As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins...Ephesians 2:1
This is the apostle's great analysis of the problem, the difficulty that Jesus Christ faces when He comes to a man or a woman. And what it takes to break through this condition is nothing less than the immeasurable greatness of His power. It is extremely difficult for us to believe that we are dead. If you approach a student in the prime of youth who is involved with friends in all kinds of exciting activities and is looking forward to building a life of independence and you say,
You're dead, the youth will look at you with eyes full of pity and say,
What kind of person are you, some kind of nut?
But listen to Paul's analysis, and you will see how true this is. For there are two basic characteristics of dead people: one is their utter impotence, their powerlessness. A friend recalled an incident when a young man who was working part-time at a mortuary took him on a tour of the place one night. They came into the room where the bodies were lying out on slabs, and he pulled back a sheet and said,
Tell him about Jesus. He said,
I've never forgotten that! How impotent is a person who is dead! How absolutely hopeless it is for him to respond to any appeal in his condition.
The second is corruption. The reason mortuaries exist is that dead bodies tend to deteriorate. In the story of Lazarus, Martha said to Jesus,
By this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days (John 11:39). That is also a mark of death--corruption. The apostle uses two words that relate to those two conditions, and these are the reasons he says that people without Christ are dead. First, he uses the word transgressions. This is a word that means
to miss your step. We are guilty of missteps. We don't mean to do it, but we end up missing the way. We start out with great ideals, with an image of what we would like to be. We aim at that, but somewhere we miss the mark. We don't fulfill our ideals or realize our dreams. That is the impotence of human life. That is a mark of the death that is present in humanity everywhere.
But beyond that, there are our sins. We sin when we violate what we know to be the truth. This is what creates the downward slant, the deterioration of life. Most of us start out with rather high ideals and wholesome attitudes. We approach life with good moral standards because of the homes and training we have had. And we are the ones who find it most difficult to believe this passage. Yet all of us can remember that some of the things we do now with utter disregard and total acceptance horrified us when they were first suggested to us. And even when we first did them, we were uneasy of spirit. But now they have become commonplace, and we indulge without any difficulty at all. That marks the deteriorating faculty in life. This is a mark of death, an increasing corruption, which produces this terrible sense of hopelessness and deterioration that troubles us so on every side in human society today.
I Praise You, Father, that You dare to tell me the truth even though I don't want to hear it. You lay it before me in the simplest of terms, and I run from it and refuse to look at it. Thank You that you do not leave me in this hopeless state.
God's infinite grace enables us to receive His gift which provides the cure for the human dilemma. What are the two basic characteristics of dead people?