THE WORK OF GOD         


The standard view in Christendom these days is that certain men and women are called to "full-time Christian service," and the rest of us fulfill our destiny by going to church, saying our prayers, and helping people when we can.


It was pretty much the same in Jesus' day.  You had your priests and Levites who looked after the Temple.  You had your scribes who interpreted God's law.  You had your Pharisees who were pious business men who fasted regularly and gave big bucks to the Lord.  And then you had your ordinary everyday Jewish man or woman, who attended the Temple at least three times a year, kept the Sabbath, went to the synagogue, and ate kosher.


Then one day a  young carpenter stood up to read in the synagogue at Nazareth.


…There was given to him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He opened the scroll and found the place where it was written,


"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."


And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."



And then this young carpenter began to speak as if he were a prophet, as if he had some kind of authority.  But he was only a carpenter!  It didn't make any sense!  It was crazy!  Who called this man into the ministry?


What made things worse was that this man gathered around him a bunch of untrained, uneducated men, and sent them out to preach and heal the sick.  Who called those guys to full-time Christian service?!


Well relax.  It took a bit of time, but we have everything under control again.  Why, we only allow "called and ordained ministers" in our pulpits!  And we make sure that believers never get together and try to commune with Jesus in the bread and wine unless a called and ordained minister is in the house. 


You see?  That's why we need full-time Christian servants.  To keep order in the Body of Christ!  To make sure that the laymen don't get out of control.


One problem:   God never set things up that way.  We did.

When Jesus called you, he did not say, "Look, you're not quite up to being a full-time disciple.  You can be a part-timer.  All you have to do is go to church, kick in some serious money, say your prayers, and try not to commit adultery.  You'll be the part-time support staff.  While these "called and ordained" people over here will do the real work.


            Jesus never taught such nonsense!


As far as Jesus is concerned, in his kingdom there are no clergymen.  And no laymen.  Only disciples. 


            And every disciple is full-time in the place where God puts them.


            And every disciple has work to do.

                        Not busy work.  Not church work.  Not religious work.  The work

                        of God.


For example.  Every follower of Jesus reading these words is called and ordained to do the work of God---full-time.  Every follower of Jesus reading these words is called and ordained to do the work of God full-time.


Of course, if you are not yet a follower of Jesus, you're off the hook You don't have to do anything.  But your hour will come, so pay attention.


Called to do the work of God full-time.  So what's the work of God?  Jesus laid it out at the beginning of his ministry:

good news for the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed.

That's what Jesus did right up through his death on the cross and his resurrection.  He brought God's life into people's lives.  Touched them with redemptive power.  Set them free.  Gave them a new start.  Opened their blind eyes and their blind minds.  Gave them a foretaste of the coming kingdom.


And here's how he did it.  Jesus did it, not as the Son of God, which he was, but as the Son of Man.  Divested of his divine prerogatives.  Emptied of his rightful glory.  Truly a human being, dependent on the Spirit of the Father, just as we are. 


Jesus did the work of God in three ways:


1st        He stayed connected to the Father by faith---all the time.


2nd       He allowed the Father to work the life of heaven into him---all the time. 

                        "I do nothing of myself.   My Father , who dwells in me,

                        he does the work."

3rd        Jesus worked out through his daily life the heavenly power which the Father worked into him, bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed.


We are called to work the work of God in exactly those three steps: 

1st        We are to get connected and stay connected to the Lord by faith.

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"  Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."    (John 6:28-29)

Believe!  Which means more than mental assent.  Put your life into his hands.  Abandon yourself to him.  Soak up the words of Jesus as the very source of your life.  


Forget about going out there and "making a difference" until you have entered by faith into a living relationship with him. 


"I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit….She who abides in me and I in her, she it is that bears much fruit."

(John 15:5)


2nd       Allow God to work his work into you, just as he worked his work into

the Lord Jesus. 


To the extent that we open ourselves to him, the Father keeps pouring his life into us.  He keeps giving us thoughts, words, life,

power, his very Spirit.


Our job is to keep letting God work his work into us.  To open ourselves and live before God in a constant state of receiving and thanksgiving.  If you're walking with Jesus you are receiving life from God all the time.  Not just when you are in church.  Not just when you're praying.  Not just in a crisis.  All the time:  when you're eating, sleeping, walking down the street, talking with a friend.


You practice his presence.  You continuously receive and give thanks. 

3rd        Work out what God is working in.

….Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  (Philippians 2: 12-13)


Take all the "good stuff" which God is working into you and work it out.  Put it into practice.


We look at all those high-powered preachers and evangelists and sometimes get the idea that the work of God has to be big-time.  It never is.  Full-time, but never big-time. 


If I’m going to work out of me with fear and trembling the grace and power which God is working into me, the only place I can do that is where Jesus does it:   down in the ordinary world, where the servants work.  I go out and find someone to serve---and serve!


And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."  And he said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?"  And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at you left, in your glory." 

(i.e. "See, Lord, we know you're going to go big-time pretty soon.  We want to be right up there with you!")

But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  And they said to him, "We are able."  And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.

            (They wanted those seats too)

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."   (Mark 10:35-45)


To work out with fear and trembling the salvation which God is working into us, we follow Jesus down to the servant level and start serving.  Right where we are.  In our homes, our neighborhoods, our churches, among our friends, out on the job.


We simply do what Jesus did:  We wash feet.  We help out.  We take time to listen to that boring old man who longs for someone to talk to.  We have Mrs. "Wet-blanket" Jones over for coffee.  She hasn't seen a soul in two weeks.  We pick up the phone and see if Bill needs a ride to get to his treatment. 


And as we do this simple service, life from God flows out of us---which may be invisible to everyone but God.  But it's there. 


If God gives you a word to speak while you're doing these things, go ahead and speak it.  But speak as a servant; never as a Pharisee.


When Jesus calls us to be disciples he calls us to work.  Full time.  All of us.  He doesn't put us through seven years of training before he sends us out.  He puts us to work the same way he put those first disciples to work: right away. 


We connect---and keep connecting.


"This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."


We begin receiving---and keep receiving.


            We receive the Spirit, daily, hourly. 

            We keep drinking from that spring of living water.

"If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him."


We give---and keep giving. 


            We work out the life which God is working into us.

            We touch those around us with redemptive power.

            We pray for them.

            We walk with them…listen to them….pitch in and help.

                        ---Always as servants.  


Every once-in-a-while, someone asks me, "How come none of your kids is in the ministry?"  And I pray a prayer of thanksgiving.   Because our kids, and in-law kids, are better ministers than I ever was, even though they're not in "the ministry."   If they were evangelists preaching to ten thousand people they would hardly be the servants of God they are now.


So who of us is called to full-time service? 


Every one of us!


What you do about your call, and what I do about mine, is up to us.  It's a call we keep answering every day.   

"Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of man also came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

            You don't have to go to seminary to learn how to do that.


All you have to do is go out there and find somebody to serve in the name of the Master.


A prayer:


O Lord, you know how bound and inhibited we are by our hang-ups and fears and vanity.  We ask that, by the power of the Lamb's blood, and by the power of your resurrection Spirit we might be set free as we read these words---set free to minister with power in the place where you have put each of us.  Lead us to one person in the coming week whom we can serve in the simplest way---and have the joy of seeing your Spirit touch another life.  Amen!