Have you ever watched a sculptor or a carver at work? They can take a piece of rock or wood and chisel away at it until an image emerges. It’s not just any image. When I was a kid, I was an expert at whittling baseball bats and the lower case letter “l”. The images sculptors produce are sharp, varied and lifelike. I’ve read about them looking at blocks of marble for hours before they choose one. They can ‘see’ what’s inside before it’s ever revealed to the outside eye. The key is the sculptor. Grade A chiselers can work wonders. Someone like me who’s never worked a piece of marble can’t make a rock look like anything other than a rock.
Reading in the book of Romans we see these words “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” God, with His saw in hand, removed some natural born branches from the tree of life, that others might have the opportunity to know and obey Him. The branches removed lost their chance due to unbelief and the new branches were offered this new life because of faith. What is the deal here? Can God look at the rock and see something we can’t see? Absolutely. In fact, He made the rock. As we choose to submit to Him in faith, He skillfully removes the ugliness and death sin has created in our crevices. As we obey Him, an image emerges in and through us. It is the image of His Son.
There is another sculptor who wields a chisel though. While we try to shape and form our futures, we are no good at the job. I’m not going to count us. I will, however, count our common enemy and the enemy of our Creator: Satan. His goal is to chip away at our exterior, revealing an entirely different outcome. The pieces he would remove are the very pieces God would keep and the pieces he leaves are the very ones God removes. The key is we get to choose which sculptor has the freedom to handle us; which designer can shape us by his will.
I’ve learned the longer I live, the harder it is for me to change. When I was younger I loved change! I loved everything new. While I still love new things, I find it harder and harder to let go of the familiar. And so I am tricked into believing that I can’t let go of things that harm me OR I can’t embrace things that will help me. I find myself wrestling with God on simple things: “Do I love this thing or hate it? Do I pursue this desire or reject it? Will I continue to practice this habit or will I leave it for another one?” Why do I wrestle? Because even though I know God only offers good things and Satan only offers evil, it’s hard to live by faith and easier to give into the status quo. Faith requires change and risk and often I like things just the way they are.
Just what unbelief disqualified the branches that were removed? The rejection of the fact of Jesus as the One who has earned the right to be the Lord of their lives. In short, they liked their cracks and crevices too much to allow Him to remove them. They chose to remain a rock instead being transformed into the beautiful image of Jesus. By rejecting His chisel, they reject Him. This is a fatal mistake. While they may enjoy their rock status for a few years, they will endure separation from Jesus for eternity. The longer we submit to the enemy’s work in our lives, the harder it becomes for us to give our lives fully and completely to Jesus.
What does the faith look like that allowed the new branches to be grafted in? The acceptance of Jesus as the One who has the right to save and lead their lives on a daily basis AND the surrender of that right they’ve so tightly held onto. As much as we like to think we can handle the chisel, faith requires us to give it up. Those of us who follow Jesus are no longer the ones in charge of shaping our lives. Along with this faith comes the ability to let go of things we love and embrace things that seem risky in the moment. Submitting to Him each day makes us stronger and more able to submit in the next area He is working. Instead of growing harder and more resistant to change, we become more willing to accept the knife. Why? Because we know God, in His kindness, is ultimately making us what He designed us to be.
Paul warns us to not grow cocky in our inclusion. The masterpiece God works and completes in us will never be displayed in a museum or win international praise. It is never something people will buy tickets to tour and gawk at. We will never enjoy the awe of the masses. God forms us for His glory and He never shares His glory with another. We are His, for His pleasure and His will. This is enough, friends. To know that He enjoys His work in us and will use it for His glory is enough to keep me submitting to Him for the rest of my life. How about you?