Welcome to the Family IV - Our Father’s Masterpiece
I Once Was Lost But Now Am Found!
When they handed out the artisan gifts, my name never came up. In fact, my name didn’t come up for a lot of gifts that were handed out.
For example, I am not gifted in sports at all – somehow that completely missed me and so consequently I was always among the kids picked last for any of the school sports teams. To this day I am no great fan of sports.
I also was overlooked when it came to the gifts of the trades. I am very sorry to have to admit that here this morning, especially given all the trades people here, but do not give me a hammer, a saw or screwdriver. Serious damage can happen if you do!
Then, of course, none of the artisan gifts were given to me. In case you are wondering “wow, what a useless guy he is”, let me assure you that I do have gifts in other areas but athleticism, the trades and the creative gifts are not among them.
I am not a painter, a poet, nor a sculptor - that may be behind the fact that I totally missed something in our study last Sunday as we looked at the later part of Ephesians 2.
By now you should know that we are in a series called Welcome to the Family, which looks at the “Letter To The Ephesians” through the lens of a church that was experiencing many new people coming into the family.
So in the first chapter and first part of the second chapter, Paul outlines the amazing work of coming into God’s family.
It tells of how “I once was lost, but now am found”, and of the amazing power it took for God to bring us out of our former way of life and into this new life in the family of God!
It literally took a second birth which has brought us into God’s family.
The key passage that outlines this is Eph. 2:4-10:
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Lest we somehow overlook the enormity of what has happened to us, Paul paints an incredibly vivid picture of what “I once was lost but now am found” looks like.
The power that raised Jesus from dead took us, who “were dead in transgressions”, and “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.”
In other words, a complete change of nature, a coming into God’s family not as adoptees but as those born a second time with all the old sins and claims on us cancelled instantly and us given the Holy Spirit as our personal strength and guide.
The miracle of second birth is the most significant thing ever witnessed! We must never underestimate how huge someone coming into the family of God really is!
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is it! Once I have come into the family the enormous work of second birth is done!
As long as I remain in the family, don’t wander off too far, and remain grateful, then I will be okay. And if I remember whose work this is, then I am free to live out my days as I wish.
Not so fast, my friend. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like you owe something or are indebted to your liberator or that there are strings attached to receiving second birth. I’m not suggesting that.
What I am suggesting though, is that once you are in the family of God the work really begins in earnest.
A Work of Art
The work that begins in earnest is wrapped up in the word “handiwork” in Eph. 2:10.
Up until now all the work was done for us. None of the great miracle of second birth, which brings us into God’s family was our doing. Notice what is says:
“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
All of this was God’s amazing work with us as the recipients. But then notice how the wind shifts in the next verse: “10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
It may not seem like much at first glance but this is one of the most significant verses in this entire section because with this the wind truly changes moving the onus onto us.
That is what you see in the word “handiwork”
Handiwork is actually an artisan expression which may actually be the reason I didn’t notice it (because remember, none of the artistic gifts were given to me).
In fact, the larger setting in which the word “handiwork” is framed is one of an art exhibition, which is one of the more startling ideas in this wider passage.
If the language of Eph. 2:6-7 doesn’t describe an art exhibition then I don’t know what does: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
In plain English Paul is saying that one of the reasons God raised us up is so that we would eventually be seated in the heavenly realms as a showcase of God’s amazing grace.
What our Father wants to show off is the amazing life transformation that has happened in us since our second birth.
How we can go from mere paint chips on a canvas or a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel to an amazing work of art that will astonish the universe. That’s His ultimate dream for us.
Here’s my point for today: While the second birth is all God’s doing with us as the happy recipients, the work of life transformation is the result of as much of our work as it is of God’s work.
Little by Little!
The word “handiwork” captures the idea of what happens to us once we have come into the family of God.
Coming into His family is only the beginning of an incredible life long process that sees you morph more and more into your Father’s likeness.
While we may well have our Father’s eyes once we are born a second time into God’s family, we need to remember that this is all we have. The rest now needs to come into conformity to that new nature we received.
The good news is that coming into God’s family through second birth means we have a new nature and thus have his DNA in us but that’s all we have.
We now need to use our new nature to begin to conform everything about our old way of life into this new one. That is quite a process, my friend.
Everything about us has to change. Our actions and deeds, our thoughts and words, our attitudes and ways of looking at things; old patterns need to be broken and old habits need to go.
We needs our mind renewed day by day, so that little by little we are formed into our Father’s likeness so that we begin to think like him, react like him, act like him, behave like him and talk like him.
We should be becoming the spitting image of our Father in heaven. That’s what is wrapped up in the word “handiwork.”
The word “handiwork” literally means a work of art. Literally “to do, to make” and refers to something that is made or created, which is why the Jerusalem Bible uses the phrase “work of art”.
It carries the same idea as in the days of the high school art class where you spun the lump of clay on the potter’s wheel with the hope of making a masterpiece (which in my case was always a lopsided coffee mug without a handle).
Only if you were an artist could you create incredible pottery out of clay. That’s what the word “handiwork” means; a work of art that points to a master artist.
In fact, take another look at Eph. 2:10 where that word appears.
It says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” and notice the three words/ phrases “created”, “prepared in advance” and “for us to do”.
These are the keys that explain what is involved in us becoming God’s work of a
This master artist is none other than God himself as the word “created” suggests.
When it says, “we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works”, the word ‘barah’ is used for “created”. ‘Barah’ is only used of God and refers to the original creative energy only God can exert.
While we may create, we will never create like God. This is why He is known as the Creator because He alone can take nothing and create something beautiful, as witnessed all around us in nature.
“The universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen is not made out of what was visible.” Heb. 11:3
He is the Creator, the Artist, the Composer and the Potter. We are the portrait, the composition and the sculpture.
Like any wooden sculpture ever started, so also the Creator went into the forest and brought back a block of wood all rough, cold and dirty.
He made it his own and brought it back to his woodshop to begin his work. He chopped, hacked and cut. Then He chiseled, carved and sanded until a fine work of art was masterfully created.
When our Father gave us second birth, it was like He went into the bush and retrieved this old, crooked log which was far from promising.
He had noticed you lying there, had his eye on you for a long time and repeatedly reached out to you.
When you agreed for him to save you, He made you his own by giving you second birth, brought you into his woodshop and immediately began to do his work. He began to cut away the old rot and began to bring out the beauty.
As long as you work with him, your Father will mold and shape you into His image.
2. “Which God prepared in advance for us to do”
The key to this is for us to work with Him. Before we look at that more closely I want you to notice secondly the phrase “which God prepared in advance for us to do”.
This carries the idea of ‘to prepare beforehand, to make ready beforehand’, suggesting that He already knew what He wanted us to look like.
When God found and retrieved us, He did not see what we were but only saw what we would become!
When God looks at us half-finished in his workshop, He doesn’t get frustrated with the slow progress or with the work still needing to happen, but instead all He sees is what we can become and what He has in mind for us.
As He looks at his masterpiece sitting in his woodshop amidst all the woodchips, shavings and dust, instead of feeling discouraged or frustrated, God marvels at the work already done and is thrilled about the work yet to be done.
He knows exactly what His masterpiece is to look like and He won’t rest until it becomes that.
3. “To do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”
For that to happen, the analogy of us as the raw material falls apart, since which raw material has ever risen up to work with the master artist?
Raw material is just that, raw material. It isn’t a living, breathing sentient being. It’s just a blog of wood, a pile of clay, a bunch of paint chips or a piece of stone.
This is not what we are. The Bible actually calls us living stones. We are sentient beings and thus active partners with the Creator in the greatest creation ever seen on God’s planet.
There may well be seven other great wonders in God’s creation but you need to know that you and I are the first one!
There is nothing as beautiful as when a sentient being is transformed from a lifeless object that merely exists into a living, dynamic being that not only has its Father’s eyes but becomes more and more like its Father.
For that to happen, the living stone partners with the Creator in the creating. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all the Creator’s work. Don’t lie around like a lump of clay waiting for the Creator to do His magic.
You may be in His woodshop with him having given you second birth, but if all you do is wait around for the Creator to do His work, you will lie around as a lump of clay or a block of wood for the rest of your days.
Sadly, there are many in his woodshop who are precisely that; lying around as blocks of wood. How sad is it when children of God who have experienced second birth, but they do not resemble their Father in any way and make no effort to try.
The destiny on us is to be a masterpiece and be his spitting image. For that to happen, the power of the creative work of the Creator needs to be merged with our effort and part as we slowly become this masterpiece.
That’s what the phrase “for us to do” points to.
When it says “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”, we need to realize that while the good works may point to a masterpiece and while God may well have prepared it all in advance; however none of this will happen until we lean into this idea of “for us to do”.
The word ‘do’ in “for us to do” comes from the word ‘peripateo’ from which we get the English word ‘periphery’; literally meaning “to walk within” as in walk within the boundaries.
It’s like we do our own painting inside the boundaries of an image sketched on the canvass, as the Master Artist guides our hands.
It’s like He has sketched a rough outline, provided you the paint and brush, and then says paint. Color it in, walk within my boundaries, and turn it from a sketch into a living, breathing portrait!
An Art Exhibition for The Ages
In bringing this home, I want to go back once more to the idea of God’s traveling showcase. I love the idea of God showing off what His grace has done in our lives.
“That in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph. 2:7, 9-10
I love the idea of God’s showcase. We are God’s exhibition. When He unwraps His masterpiece, then everyone would see the incomparable riches of His grace.
He puts us on the pedestal; heaven’s spotlight is squarely on us.
When the wrapping comes off and the new you is displayed (freshly made alive, raised from the dead and princely in appearance), there would be this collective “ooh and ahh” that ripples through eternity and brings the house down with an ovation to God’s amazing grace.
Skevington Wood calls this “God’s publicity program for the whole of history – and beyond”. In fact, Wood wrote, “God planned a continuing exhibition of his favor to cover all the centuries, and after that through all eternity. “
God’s plan is that in every generation there would be this showcase of God’s workmanship and handiwork.
This is very much like a traveling exhibition that moves across the time-space continuum, which landed in the first century in places like Ephesus and in our times among us.
Not only in the here and now, and for those who watch us in our times, but also for all eternity.
For all eternity and for those who would be part of the new heaven and the new earth; that God would point to us and declare His grace to be great!
Maybe that’s what John Newton had in mind when he wrote: “When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun we’ve no less days to sing God’s grace than when we first began.”
In these closing moments, let me ask you, where is the portrait and sculpture right now? If the wrapping were to come off today what would it look like?
Determine this day to use that brush and paint, and to have Him guide you as you paint within the lines. If there should be a ‘smidgen’ of paint beyond the lines, have no fear for the Master Artist will wipe it clean.
In these closing moments, let this be your prayer!
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.