Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Bummed or Blessed
In my days as a television reporter I had the dubious distinction to be the last reporter to visit Oregon?s death row before it was closed off to all public access. I can see why. Death row was in the innermost parts of the Oregon State Penitentiary. Through many locked and bared doors there exists a prison within a prison. The men there live in a long row of cells. They get one hour of daylight in a small caged in area outside. But what is so sad about it is that these men have no hope. They are going to die someday; they spend their time just waiting. It is a depressing and lonely place.
In many ways we as humans are just like the men on Oregon?s Death Row. The only real difference is that many don?t realize they are condemned to die. They live on humanity?s death row but think life is just fine.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, you can?t know how good you have it until you know how bad things really were. And for humanity apart from the Messiah, things are bad indeed. Paul, as he begins Chapter 2 of his letter to the Ephesians, paints a pretty depressing picture to show the good news of God?s love. The purpose is so that we can really see the contrast too and know how much God has really done for us.
The word ?dead? is the Greek nekros which means ?corpse?. In a real sense we were all dead men walking, like those on Death Row. We might have had physical life, but our souls were dead stones when it comes to being able to connect with God.
Why were we dead? God breathed life into us in the Garden of Eden. We traded that life away and became dead spiritually and eventually physically. We became separated from our Creator. Paul uses two terms to talk about that separation: trespasses and sins. A ?trespass? is a lapse and comes from the word ?to fall beside.? We saw that word also back in Chapter 1, verse 7. In a way, a trespass is something we do that is counter to the character of God. We see God?s character and we ?fall? by disobeying it. Sin means: ?to miss the mark.? A sin is our sheer lack of ability to live up to God?s goodness. So, like what Paul said in Romans 6, we don?t do the things we ought to, and do the things we ought not to do.
As I?ve said previously, Sin is anything that God would not do, think, or say. Anyone who sins cannot exist in His presence and will experience the just penalty for sin, which is eternal separation from God. When God remakes this universe, only those like Him will be able to exist there.
In the Garden of Eden our forebears Adam and Eve decided they knew better than God and through the act of believing the serpent rebelled against God. That event put into the DNA of humanity a rebellious nature that we are all born with and cannot escape on our own.
Dr. Richard Booye has some good thoughts about the nature of evil and how Adam and Eve?s attitudes and actions in the Garden brought about evil in the human soul:
- What is evil? Treating reality as if it did not center in God. Genesis 3
- Eve?s action of eating the fruit was the result of a line of thinking that she believed, but that was not True.
- Truth has a moral component and we are morally responsible to God for what we believe to be True.
- Eve decided Five thingseven before she ate the fruit. It started in her mind and will, and produced her actions, which changed her environment and her destiny.
- She was influenced by the serpent rather than God.
- a)Influence is more important than authority.
- b)God has authority but not influence in many lives.
- She was as smart and as wise as God.
- Which is what the serpent thinks of himself.
- She and the serpent were more trustworthy than God
- Which the serpent thinks of himself.
- She found her identity in herself rather than in God.
- Autonomy: Make up your own mind independently of God or His Word.
- You be the one who determines Truth, reality, morality, meaning, and destiny.
- She focused on the created order to find her fulfillment rather than God.
- By eating this fruit she will achieve for herself a fulfillment and an identity.
- Evil is not just violating a rule, it is thinking in a way that essentially ignores God. (from Ephesians 2:1-10 Study by Dr. Richard Booye, 2008)
At the moment she ate, and Adam ate, we turned over our affections and allegiances to that serpent, which the Bible identifies as Lucifer, or Satan: the Devil.
Lucifer was God?s worship leader, but thought He knew better than God. That selfishness pervades everything he does. It is that same attitude that pervades humanity to this day.
That attitude then makes up what Paul calls ?the ways of this world.? And, as in the Garden, those ?ways? have their origin in Lucifer.
Paul calls Lucifer the ?ruler? who has ?authority? over the ?lower heavens.? Remember back in Chapter 1 where Paul declared that Jesus is the ruler who has all authority over the entire universe? God gave us authority over the earth (the ?lower heavens?), which we in turn gave to Satan. He doesn?t exercise this authority by ?making? us do things. He doesn?t have to. We will automatically go our own way ignoring God without any intervention on his part.
As such, he can ?exercise? that authority over us to continue in our rebellion against God.
Make no mistake, you are ruled by someone. It is by default Lucifer.
How does that work?
The word ?lived? here is interesting. It means to go back and forth and to behave in accordance with certain principals. The flesh is that part of you that is a slave to Satan and always desires to do what is in your own best interest and will be constantly encouraged to do things that are actually against what is best while at the same time seeming to be desirable (Eve?s dilemma).
It?s like alcohol. In some, depression is a state of living. They find alcohol dulls that feeling of depression temporarily. They think then that drinking is helping them get over depression so they drink more and more. The more they drink the more dependent on alcohol they become until they are addicted. The alcohol never cured the depression, it only masked their perception of its symptoms, but in the process they have created something just as bad, which is alcohol dependency. They started with one problem and now have two. That?s what sin does; that?s what Satan does?he fools us into thinking that attempting to fill needs in ways other than God intended is in our best interest, but it really just enslaves us more and more to ways that are contrary to God?s best, and our best.
Paul goes on to talk about us as ?by nature children under wrath.? We are free moral agents, but we cannot consistently choose the right way and even one act of rebellion against God has a consequence. The consequence for sin is wrath.
This is a point at which many people have a problem. We don?t want God to be wrathful and I hear a lot of people say ?that?s not the God I believe in.? Well, in truth, God is both loving and just. A just God cannot allow evil to continue or He would not be loving. Imagine if God thought it was okay to let someone oversee the murder of 6 million people? How loving is that? What about the rape and murder of a child? To be loving, you also have to have a sense of justice. See, we have some echoes of God?s justice in us, but we have been dulled to the real goodness of God and thus, the real badness of humanity.
Jesus tells us that hating someone in your heart is just like murder; lusting after another is just like sexual immorality?and on and on it goes. We need to have God?s filter for what is good, then we can understand why there must be wrath. Love means you hate evil. Justice means you do something about it. There must be a consequence for evil.
So Paul sets up this sort of ?bummer? situation in order to give us the really good news that in addition to being loving and just, God is also merciful. He never intended to leave us in this condition of rebellion and wrath.
4 ? 5
We were dead. Make no mistake about it. You can?t make yourself alive. As Paul says ?the wages of sin is death.? (Romans 6:23).
But two aspects of God?s character take us from bummer to blessed. Mercy means not getting what we deserved and grace means getting what we don?t deserve. So here we walked away from God?rebelled against Him. But He loved us so much that He moved towards us, finding a way to not give us the wrath we deserved (mercy) but instead giving us eternal life through the payment of our debt in Jesus (grace).
We are ?saved? ? the Greek word sozo which means: ?to keep safe and sound?, ?to rescue from danger?, ?to make well, heal, restore to health?. We were in danger of the wrath of God but Jesus rescued us by taking God?s wrath for us. We were sick with sin and Jesus healed us by giving us new life. We were destined for an eternity apart from God but Jesus holds on to us and will never let us go.
So how should this impact our lives?
Who determines right from wrong? You, or God?
You were dead. Twice Paul says that in verses 1 to 5.
You were a slave. We were slaves to sin and to Satan?s desires.
Your deadness didn?t stop God from loving you. And not only that, but He reached down to rescue you, to woo you into reaching out to the Messiah.
He made you alive. The phrase ?made us alive with? is a word that Paul actually made up. Our new life is connected to the life of Jesus. He came to life. He was resurrected. That means you came to life with His life. Live in that newness of life. Live in the same character of God that loved those who hated Him, who had mercy (not giving what we deserved) and grace (giving what we don?t deserve