It often feels like a stretch for me to call myself a masterpiece. A messy one at best. But God said it, so let’s dig in and discover what it means that our identity is God’s masterpiece, so we can thwart Satan’s attacks.
I like to create in a variety of mediums. Tying knots in yarn to make scarves. Transforming scraps of paper into greeting cards. Painting, stamping, embellishing. Even stringing words together to make sentences that convey messages. I would love to learn to sculpt, but there are only so many hours in the day. I find great satisfaction in the process of taking raw materials and making something new. Often others, who claim to be without a creative bone in their bodies, marvel at what I make. Sometimes, they even pay for my creations or for the opportunity to try their own hand at one of these skills. I don’t consider myself a gifted artisan or a master of any trade, but I do enjoy the process and usually the product.
The Masters of old were artisans who had dedicated their lives to creating beautiful works of art. They had been trained by other greats who had gone before them, honed their gifts, and were qualified to teach up-and-coming artists in the same trade. Their names were widely known—Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Titian, da Vinci, and Donatello. Masters painted the Mona Lisa, freed The David from a block of marble, created the bronze Baptistry doors for the Florence Cathedral, defied gravity to adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, worked in light and shade to bring beauty to what was perceived as ugly, innovated the use of pigments to capture life-like images, and employed brushstrokes to bring movement to still-life paintings.
They were exceptionally skilled experts in their trade and the masterpieces they produced were highly valued, if only because of who created it.
And that is where we meet the first of our identity words. Masterpiece.
I confess I don’t often think of myself as a masterpiece. Honestly, most days, I feel more like a hot mess. Like something a two-year-old might splatter on the walls with finger paints. Messy. Unwanted. Lacking rhyme or reason. Something that needs to be cleaned up before company comes over. But have you ever seen the beaming face of that toddler who thinks they have created a masterpiece? How proud they are of what they created! At least until mom or dad discovers it.
Can you picture that expression on the face of God? Pure joy over His creation. The thing He has created. His masterpiece.
“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT (emphasis mine)
The Greek word translated in the various versions to mean workmanship, handiwork, creation, or masterpiece, is poiema (poy’-ay-mah). This is the same root of the English word poem and it refers to a product, a thing that is made. This specific word appears only twice in the Bible, here in Ephesians 2:10 and in Romans 1:20 (emphasis mine):
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
God created everything to reveal his invisible power and divine nature. Including us. And then in the Garden of Eden, we broke His creation when Eve gave in to Satan’s temptation to be something other than she was created to be. (Genesis 3:1-7) Through both the original sin we inherit as we are born into this world and our actual sin, the things we do and say or the things we fail to do or say, we tarnish what God called “very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
That is why we need to be created anew.
And this newness isn’t something we conjure up on our own. It is also God’s doing. Through the suffering and sacrifice of His Son, God makes us holy and blameless in His sight. By His gift of grace through faith, God declares us His masterpieces. He is the Creator and we are His creation. That the picture my life paints would leave others without excuse for God’s existence, power, nature, or purposes is a daunting calling indeed.
But we can no more create or restore ourselves than paint and a canvas can become a work of art on their own. They must be created and restored by someone qualified to do so. God is the only one qualified to create and recreate us for His glory in the image of His Son. He declared the work of being His masterpiece complete on the cross. And by the power of His Holy Spirit living inside believers, we are constantly becoming His masterpieces, renewed, restored, and recreated in His Son’s image.
In the second half of Ephesians 2:10 where it says, “He has created us anew,” the word for created here is related to the idea of acquiring, obtaining, possessing, providing, or purchasing. He created us for Himself, for His pleasure, for His purpose, and for His glory, and then He bought us back with the blood of Christ.
Occasionally, I create on commission. Someone asks me to give life to a vision they have. I work hard to meet their needs and exceed their expectations for design and quality, which often includes several iterations of the same project. Sometimes the tweaks are tiny, but other times my original design requires a complete overhaul to bring their vision to life. As the producer, I am at the mercy of the consumer. Their needs. Their desires. Their purposes. This process is different than when I create for my own pleasure. Often what satisfies the consumer isn’t something I personally find particularly pleasing.
This is not how God creates.
He creates for Himself. His own needs. His own desires. His own purposes. He alone brings His vision to life. And He makes no mistakes. He is both creator and consumer. He creates for His own pleasure and glory. And that gives us a clue about these good works He has planned for us to do.
Jesus reveals their purpose in Matthew 5:14-16 when He teaches His followers not hide our light which is His light within us that causes us to do good works, so that others might see them and also glorify God in heaven. God created us anew in Christ and planned work for us to do so that others might also become His restored masterpieces. God made us His masterpieces so that others might see our beauty and desire to know the Creator.
God’s Masterpiece Poem
Of all the things I create, poetry is not one of them. In fact, when our son had a poetry unit in his sixth grade language arts class, I learned quickly that poetry stresses me out. But this idea that we are poems God writes adds a new richness to this verse. A poem is a specific type of literature intended to evoke emotion or pass on ideas or facts. Writers employ structure, repetition, rhyme, and various linguistic tools like alliteration, parallelism, and opposition to make their messages more memorable and powerful. With the advent of printed word, poets began to use the white space on a page to make a point in their poetry.
We are not like the rest of creation. Humans have the distinct honor of being created specifically in the image of God. God made us to feel deeply and those emotions connect us with others who feel the way we do. Yet, sometimes He challenges us with those who feel differently. He has used His people inspired by His Holy Spirit to pass on His story throughout all of time. He has provided us with a structure to guide our lives, our choices, and how we treat one another through His law. When we live according to that structure, we bring Him honor and glory. Though our lives frequently fall out of step with His plan, He encourages us to repeatedly repent and allow Him to restore and recreate us.
Like lines paired in rhyme, God brings a sweetness to our lives through those He pairs us to walk with this side of heaven. In much the same way alliteration piques my interest and makes me pay attention, repetition in my life alerts me to my purpose and reveals my interests. When others pursue God’s purpose for them through similar interests and passions, I find a powerful parallel in working alongside them.
Our lives are not free from opposition, but God uses even that for His good purpose. When we face opposition God displays His strength in our weakness, reveals the divide between good and evil, and distinguishes the eternal from the temporal.
God doesn’t waste white space in our lives, either. In fact, He intentionally included it in His plan for us and modeled it at the completion of creation. When we honor the Sabbath, we imply our trust in God to provide for us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Our lives are the poems God writes to reveal His purpose for His people. And living them according to His plan for His glory is our purpose.
Through the years art interpretation has become an art form of itself. People seek to understand and interpret the meaning and intent behind what the artist created. What does this mean? Why did he choose this color or that pattern? What is the message here? Do these words represent more than their typical meaning? As consumers of art, we can often only speculate about these nuances and intentions. And aren’t consumers critical?
We, too, face constant criticism in our lives. From friends and enemies. From strangers and family members. Those who refuse God’s saving grace and those who call themselves Christians. Even, and maybe most of all, from ourselves. People everywhere have opinions about what we should be doing or how we could be doing it better. If you would… Or could you just… Why don’t you… Will you ever… We have all heard the voices of criticism.
Sometimes it is constructive and we need to discern and heed criticism that makes us more like Christ. Just like the masters of old, we should choose to sit under the instruction of those ahead of us in the work of living the life for which God created them. Trusted mentors, pastors, teachers, and leaders who will be bold enough to point out our flaws without condemning our character.
God always intended for us to be in community with others for mutual consolation, sharpening, encouragement, and strengthening. Sometimes this feels like a chisel chipping away at the marble to reveal a treasure beneath imperfections or smooth sharp edges. Other times it is more like the gentle touch of a potter as she molds a delicate vase. Either process requires water. One to wash away the dust and the other to keep the clay moldable. The waters of our baptism both wash away our sins and, keep us malleable to be made into the image of Christ as we remember and repent.
Constructive criticism makes our character more Christ-like.
Most often, however, criticism comes down to a matter of preference. I don’t care for poetry, modern art, or heavy metal. But God can still use all those genres for His purposes. The unique masterpiece God created each of us to be won’t appeal to everybody. We must make peace with this because He has prepared an audience with whom our lives and our stories will resonate.
Only the artist knows the true meaning behind the contrast of light and dark, the thought process in color selection, the nuances behind each brushstroke, the implications of the composition and balance, the purpose for patterns and opposition, and the function of the curve in clay. As the masterpiece God creates, we cannot be defined apart from Him. His intentions for us and interpretation of us are all that lasts beyond our last breath. God securely intertwines our identity with Christ when we believe He is our Creator and we are His masterpiece.God securely intertwines our identity with Christ when we believe He is our Creator and we are His masterpiece. #identity #masterpiece Click To Tweet
In the final two sections, we are going to look at how Satan attacks this particular identity and then fortify our defenses against his tactics.
Satan attacks our identity as God’s Masterpiece from two angles. He delivers both low blows and high praises. One is intended to make us think we can’t possibly be good enough to be called a masterpiece. While the other tempts us to think too highly of ourselves.
He draws our focus to our messes, trying to make us ashamed of the ways we fall short and think we aren’t worth saving. He calls us a mess and makes us believe it is our identity. Then, he tries to convince us we have to make ourselves into picture-perfect Christians, or just pretend to be. He uses harsh critics to cause us to doubt God’s intentions. With every mess we make he sucks us deeper and deeper into the depths of shame and isolation. From this dark place, we are unable to share our truest selves with others or shine a light for God’s glory.
But He also distracts us from God’s work in us by building up the work God does through us. And when we do good works, he makes us think we are worthy of all the praise and honor. He makes it feel good to do good, so that we forget God alone is good. Ever so gradually He entices us to worship the things that were made by God or man instead of God Himself. With every pat on the back and atta girl, we become more and more puffed up. Our longing and striving to be seen and appreciated obstructs others’ view of the Creator.
Then, out of the blue, he switches tactics with a not so gentle reminder that we are supposed to be humble and sends us back into the shame spiral.
Where are you vulnerable?
Several shifts occur when I believe I am God’s created masterpiece. I know my life has intrinsic value only because of Who my Creator is, not for any work that I do myself. I believe that what God created, He also bought back from sin and death by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. When I believe I am God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ, I can live according to the rhythm of rest and repentance trusting His Word and His work on the cross will bring His creation to completion. I trust my Creator made me for His glory no matter what the world sees in me and because of that, I do not fear opposition. When I do what God created me to do, it doesn’t matter what the critics say. I recognize the patterns in my life point to God’s purpose for my life, but that my ultimate purpose is point others to God’s glory and honor no matter what work I do. I see how God transforms my messes into messages He uses to minister to others.