(Sorry for the delay on this post! We ran into some technical difficulties, but we should be back on track! God bless as you memorize!! ~The Journey Team)
I had begun to memorize Ephesians 2 some time ago, and to be perfectly honest I glossed over verse five on my way through the chapter.
“Eh,” I said to myself, “We’ve already covered that concept in verse one.”
But reviewing this verse for the Journey Challenge I was struck by the language Paul used:
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Eph. 2:5″
Before we met Jesus, we were basically walking corpses. So saturated by the wages of sin, that Paul, like a coroner, pronounced us spiritually ‘dead’.
We had no more power to free ourselves, then a dead man has in freeing himself from a prison cell.
But, though we were living in death produced by our willful transgressions, God, despite the seeming impossibilities, chose to bring us back to life, or, (as I heard it one time) to: ‘love us back from the dead.’
What kind of a God cares to love something dead so much that it can come back to life?
Not us. Try loving a dead person back to life, and see how far you get.
But God’s love has the power to cause that transformation. Once, for our redemption, now for our perfection.
He did two things, when He ‘quickened’ us. He revived us, then showed us the path to walk in life.
So every day, we’re faced with two corresponding choices: First, to acknowledge that no, I can’t do anything without His grace actively working in my life, and secondly, will I step out in the path of Life? Or fall back into the daily drudgery of a death-like existence?
(Now, by ‘falling back to death’ I’m not saying you can lose your salvation. When our Heavenly Father said ‘Eternal life’ He meant it. That part is over, finished forever. What I mean is the constant battle for the soul, that part of us where the mind, will and emotions are relentlessly attacked by Satan, and lured back to the ‘way things were’, before you were redeemed.)
Sometimes it’s a subtle slope; we don’t even realize we’ve begun to return to the way our ‘old selves’ lived, or that purposing to pursue life was such a vital decision.
However, in my own life I had to come to the place where I realized that my refusal to choose life on a daily basis, was actually a willful choice to embrace death. And (as it usually goes) I had to learn it the hard way.
Not too long ago, I had a good friend who had been through a lot.
When I met them, they hungered for God in a way that made me believe that Hope is possible in our world. I had watched with my own eyes the gradual miracle of God’s voice calling to their deadened conscience, like Jesus called to Lazarus, wrapped up and shut into a cold tomb…. and I watched them come out of their sin, and come out into the light of forgiveness and redemption, in response.
But the choices made early on in their past had brought them many self inflicted hurts that were slow to heal. As a result, though growing, my friend was leery of people, slow to trust, avoided confrontation… and needed a ton of love.
Sometimes we try to give people what they need the most, but, we don’t have it ourselves. I forgot the second part of that verse – that I couldn’t do anything without God – and tried to love that person in my own strength.
Eventually I ran out of love, patience, understanding, and a few other rather necessary things that make up a friendship. At that point my friend thought I was judging the ‘bad’ decisions they made, and only cared about their behavior, not themselves. Which was partly true; mostly because those decisions were apparently causing the person to fall flat on their emotional face.
Finally, the friendship just frittered away.
As it went, my emotions went with it. Coolly, I mentally locked that person out of every door, window, and crack they might try to find to re-enter my world. What right had they to be in there, after all?
The only problem is, that when you do things like that, you also shut out light. You chose to accept hurt, which is choosing to accept even the tiniest taste of death.
After we stopped talking, the Bible went dry. I couldn’t get anything cool out of it. Then I began showing the same symptoms that person had once had: Leery of other people, slow to trust, avoiding confrontation… in preferring to focus on death-like things, my spiritual ears were getting plugged, and even if God was shouting at me, I wasn’t listening anymore. I couldn’t see His wonders in the sky, or in people’s faces.
Now, looking back, I see that in shutting them out it made me more prone to shutting out God. But the average person probably doesn’t think about that. I didn’t.
Then, over a holiday break, I went to the house of a family that is very close to me. At this point, my friend and I hadn’t talked in over a year. I didn’t really care. My friend was being an imbecile, was my estimation; and this, after many years of friendship!
The experts say that when a person shuts love out, that person experiences a deadening of their other emotions. True enough.
But as I was ‘dead; to listening to God, even deaf to the words He was trying to speak into my life through other people, He still hadn’t given up on me. It was like He saved the knock-out blow for last.
While I was with that family, I was told the story of a prison camp during World War II. The leading character had to see first hand, how when the soldiers chose to hate, and seek revenge, even demean themselves to survive, it lowered them into a kind of animal. But by the end of the story, one man, the best person there, the one people marveled at and wished they could be like, was the one who forgave in the face of unbelievable circumstances; he forgave even as he sacrificed his life for an enemy.
In the midst of my deadness, the hand of God suddenly stirred my heart, and I was ashamed of myself, and my actions.
I learned this valuable lesson: Life is too short to hold hurts in; to nurture revenge. If Jesus had done that with us, we’d be dead, still. Life is not about me, and my petty hurts. It’s about the God who can resolve them. The One Who Has the power to turn ugly into beautiful.
So I did one of the hardest things in my life. I told God to tell me what He wanted me to do… and I’d do it.
“Tell your friend you’re sorry. And don’t defend yourself.”
Oh man, I remember thinking to myself…Anything but that. My pride struggled against that with admirable desperation. But it was no good. I couldn’t shake what God had told me, and what I’d just heard in that story.
To be close to God requires the same kind of sacrifice that I heard about in that story. The character didn’t just talk about forgiveness, he acted it out. He may have experienced death, but he stepped into life.
So I put feelings aside, and wrote my friend, telling them that I’d been wrong, and that I was sorry. Then I let it go.
At least two weeks went by….Not a word from my friend.
Good, says I to myself. They’ve deserted me, and that’s that. But something else was happening to me.
When God woke me back up, He didn’t stop. He changed my view of that person. I couldn’t get mad at them anymore. There was no condescension, no anger no…well, nothing.
Then one day, my friend appeared in front of me “I have something to say to you,” they said, glaring at me in an unfathomable way. “Okay,” said I wondering if I was about to be attacked.
Well, it wasn’t what I expected.
Long story short, my friend apologized. Told me that they had been furious when they got my letter, because they wanted to hang onto their hate too… which of course, didn’t do them any good either.
They couldn’t stop thinking about what had been lost, and God told them they needed to ask forgiveness too. He wouldn’t let them rest until they did it.
That was when I learned another lesson: When I was raised to life… it opened the gates for God to raise that person as well. We touch each others lives in ways we can’t imagine.
Needless to say, the friendship was brought back together…. not because of us, for goodness sake. But because there’s a Big God Who loves us, and guards us, and brings us through pain, back to Life.
Honestly, I’m not much of a story teller when it comes to my own life. I’d rather that they had had the usual “Journey Challenge”, where we just explain a verse or two and sound like we know a lot of Greek.
But I’m telling you this story because no matter what’s happened to you, and regardless of what you’ve done, there’s hope, because if there’s an ounce of life left in you… God is still in the habit of bringing dead people to life.
But it’s a choice you have to make. The first and the hardest thing you
have to do is acknowledge that you are living in death, and then repent and allow Him to guide you back into life no matter how difficult the path.
Will you let go of the things that are keeping you from life? You have to let go of hatred to find forgiveness, give up grudges to find joy, take responsibility to find freedom, and walk His path.
Then, whether the results are spectacular or not, you trust the One who has the power to bring you out of the bondage of your own thoughts and actions, into the Light of Life.
How do I know?
Because He quickened me.
Who wants to be dead, when one can be so alive?