Not By Works – So Get To Work

14355738_862897470189_3096426351451219233_nFor by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8–10)

It’s not by works we are saved or rescued. It’s all God and his mercy, his grace,. He even gives us the faith we both need and lack.

We don’t work – we are God’s works. He works all of this in us so we can get to work!

That word “workmanship” is the same as the one where we get the word “poem.” But it’s a more general term than our word poem. It’s any work of art or masterpiece. You are God’s masterpiece, his craftsmanship, his work of art, his symphony.

When you go the see a VanGogh or Matisse in a museum, or you hear the symphony, or scoot over to the Garth Brooks concert, you don’t say, “Aren’t I wonderful to see this picture and hear these sounds!” Instead, you marvel at the master who made this wonderful thing. The creator is number one as you hear and see the creation.

It is wonderful, affirming news that God has made you a special creation, his own masterpiece!

What is our response to all of this Ephesians 2 gospel news? Do we sit back and revel in our passiveness? Do we delight in our inactivity? Do we presume that God doesn’t need us any more, that we are pawns in his play? No. Pastor and commentator James Montgomery Boice writes, “Because our hearts have been remade we now give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, homes to the strangers, clothes to the naked, care to the sick, and comfort to those who are in prison—as Jesus said we must do, if we are to sit with him in glory.”[1]

Paul began by speaking of us as walking dead and how all of our works were evil. Now here at the end of this passage we are most decidedly alive, and he says we should walk in the good works he has prepared for us.

My friend Ben is a master woodworker. He recently completed a dining room set of table and chairs. It’s amazing art and being sold in a high end furniture shop. But he doesn’t want those pieces to sit there in that shop. He wants them to be bought and used. He envisions meals, conversations and game nights at that table.

My friend Sunni makes sculptures. She doesn’t want them to sit in her studio or boxed up in storage. She wants her work to be out there, to stimulate conversation, to provoke thoughts and emotions. Her work gives life.

Christian, you are the work. Let’s get to work.

What this means is that you should, or at least could, wake up and say, “This day is another day of life; he has prepared good works today, some of them very surprising, for me to walk in today. What are the good works that you have prepared for me today that I may walk in them? What are the things that you have in store for me that God might say, Look at him!, Look at her! Do you see what I’ve done?!” This is true in preschool. It’s true in the suburbs. It’s true for single parents. It’s true for professionals, for doctors and lawyers and architects and teachers. It’s true if you work at Subway. It’s true as you’re washing dishes or walking your dog. It’s true when you’re in the hospital or winning an award. God has something for me today. He has a work for me because I’m his work. I’m free to share his grace.

Salvation is God’s doing from beginning to end. It was and is God’s plan, as Paul said in chapter one, and no one is ever saved unless he or she was included in that divine plan before the world was made. It was and is Christ’s achievement and no one is ever saved unless he or she was and is in Christ when he went to the cross and when he came out of the grave. It was and is the Holy Spirit’s doing, and no one ever comes to Christ and obtains salvation unless the Holy Spirit comes and conquers a rebellious human heart and makes it submit to Jesus Christ. “Ministers knock at the door of men’s hearts,” a Puritan said, “but the Spirit comes with the key and opens the door.”[2]

This isn’t the poison like some say it is. It’s the life-giving secret sauce. And it’s been given to you, not snuck into your meal. May the Lord open our hearts so we can feel again, our ears so we can hear, our eyes so we can see.

Do you remember the commercial for the device to buy and where around your neck, so if you’re frail and you fall, it will cry out for you, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Friends, you’ve fallen, and you can’t get up. Only God’s mercy and grace can help you today.

May we be able to pray this prayer, entitled “A Christian’s First Prayer:”

“I could never have sought my happiness in your love, unless you had first loved me. Your Spirit has encouraged me by grace to seek you, has made known to me your reconciliation in Jesus, has taught me to believe it, has helped me to take you for my God and portion. May he grant me to grow in the knowledge and experience of you love, and walk in it all the way to glory. Blessed forever be your fatherly affection, which chose me to be one of your children by faith in Jesus: I thank you for giving me the desire to live as such. In Jesus, my brother, I have my new birth, every restraining power, every renewing grace. It is by your Spirit I call you Father, believe in you, love you; strengthen me inwardly for every purpose of my Christian life; let the Spirit continually reveal to me my interest in Christ, and open to me the riches of your love in him; may he abide in me that I may know my union with Jesus, and enter into constant fellowship with him; by the Spirit may I daily live to you, rejoice in your love, find it the same to me as to your Son, and become rooted and grounded in it as a house on a rock; I know but little – increase my knowledge of your love in Jesus, keep me pressing forward for clearer discoveries of it so that I may find its eternal fullness; magnify your love to me according to its greatness, and not according to my deserts…, and whatever increase you give, let it draw out [of me] greater love to you.”[3]

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[1] Boice, 74

[2] Packer, Quest, 295

[3] The Valley of Vision, 53