Without Christ = Without Hope

“Therefore, remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called ‘the circumcision,’ which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12).

Hope is a person. His name is Jesus. If you have Him, you have hope. If you don’t have Him, you don’t have hope. It is devastatingly simple. Hope is not found in people. It is not found in ourselves. It cannot be attained through possessions, position or status. It does not come from self-effort. Hope will forever evade us if Christ does not break into our hopelessness.

Being “separated” from Jesus describes the rift of the fall. It is our condition before God. We have willfully disconnected from our life source. The chasm between us is of our making. I have sinned. I have rebelled. I have transgressed. I have disobeyed. I have been foolish. I am guilty and I am hopeless. This is me without Christ. This is you without Christ.

I have sinned. I have rebelled. I have transgressed. I have disobeyed. I have been foolish. I am guilty and I have hope! This is me with Christ. This can be you with Christ if it is not already. Hopelessness is our current state and without Christ will become our permanent state.

Extended hopelessness is hell.[1] Push our status without Christ past death and into eternity and you have hell. Hell is a certain, fixed reality for all who reject Jesus Christ. It is to be eternally “separated” from Him. Hell is an existence with no hope, ever.[2] Tomorrow never gets better there. [3] Darkness never lifts there. Things don’t ever improve there.

There is no plot, no story, no character development, no joy, no purpose. The slightest ray of hope will never shine on that dark, lonely place. It is pure, unmixed, unchanging despair. Even the hope of hope is banished from that cursed place.

To be without Christ is deadly. There is a reason that Jesus speaks so often about this terrifying reality.[4] Hope has come and is calling us out of hopelessness. He is wrenching us away from eternal despair.[5] Hope is on a rescue mission.

[1] Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 7. “It can be said that living without hope is like no longer living. Hell is hopelessness, and it is not for nothing that at the entrance to Dante’s hell there stand the words: ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’” (emphasis mine).

[2] Suffering in hell is described in the New Testament as “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46), “everlasting fire” (Matthew18:8), “the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:45), “the worm that never dies” (Mark 9:46), “flaming fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:8), “everlasting chains” (Jude 6), “eternal fire” (Jude 7), “the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13), “the smoke of torment ascending up forever and ever” (Revelation 14:11, 19:3), “the lake of fire and brimstone” in which the devil, the beast, and the false prophet “shall be tormented day and night, forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

[3] This stands in stark contrast with the reality of heaven. Heaven is characterized by fresh joy-filled tomorrows. Sam Storms, “Joys Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven,” Desiring God 2003 National Conference (www.desiringgod.org). “Heaven is not simply about the reality or experience of joy, but its eternal increase. The blessedness of the beauty of heaven is progressive, incremental, and incessantly expansive.” He grounds his discussion in Ephesians 2:7, “God made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” The progression of eternity will be the continual unveiling of God’s great kindness toward us found in Jesus Christ. We will forever unpack his saving mercy to us. He further explains. “We will constantly be more amazed with God, more in love with God, and thus ever more relishing his presence and our relationship with him. Our experience of God will never reach it consummation. We will never finally arrive, as if upon reaching a peak we discover there is nothing beyond. Our experience of God will never become stale. It will deepen and develop, intensify and amplify, unfold and increase, broaden and balloon. Our relishing and rejoicing in God will sharpen and spread and extend and progress and mature and flower and blossom and widen and stretch and swell and snowball and inflate and lengthen and augment and advance and proliferate and accumulate and accelerate and multiply and heighten and reach a crescendo that will even then be only the beginning of an eternity of new and fresh insights into the majesty of who God is!” Hell is heaven’s opposite. If heaven is the eternal incline into greater joy and happiness, hell is the eternal decline into greater despair and darkness. The utter absence of hope and its possibility is a dreadful dimension of eternal punishment. Three times Jesus uses the language of “outer darkness” to describe hell (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). He is capturing the pure unmixed despair of a place void of light and hope. Peter uses the language of “pits of darkness” and “black darkness” to convey this reality (2 Peter 2:4, 17, see also 1 Samuel 2:9 and Isaiah 8:22).

[4] W.G.T. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), 12. “The strongest support of the doctrine of endless punishment is the teaching of Christ, the Redeemer of man.” D.A. Carson, The Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10 (Baker Books, 1991). “Jesus himself speaks twice as often of hell as of heaven.” Leon Morris, “The Dreadful Harvest.” Christianity Today (May 27, 1991). “Jesus spoke more often about hell than he did about heaven. We cannot get around this fact.”

[5] It is his work of gathering a lost people to himself that the gates of hell cannot withstand (Matthew 16:18). Hell will not prevail against God’s saving activity. Once rescued from gates of hell, we are called to join his mission. Charles Spurgeon captured this well. “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and un-prayed for.”

 

Blessed Doubters and Gospel Freedom

Helmut Thielicke was a German theologian and professor that taught and wrote during WWII. He has some very helpful things to say about the liberating intention of the gospel and the connection between grasping mercy and knowing doubt. Here are a few of his insights.

“The Christian stands, not under the dictatorship of a legalistic ‘you ought,’ but in the magnetic field of Christian Freedom, under the empowering of the ‘You may.'”

“The gospel must be preached afresh and told in new ways to each generation, since every generation has its own unique questions. The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of address.”

“Jesus did not identify the person with his sin, but rather saw in this sin something alien, something that really did not belong to him, something that merely chained and mastered him and from which he could free him and bring him back to his real self. Jesus was able to love men because he loved them right through the layer of mud.”

“I don’t believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas. He who provides forgiveness for a sinful life will also surely be a generous judge of theological reflection. Even an orthodox theologian can be spiritually dead, while perhaps a heretic crawls on forbidden bypaths to the sources of life.”

“Tell me how much you know of the sufferings of your fellowmen and I will tell you how much you have loved them.”

“The doubters are always more blessed than the mere fellow travelers in faith. For they are the only ones who fully learn that their Lord is stronger than any doubt and any hell of despair.”

“What is the greatest deficiency among human Christians? They have an inadequate view of human suffering.”

A Biblical Framework for Encouragement: Coming

It is fitting that the final pillar of encouragement centers on the return of Jesus. It is no surprise that the New Testament links encouragement to his second coming. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 makes this link explicit.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede th

ose who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

It is absolutely certain that the same Jesus that bore the wrath of God to rescue us will come back to retrieve those who have trusted him. It is so certain, it is future history as one author has called it. It is certain that you have trusted him will receive a renewed, resurrected bScreen Shot 2016-08-01 at 6.03.45 PMody at that time.

It is certain that you will be reunited with fellow believers who have died before you at that time. It is certain that when he returns you will be with him forever. He will not leave us as orphans. He will come for us.

Be encouraged! Things are absolutely going to get better. For the Christian, life in this fallen world is as bad as it gets. For the person rejecting Christ this is as good as it gets. It will get better for the Christian, this is not the final chapter of the book.

What we are experiencing here and now is temporary. Do not be drawn into the lie that you only have one shot at life, you will live forever! Every disappointment, every crushed dream, every unmet expectation will be eclipsed by a life that will never end. Be encouraged. He is coming for you Christian!

At the foundation of our framework for encouragement is our God. He calls us to be encouraged and to encourage one another as we recognize the image of God in others, as we revel in the good news of the cross, as we gather together to smash hard hearts and breathe hope into each other, and as we remind one another that this is not the end of the story.

Luther’s Pastoral Approach to Predestination

Martin Luther was aware of the challenges of certain doctrinal issues. Predestination has always been an area that can produce philosophical anxiety and deep-seated fear. Luther’s pastoral touch is evident in this section from his Table Talk. Notice how he pushes us away from what we can’t know about God to what we can and do know about him.

Concerning predestination, it is best to begin below, at Christ, as then we both hear and find the Father; for all those that have begun at the top have broken their necks. I have been thoroughly plagued and tormented with such cogitations of predestination; I would needs know how God intended to deal with me, etc. But at last, God be praised! I clean left them; I took hold again on God’s revealed Word; higher I was not able to bring it, for a human creature can never search out the celestial will of God; this God hides, for the sake of the devil, to the end the crafty spirit may be deceived and put to confusion. The revealed will of God the devil has learned from us, but God reserves his secret will to himself. It is sufficient for us to learn and know Christ in his humanity, in which the Father has revealed himself.

The Chalcedonian Creed

This creed was adopted at the Fourth Ecumenical Council held at Chalcedon–located in what is now Turkey–in 451 as a response to certain heretical views concerning the nature of Christ. It established the orthodox view that Christ has two natures (human and divine) that are unified in one person.

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the
same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood;
truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father
according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things
like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead,
and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of
God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be
acknowledged in two natures, unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the
distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of
each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted
or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the
Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the
Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down
to us.

This creed builds some very important parameters around the person of Christ and the Trinity. To best explain the contribution of this creed I have borrowed a very helpful diagram that seeks to do just that. The diagram below is called the Chalcedonian Box. It captures the boundary markers for thinking about the person of Christ. Orthodox Christology falls within these parameters.

chalcedonianbox2

Around the Table with God

Jesus is God in the flesh. He reveals the heart, nature and intentions of God. When you read the gospel narratives through this lens everything changes. Read Mark 2:15-17 from this angle.

“Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.'”

Who you eat with says a lot about you. Eating a meal is one of the most intimate gestures of human life. God chooses to eat with the broken, the outcast, the rejected, the lost and the sick. This is a God who lives in the fray. This is a God who is fearless in the face of pain and need.

The irony of the passage is in the two categories mentioned by Jesus. In reality, there is one category for humanity…the only difference is whether or not one embraces reality. In the words of Paul, “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10). God is saying to us all: come and sit at my table. He is a hospitable God.

The Creative Presence of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the quiet, humble power standing behind the world’s greatest moments. His personal presence is identifiable at the critical points in creation and redemption. Reading the gospel of Matthew tonight I was deeply encouraged by the mind blowing story of the Son of God’s conception. The wonder of Christ’s miraculous birth need not be relegated to the Christmas season. The phrase in the Matthew story seems so nonchalant, especially for a bombshell. Mary was “found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:18). And a little later, “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:20).

God’s gracious invasion into this fractured, groaning world was miraculous on every level. It was undeserved and gracious, the last thing humanity asked for and the first thing we needed. It was made possible only by unified Triune action. God the Father, Son and Spirit were equally required to engage and execute the plan of redemption. The One God in three persons alone could bring about the rescue mission humanity needed. The presence of the Spirit in knitting together the Christ in Mary’s womb signals the necessary divine handiwork for the entrance of God onto our soil.

The birth of the God-man was one of the most critical stages in God’s saving plan. The perfect life, the substitutionary death, the mighty resurrection, the exaltation to the right hand, the glorious return…all contingent upon a birth. The Spirit’s breath over Mary created saving possibilities that never existed before. The bringing forth of this embryo by divine means signaled beginnings far beyond the birth of a child. The Mighty Spirit shines forth with such glory in this moment. His behind the scenes heart and humble serving actions come into play as he quietly turns the world upside down by mysteriously creating a new life within a young Hebrew woman.

This Creative Spirit’s work extends into our lives. It is very encouraging to know that the same person who breathed on Mary and created the human life of the God-man is the one committed to saving us. It is assuring to know what the Spirit of God is not only capable of, but what he is willing to do. St. Augustine recognized his need for the Spirit’s creative work to be accomplished in him. His prayer to the Holy Spirit is instructive and helpful, one I want to make my own.

“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.”

The Unsurprising Incarnation

I continue to be amazed by the humility of God in the storyline of Scripture. God persistently comes low to engage his creatures. His chosen vehicles of self-disclosure are always understandable and meaningful to humanity. Whether he is walking in the garden with Adam and Eve, wrestling with Jacob in human form, or having a conversation with Moses face to face, God’s revelatory activity is marked by condescension.

This is not surprising as humility is fundamental to the life of the Triune community. It is the warp and woof, the lifeblood, indeed, the cardinal principal that orders the life of God. God the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally humble in their engagement with one another. Every exchange among the three persons is executed with a posture of humility. God’s life is a dance of three persons striving to outdo one another in honor. When the Triune God engages the world we would expect to see the same thing, and we do.

The manner of revelatory activity in the Old Testament prepares the reader for a humble Christ. The larger canonical context leads us to read the incarnation as “normative” divine activity. In many ways, the incarnation is the logical next step in the Triune God’s self-disclosure. Don’t misunderstand me, the incarnation is astonishing and overwhelming. My point is that incarnation should not be considered “abnormal” activity for the humble Creator. It is consistent with who God is and how he has revealed himself throughout redemptive history.

The incarnation serves to reinforce and deepen our understanding of the humility of God. It serves as a link to all past revelation and yet is a clear and drastic move forward in God’s self-disclosure. God the Son permanently takes to himself humanity. The life of God can never be the same! The more God shows us himself the more overwhelmed we become by the depth of his humility.

The humility of the incarnation prepares the way for the humility of the cross. N.T. Wright captures the trajectory of the thought we have been tracing as he talks about the cross. God does not show us something new about himself, He simply continues to show us who He is.

“God became on the cross what God always was. I may have it in me, in ability and desire, to climb Mount Everest; but until I actually go into training and do it it remains latent. You may have it in you to be a brilliant concert pianist; but until you get down to practice and performance, all that brilliance remains latent. God always was the God of love—generous, spontaneous, free and cheerful self-giving love; but until God, if we dare put it like this, gets down to practice and performance, that love at its deepest level remains latent. On the cross God performs the score composed before the foundation of the world. On the cross God at last scales the highest peaks. It isn’t just that the cross reveals God’s love in its most striking way. It reveals it because it enacts it. It becomes part of, indeed the most central part of, the personal history of God…And now, to all eternity, the cross remains at the heart of God, stands as the truest symbol of God, offers the most exact and precise exposition of God.” [1]

[1] N.T. Wright, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 56-57.

The God on his Knees

Philippians 2:1-11 is one of the most well known passages in the Pauline letters. I have been intrigued by the vision of God that is given in this passage. Here is the text for you to read and the following is a meditation on the humility of God.

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This text is phenomenal. Paul is showing us that humility is central to the character of God.  Here we see a God who gets underneath his creatures to serve them. A God who actually considers his creatures more important than himself. A God who genuinely looks out for our interests above his own. Stunning!

This text points us to the reality that Jesus is God’s chosen self-disclosure. If you want to know what God is like you must look to Jesus. This is implicit in the text. It is explicit elsewhere. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Jesus has explained God to the world. He has led him out from behind the curtain for all to see.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”  When you look at Jesus you see God.And when we do look at Jesus, what do we see?

We see a humble man serving us with great humility and sacrifice at every turn. The text maps out the humble journey of the Son of God. At each critical juncture, we see humility embodied and explained. I want to highlight three junctures in the journey of Jesus: the crib, the cross, and the crown. All three of this junctures are marked by humility.

The Crib


In verses 3 and 4 the text reads, “in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interest of others.” Paul tells us that this was precisely the mindset of Jesus. It was his frame of mind when he agreed with the Father to come into this world and become a man.

As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less about yourself, but thinking about yourself less.” It is the freedom of self-forgetfulness and the joy of throwing yourself into the service of others. This is what characterizes the life of God.

Verse 6 is quite incredible, “although he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus was fully equal with God. But he did not use his divine status as an excuse to remove himself from our need. He did not cling to his exalted position instead he used it for our good. “He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

One author explains the significance of this statement as follows: “The decision to become human, and to go all the way along the road of obedience, obedience to the divine plan of salvation, yes, all the way was not a decision to stop being divine. It was a decision about what it really meant to be divine.” In other words, the fact that Jesus refused to remain in heaven speaks volumes about God. This is a God who uses all of his divine resources to serve and save us!

In Jesus we behold a God in the crib. A God so humble that he was willing to become a child. He was willing to be clothed and fed by a mother. He was willing to learn to crawl, talk, and dress himself—so that one day he could put himself on a piece of wood and die for us!

The Cross


Paul tells us in verse 8 that Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

This is the climax of humble service. Everything in the life of Jesus was building to this moment. As Luther once said, “The cross and crib are cut from the same wood.” The cross was just the next stage in his humble service toward us. But the cross changes everything. The definition of humility was forever altered after the Son of God was hung upon a tree for you and me. Who is this God?

Hearers of this message in Paul’s day would have been absolutely stunned that any deity would be connected to humility and more than that a cross. Humility was not a virtue for the roman gods; it was a weakness. Augustine was adamant that you would not find the quality of humility ever attributed to any other so called god. This was a virtue that belonged exclusively to Jesus Christ.

A cross was even crazier—many thought that the early Christians were “mad” for worshipping a God that had been crucified. Crucifixion was the ultimate shameful death—how could you claim that a god could ever be crucified and even more how could you ever worship such a weak and helpless god?

The truth, however, is that the cross is the greatest display of humble love the world has ever known. It expresses to us that we have a God who was literally humbled to death for our sake! A God who was swallowed by death in order to destroy it from the inside—for us!

Luther says, “Now it is not sufficient for anyone, and it does him no good to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross.” Why? Because this is his glory! The God who comes low and took on death to demonstrate the depth of his concern—this is glory.

Without a humble God we could not be saved. Augustine said “there would be no salvation for us if Christ had not been prepared to humble himself for our sakes.” The humility of Jesus is a saving humility. He is not just showing us the way of humility. He is saving us by his humility.

The Crown


Paul tells us that this humiliation takes a turn to exaltation. God highly exalts him and gives him a name above all names. And it is at this name that every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.

Even here the glory of humility is evident. It is the humility of God that brings us to our knees in adoration. When we behold the stunning and unexpected glory of humility, we ourselves are humbled. God crushes us with his kindness—it is his kindness that leads us to repentance. I believe this is just another dimension or angle on his humility.

When the Son is exalted what does he do in heaven as he sits at the right hand of God enthroned? The book of Hebrews and the book of Romans both tell us that he does not sit on his throne much—instead we find him on his knees interceding and praying for us! This is how he reigns from heaven—with sacrificial concern and service.

When we look at Jesus we behold a God on his knees. Crawling as a baby. Falling to his knees as he carries the cross. On his knees in prayer as our King. The glory of his humility is blinding. He considers us as more important than himself and proves it by giving his own life for our sake. Such humility beckons us—calls us to worship. It calls us to join God on our knees. If we serve a God who is comfortable on his knees then surely that is where we will meet with him.

Gospel and Vocation

Like any other doctrine, vocation must be brought into dialogue with the gospel to grasp its depths and beauty. I have chosen only a few conversation points between them. I want to look at vocation through a Trinitarian lens, gospel shaped vocation, and gospel need in vocation.

The Vocation of the Triune God


When we speak of God we speak of a Triune Being. God the Father, Son, and Spirit—one God in three distinct persons. Vocation is an idea rooted in the Trinity. God takes upon himself various roles in his engagement with the world. These roles fall underneath the categories of creation and salvation. The biblical narrative is clear that the Triune God engages his tasks with the utmost zeal, precision, and efficacy. A brief look at each of the three persons in action will shed light on the vocational God.
The Father
God the Father is the architect of creation. He is attributed with the design and execution of all that has been made. In the first few chapters of Genesis we observe a God who creates with skill, power, creativity, and joy.  In salvation, the Father continues in his role as the designer. To him belongs the plan of salvation. He plans, promises, elects, and sends the Son and Spirit in this work. In each of these areas he is filled with grace and intentionality. His work of salvation is as perfect as his work of creation.
The Spirit
The Spirit plays a vital role in creation. He hovers over the unformed world and breathes life into it. He gives and sustains life. He is the life source for all created beings. In the work of salvation he continues to be the life-giver. He empowers the sent Son to accomplish his saving task. He then is sent by the Son and Father to breathe regenerative life into those trusting the gospel. He sustains new life in people and conforms them into the image of the Son. The Holy Spirit is a mighty laborer who fulfills his tasks with passion and care. 
The Son
The Son is the “word” of God in creation. He is the means through which all things are created. He is God’s mediator. He is also the mediator of salvation. He is sent by the Father to bring his salvation plan to fruition. The Son is said to be the clearest revelation of God. He vividly reveals the vocational God. As the God-man, he also reveals how humans are to engage vocation. In other words, Jesus is the cardinal figure for understanding divine and human vocation.
The short statements about his childhood reveal something of the vocation of children. They are called to obey and honor their parents. They are called to schooling and learning. They are called to serve God above all else. In his later years, we learn that he followed in the footsteps of Joseph and worked as a carpenter. I imagine he engaged his task the same way he worked with his Father in fashioning the earth. The divine work ethic revealed in creation was surely manifest in Christ. It definitely was in his ministry.
In his ministry Jesus took on many roles. He was a teacher, preacher, healer, miracle worker, friend, and ultimately a Savior. His greatest work occurred at a cross and a tomb outside of Jerusalem. God punched the clock before he carried the cross to Golgotha. He was still on the clock when he strolled out of the grave and defeated death. Oswald Bayer hits it on the head when he connects divine vocation to creation and cross. 
“The common rule is: ‘God gives you office that you may serve.’ God’s action is determined by his self-proffering love, which seeks the lost and the fallen. For to Luther God himself, when he is described as Creator, becomes utterly like a human being faithful to his vocation, who gives himself to the lowly. God creates out of nothing, i.e. gives heed to the helpless who are at the point of death. In the crucifixion of Christ on Golgotha, he who was despised by the world showed himself a true Creator, one who makes his costliest work out of that which is nothing.”
The upshot of this is that divine vocation comes to a head in the gospel. In the gospel we see the most vivid demonstration of God fulfilling his role as Creator and Savior. Therefore the gospel is the richest resource for understanding vocation.
The Gospel Shape of Vocation


The gospel is the blueprint for our vocational endeavors. In it we learn these valuable lessons that should translate into our various stations in life.Vocational identity shifts throughout the seasons of our lives
  • Vocation is earthly, normal, and gloriously mundane
  • Vocation is the means by which we love and serve others
  • Vocation is to be engaged with whole hearted excellence
  • Vocation requires suffering, sacrifice, and pain
Vocation Drives us to the Gospel


The gospel shapes vocation, but it also supports us as we engage vocation. As we noted in the last post, our stations in life have a way of exposing our sinful tendencies. We also recognize that though we try our best to execute our vocations with integrity, faithfulness, and selflessness, we fall short of that quite often. We recognize that the gospel example is impossible to follow with our own resources. This is where God uses the gospel standard to drive us back to the gospel promise.
Gospel shaped vocation requires continual gospel support. God’s grace is woven through every facet of vocation. In his vocational activity he rescues us and provides the pattern for our callings. He then undergirds us in our endeavors by gospel strength and cleansing.