured out on Jesus. Jesus became the object of God’s wrath so he might remove God’s wrath from you.
And if you believe in God’s gift of mercy to you in Jesus, that He became the object of God’s wrath for you – then what Paul says here truly changes everything. For God’s grace will have changed your eternal destiny.
So then, here’s the good news: When you believe in Jesus you are no longer an object of God’s wrath, but an object of God’s mercy. You will never be separated from life with God. You will enjoy a new way of life with God, and your future will be secure with Christ forever. For that’s what the good news announces here saying: 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, grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph. 2:6-9
Do you see now, how God’s grace changes everything? How the gospel is the message of life our world needs? How the gospel is the message of freedom our world needs? How the gospel is the message of hope our world needs?
The Gospel is the heart of Christianity. The Gospel is why we’re a Church about Jesus, who make disciples of Jesus, and teaches the Word of God. Everything we do is so that we can proclaim the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ:
In Jesus, God gives you life. In Jesus, God gives you freedom. In Jesus, God gives you hope. This is WHY the Gospel is the most powerful force in the universe for changing a life!
So, let me ask you: Has the gospel of Jesus Christ changed you? If not, why not? Perhaps God brought you here today for this purpose. To believe the good news that Jesus Christ died for you to give you life, to set you free and give you hope. And if that’s you, God’s Word invites you to come to Jesus, put your faith in Him and find the life He gives. If that’s you, respond to God’s grace to you and receive the gift of Jesus Christ today, by putting your faith in Him. Would you pray with me?