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TRUE CHRISTIAN LABOR IS A LABOR OF LOVE
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
4 SEPTEMBER 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
2 Kings 17:22-29
1 Peter 5:8
1 John 4:7
Preparation Verse: (1 John 4:7)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
When we think about Labor Day, we may think of many different things.
To some it marks the end of summer vacation and returning to school.
To some it is the last long weekend of the summer and a time to have fun.
To some it is a vacation from work and a time to relax.
And to others, it celebrates all who work for a living.
But today I would like to offer up a different meaning for Labor Day, and in fact to suggest that every day really should be a day of labor.
"But wait a minute," you may say. "Aren’t we commanded by God to do no work on the Sabbath?"
The answer is yes, but we must put it in proper context and look at the true intent of this commandment.
This is the fourth of the Ten Commandments, and perhaps that is the best place to start our looking for the true intent. Note Exodus 20:8-11.
8. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10. but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
11. "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Before we make any comment on this passage of Scripture, let’s take a look at what the Lord has to say about the Sabbath.
In Mark 2:27-28, in conclusion of a discussion Jesus was having with the Pharisees over the intent of the Law and the keeping of the Sabbath:
27. And He was saying to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
28. "Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
What Jesus is saying here is that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of man, so that he would not become fatigued from working every day.
The day was set aside so that man could become refreshed; but most importantly, refreshed in the Lord.
Jesus is also saying that man is a higher institution than the Sabbath, for the Sabbath was created for man, and not man for the sake of the Sabbath.
In Mark 3:4, Jesus poses a question that is intended to search the intent of man’s heart:
4. And He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent.
Only a person who is hard of heart could have kept silent, for it is quite obvious that in God's eyes it is always lawful and desirable to do good and to save a life, regardless of the day or time, or whether it involved an animal or a human.
Since God is love, then all that we do in the love of God is desirable.
And anything we do that is not God's will is against God.
Thus, we never need a rest from the labor of love.
And we are never to stop loving God, one another, and even the whole of God’s creation, regardless of what we do to one another or part of creation..
We are to abhor the sin in each of us, and we are to love each other in spite of that sin, just as Christ loves us.
By this time, some of you may be wondering how all of this leads to our Old and New Testament lessons for this morning.
It does, in this way:
Sometimes we are too busy to do the will of our Father.
Sometimes we are too busy to read our Bibles.
Sometimes we are too busy to go to church and to a Bible study.
Sometimes we are too busy to witness to others about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done in our lives.
Sometimes we are too busy to live our lives as Christ would have us live.
Sometimes we are just to busy to speak out against the indifference, corruption, and injustice that allows and even supports the suffering of millions of humans and billions of animals every year.
And sometimes we are just too busy to love our neighbor.
Our Old Testament lesson tells us why Israel was exiled from their homeland, and about the people who were brought in to replace them.
The legalistic Jews would have nothing to do with these people, not even telling them the truth about God.
And it wasn't until Jesus came and went to these people through the woman at the well, that the word of salvation and of God's love was presented.
Let's tie this together as it applies not only to our church, but also to every other church.
In 2 Kings 17:22-29, it says:
22. And the sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them,
Aren’t there people in our churches today who follow a false doctrine because the truth is too convicting, who either live in sin themselves or condone the sin of others, and thus follow the sins of the world, of which Jeroboam was a type?
What has happened in our churches is very much like what happened to Israel:
23. until the Lord removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.
24. And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and from Sephar-vaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities.
The king of Assyria represents a type of satanic image to us.
And God will remove His protection from us if we continue to go after the evils of the world, and thus He permits us to fall into the hands of Satan.
Haven’t many people been removed from the church through similar situations?
Aren’t there many living in the vicinity of this church who are not following God, or at least not following the God of the Bible and the peaceful teaching of Jesus?
25. And it came about at the beginning of their living there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them which killed some of them.
Note what we are told in 1 Peter 5:8.
8. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The only way we can truly be of sober spirit and be on the alert is when we are in Christ Jesus, and have the Holy Spirit with us.
Without such protection, it is easy for the devil to destroy us, as is the case with these people who were moved into Samaria.
Isn’t this happening in the world around us?
So, what do these people do? Note the answer, as we return to our 2 Kings verses:
26. So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, "The nations whom you have carried away into exile in the cities of Samaria do not know the custom of the god of the land; so he has sent lions among them, and behold, they kill them because they do not know the custom of the god of the land."
Instead of seeking their answer from God, for they do not know Him, they seek it from the world, which also does not know Him.
It is a classic case of the blind leading the blind, and it is still going on
today in every walk of life, even from some of our church pulpits.
27. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, "Take there one of the priests whom you carried away into exile, and let him go and live there; and let him teach them the custom of the god of the land."
28. So one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from Samaria came and lived at Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord.
29. But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the houses of the high places which the people of Samaria had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived.
We can not mix things that are holy and righteous before the Lord with those things that are unrighteous and expect them to be acceptable to God.
We cannot make our own religion to fit the lifestyle we wish to live in and expect God to conform to our ways.
He simply will not accept it. In fact, He will most likely reject them, until they return to Him on His terms.
Thus Samaria floundered, and so are we beginning to flounder in this country.
God has called upon us to love our neighbor, and to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We cannot spread the good news unless we are well versed in God's Word.
And what we say will not be heard, if we do not live the life that we preach.
Thus it was in the case of Samaria.
And thus it came about that the Jews would have nothing to do with the Samaritans.
Aren’t we doing that same thing today when we water down God's Word, live with one foot in the church and the other in the world, and form cliques in our churches that exclude outsiders, for any variety of reasons, even such loving thing as caring about animals and not eating them?
In our New Testament lesson, John 4:3-29, Jesus is telling us that we are not to be this way, and He sets the proper example for us.
3. He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.
4. And He had to pass through Samaria.
5. So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph;
6. and Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink."
8. For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9. The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Here we have the stage set to bring us back into focus with our Old Testament
lesson which took place over 700 years before.
10. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
Jesus, in the same kind of love we are to exhibit, is trying to break through
the spiritual blindness of this woman, so that He may give her the gift of
11. She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?
She is seeing with worldly eyes. She is seeing only the physical. But there is a ray of hope in what she expresses next.
12. "You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?"
Then Jesus picks up on this seeking question, as we are to do when we witness
of Jesus and His love.
13. Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again;
Our answer is not in the physical.
Just as God is Spirit, so also can we find our salvation only in the spiritual realm.
14. but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
Have we drunk of this living water?
Has it become a well of water springing up within us, so that we may share it with others?
Are we sharing it with others as Jesus is doing, particularly when people reach out for the truth as this woman is doing?
15. The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw."
She is still mixing the physical with the spiritual, and He must bring the
truth into proper focus.
16. He said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."
17. The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband';
18. for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly."
19. The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
Jesus' loving words are turning this woman from the physical to the
Note also that she refers to Him as “sir,” indicating that He has a quality of appearance and presentation that commands respect.
Jesus met her where she was at, but He did not come down to her level of life in order to attract her attention. This is how we will also be most effective.
We may not be given a word of knowledge to know such things when we are speaking with others.
The real prophet of today is the one who knows the Word of God and can explain it to others, and we are all called upon to do this.
Their conversation continues:
20 "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
21. Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father.
22. "You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
23. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
24. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
25. The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."
26. Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."
Jesus Christ's own words have led this woman to Him, and we can use Christ's
words to lead others to Him.
27. At this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman; yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why do You speak with her?"
There is another important witnessing lesson here.
Jesus was and is sinless. We are not. We can fall into temptation.
The world will look at us and imagine all sorts of things, so why put temptation before ourselves or them?
28. So the woman left her water pot, and went into the city, and said to the men,
29. "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?"
The message got through!
We are all called upon to lovingly witness to others about Jesus Christ.
It is the type of labor that must be done in love, and done all the time.
And we are to live the life we tell about, and not put a limit on who we tell
We are to continually live our lives as if Jesus was present with us; for He is!