Summary: We will only begin the race well when we identify, and full confess, our spiritual bankruptcy to Jesus. There are no achievements, or spiritual outcomes, which make us worthy of God’s attention. It is only our faith in the great exchange that Jesus is willing to make for us.

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Ephesians 2:1-10

Begin Well

10 days ago Wild Oats XI won the 2018 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

They also won in 2017 … sort of.

Wild Oats XI finished the 2017 race in one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds … which was nearly five hours faster than the previous record. However at the very start of the race Wild Oats XI nearly collided with the boat Comanche and Comanche was forced to make very significant evasive action to avoid collision. Comanche protested the actions of Wild Oats XI and the team was given a 1 hour penalty. Comanche had come into Hobart 26 minutes after Wild Oats XI. So they were declared the winner … and record holder.

If you are going to finish the race well, you need to begin well.

That truth applies in many aspects of life.

It particularly applies in our spiritual lives.

An eternal spiritual life only takes place when we begin well.

How do we know if we have begun well?

Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:1-10 (read)

What does this passage teach us about beginning well?

Beginning well means admitting that we are spiritually bankrupt.

Paul uses a number of very vivid descriptions to help us understand this reality.

You were dead in your transgressions and sin (Eph 2:1)

This is not the danger of death … like in Psalm 23 when the Psalmist goes through the valley of the shadow of death. This is complete death – the separation and alienation of the soul from God.

Our spiritual situation is nothing but a corpse which has been buried.

We cannot do anything in an of ourselves to revive it.

It is part of our spiritual bankruptcy.

You followed … the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph 2:2)

In 1982 the aerial flying formation team known as the Thunderbirds were practising in Nevada a flying formation. The routine was to fly as a diamond, do a loop, climb 2 kilometres and loop over again and fly towards the ground at 650 km/h. The planes were meant to level off at about 30m. However the lead plane malfunctioned with a jammed stabiliser and, because they were trained to follow their leader, the other planes did not break formation.

In that case it was a tragic accident. But we follow Satan no questions asked. And he deliberately is seeking to bring spiritual death. It is part of our spiritual bankruptcy.

You were gratifying the cravings of your sinful nature (Eph 2:3).

Not too long ago our daughter Amelia got a new Dachshund called Dot.

Dot has very short legs, but when there is food on the table, or the bench, or anywhere … Dot works out how to get it and eat it.

All of it.

She has eaten a whole bag of dog food … and a whole loaf of bread.

She just keeps gorging herself and doing everything … even the most impossible … to gratify an unending craving.

We do the same with our sinful nature. We gorge ourselves.

It is part of our spiritual bankruptcy.

Dead in transgressions. Following the Satanic ruler. Gratifying the sinful nature.

If we want to begin the race well we need to admit that we have a “spiritual bankruptcy” in our lives.

Admit there is nothing in us which is of any value to God that makes us in any way acceptable, or useful, or goodish, or able to meet even the minimum standard.

Which is not always easy to accept. Because there is a part of us that likes to be able to think that we have something of value to give … some sort of worth.

Surely we have some goodness.

Surely we make some sort of contribution to our salvation.

Surely God sees in us a spark … even a tiny spark … that is the beginning of something that God can fan into flame.

Surely …

… …

Well no.

In Philippians 3 Paul talks about his pre-conversion attributes.

Circumcised on the eighth day.

A Hebrew of Hebrews.

A Pharisee.

Don’t I have something?

But Paul then says …

I consider everything a loss … I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8

That word translated as “garbage” is very descriptive as it can also be translated as “human excrement”. Paul is literally saying, “When it comes to my achievements I consider it all to be a pile of human excrement”

Paul is declaring his spiritual bankruptcy.

When we don’t understand our spiritual bankruptcy we will always approach God in the wrong way. When it comes to our relationship with God we can’t have it based on our list of achievements. No matter how impressive we think that list is.

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