Tuesday, March 15, 2016

God's Masterpiece

In my previous post, God's Power is Perfect in Weakness, I discussed the idea that God's grace is sufficient for you and me.  When we are discouraged by our failings and our unworthiness we need to remember it's not our righteousness that counts, but Christ's alone.  Thankfully, we do not EARN salvation; all our good deeds apart from Christ are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  All our attempts at being righteous can achieve for us nothing because we just don't have it in us.  "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit" (Mathew 7:17). There is no way we, being sinful and wicked, can be pure and righteous unless God intervenes.  We simply cannot produce good works out of an evil heart.

I was recently reading the book "The Power of Empathy."  Several chapters are dedicated to the eight characteristics of empathetic people--honesty, humility, acceptance, tolerance, gratitude, faith, hope, and forgiveness.  I love these characteristics; they are so spiritual in nature and seemingly accessible.  They share many similar qualities with the definition of love given in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 which states, "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  

I was excited about reading the book and discovering how I could apply these empathetic principles in my life, but was sadly disappointed.  I began reading with high hopes and expectations, but was deflated and descouraged when I finished because it's one thing to KNOW what is right and it's another thing to actually DO what is right.  For example, it's one thing to deeply desire to be a forgiving, but its entirely other to actually do it.  What are the first steps? Where do I dig within myself to find forgiveness? How do I produce it out of inherently unforgiving nature? There are no magic words; it doesn't happen with a flick of a switch or even with a serious desire to change.  I cannot bring from within myself characteristics which I do not poses anymore than a zebra can erase it's stripes. I must look outside of myself and go to the source in order to be changed. 

So the question arises, where is the source of perfect goodness and love? Or better yet, whom is the source?  My thoughts quickly turn to Genesis which reads, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them... God saw all that he had made and it was VERY GOOD!"  God is, was, and always will be the source of goodness. As we read the Bible and discover more about His character we learn that He IS the very definition of perfect love (1 John 4:8).  If you are seeking positive change in your life, there is no better source!  

Similarly, David's famous prayer in Psalm 51 is a call for God's purifying, cleansing, and transforming work in his heart.  At rock bottom David sought God in a spirit of repentance, humility, and surrender.  He knew his depravity and utter helplessness and he turned to God crying, "Create in me a clean heart, Oh God; and renue a right spirit within me." Doesn't it just make sense that the God who created the universe and our very being is the only one who can restore us and heal our brokenness?  

I think the temptation is to take matters into our own hands.  We become convicted of sin, recognize that there is a  better way to live, and then struggle to obtain it; but if we aren't depending on the Holy Spirit for wisdom, strength, and re-creative power we either fail and get descouraged or "succeed" and become proud; neither of which are desirable outcomes.  I am convinced that the only true means for change is in selfsurrender.  As the saying goes, "let go and let God!"  The work is not ours to do; it's God's work.  It's His creative power, or Spirit, working in us that enables us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). 

This is a claim that doesn't often sit well with us.  We feel that we need to do something!  However, out greatest need is to get out of the way so that God can do something.  When He creates the results are perfect!  In Galatians 5:22 Paul states "the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Notice that these qualities are not referred to as "the fruits of our hard labor" or "the fruits of our willpower", but rather the "fruits of the spirit".  Without the Spirit there is no fruit. 

There are quite a few Bible texts that illustrate this point. I will list a few below.  Please share in the comments section if you know of more!  I hope you find encouragement in knowing that the creator of the universe is working on you.  When He's done you'll be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.  As you "Run On!" remember "We are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10). 

  • T2 Corinthians 5:17--Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11--But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
  • Psalm 23:3--He restores my soul.
  • Psalm 51--Read the whole thing! It's so good!
  • Ephesians 2:9-- Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23--Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 1:6--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.
  • John 15:1-4--I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

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