God’s Mission of Grace – The Impact of Our Work - Tuesday, March 5th

God’s Mission of Grace – The Impact of Our Work - Tuesday, March 5th

You are the light of the world …. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14A, 16

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.  And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day long?” They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You go into the vineyard too.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.” When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” But he answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:1-16

Today's thoughts from today's verses:

As a hospice chaplain I have many conversations with other caregivers in the facilities I visit. Some time ago I had a conversation with a very nice lady who provides personal care for the residents in one of these facilities. She is a seeker who is less than satisfied with organized Christianity and seems to have adopted a hodge-podge of spiritual-like understandings that are less than Biblical. She spoke to me about her sister and her sister’s Biblical faith. This dear caregiver is not very impressed with the outworking of her sister’s faith. She told me that recently she said to her sister, “you are not shining.”

She was telling her sister, who claims to know, love, and live for Jesus, that she doesn’t see Jesus shining out of her life. Repeatedly, she told her sister, “shine, shine, shine.” She saw little or no evidence for all her sister’s claims of having the truth. The overall impact of the “Biblical Christian” on her was a negative one. She would have welcomed a bit of love, joy, and care, shining out of her sister’s life and coming her way. What a commentary, but a commentary that is so often true of Bible believing Christians who claim to have the truth.

We did not touch on the end part of yesterday’s passage where Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” In today’s Scripture Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” You may recall from yesterday that Jesus said, “we (you and me joining Jesus) must work the works of Him (God, the Father) who sent Me (Jesus).” While Jesus was here, he was “the light of the world.” Through redemption which he secured for us while he was here, he lives in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are now the “light of the world.” We join Jesus in “working the works” of God by letting him shine out of us and touch the world around us. So, brothers and sisters, let’s let Jesus “shine, shine, shine.”

Our calling from God is to let the new person we are becoming and the new life that is unfolding have an impact on the people and world around us. The work of letting who we are in Christ and what we do through Christ matters. Letting Jesus shine out of our lives so that we truly are “the light of the world” is the one and only way the people and the world around us will experience the impact of the central work to which God has called us.

It is interesting that when we meet someone new, conversation almost always turns to the question, "what do you do (for a living)?" and not "who are you (as a person)?" So, generally what we do is very much a part of our who we are. “Vocation” on the human level almost always has to do with one's career. Some people have a sense of calling to their careers, but many do not. Spiritually, we are all called to a career of serving the kingdom. Serving the kingdom is our primary vocation, just as our primary identity is who we are in Christ.

It is important to keep in mind that it usually does not necessitate a change in career and calling on the human level to make serving the kingdom your primary vocation. As a matter of fact, God is particularly interested in showing his people how to make an impact for the kingdom right where they are in the middle of all they are already doing. Remember, our spiritual vocation is all about letting the new person we are becoming and the new life that is unfolding have an impact on the people and world around us (right where we are).

So, we understand that shining is the way we make the right impact on others and fulfill our calling to help advance God’s kingdom on earth. But shining has a significant connection with grace and it is our Matthew 20 story that will help us with seeing the centrality of grace in God’s mission of reaching the world. Here is something we learned yesterday from our Matthew 20 story, “we will find out what the kingdom of heaven is like through what the landlord did. What he did teaches us about grace and this will help us grasp more fully what God’s kingdom is all about.” We saw yesterday that the landowner hired laborers early in the morning and sent them to work in his vineyard for the agreed upon price of a denarius for a full day’s work.

We equate the landlord with God and this first set of laborers with the adherents of the religious system of the day (represented by the scribes and Pharisees who Jesus collided with over and over again). In speaking of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus does so by way of contrast to the religious system of the day. This religious system of the day is devoid of grace. It knows only oppressive religious practice. We equate the full days work with full compliance with this oppressive religious system. In today’s highlighted portion of our story the landowner does something unconventional; he hires laborers at the third, six, and ninth hours. None of these laborers will be able to put in a full days work.

Remember, the kingdom of heaven will be seen in what the landowner does. Jesus has come representing the true kingdom of heaven. It is not about a full days work and it is not about an agreed upon wage. It is about a gracious God who extends grace to all, especially to those who have fallen short of complying with the oppressive requirements of the religious system of the day (they didn’t measure up like those who were first hired). God, like the landowner, says, “whatever is right I will give you.” The kingdom of heaven is all about grace and not about measuring up (much more to learn about grace throughout the rest of the week). Perhaps Christian’s today who don’t readily shine have slipped back into oppressive religious practice that is all about trying to measure up.

Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

Lord, I get it. I am to be “the light of the world” because you live in me. I see that the central “work” of my life all boils down to one simple but powerful word: “SHINE.” Thank you for the calling of my life to be one who impacts the people and the world around me by “shining”. Teach me more and more of what it means to “shine.” Deliver me fully from the delusion of trying to measure up. Continue to help me surrender to the grace you have bestowed upon me. Continue to shape my identity in Christ. Continue to accomplish your purposes by making my life a blessing to the world around me as I “shine, shine, shine.” Amen!

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