Greg Laurie — Your Past, Present, and Future
You know from time to time we all wonder about our future don't we? What is going to happen? What is in my future? My near future. My distant future. Sometimes people are desperate and they might look at a fortune cookie. How many of you like fortune cookies? I actually like the way they taste. Then there are those funny things they put in them. Here is a list of actual sayings inside of fortune cookies. I am not making any of these up. One cookie said, pulling out the little message, "You laugh now but wait until you get home". Wow. That is comforting. I like this one. A very profound insight. "When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out". Because that is what is inside. I love those insights about life there.
Here is another one. This is true for sure. "You will be hungry again in one hour". Right. These are real. I am not making them up. "The fortune you seek is in another cookie". Then some person with a good sense of humor wrote this down. "Cookie said you really crack me up". Then this one I thought was really cute. "Help I am being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery". My favorite of all of the little sayings I came across was this. "Confucius say, 'if you think you are going to sum up your whole life on this little bit of paper you are crazy.'" That is true isn't it? But seriously though.
People will go to astrologers and palm readers and read their astrology columns in the newspaper or buy books about that actually thinking that these frauds know the future when they don't. Having said that I am going to tell you tonight I know your future. I hope this doesn't concern you. I know your past too. I know quite a bit about your present. You are saying, "Greg are you losing your mind"? Wait a second. I found it all in the verses that we are going to read together here in Ephesians 2. Here we find the past, present, and future of every believer. First there is our past.
Verses 1-3. Let's read together. Ephesians 2:1-3 "You he has made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom you once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others". That is your past. Here is your present. Verses 4-5. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sin made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)". Finally your future. Verse 7. "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus".
Your past, your present, and your future. Here is your past. I don't have to know details about what you used to do or what your particular lifestyle was. I just know this about you because the Bible says it is true of every believer in Jesus. Ephesians 2:1. "You he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. You he made alive". It is not hard for us to believe that certain people in this world are wicked. Right. Take ISIS. It is not hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this is a group of very wicked people. Recently they killed 16 young boys because they dared to watch a soccer game and that was a violation of sharia law. They killed the boys for watching a soccer game. And then of course we know the beheadings and all of the things that they and other radical Islamic groups do.
We know they are wicked. We know that serial killer is wicked. We know that rapist is wicked. We know that. It is easy to accept that fact. It is hard for us to think of ourselves as wicked. We always cut ourselves a lot more slack than we cut to other people don't we? Have you ever noticed how you can be so short tempered with somebody else doing something you often do? Maybe you are at the light waiting to go. The person waits one-quarter of a second. The horn. I just woke up four people. "What? Is it over"? No. It is just starting. Then you see they were texting. "Texting. Shouldn't be texting". Have you ever done it where you are the front of the line? Just checking. I am not driving. I am waiting for the light. Yeah but you did that. You do the same things you get mad at other people for doing. We think we are a bit if not a lot better than other people. Right. Guess what? God doesn't see it that way.
Two words jump out of this text. The first one is the word you. You he made alive. Ephesians 2:1. Who were dead in sin. He made you alive. It is always other people who are bad. Never us. We can keep those bad people out. I am going to put a lock on my front door and put another lock. Put a lock on top of a lock. I am going to have a dog on top of the lock just balancing. Snarling and snapping. Keep the bad people out. Did you ever stop and think there might be a bad person inside. Who? Where? It is you. We don't like to accept that. It is always somebody else. If it is a relationship. We have problems with people. It is them. It is always them. It is never us.
If it is a marriage. If they come in for marital counseling. I have never heard a couple come in and had one of the people say, the husband or the wife, "You know what. The whole issue here is me. I am the problem. I am the selfish one. I am the one that messing this up. Tell me how to be a better husband". Or she says, "Tell me how to be a better wife". It is always she said, he said, and back and forth they go. It is always the other person. It is always that teacher or that boss or that neighbor or that preacher. Or that cop or those parents. Or the husband or the wife. It is never you. Here is what God says. "You are the one. You are the problem. You are the sinner". So the first operative word is you. The second word is dead. You are dead in your sins.
God is calling out little old me and little old you. We used to go with the flow. We went with the current. Listen. Any old fish can go downstream. It takes a live one to go upstream. We were dead in our sin. We just went downstream with all of the other dead fish and all of the other garbage and sewage until we came alive in Christ and we changed our direction. In verses 2 to 3 Paul identifies the three enemies the Christian faces. They are the world, the flesh, and the devil. Our opponents if you will are not one another. We are not trying to beat other Christians or to show them up. No. Our enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil.
What does the Bible mean when it speaks of the world? This refers to a system of thought. It is a mentality. It is a way of living that is embraced by most. The world essentially encompasses satan's realm and domain. In fact the Bible even calls him the God of this world. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, "Satan the God of this evil world has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the good news that is shining on them. They don't understand the message we preach about the glory of Christ who is the exact likeness of God".
So we look at these evil things happening in our world. Sometimes the pundits will scratch their heads in dismay after there is a horrific act of violence committed. We just don't know why these people do these things. I do. There is a devil. There is evil. Some people are just downright possessed by demons. Thus they do demonic things. When you see something beyond the pale, outside of the box of even evil you know the devil has been at work there. That is what is going on. The God of this world. What is the world? The best definition I know is found in 1 John 2:16. You ought to write this down. "All that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the father but of the world".
By the way that essentially encompasses temptation in all of its forms. First there is the lust of the flesh. God has given us certain physical drives. We have a drive for water. A drive for food. A drive for sleep. A drive obviously to breathe. Even a God-given sexual drive. There is a difference between eating to live and living to eat. There is a difference between getting a good night's rest as opposed to being a lazy bum. There is a difference between sex in marriage and sex outside of it. God given desires taken out of their natural place and living according to the flesh. Kind of like whatever you want to do you just do it. Galatians 5:19 says, "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature the results are clear. Sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, arguing, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness, wild parties. I have told you before, and I tell you again," Paul says, "If you do these things you will not inherit the kingdom of God".
That is the lust of the flesh. It is pretty obvious. It is around us every day everywhere. It is on our TV screens. It is on the movie screens. It is on the radio. It is on the internet. It is on billboards. Wherever you go there it is. The lust of the flesh. It is not hard to figure out. Then there is the lust of the eyes according to 1 John. The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. What is the difference? You might pride yourself and say, "I don't do any of those things. I have never done any of those things". Let me ask you this. Do you wish you could do those things? Do you think about doing those things? Do you live in a fantasy world where you see yourself doing those things?
See that was the issue with the pharisees. They prided themselves because outwardly they did not commit certain sins but their hearts were full of sin and Jesus called them out on it. It drove them crazy. There are people that have the lust of the eyes. Satan knows if he can get you to take a look he can get you to bite the bait the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and listen. The pride of life. This is one that people often miss. There will be those folks who are relatively moral compared to a depraved society. They are well-educated, cultured, and perhaps even religious. Actually they don't run around on their husband or wife. They don't steal. They don't lie. They don't do these things that are so often identified as sin and justly so. In fact these people want to make themselves better. These people want to help their fellow man.
With all of these qualities they think "I am a wonderful person. Why do I need God"? You will preach the Gospel to them and they will say, "Go preach that to the people in prison so they don't rob me. I don't need it because I am a good person. I am better. I am even a religious person". Here is the phrase people love to use now. "I am spiritual". Has anyone ever told you about Jesus Christ you ask? "I am a very spiritual person". What does that mean exactly? It means that I am open. I am open to everything. I believe there is a spirit out there. I like to call him the spirit in the sky. This is the way they see life. They think they don't need your beliefs. Then there is this value system in the world today that is everywhere. You ever go into a movie and they have that surround sound and you hear when they kind of show you are watching it in surround sound you hear this voice. All around you. You are like with your popcorn.
That is the world. It is all around you. It permeates everything. You can't escape it. It is there. Those are the things that God is warning us about. The world. We used to live that way. What was the result? Verse 3. "We conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others". What does that mean? It means as a child of wrath you deserved to receive the judgment of God. Oh not me. Not me. There are people far worse. That may be true. But God doesn't grade on the curve. He is simply pointing out we all were this way. You might say, "God should get over it and forgive". Really? Maybe you need to understand that God is just and God is righteous and God is fair. We are so quick for him to condemn others but we never think he should condemn us. That is your past. Here is your present. "Even when we were dead in trespass and sin, made us alive with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus".
What does that even mean? Seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Actually I think I am seated on a seat on earth. Not in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Let's understand what Paul is saying by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Where is Christ right now? Ephesians 1:20 says, "The same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenlies (or in the heavenly realms) he is far above any ruler, authority, or power or leader or anything else in this world and in the world to come". Jesus is above everything. He is above world leaders. He is above the devil. He is above demons. He is above everyone and everything. You think, "That is great for Jesus. What does that have to do with me"? Well listen. The answer is it has everything to do with you because you are seated with Jesus.
This doesn't mean you are immune from temptation or attack. What it does mean is that you are not a victim to the devil because the power of Christ is around you. If you yield to him. I am speaking of yielding to Jesus you don't have to live a life of constant defeat. Some people are always down. They are always messing up. Every week. So the invitation is extended and they get saved again and again and again. You don't have to get saved again and again. You have been saved. Now start acting like a saved person. Take hold of the power that God has given. You don't have to constantly be living in spiritual defeat. I am not saying you will be perfect. Far from it. But I am saying you can grow and have strength you never knew was possible in your life.
Sometimes you will see certain people. You will say, "Hey man how are you doing"? "Fine. Under the circumstances". What are you doing under those? You are seated with Jesus. Satan doesn't want you to know this. He would you like to think that he is God's equal and he can pick us off at will. He doesn't want us to know we have all of these spiritual resources to draw on. He wants us to just surrender. Pull out the white flag and say, "Ok devil you win". Sort of like what Oscar Wilde said about temptation years ago. He said, "The only way I know of on getting rid of temptation is to give into it". Brilliant. Not. No. You can resist temptation. According to Ephesians you have incredible resources to draw upon. When you are tempted you can walk away. When you are offended you can keep quiet. When an opportunity comes to honor God you can seize it. It is there. The power is there.
"I don't feel it. Lord I am getting tempted. Give me the power". Don't be an idiot. Just walk away. "I can't. My legs don't work". They work. Walk away. I think we sort of think of it like Popeye. Remember Popeye. He always got himself in trouble with Brutus. That skinny girl Olive Oyl was being taken. Why did he even want Olive Oyl? Seriously Popeye. You could do better I think. She was a very attractive woman. I retract that statement. For a cartoon character. But what happened was he always had his can of spinach. Sometimes it is in his pocket. He is trying to get it out. He uses his pipe to suck the spinach. Then the muscles pop out. Popeye says, this isn't like a can of spinach. The power is there. Don't wait to feel it. Just start using it.
Sort of like you are behind the wheel of a powerful car. "It doesn't go very fast. It is just sitting here". Press on that little pedal called the accelerator and make sure your seatbelt is on. Here is all of this horsepower under the engine given to us by God and we are waiting for a feeling or an emotion. We need to start living up to our name. Christians. We saw our past. We saw our present. Here is our future. God saved us. He brought us out of our spiritual deadness. Why? Look at this. "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace and his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus". Why did God raise me to new life? What was his motive? The answer is in the seventh verse and is introduced by the word that. Or in order that. Or with the objective in view. God chose us. He adopted us. He raised us up from spiritual death.
For what? Check this out. Just to show you how much he loves you. He can't wait to reveal the glory he has waiting for you. He is so looking forward to you coming to heaven. Have you ever had a loved one that was away and you couldn't wait for them to get home. Maybe you did something. Maybe you painted the house. You did something wonderful. "I can't wait for them to get here". Why? You want to show them this thing. That is how God is. He just can't wait for us to join him in glory. Jesus in John 17 in the true Lord's prayer prayed this. "We may be with him where he is". He wanted us to be with him where he is. "That we might behold his glory which the father has given him".
Have you ever been to an unbelievable place like a killer vacation spot or an amazing meal? Do you keep it to yourself? "I don't want anyone to ever hear about this place again". No. You share it. You want them to enjoy it. That is how God feels. No wonder being in heaven is a place of fullness of joy and on his right hand pleasures forevermore. Is that your hope in closing. And I am really closing now. I have talked about the past, present, and future of every person.
Listen. If you are not a believer yet you are in the first two categories. Your past. Primarily your past. Your past is hey here is the problem. You just go with the flow. You do what everybody else does. You live in sin. Maybe it is overt sin like the lust of the flesh. Maybe it is more private mental sin like the lust of the eyes. Maybe it is arrogance thinking you are better than other people like the pride of life. Bottom line. It is sin and you miss the Mark. There is nothing you can do to be a perfect person. You say, "Greg are you suggesting that you are perfect"? Of course not. No one is perfect. That is where Jesus comes in.