April 24, 2018 • Life for Leaders
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 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.
I expect you’ve been in a conversation with someone who says, “Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” When I hear this, I always ask for the bad news first. I want to get it over with. And I want to hear the bad news knowing that something good is just around the corner.
Ephesians 2 begins with bad news, really bad news, actually: “As for you, you were dead…” Now that’s not exactly news you want to hear from someone: You were dead. It’s also news that stirs up lots of questions: Dead? What do you mean? Dead in what way? How do you know I was dead? If I was once dead, am I still dead?
We’ll get to these questions soon. For now, I want to note that bad news is an essential piece of the Christian gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. If we don’t grasp the bad news of our condition outside of Christ, then we won’t grasp the good news of what God has done for us in Christ. And if we don’t feel the horror of the bad news, we’ll miss the joy of the good news. Too often these days, Christians downplay the bad news because we don’t want to put anyone off. But, by ignoring the bad news, we diminish the amazing goodness of the good news.
You see, Paul begins with bad news, not only to get it out of the way so he can share the good news, but because the bad news sets up the good news. The bad news helps us to understand and rejoice in the good news. The more we grasp the bad news of our “death” outside of Jesus Christ, the more we will embrace the good news of what God has done for us through him.
Something to Think About:
Why do you think Paul begins Ephesians 2 with bad news?
Why is he so blunt?
In what sense could it be true that we were once dead?
How do you respond when you read Ephesians 2:1-3? What do you think? What do you feel? What do you wonder about?
Something to Do:
Read Ephesians 2:1-3 slowly. Consider which of the statements about our “death” outside of Christ you can relate to personally. How does your experience of “death” impact the way you think, feel, and live today?
Gracious God, how thankful I am that you don’t hide the bad news, or even beat around the bush trying to blunt its impact. Through your Word, you lay out clearly the bad news of our lives. By your Spirit, you bring clarity and conviction. You help us know what it means to be dead apart from you, even if we’d rather not confront this reality.
Help me, dear Lord, to hear the bad news so that I might receive the good news with open-hearted joy. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project: Bad News . . . Good News
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.