Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 2)

After starting a new series on hearts of flesh last week, I want to spend this post extending the theme into the workplace.

‘Cause truth is: While discussing theological intricacies has its place, if a Gospel principle isn’t tangible…if it’s ambiguous in application…one must wonder if we’re fully taking it to heart.

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Thankfully, we’re believers in ‘part 2’s here at His Girl Fryday. As such, the goal of this post is to discuss what hearts of flesh look like in the marketplace using the three core concepts of ‘part 1’ as a foundation.

Without further ado, let’s dive in…

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No question, we live in a complicated world addicted to hurry, prosperity, and high expectation. We want well, we mean well, we work well…but by day’s end, there always seems to more weighing us down than lifting us up. Ever wish you could fix just one issue knowing the ripple effect it could have? I know I do.

However, I also know at the core of many prevalent issues are hearts of stone burdened by systems of performance and self-effort. This arguably is no more evident than our cultural idolization of individual accomplishment over collective partnership. As a society, we say we value the idea of collaboration; we preach the principles of teamwork and leadership. But in an ‘I must get this done’ age, can we honestly say our bottom line emphasis is more ‘done’ than ‘I’? Or are we so caught up in progress and status, we’ve lost the point of why we work all together?

Regardless of where we’re at, as mentioned in ‘part 1’, there’s a common thread we can adhere to: By aligning ourselves to God, we can know not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny, and our future as well.

This has massive implications in the marketplace.

For starters, we can enjoy our work free from offense, agenda, and anxiety since our idea of success is rooted in worship and completion, not affirmation and accomplishment. Ever worry about your voice being heard or if ‘x’ project will get done? Perhaps you feel trapped knowing advancement can only happen is certain metrics outside your reach are met.

If so, dare to rely on God as your higher power in those moments. Put into practice, you’ll find this posture will not only free you from insecurity, but also redirect a fear of man/failure to a fear of the Lord.

As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12:11,13 (ESV):

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Remember when we surrender our anxieties, when we cast our cares upon the Lord, we create space God can invade.

Note how 2 Peter 3:8-9 literally captures this in the Message translation:

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness…He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

Unfortunately, for many of us, this reality falls flat before we recognize it. We pray before each day, we ingest truth through the Word, and yet somehow the emotional gravity in conflict remains unchanged. Why is that?

I know for me after I graduated college, I’d feel guilty if I had time to kill or margins to clear. I’d think to myself I must be doing something wrong if I’m not productive or ‘on the go’ all the time. But looking back, I realize this burden was self-inflicted having believed no mountain to conquer was a sign of faithlessness. As I now know…

…voids created through surrender is an apex of spiritual maturity.

More specifically, to create voids righteously, one must repent and acknowledge God as the provider of opportunity, the way to resolution, and sustenance when either is lacking. True, our margins and capacities may vary (see parables of the talents), but it’s ultimately God who entrusts us with them. Knowing this, we can experience work as freedom by viewing business ethics, accountability, communication, and motivation as ‘fragrant offerings’ to God.

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Furthermore, if we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined, then we can view our work as done since our purpose is already secure. Granted, this idea may be hard to grasp at first. I’m not suggesting you approach responsibility with a cavalier attitude; however, I am encouraging you to see aligning to God as a way we engage His fullness, faithfulness, and the belief that what good can be donewill be done.

If it helps, consider this: You are made a new creation. To be made is to have an identity. What you do is not your identity. Accordingly, what you make, what you earn is not your identity. So what is your identity? It’s who you are. God…God made you who you are. However, He also made work. Why? So people can know Him and discover their purpose. Hence, why work isn’t your identity, but working unto the Lord is.

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Knowing God is why we work means He’s the subject of our work. Our co-workers and supervisors? They are not the subject. They are the object…equal in value, diverse in function…just like you. Even the confusing characters, those who think success is all profit, position, and power, God sees the ‘finished them’…not only what they could be, but what they will be.

In light of this, we can embrace helplessness and accept weakness knowing we’re a new creation continually transformed as we receive from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Even when others condescend on weakness, we can take heart knowing the Cross has meaning and power because of it. Oh, how sweet it is to know this same wonder-working power can be alive in and through us…even as we work.

All that said, next time you’re on the clock, delight in the fact you can be open to constructive criticism since work is more than learning; it’s freedom. When you’re micromanaged, manipulated, or indirectly communicated to, rejoice. God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear on what your boss or colleagues can do to you, but of love, power, and a sound mind in what you can give back. Again, if you align to Christ, the reproach, the dying to self…it all takes care of itself. Besides, you can’t control what others do or think, but you can trust in God who works all things for good and is progressively transforming us into His image.

Cause to God, it’s not about the bottom line…or even the finish line; it’s about the finished line…

…a reality we can know as Christ’s finished work alive in us.

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In closing, I bid adieu with one last verse from 2 Peter…

With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.  So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 1:8-11 (MSG)

Stay tuned next time when we’ll discuss how merging bottom lines with finish-ed lines ultimately sets the stage for cultural transformation in our arenas of influence. In addition, we’ll contract intimacy versus independence before relating each reality view to weakness (as Paul describes throughout 2 Corinthians 12).

‘Til then, be blessed and stay refreshed…

Selah.

 Cover photo creds: Steemit

 

Resurrected Community: A SOAP Study on John 13

ScriptureJohn 13:1-9

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!

Observation:

While much attention in this passage is given to the washing of feet, it’s interesting to note the towel’s contextual significance in the moment and beyond. With His hour rapidly approaching, Jesus knew now was the time to prepare His disciples for life post-resurrection; however, He also knew ‘now’ was not yet the time to commission them for evangelism. Accordingly, Jesus, through the towel, opted to preview the next ~40 days, a stretch during which He wouldn’t evangelize, but strengthen His community as a future colony of heaven (i.e. Kingdom community)12.

Having said that, before we can dive further into “towel theology” (i.e. the towel as a communal template to daily rising with Christ), we must first talk about what Christ sought to model through it.

Consider this: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most powerful event that this planet has ever witnessed. Yet, as for who actually ‘saw’ the resurrection? Nobody but a couple of awe-struck Roman soldiers who in a matter of hours would go from literally trembling in fear to lying about what they had seen. One would think the lives of these guards would instantaneously change à la Paul’s conversion, but truth is the power of the resurrection didn’t change them at all.

Of course, none of this was a surprise to God given He knew what the soldiers denied would be what many believed as they experienced His transformational love working through human hearts3; still, the takeaway here is while Christ’s resurrection was certainly a powerful moment in history, it wasn’t the greatest demonstration of divine power. Rather, as we’ll soon see, the cross,  paved the way for the greatest force of divine power – sustainable agape love.

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Application:

The application is simple: To be raised with Christ is to build His community as Jesus did after His resurrection.

“If then you have been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead, walk in newness of life and seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” ~ Colossians 2:12, Colossians 3:1, Romans 6:4 (Blended ESV)

Again, we may think the key to being on mission with God is effective evangelism, but when we consider how Paul and early church perceived being raised with Christ, we find the critical priority to be the community of Jesus serving one another in love with evangelism as the overflow. For when a genuine Christ community exists that’s all the Holy Spirit needs to impact the cultural community it exists in.

Therefore, we must be careful we don’t abuse evangelism as a promotional means to add to ‘our’ number, but rather allow the Spirit to awaken eyes to see the love we have for one another. This, I suggest, was the center of Paul’s approach to mission – we don’t build a colony of heaven through forced rhythms of effort, but instead build Christ’s community through unforced rhythms of service laden with love, kindness, and compassion. Doing this, as Paul saw it, was the way a local church could reflect heaven on earth and the way the Spirit could spread this light into new places.

As for the body of Christ, the recipe for cultural transformation is straightforward: To build communities of agape love and to let the Spirit establish them as colonies of heaven. For as we know, in this life we are plagued by worldly structures bent on dominating, manipulating, and controlling through destructive systems of independence yielding cultures of anxiety, fear, hatred, and pride. However, by living confidently in the assurance of our guaranteed future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 4:16, Hebrews 11:1), we can be free to accept a Kingdom, ‘crucified and raised in Christ’ structure as the framework by which we love and serve – a structure that proclaims the good news in this way: We are free because we’re helpless, free because we’re confident, free because we’re crucified in Christ, and free because we’ve been raised with Christ, the foundation to being a Jesus community4. Once we accept our helplessness, then we can better depend on the Holy Spirit, rest in our future completion, and serve in present love.

Paul describes this endgame in Galatians 5:13 and 6:2:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13

If you bear one another’s burdens, if you love by serving each other, you’ll stay in the Spirit and remain in alignment with Christ and so fulfill the law of Christ.” ~ Galatians 6:2 (paraphrased)

With Christ’s resurrection in mind, the core of being a community of Christ is experiencing the law of Christ as loving one another by serving one another…

…which brings us to why Jesus took the towel in John 13. 

While many are quick to emphasize Jesus’ humility and modeling of submissive service, what’s often missed is how the washing of His disciples’ feet clinched the founding of His community. Backtrack to v. 3 and we find our first sign of evidence: Jesus knew the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going back to God. This is the real reason why Jesus took the towel5 – to not only achieve a timely metaphor, but to unveil a central commandment (i.e. ‘love one another’) that would soon become the cornerstone of Christianity.

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Remember up until their feet were washed, the disciples were followers, but not a following of disciple-makers. When Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash His feet, Jesus said, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with me‘. Why? Because love through serving was the foundation Jesus was laying. In other words, Jesus knew convicting Peter to helplessness would open him up to radical dependence. We see this instantly when Peter replies, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head‘. Yet, even at the utter of this imperative, little did Peter realize this act of total dependence would result in radical freedom, a newness of life where he could experience life as a new human serving and loving.

As Peter discovered, the implications of this reality, specifically how we do church, is huge. In a world screaming ‘make your life count’, it’s worth noting the early church would not have understood such dogma. To them, one didn’t try to make a difference, but rather let their love through service be the difference. As such, having embraced their identity as a resurrection community – a community who loves and serves in the moment – their operation as the new humanity would ultimately revolutionize arguably the world’s greatest superpower in history.

Bottom line: What Jesus did in John 13 went far beyond washing a few stinky feet.

Rather by exchanging outer garment for towel…

  1. He revealed what resurrection community would soon look like – a ‘walk in the Spirit’, ‘serve your spouse, forgive your brother, love your enemy’ way of living far contrary to the ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ lifestyle we know today.
  2. He connected repentance to not only being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2), but also celebrating our helplessness, dependence, and freedom to be a John 13:35 community so, “by this all people will know that [we are His] disciples, [by our] love for one another.”
  3. He redefined church as a body of believers becoming the colony of heaven on earth by living in the Spirit (i.e. daily dying and rising with Christ).

Selah.

Prayer:

Footnotes

  1. As would soon emerge through the Holy Spirit
  2. Not to suggest we don’t prioritize evangelism; after all, the Holy Spirit’s coming was so we could be empowered to be Christ’s witnesses.
  3. Remember after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus not only prepared a community the Holy Spirit would eventually come upon in Acts 2, but also a unified body transformed by Christ’s love as a testament to God’s existence.
  4. Inspired by Messenger Fellowship’s ‘Being the Community of Jesus’ module.
  5. Side note: I love how this moment captures Christ’s baptism and brings it full circle (more on this in a future post).
Photo creds: Highland Park United Methodist Church
*Content inspired by Messenger Fellowship’s ordination course*