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Exploring My Strange Bible Podcast
Exploring My Strange Bible Podcast
Theology of Work • Episode 2
A Future for My Work
48m • August 30, 2017
This is the second of a two part series that I did about work and vocation from a Christian perspective.
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Should the fact that I am a follower of Jesus mean that I think differently about my work and career? If so, how? In this teaching, I explore how our hopes about the ultimate outcome of history have a significant impact on how we think about our day to day jobs and career goals. Many Christians adopt the view that the world will ultimate be destroyed when Jesus returns, and that our day to day lives don't matter very much. But this is the opposite of what we find in the teaching of the Apostle Paul. We'll look at 1 Corinthians 15 and Colossians 3 to see how Paul believed that the eternal, redeemed nature of the new creation made our day to day work more meaningful, not less.

Theology of Work Part 1  –  1hr
A Story about Work
1hr
Theology of Work Part 2  –  48m
A Future for My Work
48m

[01:00:33]

Speakers in the audio file:

Tim Mackie


Tim Mackie: Hey everybody. I'm Tim Mackie and this is my Podcast, Exploring my

Strange Bible.

I am a card-carrying Bible history and language nerd who thinks

that Jesus of Nazareth is utterly amazing and worth following with

everything that you have.

On this podcast, I'm putting together the last 10 years' worth of

lectures and sermons where I have been exploring the strange and

wonderful story of the Bible and how it invites us into the mission of

Jesus and the journey of faith and I hope this could be helpful for

you too.

I also help start this thing called The Bible Project, we make

animated videos and podcast about all kinds of topics in Bible and

theology. You can find those resources at the BibleProject.com. With

all that said, let's dive into the episode for this week.

Hey there. Thanks for listening to The Strange Bible podcast. This is

the second of a two-part series that I did a long time ago about

thinking theologically about work. Should the fact that I'm a

follower of Jesus mean that I think uniquely or differently about my

work and career than somebody who's not a follower of Jesus?

I think so. I think the story line that Jesus invites us to live and be a

part of has a dramatic effect and significance for how we think

about our day to day work. And this message, which was the last

part of the series, we think about how do we think about our day to

day efforts at work in the light of history's ultimate outcome in the

renewed and redeemed creation?

There are many versions of Christian story out there that say, "Oh,

your day to day life efforts, you know, they don't really ultimately

matter because they're not of eternal value whether or not you

change the oil in your car or what you do at work, emails or this

year's project, whatever, for this quarter. Whatever."

Is that true? Does that actually reflect the teaching of Jesus and the

Apostles? And what I discovered is that it doesn't. It seems to me

that specifically, the Apostle, Paul, who worked out the theology of

work more than any of the other Apostles, he really believed that

the eternal redeemed nature of the new creation doesn't make our

day to day work here and now meaningless. Rather, he believed it

made it more meaningful.

How? Why is that the case? That's what we're going to explore in

this teaching.

We're going to continue on tonight in our new teaching series

called Labor of Love on Work and we're exploring what a robust,

full, kind of Christian vision of work and what we do with our day to

day hours and what we're actually going to be doing with those

hours for many, many, many years to come. And how does that

integrate and what significance does our work have in light of our

commitment to Jesus?

And so, in the first week, we look back for the first pages of the

Bible. We look to the past to find this vision of work from the first

chapters of Genesis, if you may recall. And so, we found this

profound story about the meaning of work and that it's a divine gift,

that God was the first worker and He works by taking what is chaos

or disorder and turning it into order and beauty for the benefit of

other people and that He commissions human beings to do the

same, to remake the earth for the benefit of others.

And we are not going to look at the past or the present, we're

going to look to the future. If we're telling a new story work, we

kind of need to take the whole sweep of what the Scriptures were

telling us about work. And so, tonight we're going to ask a question

that may or may not have occurred to you before but it's actually a

really prominent thing in the New Testament.

And that is to ask about the future of our work. Whatever we do

with our day to day work, what are we contributing to and what is

the future about what we're putting our lives into in our work? Now

if this were messaged in the last series, on Ecclesiastes, this would

be quite a short message and well, actually I gave that message and

it wasn't short.

But basically, it was like, life here under the sun, it's an enigma. It's a

paradox. And work, if this is all we got, you know, our 70-year shot

here, then it's like we're making castles in the sand.

That is not a full, kind of robust, question view. A question view of

work envisions a very important future to what it is we spend our

days doing here in the present and that's best what we're after

tonight. And we kind of paint a mental picture that I think will kind

of help frame us and then we'll dive to the Scriptures.

One of the things that I love and find quirky about life here, the east

side of the river here-

[05:00]

In Portland, this is a practice that happens in apartment duplex land

which is much of East Portland. East Portland here, older hung,

older sidewalks. There's the green grass strip and you can always

tell if you're, like, walking around a neighborhood if someone has

moved out of their apartment recently, yes? Yeah? Because no

one's around? What's that?

How do you know if someone's moved out of the duplex house or

something? Right, what's that? Yes, exactly. All of the free stuff that

they discard on the lawn, you know, or on the sidewalk. And so, you

kind of stock up.

Because there's this, like, a mattress stacked up, half a sectional

sofa, you know what I mean? Like, a dilapidated lamp or something.

And you guys know what I'm talking about here. You just walk

around, it's just free stuff.

And so, in the eyes of some people, they, like me, because I'm

riding my bike around or whatever and I see a pile of stuff, what I

mostly see is, like, sofa chair that's, like, been in the rain for five

days or something, you know. And they just look like junk to me,

you know what I mean?

It looks dilapidated and run down. I don't like that stuff. So that's

some of us.

Others of us look at that same exact pile of stuff. You see, like,

potential. You see your next dresser, or you see your next end table

or something like that. And mattress, I still think it's really gross.

Period. Especially if it's been out in the rain. But I don't know, some

people do whatever they do.

So, you know what I'm saying here. Some people are like this. And if

you've ever been with, my wife is like this, when we lived in

Madison it was not infrequent for her to come home and say, "Hey,

can you help me get this to the other trunk? I just, you know,-"

There's some, like, chair and end table or something and then I was

usually commissioned with a work and just kind of have a go to

refurbish it or something.

But some people, they just have these imaginations. They look at

the same thing that I see as a pile of junk. They see what it could

become, and they just have a bigger imagination than I do, you

know? And because of that, then all of a sudden this has value and

meaning to them, what to other people is just meaningless or it has

no value.

And what's great, there's a lot of these wonderfully creative

recycling refurbishing kind of things happening here in Portland,

lots of websites dedicated to it. Have you heard about a website

called Design Sponge before? I don't think it was based in Portland

but there's a lot of intersection and so on.

I actually think the website can be much cooler, but they have a

whole section of their website that's just called Before and After.

And its stuff that people find on the side of the road or that, you

know, they moved in to homes or condos or something. They're

just trashed and then it's the before and after pictures with the

story of what they saw.

It's really fascinating just to see what people do. So, for example, so

this is very typical of what you'd see on, like, 17th and Madison or

something right here. You know what I mean? It's like a trash,

coffee table, a desk of some kind on the sidewalk.

But some of you would think, no, I can refinish that thing. And the

chrome, just totally paint that map black, you know what I mean?

Take off some dilapidated panels and boom, you have this, like,

kind of mid-century vintage-looking coffee table. Yeah?

Some of you have this in you. Just one other example because you

might not like that piece. This one was really cool. So, this is five

discarded desk drawers that's someone and apparently, it seems

like they stained it or something. And then, you know, this is very

typical of what you would find on the curb.

And then so, someone thought, "No, no. That's not going to go to

the dump. So, I'm going to get little, almost like thin, maybe three-quarter

inch plumbing pipe or something and make this little-"

Look at that, isn't that awesome? It's like this end table type thing.

So, to me, that is such a remarkable feat of the imagination. You

know what I'm saying? One person sees this junk, another person

sees this potential for value. You get the point here.

And so, we live this principle. Our many, many days, this is a

personality type difference and so on. But I will submit to you that

the same difference in ways of seeing happens to us with our work.

And I would submit to you that if I'm a Christian, if I've come to

accept what the gospel has to say about me, then I'm not okay on

my own.

I'm made with God's image. There's a lot of wonderful things about

all of us but at our core, we're not okay. We're not doing all right.

Before God or just with ourselves. We're deeply flawed and

compromised. I need to be healed. I need to be forgiven and

remade as a human being.

The good news that the gospel tells me that through the cross and

the resurrection of Jesus, that's possible and it's being offered to

me. I submit to you that if that's my view of the world, if I'm

growing in following Jesus and letting that story shape me, I'd

submit to you that it's precisely this kind of mindset that should be

growing inside of all of us.

[10:00]

That when we see things that the world values, that doesn't value or

sees as junk or kicked to the curb, kind of thrown out on the

sidewalk, but then a Christian sees it and says, "No, there's value

here." And there's nowhere where this happens more than I think

with our work.

For many of us, we see such a huge disconnect between our work

and then our commitment to following Jesus. And I think for many

of us, it's just a result of a stunted imagination. We just simply don't

have the eyes to see what's possible in and through our work and

then our workplaces.

What we see as maybe not of any value at all for my journey of

following Jesus, it's just my work. It's just what I do for a paycheck.

But the Scriptures are going to urge us to see that there's

something much, much more because there's a future.

What we are working with in the present has value for the future. In

what way? What way? That's what we're going to look at here.

Okay, open your Bibles with me and turn to the New Testament to

the small little letter of Colossians. Paul's letter to the Colossians,

Chapter 3. We're going to kind of briefly touch down here and then

let this passage launch us into a theme in the New Testament that I

think is really, really profound.

Colossians Chapter 3, and we're going to look at Verses 23 and 24.

And I should also say, I hate doing this. We're reading two

sentences just in, like, the middle of a paragraph that's developing a

whole interesting line of thought and we're just going to rip the

letter out of context, you know.

Feeling bad, out of context, what I mean is it's addressed to a

specific group of people in the church or whatever, but it develops

principles that are true for all Christians, all places in all times. And

so, there's too many rabbit trails if we try and do all of Colossians

through. Okay, I've said enough already.

Chapter 3, verse 23: Paul says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all

your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human men since you

know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

It is the Lord Christ that you are serving."

A couple of simple questions: First of all, basic point, if you're

Christian, who do you work for? Jesus. We work for Jesus or

something. No, no, no. Stop, stop. Do you understand what you just

said? Do you understand the implications of what you just said?

You gain a paycheck from your employer but if you're a Christian,

you don't work for them. You lend them your time and your energy,

your allegiance, and you work for another. You work for Jesus who

calls you to be the most excellent, most integrity-full worker in

whatever workplace you happen to find yourself.

But this is such a powerful and what kind of work qualifies as work

that can be done for Jesus? Look closely again. Anything. Do you

see what I'm getting at? Whatever you do, whatever you do.

And again, we can say those words out loud. I guarantee you most

of us don't actually believe that. If we would, like, have a panel up

here and we would have, like, a cab driver, a general contractor, a

pastor, a barista, and a missionary, and I was to say, "Who does the

work of the Lord of this group up here?"

And we'd say, "Well, the religious, professional Christians," you

know? Right, the paid Christians, you know? The pastor and the

missionary. So somehow, to one degree or another, we have

bought into this idea that there is this part of my life that is the

secular part and unless I work at a church and be a missionary or

something to, I don't know, I just do it to earn money or something.

And then there's the Jesus part of my life that I do maybe at my

community group and then I volunteer at the church and then I go

to a Sunday gathering or something, have coffee with some friends

and read the Bible together. And that's the Jesus part. There they

go.

And I guarantee you, that way of thinking about your life and the

world, first of all, it's completely foreign to the New Testament. But I

believe that actually, it's a damaging way of viewing your life. It's a

schizophrenic way of living as a Christian.

The whole idea underneath what Paul is saying right here is you

belong to Jesus. If I have given my allegiance to the One who loved

me and gave Himself for me, He gave His life in place of mine, if I'm

a Christian, that means I don't belong to myself. Like Paul says in

Corinthians 1:6, you don't belong to yourself. You were bought with

a price, with Jesus' life.

And so, every single part of my life now, my relationships, my time,

my resources, my work, these just become different areas where I’m

working out how is this part of my life an expression of gratitude in

a way of honoring the One who loved me and gave His life for me.

And now all of a sudden, all of life is fair game and it doesn't matter

what you do. It becomes the Lord's work.

[15:00]

It becomes the work of Lord. You guys with me here? Now again,

we can read the verses and we can understand, I guarantee most of

us don't actually believe that. And so, I'm not going to leave, just

end the message right here because I think that's such a profound

concept.

There is no such thing as a job that pleases the Lord more than

another, is it's work being done in the Lord. I know plenty of pastors

who, yeah, they're not really working for the Lord. So, they're

working for themselves. Plenty of cabdrivers and grocery store

checkout people and baristas in this city who are definitely working

for the Lord, you know what I'm saying?

It doesn't matter. It matters that you discern your vocation, your gift

and your talents and the opportunities in front of you. So, Josh is

going to talk about that discernment process next week, but when it

comes down it, there's no such thing as a kind of work that is more

glorifying to God than another.

"Whatever you do," Paul says, "do with all your heart working for

the Lord." Now, look what else. So that's who you work for, right?

You work for the One who loves you and gave Himself for you.

That's who you work for. What are you working for?

Look at Verse 24. This is so interesting. "Since you know that you

will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." So, who are

you working for? I work for Jesus. I happen to be employed by this

person or this business right now. What are you working for?

Well, I'm happy to get a paycheck from my employer but apparently

in Paul's mind, if you are working for the Lord, what you’re actually

aiming towards or what you're investing or building towards is this

inheritance. So, what is that inheritance?

And it's tricky because I think most of us, we think, at least, like in

American culture or whatever, we think inheritance is whether in a

state or some property or some kind of assets or money that I'll get

when somebody does. So, stop. Don't, that's not what Paul is talking

about.

So, Paul's inheritance is the word that Paul uses in all of his letters to

describe the future hope of the Christian. And he borrows this term

from the Old Testament story, the story of Israel.

And so, Israel is redeemed out of slavery in Egypt, right? That led

through the desert and they're brought in to the promised l and,

the land of milk and honey, of goats and bees, right? They got goats

and bees in the promised land.

And that's not for a vacation. It's a place where they're free to live

and work in a way that glorifies Yahweh, the God who redeemed

them out of slavery. And so, one of the most common words in the

Old Testament to describe the promised land is that it's Israel's

inheritance, which means this gift.

When they were in slavery, it was this future gift that was just God

graced them with as an opportunity to work and live with in the way

that honors the One who redeemed them. And so, Paul picks up this

image here from Israel's story and he applies it to Christians.

Whatever it is that I’m doing, it's work that can be done for the Lord.

And when my motives, when my heart is in the right space, what I'm

actually working is not just compensation to survive but I actually

see my life and my work and the way that I work as investing or

going towards this new world that we're going to live and work in.

It was what Paul's getting at here, the inheritance. His way of

referring to the future. And then he just moves on. And you're like,

"Wait, no. I want to know more about that."

So where do we go to discover what this means? And we need to

go Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, the 1 Corinthians 15. And I

promise you, this is a message about work but for the next ten

minutes, it's going to be a message about the resurrection of Jesus

and you'll see how it connects here.

1 Corinthians 15. The basic storyline of going down the sidewalk

and seeing a pile of discarded furniture. Your ability to imagine

something as having a redeemed and a restored future is directly

connected to how much value you see in that pile of furniture in the

present. It's about your imagination, about what's possible here.

And some of us I think have just stunted imaginations when it

comes to our vision of work, our day to day work. And the

resurrection changes everything.

1 Corinthians 15. This is one of Paul's greatest essays on the

resurrection of Jesus. Usually, it gets tottered out at Easter so I'm

always happy to try it out on Easter message because this is such an

important passage in the New Testament. So, he says:

"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I

preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken

your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the

word that I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures-

[20:00]

"That he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day

according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and

then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five

hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom

are still living," you can talk to them. Though same have died, "some

have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the

apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one

abnormally born," at the wrong time.

What he's getting at is this treasure of the story of the gospel that

Paul received, he didn't make it up. He's received it, he's passing it

on to the Corinthians, right? This community of Greek and Roman

people who became Christians nearly a thousand miles away from

where the events of the cross and the resurrection took place.

And as you hear, it's that some of these Christians or people, at least

in the church, they love the Jesus thing, they like the love your

neighbor, forgive your enemies thing, they like that He died for my

sins part. But the whole thing about, like, dead people coming alive

again in physical bodies is just too weird. And so, they're like, "No,

I'm not really into that part."

So, the resurrection, dead people stay dead. Like, haven't you

looked around? Verse 12, Paul says, "Now if we've been preaching

to you that Christ has been raised from the dead, how is it that

some of you are saying, 'Yeah, no, no. We don't believe in the

resurrection of the dead'?"

So, Paul's point isn't that it's hard to believe in the resurrection of

the dead. It's a very crazy thing to consider and to imagine. But he's

saying, this is a core part of the gospel. It's not, like, some tangent.

Go down to Verse 16. He said, "Listen, if dead people aren’t raised,

if there's no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been

raised either.

"And if Christ hasn't been raised, then your faith is futile. You're still

in your sins. If there's no resurrection of the dead, if Christ wasn't

raised from the dead, then He's simply yet another victim of sin and

evil and death. That's not a new story. That story's been told billions

of times now in the history of the human race."

And so, what makes the gospel good news and what it makes it

such a game changer and reorient your whole view of the world

because all of a sudden, what seemed inevitable is no longer the

inevitable. And what's seen like it was the last word is no longer the

last word that is death as a result of evil and sin in our world.

And so, he goes on and he says in verse 18, he says, "Those also

who have fallen asleep in Christ, they're lost if there's no

resurrection from the dead. And if only for this life we have to hope

in Christ." If this is it and there's no resurrection of the dead, then

we're the most pitiable people on the planet.

But he responds, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, He's

the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep for those who have

died. Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead

also comes through a man. As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be

made alive."

Okay, holy cow. What's going on right now? When I draw a picture

that I've drawn a couple of times in the last few months. So, during

the 90-day, kind of, youth fellowship in [inaudible 00:23:13], we

explored themes like the kingdom of God or concepts of heaven on

earth and heaven and hell and so on.

And so, one of the things that we discovered, a major thing in the

New Testament is that the story or the picture that many of us have

about earth and heaven, it's a distorted picture. Many of us have

grown up or we think that Christianity somehow teaches the view

that we have here the physical earth where we live and then there's

God's space, which is a non-physical space because God is a spirit.

And so, God made this physical space for us living and we've ruined

it, of course, really horrible. Full of sin and death. Then God, in His

grace, became a physical being in Jesus and died on the cross for

our sins so that those who looked at him for forgiveness after they

die can go to this place forever and ever after they die. And then

one day, this will just all get wiped off the map.

Now, again, I don't know where you're at in terms of if you think this

is your world view or whatever so, I would just encourage you. The

only thing wrong with this view, most of what the Bible is trying to

say. And not only that, but this view will lead you to a dead end in

the Christian view of work.

Because essentially what you get is, work is what you do. You're

getting it out here and it's a way to honor God, it's a way to provide

for yourself and provide for people who depend on you, what have

you. But there's no future to it because you're going to hit the grave

and then boom, you evacuate. You're gone.

And this is often connected with views of heaven and it's just like

one big vacation or something like that, you know, and no longer

working.

And so, all I can say is this is just simply not what the Scriptures are

trying to tell us so let's do away with that. Let's figure out what

Paul-

[25:00]

Is saying.

So, Paul's basic view, he's just been reading his Bible. And again, this

will be a review for many of you in repetition but that's the best way

to learn something, yeah? So, the story of the Bible begins with

earth and heaven completely overlapping and unified.

And so, this image of where God and humans take afternoon strolls

through the garden at the breezy time of day, this intimacy and this

harmony. And the original vision was that God's space and humans'

space completely overlapped and it's completely meshed and one

with each other.

But of course, the story gets much more complicated because God

commissions the humans to work and to flourish and to begin

remaking the earth to flourish so that it can benefit others as the

humans reproduce and so on. And He gives them a choice about

how they can go about their work.

And so, we covered this in the first message. And so, where it ends

up is that the good times last about a page and a half. What

happens because God in His mercy allows these image-bearing

creatures to have a degree of autonomy and will and choice. And

so, what we choose is that, "Yeah, we're kind of into this whole work

and running the world thing. We just don't want to do it according

to God's way of defining good and evil. We wanted to find all of

that for ourselves."

And so, where you end up with is what the Biblical authors call the

age of this world or the world or the realm of death because of sin

and evil. And so, the storyline of the Bible of course is that humans

can't actually push God out of His own creation. That's a ridiculous

idea.

But He does allow us to create little realms of semi-independence in

where things are horrible. But God's never completely absent. He's

always pressing in, making himself known to people and often,

that's, like a guy named Jacob, he lays down in the desert and he

sleeps on a rock.

And then he has this dream then all of a sudden, he realizes he's in

God's presence. He wakes up and he says, "Holy cow, this is, like,

God's space and I didn't even know it. In the middle of the desert,

for goodness sakes," you know?

And so, these moments where human eyes are open to the reality

that God's space and humans' space is still connected. And so, what

the story of the Bible ultimately leads us towards is that the story of

Jesus is this moment where God is reclaiming and taking back His

world and the first invasion, so to speak, is the Creator, God,

absorbing into Himself the sin and the pain of the world and Jesus

taking that on the cross so that God's realm of life can begin a slow

takeover.

And so really, the story of the Bible, what Jesus taught His followers

to pray for is to pray for God's kingdom to come where? Here on

earth. When Jesus taught us to pray that prayer, "May Your will be

done here, and kingdom come here on earth as is it is in heaven,"

we're asking God to take over more of us, we're asking God to

absorb the pain and the sin and the evil and my own selfishness so

that more of my life can begin to be taken over by heaven.

And of course, the way that the story ends is with heaven and earth

united once again. We'll read about that in just a few minutes.

But this is the storyline that Paul has in mind here. And so, if this is

the case, let me just ask you: what is the meaning of your work

then? Because see, if I'm a Christian, then work is something I do in

the present age.

But Paul just said in Colossians 3, he said, "What are you working

for?" You work for Jesus. And what are you working for? Inheritance.

Somehow my working in the present when I’m doing it for the Lord,

I'm making a contribution to the world that will last. You guys with

me?

Verse 50, Paul says: "I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh

and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the

perishable inherit the imperishable." You could read that as, "Well,

we're physical being and we can't go to heaven because it's nonphysical."

But it's not what he means here.

When Paul uses this word "flesh," this is the word that he uses to

describe the physical world as you and I experience it now. It's a

world compromised by sin and death. And so, this realm is in such

conflict with the purity and the power of God's presence that there

has to be some kind of transformation if heaven and earth are

going to come back together again.

So, it's precisely what he says, verse 51. He says: "Listen, I tell you a

mystery: We're not all going to sleep or die, but rather we will all

be," and what's the word he uses? "Changed— in a flash, in the

twinkling of an eye-

[30:00]

"At the last trumpet." It's a reference to the return of Jesus.

"For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable,

and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with

the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the

perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal

with immortality, then the saying that the prophets will become

come true," like Isaiah. “Death is swallowed up in victory."

Or like Hosea, “Where death is your victory, where, oh death is your

sting? The sting of death, the sin, and the power of sin is the law,

but thanks be to God for He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus

Christ.” Amen?

This is such a powerful chapter because what he's saying is we

haven't believed in vain, we don't live in vain because of the cross

and the resurrection. That's like the resurrection of Jesus, he uses

the image firstfruits.

How many of you watched Little House on the Prairie ever growing

up? Yes, five. So, think about there was a time where it was like

Saturday afternoon and we have a long TV in our house and Little

House on the Prairie was on the same hour as the back to back

episodes of Transformers. And so, it was like world war three in the

basement between my sister and I because I'm like, "Little House on

the Prairie? Who'd watch that?"

So anyway, whatever. So, Little House on the Prairie. So, I was the

first to suffer three or few episodes during that season. So, you have

Laura. It's like the wheat harvest or something and, you know, the

season implanted, and they’ve been watering and waiting for the

wheat harvest to come and Laura goes out and she sees the first

little sprouts of grain, right?

And then she gathers it up and she comes to Pa. She comes to Pa

and you know when she's like, "Oh, look. You know, it's the first

wheat." It's the firstfruits.

And Paul says Jesus is the firstfruits from the dead. He's like, "The

first human over whom sin and death no longer have a claim for I

humble myself and I turn to Jesus. I grab onto Him, all of a sudden,

what's true of Him because true of me." And that becomes the basis

for my hope, that there's a whole bunch of meaning that needs to

be left behind here and there’s a whole bunch of meaning that

needs to die right here at the cross if I'm going to become the kind

of fully alive human that God wants me to be.

And how much progress I make this side of Jesus' return, that's

God's grace, but one day, we will be changed. And the whole idea,

of course, is it's not just, like, individuals that are changed. He said,

"This is going to lead to a fundamental remaking of the whole

creation."

A change and transformation which means this: it means that your

workplace, the people that you work with, the kind of work that

you're doing, the impact that you make, the contribution, it's going

to play on in the next generation after you and after you and

somehow, there's some kind of future because we're not polishing

brass on a sinking ship, right?

We're working on a ship that's in terrible disrepair and we'll sink

unless by the grace of God, He comes to transform it. That's the

image.

This is so amazing. Look at the last sentence of Chapter 15. Okay,

discernment on resurrection is over. We'll go back to the work

message. Again, look at Verse 58.

How would you end such an amazingly powerful paragraph? I think

most of us would end it by saying, "Dude, future is certain. I'm

going to have a margarita. I'm going to kick back and relax." You

know? So, I'm not going to sweat it or whatever because, you know?

Jesus rose from the dead. That's now what Paul says, look what he

says.

He says, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let

nothing move you," and get to work. That's what he says. "Always

give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that

your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Now, had we not read Colossians 3, my guess is that most of us

would have thought, you work in the Lord, you labor in the Lord, oh

yeah, like, you know, the Bible study that I have and, like, the time

that I talked with Jesus with a friend about work and, like,

volunteering at the church.

What kind of work qualifies as working for the Lord? What kinds of

work according to Colossians 32? Any kind of work. It does not

matter. Drive a cab, make a latte, be a missionary, be a pastor, be a

contractor. If it's done in the Lord, it is work done for the Lord. It's

the work of the Lord, you guys with me?

Again, I don't think we actually believe this but it's precisely what

Paul is saying. And what are the implications of what he's saying

then? He's saying that there are two modes of working even for a

Christian: you can go into your week without thinking about it,

without taking any moment set aside immersing yourself in the

Scriptures or-

[35:00]

In community or in moments of prayer by yourself or with others.

You're just working with the same mindset that everybody else is

working with. I'm just getting by, I'm just hanging on. Whatever.

That's fine. There's no future there. Just like me, going down the

street and seeing the pile of junk on the sidewalk and just being

like, "Yeah, you know, it's what people do when they move out here

in Portland," you know?

So what Paul says is, "No, your work done in the Lord. When you

work in the Lord, your work is not vain. Somehow, that work is

going to find itself into the healed transformed new creation. How?

He does not say, and I have absolutely no idea.

But you see what he's saying here? I have a guess. I had a friend in

our community group, there's a gal who just mentions, it just really

piqued my curiosity. She said when she's in a right state of mind,

when she's working in the Lord, she prays for every person that

she's making the drink for throughout the day.

I was like, "Whoa, how's the ministry?" That is a ministry, do you

agree? What an incredible- all the different kinds of people that

would come in. That's so rad. But then she was like, "It is really hard

because when it gets busy, I forget or when I have a rude customer,

I don't want to pray for them." I think we're there, we're there.

The same exact activity, just like the same exact pile of furniture on

the sidewalk can give you two sets of eyes. And then with the

gospel and what Paul is trying to foster, you know, is it's this

imagination that these people that I'm working with, they matter

and they're going to last. And there's work in this place, this world

that I'm contributing to. It has a future.

God's not just going to wipe it off the map. What I do today at

work, how I react to the people around me, how I actually go about

my work. It matters. It has eternal value. Are you with me?

It's so profound. This is the vision of work. Our work has a future.

And so, what Paul is saying, you don't make lattes in vain. You don't

deliver packages in vain. You don't frame buildings in vain if it's

done in the Lord. He just said, in the Lord.

What does it mean to be in the Lord? There, you need to dive in to

the New Testament and discover what all of this "in the Lord" and

"in Christ" language is all about. And what you find is that, if you

grab on tighter and tighter to Jesus, what's true of Him becomes

more and more true of you.

So, one of the ways Paul talks about it is this language of the fruit of

the Spirit because the Spirit is like the gift of God's presence that's

infiltrating and working and healing and redeeming people here in

this age. And so, if I'm empowered by God’s grace to go into my

work and labor in the Lord, I'm working in a mindset of enjoy and

peace and patience and faithfulness and kindness and goodness

and self-control.

And that's not just going to be like how you treat people. That's

going to affect how you actually do the work itself. And Paul says

labor in the Lord is not in vain. It's going to last.

Isn't this rad? I don't know what else to say and it's so hard for me

to believe. So, I'm guessing it's hard for you to believe because we

just don't think like this. And there's one other passage in the New

Testament that explores this theme.

The first week of the series, we went to the first pages of the Bible.

Let's go to the last pages of the Bible. Turn to the end of the Bible

with me. Or read the second to the last page, Revelations Chapter

20 to 21.

Some of you did turn to the end and you found the table of weights

and measures, yeah? What's that doing back there? That's what I

always wondered, you know? It's so weird. It seems like it seems at

the front, so you can reference it, you know, when you're reading.

Anyway, Revelation Chapter 21. So, this is going to be John the

Visionary's way of painting the same storyline here. He says, "Then I

saw “a new heaven and a new earth, “for the first heaven and the

first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." Let's

pause here, this is interesting.

So different passages of the New Testament described this

reunification of heaven and earth in different ways. What word did

Paul use in 1 Corinthians 15? Transformed.

He's talking about how the body that you have in the present is

related to the physical body that you will have in the healed,

restored creation that will be a transformed body fundamentally

different but, yet it will still be a body and it will still be you in your

body and however that works.

The only reason any other early Christians thought any of this

bizarre stuff is because of what happened in the resurrection of

Jesus. And they have that, just ways to talk about it. It's quite

strange that Jesus is alive from the dead in a physical body with,

like, nail marks, you know, in His hands and they wound in His side

and they can recognize Him.

But yet other times, they can't recognize Him and He just disappears

in a lot of rooms. That's quite strange but there you go. That's the

fundamental claim that Jesus conquered death and that He's alive

from the dead and He's alive as a man in a body right now that's

quite different from our bodies.

And so, our bodies need to undergo that same kind of

transformation.

[40:00]

So, Paul emphasizes continuity. It’s the same thing that changed.

When John talks about this transition, he used the language of "the

old order passing away." This new thing, it can be called like a new

creation.

What he doesn’t mean is that this gets completely erased off the

map altogether because, keep reading, he goes on with the

metaphors here. He says: "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,

coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride

beautifully dressed for her husband."

He sees heaven coming down and finally overwhelming and

enveloping earth. "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now with His people, and He will

dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be

with them and He will be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from

their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or

pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The one who has seated on the throne, that's God in the book of

Revelation. He said: "Look, I am making all things new!” Wait, what's

important here? He doesn't say, "I am making all new things." He

says, "I'm making all things new."

Then he said, “Write this down, these words are trustworthy and

true.” Okay, here's the gut punch. Look at Verse 22, this is so

interesting:

John says, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God

Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." They're just there and you

can just go hang out with them, so they are the temple.

"The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the

glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations,"

that's us, "walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their

splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will

be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be

brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone

who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose

names are written in the Lamb’s book of life."

This vision is so powerful. What is it that people are doing here in

the new heavens and the new earth. Well, they're certainly not on

vacation. We know that much and they're not, like, on clouds

playing harps.

He envisions this city that has this creation and that's epicenter with

God's presence fully accessible to all. The gates are never shut. And

this redeemed humanity is constantly coming in and coming out.

And what are they're doing? They're offering.

What does it say? They're bringing their splendor and they're

bringing the glory and honor of the nation. So, we're asked to have

this kind of vision here, like a throne room scene and there's a King.

And then His people are bringing to Him, like, the best that they

have to offer him, like the best music and the best food, right?

And it's the things that they're known for and famous for, the things

of their glory and their honor. But they're laying them at the foot of

the King, the One who loved me and gave His life for me and

redeemed me. So, you see the idea here?

So, it's borrowing an image from a story from the Old Testament, a

story about the Queen of Sheba who came to visit King Solomon

and so she wanted to impress him. And so, she brings all of her gold

and her best sculptures and jewelry and so on to impress him. And

that's the idea right here.

And so apparently, humanity is busy, like, just making awesome

stuff and new creation. Our work doesn't cease. In fact, it continues.

But it's this redeemed version of our work.

And so, here's, I think, where our imaginations are supposed to

connect all of this. So, I'll put it this way: how many of you like living

in the city of Portland? I like it immensely. So, I crossed 2,000 miles

of the Midwest plains to make it back here and I'm really, really,

really happy about that.

It's a wonderful city to live in. I love the music, I love the food, the

art, I love all the bike lanes everywhere. I just love it here. It's a

wonderful city to live in because all of the products of the city.

Does that mean that everything that is produced in Portland brings

honor to the name of Jesus? There's a lot, as image-bearers,

common grace, absolutely that's honoring to God here but there's a

dark underbelly to this city.

They said, the price of cool for some parts of Portland comes at the

expense of the non-cool parts of Portland and you know what I'm

talking about, right?

And so, I think this passage invites us to imagine a redeemed,

restored, healed Portland. What this kind of place would be like in

the new creation. I don't know if this will be any better but there's a

whole lot of other things that will be much, much better.

Whatever labor has been done in the Lord, it lasts, and it will be the

same kind of work and the same kinds of labor that we'll be doing

in the new creation. Because if I'm laboring here in the world, I'm

living in this in-between space, right? Where God's kingdom is

taking over my life.

And so, I guess in the drawing it's like, when I'm laboring in the Lord

and I'm beginning to stay on my knees and asking that I can work

for Jesus today, what we're invited to see is that I’m living in this

space right here, where heaven and earth overlap.

And, you know, don't think too highly of yourself because we're

mostly falling back up into here, you know? But that's the idea.

And so, whatever this is restored, redeemed version that we are

available to get a little taste of here and now when we work in the

Lord. And this is what's these passages are saying.

This is kind of a dense theology but I can't think of anything more

practical because the fact is, there's just a whole bunch of us that

just have no imagination for what it would be like for Jesus'

presence to show up in our workplace, like we just aren't even

looking for Him there because we think it's just a secular job and it's

not a place where image-bearing humans are working out either,

you know, being redeemed from or being oppressed by the world

of sin and death.

And the work that you put your hands to, it may be the kind of work

you're going to do for a really, really, really, long time. Who knows,

you know? But if it's done in the Lord, it's not in vain. It'll last.

And so, I have no idea what this means for each one of us. But if you

work, you face this reality and you face this opportunity to see your

workplace with the eyes of faith that don't see a pile of junk but see,

man, what would your workplace look like in the new creation and

how could you participate in just a small way of experiencing that or

bringing that about by laboring in the Lord when you go to work?

I want us to just allow the Spirit to kind of stir our imaginations and

as we enter into worship and as we come to the bread and the cup

and we think about this key moment where heaven and earth were

locked together forever in the cross as God to come flesh and

suffered and died on our behalf, I just really encourage you to allow

God to let you rethink and reimagine just your day to day work and

how you just see it with new eyes.

Alright, guys. Thanks for listening to the Exploring My Strange Bible

podcast and I hope that was helpful for you. This was a really

profound message for me to prepare for and thinking about my

own day to day work. And I hope it was helpful for you too.

We'll see you again next time on Exploring My Strange Bible

podcast where we're starting a new series on, well, you'll find out

when it comes out. Thanks for listening, you guys.

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