10. Dead, then alive and fulfilled.
Ephesians 2:1-10 “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil — the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loves us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus….God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)
Verses that discuss the before-and-after of coming to Christ are always somewhat of a problem for me. I never remember a time when I did not believe that Jesus died as a sacrifice for my sins. I have not always followed Him faithfully but am not aware of a specific point in time when I went from death to life. (Although when I was 11 or 12, I committed my life to Christ “in case” I had not specifically done that previously.) What I have experienced is the ongoing battle between what is left of my natural self-centered thoughts and actions and the part of me that wholeheartedly wants to follow Jesus. So, I can still identify with the conflict between the two; I still have some evidence of the “dead” person within me.
I know that before I was made alive by Christ, whenever that was, I was dead spiritually. There was nothing that I could have done to make my situation better and to become alive by myself. I was dead to God; I was dead to life and freedom; I was dead to being able to do good things for the right reason. I don’t like reading in this passage that I was obeying the devil, but apparently all of us did this, according to Paul. Anything that is good in me now is because God has done it, not by my own efforts.
How do I know I have been made alive? Because I see evidence in my life that His Holy Spirit is living in me and gradually changing me to be more like Him. Little by little He is making me more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, etc.
For me the main truths of Ephesians 2:1-10 are first, that none of my spiritual standing is because of my efforts. It’s all by grace, much more than I deserve. And second, God prepared good works for me to perform long before I was born. This second truth includes two aspects of God’s plan for me: He designed specific things for me to do, and He created me to be able to do those specific things. He gave me certain gifts, desires, passions, education, and experiences that would enable me, with His power, to accomplish the things He has for me to do. His process of redesigning me into His “masterpiece,” as the New Living Translation describes it, is making me better able to do the things that He planned for me to do. The preparatory gifts are from Him, and the power to accomplish His purposes is from Him. My role is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this venture by using my gifts and trusting God to work through me.
Lord, continue to make me like You! Please give me Your heart. Make mine like Yours, loving others, completely trusting You, Father. Today use me to help draw someone closer to You. Amen.