Blog - Doing Earthwork
Billy Graham: God is Working in a New WayWednesday, June 27, 2012
Billy Graham believes God is "working in a new way” today. In The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons quotes what the aging evangelist told him at the Graham home in Montreat, North Carolina:
"Back when we did these big crusades in football stadiums and arenas, the Holy Spirit was really moving—and people were coming to Christ as we preached the Word of God. But today, I sense something different is happening. I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things. They are demonstrating God’s love to those around them, not just with words, but in deed.”
If Graham is right, if God is moving in a new way "through people where they work,” why might that be? While I don’t claim to know all of God’s reasons, I think N. T. Wright shines a lot of helpful light on that "why” question in his book, Simply Jesus.
Wright asks: "What on earth does it mean, today, to say that Jesus is king, that he is Lord of the world?” Jesus came saying that the kingdom of God had come near. He claimed to have all authority in heaven and on earth. We Christians find it easy to think Jesus rules heaven. But the way the world is going, many wonder: If Jesus is in charge, how does he exercise his authority?
To answer that, Wright points us back to what God said when he began his creation-project. Once he had made the earth and put plants, animals, and people in it, how did God intend to rule it? According to Gen. 1:26, "God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over . . . all the earth.” So, as Wright points out, "God intended to rule the world through human beings.”
The wrong turn Adam and Eve took in Gen. 3, however, did major damage to the ability of God’s earth-rulers to carry out that assignment. Isaiah 24:4-5 reflects the effects of this loss: "The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers. . . . The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.”
But in Christ, says Wright, God acted to restore what was lost: "Jesus rescues human beings in order that through them he may rule his world in the new way he always intended.” And, "This, then, is how Jesus puts his kingdom achievement into operation: through the humans he has rescued.”
How do we—God’s rescued, recreated people—carry out his original assignment to rule his earth? Through our work, both paid and unpaid. Although we are not saved by our works, we have been "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
These good works include but extend far beyond what we have come to call "church work.” Wright comments: "In the New Testament, ‘good works’ are what Christians are supposed to be doing in and for the wider community. That is how the sovereignty of Jesus is put into effect.” He adds, "God wants the world to be ordered, not chaotic. He intends to bring that order to the world through the work, the thought, the planning, and the wisdom of human beings.”
In The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons, seems to agree: "The next Christians don’t work at jobs; they serve in vocations. They see their occupational placement as part of God’s greater mission. This view is natural and holistic, and fits within the everyday rhythms of most people’s lives.”
Just think what would happen if millions upon millions of Christians were to catch that vision and act on it in their weekday work.