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The Doctrine of Vocation

We are rapidly coming to the end of our Visual Theology message series. We’ve spent the last eight weeks talking about how we grow close to Christ, how we understand the work of Christ, how we become like Christ – and now today we are starting into our final section – how to live for Christ.

So to start us off today, I want to begin by asking you a question. And since we’re in a different setting here this morning anyway, I want you to take just a couple minutes to turn around in your seats and discuss this question with the people sitting around you. Its not a right or wrong answer kind of thing – I just want you to briefly talk about it and throw out some thoughts.

But here is the question: How do you think we will spend our time in eternity? What are we going to do for thousands upon thousands of years? What do you think life will look like for us?

Is it an endless choir singing to God? Are we all strumming harps on those fluffy white clouds? Are we playing road hockey on those streets of gold? What do you think life is going to look like for us all?

The Bible doesn’t give us too many specifics about our future activities in heaven, but this week, as I considered our topic today of living for Christ, and as I saw what the Bible has to say about how we live for Christ – I came to the conclusion that what God intends for us to do in heaven for eternity is probably very similar to what God intends for us to do here and now on the earth.

It seems to me that God’s purpose and plan for our lives won’t really change once we enter life after death. The things He wants us to do now are probably the same kind of things He’ll want us to do forever in heaven. Of course, the specifics will likely be different, but I think the end goal stays the same.

And as we work our way through today’s message, I think you’ll see what I mean, but my point for today is not to speculate about what we’ll one day do in heaven, but rather to determine what God wants us to do today. How does God want us to use our time – what does God want us to do with our lives here and now? It’s fun to speculate about what God will have us do for eternity in heaven – but it’s critical that we understand what God wants us to do in this life right here and now.

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Value in Just Being

I want to read a short excerpt from a book called “Less is More” by Jay Walljasper. It goes like this:

The alarm rings and you hop out of bed. Another day is off and running. A quick shower. Wake the kids and rush them through breakfast so they won’t miss the bus. Down a cup of coffee. Shovel a bowl of cornflakes. Hurry out to the car, not forgetting a swift kiss on your partner’s cheek. Hightail it to the freeway, making a mental note to grab some takeout Thai on the way home. (The kids’ soccer practice starts at 6:15 sharp.) Weave back and forth looking for the fastest lane while the radio deejay barks out the minutes — 8:33, 8:41, quarter to. Reaching work, you sprint into the building and leap up the stairs three at a time, arriving at your desk with seconds to spare. You take a couple of deep breaths, then remember that the project you didn’t finish last night must be sent to New York by 10:00. Meanwhile, you’ve got five voice-mail messages and dozens more on e-mail, six of them marked urgent. 

More and more it feels like our lives have turned into a gruelling race toward a finish line we never reach. No matter how fast we go, no matter how many comforts we forgo in order to quicken our pace, there never seems to be enough time.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. As a kid in the 1960s, I remember hearing that one of the biggest challenges of the future would be what to do with all our time. Amazing inventions were going to free up great stretches of our days for what really matters: friends, family, fun. But just the opposite has happened. 

We’ve witnessed a proliferation of dazzling time-saving innovations — jet travel, personal computers, Fed Ex, cellphones, microwaves, drive-through restaurants, home shopping networks, the World Wide Web — yet the pace of life has been cranked to a level that would have been unimaginable three decades ago.

From the book “Less is More” by Jay Walljasper

While not too many of us were kids in the 60s like this author, I think most of us can relate to what this guy is saying. We live in world that moves at a frantic pace. We’re always on the move. Our days are packed with activity. Between work and kids and church and everything else we do, most of us feel overloaded, stretched thin, and running on empty. No matter how much we do, there’s always more to be done. We might work 60 or 80 hours a week and we still don’t get ahead. Even when we vacation, our vacations are packed with activity. If you’re like me, when you come back home after a vacation, you feel like you need another vacation just to recover from that vacation.

And so sadly, most of us just live in that continual state of being weary and worn out. 

And I have to wonder, is that really how God wants us to live? Is that how God wants us to experience life? Wouldn’t it be nice, if once in a while, you could just stop. Wouldn’t it be nice to just hit the pause button – to ignore your cellphone, your email, your facebook notifications – to not have to do anything and just be. Doesn’t that sound refreshing to you? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a pause button in life?

Well, believe it or not, God’s already thought of that. God actually designed life to come with a pause button.

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Representing Christ

Several times throughout the New Testament, we are instructed to imitate Christ – to follow him – to become like him. We are told that we are ambassadors of Christ. We are his representatives here on earth. And that’s really the focus of our passage today.

We ended last week in mid-paragraph at verse 16 of Colossians 3. I’m not sure how your Bible has all the verses grouped together on the page, but I think in all of the Bibles that I’ve seen, verses 16 & 17 of Colossians 3 are always lumped together.

But you might have noticed that we stopped last week at verse 16 – without including verse 17. So why did we do that? Well, let’s read through our passage this morning and I’ll see if I can explain my thinking: Start at verse 17 and we’ll go all the way through chapter three right into the first verse of chapter 4.

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.

 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.

 20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.

 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. 1 Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.

Colossians 3:17 – 4:1

Now most of what we just read sure seems to be a hodgepodge of instructions. It’s like the misc section – a little of this, a little of that, a little of something else. It’s like reading through some of the Proverbs – it seems to be just random bits of good advice.

But it’s that verse 17 that gives it all a common theme. It’s like a bridge between everything Paul just told us in the previous verses about living according to our new nature and all these seemingly random bits of good advice. So let’s focus for a moment on verse 17.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:17

Paul just finished a whole section of this letter to the Colossians talking about how we are to put on our new Christ-like nature – how we are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every moment of every day – how we are to walk in close fellowship with God. And as we do all of that, everything we say or do will be a reflection of God.

As Christians – we are ‘Christ ones’. When people look at us, they should get a really good idea of what Christ looks like. Not physically of course, but in word and deed and attitude. When people watch you, you’re showing them who Jesus is. You’re a living example of Jesus. At least, we should be.

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Lessons On God’s Work

Well, this is our final week of looking at Nehemiah. We’ve seen how God led Nehemiah to return to Judah from exile to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We’ve also seen how Nehemiah faced great opposition, but persevered in spite of it. Now today we are going to look at just two verses to wrap it all up. But I should mention that this isn’t the end of the story of Nehemiah. In fact, we’re not even half-way through. There is lots more to the story and many more things that can be learned, so I would encourage you to read through the rest of Nehemiah.

But for today, we are going to look at two verse in chapter 6, verse 15 & 16:
So on October 2nd the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.

From these two verses we can draw four principles that we can learn about God’s work.

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