|Michelangelo's "Pieta" at St. Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican.|
When you hear the word “masterpiece,” what comes to mind? You might think about a Leonardo da Vinci work, such as the “Mona Lisa” or “The Last Supper.” Or you might consider creations from many other celebrated “old masters” like Renoir, Monet, van Gogh, or even “Whistler’s Mother” by James McNeill Whistler. There are too many to mention.
If your preference is sculpture, the term masterpiece might conjure images of the “Venus de Milo,” or Michelangelo’s “David.” Last year in Rome, we viewed firsthand Michelangelo’s famed sculpture, “Pieta,” along with glorious paintings and tapestries throughout the Vatican, especially in the Sistine Chapel.
|Towering rocks jutting up at|
Italy's island of Capri.
For me, some of the greatest masterpieces are what we can observe in nature: a sparkling sunrise; an oceanside view of a fiery sunset; the wondrous expanse of the Grand Canyon; amazing mountain peaks and rock formations; beautiful flowers in full bloom at springtime; towering redwoods and sequoias at our national parks.
However, when the Bible talks about masterpieces, it often refers to you and me. Several translations of Ephesians 2:10 tell us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” The New International Version translates it, “we are God’s handiwork….” But in the New Living Translation we’re told, “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.”
You and me – God’s masterpiece. Wow! At least one other translation uses that term, while another version states we are “God’s handiwork.” The Greek word used is poiema, from which we get the word, “poem.” In the Lord’s sight, we each are like a epic poem. Meditate on that for a moment.
For many of us, an initial reaction to that thought might be, “No way! Do you have any idea what a mess I am? I’m anything but a masterpiece!” We might all feel that way at times, but that’s what God calls us in the Scriptures. In fact, earlier in the same New Testament book we’re told, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4). Putting these passages together, it says we’re God’s masterpieces, holy and blameless in His sight. Can I say it again? Wow!
If we’re honest, that doesn’t sound true as we consider our many human flaws. But it all comes down to who we’re going to believe – God, or fragile, fickle feelings?
It’s not as if the Lord is ignoring our sins and shortcomings. It’s that He’s expert at taking broken people and not just restoring us, but literally recreating us spiritually. One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17 which declares, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come!”
Another passage says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). If that’s true, if the Spirit of Jesus lives in each of us who has been born again into a new life spiritually, we indeed are masterpieces, works of art that God is still in the process of finishing.
But what if it doesn’t seem that’s true – as is sometimes the case for me? The key is not to trust feelings, which can mislead, even deceive. Our trust must be in God and His view of us. As Romans 12:2 instructs, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Which includes rejecting our limited perspectives and accepting His promises and assurances.
God has declared us to be His masterpieces. So we should start acting like masterpieces, recognizing we are not our own, but totally submitted to the will and purposes of the Master. After all, as Psalm 139:14 declares, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” He wants us to faithfully pursue Him and discover what He has created us to be.