“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Think of the Creator as a Master Artist. A Craftsman superior to all others. Can anyone doubt that He is?
Look at the incredible, mind-boggling beauty across the universe. Look in the distance at the stars and galaxies. The Hubble telescope has revealed such stunning visuals which up until now, only the Heavenly Host saw and enjoyed.
David reveled in the tiny portion which his eyes could take in: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:7-8)
Look nearer home, at the planets and our own Earth. Travel the Earth and take in visuals delights like–naming some of my favorites here–the Rockies, the Smokies, the Western plains, the sugary beaches of the Gulf Coast, the Painted Desert, New England in Autumn, and San Francisco from a distance. And yes, the Holy Land, Egypt, the Italian peninsula, and Ireland. The variety is endless, the majesty awesome.
Closer still, look at the jaw-dropping beauty ot a child’s face, the stunning perfection of a winter rose, a closeup of an opal, and the heart-stopping thrill of a double rainbow after a storm.
Those whose work confines them to the laboratory see God’s handiwork under a microscope. The professor sees it in the mathematical precision by which the universe functions. The historian sees God’s hand in the movements of men and nations through the centuries. Those in the medical field see God in the healings that occur under their watchcare each day.
God, the Artist. He is the Original Originator, the One whose craft the rest of us imitate and copy and admire.
But more. We ourselves are His artwork. We not only admire His work, we are His work. We speak His message, but we are His message.
That is the point of Ephesians 2:10. We are God’s “poema,” to use the Greek word Paul employed. “Poema” literally means “handiwork,” or “craft.” From it, the English language took the word “poem.”
We are God’s poetry.
In poems, each word is chosen with great care. The poet may spend days on one sentence, seeking perfection. Poems typically are not long, but when done right, possess such a beauty and perfection we could not imagine their being written any other way.
In “Angela’s Ashes,” Frank McCourt’s best-seller about coming of age in poverty-stricken Ireland, he describes his delight in discovering Shakespeare. The teenager would lie in the bathtub reading the poetry of the great writer. He said, “When I read Shakespeare out loud, I felt I had jewels in my mouth.”
Think about your being a poem from the hand and mind of Almighty God, written to be enjoyed and appreciated by all who find you.
We are God’s sculpture.
Recently, I made two visits to Clinton, Mississippi, where Professor Sam Gore has taught art for generations of students. Walking across the campus of Mississippi College, one comes upon a large display of Dr. Gore’s sculptures depicting Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. This past weekend, during my visit to preach at the First Baptist Church of Clinton, I noticed a large display of another biblical message in a church garden.
One sees these products of the artist’s hands and stands in awe. To think that we ourselves are considered sculptures from the hand of God is almost too much to comprehend.
“I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was making something on a wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter, so he remade it…. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does? Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:1ff.)
The hymnwriter said, “Have thine own way, Lord. Thou art the potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.”
We are God’s painting.
There are all kinds of paintings, from oils to acrylics to watercolors and more. I don’t care to push the metaphor to extremes here, but simply to say that as an artist sketches a scene on a canvas and slowly applies colors to perfect its image, God is making us into a display of Himself and His message.
The painting testifies to the artist.
“…to show forth the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:10).
a) Like a painting on the easel, each of us is a work in progress.
“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
b) We must not be impatient; the Artist works His own plan in His own way and at the speed of His choice.
Many years ago, a lot of Christian people went around wearing buttons reading “PBPWM.GINFWMY.” When asked, they replied, “It stands for ‘Please be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet.'”
c) We must trust the Artist, that He knows what He is about.
If a painting could see itself half-finished, it would climb down off the easel and leave the studio. No painting looks like anything when half-done. And yet, Christians sometimes set themselves up as art critics, telling God He’s made mistakes here and could have done better there.
d) As the artwork testifies of its creator, so our lives bring glory or shame to our Lord.
We are God’s letters.
“…being manifested that you are a letter of Christ….written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (II Corinthians 3:3).
We Christians love to point out that “we are only messengers of the Lord.” And we are. (See II Corinthians 5:20 where Paul calls us “ambassadors.”) And yet, there is another sense in which we are more than that, but also the message itself. That’s the point of II Corinthians 3:3. God is speaking to the world through you and me.
How does that line from St. Francis go? “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.”
We are his artwork, His craft, His handiwork, created for the express purpose of bringing forth good works.
We are not saved by our good works, but saved unto good works.
I don’t wish to belabor this point other than to say that it’s a little like wearing the uniform of the military: We don’t become a member of the Air Force or Navy by wearing their clothing and obeying their program; but, once we join the service, we are given the uniforms and issued instructions which we are expected to obey. We do so because we’re in the service, not in order to join.
We who are the Lord’s artwork–His poetry, sculpture, painting, letters, whatever–testify to His greatness and glory, His love and grace, by the way we live and the works we do. We show forth the praises of Him who called us from darkness into light by our character and our deeds.
If you miss that, nothing else will work for you. You will spend your days wondering why God saved you and left you on earth. You have a ministry of being the unique piece of artwork which the Living God made you to be.
You are an original. Not a copy or a knock-off. You are the real thing. There is no one else like you, never has been and never will be.
So be yourself. The “you” whom God planned you to be. Get with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and stay with the program.
You’re going to like what He does, if you will stay where He put you and do what He commands.