April 14, 2019
Series: The Other Hours
We’re in our sermon series “Other Hours.” You can turn to Ephesians 2, if you would. We’ll jump into our Other Hours teaching, God doesn’t want to make you good at church, he wants to make you good at life. There are a lot of other hours besides church that make up our life. We’ve broken up the other hours into five sections.
Relationships are a huge part of life. Work, the section we’re in right now. We’re going to be talking about rest. We’re going to be talking about finances. And we’re going to be talking bout sexuality. That’s the five sections that make up our life.
We talked about work last week. Last week we talked about work as an important, sacred and blessed thing from Genesis garden all the way to Revelations garden city. The entire Bible is talking about work as a blessed, sacred, important thing. God is someone who worked and sanctified it.
We also talked about how, from the time mankind sinned to the time Jesus returns to make all things new, work is still important, sacred and blessed. But it has been tainted by entropy. The call of God, the work of God that he did, making the garden and then he commissioned mankind to continue to make garden and expand the garden, all of it was great. You planted flowers and only flowers came up. You planted something good and only good came up. And then mankind sinned, and when they sinned, if you remember, the curse that was placed on the sin, God said, “Because you’ve sinned, this is now the realty that you’re going to experience.”
And there was a curse on labor, the labor of women in childbearing, and the labor of work in the fields. So now, when you plant flowers, you get flowers, maybe, if you did it right, but even if you did everything right, you also gets weeds.
And so, the work is more difficult than it was, but it has not changed inits importance, in its sacredness, in its godliness. And if we are not doing that, if we are not making gardens, so to speak, in the areas that God has given us dominion over. We’re not being human. You can only survive for so long in that reality, studies have shown.
And so work is tainted by entropy. Today we will look at how work has been twisted by idolatry, and if you should quit your job is one of the questions we’re going to be asking today. Or if quitting your job isn’t the right thing to do, maybe you need to do something just as drastic to free yourself from idolatry, which always robs us of life.
Last week, we said that the work has been tainted by entropy and today we’re going to talk about how work can be twisted by idolatry. And we’re going to ask that question: Should you quit your job?
If not, maybe you should do something just as drastic as quitting your job to make sure you’re not caught up in idolatry. Idolatry is something that will always rob us of life. Always steal, kill and destroy from us.
I have a few things I want to share with you in quote form. I want everyone to harness your punk rock self a little bit. If you like Green Day or whatever, MSPX type things. Get in that frame of mind. Here we go. We’re going to stick it to the man a little bit here.
The mantra of our culture is that we work to life. The American dream—which started out as this brilliant idea that everybody should have a shot at a happy life has devolved over the years into a narcissistic desire to make as much money as possible in as little time as possible with as little effort as possible so that we can get off work and go do something else. Garden City by Mark Comer
This American dream that started off as, no matter where you come from, no matter what has happened in your life, you deserve a fair chance to make something of your life. But it’s evolved in time into this idea where all we want to do is get as much stuff in our lives as possible. We want to work as little as possible, as little effort as possible, get as much money as possible because money feels like security, money feels like all the things that God is supposed to supply in our lives, but God is too unreliable. So we begin to foster a culture of idolatry. Correct?
Next thing. This is from Jon Foreman, a Switchfoot song:v“When success is equated with excess, the ambition for excess wrecks us. The top of the mind becomes the bottom line when success is equated with excess. Success is equated with excess when you’re fighting for the Beamer, the Lexus. The heart and the soul breathe in the company goals when success is equated with excess. Baby’s always talking about her ring. And talk has always been the cheapest thing. Is it true? Would you do what I want you to if I show you the right amount of bling, like a puppet on a monetary string. Maybe we’ve been caught singing the red, white, blue and green.” And then he says, “That ain’t my American dream. I want to live and die for bigger things.”
It’s true what these people are speaking about. Our culture, it’s not far off. It’s not, “Hmm. Let me think about that for a while to see if it’s true.” I mean, it is pervasive in our culture. Every commercial. And sometimes, it’s coined or phrased in a way that seems like it’s very wise to store up, to go for these things. And we begin to equate success with excess. And the economy of heaven is very different than the economy of earth. Very, very different.
This is another quote by a guy:
Some of you have heard me say this. It’s something that came after I lived in Belize for a while and then I came back. I was out of the bubble of Phoenix culture and then when I came back, I was just getting back into the culture. I just watched everybody kind of flying by and this is what really began to stir in my heart:
There is a gravity in Phoenix that is constantly pulling us into superficial and artificial busy-ness. Then, we find ourselves waking up one year, five years, or ten years down the road, realizing we have only been existing. We haven’t been doing any living at all. —David Stockton
I’m sure this is true of other cities, other situations. But it’s so true in Phoenix. Phoenix is probably the second most artificial place in the world. Maybe third. I mean, Vegas has got to be up there, right? And maybe Dubai. These places that are desert, and yet, when you go there, there is so much greenery and life and oasis. The Phoenix culture, every tree you see here, every cool breeze you feel here, it’s artificial and it seems like somehow it’s seeped into our own souls, where we become very superficial, artificial people. Even our business here is not really a kind of industry built on some kind of resource. It’s an industry built on this idea of money and real estate value, property values, financial investments. There’s no real basis for it. There’s no real resource attached to it. It’s just this idea of fluctuating, “Now it’s worth more, now it’s worth less.” And nothing really changes hands, so to speak.
It’s kind of the way our culture is built. None of that is wrong in and of itself. But we so easily can get caught up into this thing, where we are now producing artificial, superficial lives, marriages, families, children, places of business. And if we’re not resisting this gravity, it is happening to us, no matter how “Christian” you are.
One of the reasons this is so important to me is that my mom and dad raised me here in Phoenix. And my mom and dad were awesome, wonderful people. They were so great. They loved the Lord with all their hearts. And at one point, I was young and not paying attention to know much about it, but looking back, they got to a place where they had to leave Phoenix. My dad was so caught up in his practice doing medicine, and the work, and all the good he was trying to do, that his health was completely failing. And my mom was caught up in the political scene here. She was doing some work for some politicians and just kind of all caught up in it.
We had a big house, we had these Mercedes. And one day, by the grace of God, my parent woke up to this reality that we are building a completely artificial and superficial life. We are maintaining something that doesn’t feel like life at all. It just feels like existing.
So my dad wanted to move to Colorado. My mom wanted to move to California. So—bam!—we moved to Oregon. And there we were, starting over. My brothers had both graduated college—my parents had the decency to take care of them. I had just finished my freshman year in high school. Oh, that’s a great time to move a kid! And we left. We resisted. We broke out and went to Grants Pass, Oregon. Twenty thousand people. But a huge river going through town. New school for me. And I never once thought it was a bad idea. I thought, “It sounds cool. I’ve never seen rain before.” Fishing They’ve got big fish. Not just tiny fish. They’ve got big fish there. And the lunch bell rang on my first day of school and I was like, “Huh? I don’t know anybody. Who am going to sit with?” And all of that started.
But it was a great move for me and my family in a lot of ways. And the reality is, this isn’t a message about everybody should move to Oregon. This is a message to where that stuff can seep in and we can find ourselves spinning, just living this American dream, and missing out on the dream God has for you so easily. So easily. I want to read to us Ephesians 2. I’ll read the whole thing, 1 through 10.
The end of it is what’s really pertinent to our study today. But I want to read the whole thing so we can get the full picture of God and what he’s doing in our lives. And it culminates in the last couple of verses.
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air,
In other words, the economy of this world is all you knew and all you lived for.
the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
Or, undeserving of anything good.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
So, basically, he’s talking about how we used to just live according to the culture of this world. We used to be so seeped in it. We didn’t know anything else. It’s how we were born, what we breathed in—it’s just who we were. But then at some point we came into connection, came into a collision with the kingdom of heaven. Somehow we tasted, somehow we saw, somehow we awoke to what Jesus was saying or teaching. This other culture. This other economy. And in that moment we were made alive in Christ. And now we’re trying to learn how to flesh out this new kingdom order, these new kingdom principles, live according to this new economy.
And then, at the very end he says, “For you are God’s work, created in Christ Jesus to do God’s work, which he had prepared in advance for you to do.”
And so, two things are kind of colliding inside you—just you—not in the church as a whole, necessarily, but you specifically individually. God has taken the initiative to tell you you are his garden. You are his work. You are his work that he is doing in the world. And if he can turn you into the Garden of Eden, if he can turn you into a kingdom person, if he can let his Spirit alive in you bring the righteousness, joy and peace, then anybody who interacts with you has a chance of also waking up to the kingdom of heaven.
You’re an ambassador, like we talked about last week. You are his garden project now. You are the work that he is doing for six days and then resting one day. You are his garden.
In Isaiah it says “And their souls will be like well-watered gardens.” God has taken the work to make you into that garden, and then he also, the Bible is very clear, has prepared good works for you to walk in in advance. One, he kind of fashions you and makes you able to do work, and then he actually creates opportunities for work for you and asks you to walk in them.
When I was young, living according to my own ideas and may own imaginations, I thought it would be great to play professional basketball for the Phoenix Suns. I thought that was awesome. And then I didn’t grow that much, and everyone started beating me all the time. So then I thought, My dad’s a doctor. I should be an athletic trainer for the Phoenix Suns. And then maybe they’ll let me play every once in a while. No.
That was my dream. That was all I had. I mean, it wasn’t a passion. I wasn’t super excited about it. It was just that it didn’t wound dumb. And I did my senior project on it. And then I had this interaction with the Lord after high school. It was like, “Do you want to do things your way or do you want to see what I have in store for you? Do you want to see the work that I have for you?”
And I didn’t really have a lot of ideas and I thought that God was probably smarter than me. And so I said, “Ok, God, let’s do this thing.” And started to try and learn his ways at eighteen years old. And God began to teach me about the work that he had for me. And I have resisted it at every corner, every transition. I was like, “Oh that’s cool. I’ll go be like a little youth pastor for some children and do little worship leading at this church, or whatever.” And then I quit and went to school because I was like, “Now I’ll go get a real job.”
And so I went to school and then I got done with school and I went to work at a Christian Summer camp and I was working with people, kind of pastoring and leading them and working in that way. And then I went to Ireland and I worked at the Guiness Brewery for a little while because I thought that sounded cooler. And then that didn’t work out that great. So I came back and lived in Southern Oregon. I wanted to stay and work in Southern Oregon. I applied for all these jobs in Southern Oregon. Nobody in Southern Oregon wanted me, liked me, everybody hated me, it seemed like.
And there was this one guy down in Phoenix named Mark Buckley who said, “Hey, why don’t you come work with our youth down here.”
And I was like, “Blah. I don’t want to go to Phoenix. I don’t want to work with youth. I remember youth pastors.” I didn’t like them very much. I thought they were cheesy and I didn’t want to be that, real bad. But he was offering me a plane ticket to come check it out. And I checked it out and thought, “See? It’s just like I thought. It’s dumb. It’s lame. It’s weird.”
And I went back to Oregon and tried to find more jobs and it finally felt like the Lord was maybe pointing me this way. And I said, “Ok, fine!” And I came down here because this is the work that God prepared in advance for me to do. And it’s been amazing.
And I’ve quit my job here twice. Gone to Belize. That’s cooler. It’s cool when you’re in Belize. You say, “I was in Belize.” And everybody’s like, “Oh, wow. You were in Belize.”
And I come back here and like, “I’m a pastor.” And they’re bored to tears or they go, “Oh, ok. That’s cool. Yeah. Uh-huh.”
And so, here I am. You know?
God has prepared work in advance for us. And when you begin to walk in it, it’s amazing what comes to life inside of you. It’s amazing the passions that are stirred, the joy that you receive. And the scary thing is, some of you guys might be working really, really hard in the wrong direction.
Last week, we talked about how one of the most traumatic things psychologists have studied, even more traumatic than abuse in some ways, and divorce in some ways is long-term unemployment, the affects of that on a human soul are devastating.
I’m here to say in this message that I think, just as devastating is “wrong-term” employment, when we’re working for the wrong reasons, for the wrong motivations, for the wrong things. When God has fashioned you for one work and yet you’re doing a different work—eventually you’re going to break. When you live outside the grace of God for long enough, you break. ‘and my fear is that there are some people in here who might be working outside the grace of God. God has fashioned you for one thing…
I met with Mark this last week and he was telling me about his life and how he was going in one direction and one day he thought, “Man, I think I’m supposed to go this way.” And he just switched. He quit everything and went in a new direction, and now he’s got all this life.
And I was like, “Man! How did you make that switch?”
He was like, “I don’t know. It didn’t seem that hard,”
I was like, “You’re a crazy person!”
But he just trusted the Lord and, maybe he’s a special breed.
Then I spent some time with another guy a little later and it was the same thing. He said, “I don’t know. I just did it. It just seemed like a better thing to do to go for what God was saying.”
And I thought Who are these people? I mean, I’ve fought forever.
And I get that this can be complex and complicated. Because, if you were to quit your job, or do what God is asking you to do, you might lose a lot of funds. You might have to downsize. You might not get looked at or talked to the same way. You might not have titles after your name. You might have to sell something.
But would you rather be alive?
Here’s some motivations that will make sur your work is going to be miserable:
If your motivation for your occupation is one of these, you should quit your job:
If you’re motivated for money or greed, please just admit it and quit it.
America is not going to last that much longer, if you look at history at all. No nation is a world power for more than a few hundred years. It’s never happened, there’s a rise and there’s a fall. And we’re right in the middle of a great rise, no doubt about it. And I’m not saying, “It’s going to happen tomorrow. Or the next election cycle.” But we’re not any better than anybody else. Well, we’re probably better than some nations that have risen and fallen, but …
But Jesus is the only one that endures forever. His kingdom has no end. Every other kingdom has an end. And, if we’re living for money, it’s just going to burn everybody.
The second thing is, if your motivation for your occupation is fear or insecurity because you’re like, “I don’t know what would happen if I were to quit. I’m too scared of the3 unknown. Everything in me is screaming in me to quit, and yet, I’m just gripped by fear of what could happen.”
I’m not trying to take that away from you, but I”m saying that’s a horrible motivation for your occupation.
And this last one takes a bit more honesty and reflection, but if your motivation is image or idolatry, it’s time to make a change. You like being called doctor, or you like being called lawyer, even though it’s not life for you, but you like the way your mom and dad talk about you when they say you’re this or that and you’re living off that. I’ll tell you, it’s not going to lead to life for you or anybody you love.
I’m about to throw some more quotes at yup that are going to stir it up.
But first, in regard to work as an idol, I mean, we sell our souls for our jobs sometimes. That one line when the top of the line becomes the company goals, when we start breathing in the comp[any goals, some of us are there. And it’s not bad but it really quickly becomes something that is more important to us. Or we’re looking to it to give us what God wants to give us, that’s when it’s really dangerous. That’s when we’re full-fledged idolotrous.
In Genesis, God commissioned the work and Revelation is the culmination of that work, and you have this garden and this garden city, but then just after the creation of the garden, we have this thing called Babel rise up, where man is working in a way that is in the wrong direction from what the Lord wants him to do. And right before we have the garden city coming down, we have Babylon being done away with in Revelation—as these bookends once again.
And Babylon represents some sort of culture that is opposite of God, or this commercial reality this gross materialism that the world is constantly hungry for—all these things we bring in to our lives that are supposed to supply us what our hearts are longing for, that God can only truly supply us with. It’s an interesting study there.
I’m going to read a few more quotes from a guy named Howard Thurman, who, if you want to read more that he writes, it’s rich stuff.
Again, trying to answer this question before God, ourselves and our families. Are we going in the wright direction? Are we in the right work? Or are we in the wrong work?
“There’s something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
I’m here as a pastor, your pastor, to say, “Come on. Let’s no go that way. Let’s not be puppets on a monetary string.”
“There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. The first is, ‘Where I am going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’ And if you ever get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble.” Peer pressure.
And last, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and then go do it. Because what the world really needs is people who have come alive.”
And here’s what Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and that they may it to the full.”
Jesus knows how you are made. He knows what you are made for. And he’s already prepared that work in advance for you to walk in. It’s already set. He’s fashioned you for a specific work that the world needs you to do. And idolatry will keep us from it. And idolatry will steal, kill and destroy. Not only from you having life, but you having enough life to make all the others around you have life. That’s what we’re longing for in this work.
And again it’s not necessarily about your actual job. Hear me on that. Your job can be a fund raiser for the work that God’s wanting you to do. And maybe that will work. But whatever you’re doing, please don’t stay in a job if it’s just for money, if it has become idolatry in some way, shape or form. Talk to someone. Your wife or husband first. Talk to a pastor. Talk to somebody else. Maybe read a book. Counterfeit Gods by Time Keller or Garden City by Mark Comer — two I would recommend. And then make a move.
Jesus, those are some deep, deep words—the fact that we are your work, your handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for works that you have prepared in advance for us. And Lord, my prayer is that we wouldn’t miss it. We wouldn’t miss any of the work you want to do in our lives and we wouldn’t miss any of the work you want to do through our lives. Please, Jesus, by your Spirit just move in this room. Whisper in our ears. Prick our hearts. Convict our souls. Whatever it takes, Lord, to get us awake and free. Root out idolatry from our hearts and minds. Teach us about the economy of heaven. Help us become punk rock where we need to be. We’re so thankful for the jobs that we do have, Lord so thankful that we’re able to work. I pray for those without jobs and who may be unable to work. Lord, I pray that you would comfort them and you would show them the work you have for them; and they would be able to fulfill it and feel your pleasure upon them.
©️2019 Living Streams Church
7000 N Central Avenue ∙ Phoenix AZ 85020 ∙ 602-957-7500 ∙ https://www.livingstreams.org
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®.
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan.
All rights reserved worldwide.
©️2019 Living Streams Church
7000 N Central Avenue ∙ Phoenix AZ 85020 ∙ 602-957-7500 ∙ https://www.livingstreams.org
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® NIV®,
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture marked NLT is taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.