I'd Like to Speak to the Manager - Part 6
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
May 20, 2018
This morning I preach the final message in the series I call, “I’d Like to Speak to the Manager.” Managers are put in charge of other peoples’ stuff. They don’t own what they manage, but they do use it the way the owner would.
That’s a very biblical concept called stewardship. Stewards are found in the OT and the NT, sometimes called overseers. Stewards were servants put in charge of the master’s household and affairs. Joseph is the OT example of what a steward or manager should be.
When you study the Bible, you discover Jesus and Peter and Paul saw Christians as stewards, managers of things belonging to God but put in their care.
The first stewardship we looked at was our bodies, the second our time, the third the gospel, the fourth grace-gifts, the fifth our wealth, and the sixth and last one may surprise you.
Before I tell you what it is, I want to go back to where we started with the stewardship of our bodies, because there’s a connection with today.
If you remember, our key verse for being good stewards of our bodies was found in Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth…
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
If our bodies are not our own, but God’s, then we are managers or stewards of them. Which means we should treat them and use them the way God would.
Leading up to that revelation, Paul had stressed to the Corinthians the particular importance of not using their bodies for sexual immorality for two reasons:
- They had been saved out of a culture that promoted sexual immorality.
- There was a twisted teaching going around the churches that what you did in your body didn’t matter because there was a division between the physical and the spiritual. Are you hungry? Eat! Are you attracted to someone? Indulge in your passions.
This is why he said…
1 Corinthians 6:13b–14 (ESV) — 13 …The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
Paul utterly demolished the idea that there is no connection between the physical and the spiritual, that they are in any way at odds with one another, or that you can compartmentalize them. They are, in fact, inextricably linked. What we do physically, affects us spiritually and vice versa.
And not only that, our present bodies are connected to our future resurrection bodies. I hinted at this in the first message, but now we’ll take a much closer look. This truth is found in verse 14…
14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
This verse has two points, one playing off the other.
(1). “God raised the Lord…”
Jesus died on the cross and three days later was resurrected from the dead. People have had problems with that since ancient times. There were those even in Paul’s day saying Jesus’ resurrection was merely spiritual and when the disciples saw him, they only saw his spirit.
But Dr. Luke put that debate to rest. In his gospel account, he recorded what happened after Jesus was raised from the dead…
Luke 24:36–43 (ESV) — 36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
Spirits don’t have flesh and bones, and spirits don’t eat real food. Jesus was raised from the dead in a physical body. End of discussion. God raised the Lord…
(2). “… and will also raise us up by his power.”
One day all those who belong to Jesus will get new resurrection bodies as well. These new bodies will be free from sin and able to live and flourish in eternity.
Now, if Jesus’ body was physical, do you think ours will be? Look at what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians (who were dealing with false teachings on the resurrection)…
1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Jesus’ resurrection is the “firstfruits” of the coming resurrection. That word firstfruits is important. One Bible scholar explains…
“Firstfruits is a metaphor drawn from Old Testament harvests. A small portion of the anticipated grain harvest was offered up symbolically, dedicating the whole future harvest to God. The “firstfruits” came first and contained in them the whole rest of the grain harvest to come… Similarly, Christ’s resurrection is part and parcel of the future resurrection of all who belong to him at his coming (v. 23): Christ alone now, the rest to follow.”
If Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection, and he was resurrected in a physical body, then what kind of body do think ours will be? Spiritual or physical? They have to be physical, just like his. End of discussion again.
I wish I had more time to cover this, but I’ve got to get to the main point today. I’m leading you to an important truth most Christians don’t get (I didn’t for many years even as a pastor). And then from that we’ll see what our final stewardship is.
Keep what we’ve just covered in mind and look at what Paul wrote the Christians in Rome…
Romans 8:18–23 (ESV) — 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
There is weeks’ worth of messages I could preach on Christian living from this text, but something else is there; something that screams to be heard.
Creation is looking forward to the resurrection as much as we are. Why? Because it will finally be set free from the curse put on it because of man’s rebellion against God. Hmmm.
Now, look at what Peter wrote in his second letter…
2 Peter 3:11–13 (ESV) — 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
There’s going to be a new heavens and a new earth. This idea of a new heavens and earth is all over the Bible, from OT to NT. The book of Revelation, which tells us what happens in the end, even refers to it…
Revelation 21:1 (ESV) — 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
Are you making all the connections here?
Our bodies aren’t the only things being resurrected one day. The heavens and the earth will be resurrected as well.
We always talk about going to heaven when the roll is called up yonder, but, in reality, we are already “up yonder” right now… in it’s pre-resurrected state of course. This earth and all the universe will be redeemed just like us and made new, and there’s where we’ll live for all eternity with God.
You might be thinking: Couldn’t that be symbolic?
If the resurrected Jesus has a physical body and his resurrected followers will have a physical body, and the Bible plainly teaches of a new heaven and earth, how could it be a purely spiritual place?
We would fall right through those clouds and land on our harps, except there wouldn’t be anything to land on. And why call it a new heavens and earth, implying it is a physical place? An honest interpretation of Scripture on all this leaves us understanding the resurrection as physical and the place we’ll be resurrected to as physical and in fact a new heavens and earth made out of the old.
Mind blown. I know.
What in the world does this have do with stewardship, you ask? We’ve been to the end, now go back with me to the very beginning…
Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
God made all there is, the stars and planets, the earth and seas, the plants and animals, and it was good, free from any defects or curse. He also created man and woman in his image (also free from defect or sin) and in that state we see…
Genesis 1:28 (ESV) — 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God made it, but he put man in charge of it. Even before the fall, in the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible, where we see the beginning of all things, we discover the principle of stewardship.
Al Mohler writes…
“In Genesis, God creates humanity in his own image. To this creature, God extends a mandate of dominion in no uncertain terms: ‘… fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over [it].’…
For a long time, I did my best in my teaching and writing to ‘balance’ this verse and its clear declaration of human dominion over the created order with the biblical theme of stewardship. But I have come to the conclusion that they are really one and the same. A proper understanding of dominion includes stewardship.”
So back in the Garden of Eden, before sin and death entered the world, if somebody asked to speak to the manager of creation, who’d show up? Mankind would.
Ah, Pastor Brad, I see what you’re saying, but you said it yourself: before sin and death entered the world we were stewards. The curse cancelled that out. We don’t have to take care of creation anymore.
Where do you get that? God didn’t care less about his creation because it was cursed (just like he didn’t care less about us because we sinned). He included us and creation in his redemption plans.
Listen to this…
Psalm 145:16–17 (ESV) — 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
Psalm 50:10–11 (ESV) — 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.
Proverbs 12:10 (ESV) — 10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
Psalm 8:3–6 (ESV) — 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
We are still stewards of God’s creation. Nothing changed in that regard. And what’s more, all of creation is going to be renewed, resurrected, and uncursed, just like us one day, and we will be set over it as stewards again.
So right now if someone said I’d like to speak to the manager of creation, who’d show up? We still do. One day when all is made right and there’s new heavens and a new earth and someone asks to speak to the manager, who shows up? We do.
Now let me ask you a question? When it comes to caring for creation, how good a job have we Christian stewards done? Christians should be the biggest supporters of taking care of creation, but we are the worst.
We should care about climate change and the extinction of species and recycling and planting trees more than any other group of folks, but we don’t, at least Western Christians of the last quarter century or so don’t.
Why is that? One reason is…
We have an unbiblical understanding of the physical versus spiritual
Even from ancient times, the church has bought into the idea that the physical is bad, so the goal is to be freed from it and just live in the spiritual realm. In that kind of thinking, the resurrection has to be spiritual, and heaven (where we live for eternity) has to be purely spiritual also. So who cares about polar bears or acid rain. It’s all gonna burn up anyway. But that just isn’t true. It doesn’t hold water.
Think about all we’ve learned today. Had mankind not fallen we’d live on the original physical earth forever. What we do physically right now matters, whether it has to do with our bodies or creation, because both our bodies and creation will be resurrected. Jesus’ bodily, physical, material resurrection is proof of that.
The physical isn’t evil, just cursed. In the new heavens and earth it will be uncursed, not burned up and done away with altogether.
Randy Alcorn, in his book on heaven writes…
"If I could snap my fingers and eliminate a single false assumption that keeps us from accurately understanding Scripture’s revelation about Heaven, it would be the heretical notion that the physical realm is an obstacle to God’s plan rather than a central part of it.”
Another reason Christians miss this is…
The leftward and oftentimes radical political leanings of those involved in ecology (tree huggers as they are unaffectionately called)
Christians don’t want to be associated with that, and rightly so. But we’re not off the hook. If we had maintained the proper understanding of our stewardship over creation, tree huggers wouldn’t have had to step up.
I wish I could better tell you what this looks like, but I’m just coming into an understanding of it myself. Just like all the other stewardships, we must pray and ask God to show us what we need to do and then ask him to help us do it.
I have to put this sermon to bed, or we’ll still be here at bedtime.
Repeat after me: God made all creation and put it into my care. That makes me a steward of it. Therefore the way I treat the created world matters.
Conclusion: I’ll close with NT Wright, who, referring to 1 Corinthians chapter 15 (the resurrection chapter written by Paul) said…
If we were to take the normal Western view of life after death, a long chapter on resurrection might end up with something like this: “Therefore, my beloved, lift up your head and wait for the wonderful hope that is coming to you eventually.” But for Paul, as is clear throughout 1 Corinthians, the resurrection means that what you do in the present matters into God’s future. That is so for ethics, not least sexual ethics, as in 1 Corinthians 6. But it is also so for everything else. The resurrection, God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last and be enhanced in God’s new world.
I have no idea precisely what this means. I do not know how the painting an artist paints today in prayer and wisdom will find a place in God’s new world. I don’t know what musical instruments we will have to play Bach, though I’m sure Bach’s music will be there. I don’t know how my planting a tree today will relate to the wonderful trees that will be in God’s recreated world. I don’t know how my work for justice for the poor, for remission of global debts, will reappear in that new world. But I know that God’s new world of justice and joy, of hope for the whole earth, was launched when Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning; I know he calls me and you to live in him and by the power of his spirit, and so to be new-creation people here and now, giving birth to signs and symbols of the kingdom on earth as in heaven. The resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit mean that we are called to bring forth real and effective signs of God’s renewed creation even in the midst of the present age…
… we are called to build for the kingdom. Like craftsmen working on a great cathedral, we have each been given instructions about the particular stone we are to spend our lives carving, without knowing or being able to guess where it will take its place within the grand design. We are assured, by the words of Paul and by Jesus’s resurrection as the launch of that new creation, that the work we do is not in vain. That says it all. That is the mandate we need for every act of justice and mercy, every program of ecology, every effort to reflect God’s wise stewardly image into his creation. In the new creation, the ancient human mandate to look after the garden is dramatically reaffirmed… The resurrection of Jesus is the reaffirmation of the goodness of creation, and the gift of the Spirit is there to make us the fully human beings we were supposed to be, precisely so that we can fulfill that mandate at last. What are we waiting for? Jesus is coming. Let’s go and plant those trees.
Are you going to be a part of that new heavens and earth? The only way is by coming to God through his son Jesus by faith and repentance.
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