The LORD's message came to me: "Before I made you in your mother's womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I chose you for a special work. I chose you to be..." (Jeremiah 1:4-5 ERV).
Like Jeremiah, who first heard this word from the LORD, our first instinct is to say, "But Lord GOD, I don't know..." We tend to look at those great people in the Bible that God called into service as something special — something we tend to think we are not. We often call them "biblical characters"! But as an old friend named Stanley Shipp used to say, "There's no such thing as biblical characters, just a bunch of characters running around when the Bible got written down."
The problem with us, just like everyone God called into service during the time "when the Bible got written down," is that we know ourselves. We tend to see our flaws, our failures, and our inconsistencies. "How could God ever really use someone like me?" we ask ourselves. Of course, the bottom line truth is this: we are the only kind of folks God has ever had available to use!
So before we dismiss the call of the LORD in our lives — before we explain away God's purpose for us when we were still in the womb because we think, "I am no Jeremiah!" — let's think together for a few minutes about one incredibly humbling and empowering truth. We are God's masterpiece: an original work of the Master's hands, lovingly created and fashioned to be a one-of-a-kind person who lives to bring him praise for the incredible work of his hands.
Don't believe me?
Do you still have your doubts?
Well, go back and read that incredible passage that talks about us being saved by grace (Ephesians 2:1-9), and then notice how it ends:
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).
Even more amazing is that God has put his SIGnature on you and marked you as his own work, according to his great purpose for you! Let me share briefly what I mean with you.
The S in God's SIGnature on you is what I call your Strengths. You may call them talents. It's the DNA your heavenly Father gave you when he formed you in your mother's womb. You came into the world with these strengths programmed into who you are. Just like Jeremiah, God knew you and had a plan for you before you were even formed in the womb of the woman who carried you or held you in her arms! Notice the words David wrote for all of us to say in our worship of God:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and 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. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment laid out before a single day had passed (Psalm 139:13-16 NLT).
Yes, a big part of who you are and what God wants you to do for him and the Kingdom was built into your DNA! I hope you can say with the words of the Psalm, "Your workmanship is marvelous!" and know that you realize that you are God's workmanship!
The I in SIGnature is what I call Interests. As we grow and experience life, especially after giving our life to Jesus, God is at work in those experiences to fashion and bless us. Most of us know the incredible promise found in a Scripture that is many people's favorite Bible verse:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28 NLT).
In other words, we are more than our DNA! When God re-creates by his grace, he makes us new spiritually (2 Corinthians 5:17) and gives us new interests and things to do for him (Ephesians 2:10). Every step we take from that moment on, God is involved in our lives. The Holy Spirit is alive and living in us, working to form Christ in us (2 Corinthians 3:18). Every situation, circumstance, and experience is filtered through God's grace and is used to shape us for our good and God's glory.
Along the way, we develop new interests and abilities because of our experiences and God's providential work in those experiences. We find certain aspects of our character and faith strengthened. We realize that new doors of potential ministry are opened to us because God has used our experiences to prepare us to share his grace with others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). New areas of interest and ability are discovered. Other areas of interest and ability, either buried or forgotten, are uncovered. Some of our favorite interests and abilities are honed and made better because God is always at work in our lives "to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13 NIV).
The third mark of God's SIGnature on us are the Gifts God gives us — the Bible emphasizes these gifts come from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — when this precious gift from Jesus is given us at our conversion (Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:3-7). Four key places in the New Testament talk about these spiritual gifts:
- Romans 12:3-8
- 1 Corinthians 12:1-31
- Ephesians 4:7-13
- 1 Peter 4:10-11
While we don't have time or space to delve into the nature and types of spiritual gifts we have been given, suffice it to say that God is at work in us to do amazing things to honor him and bless his people. Spiritual gifts are not about us but about God's grace working through us to grow our church family to be more like Jesus in what we do to bless others both in how we serve them (Ephesians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18) and in power available to us (Ephesians 1:17-20; Ephesians 3:14-21) to do the work God has called us to do!
So we have covered the S-I-G in SIGnature, but what about those last letters — "nature"? That's the discussion of much of the apostle Paul's writings. We can live by the flesh or by the Spirit. We can be led by our flesh or sinful nature, or we can be led by the Spirit, our Spirit-filled nature. Life in the Spirit is realizing that we have been born into a new "nature" — or as Paul says, we are a new "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:9-17). Life in the Spirit is about learning to be filled and led by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-21; Galatians 5:22-25). As we learn to let the Spirit lead us, we begin to see the life of Jesus — his compassion and character — come alive in us! Yet when we look in the mirror, we are still us... ourselves... except only now, the light we see shining through us and reflected from us reminds others of Jesus!