The human mind is creativity in motion. Each moment of each day we see things, take in a plethora of sensory data, intersect with people, and experience life—and all the while, with every encounter, we are incrementally changing, becoming something different, becoming something less or something more than we were just moments before. When brought into vital contact with the things of God, creative insights inevitably emerge in our thoughts and feelings, and as they do we are radically changed.
Our annual ARISE course, titled, The Story, is a sixteen week encounter with the things of God in a narrative format. The students are transported into The Story of God’s covenantal love for the world… and for each individual. As The Story unfolds day-by-day, you can literally see the students change. As they perceive God for who God really is, they undergo a noticeable process of transformation.
Toward the end of the course, one of the exercises I have the class engage in is to process their thoughts on paper. The assignment is simple:
- I will deliver a lecture on Ephesians 2:8-10. Our goal is to comprehend the dynamic process by which God interacts with us for our salvation as described in this particular passage.
- Once the lecture is finished, you (the students) will silently process the insights we’ve uncovered and write your own “amplified paraphrase” of the passage.
I was delightfully blown away by what emerged from the hearts of the students.
What you are about to read is pure richness of insight. First, you’ll read the passage from the New King James Version. Then you’ll read eleven student paraphrases.
The Apostle Paul
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Joy Cho, California
“For, by the arrestingly charming allurement of the character of God, you have been rescued and restored through conviction of the creative authority of God, and that not of your own feeble attempts; it is the benevolence of God Almighty, never self- procurement, so that no one can be egotistical. For we are God’s unique masterpieces, reconstituted into the likeness of Jesus Christ, spilling forth His spontaneous goodness and love, which our infinitely wise Father had in mind for us all along.”
Keneth Sanchez, Mexico
“Listen O Brother to the news I have for you, because by the infinite righteousness of the one that has laid down His life for you, you are saved for the kingdom. How then can you claim such wondrous deeds as yours? It is not by anything you may ever do that this is given to you, but as a marvelous gift from the royal family in the highest of highest. For by His divine artistry we were created, as His master piece, nevertheless we were designed to feel the amazing embrace of what doing good works brings into our soul. That peace and goodwill may be in us, but until we fulfill the plan the Savior has for us, it then will make sense.”
Matthew West, Washington
“For you have been rescued from death and healed from sin by seeing and believing God’s graciousness and goodness. You can’t take any credit for your healing from sin, because you didn’t rescue yourself by your own enterprises: God made us His masterpieces through Jesus Christ, designed to do the good deeds which God has already planned for us.”
Jimmy Estrada, Texas
“Through divine desire and love I have been rescued and set free through my conviction and assurance, and that not of myself, it is the gift of God, not of my accomplishments, lest I should boast. For I’m His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to be a testimony, a true declaration of His infinite love, which God prepared beforehand that I should walk in them.”
Candace Cortes, Washington
“Because of the irresistible loveliness of God you have been freed from confinement through being convinced of the truth, and you had no part to play in this; it is God’s endowment to you, not from any kind of production of your own; therefore no one can take excessive pride over this. All of us are meant to be God’s masterpiece, and be brought into existence in Christ Jesus that we may achieve God’s purposes, which He prepared for us in advance.”
Anneliese Wahlman, Colorado
“By the heart-breaking love of God you have been rescued from peril, and this rescue was made complete by your comprehension and acceptance of this love. It wasn’t offered because of anything that you did; it was wholly and entirely the gift of God, not bestowed upon you because you’ve got all your good deeds checked off the list and you’ve made ‘church member of the month,’ otherwise you would brag about how awesome you’ve made yourself. But we are God’s awesome masterpiece, created in the power of Jesus Christ for a new life filled with other-centered deeds, which He originally planned for us to live out.”
Taylor Tonon, Canada
“For God’s delight we have been rescued from the destruction and dangers of sin, because we have been identified anew by God of our true nature which is to feel and to love; this we cannot accomplish on our own because it has been freely given to us by God. And because it is a gift we cannot say we have earned it by our own endeavors. For we are the masterpiece that God has crafted and are crafted in Christ Jesus, so that we may reflect His love in our lives, which was part of God’s original purpose for our lives.”
Nicole Kim, Washington
“You don’t get eternal life, surprisingly, by how good you are, nor can you do anything worthy enough to deserve it. Instead, nothing you can do can give you merit to get into heaven. It’s a gift of God’s wondrous mercy, thus we can’t say that anything we did, righteous or good as it may seem, got us eternal life. We just believe that it is truly a gift from our God of love and accept it. For we are God’s beautiful piece of art and He will do wonderful things through us.”
Jonathan Stephan, Oregon
“For you have been utterly restored to God’s never-ending love because His charm and acceptance have overwhelmed you, and convinced you that He does, in fact, love you. None of this happened because of anything you did—because He did everything—so why do you imagine you are better than your own siblings? For we are all His poem and His song, composed by our Savior, Jesus, to show His love to others by simply being the masterpieces He formed us to be.”
Michael Krueger, Wisconsin
“For it is God’s great mercy and lovingkindness that has redeemed you, not any effort of your own pursuit, or anything of yourself for that matter; it is only by the goodness and gift of God. Therefore we cannot boast. We are God’s masterpieces, created in Christ to live according to the way God made us: to live righteously.”
Val Jacobson, Canada
“For by His one-on-one favor and charming love, God has healed, rescued, and kept you safe and sound from sin through defining your life by the conviction of the truth of His charming love, This identity is not from yourself, but from God; it is the gift of God, not of human undertaking, lest anyone should take pride in what God alone does. For we are His work of art, created in Christ Jesus for His undertakings, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Dawnmarie Simmons, Florida
“It is by the manifestation of the attractive beauty of God that we have all been redeemed from judgment and salvaged from extinction because we believed. It is not of our own strivings or endeavors, rather it is an honor that has been bestowed upon us voluntarily and without restraint so that no one could vainly think of themselves as better than anyone else. This is because each individual person is the consummate example of God’s greatest work of art, reborn in Christ Jesus to effectively carry out acts of kindness. Knowing that we would need His help to accomplish any good thing, God has enabled us to fulfill our mission before we ever realized our shortcomings and by following His path, we are able to reap the rewards that He has earned on our behalf.”