If life on earth is just preparation for the new heaven and new earth, why would we spend so much time, money, and brainwidth on things that aren’t going to last and instead focus all of our efforts on building for a retirement that will never end?
What About the Mundane?
Yes, the oil needs to be changed, the conference table has a big scratch and needs replacing, and your middle child needs help on her math homework. But is there anything in this list that can’t be done out of a spirit of eternal responsibility, faithfulness, and stewardship? Am I the only one who sees the connection between present obedience and eternal rewards? When we look at the menial tasks of daily living, do we do them knowing God is watching and waiting to reward us for being productive in all things, large and small?
Don’t Efficiency and Effectiveness Matter?
When it comes to productivity, I used to think only in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. But, if that’s where productivity ends, all I’d have wound up with are a lot of to-do lists converted to “to-done” lists. Gospel-driven productivity contains efficiency and effectiveness as elements, but the core of Clean Slate is not so much about getting more done in less time, rather being found faithful in the face of the Father.
The Aim of the Game
Jesus never told parables that ended in “well done, good and efficient servant”, did He? While Paul does command us to be fruitful or effective, God is the ultimate judge of what was effective or not. He will be the one to weigh both motives and outcomes and promises to reward us accordingly.
If we look at individual scriptures, we’ll find efficiency (Prov. 21:5, Eph. 5:15-16, Matt. 25:14-30, etc.). We’ll find effectiveness (1 Cor. 16:9, Philemon 1:6, Phil. 1.22, etc.). Heck, we’ll even find excellence & zeal, (Col. 3:23, Eph. 6:7) right? But, I believe if we comb the entirety of scripture, we’ll see something much more sizeable, significant, and simple as we seek God’s definition of productivity. Here’s my definition from a biblical perspective:
Gospel-driven productivity: Right things, done well, in God’s power and timing, for His glory.
Productivity happens when faithful followers take extreme ownership of the stewardships God has entrusted to them and in gratitude for what Christ has done and will do (2 Cor. 5:10), work diligently at them. It involves everything that comes across our desk, our phones, our inboxes and beyond.
What are you doing regularly at work, at home, and elsewhere to ensure you’re doing right things well in God’s power and timing and for His glory?
Below is a re-post from Stand To Reason’s Greg Koukl. I met some of Greg’s staff and volunteers a few years ago at BIOLA and immediately recognized him as someone who “gets it” when it comes to grace… and Jesus… and the cross. I hope you’ll visit his site, learn about his ministry, and be encouraged by his word.
Sometimes, knowing what Jesus did not come to do is almost as important as knowing what He did come to do because a wrong understanding of the first can lead to confusion on the second.
Two groups seem to go astray here.
The first are non-Christians enamored with Jesus for what they take to be His emphasis on the Golden Rule, love for one’s neighbor, concern for the poor and the outcast, and “tolerance” (the latter understood as accepting all and judging none)—broadly what has come to be called “social justice.”
The second group are Christians who, focusing on the “red letter” sections of the Gospels—the actual words of Jesus often rendered in red so they stand out—come to the same conclusion as the first group, on the main. These believers ask, “What if Jesus meant what He said?” in discourses like the Sermon on the Mount. Again, social justice.
For those tempted to summarize Jesus this way, consider for a moment the final record of Jesus’ life—the last testament of His purpose and mission—written by one of Jesus’ intimate inner circle, the “beloved” disciple John.
Surprisingly, from John 1:1 to John 21:25 there is not a single verse that advances the cause of social justice. Not one. Jesus’ only mention of the poor is this—“The poor you always have with you” (Jn. 12:8).
Check any major discourse of Jesus—the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), the Bread of Life Discourse (Jn. 6), the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24, Lk. 21, Mk. 13), or the Upper Room Discourse (Jn. 13-17)—and you will search in vain for emphasis on the social gospel. Why?
Indeed, check any Gospel. Yes, occasionally you will find a mention of the poor, but almost always when Jesus is making a point about something else—hypocrisy (Matt. 6:2-3), a widow’s generosity (Lk. 21:2-3), Zaccheus’s repentance (Lk. 19:8), the rich young ruler’s confusion (Matt. 19:21), or a lesson about the afterlife (Lk. 16:20, 22). Why?
Greg Koukl, Stand to Reason
Because proclaiming social justice was not Jesus’ mission. Jesus’ discourses focus on something else. The Gospels focus on something else. The Epistles focus on something else. Not on the works of Christians, but rather on the work of Christ.
It isn’t the poor who Jesus commends on the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere), but rather the poor in Spirit, not the poverty stricken, but the morally broken.
Picture the tax collector Jesus tells about—hardly destitute—beating his breast pleading, “God be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:9-14). This man proclaiming his spiritual poverty went away justified while the Pharisee, whose spiritual arrogance clouded his genuine spiritual need, did not.
The main divide for Jesus was not between the poor and the rich, but between the proud and the repentant. In His own words:
• “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 6:32).
• “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
• “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” ( Lk. 19:10).
• “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:17).
I point this out not to deemphasize our obligation to the poor because certainly the Bible teaches us to be compassionate and help those in material need. I point this out to emphasize the centrality of the Gospel. Did Jesus care about the poor and downtrodden? Of course He did. He also cared about the rich and powerful. Jesus helped everyone and anyone who came to Him—poor beggar or prostitute, wealthy tax collector or Pharisee.
“Social justice”—a.k.a. the “social gospel”—is not the Gospel. It was not Jesus’ message. It is not why He came. His real message was much more radical.
“What if Jesus meant what He said?” Indeed. That’s my question, too.
So many confusing messages and well-meaning, yet unbiblical viewpoints find their way to the forefront of our society. But at Stand to Reason, we continue to dedicate ourselves to ensuring you and others live and act in light of the true Gospel of Christ.
The week after “Snowmageddon” had most of Atlanta iced into their homes, we drove a quick hour away for a quick “staycation” in Helen, GA. Nothing fancy, bargain hotel deal with a pool to wear out the toddlers and breakfast included. Just had to get out of the house, you know? After a post-breakfast stroll, I went back to the hotel to find 3 urgent voice mails eagerly awaiting on my cell. It wasn’t “good” news: my sister Shanua, had suffered a stroke…in India… and the brain bleeding looked like it could go from bad to worse. Shortly after admission to ICU, the doctor gave her 24-48 hours to live. “Fine, how was your breakfast?”
I’m 42. My sister’s only a couple years my senior. Nobody in my family dies of a stroke in their 40s! Do they?
A few days pass, tons of prayer across the country, some emergency expediting of visas takes place and a few family members make haste to her side at the ICU. She’s better, still a little numb on one side, but would have to return to the States to complete her very miraculous turnaround and recovery. The day before she arrived home I got the news one of our most beloved uncles died. It was tough news for me and would be tough news for her even under normal circumstances. I spoke with her on the phone yesterday morning, she had taken it well. I could tell she was a bit busy wrapping her brain around the fact that her brain had almost taken her out… “Less than 10% of people who went through what I went through survive.”
Today, with my sister’s miracle as the first word of the sentence and Uncle Rufus’ death as the period, I understand a phrase that Shanua now knows in all too vivid detail: we all have an expiration date.
“the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:27b)”
Pretend one of these guys is your boss for a moment… Will ya?
Meet the New Boss Pick your hero of industry – Trump, Gates, Ellison, whoever – they’re your boss and you’re their direct report. At a private lunch they tell you about this amazing concept that’s going to revolutionize your industry, even the world. It’s one of those ideas that’s actually been around for a long time, but the company got busy with other things, and now the simplest, cleanest idea that actually launched the whole industry has become crystal clear, relevant, and the timing has never been better!
As the check comes, he drops the bomb on you – “We’re going to give the technology/idea away for free and I want you to be the worldwide spokesman for the campaign!”
John the Baptist had a great head on his shoulders – lived outside the mainstream, ate non-GMO honey and free-range grass fed locusts, wore organic clothes… But, he also had an amazing attitude. Despite the fact that God had given him the same news “you’re going to be the worldwide spokesman for the free gift of the oldest, simplest concept, ever!” John kept an incredibly level, sober head. “This idea I’m about to drop on you comes from the biggest boss out there – I’m not going to take an ounce of credit for it, but you’d best pay attention.” There are two ways to look at this – “I’m such a loser. I’ve been wracking my brain for years and the Boss comes up with something so big it even makes my life simpler, because I’ve been complicating my life for all my life.” This is not the Gospel. The Lord of Grace doesn’t lord grace over our heads to make us feel like crap. Second way to look at this is honor by association – “Our company’s idea kicks your company’s butt so bad and you’d better listen to me because I’m with company X!”
If I were John, I’d have probably erred on the side of #2 and gotten cocky because my boss is bigger than all of your bosses combined and he tasked me with bringing the greatest idea, ever, to market.
The good news of Christianity is the Gospel of grace – we don’t deserve anything but God’s wrath and yet He’s sparing us from that so long as we repent and turn back to Him. The great news about the good news is not only is option 2 put to death by the humility of Ephesians 2:8-9, but also option 1 is over as well. Condemnation is through (see Romans 8:1). We can keep our heads bowed in humility rather than condemnation, yet held high as we boast in the Cross of Christ and the power of God (Gal 6:14).
One of Cristine’s favorite Old Testament figures is King Josiah. Thrust onto the throne at age 8 after his father was assassinated by his own cabinet at the end of his two year reign. How does an eight year old kid cope with his dad’s untimely murder? The same way you and I ought to respond – “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.”
I’m sure he grieved the loss. I lost my dad to divorce when I was about his age. My dad was still alive and it marked me for life. I won’t sit here and tell you it was easy. But, Josiah’s heart was all God’s. At eight, he’s crowned. At 16 he begins massive reform figuratively equivalent to bombing ESPN, MTV, FOX, and NBC’s broadcasting operations (2 Chron 34:3-6). He completely turned their culture upside-down. At 26, he restores the temple and the Book of the Law was found.
If I’m this 26 year old “kid”, I’d be feeling pretty good about myself at this point – I’ve made up for my father’s wickedness, I’m serving the one, true, living God and routing out all other rival gods… I’d be fired up to see how my actions were lining up with this famous manuscript. It’s report card time!
I don’t know how far off the mark Josiah was or even where he was missing the mark, but when he read the text, he “tore his robes (v. 19)” in shame. Even though God had put the wheels in motion to begin the demise and exile of Israel because of their wicked disobedience to Him, the prophet Huldah tells the administration that Josiah will be spared this destruction. For the remaining 13 years of his reign, it’s pretty much “all good in the ‘hood” for Israel and they celebrate a Passover feast that even rivals anything put on in the time of King Solomon or even David, all on Josiah’s dime.
The key is pretty obvious here – God postpones judgment on Israel a few years “because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God… (v 27)” It’s a gospel message all over again. Repent – change your mind and turn your heart away from idols and lesser gods – and you shall be saved.
Seasons of Life is about relationships restored, first to the Father, then to the people. When our vertical relationship with Him is intact, often the relationships with those around us bang on all four cylinders with less stalling and coughing. In relationships, one of the greatest idols that comes between us and our God is expectation. When pride gets the best of us, we bank all we have on our plans and expectations of how things should go, people should act, outcomes should manifest. In so doing, we leave little or no room for the plans of God, leading to death, destruction, depression, and/or discouragement either figuratively or literally.
The Good News:
As always, the gospel offers a reset button of sorts. When we set aside our altars and high places, holding our plans with open hands, we’re free to let God remove from our hands what is temporarily “ours” and replace it with what He knows we really need. With open hands we also lower the risk of losing our fingers when He removes something from our possession very quickly.
As we grieve our oldest daughter’s departure to live with her dad, we thank many of you for your heartfelt prayers and encouragement. We thank others for tearing their clothes, sitting on an ash heap with us, and weeping without words. But, we also thank God that He has shown us two things: 1) that our children are not ours forever – we are to raise, love, and steward them as any other charge He grants us and 2) that we can trust Him with the expectations we had for how her life would go. Yes, we must grieve the loss of “our plans”, but Josiah’s dextrous feet shifted his balance so nimbly. God grants us the grace to repent of our plans, however good they may have been, and concede to His higher, greater, and better plans.
What expectations are you holding onto? Will you trust God as Josiah did and run full force in the opposite direction if God so guides you? Even if it means going against what culture and comfort say is right?
The Better News:
The message of the gospel is not “be good”. It’s “an A+ is completely unattainable” or “you’re wicked and completely incapable of pleasing God, so He did it for you.” You don’t have to try harder to tear down the altars and high places in your life. You’re incapable of doing it on your own. Thank God!!!
Be encouraged. Jesus took your test and passed it with flying colors! His grade can be trusted.