Thursday, November 6, 2014

God's handiwork

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 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 - it is by grace you have been saved. And 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. For it is by grace you have been saved - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God  - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2: 1-10)

When looking up sites on Google, frequently, on the side of the screen,  frustrating flashing commercials are displayed that distract my attention from what I'm trying to read. I often see one commercial that displays a picture of an older woman with leathery, wrinkled skin. Next to the woman with skin damage is a picture of the same woman with a smooth, flawless complexion. The advertisement is likely promoting a beauty cream that, if I were to purchase it, would supposedly transform my skin in the same manner. First, I'm irritated, as this shows that either my age is used against me by advertisers, or some product I've purchased through the web is being leaked to advertisers. What an invasion of privacy! On the other hand, I'm irritated, because I'd like to look like the woman with the perfect skin. I waste my time wondering whether it really is possible to so transform one's face.

In reading Ephesians 2: 1-10, I see a more valuable lesson on transformation. Without Christ in our lives, we are swayed by the concerns that the world places on us. We "gratify the cravings of our flesh and follow its desires and thoughts." There is nothing wrong with wanting to look my best, and I do try out all sorts of anti-aging creams - not that they actually work! Yet, here we read about the transformation that occurs when we confess our sinfulness to God, open our hearts to Him and allow His grace to cleanse and renew us.

So often, Ephesians 2: 8-9 is emphasized to remind us that we should not take credit for any good deeds that we do. Our salvation, our forgiveness and our talents are bestowed on us by our Savior who bore the cross to give us freedom from imprisonment to sin. Recently, I took a longer look at 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. We are God's handiwork - He created us to live a life of fulfillment in Him. The works we do, God knew about before we even do them. He prepared these works for us to do! What an amazing thought! Christ-in-us transforms us into one of those advertisements of perfection. It is His doing, and He wants us to bear the fruit of the Spirit, because this is the way our Creator designed us - knowing that we would do good, not because we are good, but because of who we become in Him.  He sees us as righteous, and He can work in us to do good deeds. In Philippians 2:13, Paul writes: For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
God can and does transform us when we open our lives to His good works in us.

Dear God,
How exciting it is to know that You prepared me in advance to do good works for Your kingdom.  You can work in me to fulfill Your good purpose. I want to glorify You and give You praise and honor for what You have done to transform me. Thank You that I am perfect in Your sight.
In Jesus' Name. Amen

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