Saturday, February 8, 2014
Transitions: Triplets of Workmanship - God’s Enemies to His Ambassadors
As we have seen, our Christian walk is marked by spiritual growth, following God’s lead, and knowing when to act and when to wait. The first step of spiritual growth is being born again (John 3: ) which transforms us instantly from enemies of God (Romans 5:10; James 4:4) to His children (1 John 3:1-2).
In our unsaved state, the apostle Paul describes us as being Gentiles in the flesh (Ephesians 2:11), The Jews were circumcised in obedience to God as a remembrance of the covenant He made with them and as an outward sign to those who were not God’s chosen people (Genesis 17:9-14). When Paul refers to unsaved Gentiles as uncircumcision, he is not describing their physical condition, but rather their state of separation from God. Unsaved souls are without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:12).
But once we trust Christ, we are reconciled in peace by the flesh, blood and cross of Christ not only to God, but to all His children, whether Jew or Gentile (v. 13-17). Through Jesus Christ, all believers in Him have access by one Spirit to the Father (v.18). This transformation changes us from strangers and foreigners to fellow citizens with the saints, or others who have placed their faith solely in God (v.19).
We then become an integral part of the church, or “household of God,” (v.19), which Paul describes in three ways. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Himself as the chief corner stone; we are soundly framed together in a building that becomes a temple to worship Him; and we are built together as a dwelling for the Spirit to inhabit (v.20-22).
What is the ultimate purpose of this transformation? We are saved not only to “get out of hell free,” for if that were the case, God would take us to Heaven the moment we accepted His Son as Lord and Savior. We are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:9), but we are His workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God has appointed to us since before we were even saved (v.11).
What kind of works will He do through us, if we yield to His Spirit? We are transformed from enemies of God to His children and to ambassadors for Christ! Being His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) means that we represent Him to others through our witness, lifestyle, and teaching.
From the moment we are saved, we can witness to others about His transforming power, as did the Samaritan woman at the well once she realized He was the promised Messiah (John 4:28-30;39). This involves telling others that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1); that He has lifted our burden of sin (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10); and that He has given us eternal life (John 3:16).
Over time, our changed lifestyle is a testimony that we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This includes turning away from sin (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:4; James 1:21); worshipping Him by obeying His general will for our lives (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 4:12); and doing good works for others by putting their needs before our own (James 2:16-18; 1:27).
Worship includes studying His Word (2 Timothy 3:15-17), praying in private (Matthew 6:6; Romans 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:17), and assembling together for corporate worship (Hebrews 10:25), as well as giving tithes, gifts and offerings (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 5:23-24; Luke 21:1-4) Corporate worship includes preaching God’s word (2 Timothy 4:2), prayer for one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and praise through spoken word, music, and dance (Psalm 150).
As we mature in our Christian walk and in learning His Word, we should be able to teach others (Hebrews 5:12) what the Spirit has shown us. This might include formal teaching of Bible study or Sunday School, preaching, and/or Christian counseling from God’s Word, or simply a willingness to learn and share with others Biblical wisdom appropriate to their given situation.
We never know when God might arrange a divine appointment in which He wants us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14), illuminating another person’s path with truth we have gleaned from His Word (2 Timothy 4:2). Surely every believer is called to teach their children in God’s Word, and many may be blessed to have that same opportunity with grandchildren (2 Timothy 1:5) or friends who meet for informal Bible fellowship.
When I was a medical intern, the principle regarding how we were to learn to perform medical procedures was “See one, do one, teach one.” This baptism by fire was a little scary at the time, not only for the interns but especially for our patients, and even more so in retrospect. Yet this strategy was surprisingly effective. A similar principle should apply to our Christian walk: see God’s goodness (be saved); tell others about how He has changed you (witness); and disciple others, teaching them Bible truths based on our own study of the Word (Matthew 28:19).
Solomon speaks of the transitions from planting to harvesting (Ecclesiastes 3:3), with a long period of growth in between. Much of this process is invisible to the farmer as the seed germinates in the earth, until finally a tender shoot appears above ground, and then the plant matures until it bears grain or fruit ripe for harvest. So the farmer has faith in the miracle of the harvest even though he has no visible proof (Hebrews 11:1), he has confirmation of his faith when the first visible shoot appears, even though the plant at this stage is of no practical value, and finally he has fulfillment of the promise when the plant bears fruit that is ready to harvest.
Parallel transitions appear in our spiritual service: we plant the seed of the Word; there may follow a long dormant period during which we see little if any signs of change; and then finally we or another lead the soul to Christ as he accepts Him as Lord and Savior (Matthew 13:1-43). We can witness of God’s goodness, pray for salvation of the soul to whom we witness, and encourage that soul to accept Christ. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to harvest as He changes the sinner into a new creation in Christ.
When I was a little girl I remember planting seeds in the garden and being so impatient at their apparent lack of growth that I was tempted to dig them up just to see what was happening! Yet even adult Christians may be equally impatient after we plant the seed of God’s Word and of our own testimony, and we may get discouraged when our efforts seem not to bear fruit immediately.
Thankfully, Scripture warns not to get weary in obeying Him, for in His perfect timing, we will see the fruit of our labor if we don’t give up.(Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58). This may not happen during our earthly lifetime, but when we see Christ face-to-face, He will reward us with the crown of rejoicing for every soul led to Him through our efforts (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
Even if we did not personally lead that soul to say the Sinner’s Prayer and call on the name of Jesus to be saved (Romans 10:13), we will take part in the reward if we witnessed to them, prayed for their salvation, or even encouraged them indirectly or unknowingly by distributing tracts, posting messages from God’s Word online or in print, or supporting missionaries (Philippians 4:10-17).
© 2014 Laurie Collett