Download Sermon Outline
Sermon Manuscript . . .
What Did God Design You to Do?
The Sovereignty of God in Training: The True Training Target in Ephesians 2:10
Can you imagine Rod Shackelford teaching ballet? Or Robert Dodson as an engineer? Shawn Farrell as a pastry chef? Or Nigel as a used car salesman? It doesn’t fit. I have seen way too many parents drive their kids in a sport, playing an instrument, with an acting talent or an area of scholarship, when it didn’t fit at all.
In the Church, some men attend seminary to become pastors cause they want to be one, when God didn’t make them one. Laymen in churches are placed in ministries which end up being a round peg in a square hole. The reason why is simple–God predesigned specific works for you to live out in this life. God made each of you unique–Christ designed ministries in the church which will fit your Holy Spirit-designed gifting.
Yes, you are to serve when it is uncomfortable and not a fit, but because God has predetermined your service and good deeds, you should find out what it is and live it. Today, we fully acknowledge the sovereignty of God in the process of training. Today, we affirm God’s predetermined good works He’s designed for your life.
Your children, students, those you are seeking to influence in your ministry, those in your community group or family you want to help–they all have a predetermined calling. This current study called, “Making a Difference: the Keys to Influencing Others” is designed to equip you so you can impact your children and grandchildren, classmates, coworkers, family, students you’re discipling, community groupers.
The First step to influence was what–the most important requirement? GENUINE SALVATION–do they know Christ personally and intimately?
Second Are they GROWING–is there genuine sanctification occurring in their life?
Third Are they FLEEING SIN and pursuing Christ-like character and have a heart to do so?
Fourth Are they engaged, interconnected, immersed in the local church?
Fifth Are they functioning in service in the church through their spiritual giftedness?
Sixth Are they being discipled as a way of life, like Deuteronomy 6?
And Seventh Are they being discipled so God’s Word saturates every area of life?
And now today, Eighth Are you helping each person you hope to impact discover their predetermined calling? Are you directing them towards the good works God has already predesigned for them? This training, this discipleship, this impacting you hope to make often misses the target.
The target is not to mold someone into what they want, you want or an institution expects. The target of training is to help a believer discover what God already predetermined to do with his life. The target of training is to acknowledge the sovereign purpose of God for each believer’s life. The Scripture makes this clear–your preplanned-ness is everywhere in the Bible.
I know of classes in other churches which were designed to train men who wanted to be preachers, elders or pastors, but the Bible says in Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” It is God alone who makes true overseers, preachers and pastors.
Your unique ability to show off Christ in service to His body–your giftedness is also predesigned by God. In 1 Corinthians 12:11, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”
You already know your very creation was predetermined by God in Psalm 139:13 to 16, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”
Your entire life was predesigned by God, who said of the prophet Jeremiah in 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God is the one who predetermined the life, salvation, ministry, even the suffering of the Apostle Paul in Acts 9:15 to 16 the Lord said to him, “‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”
Psalm 115:3 tells us God is sovereign–He does as He pleases, only as He pleases and always as He pleases. Ephesians 1:4, God is sovereign over salvation, and Proverbs 16:9, God is sovereign over the details of your life. Genesis 50:20, God is sovereign over hurtful people in your life. And God is sovereign over your sanctification.
God will finish what He starts. In Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God’s sovereignty promises a predetermined future, a purpose for your lives and a set direction for your ministry.
The purpose of training your children, discipling those students, or impacting your community group is not to make them into something, but to help them discover what God pre-intended them to become. The sovereign target for training believers is to use all the means of grace–being dependent upon the Spirit of God, following the Word of God while honoring sound doctrine to help each believer to discover and pursue their sovereign purpose.
What is your sovereign calling? Mine is to preach God’s Word to cultivate a healthy local church and train men to discover their sovereign purpose in order for them to be used of God to make as many people like Christ in the shortest time possible. What did God predesign you to be? Training is not to gift a Christian, but to assist them in determining their sovereignly given gifts.
But it’s more than this–training believers is a multi-phased process, looking at a Christian’s life from every angle, allowing Christ-followers to discover what God made them to be. Through the process of discipleship, instruction, life-on-life interactions, high involvement in ministry, identifying a man’s passions, providential experiences, unique created abilities, ministry skills, fruit from ministry, affirmation from spiritual leaders, confirmation from the body of Christ, even their physical appearance and personality, ultimately will help everyone get a sense of exactly what God predetermined for their lives.
It is not what you want for them, you dream for them, or you desire them to be. It is what God has predetermined for their lives. Find that out and push them toward His predesigned plan–and as they do, they will live full, joyful, happy lives. What did He design for my children? What did God plan for these men I train? What did the Lord predetermine for these students He saved and I disciple?
In biblical terms, training is to assist them in discovering the sovereignly-designed good works God already prepared for them to walk in. This is exactly what Ephesians 2:10 teaches, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Today, I will exposit one verse and draw out God’s intended meaning.
Ephesians is written to emphasize the love of God for you and the power of God to accomplish His will in the Church through His chosen children. Ephesians 2:1 to 10 describe God’s sovereign salvation given to each believer–no works, no effort, no actions, no decisions, no religion was necessary. God saved you out of His love and by His mighty power.
In contrast to Ephesians 2:9, which tells you your salvation was “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast,” verse 10 now affirms your maturity, your growth, your very life were also preplanned, predetermined, predestined. Your Christian life is by His grace, so there’s no boasting about your salvation or your sanctification. This singular verse breaks up into four phrases which make the four points of the outline and opens up a picture of God most believers never see.
#1 The Predetermined PICTURE
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” I used to shoot pictures with film. Early on, I was headed toward becoming a cameraman for movies and did a lot of photography and darkroom work.
The one thing about shooting film was just how expensive and precious it was–once film was exposed, that was it. There were no do-overs–you rarely took a second shot. Now that it’s all digital, you can take twenty shots just to get the right one. You only post the picture that really looks awesome, but the real/honest ones are deleted.
God has a film of your life already shot–it is preplanned, precious, expensive and there are no do-overs. The movie includes every moment of your life, from birth to death, and the movie is already shot and in the can. You still have a will, you still make choices–but God’s plan will be accomplished. Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Proverbs 20:24b, “Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord.” Lamentations 3:37, “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
God has a specific design for you–you are made for a purpose. You should not say to the non-Christian, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” Because unless they turn to Christ, it will be eternal torment–not wonderful. But you can say to God’s true child, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” And if the word wonderful doesn’t rock your boat, God has an epic plan pre-designed for you.
Verse 10, “For we are His workmanship.” With this, Paul is giving a final reason why the salvation of the Ephesians can never be caused by them or by their works. The very first word in English in verse 10, “for” connects this verse to Paul’s pointed declaration in verses 1 to 9, that salvation is not by human effort. No, their salvation and their very lives are God’s workmanship–they are God’s special creation.
“Workmanship” is a vivid term only appearing one other time in the New Testament, in Romans 1:20, where it describes God’s handiwork in creation or nature. In Ephesians 2:10, “workmanship” describes God’s handiwork in human nature. Romans 1:20 points to God’s creation and Ephesians 2:10 points to God’s re-creation. The first refers to the physical work of God in the world and the second refers to the spiritual work of God in the believer.
“Workmanship” is describing the transformational change to the Ephesians’ lives when God saved them by His grace. Salvation was more than reformation, more than a change of purpose, and more than a change of beliefs–salvation was and is a dramatic transformation to the core of their very nature. Second Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
God’s predetermined picture for you is very personal–the movie He’s made of you is very specific. He tells you this with the use of the pronoun His—“His workmanship.” I am thankful it’s a possessive pronoun. “His workmanship” tells me, I belong to Christ and He has a personal plan for me. When Paul says, “His workmanship,” he places the pronoun “His” first in the sentence, emphasizing you as God’s workmanship.
Salvation is His doing specifically for you. Now that you are saved, you belong to Him–you are “His workmanship”. God doesn’t see you as a worm, but as “His workmanship”. Workmanship was used in classical Greek (prior to biblical Greek) for the work of a craftsman. Herodotus used workmanship of a craftsman making a crown.
Workmanship was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, some 29 times, always meaning a careful deed, skillful work or a work of art. The New Testament Greek word workmanship gives us our English word poem, describing the highest form of the English language. And just as the city of Ephesus housed one of the seven masterworks of the ancient world, so the Ephesians now know, they are housed in the Ephesian church as God’s masterpiece.
You’re God’s poem–God’s artwork. You’re the crafted work of God, His masterwork. The Ephesian believers are the work of the greatest artist. Being a masterpiece is like identifying the lifelike portraits of Rembrandt, marked with all the wonderful, rich, dark colors of that great artist. Or like the colorful beauty of a Renoir, or Monet’s eye-catching impressionism.
So you, who are born again–each genuine Christian here is a Yahweh, a Jesus. You are the work of the greatest artist—“His masterpiece”. You belong to Him and you’re His work. And the point is, in contrast to verse 9, you are not a self-portrait. You’re not the work of a religious leader. You are not a Mary, a Smith, a Mohammed, or a Buddha–you are a Christ. You are not a millennial, Gen X or baby boomer–you’re a Yahweh.
“His workmanship” differs greatly from all human works described in verses 1 to 9. You are His work, His painting, His sculpture, His creation and no one else’s. Elders must remember Acts 20:28, “…overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Remember as you disciple, as you shepherd, as you pastor, as you elder, as you deacon, as you fellowship, as you parent–each Christian is “His masterpiece”. They are His works, His sheep and they are uniquely painted for His purposes, not yours. The Lord will use you as a brush in his paintings. He may use you as a chisel in His sculptures. You may be part of the scenery in His movie. But they are His people. Because you are uniquely His work and no one else’s, God has a specific goal for you.
#2 The Preset PATTERN
Paul gives a purpose of salvation in verse 10 with, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The verb created is used in the New Testament to describe God’s acts of physical and spiritual creation. Physical creation, like in Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth.” And spiritual creation, like in Colossians 3:10, “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
Plus, the verb “created in Christ Jesus” is passive, telling the Ephesians they are the recipients of God’s workmanship, because they are a new creation in Christ. Paul affirms what is most important is not whether you are a Jew, Greek, or live in Temecula or Hemet–what is important is that you are a new creation of Christ.
You were created, then you were recreated in Christ Jesus. Galatians 6:15 is pointed, “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” Paul adds in verse 10 of Ephesians 2, “a new creation in Christ Jesus.” He already affirmed in verses 4 and 5 that you were in Christ, together with Christ, you and I were made alive, raised and seated in the heavenlies in Christ.
You are in the sphere of Christ, immersed in Christ, at home with Christ, one with Christ, indwelt by Christ–Christ in you and through you. And as Christ is in you and you are one with Christ, then this new creation, this totally new being, this masterpiece of God has a specific purpose. The reason for your recreation in Christ is you were created for good works.
Paul is declaring here that the role of good works in salvation now changes. Works were never the cause of their salvation, but now good works are always the consequence of their salvation. The Ephesians were not saved because of works, but they were saved for good works. The usage of the preposition for—“for good works”, describes purpose or goal. The goal of being recreated, the purpose of being made a new creation in Christ is for good works.
The Greek adjective good means morally good and beneficially good–telling you, you were remade in Christ to accomplish actions which are morally and beneficially good for you, for those around you, and pleasing to God. But Paul says, God’s workmanship in you is not achieved by your good works–verse 9 made that clear.
God recreated you into a new creature for good works. God saving you and making you into a masterpiece will always result in good works. Titus 2 and 3 state that you were saved to live out good works. Titus 2:14, “who gave Himself for us to redeem us … a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” And James 2:18b, “and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Theologian William Arp says, “Their works did not cause their salvation, but their salvation causes works.” And Reformer Martin Luther said, “Good works do not make a man good, but a good man will do good works.” And do not miss the obvious here–Paul makes it clear, God’s people have work to do.
The word “for” in verse 10 is purpose—“created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Christ saved you for good works. God’s people have work to do. But the tilt in our understanding is what God says next. You know pinball–if you’re too aggressive moving the flippers, the game will automatically shut down. The next phrase in verse 10 is the tilt light. When trying to comprehend the limitless, sovereign, immeasurable God, there are moments the tilt light flashes.
#3 The Prearranged PLAN
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.” Paul dramatically informs the Ephesians, the good works believers will do are good deeds which God prepared beforehand. The Ephesian believers are God’s masterpiece, recreated by God to accomplish morally beneficial works in this life, which God prepared before the world was created.
Before you freak out over what God is saying here, let me comfort you by saying, it only gets worse. The Greek verb “to prepare beforehand” is used only here and in Romans 9:23 in the New Testament–both have God as their subject and refer to eternity past. Romans 9:23, “And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”
The Greek verb “prepared beforehand” has a prefix, pro in the front of the word, which clearly indicates God prepared these good works before the believer was created in Christ Jesus. In the context of Ephesians, this preparing beforehand was already stated as a part of God’s plan in eternity past.
Paul told the Ephesian Christians God chose them to be saved before the world was created just 29 verses back in Ephesians 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” God not only chose each of His own for salvation before the foundation of the world, but God also prepared good works for His own before creation.
God chose salvation for them in eternity past and God chose sanctification for them in eternity past. As God’s chosen children, God has already preselected, prearranged, predetermined good works for each of you to live out. Your life is preplanned. God saved you by grace without works, but God graced you with preselected works for this life—tilt!
Paul emphasizes–not only is their salvation by God’s grace, but their very sanctification is God’s grace. The good deeds of the Ephesians, and for any believer, is never the result of their own resolve or effort, but solely due to divine grace. As you parent, disciple that student, seek to impact those in your community group—remember, God has already preselected, prearranged and predetermined specific good works for that particular disciple to live out.
As you disciple, as you parent–never forget, those lives are preplanned by God’s grace. Biblical trainers do not make disciples gifted. They do not make men into elders or preachers, nor do they make believers function in a ministry in the church. Biblical trainers seek to assist those they train to discover what God has already preplanned for each believer to accomplish for His glory. You’re not putting in, but working out what God already put in them. God not only desires our lives to change–God himself designs that specific Christ-like change.
Before faith, the lost Ephesians existed in the sphere of bad works. Then, when God gave them faith, they were not left in a vacuum of inactivity. They were not saved merely to attend church, enjoy fellowship, sing a little, give a little, or serve a little. No, God made each believer into a new creation in order to accomplish unique good works God predetermined for them. A big priority in training is to assist your disciples in discovering what God already preplanned for their lives.
Maybe you’re not buying this. Maybe you’ve read a different interpretation. Some say, this phrase doesn’t mean good works God prepared beforehand, but it means “to which God prepared us beforehand”–God prepared us. Sadly, there is no pronoun “us” present, and the we found in verses 3 and 7 is too far removed to be the antecedent. No–accept the truth, submit to sovereignty and embrace that God predetermined good works just for you before creation.
How do you find out what they are? Lots of dependence upon the Spirit, ministry in the church with others, discipleship, fellowship, prayer, examining fruit, growing deep in the Word and looking for your particular and unique shape. Every man is unique. One pastor called it a S.H.A.P.E., which is an acrostic standing for S=spiritual gifts, H=heart for God, A=abilities, P=personality and E=experiences.
God is sovereign in making you who you will become, growing you and gifting you in determining the good works you will accomplish in this life. A fruitful and effective discipling process should be focused on helping your children and disciples determine their sovereign calling–verse 10, “which God prepared beforehand.”
Paul is telling the Ephesians there is no boasting in salvation or sanctification–it is all God’s grace from beginning to end. And though God designs your good works and empowers your good works, you have to do good works. You have a job to do.
#4 The Predestined PURPOSE
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” What is the purpose of God’s preselected works for you? Ephesians 2:10 says, “so that we would walk in them.” God’s predestined good actions for each of you to live out in life, but you have to do them.
The “so that” indicates the purpose of the good works. You are to walk in them. Those predetermined good works are to leak out of your life. They’re to be lived out in your lifestyle, in your service, in your relationships as you live for Christ. The verb “walk” is an aorist subjunctive, which expresses the hope of daily conduct, your everyday manner and your way of life. These good works are to be a part of your life–Christ in you and through you.
Walk means believers are to be an example of good deeds (Titus 2:7), be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14), engage in good deeds (Titus 3:8 and 14). Making an impact in your children, the women you mentor, the men you train, the students you disciple–making an impact must include the expectation of good works, faithful ministry, service to Christ as a way of life, investing in their family, discipling their children, serving in the church, doing their Bible study homework, and manifesting the heart of Christ toward people.
God has predetermined your works, but disciples are to work to discover God’s specific predetermined works for their lives. Paul is clearly telling you that God’s sovereignty in His preplanned works does not negate your responsibility to engage your will and choose to live out good deeds–to labor for good deeds, to sign up to do good deeds which God predetermined for the Ephesians to live out.
But the other side is true—beware, zealots. Too many believers are grinding out good works trying to earn God’s blessing. That is not what Paul describes here. Paul reminds you that, in saving you, God made you into His masterpiece. You were recreated in Christ for morally beneficial good works, which will honor God, bless others and be a joy to you.
Before the foundation of the world, those good works were prechosen, preselected, predetermined just for you so you might live them out. You already know from Scripture, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” If you’re not in the Spirit, you’re in the flesh. That you no longer live, but Christ lives in you. It is Christ working in you and walking through you by His Spirit which enables you to walk in those preplanned good works so that we would walk in them.
Here again is the great tension of sound theology–God is sovereign and you are responsible. God Himself sovereignly prepared good works beforehand and you are responsible to walk in them. You remember Philippians 2:12 to 13, be responsible and “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Yet totally depend on God’s sovereignty, since the very next verse, 13 says, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
So Paul concludes Ephesians 2:10 with, “walk in them”—(in the language of Philippians 2:12, “work out” those good works, knowing the entire time God is sovereignly at work in you, enabling you to do good deeds, empowering you as you rely on His Spirit and follow His Word, and predetermining what those good works will uniquely be through you for God’s glory. Wow–incredible truth.
So let’s take this home:
1. God has a PREDETERMINED plan for your life
God’s sovereignty is never to create passivity on your part, but activity. God is sovereign over every event and person, but you are responsible to pray. God is sovereign over your growth, but you’re responsible to study the Word. God is sovereign over your good works, but you are responsible to minister.
God will complete what He started in your life, but you are responsible to run to win. Accept your responsibility–pursue ministry, good deeds. Yes, depend on a sovereign God as He continues to make you into His masterpiece. But step out and do good works.
2. Your greatest happiness in life will be to live out your SPECIFIC good deeds
To discover your sovereign calling is to find the greatest place of fruitfulness and joy. As you are saturated in God’s Word, filled with service to the church, engaged in genuine fellowship, living in loving dependence upon the Holy Spirit, God will direct you to His purposeful plan and to understand your unique SHAPE.
3. Discipleship (parenting) training must not lose SIGHT of God’s sovereign plan
Training is not merely a classroom process, it is a life process involving every aspect of your life–family, friends, job, school, children, ministry, free time and more. Training is not primarily putting in, but pulling out what God has already put in. It means your target is not to turn them into something, but to help them discover what God has already made them to be.
Training is not about the trainer. Training is not turning men into you, but helping men discover what Christ made them to be. Training is involvement in a local church environment where the entire body helps one another discover what God has already determined for their lives. Training takes time. It’s a crockpot, slow cook discovery–never a microwave detection.
Training will involve multiple techniques, like Christ. You will model for them, teach, send them out two-by-two, ask them questions, involve them in ministry and more.
4. You are saved by grace FOR good works
You are not saved because of works, but you are saved for good works. “Your works did not cause your salvation, but your salvation causes works.” All Christians have a job to do. All of you are here for a sovereign purpose–each genuine believer has predetermined good works to live out.
God doesn’t fail. God doesn’t falter. All His children are designed for good works–if you don’t have any, you are either disobedient or deceived. James 2:26b, “faith without works is dead.” Today, rely on the Holy Spirit or turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Let’s pray.