Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
November 15, 2015 :: Colossians 3:17
Our sermon series is called “Working for the Lord,” and this is the 11th message in our series.
Ever since Labor Day, we’ve been learning together what the Bible says about our work, our jobs, our vocations, our callings, our labors.
And we’ve finding out that God’s Word has a lot to say about our work.
God cares about how we work, and how much we work, and how we do our work.
And we’ve been learning that this teaching applies to everyone not just those who leave the house and work from 9-5 for pay, for compensation, but everybody.
All Christians are working for the Lord.
One of you told me this week that it was slowly dawning on you in the last few weeks of this series that this stuff really did apply to you. This person was retired from their work for compensation but was realizing that what they were called to do right now was still an important contribution and that all of these things we’ve been learning about with attitude, and prayer, and diligence, and laziness, and rest, and everything else applied to them as well.
So whether you are retired, or a second, a second, third, or fourth grader, or are employed right now and looking for work or even are disabled and unable to do work for compensation at this time, or if you head out each day and work an 8 or 10 or 12 hour shift, all of this stuff applies to every one of us.
As our hide the word verse says, we are “working for the Lord.” “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Our hide the word verse is Colossians 3:23 and 24.
Today, I want us to back up the page a little bit to verse 17.
Verse 17 begins with almost the exact same words as verse 23.
It says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Now, in the context, this is talking to Christians about how to live a holy life as Christians.
And the first application, just like last week, of these verses is to life and relationships within the church. Verses 12 through 16 are especially about how Christians are to relate to one another in love, and peace, and in unified worship.
So when we get to verse 17 and it says, “and whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus,” the first application we should think about is to the gathered church.
Everything we do here and among us whether in word or deed should be done in the name of Jesus and be full of thanksgiving. Not just in November, but all of the time.
But I don’t think that the apostle Paul has just in mind the local church here.
Because he flows right from verse 17 into our relationships in the home, wives, husbands, children, fathers and then into our relationships at work: slaves, masters and so on.
When Paul says, “whatever you do” he really does mean “in everything that you do.”
Not just when you are in your holy huddle on Sundays.
But when you venture out into the world to do your work, you are to live out Colossians 3:17.
“And whatever you do [all day at work!], whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Does that land on you heavily? Do you feel that?
When I started meditating on this verse this week, it really started to feel kind of heavy.
Do you feel the weight of this?
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
What does that mean?
What does it mean to do something in the name of Jesus?
Do something for me. Write down your answer.
Take a second and put something down on the back of your bulletin.
What would it mean for you to do your work in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Here’s what I think it means in Colossians 3.
In some places, doing something in the name of the Lord means wielding some kind of authority. But here, I think it’s more about living under His authority than exerting it.
I think that the basic idea is representing Jesus.
I love name tags. They are fun.
My wife hates them. With. A. Passion.
A name tag tells you something about who someone is.
What their identity is.
What if your nametag said this?
“Hello: My Name is Jesus.”
Not really. My name isn’t really Jesus.
But I’m here to represent Him.
I’m here as Jesus’ representative today.
I’m doing my work today in His name.
Does that make this feel a little heavier?
Now, maybe that’s not that helpful to you. Think instead, about uniforms at work.
How many here wear a uniform at work?
Not just a dresscode, but your work requires you to wear something that says to the people around you what you represent.
It might have the name of your company on it. And maybe their logo.
And when you wear it, people expect certain things from you, right?
I mean when you see a police officer in their uniform, you expect them to act a certain way.
When you see a nurse in their uniform, you expect them to act in a certain way.
Because they are wearing that uniform.
I was at Lowes a few weeks ago, and I was wearing one of my favorite blue sweatshirts.
And I got asked more than once to assist customers.
They just saw that blue and thought that I worked there.
Boy, would they be disappointed if I was the one to give them advice on tools and hardware!
I think that Paul is saying that we are to wear the uniform of a follower of Jesus all of the time, including when we work.
What does that look like?
Well, some people think it looks like a clerical collar.
Some pastors wear a collar to send a message to those around them that they are representing Jesus.
And that you can expect certain things from someone wearing that uniform.
Blair used to joke with me that I was a “man of the cloth.”
And that’s fine if a pastor wants to do that and send that message.
But we’re learning this Fall that it’s not just pastors who are working for the Lord.
It’s not just pastors or missionaries or other full time ministry people who are to do whatever they do in the name of Jesus.
We are all called to represent Jesus in our workplaces, whatever they are.
Or as the cool kids say these days, “Repping.”
We are “repping Jesus.”
And it means a lot more than just wearing certain clothes.
The New Living Translation renders verse 17 like this, “And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.”
So how are you doing at repping Jesus in your work?
Yes, you believe that you are working for the Lord and should be working for His pleasure. How are you doing at being a representative of the Lord in your work?
If you looked over the last week of work and had to grade whether or not you did your work in the name of the Lord, what kind of a grade would you give yourself?
Notice that it says in verse 17 that this is in both word and deed.
It’s not JUST words but deeds.
And it’s not just deeds but words.
It’s both walk and talk.
And both are important.
Some people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, right?
But this is saying that we must talk the talk, as well. We can’t ignore our words as part of the equation.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Word or deed.
How did you do at words and deeds this last week that represent the Lord Jesus Christ in your workplace?
Another similar metaphor would be ambassadors.
An ambassador represents their country. They do what they do in the name of their country.
How are we doing at being ambassadors of the Lord Jesus in our work?
In everything?! V.17 “Whatever you do.”
If you take out the trash or you sign the multi-million dollar sales agreement.
In whatever you do, words or deeds, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Each week in this series, we’ve been asking a different group of workers to stand. Some of you have fit under multiple categories and have been asked to stand more than once. That demonstrates the complexity of our work in God’s world.
Some of you haven’t stood yet, but I’m trying to make sure everybody does by the end of this series because this is about everybody.
Today, I’d like you to stand and be celebrated if you work or worked in finance, law, sales, or art.
So if you are an accountant or you work at a bank or if you are an attorney or you sell things, or if you are an artist (you make things to express truth or beauty), I’d like you all to stand.
Thank you for your contribution to the common good and for doing your work as a representative, an ambassador of Jesus Christ.
I picked these professions for today because they often involved signing things.
Here is the signature of the artist Rembrandt from one of his works in 1633.
He signed his work in his name.
And those in sales, and law and finance deal with signatures all of the time.
“Will you put your name right here?”
“Sign on the dotted line, please.”
Well, verse 17 says to do your work in such a way that Jesus could sign His name to it.
Do it under the name of Jesus.
Let me suggest this morning, 3 things that this means for our work. I’m sure we could come up with more, but these are the three I’ve been thinking about this week.
We’re to do our work in the name of Jesus Christ.
What should be the level of work that we turn in under that name?
It should be our best work, shouldn’t it?
We should strive for excellence in our work because we are doing it in the name of the Lord Jesus.
It’s not just that He is our boss and we need to give an account to Him so we do it with excellence, but because it reflects on Him how we do our work.
We are His representatives.
Last week, I was excited to get a copy of this magazine in the mail.
It’s the called the “Evangelical Magazine” published by the Evangelical Movement of Wales. That’s Wales the country in the UK not whales the giant sea creatures.
They don’t have a magazine as far as I know.
What I was excited about was that this magazine has published an article by me called “Instead of Gossip: Listening.” And they featured it here on the cover with this cool art. It’s fun to be published across the pond.
When I was contacted this Summer by the magazine about submitting an article which was going to be an excerpt from one of the chapters in my book. I had one major stipulation.
They were welcome to take my chapter and edit it into an article, but I wanted final approval of whatever it said.
Because they might have to change a few things in the editing to get it down to an article.
And they were fine with that, and it turned out good.
But here’s why I cared. Because it was going out under my name.
So I cared about the quality of the work.
Same principle. You and I are doing our work under Jesus’ name.
What kind of quality should we strive to produce?
Now, the perfectionists among us today are getting really anxious.
You perfectionists are saying, “Great! I already wasn’t happy with what I’m producing, now I’ve got to append not just my unhappy name but the Lord’s unhappy name to my imperfect work. Thank you very much!”
I feel your pain. I tend towards perfectionism myself.
You will not produce perfect work. And it will be difficult at times to figure out what your best work is. I struggle with that all of the time.
Because I could improve just about anything I do. I could spend more time on each of these sermons and make them some percentage better.
But we all have limitations, in gifting, in skill, in opportunities, in requirements, in expectations, and in time.
So we have to take those things into account when we are deciding if we’ve done our best or not.
But our best is what we should strive for.
The perfectionist needs to accept a healthy dose of grace.
But they have one thing right. The Lord Jesus deserves our best.
He cares about excellence.
“Hello: My Name Is Bezalel.”
Does that name ring a bell?
Exodus chapters 31-38.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts–to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”
What was Bezalel’s job?
He was an artisan, right? And what did he make?
He and his crew worked with all of those materials to fashion the Tabernacle into a beautiful creation.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle when I get to that part of Exodus and the parts in 1 Kings and Chronicles about all of the blueprints and design and building of the tabernacle then later the temple.
First it’s how to build it, then it’s how they got the stuff, and then it’s how they built it to those specifications.
I don’t work at Lowes. I have a hard time caring about those kinds of details.
But God does!
Did you hear what God said about His Spirit and Mr. Bezalel? Let me read it to you again.
“See, I have chosen Bezalel ... and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts–to make artistic designs...”
God cared enough about excellence in the tabernacle that His Spirit got personally involved in the craftsman!
So we shouldn’t just be turning in shoddy work, either.
Are you striving towards excellence in your work?
If you are a second, third, or fourth grader, are you doing your best at school?
That’s your job! Do your best.
Are you an attorney with lots of paperwork to fill out and a temptation, perhaps, to cut corners? Corners nobody would know about?
Remember, you are signing not just your own name but Jesus’ name on your work.
Whatever your job is. Maybe it’s taking care of somebody.
Last week, we said to do it with a servant mindset.
This week, we say, do it with an artist’s mindset.
Do it with excellence so that Jesus won’t be ashamed to sign his name on it.
And by that I mean righteousness.
Do you work with moral goodness.
Don’t just do your best work but do your work with holiness.
I’m going to talk more about this concept in another message soon about doing the right thing at work.
But here it must be said that we should do all of our work in such a way that Jesus would not be ashamed to sign His name to it. Not because we were really productive but because we were righteous as we did it.
We weren’t sinning along as we worked in Jesus’ name.
Do the right thing.
And that’s not just not doing the wrong thing.
If you go up the page some more in Colossians, you can see how this works. Start in chapter 3, verse 1.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
There’s a mindset for you!
That’s a reminder of who you are and whose are you.
He’s signed His name to your life.
Now we live like it. V.5
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your [old] earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
So there’s a list of what NOT to do at work.
Sexual immorality. Sleeping with your co-workers.
Impurity, lust, evil desires, greed. That’s out of place for Christ-followers.
That’s the old you.
Here’s some more. “Anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.”
Do you ever see those things at work?
All over the place.
But you do your work in the name of the Lord Jesus!
Do you see?
And it’s not just what you don’t do. V.12
“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
There’s your uniform! That’s what you put on to rep Jesus at work. V.13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
That’s how to do you work in the name of Jesus!
With a song on your lips and God’s word dwelling in you richly.
What needs to change in your life this week so that you would not be ashamed to have Jesus sign His name to your behavior at work?
Is there somebody you need to forgive?
Is there some filthy language that reflects poorly on your Lord?
It’s becoming like Jesus, isn’t it?
What would Jesus sign His name onto?
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Be that at work!
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And #3. GRATEFULNESS.
That’s where he goes in the last part of the verse, isn’t it?
“...giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Whatever you do, do it with gratefulness in your heart.
That’s a great place to end today because it’s Thanksgiving season.
We need to be reminded to live lives of gratitude.
No matter what.
There are a lot of bad things happening in our world.
There are a lot of bad things happening in our work.
We’ve learned this Fall about toil and trouble and groaning at work because of the curse.
But because of Jesus we always have something to be thankful for.
Sometimes the thing we are thankful for at work is just simply that we have a job.
“I’m thankful I have a job. It’s not always wonderful but it helps pay the bills.”
I’ll bet some of you have said that this week.
But I’ll also bet that most of you can come up with a longer list than that of things at work that you are thankful for.
And when you live out gratefulness, you are repping the Kingdom.
Because gratitude is a Kingdom value.
Especially because of the grace of the King.
One scholar I was reading this week on this verse points out that the last phrase is about the Cross. We get to God the Father, how? Through God the Son and what He did for us.
This scholar paraphrases the verse this way, “To sum up: whatever you are doing, whether it be speech or action, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, at the same time giving thanks to God the Father on the basis of the mediatorial work of Christ" (expanded paraphrase of Colossians 3;17 by Murray Harris).
Because of the Cross, our imperfections are forgiven and so is our sin.
So even as we’ve failed to do our work perfectly and righteously, Jesus has more than made up for it by His good and perfect work on the Cross for us.
And that should make us forever grateful always giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
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
07. Called to Work
08. Prayer at Work
09. Your Attitude at Work
10. Working in the Name of the Lord