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God has done a wonderful thing for us. He has brought us salvation and eternal life and He doesn't want us boasting in what we have done. In fact, He doesn't want any flesh to glory in His sight. So even the faith by which we are saved God gives to us as a gift. So I can't even boast about my believing the truth of God. "Well, the truth came to me and I examined the truth, and I decided I am going to believe it." Nope, "by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourself. It is a gift of God."
It is not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph 2:9).
You see, God knows the tendency of our old nature to want to receive glory. That's a part of that sinful nature, that is the very thing that tripped up Satan. "I'm going to exalt my throne above the stars of heaven. I'm going to sit in the congregation in the sides of the north. I'm going to ascend into the heights. I will be like the Most High. I want people to recognize and worship and glory in me." "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" (Isaiah 14:12) Who did exalt thyself," looking for glory.
God knows that is a part of our nature, and therefore He placed salvation outside of our capacity, outside of our ability. He made our salvation on the basis of His grace, His work, His work through Jesus Christ and my believing that work. And then He gave me the faith to believe it. He drew me unto Himself, placed the faith in my heart to believe His truth, and granted unto me through His grace this glorious gift of eternal life. "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God." That faith by which you were saved. "It is not of works, [your salvation,] lest any man should boast."
For we are his workmanship (Eph 2:10),
The Greek word translated workmanship is poiema, from which we get our English word poem. You are His work. You are His poem. A poem is a thing of grace, a thing of beauty. God wants your life to be a thing of grace and a thing of beauty. And as God works in your life, it will become a thing of grace and of beauty; you are His poem.
The poet seeks to express Himself in beautiful terms. He seeks to express beauty in attractive terms. God is seeking to express Himself, and your life becomes that expression as God works in you. You are His work, as God works in your life conforming you into the image of Jesus Christ, you then become the revelation of God to the world around you--the expression of God.
Jesus, it says, was the express image of His glory. He said one day to His disciples, "If you have seen the Father you have seen Me," or . . . "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father," rather. Philip said, "Show us the Father and we will be satisfied." "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. How sayest thou then, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? And the works that I do, I do not of Myself, but of the Father that dwells in Me, He doeth the works. Believest thou then that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe for the very works' sake" (John 14:8-11).
So God wants you to be the expression of Himself to this world. And that is the purpose of God's work in your life, to conform you into the image of Jesus Christ. Now, as we get to the fourth chapter of Ephesians, Paul will tell us that God has appointed in the church pastor-teachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles, and not in that order. He put pastor-teachers last, but I like to reverse the order since I am a pastor-teacher.
But their purpose was for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ until we all came into the unity of the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, unto the complete or fully mature man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of the image of Christ. You see, this is God's work in you: conform you into the image of Christ.
Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said, "We all, with open face as we behold the glory of the Lord, are being changed from glory to glory even into that same image" (II Corinthians 3:18). God expressing Himself through you as God knocks off the rough edges and as God smoothes out those rough spots. His whole purpose of His work in my life is to conform me into the image of Christ, that He might reveal Himself through me to the world. His love through me, His grace through me, His kindness through me.
Now, a lot of the times as God is doing His work in me and He begins to chip off some of those clumsy edges, I begin to scream. I don't always like that work of God. But it is important that I submit to that work of God. I don't always understand it, "Lord, why did You chip that one off? I thought that it looked pretty good." I don't always understand why certain hard places have come into my life, but God is working. It is important that I know this. Because as I know this, then I can yield to these things, and I don't fight them. I say, "Lord, my life is Yours." If any man suffers according to the will of God, let him commit the keeping of his soul unto Him as a wise Creator. "God, my life is in Your hands. You do what You know best and what You see best. Lord, I accept these things that are coming my way. You work, Lord, Your work in me, that You might reveal Yourself through me."
You are His poiema.
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).
God has already determined, foreordained, that work that you are to accomplish for His glory. God has a plan and a purpose for your life.
You remember when Mordecai sent the message into Esther after she had said, "I can't just go in and see my husband any time I want. We have got laws here in Persia, and unless he calls me, I really can't go into see him. And if I would presume to go in and see him, if he doesn't hold the golden scepter, they will take my head off." And her cousin Mordecai sent back a message and said, "How do you know but what God hasn't brought you into the kingdom for such a time as this?" The whole background, the beauty contest where she was chosen to be the new queen, the deposing of the old queen Vashti and all of these circumstances. "How do you know that God isn't working and hasn't been working all of the way through up to this point to prepare you for this precise moment in history to bring deliverance for God's people? Now don't think within yourself that if this edict goes through you are going to escape, or that the edict can actually go through, for deliverance will arise from another quarter, God is going to do His work." But you will be the loser if God has chosen to use you to do that work and you fail.
So God has been preparing you. How do you know but this isn't what God has been preparing you for? As God works in our life, we can know that God has a purpose and a plan. He doesn't just work happenstance in us. It isn't just some kind of a capricious act of God that I have been through these severe testings or trials. It is a part of God's plan in preparing me to do the work that God has already decided that I should do for the glory of His kingdom.
So I can look back in my life and I can see how God was preparing me and working in me to prepare me for this place that I am today. I can go back, all the way back, actually, to my birth and even before my birth, to see how God had His hand upon my life even in the prenatal state. As He was preparing me for the work that He wanted me to accomplish for His glory some day. I can see that preparation in my early childhood as God gave me such a godly mother, who before I was born, when my sister, for all practical purposes, had died, made a covenant with God and said, "God, if You will spare my little daughter's life, if You will give me my little girl back to me, I will serve You and minister for You the rest of my life." And how God miraculously healed my sister instantly and brought her back to life, she started breathing again. And two months later when I was born, my mother said, "Father, I will fulfill my vow to You through my son. I will dedicate him to serve You."
Thus, from my earliest memories my mother was teaching me to memorize the scriptures. Following me around when I played, she let me be a normal boy. Play ball and everything else, but as I was a child she would follow me around having me recite scriptures. Bedtime I never heard of Goldilocks or Red Riding Hood until I grew up. But I knew all about David, and Moses, and Joshua and Paul. These were my bedtime stories. God was preparing.
Our early years of ministry, those times of great frustration, those times of failure, those times of hardship, those times of learning to trust God for the evening meal. When we would be absolutely, that is an overstatement, when we would be almost broke, because one night when we came right down to it, we were almost broke. We went through Kay's purses and my pants pockets and our dresser drawers, and we did find thirty-seven cents. And we headed out to the store with thirty-seven cents to buy our evening meal.
Challenged by how nutritious a meal that we could purchase for thirty-seven cents. How balanced and nutritious, it was a real challenge, and we made it. We had a bunch of carrots and a can of pork and beans. And when we laid them on the counter the guy totaled them up he said, "Thirty-seven cents." I had it figured out. I laid the cash on the counter and we started out the door. And he called us back, and he said, "I am sorry. I have been intending for a long time to do something for you kids, and here, I want you to take this," and he reached under the counter and gave us a ten dollar grocery certificate. I told Kay, "Let's go over to the meat counter." And I said to Kay to pick out two of the best t-bones, God is treating tonight. We are going to eat steak.
God was in it. God was preparing us to trust Him for the evening meal. Preparing us to just believe in Him and to know that He would supply the needs. Teaching us to be careful and frugal with His funds. Teaching us to be wise and careful as we spent His funds. All of it was important and necessary preparation, for God had in mind the whole while the ministry that we are experiencing today. I didn't have any idea what God had in mind. I had ambitions; hopefully one day I would have a church of 250 people, that was my great ambition in life. I was tired of little churches of under a hundred, because they could never support the needs of the family. So I worked as Paul, laboring with my own hands so that we would not be chargeable to the churches.
When we first began Calvary Chapel we worked, laboring with our own hands. And I was prepared to continue to work, but God had other things in mind--far and above anything we had ever dreamed. The work that God has in mind for you to do for Him.
Now, I do believe that we can check out of God's program if we desire. I think that we can say, "Okay Lord, that is it. I have had it. I don't want to go through this anymore. I am going to take another path." I think that we can actually miss out on that plan of God that He has ordained for our future. Not that we are going to miss salvation, don't misunderstand me now. That is not the issue at all. The issue is God's perfect plan for your life, the work that God has before ordained that you should accomplish for His glory. I think that you can miss that. If you rebel against the work that God is seeking to do in your life today to prepare you for the work. I do believe that God does prepare the instrument before He uses the instrument.
It is the days of preparation we often despise, though the Bible tells us, "Do not despise the days of preparation." The days of the small things, "Lord, I want to get on to the big things, the big work You have got." No, no. It is necessary that God first work in me before God can work through me. That is why we are told in the scriptures to count it all joy when we go through some real hard testings. That is why we are told to rejoice in tribulation for God is working in you, because God wants to work through you. He has got a plan for you, the work that He wants you to accomplish. Now, I don't think that I have arrived, I think that God has yet to do greater work for me to accomplish for His glory. It is exciting to me each day to see the new opportunities that God brings into our path, in the expanding of the ministry as we seek to do His work. So God still prepares man. I haven't arrived by a long shot, but I am on the way. One day when I do arrive, I will look around and I will see Paul and John, and I will be in glory. When I have apprehended that for which I have been apprehended. Paul was very conscious of the fact that when the Lord called him, God had a plan in mind and he said, "I am not yet apprehended that for which I was apprehended." Still on the road.
There is still something to be done, God still has a purpose and a work for me yet to fulfill. When I have completed, when I have apprehended that for which I was apprehended, do you think God is going to leave me in this sin-cursed world any longer? No, He loves me too much. He is going to take me to be with Him in the eternal glories of His kingdom.
Wherefore remember, that you in time past as a Gentile in the flesh, were called the Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands (Eph 2:11);
So remember as a Gentile you were totally excluded by the Jews. Excluded to salvation.
That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world (Eph 2:12):
Now he is going back again. You, before the coming of Jesus Christ into your life--a real separation, a real wall between you and God, you and the people of God. You were without Christ, you were an alien and strangers from the covenants of promise and you had no hope, for you were without God in the world. That is one of the saddest, most tragic pictures of mankind. No hope, without God in the world, without Christ, without hope, without God.
It is a tragic thing to try to exist in a hopeless state. One of the greatest things the Bible does for us, it gives us hope, even in a world that is deteriorating around us, there is hope. In fact, the more the world deteriorates the greater the hope becomes.
Do you know what is the latest conclusion of the most brilliant economists in the world? Do you know that they declare to be the only hope for the world at this point? They are now declaring that the only hope for the world is a unified monetary system. In their latest writings, publications, they are beginning to espouse this as the only salvation for the world. The only hope for the world is a unified monetary system, worldwide. That is the only thing that will cause mankind to lay down their arms, because we will all realize that we are having the economic problems in trying to build these tremendous armaments and we'll all be joined together in an economic endeavor to make the world a better place. So we have got to have a unified monetary worldwide monetary system.
Interesting that they would come upon that as the only hope of the world. And when that is established they will be hailing that as the salvation of the world. It is interesting for us as children of God to realize that the Bible says, that is exactly what we will be established by the antichrist and will cause him to be hailed as the savior of the world, is when he brings to pass a unified, monetary system worldwide. And so the world is talking about these things and, "This is our only hope, and we can't do this. And we've had it and all." And they are without hope, really, because whoever could put together a worldwide unified monetary system and while they are talking about the doom and gloom we are saying, "All right it is getting close. As soon as they get that thing integrated, I am going to be gone." We have this glorious hope in Christ. For the world is without Christ, it is without hope. Where it is without God, it is without hope.
But now, in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off you've been brought nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:13).
You were once an alien; now you have been made a part of the family of God. You were once a stranger; now you are at home in the kingdom.
For he is our peace (Eph 2:14),
Not, "He will bring us peace." He is our peace.
who has made both one (Eph 2:14),
That is, both the Jew and the Greek, or the Jew and the Gentile, He has made us both one.
and broke down that wall of partition that used to separate us; having abolished in his flesh that enmity that once existed, even the law of commandments contained in the ordinances; in order that he may make in himself of the two one new man, so making peace (Eph 2:14-15);
So Jesus took the two diverse and divergent systems, the Jew who was trying to under the law to be righteous before God, and failing; the Gentile who was totally alienated because he wasn't even close by way of the law. And this tremendous difference that existed between the Jew under the law, and the Gentile without a law, both of them failing to please God or to come into fellowship with God. And Jesus broke down this barrier, this wall that existed between man and mankind and He has made it all one in Him. So Jesus the common denominator, and He is one way by which man can come to God. The Gentile apart from the law, the Jew within the law system, all have to come this new route that Jesus has established. So that as we all come by the same path through Jesus Christ, we become one. And no longer does this great difference exist between the Jew and the Gentile. So in making from the two, one new man and thus, He has made peace.
That he might reconcile both unto God in the one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (Eph 2:16):
Or, in the cross He fulfilled the law. The righteous demands of the law were fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ. The law righteously demanded that the sinning soul should die. Now, under the ordinances they had the provision that they could take an animal as a substitute and thus cover their sins. But the righteousness of the law had to be satisfied. It was satisfied in the death of Jesus Christ, and so there He brought an end to the law and its authority over man, because the law has now been totally satisfied through His death. And now through His death He has reconciled both--that is, the Jew who could not keep the law, or the Gentile who had no relationship to the law. We have both been reconciled to God in one body of Christ by the cross, and there He put an end to this enmity that existed between the two.
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off, and to them which were close (Eph 2:17).
The same message He preaches to all men. Whether you were far, or near.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father (Eph 2:18).
"There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5). And you have no access to God apart from Jesus Christ. And I don't care how I am accused of being narrow in that statement. I am only stating to you what the scriptures declare.
You can only have access to God through Jesus Christ. Yes, it is a straight gate and it is a narrow path, but it leads to eternal life. Broad is the gate, and broad is the path that leads to destruction, and many go in. There is the flow, the flow of the world. But straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few there be that find it. So Christ has made the way by which man can come to God, it is a road that is marked by blood, but it brings us into fellowship and in communion with the Father.
So you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you have been made a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household of God (Eph 2:19);
So it is not only Christ settling down and making Himself at home in your hearts, but you just being a part of the household of God, at home with God.
And you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph 2:20),
Now, these are not the prophets of the Old Testament, but the prophets in the New Testament church. We are not really built upon the foundation of the apostles. They are not the foundation upon which we are built, but we are built upon the message of the apostles. That is the foundation. Paul said, "No other foundation have we then this which is all ready laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Peter said, "You are the messiah the son of the living God," and Jesus said, "That is good Peter. God revealed that to you, and upon this rock I am going to build my church."
He is the foundation upon which we are built, the message of the apostles and the prophets, that God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ. And that He is the way by which we might come to God. That is the foundation, laid by the apostles and the prophets in their teaching and in their ministry.
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Eph 2:20);
God is building a habitation for Himself. A body in which to dwell, the body of Christ. The body of believers. I become a part of that building of God. You remember Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst." We are the building of God. We have been built upon that foundation laid by the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone upon which this building is built. You remember that Peter, standing before the Sanhedrin, quoted that particular Psalm 118 referring to Jesus Christ. He said, "This is the stone which was set of nought by you builders but the same has become the chief cornerstone, this is the work of God it is marvelous in our eyes," Psalm 118. Christ the chief cornerstone. He was the stone that was set of nought by the builders. They rejected Him. He came to His own and His own received Him not. Those leaders of the Jewish religion rejected the chief cornerstone.
There is an interesting story that in the building of the temple of Solomon, you remember not the sound of an axe or a hammer was heard, no sound of iron, but all of the stones quarried away from the building, carried to the building perfectly carved out and then just set in without even the use of mortar. Perfectly carved and fit together. So they had the architect and he drew the blueprints for each stone, and they would mark them and put them in their position within the temple as they were building it. And the story goes that there came from the quarry a stone that did not have its mark, and so the builders could not figure where the stone went. So they finally just cast it aside, figured it was a mistake from the quarry. When the temple was complete, they sent to the quarry and they said, "Where is the chief cornerstone?" The quarry sent back and said, "We already sent it along time ago." They sent back and said, "We have not received it. It is not here." They said, "We have got our invoice and you signed it. It is there." Finally, over in the bushes that had grown over the thing, someone dug it out and said, "There is a stone over here, could this be it?" Sure enough, it was the chief cornerstone of the building that the builders had neglected and cast aside. And they found out this is the one it fits; it is the chief cornerstone.
So Jesus Christ, set of nought by the religious leaders, by the builders, but God has made Him to be the chief cornerstone. This is the work of God. It is marvelous in our eyes, and neither is there salvation, Peter said, in any other, because there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. The chief cornerstone upon which the whole thing is built.
In whom all of the building is fitly framed and grows unto the holy temple in the Lord (Eph 2:21):
So when you have Christ, building on Him, the whole building goes together fitly framed together the holy temple in the Lord.
In whom ye also are built together as the house of God through the Spirit (Eph 2:22).
Again, where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst. The house of God where He comes to dwell among His people. How glorious it is to be able to gather together with the family of God and to experience the presence of Jesus Christ and the power of God's Spirit as He is working to build this habitation, not a physical building, but our lives that are being knit together, fit together in this whole plan of God, this glorious building where God will reveal Himself to His people, and through His people to the world.
Thank you, Father, for that wonderful work of your Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. For that grace whereby we were saved. For Your work in us as You prepare us to do Your work, for Your Spirit drawing us near when we were without hope and was without Christ, and was without God in this world. For making us a part of the family of God. Fitting us together as we are built upon Christ. Oh Lord, You are beautiful, and we love Your work. Amen.
You are His workmanship created together in Christ Jesus unto the good works that God has foreordained that you should walk in them. God has a plan for your life this week. God is working in you. God wants to work through you. As you yield yourself, your lives to God, you will begin to discover that which God intended and purposed for you to do for His glory. But you can only discover it by yielding to Him.
As a potter works with the clay, and as he begins his work with the clay, in his mind he has a vessel that he intends to make out of that lump of clay. To take that shapeless bit of mud and to carefully work with it until he forms a vessel that he has in his mind to form from this bit of clay. So God takes your life as a bit of clay and has in His mind a vessel that He wishes to form in order that it might perform a specific work or function. God knows exactly what function He wants you to fulfill within the body.
Now that clay has really no choice of its destiny. Nor does it have necessarily any knowledge of its destiny until, as the potter begins to form it, it can begin to understand what its destiny is going to be as you begin to look at its shape. I begin to realize that God is preparing me for this, or is preparing me for that, and I begin to understand what God is preparing me for as I see the thing take form and take shape. But the only way I can really discover what God has in mind for me is to remain completely yielded to His touch. The moment I resist and stiffen, the work will be marred in the hands of the potter, and many times He has to start all over again. Take that piece of clay, and here I go again back to zero. I hope I listen this time. The wheel starts turning, "Oh Lord, what are you doing now?" Boy, how many times I was back to zero. Just a blob again. But in time we learn that the potter knows best. Just to yield our lives to the touch of God. To let God work in us, that we might do the work that He has planned for us.
So God bless you as He works in your life this week. Making of you an instrument that He might use to bring glory to His name.