Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10
Take a quick look at these famous paintings:
- The Birth of Venus (Sandro Botticelli)
- American Gothic (Grant Wood)
- Whistler’s Mother (James McNeill Whistler)
- The Scream (Edvard Munch)
- Starry Night (Vincent Van Gogh)
- The Creation of Adam (Michelangelo)
- The Last Supper (Leonardo da Vinci)
- Monalisa (Leonoardo da Vinci)
Even though most of us are not art experts, each of these paintings is certainly what we could call a masterpiece.
Moving away from the canvas to the world of architecture, here are some other human masterpieces.
- The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
- Taj Mahal (Agra, India)
- Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia)
- The Great Pyramids of Giza (Egypt)
- St. Basil Cathedral (Moscow, Russia)
- Empire State Building (New York, New York)
- Mackinac Bridge (Mackinaw City/St. Ignace, MI)
- and of course, the Michigan Stadium!
Moving from the human to the divine, there’s also the daily masterpieces created by the Master himself.
- a Canadian lake in the fall
- a waterfall
- a mountain with a purple and red sky
- the Grand Canyon
- earth from space
- a solar eclipse
- deep space (a real photograph)
Whether it’s a painting, and building, or even a solar system that’s thousands of light years away, there’s a lot of masterpieces out there, a lot of work accomplished with a mastery of skills. Of course, most of us would probably agree that the greatest masterpieces are those that are created by God. As creative as humans may be, we’ll never be able to paint the sky purple or red. How many of you have ever been treated to the amazing wonder and beauty of an Arora Borealis, or northern lights? I saw one outside of Traverse City when I was in grade school. It’s impossible to describe. As impossible to describe as an ever-shifting cloud of flying starlings. These are masterpieces of nature that only the Master Creator can do.
I’ve just identified just a few examples of God’s masterpieces – the earth, purple mountain majesty, the Grand Canyon, and deep space, just to name a few. But there’s so much more than these few things. So, out of all his masterpieces throughout all time and creation, what do you suppose he’s most proud of? What does God consider is greatest masterpiece? If you’re not sure, I’ll give you a hint. It’s of this world. If you’re still not sure, here’s another hint. It’s not a ‘something,’ it’s a ‘someone.’ (And it’s not Jesus, because he wasn’t created. As the second Person of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—he’s the one through whom all creation came into being.)
The answer is you. And me. Us as a whole. And each of us individually. We are God’s masterpiece. If you can believe it, every human being in whom Jesus Christ lives, despite our failures, foibles, and fiascoes, is God’s greatest masterpiece in all of creation! We’re not his masterpiece because we’re so good and amazing. No, we’re his masterpiece because he declared it to be so. We didn’t earn this status, it was conferred upon us by God himself. In Christ, you and I are God’s masterpiece. This is our true identity.
But it wasn’t always that way. At least, not according to the Apostle Paul. Our Bible contains a letter he wrote the church he’d established in city of Ephesus. Unlike many of his other letters, this one doesn’t address a particular problem within the congregation. Some commentators suggest that Paul’s time in prison, from which it’s believed he wrote this letter, enabled him to develop a greater understanding of the overall significance of Christ, as well as a high assessment of the unique privileges that come with being a believer in Christ. This is probably why he highlights an important truth for his readers, which is, lest we think too highly of ourselves on account of our “privilege” of being in Christ, it’s important to remember that there was a day when we weren’t so honored by God. Every Christian has a “B.C.” – a before Christ.
He writes, “At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like the people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power….All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
In other words, before Christ, each of us was spiritually dead, separated from God. Jesus tells us that to be truly alive (not just walking around in a body with a beating heart and breathing earth’s air) requires a second birth. This birth comes by way of God’s Spirit when we say yes to following Jesus Christ. According to Paul, prior to this spiritual birth we’re spiritually dead on account of our sins. And it’s the plight of all persons, including you and me.
But Paul knows enough not to leave us hanging. After reminding us of the bad news, he gives us the good news. “However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong (sins). He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5) While still on the outs with God, he took the initiative and made us right with him by giving us his Son Jesus.
But wait – there’s more. Verse 6 tells us that God took it one step further, as if just giving us life wasn’t enough. It says that “God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus.” In other words, God “raises” the one in Christ back to life in the same way that he raised Jesus back to life on that first Easter morning. Let me say that again.Just as Jesus was raised back to life after being in the grave, so God “raises” us from our own spiritual death.
The church word for this is ‘resurrection.’ Resurrection is different than resuscitation. Resuscitation mean being brought back to life, but ultimately the one resuscitated dies, even if fifty years later. It happens every day in hospitals all around the world. People are brought back to life after a bad accident, but eventually they die. Resurrection is coming back to life but never to die again. Jesus was resurrected; he eventually returned to his heavenly glory, where today he sits at the Father’s right hand.
To be in Christ is to have resurrected life both now and forever. To be in Christ is to be “seated in the heavens with Christ Jesus” even now, even if it’s only symbolically on this side of heaven. But it’s as good as done.
How did all of this come to be? God did it. Verse 9 reminds us that it’s not something we did that we could take credit for. Rather, our resurrected life is God’s accomplishment (v. 10). Or, as another Bible translation puts it, we’re God’s masterpiece.
In Christ, you are the best thing God ever made! This makes you God’s masterpiece.
Your resurrected life is a masterpiece. God’s masterpiece. Consider this: throughout the Bible God is given credit for creating the heavens and the earth. And you and I would agree that there’s a lot about creation that would call beyond beautiful and magnificent. But the only adjective I’m able to find in Scripture that used in conjunction with creation is found in Genesis 1, which is the story of Creation. In Genesis chapter 1, each part of creation is described as “good.” And God saw that it was good. But nowhere in Scripture is the magnificent and fathomless creation ever described as a God’s masterpiece. Only one sector of the whole of creation has that designation: those who’ve been made alive in Christ. Since Day One God has accomplished more than we’ll ever know, but he considers none of it as significant as giving you the gift of everlasting life in Jesus Christ.
In Christ, you are the best thing God ever made! This makes you God’s masterpiece. It makes you his crowning achievement? And why did he do this? Because God your heavenly Father loves you beyond beyond.
Do you consider yourself beautiful? Do you see yourself as some of immense value? Do you think of yourself as a treasure? Do you perceive yourself to be of deep worth? As God’s masterpiece, these adjectives describe you perfectly. Regardless of your past, or what others have said about or described you, or what you think about yourself, in Christ you are beautiful, valuable, a treasure, and of deep worth.
So, do you know what it means that you are God’s masterpiece? Let me close with a great answer, a quote by a man named Bruce Hurt, whose personal story includes being rejected early in life by two different fathers – his biological father, when he deserted the family; and his step-father, who openly said of his new step-son, “That boy ain’t gonna amount to anything any good.” Here’s what he says about being God’s masterpiece:
“What is art? Art is beautiful, art is valuable, and art is an expression of the inner being of the maker, of the artist. Imagine what that means. You’re beautiful, you’re valuable, and you’re an expression of the very inner being of the Artist, the divine Artist, God himself. You see, when Jesus gave himself on the Cross, he didn’t say, ‘I’m going to die just so you know I love you.’ He said, ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to bleed, for your splendor. I’m going to re-create you into something beautiful. I will turn you into something splendid, magnificent. I’m the Artist; you’re the art. I’m the Painter; you’re the canvas. I’m the Sculptor; you’re the marble. You don’t look like much there in the quarry, but I can see. Oh, I can see!’ Jesus is an Artist! And you, beloved, are his crowning achievement, his masterpiece!”
Let that truth about who you are in Christ guide you forever.