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Faithlife

The Story of Work

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Series Introduction:

Welcome guests
Explain typical sermon series as walking through books and sections of the Scriptures

Why a series on work?

Mission statement -
As one of the pastor’s we’re committed to equipping you with understanding our call to work and our call to rest. And I firmly believe that if we had a greater vision, a greater story about your work, our lives could be radically different.
And if you’re a guest, my heart goes out to the people of our community. A nearly 17 year study conducted (by Gallup), reveals that the current state of workers—nation-wide is dismal as 70% of all Americans hate their job. They define “hating their job” by two terms, those unengaged, and those disengaged from their work. And the number is staggeringly low as 85% of employees world-wide are disengaged at work. And in Japan only 6% of workers are engaged at work.
51% of all Americans are looking for a new job… something is wrong and we believe connecting faith and work is an essential step for us.

Connecting faith and work… what does that mean?

For some, that means that you do your best to use secret symbols to communicate to others that you’re a Christian - the fish, the cross, the radio station bumper sticker...
Others take Paul’s instructions to “make it your goal to live quietly, mind your own business, and work with your hands” as what it means to connect faith and work. Be honest, have integrity, work hard, don’t call in sick and that’s how you connect faith and work.
There is nothing wrong with either of those to things, except they don’t capture a distinct Christian worldview. There are lots of people who are not Christians that do those things.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 ESV
and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,
We can’t just pick a few Bible verses out and say, “This is how I’m going to go about doing my work, or marriage, or childrearing, or leisure, or anything...” We don’t get to make that decision.

How do we develop a Christian worldview?

We always must begin in the exact same place for everything and it’s not just a Bible verse, it’s the Bible. In other words, we must begin with a Theology.
Theology (proper) is the study of God. The study of who God is and what He is like.
That’s a different approach from a “Best Practices” or “Self-Help” approach.
So you develop a Biblical worldview by first studying God through the Bible to see what He is like.
This sermon series is titled “The Gospel and Work”, why didn’t I title it, God and work or the Bible and work? The reason we say, “The Gospel and ____” or “Gospel-Centered _____” is not because we can’t think of another way of saying it’s because the Gospel is a story and human beings function within stories. That’s how God made us.

What are the various popular storylines about work?

Even though it was written in the early 80’s it’s still an anthem today. “Everybody’s working for the weekend”
This is supporter by the few songs and stories with the manifesto of “Work hard, play hard.” In fact in a study done by a biologist at Queen’s University in Canada, 40% of those who participated in the study were actually motivated by the work hard, play hard lifestyle.
James Truslow Adams coined the term "American Dream" in his 1931 book The Epic of America. His American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Adams coined the term "American Dream" in his 1931 book The Epic of America. His American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.
That dream (that really was stated in the founding documents of this country) has morphed “more or less” into a dream of attaining material goods and wealth.
Others, more stoic-ly, state that work really is just a means to an end - the end being “supporting my family” or “planning for my retirement.” But we have to wonder, is that all that work is about?

What is the biblical vision of work?

Is it just survive? Provide for your families? Work to retire?

The Story of Work

The biblical vision begins with the story of a worker… and He is actually accomplishing two things at once. He is Creating and Working, but He is also revealing the Design of Work

Who is the first worker and what is he doing?

Read -
What type of literature does this sound like? It’s a story… “In the beginning”
What happened in the beginning? “God created the heavens and the earth”
Now, we want to ask all kinds of questions, here, but we need to discipline ourselves to let the Word of God speak.
This is where we can get in to trouble; because the author is not interested in telling us the answers to the questions you want to know about the beginning.
The author is interested in telling us about the a Creator who created.
It’s important to note that in the true sense of the word, “Created” is only attributed to God in Scripture. Because creating requires bringing forth something out of not raw material, but nothing.
After God created the heavens (skies above) and the earth (the ground below), what was it like? “the earth was without form and void...”
this phrase is translated from a Hebrew rhyme “tohu vavohu.”
One Hebrew scholar interprets it, “Wild and waste.” Now that initially sounds like it was bad, but you have to keep listening to the story. Is the wilderness bad? Not if you’re an animal. But, yes if you’re a human…
The picture that Moses gives us is that of a skilled potter preparing the raw materials of clay and water in order to bring forth something beautiful and useful.
Now that he has created this space and material, what does God do? He speaks light into existence, inspects it, declares it good (so again, he’s bringing raw material into existence) and then what does He do?
He begins to brings beauty and order to the wild and wasteland, he tells us that “God separated the light from the darkness. And then God gives this separation of light from darkness a name.
He called the Light day, and the darkness he called Night. God brought about beauty that can be seen in the sunrise just over the crest of the mountains and hills and beauty in the evening moonlight that doesn’t quite look the same any two nights. The flicker of the stars and the cool respite of less light… it’s God’s Creative beauty.
And order as the sunrise reminds us of the new day, the sunset and moonlight tells us that it is night and time to rest. It’s God’s Creative order.
We see the Creator repeating this again in the next few verses, bringing an expanse and separation to the waters; he is bringing beauty and order to the wild and wasteland.
And then in verses 9-10 we see again this Creation of land and this separation from land and sea, His inspection of it, and His declaration that it was good. Beauty and order.
But in verse 11 we have something new happening. Not just order and not just beauty, what do we see? “Let the earth sprout vegetation (beauty), plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to their kind (order), on the earth.”
Why is the Creator concerned with vegetation that bears residual fruits and vegetables? If the story is in chronological order, (which the author seems to be indicating by the fact that he numbers the days) who are these fruits and vegetables for?
The author holds us in suspense...
Verses 14-19 speak more to the ordering and beautifying that the Creator is doing. And the flow of the days of creation are very symmetrical; there is this dance of the Creator forming and then filling and repeating that action of forming what is formless and filling what is void.
Verse 20-22 We see the Creator calling for creatures to be made to come up out of the waters, and creatures to be flying above in the expanse of the heavens. He’s bringing more order, more beauty, more potential out of the raw materials he created.
In verse 22 we see the Creator, blessing and instructing the birds in the sky and the fish of the sea to be fruitful and multiply and continue to replenish the sky and seas.
In verse 24 the earth is bringing forth living creatures (beautifully, orderly) - it’s interesting to me, but the Creator doesn’t bless and instruct the creatures that would walk on the ground to multiply and fill the earth. Until verse 28, but those aren’t the same creatures as the ones in verse 24. Maybe he tells us without saying?
Let’s pause for just a second and answer the question that was asked at the beginning: what is the biblical vision of work? or how did the Creator design work?
Read verse 31: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Good in Hebrew is “tov” - so throughout and 2 we see God the Creator taking the “tohu vavohu” and bringing “tov.”
The Creator isn’t stoic in this project. The Creator is filled with delight as He brings about order and beauty...
By now you’ve seen
Why?
Jump to verse 2 of chapter two: “And on the seventh day God finished his work...”
Let’s pause for just a second and answer the question that was asked at the beginning: what is the biblical vision of work? or how did the Creator design work? The author calls what God did work, what was it that God did?
The author calls what God did work, what was it that God did?

Order

From Day One, the Creator was bringing order by separating light from day, water from the expanse, and vegetation to bring forth more vegetation of it’s own kind...

Beauty

But he was not just bringing about a cold and machine-like order, He was packing beauty and potential into the earth and the skies
Listen to this

Benefit

And at this point, we are tracking with this design of work. It makes sense, I like everything in my house to be orderly, I like all of my stuff to be beautiful. I like what God is doing… now I know where I get my desire to be orderly and beautiful.
But, benefit begs the question… benefit for whom?
See we can do all sorts of good works, as long as we or our immediate family gain the benefit. But that doesn’t properly mirror the design of work. God did not create the universe to bring himself benefit.
God brought about all of this order and beauty TO benefit humans. God’s design is totally others-oriented.
The idea of benefit removes the vague ideas of order and beauty. In other words, the Creator did not work simply to bring about order and beauty, but His work had others in mind. Humans. His work of ordering and beautifying and benefiting presents the other-centered nature of the Creator.
No other narrative in antiquity shares the other-centered nature of the Creator.
No other narrative in antiquity shares the other-centered nature of the Creator.
All of that ordering and beautifying that the Creator was bringing has a pinnacle here as the author tells us what the Creator worked to bring about:
Read verse 29 “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.” Why was God working to bring this about? So that the humans, the ones created in His image and in His likeness would have nourishment and strength and blessing.
Read verse 29 “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.” Why was God working to bring this about? So that the humans, the ones created in His image and in His likeness would have nourishment and strength and blessing.
God the Creator brought order and beauty to the world, so that He could share it with humankind. But He doesn’t just share this good world with human beings, He enlists their help.
God the Creator brought order and beauty to the world, so that He could share it with humankind. But He doesn’t just share this good world with human beings, He enlists their help.
Read verse 26-28 - “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 them; 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.”
To fulfill the work that their Creator had given them to do.
Read verse 26-28 - “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 them; 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.”
What does that mean? The image bearers of God are to rule over the animals?
What does it mean that human beings are to subdue and have dominion over the animals?
We’re going to talk more about our role next week, but what it doesn’t mean is that humans are given permission to abuse animals or the land (for that matter).
In fact, Christians should lead the way in efforts to keep other humans, animals, or the land from being abused.
We’re going to take a quick peak at a few passages in chapter two before we get to the bad news
The author tells the same story, but with a slightly different angle:
Genesis 2:5 ESV
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,
There are a few hints the author gives us, “no bush” “no plant” “no rain” “no man”
What’s the point? The earth was created, but formless and empty “tohu vavohu” What does the Creator do?
Genesis 2:7 ESV
then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Genesis 2:8 ESV
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
Watch what the Creator does, He plants a garden (he’s a worker) and then he puts human (Adam) in the garden
What else does he do?
Genesis 2:9 ESV
And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
This powerful and magnificent Creator commands trees to spring up out of the ground. What kind of trees? Trees that sustain life and trees that are pretty to look at.
Can we take a moment to think about this? We live in a very pragmatic and utilitarian society.
The lions share of society sees the arts as a complete waste of time. We (very ascetic-like) jeer and mock at artists and art and even many forms of entertainment; as if a person is more spiritual if they give their life to putting their nose to the grind or stuffing their heads full of more information than they can possibly ever utilize in their lifetime.
But the Creator finds value in aesthetics. These particular trees had the main purpose of being pleasing to the eyes.
Let’s keep going, what else does the Creator do?
Gen 2:
Genesis 2:15 ESV
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Who Created the garden? God. But this little insight reveals that even though God is the ultimate creative designer, He finds joy in partnering with His created beings to bring out the hidden potential that is in the land and care for what He made.
What type of work (that God did) is gardening? What we call manual labor.
This little story helps us to understand that dignity is not found in the amount of money you make, the grandeur of the building you work in, or whether or not your company hit Forbes Magazine top 500 companies.
Dignity is given to every worker that mirrors the bringing of order and beauty that benefits others.
You can have great dignity in being a barista, or an architect, or a police officer regardless of the way your job description reads. Because what God shows us is that good work in any environment can be dignified work.
And this carries another reason why we should be the front runners against evil works in the world. Because if someone is abusing someone else to gain benefit they ultimately are stripping away the dignified and God-like nature of good work.
Look at how God instructs Adam. I love how this plays out in verse 19 - the Creator finds delight in partnering with the human and we see this generous God giving up what is his (naming the animals) and willingly hands it over to the human. A beautiful picture of leadership.
Now, Up to this point, who has been the sole provider of humans? Remember, he designed the plants to bear residual fruit for the humans.
And, who has been the sole speaker up to this point? The Creator. He has instructed the humans that they are to follow His design inside of the Garden of Eden.
How many decisions has Adam had to make up to this point? Probably none.
Genesis 2:16–17 ESV
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.”
Genesis 2:16 ESV
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,
In other words, “I have provided everything that you need to enjoy life, food, (in a moment) a relationship with another human, work (where you can take the potential I have packed in this garden and bring about order and beauty to benefit the offspring you will give life to) but I’m also presenting you with an opportunity for moral maturity. Will you go on trusting me as your good and caring Creator or will you seek to be your own god?
The Tree had much to do with the work that God assigned Adam. Faith and work have an intimate connection.
Every day we wake up and we have a moral choice; will we do our work and rely upon the good and caring Creator or will we be the type of worker that believes they must define good and evil in order to find fulfillment and success?
And we all know the choices that we’re faced daily to trust God or try to play god. To seize the opportunity to define good and evil?
Well, we all know the choice that Adam and his wife Eve made, but let’s take a moment to read through it.
Gen 3:1-3
Genesis 3:1–3 ESV
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
We don’t have time to delve in to how bizarre this talking snake that has this power to convince human beings to ignore the good and generous Creator’s command, and that’s not the point of the story...
The story is keeping our focus on the Creator and what he is going to do about this serpent and what he’s going to do about the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
So the serpent nonchalantly misquotes the Creator’s instructions, “So you can’t eat anything in the garden?” See what he’s trying to do? Yes, he’s twisting the Creator’s words, but he’s also developing a case for his rebellion.
Eve, a good theologian, corrects the serpent, “No, we MAY eat of the fruit trees, we just can’t eat of that tree...”
Do you see the serpents case for joining his rebellion?
Oh, I see… the Creator is holding out on you. How good can a Creator be if he doesn’t give you everything???
I can almost hear that slimy snake, “You shall not surely die...” making another point for his case
And then he goes for the jugular, here’s the truth, humans: as soon as you eat of that tree, you’re going to have your eyes opened and you’ll be able to decide what is good and evil, just like God.
I don’t know if Adam and Eve huddled and talked it through
But they came to the ultimate decision that this creature’s rebellion doesn’t really sound too bad
What was the serpent doing? He was taking the “TOV” and trying to send it back to “TOHU VAVOHU”
And what happened as soon as they ate of that tree? God’s design for not only work, but relationships (towards God and towards each other) was ruined. Sin was now in the hearts of the humans.
Adam and Eve started working on something… but it wasn’t what they had been called to do
They realized that they were naked. And they left their work of bringing beauty and order for the benefit of others, so that they could cover up their shame.
Their relationship with their good and generous God was fragmented as we see God coming to see them in the “cool of the day” only to find that they’re playing hide and seek.
And then the wheels start to fall off in their marriage as the blame game begins… Adam, what happened? It was the woman that YOU gave me > Eve, what happened? It was the snake>
We don’t generally see this story in light of the physical, but the spiritual, but the response of the Creator is to add hardship to their real relationships (verse 16) and their real work (verse 17)
Genesis 3:17 ESV
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;
Gen 3:17-
Genesis 3:17–19 ESV
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.”
If you’re reading along, this is the fourth poem found in the first three chapters.
Poems are an important piece of biblical literature and you can’t attempt to interpret them without at least acknowledging that it was the Spirit’s intention to draw us in to this pinnacle point of the story with a poem.
You need to ask a lot of questions when you are interpreting the meaning of the poem, like why does the poet (in this case God) repeat that they will not stop from eating, even though they disobeyed? What is he making sure they know?
But what is going to happen is that these new evil rope-like creatures called thorns and thistles are going to start popping up from the cursed ground.
Again, we can overlook the poetic nature of the piece here, or we can acknowledge the fact that what God is communicating is that the enemy is going to keep perpetually popping up all over your places of work.
He doesn’t altar his design of work - we still work to bring order and beauty for the benefit of others, but now, NOW the enemy is there bringing resistance and hardship.
Not only from the ground, but from the “sweat of our own face” - this doesn’t necessarily mean that work before the fall wasn’t difficult, but rather it carries this image that from our own minds we’ll experience this resistance.
Sometimes I tell my wife, “I’m struggling with something having to do with work, and I’ll say, I’m just SO in my own head.” And what I mean is that even if it’s quiet outside there are an innumerable amount of thoughts and voices sounding off in my head.
Others will face resistance from not having the abilities to do what they’re assigned to do. There will be a constant resistance to work. Both on the inside and on the outside.
So the full picture of this poem is that there will be resistance from all over the place for our work. Sin has fractured the design of work.
So, God’s design holds out an absolutely beautiful picture of work - but sin corrupts that picture and what we’re drawn to do is to hold them both in balance.
Some of us see work as just thorns and thistles (and some of us work in that environment)
Others are somewhat disillusioned when work is hard and people that we work with are difficult. We think, hey, I thought we were supposed to bring order and beauty for the benefit of others and then they respond with gratitude and then they start working to bring… that’s not always how it goes, is it?
No. We need to hold both in tension. Sometimes we’ll have spent hours on a project or assignment that we’re passionate about, but then the timing is not right, or someone throws cold water on the idea. We hold them in balance by refreshing ourselves with (the good news) while remembering that for every two weeds you pull, ten will return with a vengeance.
In the story thus far we’ve seen God’s design for work, and man’s ruin of God’s design, but now we turn to some really good news...
Genesis 3:14 ESV
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
You’re doomed for defeat and shame
Genesis 3:15 ESV
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
God, speaking in poetry, to the snake tells him that He is going to plant this enmity between not snakes and humans, (although) but between the offspring of this evil and the offspring of whom? Eve.
So, there are these two lineages that derive from this story. Those who will ultimately join the rebellion of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. Who is this?
It says, “He” so this should paint a picture in your mind of this Redeemer and what is this Redeemer going to do?
Does it say, “He will crush all the baby snakes?” No. It says, He shall crush or bruise YOUR head. Who is your? The snake or the source of all of the evil offspring.
But something happens during this Hero Redeemer’s victorious crushing of the source of evil, what happens? Somehow while the Redeemer is crushing the head of the serpent, the serpent deals a bruise or a wound to the Redeemer’s heal.
That is to say, that the means of this victorious battle is the bite of the serpent.
And the Redeemer is absorbing all of the venom into himself in order to defeat the source of evil
The cross of Christ is the Redemption of God’s design. Jesus did absorb all of the venom of evil upon himself and suffered and died in the place of humans who deserved to suffer for the choices we’ve made to join the rebellion of the serpent.
What is amazing is that there is nowhere in Scripture where God tells his created beings that they had better get their act together or he was going to get them.
What’s amazing is that this is a promise. And God’s promise did not come with any strings attached. What God wants from us is the same thing he wanted from Adam and Eve from the beginning; he wants us to submit to Him to trust that he is the final word when it comes to good and evil and not us.

The Redemption of Work’s Design

This is really good news. What does this mean for work?
If you take away the sin that entered into the world at the fall of the humans, what do you have?
You have “TOV” you have goodness. You have humans (who are under the gracious and generous rule of the Creator-King) working to bring order and beauty and benefit to others without the resistance of evil.
BUT… we’re not there yet, are we? So what CAN we do?

Application:

We can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, get up in the morning and work (bringing order and beauty for the benefit of others).
But what happens when (and we will) we experience sin in our hearts and in our coworkers hearts and resistance on our projects? We remind each other of the hope of the return of the King.
I want to encourage our Gospel Fellowships to choose a place in this area where there is “wild and waste” and work together to bring order and beauty and benefit.
And lastly, for those who are hear today and you are just hearing some of this about submitting to God’s rule and reign and sin and the Redemption of Christ, I invite you today while people come in a few minutes for communion to talk with me.
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