This morning you came with your identities secure: "I am a fifth grade teacher." "I am an electrician" "I am a second-year college student." "I am a homemaker." "I am a dad." "I am a mom." "I am a husband (or a wife)." "I am a son (or a daughter)." "I am lawyer." "I am a retired salesman."

But before you leave today, I am praying that God will give you a new identity: I am a minister.

Oh, so you don't feel called to be a minister? Well, listen first to Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) from God's Word.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I want to tell you how my Aunt Eva got my goat. Once upon a time I owned a goat. Buck, believe it or not, was so big that I could ride him, which I often did. I grew to really love my pretty white goat. Aunt Eva, on the other hand, never really got attached to Buck like I did. One day when our azalea bushes and magnificent bridal wreath spirea were in full bloom, both prized by Aunt Eva almost as much as she prized me, Buck had a hunger pang. He proceeded to eat all of those azaleas along with the spirea next to them. Once discovered, Buck was history. The last time I saw Buck, he was in the back of a trailer headed to who-knows-where. Buck was a fine animal other than that episode, and I thought he was a pretty good goat. But on that fateful day, Aunt Eva declared that Buck was "good for nothing."

Christians are to be good for something. But we can also appear to be "good for nothing." In fact, Jesus said that when we stand before Him on Judgment Day, some will be like sheep and others like goats. The sheep in Matthew 25, who will be on Jesus' right hand at the place of sonship, are true believers who manifested their faith in tangible expressions of love to others. Jesus says that these sheep will have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, provided hospitality to the homeless, clothing to the naked and visited the sick and those imprisoned. Jesus identifies Himself with the needy.

On the left hand, there will be the goats. Just as good works show the true faith of the sheep, the goats are known because of their lack of good works. They did not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, show hospitality to strangers, clothe the naked or visit the sick and imprisoned. Again, Jesus identifies with those people and says, "inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me" (Matthew 25:45, NKJV). Jesus was speaking about the response of the nations to the gospel and those who go out in His name to preach the gospel, but the story is also clear: true faith requires good works or else it is a goat that is good for nothing.

Christians are to be good for something. "Blessed to be a blessing" is the way someone put it. And that is exactly what we will see as we continue in our study of Ephesians chapters 1 and 2. In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul unfolds the glory of God in salvation—all of grace—that leads us, in verse 10, to His purpose for saving us: good works. Charles Hodge, the great Princeton theologian of yesteryear, said that this passage begins with "the spiritual state of the Ephesians before their conversion" and goes to the "change which God had wrought in them" and leads to "the design for which that change had been effected."1 You see again, as Hodge saw it, that this passage is about answering, "What is the reason for it all?"