I want you to imagine with me that following our gatherings this morning and afternoon, that you take a walk through Lancaster city. As you go out of our door you take a left onto King Street and then another left onto Water Street. You walk down Water Street and as you do, something catches your eye in an alleyway just off the street. The thing that catches your eye is the corner of a frame that is sitting in a pool of mud, dirt water and filth. You walk on over and as you pull on the frame you begin to make out the entire piece of art that lies beneath the mud, dirt and filth. And you gasp, because you realize that beneath all of the junk, you are holding in your hands an original painting by Rembrandt himself. It’s hardly recognizable as it is also torn, stained, and fully covered. But you know it is an original Rembrandt. What do you do with it? Do you treat it as worthless and throw it back into the pool of mud and filth? Or do you treat it for what it truly is, a masterpiece? I don’t know about you but I would treat it as a masterpiece, and quickly take it to someone, a master, who can renew, restore, and redeem the masterpiece that lies beneath the mud and mess.
So let me ask you these questions. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see the mud and the mess or do you see what God sees, a Masterpiece? Also what do you see when you look at others? Do you see the mud and the mess or do you see what God sees, a Masterpiece?
Today we are continuing our series entitled #instalife looking at the issue of identity and where we draw our sense of identity, self worth, and value from. Today we are talking about the fact that you are a Masterpiece. And to look at the concept that God, the Master artist has designed us in such a way, we’ll be looking at Ephesians 2:10.
Now for those who have spent any time in the church and in the Bible, I would imagine that the verses directly preceding our verse for the morning might be familiar. These verses (verses 8-9) say this, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” So the Apostle Paul is saying that, as a Masterpiece, we aren’t the ones who created ourselves. We aren’t the master artist, we are just his handiwork, or his masterpiece. This idea of saved that the Apostle Paul mentioned, I believe is one that isn’t truly understood in our modern evangelical Christian world. Too often we talk about being saved from and not saved to. We talk about being saved from sin and hell and death (and yes that is true). But if you were to talk with a 1st century Jewish person, they would define the word save as meaning to make whole, to restore to it’s original condition. And so right from the start of this text, we see that we can’t restore (or save) the Masterpieces that are muddy, beat up, torn, ripped, and soiled. But we know someone who can take the mud, grim and mess off of the Masterpieces and restore the Masterpiece to it’s original condition.
Now let’s look at the very next verse, verse 10. Verse 10 says this, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Now what we see in this text is that we are created by God and in Christ. Some texts use the word handiwork (like the NIV), some like the NLT use the word Masterpiece, and some like the KJV use the word workmanship. The word translated “masterpiece” or “workmanship” is the Greek word poiema—from which we get the word “poem.” So in a very real way, the first thing we see in this text is that we are all created by the hand of the Master Artist. That we are all living poems, so to speak, that point not to the art but to the artist. So God, the Master Artist, pictures you as someone more awesome and wonderful than your imagination has ever dreamed. He sees the artwork, the masterpiece that will be developed from your blank canvas, or the broken, messed up, torn, ripped, and muddy canvas of our lives. Just like Jesus, when he renamed Simon as Peter (which means Rock), calling Peter to live into his name. Or like the story of Sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) gazed at the cliffs of South Dakota's Black Hills. He envisioned what no one else could—the sculpted faces of US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Borglum and his crew were suspended on ropes 500 feet above the valley floor. They used everything from chisels to dynamite to create the 5-story-high visages. It took 14 years to complete the project.
Borglum's housekeeper occasionally went to visit the site. She once asked a worker, "How did Mr. Borglum know that Mr. Lincoln was in that rock?"
How indeed? Borglum knew what was in the rock because he saw with his artist's eye what he could create out of the raw material with which he had to work.
So God is calling us, through Jesus to live into the realization that we are a Masterpiece of the master artist. Even if we can’t see it, God through Jesus Christ can. That we need to submit our lives, our canvas, our granite, our musical staff lines, our clay, to his hands, his chisel, his paint brush, his musical instrument so that what comes out of our lives is a beautiful painting, sculpture, song, or poem. And that these things point to the master artist who has redeemed, renewed, released and restored us through Jesus. In fact, just as the poem, the song, the painting, the dance points not to itself but to its artist, we are also called to not point to ourselves but to the Master artist.
But what is the purpose of our lives. What is the reason for our masterpiece to exist? It is true that God in fact saves us, as is mentioned in Ephesians 2:8-9, but why are we saved? I believe God saves us to make something beautiful out of us, and then through us. I believe we are saved, as the Apostle Paul says, to do good works. The Apostle Paul is not saying that we are saved through our good works, but that we are saved to do good works. That salvation means that as Masterpieces created by God, we are called to get off the wall, off the page, out of the CD or mp3 so to speak, and go out into the world to point other masterpieces, who don’t believe that they are, that there is a master artists who loves them, cares for them, and wants them to be restored to the original condition that they were created to be. But as I said before, we can’t do the restoring, but we can take these masterpieces to the master artist who can do the restoring. As followers of Jesus we are called to live out what I believe was one of the driving reasons Jesus came. In fact when asked that same pointed question of why he came, he pointed to an Old Testament passage from Isaiah and said these words, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Part of being “saved” (restored to our original condition as a masterpiece) is to be about the good works that Jesus has in mind for us to be about. That being restored to right relationship with Him, means not being about ourselves. In fact, I can truly say this, if you are a follower of Jesus, your life should no longer revolve around you and your wants. That being restored, as a masterpiece, means living for the ultimate and master artist, and helping other masterpieces live into that reality. By taking the masterpieces to the master so that he can restore them, wipe away the mud, mess, grim, and dirt, and set them right, the way they were originally meant to be. And that our good works, as followers of Jesus, are the means of pointing to, and helping bring others to the Master artist.
But what does this all mean? What do you see when you look in the mirror? The mud or the masterpiece? What do you see when you look at others? The mud or the masterpiece beneath the mud? And how does the fact that we are all masterpieces make a difference in our lives and in the way we engage with the world around us? Those are the questions that we are going to unpack together.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. do you have regarding the text and the Scripture this morning?
2. Do you tend to focus more on the mud or the Masterpiece when you see yourself? Why? How can this verse that we just looked at speak into your life and help with your identity?
3. Do you tend to focus on the mud or the Masterpiece when you see others muddied by sin and brokenness? In what ways can our good works help others see the Masterpiece within themselves? What good works has God restored you for?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it?