(171) RNX 2_Work, Ministry, & the OT

Notes & Transcripts

The Radically Normal Christian:

Part II: Work, Ministry, and the OT

Genesis 1:26-31

September 18, 2011



·         158,

·         FB, Keith Green


Objectives of sermon:

·         Dignify work

·         Glorify God @ work

·         Teach about the OT


Scripture reading: Matt 28:18-20


Q   How many of have heard of Keith Green?

That’s going back a bit. Keith was one of the most important Christian artists of the 70’s and 80’s and his influence is still felt among modern Christian.

·         Keith proclaimed a very radical, stoic faith, no compromise, everyone is a complacent Christian and needs to repent.  

After his death at age 28, many people would hold “memorial concerts,” watching one of his concerts on video and ending with a call to prayer or missions.

I remember watching it and feeling deeply convicted by one part that I still remember with clarity:

Matthew 28:18-20   18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“If you are not called to stay, you are called to go. You don’t need a call, you are already called. Unless you have received a definite called to stay, then you are called go.” [1]

If you listen it, as I did again, it is very convincing and impassioned. He makes you feel like if you aren’t making plans to get on the mission field that afternoon, you are in disobedience, being a nominal Christian.

·         I caught myself asking if I was REALLY called to stay!

This isn’t new to Keith Green, it is an undercurrent throughout the church. The Catholic Church elevated priests and monks as super-Christians. The idea is the priests were the professional Christians and everyone else just lived a normal life.

The Reformation emphasized that all of us are ministers, but I think what has happened is that we now expect all to be professional Christians.

On Facebook, I asked if people had felt guilty or like they were “less than obedient” for just having a normal job.

·         A college friend felt like a failure because he’s not a pastor.

·         Sharis and my DTS reentry (BTW: I was invited to write an article on this on a YWAM website).

Evangelicals try to help us out a bit: And if you are not in real ministry, then you can mostly make it up by being a really good witness to your co-workers, doing volunteer ministry, and financially supporting missions.

I want to call all of this into question. I think Keith Green was wrong, I think that we are wrong: Work, of itself, is deeply meaningful and part God’s intent for us, entirely apart from any “ministry” aspect.

·         I want to show you that the very fact of working hard, being ambitious, and pursuing excellence is God’s plan for you.

The OT is the Bible

But first I need to teach you a key principle for understanding the Bible that has totally changed how I read the Bible and I hope it will forever change how you read.

·         This entire project started out very differently, more stoic, but preaching through the OT has changed me.

This entire idea of “Radically Normal” is driven by a very radical premise: The OT is as much the Bible as is the NT.

Actually, that is not so radical. It is basic, orthodox Christianity. But Christians act as if the OT is not really the Bible. We treat the OT like the preface of the book, that part that no one reads and doesn’t even get real page numbers.

·         But to Peter, Paul, James, and the guys who wrote the NT, the OT was their Bible.

If you asked them, they would say the OT was the Bible and their writings were the appendices added to the end to explain some pretty important implication of God becoming a man a dying and raising from the dead.  

Ignoring the OT

Christians have a long history have having a hard time understanding the OT and hence ignoring it:

·         Marcion removed it from the Bible.

·         Many say that it is all the old covenant and we are now under the new covenant.

·         Others say that the purpose of the OT was to simply to prepare us for Christ and the NT (I used to hold to this).

·         Most people just ignore it, except for the stories and one-liners that we like.

But none of this matches how Jesus and the Apostles treat the OT. They quote from it, base their lives and theology on it. Jesus himself says:

Matthew 5:17-19   17 ¶ “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Yes, “they” say, but he did accomplish it, so now it is abolished. But even a basic understanding of the OT demonstrates that not everything was accomplished.

·         Pieces of it were, especially the dividing line between Jews and Gentiles, hence the need for the NT.

Furthermore, that the Apostles didn’t think the OT was abolished. It’s very telling that the Epistles almost never quote Jesus, they quote extensively from the OT.


This whole idea that the OT is equally authoritative and applicable to us is very important for many reasons, but here is one thought that forever changes how you read the Bible:

·         Because NT wasn’t written to replace the OT but to add to it, the NT author wrote assuming that you would also read the OT.

The NT authors were silent on many topics because they assumed you would read the OT and there was no need to repeat:

·         They barely talk about parenting because it is in the OT.

·         Little positive instruction is given on sex, it’s in the OT.

·         There’s very little about day to day life, it’s in the OT.

A NT Christianity?

One of the biggest difference between the OT and NT is the OT tends to emphasize earthly, temporal realities and the NT the spiritual, eternal realities.

·         Separate from each other, they are both out of balance; together they give us a complete picture.

Can you see how important it is for us read, study, understand, and apply the OT as well as the NT? A Christianity that is weak on the OT will be too concerned about the spiritual and not concerned enough with the earthly.

·         A NT-only Christianity is a stoic Christianity.

The authors of the NT could emphasis the spiritual side because they knew the OT would balance them out. Little did they know we would stop reading it!

·         Yes I know that the OT is more challenging to read, but it is worth it – if nothing else, read Psalms and Proverbs.

The 1st Commission

And now, with that background, we can talk about why Keith Green was so wrong:

I have talked about how I enjoy by second job at Starbucks. After 14 years of ministry, preceded by 4 years of college, it is good to be back in the “real world.”

But early on I really struggled with the ordinariness of the job: How spiritual is making coffee? What is the eternal value of mopping a floor?

Most pastors will say that all work can be ministry and every Christian can and should be a minister wherever they are. I have frequently said that, but it’s different now that I am the one with the secular job!

·         I am being forced to think through the spiritual value of work on a very personal level.

I clearly remember mopping underneath the coffee display case, I was thinking about this whole “Radically Normal Christian” project, specifically the OT thing. But then I was hit by this wave doubt – mopping seemed so less important.

·         Then it hit me – I am pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit – that this applied directly to my work at Starbucks.

The first commission that God gave his people was not “Go into all the world...” (Matt. 28:18-20), but

Genesis 1:26-31  26 ¶ Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.  30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-- everything that has the breath of life in it-- I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.  31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-- the sixth day.

He restates in the next chapter:

Genesis 2:15   15 ¶ The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Go into the world and work, fill it, be fruitful. Live life, enjoy the garden I gave you.

Subdue the earth” doesn’t mean trash it, it means that in the same way God took the chaos of matter and formed it into creation, we are called to take the chaos of earth and order it into beauty.

Rule the earth” it means be God’s representative on earth. It means that he is the great king; we are little kings under him.

·         This is the first great commission and God never canceled it.

Beyond Genesis

And it’s not just in Genesis: In Israel, less than 3% of the population were “in ministry.” The other 97% were called to just live normal, productive, God-honoring lives.

But that’s the OT, some say:

1. After this sermon, I hope you never again think, “that was just the OT.”

2. But second of all, it is not just the OT (ESV translates it better),

ESV 1 Corinthians 7:17 ¶ Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Far from expecting all believers to quit their jobs and go fulfill the Great Commission as Keith Green said, Paul commands them to stay put. Sure there are exception, but he wants to make sure they are called.

Nobility of work

If we take the Old Testament seriously, by the very act of working hard to accomplish something, I am fulfilling my calling as a child of God and bringing glory to him.

By the very virtue of working hard, raising a family, caring for and enjoying the earth God gave us, we are fulfilling his plan.

·         And by doing so, we are acting like him, exhibiting his image, being his representatives

There is great honor in simply working hard and living life. So just by making the $4 lattes with excellence and mopping that floor as best I can, I am honoring God.

·         Think how radically this should change your view of work...

Priesthood of all believers

Now many of you are objecting that now all believers are called to be ministers.

1 Peter 2:9   9 ¶ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Absolutely. But this is actually not a NT thing; Peter is quoting Exodus, God speaking to all of Israel. God called them to be his representatives to the Gentiles.

·         Now we as Christians are his representative to the nations.

The Second Great Commission is added to the First. The first called us to be his representative to the earth, the second to the people of earth.

So on top of the dignity and call of hard work, add the dignity and call to be a light in your work, whether it is to coworker or the children you are raising.


So far, this has been a lot of “why” and theory. I believe we first need to think differently before we act differently.

Additionally, I can only give you a few practical thing, but if I can teach you the “why” then you can apply it to many “what’s.”

·         It’s like the difference between giving you directions and teaching you how to read a map.

Let’s look at how being “Radically Normal” plays out in the work place. Last week I said that God calls us to be mostly normal.

·         This doesn’t mean that we are all the same and it’s wrong to be quirky, but that we are ourselves, not hyper-spiritual.

On the surface, we look a lot like non-Christians, but scratch below the surface and we are radically different in how and why we do the same things they do. 

1. Ambition

It is normal to be ambitious and claw your way to the top, to “toot your own horn.”

It is radical not to care about advancements and achievements because your value is in God and because you are so humble.

But this is what Proverbs says:

Proverbs 22:29   29 Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.

Ambition is a good thing; work your hardest, rise to the top of your field. Be remarkable. Be normal in your ambition. It’s what you were designed for, you were meant to work hard and excel. It is in your DNA, just as chasing cats is in a dog’s DNA.

Delight in working hard and doing well. That isn’t pride. Pride is when the focus shifts from the job well done to me as the doer of the good work.

·         EG: Me, that was a really good sermon, Matt, that was a really good beer.

But be radical in your work and ambition:

·         Your value does not come from your work. If you fail, you know that you are still a child of God.

·         Be in balance, work is part of who you are, but not all of who you are.

2. Anxious toil

Psalms 127 talks about “eating the bread of anxious toil.” That is normal, being anxious, worrying about your next paycheck, striving to get it all done.

Radical is to not care about earning money, trusting God for everything, being almost fatalistic. This sounds Biblical:

NIV Luke 12:29 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.

But again, Jesus was assuming you knew the backdrop of all that the Bible says about being diligent. The idea isn’t stop working and let God provide, it is don’t be anxious, don’t worry. [2]

·         Do what you can do, they trust him with the rest. 

Being radically normal means that your non-Christian co-workers see you working hard and being responsible, but that you are calm in light of uncertainties.

·         “I’m trusting God” isn’t seen as a cop-out but rock-solid reality that they can’t understand but do respect.

3. Attitude and Ethics

It is normal to be, well, normal at work: Having a bad attitude, complaining about the boss, cutting the corners, taking office pens.

It is radical to either never work a “secular job” lest you be soiled OR to loudly being “perfect” and judging your co-workers.

Being radically normal means first that God is in the process of changing your attitude about work and people. Every day, pray for the Spirit’s help.

Second, it means you are filled with grace, towards yourself and other’s. There is a diplomatic way to show a better way.

·         EG: When a partner quit unexpectedly.

4. Ambassadors at Work

Normal is to work a 9-5 job, live for the weekend and retirement.

Radical is going on the mission field or into fulltime ministry – yes, I am considered radical by many and that makes it harder to people to relate to me!

Radically Normal is to be God’s representative in your work place or your home, knowing that it God’s calling for you.

·         PPT: Please text Janna; service is almost over: 333-4505

Q & A

Communication Card/Application

·         Prayerfully consider how your work fulfills the First Commission.

·         Prayerfully consider how your work fulfills the Second Commission.

·         Spend some time in OT


[1] at 25:00

[2] For more info, see my sermon on selling your possessions:

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