GOD’S ART

Eph. 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

This verse has a very interesting word in it dealing with God’s work of redemption in our lives. It is the word workmanship. Here is how Dick Mills defines this beautiful Bible word.

“ poiema – From the verb poieo, “to make.” (Compare “poem” and “poetry.”) The word signifies that which is manufactured, a product, a design produced by an artisan. Poiema emphasizes God as the Master Designer, the universe as His creation (Rom. 1:20), and the redeemed believer as His new creation (Eph. 2:10). Before conversion our lives had no rhyme or reason. Conversion brought us balance, symmetry, and order. We are God’s poem, His work of art.”

I love that definition, God’s work of redemption in our lives brought us from a confused and disordered life into a spiritual life of balance and beauty. We have literally become God’s work of art. His masterpiece began in us the day we were born again and will be completed and revealed when we see Him in glory. Think about it, you are God’s work of art. I recently watched a movie about Vincent Van Gogh. I was taken back by his story and after doing some research found that he was a pastor’s son who loved to read Spurgeon and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. His spirituality in his younger days led him to an attraction to creation. He painted God’s creation and saw colors as conveyors of spiritual truth. Here is some info about Van Gogh from an article by Jacob A. Davis.

“Van Gogh’s work reflects his spirituality….Among his symbolic elements (which are quite extensive), blue represents God’s presence in his paintings, and yellow represents God’s love.  Reading Van Gogh’s most famous work, Starry Night, in this light, one notices that God and his love are present abundantly.  The sky reflects it, as does the town below.  The sky and village are both largely blue with God’s presence.  The houses are filled with the yellow light of God’s love….So what can we take from Vincent Van Gogh?  He was certainly not a perfect man, nor a perfect Christian….In the end, it is important to recognize Vincent Van Gogh’s attributes and his contribution to art as a Christian, for all of his strengths and weaknesses.”

Art, like music, can transport us and effect us spiritually. It is the Lord who created us in His image who gives us artistic talent to communicate His glory. Open your heart up to Him today, allow His brushstrokes to add beauty and depth to your life. Look for Him in creation, listen for Him in the song, gaze upon Him in a beautiful work of art. After all that’s what we are, God’s work of art.

THE PURCHASE OF GOD

Acts 2:33-35 – “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

“For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’

What was it the Lord was after? Really; why did He become a man and endure the mess that He was welcomed with on earth? Obviously, He didn’t walk in blind; He knew exactly what He signed up for. He knew the resistance and hatred He would face and endure, He knew the hardships, but He also knew something else. He knew about the reward. He had enjoyed it from eternity with His Father. He wanted to taste this life as a man so that man too could experience this treasure of unspeakable delight. Heb.12:2 – “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

It’s this sitting down at the right hand of God that has captured my attention. Think about it, He is at the right hand of God as a man representing us. Paul said in Eph.2:4-6 – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.

So how does all of this effect me in my down to earth here and now world? Actually, it is major. I am seated together with Christ and have access to the life and joy that Jesus has enjoyed with His Father from eternity. This is our heavenly inheritance and we taste the edge of it now through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus purchased for me. He purchased access into this heavenly intimacy with the Father and the Son. He has called me into this fellowship of the Holy Spirit purchased by His blood.

David saw this and prophesied about it 1000 years before Christ. Peter tasted it on the day of Pentecost and proclaimed “THIS IS THAT”. We can enjoy this blessing now, it is more than enough to sustain us and satisfy us in this journey called life.

FOOD FIGHTS AND CHURCH DRAMA

Eph. 2:20-22 – – having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

There is nothing like a good church fight. Churches fight over everything from choir robes to parking lots, from deacon selections to offerings. We’ve had our fair share over the years, we even had one because of my over emphasis of God in our services. Church people can be really mean.

The New Testament doesn’t try to hide the church’s blemishes. In the first days of the church (Acts 6) there was the first known church fight. This one turned into a food fight (fighting about food not throwing food). We had one of those in our church one time, feeding and reaching out to the poor and homeless was too much for some of our more “respectable” church members. The one in Acts 6 was not only about food but about race. Accusations were being thrown around that the needy Hebrews were getting more food than the needy Greeks. Sound familiar?

The next fight we see in the Bible is in Acts 15, that one was also about race. Paul had been planting gentile churches and the church was no longer mainly jewish, it was rapidly taking on a large gentile population with a very different culture. When Paul came to tell the stories of his gentile church planting, a fight broke out in Jerusalem at the highest level of leadership. The answer to the problem not only brought peace but was historic. The lead pastor in Jerusalem, James, spoke out in the form of a prophetic word using a text from Amos the prophet. What James was saying is that these gentile churches were the beginning of the last day temple of God. Here is how James said it.

“With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,

‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT,

SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’

SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.’”

(Acts 15:15–18 NAS95)

So church fights can bring destruction or, if cooler heads prevail and everyone yields to the leading of the Holy Spirit, great solutions can be forged. Today the Lord is restoring His temple, I am just glad to be part of His plan.

I REALLY NEED HIM

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Eph. 2:8, “For by grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

I don’t know about you but I really need God in my life. Let’s face it, without Christ we are all screw ups. We have a tendency to mess up our own lives as well as just about everyone else’s lives around us; that is without Christ. The good news is that there is hope for all of us, that hope is found in Christ. How does He do it? First He works on us to communicate our incredible need for Him. Then He begins to reveal His greatness and goodness to us. As we embrace Him we discover a whole new world. It starts with forgiveness from all the mess we have made; next He begins to drag us out of our misery. Most of the misery is internal, He works on our hearts and replaces our misery with contentment and joy. He also begins to work on the horrible messes we have made. He not only forgives but He also restores. Here are some thoughts about our need of God from Jonathan Edwards.
“Tis of God that Christ becomes ours, that we are brought to him, and are united to him: ’tis of God that we receive faith to close with him, that we may have an interest in him. Tis of God that we actually do receive all the benefits that Christ has purchased. ’Tis God that pardons and justifies, and delivers from going down to hell, and ’tis his favor that the redeemed are received into, and are made the objects of, when they are justified. So it is God that delivers from the dominion of sin, and cleanses us from our filthiness, and changes us from our deformity.”
So how is it with you? Have you figured it out yet that without him you are pretty much hopeless? Or are you still in the “I got his mode” thinking you can sort out your life on your own? The funny thing is sometimes our worst messes turn out to be hidden blessings. They bring us to our senses so that we realize we really do need Him. They also provide a great opportunity for God to be glorified as He sorts everything out. Just face it, we all really need Him.

THE OCEAN OF GRACE 

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Eph. 2:8,9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I have to laugh thinking back about the CD cover of one of our Victory Fellowship music projects called ON AND ON. It was a photograph of someone (actually it was Missionary James Widener) fully clothed and swimming in the bottomless ocean of God’s love. We were in an unusual season of outpouring at our church and it seemed as if we had all fallen into the bottomless, shoreless ocean of God’s grace. Augustine taught that this grace (his term – sovereign grace) had a profound effect on our soul. It was so sweet and so powerful that it changed the very desires of our heart. It was not only grace that covered us but grace that changed and satisfied our thirsty souls. This grace issues from God Himself and is infinite in nature. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“It is not because of anything in them, or that ever can be in them, that they are saved; but because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy, and grace of God. Tarry a moment, then, at the well-head. Behold the pure river of water of life, as it proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb! What an abyss is the grace of God! Who can measure its breadth? Who can fathom its depth? Like all the rest of the divine attributes, it is infinite.

God is full of love, for “God is love.” God is full of goodness; the very name “God” is short for “good.” Unbounded goodness and love enter into the very essence of the Godhead. It is because “his mercy endureth for ever” that men are not destroyed; because “his compassions fail not” that sinners are brought to Him and forgiven.”
Falling into this bottomless ocean can be catastrophic to our old plans and way of life. The taste of His grace is our first taste of true authenticity that we have ever known. It attracts us, covers us, converts us, satisfies us, and sustains us. From our first encounter with the grace of God the attractions of this world seem pitiful because we see them for what they are. So go ahead and dive in, you might have a reluctance like hesitating on the edge of a cold swimming pool but once you get in you will never want to come out.

FOOLISH RELIGIOUS FANATIC

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Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Deep inside of every man he knows that God exists. Of course the fall of man has effected us deeply, our perception of the Lord is twisted and clouded by sin. The natural tendency of man is to try to do something, or embrace a system of somethings, to try to make ourselves righteous in God’s eyes. It is the grace of God that opens our eyes to the vanity of those pursuits, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone and that faith is a gift from God. The problem is that there is, as Martin Luther said, a religious fanatic or evil monk living inside all of us. This monk thinks he is good enough to please good with his own efforts. Here are some thoughts from Luther himself on this dilemma.

“Something inside of us strongly compels us to keep trying to earn God’s approval. We look for good works, in which we can place our trust and which will bring us praise. We want to show God what we have done and say, “See, I have done this or that. Therefore, you must pronounce me righteous.” None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works. Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, “Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.” This happens to me too after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I’m much happier than if I hadn’t done it. Being happy isn’t wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn’t based on faith. It’s the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith.”
To know Christ has justified us totally by His sacrificial death on the cross changes everything. We step into this benefit by faith in His blood. The beauty about all of this is a life characterized by good works, we just live that way now for a different reason.

AUTHENTIC FAITH

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

I can remember the fog of unbelief that shrouded the vision of Christ from my heart for many years. It was the gentle wind of the Holy Spirit that blew the fog from my senses and created an atmosphere of faith in my life. It wasn’t a struggle or a labor for faith, suddenly Christ was real to me. As I yielded my heart and life to this new found love, a sense of His immensity began to fill my life. I often wonder how it started and why it started in my life. My only conclusion is that I was set apart by God by the work of His Spirit. It wasn’t anything in me that started the process in motion, it was strictly His sovereign pleasure. He loved me and wanted me in His plan. Just as Paul said in today’s verse, faith is a shear gift from God. Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray about God’s gift of faith.
“True faith bows before God in the deep realization of His greatness, of His power to work wonders in our hearts, and of His loving care for us. We must be convinced of our utter inability to produce on our own this love, which is holy and can conquer sin and unbelief. We need a burning desire to receive instead this heavenly love into our hearts, whatever the cost may be. Then we shall gain an insight into God’s Word as a living power in our hearts. This supernatural power is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit living and working within us. It is not something that we can generate in our own strength.”
So if this all makes sense to you and you have entered into this world of faith please don’t allow apathy to set in and steal the beauty and freshness of His incredible love. After you enter the world of faith by God’s gracious gift the work of faith begins. We labor at entering into this rest of faith. What do I mean? We must press in by searching the scriptures daily. He lives and walks in the pages of the Bible and will meet us regularly there. We must also labor by stirring up the gift of God in our lives. How do you do that? For me the easiest way is to pray in my heavenly language and live in an atmosphere of worship. The Word and the Spirit, this is how we walk in faith.

A WHOLE NEW LIFE

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.

Eph. 2:4–5
The Lord looks at things totally differently from the way we do. This generation seems to be fixated on improving people’s self esteem even to the point of denying the obvious; we are all deeply flawed and in need of regeneration and renewal. Regeneration is the beginning of our new life, like Jesus said, “Unless a man is born again he will never see the kingdom of God”. But we dare not stop at regeneration, daily renewal is imperative. In Revelations Jesus said, “Behold, I am making all things new”. So this act of continual renewal or transformation began at the new birth but it continues daily as we experience Christ making all things new in us. I love this about the Lord, there is no plateaus or getting to a place that we can say we have arrived. His adventure of transformation is never ending. Andrew Murray connected this renewal to Pentecost. Check out his thoughts on today’s verse.
“Man had fallen from a life in God into a life of self-love, self-esteem, and self-seeking and in pursuing the perishing enjoyments of the world. But on the day of Pentecost a new dispensation of God came forth. God’s part in it was the working of the Holy Spirit and His gifts and graces upon the whole church. Man’s part in it was the adoration of God in spirit and in truth.

All this was to make way for the immediate and continual working of God in man. Man, baptized with the Holy Spirit, should renounce self and give up his entire soul, with all the faculties of his mind, to the disposal of God.”
So rather than improving our image of ourselves we actually have to die to ourselves. It is not improving us that we want, it is Christ revealing Himself to us, in us, and through us that we are after. How can I cooperate with this ultimate plan of God? It is by drawing near to God in worship and in His word, drinking in His goodness and love for me. The more He becomes real in me, the more He shines through me. This is awesome. This is where I am satisfied and God is glorified, I must decrease and He must increase.

WORK OF ART

Eph. 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

I remember years ago when Dick Mills gave today’s verse as a prophetic word to my wife Parris. It was a beautiful word about the various giftings that at that time were yet to be displayed in her. I began to see this verse from a different perspective that day as I heard Brother Mills tell Parris “you are the Lord’s work of art”. Here is Brother Mills’ definition of this beautiful Bible word.
“workmanship, poiema: From the verb poieo, “to make.” (Compare “poem” and “poetry.”) The word signifies that which is manufactured, a product, a design produced by an artisan. Poiema emphasizes God as the Master Designer, the universe as His creation (Rom. 1:20), and the redeemed believer as His new creation (Eph. 2:10). Before conversion our lives had no rhyme or reason. Conversion brought us balance, symmetry, and order. We are God’s poem, His work of art.”
The Lord has a unique and special plan to be displayed in each of us. You too are His work of art or His masterpiece. Here is how Watchman Nee describes this verse.
“The first clause could as well be rendered “We are his masterpiece.” The church is the very best God can produce. It can never be improved on. We look around and see breakdown everywhere, and we wonder, what is the church coming to? I tell you, she is not “coming to” anything; she has arrived. We do not look forward to discover her goal; we look back. God reached His end in Christ before the foundation of the world. As we move on with Him in the light of that eternal fact, we witness even now its progressive manifestation. In Romans 8:30 Paul tells us that those God has foreordained He has both called and justified and glorified. Thus, all His own have, in His intention, already been glorified. In Christ the goal is reached. The church has already come to glory!”
Individually and corporately God is working on His painting. We catch glimpses of its beauty now, the day is coming when will see His work unveiled in all of its glory. It will be breathtaking. Until that day yield your life to the master artesian, He is working on you and through you on His magnificent work of art.

RELIGIOUS FANATICS

Eph. 2:8,9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

This is the stumbling stone of the gospel, we are saved by faith and our works have nothing to do with it. At the end of the day, all of us want some credit for our salvation. Surely it is something in me that warranted God choosing me. After we get saved and begin to actually have good works in our lives we want to take credit for them. If the Lord ever uses us to reach people or to build a small group or a church we start moving toward celebrity status in our minds (I speak from experience). From there we are going to fill stadiums (I can’t count the number of people who have said that). Why not be a Christian that loves and touches hurting people and remains nameless? Luther had a funny way of expressing this. He said there is an evil monk or religious fanatic living inside all of us. Here is one of his classic rants.
“None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works. Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, “Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.” This happens to me too after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I’m much happier than if I hadn’t done it. Being happy isn’t wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn’t based on faith. It’s the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should realize that we all carry in our hearts a horrible religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works.”
So have you ever seen this religious fanatic raise his ugly head in you? Few will admit it but he is there none-the-less. How do we destroy this religious fanatic? We destroy him by constantly giving glory to the Lord. It is God who is at work in us and by the grace of God we are what we are.