Monday, October 12, 2015

Coming Tomorrow: An Interview with Katie Faris about "Loving My Children."

Back in July, I told you about a new book by our friend Katie (pictured here with her husband Scott) called Loving My Children: Embracing Biblical Motherhood.

Tomorrow on the blog, I'll be posting an interview with Katie asking her about herself, how the book came to be, and what moms will will get out of reading it.

I'm particularly excited about this because Katie used to be a member of our church and is coming back for a visit on November 7th to speak to the ladies at our Fall Tea Party about "fruitful friendships" from Titus 2. If you're nearby, please plan to join them!

I'm not a mother, but I'm married to one and my church is full of them. I know it's a good book. Here is my brief review and endorsement again:
What do diapers, lullabies, laundry, and cleaning behind the baby's ears have to do with the gospel? Everything! In this gem of a book, our friend Katie Faris winsomely shares biblical wisdom on seeking the best for the children God has loaned us. Katie knows what she's talking about--we've seen her mothering in action--and she writes well. Sweet but not sentimental, direct but not demanding, Loving My Children helpfully connects the Bible's teaching on grace, sovereignty, and sanctification to the everyday hard work of being a mom. Heather and I highly recommend it.
Tune in tomorrow for more.

Review: Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus

Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus by Jeramie Rinne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent primer on the essence of eldership in the local church.

This is just the little book on eldership that the evangelical Church needs. For years, I have searched high and low for an accessible book that introduces biblical eldership which doesn’t devolve into either a technical treatise on ecclesiology nor a how-to manual that relies on debatable insights from the world of secular organizational theory. And here it finally is!

Rinne successfully avoids secondary polity and pragmatic questions while staying strongly theological and practical on both what an elder is and does. Need proof? Check out these chapter titles which edify all by themselves: “Smell Like Sheep,” “Serve Up the Word,” “Track Down the Strays,” “Lead Without Lording,” “Shepherd Together,” “Model Maturity.”

Church Elders does a good job of neither glorifying the position nor denigrating the work of an elder. Rinne writes as a vocational pastor but FOR avocational elders. He understands the perspective of a man for whom being an elder is lived out in addition to all of his other responsibilities including a family and a full-time job.

Rinne packs a lot into these 122 short pages, but it feels like just the right amount. His illustrations are concise but revealing and helpful. His prose is conversational and carries the reader along but isn’t trite, sentimental, or sappy. If I could write a book on church elders, I would want it to be just like this one. I’ll be asking all of our elders to read it and include it in all future elder training. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 11, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Work and Rest"

“Work and Rest”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
October 11, 2015

Our current sermon series is called “Working for the Lord,” and it’s all about our vocations, our daily labors, our jobs.

Last week, we talked about working hard, about diligence instead of laziness and industriousness instead of idleness.

We learned about that slacker from the book of Proverbs called the “Sluggard,” and how we don’t want to be “that guy.

But now this week, we want to talk about a surprising companion to hard work in the Bible. Another four letter word. Work is can be a four letter word, but so is this word: R-E-S-T.

“Work and Rest”

I said last week that some of you will need this week’s sermon more than last week’s, though you might not know it or admit it.

Those who tend towards the slacker-side, will love the sound of this week’s message! “Yes! Rest! Finally!” but those who are workaholics or have tender consciences might struggle with this word “REST.”

That’s me. I struggle with rest. I’m not very good at it. This Summer, I ended up in the hospital, I think, in part because God said, “You need to rest, Matthew, and I’m going to see that you do.”

How about you?

Last week, I asked you this diagnostic question:

Did you work hard this week? Or did you hardly work this week?

Now, I want to ask you a different question:

Have you rested well this week? Or have you hardly rested this week?

Because God cares about our rest.

He doesn’t just care about our work. He does care about our work. We’re learning that. But He also cares about whether or not we rest, and how much we rest and what quality of rest we get.

Do you ever think about that?

That God cares about rest?

A few weeks ago I read you a part of question that came in to me on the survey sheets.

Here’s the rest of it.
Here's a work related question for your sermon series. How do you know when you are working hard enough or long enough to please God?  If I get tired is it okay to stop and rest? I have found myself very convicted since the beginning of your sermon series. God has given me a lot to look after.  I love and I get pleasure from my work, but I find it hard to let myself rest knowing ‘Master is watching.’
That’s a really good question, isn’t it?

Last time we talked about it, we answered it by saying the good news is that we don’t work to earn our salvation or to earn God’s pleasure. Jesus’ work is perfect and already reckoned to our account. We don’t have to worry about working enough. He has worked enough for us.

But that’s just part of it.

Here’s another part of the answer.

Who is the Master that is watching us at work?

How does our “Hide the Word” verse end? “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Who is your Master?  It’s the Lord Jesus.

And He’s the best boss there ever was!

He cares, not just about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.


God doesn’t just care about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.

And the first place that we’re going to see that is where He includes rest in the ten big rules. The 10 Commandments given to Israel in Exodus chapter 20.

The fourth commandment that God gave His people Israel was that they were to cease from work one day each week and set aside that day as holy.

They were to work, yes. And work hard. But for only 6 days.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Sabbath.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Sabbath.

That was the pattern.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...Rest.

And that rest was for everyone. Not just for the rich landowner. But for all of the workers and everyone in the house. V.10 again.

“[T]he seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”

And that “alien” means an immigrant not something from Doctor Who or Star Wars.

Nobody works on that day in Israel.

And what was the penalty for breaking the Sabbath in this covenant that the Lord made with Israel?

Listen to Exodus 31:14-17 “'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”"

That’s serious stuff!

We need to be reminded that rest is a serious thing that God cares about.

Now, you and I don’t live under the Mosaic Covenant today.

Of all of the 10 Commandments the fourth commandment alone is not repeated in the New Testament as a binding part of the “Law of Christ.”

So, you and I as New Covenant believers are not under this commandment in the same way that we are under the commandments to not murder or commit adultery. I don’t believe that there is one day in seven that is the Sabbath now.

But even if the Sabbath day does not continue for Christians, the principle of rest is still there and the importance of rest is still there.

By the way, I’m not going to explain all of what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath today. There is too much to share and still stick with our theme of work and rest. But if you’re interested, I’ve written a little article about the Sabbath in the Bible and especially what it means for us today and I’m going to re-post on my blog this afternoon. It’s called “The Gift of My Rest.” I’d be glad to answer any questions that it raises for you.

The point I’m making here is that God cared enough about rest that He encoded into the Mosaic Law. This Lord commands that His workers rest.

Do the best employers include rest in their plans for their employees?

Of course they do! Days off and vacation and for some lines of work, sabbaticals.

And the best employers actually want their employees to take the rest that they offer.

To come to work rested.

And guess what, our Lord is the best boss there ever was.

Your Lord wants you to rest.

He gives rest to His people and even commands it of them.

So here is a way of thinking about it:

Sometimes your job is to rest.

You are required to rest.

On one level, no one can escape it. We all have to sleep. God has programmed it into our bodies that they require rest.

But we can push and push and push ourselves and deny ourselves the rest that God wants for us to take.

Is it hard for you to rest?

The slackers say, “No, it comes easy.”

But the workaholics say, “I don’t have time to rest.” or “I don’t enjoy resting. I’m not good at it. It’s too much work to rest!”

That’s what I often say. I’m not good at resting. It takes too much work.

Well, sometimes your job is to rest.

To play, to cease your work, to lay down what you’ve been laboring at and take a break.

God did!

Did you catch that in verse 11? And how it was repeated in chapter 31?

Why was Israel supposed to rest? “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

If rest is good enough for God, then it’s good enough for you and me, too.

And never resting is sin.

I was talking to a pastor friend a few weeks ago, and he said that he never takes a day off. He loves his work, so he never stops. He takes mini-breaks and portion of several days.

But he doesn’t have a day off, and he asked me what I thought of that.

And I said, “It sounds like sin to me.”

Now, I’m not his judge. I’m not his Lord. In the end, that’s between him and his Master.

But I know how his Master feels about rest. It is requested and required.

Now some of you have a tender conscience, and you are easily shamed. And now, this feels like another burden. “Oh no. I don’t rest enough! I can’t do anything right.”

Don’t forget the gospel. Don’t forget that Christ’s perfect track record of resting is reckoned to your account as well. Because you belong to Jesus you don’t have to get this right to be justified in God’s sight.

You can rest on Christ’s rest.

But think about that: Jesus rested. God rested after creating, but think about all of those places where see Jesus sleeping.

Sleeping in the boat!
Partying at a wedding.
Heading out by Himself to pray in solitary places.

Jesus wasn’t all work and no play. He worked hard but He also rested. Perfectly!

And He wants us to work and rest, as well.

So, how are you doing at this? Are you resting?

Sometimes, it’s your job to rest. So are you doing your job?

Do you take time off of work?
Do you use your vacation and rest?
Do you plan in enough time to sleep?
Do you take breaks?

Does your family believe that you rest enough? Your family needs you to rest.

I can’t tell you how much or when to rest, but I can tell you that God cares about that.

Do you feel that?

Or is your picture of God a slave master with a whip held up to his ear ready to crack behind you if you slow down?

I think that some people think they are resting, but they aren’t.

It’s good to figure out what is really resting for you and what isn’t.

I mean for some of you guys, a trip into the woods with a bow or rifle is really restful.

It’s really restorative for you.

Praise God!

For me, unless I actually fall asleep while hunting, it’s not very restful at all for me. It’s more like work than work is for me.

I’m still trying to learn how to do it right, but the effort of hunting isn’t very revitalizing for me.

But taking a long hike is.

Rest is not always sleeping, but it is always ceasing from work for a period of time.

And you know what that requires? Faith.


Do you find it hard to rest?

That probably indicates a faith issue, a problem with unbelief.

Do you remember the manna?

The supernatural bread that God provided from heaven for the people of Israel.

How many days were they supposed to collect it?  6 days. And which day were they not supposed to collect it?  On the Sabbath, right?  He provided twice the amount the day before.

Why? What does that mean?

It was an object lesson, wasn’t it?  Yes, God wants you to work for your daily bread, but no, you are not responsible, ultimately, for even your daily bread.

One day a week, you stop working, but God still provides.

That’s hard to do. It’s hard to stop and just trust God.

But we are not our own Saviors.

In the Deuteronomy version of the ten commandments, the LORD emphasizes not His own example of rest at creation but the fact that the Israelites used to be slaves in Egypt but God rescued them with His mighty right hand.

So now they rest.

Do you see the logic?

“You didn’t save yourself by your own mighty works. And one day a week, I want you remember that by not working at all. Remember, how I worked!”

Some people need to repent of laziness.
Some others need to repent of busyness.

And I’m talking to myself here.

When we work without sabbathizing, we exhibit unbelief in the goodness and love of our Lord.

The best Scripture for this is the one that Marilynn put on front of your bulletins. It’s  Psalm 127, verses 1 and 2. It’s a psalm written by Solomon, actually.

And he starts it like this.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Do you hear those familiar words from Ecclesiastes and the curse of Genesis 3?

Toiling and vain?

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

Is it wrong to build a house? Is it wrong to work hard at construction?  Of course not.

But ultimately, it’s not up to our hard work whether or not the house gets built.

It’s not up to you! It’s not up to me.

We act like everything up to us. When we don’t rest.

Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”

You can have 1 watchman or 2 watchmen or 200 watchmen or a 2 million watchmen, but if the LORD doesn’t watch over the city, your city is toast.

It’s not up to you.

When we don’t choose rest, we act as if everything is up to us.

Verse 2. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

You work and work and work and work some more.

You act like the fate of the world rests on your shoulders.

But yours are not those shoulders!

Instead, God grants sleep to those he loves. He gives rest as a gift.

Now, if you have the NIV, you see a footnote there for an alternative translation of verse 2, and I think it’s a more likely translation.

It would read, “For while they sleep he provides for those he loves.”

We know that God doesn’t always grant sleep to every believer.

I think that this verse is saying that even while we rest, God works.

Do you need to hear that today?

When you rest, you are exercising faith in your Lord.

He wants you to trust Him.

Because He’s always working.

Six psalms earlier in 121 it says, “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (vv.3-4).

And that means that you and I can sleep.

It doesn’t all rest on you, so you can rest.

Are you trusting Him?

Or are you working like He can’t be trusted?

Remember, the Shepherd of Psalm 23 is your boss.

That description of someone lying you down in green pastures and leading you to drink from quiet waters and restoring your soul is your Boss. Your Lord.

You can trust Him.

You can rest.

Every week, we’ve been recognizing the hard work and celebrating a different group of hard workers in our congregation.

Today, I want to have the homemakers stand. If you are currently a homemaker or are a retired homemaker, I’d like to ask you to stand and be recognized.

Thank you!

The reason I picked the homemakers today is because when those kids are little, they almost never get a rest.

Sleepless nights and sleepless days!

Verses 3-5 of Psalm 127 describe how children are a blessing.

But they are a very tiring blessing, especially when they are little, and you ladies do an amazing job of caring for them so well on so little sleep. Hardest job in the world.

Guys, if you have a homemaker in your house, make sure you are finding ways to get them rest.

Make it your job to see that she gets the rest that she needs.

And that includes not just sleep but also time away from the kiddos. Date night. Girls’ night out. Whatever it is she needs.

Because her job never ends!

One more point this morning. Number three.


One of the reasons why our rest is not very restful is because we leave the Lord out of it.

We are not supposed to rest from the Lord but with the Lord.

The original Sabbath day was to be a day of rest from work but also worship.

Turn with me briefly to Isaiah 58 where the Lord is explaining through Isaiah what genuine fasting and genuine resting is supposed to be like.  Scan down to verse 13 and see these promises.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight (resting for the Lord is delight) and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

You see the joy in the Lord there?

Do you see that the Sabbath was to be the Lord’s day?

Resting is for God just like working is for God.

Don’t do it without Him.

Don’t do anything on your day of rest, on your vacation, on your holiday, on your breaktime that you don’t want to do with Him.

Take your breaks with Jesus.

The Lord wants to be in your rest.

Because He’s the one offering it to you.

The Lord Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

I know that this sermon raises more questions than it answers.

Some of you are wondering now about the Sabbath.

How does now work?

Read that article I’m posting this afternoon. And I’d be glad to talk with you about that more.

Some of you want to rest more but you’re not sure how.

How does this look if you’re a second, third, or fourth grader?
How does this look if you’re a college student?
How does this look if you’re unemployed or disabled or retired?
How does this work out if you have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet?

What does rest look like for you?

How do I “work” at my resting to improve it?
How do I truly stop working and let rest be rest?

I don’t have all of the answers for you for those particular questions (I don't have all the answers for my particular situation!), but I believe the answers are out there.

What I can say is that God cares.

He cares, not just about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.

He cares.

He cares enough to request and require us to rest.

He cares because He wants to get the glory.  We labor in vain if we try to get up early and stay up late and leave Him out of the equation!

He cares because He wants us to experience everything good that He has for us. He gives to his beloved in their sleep. While we’re resting, He is giving.

And the biggest, thing He’s giving in our rest is Himself.

So I know that I need to repent of my busyness and get busy learning more how to rest in Him.

You, too?  Let’s do it together.


Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
03. Why Work?
04. Working at Witnessing
05. Get to Work!
06. Work and Rest

"The Gift of My Rest" A Fictional Letter of Sabbath Theology

In the Summer of 2000, when I was first preaching through the 10 Commandments, I really struggled to develop both my theology of the 4th commandment and my sermon once I had come to some conclusions. It had gotten to be Saturday at 2:30, and I had a sermon with 29 points that would have lost everyone!
So, I went for a walk (with my lawnmower), and prayed for help to formulate a message that would honor the Scriptures and help my flock. This fictional* letter from God was my answer...

Dear Matt,

I’m glad you asked. Thank you for coming to Me and asking Me what I would like to say to My people through you on Sunday morning. That’s a good question that you should be asking Me each and every week.

Matt, tell My people this: Tell them I love them and tell them to accept the gift of My rest.

Matt, when I created the world: the stars, The Milky Way, your Sun, when I created the Earth, every inch of dirt that you see, and every mountain that you’ll never climb, and every cubic inch of lava inside the Earth, and when I created the sea, every gallon of salty water and every fish and dolphin and algae and whale and shark in it. When I created everything that exists in Creation, I spent 6 days on it. Your ancestors Adam and Eve came on day 6. But on Day 7, I rested.

I didn’t need to rest, Matt. I rested to set aside a special time, a holy, sacred time, to enjoy Myself and all that I had created. I was creating something else by ceasing creating–I was creating the concept of rest. I, who never have to sleep, never grow weary, never have to relax–I’m God! I took a break from creating and rested. That last day I blessed, and made it a special day of enjoyment of Myself and My work.

Why do you think I was doing that, Matt? I was doing it to set out an example, a pattern for My people–to rest. O, I made work, too. And that’s awesome. It’s one of My better creations. My people should all work–put their hands and feet and brains to useful tasks. But I also created REST for them, rest from work and rest for the enjoyment of Me. I’m worth it! And that day that I broke from My creative work stands forever as a testimony of My value–I’m so awesome that I would stop and marvel and enjoy Myself and what I’ve done for a whole day.

Matt, tell My people on Sunday, that I not only created but rested; and therefore consecrated a day as an example of that rest for you to follow. Tell them that this is a gift from the beginning of the world for them to enjoy. (Gen 2:1-3)

Matt, you know that the Hebrew word to cease labor or to rest is “Sabbath.” And because I wanted My people to enjoy My gift of rest, I wrote it into law for the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 20:8-11, Deut 5:12-15) They needed a day that would be a marker for them–a weekly, spiritual reminder of My rest. I told them to remember it. To not forget it. To build it into their weeks, 1-2-3-4-5-6-Sabbath. 1-2-3-4-5-6-Sabbath. I wanted them to burn it into their minds and hearts that they need My rest. Rest from work and rest for Me.

That’s why I called it on that day, “a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” TO the LORD your God. This was to be a God-Day. To rest from labor and work and to spend their precious time worshiping Me.

Matt, I know human-beings. I know how forgetful you are in your fallen-state. You need reminders. I made the Sabbath a law for Israel because they could get to thinking that all that they have comes from their work. You do that, too. You think that because you have food in the fridge, it means that you’ve done something to earn it. But, Matt, who made your hands? Who made your feet? Who gave you energy to work? Who got you your job? Who gives you the beating heart and the breathing lung and the loud voice to do your work? Everything you have comes from Me–not from your work! That’s why I told Israel on the day we made our covenant in the wilderness that they should rest once a week–to remind them who really works in this relationship. If I say so, they will not have any more money or food or success even if they work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They need to recognize that ultimately–I provide. Not you. (cf. the spiritual lessons of Exodus 16.) That’s why they need to accept the gift of My rest.

I know you need reminders, Matt. Since the Fall, you always have. That’s why when I re-wrote the 10 Commandments into Deuteronomy, I stressed that the Sabbath exists to remember that Israel was formerly a slave in Egypt and that I, I alone, brought them out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deut. 5:15) The Sabbath existed for Israel as a reminder that I had saved them–and not themselves. Their work did not rescue them from Egypt. I did. And I had them set aside a day to ponder that reality.

Matt, I saved you, too. You could have worked and worked and worked for your salvation forever and ever and never earned it. Your fallen condition was too far gone to restore by your work. You are totally depraved. But, I chose you. And I killed My Son for you. And I got the gospel to you. And I caused you to believe it. And I am sanctifying you and saving you and making you holy, like Me and like My Son. That’s part of the rest here, Matt. Tell My people, that they can cease striving to gain My approval–it will never work. Tell your congregation, that they must accept My gift of rest. Rest from working for their salvation, and rest for finding it in Me and Me ALONE.

This is important, Matt. It’s very, very important. I established the death-penalty for those who broke the Sabbath in Israel under My Old Covenant. (Ex. 31:14) It’s that important. Tell the congregation at Lanse, that My rest is not to be ignored. They need it. They don’t just need physical rest every night and every 7 days; they need spiritual rest. Rest from work and rest for Me.

Tell them to delight in Me, Matt. That’s a large, often forgotten part of what it means to accept My rest. To Sabbathize. That’s what I told the people in Isaiah’s day. They had ignored My Sabbath Day.  They were doing whatever they pleased, and not just work, but evil on My day! They were prostituting themselves with pagan idols and searching for happiness and joy in everything else but Me. That’s why I said through My prophet, “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight (did you catch that Matt? Resting for Me is a delight!) If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your JOY in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. My mouth has said it!” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Tell them that accepting My rest means enjoying Me. Finding your joy in Me. Ultimate happiness is available to those who rest on Me. That’s what Sabbath is all about.

O, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law got it all mixed up. They focused on the cessation of work, what is work and what isn’t work–the outside of the commandment and missed the gift of rest that I was giving!

Matt, My Son Jesus had to correct them on that. When he would heal someone on the Sabbath, they got all upset (see for example Matt 12, John 5). Upset about nothing! The Sabbath was a gift for mankind. A gift they must not ignore, but a gift nonetheless. The day was supposed to signify rest, rest from work and rest for Me. But they had it turned around. They had made it work to rest! And Jesus had to tell them that it WAS lawful to heal on the Sabbath and to do good works, works of mercy and love. That out of the overflow of your rest in me should come acts of love. Rest from work and rest for Me and rest resulting in acts of love. And My Son should know. After all, He is Lord of the Sabbath, Ruler of Rest.

It’s not about what you can’t do on the Sabbath Day. It’s about what you can! Rest for Me and rest for your fellow man in acts of love. Rest is a gift. That’s the point. I am giving away blessings to those who will trust in Me. Salvation and provision and joy and the ability to love others. But you have to come and accept the gift. It was made for you, not the other way around.

Matt, tell them that’s why My Son issued that precious invitation: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you (trust Me, become related to Me intimately) and learn from Me (join My school of discipleship) for I am gentle and humble of heart (I won’t hurt you), and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:28-29, see also v.30)

My Son was issuing My invitation to accept My gift of rest. Tell the people of the West Branch Area that that Sabbath gift is still available to whoever will receive and follow Him by faith. Accept the gift of My rest. I hold it out to you. Rest from work and rest for Me.

Tell them that My Son is the total embodiment of the Sabbath principle. Now that He’s come and died for the redeemed and been resurrected for My glory and His, now the Sabbath is no longer commanded as a Day. Now it’s a person! The principle of rest from your work and rest for Me continues forever. But the command to hallow one day in seven is no more. It is subsumed, like the ceremonial sacrifices and the clean and unclean food laws into the New Covenant. As I said through My servant Paul, the Sabbath was a shadow of the Rest to come in Jesus. (Col. 2:16-17, see also Galatians 4:10)

Some of My people will want to celebrate My Son’s Resurrection with a whole day given to rest and worship and meditation and prayer and fasting and enjoying Me. That’s a great idea. My holy apostles started that pattern of Sunday worship. Never let My people forget their continued obligation and privilege to meet to worship, receive instruction, fellowship with other believers, eat My memorial meal, and give of their resources in offering (John 20:1, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). But that is not the Sabbath. Every day in Jesus is now the Sabbath. Every day, I call you to accept the gift of my rest. Rest from thinking that you provide for yourself. Rest from thinking that you can save yourself. Rest from striving after other, lesser things to give you true and lasting joy. And rest in Me. Be still and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)

Don’t quibble over days, Matt. And don’t let the congregation do it, either. As I said through Paul to the Roman believers, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind–and do it as to the Lord” (Romans 14:5, see vv.6-8, too)

Don’t get either lazy or legalistic. Lazy in never resting in this way or legalistic in mandating for others how to rest and how not to rest. Tell My people that the point is accepting the gift of my rest and resting in Me.

One more thing, Matt. The fullest enjoyment of My rest is still to come. O, yes, it does get even better–in Me! That’s what I meant when I said in Hebrews, “There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9) I wasn’t talking about a specific Day of 24 hours. I meant the full enjoyment of heaven–final salvation, where all striving against evil and striving with tired muscles at work and striving to figure out life and striving to make a living and striving to find joy anywhere else--where all that striving is over...and My rest and refreshment is all that you experience and enjoy forever. The refreshment of heaven! I make all things NEW and refreshing! (Revelation 21:5)

Many will not enjoy that rest, Matt. Many will be disobedient to My Gospel. Many will do nothing to enter into that rest because of the hardness of their unbelieving hearts. Don’t be like those who fell in the wilderness!

Exhort the people gathered at Lanse on Sunday to enter into My rest by FAITH. To put their full confidence in Me and Me alone. To cease their striving after the wind and rest in Me. Because if they live their lives like that now, they will enjoy My rest forever.

The rest that I began after I put you in the cradle of Eden will continue forever and ever and ever and ever if you trust in Me. Hold firmly to that confidence you had at first and you will have an eternal Sabbath. That’s what I want for My people.

Tell them that, Matt. Tell them I love them and to accept and live by the gift of My rest.

Sincerely and for the Glory of My Name,
The Lord Your God

*I stress that this is a work of fiction not a vision, prophecy, or revelation. It was just my attempt to summarize what God has said in His Word and apply it directly in the form of a letter. Please check out the verses cited to see what God has actually said.

The sermon version was originally preached on July 2, 2000, and the original blog version of this letter was posted on here on May 15, 2005.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Thursday, October 08, 2015

"Resisting Gossip Together" Turns 1 Year Old

One candle on the cake!

Happy birthday to Resisting Gossip Together the companion book for groups and individuals studying Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue.

It's been one year since RGT was released in conjunction with the video teaching series. It's a bestseller for CLC Publications, and they've already had to order a second printing.

It's been so encouraging to hear stories of groups using these materials and growing in grace and also to get positive reviews like this one from Pastor Brad Bigney of Grace Fellowship Church in Florence Kentucky who said, "A+++ I would use them again."

To learn more about Resisting Gossip Together, read this interview I did with the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

I also have a page on this blog dedicated to extra resources that fit with RGT. Read the introduction here to get a sense of what RGT is all about. And here is a list of all of the wonderful people who helped make it possible.

I am grateful to the Lord for allowing me to create these resources and lead CLC to make them available to the Church!

A Christian Prayer Catechism


This little catechism has been designed to help you learn a biblical theology of prayer. Each of the 27 questions and answers has been written so that anyone can memorize them and is accompanied with a few comments on the biblical basis for each answer.

I recommend that families memorize the questions and answers together. Individuals can do it in small groups, as well, to hold each other accountable. The key thing is to internalize this theology and to utilize it in your prayer life.

The Prayer Catechism is organized around four key questions:

A. What Is Christian Prayer?
B. Who is the God of Christian Prayer?
C. Does Christian Prayer Work?
D. How Should A Christian Pray?

It is my prayer that this little booklet will deepen your understanding of Christian Prayer and motivate you to engage in prayerful communion with God.

In His Grip,
- Pastor Matt

A Brief Theology of Christian Prayer: Questions and Answers

A.  What Is Christian Prayer?

#1. Q.  What is Christian Prayer?

A.  Christian Prayer is personal communication between a Christian and God.

Christian Prayer is not getting God to do what we want.  It is talking with God about the whole of our life and concerns and receiving the best answers from God, in God’s timing, and in God’s wisdom. W. Bingham Hunter says, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, by the help of His Spirit, with confession of sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies” (From class notes on the “Theology and Ministry of Prayer;” an amalgam of the Westminster Larger & Shorter Catechism answers to the questions on prayer.)  Bob Bakke says, “Prayer is essentially communion with God” (The Power of Extraordinary Prayer, pg. 17).

#2. Q.  Why should a Christian Pray?

A.  God wants all Christians to pray and uses our prayers to grow our relationship with Him and accomplish His will in the world.

Prayer is not optional.  It is commanded and expected of all Christians (ex. 1 Tim 2:1-2, Col. 4:2, 1 Thess. 5:17, etc.).   In fact, prayer is described in the Scriptures as a mark of being a genuine Christian (ex. Acts 9:11).  Prayer is used by our Heavenly Father to increase our dependence and trust in Him, as well as our love for and fellowship with Him.  Prayer is absolutely good for us!  And it is good for the world because God allows our prayers to be used in carrying out His kingdom purposes (ex. Luke 11:2).

#3. Q.  What is the most important priority in Christian Prayer?

A.  The most important priority in Christian Prayer is to know God.

Prayer does not exist to tell God what we need or to twist His arm into doing it (Matthew 6:8). Prayer is primarily a means of relating to God (John 4:19-24).  God is the greatest Person in the universe–worthy of all of our attention (Rev. 4:11, 5:12).  The Ruler of the Universe has invited us to communicate with Him and grow in our conscious dependence on and love for Him.  Prayer is a means of knowing God in Christ (Phil. 3:8-11).

#4.   Q.  How can I approach a holy God?

A.  I can approach a holy God only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is what makes Christian Prayer Christian.  We can now approach God in prayer through the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5).  All real Christian prayer is, therefore, “cross-centered.”  Through Jesus Christ alone, we now have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:18).

#5. Q.  How should we approach God?

A.  We should approach God with reverence and awe, as well as confidence and boldness.

God is holy and should not be trifled with (Eccl. 1:5-7, Hebrews 4:13).  “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Hebrews 12:28-29).  The priestly work of Jesus Christ, however, assures us of access to God and answers from God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Both attitudes of reverence and confidence should characterize our prayers simultaneously.

B.  To Whom Does the Christian Pray?

#6. Q.  Why do we pray to a sovereign God?

A.  We pray to a sovereign God because prayer is one of the ways God expresses His sovereign rule over His creation.

Because God is sovereign, prayer makes sense.  Why pray to someone who can’t accomplish His will?  Because God rules everything, it is appropriate to ask Him to do things (Ps. 5:2).  God does not rule His creation, however, in such a way that our prayers are not necessary.  God has ordained that our prayers are one of the means He uses to effect His sovereign will.  He has given us the dignity of being a causation of what happens in His world.  Therefore, our prayers to the Sovereign Lord are very significant and accomplish much (James 4:2, 5:16, Luke 11:9-10, etc).

#7.   Q.  Does prayer change God’s mind?

A.  No, prayer does not change God’s mind, but mysteriously, God responds to our prayers.

The relation of God’s plans to our prayers is one of the deepest mysteries of the Bible and must be held in trusting tension.  The “secret will” of God is unchanging and immutable (Num. 23:19).  But on the level of our divine-human interaction, God is responsive to the prayers of His people (ex. Exodus 32:9-12, 2 Chron. 7:14, 1 John 1:9).  Amazingly, God has designed His world in such a way that He remains unchanging and responsive at the same time (Romans 11:33).

#8.   Q.  Why do we pray to an omniscient God?

A.  We pray to an omniscient God because we can tell Him anything.

W. Bingham Hunter has pointed out that the Western mindset says that we need not bother to tell anything to a God who knows everything.  The biblical mindset, however, is that an omniscient God knows everything already so there are no barriers to our sharing anything with Him.  Because of Christ, we need not fear sharing our hearts with God.  He knows them already (1 Samuel 16:7, Luke 16:15, 1 John 3:20, etc).  The Bible assumes and encourages prayer to an omniscient God (Psalm 139:1-23, especially v. 4).

#9. Q.  Does God get tired of listening to me?

A.  No.  God never tires of listening to His children’s prayers.

God never gets tired (Isaiah 40:28, Psalm 121)!  When we ask this question, we might be assuming a faulty understanding of our relationship with God.  We are God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus (1 John 3:1).  How could God the Father tire of communicating with His children who are in His beloved Son (Ephesians 1:3-6)?  Does God get tired with Jesus?

#10. Q.  Whom do we address in prayer?

A.  We directly address God the Father in the name of God the Son by the empowering of God the Spirit.

Most instances of prayer in the Scriptures are directly addressed to God the Father (most notably, the prayer the Lord taught His disciples in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, see also John 16:23).   It seems that this should be the normative pattern for our prayers.  All prayer is Trinitarian, however, in that the entire Trinity is involved in each of our prayers, and each member of the Godhead is equally God and equally worthy of our worship (Ephesians 5:20, 6:18).  It is, therefore, acceptable to pray to the Son and/or the Spirit at times when it seems appropriate.

C.  Does Christian Prayer Work?

#11. Q.  Does prayer work?

A.  No, prayer does not “work,” but God works when His people pray!

We need to constantly fight against the idea that prayer is a mechanical system that somehow wrangles God into conformity with our will.  On the other hand, we need to constantly remember that God wants us to ask for things and uses our asking to effect His will (Matthew 7:7).  In this sense, prayer does “work”–“The prayer of righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).  We also need to remember that prayer is much more than asking but that asking is a major part of prayer.

#12. Q.  Why are some prayers unanswered?

A.  No prayers are unanswered; God always answers, “Yes, No, or Wait.”

In this sense, Christian prayers are always answered every time.  In another sense, of course, we don’t always know what the answers are or when the “Yeses” will come.  Waiting on God for these is a big part of how God uses prayer in our sanctification (Ps. 130:5-6, Isa. 38:9-20).  One purpose of so-called “unanswered prayer” is how it motivates us to persevere in prayer.  W. Bingham Hunter says, “Unanswered prayer may be God’s way of staying in touch with you” (Class Notes).

#13. Q.  What hinders prayer?

A.  A problem in my relationship with God or with others will hinder my prayers.

If I harbor unconfessed sin or live in disobedience, I cannot expect God to bless my prayers (Psalm 66:18-20, Matt 6:12, Psalm 19:12, etc).  The same is true if I am not living a life of love for those around me, especially those in covenant with me (ex. 1 Peter 3:7).

#14. Q.  What makes prayer effective?

A.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

God responds to who I am, not just formally to what I say (James 5:16).  He listens to the totality of my life, not just my words.  I am not righteous in myself (thankfully!), but in Christ and in His “positional righteousness,” I am to grow in practical righteousness. The more I grow in Christ through repentance and faith, the more conformed I am to the image of Christ and the more I pray according to His will. The more I pray according to His will, the more effective my prayers become. W. Bingham Hunter has called this “The Prayer/Obedience Cycle” (The God Who Hears, 214).  It is not a “magic formula,” but rather, a description of God’s active work of conforming us to the image of His Son and conforming our prayers to be efficacious like His, as well (Romans 8:26-31).

#15. Q.  Does God hear the prayers of nonChristians?

A. God hears all prayers but has only promised to bless the prayers of His children.  

Nothing goes unnoticed by God (Hebrews 4:13).  And God in His common grace has used the prayers of nonChristians in the Bible and in human history (ex. Acts 10:31).  God has not, however, promised to bless the prayers of nonChristians like He has for His children (Matthew 7:9-11).

#16. Q.  What has God promised us to do with our prayers?

A.  God has promised to answer our prayers!

We need to remind ourselves again and again that God has told us to persevere in prayer and that He will faithfully answer (Matthew 7:7, Luke 18:1ff).

#17. Q.  What does it mean to “pray without ceasing?”

A.  Praying without ceasing is living our lives “on speakerphone” with God.

Praying “without ceasing” is not being constantly on our knees and disengaged from the rest of the world.  It is, however, maintaining a vital connection with God through directed thoughts, meditation, simple spoken and unspoken prayers, and conscious and unconscious dependence on God in Christ throughout our days (Neh. 2:4, 1 Thess. 5:17).

#18. Q.  What does it mean to pray “in the Spirit?”

A.  To pray “in the Spirit” is to pray knowing God is present and active in my life.

God the Spirit is on site and constantly at work in every believer’s life.  We need to pray, therefore, in dependence on Him and His work.  It’s not some “spooky” trance, but it is supernatural.  Wayne Grudem says, “To pray ‘in the Holy Spirit’ then, is to pray with the conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us and sanctifying both us and our prayers” (Systematic Theology, pg. 382).

#19. Q.  What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name?”

A.  Praying in Jesus’ name is praying in Jesus’ authority through Jesus’ sacrifice for Jesus’ will.

Jesus has asked us to pray in His own name (John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24).  This is not a “magic formula” for us to be certain to say at the end of each of our prayers, but it is important.  A name in Scripture stands for a person and their authority (Acts 3:6, 4:7, 16:18, 1 Cor 5:4, Prov. 22:1). Therefore, to pray “in Jesus’ name” means to pray with the authorization of our Lord.  This authorization comes because of the death and resurrection of Christ.  He has authorized us through His Crosswork.  Wayne Grudem adds, “[It is] also praying in a way that is consistent with his character, that truly represents him and reflects his manner of life and his own holy will” (Systematic Theology, pg. 379).  What a privilege and what a responsibility!

#20. Q.  What does it mean to pray “in faith?”

A.  Praying in faith is resting on God’s ability to do what He promises and anything else that He wants to do.

We are called to unconditionally trust in God’s promises.  Faith is believing that God is trustworthy.  We are also called to trust that God knows what is best and to submit our requests to Him for His consideration. We don’t presume upon God in areas where He has not revealed His will, but we do trust Him with them (Mark 11:24, James 1:6, Matt. 21:22).  We need to believe that God has omnipotent power and is willing to use it for our benefit and His glory (Heb 11:6).  Our faith must be absolute that God will act if He has specifically and unconditionally promised to do so (ex. James 1:5, 1 John 1:9), but it must also be confident that God will act in wisdom when a request seems consistent with God’s will but is not specifically promised in Scripture.

#21. Q.  How much faith is required to receive answers in prayer?

A.  A little bit of faith in a very big God is required to receive answers in prayer.

It is the object of our faith, not the subjective amount, that counts (Matt. 17:20).  We are to have faith in God, not faith in our faith.  Our confidence must be in God and not in getting “answers.”  A lot of faith in an inch of ice will get us cold and wet. But a little bit of faith in three feet of ice will support an SUV crossing a lake.

D.  How Should A Christian Pray?

#22. Q.  What should we pray for?

A.  We should pray for whatever concerns us and those we are called to love.

The Bible gives us a host of things to pray for (ex. Matt. 6:9-15, 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Col 4:2-5).  Nothing in life is off-limits for prayer.  We need to pray for ourselves, loved ones, church family, for the advance of the Gospel, for government, for health and healing, for spiritual warfare, etc.

#23. Q.  What should we NOT pray for?

A. We should not pray for our lusts.

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  God will not be used.

#24. Q.  What should characterize our prayers?

A.  Our prayers should be characterized by confession, repentance, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, supplication, dependence, patience, love, and forgiveness.

Prayer is a means of relationship with God.  Therefore, all of our heart’s attitudes toward God need to find expression in our prayers.  They should be characterized by confession and repentance  because though we are already forgiven in Christ, we need to appropriate that forgiveness and grow in intelligent repentance (1 Jn 1:9, Mt. 3:8).  We should adore God for Who He is and thank Him for all that He has done (ex. Psalm 8, 1 Thess 5:18).  We are called to pray for others and ourselves (ex. 1 Sam. 12:23, Mark 14:36).  We need to trust God in waiting for answers.  Prayer is a practical way of loving others:“As faith without works are dead, so is prayer without love dead” (Bing Hunter, Class Notes).  This is often expressed in forgiveness and forbearance (Mt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35).

#25. Q.  What should be our posture in prayer?

A.  We are to pray in all postures but especially on our knees.

The Bible repeatedly calls us to bow down before God. We are in the throne room of the Worthy King of the Universe (Eph 3:14).  We also sit and stand before Him, raise holy hands, prostrate ourselves, and pray on our beds.  All of these postures and more are appropriate at various times when they are done in faith.

#26. Q.  Should we fast when we pray?

A.  Yes, fasting adds an “exclamation mark” to our prayers.

There are many appropriate times to fast and pray (see the long biblical list in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, chapter 9 [pgs. 159-180]).  Fasting is expected by our Lord (Mark 2:19-20, Matt. 6:16-18, etc), but it is not a means of wrestling God to our point of view or holding him hostage by a hunger-strike.  Fasting is a way of intensifying our prayers so that we increasingly say to ourselves and to God that we really believe what we are praying.  “This much, O God, I want you” (A Hunger for God, 23).

#27. Q.  After we have prayed, do we have a responsibility?

A.  Yes, after we have prayed, our responsibility is to look for any answers, be faithful in obedience to any answers, and be willing “to be the answers.”

“Prayer is not a labor-saving device” (W. Bingham Hunter, Class Notes).  Whenever God reveals how, we are to take an active role in being the “answer to our own prayers.”   We never want it said of us, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Monday, October 05, 2015

Yo estoy resistiendo el chisme!

The CLC Colombia team sent me these photos from the launch of Resistiendo el Chisme at the international book fair in Bogota last spring. I love it! 

(Scroll down to the bottom for a translation.)

(l-r) Lorenzo Rincon, Colombia Sales Department Manager, Iris Vargas, Public Liaison of CLC Colombia, Carlos Galeano, Colombia Seller of Editorial and Marketing, Maria del Carmen Castañeda, CLC Mexico Director; David Pabón Serrano, CLC Colombia Director, Ruben Reyes, Wholesale Assistant in Miami Warehouse.

Blanca Garzon, the publisher of CLC Colombia, translates for me:

"The phrases are: (front picture) 1,3,5,6 and 7 T-shirts tell:

Did I tell you a gossip?  (¿Te cuento un chisme?) 

The answers in the back  T-shirts 1,3,5,6 and 7 tell:

I am resisting the gossip!  (Yo estoy resistiendo el chisme!)

The phrases in front picture, people 2nd and 4th are:

You know what is coprolalia? It is the pathological tendency to dirty talk, rude words and double meanings.

The answers in the back T-shirts 2nd, and 4th are:

Speak well, live well!"

Sunday, October 04, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Get to Work!"

“Get to Work!”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
October 4, 2015 :: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

This is our fifth message in our series on “Working for the Lord.”

The first week, we learned what Dan just taught us again, that is “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Our work is to be worship!

The second week, we asked the question, “Is Work – Good or Bad?” And the answer was that it is complicated. Work was made to be good but was cursed when we fell into sin, but Jesus is reworking work to be good again, and someday, He will reverse the curse and make work perfect forever.

The third week, we asked the question, “Why Work?” and the answer was NOT to be saved or to bring glory to ourselves so that we could boast but we work BECAUSE we are saved, and to bring glory to God and to serve our neighbors in love. The Lord has prepared in advance good works for us to do.

Last week, we started to get even more practical. Pastor Kirk Albrecht from First Free McKeesport taught us about working at witnessing and witnessing at work. Using the delightful story of the young Israeli slave girl who kept her message simple and simply said what she knew in the course of her work day, Kirk reminded us that God can use ordinary workers like you and me to reach others for Christ on the job if we are bold enough to speak His name.

Now, in today’s message, I want to raise the issue of hard work, of diligence at work, the concept of industriousness.

Our memory verse says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart...”

Give it your all. Throw yourself into your work. Be diligent, busy, industrious, hard-working.

Or to put it this way, here’s our title: “Get to Work!”

Now, some of you may not need this message today.

Some of you are already hard workers. In fact, you may even be working too hard. Some of you are workaholics who don’t know how to take a break.

And others of you have tender consciences and will feel like this message is for you, but it’s really not. You just are easily shamed.

“I know, I know, I need to work harder.”

What’s difficult about a preaching a message like this one is that often the wrong person hears it and takes it heart and the one who really needs it blows it off.

Next week, I plan to preach on work and rest. And some of you will need that message more than this one.

But most of us need this message from time to time and haven’t heard very many sermons on it–though it’s a big theme in the Bible: “Get to work!”

Work hard. Get off your duff. Roll up your sleeves. And get to work.

In this letter to the church at Thessalonika, the apostle Paul has taught them many things. He’s taught about the return of Christ, and the end times, and the importance of evangelism. And he’s encouraged the believers that God has not abandoned them and will strengthen and protect them from the evil one.

And then Paul ends his letter with an exhortation for all of the believers to get to work and stay at work at their jobs.

It was apparently an ongoing problem at Thessalonika because Paul had said something similar in 1 Thessalonians. The believers needed to encourage each other to not be idle and to keep at their work.

The basic idea here is very obvious: Get to work!

Believers in Jesus Christ are not to be idle but to be busy.

And not just busy in gospel ministry but busy in everyday work. V.12

“Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn [work for] the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.”

Get to work and keep at it.

Notice that Paul stresses that this is a Christian command. V.6

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers...”

And v.12, “we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ...”

Being industrious and diligent is a Christian duty. “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Again, not to be saved but because we are saved, the Lord Jesus Christ commands us to get to work.

Do you hear the Lord telling you that today?

Are you hard worker?

Let me ask you this question.  How would you answer it? Truthfully?

Did you work hard this week?
Or did you hardly work this week?

Did you recognize it as your Christian duty to be industrious and diligent about your work?

Apparently, there were professing believers at Thessalonika who did NOT see it that way. V.6 again.

“[W]e command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”

V.10 says that Paul has heard that there were some who call themselves Christians who were “idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” Great play on words.

These guys were using their time to get into other people’s business not mind their own business and not be busy in business.

And Paul says that it needs to stop.

Application point:


V.12 again. “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”

Repent of laziness and get to work.

Now, this is a major theme in what book of the Bible?

The Proverbs, right?

There is this major cartoonish character who appears in the proverbs again and again, and he gets funnier and funnier every time.

What’s his name?

“The sluggard.”

We might call him, “Lazybones.”

Or in our modern language, “Slacker.”

The slacker.

Have you ever worked with a slacker?  I know I have.

Have you ever been a slacker?  I know I have.

Turn with me to Proverbs 6, and we’ll see a little bit about what the Proverbs teach us on this kind of guy. Proverbs 6:6. We’ll come to back to 2 Thessalonians, so you might want to put a finger there. But turn to Proverbs 6:6 and see what it says:

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

That’s an interesting start, isn’t it? How would you like to be told that you need to follow the example of a little squishy bug? You’re not cutting it. You need to go to Ant-School!

Well, obviously, this slacker needs it. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

It’s got nobody to tell it what to do, yet it still does it!


Do you have to be told what to do or you don’t do it?

Do you have to be told “Get to work!” or you don’t get to work?

That’s the mark of a slacker.

Ben Schiefer wisely said last year in our youth boys’ class that the point of the Proverbs is to “not be that guy.”

You don’t want to be that guy.

Repent of being a slacker.

Don’t wait around for someone to tell you to do it. Just do it!

Notice also that the ant stores its provisions when? When they are needed?

No, in the summer it stores and in the harvest it gathers.

The idea there is what we call “delayed gratification.”

You work now, and it pays off later.

Now, that’s not easy to do, but it’s good to do. Our culture loves instant gratification, but that’s actually laziness.

Be like the ant. Choose delayed gratification. V.9

“How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? [Get to work! Here’s the attitude]... A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–[bam!] and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” You won’t see it coming.

Do you see how the slacker doesn’t feel like working?

I don’t know about you, but I often don’t feel like working.

This guy just feels like napping. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest...” what could it hurt?

It definitely does hurt.  Don’t be that guy.

Proverbs 20, verse 4 says, “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.”

Let’s look at another one about the sluggard. Turn with me to Proverbs 19, verse 24.

“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!”

Now, that’s lazy! Alistair Begg calls the sluggard “Crazy Lazy.”

He starts something good, but doesn’t finish it.

He puts his hand into the bowl of nachos but falls asleep and forgets to feed himself.

Now, that’s ridiculous. It’s meant to be ridiculous.

But don’t we all know someone who has started something good but never got around to finishing it?

I have piles of things like that in my office back there.

“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!”  He just can’t be bothered. He’s too lazy. He doesn’t care.

Let’s look at another. Proverbs 22:13.

“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!’ or, ‘I will be murdered in the streets!’”

What are those? Those are ridiculous excuses.

Is there a lion outside? No. He’s just saying whatever he can come up with to get out of work.

“If you make me go outside, I’ll die! I’ll get murdered in the streets!”

Do you know someone who is full of ridiculous excuses for not working?

Have you been full of ridiculous excuses for not working?

One last one. Turn over to chapter 26. Proverbs 26.

Verse 13 repeats the silly excuses that we’ve seen already.

Verse 14 is new. “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”

That’s hilarious. “The lazy man can’t get himself out of bed, or off the couch. He does as much work as a door on a hinge – limited range and limited usefulness. He looks like one, too, as [he] turns over repeatedly to keep on resting and sleeping.

It’s not that lazy people sleep all day necessarily, but that they are given to self-indulgence, easy, and frivolity. They don’t take up challenges; they live life aimlessly and like it that way.” (Daniel Holmquist, “Lampooning the Ludicrous Life of the Lazy.”)

Do you get the picture?

Verse 15 is like 19:24.  Look at verse 16. It’s very interesting.

“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.”

Do you catch that?

Is the sluggard wise? Is the lazy man a wise man?

The guy with his hand in the dish, his hinge in the bed, his lion in the street? Is he wise?

He thinks he is.

Do you know someone who says that he’s working smart, but he’s really not working at all?

And he’s got an answer for everything? An objection for everything? An excuse for everything?

A slacker thinks they’re smarter than everyone else. Than seven discreet men.

Repent of being a slacker!

Why do you think the proverbs spend so much time on this?

That’s not all of the verses about the sluggard in the Proverbs.

Why is that so prominent a theme?

I’m sure there’s lots of reasons, but here’s one. We are all prone to fall into the slacker trap.

Sinners like to drift.

How about you?  Probably most of us here aren’t as extreme as the sluggard. Though there may be some parents or teachers who could tell a few stories if they had a chance!

But do you have some laziness to repent of?

Instant gratification?
Easy pay off?
And a prideful answer for everything?

Repent of laziness and get to work.

Don’t be that guy.


Turn back with me to 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 and see this point in what Paul says about himself and his co-workers. V.7

“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (vv.7-8).

Paul worked very hard when he was with them.

He’s not asking them to do anything that he was not willing to do himself.

In fact, that was the very reason why he worked so hard. V.9

“We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.”

Paul, as a gospel-worker could have asked for support. Just like you support me in full-time vocational gospel ministry, Paul could have gotten that from the Thessalonians. At other times, he does just that.

But when he was with them, Paul worked night and day to provide them with a model and example to follow of hard work.

Now, there’s a lesson there for pastors like me. We should be willing to work hard as an example for the flock.

But there is also a lesson for all of us. We need to work hard because others are watching us.

Parents, you need to work hard because your kids are watching.

They will pick up on your work ethic.

Christians, you need to work hard because the world is watching.

If the world gets the idea that Christ has a bunch of slackers on His hands, then we are not making the gospel attractive to the world, and we’re telling a lie about our Savior.

I remember one time that I was asked by some co-workers to stop working so hard.

Have you ever had that problem? I’ve been told many times to “get to work,” as well,  but when I was a college student, I worked for a temp agency that placed me in a clean-up operation of a department store that went out of business.

And it was our job to clean this place out from top to bottom during one of my spring breaks. That was hard work. But my co-workers felt that I worked too hard.

Now, one way that I worked too hard was not working smart. I would carry these great big shelving units by hand one by one from one end of the shop to the other.

And the other guys working with me, just laughed at me and showed me how we had these carts that would do it for us.

But they also took me aside once and asked if I would slow it down some because I was making them look bad.

I couldn’t do that. I could try to find ways to make them look good and be their friends but I needed to set an example and stay diligent because it was the Lord Christ that I was serving.

What about you? Are you setting an example at work?

How about you students who are in second, third, or fourth grade?

Are you working hard at your school work?  Other people are watching and they will take their cues from you.

What about you who are retired?  Do you work hard? There are still people watching you. It doesn’t matter if you are being compensated. It matters if you are contributing with your hard work. Same with you are who are disabled.

If you don’t need to be compensated that only means that you have more ability and freedom to focus your work on where you feel the Lord wants you to contribute.

What about you who are unemployed right now?

You don’t have a job right now.

Your main job is to seek a job. I tell guys who aren’t working that they should spend an eight hour workday in seeking a new job.

It won’t be long until you have one if you are working at it for a full day every day.

Paul says in verse 10 that the rule for the Christians he laid down is “If a man WILL  NOT work, he shall not eat.”

The question is whether or not he’s willing to work.  If he’s a total slacker, then the church should not enable him.

But someone who is willing to work and doing what they can, that’s another story all together.

And when we work hard, the people around us are watching and will learn.

We need to set an example.

What kind of work did Paul do?

What kind of work did Paul do when he wasn’t preaching. Anybody remember?

The Bible says he was a tentmaker. He worked hard with his own hands.

Let’s recognize those of you who work with your hands.

Would you stand if you are a craftsman or a laborer or something like that where your work is with your hands.  Maybe a mechanic?  Or a builder? Someone who installs things.  Or is retired from that kind of work?

Would you stand so that we can celebrate you?

Thank you!

One of my goals for this sermon series is celebrate the hard work of every different kind of worker that we have here.

Thank you for working with your hands just like the apostle Paul.

And just like Jesus.

Did you know that Bible calls Jesus, “The Carpenter.” Not just the “Carpenter’s son,” but the “Carpenter” himself.

Jesus worked with wood for many more years than He preached and acted as the Messiah.

Isn’t that profound and thought-provoking?

How God blessed work by the God-Man being a worker? And working with his hands. Working with the creation. With wood.

Bending over a piece of wood. Sweat on his brow. Jesus.


Did you catch how serious this is to Paul?

Verse 6 says tells the believers to “keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching” that Paul had passed on to them.

That’s serious. V.14 repeats it.

“If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”

We laugh about the sluggard, but this is serious stuff.

Christians should not let other Christians just get away with being lazy.

That’s one of the reasons for today’s sermon.

Followers of Jesus warn each other of the dangers of sloth and laziness.

At least, we’re supposed to.

We are much more likely to complain about each other’s laziness than we are to confront each other and encourage each other to change.

But the Bible says that we should care about our brothers and sisters in Christ enough to alert them to the perils of idleness.

Is there someone you need to talk to this week?


It’s not so much here in 2 Thessalonians as it is back in the Proverbs about laziness and hard work.

But even here, it’s the ones who are NOT idle who get to eat.

If you work hard, there is normally a payoff.

It doesn’t normally come right away, but it comes.

If you work hard at your schoolwork, you get the better grades.

If you do the overtime, you get the time and half.

If you take the time to do the job right, you don’t have to do it over again.

Listen to these Proverbs. Don’t turn there, just listen.

Proverbs 10, verse 4. “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”

Proverbs 13, verse 4, “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

The slacker wants lots of things but isn’t willing to work for them. But the diligent tend to get what they work towards.

Proverbs 15:19, “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.”

The way the slacker chooses looks easier but is actually harder. But the way of the diligent righteous upright worker seems harder on the face of it, but actually gets you there.

Get to work and expect a reward.

God has worked that principle into the fabric of His world.

Worship at the Lord’s Table

In fact, it’s part of what happened to Jesus on the Cross.

We often call what Jesus did on the Cross, the Work of Jesus.

Or His CrossWork.

What is the reward for His work on the cross?

It was a different kind of work. It wasn’t a job He undertook for wages or compensation.

He took, in fact, our wages, the wages of sin is death.

He took our death in our place on the Cross.

And when He did that, He purchased our salvation.

And then He was resurrected and got His reward. Philippians 2.

“[Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

That’s part of His reward for His work.

And He shares it with us!  We who don’t deserve it one little bit.

Jesus earned our salvation and our eternal joy with Him forever on the Cross.

It is at this table that we remember His work and His reward.

Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
04. Working at Witnessing