If one is in sin there is the tendency to deny the seriousness of the condition in which one finds himself. “Sin really isn’t so bad,” some rationalize. “I know there are some things I need to straighten up – some day – but not now” is the thinking of many. Still others deny the reality of sin. “There is no such thing as sin” they say, “one just has some personal issues that really don’t matter to anyone else.”
But how serious is death? There isn’t anything more serious, is there? Yet that is the condition of everyone who is in sin – they are dead. Spiritually dead. Dead to God. Dead to the life human beings were intended to live. Dead while yet walking around. Paul described the former life of those who had become Christians this way;
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3).
This is the condition of everyone who is yet in sin. Their spiritual relationship is with “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” or Satan.
But notice that Paul states this in the past tense regarding the people to whom he was writing. They “were dead,” they “once walked,” “everyone once lived,” they “were by nature children of wrath.” Something had happened that had made this past tense. Something more wonderful than any sinner could dare to dream. Against the bleak picture of their former lives painted by the apostle in verses 1-3 the apostle paints one of the most amazing panoramas of the blessedness of their present status before God.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Notice that little phrase – “But God…” That little word “but” is emphatic. It reverses the picture of their lost and hopeless situation that had been true in the past. These one time sinners had been “made…alive together with Christ,” had been “raised…up with him,” had been saved and “seated…with him in the heavenly places.” He gave them a new purpose in their new life – that those who are saved might be a living demonstration throughout the coming ages of “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
All these things were done by God. A dead person cannot do anything. God makes the sinner alive. He raises us up from our spiritual deadness. He exalts us to the heavenly places. God had made the difference between their past and their present.
Why did God do this? What causes him to take a dead sinner and give him new life and new purpose? Paul said it was because he is “rich in mercy.” It was because of his love manifested in his rich mercy that brought their salvation. It is because of that same mercy or “loving-kindness” anyone is saved today.
How rich is the mercy of God? In Romans 5:6-11 Paul says that while we were “weak,” “still sinners” and “enemies,” at the “right time Christ died for the ungodly.” That is the pitiable state in which all sinners find themselves. It was the mercy of God that sent his Son to die for miserable sinners. Mercy is God’s desire to relieve that misery. It is his feeling of tender compassion that moved him to provide the means for man to be reconciled to himself.
In view of the mercies of God, how should those who are saved respond? Paul answers this question in Romans 12:1.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
When we consider what God has done for us, the least we can do is to do the most possible – give ourselves as living sacrifices to him. This sacrifice is one freely and willingly offered by the individual of his whole self. Unlike the sacrifices offered under the law of irrational animals, we freely decide that the sacrifice of one’s own self is the appropriate offering to God in view of his mercy toward us. When we do this, everything we do from then on will be based on our realization and experience of his mercy.
Because of this realization of the mercy of God the Christian will not allow himself to be stuffed into the mold of worldliness, becoming like those who have no respect or reverence for God. They will rather be changed, transformed like a lowly caterpillar metamorphoses into a beautiful butterfly, changed into the kind of person who lives by the understanding that the will of God is not just the best way for men to live but the only way that brings genuine life and hope. By living in that way, based on what God has in his mercy done for us, the Christian experiences the good and perfect will of God in their lives – a life of loving service that gives true honor, homage or worship to God.