God Made You Alive for God

Live Look at the Book | Portland

What I think Paul is doing at the end of Ephesians 1, by extending the explanation of the bigness of God’s power toward us, is preparing us for the demonstration of the power. Here, he says: “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). He says, “I want you to know the power that is at work towards you, believers, according to the power that raised Jesus from the dead.”

And where did that show itself in your life? He raised you from the dead, and I want you to feel what power it took to make you a Christian, because we live in an American couple of centuries with the hugeness of the centrality of man and our sovereignty and our independence and our autonomy. You interpret the constitution that way. “You live your life that way.” “You do education that way.” “We are autonomous.” “We make things happen.” “We are our captain of salvation in every other way,” and Paul says, “It took massive power to save you.”

You didn’t save yourself. You think you made a decision to create a new being, a new creation in Christ that will live forever, indwelled by the Holy Spirit. You think you did that? Power did that. The power I’m talking about, the end of Ephesians 1. So let’s read this because what he does in these first five verses is set up how hopeless we are before this happens.

Our Hopeless Condition

“You were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). That dead means dead, not partly dead. Younger people are now laughing at that. All the way dead or partly. “In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work” (Ephesians 2:2). All right, I’m going to circle this. Okay, that right there, we’ll come back. I’ll show what that is. See if you can think why I circled that.

“At work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (I should have done that with a different color.)

Okay now, what are those two circles? They’re not circles. They’re amoeba, but you know what I mean. What are those two enclosures? This one is describing our problem in relationship to powers outside of us. “Following the course of this world,” “prince of the power of the air,” “spirit at work in the sons of disobedience” — so three different ways of describing our hopeless condition. We’re being driven like this. We are in sync.

You once walked following the course of this world, following the prince of the power, the air, following the spirit that is now at work. You got a massive devil and a world system that has brought you lockstep into accord with its life and that’s who you are.

So we got an enemy here. We got the world that’s an enemy. And I mean the world system. I don’t mean people out there. I mean the world system, the way the world thinks because of the god of this world that dominates.

And then we’ve got the god of this world and we’ve got the prince of the power of the air. And what I said last night was I think the reason he says it like that, prince of the power of this world is authority here, prince of the power of the air is air is ubiquitous. It’s in your bedroom. It’s in your kitchen. It’s in your basement. It’s on the ball field. It’s in the movies. It’s clustering around the TV set. It’s on. It’s all over you when you’ve got the clicker in your hand or the mouse ready to do pornography, or not. Air’s everywhere, and our enemy is everywhere.

I think that’s the gist of it. Our enemy is everywhere you breathe. You breathe in the possibility of demonic influence. You should tremble. The world just goes on. It cocks your way of “I can manage my life.” They don’t manage anything. They’re pulled around like the devil all day long. They are in sync with the course of this world. They’re following the prince of the power of the air. The spirit that is at work in, and so were all of you.

“[We] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). No finger-pointing here. I am a lackey of the devil unless I’m made alive and given the Holy Spirit and some spiritual warfare possibilities.

I don’t think we Westerners nearly come to terms with the devil like we should — nearly. You wonder where so-called “gay marriage” comes from? Hell. Hell is it mightily at work in the supreme court, mightily at work in the presidency, mightily at work in the congress. Hell is mightily at work in the congress. They can’t even protect a baby who’s viable — *viable. This is wicked. Wickedness has control of the world.

So you just need to see your problem here. This is all intended to make you feel hopeless, so that when he comes here, you’re just leaping with joy.

Satan and Your Flesh

And the second amoeba is who you are by nature. Your main problem is not the devil. Your main problem is you. This is what it says: “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). That means disobedient by nature. “Among whom we all,” — us, John Piper, the son of disobedience apart from grace — “lived in the passions of our flesh” (Ephesians 2:3).

It’s worth many hours of your reflection how the devil relates to your passions. Oh man, when I watch the insanity of sexual moral failure among prominent leaders, I say, “This is insane. This is absolutely insane, that a man could have a glorious ministry, thousands of people looking to him for wisdom and help, all the wonderful blessings that are being poured out on his life, and for some sexual stimulation, he throws it all away.” That’s absolutely inexplicable.

Really? I mean, aren’t you old enough to know that titillation, sexual titillation lasts a few minutes? It’s gone, and this ministry will take you happily to the end. You throw it all away. What is that? That’s demonic. See the connection in there? What I’m drawing attention to is that this first amoeba here and the second one are very closely related.

See, my problem is my passions, passions of my flesh. Oh no, I’m following the course of this world. Which is it? They’re in sync, they’re in lockstep sync. Satan and your flesh are like two peas in a pod. They are pulling together. Carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. Your mind has fallen just as well as your body is. And you are by nature, by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Resurrection Power to Dead Stones

Now, the point of those three verses is that it is going to take resurrection power to get you saved. That’s the point. So that’s why he ended by saying, “I want the eyes of your heart to be enlightened so that you know the power that has worked toward you” (Ephesians 1:18). Do you want to see what it looks like?

Here it is: “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive” (Ephesians 2:4–5). That’s how you got saved. “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43).

Here’s a description of you and me. “Now this I say,” it’s Ephesians 4:17,

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:17–18)

Do you see how that works? Futility of mind, darkened understanding, alienated from God, deeper ignorance, deeper hardness — that’s the bottom right there. Dead stone. There’s a stone here. Dead stone gives rise to ignorance, gives rise to alienation, gives rise to futility, gives rise to darkness.

Your deepest problem is not ignorance. There’s a step below ignorance. There’s a step below ignorance, and that is hardness. That’s who we are. And that stone, the new covenant promises will be taken away. That’s what Jesus did when he made you alive.

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26–27)

This is the new covenant, and Jesus said of the new covenant, “This cup, this represents my blood. This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). When Jesus died, he bought the new covenant for you, and this is the purchase that he bought right here. “I will take out. I will remove the heart of stone.” That’s what it means when it says he made you alive. Took out the heart of stone, put in the heart of flesh. I’ll tell you, you did not do that. If you did, you know what you would spend eternity praising? Yourself. Not grace — not sovereign grace.\

Great Love

Why in Ephesians 2:5 did he break his sentence grammatically and stick this in? It’s exactly the same in Greek as it is in English. “But God, being rich in mercy . . . great love.” So it comes, your salvation, you’re being raised from the dead, from death to life, from blindness to seeing, from stone to soft and tender, came from mercy, which is a response of God to things that are hurting and broken, and love, which is a response of God I think to guilt and your need to be forgiven.

And it comes from great love. “Great love which he loved us, when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” Break the sentence off. He’s going to continue it. He breaks the sentence off and says, “By grace you’ve been saved” (Ephesians 2:5). And then he continues, “

And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6–7)

Why? Why this right here? Notice it works perfectly without it. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ. . . . and raised us up with him and seated us.” He broke his sentence grammatically and stuck this in the middle of the sentence.

Grace Defined

He’s going to say it again in Ephesians 2:8. He’s going to say, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” He’s going to say it. Why say it now? Again, going to repeat it later.

I think, this is my suggestion, he did it because by sticking it in here, he makes crystal clear what he means by grace. And what does he mean? He means the disposition of God and the power of God to make living people out of dead people.

Grace is not God’s response to our initiative. “First, I will believe, and then you will make me alive.” Are you kidding me? After all of this, you will claim that you’ll defeat the course of this world? You’ll defeat the prince of the power of the air. You’ll defeat the spirit that now is at work. You’ll defeat the passions of your flesh. You’ll defeat what’s at work in your body and your mind. You will overcome the nature to be a child of wrath. You will overcome the nature to be a son of disobedience. And you will produce the glorious reality of faith to which God will say, “Well done. You’re alive. I make you now alive.”

That’s a dream. That’s a dream. Whole theologies have been built on it. It’s not a reality. You did not initiate this. God raised you from the dead. Lazarus did not decide to get out of the grave, and then God reward him with resurrection.

So, what is grace? It’s sovereign grace. We’re going to praise it forever and ever. Grace is the unconditional work of this great mercy and this great love. Those are the grace, and they are the initiatives of resurrection. And that’s why he puts all the emphasis on power. He’s trying to teach that church, and I think he’s trying to teach you what it took to get you saved. And it took supernatural, omnipotent, divine power to make you a Christian.

How People Get Saved

The wonderful thing about God’s grace at this point, one of the wonderful things is you may not have any categories or knowledge right now that that’s how you got saved.

People do get saved with very inadequate understandings of what’s happening as they get saved. They see Jesus, they feel the guilt of their sin, they fly to Jesus, and then somebody teaches them some terrible theology about free will, like you did that. Never tells them a miracle just happened that enabled them to believe, enabled them to trust. Never tells them that. They don’t know that, and they go through life, and they operate in the world they were taught, and they’re really saved. They’re really saved.

There are many of you, I mean all of us, whose hearts are better than our heads. That is, we really have a genuine walk with Jesus, and we’re muddle-headed about many aspects of it.

I don’t think Paul wants you to be muddle-headed. I don’t think it’s helpful. I don’t think maturity comes from being muddle-headed. Paul wants you to know the power that it took for you to be raised from the dead.

Faith Defined

I am trying to see where there’s a good stopping place here. Hang on. We’ll go for another little bit. All right, everybody knows this verse, I mean if you’ve been a Christian for a while. We love this verse, and now I hope you see it with fresh eyes in the light of what you’ve just seen.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Oh yes. Oh yes. The sovereignty of God in raising you from the dead is not a short-circuiting of faith. It is the creation of faith. “By grace you have been saved.” And that almighty grace that raised you from the dead, the first effect of it is, “Wah, wah, wah! I love you Jesus. I trust you.” Little baby just born, swat on the behind, evidence of life, wah, wah, wah, sweet sound to a mom’s ears because no sound is scary. And no sound in the Christian is scary.

Faith is the evidence that we have been raised from the dead. “By grace you have been saved through faith.” It’s through faith. It’s not “around faith,” not “instead of faith.” Through faith, he’s going to bring you to salvation and glory. “And this is not your own doing.” Now what does this refer to, right? Big argument.

Well, this is neuter in Greek, this is feminine, and this is feminine. This does not refer to one thing. So grace is feminine. You got to have agreement in Greek. For the antecedent right here, the antecedent of this needs to agree with this in gender, and this is neuter, and this is charis (feminine) and this is feminine. So this is not referring just to grace or just to faith. It’s referring to that, the whole dynamic of God’s grace saved you through faith. That it is not your own doing. It is the gift. Oh, is it ever? The gift of God. Not a result of works.

So That No One May Boast

And here’s that same old negative goal again, remember, that no one may boast. God is saving you in eternity at the cross and in conversion so that you won’t boast in yourself.

Every possible escape route for the plan of boasting is cut off, that no one will boast. And then he says “for.” He’s going to argue for why we can’t boast by looking forward, as well as backward. I mean the sovereignty of God in Ephesians is relentless.

So he’s just made a massive case that you became a Christian by sovereign grace so that you should praise it, the glory of his grace forever and ever. And now he’s going to say, “And what is the Christian life now? Now?” “For we are his workmanship, created” (Ephesians 2:10). That’s another way of saying made alive.

When you were made alive, Ephesians 2:5, you were created. A new creature came into being. Let there be John the new, John the new. Well, what is new? Belief is new. Love is new. Brokenness is new. Spiritual life is new. It didn’t exist before. We are his poem — poema. We are his new creation in Christ for. Not as a result of works. See that? Not as a result of works, but for works.

The Christians who are most blown away by the sovereignty of God’s grace in their lives are the busiest Christians in doing good works. If you show me somebody who is lackadaisical, don’t do good works, they just walk in a carnal, fleshly, fit in the world kind of way because God loves them unconditionally, I’ll show you an unbeliever.

Christians are absolutely made new. New creation, new poem and workmanship of God, and he is not a bad workman. He does this. He creates us and he makes us a poem for good works, and he prepared them beforehand that we should walk in them. You just can’t say it any more thoroughly God-saturated than that. He made us. He designed us for the good works. He prepared the works. And we, through faith, are walking in them.

Light Shine Out of Darkness

Here’s another way of how it happens described in 2 Corinthians 4:6. I love this verse because it puts several things together. “The God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” So that right there is a quote from Genesis 1. That is drawing our attention to the fact that when God undertakes to save us, it’s like when he created light. “The God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Before you were saved, before you were born again, before you were a new creature, before the darkness was taken away and light was given, you didn’t see anything of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. You looked at Jesus and he was just another prophet, maybe like a Muslim say or just another teacher and he’s boring and he doesn’t let me do sexually what I want to do and so I don’t like him. And then God says to your heart, “Let there be light be shone.”

He did that for you. And maybe till right now, nobody’s ever described your conversion that way. Mine happened when I was six. I have zero memory of my conversion and that’s what happened. In other words, I don’t base my experience on my memory of my experience. I would lose all my life if I did that because I’m losing my life right now. My head is losing my life. I can’t remember more and more things, which means if I want to know what really happened, I have to depend on a witness like Steve gave me one, a letter. I don’t remember that stuff you were saying.

And so it is with my conversion. My mom, she told me. I take her word for it. We knelt, Fort Lauderdale, Florida six years old, I was feeling awful and guilty and bad about something I’ve done. I wanted Jesus to forgive me and be my Savior and Lord, and I said so on my knees and I asked him to be my Savior. I have zero memory of that, and I believe with all my heart God did that because I’m breathing. I don’t pull out of my pocket here a birth certificate and say, “I’m alive. I got a certificate.” I say breathing, thinking, feeling — that’s how you know you’re a Christian. Not because you can remember some experience.

You know what your experience was because the Bible tells you what happened to you. The Bible says, “God shone in your hearts. God shone in your hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Once he was boring. The next morning he’s, “I couldn’t read more of this. This is fascinating. I can’t get enough of this. Jesus, what happened?” He made you alive. A miracle happened.

That huge statement that we are made for good works and that he prepared them for us to walk in them is underlined in several places. Let me just point to one or two. I love this passage, “By the grace of God,” Paul says, “I am what I am.” That’s right.

Every one of you should say that. You’re a Christian. You’re Christian because of grace. You’re not going to chalk it up to your smarts. “By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” That’s what Epheisans 2:9–10 are about, created four good works, not in vain. “On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). There’s the mystery of the Christian life. You have experience like that?

Grace came to me and made me alive to Jesus Christ. I love him. I trust him. And it didn’t come in vain. I’ve been walking with him, for him, seeking to glorify him ever since. I have. I get out of bed in the morning and read my Bible. I get up and go to church on Sunday. I pull the money out of my pocket at the corner where Gloria is asking for money today and give her a five dollar bill. I do that. But it was not I, but grace. That’s what it’s like to live the Christian life.

You must get out of bed. You must get out your wallet, right? You must do. The Bible says do. And then when you have done through faith, you say, “He did. He did.”

Grace Abound, Good Works Abound

Or here’s another way to put it. Second Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” All grace abounding for every good work. And I think the word every here doesn’t mean the good works that a Christian in China is doing right now. You’re not expected to do that one. You’re just expected to do every good work appointed for you, prepared for you.

And it’s grace that’ll do it. And when you’re done doing it at the end of the day and you lay your head down and your conscience is clear that you did five things that God prompted you to do for him, you will not be boasting. You’ll be saying, “Grace, grace, grace.”

And this is the way it feels. This is probably the text that in my experience has been the most active text in helping me try anyway to preach and lead a church for 33 years, not in my strength, but in the strength that God supplies. “Whoever serves, let him do so as one who serves in the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11). That’s the Christian life to me right there.

You must serve. Every one of you is called to serve. There are things this afternoon you’re called to do. It’s part of your life. You’re going to cut the grass or you’re going to weed a garden or you’re going to make a meal or you’re going to visit a friend or you’re going to write a letter. There’s just things to do in life, and you do them. But you do them by the strength that God supplies. A conscious, prayerful, trusting reliance upon the enabling help and guidance of God so that when you’re done, he gets the glory. How else will he get it if you’re not relying on him as you do it?