Today, so many people are falling down dead in their prime , or when they should be enjoying retirement and the fruit of their decades of toil, labour, graft and general hard work. I am not talking about the disastrous death toll being exacted by the dreadful COVID 19 pandemic. As the Church, we will continue to pray against this scourge and will not relent until its vile hold over our nation and world is broken. Rather, I refer to the untimely deaths occasioned by our inability to observe a day or season of rest, after the drudgery of relentless work in the rat race.
It is very obvious that mankind has generally forgotten the noble art of rest. Even our recreational activities which are supposed to aid our relaxation, have been turned into forums for adventure, sensation and thrill-seeking for an adrenaline- junky generation.
Go back to the beginning and you will realise the fall of man was characterised by a wrong attitude to work. God had made man in His image and after His likeness. He then gave Him dominion over every living creature. God also told man to cultivate and guard the Garden of Eden, his residence. The implication was that man was god over the earth as his Creator was God over the universe.
Along comes “the great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world”. He gives Adam an instruction contrary to the Lord’s. God had told man he could eat of every tree of the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The day he ate of that tree, God warned, he would surely die. The devil however told Eve and her husband, Adam, that they wouldn’t die but become like God, and have the knowledge of good and evil.
This was the beguiling which is still at the heart of mankind’s problems even today. Man erroneously believed, and still does that he has to do certain activities, religious obligations and philanthropic acts,(works) to be what God says He is. God, on the other hand, says man must believe and then he becomes a new creature. Only then does he begin to do the works that emanate from his new nature. So in a nutshell, the devil convinces us that we have to work to be like God. God however says we are already like Him. If we dare to believe this, a whole new world unfolds before us as we discern who we really are and what we ought to be doing, if anything.
Before we begin to explore the practical implications of this wonderful discovery, it is critical to understand a foundational truth: any time you work for something you already have, you lose it. Adam desired to work to be like God and lost his authority and dominion.
The divine order at creation is that you are gods, so exercise your dominion. In the new covenant, Paul expounds that we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them”. In effect, we don’t work to be saved as that nullifies grace. Instead, we are saved and then we work in God’s Kingdom, serving His greater purpose and His people.
God is not hiring you as a labourer in His vineyard but is inviting you as a worker in His Kingdom.
You must renounce the hireling mindset and begin to see yourself as a son of the King of kings, a co-owner of His vineyard, and a joint heir to His Kingdom.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul notifies us that “ we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. “ He further accentuates that we, as believers, have the mind of Christ.
On this issue of a hireling mindset, Jesus in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John contrasts His attitude as the Good Shepherd with that of a hireling. Faced with the danger of the thief whose sole intention is to steal, kill and destroy, and the wolf whose desire is to catch and scatter the sheep, the hired worker flees. His primary concern is self-preservation. He flees because he neither cares for, nor has vested interests in the sheep.
Jesus, in contradistinction, lays down His life for the sheep because they belong to Him and His Father and he knows and loves them. While Jesus served His Father’s purposes unequivocally, He saw Himself as The Son, first and foremost, rather than as a servant. Against the backdrop of Old Testament legalism and a collective spirit and psyche of servitude, the most revolutionary aspect of Jesus’s ministry was His relationship with God. This was underscored by His temerity to call God His “Abba” Father.
If it was revolutionary for Christ, it was even more so for the disciples who had to gradually transition from the national slavery mentality to the lofty heights of sonship. They however were not elevated to friendship status for most of Jesus’s ministry. In fact, it was only on His way to the cross that He, in a sense, graduated them.
“When you become fruitful disciples of mine, my Father will be honored. I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me. So remain faithful to my love for you. If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him. I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am. Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you. The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. And you are my friends, if you obey me. Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me”. John 15:8-15
Now they had graduated from servitude to friendship. The transition from friend to son and heir would however be a little more complex. Hebrews 9:15-16 gives us an insight into the process:
“Christ died to rescue those who had sinned and broken the old agreement. Now he brings his chosen ones a new agreement with its guarantee of God’s eternal blessings! In fact, making an agreement of this kind is like writing a will. This is because the one who makes the will must die before it is of any use”. Hebrews 9:15-16 (CEV)
Much later, after the condition of Jesus’s death had been fulfilled, the disciples had completed the cycle. Thus in their epistles, they refer to themselves and other believers as children of God and His heirs.
As saints, we have no need for any such transition. We were born again into the Kingdom as sons, not servants or hired hands. What we need is a renewal of our minds. We must understand that God in creating us was not recruiting a workforce. Angels are available to work and are awfully powerful and Peter says of them that they are “much stronger and more powerful than these beings”. The writer of Hebrews asks “What are the angels, then? They are spirits who serve God and are sent by him to help those who are to receive salvation.“ In fact, one angel can do what hundreds and thousands of people are incapable of doing. So creating man to work for God, would have been an exercise in redundancy and futility.
Instead, we were created for fellowship and for our Father’s pleasure. We are therefore admonished thus by Paul in his epistle to the Romans: “Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That’s the most sensible (‘appropriate ‘) way to serve God. Peter on his part, encourages us to “Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ”.
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER
The bottom line is that we were slaves to sin and the devil. Now, though we have been redeemed, we still struggle with the flesh, our carnal nature and low self-esteem. In effect, God has got us out of Egypt but we refuse to get Egypt out of us. We still feel the compulsion to be slaves to our feelings, desires, emotions and our carnal nature. More shockingly, we strive to be slaves to the One who redeemed us by the precious blood of His Son, and has adopted us into His family. So if you labour (under the yoke of a slave mentality) and are burdened (by feelings of inferiority), Jesus invites you to enter into His rest. Jesus is the anti-type of which the Old Testament sabbath laws were types. You are a son and sons don’t work their way into a family – they are born into it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus warns that “A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever”.
Let us give Paul the final say on this matter. He ties it together neatly for us when in Romans he tells us that “the Spirit that we received is not a spirit that makes us slaves again and causes us to fear. The Spirit that we have makes us God’s chosen children. And with that Spirit we cry out,
He further tells the Galatians the following about slavery, sonship and rights of inheritance:
“Children who are under age are no better off than slaves, even though everything their parents own will someday be theirs. This is because children are placed in the care of guardians and teachers until the time their parents have set. That is how it was with us. We were like children ruled by the powers of this world. But when the time was right, God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him. His Son obeyed the Law, so he could set us free from the Law, and we could become God’s children. Now that we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. And his Spirit tells us that God is our Father. (And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.) You are no longer slaves. You are God’s children, and you will be given what he has promised. (So that you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, also an heir of God through Christ.)” Galatians 4:1-7
So you were not born again into the Kingdom to work but to relate with God, your Father, and His other children, your brothers and sisters in Christ. You work because you love Him, and want to share His burden. When the Jews tried to kill Him for working on the Sabbath, Jesus answered them, “My Father is always working, and I too must work.”
Remember, as He is, so are you in this world. So go ahead and do what He is doing: preach the good news, heal the sick, set the captives free, and proclaim His jubilee. Yet not as a hireling or a slave, not as a tick-box exercise, not of compulsion, but as a son, from a position of rest, for all things are yours.
This season of lockdown is an enforced sabbath. We must thus be at peace. We must rest in our Father’s unshakable love for us. We did not do anything to become sons, we were born as sons by faith. We do not need to do anything to remain sons. What we do, we choose to do because it is what we see Him doing and we are one with Him and want to please Him.
Shalom and God bless.