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 2:1-NLT
I confess. I could never be a master craftsman or a great artist. I just don't have what it takes. I appreciate the immeasurable love and intense patience of a master. I can recognize the exceptional handiwork of creating great works of art. But, quite frankly, the creation of one masterpiece is a painstakingly long arduous process. It's kind of like becoming a Christian disciple. I am painfully aware of the love and patience of the Master. He consistently discovers new ways to reveal his unconditional love and grace toward us. Paul's letters to the early churches may help us discover how much attention needs to be given to the Master's handcrafted efforts and his repeated creative attempts to communicate, influence and even drag us toward his inspired Kingdom goals.
Division was a major problem in the early church especially in Rome, Galatia and Corinth.
The Christ followers of Corinth were given an abundance of spiritual gifts but they lacked the Christian character the Holy Spirit longed to form in them. The Apostle Paul took quick action to try to head off the potential troubles. Right off the bat, Paul recognized there were factions within the Corinthian church. Each group followed its chosen human leader, exercised their spiritual gifts selfishly and cared very little about how their behavior affected the whole body--the church. Paul masterly challenged the believers to consider their standards of wisdom and foolishness. He reminded the Corinthians that God chose to work through human frailty or limitation. He chose the foolish and weak people to build his glorious church. Not because they were so wise, wonderful or gifted but because He was a Master Craftsman creating a living work of art for the ages.
Spiritual maturity is the mark of a growing Christian.
As we mature in Christ, we understand and gain a better appreciation for the Church as Christ’s Body and our role to participate as Christians. The Church is a global network that influences the expansion of technology, the use of natural resources, the enhancement of geographical boundaries, local culture & governmental authority. The church is an organization of massive quantitative and qualitative size. Pew Report (2010) states 2.2 billion Christians in the world (31%). The church also has vast financial, land and other property holdings which include some of the great works of art, music and ancient manuscripts. The church's wins and losses are public and recorded. The church continues to stand the test of time with its longevity credited to a living-breathing Master craftsman whose workmanship can be seen in those who initiated it 2,000 years ago and continue to work in it today. The church withstands insult, injury, leadership issues, scandal and opposition. (You can access more information from Pew Research here.)
Spiritual gifts are given by God for the benefit of the whole church.
The Apostle Paul instructed the early Christians that God is the source for the church. He equips the saints for ministry via the Holy Spirit and develops the spiritual gifts within Christ followers for the building up of his community. Christians have different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit, different ministries but the same Lord. There are different activities but the same God who produces all of them. All Christians have the Gift (Holy Spirit) and at least one spiritual gift but all Christians are expected to live out the life of spiritual grace and produce fruit of the Spirit. Diversity is a wonderful thing. It is the evidence of God at work. However, if diversity is not kept under control, it will destroy unity and we have anarchy. Diversity promotes dependence upon each other and our spiritual maturity is a balance between unity and diversity.
I confess. I don't have what it takes to be a great craftsman or artist. The truth is I don't need to be one. But, my one hope, is that I might be a servant worthy to sweep up the wood shavings on the floor or be present as a brush stroke apprehends the canvas revealing a beauty yet to take shape. Maybe that's what the Master is trying to encourage in us as we grow and mature as his servants. Our maturity is not weighed out so much in achievement but how we love one another as Christ loved us.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Theresa