Greg Laurie — The Piece de Resistance
Have you ever heard that French expression piece de resistance? I am probably pronouncing it wrong. Piece de resistance. Or you can say: Piece de resistance. Well basically that is a French word that means snails with garlic. No. That is actually escargot. No. The piece de resistance is a phrase that is used to describe the best of something. If you are preparing a meal it is the main event of the meal. It is the showpiece. It is the ultimate. It is the masterpiece.
What is God's masterpiece? What is God's piece de resistance? Would it be the alps as amazing as they are? Maybe the islands of Hawaii or Tahiti? How about the solar system? The galaxies. Well no. As amazing as all of those things are, those are not God's masterpiece. I want to tell you who God's masterpiece is right now. It is me. It is. Now don't accuse me of being narcissistic and self-indulged. It is me and I am serious. But it is you. It is us. We are God's masterpiece. We are his crowning achievement in creation. We will discover that as we look here in the second chapter of Ephesians for we will read in Ephesians 2:10 we are his workmanship. That comes from the Greek word poiema where we get our English word poem from. It could also be translated we are God's work of art. Or again we are his masterpiece.
Without question mankind is God's greatest creation. We are not a highly evolved animal as some would say. We are uniquely made in the very image of God. I love what David wrote in Psalm 139. He said, "You made all of the delicate inner parts of my body. You knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous. How well I know it". Listen to this. "You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion. As I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed". I hope that lays to rest the idea that the Bible would allow for abortion. The Bible does not give an unclear message on this topic. It is very clear in pointing out that life begins at conception not merely at birth as some would say. Even more not only does life begin at conception but God knows all about us even before we are conceived. He has a plan for us that precedes our very conception and of course our birth.
It was Jeremiah the prophet that said in Jeremiah 1:5 of the Lord, "You formed me in my mother's womb. Before I was born you sanctified me. You ordained me to be a prophet to the nations". Yes. The man, the woman, human beings. We are God's masterpiece. You just stop and think of the complexities of the human body. Just start with the nose. Did you know that you can recognize 10,000 different aromas? I think my wife can recognize 25,000. She has the most sensitized nose of any person I have ever met. She will say, "Something doesn't smell right here". There have been times I have eaten something and she will take one bite and say, "I think that whole thing was rancid". I already ate all of it. That is your nose.
Then our tongue has 6,000 taste buds. I think I lost 200 on the last pizza I ate. I can't wait until a pizza cools down. Listen to this. Our brain contains 10 billion nerve cells. Each brain nerve cell is connected to as many as 10,000 other nerve cells through the body. Our body has so many blood vessels their combined length could circle the plant two and a half times. God has created each of us with our own special DNA blueprint that is contained within every single cell. It has been estimated that if our individual blueprint were written in a book it would require 200,000 pages. That is just your blueprint. That is not the blueprint of the person next to you. Of course God knows every work on every page.
Maybe one of God's most amazing gifts to us is memory. You have the capacity to store millions of bits of information, keep them in order, recall them when needed. Scientists tell us we never really forget anything. It is all stored in the databanks of memory. According to think magazine the human brain can store enough data to fill several million books. It is estimated that in a lifetime a brain can store one million billion bits of information. You are a masterpiece. You are unbelievable. The things that God has created you with. Your capacity. Really the focus here now Paul is giving to all of us is that in addition to being fearfully and wonderfully made physically God has a custom designed work he wants to do in and through you. Just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike God has a unique plan for each of our lives. There are certain things that are true of all of us. Then there are unique things that God wants to do in and through you.
So let's talk about that now as we look at Ephesians 2. Let's start in verse 1. "And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air". That is speaking of satan. "The spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience among whom also you all once conducted yourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places (or literally the heavenlies) in Christ Jesus".
Now listen to this. "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus". Here is a very important verse. Underline this one. Verse 8. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".
Let's find the balance between faith and works. Look at this verse. Verse 10. "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them". I told you this word workmanship comes from the Greek word poiema. It means you are God's work of art. His masterpiece. Back to that French word. The piece de resistance. That is the principle or most outstanding item in a series of a creative artists work. It also speaks of something that is perfect. I look at myself and I don't see perfection. I don't see rhythm. I don't see orderliness. I see a mess. I see confusion. I see mistakes. But you see God looks at you as his masterpiece and God sees the end from the beginning. I just see now. Oh man I have so far to go.
God says, "Yeah you do, but I see what you are going to become. You are my masterpiece. It is going to take a long time, but when I am done it is going to be amazing". He promises in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He will make all things beautiful in his time". There are things in life that happen to us that in the moment are not beautiful. But one day God will make them beautiful in his time. There are things that happen to us in life that are not good. But yet God promises in romans 8:28, "He causes all things to work together for his good for those of us who are the called according to his purpose". You have his word on this. This is not a doting father who can't see his child's faults.
Maybe a better illustration would be a doting grandfather. I think a father and a mother do see their children's faults. But grandparents we see them. We just don't care anymore. We just think everything is cute. If they are bad we will let you deal with it as the parents later. We are just going to give them sugar and give them a toy to play with and enjoy them. Sometimes grandparents maybe don't see things as clearly as they ought to. Sometimes parents. But that is not our Father. Our Father in heaven knows everything about us. He is omniscient which means all-knowing. He is all-powerful. Omnipotent. Yet he envisions what you will be. It is like an artist sits down at a blank canvas and he just stares at it. You don't see what the artist is seeing. The artist sees the finished work perhaps. They are already thinking about it.
The story is told of master artist Michelangelo as he was chipping away at a shapeless rock. Someone said, "What are you doing Michelangelo"? He said, "I am liberating an angel from this stone". He saw what it would become. I have to get rid of all of those things that don't look like my angel. That is what God is doing in your life. He is liberating an angel if you will. He is making you into what he has always wanted you to be. You were marred by sin but now God has chosen you. He has redeemed you. He has adopted you. He has sealed you into his family. Now how should I respond? I am God's workmanship. I am God's poem. I am his masterpiece. I am his piece de resistance. How should I respond? Here is the answer. Verse 10. Look at it again. "We are his master work created in Christ Jesus for". What? "Good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".
Prior to being Christians our lives were empty and meaningless. We were going nowhere down this world's stream. But now as new creations in Christ, as God's masterpiece we have been created for good works. Now works don't save a man or a woman, but they are a good evidence that that person is saved. Good works do not precede conversion but they should always follow. Let me say that again. Good works don't precede conversion but they should always follow. Just as it is a great mistake to think your salvation comes by works it is also a mistake to think your salvation should not produce any works or results. James says in chapter 2:18-20 of his book. "Someone will say, 'you have faith and I have works.'" James says, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble! But don't you know, foolish man, that faith without works is dead".
See a nonbeliever cannot see your faith but they can see your works. That is all they can see. Let me ask you this question. If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? What does that mean? "Well I have 4 or 5 harvest crusade bumper stickers". That is good. I am talking about evidence now. I am talking about if they interviewed your husband or wife and asked the question, "What is this person really like in the home? Is this really a man of God? Is this really a woman of God"? Ask the kids, "Are your parents' godly examples"? Ask your co-workers, "Does this person work hard? Are they diligent? Are they honest"? Ask your neighbors. Is there evidence people can see? You can tell this person is a Christian by the way that they live. By the way that they function as a human being. They want to bring glory to God.
I was walking into a mall not long ago. I saw some Mormons outside distributing literature. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. If you really look into Mormonism and Mormons don't always even know what their church teaches, but if you really look into the actual teachings of the church, they believe that God gave to Joseph Smith their prophet a vision. Basically the Lord allegedly said to Joseph Smith, "All other expressions of the Christian faith are false and the only true expression is the vision I am giving to you". He has this book the Book of Mormon that is elevated to the same place as the Bible.
They believe that they are the only true religion. They believe that to get to heaven one must be baptized as a Mormon and one must do x amount of good works. That is why they are so zealous. I would like to say that I have been very impressed by what many Mormons have done. I have met Mormon people that I think are fine upstanding people. I have admiration for that. But if we are going to get down just to theological brass tacks here those good works won't get a person to heaven. It is only faith in Jesus Christ. We could say, "I don't believe in works. I am going to go to heaven because of the grace of God". Yeah. Ok. What have you done for God lately? We might criticize a person who goes out and does certain things because they think by doing that they will get to heaven. But at the same time do you do nothing?
You should not do works to earn God's approval. You have God's approval, but since you have it should it not produce works in your life and results. If it does not produce works and results in your life, are you really a Christian? Do you really understand what the grace of God is? That is the question. The Bible tells us so many times to produce these good works. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your". What? "Your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven". Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:8, "Abound in every good work". Then in Colossians 1:10, "Be fruitful in every good work". Then we are told to study scripture which will result in us being equipped in every good work.
James is saying you can't have one without the other. It is sort of like the two wings of an airplane. You need both of them to fly. Hopefully you need both engines working if that is the kind of aircraft you have. If one wing is missing that plane is not going to stay aloft. If you have a lopsided Christian who only has faith but they don't have works they are missing it. If you have a person who only has works but doesn't have faith they too are missing it. It is both of these things working together. It is like inhaling and exhaling. Faith is taking the Gospel in. Works is taking the Gospel out. We need both in our lives. Let's get the one in the right order before the other. First there is the faith then the works comes as a result. "You were created" verse 10. "In Christ for good works". God is preparing the way for you in life. Listen to this. God is manipulating all the resources of the universe in order that the work he wants to do in your life will be completed. That includes setbacks and even crisis.
We all know the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. The horrible mistreatment by his brothers. Their jealousy over his father's favor. How they sold him into slavery thinking they would never see him again. But because God had his hand on Joseph this young man was elevated to become the second most powerful man in all of the world second only to the Pharaoh. He was in charge of the food supply of Egypt because he had correctly interpreted the Pharaoh's dreams. When his brothers came to him Joseph could have had them all summarily executed on the spot. No one would have questioned his decision. But instead Joseph said to his brothers these words. "It was not you who sent me here but God". Wow. I wonder if that just dawned on Joseph at that moment. All of the brutality he had gone through had been not only allowed but mightily used by God. The exile, the pain, the sorrow, the rejection, the false accusations. These were all things that God had allowed in his life to prepare him for this moment. This moment where he would be able to do so much for others.
God is preparing you for that moment. God is preparing you for a purpose. When things seem to be happening in your life randomly just remember that God is never caught by surprise. You will never hear the Lord say, "What"? God knows exactly what is going on. He allows it or he is doing it. Let God have his loving way with you. Yield to the strokes of his brush. To the molding of his hand. He is just trying to help you fulfill your reason for existence. You see he is putting his finished touches on you his masterpiece. By grace you have been saved through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. Here is God's part. Here is our part. God extends the grace. You apply the faith. What is faith? It is putting your complete trust in God.
I have a chair sitting here. You probably wondered why this was here all of this time. Is Greg going to just sit down because he is old and tired? Maybe. Or maybe it is an illustration. This chair is something that I am leaning on right now. I am leaning all 100 pounds of my body weight on this chair. Now when I sit in that chair I expect it to hold me up. Have you ever sat on a chair that collapsed under you? Like those beach chairs. You didn't open it up completely. Maybe you are trying to impress a girl. "Hey how is it going"? You sit down. That didn't go so well. I expect this chair to hold me up. That is what faith is. Faith is putting your complete trust your complete weight onto something.
So when I believe in Jesus Christ I just take my place in this chair. I put all of my weight here. I trust this chair is going to stay here. It is going to continue to support me until I am done with this chair and then I stand up again. That is what it means to put your faith in God. It is not Jesus and something else. It is not Jesus and good works. Or Jesus and morality. Or Jesus and ritual. It is Jesus and Jesus alone. Only faith in Christ will guarantee that you will have salvation.