Main point – We get in ‘shape’ for God when we choose to accept ourselves as God’s greatest creation!
(Take video camera, that is patched into TV and ‘shoot’ the audience. Take time to focus on 6 persons and tell them by name, “__________, you are maavelous!”)
All of us are maavelous! All of us matter to God! All of us have a place of ministry in this church and in God’s Kingdom!
(overhead 1)If we are going to get into ‘shape’ for God then we must choose to accept ourselves as God’s greatest creation. And we accept ourselves as God’s greatest creation when we believe, accept, and live by three things that Paul told the Ephesian church in our text for this morning:
We are God’s Masterpiece
We are created anew in Christ Jesus
We are created to do good works
Each of these truths will change our lives for the better when we believe, accept, and live by them with the power and help of the Holy Spirit.
I have no doubt that some of you got very uncomfortable when I started panning us with the video camera this morning. You probably wanted to duck under the pew and hide. Why?
We have trouble accepting ourselves. We have played the comparison game for so long that we simply do not like what we see in the mirror. We are either too tall or too short. We are either too light or too heavy. We are either too blonde or too gray.
We have to stop doing this! All of us have room for improvement. (What do you think New Year’s resolutions are for?)
Show me a person who has confidence, not a cocky self-arrogance, but a wholesome confidence in who he or she is, and I will show you someone who will make a difference. That’s what God wants to develop in us. This is one of the ways that we get into shape for God. And we get in shape as we believe, accept, and live by the truth that we are God’s masterpiece.
Have you seen the show “Extreme Makeover” on ABC? That’s quite a show! How many of us here would like to have an extreme makeover? A tuck there. A lift there. (Here a tuck, there a tuck, everywhere a tuck, tuck.)
Sure, we have some parts that could use a make over. But, the most important make over is from the inside out.
Consider the following facts and thoughts about the human body:
An article in Sunshine Magazine reported on the efforts of some scientists who were asked “to determine the size, the cooling system, and the power required to perform electronically the same functions” [by a human brain] during [one person’s] lifetime.”
The article goes on to say, “They decided that if all the parts were transistorized and built on a miniature scale like those used in rockets to the moon, the following would be needed:
A machine the size of the UN building in New York; a cooling systems with an output equal to Niagara Falls; and a power source that would produce as much electricity as is used in homes and industry in the entire state of California.”
Someone has written about the human ear: “The inner ear has a keyboard with 15,000 different keys, because that is the number of different tones that can be detected. Not only does the ear perform the function of hearing, it acts to control equilibrium as well.”
King David said it well in Psalm 139:14, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-and how well I know it.”
We are God’s workmanship. We are God’s masterpiece. And we begin to get in shape for God when we begin to believe, accept, and live out this truth.
We also get in shape for God when we believe, accept, and live out the truth that we are created anew in Christ Jesus. In our tradition we preach the necessity of personal salvation. Now, what does that mean?
It means that a person becomes a Christian not by membership or confirmation or baptism, but by making a personal confession of faith in Christ alone and accepting His forgiveness. Membership/confirmation and baptism, we teach and practice, comes as a result of our personal confession and acceptance. In other words, a salvation experience makes us a member of the church. So, if you have been saved, then you are a member of this church.
But, just a membership has its privileges, as the commercial says, it also has its responsibilities. And one of the most important is that we believe, accept, and live out the second truth about ourselves, “we are created anew in Christ Jesus.” But what did Paul mean by this statement?
Like a lot of things, the Christian faith has a terminology that sometimes prohibits further understanding and more important, belief and practice. It’s the same for other things as well. For example, the field of law enforcement has its “codes,” (code-10 for example) and its “signals” (such as signal 43) that are a part of its lingo.
The manufacturing process has its own terms. We see them on the sides of plants, or a company semi, or in the company literature, and they tell those who know of that company’s commitment to certain practices and standards of manufacturing. A common one is ISO 9000.
An important word that helps us understand this particular phrase, “created anew in Christ Jesus,” is “conversion.” Sometimes we have heard other words used in place of this word:
”saved” or “accepting Jesus.” But, what does “conversion” mean?
The original meaning of conversion in the New Testament is two-fold. One meaning of conversion is “to return to or comeback.” Another meaning is “a change of mentality.”
In other words, conversion creates a change in a person. When a person converts to Christianity it means that s/he makes a change. And what changes? Everything!
If you have been saved; if you have confessed your sins and asked God to forgive you of them, then your life’s priorities and agenda becomes God’s priorities and agenda. You live your life for God and not yourself.
This is what the “created anew” in our text for this morning means. We created all over again to live the way that God has planned for us to live.
But, the challenge is to choose to live that way. And that way sometimes is very hard to live. Jesus acknowledged this when He said, “narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.” Yet if we are going to get into shape for God then it requires us to let God completely into our lives to make this newness a reality as we believe, accept, and live out a new life.
Finally, we get in shape for God as we believe, accept, and live out the truth that not only are we God’s masterpiece that is created anew in Christ Jesus, but that we are also “created to do good works.” I think that another name for “good works” could be “ministry” or “place of service.”
If there is only one thing that you take from this message this morning, I want it to be this: “Each one of us has a ministry or place of service that God has called us to and will give us the skills and ability to do.” And as we believe, accept, and live out this truth, we will be in even better “shape” for the Lord.
Now, I know that questions begin to come to our conscious thought, “What do you mean, Jim? God wants me to teach a class? I can’t teach a class. I don’t like classes!” Or, “Oh boy, you aren’t going to ask us for a big time commitment to something that I have no time to give to, are you?”
All of us have things that we are deathly afraid of doing. We live in fear that someone, including God, will ask us to do one of those things. Ministry is more than teaching a class. There are other places of service other than going door-to-door.
I would remind us of what Paul said in I Corinthians when he was telling the Corinthian Christians about the value and place of ministry. “Now all of you together,” he says in I Corinthians 12:27, “are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” I want us to notice two words, separate and necessary, because they give us some help about this truth that we are created to do good works.
We are separate. We are individuals. We are unique. God made us that way. There are a lot of human begins. But, God put us together one at a time.
Some of us are organizers. Some of us are artistic. Some of us are thinkers. Some of us are feelers. But when God created us, He put us together with a variety of gifts and abilities that He wants to build on as we serve Him. So what?
It means that if God has wired us and given us a gift and desire to teach, then we teach. And if He hasn’t wired us and given us a gift to teach, we don’t.
Now this doesn’t mean that we may not serve in a ministry of teaching in some way from time to time, but it means that we have been wired and gifted in other ways. So we when we begin to search for and discover how God has wired and gifted us, then we begin to find great pleasure in service because we are serving in ways that God has equipped us to do.
I find great pleasure in being a pastor. It took me a while to fully realize and accept that this was God’s place for me. I love being here. I enjoy being your pastor.
A little over four years ago, I was miserable. There was what I now call a “holy discontent” within me. There was just this antsy ness that finally drove me to put my name out as a candidate. And when I did, there was a peace that came because I was following God’s plan.
Now, please understand me, I loved my former church. I had eight years of great ministry there. But, it was time to go on. God had prepared me for a new chapter and place in service. But, it required me to make some steps of faith and to keep moving forward through obedience and further learning and development of my gifts and skills.
The same holds true for you. God has gifted and called each one of you to a place of ministry and service. And when you obey the Lord and find that place of service, life is great! But, this also means that you will go on a journey that may lead you to places of service and ministry that you have only dreamed about and never thought that you would be there. (I certainly didn’t.)
We are also necessary. I have an important place as your pastor. I accept that place.
But, you are necessary as well. What would have happened if I would have disobeyed God and not come here? (And given the story of how I came here, I do believe that it would have been disobedience.)
You probably would have found another pastor. And I would have found another church. But, I would have missed the mark.
The same holds true for you! You are a necessary part of the ministry of both this local church and the Kingdom of God. God needs you on the team! He has gifted and wired you for a specific task and function.
I recently read a quote from Emmet Fox that needs to be heard this morning. It is from his book, Your Heart’s Desire.
“… how is one to find his true place in life? Is there any means whereby you may discover what it really is that God wishes you to do? You may feel inclined to say: “Even if it be true that God has some splendid thing that he wishes me to do, and to be, how can I possibly find out what it is?”
“Perhaps,” Fox continues, “You may even be tempted to add: “I am a very plain, everyday sort of person; my circumstances are extremely restricted; the conditions of my life are just drab commonplace. How then can there be something wonderful, beautiful, splendid awaiting me? Or, even if there were, how could I possibly get to know about it?”
“… the answer is Divinely simple- Already in your past life from time to time, God himself has whispered in your heart just that very wonderful thing, whatever it is, that he is wishing for you to do, and to have. And that wonderful thing is nothing less that what is called Your Heart’s Desire.”
“Nothing less than that. The most secret, sacred wish that lies deep at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or to think about…that is just the very thing that God is wishing you to do or to be for him. And the birth of that marvelous wish in your soul – the dawning of that secret dream-was the Voice of God himself telling you to arise and come up higher because he had need of you.”
God has a dream for you. God has a purpose for you. It includes any current responsibilities of family, work, and school that you already of have. But there is more to it than just these three things.
But, to discover this dream, this passion, requires us to get in shape for God. Which means that we must believe, accept, and live out these three important truths this morning.
I have repeated, “believe, accept, and live out” several times this morning because they are actions we take to get in shape for God.
Do you believe these truths? Do you believe that you are God’s masterpiece? Do you believe that you have been created anew in Christ Jesus? Do you believe that you have been created to do good works?
Belief is the first word listed because we act on our beliefs. And if we don’t believe these things, then none of what I have said makes any difference. But, if we do, then steps of faith are required to embrace the second step of faith – acceptance of these truths.
Do you accept that you are God’s masterpiece? Do you accept that you have been created anew in Christ Jesus? Do you accept that you have been created to do good works?
If you believe and do not accept, you’re between a rock and a hard place. It’s like being half in and half out a door. What do we tell the kids when they do that? “Either get in or get out.” But, when one does believe, and accept that we are God’s masterpiece, that we have been created anew in Christ Jesus and that we have been created to do good works, then the next step of faith is easier – living it out.
And to live it out means that we begin to search for and embrace God’s gifts and calling for our places of ministry and service. It means that we get in shape for God.
This morning I am not asking you to do something that you are not wired to do. This morning I am not asking you to give more time than you need to give as you serve the Lord.
This morning I am asking you to get in shape for the Lord by believing, accepting, and living out the truth that you are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus, for good works.
Your church needs you. Your church needs you; your gifts, your time, your place of service. I encourage you to find it if you are not sure what it is (we have this class that starts this morning) and if you are in a ministry, I encourage you to hear God’s voice of reaffirmation that you are where He wants you to be and if you are not, that you will be willing to let go of that place of service and embrace where He wants you to be.
Let’s get in shape for God in 2004 and beyond because all of us are maaavelous in His eyes! Amen.