On Poetry and Purpose

Ephesians 2 – http://bit.ly/ruEci

I’ve written before about how were are like Gods Masterpieces.  Remember, Psalm 139 says that you are God’s masterpiece, a one-off, unique creation that inspires reverence and admiration for God.

But the qualities that define your uniqueness and inspire the awe and reverence for God are not limited to your physical beauty.  The are woven into the very fabric of your life and destiny.  The purpose that God has for you is also unique, and the Bible reveals that it is just as carefully crafted.

Ephesians 2:10 is a verse that is very powerful, and unfortunately has become a bit cliche.  This verse still triggers nightmarish memories of Rick Warren in Hawaiian shirts for me, after I did the “Purpose Driven Life” series a few years ago.  Whatever context you have heard this verse in, I want to look at it afresh and put it in a different light.

It says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Without delving any deeper, the verse is still very powerful.  It tells me that we have a God-given purpose, to do good, and these were set out for us in advance, before we were even born.

If something was created for a purpose, then the very act of its creation was purposeful.  In other words, God made us specifically for certain tasks, so he designed us. He did not throw a few limbs and some skin together and hoped for the best.  Our life is not a conglomeration of random chance.  If I were to make a  knife, I would have to shape it specifically with the correct dimensions, make it pointed, make it sharp.  I can’t just pour some molten metal on the floor and hope it comes out straight or sharp.  Whatever your purpose in life, you are meant to be what you are.

If we dig a little deeper into the original greek language, the meaning of the verse becomes even clearer.  ‘Workmanship’ in the greek is poiema from which we get our english word ‘poem’.  We are not a meaningless jumble of letters that makes no sense. We are a beautifully crafted blend of rhythm, harmony and meaning.  You are a sonnet from the mouth of God.

Following in this vein, the next word ‘created’ is the word ktizo which refers to God creating the worlds, or to form or shape, literally “to transform completely.”  Like a potter taking a lump of clay and completely transforming it into a ceramic vase, so when God spoke you into being, you were expertly crafted into the symphony of shape, colour, texture and depth that makes you unique.

The next phrase, ‘to do good works’, are the words agathos ergon, literally a ‘good, pleasant, useful or distinguished occupation’.  These works are not just sporadic, but they are a lifestyle.  I am a doctor, not just when I walk into my office in the morning, but all the time.  You can’t clock on and off from your calling either.

‘Prepared in advance’ is the word proetoimazo, a compound word made up of pro, meaning ‘before’ and hetoimazo, to ‘make everything ready’.  Like getting the table set and the meal cooked before your dinner party guests arrive, God prepared your calling.  It is ready to go, all you need to do is to step into it.  So why isn’t everyone functioning in their calling?

The next greek word, peripateo, is translated in the NIV as ‘for us to do’, but in the King James, ‘we should walk in them’.  It is used in the subjunctive sense – a form which the action is not certain but dependent on the action of another.  So God is not compelling you to walk in them, but they are ready when you are.

There was a custom in the ancient Middle East where a traveling King would send out an advance team to clear the road of debris, and repair it, and make it passable for his entourage to journey without obstacles.  God has prepared the road for you already.  But God isn’t going to make us walk on it – that’s up to us.  We often want to walk on the roads of other people but we have been specifically designed to travel on our road.  Like driving a sports car on a rough hewn dirt-road, or a four-wheel-drive on a race track, being on the wrong road is frustrating and hard work.  We need to find our own road.

How do you find your road then?  You know, I don’t think we actually find the road, but that God shows it to us.  When God called Abram from Haran in Genesis 12, He said “Get up and leave, go to a land that I will show you”.  You have to be travelling first, and God will open your eyes to the road when you are approaching it.

I said earlier that the purpose that God created us for is unique.  But our unique purpose is derived first and foremost from our common purpose.  The preceding verses of Ephesians 2 says, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (v3-9)

It is because of the grace of God, and only because of his grace, that we are saved.  It is not because of anything we have done.  But the incomparable riches have given us all a purpose – to be made alive in Christ and join him in the heavenly realms so he can show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness.  It is only when we know him intimately that ministry and calling are worthwhile.  Moses said to God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15).  You can be in the promised land, but without the presence of God it will never be enough.  And Jesus himself would rather relationship than just service and sacrament.  In Matthew 7 he said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

I think the body of Christ is like a tree.  A branch is not much good unless it is attached to the trunk, and the whole tree is dead unless that is connected to the roots and they are in the ground.  We have to have to be rooted into an intimate relationship with God, sharing in common with the trunk of the church, and only then can we branch off into our individual calling.  Every leaf is different, in shape, in colour, in pattern and texture.  But they are all the same in that they must be connected to the trunk and the roots to remain alive.

So, we are God’s poem, a sonnet of grace and beauty, each with a path that God has prepared for our travels.  Connect with him, make sure he is first in all aspects of your life.  Then he will show you your calling, your individual purpose in life that he has planned for you.  It is only then that you will be truly fulfilled, and live life abundantly.

Originally published May 2009

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