March 1, 2020

Attitude and Assurance, Part 1

Pastor:
Series:
Passage: Ephesians 6:5-9
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Well, the alarm goes off. It's Monday morning. The weekend is over. And that sense of dread begins to cover you like a heavy blanket. Another week of frustrating interactions with your boss awaits. And you just want to crawl back under the covers. Well, maybe you're the boss. Maybe you're the supervisor. Well, you too have your own kind of sense of dread. You know your week will be filled with the frustrations of leading people and listening to their complaints and their excuses as to why they can't come to work. “My grandma's dog is sick and so, therefore, I can't make it in today.” You have to listen to their excuses, or you have to try and figure out why they upset a customer or they simply didn't do their job very well. And it all becomes very quickly very exhausting. Now don't answer this next question out loud, do you hate your job? Have you ever had a problem with your boss or was another person in a position of authority in your life?

Shortly after I graduated from high school I went to work for my family-owned business. It was my grandfather, my dad, and my uncle. And if you've ever worked in a family business, you know that it has a very strange dynamic that you have to contend with. And the strange dynamic that I had to contend with was that my uncle didn't want me there. And he made no bones about that. And he took every opportunity that he had to make my life miserable. He was an ongoing problem that I had to face six days a week (we worked six days a week). So how do you respond to and how do you perform well in a job that you may not like or they may not like you? How do you respond to a boss or that person in a position of authority that you have to deal with daily? Well, let's make it a little more personal. How have you responded? Or how are you currently responding to the circumstances of your job and perhaps that abrasive personality of your boss? Are you responding in such a way that God is glorified? Or is your response making your claim to faith in Christ ring hollow? How can you perform your best in a job that offers little reward either personally or financially? What motivates you to do your best? Is it possible to love the job you hate?

You know a church is made up of all kinds of people. Young people, elderly people-- we'll call them the wise people, amen-- people with hair, people without hair, students, professionals, bosses, and yes, employees. And the church at Ephesus was no different. It consisted of all different kinds of people, two of which Paul addresses right here in our text this morning. He has clear and specific instructions for those who are bondservants, who found themselves in the position of a bondservant, as well as clear instruction to those who are masters, meaning that they had bondservants. It is highly likely that bondservants and masters were in the same church. At one point in the history of the Roman Empire historians tell us that 50% of the population was a bondservant. So Paul is addressing all of these very common relationships right here in Ephesians chapters 5 and 6. Husbands and wives, children and parents, mutual submission to one another. And then lo and behold, he addresses bondservants and masters, which leads us to believe that it was a very common relationship. So the question is, how can this kind of relationship, not simply survive, but thrive in a church or according to the Christian faith? Well, do you see the potential here for conflict in this kind of relationship? How could a bondservant and a master go to church together and mutually submit to one another? Pretty good question, I think.

Well, before we get to Paul's specific instructions to these two groups of people, we must remind ourselves who it is that makes it possible for Christian bondservants to obey their earthly masters even if their earthly master was not a Christian. We must remind ourselves of who it is that makes it possible for a master to treat their bondservants in a way that pleases Christ. So, Paul's words in verses 5-9 here of chapter 6, are a part of his ongoing application and illustration of the Spirit-filled life of the Christian. It's an application and an illustration of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And by the way, it is not difficult to know whether or not you are living by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is not difficult at all. All you have to do do is check your relationships. If you're on the outs with everybody, if you're on the outs with anybody, you're not filled with the Spirit. Let's not over-complicate this. Paul zeroes right in on these all-important relationships. So are you living in mutual submission to one another? Husbands, are you loving your wives and leading your homes as Christ does the church? Wives, are you submitting to your husband's? Children, are you obeying your parents?

And when the bondservant is filled with the Holy Spirit, they will be able to obey their earthly masters. And their obedience will be characterized by sincerity of heart and goodwill. In other words, it's not a grudging obedience. It's not a grit your teeth and bear it kind of obedience. Paul, wanted them to understand that the important thing was not what they were-- meaning, a bondservant-- but who they were. They were in Christ. They had been adopted by the Father. They've been given the Holy Spirit to indwell them, to guide them, to help them live their lives in a way that glorifies God. Listen, as Christians, we must make sure that we're living out of the right identity. Identity has become everything in our world today. What's the new term that's developed here in the past decade? Identity politics. So we're going to pander to this particular group of people who identify this way and somebody else is gonna pander to this group that identifies this way. Listen, whenever you zero in on a particular aspect of a group, you're automatically causing division with everyone else. So God says, listen, here's the only identity that matters. Here's the identity you must live out of and it is who you are in Christ. There are no white Christians and black Christians, Latino Christians, Asian Christians. We're all Christians. Okay. So as a Christian employee, how do you see yourself? Do you understand who you are truly employed by? The paycheck may say, I don't know, Chick-Fil-A, but you're working for God and you're serving Christ.

Well, let's address the elephant in the room, at least it's the elephant for me. Why would Paul address the relationship between bondservants and masters? Why didn't he launch a verbal tirade, a verbal attack against the institution of slavery? Well, first of all, let's be fair to Paul. He neither attacked nor did he endorse the institution. And by the way, what about the Lord Jesus? The Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul lived basically in the same time frame. Do you know why he didn't attack the institution of slavery? Because he understood there was a much larger and a much more important issue that had to be addressed. And that is the sinful hearts of mankind. Where do you think the sinful institution of slavery comes from? It comes from the sinful hearts of sinful people. That's where it comes from. Listen, please listen. The key to changing our society, any society, is not at the institutional or the governmental level but at the personal level, the level of the human heart. Let's think this through. What are these institutions made up of? People. And we can protest and picket and do all of those things. And I'm not saying that at times that is not the right thing to do. But we must understand, as long as people have sinful, wicked hearts, there will be sinful wicked institutions. You say, well, what about Wilberforce and look what he did in England and look how he had played a major role as a Christian in abolishing slavery. Did you hear what I just said? He was a Christian. His heart had been changed. That was the impetus there.

Can I say this? Make sure your passion is properly placed. And I don't say any of this to be irreverent. The largest slave owner and abuser of people in history is Satan. If you want to rail against someone, there's your target. Through sin, Satan has and continues to enslave billions of people. Sin is why people are greedy. Sin is why people hate. Sin is why people kill. Sin is why there is a war. Sin, yes, is why governments are corrupt. If you want to get mad at someone, get mad at Satan. Get mad at sin, direct that patient to rescuing those who have been enslaved by their own sin and slavery. Listen, well I'll address that later I don't want to get ahead of myself. We need to understand something. Part of the problem when we read the Scriptures is that we read it with Western eyes. Meaning that we tend to interpret Scripture through our own experience and how things are here in the West, versus how they may be in another part of the world or how they were during this period of time in another part of the world. So the slavery that was practiced in the time in which Paul lived had very little in common with the slavery that was practiced in our country. The slavery that was practiced in our country was sinful, it was wrong, any Christian who endorsed it was wrong.

For instance, in Rome, the Roman Empire, slavery was not imposed upon a particular race, or upon a particular group of people such as it was in our country's history. And, by the way, is still practiced in other countries today. And by the way, this subject was clearly addressed in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament many times. In the Old Testament, a person became a bondservant because they were poor. They were not forced into it but it was one way for them to support themselves and to take care of their families. And they were to be treated well. And they were not be made bondservants for life unless they chose to be so. And God gave clear instructions. There are three separate passages of Scripture in the Old Testament where he tells the children of Israel how to handle this situation.

Let me give you just one of them from Deuteronomy 15. God said, "If your brother, a Hebrew man or Hebrew woman, is sold to you." Now see, here again, we see that as well, you know, this person they don't have any choice in the matter at all. So one person sells this party that's powerless to another person You're thinking about it wrong. It would be like me having a difficult time and I would go to Todd and I say, I will sell myself to you, I will become your servant if you will help take care of me. This is what's going on here, okay? Todd's not coming and banging me over the head and dragging me away and saying, you're going to serve me. No, that's not what's being talked about here. "He shall serve you six years and in the seventh year, you shall let him go free from you. And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock and out of your threshing floor. Now if your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. But if he says to you, [the bondservant] 'I will not go out from you,' because he loves you and your household, since he as well off with you, then you shall take an awl and put it through his ear into the door." This is where the fat of Pearson got started, by the way, but another day. "He shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave, you shall do the same. It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hard worker he has served you six years. So the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do."

That is the Biblical model of welfare if you want to look at it like that. This is how they took care of one another. They were to be treated well. They weren't to be beaten. They weren't to be deprived. They were given an opportunity. And when the time was up, they were given everything they needed to continue on in life so they didn't find themselves back in that same situation. Now in the Roman and the Greek cultures, bondservants were treated differently. For instance, the Romans consider the bondservant to be a person, to be a human being, while the Greeks consider them to be nothing more than chattel, a piece of property that they could do whatever they wanted with. In fact, the Greeks would say, “Hey, when your bondservant, your slave, gets too old, just chuck them out and don't worry about them.” And in Roman society, a person could sell themselves into slavery in order to pay off a debt and later they could regain their freedom. Many slaves eventually became Roman citizens. There were Roman masters who treated their bondservants well. At times they treated them just like family members. But because of sin, let's be honest, there were masters who treated them in any way that they saw fit. There are accounts of masters taking their bondservants and crucifying them. There's an account of one master taking one of his bondservants and throwing them into a pond of electric eels and he died a gruesome death that way. See until Christ returns there will always be sinful men and sinful women who will take advantage and abuse others simply because they can.

So how would you respond to being taken advantage of? Let's bring it into your world. How would you respond to being taken advantage of? Would you want to strike back? Would you want to rebel? Well, what is true of you is true of the believers in Ephesus. It's part of our shared humanity. There will always be those who are taken advantage of by other people. And there will always be those who take advantage of other people. So Paul directs his comments to those who had the potential of suffering abuse and being taken advantage of and being mistreated, as well as to those who had the potential of abusing and mistreating others. So here's how we can summarize Paul's teaching. Bondservants and masters who professed faith in Christ must seek to please Christ both in their actions and their reactions. Bondservants and masters who profess faith in Christ must seek to please Christ, both in their actions and their reactions. They must not seek to please themselves. They must not seek to please others. They must seek to please Christ and Christ alone. Christian bondservants, Christian masters were not to be people-pleasers, they were to be God pleasers. If you can fix that in your mind, that will change the way you see your work. You're not there to please the boss per se. In other words, that's not your motivation. That's not the driving force of your life. You are there to please God.

Now, since to my knowledge, there are not any bondservants or masters in the room. Kids, you're not a slave. What does this text mean for us today? Let's summarize Paul's teaching for our culture. We just have to change two words. Employees and employers who profess faith in Christ must seek to please Christ, both in their actions and their reactions. They must not seek to please themselves, they must not seek to please others, they must seek to please Christ and Christ alone. The question is how? How can you as an employee, or you as perhaps an employer or a supervisor or a boss? How can you please Christ when you find yourself in a situation that holds the potential for either being abused, or abusing someone else, being taken advantage of, or taking advantage of someone else? What do you do when the temptation is there to strike out, to lash out, to get your revenge?

Paul gives us two things here in the text. Shockingly we're only going to cover one this week and the second one next week. Let me give you both of them and we'll deal with the first one. In order to fulfill God's will for you to please Christ, you must first have the right attitude and second, you must have the right assurance. You must have the right attitude and you must have the right assurance. Number one, to fulfill God's will to please Christ, you must first have the right attitude. Now, remember, everything that Paul is saying here begins with having the right foundation. So the right foundation for holding the right attitude is to be filled with the Spirit. To try and develop this attitude, apart from being filled with the Holy Spirit will not work. Why? Because your sinful nature will not let you respond this way consistently. You may be able to do it for a little while, but you won't be able to do it consistently. The same goes true for the boss. You can try and treat people the right way but if you try and do it apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit from the power of the Holy Spirit, there's going to come to a point in time where someone's just going to hit you the wrong way and boom. Big explosions going to take place.

So the instruction begins with Paul's command, to obey with fear and trembling. Now that sounds rather ominous, doesn't it? Your obedience here is to be ongoing and unbroken. In other words, you say, well, it's Monday, I feel pretty good, I'll obey today. Or maybe you say it's Monday, I feel terrible, I'm not gonna obey today. I don't care what the old boy, the old gal says, I don't care. I'll do what I want to do. No, the obedience that God calls us to here has to be ongoing and unbroken, which you can see, can only be achieved if you are continually filled with the Holy Spirit. As an employee, you are to obey in everything and at all times. Yes, there are exceptions. What are the exceptions? The exception is anything that you would be asked to do that violates God's word, God's will. Then you say no, I cannot do that. But anything other than that God says you are to obey. You are to obey.

Now, the idea of fear and trembling is not that we are to be afraid of the boss. Now, thankfully in our culture, I don't think it happens as much as it used to. But my uncle, who I have a good relationship with today, I just want you to know that. Either he grew up or I grew up, I'm not sure which, but maybe we both grew up. He ruled with intimidation. He would throw things, he will holler. This was one of his favorite tactics. He would literally come behind you and do this. He didn't say hey what's up? That's not the kind of fear and trembling that we're talking about here. Some say the text says well, it's a sign of respect and honor and that's what Paul means. And I think there is an element to that. You should respect and honor your boss. God has placed you in that position and God has placed them and that his position or her position. So are you you are to respect and honor them.

But I don't think that's exactly what Paul means here. And the reason I say that is because Paul said that when he went to preach to the Corinthians, he said in 1 Corinthians 2 "And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling." Now, I don't know about you but Paul doesn't strike me as the kind of man who was afraid of much. I don't think he was afraid of the Corinthians. I don't think he was afraid of the intellectuals in Corinth. I don't think he was afraid of any man. I don't think that's what he's referring to at all. He was afraid of misrepresenting the Lord Jesus. Now let that sink in. He was afraid that his actions would misrepresent the Lord Jesus. He was afraid that his actions would put the gospel in a bad light. He was afraid that his actions would distort the gospel. He took his responsibility as Christ's messenger seriously. If you go to work and let them know that you're a Christian, good for you, then act like one.

I've told this story before. I've heard John MacArthur say years ago he went to the LA County jail and he was preaching and that this old boy comes up to him and said, "Yeah, I'm a Christian." MacArthur is a little bit taken back and said, "What are you in here for?" He said "I had about 100 parking tickets I never paid." John MacArthur said, "I said to him, hey, please don't tell anybody you’re a Christian." See if you're not going to put Christ in a good light, shut up. Can I say this? Paul's instructions to obey with fear and trembling means that we understand that our response, that our effort is done in the sight of God, and you obey not wanting to sin against God. You recognize what a privilege it is to be a Christian and you conduct yourself in such a way that your obedience to your employer honors the Lord and glorifies him.

Now, do you see why if you can wrap your head around that, do you see why this gives dignity to any kind of work? You know, my first job was when I went to work for my grandpa. My grandfather was a he was a brilliant businessman. But he was tight with a buck now, I mean tight with a buck. He lived through the depression and that was just you know, that was a lot of people were like that. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. So he ran his business, if he didn't have to pay for something for the business, he wasn't about to pay for it. And so at that time the shop was heated by wood. Now that tells you what a bare-bones operation it was okay. Say, when'd you live, the 1800's? Well it was a little after that, but anyway. So grandpa comes to me and I'm a shiny, spanking new high school graduate, you know, thinking I got the world by the tail. And Grandpa comes to me one day and he says, I got a job for you. Must be going in the office or an executive chair or something. We went out back behind the shop. He opened these double doors and there was this pile of wooden pallets. It looked like Mount Everest to me. And next to the pile, was a 10-pound sledgehammer. And he basically said to me, winter's coming and that's our heat. What's our heat? Those pallets which you're about to break up with that 10-pound sledgehammer. I thought man, I am related to the owners of this joint what is going on here?

But there's dignity in that work. There's no menial task when you understand who you're working for. I wasn't working for grandpa I was working for my heavenly boss, right? So Paul says we do so with a sincere heart, a heart that's focused on one thing, and that is to please the Lord Jesus. We are to work, we are to serve with goodwill. Say what's that mean? Well, to serve with goodwill is to see what needs to be done and do it. The Christian should never say that's not my job. If you see something that needs to be done at work or a church, do it. See the garbage needs to be taken out? I know it's not a glamorous job, but it needs to be done. Do it. It’s no big thing. Does something need picked up in the parking lot? Pick it up. Serve with goodwill. To serve with goodwill means you don't have to be forced to do something. And maybe you don't have to be asked to do something. You do it because it needs to be done. You have a single motive and that is to please Christ. If you never get any recognition, you still do your job and you still do it well.

Your effort on the job is a form of evangelism. Here, let me say this. When you're on the job, do your job. Do not take your employer's time to evangelize. That's dishonest. If somebody asked you questions, then you can set up a time to talk later. That's all well and good. But you're not to steal from your employer by evangelizing on the job. Your job is evangelistic means that if you perform poorly if you're lazy if you're a goof-off, or how about this if you're on your phone all the time when you should be working, you're a poor reflection of Christ. Wouldn't be a sermon without the good doctor chime in, would it? Have you missed him for the past four weeks? Lloyd Jones said "The Christian should be all out. Always industrious, always honest, always truthful, always reliable, always helpful, always trustworthy. That is what should always stand out for the Christian. You cannot give him [referring to Christians] new ability or new propensities, but a Christian"-- I love how he phrases this--"however unintelligent he may be, can be an honest man, an upright man, a reliable man, a man who keeps good time, a trustworthy man, a truthful man, a man whose word is his bond always, and a man upon whom you can rely and all this because he is a Christian."

That is precisely what the Apostle teaches here. Slaves, he says, be at your best always. Do your job as well as it can be done. Put all you have into it, whatever it is, though you are slaves, do your utmost, be all out. So with that, let me ask you, how would you rate yourself as an employee? Are you always giving your best? Can your employer trust you? Are you reliable? Listen, you may not be the best employee as far as talent goes, but whatever you do, you are a person who should be counted on to do your best. As Christians, we need to remember that we are not our own. That we have been bought with a price. Therefore we are, as Paul says in this text, we are bondservants of Christ. He ransomed us, he redeemed us, we belong to Him. And our attitudes on the job, our efforts on the job, either enhance our Christian testimony or detract from it. Students, the same principles apply to you. You may not be the smartest, you may not be the brightest. You may not finish in the top 10% of your class. It doesn’t matter. You should always do your best, give your best effort. You can always display Christian character and a Christian work ethic.

When you think about some of the characters in the Bible, my mind immediately went to the life of Joseph. Now we understand that Joseph was feeling his oats as a young man and said some things to his, particularly to his brothers, that didn't score many brownie points. So they took their revenge as soon as they could and before Joseph knew it, he was sold into slavery. He ends up as a servant in the house of Potipher. He is unjustly, unfairly accused. What happens? He had done a good job there but the accusation came and he was thrown into prison. This is what amazes me about Joseph, he's in prison, but he becomes a trustworthy guy. He's somebody that you can rely upon in prison. Well, that's hard to say, isn't it? And he has such sterling quality and character and reputation that he kind of becomes like the jailer's right-hand man. You know the rest of the story. Two guys have dreams, he interprets them. He says you're going to get out, remember me when you get out. They got out, they forgot him. Ultimately though, he did get out and he rose to become the Prime Minister of Egypt. There was nobody more powerful in Egypt except Pharaoh than Joseph. Did he have a chance to rebel along the way? Was he taken advantage of? Yes. Was he abused? Yes. But in every phase of his life, what do you see? You see a man who understood that his actions, his reactions, were a direct reflection on his God. And he made sure that his actions and his reactions reflected positively upon his God.

As a Christian, think about this. As a Christian, you should work for your employer and in your service to the church, in the same manner, that Jesus worked for his Father. Say, “that's a high standard.” It is. But if you're filled with the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, you can do that. Jesus worked tirelessly on behalf of the Father. The song leader, as we called him in my church that I grew up in, Joe Deborah's-- he was a godly, godly man-- sang this song. Todd could say it right now he knows exactly what I'm going to say. He sang this song often "Don't Let Me Leave Behind An Unfinished Task." Jesus never had to worry about that. He did everything that the Father wanted him to do. There was not one assignment or task that he failed to fulfill. And I thank God in our church, we do have people who serve without being asked, who see a job that needs to be done and they do it. I thank God that He has given us people who have a heart to work and they work and I commend your attitude, your effort. And you’re displaying the ethic that Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes, he says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might." Not half-hearted. Again, you may not be the best, but you give it your best.

Let me say just one thing and I'll shut up. Something that I've experienced repeatedly in my two-plus decades in the ministry, on more than one occasion, is that people want to serve the church but only if they can serve in a very public way. If they could just be in front of the congregation, well, you know, that's really serving. You know, those people down there in the nursery, they're not serving. Those people take out the garbage every week and sweep and clean up, scrub that toilet for you. They're not really serving. Yeah, they are serving. Listen, you will never serve up here till you serve out there or down there. Until you serve in ways that are unnoticed and unrecognized don't expect God to promote you to a place of prominence. You don't become a better servant visibly until you become a better servant invisibly. This has happened frequently, it's, you know, it's why I pull this example. A young person wants to be a missionary over there. How are you serving here? “I want to evangelize over there.” How are you evangelizing here? Don't kid yourself, if you're not doing it here you won't do it there.

So why do we work this way? Why do we give full attention and effort to our work? Because we are bondservants of Christ. We have the right attitude which flows from our understanding of our real identity which motivates us to fulfill God's will and please Christ. So the alarm goes off. The weekend is over. It's Monday morning. But instead of a sense of dread covering you like a heavy blanket, you have a feeling of delight. You know that another week filled with opportunity awaits you. You have 40 or more hours to serve Christ with a sincere heart. To serve with goodwill. To not only serve your employer but to serve Christ with fear and trembling. A week of evangelistic opportunity lies directly ahead of you and now instead of waiting to pull the covers over your head, you throw off the covers ready to do your best for your Lord and Master Jesus Christ.