Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 1)

Inspiration passages: Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10

Backdrop passages: 2 Corinthians 3; 2 Corinthians 5:13

Core concept 1: God has qualified us to communicate the Gospel as Kingdom influencers; however, to walk in this competency, we must receive hearts of flesh in place of hearts of stone.

It’s no secret the world bombards us with the idea success is an identity we achieve through ability. If we want to get something, we got to first become something; if we want to reach ‘x’ status, we must set an ‘x’ goal; to reach an ‘x’ goal, we must get there by ‘x’ effort, etc.

However…

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For example, you may have a counselor’s heart, but doubt its validity since you’re not a licensed counselor. The world would say until you receive the proper credentialing, you’re not a counselor. But to God, you are a counselor because that’s what He’s made you to be. Of course, you may have much to learn and have to wait a few years until certification. But this doesn’t mean you’re not who God has called you to be.

You see, the world wants you to think it’s all about the process…that what you hope to be can only be accomplished through how you get there. But think about it: In order for there to be a ‘how’, there has to be a ‘what’ and for there to be a ‘what’, there has to be a ‘who’, right?

The question is: Who do we believe when it comes to who we are?

While the outcomes are many, by allowing God to be the answer, we can know the sweet reality that not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny,  and our future as well.

Accordingly, growth and improvement should not be seen as functions of development, but of yielding. After all, what you hope you are, you already are because your identity is not a matter of be-coming and self-refining (heart of stone thinking), but be-lieving and aligning (heart of flesh thinking).

This in mind, if what you seek to experience has already been prepared, why not enter into God’s best with a ‘yes’  than effort with a sigh? Why not accept His ‘realized new’ than take a chance missing it all for the sake of going your own way?

Core concept 2: To receive a heart of flesh is to believe God always sees the ‘finished you’. Accepting this sets us up to experience radical life in the Spirit…to be transformed through the Spirit’s inner power.

Consider this illustration from my dad/Gate senior pastor, Steve Fry (8:46-11:30)…

As created (or in this case, painted)…

…there’s amazing freedom to be found when we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined.

Understandably, this can be challenging to accept since we often seek to control our destiny through achievement and effort. We think as long as we work hard and ask God for the right things, they’ll be given to us and to a certain extent, this is true; however, if making requests to God and modeling faith through excellence are detached from alignment, are we not craving what He can give versus valuing what He creates?

If so, dare to view present and future struggle through David’s Psalm 51:10-12 heart-cry, where he asks not only for a clean heart, but a new one! (more on this in a sec)

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As Paul emphasizes in 2 Corinthians, we’re not changed into a new creation, we are made as a new creation. We aren’t born again through accrued improvements; we’re born again through the Spirit’s transformative power which enables us to become what God has and continues to declare. As for us, all we have to do is align to God by His Spirit and walk His appointed paths through daily tuning and reliance. In a sense, that is life in the Spirit – an ongoing presence meets power, abiding meets trusting reality with God.

Think of this way: If the Good News is ‘Jesus is alive and has set you free‘, then by extension, you don’t have to earn your freedom because your efforts aren’t the keys to your life. Instead, you can relish in your freedom knowing you don’t create it by self-effort, but discover it being present with God.

Core concept 3: Believing God sees the ‘finished you’ allows you to embrace helplessness and surrender your veils.

When Paul mentions ‘veil’ five times in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, it’s easy to assume he’s talking about revealed glory; however, when we consider v. 17 and its modern-day application, we find Paul is doing, at least, three things:

  1. He’s linking Christ’s finished work on the Cross to our finished person (to see freedom through the lens of the New Covenant is to accept both Cross and weakness as the plan for our transformation). 
  2. He’s charging the church to fearlessly turn to the Lord.
  3. He’s cautioning the body against obedience through self-effort.

Concerning point #3, it’s worth noting even when we do the right thing, if the act is rooted in fear, our hard hearts will remain since trust is self-reliant. That’s why the flip-side is so radical. To do the right thing by trusting God is to allow God’s tender heart to tenderize your own. This is evident when we turn to Jesus in moments of dependence, desperation, and/or negative thinking. When you turn to Jesus, you’re essentially abandoning fear of conviction and exposure for the sake of discovering new levels of His nature, character, and glory. It’s the ultimate ‘His fullness exceeds my voids‘ proclamation…an acceptance of God and His desire for us to know His heart out of abundance, not fear.

As mentioned in Core Concept #2…

God doesn’t want to change your heart; He wants to give you a new one! He doesn’t want to improve you; He wants to take out your heart of stone and put in a brand, new heart of flesh. 

Yes, God is able to fully restore health (Jeremiah 30:17), relationships (2 Corinthians 13:9-11), fortune (Job 42:10), strength (Isaiah 40:29), and the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), but with our hearts, our inhabitable being, He never stops wanting to go deeper; hence why God implants new hearts in His people so the larger dimensions can contain the future ‘more’ He’ll inevitably reveal.

As for our response, remember we don’t believe the right things so we can experience the cool buzz of God’s presence. We contend for them so the glory of Lord can fill our spaces…work, church, living, family/friends, etc. God desires His created to be free from performance and fear-based systems of thinking; however, we can’t tap into this desire if we try to effort our way there. Instead, we must yield our way to His way. That’s the hope of glory meeting the Good News as modeled in our own life!

Final Thoughts:

  1. Stop trying to be a Christian and turn to Jesus regardless of how you feel
  2. Accept God’s acceptance of yourself
  3. Pain is real, but irrelevant when you consider we are his workmanship created not only for good works, but for fullness from our finished future. Side note: Combining Colossians 2:10 and Ephesians 2:4-10 is super fun!)
  4. (see graphic below)

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from your effort, self-reliance, systems of performance, and the deepest of emotional hurts.

Stay tuned next time for ‘part two’ when I’ll discuss how this theology works in the marketplace. ‘Til then, praise the One with the key not only to your heart, but your future as well.

Selah.

Cover creds: Heartwell
Content inspired by ‘New Heart’ series @ The Gate Community Church

Work as Worship: Scratch Notes on Titus 2:7-15

TDOT Bible Study – WORK AS DOXOLOGY (WORSHIP)

Question: What are some of the ways we can approach work as worship?

v 7 – Behave wisely – take life seriously

v 8 – Sound and beyond reproach in instruction

v 9 – Subject in everything, pleasing and not talk back so that in every respect they will adorn and do credit to the teaching of God our Savior

What does ‘adorn’ mean?

  • Adorn – Implies advancement, a passing on of something; not just something you put on (Proverbs 25:20)
  • Adorn – An active/direct extension of majesty (God’s sovereignty)
  • Adorn – Transitive property applied, adorn is all about sharing good news with people. But to share good news with people, it has to be evident in our lives as well.

v.10 – Proving themselves trustworthy*

*Note: ‘Work as worship’ doesn’t mean you effort to prove your maturity. You don’t effort to live above reproach. Without Jesus, you have to rely on yourself. But with Jesus, this becomes an overflow of daily submitting yourself to Christ and His lordship (i.e. ‘not my will, but your will be done’). There’s an investment in doing this, but it’s a joyful one if our heart is to give God all glory.

v 11 – Scriptural evidence that points to God’s grace finding a way to all men

v 12 – Sensible repeated for the fourth time; this is significant.

What does ‘sensible’ mean?

  • Sensible  Acting within God’s definition of balance; receiving God’s discernment made practical through the Spirit.
  • Sensible   Spiritual moderation exemplified by “a man who does not command himself, but rather is commanded by God‘” (K. Wuest, Word Studies, 2, 46).
  • Sensible   The marking of a decision that contributes to the regulation of life; self-control aids this process since the virtue helps us mature as a safe place (evidence) to people and as workers with reliable attitudes and behaviors (manifestation).

Root origins: The root (phrēn) is the root of “diaphram,” the inner organ (muscle) that regulates physical life, controlling breathing and heartbeat.

Example: A good opera singer controls the length and quality of their tones by their diaphragm. This also controls their ability to breathe and moderate heartbeat; hence, why the disaphragm is so valuable as it regulates (“brings safety to”) the body, keeping it properly controlled.

v 13-14 – ‘Work as worship’ means we do good with a good attitude to bring others the good news/into God’s presence. This point only is why we should see self-control as surrendering our control in terms of relationships. Remember God will take care of the possession (making His nature/will known to those around us) as long as we don’t make entering God’s presence all about us.

v 15 – “Tell them these things” – This implies instruction is being modeled with the authority we’ve been given from Christ. Active encouragement and constructive criticism working in tandem. If we do this right, our colleagues and co-workers will be regularly edified.

Thoughts on etymology influenced by Strong’s Concordance; cover photo creds – Logosphere 

 

 

 

Work as Worship: Our Story for God’s Glory

Work and worship.

Two words with great power, but for some reason are hardly used in the same sentence.

Of course, we all know what they mean.

With work, you have what you put your hands to, your vocation, where skill meets a living; with worship, you have what (or rather whom) you lift your hands to, the reason for vocation, where purpose meets living.

However, if you think these terms are easily compartmentalized, I get it. After all, as long as the church teaches the principles behind them, we should automatically know how they apply in each setting of life, right? (*Sarcasm*)

Whatever the case, when we talk about how work works as worship, when we consider the origin of work and its modern-day application, there’s fresh freedom and joy to be found.

So for today, I want to discuss what it means to be a worship-thinker as opposed to a work-thinker – what working to the fullest looks like when function becomes a part of our daily abiding in Christ.

For instance…

  • Do we treat work as a source of identity?
  • Do we treat work as a tool of personal fulfillment?
  • Do we treat work as a necessary evil in order to get a paycheck or other “benefits”?

If ‘yes’, then chances are our work has become a place of pressure, performance-based thinking or worse…a means to an end1.

Accordingly, we must ask ourselves:  How then do we treat work if we’re to elevate it as a selfless sacrifice of praise?

For starters, it doesn’t hurt to bridge work and worship with ‘mission’…

…however, to truly answer this, we must flash back to the Garden of Eden as captured in Genesis 2:15-20

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.”

First off, before we discuss Adam’s work, note how God gave Adam a task before sin entered the world. This has huge implications as to how we’re to understand work. Often times, we see our job as a consequence or choice rather than a gift. We think what we do is a product of what we have done good or bad. But from the very beginning, we find God designating responsibility in the form of delegated authority. Specifically, God entrusted Adam to be an extension of His hand in cultivating the greatest garden ever and be an extension of voice in naming what He’d already cultivated!

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Going back to the garden timeline, it’s interesting to see how God appointed man a task, but didn’t define it right away. While God would ultimately bring the animals to Adam2 (v. 19), He knew before this could happen, parameters were required to ensure intimacy and authority had boundaries to flourish.

Similarly, God also knew before He could delegate a particular assignment to Adam, he needed to not only learn dependence on Him in and out of work, but also his identity detached from the helper (Eve) who was to come. Again, this narrative order carries powerful implication given it underscores God’s desire for us to learn spiritual reliance without assurance of task and/or relational affirmation. Yes, God intended a helpmate for Adam before he was created, but more importantly, God intended Adam to learn his identity (and purpose as overflow) before work or wife existed.

Thus, the existence of work evidenced by the Garden is proof God desires to establish intimacy with us outside of work so he can build upon that intimacy as we work.

Not to mention it also confirms…

  1. Work plays a certain role in how we interact with God.

  2. The only way to understand the purpose of work, enjoy our work and the fruit of our labor is by also enjoying God as we work (Psalm 16:11).

  3. For Adam, tending the garden wasn’t his purpose; worship was his purpose.

  4. Accordingly, we can perceive our work has both a necessity and an overflow.

With Genesis 2 set as our backdrop, let’s look at Colossians 3:12-17, 23-24

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

In this passage, Paul captures ‘work as worship’ once it’s an overflow locked in rhythm. Combined with Genesis, an applicative breakdown of these verses reveals the following benefits (Note: Due to word count, we’ll wrap things up after this list):

Being a ‘worship thinker’…

  • Frees you to enjoy the moment of the work
  • Provides a sense of closure at every juncture of every task even if the project as a whole is not done!
  • Frees you from becoming unnecessarily offended at other teammates since punctuality or accuracy isn’t your first priority
  • Frees you to be honest without agenda/unbiased with your teammates because you know that how you handle yourself is a ‘fragrant offering’ of worship to God
  • Motivates you to work over longer periods because you are no longer experiencing emotional drains that come from the…
    • Fear that your voice won’t be heard
    • Fear that another’s performance will jeopardize project completion
    • Fear of failure, since your definition of success has changed
  • Motivates you to give God your best and embrace accountability
  • Helps you be more open to input/critique from team-members and supervisors
  • Reminds you the work is not your identity, but working unto the Lord is
  • Helps you to see work experiences as learning opportunities
  • Minimizes anxiety during a project/carrying out his responsibilities because you can better compartmentalize (i.e. prioritize at each juncture) the job
  • Minimizes fear on what your boss can do to you
  • Empowers us to not be controlled by the attitudes/behaviors of our co-workers
  • Helps you see business culture as more freeing when bottom lines go beyond profit or position
  • Refreshes the way you perceive success in your organization
  • Protects you from deriving identity from profits and/or positions
  • Protects you from taking on damaging behaviors like over-control and over-accommodation (people or employee-pleasing)
  • Allows you to be more patient in your work because each work moment is treated as a worship moment

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Bottom line: When we see work as an overflow of worship, we find intimacy at the core of success: Bringing pleasure to God through the gifts He’s given us so we can make His name known to the world.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Or rather, a means as opposed to an end
  2. Note: The fact God brings the animals to Adam is significant as it emphasizes God’s sovereignty to reveal how our calling merges with our purpose (more on this in a future post)
Cover photo creds: Abstract Wallpapers; Col. 3 content collaborated on with Steve Fry as part of our ‘Commission U’ series at The Gate Community Church