Session 4: How Does the Cross Affect Our Lives? - Radical

Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life

Session 4: How Does the Cross Affect Our Lives?

How does Christ’s work on the cross change our lives? How does it impact how we live each day? In this session of Secret Church 14, Pastor David Platt teaches Christians that God desires for us to follow his will so much that he lives in us to accomplish it. From work to play, the cross impacts every aspect of our life. For those who are in Christ, we are able to live free in our lives because of his sacrifice on our behalf.

  1. Contemporary methods for discovering the Will of God
  2. A Biblical method for discovering the Will of God
  3. Remember the two wills of God
  4. So how do I make daily decisions?
  5. Two final words

The Cross & Waking

How does the cross wake you up? From the very beginning, we hear things like, “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice.” (Psalm 5:3) Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!” So we’ve got the foundation laid and the framework for how we are to approach life. We set our feet on the ground in the morning. Psalm 143:8, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go.” So how does He make us know the way we should go?

We’ve got all kinds of decisions we make during the day—little decisions, big decisions—and so how does God’s will work? Is God’s will just generally for me to love Him and love my neighbor as myself, or is God’s will more specific than that? So what about little decisions? So you’re going out for dinner, for example. Does God will that you go to one restaurant over another? Or does God not care what restaurant you go to? Or when it comes to big decisions, does God will for you to specifically marry this person? And if you don’t marry that person, are you outside of God’s will? Or does God just generally will that you marry a follower of Christ who’s of the opposite sex?

So if we’re not careful, we can go to one side or the other here. We can get paralyzed thinking, “Well, I want to do God’s will but I don’t know exactly what He wants me to do. Like, what restaurant do I go to?” Or, we can get passive and we can think, “Well, God doesn’t really care about the details of my day, so I’m going to try to figure out whether or not He wants me to go to Mexican or Chinese. I’m just going to pick.”

In all of this we come to one of the most common questions that Christians ask in our culture today: “What is God’s will for my life?” And the bad news is countless people — Christians — are confused and wondering, “How do I find God’s will for my life?” The good news is God’s will is not lost. Ephesians 5:17, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” In fact, the really good news is, God desires for you and me to follow His will so much that He lives in you and me to accomplish it. And this is where I want us to see, because of the cross of Christ and the Spirit of Christ in us, that we have the Spirit of Christ to lead us on a daily basis.

You are his child, led by His Spirit. Romans 8:13–14 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” And the Spirit of God leads you. Galatians 5:18 says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

This means we don’t need these Contemporary Methods for Discovering the Will of God. I’ve listed some there. First, we have the Striking Coincidence Method and the Random Finger Method. You know, open the Bible, “Well, God’s will is…there.” And you point to a random verse. “‘The Lord rescued him from all his enemies.’ Oh, that’s a good word. Or…there, with the north country. ‘All those who go to the north country. I’ve set my Spirit at rest in the north.’ So I need to go north.” I mean, it’s just not good. Or you have The Miraculous Event Method. This is taken from Exodus 3:1–6, which says,

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Or the Cast the Fleece Method, which is what Gideon did in Judges 6:36–38,

Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.

You also see the Open Door Method. 1 Corinthians 16:89 says, “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” That sounds good until you get to 2 Corinthians 2:12–13, “When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.”

Or what about the Closed Door Method? But that doesn’t add up either. In Acts 20, Paul is dissuaded over and over again from going to Jerusalem, even a prophet telling him that he will be arrested and could die as a result, and he says, “The Holy Spirit is compelling me to go.” Acts 20:22–24 says,

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

This one may be one of the most dangerous. We have created a Christianity so in tune with our comforts and our plans that as soon as we obey God in an area that causes us great risk and something bad happens, we use the closed door method to get out of obedience. We lose sight of the fact that trouble and suffering and persecution may be open doors! Neither open or closed doors give complete guidance of God’s will.

You also have the Still, Small Voice Method. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is fleeing and depressed, and God speak to him not through the wind, or through an earthquake, or through the fire, but through a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11–13 says,

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The thinking goes, “You wait for the still small voice, and once you hear it, you obey.” The problem is that this is probably not a literal voice. It is more of an inward impression or a feeling. And whenever we’re making decisions, if we’re really honest, we probably have a lot of feelings. How do you discern which is the right one? “Well, I am going to close my eyes, and listen. If I don’t hear anything, I’ll wait for the first thought that comes to my mind.” So we do it – close our eyes – no sound – and we think, “Is it still? Is it small? Then it’s from God.” Probably not the best method after all.

I want to recommend A Biblical Method for Discovering the Will of God. It’s called the Read Your Bible Method. So, the primary way God reveals His will is in His Word. Psalm 40:8 says, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Now, obviously this Word doesn’t tell you whether or not to go Mexican or Chinese or exactly who to marry or this or that. But we’ve got this confidence that Christ is in us, and if we’re giving ourselves to the will He has revealed, He’s going to lead us in the things that are not specifically revealed in His Word. Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” First Thessalonians 5:18, “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” First Peter 2:15, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

Remember the Two Wills of God. This means there are two different ways the Bible talks about God’s will. I call them here in your notes God’s secret will and God’s revealed will. Here’s what I believe the Bible means by that. First, when it comes to God’s secret will, this is what He decrees in the world. So look at this example from Genesis 50:20. Joseph is coming to the end of his life, and he is recounting to his brothers how God worked out their decision to sell him into slavery for His glory. It says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

So look at that example: What was God’s will? Or think about the passage from Acts 2 that talks about Jesus’ crucifixion. Acts 2:22–23 says,

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

So was that God’s will? The answer is yes…and no. Yes, it was God’s will. Genesis 50 says God meant this — Joseph being sold into slavery — for good. And yes, the crucifixion was God’s will because God meant Jesus to die on the cross. Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Ephesians 1:4, “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Acts 4:27–28, “…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand had predestined to take place.”

Nothing happens apart from God’s activity. James 4:13–16,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

And nothing happens accidentally. I have a variety of verses here that illustrate how everything happens purposefully — everything. Job 37:6–13,

For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth, ’likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it. Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens. From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

Job 38:39–41 says, “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food?” Job 12:23, “He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.” Job 14:5, “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass…” Psalm 31:14–15, “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!” Jeremiah 10:23, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” Isaiah 14:24, “The LORD of hosts has sworn: ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…’”

Isaiah 43:5–7,

“Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Colossians 1:16,

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.”

So you’ve got God’s will that He decrees in the world, and nothing happens in this world, in this sense, apart from God’s will. There’s nothing that happens in the world in which God says, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.” He decrees it all.

But then you also see in Scripture God’s revealed will: what He declares in His Word. He declares all kinds of different things. He calls us to be saved. 1 Timothy 2:3–4 says, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Second Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” He desires us to be filled with the Spirit. “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:17–18) Be sanctified. First Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality…”

Ultimately, be submissive. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6) So this is the key to walking in the will of God—is trusting in the leadership of God. Because, follow this, knowing God’s will is secondary to simply knowing God. So all those contemporary methods we try to come up with for discovering God’s will are efforts to shortcut, short-circuit, the mind of God, relationship with God.

God has designed His will for our lives, so that as we walk with Him, we’re drawn into deeper relationship with Him. So we have a big decision to make. God obviously has the power to give us a vision or write what we need to do in the clouds in the sky. But He doesn’t do that. Why? Because He’s designed a process for us to seek His face in His Word, in prayer, in the context of community with other brothers and sisters, and in the process, we know Him more.

The will of God is not a roadmap. It’s a relationship whereby Christ gradually overtakes our will to become one with His will. And as we grow in that relationship, we no longer find ourselves asking God, “What is your will for my life?” Instead the question is, “God, what is your will in the world, and how can I align my life every day with it?” Matthew 6:9–13 says,

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Matthew 28:18–20,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So How Do I Make Daily Decisions? Big, small, how do I walk in the will of God? Here is some practical encouragement the Word gives us. One, if the Word doesn’t specifically spell out what to do, commune with God in worship. So do all that we’ve talked about at this point. Walk with God in prayer, worship. With the start of this day, set aside a time and go to a place. Psalm 5:3, “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Psalm 143:8 says, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

And then consult the Word of God. Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” So, does God’s revealed will in Scripture prohibit doing something? Will a certain action cause you to neglect a command in God’s revealed will?

And if the Word addresses your decision in one of those ways, then it’s clear: Obey the Word. But if the Word doesn’t address that decision, then exercise wisdom. James 1:5–8 says,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

So pray confidently. “God, I don’t know what to do here. Give me wisdom.” Gather information as you’re praying. So it’s not just, again, waiting for a vision, like, God calls us to work as we try to grow in wisdom and make wise decisions. Gather information. Consider all your options. Seek godly counsel from other people.

And then choose wisely. In other words, once you’ve sought God’s face, gone to God’s Word, you’ve asked for God’s wisdom, and you’ve done all the work that you can do, then do what you want. Proverbs 2:1–11 says,

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you …

Don’t stress about which restaurant to eat at. Worship God. Realize that God’s Word doesn’t necessarily prefer Mexican over Chinese, or Italian for that matter. Exercise wisdom and go eat where you want to the glory of God.

When it comes to who you marry—worship God. Walk with God. Realize that the Bible doesn’t tell you specifically who to marry, though it does give you a good guide for the kind of person you should marry. Wisely look, then, for a member of the opposite sex who’s displaying Christ-like manhood or womanhood and walking with God themselves. And say to them, “Hey, would you like to walk alongside me?”

So, two final words I’ve put here as we kind of look toward a day. Surrender every single day. Die to yourself daily. Luke 9:23–24, “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Put the blank check on the table, just at the beginning of every day. This is why I think that I believe that time with the Lord, with the Father in heaven in a room alone, is important at the beginning of a day. Because you say, “Lord, here’s my life today. Use it however you want.”

And then abide all throughout the day. So let the Word of Christ dwell in you. That’s why memorizing is so helpful. And if you’re abiding in Christ and surrendering to Christ, He’s not going to lead you in the wrong direction. John 15:4–11 says,

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

The Cross & Working

So we think through time in prayer, time in the Word, time eating and exercising. Okay, now let’s think about work. So most of us spend hours every day, every week, every month in our life doing work. If you work 40 hours a week for 40 years of life, you will put in 80,000 hours at a job during your lifetime. And then if you go to college, kindergarten to college is another 15,000 hours preparing to work. Then there’s commuting on top of that. That’s a lot of hours in your life.

So how do all those hours fit in to this purpose that God has created for you in the world on a daily basis? Your work is in sales, or as a teacher, or as an engineer, whatever you do—is it just to provide food on your table? Or is there more to it than that? So how is your work on an everyday basis a part of God’s plan for you to enjoy His grace in a relationship with Him and extend His glory to the ends of the earth?

I’ve got a quote here from Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger, who wrote a great book on The Gospel at Work that I highly recommend. It’s in the back of your notes. They say:

If you’re like most people, you spend a significant portion of every week of your life at your job. You also spend quite a lot of time thinking about your job. What do I need to do next? How do I maximize profit, or how do I solve that problem, or how do I communicate this need? It may well be that at least some of your thoughts about your job are not just about operations. They’re about the meaning of it all. Why am I doing this? What’s the purpose of it, and do I want to keep doing it? How is this job affecting me as a human being, making my life better or worse? Is it all worth it, and why? Those are good questions, of course. But if you’re a Christian, there’s another set of questions that is even more important—questions that have to do with how your work fits into God’s intentions for your life. Is my work shaping my character in a godly direction? How can I do my work, not just as a way to put food on the table, but as a sold-out disciple of Jesus? What the point of work, anyway, in a Christian’s life? Is there any meaning to it beyond providing goods and services, making money, and providing a living for myself and my family? And why, for that matter, does God have us spend so much of our lives doing this one particular thing?

Well, those are good questions. And you get down to Colossians 3:22–24, and it says, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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.” So I want you to think about your job and the purpose for which God has put you on the planet.

Let’s think about who God is. God delights in work. God works, and God enjoys work. Genesis 1:1–5 says,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Psalm 104 says He rejoices in His work. Psalm 104:10–32 says,

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers. He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens. Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening. O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!

Proverbs 8:27–31,

When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man

John 16:7–11,

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

So we see that. God works for us and through us. If you think about it, the only reason you’re breathing at this moment is because God’s working for you. And if He were to stop, so would you. He works for us, and even the work that we do is work that He actually does through us. So God delights in work.

And God designed our work. So in Genesis 1, God created man and told him to work in the world. Genesis 1:26–30 says,

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Chapter two, verse 15, God put him in a garden and told him to work. Genesis 2:15–17 says, “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.’” Exodus 20:9, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work…” So work was not a part of the Fall. It was a part of creation from the very beginning. Tim Keller said:

Work is so foundational to our makeup that it is one of the few things we can take in significant doses without harm. Indeed, the Bible does not say we should work one day and rest six, or that work and rest should be balanced evenly—but directs us to the opposite ration. Leisure and pleasure are great goods, but we can only take so much of them. If you ask people in nursing homes or hospitals how they are doing, you will often heart that their main regret is that they wish they had something to do, some way to be useful to others.

So we’re designed by God to work, by His grace, for our good, and for His glory. Ephesians 6:5–8 says,

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Colossians 3:22–24,

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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.

So this is God.

Now consider who we are. Work is a mark of our dignity. Now I’m excluding here work that would be sinful or evil in and of itself. So you might call stealing cars work, but that’s not the kind of work we’re talking about here. So apart from that kind “work,” we’re talking about work—whatever we’re doing, whatever job we have—it’s a part of our dignity. And we’ve got to be careful not to think that some have more dignity than others. We have a tendency to base our dignity based on our occupation, or according to how other people view our occupation.

But to do that is not just unbiblical, it’s ungodly. Because God has created us to work, and all kinds of work display His glory and His character in the world. Philip Jensen asks the question, “If God came into the world, what would he be like? For the ancient Greeks, he might have been a philosopher-king. The ancient Romans might have looked for a just and noble statesman. But how does the God of the Hebrews come into the world? As a carpenter.”

All work is human dignity. Just think about Psalm 8:1–9. It says,

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Genesis 1:29–30 says,

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

So we’re stewards of creation—this is from the very beginning, Genesis 1, of the Bible—and we’re developers of culture. So in our work we are participating in what God is doing in the world, to help the world thrive and flourish. Keller writes:

Farming takes the physical material of soil and seed and produces food. Music takes the physics of sound and rearranges it into something beautiful and thrilling that brings meaning to life. When we take fabric and make a piece of clothing, when we push a broom and clean up a room, when we use technology to harness the forces of electricity, when we take an unformed, naïve human mind and teach it a subject, when we teach a couple how to resolve their relational disputes, when we take simple materials and turn them into a poignant work of art—[in all these things] we are continuing God’s work of forming, filling and subduing … [and] we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.

What a great picture. And this is what we realize that this involves all of us doing all kinds of different things. If all of us were pastors, that would be a horrible thing for sustenance in the world. Sure, we’d know how to teach the Bible and shepherd the church, but we wouldn’t know how to do anything else. If we were all salesmen and women, we wouldn’t have any products to sell in the first place. If we were all police officers, we’d be safe but we sure would be hungry. If we were all lawyers, we’d all be in trouble.

So we need each other. We need every single one of each other. Much the way the body of Christ has different parts, we’ve got different parts we play in the world. I love this quote from Lester DeKoster:

Look at the chair you are lounging in … Could you have made it for yourself? … How would you get, say, the wood? Go and fell a tree? But only after first making the tools for that, and putting together some kind of vehicle to haul the wood, and constructing a mill to do the lumber and roads to drive on from place to place? In short, a lifetime or two to make one chair! … If we … worked not forty but one-hundred-forty hours per week we couldn’t make ourselves from scratch even a fraction of all the goods and services that we [now] call our own. Our paycheck turns out to buy us the use of far more than we could possibly make for ourselves in the time it takes us to earn the check … Work … yields far more in return upon our efforts than our particular jobs put in …. Imagine that everyone quits working, right now! What happens? Civilized life quickly melts away. Food vanishes from the shelves, gas dries up at the pumps, streets are no longer patrolled, and fires burn themselves out. Communication and transportation services end, utilities go dead. Those who survive at all are soon huddled around campfires, sleeping in caves, clothed in raw animal hides. The difference between [a wilderness] and culture is simply, work.

Do you see this? All of our work is a mark of dignity. This is huge. We should not set up some false dichotomy, some artificial distinction, between some people whose work is nobler than others. So we should not think that pastors are more noble than bankers, or missionaries are more noble than telemarketers. Tyndale said, “If we look externally, there is difference between washing dishes and preaching the Word of God, but as touching to please God, there is no difference at all. That’s a biblical view of work, that there’s no difference when done to the honor of the Lord between preaching and washing the dishes.”

You say, “Do you really believe that, that preaching and washing the dishes are just as important to the glory of God?” Absolutely, I believe that. You take something like housecleaning. Imagine—what if it wasn’t done? Before long there would be germs all over the house, viruses, infections threatening to make you sick, that could eventually kill you. That makes dishwashing and cleaning fundamentally important. So that’s why Tim Keller says, “Simple physical labor is God’s work no less than the formulation of theological truth.” All of it is dignified.

The problem, though, is that our work has been marred by our depravity. The disobedience of man affects his work in Genesis 3. Verses 16-19 say,

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

And as a result of sin, though work was designed to be fulfilling, it’s frustrating to us. Romans 8:20–22 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” Though work was designed to be purposeful, it feels pointless. In Ecclesiastes, it is particularly depressing because it says in the end, what’s the point of all this stuff that I’m doing? Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 says, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Because much of our work feels pointless. Ecclesiastes 2:18–26 says,

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Though work was designed to be selfless, it becomes selfish. In other words, we start looking out for ourselves. Genesis 11:1–4 recounts the story of the Tower of Babel. It says,

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

This leads to two primary distortions of work, and this is what Gilbert and Traeger talk about in their book. It’s so helpful. One is the idolatry of work, where we overvalue work, thinking that our work is what provides us ultimate meaning. Many places in Scripture speak about idolatry. Exodus 20:3–5 says,

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…”

Ezekiel 14:3–7,

“Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself.”

Proverbs 23:4, “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.” Mark 10:17–31 says,

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

So when we spend thousands of hours doing work, we start to be tempted to look at our work as that which controls us, or that which is our identity. We wrap ourselves up in our work and can’t pull ourselves away from it. This is even more dangerous when we become successful in our work, because we start looking to work for things that God alone is intended to give us: Meaning, joy, identity.

And in the process, we fail to see God’s limits for our work. And when we fail to see God’s limits for our work, we find ourselves resisting rest. We can’t put our work down. We can’t put our phone down. We’re always checking emails, always making calls. Our thoughts go into this or that at the office. We’re consumed with our work, and we see rest almost like it’s an enemy. It’s keeping us from doing what we want to do.

And I will be the first to admit I’ve been totally guilty here. I mentioned just the un-health that my wife approached me with a couple years ago, and part of it was, “You don’t put stuff down. You just stay up all night doing this or that, and that’s not healthy. It’s not glorifying to God.” So that’s one way that we can distort work.

Well, then there’s another opposite side of the spectrum, and some of you are already thinking, “Well, we don’t want to just be lazy and not work hard.” And you’re exactly right. The other distortion of work is idleness in work, where we undervalue work, thinking that it has little to no meaning. Exodus 20:8–11 says,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Proverbs 6:6–11,

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Second Thessalonians 3:6–15,

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Either we’re lazy and we don’t work, or we look at our work and we think, “Ah, it’s not that important. What I do is really not that dignified.” And we fail to see God’s purposes for our work. We either don’t work, or we work and we don’t care about what we’re doing in our work. It’s just a means to an end that we have to endure.

And in the process of this we start to prioritize retirement. So instead of resisting rest, we prioritize retirement. We prioritize rest in a sense. Our work is something we endure until we get to the weekend, and then ultimately it’s something we endure until we finally attain the goal of not having to work and we can retire, a concept that is totally unbiblical. People ask me, “What do you mean that you say retirement is unbiblical?” What I mean is it’s not in the Bible. It’s not a biblical idea at all.

Now I want to be clear. I’m not talking here about those who are physically unable to work. And I’m not talking about those who retire from a job in order to be able to do work that doesn’t require a salary. So there are many Christians past a certain age who are no longer employed on a payroll somewhere, but are working to the glory of God around the world and in the community. That’s good. That’s great. That’s biblical.

But this idea that we have in American culture that the goal of our life is to get to the point where we can just rest is not biblical. It’s not human. It’s not what God has designed for us. We even say, “I can’t wait to get to heaven where I can rest.” But even that’s not true. Because when we get to heaven there’s going to be work. And at that point you just throw your arms up and say, “It’s never going to end.”

That’s when we realize we’re missing the point. God’s created us to work, by His grace, for our good and for His glory. Work is a good gift from a gracious God that we will enjoy for all of eternity. We’ll enjoy it. We won’t have the distortions that come in with it in eternity, thank God. But we must not buy into the lie that our culture sells us that work is to be avoided. It’s to be endured because we have to do it. No. Work is a fundamental part of God’s good design for us.

And God desires to save us from an unbiblical view of work and redeem us to a satisfying life of work. And this is where the cross comes in. Think about how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection affects the way we view work, transforms our outlook on work. Romans 3:21–30 says,

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Ephesians 1:3–14,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Three ways: Number one, Christ’s work has secured our salvation, freeing us to rest in His work as the only superior work. This is huge. This is why Martin Luther, for example, is so passionate about all work—not just church work—being equally pleasing and honoring to God. It all went back for Luther to the discovery of the reality that we’re justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

If you think about it, if our works—specifically our religious works—earn us favor before God, then it only makes sense that the clergy—priests, popes—do the most noble work and have the most favor before God. Everybody else is second class in that sense. But one of the effects of the Reformation was realizing, no, if we’re accepted before God based solely on faith in the finished work of Christ, then there’s no work we can do to increase our status before God. Christ at the cross has secured our salvation, so we’re free to rest in His work as the only superior work.

So, then Christ’s work has secured our satisfaction, freeing us from the idolatry of work. So in Christ and through Christ, you’ve been reconciled to God, you’ve found ultimate meaning in God, your ultimate source of joy is not in what you do, but Who you know. Your identity is not your profession. Your identity is in Christ. So in these ways, in Christ you’re free from now looking to your job to find what Christ has already purchased for you—ultimate joy and meaning and satisfaction in Him.

Gilbert and Traeger write, “Christ’s work provides an anchor for your soul. Without it, it’s inevitable that you’ll be blown around like a leaf by the winds of stock market gyrations, temporary successes and failures, performance reports, bosses who do or don’t treat you well, and your own desires, whether they are met or not.” But Christ saves you from that kind of life.

Will you experience frustration, discouragement or despair at work? Absolutely. It’s the reality of work in a sinful world. But as soon as you do, those realities will remind that work is not your source of meaning and joy and satisfaction. Christ is, and He alone can provide what your soul most needs.

And then, Christ’s work has secured our significance, freeing us from idleness in work. So Christ infuses significance and meaning and purpose into even the most menial tasks and jobs. So that leads us to then consider our everyday jobs. So you put your faith in Christ. You’re in Christ. How does that affect the way you work every day? Well, in Christ every day, we’re free to worship God wholeheartedly as we work. That’s why Colossians 3 says work hard, because you’re serving ultimately the Lord. “Whatever you do,” 1 Corinthians 10:31, “do all to the glory of God.”

So what you do—follow this—from nine to five every day is not secular work. Some people think, “You know, when you serve in the church on Sunday, that’s spiritual work.” No, that’s not true. It’s all work to the glory of God, every single bit of it. When you write a memo at your desk, when you’re talking on the phone with a customer, when you’re preparing a lesson for your class, when you’re selling an item, when you’re serving some food, when you’re making a decision, when you’re leading a company, when you’re placing an order, when you’re hammering a nail, you’re fixing a leak, you’re performing a surgery—whatever you do, you’re worshipping God as you work. Discipleship to Jesus is not just what you do when you have a Bible study or you’re serving in a soup kitchen. Yes, it’s that and it’s every other detail of your life on a daily basis. It’s all discipleship to Jesus. Matthew 22:37–38 says, “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.’”

So think about practical ramifications of this based on that biblical reality. So what do we do then? We work competently, with excellence. We don’t worship God through shoddy, lousy work. The student in school, employee, boss, whatever—we work hard with competency because we’re serving Christ. Ephesians 6:5–9,

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Colossians 3:22–24,

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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.

We work honorably with integrity. Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” We work humbly with respect for those we work with. Philippians 2:3–5, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more signifiacnt than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” We work eagerly with joy. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Philippians 2:14–16 says,

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

The workplace can be the most fertile ground for grumbling and complaining. Everybody can find somebody to complain about at work. But it doesn’t honor God when we’re complaining or grumbling. So don’t do it. I find Gilbert and Traeger particularly helpful here. Listen to this quote:

Do you ever experience satisfaction or enjoyment in your work? If not, it might be worth thinking about why you don’t. Do you lack enjoyment in your job because you idolize it, expecting it to do things for you that only Jesus can do? Or is it because you’ve lost sight of the purposes for which God has called you to work in the first place, and you’ve become idle in your work? You don’t necessarily have to enjoy the mechanics of what you do in order to find a measure of enjoyment and satisfaction in your work. Maybe your job is cleaning on the grease pits in a hydraulics factory and you work in a non-air-conditioned metal warehouse in the brutal 110-degree heat of East Texas. Hardly anyone can be expected to enjoy the mechanics of that particular job. Yet if this describes your work, you can still find satisfaction and enjoyment in it by doing your job well and knowing you are doing it for the King’s glory and as an expression of love for him.

Isn’t that a good word? Christian, in Christ, you’re free to worship God wholeheartedly in whatever work you’re doing.

And we’re free to love other selflessly in and through our work. This is part of the way we love our neighbor as ourselves. Matthew 22:39–40, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” First Thessalonians 4:9–11,

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you …

It’s part of the way you provide for your family, which is obviously important. To not do that, you’re worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). And we serve our co-workers and customers. We better our world. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s part of God’s purpose for our work in the world. So He’s commissioned us to work for the thriving and flourishing of the culture around us for His glory. And all of our jobs and tasks are part of that plan.

You go back to the guy in the grease pits of the hydraulics factory. This is a guy who is serving with his life, hours every week, in what many would call a menial task in a factory, so that factory can run, so that it can serve society in important ways. Our jobs are huge opportunities for loving people in the world through the different things we do. In Christ, we’re free to do what we do on a daily basis to better the world around us. And then we are to care for the needy with the money that we make in the process. Deuteronomy 15:1–11 says,

“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess—if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you. If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”

Acts 2:45, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 4:32–37 says,

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” We’re free to love others selflessly in and through our work.

And finally, we’re free to trust God completely with our work. So work can often be a source of worry and anxiety. What’s going to happen to the economy? What’s going to happen in the market? What’s this boss or that employee going to decide to do that’s going to affect me? What if this or that happens? Am I going to lose my job? And this is where Proverbs 16 reminds us to be confident in the reign of Christ. Verses 3-4 say, “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Romans 8:28–30,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

He’s in control of all things.

Be responsible with your rest. It’s good to put the phone down, put aside the email, stop thinking about work and turn attention to other things. When we do that, we’re saying, “Work does not consume me. Ultimately this world is just fine without me working all the time.” And in the end be focused on His reward. That’s what I love about Colossians 3:24, “Work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

This leads to consider the eternal effects of everyday work. We’re looking forward to a new earth where everyone and everything will work perfectly. So we’re not going to sit around on clouds in boring, endless daydreaming. We’re going to work. But imagine, we’re going to work with delight and joy and meaning. There will be no frustration and no futility. Nothing to complain or grumble about, but we will be in perfect harmony with God and with each other. First Corinthians 15:42–49,

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Revelation 21:1–4,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And 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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

We’re living now then for the sake of eternity. So approach your job, then, working hard to adorn the gospel of God. Titus 2:9–10, “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Work in a way that sheds light to others on Christ in you. Let them see your good work and give glory to your Father in heaven. And work strategically to advance the mission of God. This is the beauty, the creativity of God. We’re all in different places. We’re working in different settings. Matthew 28:18–20,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

And in those settings we have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with the people around us, to weave gospel threads into those conversations.

So think about this: Even when we think about going to other places in the world where they have little to no knowledge of the gospel, many times you can’t go on a Christian missionary visa there. A pastor can’t get in. But there are places where you can work in those places where they’ll pay you to be there to build meaningful relationships in the process and to weave gospel threads and to do disciple making there, just like we’re called, commanded, to do it here.

And engage unreached peoples through your work. Oh, what avenues there are for the spread of the gospel in the world if we would stop thinking the default for our work has to be this country. It doesn’t. If there are this many people who’ve never heard the gospel, what if the default is to actually go and find our jobs and using the skills and training and education we’ve got in other places in the world where there are very few Christians. Acts 8:1–4 says,

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

Acts 11:19–20,

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Acts 13:1–4,

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 16:6–15,

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 19:8–10,

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

The Cross & Playing

All that leads to play. What about the cross and our playing? What about hobbies and sports? So, what are hte biblical foundations here? First, hobbies are a good gift from a gracious God given to us for the glory of God. So sports are a gift. Hobbies that we play—they’re gifts. So again, we’ve got to be careful not to compartmentalize God, as if God has God’s church over here, and then has nothing to do with sports. No, by the nature of the fact that God is God, He’s God over everything. Genesis 1:31, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…” First Corinthians 10:23–26,

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

And everything that’s good is because He’s given it as a good gift. James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

So the problem is sin happens when we take that which is good and we turn it into a god. So we turn good things into gods we worship and serve, instead of the God who gave us the good thing in the first place. We take sports or hobby—a good thing—and we turn it into a god, an ultimate thing that captivates and consumes us and subtly and unknowingly controls us in different ways. Romans 1:21–25 says,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

The danger is—third biblical foundation here—good gifts make lousy gods. Jeremiah 2:12–13 says, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Because idols always disappoint.

Hear this quote from Tom Brady, winner of three Super Bowl rings, interviewed on 60 Minutes, in the middle of an undefeated season with the New England Patriots, having an MVP season as a quarterback, as well as a relationship with a super model—all this while making millions of dollars. And this is what he said: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? There may be a lot of people who would say, ‘Hey, man, this is what it is. I reached my goal, my dream, my life.’ Me, I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean, this isn’t…this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” The interviewer asked him, “Well, what do you think the answer is?” And Brady responded, “I wish I knew.”

Idols always inevitably disappoint. Ezekiel 14:3–8 says,

“Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself. And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

And far more serious, idols ultimately destroy. Idolaters, 1 Corinthians 6, those who live in fundamental orientation away from God—even towards something good besides God—will not inherit the kingdom of God. First Corinthians 6:9–10 says,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

J.C. Ryle said, “Thousands have trodden the path you are pursuing (they have fought hard for wealth, and honor, and office, and promotion, and turned their backs on God, and Christ, and heaven, and the world to come) and have awoke too late to find it end in misery and eternal ruin.” Be warned.

So in light of this, we need to personally examine our lives. Examine yourselves. Second Corinthians 13:5–6, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” Examine your heart. This is the first and fundamental command of Jesus. Matthew 22:34–40 says,

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So, it’s different for different people. So for some it’s college football. For some it’s basketball. For some it’s baseball. For some it’s this hobby or that. Maybe it’s college sports or professional sports, or maybe it’s your kid’s sports. There are just so many different hobbies. Maybe it’s video games. Whatever it might be, examine your heart. So when people look at your life, would they say, “That’s a heart that is wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord”? Or would they say, “That’s a heart that is divided”?

Examine your mind. What occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about? Does your mind go to sports when you don’t have anything else to think about? Does your mind go to this or that hobby? Is your mind consumed by this video game? Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Tim Keller says, “The true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention.”

Examine your conversation. Remember, what’s on your mind and heart comes out of your mouth? What are your most passionate conversations about? I mean, we were just talking about the need to talk about Jesus. Here people talk about college football all the time. It’s just everyday conversation. What’s on our mind and our hearts comes out of our mouth, in a way that’s showing there’s something wrong. College football is not a bad thing in and of itself, but you look at our conversations and it’s clear: We’ve taken that which is a good thing and turned it into a god. Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Examine your emotions. Do sports or hobbies incite and ignite your affections in unhealthy ways? So does a game cause your emotion to swing in such a way that you’re sad, grumpy, even angry when your team doesn’t win? Or on the other side, maybe even more potentially dangerous, are you inordinately happy and fun to be around because your team won? When your emotions, happiness and sadness, depend on the outcome of a game, it may be that your heart is at least in some ways consumed and controlled by games and hobbies. Psalm 63:1–8 says,

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Examine your use of money. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19–21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where things break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Across the our country, in a land that’s covered with churches, we’ve got to ask the question, “Where is our heart? Where are we spending all our money?”

Examine your use of time. How much time do you spend in this hobby, or in that sport? Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” Examine your perspective. You put all that together, and you begin to realize we are so easily deceived by artificial battles on ball fields, and we think they matter, when the reality is there are many countries with very little, if any, believers. There are real battles we need to be fighting from our knees, and fighting in our lives, that are far more eternally important. And so we lose perspective.

So how do we avoid losing perspective? How do we make sure to honor God with our minds and our hearts and our money when it comes to hobbies and sports? Second Corinthians 4:17–18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen and eternal.”

Here is some practical applications. First, use hobbies to draw attention to God’s greatness. This is a good gift that God’s given us, so how can we use it then for the glory of God? I’m talking about something deeper than just, “Okay, you score a touchdown and you kneel down and you point up to the sky.” I’m talking about something more than that. First Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So maximize hobbies for their intended purpose, as a way to worship God. So the goal in sports or hobbies is not winning. The goal in sports is worship. And not the worship of an athlete, but the worship of God.

Hear this quote from Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, how he—a future missionary—medaled as a runner in the Olympic games, and he said, “God made me for a purpose.” He knew that purpose was to glorify God, so he said, “God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” In other words, this is him saying, “I run really fast to the glory of God.” That is the purpose of sports. Keep hobbies in their proper place, far behind your family and your church and a host of other things.

So where do sports or hobbies fall on your priority list? Families all across our communities spend a majority of their time at sporting events sometimes. It’s where the family time is together. Or men, ask your wife if sports is in any way a hindrance to your intimacy with her, and wait for her to answer. And if they are a hindrance, consider what major adjustments need to be made in order to put them in their proper place behind your wife, loving and serving her. Moms and dads, if you’re carting your children all across town doing this or that, are they getting a healthy perspective of sports, hobbies, in their lives? Particularly when compared to learning God’s Word, participating in things like family worship, worship with the church?

Liddell is a brother who withdrew from the race he was best at in the Olympics because running that race would mean running on Sunday, which was the Sabbath, which we’ll talk about in a moment. He refused to run. I mean, talk about a clear picture that sports were not his idol. How far we’ve come from this, when Sundays, we’re playing sports all the time in a way that oftentimes pulls people away from the gathering of God’s people for worship. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

So use hobbies to draw attention to God’s greatness. Second, use hobbies to express appreciation for God’s grace. So again, anything good here is a gift from God. So intentionally and continually offer thanks to God. First Thessalonians 5:16–18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” If you have something enjoyable happen in a sport you’re playing, a sport you’re watching, let that just overflow in gratitude to God for this. Let the enjoyment of hobbies lead to ever-increasing affection for God.

When I give my kids a gift, they start playing. It honors the gift I’ve given them when they play with it, they enjoy it, and they’re having fun with it. It doesn’t just sit on the side. So it’s a good thing when we’re enjoying a good gift that God’s given us, to enjoy it in a way that increases affection for Him. So this is from you—thank you. Like, you’ve given this as an enjoyment. Recreation is a good thing. Use hobbies to express appreciation for God’s grace.

Third, use hobbies to grow in sanctification. Romans 8:28–30 says,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

So as we discipline ourselves in different sports or discipline ourselves in different activities, we’re cultivating humility. James 4:6, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” Isaiah 66:1–2 says,

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

We’re learning to demonstrate honor to other people, to other teams, to develop self-discipline in training. Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” First Corinthians 9:24–27,

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Sports are tools in God’s hand to help us learn to maintain self-control, to model self-sacrifice. Galatians 5:22–24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Philippians 2:3–8 says,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Now, in it all, we need to make sure that we’re valuing growth in godliness over personal achievement.

But this is the goal, that we’re looking more and more like Christ as a result of what we’re doing, and that we’re teaching our children that’s what’s most important. I love this quote from C.J. Mahaney. I recommend a resource from him called Don’t Waste Your Sports. He said, “Our children will pursue what we applaud. They will emulate what we celebrate. If we celebrate scoring and winning, then our children will define success in these terms. But if we celebrate evidences of godly character in our children, we will help them define success [far] more biblically.” First Timothy 4:7–8, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

And so encourage them. As parents, maximize sports for children’s growth in godliness.

Every practice, every game, is an opportunity to lead our children. Often as parents we think we’ve fulfilled our duty by simply attending our children’s games and cheering. Not so. We’re called to so much more, informed by the gospel. We’re called to lead our children wisely. Before the game, this means preparing them to keep biblical priorities in mind while they play. After the game, this means celebrating their expressions of godly character more than they celebrate their skill for the final score. Every moment our children spend in sports is a teaching moment.

This is something we need to be intentional about. Prioritize what really matters in eternity over what seems to matter on earth. Revelation 20:11–12 says,

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

And then, use hobbies to lead others to salvation. Sports and hobbies are oftentimes some of the most common and enjoyable means for bringing people together in our culture, and so how can we maximize that for the spread of the gospel? Colossians 4:2–6 says,

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

How Does the Cross Affect Our Lives? The Cross, Social Media & Entertainment

That leads to the cross and social media and entertainment. Did you know that if social media companies were countries, Facebook would be the world’s most populous behind only China? One out of every seven minutes spent on-line is spent on Facebook. Every single day, Facebook users spend 10.5 billion minutes on Facebook — every single day. That is almost 20,000 years on that social network. Did you know that there are 58 million tweets a day? That’s over 9,000 tweets every second. We interact with our mobile devices on an average of 40-80 times a day. 91% of mobile Internet access is for social activities. Half of Smartphones connect to Facebook every hour of every day.

And the effects are not limited to adults. Research continues to show with overwhelming numbers that heavy media exposure in children greatly increases the risk of harm, including obesity, smoking, sex, drug and alcohol use, attention problems and poor grades. So what are we to do with this world? Are we just to hide our head in the sand and have nothing to do with social media, or entertainment for that matter? Or is there a way to do social media, to listen to music, to watch movies, to post and tweet and email and do whatever, to the glory of God? First Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I think there is. But it involves intentionality that goes against the grain of the culture in which we live. So what I’ve put in here are ten cross-centered commandments for entertainment and social media. So if we’ve been crucified with Christ and Christ lives in us, then how does that affect the way we approach entertainment and social media? Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The first cross-centered commandment is fear God. It is easy to forget when we’re interacting with each other and entertaining one another that ultimately God is watching every single thing we watch, write, post and send. Nothing is hidden from Him, especially in the moments when we’re on our phone or computer and nobody else is watching. He sees all and knows all.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) and “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3) Jesus calls us to deal with any sin in our lives seriously. Mark 9:43-48 says,

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”

So do whatever it takes in entertainment and social media to be holy as God is holy. This is the starting point. First Peter 1:13–19 says,

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Fear God. Don’t disconnect God from what you’re doing on your phone. God is there in what you’re doing on your phone. He cares about what you’re doing on your phone. So, fear God.

Second, flee sexual immorality. We’ve talked about this earlier, but it bears repeating. Flee sexual lust, having wrong sexual desires yourself. “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) So think about desiring anything sexually outside of your wife or your husband—it is just as easy to commit that kind of adultery through entertainment and social media today as it is anything else. Flee all sexual lust. Exodus 20:14–17, “You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Second Peter 2:14 says, “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!”

Flee sexual immodesty, provoking wrong sexual desires in others. So stop posting pictures that provoke sexual desires in others. It’s sin. That’s sin. Romans 14:21, “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” First Timothy 2:9–10, “…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works.”

Flee sexual allurement, including inappropriate emotional attachment outside of marriage. Multitudes of divorces today are caused by discontented spouses rekindling old relationships through Facebook. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Proverbs 5:1–6,

My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.

Proverbs 7:24–27,

And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

Keep your heart. Flee sexual allurement. And obviously, this goes both ways—men enticing women and women enticing men.

Flee all sexual looking outside of marriage. Make a covenant with your eyes not to look at anything that doesn’t honor God. Job 31:1–4 says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high? Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?” Matthew 5:27–29,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

Deuteronomy 25:11–12, “When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.” Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” What are you watching? Not just on line, but in TV and movies. This quote from Kevin DeYoung is so helpful:

We have to take a hard look at the things we choose to put in front of our faces. If there was a couple engaged in sexual activity on a couch in front of you, would you pull up a seat to watch? No, that would be perverse, voyeuristic. So why is it different when people recorded it first and then you watch? What if a good-looking guy or girl, barely dressed, came up to you on the beach and said, “Why don’t you sit on your towel right here and stare at me for a while?” Would you do it? No, that would be creepy. Why is it acceptable, then, when the same images are blown up the size of a three-story building?

This makes no sense. So flee entertainment that exalts, glamorizes, jokes around about and/or makes light of sex outside of marriage. Flee it. Ephesians 5:3–12 says,

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

Again, Kevin is so helpful here. I know it’s a long quote, but this is huge.

It’s one thing to describe evil or even depict it. I’d never suggest that good writing or film making must avoid the subject of sin. There are many thoughtful, tasteful movies, television shows, plays, musicals, and books out there—and the good ones usually deal with sin. Sin by itself is not the problem. The Bible is full of rank immorality. It would be simplistic and morally untenable—even unbiblical—to suggest you cannot watch sin or read about sin without sinning yourself.

But the Bible never titillates with its description of sin. It never paints vice with virtue’s colors. It does not entertain with evil (unless to mock it). The Bible does not dull the conscience by making sin look normal and righteousness look strange. And there are no pictures of plunging necklines. If we’re honest, we often seek exposure to sexual immorality and temptations to impurity and call it ‘innocent’ relaxation.

Commenting on Ephesians 5:3, Peter O’Brien observes that, as Christians, we should not only shun all forms of sexual immorality, we should “avoid thinking and talking about them.” Even our jesting should be pure, lest we show “a dirty mind expressing itself in vulgar conversation.” If, as O’Brien remarks, “talking and thinking about sexual sins creates an atmosphere in which they are tolerated and which can. . . promote their practice,’’ how can we justify paying money to see, taste, and laugh at sexual sin? How can we stare at sensuality which aims to amuse and arouse and weaken our conscience and deaden our sense of spiritual things (even if it is on ordinary cable or only rated PG-13)?

We must consider the possibility that much of what churchgoing people do to unwind would not pass muster for the apostle Paul. Not to mention God. Brothers and sisters, we must be more vigilant. With our kids, with our families, with our Facebook accounts, with our texts, with our tweets, with our own eyes and hearts. Are we any different than the culture? Have we made a false peace with ourselves whereby we have said, we won’t do the things you do or be as sensual as you are, but we will gladly watch you do them for us? The kinds of things Paul wouldn’t even mention, the sort of sins he wouldn’t dare joke about, the behaviors too shameful to even name—we hear about them in almost every sitcom and see them on screens bigger than our homes.

Here is worldliness as much as anywhere in the Christian life. Try turning off the television and staying away from the movies for a month and see what new things you see when you come back. I fear many of us have become numb to the poison we are drinking. When it comes to sexual immorality, sin looks normal, righteousness looks very strange, and we look a lot like everybody else.

We need to hear this. God help us to fear you and flee sexual immorality. If we apply these two cross-centered commandments, it would radically revolutionize the way we approach entertainment and social media. And some people might say this is extreme, but we read a lot of the words of Christ to us, the presence of Christ in us, the glory of God above us—how can we not be extreme in this culture?

Third, speak wisely. So the power of words is all over Scripture. Proverbs 27:19, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” Now we’re kind of moving specifically in to social media. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:33–34) You might say out of the abundance of the heart, the finger types and the message posts. Proverbs 8:1–4, “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.” Proverbs 8:32–36 says,

And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

So, think before you speak. Social media is built on spontaneity, immediacy. You text back and forth quickly. You post this or that in a moment. You fire off this or that message. You tweet in real time. And if we’re not careful, we’ll do a lot of this without thinking, without stopping to think.

Hear the warning of Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 11:22—you’ve got to love this one. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” Proverbs 13:3, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

There are so many more verses from Proverbs. Proverbs 15:28, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 26:23, “Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart.” Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Look down at Proverbs 29:20. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Don’t be hasty with your words.

Then in the New Testament, James 1:19–20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God,” James 1:19–20. James 3:5–10 says,

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

So think. Ask questions like, “Will what I say adorn the gospel?” “Is what I say,” Colossians 4:3, “going to be gracious, seasoned with salt, wise, kind?” Will it reflect positive light on the picture of Christ in me? Proverbs 15:23 says, “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” Proverbs 16:13, “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.” Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Colossians 4:3–6 says,

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Titus 2:9–10, “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

Will what I say glorify God?” Let your tweeting, posting, blogging and instagramming so shine before men that they see it and glorify your Father in heaven. Think before you speak. Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Matthew 5:13–16 says,

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Avoid evil and angry speech. Fools quarrel, especially over texting, messaging and email. Somehow we start to think that evil and angry speech are okay if we’re not saying it out loud. It’s still sin when it’s digital. Avoid retaliatory and inflammatory speech. There’s no shortage of arguments online over politics, sports or religion, and these arguments often inflame. Proverbs 10:11, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals healing.” Proverbs 12:18, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14) Proverbs 18:6, “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.” Proverbs 20:3, “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” Proverbs 25:23, “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.”

The Bible is not saying there is no place for disagreements, but there are wise ways to handle disagreements. Proverbs 20:22, “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.” Proverbs 23:9, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.” Proverbs 26:17, “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” Proverbs 26:21, “As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.” Proverbs 29:8, “Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.”

Avoid gossip and slander. Is everything you say on the Internet useful for building up others according to their needs in Christ Jesus. Proverbs 10:18, “The one who conceals hatred his lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.” Proverbs 16:27–28, “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Ephesians 4:29–32,

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Avoid grumbling and complaining. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Philippians 2:14–15. Resist the temptation to make social media an outlet for your grumbling. And finally, avoid saying on the screen what you wouldn’t say in person. It is so much easier in an email or Facebook message or blog to say something to or about someone that you would not say if you were looking that person in the eye. If that’s the case, don’t say it. And if it’s particularly strong, then say it in person, not via text, email or Facebook. Don’t be a lion behind the keyboard and a lamb in front of people. There needs to be consistency there. Second Corinthians 10:8–11 says,

For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.

Fourth, communicate honestly. This virtual world we live in, we can make ourselves out to be whoever we want to be. Facebook is full of personas where everybody looks perfect, like they’ve got it all together, but nobody really does. So communicate honestly about yourself. Now, that doesn’t mean we need to bare everything, our entire soul, online, or every struggle we have. Believe it or not, there are things in our lives that don’t have to or need to be shared with the entire world. But share with people who are closest to us. But resist the temptation to put forward a false image of yourself—or others, for that matter. Obviously, do not be communicating lies about others. Proverbs 19:9 says, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” Proverbs 12:17–22,

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy. No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

Proverbs 16:2, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.” Proverbs 25:14, “Like the clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” First Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring light to the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

At the root of all this is pride, so, fifth commandment, cultivate humility. Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Think John 3:30 here. He must become greater, I must become less. Approach social media with that mindset, which means when somebody else says something good about you on Twitter, you don’t need to retweet it so everybody else knows that thing that’s good about you. Proverbs 20:6, “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” Proverbs 24:17–18, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” Proverbs 27:2, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

Avoid the humble brag, saying how humble and honored you are to achieve something, when in reality you’re just letting everybody know what you achieved and that you’re humble about it. Proverbs 29:23, “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” Proverbs 30:32, “If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.” Mark 8:34–36,

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Second Timothy 3:2, “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…”

James 4:6–10 says,

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Don’t base your identity or your mood on how many likes you get or retweets or pokes or follows or whatever it is. Focusing on these things reveals a desire for man’s approval that is undercutting the contentment that we’re intended to find in Christ alone. Cultivate humility before Him and before others.

Six, have accountability. Every single one of us needs this in our lives. We all need brothers and sisters who have access to all the social media that we have access to, and who know what we’re doing in these social media outlets. I do not have an email address, for example, that somebody else can’t get into, or Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have a social media outlet that other brothers or sisters in Christ don’t know about. Don’t trust yourself that much. Proverbs 5:7–13 says,

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.”

Proverbs 13:1, “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Proverbs 19:20, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” So come, “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 19:27) Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” You need people sharpening you. This is huge for all of us.

I would even go a step further to say this particularly huge for children and teenagers. I would encourage us as parents not to let our children and teenagers have independent Internet or social networking access. Now, I don’t have teenagers yet, but I’ve spent a good bit of time talking about this with brothers and sisters who do, and we must be vigilant to protect our children’s minds and their hearts in the midst of social media, to know everything they’re watching, playing, hearing, experiencing and know in everything they’re interacting with, know what they’re posting and how they’re chatting. You say that takes a lot of work. This is all we remember. Nobody told us that parenting was going to be easy. We don’t trust our own sinful hearts; we certainly don’t trust the sinful, vulnerable hearts of our children either. Have accountability. We build in accountability. It’s a good thing.

Seventh, maintain mastery. “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) Are you controlling social media in your life, or is it controlling you? Is your phone a constant pull, that whenever you have a free minute, you’re on it? Or even when you don’t have a free minute—you’re in conversation with others, you’re sitting around with your family—but you’re still pulling it out and checking it. Are you a slave to social media? Are you a slave to your phone? Are you a slave to Facebook? How many minutes, hours a day, are you spending on it?

We’ll talk about time more in a moment, but much of this comes back to mastery. So walk in the Spirit, not controlled by anything else but Him. He’s your constant master. He’s your guide, not your phone or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Galatians 5:16–26 says,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

In all this, number eight, guard your heart. Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” With all diligence, guard your heart from envy and jealousy. Social media can so quickly kill contentment. You see this person who has that or that person who has achieved this, and you suddenly start to think, “Well, I want that” or “I need that” or “I’d like to achieve this.” And suddenly, almost knowingly, you see what everybody else is doing, or just know about what somebody else is doing, and it’s fueling covetousness and insecurity and discontentment in what you have and where you are.

What’s crazy is, what hardly every crosses our mind, is to think that these other people might not be content either, and they’re looking at others in ways that fuel covetousness and discontentment in their own lives. All of a sudden social media just becomes this massive circle of envy and jealousy, and into this, Scripture says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) Philippians 4:11–13 says,

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Guard your heart from envy and jealousy. Guard your heart from pride and ambition. Philippians 2:3–4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others for significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Guard your heart from unhealthy friendships and unhelpful associations. So who and what we’re liking on Facebook is communicating something. Who are we following? Who are we friending? Who are we associating with online? What if a pastor or a close trusted Christian friend saw and knew every bit of your online association and interaction? Would that change anything about that interaction? Then, if so, how much more should Christ’s seeing and knowing all of that change these things? Proverbs 1:10–16 says,

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”—my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

Proverbs 4:14–15, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” Proverbs 12:26, “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 13:20, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” “Bad company ruins good morals,” 1 Corinthians 15:33, and that’s true just as much on line as it is off line.

Commandment nine, renew your mind. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect,” Romans 12:2 So is this what’s happening in your mind on a daily basis? We talked about loving God with all our minds. The problem so many of us face, though, is our minds are so full with so much from social media that we don’t have any room for God’s Word—a little bit of God’s Word, a lot from the world. That doesn’t mean we have to avoid social media altogether and just read the Bible. But are there even ways you can use social media to renew your mind? So are there apps, Twitter streams and Facebook pages that are going help fuel the renewal of your mind in healthy ways?

And then, even if it’s not particularly helpful in that, but it’s not contaminating your mind, beware of certain things. Beware of falsehood. Beware of outright lies. Don’t fill your mind with lies on the Internet or on social media. Romans 16:17–18 says,

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Second Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” Second Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

Beware of filth, which is available at our fingertips at any moment of the day. Psalm 101:3, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” Proverbs 2:12–22 says,

…delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways. So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Beware of frivolity. Beware of filling your mind with endless drizzle. Proverbs 12:11, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” Proverbs 15:14, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.” Proverbs 26:18–19, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’” First Peter 1:24–25, “…for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” We can fill our mind with so much meaningless via social media, which is not healthy or profitable.

And we can waste so much time, which leads to the last cross-centered, Christ-compelled commandment: Redeem your time. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16) Our lives are a vapor. They’re a mist. They’re here for a little while and then we’re gone, which means every moment counts. So let’s make the most of our time. Let’s make the most of every opportunity, walking in wisdom toward outsiders. Proverbs 10:26, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” Proverbs 14:23, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Proverbs 19:15, “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” Proverbs 24:30–34,

I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Proverbs 28:19, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” Acts 17:17–18 says,

So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”

So there are so many ways social media can be used for the spread of the gospel. Let’s not disconnect this conversation from what we were talking about in 1 Corinthians 9. Rearrange your use of social media for the spread of the gospel. God has given us something great. So let’s maximize it—not promote ourselves, not to fuel discontentment, to go back and forth with people in unhealthy ways—let’s maximize this good gift for the spread of the gospel, the glory of God.

Even in that, let’s maximize the opportunities through social media, but don’t neglect other priorities, including your time at work. Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Second Thessalonians 3:11–12, “We hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” Maybe not busybodies but Facebook fiends, Twitter scrollers, picture posters, or whatever. God has created you and I to work hard for His glory. If we’re not careful, social media will kill productivity in ways that don’t honor God.

Don’t neglect time to rest, which we’re going to talk about more in just a moment. But I’m totally guilty of this. So many different things along here, but when I have a free minute I think, “I don’t want to waste it just sitting here,” so I pull out the phone and I need to do something productive. But what if it would actually be good to sit there and let my mind rest? There’s health in that. Psalm 127:2, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sheep.” Mark 6:32, “And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.”

Don’t neglect your time with people. Don’t neglect your time with people. Social media can’t replace personal interaction with friends, with family. Matthew 22:39, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Have boundaries in your family on the use of social media, so you actually have quality face-to-face time with each other, even if you’re sitting around—God forbid—just talking.

And don’t neglect your time with God. Matthew 22:37, “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” So, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Not, “Text without ceasing” or “Check messages without ceasing.” What if prayer was a more automatic reflex in our lives than checking our phones was?

The Cross & Resting

All that is leading to the cross and resting as we think about sleep. So think about it. Why did God design us to need sleep? We sleep for about a third of our life. God didn’t have to create us like this. We’re made in His image; He doesn’t sleep, so why did He imagine sleep for us? He could have made us in a way that we didn’t have to sleep. Think of what we could do. We could all have two jobs. We could have this non-ministry job and ministry jobs. We could be spreading the gospel all over the world, right? Why do we have to sleep? Why do you have a longing right now to go to sleep? I love how John Piper sums this up. He said:

Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.

Oh, that’s great! So why? Well, think about sleep in Scripture. Look at rest in the Old Testament. We know God rested after He created the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Then He rested on the seventh day. And then God commanded rest for His people every seventh day. So, He rested, and then He commanded them to rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

And on that seventh day, they’d cease from self-sufficiency, trust in divine grace to provide for all they need. “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.” Exodus 31:12–17 says,

And the LORD said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

Further, God commanded rest for the land every seventh year. So there was the Sabbath year when the land would have rest. Leviticus 25:1–4 says,

The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”

Deuteronomy 12:9, “…for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you.”

And then God promised rest in a land according to His people’s obedience. When He was leading His people to the Promised Land, He said, “This is going to be a place of rest,” specifically in that land. Exodus 33:14, “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Joshua 1:13–15 says,

“Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, until the LORD gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

First Kings 8:56, “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant.” Psalm 95:10–11, “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

And in that land God provided rest from their enemies according His people’s righteousness. Summed up in Joshua 11:23, they took the whole land and they had rest from war. It says, “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD has spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.” Joshua 14:15, “Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war.” Joshua 21:44, “And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands.”

Joshua 23:1, “A long time afterward, when the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years…” Judges 3:11, “So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.” Judges 3:30, “So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.” Judges 5:31, ““So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.” And the land had rest for forty years.” They had rest from their enemies.

When they would build the temple, it would be a place of rest from all their enemies. Second Samuel 7:11, “…from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.”

So that was rest in the Old Testament. Then we see rest in the New Testament. First and foremost, Christ invites us to experience His Sabbath rest. Matthew 11:25–30,

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Much like God designed the Sabbath rest in the Old Testament, we come to Christ for a Sabbath rest to cease from self-sufficiency and to trust in divine grace. Ephesians 2:18, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Jesus gives us the rest that Joshua and Moses couldn’t provide. Hebrews 4 talks about that. Hebrews 4:1–11 says,

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

This is the cross and resting. We rest in the obedience of Christ. We rest in the righteousness of Christ. Hebrews 7:26–28,

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 10:11–14,

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Second Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” First John 2:1–2, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Augustine said, “You made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless till they rest in you.” Spurgeon wrote:

Do not tell me that there is no rest for us till we get to heaven. We who have believed in Jesus enter into rest even now. Why should we not do so? Our salvation is complete. The robe of righteousness in which we are clad is finished. The atonement for our sins is fully made. We are reconciled to God, beloved of the Father, preserved by his grace, and supplied by his providence with all that we need. We carry all our burdens to him and leave them at his feet. We spend our lives in his service, and we find his ways to be ways of pleasantness, and his paths to be paths of peace. Oh, yes, we have found rest unto our souls! I recollect the first day that I ever rested in Christ, and I did rest that day. And so will all of you who trust in Jesus as I trusted in him.

Now, with that said, the church disagrees—meaning Bible-believing, gospel-embracing Christians disagree—on whether the old covenant command to observe a Sabbath rest one day every week is binding for new covenant Christians. In other words, are we to rest on one day in the same way that old covenant Israel was commanded to rest? I want to be clear: This is not one of those issues we need to divide over in the church. This doesn’t separate Christians from non-Christians or Bible-believing Christians from Bible-denying Christians—as if there were any such thing. That doesn’t exist.

So, to sum this up, some say yes and others say no. This is revolutionary for you, wasn’t it? And I don’t have time to go into all the arguments, but there are verses in your Study Guide for both. Some would say yes, one day a week we should rest just like they did in the Old Testament. Mark 2:27–28, “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’” Luke 4:16, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to they synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” Acts 17:1–3,

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

Hebrews 4:4–9,

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God …

Isaiah 66:22–23, “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.”

Others say no. The New Testament doesn’t ever command Christians to observe the Sabbath day like they did in the Old Testament. In Christ, we have entered into a Sabbath rest, so every day is a day of rest in that sense. Romans 14:5, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Galatians 4:8–11,

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

Second Corinthians 2:16–17, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Hebrews 8:6, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” Hebrews 10:1–4 says,

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Now, even among those who think the old covenant command still applies today, there is more debate on which day of the week the Sabbath should be observed. Saturday, Sunday, any day? And then some even there disagree on what is permissible to do on that Sabbath day. What level of work can you do on the Sabbath? Matthew 12:9–14 says,

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

And what level of recreation is permissible on the Sabbath? Isaiah 58:13–14,

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

So I don’t know how many potential positions that makes, but that makes a lot of different positions.

Regardless, what I want us to see is the church agrees on two main things. One, we all celebrate blood-bought rest at the start of every week. Now I even use the word “start” here based on Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” But I’m not saying it has to be Sunday even necessarily. We’ve got brothers and sisters who are in Muslim contexts who oftentimes gather together for worship at the start of the week to celebrate Christ, and they do that on Friday in different contexts. So I’m not trying to be even legalistic about that right there. But we set aside—we do, as followers of Christ—a day to celebrate together the rest we’ve found in Christ.

And then all Bible-believing Christians agree that we prioritize God-glorifying rest over the course of every week. So even those who would say the old covenant command is not binding on New Testament Christians still don’t think, “Okay, then, that means I need to work seven days a week and all day long and never rest.” Because that clearly doesn’t square with Scripture.

So that leads us to think about how does Scripture call us to look at rest in our lives today? God has designed us to rest in many ways, according to His Word. He’s called us to rest and designed us to rest from physical labor. So, even if the Old Testament command is not still binding in the same way it was then, we still have God’s own pattern of working six days and then resting. So He rested from physical labor. So we have this pattern in God Himself. We’re created in His image. Exodus 20:8–11,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Now, rest from physical labor should not be excessive. Scripture explicitly warns against laziness in places like Proverbs 6 and Proverbs 24. Proverbs 6:9–11 says, “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Proverbs 24:30–34,

I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

And then, it shouldn’t be excessive, but at the same time, rest from physical labor is definitely essential. So we need to rest from physical labor at some point, in some way. Exodus 31:12–17,

And the LORD said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

We also rest from fear, worry and anxiety. Restlessness shows a lack of faith in God. Rest itself is a sign of trust. Psalm 37 is a command. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) “Do not be anxious about anything.” (Philippians 4:6–7) We must in a sense work to rest like this.

“Rest in the Lord,” Spurgeon said. “What? Where? When? Why? How? This … is a most divine precept, and requires much grace to carry it out. To hush the spirit, to be silent before the Lord, to wait in holy patience the time for clearing up the difficulties of Providence—that is what every gracious heart should aim at.” This is only possible in Christ. So, see the cross of Christ and rest in your life, and rest in Christ, even amidst trial and trouble. Psalm 55:5–8 says, “Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.” Psalm 116:5–9 says,

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

In the middle of storms raging around us, God’s design is to rest in Him.

So God’s design is to rest in many ways, and God has designed our rest for many purposes. Think of all that rest does by God’s good design. Rest refreshes us. The Bible says in Exodus 31 that God rested and was refreshed. Exodus 31:17, “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” Jesus and His disciples did the same in Mark 6:30–32. It says,

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

Second, rest restores us. Psalm 23:1–3, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Mark 6:45–52,

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

And then rest reminds us that sleep is a gift. Sleep is a gift from a gracious God to us. Psalm 127:2 says, “He gives to his beloved sleep.” It’s a gift. Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Proverbs 3:24, “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

It reminds us that our sustenance comes from God. “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” (Psalm 3:5) Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we’re not God. Psalm 121:1–4, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” We’re not God. And this is a reminder we need every single day.

And as a result we can rest with trust in His ultimate sovereignty. When you lay down and go to sleep, you put yourself in a very vulnerable position. You’re losing control in a sense. It’s not just of your body, but your mind. And you’re quite literally resting in God. Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Isaiah 30:12–15,

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.” For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling …

Joel 5:16–18,

And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Piper put it this way:

Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps.

And listen to this. We rest with hope in His ultimate salvation. So the Bible uses sleep as a metaphor for death for a reason. So one day your body and your mind will stop and rest for good on the earth. It could be tonight. It could be tomorrow. And for some that’s overwhelmingly frightening—unless we come to the point where we’re resting with hope in His ultimate salvation. First Thessalonians 4:13–18 says,

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Jesus said in Revelation 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” So we respond, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Look at this hymn that Charles Wesley wrote. He said:

Lord, I believe a rest remains

To all Thy people known,

A rest where pure enjoyment reigns,

And Thou art loved alone.

A rest where all our soul’s desire

Is fixed on things above;

Where fear, and sin, and grief expire,

Cast out by perfect love.

So he’s looking forward to eternal rest. But then he comes back to the everyday, and he says:

O that I now the rest might know,

Believe, and enter in!

Now, Savior, now the power bestow,

And let me cease from sin.

Remove this hardness from my heart,

This unbelief remove:

To me the rest of faith impart,

The Sabbath of Thy love.

Because of the cross of Christ by which He saves us from our sin, fills us with His Spirit, there is rest for us to experience on this earth every moment of every day, a rest that will last for all of eternity. We need the grace of God to flow out toward us, and it’s that which we live on—His streams of mercy that just keep coming and coming and coming. And we’re prone to wander every day, but He’s constraining us by His grace every day. And in the end we’re looking forward to eternal rest with You.

So this is how we’ll close. So thanks for being a part of this time. May God give us grace to apply the cross to every single detail of our lives and to proclaim the cross in every single day of our lives.

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