Before, After and Forever

Bible Book: Ephesians  2 : 1-10
Subject: Salvation; Eternity; Time; New Year
Introduction

As we begin a New Year, we are thinking about time. How quickly time passes, how much we need to do in the coming year, or perhaps some resolutions that we need to make and keep. But, I want us to think about a far greater span than one year. Let’s look today at “Before, After and Forever.”

Today we are going to look at the description of a Christian. It is a glorious picture and it is given with great purpose. See Ephesians 3:14f. If we do not know who we were before we were saved, or who are now, if indeed we are saved, it is doubtful we can know who we will be when we meet the Lord.

Ephesians 2:1-10: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

As believers, let’s look first at…

I. Who We Were Before Christ

There are some remarkable things that Paul says in verses 1 through 3 in Ephesians 2. They speak of the "Before" period of our Christian lives. Look at four of them with me.

A. Dead

First, Paul reminds us that without Christ, we were dead. D-E-A-D – dead! Exactly what is Paul talking about when he states that we were dead? Certainly we were living in this world, in our bodies, doing things that living people do. Paul is speaking here about the “soul” – the real you – that part of you that will live forever. You might ask, “How can my soul live forever, if in fact it is dead in sin?” The death mentioned here is spiritual death – separation from God.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were driven out and lost their wonderful relationship with God. They knew about God, but they were not with Him - united with Him. Every one of us in this service today has sinned and our sin separated us from the God who created us. We were DEAD to God as long as we stayed in that condition. Paul clearly states that our death in due to trespasses and sins, and Romans 3:23 makes it clear that we have  sin and fall short of the glory of God.

B. Driven

Note also, that we are told in verses 2 and 3 that in our lives before we were saved through Jesus Christ we were driven about by our own lusts under the influence of Satan – the prince of the power of the air. That is, the devil works in the atmosphere to influence us. It would be funny, if it were not so serious, to hear people claim that they are not going to become a Christian because they want to remain free to do whatever they wish to do. My, my, what foolishness! You don’t do what you want to do, you do what your sinful heart compels you to do! You are driven by the enemy of God to destroy your own life. So were we all before we turned to the Lord.

C. Disobedient

When Paul speak of sins and trespasses, he is speaking of our disobedient lives toward God. Someone may ask, “Why did God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, if He knew that Adam and Eve were going to eat of it.” The answer is simple. God is a God of love and love cannot be robotic. If you force someone to love you, is it really love? No! God loves us and He desires that we love Him from our hearts and not because we must. So, you can refuse Him and live as you wish. Sadly, every one of us has done just that! God will not accept wickedness in His presence because He is holy and we must be holy to have fellowship with Him. Sin has, thus, separated us from Him.

D. Doomed

Notice a phrase in verse 3 that is haunting and eerie. Paul says that all of us who remain in our sin are “children of wrath.” There is one thing I don’t wish to be, and that is a person under the wrath of God; however, if I remain in my sin, I'm already a child of wrath and doom awaits me. This is something you might not like to hear, but then we are living in a day when most people don’t want to hear the truth. We live in an age when every child that plays a sport gets a trophy, even if he or she doesn’t know which way the goal is positioned. But, that is not the way the world works and that is not the way God created us. There will be a day of judgment and prizes go to the winners. In my sin, I am a loser!

But, we don’t have to remain in a losing position. We don’t have to live in wrath. There is a path to victory. So, let’s look at…

II. Who We Are After Christ

God made a way for us to escape our sins and experience victory. He provided a way that we can become Christians and live a life of meaning, joy and purpose. That leads to a question: What is a Christian?

A little boy asked his father to describe a Christian and the father did so with great illustrations. The boy looked a little puzzled, so the father asked him what was wrong. The little guy asked, "Daddy, have I ever seen a Christian?" When people look at us as Christians, they may ask that question. But, salvation is a work of God and not a work of man.

We’ve looked at life “Before” one is saved, let’s look now at “After” one is saved.

A. The Christian is Loved

In verse 4 we see a warm and wonderful conjunction. The word “but” changes everything in this passage. “But God, who is rich in mercy…” You see, to become a Christian is not something we can make happen. God provided for our salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. He loved us and gave His Son to save us.

I was lost, “But God!” Yes, I was doomed, “But God, who is rich in love called me and saved me!”

It all began for the Christian because God is love! In fact, in this passage we read that God’s love is GREAT! For those of us who are saved, we know the incredible experience of yielding to that love and repenting of our sins. We know what it is like to find the peace that God means for us to know in life.

I can say to every person in this worship center, you are loved by God. He has loved you and He loves you now. He wants you to respond in love and accept what He is ready to give you. Sadly, so many will go on rejecting His love and never know the peace and joy they were mean to experience.

B. The Christian is Living

Note in verse 5 that he shows the change that takes place when a person repents of sin, turns in faith to trust Christ for forgiveness, trusts Him as Lord and Savior, and is saved. He makes us alive in Christ. We go from death to life. We begin an everlasting relationship with God through His Son. We are alive.

I can tell you that I thought I was living before I came to know Jesus, but I was dead! When Jesus came into my life, I lived! The entire world changed – my soul was electrified with joy – I felt the weight of my sin lifted from me. Oh, what a Savior!

C. The Christian is Lifted

Note that Paul says that being saved means we have been lifted up to sit in heavenly places (verse 6). What, pray tell, does that mean? It means that God has taken us out of the mud of this world, cleansed us, and seated us in His kingdom. We are already children of God and nothing in this world can change that. We have an anchor fixed in heaven and no one can break the chain connected to that anchor. Salvation is God’s work, and no person, angel or devil can undo what God has done for us! Look at Romans 8:38 and 39, where Paul wrote these words, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." How about that! Nothing can take from me the life that Christ has given me. I can lose everything I have in this world, with the exception of the life I have in Christ, which is eternal!

D. The Christian is Led

All the way through verses 9 and 20 in Ephesians 2 we are told that God saved us to carry on the work He has for us to do. He leads those He saves to have lives of purpose and meaning. No work done in the name of Jesus will ever be meaningless or lack reward. He is leading our walk day by day, even when the way is hard and difficult. His way is always the right way!

But, look at one more thing in this passage…

III. Who We Shall Be Forever in Christ

There is a “forever.” One day this life will be over. For those who are saved, the fun is just beginning when our life on earth is ending. Listen to two things that Paul tells us about our future – about the “forever” of the saved.

A. The Display He has Planned for us

Verse 7 tells us that “in the ages to come” our Lord has exceeding riches of His grace to show us. What does that mean? I don’t know, but I can’t wait.

Let me tell you a story about a great preacher from the past. Dr. R.G. Lee, who preached the great sermon “Payday Someday” over 800 times worldwide, lay dying some years ago. There by his bedside were his family members, along with evangelist Billy Graham, musician Cliff Barrows and pastor Adrian Rodgers, and with the elderly doctor who had long cared for the great preacher. They thought Dr. Lee was so near to dying that no more words would be spoken by him. They sat silently waiting for him to pass into the presence of God. Just then, Dr. Lee awakened and almost sat up in the bed. He called for his daughter, who immediately took his hand. “Pappa,” she said, “are you okay? What is it papa, are you alright?"

Dr. Lee said, "Oh, dear, I've just seen Jesus, I've just seen heaven."

As others in the room stood to look upon his face, his daughter asked, “What is it like papa?"

Then, with tears in his eyes and a glow on his face, he said, "I have preached about many times but, honey, I've never done it justice. I've never done it justice!" Then he was gone.

Oh, my friend, what God has planned for us is beyond human explanation. He has a great display of glory and wonder to give those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation.

B. The Delight He will Provide to Us

I remember my parents telling me about an upcoming vacation to Florida when I was just a boy. I asked about alligators, palm trees, and the beach, and they said, “You’ll have to wait and see.”

When people ask me about heaven, I reply, "You’ll have to wait and see.” But, I know this, He told us in John 14:1-6 that He was going to prepare a place for us and then He would come and take us to be with Him wherever He is! He made our universe in six days, and He has been working on that place for you and me in heaven for 2,000 years - what shall it be like? Well, “You'll have to wait and see!” But I can tell you this – “I wouldn’t miss for the world.” And that is what many are doing. There missing heaven because they love the world.

Conclusion

I’m out of time, so let me finish by sharing a story with you. I can't verify the story but it is very possible it happened just as it was told. There was an old Scottish preacher names Jim that I read about some years ago. He had a way of talking to the Lord that made you people feel that He knew the Lord personally. If a service was not going so well, Jim would just stop and bow down and pray, "Hello, Jesus, this is Jim. We are trying to have a service of worship here, but it is not going so well. Jesus want you please come down and take control here." People who attended those services say that it was amazing - it seemed as if Jesus did come right into the room and take control. If you had a problem and went to Jim, he would do the same thing. He would pray like this: "Hello, Jesus, this is Jim. We have a problem here and it is just too big for us, would you not please come down and take over."

Once his wife got sick and they thought she would die. Jim prayed in his simple but profound way and she got better. But then, one day Jim got sick and they took him to the hospital. After a few days there a couple of nurses came to his room. Jim shared how much he appreciated everything they had done for him. Then he told them that he was leaving. One of the nurses spoke and said, “No, Jim, you are going to get better. Do not talk about dying." Jim insisted that he was going to die that very day. Finally, the nurse asked, "Jim, why do you think you are going to die today?" Jim raised up on one arm, tears rolled across that old preacher's face and he said, “Just a few minutes ago Jesus came into my room and said, ‘Hello Jim, this is Jesus, I'm going to take you to my House to live with me today.'" Later that day, Jim went home to be with the Lord.

We going to leave this world one day – where are you going? You can experience what Dr. R.G. Lee experienced. You can be that like that old Scottish preacher named Jim. You can know that Jesus is real and heaven is a place prepared for the saved.

Are you ready to meet God today? You can be.