Powerful Passages, Pt. 7
Living Out a Pre-planned Life
Study Guide, November 6, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
Do you like ‘riddles’? Who doesn’t, right? Okay, well, how about:
What has a face and hands but no arms or legs? A Clock
What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it? Short
What has a neck but no head? A bottle
What has to be broken before you can use it? An egg
How many letters are in the alphabet? Eleven: 3 in ‘the’ and 8 in ‘alphabet’ equals 11
So riddles are kind of fun…and some can be really remarkable, like this one: Since Jesus is the Word and the Scriptures are His book, what are you and me? Well, let’s let the Apostle Paul answer that in his own language from Ephesians 2:10- “…we are His ‘poiema’…” And what is a ‘poiema’? Well, from this word in the Latin we get ‘poema’, and from the French we get ‘poeme’, and from the English we get ‘poem’. So, in essence, since Jesus is the ‘Word’ and the Scriptures are His ‘Book’, you and I are His ‘Poem’.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a ‘poem’, or better yet, as ‘God’s poem’? Let’s look at this powerful passage and we’ll unravel it a bit. Eph 2:10- “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” NASU The Greek word ‘poiema’ is what is translated here as ‘workmanship’. Have you ever had anyone say that you were quite ‘a piece of work’? Well, whatever they intended by it, they probably had no idea how much you really are a piece of work, God’s work. Other versions translate the word as ‘masterpiece’. And that’s another amazing thing about why God chose the Greek language to communicate His truths to His church, because the Greek is like both a picturesque language and a multi-layered language. Just take this word ‘poiema’ here. It is muti-layered in the sense that like a majestic poetic work it tells a wondrous story through intricate thought and form and structure. And then it becomes like a blueprint for the accomplishment of some significant set of works. And then in order for this blueprint to be accomplished it has to be united to a significant workman. And this workman, himself or herself, becomes a piece of the entire master plan, or we could say, a ‘masterpiece’ in the master plan, or we should say, ‘in the Master’s plan’. And who is the ‘masterpiece’ of the Master’s plan? You and me.
Are you feeling sufficiently significant yet? Yeah, not even the sun, moon, and stars have that level of significance. Again, most people have no idea how much of ‘a piece of work’ they really are! When a Mother gives birth to a child it’s like giving birth to a ‘Poem’- ‘God’s Poem’. When you came into this world, along with you came the Master’s plan – with you as the ‘masterpiece’ through whom God intended to carry out the works He had written into the plan, like a work of poetry. And all of this was designed just for you, His ‘Poem’. We know this to be true because the Apostle Paul assures us that this ‘God designed plan’ was constructed previous to our arrival on Earth.
Sometimes we wonder what God was doing in eternity past. Part of what He was doing was, as the Ultimate Literary Genius (which even these words fall terribly short of describing God)…but again, part of what God was doing was constructing each of our personal stories…crafting this comprehensive plan for the creatures He would one day call ‘man’. Remember, even the work of Christ of securing our salvation through His sacrificial offering on the Cross was predetermined from eternity past. Recall Acts 2:22-24- “Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” NASU
The point being, nothing that has happened has ever taken God by surprise. God works by His predetermined plans. Even in your salvation, it wasn’t like after you gave your life to Christ that God then had to come up with some ideas of some things for you to do now in your works of service. It might be a surprise to the Angels, but can you picture God saying something like, “Well, I didn’t see that coming. How can we now use James or Sally here in doing some things to help get ready for the Kingdom?” No, of course not. And I feel even foolish to illustrate it like that, but isn’t that somewhat the way many believers tend to think about their lives? They look at their post-conversion lives like a random set of good works and service activities here and there that they can do. But instead, they are supposed to realize that when they gave their life to Christ that they also stepped into this grand story that God had written out for them and was waiting for them to enter into it and to then discover and delight themselves in it as they went from good work to good work in their service for their King and Savior.
Your life story is not waiting to be written, for God has already written it! Yes, in a sense you are writing your life story every day, but God already wrote one for you and intends for you to unite your story with His story. Your predetermined, pre-written life story is now waiting for you to be discovered; discovered and then lived out as a personal disciple of the Master planner.
If you only look at discipleship in terms of duty, then you are missing out on the rest of the experience that God planned for your experience as His disciple. Certainly, our duty of all that we are required to do is a high and noble aspect of discipleship, to be sure. But God intended to inspire us in doing our duties by helping us discover more and more of the things which He designed for us to do for Him in working with Him and joining in with Him in preparing for His coming Kingdom.
Maybe we could look at it this way, and it’s a bit of an unusual illustration, but just go with it for now…Many Christians live their lives like its a game of ‘solitary scavenger hunt’…think about it…’solitary scavenger hunt’. Now, how ridiculous would that be to think up some things to hide and then go hide them and then go back and find them yourself. Of course, it sounds ridiculous, but again, isn’t that somewhat like the way many Christians look at the Christian life? By grace through faith they have trusted in the works of Christ for their salvation, but now they look at their works for their sanctification, or their walk with Christ, as like being up to them now… as though their good works were up to them to come up with and then do. It’s like a game of ‘solitary sanctification hunt’, as though God had not already prepared any works for them to find and then to do.
But no, Discipleship is as much about ‘discovery’ as it is about ‘duty’. And if you leave out this element of ‘discovery’ you will have left out one of the biggest incentives God intended for you to experience in your walk of discipleship. Go with me a bit further with this illustration, because it helps me, too…You see, God designed this amazing game of ‘sanctification scavenger hunt’ for you and for me to play…or to live out. And as we seek to discover what is next to find or to do or to pray or where to serve or who to encourage or who to exhort or who to witness to and on and on, God the Holy Spirit guides us in our hunt, almost like letting us know – “You’re getting warmer…warmer…Yes, hot now” or “No, you’re getting cooler, cooler, No, now you’re cold.”
The point being: Christ’s Spirit will guide us into the works He has prepared for us to find and the works He prepared for us to do as we yield to His guidance…yield to His Lordship. These works are a part of this poetic master plan that He designed for us to discover with His guidance and then to do by His grace.
No wonder so many Christians are bored with their lives. Who wants to play a game of scavenger hunt by themselves? And how sad, and how wrong, that so many Christians have come to look at the walk of sanctification, the life of discipleship, as nothing specially planned just for them…nothing pre-planned by God with just them in mind, just waiting for them to discover day by day.
That’s not how the first Disciples looked at what following Jesus was all about. Sure, they all knew it was their duty to follow Jesus and obey His instructions, but they also knew that following Jesus meant that every day was a day of discovery, of discovering more of what Jesus had in mind for them to learn and to practice and to carry out in their works of service for their Master’s sake. Their knew their Master had a ‘Master plan’ for each of their lives. And every day was a new journey of discovery as they kept their eyes on Jesus and followed wherever He was leading them.
And think about this: Even Jesus’ own journey through Israel and the lands around it was was not just a random walk through Judea and Galilee…but rather a series of appointments…a pre-determined plan that Jesus was following in doing the works the Father had planned for Him to do. Notice what Jesus said: John 5:17- “Jesus answered them, “My Father is always working, and I too must work.” TEV John 10:37-38- “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” NASU Jesus, too, lived His life by this predetermined Master plan, doing the works that God had planned for Him to do from eternity past.
In a very similar way that God the Father had a Master plan for the Son of God, God the Father has a Master plan for everyone who has become reborn sons and daughters of God. God not only knew you from eternity past, He even wrote a poem about you from eternity past. A poem filled with a plan of good works designed just for you to walk in them as you walked with Him. He wanted to lead you, as a disciple of His, into a life of discovery of those things He had in mind just for you to learn and to do and to experience, just like He did with His first disciples.
What if you looked at each day as another line in the poem of your life that God has already written, but is yet to be experienced? What if you looked at each day as wondering what the itinerary is that God has for you to do today? What if you walked through your days thinking, “Lord, who have You put on the list today for me to pray for; or for me to meet; or for me to share truths from Your Word, truths about Your gospel with; or who have You placed in my path for me to encourage, or for me to challenge, or for me to listen to or help according to the abilities and the resources You have given to me? Lord, what appointments are on Your itinerary for me today?”
Is it coincidental that God has given us the title of being His personal ‘Ambassadors’ in our journey through this world? One of the primary features of being an ‘Ambassador’ is following an itinerary of things the sending party is trying to do or hoping to accomplish in some foreign land through the works of their ‘Ambassador’. You and I are God’s ‘Ambassadors’. And along with the time that we have left on this Earth we also have this itinerary from God, especially designed by God for you and for me, to focus on and to act upon as personal ‘Ambassadors’ sent by the King of kings into these foreign lands.
What has God put on the list in His itinerary for you to do today? And yes, we each have responsibilities that we are accountable for doing in our lives, but neither did your responsibilities take God by surprise either. In fact, what if you factored even your responsibilities into the Romans 8:28 equation of: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” NASU Just because some things look routine or mundane to us that we have to do in our lives day by day doesn’t mean they look that way to God. For each day to God is what? “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps 118:24 NASU Every day is a new gift from God to us, with His mercies that are new each morning for us, and with the rest of His story, His poem, that He has written out for us, to be discovered and then experienced by us.
So inject this focus on discovery into your daily duties and watch what it does to your motivation for living each day as a disciple. Don’t just live out your life; enter into the life that God prepared before the foundation of the world for you to live out.