For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Good morning! How are you? Usually the first weeks of after conferences is I have extra troubles. But this week I have extra blessings. I will share it later. The title for today’s message is “We are God’s handiwork.” The key verse comes from verse 10. May we read this verse together? “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Let’s pray.
Last week, we had our Spring Bible Conference. Today’s message is a special message, follow up the Spring Bible Conference. So at the conference we learned that we must be born again. We hear Jesus’ voice ‘It is finished” on the cross. We learned his resurrection, the life in the name of Jesus Christ. We also learned the New Jerusalem with new heaven and earth coming down on earth. So today we want to cover all of our learning. We want to know what God does or has done for us which we studied at the conference and what we want to do for God as well. So part I. God’s work for us (v.1-9). Part II. Our work for God. (v.10)
Part I. God’s work for us (v.1-9)
Let’s read verses 1-3 responsibly. “1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
In describing what God has done for us the author uses comparison. He compares before who we were before God’s work and who we are after God’s work. So this part is the we or you before God’s work. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. As we learned from the conference physically everyone is alive. But before God works for a person he is spiritually dead and he is dead in his transgressions and sins. So it’s like walking around Zambi or ‘living dead’. It is unique expression. Now when a person is dead spiritually in his transgressions and sins what it means is he follows the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. ‘The ruler of the kingdom of the air’ refers to the devil or Satan. He is called as ‘ruler’ because he has great power. And this devil, Satan, is spirit and he is at work in those who are disobedient. So it is never a good idea to be disobedient. So the bible says we must submit to all authorities because every authority is established by God. ‘The ruler of the kingdom of the air’, the devil, is at work in those who are disobedient. When we live in the world before God works we think we live our ways. We think we live my ways. So there is a singer , Frank Cinatra, ‘my way’, very famous song in our days. We think we live our ways. But the true picture is we follow not our ways but the ways of this world and of the devil. Very surprising. ‘The world’ refers to every system that is against godly character. The world is full of corruption. If you go out to the world you the world full of adulterous images. So when we think we live our ways freely in fact we follow the ways of this world and of the devil.
Now in verse 3 Apostle Paul includes himself when he said, all of ‘us’ also lived among them at one time. Apostle Paul was saying in fact I was one of you, gratifying the cravings our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. When we think we live free life we ended up gratifying cravings of our flesh. Our ‘flesh’ refers to our ‘sinful nature’, ‘tendency to sin.’ If anyone of us tries to break our bad habits we can know how powerful the cravings of our flesh. One man was in deep gambling. In order to overcome his gambling he took a very extraordinary action. He cut off his hands. But few years later he was still in gambling. With what? With his feet. The tragedy of gratifying our flesh is self destructive. When we gratify the cravings of our flesh we are destroying ourselves. With all of our strength and energy and life we are destroying ourselves when we live and when we gratify the cravings of our flesh. This is such a tragedy and agony. That’s why we cry out ‘who can save us from this body of death?’. Eventually like the rest we are by nature deserving of wrath. “By nature” – without God’s work, we are nothing but deserving of God’s wrath and his judgment. Simply we become objects of God’s wrath. This is who we were. No exceptions. This is who we were. We were dead in our transgressions and sins. We follow the ways of this adulterous world and of the devil. We gratify the cravings of our flesh. We ended up becoming objects of God’s wrath. That’s what we were before God work.
Now this is how God works. Let’s read verses 4-9 responsibly. “4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 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. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
“4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 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. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
God’s work for us is characterized by one word. What is it? “Grace”. Grace. Don’t you like grace? “Special favor given to unmerited people”. Who doesn’t like grace? I like ‘grace’. Missionary ‘Grace Han’, ‘Grace Choi’. We like ‘grace’ so much when we cannot put our first name ‘Grace’ we put it in our middle name. My two daughters’ middle name is ‘Grace.’ We love ‘grace’ and we like ‘grace’. Why? Grace is so good. God’s grace in these verses appears in two phrases. “With Christ” and “In Christ”. “With Christ” and “In Christ.” God’s grace comes with ‘with Christ’ and ‘in Christ.’ Mainly he (God) did two things. He made us alive with Christ. He raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms, still in Christ Jesus. Verse 4 reads, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy”. God’s motive to save us ‘love’ and ‘mercy’. Rich mercy and great love. He made us alive with Christ. This is what it means ‘to be born again.’ Even when we were dead in transgressions. In time wise we were made alive with Christ even when we were in transgressions. Even when we were born physically we were made alive with Christ. This is purely God’s grace. “It is by grace you have been saved.” Paul proclaimed. “It is by grace you have been saved.” You were saved even before you were made alive”. You were saved even before you were born. Even before you knew anything about God and our salvation. That is not all. When Jesus was raised from the dead and was ascended into have and seated at the right hand of God God raised us also with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. He is talking about what is happened ‘in the heavenly realms’. There is ‘earthly realms’. The death of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is used by God to unite us with Christ. So with Christ we were made alive when he said, “It is finished.” With Christ we were raised up and seated with him when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.
This is ‘grace’, and this ‘grace’ is explained in verse 7 more. “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.” “In the coming ages”. There is a coming ages. We live ‘in our present ages.’ But there is ‘coming ages.’ In the coming ages, we will be able to see and experience as realities God’s incomparable riches of his grace. It includes living in the kingdom of God, new Jerusalem, new heaven and new earth which we studied in Revelation chapter 21 and 22.
“Incomparable riches of his grace”. We do not know all of ‘incomparable riches of God’s grace.’ It is so rich that we may not know all of them. But it is expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. He is so kind when we do not deserve.
Verse 8 says, “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith”. He repeats the same phrase but this time he added one more phrase “through faith.” “And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Who can say “This salvation of God is from himself or herself?” No one is deserved to be saved and no one has power to save himself or herself. Our salvation is not from us. It is purely the gift of God. It is by God’s grace alone. It comes also ‘through faith’ instead of ‘our works’ so that no one can boast. No one can boast God’s salvation for himself or herself because it does not come from our works but through faith.
I had many years to understand what is the difference between ‘through faith’ and ‘not by works’ because isn’t faith or believing a part of my work? It was my thinking. But I realize is that there is difference. My work is something like this. Let’s say I work very hard and saved one million dollars. Sounds great! And that is, one million dollar, the result of my labor, the result of my work. So I can call it ‘it is my work.’ But let’s see my parents gave me one million dollars as my inheritance. Obviously I did not work for it. It was not the result of my work. But it was given to me and I can say, “Wow! Sounds great! One million dollars cash! I will take it.” I acknowledged one million dollars as mine although I did not work for it and it was not result of my work. That is we call ‘faith’, acknowledging what God has done for us through Jesus Christ and in Christ by grace alone.
So far we learned God’s work for us.
Part II. Our work for God. (v.10)
Let’s read verse 10 together. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are God’s handiwork. In 1982 version ‘we are God’s workmanship’. Same meaning. We are God’s handiwork. We are God’s work which we have seen in verses 1 through 9.
Yesterday we had a meeting with Dr. Kim (Dr. Chin Kyung Kim) who established two Christian universities, one in China and one is Pyung Yang in North Korea. He confessed very interesting story. For him he did not have any trouble to believe ‘the Creator God.’ God created the universe and everything. But he had trouble to believe that Jesus died for him. When he looked at himself he did not deserve. When he looked at himself there was nothing good in him. So how can Jesus die for me who is so worthless? So he couldn’t figure out. But when he looked at Genesis chapter 1 verses 26 through 29 it says, “God created man in his own image.” He realized that ‘wow! I have God’s image. I am so valuable! Now I can accept that Christ died for me!” that was his confession, very interesting and honest confession.
We have more reason though for we are God’s handiwork. Are we worthwhile? Of course! Why? We are the result of God’s work. We are God’s product. We are made by God. We are God’s handiwork. Are we precious? Of course! Are we valuable? Of course all the more before God! Created in Christ Jesus!
You know, if you look at merchandise at the back, it says, “made in China” probably 90%, made in American, made in Japan, made in Korea, made in Mexico. When we look at ourselves look at the stamp in yourself. It says ‘made in?’ ‘made in God.’ ‘made in Christ Jesus.’ It uses the word ‘created’ instead of ‘made.’ Created in Christ Jesus. We are new creation in Christ Jesus. Old creation who used to gratify the craving his flesh and follow its desires and thought is dead! No more! No mas!
Why did God create us? Why did God make and stamp on it ‘made in God’ ‘made in Christ’ ‘created in Christ Jesus’” Why did he do that? “For us to do good works!” Good works not gratifying the cravings of our flesh! Good works and this good works is something God had already prepared in advance for us. Do you believe God has already prepared good works for you to do? Do you believe so? Whenever I read this verse I am reminded of one road, made by God, created by God, only for me alone. ‘only for me alone’. Something like this (show picture of wonderful road with many trees). When I said ‘only for me alone’ means ‘if I do not walk through it, if I do not enjoy it no one will do it. It is complete waste.’ So there are good works for us to do which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Maybe you pray for a couple of people. Maybe you meet one person and do something for him. Good works!
And one of the good works is ‘forgiveness’. God made alive with Christ through his forgiveness. Well, I had a trouble with one brother to forgive. Mother Barry asked me to forgive him unconditionally. The word ‘unconditionally’ is very great if you have ‘unconditional warranty.’ But if you are manufacture ‘unconditional warranty’ is something you want to avoid. “Forgive him unconditionally!” And my first response is “Mother Barry, you don’t understand me. I have nothing to forgive him. But I do not want to meet him though. Why? Because he gonna give me pain again. He gonna hurt me again. So I don’t have anything to forgive. I have already forgiven him million years ago. But I don’t want to associate with him. Also I had a big trouble with ‘justice’ issue. It is okay to help him. But what about the people whom he would harm? Who is responsible for these people who will be harmed by him?
I had a big trouble with it. But you know Mother Barry represents God to me. And also God taught me ‘if I try to solve my problems and troubles in a godly way, in a divine way, instead of worldly way, I will receive unimaginable blessings. He taught me through the case of Hannah in chapter 1 of 1 Samuel. Penninah provoked Hannah out of jealousy which is sin. But when Hannah prayed to God she was so blessed having the mother of Samuel, having many children, you name it. So I prayed and read bible. And I happened to read book of Job. Have you read the book of Job? Job was a very righteous person. As I read his book he is more righteous than apostle Paul. Apostle Paul had a trouble with the tenth commandment ‘Do not covet your neighbor’s properties.’ But Job was free. He did not covet any of his neighbor’s properties whatsoever.
He was such a righteous man. And one day angels and Satan gathered around God. And God was so proud of Job. And he asked Satan ‘where are you coming from?” Satan says “roaming through the earth back and forth’ implying that he was trying to look for someone to devour. God was so proud of Job that he said, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is such a good guy!” And Satan says “Don’t you bless him so much? He has 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels and more. He has 7 sons and 3 daughters. You bless him so much and that is why he is faithful. If you take away the blessings I bet you he will not faithful to you. God said, “Go ahead. Take care of it but don’t touch him.” So in one day Satan took away all of his properties, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, donkeys, all of his male and female servants except several who came to report him, and 7 sons and 3 daughters, all of them in one day.
In one day! I saw the movie ‘saving private Ryan’, to save him because his brothers died in war. I never heard of a man who lost 10 children in one day in a single shot. But Job’s response was amazing. “Naked I came from and naked will I depart. God gave and God has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised!” In another time angels and Satan gathered in front of God and God was so proud of Job and he said to Satan, “Have you seen my servant Job? He still maintains his integrity.” Satan said, “I bet you, if you strike him with all kinds of diseases and pains and sufferings I bet you he will curse to you to your face!” And God said, “Go head. But don’t kill him.”
So Job 2:7-8 says, “7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.” As I read it this is how he expressed his suffering. Job 30:17, 30 “Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.” “My skin grows black and peels; my body burns with fever.” Such a pain and suffering! So what did his wife say to him? “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) You are crazy! What do you have left? You have nothing to lose! Curse God and die man! That is what his wife said. He relied, “You are talking like a foolish[a] woman.” (Job 2:10a). Very interesting! Satan killed all of his children, all of his properties except few servants who came to report him, but he did not take away his wife. I don’t know whether it is good or not. (People laugh) But Satan uses her. Job said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10b) When I read this verse God said something to me, “John Kwon, you cannot accept good from me alone. You have to accept good as well as trouble.’ It is a totally different story. It means ‘I will accept good bible students who will listen to me very well as well as poor bible students who may accuse me all the time or complain to me all the time.’ It means ‘I will accept unconditional forgiveness from the Lord’ which is good, but also I also need to accept unconditional forgiveness for someone who will always give me trouble until I finish my life here on earth. That’s what it means. It means ‘I will accept good from Mother Barry, who prays for me but also I will accept trouble from her, her rebuke, demand, whatever.’ It also means ‘I will accept the glory of resurrection’ but I will also accept ‘the pain of crucifixion’.
I read it more and I reached the chapter 30:1a. It says, “But now they mock me”. “They” refers to people described in chapter 29. They respected Job so much. They received benefits and blessings from Job. So they highly respected Job and honored him. But now the table is turned around and they began to mock Job. They insulted him. When I read this verse God spoke to me again.
Have you thought about ‘why did God give so much trouble and pain to Job?” Have you thought about it? Anyone try to answer? I buy dinner. Someone says something. “God loved him.” Okay. ‘To bless him more’. Yes. “For the glory of God’ and also, ‘for the glory of God.’ So ‘for the glory of God’ got two points. Yes, there is someone. “To prepare him.” Preparation. “So that the word of God may be fulfilled.” Okay. “…” I cannot hear clearly. Someone says, “Can you explain your question again?” (People laughs) My question is ‘why did God give such trouble and pain to Job even though Job was a righteous man.” “To prove to Satan that Job loves God” ‘unconditionally” Now we like the term ‘unconditionally.’ Don’t abuse the term too much though. You may have trouble. Yes? “Job is God’s handiwork.” (People laughs) “His answer cannot be mistaken right?” ‘because it comes from the key verse today.’ This is what God taught me. Although Job was innocent God gave him so much pain and trouble because God wanted to bless him with the greatest blessing. And the greatest blessing is to know Jesus Christ who suffered innocently.
Job suffered innocently. So Job will be able to know Jesus Christ who suffered innocently. So if someone accuses you when you are innocent praise God! Because God wants to bless you with the greatest blessing. What is it? To know Jesus Christ! Amen? (People say ‘amen’)
Then I was reminded of apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 3 verses 7 through 11. May we read these verses responsibly?
“7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
God revealed to apostle Paul, the greatest blessing, the surpassing worth, is to know Christ Jesus. So Paul made a resolution, “I want to know Christ. Yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings.” God was so proud of Job. God so loved him that he wanted to bless him with the greatest blessing. That is to know Jesus Christ who suffered innocently to take away our sins and to forgive our sins. (pause). Someone in the audience says something. Excuse me? What did you say? (People laugh) “No one gets dinner” (People laugh even more) I invite all of you who answered for dinner! Unconditional dinner! Buffet! You can eat unconditionally!
So in conclusion, this is the follow up message from the conference. We learned what God has done for us from the conference. We were dead in our transgressions. But by his grace he made us alive with Christ and raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms. Not only that but also he gave us good works. We need work to do. Good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. One of the good works is forgiveness, unconditional forgiveness!
One word: We are God’s handiwork. Let’s pray.