Doing the Work of God
Reverend Anthony R. Locke
April 18th, 2010
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
John 6:22-40 Apostle’s Creed Series 01 English Standard Version
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.
23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?
31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”
32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
When Caesar spoke of his military victory against Pontus, he wrote a condensed and now famous summary. He said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Caesar’s comment summed up more than the war. His terse comment helps us understand the style of his leadership.
Winston Churchill told England that the pending war with Germany would not be won easily. He expected it to come through “blood, toil, sweat and tears.” The comment speaks to the grit of a man, the troubling times and the painful journey they were facing. Churchill was right.
President Ronald Regan stood at the Brandenburg Gate on the 750th anniversary of Berlin and bellowed to the Kremlin and Gorbachev, “tear down this wall!”
These are golden sentences for they vividly capture a personality, the tenor of the debate, and the spirit of the times.
There are phrases like this in the Bible. Some people call them pregnant sentences which capture the essence of the Gospel, sanctification and the personality of God Himself.
What are some of these sentences? We could quickly brainstorm many.
- John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
- Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
- No poem can rival The Lord is my shepherd during times of intense grief.
The answer Jesus gives in John 6:29 is another insightful sentence. Jesus defines the work of God in terms of our faith, and not in terms of our church programs and worship activities. That rattled the strict religious Jewish community just as it rattles believers today. This golden utterance for Christ has ramifications to our employment, our purpose and the way we view the world around us. It is revolutionary.
Like every passage, it includes a broader context. People were attracted to Jesus because He fed them a miraculous meal. They were excited that the work of God was happening again in their generation as it had in previous generations recorded in the Old Testament. They were hoping to be repeatedly dazzled by this unique work of God within their lifetime. They were not coming to faith through the signs Jesus manifest. They wanted a ticket to the circus.
Jesus pulled a fast one on the crowd to seek some personal solitude. The crowd wasn’t deterred. They got in boats and crossed the Sea of Galilee where they found Jesus at Capernaum. There they asked him the question in verse 28. What must we do, to be doing the works of God?
It is a great question. People still ask this question today and we need a ready answer.
The world is especially confused with what constitutes God’s work. Some people strap bombs to their chest and kill strangers claiming to be doing the work of God. Others plant flowers in their back yard and make the same claim. Our own government wants to know the answer so they can maintain a wall of separation.
A majority of people in secular society would say that serving the needs of the poor and disadvantaged qualifies as the work of God. I am convinced that every moment my wife spends parenting our four children is the Lord’s work getting done.
Our opinions are all interesting, but only opinions. A good answer must be tied to the Divine declarations of scripture. So let’s set the question up this way.
When Jesus was on the earth He did the work of the Father. Whether He ate or drank He was doing the Lord’s work. How do we transition out of the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of our Lord so that our life can be labeled the same? That’s the question.
I think it will be helpful to begin answering this backwards. Let me itemize first what God’s work isn’t.
- We are not doing the work of God because we are busy in the church building or on the church property.
- Obeying God’s commands doesn’t automatically qualify. In and of itself that is legalism.
- Obedience to parents, public lawmakers or public law enforcers is not the work of God.
- Teaching God’s commands doesn’t automatically qualify. In and of itself that is only Pharisee-ism.
- Performing the prescribed worship in the Old Testament through sacrifices and in the New Testament via the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are not necessarily the work of God. God sent prophets to preach against keeping the sacrificial system. Jesus and the Apostle’s preached against many of the religious habits of their day.
- The work of God is not found in keeping church traditions. That is traditionalism. We should be impatient with religious piety untethered to Biblical commands. Often the keeping of traditions is falsely relabeled being conservative. It is only dead traditionalism.
So how do we qualify? How do we do the works of God? The answer is simple.
Any activity qualifies as the work of God when faith transforms that activity into a spiritual pursuit that glorifies God. The secret ingredient is faith, which then enables our whole life to please God. This is the message of 1 Corinthians 10:31, that whether we eat or drink or whatsoever we do, we do it all to the glory of God.
Romans 14:23 says that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Conversely, whatever we do in life that does proceed from faith is not sin, but rather the work of God. If your faith leads you to do something for God’s glory then you are doing God’s work.
Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Everyone has an inner desire to draw near to God, but not everyone is drawn by faith. The people in our passage were drawing near to Jesus to get food for their stomachs. Like Simon the magician in Acts 8, they wanted to be a part of the spectacle. John 6:26 Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Why do we draw near to God? Is it because we think church attendance will magically make our life better? Many people who used to go to church can tell you that isn’t true.
Do we seek God so He will bless our business, our family, our marriage, and our life? Are we seeking the blessing or are we seeking to draw near to Jesus?
Going to church to seek a better life for yourself will leave you empty and cynical. I know this from personal experience while in college. John 6:27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.
Jesus is stamped with the Father’s own divine seal of approval. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Believing and living for Jesus constitutes doing the work of God.
This is a broad definition and very liberating. Everyone can do God’s work wherever they find themselves. We seek Jesus first, and then in faith we do our labors in this world as unto the Lord and not unto men. Our own talents and interests lead us into our hobbies and employment, but our faith in Jesus enables us to do these things for God’s glory and not our own.
My dad used to tell his three sons, “find what you love and learn to make a living at it.”
Jesus would say, “find what you love and by faith glorify and enjoy God with it.”
When we seek Jesus first, and then in faith live life to the fullest for the glory and pleasure of God, then we are doing the work of God. As the Bible said, everything done without faith is sin. Everything done from a platform of faith pleases God.
John 6:29 is our foundation for Christian living. This is how we live for heaven while living on the earth. When our life is over we hope people will summarize our life by saying, “first and foremost, he was a believer.”
This wisdom of Jesus is better than the words of Caesar or Churchill. Their words open a window into a moment of history, Jesus opens a window unto eternal life. This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
We fulfill this verse when our life is governed by our faith in Jesus. Faith is dead without works. Every day we must do the works of faith. The two can’t be separated. Jesus is our only worthy pursuit. The seal of approval was declared upon Jesus at His birth, baptism, on the mount of transfiguration, at the resurrection and ascension.
We seek Jesus when we daily ask the Holy Spirit to saturate every moment of our life with a transforming faith. It should be our prayer that our work habits and family relationships would be controlled by a living faith in Jesus. We need to be drunk with the fruits of the Spirit.
Our faith becomes a witness to the glory of Jesus when His perfections, virtues and grace infuse all of our activities. People hear our profession of faith, but our actions speak louder than our words.
When we believe in Jesus we are obeying God’s chief command. 1 John 3:23 says, And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ.
Our selected passage concludes with John 6:40 which says, For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
What do you believe in? Some people believe in hard work. Others in community service. Others in the keeping of traditions. These things are not the works of God. God’s work is to bring us to faith in Jesus. Our work is to believe and live as a believer.
What motivates your soul to seek Jesus? Do you desire to be engaged in the work of God? Then every day profess faith in the power of Jesus to save. Let that confession guide your life into a daily pursuit of His glory. Find what you love about this world that God made. Find your place in it. Pursue Jesus in all your activities. Seek His glory. Let Jesus increase and your own importance decrease.
What draws us to Jesus? Are we seeking food? Jesus said, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
This is a sinful world, but we can connect our life with God’s activity through faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:20 says, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
How do we join our energies with the energies of God? We believe in Jesus.
How do we work the works of God? We believe in the One sent from the Father.
We become known for being believers as the Spirit fills us with the fruits of faith.
May God bless us as we embrace all that Jesus has for us in this life and the next. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.