“Chiseled” Launch — The “Masterpiece Theater” Sermon Rewind

Chiseled launched yesterday with a message that I felt good about because it ….

  • Linked the start of Ephesians 2:1=10 (and you were dead) with its conclusion (you are his workmanship) by connecting impulse and impact;
  • Led to a video conclusion involving a regular guy and his son who made a spectacular impact on a young life;
  • Showed how “I’M NOT” and “I CAN’T” really aren’t acceptable answers when invited to make an impact for the Kingdom.
  • Resulted in this bottom line:  In Christ’s hands, as he chisels you, you stop living by impulse and start living for impact.


It’s kinda funny – if you want to tell someone how great they are and how much potential they have, how do you begin?  Those of you who are coaches or bosses, you do this all the time, I bet.  You see the ability deep inside someone, you see the beauty, you want to call it forth, and so you begin with THAT, don’t you?  “You’re great; you’ve got potential; all we got to do is unleash that buried potential and you’ll make a major impact on our team, in our office, in your territory,” whatever.  I remember being 11 or so and a random tennis coach just said, “you’ve got a lot of natural ability” and I was just on Cloud Nine for a week or so following.  This is just what we do, how we approach thing, and it seems to be basic human nature AND a basic understanding of motivation.  Some of you gave that and others of you HEARD that talk just this week. It’s pretty much what we do, and it’s fine.

                And then there’s Paul, the travelling pastor and missionary who had first spend about 18 months in Ephesus as sort of like church growth consultant and now that he has moved on is writing a letter to them.  And as he starts a conversation with the church that’s GONNA end there – you’re great, you’ve got potential, you’re going to make an impact – he starts somewhere else entirely.  Look at 2:1:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,

.  Oh THAT’S motivational, Paul!!!  What’re you doing?  Before I came along, he is essentially saying, You all were dead.  Deader than a doornail dead.  Living dead.  Walking dead.  Grateful dead. Just plain dead.  There, don’t you feel better?  Well, no Paul, not really.  If you’re wanting to motivate us, let me suggest you go back to the drawing board and start all over.

                And yet instead of starting over, Paul plunges deeper into the morass.  Because why were the Ephesian people so dead?  Because before they met Paul and the Jesus he represents, they lived like this in 2:2-3: 

in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

.  “Gratify the cravings of the flesh” and you know what this is?  Living by impulse?  Hungry?  Eat.  Thirsty?  Drink.  Sad? Drink (not water).  Happy?  Drink (not water).  Angry? Lash out.  Aroused? Get sexually satisfied.  They had no gap between having an impulse and acting on that impulse.  Some of you know exactly what that is like, either from an earlier season of your life or from what happened last night.  And you know, better than most, that living by your impulses increasingly leaves you hollow and empty, because no high is as good as the first one, no encounter is as arousing as the one that got it started, no temper explosion is ever as satisfying as you envisioned.  Usually, living by your impulses sort of leaves you living in the middle of a great big mess.  You don’t have any impulse control; you have impulse surrender.  So, in the big picture, while you might question Paul’s motivational techniques – YOU’RE DEAD! – it’s hard to second guess his diagnosis of the human condition. 

                And then he comes to this dramatic moment in 2:4: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, BUT …. GOD.  But God.  What about this God who intervenes and invades all us who are dominated by our impulses?  2:5 tells us:  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Were MADE ALIVE.  Not what we’ve done.  What’s been done to us, for us, in us.  You were dead, living by your impulses, but God intervenes.  And then Paul, just getting on an inspired roll, unpacks some incredible truth in 2:6-9:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

So:  God makes us alive, God’s grace saves us, God does for us what we could NEVER do for ourselves, God authors all this goodness in us, for us, and to us.  These verses on this inspired roll for the great heart of NT faith, an understanding of God & people that separates Xnty from every religion & philosophy on earth.  They are all DO THIS, DO THAT, DO MORE.  In Christ, Paul says, it’s DONE.  Glorious, glorious, glorious.  We WERE living by our impulses but God literally jumped in and rescued us from ourselves and delivered us into heaven.  We unite with Christ not because we’re good but because he is.  We’re tossed a lifesaver. Whew! Glory!

                And that, and that, AND THAT, is where most of us stop.  2:9.  In fact, Ephesians 2:8-9 is in of the great “need to memorize” couplets of Scripture.  Those of you who have ever had any kind of bible memory training at all no doubt had these among your first ten.  Which is both great and too bad.  Because what comes after verse 9?  (Not a trick question.)  Right!  Verse 10!  And look at the first word there in 2:10: FOR.  Meaning: here’s the purpose, the culmination, here’s why I started out telling you that you were dead and then got on the roll with God’s saving invasion.  Here’s the substance of the whole thing, the great big why of creation, the why  of salvation, the why of Chiseled itself:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ah, that word “handiwork,” or “workmanship” or even “masterpiece.”  Do you have any idea why Paul would use that word specifically in writing to ch in Ephesus?

                Because the Ephesians were the master sculptors of the ancient world!  It was home to this massive temple of Artemis (Diana), a fertility goddess.  The temple was full of priceless paintings and sculptures.  More than that, the city as a whole was full of worship shrines for the Roman Emperor, Domitian.  One of them was a 27 foot statue under which citizens were mandated by law to affirm, Domitian is king of all the gods.  So the Ephesian people knew better than most what was involved in great sculpture, in making art out of clay, in being the kind of craftsmen who took great pride in their work.  Even more, this word “workmanship” is how craftsmen often described their work in making crowns.  The Ephesians knew the word because they lived the word.  They were surrounded by a culture that took what was raw, chiseled it, and turned into pieces of impact and beauty.

                And Paul dares to come along and declare that more than the stars, the moon, the mountains, we – God’s people, his church, his followers – are his workmanship.  His masterpiece.  The most spectacular example of his creation.  Every one of you, you are his piece of work.  The kind of raw material that as he develops it, it becomes a crown.  Because when you look at 2:10 closely and you see that it is the culmination of the argument that began with the deadness that comes from impulsive living, you see the great big WHY of God’s invasion.  You see the great exchange going on.  Here it is:  In Christ, in his hands, as he chisels you, You stop living by impulse and start living for impact.  Right!  You move from being grateful to what he has done TO you (like, uh, saved you) to claiming what he will do THROUGH you.  I mean, look at 2:10 again: READ. Works prepared in advance for you to do.  Impact that God has been dreaming up from all eternity. 

                It’s like hockey.  How bout!  My first ever analogy involving hockey!  But look at these guys (AV of fighting goons).  You know what they do on the ice?  Live by impulse.  See a wrong, feel an offense, and the gloves come off.  But as far as influencing that game?  Well, look at this guy (AV of Gretzky scoring).  Records that’ll never be matched; an impact that will never be equaled.  That’s what it’s like in the game of life.  You stop living by impulse and start living for impact. 

                Or it’s like these three ladies:  (AV of Nuner, Woodall, Gardner).  You know what they do?  Receptions for funerals at GS. Love families well who they have never met & will likely not see again.  Helping ppl in the most vulnerable time of life.  That’s impact.  They’re being chiseled.  You stop living by impulse and start living for impact. 

                Or even like the two guys this winter who on different occasions asked me how they could help the church.  Both work in money; one accounts it and the other invests it.  So on both occasions I thought, “what is the least glamorous but most rewarding ministry of this church?”  RITI clean up! Early Sat a.m. in the winter cold, cleaning up after our neighbors who are homeless.  And they both did it. Sat after Sat after Sat.  They became professors of janitorial arts.  Chiseled for impact. You stop living by impulse and start living for impact. 

                When I think about it, Paul is actually a genius by beginning this whole conversation with how dead we were.  Because the only way to come alive and to STAY ALIVE (hello Bee Gees!) is impact for the kingdom.  Because do you know what IMPULSE I see most in people who are Xn, who have been saved & redeemed & bought?  I CAN’T or I’M NOT.  The impulse to APATHY.  Yeah!  People get invited to serve, people see opps to serve, ppl even have a chance to speak to their friends about faith, and their first impulse I CAN’T or I’M NOT.  I CAN’T do it.  I’M NOT good at it.  I CAN’T spare the time. I’M NOT interested.  I CAN’T really impact ppl.  I’M NOT capable. You know what God says to the impulse of I CAN’T and I’M NOT?  BULL!  You have failed to see yourself as the precious work of art where God is chiseling away impulse and what gets revealed is a person who can make an impact.  Almost like Michaelangelo who looked at a slab of stone, knew there was an angel inside, and chiseled away everything that wasn’t the Pieta (AV?)  In the same way, there is a heaven-opening, hell-busting person of impact inside you.  God wants to chisel away whatever is keeping that hidden.  You stop living by impulse and start living for impact. 

                See, everyone here who has lifted the white flag to Jesus and surrendered to faith gets to be part of the coming attractions of the future day with the Father is the Producer, the Holy Spirit is the director and Jesus Christ really is the superstar!! We give the world an appetizer of that glory now.  You stop living by impulse and start living for impact. 

                And what greater opportunity there is than to have this kind of impact with the next generation.  Like the 2nd grader who came home from Sunday School and said, “Momma we learned how to make babies today!”  Dishes crash in the kitchen.  Girl goes on:  “Yeah, it’s simple.  You just change the ‘y’ to ‘i’ and add ‘es’!!!” Oh Lord! The next generation needs it!  I know that I didn’t come to faith as a child but later, at 17, and I am so glad that God chiseled a man named Matt Ristuccia to impact me as a young Xn.  If Good Shepherd ever leads ppl to faith (saves souls!) it’s ultimately because Matt Ristuccia took time to mentor and bless me.

                And that’s really what this impact is all about.  Eternity. Why be satisfied with a small, impulsive life when you can have a large, impactful one. Like a young guy in the auto business at this church – normal guy! Lives Fort Mill! Married! Regular! – discovered not long ago.  Here’s the video: