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).

Praise God for the many opportunities He gives believers to work together with Him in the ultimate endeavor of soul-winning! When we place our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), praise God that He transforms us from His enemies to His children and even to His ambassadors!

© 2014 Laurie Collett

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Nadwrażliwiec said...

Amen! I see that in my life. When I was teenager, I didn't believe in the Bible, despite the fact that I was in Lutheran Church. For me Bible was fairy tale made by priests.
Later, I started to read the Bible, because I searched answers to my questions. After convertion in my life Holy Spirit changed my mind and I believed in the Word of God. And it is changing me all the time...
Greetings for You :)

Ugochi said...

Laurie, this is so true. The word we sow in a sinner's heart is a seed, the prayer we prayer for them to turn to Christ is a seed, the love of God we show to them is a seed. And whether we know it, get to see it or not, one day, it will blossom in their lives. Thanks a lot for sharing this truth and reminding me of my primary assignment as a child of God living in a sinful world. Have a super blessed weekend!

Laurie Collett said...

Praise God that His Word is alive, constant yet able to transform us and give us all we need for each day! Once we are saved, the Holy Spirit will teach us if we earnestly seek Him by studying our Bible.
Many blessings & greetings for you,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Ugochi,
I am so blessed by your comment! All we can do is liberally sow seeds, trusting in the Holy Spirit to bring forth the blooms. What a day that will be when we appreciate their fragrance in glory!
Much love in Christ,

Janis Cox said...

Hi Laurie,
I have a few more minutes this week as I am back in AZ. Grandson all better in Canada.
Love this statement:
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,

I had a number of opportunities to witness to people while in Canada - once on a plane, once in a shuttle, and once on a massage table. One was a Jew who had turned his back on God, one was a couple who really wanted to know more about God, and the other a woman who had never really heard about Jesus and wanted what I had.

Quite the trip including a miracle healing of a baby my daughter is carrying. Thanking God again and again for His love, and caring.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Janis,
So glad to hear you have returned safely and that your grandson and daughter's baby are doing well -- God is so good! How wonderful that you were able to witness to the souls that God placed in your path for these divine appointments. What a thrill it will be to hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"
Thanks for sharing & for spreading His Word, and many blessings to you,

Brenda said...

A very nice post Laurie. All the gifts that are given by God to His children are for building one another up and for encouragement to stay trusting in the Lord, or for evangelizing to those who do not know about salvation through Jesus. The devil is very cunning and is always crouching at the door. We need one another just as each part of the human body needs the other parts and are for specific purposes.
God bless

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Brenda! Praise God that He fits His children together in the body of Christ, equipping each of them uniquely to bear one another's burdens, edify one another, and spread His Word to those who do not yet know Him. May you have a blessed week in Him,

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
The time between sowing of the seed and the resulting shoot bringing forth fruit can be a very long time. When I was a young Christian (i.e. in the first years after believing) I had an idea about "instant maturity" and believed that God wasn't too impressed with me as I still found pleasure in "worldly" things. Such desires made my faith something of a burden, yet in a church where there were lively teenagers - offspring of believing parents - I have found quite a contrast in their behaviour and the behaviour and commitment of Biblical characters, particularly Old Testament prophets.
I have wondered whether these teenagers were really born again, but then, I grew up to learn that instant maturity was neither Biblical nor realistic, although there were some well known preachers who apparently taught it.
Really, only God himself knows what's in the teenager's heart, and I'm glad to say that some had matured into commited believers, while a few others, unfortunately, had fallen away.
Again, thanks for your Trinity type post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thank you for sharing this experience from when you were a new believer and your insights in retrospect as a seasoned and committed follower of Christ. I've heard it said that Satan paints a bullseye target on the back of babes in Christ, attempting to bring them down before they can serve God. It is difficult for any babe in Christ, but I believe especially for teens. Praise God that He Who is in us in greater than he who is in the world.
Thanks as always for your encouraging comment, & God bless,

Denise said...

Thanks for sharing.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Denise! God bless.

Donald Fishgrab said...

You mentioned being impatient as a little girl and wanting to dig up the seed to see what was happening. Unfortunately that seems to be a common problem in the modern church, with people wanting to see instant conversions,. I am concerned how many have been turned away by efforts to get an immediate profession. In our impatience, we destroy what God was producing.

Ceil said...

Hi Laurie! I think everyone loves a transformation story, especially the Lord! I love St. Paul because he really turned over and became such a zealot for Christ.

And it is so important not to become weary like you said. Only God knows his plans for us, and we just have to keep at it. We'll see the fruits of our labors someday. Won't that be something?
Loved your image of your doctor training too. Now that's a baptism by fire :)

Laurie Collett said...

That's true, Donald. I have met people who seem to want to pressure people into conversion, and yet devote no time or effort to discipleship. This leads the person who may have been coerced into saying the sinner's prayer, or some similar profession, into wondering if they are truly saved, and in fact they may not be. And, as you say, if they reject this attempt at conversion, their hearts may be hardened the next time someone witnesses to them.
Thanks for your comment & God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Ceil! Thanks so much for your encouragement -- you are a blessing! The angels rejoice whenever a sinner is saved, and I'm sure the Lord delights in every positive transformation in our lives. Not becoming weary is increasingly difficult in recent days, so I am blessed by your comment!
Love in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Praise God, indeed. This reminds me of a post I wrote this week, called When God makes it Grow, about a circle of ambassadors linking arms to plant the seeds and water God's garden: Blessings to you ..

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much for your visit and comment! Headed over to check out your post now!
May God bless you and your ministry,
Laurie Collett