Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You, A Bondservant of Christ

We love to focus on the many things we are in Christ.  We love that we are children of God.  We love that we are coheirs with Christ.  We love that we are cleansed with the blood of Jesus.  We love that we have eternal life.  We love that we are no longer under condemnation.  We love that we are new creations in Christ.  Oh, and we love that we are bondservants, that is slaves for life.  Wait a minute, we do not like that part.  There are not too many promise calenders telling us we are slaves to Christ.  It is one of those realities we often brush under the carpet and try not to think about.  We do so because being slaves means obedience is not just requested, but expected. 
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [who is] in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NKJV
When we come to Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes us residence in our hearts.  As God dwells within us, we become the temple of God.  The text is clear here in that we are no longer our own.  We are not free to do whatever we want, but our bound eternally to God.  When we come to Jesus, we are redeemed by His blood and in that we become His.  Not only do we become His spiritually, but also physically.  Note here that it is our bodies and our spirits that belong to God. 

I know that there are many who do not like this idea.  It is rather humbling to think that obedience to God is expected.  Some may call me a legalist for just mentioning such a thing, but the Word of God is clear.  Legalism, once again, is adding to God's word.  Obedience is following it.  We are called to obedience.  We are called to be slaves of God.  Many of us will spend our entire lives battling with this concept.  We want to do our own thing. We want to find our own happiness.  We get our selves in all kinds of trouble, failing time and again to achieve the joy that can only be found in surrendering our will to God. 

Let us now look what it means to be a slave to God.  First of all, we are not slaves by compulsion.  God did not force us into our slavery, but something we asked for when we made Jesus the Lord of our lives.  This comes back to the idea of actually having to mean it when we called Jesus our Lord.  Using "Lord" when speaking of Jesus has lost much of its meaning nowadays.  I have heard pastors refer to Him as Lord, sing to Him as Lord, and pray to Him as Lord, but then downplay any importance of obedience.  If He is our Lord, then obedience is expected.  We decide to call him Lord and in that we commit to His Lordship over our lives.  If Jesus is not truly your Lord, can you say that you ever really confessed Him as Lord?  I hope you will search your heart for that answer.  Another way of looking at it, if you truly confessed Jesus as Lord, then do you live like it?  Jesus being our Lord must be a reality in our lives.

And that brings me to the next reality of our position as slaves of Christ.  We are obedient.  If you call Jesus your Lord, that makes you His slave. If you are His slave, you will be obedient.  Slaves obey their masters otherwise they are not slaves.  This is not rocket science, but it is a common sense reality lost in so much of the church today.  Obedience is something expected of us.  It is part of our identity in Christ. 

Another thing it means is that our desire is to please Him.  If we choose our Lord out of our love for Him, then our submission to Him is one out of love.  This is best explained through the marriage relationship where the wife submits to her husband out of love for him and a desire to please him.  Is your desire to please your Lord?   This is why obedience is important.  How can you say you love your Lord if you do not listen to a thing He says? How can you say you desire to please your Lord when you do not do the things that please Him or choose to do the things that don't please Him?  Our obedience is expected not only because of the positional reality of being His bondservant (or slave), but out of the love we have for Him.  The text I presented makes it clear that our bodies and our spirits belong to God and therefore the positional reality of being a slave of Christ must be expressed in our lives.  In other words, this is not just some theological principle to be meditated upon, but a reality that must be acted upon.

Finally, as slaves, we must expect discipline should we fail to obey.  I know this is not a popular concept, but Jesus speaks of the servant beaten with many stripes for knowing his father's will and not doing it and Hebrews tells us that God chastises those whom He loves. It is clearly Scriptural and has nothing to do with our salvation.  The mistake teachers make in downplaying the concept of discipline is pinning it to our forgiveness for our sins.  The correct understanding regarding discipline is not to think of it as punishment for our sins, but as a means of correcting our behavior.  The goal is correction not punishment.  When we come under God's chastisement (and that can come under any number of forms depending on what God knows will work best for you), the response is to to seek God to see what it is in our lives that He desires us to change and not to rebel against it.  That only compounds the problem and further strains your relationship with God. 

So now one probably wonders how to reconcile all I just said with everything we heard about our freedom in Christ.  The answer is in the meaning of freedom.  From our fleshly perspective, freedom is the ability to satisfy the desires of our flesh at will and without repercussion.  That is not freedom at all, though.  That is just a different kind of slavery.  If you live to satisfy the desires of your flesh, you are merely a slave to your flesh.  You are a slave to your carnal desires.  From God's perspective, freedom is a completely different thing.  Freedom is being free from the never-satisfied fleshly desires allowing you to become what you were created to be.  Freedom is the ability to seek after the works that were laid for you.  Freedom is becoming what you were created to be.  The idea of submitting ourselves to God being a bad thing is merely the rebellion of a flesh that does not want to die.  That is why we crucify the flesh, that is why we deny ourselves, and that is why we put away the old man.  They only get in the way and truly realizing the life custom created for us before the foundations of the world. 

The idea of being bondservants or slaves to Christ is not some advanced doctrine, bet merely applied basics of Christianity.  It is merely meaning it when we call Him our Lord and understanding what that means for our lives.  I know it is not a popular doctrine as we all want to live our own lives.  The problem is that our lives our not our own anymore.  We have been given a new life as new creations and what we used to be is no longer. Those desires must go to the wayside with our old lives before Christ.  You may think the key to happiness is the satisfy those desires that tickle the flesh, but if you were so happy then why did you come to Jesus in the first place?  God through Paul tells us to "glorify God in your body and in your spirit."  We do that through obedience.  We do that by doing those works laid out for us from before the foundations of the earth.  I have said it before, but I will say it again.  There is no greater joy than realizing the works you were created for and having the freedom to do them. 
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men-- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.  2 Peter 2:15-16 NKJV

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