I am a part of God’s “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), and God continues to work in me to make me what He wants me to be. His purpose is to make me more like The Messiah (Rom. 8:29). Now that is some VERY good news!
“For we are His workmanship created in The Messiah Jesus.” The Greek word translated “workmanship” is poiema, from which we derive our English word “poem.” It means “that which is made, a manufactured product.” In other words, my conversion is not the end; it is the beginning.
For we are His workmanship, His own master work, a work of art, created in the Messiah Jesus reborn from above — spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used for good works, which God prepared for us beforehand taking paths which He set, so that we would walk in them living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us. | Ephesians 2:10
But how does God work in us?
Through His Holy Spirit, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The Messiah finished His work of redemption on the cross, but He arose from the dead and returned to heaven. There He carries on His unfinished work of perfecting His church (Eph. 4:7–16; Heb. 13:20–21).
The Messiah is equipping us for our walk as a disciple and our work here on earth. To do this, He uses three special tools:
- The Word of God
As we read God’s Word, understand it, meditate on it, and feed on it, the Word goes to work in our lives to cleanse us and nourish us. As we pray, God’s Spirit works in us to release power. And as we suffer, the Spirit of God ministers to us. Suffering drives us back to the Word and prayer, and the cycle is repeated.
Too many disciples think that conversion is the only important experience, and that nothing follows. But this is wrong. We can use the resurrection of Lazarus as an example. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He said, “Loose him, and let him go”. In other words, “This man is now alive. Get him out of the grave clothes!” Paul has this concept in mind in Ephesians 4:22–24 when he writes, “That you put off concerning the former conversation [behavior] the old man, which is corrupt … and that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Colossians 3:1 has the same message: “[Since] you then be risen with The Messiah, seek those things which are above.”
The same resurrection power that saved you and took you out of the graveyard of sin can daily help you live for The Messiah and glorify Him. At great expense to Himself, God worked for us on the cross. And today, on the basis of that price paid at Calvary, He is working in us to conform us to The Messiah. God cannot work in us unless He has first worked for us, and we have trusted His Son. Also, He cannot work through us unless He works in us. This is why it is important for you to spend time daily in the Word and prayer, and to yield to The Messiah during times of suffering. For it is through the Word, prayer, and suffering that God works in you.
The Bible shows many examples of this principle. God spent 40 years working in Moses before He could work through him. At the beginning of his ministry, Moses was impetuous and depended on his own strength. He killed an Egyptian and had to flee Egypt, hardly a successful way to start a ministry. But during those 40 years as a humble shepherd in the desert, Moses experienced God’s working in his life, a working that prepared him for forty more years of magnificent service.
There are other examples. Joseph suffered 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. Even the Apostle Paul spent three years in Arabia after his conversion, no doubt experiencing God’s deeper work to prepare him for his ministry. God has to work in us before He can work through us; and this leads to the fourth work in our passage.
The purpose of the Law was, basically, to bring us to the Messiah. It is essential to start here. Once I understand the purpose of the law, I can move on.
What would I move on to? How about grace? That would be a good start.
Once I am saved and become a follower of Jesus, God desires to glorify Himself through My good works. Jesus is clear on this. Following Jesus means I will do good deeds.
Therefore, good works follow the decision to follow Jesus; they do not precede it.
Conflict between “grace” and the “Law” can arise when someone:
- Misunderstands the purpose of the Law.
- Redefines grace as something other than “God’s benevolence on the undeserving”
- Paul makes this clear (a Pharisee himself). “But if it is by grace God’s unmerited favor, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace it would not be a gift but a reward for works.” (Romans 11:6)
- Tries to earn his own salvation or “supplement” the Messiah’s sacrifice.
- Follows the error of the Pharisees in tacking manmade rituals and traditions onto his doctrine.
- Fails to focus on the “whole counsel of God”.
- “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose and plan of God.” ~Paul (Acts 20:27).
When the Holy Spirit guides our search of Scripture, we can “study to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15) and discover the beauty of a grace that produces good works.