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I know that the number 100 isn’t really any more special than 99 or 101, but I’m excited that today is our 100th episode.
Many podcasts never make it to 100, and I thank the Lord that we have
And — when you think about it — 100 twenty to thirty minute episodes is close to 50 hours of Bible-saturated, Christ-honoring, disciple-maturing content.
That’s over a year of Sunday morning services. That’s two and a half months of collegiate-level training.
And I don’t say any of this to brag, I say it so that we can revel in what the Lord has allowed us to do here. It’s very cool.
And The Year Long Celebration of God is just one of the many Evermind Ministries. Evermind was started in 2007 with its blog called “Taking Back the Bible,” and has since grown into a whole ministry family including AMBrewster Ministries, Faithtree Biblical Counseling & Discipleship, Truth.Love.Family., the Year Long Celebration of God, and a bunch more to be debuted in the future.
Evermind’s mission is to keep God’s truth at the center of the human experience. We want to teach people to learn, obey, and then teach that same truth to others. We want to shine the light of God’s Word as far as we can on as many people as we can to further God’s Kingdom.
So, I praise the Lord for these ministries. And if you’re thankful for them as well, I encourage you to email team@CelebrationOfGod.com to learn how you can support us in this endeavor.
And, speaking of CelebrationOfGod.com, I encourage you to visit the site so you can access the free episode notes, transcripts, and worship resources.
You’ll be glad you did.
Alright, last time we discovered that when it comes to our work and school, God has a very important lesson He wants us to Learn so that we can Live accordingly.
If you didn’t catch that episode, you should go back and listen to it before continuing today.
But if you’re back for Part 2, then today we’re going to learn about two other expectations God has for us when we go to work and attend school.
And — remember — these are non-negotiables. We don’t get to decide that we’re not going to do these things. If we are true disciples of Christ, we absolutely must submit to God in these areas.
And these two areas are the joint responsibilities of Following and Leading.
And our Scripture passage for today is Ephesians 6:5-9. I will start by reading the text, and then we’ll discuss how God desires us to Follow and Lead at work and school.
Ephesians 6:5-9 reads, “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”
Let’s start by talking about the elephants in the room.
We don’t have the time to talk about God’s understanding of slavery. But we do have the time to mention that the ancient concept being described in this passage didn’t necessarily refer to a sinful thing.
Though the truth in this passage definitely applies to a person who is the unfortunate victim of sinful slavery, the average slave about which the Scriptures speak had more in common with a modern day employee than the average slave in Africa during ancient and modern times.
The Greek word could refer to people who were nothing more than a possession as well as people who worked for an employer. So it’s important to recognize that there is a biblical version of “slavery” that was actually a very beneficial and Christ-honoring relationship for all involved parties.
Therefore, it’s not inappropriate at all to apply the teaching in this passage to modern day employees and employers. And we’re definitely going to do that.
But what if you don’t have a job? What if you’re not an employee, you’re just a student? Well, the commands in this passage are just as applicable to students and their teachers as they are to employees and their bosses.
These truths are biblically consistent within all authority relationships.
So, with that groundwork laid, let’s consider . . .
1. Our Responsibility to Follow
Verses 5-8 lay out six responsibilities as we Follow the authorities in our lives:
A. We must follow our authority in obedience.
The very first command to those under authority is to “be obedient.” I look forward to studying with you the complexities of Christian obedience, but we don’t have the time to get into it right now.
Suffice it to say, if we’re not doing what we’re told, the way we’re told, when we’re told, then we’re not obeying. And it can also be argued that if we’re doing the right things in the right ways, but we’re doing it with the wrong attitude and/or motivation, we’re not obeying either.
When you are at work, you absolutely need to do what your employer tells you to do. The same is true if your teacher gives you a command. And — of course — the same is true for any legitimate authority.
There are two caveats.
First, we don’t have to obey illegitimate authorities who are telling us to do things that they don’t have the right to tell us to do. For example, my wife doesn’t have to submit to just any men. However, if my child (who is not my authority) respectfully reproves me using God’s authority, then I still need to submit to God’s will for my life.
Second, we don’t have to obey a legitimate authority if they are demanding that we sin. Acts 5:29 is very clear that we must obey God rather than men.
But, in the event that a legitimate authority is requiring you to do an otherwise Christ-honoring thing, then you must submit. And it doesn’t matter if the authority is a decent person or if they communicate the command in a nice way.
Our obedience is not contingent on liking the authority or liking how they lead.
But God doesn’t just expect us to obey our authorities . . .
B. We must follow our authority in reverence.
The passage says that we need to obey our earthly masters with fear and trembling. This phrase is only used five times in the New Testament. Once is here, one of the occasions refers to actual fear, and the other three refer specifically to our response to God, His men, and His salvation.
Yes, God is commanding here that we fear our authorities in the same way we are to fear God.
Now, I wish we had time to dig into what the fear of God is, but we don’t have to because we have a series called The Discipleship Spiral that goes into great detail all about it. I’ll include a link to that series in the description of today’s episode.
But until you have a chance to study that some more, please understand that I chose the word “reverence” because it encapsulates the various ideas inherent in what it means to righteously fear something.
To reverence is to honor and respect. To revere is to show devoted deferential honor, and to regard someone worthy of honor.
Again, this points us back to the fact that mere external “following the rules” is not enough to please the Lord. We need to give honor to people. We need to respect our authorities.
The problem is that we often argue that the authority hasn’t “earned” our respect. Again, this is a big concept that would require a thorough understanding of what the Bible teaches about respect. But let me say this, to respect someone is to love them. To love them is to want and work toward God’s best interest in their lives. And God commands that we love even our enemies.
You don’t have an excuse to disrespect someone who you don’t think it worthy of your respect. You don’t have to want to be like them, you don’t even necessarily have to enjoy being around them, but you do have to love them . . . and that is respecting and honoring them.
But our following shouldn’t just be obedient and reverent . . .
C. We must follow our authority with sincerity.
Paul tells that we must have sincerity of heart. The word “heart” is referring to the core of our being, our spirit. This tells us again that this must not be a superficial thing.
And the word “sincerity” refers to simplicity and liberality.
In II Corinthians 11:3 the word is used to refer to the simplicity of the Gospel. The Gospel is not complex.
But the word is more often translated “liberality” as in II Corinthians 8:1-2 where Paul says, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”
So, how are we to understand this idea of sincerity? I believe the best answer is to understand both concepts tied into one.
As we follow our authorities, we do so in a straightforward, uncomplicated, and generous way. We don’t get involved in the corporate politics, we don’t appear to have our authorities’ backs when we’re around them and then shun them when we’re not. Our obedience and reverence is sincere. It’s genuine. It’s uncomplicated, blameless, and real.
Now, if you’re anything like I used to be, or you’re anything like the vast majority of the billions of people on this planet, then you are really struggling right now.
It’s possible that very few of your authorities are actually easy to follow. Some of them are, no doubt, but many are not. Perhaps it’s because they require you to do things you don’t want to do, and perhaps they are just not likable people.
Well, in regard to the first objection, if they are requiring you to do things that are legitimate, then your not wanting to do them is your problem, not your authority’s.
On the other hand, I know how hard it is to obey a parent, teacher, or employer who is tyrannical or cowardly or otherwise ignoble.
And you’re probably thinking one of two things:
First, how on earth could God expect me to submit to these terrible people? “I understand that I need to do what’s right, but why do I also have to revere them in sincerity?”
And others of you may be thinking, I acknowledge that I must do these things, but I have no idea how.
Well, that’s why God provides the answer.
D. We must follow our earthly authority just as we are to follow Christ.
Verse 5 reads, “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”
Verse 6 tells us, “Not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”
And verse 7 says, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”
Do you remember earlier when I suggested that when my children come to me and share God’s truth with me that I am bound to obey it — not because my children are my authority, but because God is?
That is exactly how we are to obey all of our earthy authorities.
I absolutely must sincerely obey and honor my boss because that’s what God expects me to do. To genuinely submit to and revere my teacher is an act of obedience to God.
Look at it this way. You need to look up at your awful, hateful teacher and recognize that as you obey her and submit to her and respect her — and even love her — you are submitting to and respecting and loving God. And when you refuse to obey and submit and love her, you’re actually refusing to obey and submit to and love God.
This is actually really helpful for me, because treating a terrible person well seems so unfair to our sinful flesh. But that’s exactly what God did. When we were yet sinners, incapable of loving Him, living as His sworn enemies, He sacrificed Himself to purchase our redemption and did all the work necessary to enter into a covenant relationship with us whereby He receives absolutely nothing He needs and we receive everything we don’t deserve.
So, when I recognize that one of the best ways to honor my great God is to show His love to others in my life, it makes it so much easier to love the unlovely.
Of course, there’s so much more that could be said, but I’ll sum up this point in this way. As we follow our earthly authorities, we are to do so not superficially, not merely to please men, but as a slave of Christ, as to the Lord, and not to men.
It doesn’t really matter what your authority thinks of you or how they treat you because your main goal is to glorify God and to receive the blessing of pleasing Him.
And that’s what verse 8 says: “Knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.”
But there are two other points I need to make quickly.
E. We are to follow our authorities with good will.
This is the only time in the New Testament that the word translated “good will” is used. But even though we don’t have a ton of other uses in the Bible, we know that the word refers to benevolence. And the interesting thing about this Greek word and our English word for benevolence is that both of them carry an underlying understanding that we owe people this good will. It’s not just something we do; it’s something we have to do.
And, I hope we’re really understanding how important this is to God. Again, this is a non-negotiable.
And lastly . . .
F. Our following is to be characterized by goodness.
And this makes sense. Obviously, if we’re going to obey in a reverential, sincere way as an act of worship to God, our behavior will easily be categorized as Christ-honoring righteousness.
Now, in a way, we’re only half way through our content for today. We were going to talk about our responsibility to Follow and to Lead while at work and school.
And that was all on the Follow point. But God also expects us to Lead while we’re at work and school.
And though this may seem confusing to some of us — especially the students in the audience, we can get through this material a lot faster.
2. Our Responsibility to Lead
After saying all of that to the servants, the responsibility to lead is summed up is one verse, “And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”
There are three concepts we need to understand.
A. Those in authority are required to do all of the exact same things the employees and students are supposed to do.
They too must sincerely obey God, respect the people they lead, and show the righteousness that they owe to those they lead, and they must do all of this as an act of worship to God.
So, if you are in a position of authority at work or at school (or anywhere for that matter), you are not allowed to be a tyrant. You must submit to God and follow in Christ’s example of truthful, loving, righteous, servant-leadership.
But then Paul adds a unique requirement.
B. The authority is not allowed to threaten those they lead.
It’s very important that we understand what’s going on so that 1. We as leaders won’t sin against God, and 2. We as followers won’t accuse our authorities of doing something they’re not.
Leviticus 25:43 says, “You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.” The word translated “severity” referred to over-rigorous, unnecessarily harsh treatment
And that’s very similar to what is being communicated here. Not only are authorities not to be sinful by being harsh and unkind, they are also not to threaten harsh and unkind treatment.
We don’t lead by terror tactics, we lead by truth and love.
Now — on the other hand — it is our responsibility as Followers to submit regardless of whether or not our authorities are being harsh or threatening.
But we must also not wrongly assume that severe treatment or high expectations are inappropriate simply because we believe that they are. We must let the Bible be our guide.
Jesus said many things to people that they believed was harsh and inappropriate. Billions of people have walked this earth and believed that God’s expectations as communicated in the Scriptures are too high or too extreme. Those people are wrong regardless of how certain they feel about it.
Therefore, though leaders are not to be sinfully harsh, we followers must not foolishly judge our leaders when they are being Christ-honoringly severe. Again, our responsibility is to obey our bosses and our teachers and all our authorities as we obey God.
Now, let’s finish by clarifying a question that some of you still have.
Some of you may be thinking, “Aaron, you’ve said that while we’re at work or school God expects us to Follow and Lead. How does God expect me to Lead if I’m the low man on the totem pole? How am I supposed to lead if I’m the student and have no authority?”
Let me answer that with this last point . . .
C. Followers are supposed to be Leaders.
For this point we’re going to consider another biblical truth that is taught all throughout the Bible.
When we do what’s right, when we Follow as we should, when we submit to God, we are Leading by example.
Sure, we may not have the authority to demand that people do what we say, but we can set the example of how we’re all to live.
In fact, by Following the way God commands, we are Leading. We’re Following Christ and our example winsomely invites others to follow our Lead as we follow our Leader.
This is being salt and light. This is Matthew 5:6, “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.”
Again, this is the third time I’ve suggested that when my children come to me and share God’s truth, I am bound to obey it — not because my children are my authority, but because God is. Now, we’re going to dig a lot more into this idea next time, but — for now — we all need to recognize that God has left us on this earth for two main purposes: 1. To invite others to know God, and 2. To be ever conformed to His image while we’re here.
Now, some of you would have thought that being conformed to God’s image was the main reason Christians aren’t taken to heaven immediately when we’re saved. But that’s not true. In the future when we die or Christ comes back to claim us, He will instantly glorify us regardless of how long we’ve been saved or how spiritually mature we are. We don’t need to hang out here on earth and mature a little more before God can finish the job. We’re not a not-quite-done-roast that needs a little more time in the oven.
So, though it is desperately important that we use our time on this earth to grow in our sanctification as an act of worship to God, the main reason we’re still here is to be a salt and light. And, yes, as we’re sanctified from one degree or glory to another and grow in Christlikeness, our light will be brighter and salt will be saltier.
That is exactly how God expects you to Lead even when you’re not the boss. Both your bosses and fellow coworkers or students should see your good words — your obedient Following — and glorify your Father Who is in Heaven.
Wow. Work and school take on so much more meaning when we realize that learning stuff and making money should be some of the least of our concerns.
Our highest priorities are to Learn that God intends to use our work experiences to mature us, and then Live in that reality by submitting to the lessons He would have us learn so that we can obey Him better.
And what are just a few ways we can obey Him better? Well, when we’re at work and school, we need to Follow our earthly authorities the right way by following our heavenly Authority the right way, and we need to Lead everyone in our lives to a deeper understanding of Who God is.
Now, if you don’t mind, will you please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that more of God’s people can learn how to celebrate God at work and school?
And if all of this just seems way too hard. Please reach out to us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com so that we can help you achieve success as you Follow and Lead.
And — of course — join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing what it means to Act and Speak when we’re at work and school.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.