New Life After Suffering
March 31, 2024

New Life After Suffering

Preacher:
Passage: Ephesians 2:1-7

New Life: The Uniqueness of Jesus's Resurrection

You’ll meet many people in society today who have an idea that the Bible says something about Jesus – that Jesus lived, Jesus was a great teacher, Jesus gave his followers a moral example, and that Jesus died. Yet many people have lived and died. Many people have been great moral teachers. So what makes Jesus so special? What is new and exciting about Jesus, such that He would affect your life differently? Why is it that billions of people around the world, for two thousand years, have thrown themselves down before Jesus in adoration and worship?

Well, on this Easter Sunday, we’re confronted with the uniqueness of Jesus, in that he risen from the dead. Jesus, by his own divine power, has literally, historically, physically, come back to life from death. And after his resurrection, hundreds of people saw Jesus, alive and well. They spoke with him. Many even ate meals with him. And the reason this is significant, is because the Bible points to the resurrection of Jesus and says, this is something you can have, too. You can be raised from death to a new life with God. Because of Jesus.

The potency of Jesus’s resurrection is discussed in Ephesians, Chapter 2. So if you have a Bible, please turn with me to Ephesians 2. I’ll be reading verses 1 through 7, but before we read the text, please pray with me:

[PRAY AND READ TEXT]

A few brief things to start: Ephesians is a letter written by a man named Paul. Paul had been hand-selected by Jesus to carry Christianity to cities throughout the Roman Empire, including the city of Ephesus. And Paul wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus to remind them what Jesus has accomplished in his death and resurrection.

And on this Easter morning, I want to further convince you that Jesus being raised up from death really matters. It matters for you. And I want to show you why it matters by explaining three phrases that appear in the text. I want to explain, first, what it means to be dead in our trespasses. Second, what it means to be made alive in Christ. And third what it means to be raised up with Christ. (Dead in our Trespasses, Made Alive in Christ, and Raised Up with Christ).

Dead in Our Trespasses

So first, Dead in Our Trespasses. You’ll notice, right away in verse 1 Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus, “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” But what does it mean that you were dead? Well, the Bible isn’t saying that you and I have been physically dead sometime in the past. Because the Bible describes our deadness by saying it was a deadness that we walked in. Since physically dead people don’t walk, this must be referring to a different kind of deadness. An internal, spiritual deadness. The Bible’s saying you were spiritually dead.

You were alive physically – you had appetites, affections, and actions – but your appetites, affections, and actions weren’t for God. When you came into this world, there was no God-focused, God-adoring principle at work in your heart. You were dead to God. Spiritually dead.

And this means that instead of living to God, and living for Him, you were following other voices. The Bible here identifies three influences you and I were following instead of God. First, verse 2 says you were following the course of this world. In other words, you allowed popular opinion and culture to push you around. You didn’t stop to ask questions. You didn’t analyze the world’s ideas first to make sure they were teaching you the right way to live. You just followed the world, because you were dead to God.

The second half of verse 2, though, identifies another influence that you followed. The Bible speaks here about a sinister spirit called “the prince of the power of the air,” who is working in human hearts to promote disobedience to God. And the Bible says, you were following him. Your soul was dancing to the music of the devil’s fiddle. Why would you do this? Because you were dead to God.

Finally, in verse 3, the Bible says you lived in the passions of your flesh – you physically were alive and lived for your hormone swings and selfish cravings. You were “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” And the reason you lived for yourself, and insisted on getting your own way was because you were dead to God. You didn’t feel dead, because you were physically alive. But nonethless you were dead, in your innermost being.

And because you were dead to God – because you ignored him, and rejected the good things he had to say – the path you were following was a bad path. And I don’t just mean it was bad, like it had too many potholes or something. I mean that your path was a wicked path. You were choosing a life without God, choosing a life that denied God’s worth and his basic rights, choosing a life that was opposed to God’s authority over your life. You were dead to God. And because of this, verse 3 says that you were “by nature, children of wrath like the rest of mankind,” which means you, me, and the whole of mankind – we deserved God’s wrath instead of his warmth. We deserved to be punished instead of pampered. We deserved to suffer death – both physical and spiritual – because we were dead to God.

Made Alive in Christ

BUT – do you see this in verse 4? The Bible says BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses” – what did he do? – He “made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” – saved from your transgressions, saved from your guilt, saved from your deadness!

God hasn’t given you and me what we deserve. Instead, he has been rich in mercy, and has shown us great love despite our deadness and disobedience. Paul tells these Christians in Ephesus, “He has made us alive, together with Christ.”

The resurrection didn’t just impact Jesus. But the reality of His life is for you. For me! Christ came to be a substitute for us – to represent us. To act on behalf of us, in our place. Jesus was made dead in our sin at the cross in order to make us alive, together with Him, in his resurrection.

So if you’re with Christ, if you’ve received him by faith, you’re no longer dead to God! You’re no longer controlled by the course of the world, the seduction of the devil, or the passions of your flesh. If you’re alive in Christ, you have new desires at work in your heart, to know God, to thank Him, to be close to him, to live for Him. As Paul tells the Ephesian Christians, Jesus has made you alive.

We can look around the room here and see examples of God’s power to raise people from deadness to life. This is something that has already happened, spiritually. At the same time, you and I have not yet experienced physical resurrection from death. But though we haven’t been made alive in this second sense yet, Jesus’s resurrection in the past ensures our physical resurrection in the future. The new spiritual life we already have with Christ guarantees the new physical life we do not yet have.

But I hope you recognize – if you haven’t believed Jesus’s words, or trusted in his work – you’re still dead in your trespasses! The prospect of future life is something you cannot and will not have apart from Jesus. So just ask yourself for a moment – who else can you turn to, who can end your deadness to God? Who else can carry the penalty for your wrongdoing in your place, so that you can go free? Who else can raise you up, and give you an indestructible life? Jesus is the only figure in the history of the world who has the credentials to do this for you. And I get it, there may still be some things about it you don’t understand. But that isn’t a reason to write him off. If anything, it’s a wake-up call that you need to get serious about figuring out who this Jesus is. Because the Bible says that he alone can bring you to God.

Raised up With Christ

We see that Jesus is uniquely able to bring us to God in verse 6. Paul tells us that God has “raised us up with him (with Jesus).” And at first, it may sound like Paul is still talking about being raised with Jesus out of death. But Paul goes on to say, he has “raised us up with him and has seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In other words, Paul is saying we’ve been raised and seated in the heavenly places with Jesus. Jesus has brought us to God.

Because that’s where Jesus is now, with God the Father. After spending many days with his disciples after his resurrection, Jesus passed into a different dimension – he rose into the heavenly presence of God. And for the past two thousand years, that’s where Jesus has lived, never to die again, seated in the heavenly places. And verse 6 says, that if you belong to Christ – if you’re in Christ – then you, too, have been seated with Jesus in the heavenly places.

Now I’m aware that this statement is a bit perplexing. Because you’re seated there. I’m present here. So how can it be that we’ve been raised and seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus?

Well, again, the text is saying that you have already, spiritually, been raised with Christ and are seated in heaven with him. Jesus has once and for all carried the penalty of sin for his people, such that we are now as clean as He is. With our moral corruption washed away, we now have entry into the sacred courts of heaven. We can come before God and offer acceptable worship. We now have confidence that we can draw near to a Holy God, and access him directly, because we’ve been raised up spiritually into the presence of God in Christ.

So if you’re in Christ – if you’ve trusted in Jesus – then there’s a real sense in which you are present with Jesus in that position of security and glory, even when it feels like your life is falling apart. Even when God feels distant. Even when you’re suffering and it seems like everyone has abandoned you – you are with Christ.

We don’t yet experience this position physically, finally, and in fullness. As Christians, we live in between the already and not yet. Yet the realness of being spiritually raised with Christ now is confirmation of our future in the presence of God later. Jesus is held out to us here as the one who can uniquely deal with our deadness, who can give us new life, and who can actually bring us back to God – He does it all. He is the solution to humanity’s biggest problem.

And verse 7 tells us why God has decided to raise us up with Christ. He has seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus [verse 7] SO THAT – the phrase so that shows that God is doing this on purpose. It’s not an accident. SO THAT, in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness. So why does God raise us up with Christ to be seated in the heavenly places? It’s because He wants to show us kindness. He wants to give us a front row seat to the most satisfying, life-giving thing in the universe – meaning that God wants to give us himself. God wants to satisfy us with the limitlessness of his grace and kindness. And verse 7 tells us that God intends to do this in the coming ages, which most likely refers to the expanse of unending eternities in the future. So to state all this simply, God wants to give you happiness forever. He sent Jesus to die for you, to make you alive, and to raise you up into the presence of God so that you could glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

An Offer of New Life

If you haven’t already trusted in Jesus, what’s preventing you from receiving God’s gift? Turn from living an empty, self-centered life. Receive the immortality and endless joy that God has supplied in Jesus Christ.

For those of you who have received God’s gift, who are trusting in Jesus, spend time this week thinking about what it means that you are alive with Christ – that you are seated with him in God’s presence. This is a truth you can run to 24/7, to calm your anxieties, to motivate your obedience, to embolden your endurance. If your life is in Christ, your life is secure. The tree of God’s kindness will never lose its leaves. The resurrection of Jesus is incredibly good news, and it always will be.