The Bible and Our Daily Work: Work and our attitudes (Pt 5)

Here we consider the broad sweep of the New Testament teaching concerning our daily work. We do so under two headings and find that the teaching focuses around the Lord Jesus Christ.

For work to be legitimate it must fulfil two criteria. A). The job itself must not entail violating God’s law, e.g. that of a thief Ephesians 4.28. B). The context of the job must not violate God’s law, e.g., a locksmith (legitimate) who makes keys for thieves (illegitimate) etc. The Lord Jesus was the ‘son’ of a carpenter Matthew 13.55, and up until the age of about 30 years old worked at that trade himself, Mark 6.3. This teaches us three important lessons.

  • Legitimate labour, of whatever form, is never to be despisedJesus not only worked as a carpenter / builder in Nazareth he was prepared to do the work of a slave, washing the disciples feet, John 13.1-17. If God incarnate engaged in the lowest menial tasks he has stamped heavenly dignity upon such work.
  • It is possible to maintain the closest communion with God in the toil of everyday workJesus did ordinary daily work with its humdrum routines and difficult customers. He faced all the same difficulties and temptations that we do, Hebrews 4.15. And yet within the carpenter’s shop he grew in favour with God and man, Luke 2.52. His spiritual growth as a human being did not take place during years of solitude and desert contemplation. It took place in the midst of daily work. It is a mistake to use the demands of our work as an excuse for failure to grow spiritually.
  • By his life we see that work is the normal God-ordained means of meeting our needsIf anyone had the right to be exempt from work, if the world ever owed anyone a living, it was Jesus the world’s creator, Colossians 1.16. But he wanted to set us an example, so he worked. He who multiplied the loaves and fishes for the crowds never seems to have done that to provide for himself or his family. He went to work.

Thus we find the apostle Paul is stern with those who refuse to work, 2 Thessalonians 3.6-10.

THE ATTITUDES AND MOTIVATION WHICH ARE TO GOVERN OUR WORK There are a number of New Testament passages which address the subject of daily work, Colossians 3.22-4.1; 1 Thessalonians 4.11, 12; 1 Peter 2.18-25 etc. We will sketch the main considerations which should govern the Christian’s attitude to work from Ephesians 6.5-9.

  • The Yoke of ChristIn v5 Paul speaks of ‘earthly masters’ and so implies that we have a heavenly master for all our daily work. He makes this explicit in v9. When you became a Christian you voluntarily took upon yourself Christ’s ‘yoke’ taking him as your master, Matthew 11.28-30. He is your master at work. This means there is no sacred/secular divide. Secular work is full-time service for Christ.
  • The Love of ChristYour heavenly master is Christ who has died for you and who loves you, Ephesians 5.25. If he has given himself like that for us then we feel motivated to do our best even with the worst jobs once we see them as done for Jesus. Unlike the world the Christian has reason to be enthusiastic about even the lowest jobs. Our motive is not first of all money, it is serving Christ, v5-7.
  • The Eye of ChristBecause of our sinful nature there is a temptation to do only the minimum amount of work required. But the Christian can be saved from this as he/she realises the we live forever in Christ’s presence v6.
  • The Throne of ChristWe are working for Christ in that all legitimate work which the Christian does is pleasing to Christ and will be rewarded by him at judgement day, v8. This is true whatever our status. Especially we will be rewarded for the times when we have suffered unjustly because we are conscious of God and his ways, 1 Peter 2.18-20.

We conclude there can be no right relationship to work without a right relationship to Jesus and there is no right relationship to Jesus if it does not issue in a right attitude to work.

This series on ‘The Bible and Our Daily Work’ is taken from a sermon series given by Dr. John Benton at Chertsey Street Baptist Church in 2012.

Part 1 in the series is ‘Work and Creation
Part 2 in the series is ‘Work and the Fall
Part 3 in the series is ‘Male and Female in the context of Work
Part 4 in the series is ‘Work and Rest

A related post ‘7 Tips on handling stress in the work place’ can be found here.

Is it safe to tell you that I’m bi?… and a few other links

Enjoy the following links!

Gospel Coalition – How many of us daily seek the grace that alone has the power to deliver us from fear and empower us to be pastors of faith?

The Good Book Company – Is it safe to tell you that I’m bi? 6 helpful questions to challenge us

A Faith to live by – Everything you believe as a Christian depends on your conviction that God does not lie

Desiring God – Sanctification: so why the long word?

Tim Challies – 5 questions to ask of a book

Skateboarding to God’s glory

The Apostle Paul instructed the Christians in Corinth to do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31).

Being a Christian is that life-long pursuit of submitting all that we are, have and do to the Lordship of Christ so that God is glorified in all we are, have and do.

For each individual Christian this will be applied and worked out in different ways as we learn to take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10.5). We have come to believe and rest our entire souls and eternity on the revealed fact that God has made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5.21).

The love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5.14-15).

Huge changes

When we are first converted there are a great many changes, we are new creatures in Christ; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5.17).

For me there needed to be huge changes not only in thoughts, desires and words, but also in how I used my time. I was nearly 24 years old and had spent the last ten years on a skateboard or surfboard. I grew up in Brighton where there was a really good skateboard and surfing scene.

There were numerous places to go and skateboard and to me that was much more appealing than school. Who wants to sit in a class room and listen to a load of nonsense when I can be having fun on my skateboard was my attitude.

How I got started

It all started one Saturday morning when I was about ten years old. I was being dragged around the shops by my mother and wasn’t having a good time. It was sunny and hot and the last place I wanted to be was in the centre of the city shopping for what I considered rubbish. Then out of nowhere someone came careering down the middle of the main road on a skateboard. He was dressed in bright colours, had shaved and dyed hair and actually looked happy.

As I looked around at all the stressed out mums and business men I thought it was better to be him than all the other people. I soon had my own skateboard and didn’t look back. Within a few years I was on national television, in magazines and surviving on sponsorships so I didn’t need to work. Due to injuries I had to stop and took up surfing which took me all over the world, finally becoming a Christian while living in Mexico surfing some of the best waves in the world outside of Hawaii.

Christ in the water?

After becoming a Christian I realised I couldn’t surf for a while, as I was trying to be like Christ on land but was not, and felt I could not be like Christ in the water. I had to walk away from it if I really wanted to grow spiritually. The Lord honoured my sacrifice and gave me opportunity to go to California for Bible College and eventually come back to Brighton and pastor a Reformed Baptist congregation. Now married with five children life seemed very different. I had kept in touch with many of my former friends, but with a family and church to consider I didn’t get back on a skateboard.

My sons wanted skateboards

Last year we all moved from Brighton up to Suffolk. Opposite the manse there was a newly-built skate park. This was too tempting for my sons. They soon wanted skateboards and, after watching them once, I couldn’t resist. At 38 years old, I decided I wasn’t too old to show them how it’s done, so I contacted a friend who owns a skateboard company who sent me everything I needed.

We have been over the road a bit after school and on Saturdays, have travelled to bigger and better parks as well and, during the winter, to the indoor skate parks. This has put me in contact with lots of young people and parents who have never heard the gospel or even stepped foot into an evangelical church.

Door of ministry

It gets me into a world that is shut off to the outsider and gives me opportunity to speak to people who are mostly closed to listening to outsiders. It is a world where your skateboarding does most of the talking and outsiders are not allowed in.

I have incurred multiple bruises and normally ache for a few days after going, but feel that I can skateboard now to the glory of God. My challenge to you all is, what can you do now to the glory of God, which will be the stepping-stone to bring the gospel to those who are without Christ?

What hobbies, sports or arts can you be involved in where you can shine as the light of the world? We are not to be like the world, but we are to be in it as witnesses till he comes. Let us in all things determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. SOLI DEO GLORIA.

Stephen Nowak, 
Stowmarket Baptist Church, Suffolk

Dealing with depression (book review)

Trusting God through the dark times
By Sarah Collins and Jayne Haynes
Christian Focus. 128 pages. £4.99
ISBN 978 1 845 506 339

Depression is an increasingly common condition and Christians get it. Christian workers often feel out of their depth pastorally. Friends and family feel distressed and bewildered. There may be unease about whether the problem is spiritual or physical. This little book has been written to help.

Its authors, a former Christian worker and a GP, give a concise, well balanced and easy-to-follow account of both medical and spiritual aspects of depression and how it can be understood and managed. There are helpful testimonies of sufferers sharing their experience enabling the reader to get inside the condition and gain some appreciation of the range of experiences depressive illness brings. There is also very practical chapter on how to help a depressed person and the pitfalls to avoid, which in my experience is right on target.

Three arrestingly honest and insightful accounts of depression are included as appendices These are written by a sufferer (Roger Carswell), the spouse of a sufferer and a pastor sharing their experience and wisdom from different perspectives.

The book is written primarily for helpers rather than sufferers, though it would be very useful to read and discuss with a friend who is mildly depressed or who is currently well.

There are certain omissions. The authors seem largely to have mild to moderate depression in mind. More severe depression is somewhat different and the help required, both medical and practical, is also different. Likewise post-natal depression is a relatively common condition with particular hazards and only gets a brief mention. However, in such a short book there are bound to be compromises and there are plenty of suggestions for further reading.

This book is an easy and rewarding read. I think it is an excellent starting point for understanding depression and would have no hesitation in recommending it.

Annie Gemmill, 
GP and pastor’s wife

Reverse Missionaries – who has inspired you?

If you ask the average person in the street what they think of church, most would say it is boring and irrelevant, a view backed up by dwindling attendances and church closures.

So what’s the answer? Maybe it’s time for countries with thriving congregations to send missionaries to Britain to reverse the decline? That’s exactly what the BBC’s mini documentary series entitledReverse Missionaries was all about as it followed the activities of three missionaries. They came from Jamaica, Malawi and India to visit Britain and grow local churches that have been in decline and which they see as ‘dying spiritually’.

Missionaries’ birthplaces

For added interest, each missionary went to a town that in years past was the birthplace of missionaries that had worked in their own countries and had directly influenced their faith in God.

In the first programme, Baptist pastor and former gang member, Franklin Small, traveled from Kingston, Jamaica, to King’s Stanley in the Cotswolds. King’s Stanley was once home to Franklin’s hero, Thomas Burchell, a missionary who also fought for the abolition of slavery in Jamaica in the first half of the 19th century.

The second featured Pastor John Chilimtsidya who travelled from Blantyre, Malawi, to Blantyre, Scotland, the home of David Livingstone who inspired him to be a Christian. The final programme covered Kshama Jayaraj from India, and her experiences in Belfast, home to Kshama’s inspirational heroine, Victorian missionary Amy Carmichael, who spent 50 years in India helping vulnerable children.

Each of the missionaries have fast-growing, large congregations in the churches they run back home, many of whom are young people. Their challenge was to see if they could turn the church they were assigned to in Britain around.

Glimpses of God’s power

There will be many who would say that people of different nations have different views of God and so the results they see there could never be replicated here. And yet the program showed glimpses that this just isn’t true.

As my own pastor says, people in general do not have a problem with God, but they do have a problem with going to church and getting bored with vague, irrelevant messages delivered using out-of-date methods.

Although from different cultures and backgrounds, all three showed similar traits:

* a genuine concern for people who don’t know God as a personal friend;
* an infectious, enthusiasm about the gospel and absolute faith that God can change lives;
* going out to where people were, adapting to people’s situations and interests, such as getting communities involved in organising football teams, painting murals, rather than expecting them to come to the church on the church’s terms;
* an emphasis that the church has to change its approach if it is going to attract new and especially young people, particularly in its style of music and worship;
* not being afraid to openly ask people if they could pray for them or asking them if they wanted to come to know God.

As I watched these missionaries in action, I couldn’t help feel that this was the real church in action. Exactly the kind of thing that Jesus did and that he asks us, his followers, to do.

Did it work?

Interestingly, all three churches they worked with initially thought their direct approach wouldn’t work. However, despite the reluctance of many of the church members, they were allowed to change things, to go outside and ‘do church’ in a modern style among those who derided and mocked the church.

In each situation, the programme ended with the respective churches getting fuller with people of all ages and some giving their lives to God. Great stuff.

It’s interesting that these missionaries adopted the same approach as their heroes. Amy Carmichael’s secret was to adapt the gospel to the people’s needs. She was bold, saw the social problems and went into the thick of it. David Livingstone realised that direct preaching in a church situation didn’t work in Africa and so he adapted to their culture and involved himself in their daily lives. A lesson for us all if we are to reach our generation.

Connecting with people

I’ll leave the final words to three quotes from the third programme. Kshama Jayaraj said: ‘I just wish people would meet under the name of Jesus and no other name, whether that be Protestant or Catholic’.

‘She [Kshama] is a whirlwind of enthusiasm. Out on the streets meeting people, inviting them along. Maybe I should be a little more upfront and out there like her’, said the minister of the Belfast church.

‘We need to go and connect with people — sometimes you and I are the only gospel they will read — will they see Jesus in you?’ said Kshama Jayaraj.

Michael Coveney, 
part of Transform Work UK

The Bible and Our Daily Work: Work and Rest (Pt 4)

Overwork destroys joy. It leaves no room for wholesome fun or stillness. When we never stop to relax or reflect we tend to lose perspective. Overwork can lead to burn-out.

Genesis 1 and 2 tell of God spreading out his work of creation over 6 discrete days. But why did this take a period of time at all? He is God, he could have created it all in an instant had he chosen to do so.

It seems that God used this timescale specifically to teach us that we need rest. God himself does not require rest. His strength is inexhaustible. But he thus gives us, made in his image, Genesis 1.26, 27, a pattern of work and rest to copy.

God made us to work. But he also indicates that rest is essential for us as finite creatures.

In Genesis we find that as God makes the world two basic rhythms of work and rest are established.

  1. In Genesis 1 we find a daily cycle of work and rest with evening and morning, Genesis 1.5; 1.8; 1.13; 1.19; 1.23; 1.31 (cf. John 9.4). God appears to work during the day but cease in the evening until the next morning.
  2. In Genesis 2 we find a weekly cycle of work and rest established. The pattern is of six days work followed by a day of rest, Genesis 2.1-3.

In Genesis 2.1-3, Moses draws attention to the special nature of the 7th day in several ways. First, although 2.1-3 belongs with Genesis 1 there is nevertheless a break from the ‘And God said…’ pattern introducing the previous 6 days. Second, the day is emphasized in a way the other days are not. Each is mentioned only once, 1.5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31. The phrase ‘the seventh day’ is repeated three times in 2.2-3. What is more the Hebrew phrase occurs in three separate sentences each composed of 7 words. Third, though the word ‘Sabbath’ is not here, yet the word for ‘rest’ used in this verses is virtually the same word (Shabbath compared with Shabath). Fourthly, God is said to ‘bless’ the seventh day. Implied is the thought that those who so rest from labour one day in 7 will be blessed. Fifthly, we are told God ‘made it holy,’ a day set apart for God. Sixthly, the ‘evening and morning’ formula is abandoned for the 7th day (hinting at God’s salvation provision of an eternal Sabbath in Christ?).

There are those who try to deny that the day of rest is a creation ordinance, arguing that it was first revealed at Sinai, that it was for the Israelites only and was part of the ceremonial law which is now gone in Christ. But as we see from the wording, to deny a reference to the Sabbath in Genesis 2.2, 3 would be to be pedantic in the extreme. Furthermore, Moses specifically explains in the 10 commandments that the Sabbath is does go back to creation, Exodus 20.11. So to try to restrict the one in 7 day of rest to it being solely the covenant sign of the Mosaic covenant with Israel won’t wash.

The 4th commandment is part of the moral law. It is wrong to try to make people work 7 days a week.

The great emphasis of the NT is on the spiritual rest of salvation to be found in the Lord Jesus as we cease from relying on our works to put us right with God and trust in Christ alone, Matthew 11.28-29. Believing in Christ opens for us the prospect of heavenly rest, the eternal Sabbath which still remains for the people of God, Hebrews 4.9, 10; Revelation 14.12, 13. In this sense it is true that Christ brings to fulfilment the rest pictured in the Sabbath.

But to say that because we already enjoy something of this spiritual rest we no longer require the physical rest of one day off in seven would be as ridiculous as saying that because Christ and the church fulfil the true meaning of marriage, we no longer require marriage between men and women.

  • The Lord Jesus, while rejecting the man-made rules of the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath, confirmed that confirmed the pattern of one day of rest in 7 as a good gift of God for mankind and declared its place within the sphere of his Messianic Lordship, Mark 2.27, 28.
  • As Lord of the Sabbath he encouraged the first Christians to meet together on the first day of the week rather than the last through his resurrection appearances and the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost which was a Sunday, John 20.1, 19; Acts 2.1.
  • No other day, except the first day of the week, is singled out for special mention in the NT showing it had special significance for Christians, Matthew 28.1; Mark 16.2; Luke 24.1; John 20.1; Acts 20.7.
  • Paul’s words of  apparent ‘indifference’ towards ‘special days’  Romans 14.5,6 and ‘a Sabbath day’ Colossians 2.17, occur against a Jewish influence in the church and should not be generalised. Paul himself saw ‘every first day of the week’ was special, 1 Corinthians 16.2. And the apostle John certainly thought Sunday was special, calling it ‘the Lord’s day,’ Revelation 1.10.

This series on ‘The Bible and Our Daily Work’ is taken from a sermon series given by Dr. John Benton at Chertsey Street Baptist Church in 2012.

Part 1 in the series is ‘Work and Creation
Part 2 in the series is ‘Work and the Fall
Part 3 in the series is ‘Male and Female in the context of Work

A related post ‘7 Tips on handling stress in the work place’ can be found here.

Do you think study Bibles can limit Bible study?… and a few other links

Enjoy the following links!

Gospel Coalition – How study Bibles can limit Bible study

The Good Book Company – A free John Piper book PDF download, a video and a web-site check-list… what more could you want!

A Faith to live by – What your endless activity says about you (article in NY Times)

Desiring God – Proven weapons in the fight for holiness

Tim Challies – 4 sources of Christian encouragement