Sunday, September 20, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Why Work?"

“Why Work?”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
September 20, 2015 :: Ephesians 2:8-10

Our Fall sermon series is entitled, “Working for the Lord,” and it’s about our work, our vocations, our occupations, our employment, our jobs.

We’re learning together that God cares about our jobs, that God cares how we do our jobs, and that God empowers us to do our jobs for Him.

We are working for the Lord.

And we are learning that we all do that. Even if we are retired from our careers or are currently unemployed or are disabled and unable to do work for pay or even if we are a second, third, or fourth grader.

We all have a job to do. And we are all to be working for the Lord.

The first week, we got that baseline idea into inserted our brains. “It is the Lord Christ that you are serving.” The master messiah is your true boss.

Last week, we asked the question, “Is Work – Good or Bad?” And we decided that it was complicated.

Work was made to be good, but because of sin and the curse it turned bad. But Jesus’ work is redeeming work and, one day, Jesus will make work good again. Perfect, in fact.

Now, I want to get into some of the practicalities of our work, things like diligence and excellence and attitude and ethics.

But I have one more big overarching orienting question about work that I want us to think about today before we get down into the nitty gritty.

And that question is a very simple one:

“Why Work?”

Why get up and go each day?

Why do Christians, especially because that’s what we are, why do Christians work?

Now, you may already know the answer to this one, especially if you’ve been paying attention for the last two weeks.

But I think it’s worth pondering some more together.

And thinking through some of the implications.

Why work?

Now to begin to answer that together, let’s just ask it of ourselves like we did last week:

Why did you work this week?

Why did you go to work (if your work is out of the home)?
Why did you fire up your computer at the office?
Why did you pick up your tools and start using them?
Why did you climb up into the truck?
Why did you make breakfast for the family?
Why did you put on your scrubs?
Why did you {fill in the blank with whatever it is that you do}?

Why did you work this week?

There are a lot of reasons why people work.

And the number one reason for most is survival.

We work to get paid to take care of our basic needs.

Or as the Seven Dwarves might say, “I owe. I owe. So it’s off to work I go!”

Is that you?

That’s not bad. That’s not wrong.

The Bible teaches that one of the purposes of work is to provide for yourself and your family.

Provision is not just a basic need but a biblical imperative, especially for men–husbands and fathers.

But most of us go to work for other reasons, as well.

If you are a second, third, or fourth grader, you do it to escape punishment. You have authorities over you that you must obey. Mom and Dad and the teacher and the truant officer.

Many people go to work to escape from boredom. They wouldn’t know what to do if they didn’t have their jobs.  There’s an inner compulsion to work and not working seems almost impossible.

That’s why some folks lose their way when retirement time comes.

Or when they can’t physically be busy any more with work. Life seems meaningless.

But there are often deeper reasons why people work that we might not recognize as readily or be willing or able to articulate.

How about self-fulfillment? Self-esteem? Finding your self-worth?

We often are searching for those things in our work, aren’t we?

Especially those of us who can choose what work we do.

Not everybody in the world can choose their work.

But often we are motivated by self when we do.

Michael Wittmer in his excellent little book Becoming Worldly Saints begins chapter 10 this question:
How can you tell if you’re winning the game of life? The standard scoreboard looks something like this:
Success: What have you done?
Stuff: What do you have?
Status: What do other people think about you?”
People kept score this way in the distant past, and it will be how they keep score far into the future. It apples to both East and West, men and women, the world and the church. People may count different things in various cultures and subcultures, but whether you are counting children, championships, sales, or souls saved, the same questions remain: How well did you do with whatever your people value, what do you have to show for it, and how well do others think you did? They never stop counting until you’re dead (pg. 77).
Are these some of the reasons why you went to work this last week?

I think that these kind of scoreboards often motivate us more than we like to think or say.

Here’s another one that you probably didn’t think of but has been a prime but mistaken motive for work in the history of Christianity:

To be saved?

Misguided people have often tried to impress God with hard work. To earn their way to God by their efforts, by their performance.

And not just by doing “good deeds” like going to church, giving money, teaching Sunday School, serving on a committee, or going on a missions trip.

But even by the way they do their occupations.

And that was true in the Pharisees’ day, and it was true in the Middle ages, and it was true of some of the Puritans, and it’s something that sticks around still today.

One of you asked me a question this week, a great question, that we’re going to answer in multiple ways over the course of this series.

You asked, “How do you know when you are working hard enough or long enough to please God?”

Now, the questioner goes on to ask about work and rest and how to balance those two.

It’s a great question.

But you can see how someone asking that question might think that it takes hard work to be saved. Right?

How do I know when I’ve done enough to make God happy?

If God is my Boss, how much work is required to please the Boss?

And how do I pay off all of this debt? This sin debt?

Because I know I’m a sinner.  “I owe, I owe, GOD! So it’s off to work I go.”

Do you see how that could work?

Now, if you know Ephesians at all, you have guessed what our text is for today. It’s Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8, 9, and 10.

One of the most important passages in the Bible. One that every Christian should try to memorize. Because it gets to the heart of the gospel.

And it has implications for our work.

Now English word, “work” is going to show up 3 times in the NIV, but none of them mean “job” or “occupation” or “career.”

This is not a passage that is directly about our vocations and employment.

But it is about our efforts. It’s about our works. It’s about the things we do at those jobs, vocations, employment, and careers.

And it’s also about salvation.

I’ve only got two short points to share this morning.

Here’s number one.

Why work?


Ephesians a rich explanation of the gospel. Chapter one begins with a long praise to the triune God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. And then Paul prays that believers would know just how blessed we are because of the mercy and that God showed us when he made us alive with Christ and put our new rescued and redeemed selves on display.

And as Paul is praying that, he ends with these 3 famous verses that explain where our salvation comes from and leads to.

And he says that our salvation does not come from us. V.8

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Where does salvation come from?

Well, it doesn’t come from us.

It’s truly been said that the only thing we bring to the table in our salvation is our sinful need of rescuing!

Salvation, Paul says, is a gift.

That’s what it means for salvation to be by grace.

You can’t earn it if you tried.

Now, this should be familiar for all of us as we’ve just spent most of the last year studying the book of Romans together where Paul makes that point again and again and again.

But he says it here in a nutshell.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith [our faith is involved, yes, but faith is not a work, it’s not effort on our part, it’s receiving, it’s trusting, it’s resting on someone else’s work through faith]–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

And I believe the “and this” there in verse 8 is saying that even that faith is a gift from God. Not something that I can take credit for.

Now, how does this relate to work? V.9

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Not by our efforts. Not by our performance. Not by our exertions.

Now, in the book of Romans, Paul talked about not by “works of the law” which had a emphasis on the Jewish ceremonial law. But we also saw that it was bigger than that. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

It’s not by our good deeds.
And it’s not by how we conduct ourselves at work.

It’s not by how we do our jobs.

Because if it was, then we could get the glory for our salvation.

See what he says? It’s “not by works, so that no one can boast."

Whoever does the work gets the credit, right?

At the end of the movie, the credits roll by, and the people who did the work get the credit for it.

Who gets the credit for our salvation?

If salvation is by works, then you and I do.

But if salvation is by grace through faith, then God gets the glory because it’s all from Him.

Now, what does this mean for our jobs?

Well, for one thing, all that work we do is not to earn our salvation.

Isn’t that good news?!!!

Isn’t that freeing?

Doesn’t that take away the worry?

If you are wondering how much you have or how long you have to work to earn your acceptance with God, your restored fellowship with God, your forgiveness before God, worry no more!  You don’t have to work at all of for those things!

Those things comes as grace. They are already paid for. It’s a gift! You just receive it!

That should free you from being a workaholic.

It should free you from worrying about what other people think.

Those scorecards of success, stuff, and status?

If you are right with God by sheer grace, who cares what anybody else thinks? Even yourself.

Do you see how freeing that is?

You don’t have to work to earn your salvation.

You couldn’t do it even if you tried.

So you are free of all those expectations that might wear you down.

But you also don’t get to boast.

You don’t get to draw the glory to yourself.

When you do work, you don’t do it to earn credit with God or to show off yourself.

You’ve been saved in such a way as to eliminate boasting.

So, what does that say about working for self-fulfillment, self-esteem, self-worth?

Maybe self isn’t so important or central after all.

This probably requires some repenting our part. Because we love to boast. We love for the attention, the spotlight to be on us.

There is freedom here in grace, but it requires letting go of our right to our own glory.

Here’s how Tim Keller said it in Every Good Endeavor:
The gospel of salvation through sheer grace holds a second implication for work. While ancient monks may have sought salvation through religious works, many modern people seek a kind of salvation–self-esteem and self-worth–from career success. This leads us to seek only high-paying, high-status jobs, and to ‘worship’ them in perverse ways. But the gospel free us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure. (pg. 73).
Does that help?

I’m guessing that there are some tender souls here who need to hear that.

Some of us need to hear, “Get off of your behind and get to work.” And we’ll get that kick-in-the-pants in the next few weeks.

But some of you need to hear, “You are already proven and secure.”

Nothing to prove! To anybody. Including God. Because He’s already given you the gift.

If you have received the gift.

You can see why these two verses are very important to understand the gospel. If you are trying to earn your way to God, you’re not getting saved God’s way.

He doesn’t do it that way so that no one but He can boast.

So, you’ve got to receive that gift. And I pray that you all here have or will.

But Paul doesn’t end there, does he?

He’s got more to say about works. Good works are still in the picture.

They just aren’t saving works.

D.A. Carson like to say that the gospel is not opposed to effort. It’s opposed to earning.

Paul says it like this. Verse 10.

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Why work?


So, Paul says that “we are God’s workmanship.”

Some translations make that “God’s masterpiece.”

God has been working...on us.

In fact, He wants to show us off. He gets glory from showing others His redeemed children.

Do you think of yourself that way?

That God of proud of what He’s doing in you and desires to show you off in the heavenly realms?

You know that part of Job when God is showing him off?  That’s not just for Job.

You are God’s workmanship. He’s the Master worker!

And He’s recreating you through the gospel.

V.10 says, “created in Christ Jesus.”

Now that could mean when you were created in the first place because Jesus was there as the Word of God.

But I think this is more talking about your salvation. Your sanctification.

You are a new person now thanks to Christ Jesus. Thanks to God’s workmanship in the gospel.

And because of that you’ve now got work to do.

Not to earn God’s favor but because you have God’s favor.

“...created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Or literally, “to walk in.”

So, we are supposed to work.

We’re supposed to do “good works.” And I don’t think that just means churchly things.  I think that’s all of the many efforts that we are supposed to expend in all of life.

And that includes in our work-life.

I mean most of us spend most of our life at work so I think these “good works” are probably going to be mostly done on the job!

And I think they are mostly serving others in love.

Martin Luther said, “God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

So, these good works, most of them, are going to be serving our neighbors in love.


That’s probably how we should measure how we’re doing in our work-life.

How are we doing at serving?

That’s what should be motivating us to get out of bed and get to work each day, serving our neighbors, serving the common good, meeting needs in love.

That’s what work needs to be about.

I’d like to affirm some more workers now.

One of my goals in this series is to celebrate your work.

Last week, we had the nurses and other medical professionals stand and be recognized. I thought it was interesting that pop-culture this week did the exact opposite.

Today, I want ask everyone in logistics to stand. Everyone who works or worked in logistics to stand. Truckers. Dispatchers. Office personnel. Drivers. Everybody whose job it is to see that things get from point A to point B would you stand be recognized? Mail carriers? Transportation people.

Thank you!

Why did I pick on you this week?

Because we often don’t realize how important those jobs are to our basic needs and survival.

Heather’s different, but if we have to live off of what I could grow and make on our land, our family would starve.

Where would we get our stuff?

Our modern world is full of wonderful stuff, but we have it because someone got it there.

And if you did it as a follower of Christ, full of faith, then you were doing “good works.”

Which God had prepared in advance for you to do.

It’s that last phrase that I want to camp on as we end.

God has planned out some good works for us to do because we’re saved and to serve our neighbors and to bring Him glory.

We use the word “calling” for that idea.

That God has called us to our work.

He’s called us to Himself in the gospel.

But the Bible also says that He’s called us to do certain work (1 Cor 7:17).

That’s where we get the word “vocation.” It means a “calling.”

And here in verse 10, we find out that God has prepared some good works for us to walk in.

Do you see how that answers the question, “Why Work?”

Because God has some things for me to do today.

The Lord has some things for me to do today.

How’s that for “Why go to work?”

God’s got a plan for today, and it includes good works that He’s handpicked for me to do.

Some of them will be difficult.
Some of them will be fulfilling.
Some of them will be exciting.
Some of them will be rather boring.

But the Lord picked them out, so they’ve got to be good.

Does that help at all?

Does that help you to fire up your computer at the office?
Does that help you to pick up your tools and start using them?
Does that help you to climb up into the truck?
Does that help you to  make breakfast for the family?
Does that help you to put on your scrubs?
Does that help you to fill in the blank with whatever it is that you do}?

Tomorrow morning, say to yourself, “I wonder what good works the Lord has laid out for me to do today.”

And don’t just think “give alms or pray prayers” but think make widgets or build walls or bail hay or ship that thing from point A to point B.

Because we’re working for the Lord, right?

I know that we know this already but do we live that way?

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We’ve got work to do, friends, good work.

Not to be saved or to bring ourselves glory.

But because we are saved to bring God glory while serving others.

And you know what?  Strangely enough, that’s when we’ll find satisfaction and fulfillment and identity and worth.

When we are doing the work that God has prepared in advance for us to do.


Messages in this Series

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