Category Archives: Thought

What’s so “good” about Good Friday? (a repost)

(NOTE: I wanted to post something for Good Friday, but I have been very busy this week preparing a sermon for Easter Sunday and written nothing new for today. However, I thought I would repost something I wrote a few years ago as it is relevant for today. Have a blessed and safe Easter… nick)

What’s so “good” about Good Friday? (a repost)

Traditionally Good Friday celebrates and publicly remembers something most Christians remind themselves of everyday- the day on which Jesus Christ the Son of God was crucified.

We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 11 to remember and “…proclaim the Lords death until he comes…” not just one day a year. However, Easter is kind of special because it’s a more public acknowledgement of the importance of Christ’s death and a widely accepted celebration of the gospel. Although there’s no Biblical reason to mark a certain day of the year and celebrate it as “Easter”, it’s a good chance to talk about these things with all sorts of people.

God didn’t just create the world, but in love died for sinners. Perhaps the miracle of salvation is more amazing than the miracle of creation. Salvation is the redeeming, recreating and renewing of wicked humans through sovereign grace. God did this through punishing His Son through crucifixion (a horrific punishment), exacting justice through the worlds only perfect man Jesus Christ. The cross is the most important chapter of Gods saving work. It is the event that split history, the centre point of everything for the Christian because it is at the cross that God punished Christ for our sin. It is where Christ saved me.

Every human alive today has sinned. Most people are aware of it, though not everyone acknowledges it. To sin is to do something with our minds, hearts, mouths or actions that go against God’s moral law and holy character. We are all guilty before God because of our sin and deserve to be judged and punished for it. Because of His goodness God will not allow evil things to go unpunished. Eternal punishment is the only just punishment for breaking an eternal law and sinning against an eternal God. You and I deserve to be punished forever. We deserve the wrath of God. That is why we need to be saved and what we need to be saved from.

As the only entity who is one hundred percent man and one hundred percent God, Jesus Christ is uniquely positioned as the only way that you and I can be saved from the Gods wrath. Buddha can’t do it, happy thoughts can’t do it, ignoring it can’t do it and neither can trying really hard to do nice things to make up for the bad things. Our sin is against an eternal God and our punishment is eternal. We have two options- as unholy people we can pay for our sins eternally or as an eternal, holy person Christ can pay for our sin once. The cross is salvation because God chose to save people by setting His wrath against Jesus Christ.

This is why today Easter Friday is referred to as “Good” Friday.

What was done to Jesus by humans was evil not good. What he suffered was horrific. The fact that somebody who was perfectly innocent needed to be punished is sad. But the impacts and implications of Christ’s death are very good- because of Jesus dying on the cross anyone who puts their faith in Him and follows Him by turning away from sin can appropriate the gift of His forgiveness. If today is to be set aside to publicly celebrate the cross then it is indeed Good Friday. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18).

Advertisements

A rare thing: On our depravity, our need for a reboot and the only way

Tonight I saw a rare thing; or rather I heard a rare thing.

We were looking up at the stars in the wee hours of the morning, contemplating the universe, current affairs and the state of mankind. These are all common themes in the wee hours of the morning. Amongst my friends (and I think people in general) there is a general recognition that the universe is grand and big, and that current global events are fairly fickle. These are all “safe” topics, even when you disagree slightly. Our conversation along these lines was not unusual, but it was a rare recognition about the state of mankind that surprised me tonight.

You see the notion of the extreme extent of the sinfulness of each human is something that is oft understated in western culture… especially amongst people as proud as some of my peers. In the past years my understanding of my own depraved heart has given me a type of awe or reverence for sin. Not in an all-consuming way but in a thoughtful sense of urgency I guess. When left alone with my thoughts I appreciate the situation of sin I suppose. When I’m alone I can easily see and confess my condition, my need.

When I’m alone.

But that’s when I’m alone.

As we discussed the world news tonight under the stars we joked about a need for a reboot. A wiping out of all of mankind in some sort of robot-apocalypse, mass-suicide or even a flood. My friend passionately believes the opposite to what I believe regarding the possibility of world-wide floods, Bibles and God. They are a self-described antitheist. When they grimly joked about solutions to the state of the world they were only joking, but then they got serious. They talked about how reboot was the only answer but quickly added how it could never work.

“The problem is mankind,” they said, and they were dead right. “No matter how many times we rebooted we would always fail and stuff things up. The evil is within us, it’s what we do.” My friend used the word ‘we’, an important and rare recognition. The willingness to accept personal responsibility for evil is something I have not come across in many people. The hopelessness of sin and total corruption of the human heart is extreme. How rare it is for this condition to be acknowledged openly? It is all too often downplayed, ignored or excused. Tonight I was invited to discuss and give proper respect to it under those stars.

Even in the Church, where the sinfulness of humans is supposed to be a core doctrine we rarely see confession on the level of total, open acknowledgement. It’s seen as taboo, offensive or old-school to preach or talk about it. There is a lot of talk of relevance, love, friendship, justice and a nebulous version of salvation, but sin is not often mentioned to the extent it was tonight. This is a big problem in itself because without acknowledgement of sin, there is very little power or purpose in Christianity, even in the cross. Sin is the problem in the world and the depravity of mankind is epic and huge. The wrath of God is against us forever because of it, because of our wicked sinful condition. Christ has come to provide amends, to take the punishment of the wrath and offer a better way. Without acknowledging the wrath is there and fair, how do we escape it? It is impossible.

It can be an offensive place to go, to enter into this dialogue about sin. Oh, we say we are an open-minded culture but try bringing that one up. In Australia you can go where you never once would and talk openly about religion, politics and sex. You can say what you like about anyone and anything. You can do anything, and be anyone. But woe to the one to suggest that there is something totally wrong with the world and that it comes from within. We are dismissed as narrow-minded. It is not politically correct, even if it is correct, and is usually seen as residue from a more primitive time when religion ruled the land.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13,14)
If the Church (by Church I mean Christian people not an organisation) declines to offer to the world the concept of sin and total depravity, the importance of Christs sacrifice will be lost on them. People will refuse Christ, not knowing his relevance to them. They cannot call His death and resurrection good news without first knowing the bad news.

Sin is reality and we underestimate its power, here & now and in eternity.

My friend was correct about the need for a reboot, and they were correct about the problem being the hearts of man. It is impossible to reboot things with sin so prevalent. To reboot the world we need Christ, Gods answer to our sin. Though my friend see’s the problem clearly, and in a rare moment at two in the morning is prepared to recognise its fullness, they unfortunately stop there. The rare confession and acknowledgement of sin is merely the beginning though, and although in acknowledging total-depravity my friend is probably closer to life and God than a lot of religious people, they were not ready to reboot. They are off to a good start though, for it is only when we admit our need can we begin the reboot.

God.
Depravity abounds… in this world around me and within me.
Forgive me.
Give me faith to believe and to cling to Christ.
That is what is needed.
He is the only way.

Integrity, honesty and why I loved MacGuyver growing up.

Growing up all my friends wanted to chill with MacGuyver. He was the good guy, a real man, the true hero. He didn’t do things for money or reward but just because they needed to be done. He didn’t boast, he just quietly got on with the job. He didn’t lie, cheat or steal, and he never once took advantage of the women who threw themselves at him, not once. He was the most honest, trustworthy person on tv at the time.

There’s a man I know who’s a pretty quiet kind of person. Some people mistake his quietness for lack of passion. Those who know him even a little bit though understand that he is a man of strong beliefs, conviction and passion. He is probably on of the most passionate people I have met, in his own quiet way. He is uniquely quiet, but in his own way uniquely loud.

When I first met this man somebody described him this way: “He is the same inside and out, wherever he goes and whatever he does. What you see is what you get.” His actions speak loudly about him, because he does not act to impress humans but out of response to God. He doesn’t seek to draw attention to himself by doing things for accolades either, but rather simply because they are the right thing to do. My friend is consistently the same in word and deed. What he believes, he also lives. I’ve observed him closely for years now and have decided he is one of my most respected friends, but he wouldn’t know it or even care. My respect isn’t as important to him as his own self-respect. God has called us all to this type of simple integrity.

I am challenged everyday to try and emulate this quality in a world that lacks it. It is a quality that nobody can deny is a desirable one, and an almost essential one to gain respect or trust. In the workforce for instance there is nothing I appreciate more in someone than integrity. Ability and skill is a good thing to have, but if someone lacks it I can still appreciate them as a person. However, if someone has no integrity I don’t want to work with them because I can’t trust or respect them. I would rather work with someone who is not good at their job, than someone who is dishonest and untrustworthy.

My like my friends style because he goes about he’s job quietly and without complaint, but when the moment requires it he will call a spade a spade. I have realised over time that this is the way to go. There is an old saying about flatulence that says that it is “better out than in”, meaning that holding a fart in causes it to build into something potentially harmful. I think the same can be said for negative sentiment or viewpoints. To be upfront about the way we feel demonstrates integrity because it is truthful. Unfortunately, the only negative sentiments expressed are often said when the people who need to hear them aren’t around. Gossip is an ugly cousin to honesty because even when it is factual it is not expressed in the open. Morally it is the same as lying.

I was recounting a fairly unbelievable occurrence to someone who would not normally believe it. The story related to the supernatural and the miraculous, and was something that I had witnessed firsthand. The friend who was asking about the occurrence had no belief in the supernatural realm, but they believed me about the miracle I had witnessed. I was surprised when they believed me, but was especially surprised when they told me that the reason they believed me was simply because I had told them. They went on to say in their own way that they trusted me because in the time they’d known me they had never seen me lie, and that they knew that I valued truth and honesty. I was internally blown away by this compliment and made a commitment to God that it was a track record I wanted to with his help continue to protect.

Integrity takes a long-time to establish, but it can be undone in two seconds. Gossiping is one way that someone shows a lack of character, lying and stealing are other ways. Speaking or acting with an agenda or motive other than what is being presented is probably the most common way that people show a lack of integrity in the workforce, and often they don’t even realise they are doing.

Truth, authenticity, genuineness, keeping-it-real, every human values these things though we all find it hard to practice when we’re together. However, they are character traits that resonate with the core of our beings, the internal part that has been put there by God that loves and longs for truth.

Nothing speaks louder about the preciousness of integrity than the inner shame we feel when we compromise it. No amount of accolades can replace the ability to look in the mirror and see an honest person looking back. No amount of success can replace the feeling of knocking off work having worked an honest day’s labour. No amount of money can buy the security that comes with being somebody with integrity “…for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Integrity shuts people up, even our fiercest enemy. A lack of integrity though, makes us vulnerable to all kinds of accusations. The Bible says that “…whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out…” (Proverbs 10:9). How precious and desirable is my friends reputation and character? It is more precious than gold!

The world is full of compromise and work can be at times stressful, tiring and downright hard. The culture and environment around you might beckon you to compromise. The temptation in a crowd of people is to join in with what they are doing. Don’t. Instead of gossiping, resist and only say about people what you are willing to say to them. Instead of cutting corners, do extra work. Instead of pretending to be something you’re not, be open about your strengths and flaws. Instead of having a hidden agenda seek to do things simply because they are right, then your conduct, reputation and work will speak for itself.

Let’s face it, that’s why we wanted to work with MacGuyver growing up, not just for the explosions.

Okay, I’ll be honest now… it was mostly for the explosions.

Karma doesn’t really work (in which Nick reflects on being stabbed in the back)

Lately I’ve been thinking about what is the appropriate way to respond to betrayal. Not necessarily a positive thought I know, but unfortunately it has been a necessary one lately.

I’ve always strived to act with kindness and to treat people better than fairly. Before I ever became a Christian and read in the Bible that I was to “count others as more significant” than myself (Phil 2:1-8) my parents had brought me up to treat others well. This has given me a good grounding to know how to relate to other people honestly, respectfully and as a servant. I don’t do this for a positive response from them but rather because it is the right thing to do. I guess there is a certain expectation or hope though that if you treat others kindly they will reciprocate.

I have learned over the past few months that this isn’t the case. You don’t always get what you deserve in every situation or relationship. Ego or selfishness come into play and people will often seek to do what is best for them even if it causes you harm or pain. Karma doesn’t work. The “what goes around comes around” principle is kind of cool to see in movies, but it isn’t observable in the real world. This side of eternity Justice has a long backlog of unfinished work’s on her to do list. Especially in the working world.

There are two ways for workers out there to establish a good name within their workforce. I’ve seen both work and also fail at different times over the years and it largely depends on the work-culture or environment, and the character of the people involved. The two ways I’ve seen people make themselves look good are: by working hard and doing a good job or by pulling others down and making others look bad. Most workforces have both types of workers. I’ve always hoped to be the first type and that my integrity, honesty and work-ethic would speak for itself. I don’t know how someone could look at themselves in the mirror if they bitch, whine, moan or pull somebody else down with words just to advance themselves. Surely their consciences would get the better of them or at least their pride and self-respect would.

That was my theory anyway.

I’ve observed an increase of sneaky wickedness and bad character in this world. I try to turn a blind eye to it and just live differently. It’s hard to turn a blind eye to something though, when it is aimed and directed at you. Lately I have had a hard to miss target on my back. Sometimes things are so blatant they demand a retort. But what is the response for a Christian who has been betrayed or backstabbed? When does turning “the other cheek” principle apply and when is it just a weak excuse or unwise misinterpretation?

I have treated a certain person with love, respect and kindness, even sticking up for them to others and refusing to do them harm. I have done an incredible lot for this person, some of which they don’t even know about. It has recently come to my attention through other people that this person is lying about me, using me as a scapegoat or puppet, taking advantage of my kindness and blaming me for them not having met their responsibilities. It kind of hurts because of all I have done for them, but it is also concerning me because of the implications of my good name being tarnished by this person blaming me for their own lack of competence. It may affect future job prospects for myself.

The question is what is the response that carries with it the integrity and the character that God wants? It is so important to me to only do with this what God wants me to do and to bring glory to Him.

Here are a few things that I have been thinking about tonight that are helping me to forge my response. Thoughts on how to handle betrayal-

– Go to the person who is causing you grief. Talk to them and tell them where you stand. Tell them how you feel. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother…” (Matt 18:15). Be completely honest.

– If that doesn’t work or get through to them, get a witness. Someone to mediate. “…But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses…” (Matt 18:16)

– Forgive and love your enemies. Christ did this under the most extreme situations (Luke 23:34), surely you and I can follow his examples in our own situations. Christ preached a sermon that demanded we “…love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…” (Luke 6:27-28). This is a hard one, and personal. How do you forgive someone who unrepentantly lies about you? The answer is “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Receiving Gods forgiveness allows us to forgive others. It is a supernatural response to being forgiven by God. After all we have sinned against Him far greater than anyone has sinned against us.

– Do not seek revenge. It won’t turn back the clock. Allow room for God to vindicate. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all… Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ …Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17).

See the Bible has very practical clear directions for those who have been backstabbed, The dilemma is: I want to be vindicated. I’m not bitter or anything like that, although I am hurt. I have forgiven but forgiving won’t give my good name back if the facts of the situation aren’t to a certain extent revealed. In my current case I was falsely accused by someone I thought was my friend, publicly (to a small group and hierachy) but behind my back. This was to unfairly shift the responsibility for their mistake from them and onto me, with lies, to preserve their own career. As a Christian I believe in turning the other cheek and looking out for people. I believe in seeking and making peace. I believe in allowing God to vindicate me, and that my actions and reputation will speak for themselves. However, I also believe in truth. To not speak out and defend myself will make me look bad. I don’t really know what to do, but I think it is ok in this situation where I have tried to sort it out individually and to discuss the facts of the issue with those in the know and those that have been misled, all the while maintaining a forgiving heart . That’s my plan at the moment anyway.

I feel like its okay to not respect the person as much, because they have shown that although they still need love and forgiveness, they do not deserve the respect I would have for them if they only confessed their flaws and mistakes. If they only did that I might even be able to respect them again but we’ll see, I’ll have to cross that bridge when I don’t have a sore, stabbed back.

Karma is a bull-crap term. Its false a idea that doesn’t work. These things are not circular but a straight line drawn into eternity by the Creator God. The desire of a Christian shouldn’t be for Karma to come back to bite our accusers, but for our God to intervene and grant the accusers repentance so Justice bites neither of us but both may receive eternal mercy and forgiveness in Eternity.

It is Gods good pleasure to exact a fair justice on your accusers sins when the time is right… either at Calvary or eternally. As for my accusers I hope my thoughts, words and deeds point them to Calvary.

Whats so good about “Good Friday”?

Traditionally Good Friday celebrates and publicly remembers something most Christians remind themselves of everyday- the day on which Jesus Christ the Son of God was crucified.

We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 11 to remember and “…proclaim the Lords death until he comes…” not just one day a year. However, Easter is kind of special because it’s a more public acknowledgement of the importance of Christ’s death and a widely accepted celebration of the gospel. Although there’s no Biblical reason to mark a certain day of the year and celebrate it as “Easter”, it’s a good chance to talk about these things with all sorts of people.

God didn’t just create the world, but in love died for sinners. Perhaps the miracle of salvation is more amazing than the miracle of creation. Salvation is the redeeming, recreating and renewing of wicked humans through sovereign grace. God did this through punishing His Son through crucifixion (a horrific punishment), exacting justice through the worlds only perfect man Jesus Christ. The cross is the most important chapter of Gods saving work. It is the event that split history, the centre point of everything for the Christian because it is at the cross that God punished Christ for our sin. It is where Christ saved me.

Every human alive today has sinned. Most people are aware of it, though not everyone acknowledges it. To sin is to do something with our minds, hearts, mouths or actions that go against God’s moral law and holy character. We are all guilty before God because of our sin and deserve to be judged and punished for it. Because of His goodness God will not allow evil things to go unpunished. Eternal punishment is the only just punishment for breaking an eternal law and sinning against an eternal God. You and I deserve to be punished forever. We deserve the wrath of God. That is why we need to be saved and what we need to be saved from.

As the only entity who is one hundred percent man and one hundred percent God, Jesus Christ is uniquely positioned as the only way that you and I can be saved from the Gods wrath. Buddha can’t do it, happy thoughts can’t do it, ignoring it can’t do it and neither can trying really hard to do nice things to make up for the bad things. Our sin is against an eternal God and our punishment is eternal. We have two options- as unholy people we can pay for our sins eternally or as an eternal, holy person Christ can pay for our sin once. The cross is salvation because God chose to save people by setting His wrath against Jesus Christ.

This is why today Easter Friday is referred to as “Good” Friday.

What was done to Jesus by humans was evil not good. What he suffered was horrific. The fact that somebody who was perfectly innocent needed to be punished is sad. But the impacts and implications of Christ’s death are very good- because of Jesus dying on the cross anyone who puts their faith in Him and follows Him by turning away from sin can appropriate the gift of His forgiveness. If today is to be set aside to publicly celebrate the cross then it is indeed Good Friday. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18).

Formspring Question – “Why do you believe in God?”

Formspring Question – “Why do you believe in God?” (asked by an anonymous person on Formspring)

I have been asked why I believe in God a lot in the last 12 years. I have probably believed in God my whole life but it was 12 years ago that I realised that the existence of God required more than passive believe and that it was something that demanded a response from me. That’s when I eventually became a Christian, so I guess people ask it more now because the influence it has on my life is more obvious than it was before. I always answer differently depending on the person asking the question, but I’m not sure if I have ever really written down my answer to an anonymous reader before. The answer is one that has built up over years, as the default belief I once had has been reinforced firstly through critical thinking and research and then eventually through experience. I think in this entry I’ll only talk about the initial default belief as I think this is the thing that the questioner is asking about. There are many, many other reasons for belief in God. I’ll talk about how my beliefs were later reinforced in a later entry.

When I refer to having an initial default belief it isn’t because of the family I was born into was a religious one (because they weren’t), rather it seemed (and still does seem) to be a logical explanation for the world around us. Every child seems to know that something that is created and designed has to have a creator/designer. The big bang is a simple notion and it will only get you so far. One thing I wondered as a child when thinking about it was if the big bang occurred what caused it to occur. I didn’t realise it until much later but what I had adopted instinctively was a simple, childish version of “the Kalam Cosmological Argument”. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is a philosophical argument that basically says: anything that began to exist had something cause it, the universe began to exist, and therefore the universe had something that caused it to exist. In other words, as Julie Andrews sang “nothing came from nothing, nothing ever could”. So from the earliest time in my life belief in God made rational, reasoned sense.

Apart from my initial belief though, reason and science and math and logic have all pointed to the existence of God. To me looking back on my belief in God, the intricacy and order of nature is probably another thing that caused me to have an assumption there was a creator. I am still talking about an extremely young age, younger than I can even remember. I am to this day yet to find a better explanation for the intricacy of the universe than God. If we flew to Mars and found a library, and in that library were thousands of books and machines, we would logically conclude that there had been intelligent minds on Mars before us and that they had built the physical structure of the library, written the books and designed the machines. What I saw around me as a child was structure, order and design that is far more complex than the greatest buildings, computers and machines that are around today. This is another thing that caused me to believe as a child that an intelligent mind created this world.

As I mentioned before the belief in God was passive and assumed. It wasn’t until much later that I began to research the belief. Over the years I would read a lot, and learn a lot, and actually tried to debunk the notion of God. When I later saw what an important question the existence of God was I didn’t want there to be a God, but the more I tried to not believe in the idea of a creator the more evidence I found to support it. I eventually became convinced not only that God exists but that His existence demanded a response. It was after that I began looking at various religions, eventually stopping at the bottom of list with my least desired religion: Christianity. I found Christianity to be true. Once I became a Christian my evidence became more experiential, as I experienced God in ways I could not imagine, and these experiences supported Gods existence even more.

Each day of my life I have added to the evidence I have found for God existence with objective, reasonable, rational evidence as well as wonderful subjective personal experience.

To me it seems like the evidence for God is extremely abundant, and it seems to be the default belief for people in light of the evidence. For that reason the question isn’t really why someone would believe in God but why the heck wouldn’t they believe in God? There is no explanation that is more logical.

This question was originally asked and answered on Formspring. To ask me more questions on Formspring click here.

I am keen for more comments and discussion if you are willing. How do you respond to this question. Do you believe in God? Why? If you don’t believe in God, why not? Feel free to respond anyway you like, no comments will be censored but just discussed.

Thursday thoughts: on being a workaholic, needing to drop the mask and repent of busyness

I’ve been busy lately, and I want to say sorry about that. To God, to family and friends, to me- sorry for my busyness, it’s been wicked and evil of me. Granted some of the things I’ve been doing have been important things to do but I think I do need to slow down. You see I’m always “busy lately” and there is no excuse. I’m sick of it.

It’s my own fault too. Somewhere along the line I lost the ability to not be busy. I have to relearn the art of chillin’ out… the art of relaxing and doing precious-not-much… the art of being content…

Busyness has become my god, my false idol, a mask that I wear and I need to stop valuing it as highly as I do and recognise that it is causing me harm. A friend of mine uses the word repent a lot when talking about stopping sinful behaviour. As I think my busyness has hit critical mass and that it has become sinful, then that’s what I need to do. Repent. Repent of busyness.

I guess you might think that I am taking it a bit far by referring to busyness as a sin. Surely it is better than the other extreme which is laziness. I thought that it was much much worse yesterday but this morning I’m not so sure. Rather both can be just as bad as the other depending on the motivation. Yes it is wrong to be a slothful bludger who wastes time doing nothing, but surely it is also wrong be a workaholic who fills time up with things of questionable worth at the expense of worship, calling and relationships. Surely it is wrong to be obsessed with filling up time as much as I am obsessed with filling up time.

I realised this morning while I was walking home from work that I am addicted to being busy. This thought occurred to me when I stopped in the park on the way home to read a little and just relax. After a minute or two of stillness I was already feeling guilty. “Fancy feeling guilty for having a rest on the way home from an eleven hour night shift,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t shake the feeling though. I had to get up and keep walking, so I could get home and get busy doing something on my list.

As I look back over life I see that this “work-worship” has been a habit I have consistently gone in and out of. For example, this Christmas will be the first Christmas in my working life that I have not had to work on Christmas day. Actually, scratch that… not “had to work” but “chose to work”. A few times I have had the option and opted to work. It wasn’t the money either that was causing me to make the choice, but rather a false identity that I’d chosen for myself because I thought it would make me look good or more accepted.I wanted to look like a hard worker as though it was some sort of virtue. As though I would be accepted if I busted my guts to achieve at the peril of loved ones and sanity.

Acceptance through performance is a good way to put it actually. I’ve never put words to it before, because I’ve never been honest to myself about my motivations. Working hard and striving for high results to gain acceptance is wrong. Even if it does sometimes produce results, it is a detrimental approach because our identity and sense of acceptance should not come from what we do or achieve but rather from God alone and from the gospel. But it’s not easy to get your identity from God when you aren’t even taking a moment break to think about Him and to honour Him with time or thought.

I come from a line of hard-workers and I think that I get my work ethic from my family. It is a quality I’ve admired in people ever since I saw my father and mother working so hard to look after their family. I learned early from seeing my grandfathers approach to work too that work is a blessing. I didn’t realise until now though that if we spend too much time working or busying up life with jobs, then work can be a curse instead.

One of my first jobs ever was in a cheese factory sub-contracted through my father’s work. It was insanely hot, insanely physical, and insanely laborious. A lot of mind games occurred while working there. At the time, in the particular factory that I was working in, the job attracted a lot of cockheads for some reason. By cockheads I mean extremely negative, nasty men of all ages who loved to take things out on each other. I’m not sure, but perhaps they were frustrated at working in the same job and for the same pay as someone who had just gotten out of high school.

It wasn’t long before a lot of the negative, nasty aggression was aimed at me. They’d hide my boots, my apron and bag. They’d write derogatory things on my locker and apron with permanent texta. They’d pay out on me for being “the boss’s son”, saying I only got the job because of my dad. This made me ultra-determined to carve my own name, and get my own reputation as a hard-worker.

As the cheese season went on, I worked harder than anyone else there and it began to be recognised by my workmates. I would clock on before anyone else, and clock off after anyone else. I’d have shorter smoke-o breaks. If there was a call for anyone to work back later, or to work a double, I would stick my hand up and do it. This was a sweaty, exhausting eight hours and to do another eight hours on top was seen as crazy by some of the others, but they did begin to affirm my efforts. When I’d show up fresh and ready the next day after having done long shifts the day before they stopped saying I only got the job because of old man. One nicknamed me “Nick the Worker”; a couple others would invite me into their cockhead social circle which mostly meant drinking beer. It felt good to have that type of acceptance and affirmation, and I wrongly connected that good feeling to hard-work.

As I worked in other jobs, I carried the work-ethic into other jobs. When I became a Christian I carried it into my faith and started “doing things for God”. It probably didn’t help that I was (and still am) a part of a pentecostal Christian church that emphasised “doing things” and taught that every Christian was called by God to “do things” or “be a great man of God”. I tried so hard to impress men, and to impress God.

The Bible (and the church) never ever taught that I needed to do (or be) those things for salvation or to receive God’s acceptance, but because of my background of drawing a lot of my identity from what I do, that’s how I interpreted it in practice. Despite knowing and being taught that God’s approval and salvation is His sovereign prerogative not based on any of my works or achievements, I tried to be a great leader, or a great preacher, or a great youth pastor, or a great artist, or great worker, to gain approval. I still do this. Not just trying to get Gods approval, but my fellow man’s approval too.

Being a workaholic is measured differently in different settings but I think it’s internal more than external. Motivation is the thing. To work hard is a good thing if it is done as worship, or to fulfil financial obligations, or because you enjoy it. It is not a good thing when it becomes who you are instead of what you do. If you are measuring your worth by your achievements or by the fruitfulness of time spent, then you are probably focussing on the wrong thing. For me and in my faith and work communities, the measure of spiritual success became measured by what I was able to achieve or project. This morning on my walk home I have realised that I have somehow slipped back into that mentality and that is not a good thing.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
– Luke 10:38-42

I got home and read my Bible over breakfast. I found and read that account from the life of Christ and realised that God was speaking to me. I want to respond. I didn’t want to write a big long blog today but it has come spurting out of my heart. This is my confession. I am too much like Martha, I want to be more like Mary. I don’t want life to only be about doing things (even for Christ), I want it to be about spending time with Him and in His presence.

I need to embrace to concept of the Sabbath again. When I talk about the Sabbath I am not talking a day of rest every week although that is important. I need to take regular time everyday to recognise that God alone is my source of identity. It is not about me, it is about Him. It is not about what I do, but rather about what He has already done on the cross for me. It is not about what I am called to, but Who has called me and Who I am called to.