Notice that Paul stresses the fact that you had nothing to do with this. You and I did not add to this at all. No, all of this activity belongs to God. We didn’t originate it; we couldn’t have come up with this redemptive program by which, in a very real sense, we have died. Men never plan to die; they plan to live! Death is what he fears the most. Yet, God has worked out a way where our old life could end, could die. We could never have thought that up. But God did. So it is not of our doing. And it is not of our deserving. We have no merit here. It is not of works, Paul says. We cannot earn it. It is all the result of grace. It is given to us, day by day, from the hand of God.
It had to be done for us, so we could never boast. Do you know what boasting is? It is deceiving yourself. Boasting is pretending you are something you are not. When you boast, you are saying, “I’m my own creator, my own god. I have what it takes to handle life. Nobody contributes to me. I am sufficient in myself.”
That is what we really mean when we boast. But this is a lie because we are not self-sufficient. Each one of us is a dependent creature. We cannot live a moment without the love, acceptance, or understanding from someone else. Without our relationships with others, life turns dull, bleak, barren, gray, drab. Often, we forget how dependent we are, and lie to ourselves about it. We boast about our accomplishments and hide our failures. The whole time we are only deceiving ourselves.
God never allows self-deception to stand. He is an utter realist. He deals with life exactly as it is. So, the only thing we can contribute is to receive his grace, simply take it, moment by moment accept relationship with him, utilize the power he makes available to us, and rest in the fantastic fact that he will solve all the riddles which arise, so as to accomplish the ends he has promised.
Boasting in your faith would be like boasting in the fact that you reached out to take a check from somebody. Let’s use our imagination and say that you have a tremendous debt. It consuming all of your thoughts and you are overwhelmed with frustration. All due to that dept. You don’t answer your phone because the creditors are continually calling. The debt collection agents threaten you and promise to continue their intent to collect.
But then Glory to God, you meet someone who offers to pay the entire dept for you. You are obviously shocked and don’t know what to say, when he suddenly holds out a check for $500,000! Far more than you owe! You are overcome with joy and excitement and reach out and take it from him. Hooray!
Now, imagine how absurd it would be if you then went around telling everybody, “Isn’t it wonderful that I had what it took to reach out and grab that check?” If they are kind, they might say, “Um, wasn’t it marvelous that he paid that debt for you?” If you said, “Oh, he didn’t do anything special; I took the check! After all, If I had never taken the check, what good would it have done for him to give it to me in the first place?”
Absurd? Yeah, but if you had directed all the attention and expected all the praise and glory for reaching out and taking the check, how silly would that be? Well, that is exactly what some of us do with our Father’s gift. He made all this possible, so you can’t go bragging about what you received from your faith. It is the greatness of God which supplied the grace to our lives. This is why Paul writes:
God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Yeshua to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Notice how carefully he places “works” in the right place. You don’t obtain anything from God by working for it. The only thing you deserve is judgment at his hand. And, I’ll tell you what, if He gave us what we deserve, we would all end up in Hell! No. We receive His grace, His mercy, His love and the results, the fruits of His gifts, are our good works — our acts of obedience. That is the point. It is designed to produce good works. It is a marvelous manifestation of God’s ability.
Here’s something that might be new for you: the Greek word for “work” is Poiema which gives us our English words poem and poetry. Poiema actually means “something made” and in context is something God Himself made. As a new creation skillfully and artfully created in Christ Jesus, your new supernatural life is a work of “divine poetry!” As S. Gordon wrote, as believers “each of our lives is the papyrus on which the Master is producing a work of art that will fill the everlasting ages with His praise.” What a great observation! Seriously. You are God’s masterpiece, His poem, His work of art. When we look at ourselves this way, we begin to understand our incredible value in Christ. Indeed, as C S Lewis said “We are a divine work of art.” “If Rembrandt’s artistic masterpieces have great, undisputed value, would not God’s one-of-a-kind human masterpieces convey even greater value?” (D Robertson)
Our Father is creating in our lives a tremendous exhibition and demonstration of His wisdom, His power, His love, His life, His character, His peace, and His joy. He is teaching us, training us, bringing us along, applying the paint in exactly the right places, producing a marvelous masterpiece to be put on display. All of our bad habits that we have encouraged through many years of indulgence and fostered by strong natural appetences, can be destroyed! The result is all of His workmanship are the good works from our lives: kindness, love, mercy, compassion, help for one another, meeting the needs of one another.
Paul says that God has prepared these works beforehand. This is exactly what this passage is saying. God has already prepared some works for you to do. As you walk in the Spirit, he will lead you to them. When you enter into them they will always be works of blessing, of help, of strengthening others.
Do you have any idea how many good works the Spirit of God has prepared for you? They are waiting for you to enter into, as you walk in faith and trust and dependence on His guidance. They are entered by faith, by trust in the God who has raised us with Christ and made us to sit together with him. The situations are there, ready and waiting for you. This is what God has called you to. As you do so, you become a vivid display of the greatness and the glory of God.
Let these thoughts rest in your heart and mind. Give thanks to God for what he has done in Jesus Christ, and for the fact that this opens to us fantastic possibilities which stretch from this moment on beyond death into the coming ages, age following upon age, incredible numbers of possibilities for the manifestation of the greatness of our God.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.