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Deflected Glory and Unfinished Symphonies

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1)

After decades of working diligently toward his life’s goal, William Wilberforce witnessed the British Parliament vote to abolish the slave trade in 1807. Twenty-six years later, in 1833, Parliament would vote for full emancipation, freeing slaves throughout the British Empire. Wilberforce received the glorious news on his deathbed and went home to be with the Lord three days later.

The British people credited Wilberforce as the man chiefly responsible for the historic event, but Wilberforce was quick to deflect the glory back to God, recognizing that he was merely an instrument in the hands of his Maker.

When the nation was on the cusp of abolishing the slave trade in 1807, Wilberforce wrote, “How popular Abolition is just now! God can turn the hearts of men.” God undoubtedly used Wilberforce’s once-in-a-generation skills as an orator to...

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Wilberforce’s List of “Launchers”

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

When we are engaged in the work God has called us to do in the world, some level of persecution is inevitable. For William Wilberforce, who had chosen to make abolition of the powerful slave trade the “Great Object” of his life, the persecution was intense.

Wilberforce had every reason to be afraid for his life. During his decades-long fight to end slavery, multiple slave-ship captains threatened Wilberforce’s life. One even challenged him to a duel. As one of his biographers wrote, Wilberforce “seriously believed he was likely to die violently when some enemy of abolition made good on one of the several threats he had received since becoming the cause’s chiefest champion.”

Thank God Wilberforce was surrounded by other believers who encouraged him to fear God more than man. On his deathbed,...

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God doesn’t need you, me, or William Wilberforce

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4–7)

Prior to Christ, the only object of Wilberforce’s work was his own glory. But upon his conversion, Wilberforce began asking questions about what God was up to in the world and how he might leverage his vocation to join in his Savior’s mission.

But where was Wilberforce to start? Britain had so many wrongs that needed to be righted: prolific prostitution, the orphan crisis, poverty, and of course the slave trade, which Wilberforce described as “that hideous traffic, so disgraceful to the British character.”

Wilberforce knew that he needed to focus intensely on one or two causes in Parliament in order to make the most...

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The “Great Change” in Wilberforce’s Time Management

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16)

After William Wilberforce’s conversion to Christianity at the age of 26, his “Great Change” led to immediate and practical changes in two areas of his life: how he spent his money and time.

In the words of one of his biographers, “Before ‘the Great Change,’ Wilberforce had reckoned his money and time his own, to do with as he pleased….But suddenly he knew that this could no longer be the case. The Scriptures were plain and could not be gainsaid on this most basic point: all that was his—his wealth, his talents, his time—was not really his. It all belonged to God and had been given to him to use for God’s purposes and according to God’s will.”

While Wilberforce’s relationship with money changed greatly post-conversion, the way he managed his time...

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New Series: William Wilberforce and the Fight to End Slavery

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

William Wilberforce was easily one of the most productive people of all time.

First elected to British Parliament in 1780 at the age of 21, Wilberforce was a boy king. At one point in his life, he was officially linked to 69 separate social reform groups throughout Great Britain. Oh yeah, and he was the man chiefly responsible for abolishing slavery across the British Empire and eventually the world. As one of Wilberforce’s biographers said, “It’s difficult to escape the verdict that William Wilberforce was simply the greatest social reformer in the history of the world.”

Early in his career, Wilberforce was ambitious for all the wrong things, namely the accumulation of power, wealth, and privilege. But his ambition was transformed when he submitted his life to the lordship of Jesus Christ at the age...

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Save the World, Save the Cheerleader

beyond saving souls Jul 13, 2020

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

If you’ve ever watched the TV show Heroes, you’ll likely recall the show’s famous line: “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” The idea was that if the characters of the show could save the life of a cheerleader named Claire, they could save the universe from destruction. And with this charge, the characters focused on that singular goal.

As I’ve argued in this series, the Church often takes an equally myopic view of which activities matter for eternity, believing that the only way in which our vocations matter is if we share the gospel with those around us.

As I hope I’ve made clear, while sharing the gospel is a goodJesuscommanded thing to do, it is far from the only God-honoring thing we do through our work. As we’ve seen, our work can be a...

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C.S. Lewis’s “Transient Epiphany”

beyond saving souls Jul 06, 2020

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

By the time C.S. Lewis turned 17, his atheism had been quite fully formed. According to one of his biographers, “the rational case for religion was, in Lewis’s view, totally bankrupt.”

But something other than reason kept nagging at Lewis, causing some part of him to long for more than what logic could provide. “He continued to find himself experiencing deep feelings of desire,” through “momentary and transient epiphanies” which left “nothing but a memory and a longing.”

The most significant of these moments took place...

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Your Work = The “Glory of the Nations”?

beyond saving souls Jun 29, 2020

The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Revelation 21:24-26)

As we saw last week, the work you and I do today matters for eternity far beyond using our positions of influence to share the gospel. But before we go any further, let me clearly state the obvious: Sharing the gospel is a good, Jesus-commanded thing.

As I’ve written many times before, regardless of our vocation, we should all view ourselves as “full-time missionaries” making disciples of Jesus Christ as we go about our work. The point I want to make today is that Scripture hasn’t commanded us to only share the gospel, and by focusing so myopically on “saving souls,” we can miss Jesus’s bigger mission for his Kingdom and the bigger story for our work.

So, aside from using...

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New Series: Beyond Saving Souls

beyond saving souls Jun 22, 2020

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

In our churches today, we talk a lot about saving souls, and very little about what Jesus called “the Kingdom of God.”

This is startling because it is the exact opposite of what we see Jesus emphasizing in the New Testament. According to the concordance in my Bible, Jesus used...

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“I have the honor to be your obedient servant…”

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:25-27)

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the term “essential worker” has entered our collective lexicon and is unlikely to leave anytime soon. Who will be deemed the most essential workers in the Kingdom? Who will hold the positions of highest rank, authority, and honor as we work to serve our King and his Kingdom?

Last week, we looked at one answer to this question: those who are obedient to the Lord’s commands. Today, we look at a second answer: those who take on the posture of servants.

As I’ve written about before, in...

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