New Men Walking
Some of you may remember the days when volatile and profane Earl Weaver was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. Weaver was nothing if not entertaining as he proved almost every time his team was on TV. Well, one day he was talking with a born-again outfielder named Pat Kelly. Somehow, during the course of the conversation, Pat Kelly said indicated that one of the great desires of his heart was to learn to walk with God. True to form, Weaver replied glibly, “With all due respect, Pat, I’d rather have you walk with the bases loaded.”
I like that story because to me Pat Kelly represents someone who personifies the fact that as Christians, our walk and our works go together. If they don’t there is every chance that we are not a Christian at all. The other side of salvation is always a life lived for God. The whole idea that one can be saved and then live as he or she wants is totally foreign to the Bible. Let me put it another way. One who is truly a Christian will want to live a righteous life. It’s who we now are and reflects how Paul describes Christ’s expectations in Titus 2:14 when he says: who (Christ) gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Zealous for good works. May I ask, are you zealous for good works this morning? Does doing the will of God consume you? If not, you should definitely be asking why not, because the Bible presents that one who belongs to God will innately have this desire.
We are finishing this section of 10 verses in Ephesians 2 that we’ve titled Amazing Grace. In verses 1-3 we studied Dead Men Walking – our condition without Christ. Then in verses 4-9 we studied, But God . . . We looked at how salvation is by grace through faith and all of God. But this section did not end at verse 9, see? Amazing grace doesn’t end at the moment you are saved? That’s just the beginning. Grace keeps right on going and what comes next is every bit as much in the plan of God as our original calling, election and salvation. So verse 10 is all about our new walk as a believer – from walking in trespasses and sins in verse 2, we’ve been transformed to a new walk in good works in verse 10. What a transformation! It is every bit as much of the package as salvation and lack of an increasingly godly walk is a sign that all is not right.
So verse 10 is all about works, good deeds, efforts prompted by grace and the Holy Spirit and we need to understand them to get the full picture of salvation. You say, “I thought salvation was by faith alone. How did works get its foot in the door, anyway?” Good question. Let’s look at it following an outline devised by commentator William Hendriksen – Works: Rejected, Confected, Expected and Perfected.
When it comes to good works, the first thing we must understand is that they are rejected. That is, they cannot effect salvation. Verse 9 tells us that our plainly salvation is not a result of works, so that no one may boast. If you have been with us the past few weeks, you almost certainly understand that the Bible teaches in no uncertain terms that there is nothing -- positively, absolutely nothing we can do to get in good with God, to deserved eternal life, to accept Him. It is all Him – even our faith.
Any works that we bring to trade for salvation -- however wonderful from a human perspective, however generous, however kind, however commendable, even however sacrificial -- cannot measure up to His standard of perfection. God cannot accept any less and still be God. Think of it that way. God can either accept your wonderful but flawed life – or He can go on being God. But He cannot do both.
A leading manufacturing company developed a new cake mix that required only water to be added. Tests were run, surveys were made, and the cake mix was found to be of superior quality to the other mixes available. It tasted good, it was easy to use, and it made a moist, tender cake. The company spent large sums of money on an advertising campaign and then released the cake mix to the general market. But few people bought the new cake mix. The company then spent more money on a survey to find out why the cake mix didn’t sell. Based on the results of this survey, the company recalled the mix, reworked the formula, and released the revised cake mix. The new cake mix required that one add not only water, but also an egg. It sold like hot cakes and is now a leading product in the field. You see, the first cake mix was just too simple to be believable. People would not accept it. The same is true of salvation by grace.
Human nature wants to add something, but everything we add must be rejected so that God can be God. The good news is that what we can not add, He can. And so He offers us the gift of the righteousness of His son if we will only take it. That’s the way of salvation. No works that side of the cross.
Now, let’s go to the other side of the cross. You’ve been saved. You’ve accepted Christ as your Lord. You’re in the family of God. Now, what about works? Now the picture is different. Now we will see that while we are not saved by works, we are saved to works. World of difference there, but that’s exactly what the Bible is teaching here. So we see first of all that on this side of salvation, works are confected.
Confected? Okay, I admit it, I had to go look up the word “confected.” Fancy word that means “to make or to construct, to form.” And that is exactly what we find God doing in verse 10: 10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. God is here “confecting” works – preparing efforts and projects and attitudes and ways of living life that will reflect glory to Him. Let’s look at his “confection” from two perspectives – first the product and then the purpose.
A. The Product
What is the product? Well, it seems clear from verse 10 that the product is “we”. We are His workmanship. I suspect that this is not a biblical truth with which you are unfamiliar, but the way in which it is presented here is truly descriptive. The first thing we should note here is that the word “his”, which is literally “of Him”, is placed first in the Greek text of this verse. This is done for emphasis. Paul is hitting hard at the fact that this is all God’s doing. Reading from verse 9, a literal translation would go something like this. Our salvation is 9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10) For of Him we are a workmanship created in Christ Jesus. So, if you are in Christ – if you have accepted Him by faith, you are literally a construction zone of God in Christ Jesus.
Now, you will notice that this is all being done “in Christ Jesus”. You will recall that we have previously studied this phrase “in Christ” and seen how critical it is to everything in this passage, in this book and indeed in the Bible. Nothing happens except “in Christ”, that is, based on His death and resurrection. Our reconstruction starts at the cross.
We see the same concept in many passages. Just one is II Cor. 5:17: 17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. So, the fact of the new creation and the basis for it in, Christ, is clear in Scripture. However, it’s the glory of it is emphasized in the passage before us.
Look at the word “workmanship”. It is the Greek word ποιμα, which literally means “to do or make”. We are literally a “doing” or a “making” of God. Pretty heady stuff, huh? We get our English word “poem” from this Greek word, and so many have stressed that in Christ we are made into a new poem of God, emphasizing the heightened elegance that attaches to poetry as opposed to normal writing. That’s a good start, but by the time Paul was writing, this word meant any work of art – not just a “making”, but a confection intended to allure, to dazzle, a carefully crafted, painstakingly delivered artistic effort, every detail of which has been refined to appeal to the highest instinct – something of exquisite beauty, whether a statue, a song, painting or whatever. That is what we are in Christ – no longer the walking dead, but now a new man, a new woman – and more than that – a masterpiece! That, Beloved, is the sense of this passage.
We are a spectacular spiritual (and eventually physical) recreation, resulting in a new man or new woman in Christ that He intends the world to marvel at – greater far than any sunset, any mountain or meadow vista, any breathtaking land or oceanscape of physical dimension – that is us. We are the walking dead, brought to life and re-created and shaped by God Himself into a work of art.
Michelangelo was once asked what he was doing as he chipped away at a shapeless rock. He replied, “I’m liberating an angel from this stone.” That’s what God is doing with us. We are in the hands of the great Creator who throws away nothing. As His workmanship, you are not the old you – you are a masterpiece of God’s own making. No less a theological mind than Jonathan Edwards said that the “spiritual life which is reached in the work of conversion, is a far greater and more glorious effect than mere being and life.” Better than being or life? That is you – in Christ.
Most of you have heard of the great church father, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo around 400 AD. Certainly one of the top 5 minds in church history. Augustine had a believing mother but a pagan father. Though raised in the church he became a libertine, a lady’s man, famous for his prayer: "Grant me chastity and continence – [p] but not yet.” He had a son born out of wedlock and the best that can be said for him was that he was a rogue before God got hold of his heart.
It all changed for Him when, thanks to the incessant prayers and urgings of his mother, Augustine left northern Africa, went to Milan and met up with Ambrose, another famous church father. God touched his heart and changed his life. He left his former life of license. By his own account, he returned home to Northern Africa and eventually met up with one favorite former girl friend who said to him: “Augustine, Augustine, it is I.” He turned and said: “Yes, but it is not I.”
He was a new creation, Beloved – God’s masterpiece and no longer the old “I”. In Christ, neither are we. “We” are a new product. Now – how about the Purpose?
- The Purpose
The purpose of God creating a new masterpiece of each of us is seen in the next clauses of verse 10: 10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Interesting verse, isn’t it? I always assumed that the whole purpose of salvation was to get me to heaven. I had a pretty parochial view of the whole thing.
Turns out, that while my view was not wrong, God’s view is much broader. In His reality, He has re-created us for a specific purpose. He’s created us in Christ Jesus specifically for good works. And to make sure we get that right, He’s even prepared those works for us. Kind of a different take on works, huh? We are not saved by works, but clearly we are saved for works. We don’t become a masterpiece of God’s creation by doing good works – but the purpose for us having been created a masterpiece by God is to perform good works. This is why, though a Christian may sometimes revert to some old sinful ways, he will never feel comfortable in doing so.
That’s impossible, because he’s made for a different purpose now.
The term “good works” is general here. He will give specifics as we get into the practical chapters 4-6. But suffice to say here that good works are those efforts, endeavors and even attitudes carried out under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit as we will see defined in Ephesians 5:18.
Good works is what we have been designed for. We’re God’s masterpiece – not just to look good but to do good. We’re an animated masterpiece. Whereas before we were absolutely non-responsive to God – we now have the capacity for good. We’re spiritually alive. We can hear and respond to the Holy Spirit. The question isn’t can we? It is, will we?
Paul says it this way in II Cor. 9:8: 8) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. God has left nothing to chance.
I had a friend once who worked for Dan Gurney’s team designing Grand Prix race cars. I want to tell you those cars were special. They were designed for maximum horsepower. The driver had no room except to drive the car. The tires were designed to hold the track and eliminate spin. They were marvelous cars, but they were designed for one purpose – to win races. You would never have wanted to drive one of those cars on the street. No commercial radio for one thing – no CD deck. Gas mileage was atrocious. You couldn’t hold the car under 60 and 2 miles down the road your back would have been crying for relief.
Folks, we are built for good works. We are not designed to sneak around the edges, to see how close we can get to sin without being burned; to see how little we can do and still maintain a Christian appearance. We’re not designed to see how much of this world’s pleasure we can absorb. We’re a waste when we act like that. Don’t you see? We’re built for more. We’re an Indy 500 masterpiece of racecar construction, squandered in some hidden alleyway when we are just sort of getting by. We have a purpose and it is good works. Anything less is unworthy – unworthy of our Father and unworthy of our new selves.
And it really gets interesting when you absorb the fact that not only has He specially designed us – but He’s even created the good works! Can’t you just imagine God before time ever began saying, “Well, here’s one for Dave McNeff. I’ve prepared a good work for him to show love for his wife on May 18, 2009. My wife has something to look forward to tomorrow! I’ve prepared a good work John for May 19 to show compassion to someone in need. I’ve prepared for Susie to show kindness to her obnoxious neighbor on May 6, 2009.” And then I suspect that the Lord had to say, “I wonder how many of these good works will actually get used? How many times will these blessed children of mine use my works instead of trying to go it on their own.” I’m not trying to intimate that God is ever surprised by anything, folks, but do you get the idea? Anything and everything we would ever need to live godly has already been prepared for us.
There’s a wonderful Psalm that Moses wrote. Did you know Moses wrote a psalm? It’s Psalm 90 and we read this in the last verse: Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! What is Moses doing here? Why, he is praying – praying that the ordinary, everyday tasks of life will not be ordinary – that instead they will be established with eternal value because they are submitted to God. Folks, those are the works that God has prepared for us and that’s how our ordinary lives become extraordinary. They are committed to Him; we ask for His blessing, for His outcome; for His will – and in that we are doing the good works prepared for us by God from the beginning of time. Good works confected – the product and purpose.
So God has confected good works for us. Now thirdly we see that those works are expected. Notice our verse 10 again: 10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Pay particular attention to that last phrase. God has prepared or confected those works, why? – “That we should walk in them.” He didn’t prepare them to sit on the shelf, did he? He didn’t prepared them to gather dust and rust and mold. He prepared them so that we could walk in them.
The term “walk”, of course, speaks of our conduct. We are to conduct ourselves in good works. It’s to be a lifestyle. If I may say it in the most reverent manner – it’s an expectation – not driven by a sense of duty, never! But driven by a sense of love and gratitude and desire to be all that I can be.
John Jakes in his book, Great Women Reporters, tells of an interesting event that occurred when in 1927, Sinclair Lewis began his courtship of Dorothy Thompson a noted journalist. Lewis was smitten to say the least. He followed Dorothy across Europe, all the way to Moscow. At Moscow airport the press was waiting to greet him. “What brought you to Russia?” Lewis was asked. “Dorothy,” he said. “We mean, what’s your business here?” the press persisted. “Dorothy,” said Lewis. “You misunderstand. What do you plan to see in Russia?” “Dorothy,” said Lewis.
I want you to hear me closely now. That’s the kind of focus and motivation and enthusiasm that you as a child of God will bring to your desire to please and glorify Him. It won’t be a matter of drudgery and dreariness and dread. Listen – that’s how you will feel if the works are intended to get you salvation. But if you’ve already got it and the works, as intended, are a reflection of that transformation, they come naturally, with enthusiasm and freedom. Lacking that, it is very possible and very likely that you have not truly experienced that transformation and are yet in your sins. Then you could expect that they would be a drudgery!
Martin Luther said, “We are not saved by good works, but being saved by faith, we do good works.” I was only six years old, but I can tell you that the moment I gave my heart to Jesus Christ, there was a prompting inside of me that had never been there before but was there immediately afterward to do right, to be good. I have failed miserably at times to live up to that urging. We all do. The Lord expects that. But the urging has never left, the desire is never gone; the pattern of life, I trust, though attended by some dramatic upheavals, has been upward. Knowing that God knows, expects, understands and forgives the failures has allowed the joy to remain when I do get it right, when I do meet expectations – when I walk in those good works that He has prepare beforehand. I revel in that.
Good works are not a burden to the believer – they are what we live for. Do you live for those moments, few and far between as they may be, when you get it right? Do you?
I pray you are not the person in James 2. Listen to this description. Be honest. Could it be you? James says: 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Works do not save. Never have, never will! But you cannot be saved and not have them. Suppose you watched a caterpillar for a few days. You would note that it lives life pretty close to the earth, wouldn’t you? It’s right down there in the grease and grime and mess and without any ability to do other. But suppose you see that caterpillar a few months later, about the time it begins its life as a butterfly, having been transformed through the process of metamorphosis. You’d see a whole different form of life, wouldn’t you? It might land back down in the dirt occasionally, but it no longer lives there; it doesn’t even spend much time there. It has been made to soar and that is what it does.
Now, I ask you, if that is true in the physical realm, can’t you see how necessary it is spiritually? Can you understand that if you continue to live just like you did before Christ – no change in your attitudes; no difference in your language; no uplifting of your affections and transference of your focus from worldly to heavenly things and no change in your desires from pleasing you to pleasing God – do you not see that your “conversion” is suspect? Do you not understand that you may yet be a caterpillar? Change is expected if you are in Christ. It is the norm! Walking in the good works He has prepared is what believers do – not as a duty but because they cannot do otherwise.
The final thing we need to note about good works is that they are not perfect now, but one day they will be. We know we are not perfect now, but we will be. Paul says in Philippians 1:6: 6) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. There you go. That is the end in view for you Christian friend.
You must have the desire now. If it is not there, something is wrong, but if you are not perfect yet, understand that God knows that, expects imperfection and takes the responsibility for getting you there. Some of God’s choicest people were a long time in the making before God could make much use of even their imperfect selves. God spent 40 years working in Moses before He could work through him. Joseph suffered humiliation for thirteen years before God put him on the throne of Egypt, second to Pharaoh. David was anointed king when he was a youth, but he did not gain the throne until he had suffered many years as an exile. God has to work in us before He can work through us, but there is an end in view.
We are all uncut diamonds, imperfect, but in process of being finished by the Divine Master if indeed we are in Christ. The question isn’t, are you perfectly applying the good works that God has prepared for you, but are you desirous of doing so? Is the glory of God your passion? Imperfect though you are, do you long for perfection? Are you turned in the right direction and do you see progress in your life?
Remember Titus 2:14? who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. God did not just save us or even primarily save us so that we could go to heaven. Salvation is not the end, it’s just the beginning. It is not gained by works, but works will inevitably follow in the great plan of God.
Charlie Waters, former strong safety for the Dallas Cowboys football team, tells a story about Frank Howard, who had been Charlie’s college coach. When Frank Howard was head coach at Clemson University, he went out to practice one Monday before a big game with his first- and third-string quarterbacks out with injuries. In the first five minutes of practice, his new starting quarterback (previously second-stringer) hurt his knee. Ten minutes later, the fourth stringer hurt his knee. It was desperation time. Coach Howard blew the whistle and gathered all the players around him. He took the one remaining QB, put his arm around him, and said in his gruff voice, “Son, do you believe in magic.” The fifth string QB said in a halfhearted way, “Well, sort of.” Coach Howard looked at him, pointed his five fingers at him like a magician, and said, “Poof! You are now a first-string quarterback. Play like one.”
Now listen, it’s not magic; but it’s true that we are saved in a moment in time. And once saved, we’re God’s child, forever saved and secure. But that is not the end. Now is the time when we must act like a Christian. It is only the beginning of a magnificent adventure as Paul says in I Cor 6: You are not your own, 20) for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Zealous for good works. That is our mindset. That is now our life’s function. That is our passion. That’s how it is, if we are truly His children.