English Español 简体中文
9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

What Makes Work “Christian”?

Print

When someone thinks about their work being “Christian,” all kinds of disturbing images come to mind:

  • Opening a beauty salon called “A Cut Above” or a coffee shop called “He Brews.” 
  • Working awkward evangelism moments into sales calls.
  • Defiantly saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” in the checkout line or sneaking a “Have a blessed day” into a salutation.
  • Putting up posters about Bible study options at lunch or sending out group emails about sightings of the Virgin Mary in Ecuador.

Perhaps you remember the 2004 incident of an American Airlines pilot who, in his pre-flight announcements, asked all the Christians on board the plane to raise their hands. He then suggested that during the flight the other passengers talk to those people about their faith. He also told passengers he’d also be happy to talk to anyone who had questions. Understandably, it freaked a lot of people out: the pilot of your airplane talking to you about whether or not you’re ready to meet Jesus?[1] While they might admire the guy’s zeal, many Christian businesspeople think, “I just don’t think I could do that and keep my job.”

Many Christians think that you just can’t serve the kingdom of God at work, and that kingdom work happens “after hours”—volunteering at the church nursery, attending small group, going on a mission trip, serving at the soup kitchen. Our work is a necessity that must be endured to put bread on the table. God’s interest in the fruit of our labors is primarily that we tithe off of it.

The Bible offers quite a different perspective. Scripture teaches us how to serve God through our work, not just after work. The Bible speaks clear and radical words to people in the workplace, showing us that even the most menial of jobs has an essential role in the mission of God.

In fact, it is surely not coincidental that most of the parables that Jesus told had a workplace context, and that of the forty miracles recorded in the book of Acts, thirty-nine of them occurred outside of a church setting. The God of the Bible seems as concerned with displaying his power outside the walls of the church as he does within it.

I want to suggest five qualities that make work “Christian.” By “Christian” in this context I mean “done through faith in Jesus Christ.” Therefore, work that is Christian will have five qualities: (1) creation-fulfilling, (2) excellence-pursuing, (3) holiness-reflecting, (4) redemption-displaying, and (5) mission-advancing.

CHRISTIAN WORK IS CREATION-FULFILLING

When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, he didn’t just tell him to keep away from certain bad apples. God placed Adam in the garden “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Remember that God said this before the curse, indicating that work wasn’t a punishment inflicted on Adam for his sin, but was a part of God’s original design. The first purpose God had in mind for Adam wasn’t to read a Bible or pray, but to be a good gardener.

The Hebrew word ‘abad, translated “work,” shows just what God means: it has the connotation of preparing and developing. Adam was placed in the garden to develop its raw materials, to cultivate a garden. Christians can fulfill the created purpose of God in the same way, by taking the raw materials of the world and developing them. This is happening all the time by both believers and non-believers. Contractors take sand and cement and use them to create buildings. Artists take color or music and arrange them into art. Lawyers take principles of justice and codify them into laws that benefit society.

This is God’s plan. Martin Luther, the famous German reformer, put it this way: “When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ And he does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal.”

What this means is that a Christian’s secular vocation helps to mediate God’s active care in the world. God is active through a person’s work to ensure that families are fed, that homes are built, that justice is carried out. Too many Christians begrudge their work when they ought to revel in the fact that God is using them, in whatever small part, to fulfill his purposes.

Another great example of this comes from the classic movie Chariots of Fire. The movie follows a Christian track athlete, Eric Liddell, in his preparation for the 1924 Olympics. At one point in the film Liddell is confronted with the objection to his career that there are more pressing matters in life for a Christian than merely running. Liddell responds, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” At some point or another, while working at something we love or are good at, many of us have had a similar feeling. It is as if we feel inside of us, quite literally, “This is what I was made for.”

CHRISTIAN WORK IS EXCELLENCE-PURSUING

If our work is done “unto God,” it should be done according to the highest standards of excellence. Paul says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). That should be true whether we receive any reward for our work or not, or whether anyone ever notices.

Let’s be honest: it is demoralizing to work for someone who does not give us credit for what we have done, or worse, someone who only responds by offering critical feedback. A bad boss can make otherwise satisfying work an absolute terror. In a situation like that, most people lose the motivation to work with excellence. “After all,” they may think, “what is the point of working hard? No one will notice either way, and even if they do, I certainly won’t get the credit for it.” That may be a reasonable response, but it is not a Christian one.

Christians ought to pursue excellence in their work not because they want to impress their boss, or because working hard leads to better pay, but because they work first for Christ. C. S. Lewis once noted how valleys undiscovered by human eyes are still filled with beautiful flowers. Who did God create that beauty for, if no human eyes would ever see it? Lewis’ answer was that God does some things only for his own pleasure. He sees even when no one else does.

This perspective adds new significance to every task believers perform, even if they know they will never be recognized. They no longer require the approval of others in their work, because they no longer work primarily for others. They work first for Christ, and he deserves their best.

In reality, however, very few jobs go unnoticed, especially if done poorly. A Christian with a poor work ethic or sloppy academic performance gives the world a terrible testimony of Christ. He may say with his mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” but when he doesn’t care to turn in assignments on time or respect his boss, he is saying even louder, “I myself am lord.” In working with excellence, Christians not only serve God, but also display an attitude of service to the world.

CHRISTIAN WORK IS HOLINESS-REFLECTING

If Christians work for God, that should inherently make them work with excellence. But knowing that God sees everything we do should also make us work with integrity. Work that is “Christian” will conform to the highest standards of ethics.

Paul goes on in Colossians to explain that everything we do is done with respect for our watching Master in heaven to whom we will give an account (Col. 3:23-25). That means, Paul says, even when our boss is a jerk (and many of the people to whom Paul is writing were literally owned by their boss!), Christians do their work unto God. Our work ought to make it obvious that we serve a God of justice and kindness. This means that Christian bosses ought to be less concerned with what they can get away with and more concerned with the fact that they are accountable to a heavenly Master. Christian employees ought not to cut corners or lie about how much work they have been putting in. Business ethics really matter because in them we mirror the character of God. God says that “unjust balances”—cut corners, fudged balance sheets, skimped time cards, and so on—are an “abomination” to him (cf. Prov. 11:1). Poor business ethics are no trifling matter.

CHRISTIAN WORK IS REDEMPTION-DISPLAYING

If Christians were to act in their jobs with equity and fairness, that alone would set them apart. But those who have been touched by the gospel do not merely attempt to hold to high ethical standards: they live lives with a radically altered perspective of gratitude. What Christ has done by redeeming us to the Father produces a natural response of grace towards others.

I recently heard a story about a young college graduate who landed a job on Madison Avenue in one of the advertising world’s most prestigious firms. Shortly after she got there, she made a mistake that cost the company nearly $25,000. Madison Avenue is not a world defined by grace, and she expected to be fired by the end of the day. Her boss, however, went before his board of directors and convinced them to allow the blame for her mistake to fall on him instead. When this young woman heard what her boss had done, she came to him in tears. She asked him why, in that cutthroat atmosphere, he would choose to cut his own throat for her. He answered by sharing how Jesus had done a very similar thing for him, stepping in the way of the wrath that he deserved. Because of the great grace that Jesus had shown him, he wanted to display a similar mercy to others when he could.

This means approaching our work with adjusted “bottom-lines.” We no longer merely angle for increased position or to maximize personal profit. If truly touched by grace, Christians in business begin to leverage their resources to bless those in need.

Some Christians may object to a perspective like this. Grace is something that applies in the spiritual realm, they may say, but not in business: “I worked for what I have—I earned it!” they might say. A person may certainly feel like she has earned everything that she has, but where did she get her tough-minded work ethic? Her intelligence? These were the grace of God. By whose decree did she grow up in the United States instead of in a Brazilian favela? Certainly not by her own—this also was the grace of God. The very air she breathed and food she ate were provided to her as gifts of grace. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are “poor in spirit”—those who recognize that all they have is a gift of grace. The “middle class in spirit,” who believe they are merely reaping the fruit of their labors, will know nothing of the kingdom of God, because they have no concept of the magnitude of the grace of God in their lives. When someone understands how much they are indebted to grace, they will begin to see every situation they are in, whether in business or the church, as a place not to be served, but to serve.

The call to leverage our lives for the kingdom of God is not the special assignment of a sacred few. All disciples of Jesus are called to see their lives as seeds to be planted for God’s kingdom. Jesus said that if our life were a party, it should be thrown for those who can’t pay us back. Sometimes I think we’ve invented this whole language of “calling to ministry” to mask the fact that the majority of people in our churches are not living as disciples of Jesus.

CHRISTIAN WORK IS MISSION-ADVANCING

Work done by disciples of Jesus should be done with a view toward the Great Commission. In Acts we see that God used non-vocational ministers (perhaps businesspeople, doctors, servants, who knows!) to get the gospel around the world to places that the Apostles never went. Luke notes that the first time the church “went everywhere preaching the word,” the Apostles were not engaged (Acts 8:1). He also notes that when Paul finally arrives in Rome to preach Christ there, he is greeted by hospitable “brothers,” who seem to have been there for quite some time (Acts 28:7). As Steven Neill notes in his classic History of Christian Missions, of the three great church planting centers in the ancient world (Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome), not one was founded by an Apostle.

In the same way, Christians in the marketplace today are able to gain access more easily to strategic, unreached places. Globalization, revolutions in technology, and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access.

Secular skills are needed to give Christians access to countries that would otherwise swiftly reject their presence. The countries most in need of a gospel presence—those in the so-called “10-40 window”—are devastated by poverty and joblessness. These places need both the words of the gospel and the tangible reflection of God’s love that businesses can provide. Millions in this region are without work and without the knowledge of Christ.

One example, though dozens could be provided, is the nation of Iran. Iran is an unreached area in desperate need of the gospel. As of today, there are 10 million seeking employment in Iran, a number that could eclipse 20 million within the next 15 years. How are places like this to be reached? Iran can be reached through the efforts of average Christian businesspeople taking their skills and expertise overseas. This may not be the path for every Christian, but perhaps God is challenging you to consider leveraging your work for his mission-advancing purposes.

Not every Christian, of course, will be led to perform their business in an unreached people group. But disciples of Jesus should always do their work with a view toward the Great Commission. A “missional vision” for Christian work is to do it well, and to do it, if at all possible, somewhere strategic. Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Believers who do their work well can be greatly used in the work of the Great Commission. Their excellence in business can give them audiences with the “kings” and influencers of the most unreached peoples in the world.

God is interested in how Christians do their work, and he wants to be involved in it. Your work can make an eternal difference in the lives of those you work with, those you work for, and those you serve through your job. Allow the transformation of the gospel to change the way you look at and do your work. You were redeemed by grace—now live out that grace in the context of your job. You may never look at work the same way again.

J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of the Summit Churches in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and is the author, most recently, of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (B&H).

[1] http://www.travelkb.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/air/2002/American-Airlines-Preaching-Pilot  Found in John Dickson, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Zondervan, 2010), 172-173.

Click here to see the editor's note for the March/April 9Marks Journal. 

February 2013
© 9Marks

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.

 

9Marks Journal – Pastoring Christians for the Workplace

Print

In a recent post I observed that Christians in America are experiencing a growing measure of cultural disenfranchisement. In so doing, they are beginning to taste what many Christians throughout history have experienced, not to mention our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from such trends, but one we hope that pastors will take is the importance of helping church members think through what it means to be a Christian in different domains of life. And the domain we want to think though in the March/April 2013 edition of the 9Marks Journal is the workplace. 

Yet we are introducing a new format with the March/April Journal. We hope to begin dripping out the contents of the Journal over the month or two leading up to the release of the Journal. That way, you have a chance to make your way through the table of contents gradually, instead of having it dumped into your email box or RSS feed all at once. Then we will give you the entire Journal at the end.

The first post is by J.D. Greear on the topic of what is “Christian” about work. It is aimed more at members than pastors, but stay tuned in subsequent weeks for articles aimed more directly at the pastor. What do businesspeople wish their pastors understood about them? How do you pastor the complacent, the unemployed, the worldly? And so forth.

9Marks at the TGC National Conference

Print

Are you planning to attend the TGC National Conference? If so, be sure to check out the series of panel discussions 9Marks will be hosting during the "workshops" portion of the conference:

Panel 1: 

Time: Tuesday, April 9, 1:30pm
Topic: "Growth and Grace: How Obedience Sets Us Free . . . Or Not" 
Participants: Mike McKinley, Jonathan Leeman, Tom Schreiner, Hunter Powell, John Piper, Tim Keller

Panel 2:

Time: Tuesday, April 9, 2:45pm
Topic: "Membership and Mission: Why Membership Matters for Church's Mission . . . Or Hurts It" 
Participants: Mike McKinley, Jonathan Leeman, K. Edward Copeland, Andy Davis, Matt Chandler

Panel 3: 

Time: Tuesday, April 9, 4:00pm
Topic: "Conversion and Community: How the Church Pictures Supernatural Community . . . Sort Of " 
Participants: Mike McKinley, Jonathan Leeman, Al Mohler, Jared Wilson, Jeramie Rinne, J. D. Greear

More info on the conference here. We hope to see you there!

Disenfranchised Christians, Strong Churches

Print

Like the first round of layoffs that leave company employees expecting more layoffs to come, so the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 have left American evangelicals with a growing sense of their own disenfranchisement.

THE GROWING DISENFRANCHISEMENT OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY

For decades pollsters have been charting the nation’s drift away from Christianity. Church attendance has been dropping. The registrants of “no religion” have been rising. And American evangelicals have become well acquainted with battles in the classroom over evolution or in the courthouse over Ten Commandment reliefs.

But the news events of late have brought the battle into new domains, renewing the sense among many Christians that America’s institutions are handing Christianity its pink slip.

  • In November, a majority of voters in several states approved of ballot initiatives favoring same-sex marriage.
  • In December, the federal government began to fine a company owned by Christians $1.3 million/day for refusing to provide their employees insurance coverage that includes abortifacient drugs.
  • In January, a pastor was essentially removed from a presidential inauguration ceremony because of a sermon against homosexuality.  

And these are just some of the matters that have hit mainstream media.

To speak of disenfranchisement is to speak of the loss of authority in the public square, the marketplace, and other culture-making institutions. We can leave for another day the tougher conversation about how or whether Christian and biblical norms should inform society’s institutions. Here I am simply making the observation that Christians are finding themselves disenfranchised.

This means, Christian, that your faith-informed ideas about “righteousness” and “justice” will less and less be represented in court decisions, acts of legislation, civically significant symbols and events, the hiring and firing policies of your workplace, or the leadership requirements for national youth organizations, to say nothing of whose values dominate television primetime or the scripts being read in your community playhouse theater. Just this week I read a Washington Post opinion piece which commended the Boy Scouts for reconsidering their policy on banning homosexual troop leaders on the grounds of “righteousness.”     

Now, I recognize that society is complex, and that a narrative of moral declension can characterize one area of public life even while more biblical conceptions of justice take hold in another area. For instance, I do not support every policy recommendation that has emerged from the civil rights or the environmental movements, but I do believe that both of these movements have served the cause of biblical justice in various ways, bringing genuine progress.

Yet with such qualifications in place, I think it is fair to say that many evangelical Christians are experiencing an increasing sense of disenfranchisement in American life, as well as the expectation that things are getting worse. Hence, one friend felt compelled to write a blog post on “How to prepare for hostility.”

THE GROWTH OF HEALTHY CHURCHES

Yet there is good news here. The institutional disenfranchisement of Christianity does not always lead to healthier churches, but sometimes it does. And it is my own anecdotally-driven sense that there is a trend toward health among a growing number of churches.

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting at lunch with a friend who writes about cultural dynamics and trends. He asked me what encourages and what discourages me about the churches that I can observe from my 9Marks perch.

Many things encourage me, I said. Pastors are taking expositional preaching more seriously. More and more are trying to guard their flocks by carefully attending to biblical practices of membership and discipline. And all the conversations among evangelicals about the nature of the gospel over the last decade have left many of us with a more solid grasp of the gospel and its implications.   

As for discouragements, I had a hard time thinking of some. Yes, many, many unhealthy churches bespeckle the American landscape. Yes, bad trends are afoot here and there. But among the smaller number of church leaders with whom I interact on a weekly basis, I see encouraging signs of health and solidification. A pastor might telephone me concerning a difficult case of church discipline, which are always sad, but the larger point is, this church leader is looking for guidance on wise and loving discipline. Ironically, that is a sign of health. The antibodies are in motion!

TWO LESSONS

Am I saying that there is a causal connection between societal disenfranchisement and church health? I don’t have any evidence that would satisfy a Ph.D. review committee, but it stands to reason there is some connection. Either way, two lessons occur to me, one for the pastor and one for every Christian:

1.  For the pastor: Assuming the narrative of cultural declension continues, it will be increasingly important for pastors to equip their members to know what it means to be a Christian in the workplace, in the public square, in the Parent-Teacher Association, in the doctor’s office, in the local playhouse theater, and so forth. Tim Keller has made this point well in Center Church. When society broadly embraces a Judeo-Christian ethic, as Americans did, say, in the 1950s, the pastor feels less need to think carefully about equipping his members for the ethical dilemmas and persecution they are likely to encounter at work.

As such, one thing that pastors can do today for building healthy churches is to give careful thought to what Christian discipleship looks like in these various domains, thought which should then show up in our counseling, preaching, and discipling. My own church addresses such topics, among other places, through issue-specific adult Sunday School courses. We now have 7 to 13 week classes devoted to work, money, manhood & womanhood, Christians in government, parenting, and more (click on links for complete manuscripts and handouts).

2.  For every Christian: Assuming the narrative of cultural declension continues, each one of us will, most likely, find ourselves at a series of crossroads in the years ahead, moments in which we are forced to decide whether we stand with the world or with the Word of God. No doubt, living in a fallen world means that this decision faces us daily. But as the cultural forces against Christianity increase, and as we Christians find ourselves disenfranchised for holding to biblical convictions, we will increasingly encounter that decision in places where we are not accustomed to encountering it: Do I pay for the insurance, or do I pay the fine? Do I say what my college friends will call bigotted, or do I save face? Do I cater the event, or do I risk a lawsuit?

Every time we walk up to such a crossroads, we will be required to consider what is most central to our identity. Am I a U.S. citizen first or a Christian first? Am I a schoolteacher first or a Christian first? Am I a female first or a Christian first? Am I African-American first or a Christian first? Perhaps it will be a magazine article arguing that you, being female, must think a certain way. Or it will be a school principal telling you that keeping your job means going with the flow. Or it will be your own flesh inviting you to choose your nation over your God.

And at every such crossroads you will have to ask, “Who am ‘I’? And what does being crucified and raised with Christ have to do with the answer?”

Being a Christian means recognizing that all the other categories that we use to identify ourselves (family, gender, ethnicity, vocation, citizenship) are merely stewardships; and that Jesus gets to tell us how we will employ every one of those stewardships, even the ones that we hold most dearly.  

THE SAINT’S ASSURANCE

Here, again, is the good news. As more and more Christians are required to make their crossroads choices, some churches will only grow stronger. After all, these crisis moments offer assurance

  1. that Jesus’ words are true: “I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you…In this world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:4, 33);
  2. that we are being identifed with the King of the Universe: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19);
  3. that we are being prepared for perfection: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:18-19);
  4. and that Christ will vindicate his name and the name of his people: “…I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

One cannot be sure, but perhaps America is handing Christianity the pink slip of disenfranchisement. And there are plenty more conversations worth having about how to wisely respond. But this much encourages me: Aslan is on the move, and the first place where I’ve spotted his shadow is among the assemblies of the saints, his holy ones. I’ve spotted it among some of you.

Family Size: Lessons for Large and Small Elder Boards

Print

I was an only child until age fifteen, when God blessed my parents with a daughter. As a family of four, our meals were quick and decisions were relatively easy. Not so with friends of mine who came from families of eight or more siblings. For them, bathroom time was coveted and possibly scheduled. Meals were a production rivaling a military mess hall. And their family vans looked like Noah’s Ark. The lesson was simple: the number of people living under one roof greatly influences the dynamics of how things get done in that family.

The same is true of elder boards. Elder dynamics vary considerably with the size of the board.

I have had the privilege of serving on both large and small elder boards: in one church we had over thirty elders; my current church has around seven. Whether you serve on a large or a small elder board, it is good to recognize the dynamics that vary with size.

Read rest of the article.

 

 

Helping Without Hurting Conference in DC

Print

If you are in the DC area and are involved in church work or development work, you may be interested in the upcoming Helping Without Hurting conference. It's being hosted by Grace DC on 3/7/13 at Calvary Baptist Church in DC. 

From the Grace DC website:

How can our church community best help the poor and marginalized? How do we protect the dignity of people our city—and our world—would often ignore? How can we get our church, our partners and our community all working together?

In partnership with the Chalmers Center for Economic Development, Grace DC is excited to host Helping Without Hurting, a day-long seminar with Dr. Brian Fikkert, co-author of the renowned book When Helping Hurts. Dr. Fikkert will provide useful information and practical concepts to help churches and non-profits make a more meaningful difference in their communities and in the wider world.9am to 4pm (Doors open at 8am)

 

Cost: $25/person

Register online at gracedc.net/HelpingWithoutHurting

Help Us Equip Portugese-Speaking Pastors and Churches

Print

Friends, I wanted to let you know about a great opportunity to support some international work we're doing together with our good friends Editoria Fiel and The Gospel Coalition. 

Over at TGC, you can read about, and financially contribute to, a project to supply 300 key seminaries, bible schools, libraries, and churches in Portuguese-speaking countries located in southern Africa with:

  • a theological course taught by Mark Dever, Greg Gilbert, Jonathan Leeman, Mike McKinley, and others,
  • a Portugese copy of 9Marks of a healthy church,
  • and a study guide that accompanies the course. 

We're grateful for this opportunity to work together with TGC and Fiel to put solid resources in the hands of people in regions where there is a great need for sound theological training. Please pray with us that the Lord would bless these efforts. And please consider parterning with us by supporting this project financially!

Building Unity and Friendship Among Elders

Print

Developing unity and friendship among your elders is critical for the health of your church. The way that the leaders of your church relate to one another will eventually be reflected in how the congregation relates to each other. Disharmony at the top will create serious division in the body. Harmony at the top creates safety and security for the flock.

Can you develop a team of elders who like each other and truly get along? Is it even possible? Yes!

For years I have been greatly served by a team of men who enjoy the bond that has developed among fellow-shepherds of the flock. The times of mutual joy as well as challenge have forged cherished friendships. When the men rotate off after their term is up, many express the desire to come back on. That is extremely gratifying.

So how do you do it? I want to first acknowledge some challenges and then lay out some ideas.

Read rest of the article.

 

Advice on Counseling Unbelievers

Print

Good advice from the Journal of Biblical Counseling on how to helpfully counsel unbelievers. From J. Alasdair Groves' “How Do You Counsel Non-Christians?” which is well worth reading in its entirety:

  1. Don’t forget the obvious: know and love the person. Counseling involves building a friendship.
  2. Help the person look in the mirror. Ask good questions that help the person see their motivations and reinterpret their life.  
  3. Find out what the person thinks about God. Very often, the person rejects a version of God who has very little to do with the God of the Bible.

Joy Without Sorrow, Love Without Death

Print

 

Christmas made me a little sad this year. On one hand, everything could not have been better. Our five kids are healthy and happy. My wife is a blessing and marriage is joyful. All four of our parents were there and in good health. We had the resources to give gifts and have a great party with good friends. There was no tension, no pain, no hostility, just love and celebration. It was just about perfect.

So why was it a little bit sad? Because it can’t last. Even in the best moments (like Christmas) are tinged by the reality that there are no guarantees that you’ll get another one like it. That’s part of the tragedy of what happened in Newtown, CT. Health will fade. People we love will pass. Tragedy strikes. Relationships become difficult. Money goes. Death ruins everything, if I read Ecclesiastes correctly. Nothing gold can stay.  Even the very best moments in this life are tinged with the sadness that they cannot last, will not last. 

But all of this did give me a fresh hope for the new heavens and the new earth. How amazing it will be to experience for the first time joy utterly unalloyed with sorrow.  How wonderful to enjoy love without the shadow of death!

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.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

I can’t wait.