Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Formerly Under Another (Ephesians 2:1-2)

"(1) And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (2) in which you formerly 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.” (Ephesians 2:1–2, NASB95)

We live in a country where our national motto is “In God We Trust” and in which some key words were placed in our pledge, “One nation under God.” But how true is that statement? Who is it true for? And, why or why not? I think there is little doubt that many of the founding fathers of our framework believed in God and desired that others would follow after Him. But even this is not universally true. I think that our country has been heavily influenced by a biblical moral and legal system, but even that has not been universal. And there is no doubt over time that each of these has been attacked, eroded, and even changed, proving just how questionable it is for an entire country to hold these ideals. If truly we trusted in God as a country of people would we desire or even tolerate much of what has not only been tolerated, but even embraced by so many such as the murdering on pre-born children. If we truly were one nation under God would we tolerate the movement to remove all vestiges of such a belief from our public places and our government institutions?

This idea of having a bunch of free people who could and would freely seek after and worship God has not proven itself viable when it has been left in the hands of man, or at least men who do not personally know, seek after, and worship God. Rather it has proven, even from the most basic look, that when a people turn their back on God that the moral fabric of the country declines and those who remain to seek after God become increasingly more persecuted.

The reason for this is pretty simple. There is no vacuum in leadership. There is no vacuum in authority. When one authority is displaced in the hearts of a people and a nation, another authority quickly moves in. And we know from God’s Word and passages like this today that this authority is none other than the “prince of the power of the air”—the devil, Satan.

In the last post we looked at man’s original sin and his entry into spiritual death. It this post we are drawn to look at the one who put the fruit before the woman and his continuing to put the fruit before people today—the one who has set the course of the world since Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to evil and were removed from the garden and made subject to his rule by their own disobedience. Just one step away from the garden we read of Adam and Eve’s first two children that one had a heart for God and the other didn’t. Speaking to Cain, the one who didn’t, God said, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6–7, NASB95) We know from the next verses that Cain did not listen to God, but rather went into the field and murdered his only (at that time) brother, Abel.

This has been the condition of man and it continues to be the condition of man apart from God. Reading here that “sin is crouching at the door,” we read elsewhere in 1 Peter, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9, NASB95) We read the same instruction—to resist, but in this later passage we find the source of the enablement to resist in “being firm in your faith.” The ones to whom Peter was writing had been changed. They had been removed from the rule of Satan by being purchased back by the blood of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans, “For the death that He [Jesus] died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:10–14, NASB95)

This speaks to those who have been bought back by Christ. Looking to 1 Corinthians where we also read that we have not only been set free from the bondage and sin, but that we have been bound together in Christ. “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:17–20, NASB95)

Being freed from bondage does not mean being freed from conflict, attack, and even willful engagement. The reality is that we have a long way to grow and we do continue to struggle with desires that are not those of God. We live in a world where sin is rampant and its effects are vast. We are forced to admit that there remains a spiritual battle in which we are engaged here and now. But Scripture declares that we are not left defenseless in this battle. Ephesians 6 is one of the most focused on passages when it comes to this issue. In verse 12 of that chapter Paul reminds us of this before going on to speak of how we are made to be victorious, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NASB95)

There is a real war going on, and the enemy is relentless. Those who do not belong to Christ belong to him and he is very influential. In addition to that, they on their own do not seek after God nor do they listen to His instruction. It should be no surprise that when a significant voice in any culture does not listen to the voice of God that what comes from them will be in line with the deceitful voice of the enemy. What is wrong before God seems right to those who listen to this enemy, and what seems right in their own eyes will also be that for which they fight to obtain and to protect.

It is not that these people do not know what is right and good, but that they willingly choose to substitute what God has placed in their awareness of God with what they desire for themselves. In Romans we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:18–25, NASB95) These are the ones who listen to the voice and who are given over the “king … of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:11).

You see, while the battle we are engaged here may focus on the protection of innocent life, the preservation of marriage, and the rights of those who believe it is truly about so much more. It is about those who are lost and pointing them to the one in whom they can be found. It is about being God’s light in a world of those who are blind, knowing that He is the one who can make them see and set them free. Paul reminds his readers and us that this is who we once were, and in so doing points to our great need to be on the alert while we also speak of their great need to others. Jesus came to us in both truth and grace, and according to His grace we live and proclaim truth.

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