Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews

A Peculiar Glory by John PiperA Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by John Piper. Crossway. 304 pages. 2016
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This is Piper’s first major work since 2011’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. His objective is to answer the questions of how are we to know that the Scriptures are the word of God, how can we trust the Bible, and what do the Scriptures claim for themselves. Piper’s main passion has been toward the non-scholarly. He asks how the common (non-seminary trained, non-scholar) Christian has a well-grounded trust in Scripture. How can they know for certain that the Bible is confirmed by the peculiar glory of God?

He begins with his own biographical story about the Bible. He asks the reader ‘on what do you stand?’ He writes that God was holding onto him by making the view compelling. Piper didn’t just hold a view of Scripture, he was held by His glory through His Word. He tells us that he went from being a teacher of the Bible in Bible College to a preacher of the Bible for 33 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

He then looks at what the Scriptures claim for themselves, and how we can know such claims are true. His concern is the Bible’s self-attestation, or the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. He then looks at what books make up the Scriptures. From there he looks at what the Scriptures claim for themselves through the Old Testament, Jesus and the Apostles. Piper writes that he believes in the inerrancy of the original manuscripts, though we do not have the original manuscripts at our disposal.

He then addresses the main questions that are listed above. He concludes the book with six chapters on how the Scriptures are confirmed by the peculiar glory of God.

Piper contends that God’s Glory and His Word are inseparable. He draws heavily from Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, the Apostle Paul (specifically 2 Corinthians 4:3-6) and Westminster Larger Catechism question 4 to address the questions the book poses. He argues that the Bible exposes us to the glory of God and in that way gives us complete confidence that it is, indeed, God’s own word.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

the-chief-exercise-of-prayer-by-john-calvinThe Chief Exercise of Faith: John Calvin on Prayer (From The Institutes) by John Calvin. Cross-Points.org. 84 pages. 2016
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This small book is an excerpt of Henry Beveridge’s 1845 translation of John Calvin’s classic work Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 20. The book is broken down into 52 individual sections. As an example, Section 2 is on prayer defined, its necessity and use.

Calvin covers many aspects of prayer in this short but exhaustive book on prayer. Here are ten of the topics or thoughts from Calvin that I highlighted as I read the book:

  1. The true object of prayer is to carry our thoughts directly to God, whether to celebrate his praise or implore his aid.
  2. God is to be invoked only in the name of Christ. We pray to God in the name of Christ alone.
  3. The Lord’s Prayer contains everything that we can or ought to ask of God.
  4. The rules of prayer. Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God.
  5. One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance.
  6. The suppression of all pride. He who comes into the presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth; in short, discard all self- confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by arrogating anything, however little, to himself, vain pride cause him to turn away his face.
  7. The laws of prayer. It is also of importance to observe, that the four laws of prayer of which I have treated are not so rigorously enforced, as that God rejects the prayers in which he does not find perfect faith or repentance, accompanied with fervent zeal and wishes duly framed.
  8. Christ is the only Mediator between God and man. It is manifest sacrilege to offer prayer to others.
  9. The principle we must always hold is, that in all prayer, public and private, the tongue without the mind must be displeasing to God.
  10. An exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, which is divided into six petitions. Subdivision into two principal parts, the former referring to the glory of God, the latter to our salvation.

There is much wisdom from Calvin about the subject of prayer in these pages. Highly recommended. Continue reading


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Book Review: Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper

Living in the LightLiving in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper. The Good Book Company. 144 pages. 2016    
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This book was birthed from conference messages that the author delivered in 2015. Piper states that the main thesis of this book is that money, sex, and power, which began as God’s good gifts to humanity, have become dangerous because all human beings have exchanged the glory of God for images. In addition, money, sex, and power will be restored to their God-glorifying place by the redemption that God brought into the world through Jesus Christ. He approaches his subject with a strategy to define, defeat and deploy. He gives us definitions and foundations, dangers and how to defeat them, potentials and how to deploy them.

In defining money, he tells us that money is the symbolic representation of quantities of value. It becomes a moral issue because of the rightness or wrongness of what we pursue with this gift God has given us. We can pursue good, and we can pursue evil. We can use it to show that we value money more than Christ; or we can use it to show that we value Christ more than money.  He tells us that there is no link between having much money and knowing much happiness in this life—or the next.

In defining “sex” he means experiencing erotic stimulation; seeking to get the experience, or seeking to give the experience. He tells us that sex is a good gift from God in all those ways. He writes that our sexual sinning is rooted in the fact that we don’t treasure the glory of God as supremely desirable over all things. Jesus, Peter, Paul, John and the writer to the Hebrews all sound the note of danger that lies ahead for those who do not repent of sexual sin. He tells us that when it comes to our sex lives, the issue is this: Do we see the glory of God? Do we treasure the glory? Are we deeply content?

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Anxious for NothingAnxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul by John MacArthur.   David C. Cook. 3rd edition. 224 pages. 2012
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John MacArthur is one of my favorite authors. I read this book recently on vacation, at just the right time. It covers themes such as contentment and anxiety. A few days before reading it we had flown out of O’Hare International Airport under a tornado warning. All day long I had been extremely anxious about the impending inclement weather and whether we would be able to get out of the Midwest on the way to our destination on the East Coast.  I couldn’t relax and just trust that God was in control. Contentment is another item that I struggle with, so this book was just perfect for me.

MacArthur states that the wrong way to handle the stresses of life is to worry about them. He indicates that worry at any time is a sin because it violates the clear biblical command. He states that we allow our daily concerns to turn into worry, and therefore sin, when our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle our present circumstances.

MacArthur indicates that he titled the book Anxious for Nothing because he wants the reader to know that we can overcome our anxieties. Each chapter and a special appendix at the end (“Psalms for the Anxious”, excerpts from the Psalms which are especially intended to attack anxiety) provide the reader specific biblical ways we can do just that.

MacArthur states that when we worry, we in effect are saying that we can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one. He goes on to state that a lack of joy for the believer is a sin.

He looks at Matthew 6 as Jesus’ great statement on worry and Philippians 4 as the Apostle Paul’s primary writing on how to avoid anxiety.  He states that those passages are the most comprehensive portions of Scripture dealing with anxiety and therefore foundational to understanding how God feels about anxiety and why He feels that way.

MacArthur looks at prayer as the foremost way to avoid anxiety, followed by right thinking and action.  We are to approach God with a thankful attitude, which will release us from fear and worry. This is a tangible demonstration of trusting our situation to God’s sovereign control. We also need to demonstrate humility, as only from humility comes the ability to truly hand over all our cares to God.

MacArthur states that to do a comprehensive study on what Scripture says about anxiety, we need to examine what it says about living by faith. Hebrews 11 and 12 are the faith chapters of the Bible. Chapter 11 gives a general definition of faith and a slew of Old Testament examples.

Another weight of sin that entangles the believer says MacArthur is doubt. Paul states that our protection again doubt is to “take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16).

MacArthur writes that when we have a problem facing us that we don’t know how to solve, we need to remember to praise God.  Remembering who God is and what He has done glorifies Him and strengthens our faith. To help us do that, he recommends that we read through the Psalms the next time we’re tempted to worry.

In discussing the role of the church in helping with anxiety he writes that the church does well as a whole when the shepherds and the sheep bond together to correct the wayward, encourage the worried, hold up the weak, be patient with the wearisome, and repay the wicked with love. He also discusses God’s peace, stating that it is not subject to circumstances.

He discusses complaining about our circumstances, an area I can certainly improve in. He states that it is a sin to complain against God, and we must see our complaints as such. He states that we are really complaining about God when we complain about our circumstances.

He states that two roadblocks to contentment are grumbling and disputing. He writes that the quality of the believer’s life is the platform of our personal testimony. A murmuring, discontented, grumbling, griping, and complaining Christian is never going to have a positive influence on others. He encourages the reader to try to make it through today without complaining about something. We should make a note each time we do complain. Unfortunately, we may be surprised to discover it has become a way of life for us.

He writes that until we realize that God is sovereign, ordering everything for His own holy purposes and the ultimate good of those who love Him, we can’t help but be discontent. We need to realize any circumstance we face is only temporary. We need to learn to be content by not taking our earthly circumstances too seriously. He suggests that we be confident in God’s sovereign providence, and don’t allow your circumstances to trouble you.

I found this to be a very helpful and practical book that I can highly recommend.
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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Center for Faith and Work Podcast. I’m very excited about this new podcast from the Center for Faithcenter for faith and work and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Listen in on weekly talks, lectures, and conversations about the intersection of theology and culture as it applies to our everyday work. Topics range from vocational-specific (business, law, arts, education, etc.) to practical resources regarding prayer, discernment, calling, and more.
  • Joy and the Power of a Dream. Steven Garber, who spoke at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May, 2014, writes that the film Joy “a remarkably insightful account of creativity and imagination and gumption and grit, together forming a vocation in the life of Joy Mangano, played by Jennifer Lawrence”.
  • The Fashion Brand with a Heart for Adoption. Bethany Jenkins interviews Sara Brinton about her work. Brinton is the leader of marketing for Noonday Collection, a socially responsible fashion brand, and believes that entrepreneurship can be a sustainable solution to poverty and injustice.
  • 6 Techniques for Getting the Most Out of Continuing Education. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “It’s never too late to make continuing education a center piece in your life.  These six strategies will help you tap into the power of continuing education.”
  • How Do You Define Success? John Maxwell writes “Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most.”
  • 10 Ways to Increase Results in Meetings. One of my pet-peeves is poorly run meetings. They are frustrating and a waste of already busy people’s time. Selma Wilson offers these ten helpful ways to ensure your meetings have positive outcomes.
  • Labor of Love? Jamie Winship writes “What does it mean to work for the Lord on a daily basis? Do people who work wholeheartedly, as if they are serving the Lord, look any different from those who work hard just to get ahead in life? And if so, how?”
  • Work Is Worship. Enjoy this short video that shows that our work life is an act of worship.
  • Are Spiritual Disciplines Meant for My Work? Jessica Schaeffer writes “Keeping company with Jesus ought to be sustained throughout the day. He is not companion and Lord only when a Bible is open in the lap. We don’t leave him on the shelf with our devotional books and prayer journal.”
  • What the Image of God Means for Our Dignity and Work. Art Lindsay writes “Every person is created in the image of God, full of dignity, with unique talents and gifts to use for the glory of God in their work. One reason why so many Christians fail to discover their vocation is because they don’t fully understand what it means to be made in the image of God.”

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

integrating faith and work
Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • 3 Ways to Make Your Week More Productive. Kevin Lloyd discusses some tips around time management.
  • 4 Character Traits of Thriving Employees. Stephen Graves writes about the traits: work ethic, problem solving ability, relational skills and spiritual vitality.
  • 4 Leadership Principles to Inspire Star Performance. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “Effective leaders get average people to do extraordinary work.”
  • 4 TED Talks to Inspire You in Your Work. Here are four videos to inspire you in your work, the first of which I watched with my team and had a good discussion about recently.
  • 4 Types of Tone-Deaf Leadership. Eric Geiger writes “There are a plethora of tone-deaf leaders who are out of sync and rhythm with people and their context. They seem deaf to the people and context around them.”
  • 4 Ways to Attack a Sense of Entitlement. Eric Geiger writes “A sense of entitlement can greatly harm the culture and the mission of a ministry or organization. A sense of entitlement is corrosive and crushes the collective soul of the team. Those the team is designed to serve become less and less important as self-centeredness reigns. When entitlement spreads, the ministry or organization acts as if it exists for itself instead of for others.”
  • 4 Things Leaders Owe Their Followers. Eric Geiger writes “Leaders, we are servants and debtors. We are in debt to the people who follow us.”
  • 4 Temptations That Leaders Face. Dan Reiland writes “How you handle your temptation will determine, to a great degree, the effectiveness and longevity of your ministry.”
  • 5 Steps to Recovery from a Failure. Ron Edmondson writes that what you do after you fail will determine if – and how well – you recover.
  • 5 Things That Are a Total Waste of Time in Leadership. Carey Nieuwhof shares these five items that all leaders will most likely agree are time wasters.
  • 5 Leadership Questions with Dan Rockwell. In this episode of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast, Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper visit with one of my favorite leadership bloggers Dan Rockwell.
  • 6 Signs That Silos Exist in Your Organization. Art Rainer writes “When they (silos) do exist, leaders will find themselves struggling to move their organization forward and experience a deteriorating staff morale.”
  • 7 of My Biggest Frustrations as a Leader. Ron Edmondson writes “In many ways, I am still learning the secret of being content, but I like continual improvement and think there is usually room to get better in all areas of our life. I think it is true in leadership too.”
  • 7 Core Disciplines Needed for a Spiritual Leader. Ron Edmondson writes “All leaders should lead well, but when one claims to be a follower of Christ their leadership reflects on his or her walk with Christ. I have learned personally that leading well requires discipline. It doesn’t happen naturally.”
  • 10 Points of Managing Tension in Leadership.  Brad Lomenick shares a few thoughts on tension and the perspective as leaders we should have in managing it.
  • 10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve as a Leader. Ron Edmondson writes “Most leaders want to improve. I hear from leaders weekly who want to get better in their role. They want to improve so the organization they lead can improve. As much as leaders desire improvement, many leaders wonder where they should go to grow.”
  • 18 Reasons Good Leaders Get Fired. Brian Dodd provides these reasons good leaders get fired in light of the recent firing of Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.

Quotes about Faith and Work

  • Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your full potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others. John Maxwel
  • Intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you. Andy Andrews
  • The book of Genesis leaves us with a striking truth – work was part of paradise. Tim Keller
  • Dear workaholics: There’s no extra credit for impressing others while losing your family. Burk Parsons
  • Servant leadership is love in action. Make a positive difference in someone’s life. Ken Blanchard
  • As a leader, the health of your marriage directly affects the impact of your leadership. Michael Hyatt
  • Wherever you are, be all there. Live life to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. Jim Elliot

Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 9: The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy— A Plea to This Generation

  • God does not call us to ease, but to faithful joy. He is closing in on some of you, smiling and with tears in his eyes, knowing how much of himself he is going to show you—and how much it will cost. As I write, I pray that you will not turn away.
  • If you have pity for perishing people and a passion for the reputation of Christ, you must care about world missions.
  • One of the burdens of this book is to show what life looks like when you believe that you dare not choose between the motives to love people and glorify Christ. They are not separate motives.
  • This single passion—to see that Christ be glorified as perishing people become eternally satisfied in him—drives the great global enterprise we call world missions.
  • Missions exists because worship doesn’t.
  • There can be no weary resignation, no cowardly retreat, and no merciless contentment among Christ’s people while he is disowned among thousands of unreached peoples.
  • Those of you who stay—the senders—should keep this remarkable fact in mind: Foreign missions is a validation of all ministries of mercy at home because it exports them abroad.
  • Ministries of mercy close at hand validate the authenticity of our distant concerns.
  • Just as there is a partnership between the Gospel itself and mercy to the nearby poor, so there is a wonderful partnership between Christians being the merciful church at home and Christians planting the merciful church abroad. Neither is a wasted life.
  • The partnership that emerged between students, who were going, and businessmen, who were sending, was profound, because there were God-centered visionary leaders in both groups. Both were moved by the same passion not to waste their lives.
  • Laypeople, pastors, churches—all of us who stay behind—will find the “sweetest and most priceless rewards” as we enlarge our hearts to embrace not only the needs close to home, but also the hard and unreached places of the world.
  • These businessmen from a hundred years ago saw their secular calling and their missionary vision as an integrated whole.
  • Missions is not only crucial for the life of the world. It is crucial for the life of the church. We will perish with our wealth if we do not pour ourselves out in ministries of mercy at home and missions among the unreached peoples.
  • One way to describe the situation is to say that about 1.2–1.4 billion people have never had a chance to hear the Gospel; that is, they live in cultures where the preaching of the Gospel in understandable ways is not accessible. Other analysts estimate the number of un-evangelized somewhat higher. About 95 percent of these live in what has been called the 10/40 window (between latitudes 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator and between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans). This is the great challenge of our day.
  • There is a call on this generation to obey the risen Christ and make disciples of all the unreached peoples of the world. I am praying that God will raise up hundreds of thousands of young people and “finishers” (people finishing one career and ready to pursue a second in Christian ministry).
  • Frontier missions does what Paul aimed to do: Plant the church where there is now no possibility of ministry. This is the great need of the hour, not only for missionaries who go to serve the established church in other countries (which is a great need, especially in leadership development), but also for missionaries who go to peoples and places where there is no church to serve.
  • Don’t think the days of foreign missionaries are over, as if nationals can finish the work. There are hundreds of peoples and millions of people where there are no Christian nationals to do same-culture evangelism. A culture must be crossed.
  • Missions, not same-culture evangelism by nationals, will finish the Great Commission.
  • So “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38), and ask him if you should be one. Expect this prayer to change you.
  • Get a copy of the amazing world prayer guide called Operation World, and pray and read and ponder your way through the nations day by day.
  • if you want to be most fully satisfied with God as he triumphs in the history of redemption, you can’t go on with business as usual—doing your work, making your money, giving your tithe, eating, sleeping, playing, and going to church. Instead you need to stop and go away for a few days with a Bible and notepad; and pray and think about how your particular time and place in life fits into the great purpose of God to make the nations glad in him. How will you join the great global purpose of God expressed in Psalm 67:4, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy”?
  • Many of you should stay where you are in your present job, and simply ponder how you can fit your particular skills and relationships and resources more strategically into the global purpose of your heavenly Father. But for others reading this book, it is going to be different. Many of you are simply not satisfied with what you are doing.
  • If the discontent with your present situation is deep, recurrent, and lasting, and if that discontent grows in Bible-saturated soil, God may be calling you to a new work. If, in your discontent, you long to be holy, to walk pleasing to the Lord, and to magnify Christ with your one, brief life, then God may indeed be loosening your roots in order to transplant you to a place and a ministry where the deep spiritual ambitions of your soul can be satisfied.
  • It is true that God can be known and enjoyed in every legitimate vocation; but when he deploys you from one place to the next, he offers fresh and deeper drinking at the fountain of his fellowship. God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace.
  • May God give you a fresh, Christ-exalting vision for your life—whether you go to an unreached people or stay firmly and fruitfully at your present post. May your vision get its meaning from God’s great purpose to make the nations glad in him. May the cross of Christ be your only boast, and may you say, with sweet confidence, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

faith-work-cultureFaith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

Bryan Chapell on Vocation. Former President of Covenant Theological Seminary, where I got my Master Degree, and current Senior Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church about an hour from our home, recently started a new sermon series titled “Mission at Work”. You can listen to the messages here.

The Realest Authenticity. Barnabas Piper writes “The truest authenticity, the best authenticity is humble. Authenticity without humility is a lie.”

Third Serving Leader Quote

10 Favorite Faith and Work Quotes of the Week Servant Leadership Quote

  • Real work is a contribution to the good of all and not merely a means to one’s own advancement. Tim Keller
    Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can. Jonathan Edwards 
    What a pity it would be to have to tell God that we spent our life earning a living, and that’s it. Erwin Lutzer
  • Have you been holding back from a risky, costly course to which you know in your heart God has called you? Hold back no longer. Your God is faithful to you, and adequate for you. You will never need more than He can supply, and what He supplies, both materially and spiritually, will always be enough for the present.  J.I. Packer
  • Surround yourself with people who acknowledge your progress and challenge you to be better. Dan Rockwell
  • There are not two worlds—sacred and secular—but one world—created, fallen, and saved by Christ and which will pass thru judgment into glory. Bethany Jenkins
  • A woman told me about getting involved in a Bible study that demanded strict commitment to the study of God’s Word.  ‘You should make the Bible your number one priority,’ she was told.  That meant getting up early and the very first thing in the morning doing Bible reading and having a quiet time with the Lord.  She did this, but to her consternation every morning as she would start to read her Bible, the baby would wake up.  She found herself resenting the interruption.  Here she was, trying to spend time with God, and the baby would start fussing, demanding to be fed and distracting her attention away from spiritual things.  After a while, though, she came to understand the doctrine of vocation.  Taking care of her baby was what God, at that moment, was calling her to do.  Being a mother and loving and serving her child was her vocation, her divine calling from the Lord.  She could read the Bible later.  She did not have to feel guilty that she was neglecting spiritual things; taking care of her baby is a spiritual thing! Gene Veith
  • The church’s approach to intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays.  What the church should be telling him is this:  That the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. Dorothy Sayers
  • The maid who sweeps here kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors.  The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship. Martin Luther

Don't Waste Your LifeFaith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 8: Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5

  • It would be a mistake to infer from the call to wartime living in the previous chapter that Christians should quit their jobs and go to “war”—say, to become missionaries or pastors or full-time relief workers. That would be a fundamental misunderstanding of where the war is being fought.
  • The war is not primarily spatial or physical—though its successes and failures have physical effects. Therefore, the secular vocations of Christians are a war zone. There are spiritual adversaries to be defeated (that is, evil spirits and sins, not people); and there is beautiful moral high ground to be gained for the glory of God. You don’t waste your life by where you work, but how and why.
  • The call to be a Christian was not a call to leave your secular vocation. That’s the clear point of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.
  • Therefore, the burning question for most Christians should be: How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation?
  • Our aim is to joyfully magnify Christ—to make him look great by all we do.
  • Boasting only in the cross, our aim is to enjoy making much of him by the way we work. The question is, How? The Bible points to at least six answers.
    • 1. We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.
  • When the saints are at work in their secular employment, they are scattered. They are not together in church. So the command to “remain there with God” is a promise that you may know God’s fellowship personally and individually on the job.
  • One way to enjoy God’s presence and fellowship is through thankful awareness that your ability to do any work at all, including this work, is owing to his grace.
  • This is the way God speaks to you through the day. He encourages you, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). He reminds you that the challenges of the afternoon are not too hard for him to manage: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). He tells you not to be anxious, but to ask him for whatever you need (Philippians 4:6), and says, “Cast all your anxieties on me, for I care for you” (paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:7). And he promises to guide you through the day: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
    • 2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 3. We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel.
  • There is no point in overstating the case for the value of secular work. It is not the Gospel. By itself, it does not save anyone. In fact, with no spoken words about Jesus Christ, our secular work will not awaken wonder for the glory of Christ. That is why the New Testament modestly calls our work an adornment of the Gospel.
  • So one crucial meaning of our secular work is that the way we do it will increase or decrease the attractiveness of the Gospel we profess before unbelievers.
  • Of course, the great assumption is that they know we are Christians.
  • Should Christians be known in their offices as the ones you go to if you have a problem, but not the ones to go to with a complex professional issue? It doesn’t have to be either-or. The biblical mandate is: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23; cf. Ephesians 6:7).
  • So the third way we make much of God in our secular work is by having such high standards of excellence and such integrity and such manifest goodwill that we put no obstacles in the way of the Gospel but rather call attention to the all-satisfying beauty of Christ. When we adorn the Gospel with our work, we are not wasting our lives. And when we call to mind that the adornment itself (our God-dependent, God-shaped, God-exalting work) was purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and that the beauty we adorn is itself the Gospel of Christ’s death, then all our tender adornment becomes a boasting in the cross.
    • 4. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.
  • The curse under which we live today is not that we must work. The curse is that, in our work, we struggle with weariness and frustration and calamities and anxiety.
  • Able-bodied people who choose to live in idleness and eat the fruit of another’s sweat are in rebellion against God’s design. If we can, we should earn our own living.
  • How then do Christians make much of Christ in working “to earn their own living”? First, by conforming willingly to God’s design for this age. It is an act of obedience that honors his authority. Second, by removing stumbling blocks from unbelievers who would regard the lazy dependence of Christians on others as an evidence that our God is not worthy of following. “Work with your hands . . . so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). We honor God by earning our living because this clears the way for non-Christians to see Christ for who he really is. Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love. They waste their lives.
  • Third, we make much of God by earning our own living when we focus not on financial profit but on the benefit our product or service brings to society.
  • This is paradoxical. I am saying, yes, we should earn enough money to meet our needs. But, no, we should not make that the primary focus of why we work.
  • In other words, don’t focus on mere material things in your work. Don’t labor merely with a view to the perishable things you can buy with your earnings. Work with an eye not mainly to your money, but your usefulness. Work with a view to benefiting people with what you make or do.
  • So don’t labor for the food that perishes. Labor to love people and honor God. Think of new ways that your work can bless people. Stop thinking mainly of profitability, and think mainly of how helpful your product or service can become.
  • You are not working for the food that perishes. Your goal is to enjoy Christ’s being exalted in the way you work.
  • None of us in our vocations should aim mainly at the food that perishes—leave that to the Lord. We should aim instead to do the will of him who sent us. And his will is that we treasure him above all else and live like it.
  • If we simply work to earn a living—if we labor for the bread that perishes—we will waste our lives. But if we labor with the sweet assurance that God will supply all our needs—that Christ died to purchase every undeserved blessing—then all our labor will be a labor of love and a boasting only in the cross.
    • 5. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.
  • So my point here is that, as we work, we should dream of how to use our excess money to make others glad in God. Of course, we should use all our money to make others glad in God, in the sense that our whole life has this aim. But the point here is that our secular work can become a great God-exalting blessing to the world if we aim to take the earnings we don’t need for ourselves (and we need far less than we think) and meet the needs of others in the name of Jesus.
  • God clearly tells us that we should work to provide the needs of those who can’t meet their own needs.
    • 6. We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by sharing the Gospel and by practical deeds of help.
  • But now I want to say that speaking the good news of Christ is part of why God put you in your job. He has woven you into the fabric of others’ lives so that you will tell them the Gospel. Without this, all our adorning behavior may lack the one thing that could make it life-giving.
  • Christians should seriously ask not only what their vocation is, but where it should be lived out. We should not assume that teachers and carpenters and computer programmers and managers and CPAs and doctors and pilots should do their work in America. That very vocation may be better used in a country that is otherwise hard to get into, or in a place where poverty makes access to the Gospel difficult. In this way the web of relationships created by our work is not only strategic but intentional.
  • In conclusion, secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8 to 5. God’s will in this age is that his people be scattered like salt and light in all legitimate vocations. His aim is to be known, because knowing him is life and joy. He does not call us out of the world. He does not remove the need to work. He does not destroy society and culture. Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples. If you work like the world, you will waste your life, no matter how rich you get. But if your work creates a web of redemptive relationships and becomes an adornment for the Gospel of the glory of Christ, your satisfaction will last forever and God will be exalted in your joy.