Sunday, March 27, 2011

Abba Poiema

Today, at the end of his sermon, our pastor said, "Here is my exhortation to you today. Get off your butts!!"

He meant it in the nicest way. No, seriously. It's all good.

The sermon was on Ephesians 2:8-10.



8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Turns out I've been making a common error. I know verses 8-9, and I know verse 10, but I rarely couple them.

Verses 8 and 9 are all about how I can't earn my salvation. Yay for grace!

Grace, grace, God's grace
Grace that means no matter what, I win
Grace, grace, God's grace
Grace that enables me to sleep in

Wait... that's not how the song goes...

Verse 10 is all about doing good works. I tend to fast-forward through that verse. "Works? Nah... I'm saved by grace alone."

But what about James 2:17? "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Our pastor said it's like an event ticket. The kind you can tear in half. One half says "Faith" and the other half says "Works." Underneath "faith" in small print, it says, "Void if detached." Underneath "works" in small print, it says, "Not valid for entry." In other words, faith, detached from works, is not real faith.

Faith/works together make up the "both/and" of grace. Our pastor said I am saved by grace alone, but not by grace that is alone. I am saved by grace, and I receive the gift of faith, but at the same time, I also receive the gift of good works (which God prepared beforehand, that I should walk in them).

This is why Ephesians 2:10 immediately follows Ephesians 2:8-9. I have been saved by grace through faith... as God's workmanship. Both/And.

The Greek word for "workmanship" is poiema and we get our word "poem" from it. I am God's literature.

I am God's literature! Hey, look! That's like the title of my blog! Abba Stories! I am a story that He is writing.

Imagine! What novelist wouldn't love to see their characters materialize before their very eyes when they put pen to paper. But God's characters do! I have come to life. God wrote me, breathed into me, and I live!

Amazing.

What if God had stopped there? Imagine He took a blank sheet of paper, the first page of His story, scrawled the title across the top ("Becky"), put the date in the top right corner, and wrote, "Once upon a time, I saved Becky." Period. The end.

Not much of a story.

But He kept writing. He wrote me into existence, He described me, He gave me specific characteristics, He supplied the plot, and He artfully crafted one action sequence after another. One scene of dialogue after another. One resolution after another.

I am not a static character sitting on Page One of the story of my life. I am doing something. Always. And by grace, that includes good works that God prepared in advance for me to do. Specific tasks. Crafted by the God who crafted me.

My favorite part is that just as grace is a gift, and faith is a gift, good works are also a gift. John 3:21 says, "But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." Older versions say "wrought in God." Beautiful. Good works are the fruit produced by the Vine in whom I am to abide (John 15:15). The fruit is from God. It's a gift. The gift of good works.

So, as a piece of God's literature, an Abba Poiema, it's time to get off my butt and accept the gift of good works. To do the tasks God has given me to do. What a privilege.

Um... so... I'm off to fold some clothes...