RANK AND FILE: THE LIVING DEAD
Wimber-“It seems the more I think about not sinning the more I sin. However the more I fall in love with Jesus, the less I sin..”Most of us claim relief from our panic about death as we have laid claim to forgiveness, but we are still missing the critical element of our own crucifixion and resurrection in the here and now. Our potential for the resurrected life of transformation is described in 2:1-9, as we are assisted in using our new heart eyes to see a portrait of who we were and who we are in Christ. His is done to remind us of what life is like when we are dead to God in sin, and what life can be like when we are fully made alive in Christ.
Dead and Dead
Prior to us embracing the cross and resurrection, we are the walking dead among the dead. Ephesians 2:1-3 puts it like this: 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. There is a problem with being spiritually dead. We never recognize in us or in others when we are among the walking dead. One of the previously overused phrases in our culture was: “man, that’s really living,” to describe popularity, prosperity and human gravitas (power and influence). It reminds me of a story I heard about two gravediggers: they were told to dig the largest grave they had ever seen, fifteen feet long and six feet wide. They complained about the size and wondered about the casket. A Crane was brought to the gravesite. When they were finished, a Hearse pulled up with no family or friends, only a small casket. Then a Tractor Trailer pulled in and a Rolls Royce was rolled out. The Director and his helpers opened the casket and took a small body out and placed him in the driver’s seat. They positioned his hands on the wheel and pushed his frown into a smile. They then opened his eyes and the Crane lowered the car into the open grave. As the diggers looked, on said to the other, “man, that’s really living.”
The Walking Dead We Admire
Musicians, poets, actors and actresses: many have achieved great success with large homes, larger bank accounts and many accoutrements and accomplishments that make us admire their successes. Our admiration of the stuff of the walking dead should help us see our misguided priorities and our misplaced values
Paul wanted us to know that God has separated us from the living dead and made us truly alive. It was his heart’s desire that we know that we are the living among the dead and that we are more than what we ever where outside of Jesus. Life without Christ means no assurance, no resurrection power, without hope. Living dead means living apart from God. All of us begin this way, as no one is born in right relationship with God. We have all sinned (hamartia) and fallen short of the mark, and have crossed the line of demarcation (paraptoma)and have been disqualified. We sin when we willingly walk outside of the LORD, crossing into the forbidden zone. Paul describes three dominating incarcerations that keep the spiritually dead, dead. And alienated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18), the world, the devil and the flesh.
A Worldly Course
The dead spiritually walk “The course of this world.” The course is the present evil age and the world means society, the organized lifestyles and rules of humanity apart from God. The word Paul uses for walk means lifestyle, behavior or your chosen way of living. This is a life that is lived according to the standards, values and purposes, and goals of our culture. The walking dead are committed to their culture that produces corruption. They are cramming life into the few years they have with no regard for the future afterlife.
The walking dead also have a master whose control they are submitted too: “the prince of the power of the air.” The sad reality is this includes a lot of nice people, as the enemy rules the naughty and the nice. Satan’s strategy is a simple one, keep as many people away from Jesus as possible. His main ploy or tactic in doing this is seen in his ability to lock us into the satisfaction syndrome, where we are content with our life as it stands and with goals that are compatible with our culture. You know, where our securities become a secondary substitute for God.
Even more perverse is the truth that satan is the source of the evil that has gripped our humanistic society. Good people who are among the walking dead are frequent channels of the enemies schemes. This isn’t just winking at sin. This is people becoming active participants who perpetuate the evil customs and practices that extol carnality, the pursuit of pleasure and downgrade righteousness. Here me, every time people are dehumanized morality is discarded, people become denigrated and the enemy wins. He collects his trophies through sex, power and manipulation, as people gratify the longings of their fleshly desires. He also is a friend of combative competition, prejudices, hatred, gossip and envy. When we fall into the trap of the enemy, his ultimate design is accomplished, as we begin to think that God’s way isn’t a better option in this life. When this happens, we get imprisoned.
Skin Deep Flesh?
Not on your life! Being counted among the walking dead means that the pursuit of our desires can be corrupt. The meaning of flesh in the Bible is more than skin deep. The way Paul is using the term is more in line with the self centered life that manifests when we are in control and we are living under our own dominion. We eventually excise ourselves from feeling that we need God and we really don’t want Him interfering in our affairs. This heart condition leads us to a place of defiance and determination to run our own lives until some tragedy snaps us into spiritual reality. People who are under the sway of the world’s course are really under satan’s power and influence, and their addiction to the flesh makes them by nature “children of wrath.” The exercise of our willful independence subjects us to wrath. When we become aware of this, hopefully it shocks our system into a response.
This exclamation, but God, is the compelling point of grace. God has intervened on our behalf and raised us out of our tombs of sin, despair, fear and anxiety. Ephesians 2:4-7 is a powerful statement. If these were the entirety of our revelation, we would know our inheritance! God has saved you, resurrected you and adopted you! The propitious parenthesis “by grace you have been saved” is the source of all things good in God! In the Greek, saved is a perfect participle. This means it has continuing results. You were saved, you are being saved and you will be saved. Saved means delivered, wholeness and healing coupled with freedom. Salvation is just one aspect, however. We are being raised to a new life level. The resurrected life isn’t just a rehashing or refining of your talents and abilities. Galatians 2:20 says it best: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
This is the resurrected life. It is a life of surrender. It is a life of sacrifice. It is a life of living in the enjoyment of God. We have a new perspective and new authority. We are seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Jesus is able to lift us beyond the confines of the pressures of this life. We are becoming heavenly minded so that we can be of earthly good. The word for workmanship is poiema, which is where our word poem comes from. It speaks of something that is made and often refers to things of beauty and perfection. It also speaks of flow, symmetry, order and balance. We have been created in Christ for nothing less. Let the LORD shape you into the beautiful person He wants you to be!
Paul is echoing what John saw for the overcomers in Revelation 3:21, To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. This is a promise to claim. While we stand on earth, we are also sitting on a throne.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Eph. 1:15-23, 3:14-21; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-12). Remember, this our hope, our confident expectation! God deals with us in Christ, not on our past, but on the basis of our future. He told Gideon the coward that he was a man of “faith and valor (Judges 6:12).” To Andrew’s brother, Jesus said, “You are Simon (pebble) … but you will be Cephas (a stone) (John 1:12).” Gideon became valorous and Simon became Peter the rock. As a believer, you live in the future tense, with your life being controlled by what you will be in the age to come when Jesus returns for us.
This becomes a partial reality as we bring the future in the present as we learn of and experience God’s power demonstrated in our lives. The church was challenged by Paul to see the Hand of the LORD as a superior hand, as he spoke of the “exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).” Have you ever needed to have a vocabulary lesson? That’s what happens when the passage addresses power, as all five words for power are used in one verse. We have a LORD who sits “far above” all “arche,” or rule,” exousia,” authority, “dunamis” as in dynamo/dynamic power; “energia” or working as in energy; “kratos” which is mighty and “ischus” which is power “kyriotetos” dominion. This lesson from Rosetta Stone wasn’t just to show off. It was to let us in on Heaven’s secret: Jesus is greater and stronger than all other forces in the spiritual realm. Jesus has been raised up far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named (RSV).”
An interesting aspect of the words Paul uses is that they are all words that were used to designate the rank and order of Angels and demons in Paul’s day. As Paul draws his thoughts to a close in the first chapter, Paul gives the church its highest title: the body of Christ. This is important, as you need to know what we are doing here as people. Jesus mission was huge. He came to bring harmony to all the discordant elements of the universe. Sin had produced a crop of disunity. Jesus died to make us one.
His death for us can be equated to finding a cure for cancer. The discoverer would not be the only one to inoculate the world. It take an army of trained professionals to administer the cure. That’s us. We are the army of doctors and nurses who have been commissioned to bring the cure for sin. We are the compliment to Christ. All of this to bring us to the next salient truth about us: most of us are agnostics about the power of the resurrected Christ. We don’t enter into the implications of what His resurrection means for us as an agency for victorious living.