Pastor Dan Borgelt
“I love that last line in the video we just watched… it says that “The truth that is crying out from the empty tomb, is that no matter where you’ve been, or no matter what you’ve done, LIFE can begin again – BECAUSE OF HIM.”
Speaking of LIFE, my wife Amanda and I learned very early on in our marriage, that we were not very good at taking care of things that were alive. In our first year of marriage we had multiple incidences of failure, taking care of things that were alive.
The first one that happened, we were at seminary where we spent our first few years of marriage, and her best friend brought to us a plant… she was going away for a while and wanted us to take care of her plant.
She cared about this plant, well… more than I think anyone should care about a plant, but she cared about this plant, and she brought it to us and we were to take care of it.
I don’t remember all the details but I’m sure that we watered it… for a couple of days. And then we forgot all about it, until we heard the knock on the door, and we had the Walk of Shame to Brittany, her best friend whose plant had died in our care.
And then some time later, my wife’s sister, who was also at seminary with us, who apparently hadn’t heard about the plant story, brought to us a fish. This was a fish that she cared about, more than I think anyone should care about a fish, but nonetheless she brought us a fish and put it in our care.
I don’t remember all the details. I’m sure we fed the fish… for the first couple of days. And then we forgot about the fish until she knocked on the door. And we had the Walk of Shame having to bring to her… I assume we didn’t bring the dead fish; we probably had done something else with the fish by then, and maybe just brought her the empty bowl of some kind.
But you know, as bad as we are at caring for a living things, one of the things that united Amanda and I early on in our relationship, is the recognition, that as bad as we are at that, we have messed up our own lives, far worse… we have messed up our own lives far worse than that.
And so we love expressions like, the truth of the empty tomb crying out to you and I saying, that “ No matter what you’ve done; no matter where you’ve been, life can begin again.
So I want to talk to you about this whole idea of,
CROSSING OVER TO LIFE
I want to invite you to our passage of Scripture… it is found in the book of Ephesians, Chapter two, for those of you like to turn there with me. If not, we’ll have the Scripture on the screen behind me, and as we turn to Book of Ephesians, chapter two, and look at this passage of Scripture, I’m going to suggest from the very beginning that, if we have any hope to cross over to life, any hope to have a real relationship with God, we’re going to have to be honest with how much we have messed up our own lives together this morning.
Will you turn there with me, the Book of Ephesians chapter two; the Scripture tells us this, starting in the very first verse… it’s entitled in a section called “Made Alive in Christ”.
Made Alive in Christ
And he starts off with sort of a negative tone to begin with, I got to prepare you for this. He says,
1-3 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.
One of things I appreciate so much about these opening sentences from the Biblical author, his name is Paul, he writes this, and what I appreciate so much about him is just how honest and transparent he is about his own failures and shortcomings.
He includes himself in this when he says, “All of us used to live this way.” We used to live the way that was not in accordance with how God would have wanted us to live. I like and appreciate the fact that he’s honest enough to say, “Hey I’m among those people.”
And he’s also direct enough to make sure that the people who are listening to him, are aware of that reality and forced to face that reality… that they too have lived their life at times in a way that is not in accordance with how God would have wanted them to live their lives.
Now why does he go through the effort to make sure that they get this point?
It’s not, as many of us have been trained to think that churches are all about, it’s not just to make people feel guilty, it’s not just a heap burden on them, and make them feel lousy about themselves; that’s not why he takes the time to say, “Hey look, you guys have really messed up your lives.”
The reason he’s doing that is because he’s calling them into an honest, and a real, and a transparent relationship with God.
And when we have sin in our life, that we have not acknowledged before God, there’s this wedge that drives between us. We don’t have a real honest relationship with him and so we acknowledge how much we’ve messed up our lives at times.
We experience this in all of our other relationships as well. I mean, some of you have done things in your marriage relationship to your husband or wife, and you’ve never been honest about it; they don’t know about it; and it’s driving a wedge between you and them.
Others of you have had your husband or your wife do something to you, and you know it, you know how they behaved, but they’ve never been very honest or transparent with you about it, and you know that it’s driving a wedge between your relationship.
It happens with our kids as well. Is there anything more frustrating than raising our children and knowing that they’ve messed up, but them not being willing to be honest about the mistake that they made.
We might do that with our best friend as well. Maybe not all of our friends but with our best friend we might say, “Hey look, if we’re going to be best friends, we need to be real and honest with each other; and address the mistake that you’ve made… or address the mistake that I’ve made.”
And here is God doing the same thing.
He’s coming out and saying, “Look we have all messed up our lives, really bad.”
You see, when we have a wedge between us and other people… it’s kind of a big deal depending on who it is… but when we have a wedge between us and GOD–the author and the creator of life–the life source itself… then it’s a really big deal.
And that’s why the Scripture says that,
the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23
Because unspoken sin, unacknowledged sin before God ultimately drives a wedge between us and God.
But then the Scripture goes on and he says. Not only that but he says.
Eph 2:3b Like the rest, we were by nature deserving (objects) of wrath.
You know… here we are Christmas.. we’re not as a Christmas. Here we are at Easter (LAUGHTER)… you know a pastor should probably get those two figured out.
Here we are at Easter, and it’s the largest attendance service of all services throughout the whole year in churches across America… numbers are up and all that type of thing.. and by the way, if you’re one of those people visiting with us this morning, Welcome, we’re glad that you’re here.
But just a couple days ago churches all across America also had another service. The Good Friday service… and it’s one of the lowest attended services of the year for churches.
Which means there’s a whole lot of people who come on Easter morning, and I’m worried that maybe some of them really haven’t had time, in their busyness, to think about the events of Friday.
That’s one of the reasons why I love this passage for Easter Sunday, because he says.
… we were by nature deserving (objects) of wrath.
That is… God’s wrath.
And we are reminded that the events of Friday, where Jesus was crucified on the Cross, it was more than just a man named Jesus being the recipient of a bunch of other people’s wrath. It was Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, the ‘Sent One’ from God above who was bearing upon himself the wrath of God — all of the wrath of God that we deserved for our punishment, for our sins.
That’s why we call it, ironically… Good Friday … because he took our place… he took upon himself the wrath that we deserved.
And when he went to the tomb, and when he was risen from the tomb, it was all buried… in the full measure of God’s wrath.
We don’t have to be sitting here, gathered here this morning, asking ourselves someday, “If we have a relationship with Christ, am I going to experience the full measure of God’s wrath someday? What’s it going to be like when I face and him someday?
We can have confidence that that whole measure of God’s wrath has already been taken out upon His Son Jesus Christ, and buried in his death, with the tomb, and left behind, with the resurrection.
Now with that negative approach to this good story having been addressed, we turn to the other side of things and he goes on in verse four saying,
Eph 2:4 But because of his great love for us,
And friends, I want to stop there and just think about those fews words. Because I have a feeling that for someone in this room, that’s really the only sentence you need to hear this morning–more important than anything I might have to say, or any of the other Scriptures we might be reading… because of his great love for us.
Because, quite frankly, there are some of you here this morning who have heard: the Easter talk, you’ve heard about Jesus, you’ve heard about the Bible, you’ve heard about God, you’ve heard about religion, and all this type of stuff repeatedly, time and time again, but it’s fallen on deaf ears and a hard heart, because you haven’t become convinced that God really loves you.
And not only does the Scripture say he loves you. It says, “because of his GREAT love for us,”
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.
You see what Paul is doing as he continues in his approach here, he is saying we have now been made ALIVE with Christ... to be made alive with him.
Which means if we are to have any hope in Crossing Over to Life, it has to be found by being united to Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ is the only one who has gone from life, to death… to the tomb, and back to life again.
And for those who place their trust in Christ and are united with Him — we are made ALIVE with Christ. And if you think that’s a neat thing, when he continues in verse six and he says this.
6-7 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.
What’s so profound to me about those verses is that he speaks about it in the past tense. That we have been raised with Christ… that we have been seated with Christ. It’s as if he is saying, “We are already in heaven”.
And some of you are sitting here and saying, “Already in heaven… really?”
“This Pew is just uncomfortable enough to remind me I’m not already in heaven.
“The person sitting next to me smells just enough… “The person behind me sings just bad enough… your preaching is just boring enough to remind me, We are not already in heaven.”
And yet that’s how the Scripture reads. The Scripture reads this by saying,
“God has raised us up with Christ, and has seated us with him“
…as if it’s past tense.
Do you see what the Scripture’s saying… that when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we don’t just have hope that someday we might go to heaven… we immediately become a citizen of Heaven–our citizenship changes.
We are already there now. That is where we live, that is where we belong, that is our home… it’s as good as done. That’s why he speaks about it in the past tense.
It’s a wonderful thing.
You hear the certainty in which he speaks about it. We don’t have to question moving forward, he says “It’s already been done.“…that is where our citizenship is — the security that comes from hearing this verse the right way.
I think it’s probably widely agreed that are most insecure years in life are probably our adolescent years… would you agree with that? How many had some insecure adolescent years? Yeah…. Junior high… seventh and eighth grade for me were rough years.
There were countless number of times that I was wounded by people because of their insecurity, and my insecurity. The countless number of times I’m sure I wounded others because of my insecurity.
But above all the things that I remember about those two years, the one that stands out the most to me, is when a girl named Stephanie Wrightler wanted to be my girlfriend.
She had made it known that she liked me. Now you might be wondering well… how does that make you insecure? Well the insecure part came from the fact that she had made it known to me that if we were to become boyfriend and girlfriend, that it was expected that we would kiss each other… and I had never kissed someone before.
And I was convinced that I was the only kid in junior high in the whole world, who had never kissed someone before (LAUGHTER).
And let me just tell you junior highers… That’s not true… wait… wait… and then when you think you’ve waited long enough, wait some more (Laughter).
I said that because I was hoping to get at least one “Amen” from a parent (LAUGHTER)… there we go. OK. Good.
So anyway, I just can’t imagine the amount of stress and anxiety that I endured because of this tension. I liked this girl, I wanted to be boyfriend and girlfriend with her, but I was so insecure about this expectation that she had.
The number of hours of sleep that I surely lost; the amount of acne that I incurred probably because of the stress and anxiety of Stephanie Wrightler ‘s request… I just can’t even begin to imagine.
And I say all of that because here’s the thing… you might be in a completely different stage in life, and you’re not in any where near your adolescent years… but there are all kinds of people in church today who are not in their adolescent years in life, but who are in an adolescent state in their relationship with God.
I mean they’re incredibly insecure about their relationship with God. They’re here wondering, that if they were to die today, will they get accepted into heaven or not; will God check the box, ‘YES’? … I want to have a relationship with you or not.
But do you hear what the Scripture’s saying, “That if we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, if we place our faith in him, we are already citizens of heaven; we have been raised with Christ, seated in heaven–that is where we belong. We don’t have to question that anymore.
If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ… you don’t have to be questioning this morning whether or not you’re going to be in heaven someday. You will.
But I also have to say, that if you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you don’t have to be questioning whether or not you will be in heaven someday… the Scripture says. “You won’t.”
And that’s why it’s my prayer this morning. That’s why it’s been my prayers as we prepared this week for this message, is that there would be someone here this morning, that God would be speaking to you louder than any of the Easter plans and chaos… and saying to you right now,
“Today is the time to place your faith in Jesus Christ, and to become a citizen in heaven.”
To leave here knowing that that is where your home is now; that that is where you belong, that you will indeed, as a redeemed person, follow the path of your Redeemer from life, to death, to the grave, on to eternal life again.
And the reason why I can say that that can happen today. Right now. And it doesn’t have to be this long, incredible process that you need to go home and start working on… is because how the Scripture continues in verse eight… it says,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved (this is now the second time that Paul has written this)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
So I’m not saying to you if you want to Cross over to Life and get serious with your relationship with God, and make sure that you go to heaven someday: go home, and here’s a long list of things you need to stop doing, and here’s a long list of things you need to start doing.
That’s not what I’m saying because that’s not what the Scripture teaches. The Scripture teaches, whether we end up in heaven or not someday is whether or not through faith, we have received the grace of God.
And that is something you can do right now. Here today. In this moment in our gathering together–it’s not something you have to go “work on”.
You know, my son Levi loves… he’s our youngest son, our five year old, he loves figurines… like, he loves things that fight each other. He has a bunch of things that look like they should fight each other, but I’m confident that if you gave him a bunch of dolls, they would be at war with each other. That’s just how he’s hard wired.
And so he loves lining up an army on one side, an army on the other side, and he will often call them his good guys, and is a bad guys.
And he loves calling me in the room, and he wants me just to see this display… this Good guy vs. bad guy display that he has before me… and sometimes participate with him in these battles and in these fights.
And I think in many ways that’s sort of how we’re hardwired to relate to God. You may be thinking that some day when you get before God, you’ll take all the bad guys, all the bad things that you’ve done in your life, and all the good guys–the good things… put them all there on the table, put them there before God–as sort of a show and tell, and he will either accept you, or he won’t accept you.
But do you hear what the passage of Scripture saying? … it’s to take all the things you’ve done or not done and to wipe them aside, and to place Jesus Christ on the table, so that you can come before God the Father and say, “This is why I expect to be brought into heaven someday, because I have placed my trust in your Son Jesus Christ. And as such I am already seated in the heavenly realms.”
You see when we count on whether we’ve been good enough or bad enough, the real object of our faith is ourselves. But this Scripture is saying we are saved by_grace_through_faith_in_Jesus Christ. And that’s how he’s inviting us to Cross over to Life into_relationship_with_him.
And then finally friends… the last two verses say.
9-10 not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
So… we have a lot of really cool things to do that are in store for us, but he makes it very clear–that’s not how we get to heaven. And one of the rationales for it is,
so that no one can boast.
You know… here on Easter, as I said earlier, there are a lot of people who come to church and might not normally be at church, and again, “Welcome, and we’re glad that you’re here.”
And, some of you, maybe haven’t been here since Christmas, or you might not be planning on going to church again until Christmas, but… maybe you’re here and you’re going to leave and you’re thinking, “You know what, I’d like to change that pattern… I’d like to darken the door of the church before Christmas this year.”
And I understand why many of you haven’t. One of the main reasons why people don’t go to church… is because, quite frankly, the church has a reputation for being a place that thinks it’s better than people, and thinks those people are worse than they are.
And if you’ve had that experience at church, I want to empathize with you… I don’t blame you for wanting to stay away. But I do want you to hear the truth of the Scripture that,
“we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ; not by our works, so_that_no_one_can_boast.
Those churches that act that way, are not acting in accordance with the heart and the character of God.
And I can’t speak about Kirkmont. I’ve only been here for little over a year. But I can say I think in the year that I’ve been here, I think that this church grasps the idea that we are saved by grace. That we aren’t here to boast that we’re better than others… were genuinely excited when people come to our church, regardless of how broken they are. If that’s you, we’re glad that you’re here.
But maybe Kirkmont isn’t the type of church you want to come back to–it’s not a good fit for you, that’s all right.
What a wonderful invitation to Cross over to Life, and to come be a part of a fellowship of people, who want to be on that journey together.
I thank you for being here this morning, and I want to invite our Praise Team to come forward we prepare to close with our last song together.
May I lead us in and a short prayer, and then we’ll do that.
Heavenly Father we thank you for your Word, for this passage of Scripture, and for each and every person who’s gathered here this morning. And Father, for some of us, we want to just confess, and acknowledge to you that we have not had as honest and transparent of a relationship with you as we should have… that we’ve messed up our lives far more than we’ve acknowledged before you.
And we thank you for the promise of Your Son Jesus Christ that he bore all of the punishment… all the whole measure of the wrath of God for our sin.
And we ask, God, that you might grant us the faith to place our trust in Him.
For anyone who’s here this morning… who may come here this morning feeling like, “I’m not sure if I’m a citizen of heaven.” May you speak loudly to them in our time here.
Invite them into a relationship with you, and help them to realize that that is a status they can change right now by coming before you… just acknowledging their sin, and believing that Jesus Christ has died on the Cross for their sin.
And committing their life to him.
For the rest of us God, we pray that we would leave here with the full assurance of being seated in the heavenly realms–as something that has already happened.
We thank you for this promise, and we ask these things now in Christ’s name. Amen.