It is all too common for Christians to think that service to God is something that takes place either in the context of the local church — teaching Sunday school, shoveling the church sidewalks, leading a small group — or something that brings explicitly Christian teaching into the world by using your job as a platform for sharing your faith with your friends and colleagues who aren’t yet Christians.
But it's here where the gospel rescues us. Check out this word from the Apostle Paul: “But we urge you, brothers… to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:10–12).
Apparently, this is what it means to live a life in line with the gospel. Why? Three reasons:
1. Because the gospel is a message about the restoration of all creation, not just what happens week to week in a local church. Colossians 1:19–20 says, "For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." It wasn't just your spiritual life that was reconciled to God by the cross, but your entire life.
2. More than that, this word to the Thessalonians is an entailment of how to walk to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1), which is another way of talking about sanctification. Funny, isn't it? I'll bet when you wrote up your list of ways to pursue holiness, you never included, "Work with your hands"! It's far more likely that you listed things like personal Bible study and prayer. But if working with your hands is part of what it means to live a holy life, then the sanctification of the gospel must involve more than the spiritual.
3. Finally, you have to keep in mind just how much you're looking to your service in the church as your righteousness. If you're a church veteran, you've rarely heard service to God couched in terms of what you do inside and outside of local church life. This has made you susceptible to the lie that if you can log enough hours at church — working in the nursery, singing with the worship team, leading a ministry, or whatever — then you can be confident of the Father's acceptance.
The gospel utterly destroys this kind of thinking. The gospel says, "It is on the basis of Jesus's service to his father that you are accepted." So the question is, Did he do enough? Answer: absolutely! There's no more left for you to do. Your service to God in the church or in the world doesn't contribute a single accomplishment to your resume. The only list of accomplishments the Father sees for you is the one amassed by Jesus, who said, "It is finished!"
R W Glenn is a seminar speaker at our National Conference on the topic "Work and Rest." Visit the event page to learn more or register.
Recent posts related to our National Conference:
- Jumpstart Your Stalled Sanctification (David Mathis)
- Power in Weakness: Living Out the Miracle of Sanctification (Ed Welch)
- The Foundational Action of God (Jarvis Williams)