As we move through the book of Ephesians, we’re learning how important it is to pay attention to the flow of what is being said. Paul opened with an extended burst of praise to God in verses 3-14, praising God for who He is and what He has done.
But then, after this little worship session, Paul turns around and says, “and I pray to this God asking Him to make Himself more known to you.” And if you’ve been with us recently you remember that Paul had three specific components to that overarching request: that we would know the hope of our calling, the riches of our inheritance, and the power of God especially as it was seen in the power that raised Jesus from the dead and enthroned Him in Heaven.
So that’s the flow of Ephesians thus far – praising God for who He is, telling us all about Him, and then Paul praying to God on our behalf. This morning we’re going to learn what a difference all this truth makes when it collides with our individual lives.
We’re going to see that there are two ways to live on this planet: you’re either in relationship with God or you’re not. Each of those ways has consequences and only God can move us from one to the other.
So we begin reading in Ephesians 2:1. We pick things up right on the heels of Paul talking about God’s power in raising Christ from the dead – that’s we saw last week, right? And now, the next thing he says is:
Eph 2:1 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.
Did you notice the before and after sequence of what is being said here? “You,” and he’s writing to the Christians in Ephesus, “were once dead in trespasses and sins, but you’re not any more. Something has happened. You have been made alive.” And that transformation is the same transformation Christians still experience today. We pass from one condition to another, from one way of life to another because God, in His power, has moved us.
That means you should be able to notice a difference in your life because of Christ. The life of a Christian should not be the same as the life of a non-Christian. The two people, the Christian and the non-Christian are on separate paths, leading in separate directions, following different leaders and compelled by different motivations.
The Bible says the non-Christian is – blind (2 Corinthians 4:3-4), but Jesus came to open our eyes. The non-Christian is a slave to sin (Romans 6:17), but Jesus came to set the captives free. The non-Christian is a lover of darkness (John 3:19-20), but Jesus calls us to walk in the light. The non-Christian is said to be sick (Mark 2:17), but Jesus offers healing; lost (Luke 15), but Jesus comes to seek and to save; an alien, stranger and foreigner, but Jesus comes to adopt us as His own.
As we have been learning by reading Ephesians, God makes a powerful difference in our lives. He moves us from one category to another. We go from the condition of not being His children to becoming adopted. We go from not being sealed, to being sealed by the Holy Spirit. We go from being destined to wrath, to being destined for glory and blessing and favor. There is a very important before and after to the Christian conversion experience.
As we’ve said, the experience itself might not be radical, it might be subtle and hard to fix to a particular moment in time, and yet, it is there. We were one thing before Christ and something quite different after, and as we go along in life that difference persists and is increasingly evident in our lives. We bear fruit like any maturing tree.
But, and we have to notice this, we must never forget it, there are many, many people in this world, and some inside this very room who are still on the other side of that conversion.
They are still children of wrath, they are still following the prince of the power of the air, they are still driven through this life primarily by the desires of their flesh and the ideas in their own minds. That doesn’t mean you see them as bad people, they might not even think of themselves as bad people, but the Scripture says, that God has made Christians alive, we used to walk the way the non-Christians do, and when we aren’t following Christ we still walk like they do. But there has been a change in us that has not occurred in them. There is a difference between us and them. We came from where they are, but we are no longer with them, we have been changed.
They have not. They are still lost, still enslaved, still blind, still strangers to God. We have to remember that.
Ask God to help you feel it, to believe it, to understand it.
Because honestly, we don’t. We either don’t believe it or we don’t consider it, but most of the people we see each day are lost and headed for hell. And most of us just don’t even think in those terms. We can’t handle it, can’t process it, but that doesn’t change it.
Without Christ, they are headed for wrath because of their sins.
Either having Christ in your life makes a difference or it doesn’t. We can’t avoid that simple truth.
But we can open our mouths, and we can pray for them and we can talk to them. We can ask God to give us a burden for them, we can ask God to help us see the world the way He does, and we can make ourselves available to Him to use in their lives.
Think about the people in your life and ask yourself – who is praying for this person? Has anyone ever invited them to church? Given them a Bible and offered to read it with them? Does anyone really care about their soul? Ask God to make those things important to you. Ask Him to do for that person what He has done for you.
Even if they don’t deserve it, ask God to show them the same mercy He showed to you.
Eph 2:4 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.
Your neighbor, your mechanic, your boss, your sister, they don’t need to DO anything to be saved. God saves us when we are dead in our trespasses, and He makes us alive in Christ. So, now is the perfect time for them to be saved. Right now is the perfect time for them, for you if this applies to you, now, right now, this morning, right here, is the time for you to repent of your sins and be forgiven and changed by God.
You simply turn to God and acknowledge that you are living life the wrong way because you’re living it for yourself instead of Him. You acknowledge that even your best intentions are not enough, that no matter how hard you try, you can’t hit the bullseye every single time in life, and sometimes you miss the target entirely, you’re just not perfect.
But you understand God is. And you understand that He offers to forgive you for not being perfect, and even for being rebellious and defiant, and you want to receive that forgiveness through Jesus Christ who died as a sacrifice in your place, so that His blood would cover all your imperfections and make you clean instead of punishing you for your failures.
If you want that, you can have that, and you can be born-again, you can be transferred from one category to another, and so can the other people we live around and interact with. It can happen right now, today, because it’s all based on mercy and grace.
So let us pray for people, that it would happen. When you see someone being a jerk, when you hear about the mess someone is making of their life, or even when you have a really great interaction with someone and you think they’re awesome, but they’re not saved, not secure in Christ, pray for them. Ask God to intercede for them. Ask Him to breathe His life into them. Ask God to show them the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ask Him to give them a life that is full of purpose and meaning like He has given us. Listen to what Paul says next:
Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Christian, this is a verse worth memorizing, this is one that should be highlighted and marked up in your Bible because this is telling you that God does have a plan for your life. He has prepared good works for you before you even came along. And that’s a different reality than the person who has not been received by God through Christ.
The non-Christian is called a child of wrath, but God has a shape and a frame for your life and it involves good things. He has not only saved you from sin, He has saved you for good works. In other words, the God who saves my soul will also change my life. He has prepared the works for us and is preparing us for the works.
So, what are they? What are these ‘good works’ that God has in store for me?
All kinds of things. If you look up the word ‘works’ in a Greek dictionary to get the original meaning, you discover it means work. It’s used to refer to business, employment, whatever you are occupied in. It can refer to a product that is made, or any thing that is accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind.
It can have a spiritual tone to it – Jesus referred to all of His miracles and teaching as ‘works.’ And in the book of Acts we read about a prayer meeting that was held in the church in Antioch, and we’re told
Act 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
And that ‘work’ was the first missionary trip. This is what God had prepared for them and prepared them for. And they were obedient to God’s call, the church sent them out, and they did what God was calling them to do. They walked in the good works.
So God might be calling you to good works involving a formal type of ministry. I pray He is, and I pray that He gives us the chance to train you and equip you and encourage you in it. In fact, if He is calling you to some sort of ministry, big or little, we want to know.
After all, it’s one of the main reasons we’re here:
Eph 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be … pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry
The Bible also says we’re supposed to
Heb 11:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
So the pastors are thinking and praying about some opportunities we would like to make available in the coming months.
We’re praying that God would stir you up, and we want to equip you to walk in the works God is calling you to, whether that involves training in ministry or answering your basic questions about Christianity and the Bible, or anything in between, if you have this sense that God is calling you to know and do more, please let us know.
You don’t have to go away to seminary or Bible College, you don’t have to quit your job, we can help you grow right here and now whether God is calling you to go plant a church or lead a Bible study or just learn more about Him from a more devotional perspective. Whatever you sense God calling you to, we want to know, and we want to equip you for it.
But also understand that God’s good works are not just ‘spiritual’ work. Jesus referred to the ‘work’ servants did when their master traveled to a far land (Mark 13:34). Those weren’t spiritual works; they were practical, ordinary things.
And maybe that’s the kind of thing God has prepared for you. A blessed ordinary. Too often we write off that possibility. It’s easy to get caught up in this idea that God has some grand plan for my life, “good works” that He has prepared for me. We think “I’m going to submit to Him and follow Him, because He’s going to do something great with me. Something important. And when you see the ministry He’s giving me, it will all be worth it.”
Well, what if it’s not that? What if God is calling you, most definitely, most certainly calling you, but it’s to something obscure, something off the radar, something that’s not worth bragging about or taking pictures of, something no one has ever heard of, or something you’re never esteemed for? What if the works that God has foreordained for you are monotonous and ordinary and tiring?
Will that still be OK?
You see, we have to remember that these good works are things God calls us to, and we have to be aware of the contrast with the works of the flesh, the kind of things non-Christians walk in. Paul said we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Those are our old motives, that’s how we used to be.
But we don’t operate that way any more. We shouldn’t trust everything we ‘want’ to do – just because there is a desire in us, doesn’t mean we should do it, it could be a lust of the flesh. And the same is true of the mind, just because we get an idea doesn’t mean it comes from God. Even if it’s an idea for ministry – think of the example of David wanting to build a temple for God, it seemed like a good idea, right? But it wasn’t the good work that God had prepared for him. That was Solomon’s work. Just because you think up a great, godly, idea doesn’t mean it’s actually of God or actually for you.
So, how do you know what desires and ideas to trust? Well, number one, turn to Scripture where we’re told:
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Scriptures will guide you into the good works God has for you.
Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
So turn to the Scriptures and ask God to speak to you. Second, pray; ask God to show you and convince you of the good works He has for you. And third, seek counsel from other Christians and ask the pastors.
But friends, prepare for the mundane, prepare for the ordinary. Prepare for Him to say, love your spouse, love your kids, love your neighbors, do justly, love mercy. Prepare for God to tell you simple things that have to be done faithfully time and time again. Prepare for good works to feel like work at times.
That’s a shocking idea, isn’t it? That good works might feel like real work? But some they do. And that’s why we’re told to have endurance in the work:
1Co 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Now, why would you have to say that if it wasn’t a possibility? Why would you have to encourage people to be steadfast and immovable, why would you have to remind them that their labor is not in vain? Because sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes the good works feel like real work. But I’m here this morning to tell you, that’s OK.
The church is not made up of spiritual giants, as if everyone is a hero of the faith but you. Sometimes we’re broken, weak, tired, troubled, and troubling. We’re not perfect yet, but we have a future and a hope. We’ve got an inheritance and a purpose.
And we have a God who deals with us on the basis of our future, not our past: how often did He encounter people in the Bible and change their name? God says, “This is who you are, this is who you have been, but this is who I’m going to make you, this is who you’ll be from here on out. This is what you were doing: walking according to the desires of your flesh and your mind. But this is what I have for you now: good works that were prepared for you before the foundation of the world.”
So, I want you to know that the good works might feel like real work at times. They might be obscure and ordinary. But we need to remember these are good works God has prepared for us. And He can call us to do ordinary things with extraordinary power or sometimes even, extraordinary things with extraordinary power.
Remember that in even the most daily tasks the Holy Spirit accompanies us. Before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus told the disciples:
Acts 1:8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
God is giving us a good work to do, but He’s also promising us the good power to do it.
Some of us are facing good works and we just feel tired of them. Caring for a loved one, whether it’s a little one, a sibling, or a parent, or providing month by month by for your family can feel tiring. It doesn’t seem like ‘good works’ prepared by God, it’s not glamorous or super-spiritual, no one looks on and goes “wow, look at the work they’re doing for Jesus!” At least not most people.
But cheer up, it is the good work God has given to you, and He promises to be with you in it, and to give you strength. “But I feel so weak and tired” you say, and He tells you what He told Paul, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Or you stand on the edge of a good work that God wants you to take up, maybe a work of ministry, maybe a volunteer effort, maybe a project or a commitment – it’s a good work, prepared for you by God, but you’ll holding back in fear. You don’t see how it’s going to work out, or you’re being too cautious about making the commitment, you don’t see how it’s supposed to work – God wants you to remember that He promises the power to do what He’s calling you to do.
He wants you to know, that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
My friends, be on the lookout for the hand of God on your life and the power of God in your life. He is changing us, transforming us, moving us from one category to another, we are no longer children of wrath, we are now children of promise, and He has prepared good works that we should walk in them. Search them out, spend time with Him, ask Him to guide and direct your path, and ask Him to give you power, strength, and encouragement along the way. Your life has meaning and purpose, eternal meaning and purpose, even if it means doing what feels like “little things.”
Trust God, serve Him, ask Him how He wants to use you to impact the lives of people around you, and if we can equip you for that in any way, let us know.