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On Earth As It Is In Heaven

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth…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…‘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.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1a, 2-3a, 4-5a)

As we near the end of our exploration of the biblical narrative of work, we come to the climax of Scripture: the marriage of heaven and earth and the establishment of the eternal Kingdom of God.

Yesterday, we saw that while Jesus inaugurated his kingdom on Easter, he didn’t bring the kingdom to earth all at once. He gave his bride, the Church, the privilege of helping him build his...

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Jesus the Gardener

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus….Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (John 20:11a, 14, 15b)

You’ve probably read this passage dozens of times. And if you’re like me, you’ve likely always thought of the fact that Mary mistook Jesus as “the gardener” as some odd but insignificant detail of Scripture. 

But no word of Scripture is placed there by accident, and as renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has pointed out, this detail is no exception. It appears that John is pointing to something quite remarkable indeed. John is contrasting the first Adam in the Garden of Eden with the last Adam, Jesus Christ, in the Garden of the Tomb. 

In the beginning, God created Adam to work the Garden of...

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Saved to Work

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Yesterday, we read the two verses that precede today’s. Ephesians 2:8-9 shows us how the gospel enables us to rest from our work, as we know that our status as co-heirs with Christ is secure regardless of anything we accomplish. Ephesians 2:10 shows us that our response to that security is to want to be productive on the Lord’s behalf. 

Why? 

Because working to earn someone’s favor is exhausting. But working in response to unconditional favor is intoxicating.

Furthermore, as Paul makes clear in today’s verse, the very purpose of our lives—the reason we were created and saved—was not to wait around for eternity. Christ made us new creations so that we could “do good works!” 

But Jordan, when Paul says “good...

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The Verdict You’ve Been Waiting For

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Over the past five days, we’ve been systematically walking through the biblical narrative of work. Today and tomorrow, we examine the pinnacle of that narrative—Jesus’s death and resurrection—to see how the gospel provides our ultimate source of rest and ambition for our work.

First, let’s see how the gospel enables us to rest.

Just like the Babylonians did in Genesis 11, many of us look to our work for our sense of worth today. It’s why “What do you do?” is often the first question we ask new acquaintances. We all feel a need to impress others with our answer to that question. Why? Because we are all looking for a verdict for our lives—for someone to say that we are worthy and that our very existence is justified.

The beautiful...

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Fishermen and Religious Professionals

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? (Mark 6:3a)

Today’s verse contains one of the only details about Jesus’s life between the ages of twelve and thirty when he began his public ministry. For approximately eighty percent of his adult life, Jesus wasn’t preaching. He was working as a carpenter.

Given Jesus’s ultimate purpose, this truth should stop us in our tracks.

God could have placed Jesus in a priestly household like John the Baptist or the home of a Pharisee like Paul. But instead, God chose for Jesus to grow up in the household of a carpenter, doing work that looked very similar to the work you and I do today.

Why? Of course, we can’t be sure, but here’s my guess: I think Jesus’s vocation is meant to remind us that even after the Fall, work is still inherently good. I think God is pointing us back to Genesis to remind us...

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Work as a Fig Leaf

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” (Genesis 11:4)

The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of Beth Harmon, an orphan who turns to her considerable skills as a chess player to prove to the world that she is worthy of love and attention. In one poignant scene, we hear Beth’s rival tell a friend, “[Beth’s] an orphan. A survivor. Losing is not an option for her. Otherwise, what would her life be?”

That scene powerfully illustrates a central feature of the human condition we’ve seen since the Tower of Babel—namely, our temptation to use our work as a means of “making a name” for ourselves. Pastor Timothy Keller calls this “the work under the work—that need to prove and save ourselves, to gain a sense of worth and identity.”

Ever since Adam and Eve, we have been trying to cover up our sin...

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Thorns & Thistles

To Adam [God] said…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” (Genesis 3:17-19a)

After a particularly frustrating day at the office, it can be tempting to believe that work itself is a curse—a “necessary evil” and consequence of living in a fallen world. But that’s not at all what Scripture teaches. 

As we’ve seen over the past two days, God himself worked, thus giving great dignity to our work today. Then, he passed the baton of creation to us to work as his image-bearers to “fill the earth.” Genesis 1 and 2 show us that work is inherently dignified and good. Work existed prior to the Fall and thus, work was designed to be worship.

But—and this is a big but—sin messed...

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What God Did NOT Create “In The Beginning”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28a)

What God created in the first six days is remarkable. But what’s equally remarkable is what he did not create.

He created animals, but he didn’t give them names. He created land, but he didn’t build roads. He created stars, but he didn’t invent the telescope. 

After working for six days, God left the earth largely undeveloped and uncultivated. He created a blank canvas and then invited us to join him in filling it.

That’s what today’s passage is all about. Before God rested on the seventh day, he put a succession plan in place, calling us to create in his image—to “fill the earth and subdue it.” As pastor Timothy Keller points out, this is a call for...

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Looking for a God at Work

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)

In the Church today, we talk a lot about how God is loving, holy, omnipresent, all-powerful, faithful, just, and true. But we rarely, if ever, talk about the fact that we worship a God who works

And yet, that is the very first thing God reveals about himself in Scripture. In the beginning, God created. In the beginning, God was productive. In the beginning, God worked

In the first pages of Genesis, we see God working with his words (see Genesis 1) and his hands (see Genesis 2:7-9). We see him joyfully engaged in “the work of creating” (Genesis 2:3). It’s significant to note that the Hebrew word mlkh, which we...

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