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Sermon for Sunday, September 12, 2004, by Brad Werner, Gateway To Grace Fellowship, Tower

Grove, MO

“Jesus Can Change Your Life”

Please turn with me to Ephesians chapter 2

A man named Paul wrote a letter to some people at a place called Ephesus near the end of his
life and in it he tells them that God has good news for them regarding their past, present, and future.

Read with me please from Ephesians 2:1-10

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in 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. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of
our sinful nature[1] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of
wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised
us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the
coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in
Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it
is the gift of God-- 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Will you pray with me?

About YEAR a man and a woman had a very interesting talk. (Or one we can learn from…one
we might have today, etc.) The woman looked as though she was wearing red bandana
handkerchiefs all pieced together. She had a shawl on her head and sparkling sequins on her
forehead. She came and sat down beside the then, very well known, preacher, - Harry Ironsides,
who had just gotten on a train which he was taking between ministry assignments. After she sat
down she immediately began to speak to him.
She said, "How are you Mister? Would you like to have your fortune told?”
He said, "Oh, are you going to tell me my fortune?"

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She held out a winsome little palm and said, "Sir, if you'll cross this palm with a silver quarter, I'll do
better than that. I'll not only reveal your future, but your past and present as well."
"You are very sure you can do that if I give you a quarter? You see, I'm Scottish," he said, "and
should hate to part with a quarter and not get proper exchange for it."
The woman looked strangely at him and then said very insistently, "Yes sir, I can give you your
past, present and future. I never fail; I have wonderful abilities. Cross my palm with a quarter, please
sir, and I will tell you all."

How would you have responded in this situation? How do you respond in the face of the
fortunetellers of our day? Of course, in our sophisticated society train cars and silver quarters have
given way to trance channeling, late night psychic television ads and 900 numbers. We have courses
that promise to teach you how to be rich and prosperous, diets that will change your life, and the
“Spirituality” section of the bookstore grows almost weekly. We all know fortunetellers are alive and
well. Could the reason for this be that basic human longings really haven't changed? We would love
to change mistakes we’ve made in the past. We daydream about living big lives full of meaning in the
present. And we want a future filled with all kinds of good things.

We all seem to have a certain pull to look back sometimes. We would love to take some words
back or wonder what life would be like if we’d made different choices. Did you know that there are
studies which suggest that more than half of American males, in mid-life, carry secrets in their past
personal lives which they believe, if were revealed would bring about terrible consequences for them,
and their families? The Ephesians were no different - Dead in transgressions and sins; following the
ways of the world and the spirit which leads to disobedience; gratifying the cravings of the sinful
nature, following its desires and thoughts. It sounds to me like the Ephesians might have had some
secrets of their own. Dead in transgressions and sins: the bible doesn’t say what they were doing,
but people haven’t changed that much. They were doing things they knew they shouldn’t. And they
had become dead. Once we do something we know is wrong, like giving in to an addiction, raging at
a spouse, stealing what isn’t ours, it gets easier next time. Our heats harden. We can become
addicted, full of guilt, or just plain stuck. And because of these things, verse 3 tells us that they
objects of God’s wrath.

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Some of you might be thinking, “A God of wrath? I don’t believe in a God of wrath, I believe in
a God of love.” Me too. But it’s a very costly love. Read with me verses 4 and 5. “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, the point is, we’re so screwed up that
someone had to come from heaven and die to save us. But we’re so loved that he was glad to do it.

Maybe you're haunted by the guilt of a secret sin even right now? Maybe you can’t stop
heading to the internet porn sites, maybe you’re dealing with a secret substance addiction, maybe
you rage at those you love, maybe you’ve stolen, cheated, lied, whatever. It's quite possible you're
sitting there thinking - "If the people in this church knew the things I've done - and that I still do - I
wouldn't even be welcome here." Let me tell you, you are welcome here. How do you think we
came? You see; our sin and guilt are barriers to our relationship with God. The bad news is you are
more sinful and fallen than you ever dared believe. If you’ve ever tried to give up something you
know is wrong for you, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever tried to go one day without
saying anything bad about someone else, you know what I’m talking about. And those of you who
wrestle with guilt, and who grew up learning about God as a big angry “Principal in the Sky” know
what I’m talking about. But at the same time the good news is you are more loved than you ever
dared imagine. If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, God will never be angry with you because he
poured out his anger on Christ at the cross in your place.

But what good is a changed past if your life is meaningless? Or maybe you’re life’s not
meaning less, but it just feels like something should be different.

God will transform your present if you'll trust Christ completely. This is important because so
many people find they are not really getting satisfaction out of life. As an example I would point to an
article that was in the Post – Dispatch some year ago re: former St. Louis sportscaster Zip Rzeppa.
Here was a guy who soared to the top in his field and really changed the way local TV sports casting
was done. At his zenith in 1995 he was the highest paid sportscaster in the history of the market,
pulling down an annual salary of more than $250,000 a year. He later quit sports casting and tried his
hand at corporate training. Trying to make executives, earning $75,000 a year, more effective. But it
wasn't for him.

He didn't find his niche until he took a 92% pay cut and joined an inner-city evangelistic program run
by a nonprofit Catholic group. He now strolls through neighborhoods strewn with broken bottles
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where steel bars protect the windows, in this environment he spreads the good news rather than
sports news. In the article he says, "I used to drive a $41,000 car, now I'm driving a $13,000 car. I
used to have my shirts custom made, now I buy them at Sears." But the article says he downplays
the culture shock. "It's part of learning what life is really about," he says. "The cars, the houses, the
fancy vacations - they don't mean much to me now. It's about doing the will of God and loving other
people." We run after our achievements and trophies, don’t we? Only to find out they never really
satisfy.

Really, think about it. Why would this man say he doesn’t miss the cars, the vacations, the
good life? What makes the most sense is that he knows, like we all do at some level, that even when
things are going pretty well, something’s not quite right. And as the love of Jesus soaked more
deeply into his heart, he found what he was looking for. Then he WANTED to share this love with
other. The startling claim of the gospel is that you will find yourself only when you live for someone
other than yourself. The gospel doesn’t say we’re all going to take huge pay cuts, or have ministry as
our paying job. What it does teach us, is that left on our own, we’ll worry about ourselves: What
makes us happy, how successful we are, how much people like us, the list goes on and on. And all of
this self focus doesn’t make us any happier. We still feel empty and frustrated. Through Jesus Christ
we can know God's incredible love and presence, which alone will give us meaning.

Verse 10. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which
God prepared in advance for us to do.” You can stop hoping you will make a difference and know for
sure that you were created to do good works, which God will guarantee that you will accomplish?
Kingdom

But what good is meaning and significance in the present, if you're paralyzed with fear of the
future? How do you see your future, through the eyes of fear or hope? When you were a kid, did you
open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas day? My family opened ours on Christmas
morning and man did I look forward to that. I would mark the days on the calendar as Christmas
grew closer and look forward to that wonderful day with intense childlike anticipation. I'd leave
cookies and milk for the old bearded guy and then I'd go to bed early because my child’s mind
thought that would bring morning that much quicker.

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After I was in bed I'd look out my bedroom window and strain my eyes into the clear, late
December night sky, trying to get a glimpse of "you know who". I'm still pretty sure I saw him once or
twice.

That's hope and anticipation. Read with me vv. 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.” Jesus
Christ lived the life that we should have lived and died the death that we should have died, in our
place so that we can have all the spiritual benefits that only he deserves. Do you long for someone
who will love you and never let you down? You can have a future based in the very character of a
loving God who has delivered your hope through His Son. When we put our faith in Christ we are
immediately seated with Him in the heavenly realms. Nothing will ever separate the believer from the
love of God; "and why is this" you ask "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." MAYBE USE
MESSAGE TRANSLATION) With this kind of love you don’t have to have that relationship to be
happy. You don’t have to get that promotion. Sure those things are great. But as you spend more
time with Jesus, you grow more and more secure.

You might be thinking, how do I trust Christ? I'm glad you asked, because Paul has answered
this question for us in verses 8 and 9. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this
not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." By grace means
you can't earn it. Through faith means you just open your arms to receive the gift of God. Basically,
God is perfect, we are not. We don’t deserve his love, and we can’t boast when we receive it. It
doesn't matter how many houses you build for Habitat for Humanity, how many Jr. High Sunday
School classes you teach or even how many dollars or thousands of dollars you give to the church or
World Vision. This faith to believe in Christ is a gift of God. Open your arms to Christ.

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"Cross my palm with a quarter sir, and I will tell you all." Harry Ironsides said to the woman,
"This really isn't necessary for I've had my fortune told already, and I have a little book in my pocket
that gives me my past, present and future."
"You have it in a book?" she said,
"Yes, and it's absolutely infallible. Let me read it to you, "then he pulled out his New Testament
and turned to the second chapter of Ephesians. Here is my past. “ 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
lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and
thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”

"Oh, yes," she said; "it is plenty, I do not care to hear more."
"But, I want to give you my present also," he said as he gently touched her arm, "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. And God raised us up with Christ and seated
us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus."
"That’s enough, mister," she said; "I do not wish to hear any more." "Oh but there is so much
more and I want you to know my future, "in order that in the coming ages He might show the
incomparable riches of His grace, expressed through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Maybe you feel like the woman. The things Jesus said seem so outrageous or so remote that
you find yourself saying to me “That’s enough mister.” Yet I imagine something brought you here, and
I’d encourage you to keep checking out the claims of this wild man Jesus. Maybe you find yourself
saying “YES! This is the best news I’ve ever heard.” Keep checking it only gets better. Find me or
one of the people who raise their hands…we’ll be happy to talk to you further. Maybe you’re saying,
I’ve heard this, I know it’s true, but it doesn’t feel true right now. Oh, but it is. Remember, life with
Jesus means there’s a RELATIONSHIP. There’s always room for growth, and deepening. Talk to him
and to other people who trust Him about where His forcast doesn’t seem true.

If you'll trust Jesus He'll transform you and change your past by removing your sins and guilt
and giving you His righteousness. He'll change your present by giving you newness of life and
meaning and purpose through the good works He has planned for you to do. God will secure your
future by giving you a sure hope and promising His continued kindness to you through Christ in the
coming ages. Friends, Jesus can change your life.

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You need to look no further than this table to understand the sacrifice Christ has made to bring
you to God. He alone is worthy of your trust.

When you put your trust in Him, you'll know that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--
and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works so that no one can boast."