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Showing posts with label Practice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Practice. Show all posts

Monday, July 4, 2022

And We’re Up! - Independence and Experiencing Freedom - Purity 774




And We’re Up! - Independence and Experiencing Freedom - Purity 774

Purity 774 7/4/2022  Purity 774 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a woman paddle boarding underneath an ethereal sky towards the blazing sun comes to us from a friend who shared this photo from their maiden voyage and initial attempts at this sport back on June 20th.   With effort they succeed and happily announced, “And we’re up!” to celebrate their victory and freedom to explore the nearby waterways in a brand new way.  

Today in America, we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day and it is my prayer that my friends celebrate their freedom today in a way that will give them peace and joy! It is also my prayer that we all express our thanks to our country’s forefathers and ancestors who fought for and created our country and the God that blessed their endeavors to establish a country in which we can freely live and worship the Lord.  

On July 4th, 1776, in our nation’s Declaration of Independence, the forefathers of our country  appealed to claim the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”  that we are endowed with by our Creator, God. In the Declaration they listed the offenses of the tyrannical rule of the King of England, declared their intentions to “throw off” the bonds of “Despotism” and “alter their former Systems of Government”.  At summation of the declaration, the forefathers appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world”, again that’s God, to rectify their intentions to govern themselves, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence”. (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript)     

With our declaration, the forefathers stood on the truths regarding freedom that were self-evident, that God created, and made an appeal to the Lord to provide the freedom that they sought, relying on His protection.  History tells the story of how their efforts were blessed with success.  

However, although the forefathers invoked the truth of the order that God created and made an appeal to receive His divine providence on July 4th 1776, the seeds of discord detailed in the declaration had happened years before its signing, and the fighting of what became known as the American Revolutionary War had already begun with the Battle of Lexington in April of 1775 and wouldn’t conclude completely until 1783 when Britain accepted American independence with the Treaty of Paris. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War)  

God’s providential hand can be seen throughout this period of American history but America wasn’t instantly blessed with freedom. Freedom isn’t free. Men and women had to suffer, fight, and die in the process.  Men had to resist the injustices and take action.   So today we should be very grateful for our nation’s founding forefathers and citizenry who paid the cost in order that we can be free.  

And, of course, as Christians we should always be thankful for God for establishing His created order in which it is very evident that all men were created equal, in His image as the word says, and that His word supports the fact of our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . I’m sharing a link an article by Desiring God.org’s John Bloom on that topic today (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/life-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-happiness). 

Of course, as American’s we are free, but unless we are able to exercise our freedom we wouldn’t really be free.  The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, for instance, gives us the freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. (https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/page/things-you-need).  If the government stopped me from sharing my blog or podcast and silenced my voice that wishes to encourage faith in Jesus Christ and living free in Him, I would be able to say that my American freedom was in “name only”, meaning I was free in theory but not in practice.   

Likewise, I challenge Christians to make sure that they are exercising their rights to life everlasting, liberty in Christ, and the pursuit of joy, the happiness that is not based on circumstances and goes beyond all understanding.   If you don’t have joy and peace which could be said to be freedom from fear, anxiety and depression, or if you don’t have freedom from the sins of the flesh, I would say that your claim to life in Christ and Christian freedom is in “name only”, you are not experiencing or exercising your freedom in Christ.

So Today of all days, I would encourage my friends to make a declaration to throw off the oppressive government’s of the world, the flesh, and the devil and declare yourself to be independent of them by paradoxically declaring your freedom by declaring your dependence on God.  

That’s okay, the forefathers did the same thing in our nation’s declaration of independence, they recognized His truth and relied on His divine providence for their success in experiencing their freedom.   

And like a revolutionary war hero, we can follow their example by declaring the injustices of a life of selfishness and sin and the tyrannical rule that we have allowed ourselves to live under by appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World to help us. 

But just like a Minute Man, who risked everything to experience freedom, we too as Christians must be willing to do more than just declare ourselves “independent” from our problems that steal our freedom, we must wage war on them and with the Lord’s help defeat them.   

Through Jesus Christ, God has given us the victory. Through Christ, God has given us freedom. But to be truly free we have to experience it. And to experience it, we must fight the battles of spiritual warfare and strive to live under the government of God’s kingdom rather than the tyrannical rule of the world, the flesh, and the devil.      

So fight the good fight of faith and keep walking and talking with God, and one day – maybe today – you can. Like my friend on her paddle board, announce “And we’re up!” when you experience rising above the things that kept you from living free in Christ!      

 

Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Joel 2:13 (NLT2)
13  Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.

Today’s Bible verse speaks of the heart work that is inherent in turning from the things that grieve us and is required for knowing the Lord’s compassion and mercy.  

Not, for nothing, but choosing to accept Jesus as Lord and choosing to return to the Lord with our initial salvation or after a fall into sin can be some heartbreaking work! The real hurt in this heartbreaking work of repentance though is to our pride mostly but it also can be pain born from the fact that we may have known better but still chose to rebel against the Lord and to go our own way.   

Coming to the realization that our sin is something that is wicked serious, also seriously wicked, and is something that we simply can not pay back is a heart breaking loss of our belief of our self sufficiency or relative goodness.    When we learn sin is sin and we are as lost as the most despicable rebellious criminal, our pride is destroyed as we realize that there is nothing we can do to save ourself.  The fact of our cosmic treason against the Lord is deserving of punishment and is irredeemable can cause us to lose hope and grieve. 

But the Lord calls us to repentance, forgiveness, and life everlasting through Jesus Christ.   Today’s verse assures us of God’s unfailing love and that the Lord is not out to punish us but we must receive His mercy and compassion through faith in Christ alone.    

When we realize God’s love by accepting Jesus as Lord, our grief turns into joy.   

But today’s verse can also apply to those of us who should know better, who have Jesus as Lord, but have unwittingly or very determinably fallen into sin again!   

Here the Lord is telling us not to beat ourselves up, but to tear our hearts, change our minds, to put our hearts into following Him.    

God’s mercy, compassion, and love are infinite.  So if we stumble, we just need to return to the Lord and we will receive it again but to stop the sin-confess merry go round of shame, we need to tear our hearts and return to the Lord with all of our heart, all of our minds, and all of our strength to experience the freedom that comes from following Him.   

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

Jesus on the Attack—Exorcism

Jesus’ activity in casting out evil spirits was one of the most remarkable things about him to the people of his day. The Gospel writers devoted substantial portions of their narrative, recounting Jesus’ engagement with these spirits. It is thus important to draw out the meaning of this significant activity of Jesus.

As Jesus began his ministry, he described himself as fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1–2:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Lk 4:18–19, italics mine)

The Father sent Jesus to proclaim a message of liberation—liberation for people enslaved to sin and trapped in the bondage and oppression of Satan’s kingdom. Jesus interpreted Isaiah’s “prisoners” not as literal criminals in chains serving their just sentence for a crime (as, for example, imprisoned debtors). Jesus came to set free all those imprisoned by sin—prisoners of Satan.

While Luke used the Isaiah passage to set the stage for his entire Gospel, Jesus’ conflict with Satan and his evil powers has a major part in all of the Gospels. Many commentators have remarked on the overtones of Jesus’ message of liberation for the forgiveness of sins, but surprisingly few have brought out the spiritual dimension of this liberation—freedom from captivity to Satan’s kingdom.

Significantly, in Luke’s Gospel, immediately after Jesus preached in the synagogue at Nazareth, he released a man from control of a demon in the synagogue of Capernaum (Lk 4:31–37; Mk 1:23–28). This incident is the first time we see Jesus on the attack. He exerted his divine power to free the man from the tyrannizing influence of the evil spirit.

In stark contrast to the elaborate methods of the exorcists of his time, Jesus merely uttered a simple command: “Be quiet and come out of him.” Typically, Jewish and Hellenistic exorcistic formulas consisted of invoking numerous deities, using magical names (unintelligible combinations of letters), the use of some kind of magical material (such as a gem or a piece of lead) and often the performance of some rite. Jesus, however, is able to cast out the spirits by his own authority, much to the surprise of the leaders of the Capernaum synagogue and the crowds.

This manifestation of his power often resulted in a popular notoriety that Jesus was quick to suppress. Nevertheless, Jesus healed many from their direct demonic affliction. In addition to the specific accounts of exorcism in the Gospels are a number of summary statements recounting Jesus’ frontal assault on Satan’s kingdom. Mark, for instance, tells us that at Capernaum, “the whole city had gathered at the door. And he healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk 1:33–34 NASB). Exorcism was an ongoing part of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Jesus gives a parabolic explanation of the meaning of his exorcisms in all three synoptic Gospels (Mk 3:20–30; Mt 12:22–30; Lk 11:14–23). His statement came in response to an incisive accusation from Jewish authorities from Jerusalem. They accused Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebub (an alias of Satan) and of performing his many exorcisms by the ruler of the demons.

In response Jesus contends, first of all, that it is foolish to think Satan would work against his own purposes by fighting against his own forces. If he does, he is finished! Second, Jesus relates the following parable:

No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. (Mk 3:27; see also Mt 12:29; Lk 11:21–22.)

From the context of Jesus’ words it is clear “the strong man” is a reference to Satan, and his “house” corresponds to his kingdom. “Possessions” are Satan’s greatest value and are not things, but people. Satan holds unbelieving humanity in bondage. Christ has come to engage this “strong man” and plunder his house; that is, to release the captives in Satan’s kingdom.

This passage thus becomes a very important testimony to Jesus’ mission. It provides additional clarification to the nature of the atonement. Jesus came not only to deal with the problem of sin in the world, but also to deal with God’s prime supernatural opponent—Satan himself!

Jesus’ many exorcisms clearly demonstrate his power over the evil one. They also provide numerous examples of Jesus’ ability to “bind” Satan and “rob his house.” In Mark’s account of the Gerasene demoniac, a man plagued with perhaps thousands of demons, it is highly significant to note that “no one could bind him” (Mk 5:1–20, esp. v. 3). With only the concise command, “come out of the man, you unclean spirit,” Jesus freed this man from horrific demonic influence.

The exorcisms, however, were not adequate by themselves to deal in any decisive way with the devil and his powers; that is, to “tie him up.” They can only foreshadow an event of much greater importance. Early Christian tradition uniformly looks to the cross/resurrection event as the point of fundamental significance in Christ’s conflict with the powers (Jn 12:31–33; Acts 2:34–35; Eph 1:20–22; Col 2:15; Phil 2:9–11; Heb 2:14; 1 Jn 3:8). It was through this event that Satan and his hosts were dealt the fatal blow that spelled their final doom. The “strong man” was defeated.

Having defeated Satan, Christ is able to plunder his kingdom through the church’s evangelistic outreach. The parable of the binding of the strong man probably provided great encouragement to the evangelistic efforts of the early church. Since Satan was in some sense “tied up” at the cross, the church (as Christ’s agents) could now “carry off his possessions.”

The demons themselves seemed to be aware of the significance of Christ’s mission when they said to him, “Have you come to destroy us?” (Mk 1:24). This statement looks beyond their defeat at the cross to forebode their ultimate eschatological destruction at Christ’s Second Coming. The strong man was indeed vanquished at the cross, but he is still active and still powerful. He has no authority over Christ and the kingdom of God—this was settled at the cross. Until the kingdom of God comes in its fullness, however, Satan will continue opposing God’s people in an attempt to extend his own kingdom. The church needs to watch, pray and proclaim the gospel.

Matthew and Luke make it clear that the exorcisms are in some way a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom. Jesus once told his accusers, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit [finger in Luke] of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt 12:28; Lk 11:20). Ethelbert Stauffer explains the meaning in this way, “The Kingdom of God is present where the dominion of the adversary has been overthrown.” His explanation certainly does not exhaust the full meaning of God’s kingdom, but it does place an appropriate emphasis on the meaning of the kingdom in relationship to the work of Satan. Susan Garrett remarks, “As the Kingdom of Satan diminishes, the Kingdom of God grows proportionately.… Every healing, exorcism, or raising from the dead is a loss for Satan and a gain for God.”7[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTxjSNstREpuGWuL0bF3U7w/featured

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship


[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 77–80.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Practice? Preparing and Walking in Victory Every Day – Purity 739


Practice?  Preparing and Walking in Victory Every Day – Purity 739

Purity 739 05/24/2022 Purity 739 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo on a rainbow over a fenced in manicured lawn comes to us from a friend who captured this backyard scene from their suburban home in Jefferson Iowa back on May 13th and shared it on social media proclaiming: “God’s promise in the sky this morning!”  

Well, it’s Tuesday and although the promise of the rainbow is God’s promise to all living creatures on the earth that He would not allow floodwaters to destroy all life again. see: Genesis 9:12-17, it should also remind us that God is sovereign, and that wickedness will be judged according to His word (Mal 4:1), as scripture also promises the return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign and that there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1) as this current world will be burned, (2 Peter 3:1-18). 

So any fears about a global loss of life due to the melting of the polar ice caps can be put to rest, but just because the world is destined to be destroyed and remade doesn’t mean we should not be good stewards to it as man’s original purpose was to “subdue” or govern (Gen 1:28 NLT) the earth.  We are supposed to take care of it.  

That’s why last night, I didn’t just allow nature to continue to take its course unheeded and spent two hours mowing the lawn around my house!  You know, many things are subjective in terms of what we “ought to do” in life but I think we can all admit that a lawn that is regularly maintained is more appealing than one that is uncared for.  I mean check out the lawn in today’s photo! I think they even mowed it in patterns. That’s pretty sweet!   

Anyway, I certainly didn’t mean to be doom and gloom this morning by reminding the dark side of the promise of the rainbow, but inherent in it is the indication that there is a God who is in control who will judge wickedness and there is a need to be made right with Him.   

Unlike my efforts at taming the lawn around my house which is rewarded and accomplished based on the sweat of my own efforts, God’s level of holiness is not something we can satisfactorily accomplish by our works.  

But God was gracious and made a way for all mankind to be saved: through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  As

Romans 10:9 (NKJV) tells us
9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  

And

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) proclaims that it is not our works that save us as it says:
8  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9  not of works, lest anyone should boast.

So, if we place our faith in Christ, we are good to go, right?  Yes, of course! But Christ’s earthly ministry shows us that we are to:

Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)
19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. 

So we are to follow Christ in all that we do and be ‘fishers of men (Matt 4:19). 

Some may say: Yeah but  If we are really saved, do we really have to worry about obeying the word of God? We are forgiven, can’t we just chill?”  

As Christian there is an expectation that we will changed, repent of our sins, and pursue a righteous life based on the word of God as Christ taught his disciples and the multitudes who came to hear Him speak:

Matthew 5:48 (NKJV)
48  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Perfect!?!?  Relax no body is perfect, except Jesus,  as 1 John 1:9 proclaims if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. But just like my unruly lawn that will grow all over the place if not tended to, it doesn’t mean that we just let “nature take its course” and allow sin to remain unchecked in our lives.  And as much as 1 John 1:9 tells us that we sin, the rest of that letter to the church is written so that we may not sin.    

So the implication is that we should “practice” to approach perfection.

Now I may never have the “perfect lawn”, but if I am diligent to mow it regularly it will be easier to tend to and the fact that it has been dealt with and I am taking measures to control it, I will have  a measure of peace about it that I can maintain.    

Likewise, because of Christ our sins have been “dealt with” once and for all. We are forgiven and are freed from it (Romans 8:2).  But we have to make our freedom from sin evident in our lives by making the volitional choice to turn from our worldly ways and decide to live according to God’s wisdom.  

Like breaking any bad habit, our success in overcoming one bad habit is greatly increased when we replace it with a good habit.  Instead of smoking, I’ll take a walk or go for a run or read a book or whatever.   This simple demonstration of behavior modification is demonstrated in the New Testament Epistles to the church that are filled with practical advice on Christian living.  

When I first made Jesus my Lord and Savior, I understood that Christians should read the Bible and pray.   So early on as I really wanted my faith to be “real”, I adopted both prayer and Bible reading and developed what I now think of as my “daily spiritual practice”.  Simply, each morning I set time aside to read God’s word and to pray.   These core disciplines have renewed my mind and have developed a close personal relationship with my Heavenly Father.  

This “practice” has not exactly made me perfect yet but I can attest to great victories over some of my besetting sins, bad habits, and negative mind states. Although I was “saved” the instanc I placed my faith in Christ, the victories in these areas were the result of my commitment to follow the Lord in these core practices daily and to the willingness to follow the Lord’s leading in other good works that have developed my faith and spiritual gifts.

When it comes to our faith, far too many Christians aren’t “practicing” and just show up on “game day” at their weekly worship service, and unfortunately their own testimonies and frequent requests for support and prayer reveal that they are not enjoying the abundant life of freedom and victory that is available to them.  

I honestly believe that vast majority of the church does not even know that freedom and victory over sin and negative mind states is even possible.  I knew before that before I was able to overcome the multitude of my problems, I thought those Bible promises were “pie in the sky” promises that didn’t apply to the real world.  

But then I “practiced” and knew experientially that the “real world” was under the sovereign control of the very “real” and very alive God who had graciously brought me into His royal family through faith in Jesus Christ and had given me the power to resist the world, the flesh, and the devil, and experience the victory and freedom that is available to all who choose to walk in the Spirit.   

In Allen Iverson’s “famous rant”, about “Practice” which was 20 years ago, people have wrongly assumed that he didn’t value it.  But the context of that interview was in the wake of a loss,  where he was honest about the scrutiny he was under and because he didn’t have success, he found himself being questioned about the reason why he didn’t succeed.   After that outburst, where he was really just marveling over how practice was being focused on when the important thing was the game he just lost, he reiterated his beliefs that practice was very important.  And it is.  

Whether it is basket ball or following the Lord and attempting to overcome our sin, bad habits, and negative mind states, we need to be diligent in practicing the fundamentals.  

Practice has a purpose and that purpose is victory, freedom, and peace.

So keep walking and talking with God, every day.  If we want to be right with God and to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we have to diligent in seeking the Lord through the practices of prayer and Bible Study.   Through our efforts of prayer and Bible, we get to know God more and we get to know what it is we “ought to” do as Christians.  And when we do what God indicates what we “ought to do”, we will experience victory over the darkness, freedom from the chains that used to hold us done, and the peace that comes from living a righteous life according to God.  

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Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Romans 1:2-3 (NLT2)
2  God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.
3  The Good News is about his Son, Jesus. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line,

Today’s Bible verse reminds us that the Good News was predicted in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ is the fulfillment.  

The Bible is the story of God and it points to Christ as the Messiah. It is simultaneously a proof of the truth of scripture and a proof of Jesus as the coming king.  

Today’s commentary on this one is short. Read the Bible to know story and see that it is a true story that is good news to all who put their faith in Christ.

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

Today we continue sharing from John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”.  

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase John Pipers’ books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $5.00.

2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.

It is helpful to ask how human beings differ from beavers and hummingbirds and spiders and ants. It helps get at the essence of how humans honor God with their work. These creatures are very hard workers and make very intricate and amazing things. So there must be more to our God-honoring work than such creativity and industry—unless we are willing to say that we glorify God with our work no differently than the animals.

Deputies of God Subduing the Earth for His Glory

What’s the difference? Consider the first biblical words about man’s creation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ ” (Genesis 1:27–28). Our creation in God’s image leads directly to our privilege and duty to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. In other words, we should be busy understanding and shaping and designing and using God’s creation in a way that calls attention to his worth and wakens worship.

Being in the image of God means at least that we should image forth God. We should reflect what he is really like. And we should do that not to make ourselves look great (as imagers) but to make him look great (as Creator). People make images of famous people to honor them. God made man in his own image so that he would be seen and enjoyed and honored through what man does.

Then he said, first of all, that what man does is work. He subdues and takes dominion over the earth. This implies that part of what it means to be human is to exercise lordship over creation and give the world shape and order and design that reflects the truth and beauty of God. God makes man, so to speak, his ruling deputy and endows him with God-like rights and capacities to subdue the world—to use it and shape it for good purposes, especially the purpose of magnifying the Creator.

Work Is Not a Curse; Futility Is

So if you go all the way back, before the origin of sin, there are no negative connotations about secular work. According to Genesis 2:2, God himself rested from his work of creation, implying that work is a good, God-like thing. And the capstone of that divine work was man, a creature in God’s own image designed to carry on the work of ruling and shaping and designing creation. Therefore, at the heart of the meaning of work is creativity. If you are God, your work is to create out of nothing. If you are not God, but like God—that is, if you are human—your work is to take what God has made and shape it and use it to make him look great.

How We Differ From Beavers

But here is where the beavers come in. A beaver subdues his surroundings and shapes a dam for a good purpose, a house. He seems to enjoy his work; and even the diligence and skill of the beaver reflects the glory of God’s wisdom.

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

1The Lord God made them all.

And God is glorified in them all. “Let the rivers clap their hands … the hills sing for joy … and the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 98:8; 19:1). So what is the difference between a human being at work and a beaver at work? Or for that matter, a bee or a hummingbird or an ant? They all work hard; they subdue their surroundings and shape them into amazing structures that serve good purposes. The difference is that humans are morally self-conscious and make choices about their work on the basis of motives that may or may not honor God.

No beaver or bee or hummingbird or ant consciously relies on God. No beaver ponders the divine pattern of order and beauty and makes a moral choice to pursue excellence because God is excellent. No beaver ever pondered the preciousness and purpose of God and decided for God’s sake to make a dam for another beaver and not for himself. But humans have all these potentials, because we are created in God’s image. We are created to image forth God in these ways. When God commissions us to subdue the earth—to shape it and use it—he doesn’t mean do it like a beaver. He means do it like a human, a morally self-conscious person who is responsible to do his work intentionally for the glory of his Maker.

To be sure, when God sends us forth to work as his image-bearers, our ditches are to be dug straight, our pipe-fittings are not to leak, our cabinet corners should be flush, our surgical incisions should be clean, our word processing accurate and appealing, and our meals nutritious and attractive, because God is a God of order and beauty and competence. But cats are clean, and ants are industrious, and spiders produce orderly and beautiful works. And all of them are dependent on God. Therefore, the essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God’s power, and in conscious quest of God’s pattern of excellence, and in deliberate aim to reflect God’s glory.

Doing Good Work and Sleeping Well

When you work like this—no matter what your vocation is—you can have a sweet sense of peace at the end of the day. It has not been wasted. God has not created us to be idle. Therefore, those who abandon creative productivity lose the joy of God-dependent, world-shaping, God-reflecting purposeful work. “Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). Jonathan Edwards made it a rule that personal piety to the neglect of secular duties is hypocritical. He described his own wife (“the person”) to illustrate the opposite:

“Oh how good,” said the person once, “it is to work for God in the daytime, and at night to lie down under his smiles!” High experiences and religious affections in this person have not been attended with any disposition at all to neglect the necessary business of a secular calling, to spend time in reading and prayer, and other exercises of devotion; but worldly business has been attended with great alacrity, as part of the service of God; the person declaring that it being done thus, “’tis found to be as good as prayer.”

True personal piety feeds the purposeful work of secular vocations rather than undermining it. Idleness does not grow in the soil of fellowship with God. Therefore, people who spend their lives mainly in idleness or frivolous leisure are rarely as happy as those who work. Retired people who are truly happy have sought creative, useful, God-honoring ways to stay active and productive for the sake of man’s good and God’s glory.

To be sure, we should help each other find and keep work. We should care about the larger problem of unemployment. It is not first an economic problem, though it is that. It is first a theological problem. Human beings are created in the image of God and are endowed with traits of their Creator that fit them for creative, useful, joyful, God-exalting work. Therefore, extensive idleness (when you have the ability to work) brings down the oppression of guilt and futility.

So the second way we make much of God in our secular work is through the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry. God created us for work so that by consciously relying on his power and consciously shaping the world after his excellence, we might be satisfied in him, and he might be glorified in us. And when we remember that all this God-exalting creativity and all this joy is only possible for undeserving sinners like us because of the death of Christ, every hour of labor becomes a boasting in the cross.[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 138–142.