In Ephesians 3 Paul wrote from prison concerning the call of God on his life to share the mystery and the beauty of God’s plan, “The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.”
This was Paul’s life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. Admittedly he was the least qualified, but God, as is often said, doesn’t call the equipped, He equips those He calls.
Paul went on to express one of the most powerful prayers ever penned, on behalf of his friends:
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
I listened as a man with Young Life explained the simple mission of the ministry. “Jesus interrupted our world. We want to interrupt the world of young people and tell them who Jesus is.” He shared the fact that too often people have an idea of who God is, but when He interrupts our world with His love, when we practically experience it for ourselves everything changes.
That’s the miracle of Christmas. Jesus interrupted our world, came as a baby and grew into a man, to identify with all our suffering and struggle, to become approachable. He is not a God who far removed and uninvolved. He didn’t come to judge us but to save us. He died so that we might live. He died, forever bridging the gap between God and man.
The great exchange happens when I come just as I am, with all my stuff, and He gives me all of Himself. Now, when He sees me, He sees a masterpiece.
Writer and musician Adela Just wrote, “When someone considers something they’ve done to be a masterpiece, they give it that designation because they feel it is the greatest thing they’ve ever accomplished. For the rest of the world to recognize something as a masterpiece, it generally must have qualities that are wholly unique, powerful and transcendent across generations.”
“If you were going to select something out of God’s creation to deem His masterpiece, what would it be? There is no shortage of magnificence to consider—the majesty of mountains, the grandeur of oceans, the vastness of galaxies. But no, from all the wonders in this universe, Paul tells us that we are God’s masterpiece. You and me.”
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 2:10, NLT)
I was reminded of the opening chapter in Love Does where Bob Goff shares his first encounter with the unconditional love and acceptance of Christ. In high school Bob met a guy with Young Life named Randy. Bob said Randy had three things he didn’t have, a Triumph motorcycle, a beard, and a girlfriend. It just didn’t seem fair. He wanted all three in ascending order.
Bob was a lousy student. He learned he could take a test to get a certificate equivalent to a high school diploma. However, he couldn’t figure out how to sign up for the test, which on reflection should have been a good indicator that he needed to remain in school. Nevertheless, Bob had a plan. He would move to Yosemite and spend his days climbing the massive granite cliffs. So he swung by Randy’s house to say goodbye.
After Bob explained his plan, Randy told him to wait by the door and soon returned with a tattered backpack over his shoulder and sleeping bag under his arm. Randy didn’t lecture Bob about leaving school or tell him his idea would never work. Bob recalls he was firm and direct. All he said was, “Bob, I’m with you.”
Not surprisingly, the plan did fall on its face. After days of camping and striking out finding any type of work at all, Bob decided to call it quits.
As they pulled down the familiar street back to Randy’s house Bob noticed Randy’s girlfriend’s car in the driveway. Bob followed Randy through the front door uninvited, yet somehow he felt welcome. On the floor he noticed a stack of plates, wrapping paper and several other household items.
Randy’s girlfriend bounded out from around the corner. She through her arms around him excitedly, “Welcome home honey.” Then the nickel dropped. Bob felt both sick and chocked up in an instant. These were wedding presents on the floor.
Bob writes, “When I knocked on Randy’s door on that Sunday morning, Randy didn’t see just a high school kid who had disrupted the beginning of his marriage. He saw a kid who was about to jump the tracks. Instead of spending the early days of his marriage with his bride, he spent it with me, sneaking into the back of a tent.”
“Why? It was because Randy loved me. He saw the need and he did something about it. He didn’t just say he was for me or with me. He was actually present with me.”
What Bob learned from Randy permanently changed his view of what it meant to have a friendship with Jesus. He learned faith isn’t about knowing all the right stuff or obeying a list of rules. It’s something more costly, because it involves being present and making a sacrifice. It’s why Jesus is called Immanuel—“God with us.”
I sat next to the friend who invited me to the Young Life Benefit. Every week she meets with an unwed teen mom. I thought of how this girl’s life was interrupted by a Savior with a message of hope. You’re not alone. You are accepted and wildly loved… you are My masterpiece.
Connect with Michelle at HandofTheKing.com. Learn more about Young Life Ministry at YoungLife.org.