March 8, 2020

Attitude and Assurance, Part 2

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Passage: Ephesians 6:5-9
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100,000 hours of your life will be spent working. If you work from home, if you're a caretaker from home, care for children at home, you will work more than 100,000 hours during your lifetime. At least one third of your week will be spent at work. The normal work schedule for many is to work eight hours a day, five days a week and if you work 50 weeks a year that means you spend 2,000 hours each year working. Now when you multiply that over the span of your working career, which is typically 18 to 65 that means you will have spent at least 94,000 hours at work; of course, at doesn't include overtime, weekends, or holidays. Now, that's a number that is so large that it can either depress you or motivate you. If you dread your work, if you hate your job, then that number is discouraging. But if you understand as we saw last week that God places you, that God places in your hands, almost 100,000 hours to serve Him while at the same time you're supporting yourself, you're supporting your family, and you're supporting God's work. When you see it in that vein, in the light of biblical truth, that means that work becomes an opportunity to please Christ, to honor God, and to point others to Christ. Now it's no secret that people don't like to work. Many people don't like to work, let me put it that way. And there's many more who don't like the work they do. But neither of those attitudes should ever be held by a Christian. Why? Because work is a part of creation. We were created to work. In the Bible, you will frequently find that a person's work was commonly associated with their name. For instance, we have King David. Say "what was David's work"? David's work was governing the nation of Israel, the book of Matthew, he identifies pilot as the governor. Jesus called Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel. Jesus wasn't ashamed to be identified as a carpenter. We could name others, they all are identified by the work that they did. Before the fall, before Adam and Eve sinned, Adam was created to work. He was commissioned by God to take care of the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:15 said that God placed Adam in the garden to work and to keep it. Work has always been a part of God's design. It's always been a part of God's plan for us.

Many people mistakenly believe that work was a part of the curse, not true. Work became more difficult because of the curse, but work itself was not cursed. So before Adam's sin, before the fall of mankind, man was to work. Man was made to work. Have you ever asked yourself this question? How does God want me to pass the years of my life? In other words, how does God want me to use the years that He graciously gives to me? He wants you to spend them working. Sadly, many want nothing to do with work. Years ago in one of my very first jobs; I could take you back to the the plant, the factory that I was in, the very spot I was talking to, and the main I was talking to and he said to me, I've never forgotten this. He said, "I don't live to work. I work to live". The implication was that work was just a necessary evil that allowed him to do the things he really wanted to do. That work was just something that he had to put up with Monday through Friday, so that he could experience what he considers to be much more important things. And what do we see today? Many today? They're all about pleasure. They're all about having a good time. But what do we see in their pursuit of pleasure? They end up experiencing the very opposite of what they're searching for. They experience frustration. They never find any kind of satisfaction. They never get any kind of contentment out of life. For all their partying, for all their good time, they find that they their life is empty, it's hollow, it's vain. It has no purpose. See, work is an opportunity to live life as God created it to be lived. Work provides you as a Christian, a unique opportunity. So what's the opportunity? Work. Your work provides you with the opportunity of pleasing Christ in a tangible way. Think that through. Every day when you go to work, you have been given an opportunity to please Christ in the way that you work, through the attitude that you hold about your work. Do you realize this? Your work is one way that you love your neighbor. Unless you're just making something purely for you to consume, your work benefits your neighbor. You're doing good for others. You're performing some kind of activity that benefits not only yourself, but others. Your work provides you with the opportunity to do the will of God from the heart, to carry out the will of God with the right attitude, while providing you with the opportunity to serve with a good will, to serve with a charitable and a helpful spirit. Know this folks; work is not punishment. But we approach it that way many times, don't we? "Oh, I've got to go to work again. Oh, it's Monday. Oh, the Monday blues". Where does that come from? We dread our work. We don't understand the opportunity that God has placed before us,  every seven days it rolls around again. We have another opportunity to go please Christ through our work. Work as God designed it is intended to be not punishment, but a blessing. And a reward. But sadly, many, including Christians see it as a soul crushing, futile way of life. It just sucks the life right out of them. But know this, your work, properly done with the right attitude provides an opportunity to experience the blessing of God through your work. It is one of the means by which God can bless you.

Now, last week, the big picture, or the controlling thought was this; employees and employers who profess faith in Christ must seek to please Christ in both their actions and their reactions. The question that arises from that is how? How can you as a Christian please Christ in and through your job? How could you do that? So we learned last week that in order to please Christ, you must have the right heart attitude. If you want to review that, go study verses five, six and seven again. So here's the second part of this equation. In order to please Christ, you must have the right assurance. We see this in verse eight, look at verse eight. Paul says, "knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or he is free". So here's the point, Jesus promises to reward those who please him by having the right heart attitude, which is displayed in the way they relate to their employer and their performance on the job. In other words, Jesus rewards those who work correctly, who work with the right attitude, who work diligently. Okay. Now, I don't know if you've worked, say, for five minutes, you've already discovered that there are and will continue to be many, many times that your effort on the job goes unrecognized, unrewarded, and unappreciated. The question is, how should you as a Christian respond? How should you as a Christian respond when you're unrecognized, you're unrewarded, you're unappreciated, by your boss and the company you work for, does that give you the right to slack off on the job? Does that give you the right to do less than your best on the job? Does that give you the right to complain about your job? Well, the answer to all of those questions is simply, no. Why? Because as we learned last week, regardless of whether or not you get your paycheck from Chick-Fil-A, or US Bank or whatever company you work for, ultimately you are working for the Lord. The Lord is your employer. You're working for Christ. And because you are working for Christ, you are to obey your earthly employer as you would the Lord Jesus Christ. There's no separation between the two. Ultimately, you're working for Christ. And even if your earthly employer, if they never, ever recognize your effort, even if they never reward you for your excellent performance on the job, that does not mean that you will not be recognized and rewarded, because ultimately you will. That's what Paul's saying here. So ultimately, you obey and do the very best that you can, because you have assurance from scripture, that your work will be rewarded by the Lord. Aain, look at verse eight, "knowing that whatever good", that's important, "whatever good anyone does". I said last week there's dignity in all work. "Whatever good anyone does". God will reward that. You don't have to be a big shot in order for God to reward your work. You could be the dishwasher. Nothing wrong with being the dishwasher, and do it well, do it with the right attitude; know this, God will reward your effort there.

But here's something I have to make clear. Your reward is not your motivation. Your reward is not your motivation. In other words, you don't work in such a way that is pleasing to Christ for the reward. The reward is your expectation, not your motivation. Say, "well what is my motivation then"? Your motivation is to please Christ. Your motivation is to honor Christ. Your motivation is to do your work with a sincere heart and with goodwill. That's your motivation. Even if you were never rewarded for your work, you still should always do your best for Christ. That's your motivation. The expectation that God graciously gives to us is that he's going to reward us one day for our work. So if we see the reward is our motivation our misunderstanding will lead us to love the gift, the reward more than the giver of the gift. And that's a huge problem. And I'm afraid many Christians have fallen into that trap. They love God's gifts, not so much God. And that's an affront to holy, righteous God. I do my best out of love for Christ. I work in such a way that God is glorified. And when I do that, God has promised to reward and bless my obedience. Now, often it's true, let's be realistic. It's true that when you work hard when you do a good job, if you perform well in your job that you will receive earthly rewards. In other words, you'll get a raise. You'll get a bonus. You'll get some kind of perk, let's be honest about that. Granted, doesn't always happen. But normally it will happen. But I want you to know, earthly rewards, they are not Paul's focus here. Paul's focus is on heavenly rewards. Which means that you have to work with an eternal perspective. Say it this way, you have to understand that short term pain brings eternal gain. The problem with many of us, including Christians, is we know nothing of delayed gratification. We want it and we want it now. Well, the Christian life doesn't always work that way. In fact, you're never going to experience God's best in this world. We have a foretaste of it. There are many blessings that we experience but Paul says, hey listen, "God is preparing for you an eternal weight of glory". So we work with an eternal perspective. So when can you and I as Christians expect to receive our reward? Well, the Bible tells us clearly, when Jesus returns. Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 16, "for the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his father. And then after He comes, then He will repay each person according to what he has done". The Bible also teaches that there when Jesus returns, some will receive heavenly rewards, while others will receive divine judgment. In Matthew 25, we read this, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him then He will sit on this glorious throne before Him will be gathered all the nations. And he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right but the goats on the left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcome me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me". So what do we have here? We have Jesus words of encouragement to believers, and a dire warning to the unbeliever. What do we have? We have reward and punishment.

Those who obey Jesus, those, listen carefully, those who demonstrated genuine faith through the lives they lived, will be rewarded. Those whose faith was non-existent or hollow and empty, will be judged. Folks, it goes back to the life you lead. Your life doesn't save you. But when you have you been redeemed you will live a redeemed life. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. No one. You could have prayed the 'sinner's prayer' 1,000 times. But if your nature was never changed by the Spirit of God, that prayer will not save you. Do not rely upon your activity for salvation. It will fail you every time. It is only the divine activity of God, working through His Spirit that brings anyone to Christ. And if you are in Christ, you had nothing to do with it. You thank God, you thank the Lord Jesus, you thank the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I've kept the faith". He didn't end there though. He said, "Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day. And not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing". Paul had the expectation, and rightly so, that he would be would be rewarded in the next life based upon his obedience, his activity in this life. So one of the first lessons we learn from this passage is that our actions do matter. Our actions do matter. Our present actions affect our future reward. Which means that our understanding of the next world shapes our understanding of how we are to live in this world. Which means that we no longer live for this world, we live for the world to come. We work hard here, knowing we will be rewarded there, meaning Heaven. Let me be clear, you do not work hard in order to earn your salvation. The Bible knows nothing of a works based salvation. You are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, all of which is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8. You work hard, because you are saved, not to get saved. You work hard as a believer because you have a desire to please Christ. Now, it is a biblical principle, all throughout Scripture, that God gives blessings, that God rewards his people who serve and suffer for him. And again, is all throughout Scripture. For instance, read the opening chapters of Genesis, read the account of creation. And you find God saying to Adam, even before Eve was created, that if Adam disobeyed him and ate fruit from the forbidden tree that he would what? Surely die. Well, what's the flip side of that? What's the implication of that? If he hadn't eaten the fruit, would he have died? No. No. What do we have? Reward would have been he wouldn't have died. The punishment was he died, see his reward for obedience would have been life. The result of his disobedience would be his death. Adam's death was a direct result of his disobedience proving the truthfulness of Scripture, where we read "the wages of sin is death", and "he soul that sins shall die". So right from the very beginning of creation, God establishes this principle that he would reward his children. He would bless His people for their obedience. And then later in scripture in Deuteronomy, chapter 27, we see God reinforcing this principle to Israel. And this is kind of a strange kind of event that took place.

In Deuteronomy 27, God told Moses to separate the twelve tribes into two groups, six on one and six on the other. And six of these tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim, and the other six tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal. Okay, so they're they're facing one another. Then the Levites were to read a series of statements. And each one of these statements began with a curse. For instance, Deuteronomy 27:15 excuse me, the Levites said to the people, "Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image", in other words, makes an idol, "an abomination to the Lord, a thing that was made by the hands of a craftsman and sets it up in secret, and all the people shall answer and say, 'Amen'". So here's what's going on. The Levites would read this lengthy series of statements and after each one was read, the people facing one another were to say "Amen" or they were to agree with that. And be like, I would make a statement and y'all stand up and say "Amen", and you stand up say "Amen". That's what was happening. The people were making a very public declaration of their intent to obey God, to each other. They were witnesses for one another. "You said you would obey", "you said you would obey". While at the same time, they were also agreeing that their disobedience would rightly bring the curse or the judgment of God on them. Then in Deuteronomy 28 we have God's declaration of His promised blessing if the people would obey Him. Deuteronomy 28, verse one, "and if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth". What is that? That's a reward. So God reinforces to the children of Israel, this biblical principle of rewarding or blessing his people for their obedience. So what does this have to do with me today? Well, it means that when you go to work every day, you must work for your boss. You must work for your company in the same way you would work for Christ. I know that's hard for us to wrap our heads around. Which means that you work with a sincere heart. Because you know that one day you will be rewarded by the Lord Jesus. You work so as to please God, knowing that you will be rewarded by the Lord Jesus. You do your work from the heart because it pleases Christ. You do your work with goodwill, knowing that you will be rewarded for it. So this is the attitude, excuse me, and this is the assurance of the Christian, that you will be richly rewarded by the Lord Jesus. Now there are some pious people who think this is an utterly crass attitude for a Christian to hold. You should simply serve with no expectation of reward. I would say to those folks, "Okay, you should work for your employer for free". Wait a minute. Wait a minute, you're taking a little too far. Am I? Effort and reward is not the creation of an economist. It is not the result of a capitalist, socialist, any 'ist'. It's a biblical principle. God rewards according to effort. God rewards his children according to effort. But keep in mind, where does all of the power for this come from? Be filled with the Spirit. See. Our actions matter. God rewards the efforts of those who are in Christ. The question is what is the believers reward?

Well, Hebrews 11:6 says this, "And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists, and then He rewards those who seek Him". So, when we seek God, He rewards us. The question is, what does he reward us with? Well, there are some, I use this term very loosely and advisedly, some preachers who say, "Well, God rewards you with material things". Right? We hear that. You'll live your best life now. You'll be healthy, you'll be wealthy. Does God reward us with material things, new TVs, new houses, new cars, new clothes? Sadly, again, there are those who stand behind, I'll say a lectern, not a pulpit, and dispense that week after week after week. God will give you every material thing that you want. The problem is that message has the devastating effect of duping millions into loving the gifts without loving God. Millions and millions of people will love Jesus for what he can give them but not for what he can do for them. They don't want Him as Lord and Savior. So what has happened here? See sin distorts our value system. And sin has so distorted our value system that we've lost the ability to extinguish, to distinguish, excuse me, true value and true worth. Do you know what the greatest reward that God can give to unredeemed, unsaved, unbelieving, humanity is? It's the very thing they don't want. You know what it is? You know what's God's greatest gift? Well the writer of Hebrews ends verse 6 of chapter 11 by saying that "God rewards those who seek...", what does it say? "Him". God's greatest gift is Himself. You may be thinking, "Well, I thought salvation was God's greatest gift". Well, how did Jesus define salvation? How did Jesus define eternal life? Well Jesus in His high priestly prayer in John 17:3 said, "And this is eternal life..." Are you listening? "...this is eternal life". Not just getting to Heaven. How many times has somebody said, "Well, I just be happy if I get to heaven". You're missing the point. You have missed the point. I'm afraid there are many who profess faith in Christ who would be a-ok if Jesus wasn't there as long as they got there. As long as they got their mansion, they walk a street of gold. That's all they want. You probably ain't gonna get it if that's your attitude. God saves us, changes our desires, and one of those desires that he changes is we now desire what we didn't desire before, we desire Him. Salvation allows us to know God in a deeply personal, and intimate way. God's greatest reward is Himself. God said to Abraham, "Fear not Abraham, I am your shield, your reward shall be very great". Is there any greater reward than God Himself? No. The Psalmist wrote, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever". You know, portion means here, reward. Reward. The Psalmist said, "my physical life may fail". Guess what? He found out it did fail. But I've got something that will never fail or fade. God is my portion. God is my reward. Heaven is not the goal of salvation. God is the goal of salvation.  As Piper so eloquently put it, "God is the gospel."

100,000 hours of work. How will you use them? How can you as a Christian, please the Lord Jesus through your job? By having the right attitude. You work diligently day by day, year by year, decade after decade with the assurance that you will be rewarded for your obedience to the will of God. And one day, Revelation 21:3 will become reality. John writes, "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God'". God Himself is your great reward. When you go to work tomorrow morning, if that doesn't motivate you, there's no motivational book or speaker in the world that can help you.