“But God . . . by Grace”

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” – (Ephesians 2:10 - ESV)

Long before the onslaught of DIY shows I have had an interest in restoration projects.  Whether it be a piece of furniture, an old clock, a car, or a house I find it fascinating to see a skilled craftsmen take what is old and damaged and restore it back to its original beauty.  One antique item that I have is a pulpit my grandfather found in a central Illinois barn in the 1930s.  It was old then so I have no idea when it was made or what it was made for.  The pulpit stayed in my grandmother’s cellar for 50 years until I drug it out.  Unfortunately by then it had been damaged by regular flooding in that old cellar resulting in the bottom six inches incurring water damage.  Due to the absence of proper tools, I simply cut the damaged wood off and refinished the rest of the pulpit . . . six inches shorter than it should have been.

In Ephesians 2:1-10 Paul describes a beautiful restoration that is taking place as God restores a dead, enslaved, and condemned people who by grace He is making into His glorious and holy temple (2:21) or as verse 10 says “his workmanship.”  Humanity is a mess!  In fact, Paul describes them as dead, enslaved and condemned!  First, they are dead due to spiritual depravity as well as active and continual trespassing of God’s law.  Second, they are enslaved to the “prince of the power of the air,” held as captives to the value system or “course” of this world, and living in “the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind” (v.3).  As a result humanity is condemned to hell, or as Paul puts it “children of wrath” (v.3) 

To most this would be a building not worth trying to save. “But God” did not see it that way and rather than leave us dead, enslaved and condemned, chose to graciously save His children through giving the gift of faith.  It is all God from start to finish! He “made us alive with Christ” (v. 5), and “raised us up” and seated [us] with Him in the heavenly places” (v.6).  And God did this “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us” (v.4), and by His “kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” (v.7), and all of this is through His “grace” (vv. 5, 8) – to “show the immeasurable riches of his grace” (v.7).   When all was lost, God loved us, and showed His kindness to us by mercifully saving us by grace. 

Let’s go back to the restoration of antiques. . . Looking across my office to the pulpit, I realize that the moment I refinished it, I destroyed much of its value.  If you have spent any time watching PBS’s “Antique Road Show” you have learned that even cleaning an antique can destroy its value.  Recently a collection of rare old automobiles was discovered in France.  Evidently, the collector had at one point wanted to put them in a museum, but for economic reasons was not able to do so, and as a result they remained in storage for decades.  Upon his death the recipients of his estate had them put up for auction.  Many of these rare vehicles had rusted and were in poor condition. The part that I found fascinating was that a leading collector said that many of the cars should not be restored, but left in the condition they were found.  

I suppose leaving a car in disrepair and decay is fine, however God is not content with His children staying in that condition.  God’s children are His workmanship created in Christ to show the world His gospel of grace.  When people see what God is doing in our lives, they give Him glory.  Years ago a family friend discovered an old car buried beneath dirt and brush behind another central Illinois barn.  The car that had been left to rot was a rare 1927 Duesenberg Model J.  Our friend took that car and lovingly restored it to like new condition.  Once restored it was worth several hundred thousand dollars, yet he chose not to leave it as a museum piece.  He chose to drive it using weddings and for letting kids (like me) ride in the tumble seat. 

Please know that God is not restoring us as trophies for a museum of faith, but to show immeasurable riches of his grace” in the places where live, work and play.  Like the antique car and pulpit we too are being restored by God so those around us will stop and notice the skill of the Master as He slowly restores us into the image of Jesus Christ.  God is at work!  King Jesus is reigning and the restoration of all things is in motion and has been taking place in the lives of those whom God touches by His grace. 

But God . . . by Grace

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