The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

The Pursuit of Work Through Redemption (Side B)

*This is part four of the blog series: A Mini-Biblical-Theology of Work. Part 1 can be found here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

Sin infected everything. Jesus redeems everything…including our work.

He restores the purpose that vocation originally had in creation, namely, worship. We can worship through our work! How?

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Yesterday, in Ephesians 6:5-8 we saw that worshipping through our work begins by working for God (details here). But, this is not all Ephesians 6 has to say about the manner in which we approach our vocations. There is a second important truth for us to see within these verses…

We worship in our jobs by doing our work because we get God!

We do our work for God, but we also do our work because we get God! This frees our work from the curse of Genesis 3. No longer does our work feel like a waste…on the contrary…it becomes an infinitely valuable witness to the world! To see this, look again at Ephesians 6:7-8…

“[We render] service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this HE WILL RECEIVE BACK  from the Lord…”

A parallel passage in Colossians further shows us what Paul means…

Colossians 3:24, “…from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

Paul is speaking directly to slaves who receive no pay for their work and basically says, “Does your work feel pointless? Meaningless? Futile? You’re earthly master is not the one you need to look to for a reward.  The Lord is who you work for and it is from him that you will be rewarded! He has an inheritance for you worth more than anything anyone on this earth could ever pay!”

What is that reward? It is nothing less than God HIMSELF! The reward of heaven IS GOD!

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Jesus died so that we might have this reward…the treasure of knowing God the father through him! The ultimate reward awaiting us is being in the presence of God…in the presence of Jesus! There is nothing greater (Psalm 16:11)! Paul says that explicitly in Philippians 3:8 that nothing compares to the value of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord!

“…I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of KNOWING CHRIST JESUS my Lord.”

Nothing compares with knowing Jesus and the promise of Revelation 22:4 is that we will know his direct presence!

“They will SEE his face…”

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Does your work feel meaningless…like a waste? When we do our work for God, not a moment is wasted, it all has eternal meaning because through it you are investing in the eternal reward of knowing Christ!

By doing our work for him, we come to know him more, his character, his heart… his selfless love for people… we give him glory for our “successes” and he sustains us through our “failures.”

We find more and more joy in him knowing that he is the reward that won’t pass away. Every dime I ever make will burn… but the depths at which I know Christ will only be dug deeper for all eternity! You are working to know more of Jesus!

When knowing Christ more is the reward of your work… then no job is pointless! And I can work with joy! Paul says this to slaves! God is your reward! Your work is not a waste! It is a witness! Working with joy because you get God shows the world that he is of ultimate value! Jesus is the ultimate reward! Your work becomes a witness to the world of the supreme value of Jesus! Paul makes this clear in Titus 2:10…

“…[do your work] showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

When we do work for God and his glory… and we do our work because we get God… we are adorning the Gospel! We are showing it to be true! We are witnessing to the truth that ultimate joy and satisfaction is found in Jesus… not in any glory form a job, or reward from a job.

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Now we can open our mouths with the Gospel at Work. We can talk to those around us who treat work like it is everything… tell them why our life is not completely invested in climbing the corporate ladder as fast as I can at the expense of anyone and everyone around me…because Jesus set me free from that. I don’t work for me… I work for him.

We can talk to those around us who treat work like it is nothing… it’s just a pointless, necessary evil to live. We can tell them who we find eternal joy and meaning through our work…because, through our work we are coming to know Jesus more and more… and that reward is eternal.

We can speak the Gospel at work, because the Gospel has transformed the way we work! It’s a new life at work… where we do our work for Jesus, and we do our work because we get Jesus!

*I’m leaving the country to do pastor training in Haiti. This blog series will continue upon my return in about two weeks. We will explore what work looks like in eternity and more of the practical implications for our jobs right now. Please keep myself and the Haiti team in your prayers.

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The Pursuit of Work Through Redemption (Side A)

*This is part three of the blog series: A Mini-Biblical-Theology of Work. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.

Sin has infected everything, but the good news of the gospel is that Christ died to redeem everything! We typically focus on the fact that Christ died to redeem us… and that is key! It is central to the gospel!

Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed US from the CURSE of the law by becoming a curse for us…”

Yet, through his death, Jesus is not just redeeming US from the curse of sin…he is redeeming EVERYTHING!

Revelation 21:5, “…Behold, I am making ALL THINGS new…”

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Sin infected all things, Jesus is redeeming all things! This includes our work! Jesus redeems our work from the problem of the fall back to the purpose of creation! Because of what Jesus has done we can worship through our work once again! How? What does it look like for us to worship through our vocations?

The apostle Paul helps us think through this in Ephesians 6:5-8.

“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

Now, I realize this passage is specifically speaking about slaves serving their masters and not employees working for their employers. My purpose in this blog is not to explore all that the Bible has to say about slavery…although I do plan to tackle that in the future.

However, amidst our present vocational concerns, I do think that what Paul is saying here applies to us in our work because of the end of verse 8.

“…knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a BONDSERVANT or is FREE.”

What Paul is saying applies to the slave and the free worker. So why is his primary focus slavery? Two reasons… First, more abuses existed in slave/master relationships than in free employee/employer situations. Thus, it would have been a higher priority for Paul to aim the bulk of his instructions at that institution.

Second, if most of us struggle with the futility of our work, how much more so a slave? They didn’t pick their job, they don’t get paid for their job… it really seems pointless. Yet, Paul can look at what appears to be the most dead end task in the world and still offer hope for worshipping amidst one’s labor. If he can say this to slaves, how much more so to those who are free?

By aiming his instructions at those in forced labor, Paul simultaneously instructs those of us in free labor situations all the more!

Jesus has freed our work from the problem of the fall back to the purpose of creation…worship! Paul points us to two primary ways in which we now worship through our work. We will tackle one today and one tomorrow.

First, We do our work for God!

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This addresses the sin of Genesis 3 in which we attempted to work for our own glory. Now, we do our work for the Lord.

Ephesians 6:5, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, AS YOU WOULD CHRIST…”

Ephesians 6:7, “…rendering service with a good will AS TO THE LORD and not to man…” 

Colossians 3:24, “…you ARE serving the Lord Christ.”

We worship through our work by working for God and his glory…not our own! Do you feel the freedom in that? Working for my glory leads to the endless rat race of self-promotion. Satisfaction is always to be found in my next promotion or raise. My goal is always moving and so I can never truly attain it!

However, working for God and his glory sets me free from all of that! I no longer have to kill myself working overtime to promote me…because it’s not about me anymore! My goal has changed from my glory to God’s and the best news is that this is a goal that doesn’t move!

Working for the glory of God is about doing my work in such a way that “images” him to others. I am to work in such a way that shows what he is like, that reveals his character and in doing so I find joy and satisfaction…not because of what I do, but who I’m doing it for! Ephesians 6:5-6 help us see what it looks like to work in a way that “images” God to the world.

“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, WITH A SINCERE HEART, as you would Christ…not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God FROM THE HEART…”

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Setting before ourselves the truth that we ultimately do our work for Jesus transforms our hearts! We work with a sincere heart! We begin to display the character of Christ in our work! Do you have a horrible job? A horrible boss? A mind-numbing job? One that feels pointless? You know, it’s the temporary job you took until you get the real one that will really be fulfilling. Wonder how you could ever work with a sincere heart? Remember… you work for Jesus!

When you work for Jesus, you will begin to display the character of Jesus!

You serve HIM with a sincere heart and your work becomes an act of worship! It points to Jesus!

Ephesians 6:7, “…render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…”

Notice what Paul is saying. We render service…we serve others (our employers, our employees, our customers, our clients, our families) as if we were literally rendering that service to the Lord, not to man.

That is mind blowing and paradigm shifting!

How does that truth change the way you approach your boss? Remember, you’re rendering service to the Lord! How does that change your interaction with clients? How does that change the way you are serving your family through working?

The truth that we do our work for God transforms us to display his character and “image” him through our vocation.

And it is vital to note that we can do this, point to the glory of God through our work, whether we are “successful” or whether we “fail” according to the world’s standards!

Working for God may take you down the path of promotion. David went from being a shepherd to being a King. Yet, working for God may lead to nothing but lateral movements in your career. I think of Lydia who sold fabric when she became a believer and as far as we know that is what she kept doing for the rest of her life.  Working for God may even lead to demotion! Paul went from being a respected Pharisee to a despised prisoner. I’m afraid that demotion is part of God’s plan more often than any of us would like to admit or even think about.

Yet, promotion/lateral movements/demotion no longer determine the true success or value of your work! Your work is no longer defined by what you do, but by who you work for… and success is faithfully working for Him! Putting him on display no matter if you “succeed” or “fail” in the eyes of the world!

failure_successJesus has freed our work from the sin of Genesis 3! We no longer worship our work, we worship God through our work by doing our work for him and not ourselves.

Work is no longer our everything… he is!

This is the first way in which we can worship God through our work because of the redeeming work of Jesus.

There is a second, equally important, truth about worshipping God through our work…and that we will tackle tomorrow.

The Problem of Work After the Fall

*This is part two of the blog series: A Mini-Biblical-Theology of Work. Part 1 can be found here.

Have you ever attempted to use something for a task other than it was designed for and it turned out bad, frustrating, or even painful?

So… this one time I had friends over at my house once who were helping my brother and I pull weeds because as soon as that chore was done we could go play. Now I don’t know how it started, but in the midst of weed pulling someone got hit in the face with some dirt.

This led to an all out dirt war.

31c96-umbrellaAt one point, someone grabbed an umbrella. Maybe it was me or maybe it wasn’t…why assign blame? Anyway, that person brilliantly began using the umbrella as a shield against the onslaught of soil. The umbrella changed hands a few times and it ended up in the hands of one of my friends.

My younger brother charged him with a massive handful of dirt. So my friend naturally held up the umbrella to protect himself and one of the spokes caught my brother’s eyelid! Let’s just say he could close his eyes and still see.

The point is that using the umbrella for something it was never designed for brought much pain! We broke the umbrella’s purpose and, as a result, broke my brother’s face!

In the fall, Adam and Eve broke the very purpose of their God-given work and it brought pain! Adam and Eve’s occupation was to point to God! His greatness, goodness, and beauty! Their rebellion/sin was to make everything about their own greatness, goodness, and beauty.

They broke the purpose of their work and Genesis 3:17 reveals to us the painful result…

Genesis 3:17, “…to Adam [God] said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in PAIN you shall eat of it all the days of your life…

Not only did their sin bring pain, but also frustration! Using something for a task other than what it was designed for can often bring frustration. A few days ago, my little girl attempted to use the TV remote as a cell phone. This very quickly led to frustration! In breaking the purpose of their work, Adam and Eve’s sin did not only lead to pain, but also to frustration.

Genesis 3:18-19, “…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. [19] By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

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God said, work will be frustrating as the ground will fight you and eventually beat you! You will sweat as you war with the earth until it wins! You will die and you will become a part of the very ground you tried to work…dust.

All your work is futile!

Painful, frustrating work, that seems futile. This is the reality in which we all live and work! This is why our work is painful and frustrating. All of us approach our work through the lens of Genesis 3! We do this in two primary ways… by viewing our work primarily through the SIN of Genesis 3 or through the CURSE of Genesis 3.

Here’s what I mean… First, many of us view our work through the sin of Genesis 3.  Adam and Eve’s sin was choosing to make themselves like God. Instead of working for his glory, they chose to promote their own.  And this is what we do… we work for our own glory!

We look for satisfaction, joy, purpose, meaning, identity, etc in our work! And we don’t ever find it because satisfaction is always one more step away. We get a promotion, but it’s really the next promotion where we will find satisfaction. We get a raise, but it is really the next raise that will bring contentment. Just a little more recognition will bring joy.

…and the joy of glory is always one step beyond our grasp.

Instead of worshipping God through our work and pointing to his glory, we use it as a means to worship ourselves and promote our own glory. Our work consumes us, making us crazy as it becomes our everything! Our very identity and worth is completely wrapped up in our job.

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This is one of the primary ways we approach work as a result of the fall. We view our work through the sin of Genesis 3 and we worship work. Our job becomes our everything.

Yet, there is a second common approach to work.  Many of us view our work through the curse of Genesis 3. We look at work and see it as nothing but painful, frustrating, and futile.

Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, [19] and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.”

The author of Ecclesiastes, laments that he has spent his whole life working and for what?  He says it all amounts to nothing in the end! It’s futile. Death will take away everything we have “gained” through all our toil! Even what we leave behind to be enjoyed by our heirs may only be wasted. Everything seemingly comes to nothing!

All our work and toil ultimately feels pointless, and many of us can, primarily, view our work this way.  So, we end up wasting our work. We are lazy in it, because ultimately… work is nothing.

After the fall… work looks mostly like a problem. We either view it through the sin of Genesis 3. We worship work because it is everything! Or we view it through the curse of Genesis 3. We waste work because it is nothing.

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We know this is not how it was created to be! Is there any hope or are we doomed to pain, frustration, and futility in our work?

That is the question we will tackle tomorrow…

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