Back To Life
November 10, 2013
Zombies are the popular monster in today’s society. Television shows and movies highlight the actions and attitudes of these creepy creatures. But the reality is that we can all learn something else from zombies.
In this culminating message, Pastor Ed Young takes a look at how a zombie’s existence can clue us in on the keys to life. And when we look to the source of life rather than merely hoping for existence, we learn what it takes to come back to life.
Good morning this morning. How’s everyone doing? Y’all doing all right? I want to welcome all of our campuses at many different locations here, and also across the pond. This is Fellowship Church. I think this is the greatest church in the western hemisphere. At least that’s what I think. I know many of you think that as well.
We’ve been talking about skeletons, believe it or not. We’ve been talking about bones. The human body has over 200 bones. That’s a lot of bones. Every time we see skeletons we’re reminded of our mortality because we know beneath the skin, beneath the muscle, you’ve got a skeletal system. You’ve got bones. And I believe God has a bone of contention to pick with all of our lives. I truly, truly believe that.
You know this past Friday night, talking about skeletons, I was at a basketball game at the American Airlines Center. And after the game I went out to the lobby and through kind of a strange set of circumstances I met some of the players from the teams that I was watching compete. And I met the father of one of the players and when I heard his name I thought, I remember you! I played against you when I was playing at Florida State. This guy played for another school. I talked to him briefly and as I talked to him, I’d not seen this guy in – what – 30 years, I looked at him, very nattily attired, obviously successful, lives in the northeast. But the more I talked to him I thought to myself, this guy is a walking dead man. He’s a living corpse. A skeleton, if you will, a bag of bones. If we really thought about these skeletons I think a lot of us would say, “You know Ed, I know someone like that. I know a girl like that. I know a guy like that. Hey, I work with a skeletal crew. I have a bunch of bones all around my neighborhood, around my complex, on my football team, basketball team, the foursome I play golf with, at the health club. Yeah, they look good from the outside but down deep as I get to know them they’re just a bag of bones.” Do you know someone like that? Do you see people like that? You know, they’re living dead. They’re zombie-esque. You know people like that don’t you? They’re alive but they’re not really living. Let me show you what I’m kinda driving at here.
OK, a lot of people as they do life they’re like, all right. All right. I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna get this position in life. I’m gonna find this position, this ultimate position in life. And maybe, just maybe, you are at this place and in this space as you look at your life. You’re like, I’m finally at that point in my life. I’ve got the degree. I’m vice-president or president or I own this company. Or I’m a part of the squad, the team, whatever. You’re finally at that position that you thought would do it for you. Down deep, though, I mean if you were totally honest you’re just covering up a bunch of bones. You’re empty. You’re a skeleton. Maybe I’m talking to you, maybe I’m describing someone that you know. I’m just kinda throwing it out.
Others would go, you know, pleasure is my deal. I’m about pleasure. And you find yourself here – what’s up? – You find yourself here moving from one buzz to the next. From one sexual hit to the next. From one trip to the next. And you find yourself being pleasure-istic. Yeah, it helps you alleviate the brief aches and pains of life but in your heart of hearts you know you’re just a skeleton, a bag of bones. There’s an emptiness.
Then you go, well, it’s money. It’s cash. Some are saying, oh man! Money’s evil! Money is not evil. Money’s good! No, money’s not good. Money is neutral. A lot of people say well man, if I can get this or acquire that or live in that zip code or drive that model and make of car or live in that sort of house with that square footage, or make that amount of money, on and on and on. That… I’m telling you… that will be the ultimate.
You know what money means? Money simply means options. Have you ever thought about that? People with money have options. The more money you have the more options you have. You’re making that salary, you have that money, yet you’re still a bag of bones. A bag of bones. A skeleton.
Then you say, oh that’s gonna quench my thirst. All this stuff, maybe I can combine it. That’ll do it. That’ll quench my thirst. And … surely it will… I… I just… You’re just empty! Position and pleasure and possessions. It just doesn’t quench my thirst. Maybe I’m describing you.
There was a guy in the Bible named Ezekiel. Ezekiel dealt with this situation. Ezekiel was kind of a strange cat, a prophet of God. Here’s the back-story of Ezekiel. God’s people left Egyptian slavery. They were in slavery for 430 years. God miraculously freed them up. They went into the Promised Land. God gave them a king and some serious bling. We would say God blessed them. What happens, though, when we’re blessed? The temptation is after we’re blessed – and the word blessing means to be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God – after we’re blessed the temptation is to bow and worship the blessings and to turn our backs on the blessor. Isn’t that true? Have you ever done that before? I have. I’m just so into the blessing that I’m missing the blessor. That’s what happened to Israel. God allowed them to face the consequences and maybe you’re there right now. You’re like, “Wow, you just described me, Ed.” But they faced the consequences, some folks from Babylon came in, took a lot of the Jews from Israel back to Babylon. The king of Babylon was Nebuchadnezzar.
I love that name, Nebuchadnezzar. I have a boring name. I was thinking about that the other day. I have one of the most bland, benign names. Ed. “Hi, I’m Mr. Ed the horse!” Ed? Kinda like a goofy name. “Hey Ed!” Ed Young. I guess that’s OK. You’re never too young. You’re always young or whatever. That’s fine. Ed Young. Terrible sports name. Played basketball. “Basket by Ed Young… nuh-nuh.” I wish I’d been named something like Eddie Nebuchadnezzar. Like the King of Babylon. “Basket by Eddie Nebuchadnezzarrrrrrr!” Now that’s a name.
“The Nezzer from 3! Yes!”
“Basket by Ed Young.”
Anyway, he took these people back to Babylon. Well the Jews, when they got back to Babylon, they were like, “We’re done! It’s over! Let’s mail it in. I mean, yeah, God, you gave us the Promised Land and all that but …” And they began to blame God. You ever done that? It’s God’s fault. “God you got me into this mess! God it’s your fault. I mean, I can’t believe it. Why would you let this happen?” Have you ever done that before? Have you ever thought that before? Or whispered that before? And I’m like, are you kidding? It’s not God’s fault, it’s your fault! Hey Jew! That’s not God’s fault, that’s your fault! You messed it up. You’re jacked up. You’re screwed up. You turned your back on God. God didn’t go anywhere. But we want to do that, don’t we? God, it’s your fault, man. I’m in this situation. It’s your fault, man. No, no, no, no. It’s not God’s fault. Your fault, my fault. It’s just very interesting how that happens that we have this ability as human beings to blame and to excuse others. So the Jews were like, we’re done.
Now enter Ezekiel. God taps Ezekiel, this prophet, on the shoulder before Google Earth. I mean, what God’s gonna do right now makes Google Earth today look archaic. God takes our boy, Ezekiel, and the Jews say, “Man, we’re done.” Puts him in a valley. A valley. Say valley with me. When you hear the word or see the word valley in the Bible it’s like a depressed place. You might say, “Well, I’m going through a valley.” That means a dark time. The psalmist said, “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” As you read the text in Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel’s probably like, OK, I’m in a valley. But then all of a sudden he goes, “Oh my gosh! I’m in a valley of bones! Squillions and squillions of skeletons!” and he looks around and there are bones everywhere. He’s in Death Valley. A bone yard. Skull bones, finger bones, back bones, bones everywhere, scattered, busted, tattered, brittle, bleached. They’re buried and on top of the soil and they’re everywhere. They’re like, oh! Bones! Bones. Bones. A bag of bones. Squillions of skeletons.
And God tells Ezekiel to do something really crazy. I mean, this is crazy. God says, “Hey, Zeke. Preach to the bones.” If I were Ezekiel, if I were Zeke, I’d have gone, “Say what, God? You want me to do what? You want me to, to preach to some bones? I mean, that’s strange, isn’t it?”
Notice the location. Say location. Location. The location, he’s in a valley of dry bones. It seems impossible, impossible! Here’s the great news. Are you ready for this? Do like this because you’re gonna clap. I’m gonna help you. Preemptively, get ready, get ready. Don’t clap yet! Here we go. God is a God of the impossible. <applause> He’s a God who takes dead things – keep clapping – and makes them come alive. You’re marriage might be dead. Your career might be dead. Your family might be dead. Your future might be dead. Your finances may be dead. God is a God who takes dead things and makes dead things come alive. Man, it felt good to hear that applause! I like that!
Hopefully you follow me on Twitter@EdYoung because I always give you a Tweet of the Day. Are you ready for this one? You sound excited. Are you ready for this one? OK. Your current location doesn’t have to be your final destination. “Ed, I’m a bag of bones in the valley. I’m depressed. I’m buried. I’m dusty. I’m dry. I’m brittle.” Your current location doesn’t have to be your final destination. Where are you located today? Ezekiel, by the hand of God, was in this location. He began to preach and prophesy to the bones. Look at Ezekiel 37:2, “He led me back and forth among them. I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. So that’s the location. In the Valley of the Bones. The bone yard. God has a bone of contention to pick with his people and to pick with you and me.
The #1 interpretation of this chapter is prophetic. You go to www.fellowshipchurch.com, log onto last week’s talk and you’ll understand what I just said. But today we’re gonna look at the secondary interpretation of this, which is practical to your life and mine. The Israelites thought it was done. Obviously an epic battle had taken place and people had died. One day as we look eschatologically into the future as we know, Christ comes back. The nation of Israel will be restored and Messiah will rule and reign. That’s prophecy. The practical is, maybe you’re a skeleton. Maybe you know some skeletons. Maybe you’re located in the bone yard. In the valley of the shadow of death. Maybe you’re saying, “Man, I’m in this location. Surely there’s no potential for me.” Think about the situation. Location, situation.
Ezekiel 37:3, “He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’” Son of man, can these bones live? Yes! Ezekiel said, “Lord, you know.” And it’s interesting how many times that phrase ‘you know’ is used in Ezekiel 37. You know. It sounds like an interview with some sports star: You know, if we play our, you know, game, we’ll you know win and you know we’ve just gotta you know listen to the coach, you know. And if we play our game, you know, we’re gonna win, you know, and score more points than the other team, you know. And I think we might, you know, do very well, you know?” You know, you know, you know! You know, you know, you know, you know, you know, you know? Yeah, I know! I know!
Some of us like ‘like.’ That’s the cool phrase, like, yeah, like, I’m like, anyway but, like, I’m, like, going, like, to the store, like, but like, like, like, like. You know, you know, like, you know, like, you know, you know, you know, like, you know. You, like, know, like, you know, like, you know. It’s interesting how that happens isn’t it? Little words, you know?
OK, so… I thought it was funny… Ezekiel 37:11, “Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel.’” Hup! Interpretation! In our context they’re you and me! Our neighbors! They’re at our school, at work. “Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone. We’re cut off.”
I got to know this guy who was walking his dog several years ago. He had a big bullmastiff. We have a big bullmastiff. I just stopped in the neighborhood and I go, “Hey, I got a dog like that.” So I talked to him a little bit and whatever, and I could tell, you know, he had no concept of God or his Word or things of Jesus. So I got to know him, spent a little bit of time with him. And the more I got to know him the more cold, the more dry, the more dead and broken and brittle I saw in this man’s life. Now and then when I’m running I will run by his house. He lives a long way from me. When I’m doing a long run I will run by his house. And when I run by his house I always look to my left and I will just say a prayer. “Lord, this guy’s a bag of bones. He’s a walking dead man. A corpse in the valley, depressed, dead, and despondent. He has everything to live on but nothing to live for.” Do you know somebody like that? Are you in that situation? That’s what Ezekiel found himself doing! Preaching to bones. Preaching to corpses.
It’s cool how God gives people situations and when we see these situations it causes us to really have vision and it causes us to have great fervency and urgency about life. I think back to Nehemiah. You remember Nehemiah, I’ve written a book about him. High-Definition Living. Pick it up in your local bookstore. Anyway, God allowed Nehemiah to see the earth-shattering situation in Jerusalem at night. By horseback he saw Jerusalem was in shambles and that caused him great consternation and then that turned into a magnificent vision for his man of God. And he was able to impart that vision by God’s grace to the people of Jerusalem and they built the city wall. That’s Nehemiah.
You think about Moses. You remember Moses, I talked about Israel being in Egyptian captivity. Moses saw some crazy stuff happening. He saw some racism, he saw some abuse, and he went a little crazy but God allowed that to happen so Moses could be a difference-maker and lead that situation, the children of Israel, out of Egyptian slavery and bondage.
You think about the apostle Paul in the New Testament. He’s walking around Mars Hill and sees all these idols to unknown Gods and it causes him, it builds within him, the ability to give one of the greatest sermons ever about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
And then I think about Jesus, right? As he’s going down to Jerusalem he sees Jerusalem and the Son of God weeps. And this vision, if you will, that God the Father gave him, although he didn’t want to do it in the natural, he went to Jerusalem and then went out and died on that rugged cross for you and for me.
God will show you and me skeletons, bones in the bone yard, to build vision in our lives. I’m talking to believers, those who pray with great fervency, those who have great urgency. The Bible tells you and me in Ephesians 2:1, it says that we were dead in our trespasses. You ever trespass before? I have. Fishing. I will just be honest. I’ve been in a car, stopped the car. I’ll confess right now. The video cameras are rolling, jumped fences and pond-hopped, we call it. Caught some bass, get in the car. I confess. Some of you… don’t act like you haven’t. Yeah, we’ve all trespassed! The Bible says when we’ve sinned we trespass, we step over the line. And the Bible says when we sin it leads to death. Specifically, Romans 6:23, the Bible says, “The wages of sin is … is… is… is death!” The compensation for our conduct is condemnation. We’re dead in our trespasses. A bunch of dry, broken, brittle bones in a bone yard. In a valley. We’re done. One sin, one off day, one bad move, one transgression of omission or commission, you deserve death, separate from God. But God did something, didn’t he? God commissioned Christ to live a sinless life and to die a sacrificial death, thereby giving us an opportunity to live. Sermons don’t save people, only the Savior saves people. I’m just a messenger boy. But maybe, just maybe, like my friend I saw at the American Airlines Center. Maybe, just maybe, you’re a walking dead man. You’re a walking dead girl. Oh yeah, you’ve got all the cool stuff on. You’ve gone to this position. You’ve acquired this possession. You’ve had this pleasure, and maybe you’ve got enough money that can help you alleviate the aches and pains of life. You can go here or travel there or buy this or do that. But you know when you stop, you’re a bag of bones. That’s the situation. And the reason we have such a hot vision for the church is because we see the skeletal situation in our land, in our world.
So you’ve got the location. God’s put you in the right location. You’ve got the situation, life and death. Now you’ve got a conversation. We’re all preachers. What? Public speaking is like one of the top fears out there. I’ve also written a book on fear. Know Fear. Pick that up at your local book store. So we’re all preachers. I don’t mean on stage. Few of us get to go on stage. But you’re a preacher in your classroom. You’re a preacher in the operating room. You’re a preacher. You’re a preacher when you walk down the halls of your school. You’re a preacher as you fix technology. You’re a preacher as you sell real estate. You’re a preacher as you close deals. You’re a preacher. What are you preaching? Seriously, what are you saying? What am I saying? What is your life saying? What are your words saying? What are your finances saying? What are your thoughts saying? What are the jokes saying? What are the stories saying? What are your priorities saying? I’m telling you, you’re a preacher. And we have an opportunity to preach to these bones.
Can these bones live? Are you having conversations? Your life is a conversation, so is mine. “So I prophesied (this is Ezekiel now) as I was commanded.” See, it’s not optional whether we preach or not. I hope you know that. It’s not like, well, I don’t want to preach with my life. It’s all private. That sounds good, sounds sexy, sounds cool. There’s one problem. It’s not Bible. I mean, we’re commanded. There’s the cause that’s commanded, the great commission. It’s commanded. And here God is commanding Ezekiel to speak. He’s commanding you to speak. What are you saying?
“But as I prophesied, as I preached <clicking sounds> there was a noise.” What, in the bone yard? Yeah! “A rattling sound. The bones came together, bone to bone. I looked and tendons and flesh <more sound effects> appeared on them. Skin covered them but there was no breath in them.”
This is a process. All of a sudden you’re in the bone yard. Your life, right, is in the right location. And then you see the situation. And as you preach to these people in your life by what you say and how you say it and what you do and how you walk and talk, I mean you rattle their cage. Whoa! But they’re still dead. Skin and tendons envelop their body. But they’re still dead. They don’t become alive until <breath> they receive the breath of God.
So Ezekiel, he’s preaching to bones. Now he’s preaching to corpses. Now God says, “Preach to the breath.” The breath, pneuma. The breath, Spirit. The Breath of God. So we’ve got the location. We’ve got the situation. We’ve got the conversation. And now the transformation. These people are transformed.
Ezekiel 37:10, look real quick. “So I prophesied as he commanded (there’s the word again), as he commanded me and breath entered them. They came to life.” Whoo-hoo! “And stood up on their feet, a vast army.” The gospel shakes us and wakes us, doesn’t it? “I will put my Spirit in you. You will live (verse 14) and I will settle you in your own land.” What kind of land does God have for you? You wouldn’t believe the real estate he has. God is in the real estate business.
“’Then you’ll know that the Lord has spoken and I have done it,’ declares the Lord.”
You’re here in this location. The situation is eternal. The conversation has been going on. Now it’s your option to receive the breath or not. Can these bones live? Wait a minute… Can these bones live?!
[Ed closes in prayer.]