Locations of visitors to this page
Dead People Can't Help Themselves
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10
Track 2 of 7 in the 7 Truths That Will Make You Sweat series
Running time: 1 hour, 11 minutes, 36 seconds.

Click above to listen in this window.
Right-click to download MP3. With one-button mouse, control-click.

Be sure to scroll down to read the transcript.

Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

January 21, 2007

In my relationship with God, there are times I just sit and wonder and try to comprehend the depth of God's love for me and all of us and the more I think about it, the less I can comprehend the depth that loves goes. In fact, I can only scratch the surface of how deeply God does love me. All over the scripture there are passages that teach in great depth how much God loves us but I find myself trying to measure his love by my concept of love, not His.

There are truths in the Bible that just blow my mind all together like what we studied last week. We learned that only those who are absolutely perfect will make it to heaven and yet there are promises made by God that those who trust in him will go to heaven. I am assured that by accepting Jesus I can enter the Kingdom of Heaven knowing that in all I do, I fall so short of the requirement necessary to get there. As I look at myself, from my perspective, I am nothing and totally unworthy but from God's perspective, I am everything he can love and he sees nothing else other than perfection. It just seems so hard to believe and comprehend at times.

We ended last week knowing that it is by Grace alone that you and I will ever make it to heaven. We are perfect in God's sight only because we are in Christ and are totally clothed with him so that God sees His perfection, not ours. It is all because of what Jesus did. But in our daily lives we put ourselves under such pressure to work and measure up without realizing what we are doing is a complete waste of time.

He calls for us to give up trying to measure up. That sounds too easy because we live in a world where we are measured all the time by someone else's or some kind of standard. But that is not how it is with God. We have to realize that the standards of God are so high that we can't ever meet them on our own, we can never qualify for heaven by ourselves. God, out of his tremendous love for us makes us perfect in His Son Jesus so that what we are not capable of doing, we can have freely if we simple would just believe and trust in Him and enter into a personal relationship with him. Why would God do this?

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

Today's study is designed to look deeper into why God loves us so much and why he wants us to quit trying to measure up and just rest from all those struggles and pressures. In the Bible there are many scriptures and passages that deal with the awareness and deep knowledge of God and His intentions and plan. We find words like "predestined", the "elect" and some of us get confused thinking God takes all the control and there is no free will in what we do. But those concepts are not there to teach that we have no choice, but to help us realize that our choices are very important and when they fit in with God's plan, then all the goodness of God can be experienced in our daily lives.

There is fact we have to realize and Paul even spoke about this truth in the verses we just read: Dead men can't help themselves.

Here is a fun and simple question that you have heard before and probably have argued it, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why? One of the things I learned very early on in my Bible studies is that order matter to God. The question about the chicken is very easy to answer; the chicken came first because the creator always comes before the created. It is simply a matter of order.

Can you give me an example of any time when it didn't happen? What about the theory of evolution? What is it based on?

Some will say this debate is really not important but when you really think about it, it really is important. Does order really matter? I contend a persons world view is based on which order he thinks happens. Order is very important to God and that fact can be seen all throughout the Bible.

Here is a harder question to think about, do you believe and because of that belief become born again or do you become born again and then begin to believe? Think about it a minute, the order of events is important because with God, order matters. Which is right? The best verse that most preachers go to is one we all know:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

From this passage many will come to the conclusion that first we need to believe and then we will be saved. But if this verse was the only one that talks about salvation, we might come to that conclusion. The words are right and the premise is right but the order is wrong. Later in the first letter John wrote to the churches he wrote this about God:

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

The apostle didn't have to make a point of what came first. He could have said that we love God and he loves us. But the order makes a difference. Let's go back to the beginning to understand what this is all about. Remember what happened in the Garden with Adam and Eve? They were allowed to eat from any tree they wanted except for one:

Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

As I read on in Genesis Adam and Eve live to be very old and they have many children. Unless God changed his mind, something must not be right. God promised that when they ate from the wrong tree, they would surely die. What happened?

What is spiritual death? Spiritual death is something unlike physical death. In fact, it can't be recognized by the human eye. We interact everyday with people who are spiritually dead. In fact, they look like everyone else. In many cases, they act like everyone else but they are spiritually dead. The condition is not noticeably painful; but it is far worse than physical death.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

I want you to notice something here in this verse; God's face is hidden from us because we have moved away so we can't see his face anymore. He can't hear us because we don't speak out to him.

Spiritual death means God is out there but you can't have him. It is like you are living in another world and the line of communication has been cut off. God is off limits. Don't get the wrong idea, God is not out there refusing to hear us as though we were throwing a temper tantrum and he was covering his ears to keep from hearing us. Spiritually dead means we don't want to cry out to God and we don't want to have anything to do with God. Paul gives us a really good description of the spiritually dead:

Romans 3:10 There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

These types of people may acknowledge a generic God or a cosmic force, but the God of the Bible is out of the question, forget it. Some might even pray from time to time but they don't know Jesus, they are not praying to the one true God. God will not hear the prayers of those who are spiritually dead because the spiritually dead want nothing to do with God.

What happens when you throw a dead person a life preserver? Can they grab it? Can you coach them on how to reach for it or can you encourage them to put the life preserver on. Can they hear you? They are dead. Let's go back to what Paul was telling the Ephesians and reminding them what they use to be like,

Ephesians 2:1 you were dead in your transgressions and sins.

Now here comes the real important question, how does a dead man reach for the life preserver? How does a spiritually dead man get saved? What is real important to note is order plays a crucial part here, for a person to be born again, that must mean they were dead before.

John 3:3-6 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Again, order is important. Notice that flesh gives birth to flesh. We were born in the human physical life. That physical life is life but it is temporary life because death rules over it because of our sins and it eventually will die. But there is a life that lives eternal and it comes about from the Spirit and the Spirit gives the birth. We must come alive spiritually before we can enter heaven. We are dead until the Lord awakens us first. It's a matter of order.

Ephesians 2:4-7 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. 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, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus

I probably have you all confused by now but it all leads to this one very important point, what happens when a dead man comes alive? We might argue that being awaken spiritually is as easy as asking Jesus into our hearts. But that is man's perspective on things and man talking. No where do we ever see the practice of praying the "sinners prayer" asking Jesus to come into our hearts. This may seem a minor point to you but a dead person can't, he won't or wouldn't want to ask Jesus into their hearts. A dead person is dead to Jesus. Jesus does the work first. Order matters. Jesus regenerates our hearts so that we want to ask him into our lives. Look what is foretold about our time in the Old Testament:

Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Jesus does the work first, we respond, but he initiates. He awakens us to his presence and we through our own free will accept his call to rise up. The story of Lazarus is a great story to end with. There are some very important truths from that event. We all know what happened there.

John 11:21-26 Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Then Jesus goes over and calls Lazarus out of the tomb and he walked out alive. I want you to notice a very important order of things, "whoever lives and believes in me"

There are some very important points from this event that applies to what we are studying:

There is a difference between physical and spiritual life and death. I always wondered why Jesus lingered before he went to his sick friend. I use to think it allowed Lazarus time to die. But I now think it was because Jesus knew it didn't matter. Physical death is inevitable and all of us are going to die. Lazarus died physically but that wasn't the end of Lazarus. Jesus imparts life everlasting. Jesus is the key to Spiritual life. If physical and spiritual death were the same, Jesus would have hurried to get to his friend in time. But they are not the same and Jesus is the one who gives us everlasting life and our Spiritual life.
Jesus calls first and we respond. Lazarus is a good example of this. Lazarus was dead before Jesus came calling. Before Lazarus could respond to Jesus command, something had to happen; Jesus had to make him alive again by the Spirit. The same is true for us. Because we are dead in our transgressions, before we can even respond to the call of Jesus, he first makes us alive in the Spirit. There is a verse that gives me the goose bumps ever time I read it:
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last.

Too many times we take for granted our relationship we have with Jesus. We don't have deep down inside us the awesomeness of what Jesus did and is doing in each of our lives everyday. I have said this several times, " I accepted Jesus …" or "I became a Christian…", etc. But I have to catch myself and pause to remember each time that it had nothing to do with me, it had everything to do with God. It took Jesus first in all the important steps before I could even begin to respond. Yes, I had a choice in this process but it humbles me more than ever to realize that I was chosen by the Creator himself to love me, make me who I am and to make me what I will become. What is more mind boggling, to help me become what in Gods eyes I already am.

What did I do to deserve this, to get this? Nothing. It all happened because he first chose me, but he first had to make me alive so I could respond? All of this begs another question. This question comes from God himself based on his own perspective. God asked it through Paul when he wrote the letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 2:1-4 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

After studying these types of topics, I am driven to quiet places to just sit and contemplate these things about God. The more I try to imagine or understand how deep God's love is that would cause Him to first choose me with all my imperfections, the more I don't understand. During those times all I can say to him is thanks. Thank you for being God and thanks for loving me and including me in your Kingdom.

I think this is what it is all about. It is not about me trying to live up to being the kind of person Jesus wants me to be. In reality, I can't do it and the more I try the more of a failure I will become. I think it is about coming to the place in life when I finally realize there is nothing I can do other than just rest in God. Thankfulness for the rest is acknowledging where all the power comes from, giving God all the credit and just surrendering to his loving grace and transforming Spirit. It is a matter of giving credit where credit is due. It is a matter of order and order matters.