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Friday, January 13, 2012

A 4th century encouragement for a 21st century job

This past Sunday under the Big Top, I taught from 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 on God's Calling. The  sermon in a nutshell was basically: When it comes to questions of "God, where do you want me?", "What do you want me to do?", "With whom do you want me to do it?", the biblical, God-speaking to you default is to remain. Though walking with God daily, prayer/discernment, & good counsel may lead you elsewhere, remaining where you are, what you're doing (vocationally/job-wise), with whom you're already doing it is God's starting line. 

Of course, the place, the people or the job (especially) isn't necessarily what we would choose in the Game of Life (or in the elementary/primary school Game involving those do-dads constructed out of notebook paper where you start by choosing a number, open up a leaf, and eventually find out who you marry, what your job is, and how much money you make - what were those things called?? Please don't say 'do-dads').

Jobs we wouldn't pick. I was reading some older church history and came across this. A prominent fourth century church father, Basil, informed his young brother, Gregory of Nyssa, that he was to become the bishop of Cappadocia (in the middle of nowhere...a.k.a. middle of modern day Turkey).  To which Gregory objected! He didn't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere away from friends and family ministering with and to a strange people where there is little prospect for distinction & advancement. His older brother replied:

I don't want you to obtain distinction from your church but to confer distinction on it.

Cappodocia is now best known in history for being the center from which the so-called Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, & Gregory of Nazianzus) fought the heresy known as Arianism (the rising belief growing in popularity that Jesus was inferior to God the Father and was, in fact, created by the Father...a similar belief to modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses). Indeed, through his service there, Gregory conferred distinction upon the place and the the people.

Jesus conferring distinction like it's going out of style. When the incarnate Christ walked this earth, all he did was confer distinction upon places, people, jobs that otherwise had none. Consider the places. Jesus was raised in the runt among places, Nazareth. One of Jesus' future disciples even confessed when first being told about Jesus: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). He conferred distinction upon the hated territory of Samaria (see Luke 10:33 and 17:16) - where, from the Jewish perspective, a bunch of 'half-breeds' lived whose worship of God was considered a joke (cf. John 8:48). Among the many examples of people upon whom Jesus conferred distinction, perhaps the one who stands out is the woman of ill-repute who interrupts dinner to wash Jesus' hair with oil: "And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her" (Mark 14:3). Consider the jobs. Jesus chose for his cabinet: Fishermen (a poorly-regarded, blue-collar job), a zealot (someone who was organizing radical, militant religious rallies), and a tax collector (symbolically stood for all things evil & traitorous in the eyes of God's people). But all legitimate positions from which to begin following Jesus. 

You and your job. For those who have trusted their lives to Jesus, Paul states the following: "To [us] God chose to make know how great are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Christ still exists to confer distinction upon jobs, including the locations and the people who work there. All the riches of glory which are contained in His person is in you, who have believed.

The temptation of course is to think: Which next place, which next people, which next job will bring me distinction, will finally set me apart. You already are set apart, friend, because of Christ in you. Such is the hope of glory! And he wishes, through YOU, to now bring distinction upon whatever you do, wherever you are & whomever you are with.  

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