Thursday, September 20, 2007

THE GODLY CHRISTIAN


The Bible says that “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to be a Christian- not just a Christian in name, but one who is truly committed to living his life for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). This kind of Christian will stand out in a crowd. Not surprisingly, this kind of Christian will also bear the spurn of the world just as the first Christians did when the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrated pagan cultures. Not much has changed in this regard. As our society drifts further and further toward a moral abyss, we will find that truly following Christ makes us unpopular. A cross is not, after all, a symbol that defines worldly success. Rather, a cross is the symbol of crucifixion. For the godly believer, it means death to self: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). A.W. Tozer wrote: “The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.”[1]

To be identified as a Christian, in the truest sense of the word, marks a person as radically different from those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, or from those who may be Christians, but are still living for self. To employ a familiar cliché, a godly Christian “marches to a different drummer.” His walk is out of step with the beat of the world. This is the way that God intended it. However, we must not allow this fact to lead us to the wrong conclusion. The obedient child of God is not different for the sake of being different. His life is not defined by rules, but by a relationship. He does not refuse to partake of worldly things because he deems himself spiritually superior or duty-bound. His separation is not as much from things as much as it is to someone, and that someone is Jesus Christ. If truth were told, the former (separation from the world) is not possible without the latter (abiding in Christ). Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

The one who turns to Jesus for the forgiveness of sin experiences a profound love that compels him to love in return. This should be the norm. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). When one of the scribes inquired concerning the greatest commandment, our Lord responded: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Mark 12:30-31). If we love Jesus with our whole hearts, there will be nothing left for the world. By this I do not mean that the Christian cannot appreciate the common grace of God in the created world or show Christ-like love to others. He must do these things. Yet, within his heart, there is a place of devotion that only God occupies. In the simplest terms, this is what it means to be a Christian who lives for God’s glory. Jesus is the One whom we love, worship, and serve moment by moment, day after day, even to the point of death (2 Timothy 4:6).

Certainly, I know that much more could be said to describe the godly Christian. We could talk of how he came to Christ; we could speak about his calling, his manner of life, and what he possesses in Christ Jesus. The essence of it, however, comes down to this: Godly Christian men and women delight in giving their all to the one who gave His all for them. It cannot be more clearly stated than in the words of the Apostle Paul: “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Let us praise God that, through the power of Christ working in us, we can be godly Christians. Every Christian can give the same testimony: “For me to live is Christ!” I pray that this will be your testimony to the glory of God.


[1] A.W. Tozer, “The Old Cross and the New”


Draw near to Him,


Pastor Tom

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

MAN'S LABOR UNDER THE SUN


The first Monday of September, Labor Day, is a national holiday to honor American workers who have contributed to the security and prosperity of our country. It has been celebrated for this purpose since the late 1800’s. America is a nation built by the sweat of many ordinary people who demonstrated the meaning of a good work ethic, day in and day out. In my own family, I witnessed such an example. My parents and grandparents worked hard to provide for the needs of their families, and, consequently, I was never adverse to a hard day’s work. The word ‘welfare’ was never in our family vocabulary. When I became a Christian, I discovered that the Bible had much to say about the subject of man’s “labor under the sun,” as King Solomon put it (Ecclessiastes 1:3). This should not surprise anyone, since the subject of work makes its first appearance in the very first book of the Bible. Work is God’s idea. The man that God created was not idle prior to his fall into sin. We read in Genesis 2:15, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Exactly what this involved in a perfect creation, we cannot say in detail, and, certainly, his job became much harder after he was banished from the garden (Genesis 3:19); but you can be sure that Adam kept himself busy, doing tasks God had given him to do. Dr. Henry Morris notes: “It is noteworthy that, even in the perfect world as God made it, work was necessary for man’s good. The ideal world is not one of idleness and frolic, but one of serious activity and service. Even in the new earth to come, after sin and the curse have been completely removed, Scripture says that ‘his servants shall serve him’” (Revelation 22:3)[1].

Work is not merely God’s idea; work is intended by God to bring us satisfaction: A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompense of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him“ (Proverbs 12:14). I am sure that, at one time or another, you have taken delight in a job well done, even if it is as simple as cutting the lawn, doing the dishes, or sewing a new dress. No job is too small if our hearts are right and if we see it as God sees it. This leads to my next thought, which is especially relevant to the Christian: The believer’s work or vocation in life is to abound in glory to God. We read in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” This most definitely takes into account the menial, as well as the more significant, tasks and responsibilities of life. It takes into account every type of work we do, without thought of monetary compensation. It should also encourage us to develop the skills we need in order to do the job better than anyone else, for the Scripture says, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before [obscure] men” (Proverbs 22:29). Joseph and Daniel are just two examples of men whose good work habits brought them success and gave them a greater platform for serving God. Furthermore, the work we do should be worthy of the King of Kings. John Piper said, “… the essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God's power, as a conscious quest of God's pattern of excellence, and in deliberate pursuit of God's glory.[2] Just today, a man at our monthly men’s prayer breakfast mentioned that he has had many opportunities to share the Lord with people on his job in the last two weeks. He encouraged the others to pray for such opportunities and to seize the moment when it comes.

Lastly, the Christian must be assured that what we do for God’s glory is never unrewarded: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Although we typically associate the phrase “work of the Lord” with Christian ministry, the idea of a life-calling means that our daily work is part of our ministry. A busy housewife and mother is engaged in full time Christian ministry every bit as much as the busy evangelist or pastor. It is unfortunate that we have come to think in categories which are not biblical. What Christian work is not full time? Do we ever cease to be teachers of God’s Word, godly examples, ambassadors of Christ, or careful stewards of all that God has given us? Christians are called to be shining lights in a dark world, to express the Kingdom of God in the Kingdom of this world in everything they do. So take heart brethren, the God who sees all will reward all your labors under the sun. He has the last say when it comes to the evaluation of your earthly work. I would admonish you to serve Him with all joy of heart and be satisfied where He has placed you at this time in your life. The time may come when your calling in life may change, and you will be given other tasks. The time will certainly come when our earthly labors are over, so please make the most of them. A wise servant of God “redeem[s] the time” (Ephesians 5:16).

“No labour is servile when the Lord’s approval is the paramount consideration.” -Geoffrey B. Wilson


Enjoy the work of your hands, and rest in His unfailing love,


Pastor Tom


[1] Morris, Henry M. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988. p.92
[2] “Why God Wills Work”, A sermon preached on September 4, 1983.