Do you believe God answers the fervent prayer of the righteous? I trust your answer is “Yes!” Throughout God’s Word, the Lord promises to answer the prayer of the righteous. Those who are unrighteous or lukewarm lack this confidence.
Our new birth in Christ positions us in the righteousness of Christ. The shed blood of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit has achieved this—we are spiritually united with Christ.
But Scripture also exhorts us to grow in grace, to remain in Christ, and to live from His righteousness—that is, to live a holy, consecrated life to the Lord. As we do, we walk in the fullness of God’s love, peace, and joy of the Spirit. Further, we have confidence when we pray for God to answer our prayers.
Today, I want to continue to discuss in our Ephesian series how we are united with Christ and what this spiritual union through new birth provides and requires of us.
In Ephesians 2:1-10 NLT, Paul describes how we are saved by grace, united with Christ, and created for good works in Him:
1 “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Through new birth in Jesus, we are saved in a moment by God’s grace; however, we are transformed over a lifetime by God’s Word and Spirit!
As Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus, we are saved by grace, not by works (Eph. 2:8-9). God’s grace ‘saved’ (sṓzō) us, not our own initiative. Paul uses the word ‘saved’ (sṓzō) versus ‘justified’. ‘Justified’ speaks of being made right and put into God’s family.
Paul’s use of ‘saved’ (sṓzō) implies how Jesus rescued us from certain destruction… we were dead! It is used only twice in the whole of Scripture—once here and once in Romans 1:20, where Paul argues that the qualities of God’s creation of the world give testimony to God and leave humankind without a claim of ignorance concerning God’s existence. Now, this creative skill has been extended toward God’s redeemed so that He might create a “poem” of His revelation.
We are God’s poem through Jesus, and we read well! His grace did it; we just said “Yes!”, and God’s power did the rest. It’s an artistic, creative work that God did in us through Christ—like a musical piece or sculpture. God’s intention is for us to walk in good works. Two implications:
- We are re-created to be human the way God intended. Ephesians chapters 4-6 describe this. In the context of this sentence, moral behavior is primarily what Paul meant.
- We are created uniquely for specific works—our calling in God. Paul mentions his own calling in Ephesians 3:8-13.
Grace, therefore, leads us to transformation, obedience, and devoted discipleship. As James states, “…I will show you my faith by my works” (Jam. 2:18b NKJV).
Our union with Christ is mysterious and glorious. But effort—not earning—is required to live fully in this union with Him.
Dallas Willard, in his book The Great Omission, states, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude; effort is an action.”
Here are two important aspects of God’s grace:
- Salvation is God’s gift through Christ (you can’t earn salvation by your works). What is required is belief, repentance, and turning to Jesus as Lord.
- Receiving this gift is the beginning. We now walk with the Lord in the righteousness that Christ attained for us. Thus, effort is required. Genuine discipleship follows Jesus, obeys God’s Word, and yields to the Holy Spirit’s conviction along the way.
Understanding our Union with Christ
Eph. 2:4, the divine conjunction, “But God!” Aren’t you glad that God saw before the foundation of time that His son Jesus would be given to humanity revealing God’s love, mercy, and grace? In Jesus, we have been made alive together with Him—United with Christ!
Eph. 2:1-3, Paul explains to the Ephesians that they once were dead because of sin, but now (through new birth in Christ) they are made alive. They used to live under the influence of the devil and evil powers in the unseen spiritual world around them.
Ephesus was under the influence of demon powers, and many were involved with idol worship. The reader of Paul’s day most likely could relate to once being under the influence of disobedient spirits and being dead because of their sins. Consider the account of revival in Ephesus in Acts:
“The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.” (Acts 19:17-20 NLT)
Paul spends three years working with disciples in Ephesus, and then revival breaks out. Repentance and works of repentance occur. This move of the Spirit—set up by solid preaching of the Word and growing disciples—impacts the region. This pattern is repeated throughout Church history! When God’s people give themselves wholly to the Lord, build upon the foundation of God’s Word, and continue steadfastly in prayer for their cities, God’s Spirit moves. Many, then, are freed from the devil’s grip, repent of their sins, and turn to Christ. They now become the workmanship of God, too!
They once were dead, but now they are God’s masterpiece, created new in Jesus for good works (same for us). In Christ, we are created new for Godly living and exploits in His name!
God put everything under Christ’s feet, Jesus is victorious, and we can learn to live from His victory (Eph. 1:22-23)! That said, living successfully in Christ is not automatic; we must cooperate with the truth of God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Effort is still needed! Repentance from sin is not a “one and done” occurrence! Remember the Lord’s prayer, “…forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive others of their trespasses (sins) …” Consider what John wrote:
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2 NIV)
John writes in the first chapter about how to be freed of sin before and after new birth,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJV)
Dr. Michael Brown, in his book, Revival or We Die, states what the essence of the Gospel is,
“Remember, Jesus did not come to improve us or enhance us or make us bigger and better or more successful. He came to save us from our sins, to forgive us and transform us, to transfer us from death to life and from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God. That’s the gospel. He came so we could die to our old rebellious ways and live new lives of obedience in Him.” 
My paraphrase of Ephesians 1-3, “Yes, you were once like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses toward God. You used to do whatever felt good (lust of the flesh—sinful nature), being led by a destructive, disobedient spirit; it’s the same spirit still working in those who are disobedient today. BUT GOD!”
You once were… not now… therefore, walk in Him! Those who are not in Christ, are still being led by a destructive disobedient spirit.
Deception is the enemy’s ploy; he blinds the minds of those who do not believe. God gives humanity free will, but our prayers bind the enemy and allow the Holy Spirit to rest upon individuals to convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
We are justified by faith and made righteous in Christ. We once were inclined to sin, but now we desire to live from life in Christ, led by the Spirit.
“God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” (1 Cor. 1:30 NLT)
But Scripture also calls us to “be holy as I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). Holiness matters. Character matters. We endeavor to obey God’s Word, follow the Spirit, and live from new life in Christ.
Paul reminded the Corinthians to grow in the grace and the holiness of God,
“Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” (2 Cor. 7:1 NLT)
We are not working for salvation. But our salvation, or new birth experience, compels us to live from Christ’s imputed righteousness and holiness.
Outside of Christ, we were subject to God’s anger (wrath, judgment) just like those in the world.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him? For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom. 5:8-10 NIV)
Did you ever consider that before you gave your life to Christ you were an enemy of God? Yes, God loved us, He gave His Son for us, but our disobedience and sin separated us from God.
Those who reject Christ will face the fullness of the penalty of sin. It’s not popular to discuss the “wrath of God” today, but it is the Bible.
Jesus came full of grace and truth. God’s love, mercy, and grace are demonstrated and given through Jesus. For those living in Christ, the fear of judgment is removed! For those outside of Christ, there is fear of God’s judgment on the final day. However, God has made a way; it is through the cross of Christ, surrendering to Him, and allowing Jesus to be the Savior and Lord of our lives.
To believers, are we taking up our cross daily and following Jesus?
Consider the words of Jesus,
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day, many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” (Matt. 7:21-23 NLT)
These are sobering words of Jesus. Notice how He states, “those who actually do the will of my Father…” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Again, we can’t earn salvation; it is a gift through Christ. But effort is required to do God’s will and to obey His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We should endeavor to live our lives fully in Christ, free of hypocrisy, compromise, and sin.
Consider what the writer of Hebrews wrote to Jewish believers,
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:26-29 NIV)
This passage is a clear warning against falling away. There is much to Hebrews 10, but suffice to say, remain in Christ, and avoid falling back into your old life and sinful habits. If you find yourself in a compromised place, recognize Jesus has already made you righteous through the cross. Repent, turn back to God, confess your sins, and trust that His blood shed long ago cleanses you!
To live fully in Christ is to allow our sinful nature to be crucified, including its passions and desires. We obey God’s Word and the Holy Spirit—effort is required!
Our confidence is in Christ, in His power, and in His dominion. It begins with surrender to Him. As we recognize our identity and authority as a believer, we walk in the fullness of Christ, and we begin to impact our world. We are on a mission with Jesus to win the lost to Christ and disciple the nations!
God is looking for a people who love not the world to whom He can entrust the world. The fruit of complete surrender and abiding in Christ is a radical devotion to Him that is peculiar to the world. It requires that we indeed live justly, love God and others, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).
Perhaps one of the greatest needs in the modern church is to understand how complete the Father’s love is toward us and how complete our new life in Christ is. From the place of knowing God loves us, we walk in His holiness to reveal to the world the mercy of Christ and how to escape judgment for those who are outside of Him.
We’ve not only been made alive through Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but we have been raised up with Christ in heavenly realms.
George Peck, a nineteenth-century author and church leader, wrote about three epochs connected with our life in Christ and His death, resurrection, and ascension (like Paul’s discussion in Romans 6) in his book, Throne Life,
“…let us observe how surely our ability to apprehend the distinctive significance of our Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension—the three epochs which especially exhibit the completeness of His finished work—will determine the progress of our conscious spiritual experience.” 
Our progress spiritually is affected by our understanding of how complete our union with Him and effective His finished work is.
A person who knows they are united to Christ in His ascension lives, acts, and functions differently. They endeavor to live a holy life—not out of works or the law—but from life in Christ. They pray with confidence from heaven. They know and believe God hears their prayers:
“If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14 NKJV)
“Abide in me… ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7 NKJV)
“Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give you.” (John 15:16 NKJV)
“Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24 NKJV)
Eighteenth-century theologian, Matthew Henry, said, “When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is set them a-praying.” 
I believe America (and churches globally) are either in or ready for revival. God is inviting us once again to turn to Him in honesty, repent for compromise, and set our hearts toward Him in committed prayer.
The Hebrides Revival (1949-1957) underscores this truth, beginning with the Smith sisters in their 80s. They were distressed over the state of the church in their area, and they began to cry out to God for mercy over the Hebrides Islands of Scotland. God gave them as a promise, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3 NKJV). The sisters called for Rev. MacKay and his wife. “You pray with your leaders in a barn; we will do the same in our cottage.”
For nearly three months, the Smith sisters prayed in their cottage while Rev. MacKay and his leaders prayed in a barn. Then, one night, a young man in the group read Psalm 24:3-5, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation” (NKJV).
He fell to the ground in repentance, and awareness of God gripped the men that night. God’s presence was weighty and began to move on people in their village. Revival began and many came to Christ over the next few years in these islands.
Dr. Michael Brown, one of the leaders during the Brownsville Assembly of God Revival (1995-2000) in Pensacola, Florida, defines revival as:
“Revival is a season of unusual divine visitation resulting in deep repentance, supernatural renewal, and sweeping reformation in the Church, along with the radical conversion of sinners in the world, often producing moral, social, and even economic change in the local or national communities.” 
Dr. Brown, in his recent book, Revival or We Die, writes,
“Would God have set us to praying if He had no intention of showing mercy? And could there be such sustained intercession for revival if the Lord did not initiate it? That being said, the clock is definitely ticking, and unless the intensity of our cry meets the intensity of the hour, we might well miss this divine window of opportunity.
And so, as I ask the question again, “Is it too late for America?” I hear the Spirit saying, “You tell Me.” The Lord is saying that the answer to that question is up to us. In other words, if we will humble ourselves and repent, if we will seek Him as if our lives depended on it… if we will pray like Jacob and say, “I won’t let you go until You bless me”… if we will give ourselves unconditionally to the work of the gospel… then the answer could well be “Absolutely not! It is not too late for America.”
But if we become complacent, if we put our trust in numbers, if we treat God’s mercy lightly, if we do not seek Him with desperation, if we somehow believe that we can make it without a holy visitation, then the answer could well be, “I gave you time to repent, but you did not.” Right now, even as more and more prayer ascends to heaven for our nation and for revival, there is still a real sense in which we are praying to preserve our American lifestyle rather than praying because we are jealous for the glory of God and because the fate of the nation depends on it. The truth is that the Church of America is in a precarious place, the nation hangs in the balance, and yet the Lord is ready to move. What, then, will it be?” 
I’ll continue our series in Ephesians next week, looking at how the Church has become a dwelling place of God. Have a great week and determine today to set your heart afresh toward God!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “The Glory of Christ and His Church: United With Christ, Part 2”:
 Mark A. Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1997), 80.
 Brown, PhD, Michael L. Revival or We Die (p. 51). Destiny Image, Inc. Kindle Edition.
 George Peck, Throne Life: The Highest Christian Life, (Boston, MA: The Watchword Publishing Co., 1888), 41-42.
 Brown, PhD, Michael L. Revival or We Die (p. 169). Destiny Image, Inc. Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., 174
 Ibid., 169-172.