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The world wants us to believe that our sin is not that bad, but we are on a stay of execution unless we receive a pardon from the judge. Examine two passages in the Old Testament which illustrate that sin is a radical problem requiring a radical solution. Moreover, we cannot just relish truth and provision without telling others about that solution!
What He Has Done to Make Us One
Our Radical Problem... Our Right Response
But God... By Grace
I Pray You Believe It
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 5
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 4
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 3
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 2
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 1
Intro to Ephesians: The Call to Make a Difference in a Godless Culture
There's a story about a pastor who did not have time to prepare throughout the week. He decided he was just going to really trust the Lord with what God would have him share come Sunday. So as the story goes, he went along about and had plenty of time but just didn't take time to really study. As it came time to stand up before everybody, he got up there and he said, "Okay, God." He stood, took a deep breath, prayed, and said, "What do you want me to tell them?" God said, "You tell them you're not prepared. That's what I want you to tell them."
We have prepared, but I don't ever feel like we're ready to go until we do pray God would get me out of the way, that he would prepare your hearts, even as I've tried to prepare mine. The encouraging thing about having the privilege of teaching every week is I always learn more than I get to share. Even though I try to share more than maybe I should. Let's just pray together and ask God to get us ready.
Lord, in many ways a lot of us have not prepared for this really important appointment we have slid into our calendar with you, that we said we wanted to gather with other believers to worship your name, to exalt you, to sing about how great you are, and to pray in song you would give us a faithful heart.
We kind of stick you in between running from one thing and running to another. We just ask you, Father, to prepare our hearts now for your Word and to minister to us through your Word. We just confess way too often we see you as yet another thing on our schedule instead of the preeminent thing in it.
We confess our busyness as a sin and as a means to distract us sometimes from the voice in our heart that's calling us toward dealing with real issues. We thank you that your Word, when we give it attention, deals with those real issues and give us hope, that you have not given us a superficial remedy to a really serious problem, but that this radical problem we have has been dealt with in a radical way.
God himself has come, lived, and died. We celebrate that tonight through the sacrament which you've given us, which is Communion. I pray we prepare our hearts and are encouraged as we move toward the table as a result of your Word. In Jesus' name, amen.
Turn with me to Ephesians 2. We spent some time there two weeks ago. What I want to do is just pretty slowly read back over Ephesians 2:1-10, and then to take you to some spots in your Old Testament that are about as clear of an illustration of two of the major truths that came out in those first 10 verses of Ephesians 2.
When you look in your Old Testament, you're going to see the number of ways God has foreshadowed what it is he intended to do. When you read your Bible and you find God has… This book is all one story. It is not a potpourri of Wisdom literature. It is one story from beginning to end, and when you get familiar with your Bible, you have a confidence there is a vein of truth that runs through the Scripture written by about 40 different men over thousands of years.
There was one author behind it all and that one author put it all together perfectly so he might encourage you. This book, as I get more and more familiar with it, the more I go back and read and study again, I find God has anticipated all throughout things that happen in the Old Testament truths you and I would experience in the New. It says in Hebrews we have gotten to taste and see what men long before us, prophets and godly men, longed to partake in.
It's specifically the fulfillment of the promise of the seed of Abraham. The fulfillment of the one, in the Davidic covenant he made in 2 Samuel 7 that would sit on the throne from everlasting to everlasting. It is Jesus. The fulfillment of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. It is the Jesus which we'll celebrate at the Communion table tonight.
It is the fullness of time we look back on and we celebrate. That has been the thing that has changed us, so we study it together. There's a lot about it, though the truth of our Bible, it bothers us. We like to candy coat a lot what we see. We like to go there and say, "Man is really not that bad sometimes," or, "At least folks who don't like to go to their Bible typically want you to believe man is generally good and it's society or others who make him perverted."
But that is not what we find in the Scriptures. We find we are called children of wrath, we are sons of disobedience, and there has been a death sentence pronounced on us and the world which we took down with us. We are now children of condemnation, and that is not good news. We saw last week, though, the hope that comes into all that truth is this: simply "But God, by grace."
Let's spend some time as we look, and we see some of the truths of what we had here. We see the human condition, but we see the divine compassion. We see sin worked against us, and we're going to find out again God works for us. We're going to see again what we earn and deserve is death, but what we receive freely is life.
You see, what one master, the former master many of us knew all too well, Satan… I love what D.L. Moody said. They asked him once, "Do you believe the existence of an evil, angelic, and supernatural being?" He essentially said, "Yes, I do. His name is Satan." They said, "With what great confidence do you respond that way?" He looked and said, "I've done business with him. I've come to know another Master who is far greater."
That is the hope of Ephesians 2. I know what Paul writes here is that he's done business with him, but God also did business with him, took care of him by himself that he went before us and dealt with our Enemy so we might now freely choose a new Master who does not seek to destroy us but to give us life. What we're going to study in this passage again is all of an outflow of what happens in Ephesians 1 in that last prayer where he says you might know the surpassing greatness of the power of God.
We see it first in the resurrection, but then we see it again in you and me. He takes those who are dead, that is the description of us as we studied last time together, and he makes us alive. He takes us, if you will, from the graveyard of sin and he exalts us to the throne room of heaven, where we are free.
It is not just that he takes a dead man and makes him alive. It's not just that he takes a slave and makes him free, but he takes that slave and makes him free as a king. He takes those who are condemned, and he gives them a part. "But God, by grace." Let's just read it together. Look at Ephesians 2, starting in verse 1. This is review, but as we have said, it is not often considered enough, that man needs to be reminded much more than he needs to be instructed. It says,
"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins. In which you formally walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. And among them we, too [meaning the Jews and the apostles] all formerly lived in the lust of our flesh."
All Paul is saying right there is, "I know Satan exists because I've done business with him. Haven't you?" What he goes through and says right here is simply this, again. "There are three things we are enslaved to: the world, something that is without; the flesh, something which is within; and the Prince of the Power of the Air, which rules both the world which he is prince of and our flesh which has become a slave to sin."
Those are the three things which enslave us, and God delivers us from each one. He'll make that fallen world new again. Romans 8 says the world longs for that day, that your flesh longs for it. Paul writes about it in Romans 7 when he says, "That which I desire to do, I cannot do. I no longer do. I find myself again and again moving toward the very thing I don't want. Indeed, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
God has given us the ability to choose over that flesh and to choose life and to present our bodies as living in holy sacrifices, acceptable to the Master, which is our spiritual service of worship, Romans 12:1 says. All that means was a right response to this. Have you guys experienced an expression of being a slave to the flesh this week?
Let me tell you a little about what that means. God has made us sexual beings, but because we are slave to the flesh, we're not just sexual beings, we are lustful beings. God has made us people who need food to eat instead of just being people who consume, that we might have strength, that we might serve our God.
We are slave to our flesh, so what do we become? Gluttons. God has made us people who are to work, that we might gain income, that we might provide for our family because we are slave to the flesh and love comfort. We then chase after more than we need, and we become victims of greed. Have you experienced that this week? That's why we need this.
You see, we are no longer a slave to that, but there are still times we find ourselves drifting back to listen to our old master, to listen to that flesh which attacks us from within, to listen to the world which draws us from without, and to the Prince of the Power of the Air which Kurt talked so passionately and openly about last week who seduces us in both those directions.
This book says"But God, by grace has freed you from that which leads you to death." Look what it says. "Indulging in the desire of the flesh and of the mind. You were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy because of his create love with which he loved us, even when we dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ."
Then he says, "By grace you have been saved." All he's saying right there is those two words. If Paul was reading it, he would read it with a very monotone, depressing voice in Ephesians 2:1-4. "But God…man, by grace. Listen to this. Listen to what he's done for you." See, the reason you and I don't get more excited about verse 4 is because we're not really absorbed by verses 1-3.
We don't believe it's that radical a deal that Jesus died on the cross. Let me say it this way, I don't sometimes fully understand what I'm about to do tonight. I don't understand I was one who was destined to die, that I was by nature a child of wrath, that I was by deed, a son of disobedience, and that I was by decree condemned.
Do you know what 2 Peter 3 says? It says simply this. We are all on a stay of execution. Every single person on this earth, until we get a pardon from the divine judge, has already been handed the decree, and that decree is this: death. You get what you deserve, the wages, which is what you deserve for what you do, the wage of your activity, the wage of your rebellion, the wage of you falling short of the mark, deviating from the standard is simply death. You guys know it as well as I do.
In Romans 3:23, "…the wages of sin is death." So there we are. We're on death row. We've been there, some of us who still in this room don't know Christ, for four or five decades. We're just waiting for our day to come, for our number to be pulled. When it is appointed for man to die once, that after this comes the consequence, comes judgment, the wage.
One day a man walks down by you and says, "I've got some good news. If you'll freely receive the gift that I offer you, you will be not only released from your bondage and imprisonment, but you'll be given an exaltation from the graveyard of sin to the throne room of grace. Not only will you not be on a stay of execution, but you will be given from death, eternal life.
We have to spend some time. People who are really passionate about the freedom Christ brings from sin are people who have really been wallowed and swallowed by sin. Have you ever seen how much an alcoholic hates alcohol? I mean, the person who has really been devastated by it. Have you ever seen someone who's an addict to sex? How much they hate pornography?
Ted Bundy, say what you want about him, but Ted Bundy didn't blame all his activities on pornography. Before he died, he sat with James Dotson, he said, "I'm not blaming what I did on pornography. I blame what I did on Ted Bundy, but you need to know that pornography is going to get you. Pornography is out there, and it is wicked, and it has destroyed my mind and taken me places God did not design me to go."
Ted Bundy, a person who had been freed from his previous desires by the grace of God, according to his profession, said he knew he didn't want to serve that master anymore, and he hated it. I've got friends who have struggle with a bottle and I'm going to tell you, they hate it. I've seen people who've been scarred deeply by premarital sex and they are disturbed by the role models who are out there.
They can't watch MTV like I can, talking about, "I can't believe what those people are doing. They have been sucked into that and they've come away." I've got a friend, or a guy I know, who was a bass player for Ozzy Osbourne and for Black Sabbath before that. When this guy shares his testimony, he can milk that for all it's worth and talk about how great it was to participate in that to 30,000 people night after night, just screaming at you and screaming for you.
You can do anything with them before or after your concert. But I'll tell you what, he has been severely scarred by that experience. When he shares his testimony, he just says this. "I've got to tell you. Though I did do this, it was a part of my previous lifestyle that I played bass for this band and this man, but you don't need to know about that. What you need to know about is I've been set free, and I need to introduce you to the one who can pardon you," as his testimony.
Have you ever heard people do it the other way? Where they spend about a good 45 minutes talking about their life before Christ and they make it sound so fun. Like, "Hey, brother, why go on? Let's just jump in there with you." Too many times we do that. How many of you out there think God can't use you because your testimony isn't gory enough?
Quit worrying about not what you didn't do to make yourself impressive with a testimony. Start to live your life in such a way that your life is changed by God, freed by him, exalted into the throne room of grace. It makes it so attractive people want to know your Lord. That's a testimony.
Too many times we've gotten wrapped up in the "before" part and never make the "after" part sound near as good. Look what it says next. "…even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus."
Jesus was raised by God from the dead and exalted into heaven. Guess what the surpassing greatness of his power toward you and me is, according to Ephesians? That we will be delivered from the wages of our sin, which is death, both physical and spiritual, separation from God, separation from what he intended for us to experience, which is life.
John 17 simply says this:"And this is eternal life: to know Christ Jesus, to know God." There is a separation that comes when you sin or when you, by nature, are a child of wrath that pulls you away from the God who longed to have fellowship with you, and that is the first death. There's also a physical death we experience, but that's just the consequence of our first.
When we are pulled off our life support system, the creator God himself, and we move away from him by our decisions, it's only a matter of time when our oxygen runs out. That is why when you remove yourself from the Author of life, you are doomed to die. Spiritually we have separated from him. Physically, we just see the consequence of it.
From the moment you're born, you are a child of wrath. That is not a pleasant thought. People want to say, "Oh, babies are so sweet. They're so innocent." What they are, according to the Scriptures, is they're cute, sweet, little sinners. Some of you have not been blessed to have one move in with you yet. You will see, all right? Mine is especially cute, but she is especially… She's got that sin nature, which they get right from their mother. It comes right down the line. Yeah, don't I wish? Don't I wish?
It says in verse 7, "…so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Then we love to stop right there, but he didn't. "For we are His workmanship…"
I love the word there. It's poema, which simply means this: We are his masterpiece. We are his work of art. Do you ever feel like that? That's exactly what that word means right there. He has crafted you, that you are his David. I love that Michelangelo was asked about his great sculpture David. They said to him, "How in the world did you make David out of that lump of granite?"
He said something like, "That lump of granite is David. I just take away what should not be." That's exactly what God does with you and me. He looks and he says, "That lump, that child of disobedience, is my child, Todd Wagner. I'm just taking it away through trial, through circumstance, through experience, that all things are working together for good in Todd Wagner's life, because he is loved by me and called according to my purpose.
I have called him, foreknown him, predestined him, and justified him. One day he will be my son and I will glorify him. That is my son in that rock of clay. I just take away what should not be, the consequence of sin." For we are his masterpiece. He is working on you. He is working on you and he's going to put you in the Louvre in heaven.
He is going to say, "This is my masterpiece I've crafted, I've chosen, I've worked on, and I've taken away what should not be, the effects and consequences of sin. I have restored it to where I always loved for it to be, which is beside me in a place of honor, that all who look at it might go, "Great is the God of Christians."
"For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." I'm going to take us now to two places in your Old Testament that are just as clear a picture of this as can be, and they're kind of fun. I'm excited to go there, and they're a great way for us to prepare for the Table.
You're going to see a demonstration of the consequence of the filth within us and the hope that "But God, by grace" can renew us again. You're going to see what happens when people receive that kindness and that goodness, that provision, that bounty, that plenty. How we should respond as his masterpiece. We should go out and we should do the good works which he has prepared for us beforehand.
Turn with me to 2 Kings 5. Go back there to your Old Testament. You will come across the first five books of your Bible. Then keep moving to your right and you'll see 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, then you'll see 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Following that is 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles. If you're like me, while you're turning there, I'll give you an easy way to remember how those things go together.
I have a hard time remembering how the books of the Bible sometimes stack up, so here's a simple way. When you think about it, there's a couple of kings, and they're coming, and they're riding on mules. The mules are named Sam. There's one Sam mule and a second Sam mule. Right there, 1 and 2 Samuel[s]. Kings don't walk, they're royalty, so they're sitting on the mules called Sam, an they're reading a couple of papers.
They're running down the street. So these little kings are sitting on mules, and they're holding papers, 1 and 2 Chronicles. One king is holding one. The other king is holding the other. If you want to know what book comes next, what comes after 2 Chronicles? Ezra, that's right. They're yelling out, "Ezra! Ezra! Read all about it." So now you know how those seven books all go together.
Hey, you've got to be creative when you're dealt this deck, baby. All right? So that's what you come up with. You've got to know how to play your hand. Look what 2 Kings 5 says. "Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior…"
Now how many of you guys go, "Man, Naaman was just the Rambo of the eighth century. Right there he is. He is a great man. He is loved by his master." We find his master is king of one of the great world powers, that he has access in social circles most of us in this room will never experience. He was highly respected by all people. He was the Schwarzkopf of his day. He was General Naaman Schwarzkopf. Right there he is.
"The man was also a valiant warrior, but…" it says, "…he was a leper." Leprosy in the Scripture is always a type of sin. It is something in Scripture that when you see a man or woman who struggled with leprosy, they were never told to go to a doctor. They were always told to go to a priest, because it was a disease which they believed, and God confirmed in his Word, was brought on by God himself.
It was a physical manifestation of the spiritual problem. If you will, leprosy, also called Hansen's disease, we've talked about it before, but as a reminder, it is simply… As a kid I saw the movie Papillon. You saw all these people in that. That was the first experience I had with leprosy. I saw these people looked like basically their skin was rotting away. I thought literally what was happening was there was a festering wound that would slowly melt your body away, but actually the problem with leprosy is people just lose their nerve endings.
There's nothing wrong with their fingers. They just have no feeling either in their hands, arms, wherever the leprosy, Hansen's disease, strikes. What happens is when you and I rake our leaves, which are falling faster than we like to see already, we'll adjust the rake in our hand throughout that half hour to an hour we are raking. A leper won't do that.
He'll just keep on raking without ever adjusting the rake because he can't feel any pain until it literally wears a whole right there in his hands. Then because of the sanitary problems of the day, they would not treat it and that wound would become infected and it would start to gangrene, fester, and eat away at their very being.
Spiritually, that is exactly what happens to a man who is affected by sin. We become numb to rightness, the law, and the truth, and we experience the consequence of our death. As we choose for ourselves the way we want to go, we begin to suffer the consequences of that. Slowly it eats away at us until we are destroyed. We become numb to pain until it then sucks us right down and we are dead.
Naaman was a great man. I like what one guy said, "There is many a sickly and crazy body under rich and gay clothing." Naaman, when he went out, he got to put on his general's uniform. He got to look good in public, because he had the stripes and the stars, but underneath that he knew what he was. He was a leper. He was highly respected, but he knew he was dying. He knew he was not one who should be highly respected. He is one who should be ostracized and separated.
I like what another guy said. "Naaman was as great as the world could make him, and yet the basest slave in all of Syria would not change skins with him." How many of you, when you watch TV today at 3:00 and saw Troy Aikman there, you went, "If I just had that to put on my body, if I was just Troy…" You might think of girls who span the sidelines, "Maybe I wouldn't do that if I was a girl who looked like that, but if I looked like that, then I could really be happy. Those people must really have it all together. I just wish I had what they have."
Do you know how many Naaman's there are out there? How many Tory Aikman's that we long to be like them but inside they know they're rotten? Inside they know they're not somebody to be admired, because they are a slave to their deeds. They have not yet found the freedom, which we as a Christian have.
Naaman was highly respected. He was a guy who a lot of people would have loved to have been like. I love Proverbs 14:10 simply says this, "The heart knows its own bitterness; And a stranger does not share its joy." One of the things Satan loves to use on us is comparison. "If I was just like him, if I looked like him, sang like her, had the talents that person had…"
The heart knows its own bitterness. Proverbs 14:13 says it this way. "Even in laughter the heart may be in pain; And the end of joy may be grief." Psalm 37 says, "Do not fret because of evildoers…" Do you know why? Because even in their laughter they may be in pain. Even at the end of joy there may be grief.
Psalm 37:2 simply says, "For they will wither quickly like the grass, And fade like the green herb." You trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness, because that will not fade. Naaman, though he was great, had a problem. It was a problem no one could help him with. In one of his raids over to Israel as Aram was fighting Israel to the day, he took capture a little slave girl.
A little slave girl who loved Naaman and said, "I wish my master would know the prophet who reigns in Israel, that he might find help from him. Naaman's wife apparently heard the slave girl say that one day and told Naaman, and Naaman went to the king of Aram and said, "Listen, may I go to Israel? May I go and find healing? There's a prophet there, apparently a man of God, who can heal me from this disease."
So the king of Aram sent Naaman over to Israel and he went with a letter and great gifts to the king of Israel. The king of Israel said, "What am I, God, that I can heal you from this disease?" The king of Israel had started to drift away. He had no idea the things God was doing, because he himself was not connected with him.
He tore his clothes, thinking the king of Aram was coming to incite war with him again, because he could not help one of his most treasured and prized servants. But Elisha heard about what was going on and he sent word to Naaman on his way back and said, "Tell Naaman to come to me. You tell the king of Israel to send for Naaman and tell him to come to me, and I will show Jehoram, the king of Israel, God is still alive and working in Israel today through men who seek him and know him.
So Naaman goes and says to Elisha… Naaman was one who looked at Elisha and thought Elisha was lower than he was ethnically and lower than he was socially. He was disappointed when Elisha did not come out to meet him but sent his servant Gehazi to go greet Naaman at the gate. Naaman was disgusted. Read with me in 2 Kings 5:10, "And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, 'Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you and you shall be clean.'"
There is a promised result. "If you do," Elisha said, "what God, through me, is telling you to do, you will receive what you long for: freedom from your disease and deliverance from death." Look at verse 11. "But Naaman was furious and went away and said, 'Behold, I thought, "He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper."'"
He thought there was going to be some formula he would go through that made sense to him. He did not want God's Word and God's help after all. He wanted something that made sense to him, because he did not understand how serious his problem was, how radical his disease was, so he wasn't looking for a radical remedy, especially one that sounded as foolishness to him.
Look at verse 12. "Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" Do you know what the answer to that question is? Yes. I've never been there, but everybody who has says the exact same thing. Jordan is a little muddy, mucky stream, a little river that pours down from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. There's a river in Damascus called the River of Gold, the golden stream. That is what he is making reference to here. "If all I needed to do was go take a bath, are there not many rivers better than this one?"
I like what Jesus said in Luke 10:21. "…I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants…" Do you ever notice man's view of things and God's view of things are often very different? Do you ever notice sometimes we think, "Man, why won't God use this? If he's going to give a river, use the golden stream not the mucky Jordan."
Do you know why he's going to use the mucky Jordan? Simply because he chose to use the mucky Jordan. That's going to be God's instrument. But do you know what Naaman said? See, God was going to work on Naaman. He was really going to draw him to him, and what Naaman had a problem with was not just leprosy, it was with pride.
He's going to help Naaman deal with pride and say, "Are you going to come to me on my terms? Are you going to come to me and tell me how you can impress me to be delivered?" That was his idea. Look what it says. Do you remember what Ephesians 2:8-9 says? Let me remind you. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves…not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
** ** Look what Naaman said. "'Could I not wash in them and be clean?' So he turned and went away in a rage. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, 'My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?'""If you had to go and do some incredible act of service or penance, wouldn't you have worked it out? Wouldn't you have sought it out? Wouldn't you have done it?"
Yes, because it makes sense to man. It feeds our pride we can perform and earn freedom from our situation. But do you know what the truth is? The truth is this: man cannot save himself, because God's standard is perfection. "Be ye holy as I am holy." Once you miss the mark once, you are no longer a perfectionist, and God says, "I cannot mingle you with me."
There's a group of folks in his room who are going through evangelism training, and one of the analogies we're going to use in there is simply this: If you're a person with HIV, where your blood has been tainted, there is nothing you can do to have your blood become no longer infected by that virus to where I would ever feel comfortable to have you have physical relations with, or to give blood transfusion to, somebody who I desperately love.
You can say, "But Todd, I'll tell you what I'm never going to do. I'm never going to participate in an activity, get a blood transfusion again or participate in any kind of activity where somebody could further infect me. I realized what I have done is wrong, or I've got a bad break back there. However it may have happened…
So what I'm going to do is every day for the next 15 years, I'm going to go down to the blood bank and I'm going to get good, clean, and pure blood pumped into me. I'm going to do that for 15 years. At the end of 15 years, then would you take a transfusion from my system?"
Would you? Of course not, because you can put all the pure blood you want and mix it with their blood, but it's still going to infect the pure blood. The pure blood will not cover the infected. The infected blood will mingle and make the pure blood impure.
Man cannot save himself. Do you know what that person needs? He needs new blood all together. He needs another person's blood substituted for his. Guess what you're going to participate in tonight? He said, "If you could have done something, Naaman, wouldn't you have gone and done it? Why won't you humble yourself and do what the prophets say?
So he went down and accepted the gift. He dipped himself seven times in the Jordan. Let me ask you a question, when a guy goes swimming, what does he do? He disrobes, doesn't he? What did God force Naaman to face? What did he cause Naaman to expose? What did he cause Naaman to deal with? The problem.
He had to unbutton the general's stars. He had to take off the general's robe. He had to take away all that made him highly respected, esteemed, and great in the eyes of men, and show him for who he really was: a man who, beneath the robes of dignity, was a dying man. For all the world to see, he freely exposed himself, he confessed his problem, and he went into the Jordan, the muddy Jordan. The not pretty, not clean Jordan.
There are many people today who will not go to the Jordan, they will not go to that which God provides and offers men to be made clean by grace, by God to the cross, to an ugly place. A place of shame. A place of judgment. So you're too proud to go there? Are you too proud to say, "Yes, this is what I need"? I love what my good friend Jim Lee said when he was here a couple of weeks ago.
Whenever you're in a room and there's an icebreaker, and somebody says, "What is your most embarrassing moment?" he said, "If somebody asks me what my most embarrassing moment is, if it's appropriate, I tell them, 'My most embarrassing moment was 2,000 years ago when God himself humbled himself and took on the form of flesh, walked on this earth and lived a sinless life, was falsely accused, falsely tried, falsely ruled guilty, was inappropriately crucified, and killed for me. That's my most embarrassing moment.'"
See, a lot of folks don't want to go there. It says in 1 Corinthians 1 it's the cross of Christ, which Paul says he preaches, which is what I preach, which is what Kurt preaches, which is what we're going to celebrate tonight. It is the cross of Christ, as ugly, muddy, murky, and embarrassing as it is, which gives us hope and nothing else.
It is there we must turn, it is there we must claim, and it is there we must never go far from. We must acknowledge that embarrassing thing needed to happen for us. That is a radical solution to a radical problem: sin. So there's one picture. By the way, look what is says at the very end of 2 Kings 5:14. It says, "…and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean."
What would you call that if a person had flesh that was given that was like flesh of a little child? I'd call it born again, and so are you if you trust in that cross, that provision that the prophet Jesus offers to you. Turn just two chapters to your right. We'll do this quickly. Look at 2 Kings 6:24. That is the human condition and that is the divine compassion that he will deal with you. The fact you have been condemned, by decree he will deliver you from it.
There's another war going on. There's a famine in the land, Israel is surrounded by this same enemy, and they are at the point where they're going to be destroyed. There's a siege set up. What they used to do is there's a wall around Jerusalem or, in this case, Samaria, the capital of the north, that would protect them from the enemy that would come.
They had set up a siege around it and they would bring all kinds of bounty and all kinds of provision, and they'd sit outside the gates and they'd not let anything in or anything out. We call it an embargo today. We would literally starve the people until they would have to let the wall down for some sort of provision to come in or for men to go out and get some.
When that wall came down, in would come the enemy and destroy them. Look what is says in verse 24. "Now it came about after this, that Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army and went up and besieged Samaria. There was a great famine in Samaria…" The enemy always takes us on at our point of weakness. "…and behold, they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver."
I'm going to tell you what, there wasn't a lot left at Luvie's. You follow me? What was left… I don't know if you've ever eaten a donkey's head, but there's not a lot of meat on it. You kind of fight over the upper lip, after that… That's pretty much all that's left. If you're lucky you get the tongue. That's all that's there. Gone. Eighty shekels of silver. Hey, if you want some dessert or an hors d'oeuvres, there's some dove's dung. Would you like that first or second?
If you think that's gross, look what happens. By the way, Deuteronomy 28-30, if you want to know one part of your Old Testament, learn Deuteronomy 28-30. It is the consequence to the nation of Israel if they break the covenant with God their Father. This nation was going to be used by God to communicate hope to all the nations, Israel. If they were disobedient to him, he said there was going to be a series of consequences.
One of them is they would be reduced to cannibalism. Look what happens here in verse 26. "As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall a woman cried out to him, saying, 'Help, my lord, O king!' He said, 'If the LORD does not help you, from where shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the wine press?'" Kind of mocking back at her. In other words, "I can't do anything."
"And the king said to her, 'What is the matter with you?' And she answered, 'This woman said to me, "Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow." So we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, "Give your son, that we may eat him"; but she has hidden her son.' When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body."
He was in a stage of great mourning, because he knew what was going on. Let me just… You guys stay there. That is the consequence of sin that has come upon the land back then. I want to read to you from 2 Timothy. This is what Paul says will be that consequence of sin in our day, in the last days. That would be the consequence of sin to that nation, there'd be great pestilence, flood and famine, there would be cannibalism amongst the people. Paul says this:
"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…"
What that means is men are going to destroy one another for the purpose of preserving self and the things they want. Do you know what that's called? Cannibalism. We're in the middle of it. We kind of gussy it up. We don't actually boil each other; we just tear each other down in every other which way, but you see the exact same thing in our people in our nation. Men have become lovers of self, which means, "I'll destroy you to get what I want." Cannibalism.
So you've got a pretty nasty situation going on here. Look what happens in 2 Kings 7:3. "Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate…" Four men who were separated from the nation who were outside the city gate, outside the place that should have been full of blessing. They were dependent on others for their food. Lepers were separated from the people so their disease would not spread. It was highly contagious.
They would wait for friends and relatives to come out and give them provision, but no friends and relatives would come because of the siege that was on the city. It says they talked to each other, these pathetic, separated, hopeless men who were waiting to die. "Why do we sit here until we die? If we say, 'We will enter the city,' then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here, we die also.
Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die." "Which is what we're going to do anyway, because we aren't eating, as it is."" They arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Arameans; when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans, behold, there was no one there." Make a note God has gone before them. God has gone before his people and has defeated the enemy by himself. If you will, "But God, by grace…"
"For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, 'Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.'"
All they are saying right there is the Arameans fled because God put a word in their ear the king of Israel made a treaty with several other nations that were around and they were going to come and wipe out the Arameans. So they fled and they left everything they had there around the city gates.
"Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was, and fled for their life. When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them."
Do you catch the picture? These guys have been separated from anything that had any prosperity, and they just stumbled on to a bounty that was unimaginable. There was no way they could ever go and drive an entire army of one of the greatest nations who was besieging their people. They're just having a field day. They are running in, and they're getting all this food. Look what they say in verse 9.
"Then they said to one another…" We don't know which one of the four spoke up, but one of these men who was pathetic, who had a death sentence, who was starving, who was waiting to die said, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household."
If you want to paraphrase, they're simply saying, "We were doomed to die and now we have been given life. We are eating at the Steak and Ale. Our friends are eating at the Dove and Donkey. This ain't right. We had no provision, and God gave us life. We were, by deeds, sons of disobedience.
We were, by nature, children of wrath. We were, by decree, men of execution and extermination. God has delivered us, and we cannot sit here and relish in this for our own. We ain't doing right. We've got to go tell them. There are people who we love who do not know provision is here, and we ain't doing right."
Do you know what Ephesians calls this? It says you are his workmanship and "But God, by grace has gone before you." He has created you in Christ Jesus for the good works which he prepared beforehand so you can go tell them that they don't need to go eat at the Dove and Donkey and be a slave to the world anymore. They can come and eat at the table of the King.
We ain't doing right if we don't tell. We ain't doing right if we don't share this truth. We ain't doing right if we don't tell the folks who are eating nothing but the skin off a donkey's head and tasting nothing but the dung of this world there is a bounty, an abundance, with Jesus Christ. There's your picture.
We're going to celebrate it now, and before we do, Greg's going to come and sing a song which just simply crystallizes this last spot. Can't you see, can't you see all the people falling down? Can't you see? Bring them in and let them enjoy the supper with us. Let's pray.
Father, we are a people who believe both by experience and then also by the revelation of your truth we are dead, we are by birth children of wrath, we are by deed sons of disobedience, we are by decree condemned. "But God, by grace…" At our most embarrassing moment in your most glorifying and great day, you humbled yourself and took on the form of man, you went to a cross and died a death you did not deserve to pay a wage I myself had earned, that I might receive what I do not deserve: grace.
I thank you of the constant reminder which you have given me, my brothers, and my sisters to partake of the bounty which awaits. It is the fullness of the body of Christ. It is the perfect provision of the new covenant in his blood. Lord, may we never be so selfish and so out of touch with those who we love that we would just sit here and relish in this truth and not go out and tell others.
We are so grateful that you God, by grace,have gone before us and defeated the Enemy by yourself at the cross. Long before we ever could do anything for our own sin you defeated it so that we might receive the gift that awaits if we'll humble ourselves and go to that muddy place, that place of shame, the cross which, to the Jew, is a stumbling block and to the Gentile it's foolishness, but to the child of grace, it is life itself. We thank you for that. We celebrate it tonight, and we call all who would like to come to come and experience the grace of God. In Jesus' name, amen.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 1:1 through Ephesians 2:22.