Being An Ambassador

Follow up post from Joe Lechners Sermon on 2 Corinthian 5:16-6:2 as a part of our True Gospel Ministry series.

Living with NEW EYES and a NEW PURPOSE, Paul’s goal is to see men and women RECONCILED to God.

Three main points to Paul’s Message – New Eyes, New Purpose, Reconciliation

I.   New Eyes 

The reality of death and judgment and this deep, personal awareness of the love of Christ – gave Paul NEW EYES… new eyes with which to see the world; to see people.

Brothers and sisters, this is an exceedingly important point to understand.

See, Paul is saying, at one time people were just people… some I liked, some I didn’t, most I didn’t give a second thought about.  They had their lives, I had mine, and we just try and peacefully co-exist together without getting in each other’s way too much.  People are people – nothing special – no big deal – the world is full of them.

But NOW in light of the reality of death and judgment and this deep, personal awareness of Christ’s love – there is a radical change in Paul’s perspective toward all people – he does not regard them according to the flesh; from a worldly point of view – he sees them with new eyes.  People are not just people anymore.

Every single person you meet, you know, you talk to, you see – every single person you come across and that exists on this planet is either going to spend eternity in heaven as an object of God’s mercy or they’re going to spend an eternity in hell as an object of God’s wrath.

That is what new eyes see.  In addition, what makes the difference where someone will spend eternity is what they do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And THAT transforms how I see people.

That person across the street, that person at the other desk in the office, that person in your class, that person in the car behind you at the intersection, the person sitting next to you right now – no mere mortal! That person is an immortal soul that is going to live forever somewhere – nobody is ordinary in that sense – and their minute will come when they will join the next 100 people to enter eternity and stand before God. Every minute it happens, and the ultimate difference maker in people’s destiny is what they do with Jesus Christ in the brief life they have on this planet.

How are your eyes?  What do you see when you see people?  Your neighbor, your co-worker, your sibling, the guy on your soccer team or who lives across the street, the woman who lives three houses down or in the car beside you, or the person sitting next to you right now – what do you see when you look at them?  Do you view them from a worldly perspective (just a person, taking up my space, breathing my oxygen) or an eternal perspective (immortal soul that will live forever somewhere)?

Paul makes this somewhat curious statement in the second half of v16 – “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.”  What does that mean and what does it have to do with what he is saying?

When Saul first looked at Jesus, he saw him as a Messianic Pretender – a False Messiah – a crucified loser – because God’s word says everyone who hangs on the tree is cursed and that is exactly how he saw him.

But not anymore… he sees him like this:  he sees Him as the One who loved me and died for me and was raised for me (v.14,15); I see Him as the One through Whom God is reconciling the world to himself not counting the worlds sins against it (v.19).  He sees Him as the One who was made sin for me so that he could be made righteous before God (v.21) – He sees Him as the One in whom there is salvation (6:2).

Paul is saying the same kind of radical transformation that happened in how we see CHRIST – has happened in the way we see ALL PEOPLE.  The way our eyes were opened to see CHRIST differently is the way our eyes have been opened to see people differently. We see CHRIST with NEW EYES and so we see PEOPLE with NEW EYES! They naturally go together – that if you see Christ with new eyes you SHOULD see people with new eyes. Therefore, it is true for you too.  If you are in Christ – you are a new creation.  The old way of LIVING is past (v.15) – And the old way of SEEING is past (v.16)

Why?  (v.17) The NEW has come!  I am a new creation in Christ – and the new creation has given me new life and it has given me new eyes – and those new eyes have given me a new perspective on how I see people.  I do not view them for a worldly point of view any longer – there is an eternal perspective with which these new eyes now see things.

Therefore, brothers and sisters – How are your eyes?  What do you see when you see people?   If you are a new creation in Christ, are you living with new eyes? However, it is not just NEW EYES Paul’s living with but as the flow of the argument goes he is also living with NEW PURPOSE.

II.  New Purpose 

Here is the new purpose of our life:  It is a ministry to bear witness to the message of reconciliation between God and man (the gospel of JC) as God’s ambassador so that He can make his appeal through me.

We have a new calling – a new purpose, we have a ministry, and we have a mission:  we are ambassadors for Him (the One I fear, the One who’s loved me, who’s made me new, who’s reconciled me, forgiven me, saved me).  We represent him now.  We are on His mission now, as His ambassador He has entrusted us with a message, and he has called us to bear witness to it so that He can make His appeal through us.

It should completely reorient our purpose in life. We are now, officially his ambassadors.  When he made you a new creation in Christ – he gave you a new purpose in life.

You look up the word AMBASSADOR – and it is defined as: an accredited diplomat sent by a country, as the country’s official representative to a foreign country.

When it says all this is from God… part of “all this” – is that God has made us diplomats of his heavenly country SENT by Him into the country of this world to officially represent him with the message of reconciliation that He has given us so that He can make his appeal through us.

Some might ask “Well, is this true for all of us or is this just true for Paul?  Isn’t Paul just specifically talking about his own unique call and ministry to the Corinthians – am I really to apply this to myself in the same way?” 

We, brothers and sisters – ALL of us are His ambassadors – and therefore we are ALL sent – sent by Him, sent to represent Him, and sent with the message He has given us… We are ALL therefore, in that sense, MISSIONARIES… every last one of us.

What comes to your mind when you hear that word ‘missionary’ – perhaps, that’s just a word that you reserve for those who pack up their bags and head to Africa and India to be missionaries on that mission field…

Living with NEW EYES, it is now the NEW PURPOSE for which we also live.  Brothers and sisters – do you think of yourself as an AMBASSADOR?  Do you think of yourself as a MISSIONARY?  Do you understand who you are in Christ?  That this earth is not your home… but you’ve been sent into the places in which you live (the schools, the work, the neighborhoods) by the King of the heavenly country – to represent that country, to represent that King, entrusted by Him to deliver the message he has given us so that He might make His appeal through you?

Having given us NEW EYES – it is the NEW PURPSOE for which He has called us to live.  it changes everything.

Every place you go becomes a context for gospel mission – every class, every job, every relationship are mission fields where God has sent you as His ambassador….  grades, degrees, career, money, education, employment – it’s all secondary to this calling as an Ambassador; secondary to bearing witness to Christ in every word, every action, every place and every relationship.

All of life is now about gospel mission. Why is that?  Because you have a new purpose – you are an ambassador (That’s your job title; that’s the degree your after) – you are a missionary – you have mission fields – right where God has sovereignly placed you. Go out those doors – pull into your drive way – show up for work on Monday – head to class on Monday – and ask yourself:  How did I get here and what in the world am I doing here?

If you are a Christian – you were SENT there!  How did you get there?  What are you doing there?  You were SENT there by the Sovereign One. You are an Ambassador and that is the foreign country that you were sent to represent your King and His country.  You are a missionary and that is the mission field you were sent to so that He might make His appeal through you. Why?  What is the great GOAL of it all?  RECONCILIATION.

III.  Reconciliation 

The relation that naturally exists between God and men is one of enmity and hostility.  We are opposed to God in our sin, and God is opposed to our sin in His holiness.  Left in our sins there is no peace between us and God, just war. (You will lose – die in your sin – die separated from God)

Reconciliation – Christ became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.  We have been reconciled to God and given the mission of being ambassadors of God preaching the reconciling message of the gospel.

ONE – An appeal to see the world; to see people with NEW EYES?  Many people are just one relationship away from coming to Christ – and so often, those relationships start by seeing people with new eyes.  How do you see people?

TWO – Secondly, an appeal to live with a NEW PURPOSE in this world.  To live conscious of the fact that you are an Ambassador for Christ (Do you know that you’re an Ambassador?  An Ambassador has no other agenda than to represent the one who sent him) – a Missionary sent to the mission fields He has sovereignly placed you in.

Is that how you see your purpose in this world?  Are you conscience of the fact that every day you live in mission fields that God has sent you to as His Ambassador and His Missionary?  (You are there every day – do you recognize it)

Do you realize he has entrusted to YOU the message of reconciliation and that through YOU he is – he can – he will – make His appeal through you?

Brothers and sisters, let us live with NEW EYES and NEW PURPOSE and with those NEW EYES and that NEW PURPOSE may our ambition, our desire, our GOAL be to see men and women reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior.

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How To Articulate a Christian Worldview in Four Easy Steps

KEVIN DEYOUNG

One God. We worship one, personal, knowable, holy God. There are not two gods or ten gods or ten million gods, only one. He has always been and will always be. He is not a product of our mind or imagination. He really exists and we can know him because he has spoken to us in his word.

Two kinds of being. We are not gods. God is not found in the trees or the wind or in us. He created the universe and cares for all that he has made, but he is distinct from his creation. The story of the world is not about being released from the illusion of our existence or discovering the god within. The story is about God, the people he made, and how the creatures can learn to delight in, trust in, and obey their Creator.

Three persons. The one God exists eternally in three persons. The Father is God. The Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is God. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, is also God. And yet these three—equal in glory, rank, and power—are three persons. The doctrine of the Trinity helps explain how there can be true unity and diversity in our world. It also shows that our God is a relational God.

For us. Something happened in history that changed the world. The Son of God came into the world as a man, perfectly obeyed his Father, fulfilled Israel’s purpose, succeeded where Adam failed, and began the process of reversing the curse. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. He rose again from the dead on the third day. By faith in him our sins can be forgiven and we can be assured of living forever with God and one day being raised from the dead like Christ.

Obviously, this doesn’t say everything that needs to be said about the Bible or Christianity. But I find it to be a helpful way to get a handle on some of the most important distinctives of a Christian worldview. Feel free to steal it and use it for yourself. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

The 4 P’s of Business – by Kevin DeYoung

Although many readers of this blog are in full time ministry, most Christians aren’t. Many Christians inhabit the world of business, a realm that pastors frequently berate and misunderstand. There are dilemmas faced in the business world that go unnoticed by other Christians. Recently I preached asermon on business ethics from Proverbs that touched on some of those issues.

I structured my sermon around four priorities of business. I can’t recall where I first encountered these 4 P’s, but they have been useful to me in articulating a concise vision for business ethics.

Here are the four P’s in ascending order of importance.

Profit

A profit is what you get when you sell a product (goods or services) for more than the cost to produce it. Products do not have intrinsic value. Beckett Monthly can say that a baseball card is worth $100, but it’s not really worth anything unless someone would rather have that card instead of $100. There is nothing wrong with making a profit.

If the system is fair and you’re fair, profits show that you are providing people with a good or service they find valuable. In many case, you actually help others as you seek to help yourself. Not all self-interest is selfish.

We know profit is not evil because the woman in Proverbs 31 was commended for making a profit (Prov. 31:16-1824). In fact, Proverbs understands human nature and that people are motivated by the promise of material gain (Prov. 16:26). Being rewarded for labor is the way God designed the world. To frustrate that design is to spit into the wind.

Every business that lasts will find a way to make a profit. This is a good pursuit, so long as this pursuit is not ultimate. There are other priorities for the Christian that must be more important than profit.

Product

A Christian aims to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31). This means Christians in business should design goods and provide services they can be proud of. This doesn’t mean Christians only make top of the line products. It means, however, that Christians should seek to provide people with goods and services that add to human flourishing, whether that is a bouquet of flowers, a breakfast cereal, or an investment tool.

We must not draw the circle too tightly around the phrase “human flourishing.” Certainly there are some products we know are not worthwhile (e.g., pornography), but in a diverse world there are many ways to “give people what they want” without giving them the idolatrous version of what they want. Just because you hate television doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for Christians in the industry.

People

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to being a Christian businessperson: don’t look out only for your bottom line. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenue with injustice” (Prov 16:8). This may mean you don’t close on a sale that would help you, because you’re pretty sure it would hurt your customer. Or it may mean you do business in a bad part of town because the neighborhood needs it, even if you won’t make much money there.

There are hundreds of ways in which Christians in business should make people a priority. For example, Proverbs tells the rich person not to hold on to all his grain in the midst of a famine (Prov. 11:24-26). You can imagine the temptation to hold on to your surplus until prices rise even higher. But God expects us to put the well being of people above the well being of our margins. In a different vein, Proverbs 26:10 encourages employers to hire wisely. This too is a way of caring for people. Employers have a responsibility to make wise decisions, to manage well and hire intelligently. If they are fools who hire fools, the public will suffer and so will the other employees.

Principles

Christians in business must be true to biblical principles above all else. I see at least three business principles in Proverbs.

First, we must obey the law. “The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice” (Prov. 17:23). There is nothing more important for general economic prosperity than respect for private property and the rule of law. These are the building blocks of social capital and the way God expects us to manage our business.

Second, don’t promise what you aren’t willing or able to deliver. Proverbs often warns against putting up security for someone else (6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26-27; 27:13). This may not mean it’s always wrong to co-sign a loan, because these are probably instances where the security could not be paid (Prov. 22:26-27). But at the very least, the Bible has nothing good to say about putting up security. Better to give the money if you have it or avoid altogether the entanglements of securing a loan. The folly is in promising more than you can deliver.

Third, always tell the truth. “A false balance is an abomination to the lord, but a just weight is his delight” (Prov. 11:1; see also 16:11; 20:10, 23). Christians do not lie, not even in advertisements. We will not bait and switch. We don’t cheat, and we won’t hide the facts that consumers have a right to know. Note also that buyers can lie, saying “Bad, bad” at the point of a sale, but then boasting as he walks away (Prov. 20:14). No matter our part in the transaction, we must tell the truth.

Conclusion

The four points can be summarized with two general rules:

1) Love your neighbor as yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer (or buyer) and think how you would like to be treated.

2) Look to Jesus. Not only does he provide the grace for walking in the way of wisdom, he also is the perfect example of putting people before profit and honoring God’s principles before his own desires.

A Theology for Monday Morning

Editor’s note: This is the final article by Bob Thune on “A Theology of Work.” Read the first three articles:

So far I’ve tried to sketch a broad biblical theology of work. So how should this theology change what you do tomorrow? Here are my four best answers.

First, just work hard. Go to work tomorrow or next month or next year and do your absolute best. Be the best employee, the best manager, the best associate you can be. Seek to be known as the most honest, most humble, most ethical, most competent person in your field. And do all of this not to advance your own career but to honor God’s name. If you desperately want to see all of your co-workers saved, but you have a habit of not showing up to work on time, people will be annoyed and your witness will be compromised and God will not be honored. There are already enough people like that. Don’t be one of them.

Second, don’t expect life at work to be peachy. We all know the way-too-happy Christians who go to work thinking that since they love Jesus, everything is going to work out. It’s not. You might miss your quota. You might lose a client. You might get fired. You might have conflict with your boss or your co-workers. These things don’t mean that Jesus doesn’t love you or that God is punishing you. Rather, they are the inevitable result of living in a fallen world. Remember: thorns and thistles. Work is cursed. Work is affected by the fall. Work doesn’t always work the way it should. So have a massively God-sized view of the holiness of work (creation). But be realistic about the Fall, too. Jesus hasn’t come back yet.

Third, learn the Ten Commandments. Especially the fourth one: the Sabbath. You’ve probably been breaking it your whole life. Now would be a good time to stop. Rest is a deeply spiritual thing. And God intends it to be a regular part of the weekly rhythm of your life. Most of us are so used to music and TV and e-mail and social interaction and recreation and conversations and busyness that we have forgotten the art of resting. The best thing you can do for yourself, for your employer, for your career, and for the glory of God is to set apart one day in your week when you can’t be reached. When your cell phone is off. When you don’t go online. When you take a really long nap. When you worship with other believers. When you take a walk or watch a sunset or read a good book.

If your work obligations don’t permit a 24-hour period of rest every week, then consider taking a personal day every month for solitude and silence and rest. Your co-workers will take a “personal day” when a pet dies or when a girlfriend breaks up with them or when they are hung over from a long weekend. Are you really going to feel guilty for taking one day out of every 30 to refresh your soul through intimate communion with the God of the universe? I hope not.

Fourth, learn to pray the Lord’s Prayer. There’s a reason Jesus taught his disciples to “pray in this way.” Jesus, the master teacher, knew that we become what we pray. When our prayers focus on our needs and our agendas and the ways we want God to bless us, we become self-centered, myopic people. To save us from this, Jesus gave us a pattern for prayer that keeps our eyes on the Father’s name, the Father’s kingdom, the Father’s will. Using this pattern will help you remember that work, like all of life, is about God, not you. So get yourself into the discipline of praying the Lord’s Prayer before work and after work and during work. Not to get God to do something for you, but to get yourself into a God-centered rhythm of life.

My friend David left full-time ministry to be a rancher in rural Washington. He said God was calling him to do it. At the time, I didn’t quite get it. I was still working under the assumption that God calls people into the ministry, not out of it. Leaving the ministry didn’t make sense.

But it does now. Being a rancher is no less glorifying to God than being a minister. If you’re going to be a rancher, I hope you approach your work with the same sense of calling as my friend David. Raise cattle to the glory of God, already! If ranching isn’t your thing, then do whatever is your thing with a God-entranced vision of vocation. As Paul said to the Colossians, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. . . . It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23-24). And that’s true whether you’re preaching sermons or branding cattle or selling stocks.

Now stop reading and get to work.

Bob Thune is the lead pastor of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He planted Coram Deo in 2005 after prior stints as a megachurch college pastor and a Campus Crusade staff member. Thune is also the co-author of The Gospel-Centered Life, a small-group curriculum that has sold more than 40,000 copies and helped Christians all over the world understand the centrality of the gospel in all of life.

 

Work Cursed and Redeemed

Editor’s note: This is the third of four articles by Bob Thune on “A Theology of Work.” Read the others:

Work is what we were created for. It is part of God’s good design. But when sin entered the picture, work was cursed.

Then to Adam [God] said . . .

Cursed is the ground because of you;

In toil you will eat of it

All the days of your life.

Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

And you will eat the plants of the field;

By the sweat of your face

You will eat bread,

Till you return to the ground . . . (Genesis 3:17-19)

Because of the Fall, work is hard. Work involves sweat and toil, thorns and thistles. Or, if you prefer, work involves stress and overtime and belligerent bosses and mundane meetings. Not everything in the world of work is as it should be. Work has been cursed. But work is still good.

It’s important that we see both the goodness of work in God’s original creation and the struggle of work under the Fall. If we only see the good, we’ll be frustrated when things don’t go as they should. If we only see the bad, we’ll have a hard time doing our work to the glory of God. Work is not all good, and it’s not all bad. It is part of God’s good creation, which has been tainted by the Fall. And God is at work to redeem work.

Romans 8:20-21 says, “The creation was subjected to frustration . . . in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Through us, God is after the renewal of creation. Grace doesn’t just change our eternal destiny. It changes our whole worldview, our entire basis for living, the grid through which we see the world. Redemption affects every part of us. And through us, God’s redemption is extended into the world around us.

So redemption in Christ must transform our view of work. No longer is work a necessary evil. It is now a calling. Work now has great spiritual significance, because it is a chance for God to be glorified. Remember 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A similar command is given in Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” When you show up at your job, you’re there for the glory of God. God wants to be honored in what you do and in how you do it.

What are some ways that God can be glorified in our work? Consider these biblical ideas:

  • God is glorified when we put our whole selves into our work, with a view toward pleasing God, not men (Col. 3:23-24).
  • God is glorified when we are honest, even when it hurts us or prevents us from getting ahead (Ps. 15, Gen. 39).
  • God is glorified when we honor our superiors and submit to their authority (1 Tim. 6:1; Rom. 13:7).
  • God is glorified when we treat our work associates with kindness and respect (Luke 6:31; Rom. 12:18).
  • God is glorified when we expose fraud or dishonesty or unethical behavior (Eph. 5:11-13).
  • God is glorified when we approach our work prayerfully (1 Thess. 5:17).
  • God is glorified when we avoid complaining or grumbling, even in less-than-ideal work situations (Phil. 2:14-15).
  • God is glorified when we refuse to make work and money our idols (Matt. 6:24; Ecc. 5:10-12).
  • God is glorified when we plan diligently for the future (Prov. 21:5).
  • God is glorified when we live simply and give generously (Prov. 22:9; 1 Tim. 6:17-19).
  • God is glorified when we trust him to provide today what we need for today (Matt. 6:11).
  • God is glorified when we rest from work (Deut. 5:13-15; Ps. 46:10).

In all these ways and many more, we can do our work to the glory of God.

Bob Thune is the lead pastor of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He planted Coram Deo in 2005 after prior stints as a megachurch college pastor and a Campus Crusade staff member. Thune is also the co-author of The Gospel-Centered Life, a small-group curriculum that has sold more than 40,000 copies and helped Christians all over the world understand the centrality of the gospel in all of life.

 

Created for Work

Editor’s note: This is the second of four articles by Bob Thune on “A Theology of Work.” Read the others:

To straighten out our malformed theology of work, we need to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . . . Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it (Gen 2:7-9; 15).

The most notable thing about this passage is that it takes place before the Fall. Work is not a result of sin. It is part of God’s original design for humanity. The word cultivate in Genesis 2:15 is actually the Hebrew word for work or service. The word keep carries the idea of care or protection. God put Adam in the garden of Eden to work it and to care for it.

Let this sink in: Work is what we were created for.

It’s right there in the Bible, plain as day. God created you to work. And that’s only the beginning of the story! Adam started out tending a garden, but God had much bigger plans in mind.

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:27-28).

Adam’s dominion over the garden was to expand into dominion over the whole earth. By producing godly offspring and teaching them to work, Adam and Eve were to subdue all of creation. The language of subduing and ruling mirrors what God did in creation: turning chaos into order. Adam and Eve are to turn the whole earth into the Garden of Eden. And it won’t happen by magic, but by concerted effort.

Theologians call Genesis 1:27-28 the “cultural mandate.” God is mandating that humans will create culture. Adam and Eve will produce children. Those children will create families, and those families will band together into cities and social networks. Those networks of human beings will reflect all the aspects of human culture—language and art and music and food and philosophy and theology.

It is no accident that the ultimate biblical picture of redeemed humanity involves a city (Rev. 21:2). A city reflects human culture in its most developed and complex forms. God’s purpose for humanity started in a garden, but it culminates in a great cultural center. One of my seminary professors used to say, “God expected Adam and Eve to split the atom.” He didn’t just intend for them to have babies and plant trees. They were meant to exercise dominion over all of creation, turning the entire earth into a showcase of the glory and beauty and majesty of God—and then working it and caring for it for all of eternity.

So work was God’s design from the beginning. And the ultimate goal was for every aspect of life and culture to be saturated with the beauty and glory and love of God.

Bob Thune is the lead pastor of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He planted Coram Deo in 2005 after prior stints as a megachurch college pastor and a Campus Crusade staff member. Thune is also the co-author of The Gospel-Centered Life, a small-group curriculum that has sold more than 40,000 copies and helped Christians all over the world understand the centrality of the gospel in all of life.

 

What Are You Called to Do? A Theology of Work

Editor’s note: This is the first of four articles by Bob Thune on “A Theology of Work.” Read the others:

A friend of mine left a well-paying job to join the staff of a Christian ministry. She described her decision something like this: “Working a normal job, I had to spend 40 or 50 hours a week doing what my employer wants. Ministry had to come second. But now, I’ll be free to devote all my time to God and to ministry.”

I understand what my friend is trying to say. When I first heard her say it in a room full of Christian friends, I nodded along with everyone else. After all, it sounds so . . . spiritual.

And that’s the problem. Behind this perspective lay some deeply rooted misconceptions about work and spirituality. Without disrespecting my friend and others like her, I’d like to try and right the ship. I’d like to help us think more deeply and biblically about how the gospel informs our work.

What to Do?

When I was a senior in college, I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about what to do next. One of the words my mentors threw around a lot was the word calling. As in, “What is God calling you to do?”

I had a love-hate relationship with this idea of calling. On the one hand, God is a relational being, so he must call people into certain things. On the other hand, there seemed to be two classes of Christians: those who do regular work, and those who are called into ministry.

After I joined the world of full-time ministry, this classism was reiterated. One of my mentors in campus ministry said that ministers have a special calling from God that other people don’t. I immediately put this idea to work in raising support, telling people, “Sinceyou haven’t been called into vocational ministry, you should support people like me, whohave been!”

It wasn’t until a few years later that someone pointed out to me an interesting fact: the root of the English word vocation is the Latin verb voca, which means “to call.” The linguistic evidence shows that at some point in history, people thought of every type of work as a “calling.” Whether you are a minister or a mechanic, you do not work because it pays the bills, or because it’s personally fulfilling, or because it justifies the money you spent on college tuition. You work because it glorifies God.

Transforming Our View of Work Itself

If we are to live all of life for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), then we need a God-centered view of work. It’s not enough that we try to honor God in how we do our work, or that we try to be Christlike to people at work, or that we support God’s kingdom with the money we make from work. The glory of God must inform and transform our view of work itself.

Here’s what I mean: most non-Christians see work simply as a means to an end. Work provides beer money or a fat retirement pension or a better life for their kids. Unfortunately, many Christians see work in exactly the same way. We may be pursuing more Christlike ends: money to tithe or an opportunity to witness to a co-worker, for instance. But our view of work itself is still fundamentally unchanged. We still see work as a means to an end. We are using work. We’re in it for what we get out of it. God may be honored in the results of our work, but he is not supreme in our view of work itself.

And that’s a problem.

Bob Thune is the lead pastor of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He planted Coram Deo in 2005 after prior stints as a megachurch college pastor and a Campus Crusade staff member. Thune is also the co-author of The Gospel-Centered Life, a small-group curriculum that has sold more than 40,000 copies and helped Christians all over the world understand the centrality of the gospel in all of life.