Thursday, January 3, 2013

Workmanship reflects the Workman

In the scriptures, we often hear man spoken of as God's workmanship.  A workman has a particular skill or talent which becomes evident in what is produced as a result of their work.  I think this is a pretty fair way to describe what God is - the one who creates not only who we are, but what becomes of our lives.  In the King James version, there is a text about us being God's workmanship which just speaks volumes to me:  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (KJV)  This same text is translated in one of the paraphrase versions of the Bible as:

God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:10 GW)

I kind of like the paraphrase because it points out the meaning of the whole "ordained that we should" part!  God has created us - not to live our own independent lives, but in Christ Jesus - to live lives FILLED with good works.  These "good works" he has prepared for us to do - they are not random acts of kindness, but prepared, purposeful, divine appointments where we connect his love and grace with another's life through the actions we express.  

I would be remiss to take this one verse out of context and hang my hat on it as some form of doctrine, so let me explain what Paul has been writing to the church at Ephesus about.  First, he is focused on the church coming together, not with each individual doing their own thing, but in unity.  There is purpose and intent in being in unity - and it takes some getting used to as each individual has to lay down what they see as their "rights".  Paul knows the "blending" of personalities in any purposeful intent takes some amount of effort.  It is his purpose to focus on the "effort" of unity - it beginning not with what we do to accomplish this, but with what God did in us to provide the beginning of this unity!  Then he builds upon the beginning God creates and shows how even the grace to live in unity is an action of God in our lives. Apart from the "workman", the workmanship is useless!

If you have ever created something, you might have had a few "fails" in the creation process, like when you burn a batch of cookies or have a new recipe just bomb big time.  Your "workmanship" didn't live up to the potential you hoped to exhibit in the end.  This is the case with much of what we set out to do on our own - we bomb big time!  Why?  It is simple - we are God's workmanship, so trying to display our own "creative process" is kind of like telling the workman we'd rather be burnt cookies!  

In looking at our passage, we come to the point where Paul gives us the greatest hope we can ever latch onto - God has made us what we are.  Now, don't gloss over this point - God (the workman) has made (past tense) us (you and I) what we are (present tense).  Do you see anything here?  There is both past and present tense in this sentence structure.  The past tense, has made, describes the finished work of Christ in our lives.  In God's eyes, we are perfect - created in the image of God, redeemed by the blood of the perfect Lamb of God, complete in every way.  In the present tense, we are chosen to do something which reflects his workmanship like nothing else can - living lives filled with the good works he has PREPARED for us to do.  

These are good works he has prepared ahead of time for us to do.  Sometimes we set out to do something and in the end, we realize God has done something even greater than we ever imagined.  It was not because we did it, but because he prepared ahead of time for us to be an instrument of his purpose in that moment.  This is amazing to me - how God orchestrates the activities of my life and yours, totally aware of each choice we will make before we make it, and aligning every opportunity for us to display his workmanship so perfectly.  The "has prepared" is past tense, but it is lived out in the present tense.  The workman envisioned each good work - then he orchestrated the means by which his workmanship would be displayed!

Each year, we begin by doing a whole lot of "retrospective" looking - we look at what we have done in the prior year.  Then we usually turn our eyes toward what we will do differently in the new year.  We call this a time of resolutions.  I have come to the conclusion a long time ago that the best of my resolutions are really worthless because I don't know the end from the beginning!  At best, I set out on a course I hope will lead me to the desired end.  What I have come to realize is the importance of relying not on my own plan, but on the prepared purpose of the workman in my life!  In this time of "resolving" to "do" certain things this year, let's not lose sight of the "prepared" purpose of our lives.  We can only find that prepared purpose by consulting the one who created us in to fulfill these in the first place - the DIVINE workman - God himself.

So, as we "resolve" this year, let us not forget to consider the Workman in the resolutions - he has prepared much for us - getting in line with what he has prepared is the best plan for our new year.  Just sayin!