What is God’s desire for me?
Well, in answering this very involved question, we may all have, and we should have not just once in life but even daily, we must realize the order of the answering. In coming to an answer, we are to follow in such a way as to have a foundation first and a building only after the foundation is firmly established.
We see this throughout life, throughout Scripture: Christ is the foundation, we are to build upon Jesus the cornerstone of the foundation, build upon the rock rather than sand. Martin Luther may contend that a foundation upon Christ only begins with Christ: that is to say that we must have faith in Christ in order to build upon him (On Faith and Coming to Christ). The importance is upon the initial step in following God: faith in God. Since we are speaking of Paul as our model of this, let us see what he says about faith in God. Ephesians 2:1-10 explains that there is an order of right relationship with God: first faith, then good works.
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins… But, because of [God’s] great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith… For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:1,4,5,8,10).
“Even when we were dead in transgressions” shows that we were still sinners, “dead,” unworthy, unfit, for God’s love and mercy and grace, but because God is who he is, loving, gracious, merciful, he saved us inspite of what we were. It is not because of what we are that we are saved, nor what we have done: “and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8,9). We do not earn God’s love. We cannot earn or deserve or merit salvation or grace or mercy or righteousness. Even the slightest error makes us imperfect. The issue is not even one of evil or horrible or bad, though this passage clearly states that as sinners we are God’s enemies. The issue is: God is holy, perfect, without sin, without blemish, without flaw, so no imperfect thing could be with God, could be worthy or his perfect love.
This is what it’s all about! God is perfect, which means he is perfectly judging and perfectly merciful. His grace and love are perfect as well as his anger and righteousness. Again Martin Luther speaks to us in his ultimate realization that the only way to reconcile holy anger and judgement and holy grace and mercy is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins and his glorious resurrection. We may be “made alive with Christ” and “raised” with Christ: we may have hope of life, eternal life and a life of hope here on earth (Eph 2:5,6).
Paul is clearly speaking about the issues of faith and grace in this passage of his letter to the believers in Ephesus, and the emphasis is a transformation, a change of the person. A change of heart. Let us look at this in Paul’s own life.
Acts 22 is one passage containing Paul’s testimony. In this testimony of what happened to Paul contained in Acts 9:1-9, former persecut0r of the followers of Jesus, Paul shares that he encountered Jesus. He was confronted with the reality and truth of Jesus, the Son of God. [At first, Paul did not know every and all things about Jesus in order to actually have faith to be saved. This special revelation of the saving work of Jesus came later through Ananias (Acts 9:10-19, 22:12-16).] Paul’s encounter with Jesus was indeed miraculous and awesome, but the point is that Paul was “dead in his transgressions,” unworthy of God’s love, actually against God and God’s people (Acts 22:4-5). Paul was an active enemy and persecutor of God, yet God intervened, confronted him, and changed his heart.
Paul was not a follower of “the Way,” the way which was Jesus Christ as savior and Lord: he was the complete opposite. However evil or bad or against Jesus Paul was, it was not so much that God could not change his heart and for Saul to become Paul, for the enemy of God to become a child of God.
[Paul states that there was work, things, tasks, purposes for him that God wanted him to do (Acts 22:10, 21). But Paul did not do these before his heart change. So there is clearly a process.]
We must open our hearts to God, to his love, his salvation. We must believe in the Way of salvation that is Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12, 22:16, John 14:6). By God’s immeasurable, all-surpassing grace, we may be saved through our faith in Christ. This is a heart issue. It is a matter of our heart being open to the graciousness of God to speak into our hearts and to ultimately change it. Let us pray to God that he would speak to us, reveal his truth to us, change us, transform us, and use us for his best, for his glory.
With changed hearts, hearts filled with God’s love and Spirit, we may then become God’s workmanship.