It’s a big deal to turn something dead into something alive and it’s just as big a deal to turn an unproductive life into that which is living vibrant and good. I love this series on cultivating a living faith in my heart races. Every time I hear that tractor fire up, many of you know what I mean. As we think about the season planting season coming up. When you think about the inputs that need to go on in the field in order for there to be a harvest, I was born and raised on a farm in South Dakota, but before I was 10 years old, we moved. So I never really got to work the family farm. But in my young twenties, I got my farmer fix by being able to be a custom farmer for two years in Eastern Colorado where. Across four different farms. We, we worked 20,000 acres, 10,000 in winter wheat, 10,000 in ranch land. Kind of just not even really pasture land, just kind of unused land that we would then sod bust out and prepared to be planted with wheat in the fall. I mean, it’s, it was truly amazing to be sitting there in the corner of a section of land, a square mile of land, 640 acres, and think about how we’re going to create something new. A field of wheat eventually, and starting out with, you know, about either 36 or 42 feet of chisel plow and four inch spikes and scoring the land and coming back with 18 inch shovels later on and turning the dirt over, and then finally bringing a 42 foot tandem disc to bear on the land and pulverizing the soil and just creating this beautiful field ready to be planted with seed. Hmm. It was something to see so many acres of land unproductive turn into arable fields, and the reason I begin the sermon with the story this morning is to make this point that ranch land left to itself would not have become a productive field in and of itself. It needed something outside of it to come and bring a transformation. A change and there’s a spiritual parallel I believe for us today, and it’s in our text. It’s in Ephesians chapter two, and just a heads up, if you have your Bibles or devices, you can turn to Ephesians chapter two. I’ll read that in just a little bit. This text talks about turning that which is dead and seeing it transformed into, into that which is alive and able. To bear fruit, much like that ranch land turned into fields of wheat. So too spiritual change, new spiritual life doesn’t happen all on its own for you and for me to become spiritually alive and vibrant and productive, it takes the work of God outside of ourselves. As God then works in us and as he creates a new spiritual being in us, something that we are not able to do. On our own. So that’s what we’re looking at today in our sermon in this series, cultivating a Living of Living Faith. And so listen along or follow along as I read the first 10 verses of from the book of Ephesians chapter two. And it’s gonna finish with some very familiar verses for those of us brought up in the church.
And we’re gonna dive into it now, the scripture says, 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 and those who are disobedient, all of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts like the rest. We were by nature deserving of wrath. 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 seeded 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. And can you say this from memory or follow along the screen with me? Let’s say it together. For it is by grace, you have been saved through faith, and this is not from ourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast for you. Are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do the word of the Lord God, join me in prayer. Father in heaven, your word is truth. It’s powerful. It brings new life. And it’s because of you. Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. We love you and thank you for your sacrifice and power and reign. Reigning over sin and death and ruling over us as our savior of love. And now Holy Spirit, come and speak into our hearts that we might know who we are in Jesus Christ and whose. We are as your dear children, and may we be freed to live lives of joy, of love, and of gratitude and living into the good things you’ve prepared for us in advance. I ask this to the glory of the name of Jesus, in which I pray. Amen. Well, dear friends, grace to you and peace from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Many of you have been welcoming me, welcoming me back after my 10 day trip to South Africa. Thank you. And it’s, it’s fun to say, it’s great to be back. It’s great to be home. It was also a powerful trip, and I’ll be able to share more in the weeks ahead with what’s going on. But, um, I got to be on a vision trip with a mission partner of ours called Orchard. Africa and to see what God, how God has prepared and sent them into his mission in South Africa. We as a church here at Victory have partnered with Orchard for over 12 years, and I gotta say Orchard is, is every bit as good and more than what I had learned beforehand. And, and now get to share some with you in, in the weeks ahead. But what I wanna focus on this morning is, is kind of where Orchard serves and how it relates to our text today. So this is our mission partner in the country of South Africa, bottom of the African continent. And there they serve in two primary locations. One is right at the Southern tip at the Cape by Cape Town in an urban setting, actually in a. Poverty stricken shanty town called aliche. Over 3 million people who live in abject poverty. 10 by 10 zinc shacks crammed next to each other with no S space in between as far as the eye can see. That was. An amazingly powerful thing to see, and yet God has called orchard and we get to partner with them in churches, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ, and then the hope of living life. Now Orchard has this wonderful, um, continuum of, of intervention, of inputs, if you will, of of relief work, feeding programs, of redevelopment training. And then also of a reconstruction and then development work, helping people live productive lives and making changes. House to house and village to village. So that’s in the rural urban setting. Up in the northwest is the rural setting of these villages. Out in nowheresville villages, that time and development have forgotten and overlooked people living. In, in abject poverty there as well, not able to feed themselves. And so with our mission partner, orchard Africa, we’re able to come in and take care of the immediate food needs as well as the reconstruction and develop development work, changing that part of Africa Village by village over the course of a generation. There’s so much more that could be said, but it, it was just amazing to see. Um, how effective we get to be in partnering with Orchard and making a kingdom impact in the urban and the rural settings.
One of the things that was common in both settings is the unproductive land on which they live in the shanty town. They don’t have much of it, and much of that was San. In the northern province, while there was still some more land, it was untended, it was un uncultivated. It was basically barren. Some of that was due to what happened after the Bo war at the turn of the 19th century or 20th century, 18 hundreds to 19 hundreds, where the victors actually poured sand over thousands upon thousands of acres to make them unproductive. For those who live in the urban areas, they just don’t have much soil. And what they do have is ma basically sand. So in both situations, the bareness of the land renders those people unable to feed themselves or earn any kinda living from the land. Enter Orchard, Africa, our mission partner and us here at Victory, being able to partner with them who bring in from an outside resource. Uh, a, a couple of ways in which to change that soil dynamic. It’s basically using a worm farm. And what orchard has developed are these crates that kinda like milk crates that sit on top of each other, and they have some worms that they introduce to the, like the banana peels and all the, the waste, the organic waste you can throw out. And over time they’ll water it and they’ll make compost. And some of you probably have done that yourselves. But in this part of Africa, in the shanty town and in the rural areas, they, it’s, they can’t buy compost. Their land is unproductive. So the church comes in and brings these worm farms home to home through the churches and in which people are then able to over time. Grow their own compost. I think we’ve got a, a couple of pictures of what this looks like. Uh, and that’s a warm farm right behind that hand. And then, uh, this is t n o who’s showing, uh, the compost that then is given to these families through the church. That orchard is in resourcing and we are partnering with, and people are able to start growing their own food, whether it’s in a, a home garden. Uh, or, uh, in the shanty town in vertical farming, they, the church has a community garden that people can come and start to fe to grow food to feed themselves. That’s one of the inputs from the outside that Orchard brings in. The other is a byproduct from. The worm farm, the water that gets drained through, that gets collected on the bottom and they store it in, you know, these disposable plastic containers, one liter bottles, and it’s this colored water that’s called worm tea. It’s from the worm farm itself, and it’s a potent fertilizer. And so here’s how one, uh, veg pod.com describes it. Uh, the Warm Juice is another name for it. The best fertilizer you can use, natural or otherwise, and it’s free. So warm juice known as Liquid Gold. This magical elixir that provides billions of good microbes, such as fungi and helpful nitrogen. Fixing back, uh, fixing bacteria to your plants and veggies. So Orchard is able to bring in through these worm farms in people’s homes and then through the impact centers to distribute it new soil in which food can be grown. And then the fertilizer used to grow. It inputs from outside of these people’s experience what that changes their lives forever.
And here’s the parallel point I wanna make. That your life and mine, apart from Christ, it’s dead and barren, but our life in Christ is new. Something God does brings in from the outset of our lives, and as our text said in verse four, 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 our transgressions, it is God’s grace given to us through faith in Jesus Christ that transforms us from sandy barren land into rich soil that can bear fruit, and it’s done by God’s hand outside of ourselves. ’cause on our own we’re dead. But in Christ, we’re made new. It’s a new creation. We’re made alive. The old is gone. The new has come. Now, for all you who’ve been brought up into church, you know, this is a, a core foundation upon which our church, even here at Victory stands. It’s by grace through faith in Christ Jesus that we’re saved, not by works, nothing that we can do to earn or merit it. And we hear that scripture and we know it to be true, but I think sometimes it can become so familiar. We lose its vibrant meaning and impact in our day-to-day living. And here’s, I think maybe where we wrestle with it most, and that is we kind of mix up faith and works. Even in our text we hear you’re saved through faith, it’s a gift. And then there are these works that follow. But what comes first is so key, and I think where we can wrestle with this, maybe even on a subconscious level, and maybe by God’s Holy Spirit, some here today might be liberated from this wrestling we have where we are trying to earn God’s favor by how we live. If that’s you, how’s that going? If you’re at all like me, I mean, I don’t even meet my own expectations, let alone God’s. To earn God’s favor means perfection, and that’s just not me, and it’s probably not you. And yet we wanna, we live our lives, even as Christians striving to try to earn God’s favor. Do you remember the Sunday school song? Oh, be careful. Little Eyes, what you see. Oh, be careful. Little feet where you go, little hands. What you do for the father up above is looking down in what? Love. It didn’t feel that way to me as a kid. I’m like, oh man, God knows what I did. Rats. Oops. You know? Oh, I think we can live our lives that way as Christians today too. ’cause here’s the reality, friends, God knows what you do. The good, the bad, and the ugly. You know what? In Christ Jesus, he still loves you unconditionally, not because of who you are, what you do or don’t do, but because of who God is and what he has done for you in Christ Jesus. And I think we can wrestle with this mixing of faith and works and, and we live our Christian lives trying to please God and do good things out of a need to do them, to try to earn his favor when instead. God has created a new person in you and killed the old in Christ Jesus. We don’t need just to have our old self kind of bruised or reformed or made better. We need the old self to be crucified with Christ put to death as Anne Red Forest in Colossians and made and then be made alive in Christ as a new creation. What happens is this great exchange, as Martin Luther calls it, where we just bring to God our sin. It’s no surprise to him we confess it and what he’s faithful and just to forgive us, and then what does he grant us? Instead, he removes our sin from us. And he grants us Christ’s righteousness as our own.
Here’s how the Bible puts it in Second Corinthians five, God made him. That’s Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. What a great exchange. God takes our sin away from us and removes it as far as east as from the the West, and then grants you Christ’s righteousness as your own. Do you live your Christian life with a understanding and attitude that God loves you unconditionally, actually sees you as righteous as he sees his own son Jesus. Now, yes, I know that there is sin. We still wrestle with sin. This side of eternity. What’s the solution? God doesn’t reject us. Rather, when we are in Christ, he forgives us. When? When we confess our sin, God is what? Faithful and just to forgive us our sin. And so he gives us this gift of salvation and what happens to all who receive it? Well, it says, we said in our worship earlier to all who received him to who? Those who believe in his name, he gives the power to become children of God. So in Christ Jesus, you are God’s son or daughter whom he loves fully and unconditionally despite what you do in spite of what you do. Forgives you faithfully and justly in Christ Jesus. That should give us joy, security in our daily life. Freedom as we then live lives of gratitude and love others the way God has loved us in Christ Jesus. I’d like you to put your thinking caps on with me just for a little bit and, and talk with you about two different kinds of righteousness that kind of gets a little deeper into this issue.
So hang here. Hear our the seminary words. Imputed, righteousness infused. Righteousness infused. You might understand if you ever had like a drink infused with the flavor, you know, it’s water infused with raspberry, you know, tastes good. Whatever it is that’s infused. Infused righteousness is what happens when you try to combine the old and the new imputed is when you actually just replace the old with the new. It’s something God does. Imputed righteousness emphasizes that salvation is a gift from God and is completely independent from us and solely dependent upon him. That’s imputed righteousness, where infused righteousness emphasizes the responsibility of human beings to cooperate with God’s actions, to see their lives transformed.And so here’s the point I’m trying to get at. Do you try to live your life to become a better person? Now, please don’t get me wrong. I want you to be a better person. But left to your own devices. That’s something you can’t do apart from Christ Jesus, but in Christ, he’s actually taken away from you. The old person that’s bound to sin, killed it, crucified with Christ, and then raised you to new life in Christ Jesus. To bear fruit and do good works. Here’s how the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel writes about this. He says, I will give you, this is God speaking. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. In other words, he’s not trying to reform what’s there. It’s gonna be brand new. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Do any of you remember an old praise song called Change My Heart? Oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart. Oh God. May it be like you. That kinda has that infused grace infused righteousness field to it where it’s like, Lord, reform my heart, kind of change what’s there, rather than biblically, our old hearts of stone need to be removed from us, as Ezekiel says, and God has promised to give you a new heart of flesh that will be receptive and responsive to his word and can bear fruit to the glory of Christ’s name. What does the soil in South Africa contribute to producing fruit? Nothing. It can’t. It needs outside inputs to, to create a new soil and friends. That’s what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. That’s the good news. It’s the great news of the scriptures that God imputes his righteousness to you. Through faith in his son Jesus Christ. And now how do you live? I’m reminded, it’s uh, from Galatians chapter two, verse 20. It’s my life verse, which reads, I have been crucified with Christ. In other words, the old Adam is put to death and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in, the body. I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
I suppose if there’s one thing I’d like you to take from this message today, if anything, it’d be this to be liberated from striving to please God for his salvation, and rather just be the grateful recipient and the new creation that God has made you. Anew in Christ Jesus and out of that, a life of gratitude to love others the way God has loved you in Christ Jesus. Can you feel that freedom, that relief, that joy, that your faith, it’s a gift you can’t muster up in your own and you don’t need to. God gives it to you freely and fully. You just receive it. And out of that, then you start looking for the good things to do for your family and friends and neighbors, where each day, each day can be a mission trip where you can ask, God, show me the good things you’ve prepared in advance for me to do, to love others the way you’ve loved me. When you live this way, you realize that your past doesn’t need to define your present or future. Who you were outside of Christ is dead. Who you are in Christ is new and full of life. And when you do gratify, the sinful desires, which we still all wrestle with sin, this side of eternity, the solution is confession. That’s why we love to teach here at Victory, living in daily repentance. It’s why we have confession every time we gather together in a public service. That you might be cleansed and that new Adam, the New Eve be strengthened, which then can lead you to live with confidence in God’s grace and goodness and intent toward you as his precious daughter or son. That’s the love of God that you have been given in Christ Jesus. You are made new. Be that new person and live in joy and hope. And in good things. Let’s pray. Father in heaven, ask now that by your Holy Spirit you would plant in us this word of truth, to know who we are in Christ Jesus, and that our lives would be after Those good things you’ve prepared in advance that people would see are good works and glorify you. Our father in heaven, pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.