Friday, June 5, 2015

Having a Servant's Heart

"Thou Art Worthy" by C.V. Lacroix
Some people react to the messages of holiness, righteousness, and truth, arguing that these are taking us into bondage.  They claim that since we are free in Christ, we have to resist all forms of bondage.

Slaves of Christ
However, the Bible says that we are bond-servants of Christ.  The actual Greek word is "doulos", which means "a slave (literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily; frequently therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency): - bond (-man), servant." (Strongs). This word is used all throughout the New Testament.

Jesus took upon Himself the form of a doulos, or slave (Phil 2:7). We as disciples are slaves of Christ and of God. Whenever Jesus wanted to emphasize discipleship and learning from Him, He used the term "disciple." But whenever He wanted to emphasize His Lordship as our Master. He would refer to us as "slaves."  In fact, all throughout the gospels, Jesus uses this word repeatedly (Mat. 10:24,25; 13:27,28; 18:23,26,27,28,32; 20:27; 21:34,35,36; 22:3,4,6,8,10; 24:45,46,48,50; 25:14,19,21,23,26,30; Mark 10:44; 12:2,4; 13:34; Luke 12:37,43,45,46,47; 14:17,21,22,23; 17:7,9,10; 19:13,15,17,22; 20:10,11; John 8:35; 13:16; 15:15,20).  Please take the time to look up those verses.  You will be very edified and instructed.

Near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus told His disciples, "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (Joh 15:15).  So some may interpret this to mean that we are not slaves of His.  However, that's not true. The Lord was simply emphasizing His friendship with His disciples and that their relationship went beyond that of slaves only. He wanted to emphasize His full disclosure to them of all that the Father had revealed to Him. However, Jesus still refers to us as His slaves (Rev 2:20; 22:6). The angels refer to us as slaves of God (Rev 7:3). The hosts of heaven refer to us as the slaves of God (Rev 19:1-2).  In fact, all throughout eternity, the disciples of Christ will always be His slaves who will serve Him.

"There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;" (Rev 22:3)

The apostle Paul referred to himself as the doulos, or slave of Christ (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1; Tit 1:1). Epaphras was a slave of Christ (Col 4:12). Timothy was a slave of Christ (Phil 1:1). James was a slave of Christ (Js 1:1).  The apostle Peter was a slave of Christ (2 Pe 1:1). And Jude was a slave of Christ (Jude 1).

In none of these passages did anyone refer to himself or anyone else using big titles like Bishop or Reverend, etc. They all referred to themselves and one another as servants or slaves of Christ. You cannot be a slave of Christ and answer to big titles. And if you are going to be a man-pleaser, you cannot be a servant of Christ either (Gal 1:10).  Being a man-pleaser and being a servant of Christ are mutually exclusive. Moreover, you cannot use your freedom as a cover up for evil to indulge the sinful nature, and still be a slave of Christ. Indulging the sinful nature and being a slave of Christ are also mutually exclusive.

The apostle Peter exhorted us, "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God." (1Pe 2:16; cf., Gal 5:13).  A slave says to his master, "Your wish is my command."

As the Scripture says, "Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go."  (Jos 1:16). Just as the Israelites pledged their obedience to Joshua this way, so should we offer ourselves to the Lord.

 The apostle Paul said, "...the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave." (1 Cor 7:22b, NIV).  

Jesus instructed us, "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'" (Luk 17:10)

The term "slave" as it is used of Christ and His disciples is definitely a New Testament term, carried over from the Old Testament.  The prophets were called the Lord's servants (Rev 10:7; 11:18).  Moses was the servant or slave (doulos) of God (Rev 15:3; Josh 8:31,33; 9:24; 11:12,15; 12:6; 13:8; 14:7; 18:7; 22:2,4,5; 2 King 18:12; 2 Chr 1:3; 24:6,9; Neh 9:14; Mal 4:4). Joshua was a servant of the Lord (Josh 24:29). David was a servant of the Lord (1Sa 23:10; 2 King 19:34; 1 Chr 17:24; 2 Chr 6:17,42; Ps 89:3,20; Is 37:35). Nehemiah was a servant of the Lord (Neh 1:6). Job was a servant of the Lord (Job 1:8; 2:3; 42:7,8).  Isaiah was a servant of the Lord (Is 20:3). Daniel was a servant of the Lord (Dan 6:20).  Jesus was referred to prophetically as the servant of the Lord (Is 42:1,19; 43:10; 49:5,6; 52:13; 53:11; Ez 34:23,24; Zec 3:8).

Slaves of Righteousness
It is in this context that I would like to point out that the apostle Paul taught us to become slaves of righteousness.  He said:

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Rom 6:12-18)

It is true that we were once slaves of sin.  As Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin...So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (Joh 8:34-36).  We are free indeed!  We are free to serve Him.  We are free to do His will. We are free to obey Him. We are free to live as slaves of righteousness.  We are not free to do whatever we want! Having been freed from sin, we became slaves of righteousness!

Paul said, "For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification." (Rom 6:19b).  There is a cause-effect relationship here.  You present yourself as a slave to righteousness and it results in holiness.  This makes my point perfectly regarding those who say that the teaching of holiness and righteousness is bondage or leads to bondage. Paul says it plainly, "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." (Rom 6:22).  It could not be more plain.  We are enslaved to God.  Slavery is a form of bondage, and we love being bond-slaves of God.  There is a cause-effect relationship here in this verse.  We have been freed from sin and the effect is that we have become enslaved to God. Our slavery to God results in holiness.  And our holiness results in eternal life.

Our Bodies As Our Slaves
The apostle Paul practiced strict discipline on himself in order to make his body to be his slave.  He said, "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1Co 9:26-27).

The NIV translates the phrase, "I discipline my body" as "I strike a blow to my body." The original Greek is "hupopiazo" meaning "to hit under the eye, as an antagonist, to keep under, or to subdue." (Strongs). This shows that it is very important to subdue our bodies through self-discipline. While God is looking on the heart, he also cares about what we do with our bodies.  Therefore, since Paul made his body his slave, then so must we.

A Slave to All
In fact, Paul said that being a slave of Christ meant that he not only had to make his own body his slave, but he made himself a slave to all. He wrote, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more." (1Co 9:19).  This is the kind of person whom Christ said is the greatest of all, because he becomes the slave of all.

Paul's attitude in this was to please all men in all things. He said, "Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved." (1Co 10:33). This was not men-pleasing, but (as he defined it) becoming all things to all men.

"To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." (1Co 9:20-23).

You may be thinking, "Well, that was fine for Paul, but I don't feel I can do that. It's not for me."  But it was in the context of his being a slave to all that Paul said, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Cor 11:1). In being a slave to all, Paul was following Christ's example, and he said that we should follow his example in doing so. Each of us must take this before the Lord to see whether we have this same attitude toward all. It will affect every area of our lives, including what we say and do, as well as our motives, our attitudes, and even how we dress.

More Than Slaves
"Never Alone" by C.V. Lacroix
The beauty of all this is that we are not just slaves of mere men, but of Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe. And we are more than slaves.  I have already mentioned that Jesus said we are His friends, which means He freely discloses to us everything He receives from the Father (Jn 15:15).

In addition to that, God is not only our Master, He is our Father. If we have put our faith in Christ, then we are sons of God.  According to the apostle John, "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (Jn 1:12).  He also said, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." (1 Jn 3:1). And the apostle Paul said, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God." (Rom 8:14; cf., Gal 3:26). 

It's wonderful to know that we can call God -- the Creator of the Universe, who is our Maker -- "Abba."  We can call Him "Abba", because He is our Father, if we know Jesus, His holy Son.  The Lord said, "Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever." (Jn 8:35).  That means that all who are truly sons of God belong to His family forever. We have a permanent place in the family. As the apostle Paul said, "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'” (Rom 8:15; cf., Gal 4:5-7). He said this in the same epistle to the Romans in which he said that we are slaves of God (Rom 6:22).  Paul here was not contradicting what he wrote to the Romans in chapter 6 verse 22, or what he wrote to the Corinthians and Ephesians saying that we are "slaves of Christ." (1 Cor 7:22b; Eph 6:6).  He was saying that we are more than slaves, we are sons and daughters of God.

Summing it Up
I hope that this article has helped to disprove what some people think about the teachings of holiness, righteousness, and truth that I present here on Seeking the Lord, as well as on Eternal Destinations and Working God's Way. The enemy hates these messages and wants to brand them as bondage, as if they are some sort of dreary thing that will make you miserable. That's because the devil wants to keep people in bondage to sin and to himself. Don't be deceived by the devil. God says that this is the true bondage of the servant of the Lord.  This is slavery to righteousness -- the highest form of slavery. It's the highest and purest form of bondage -- divine bondage. It's a life of holiness. It's the Truth that sets you free! This is love slavery, and those who live like this in Christ will inherit eternal life.

"Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked." (Ps 84:10)

We serve because He served us first!  Now go and offer yourself as a slave to righteousness.  Offer the members of your body as instruments of righteousness, and use your freedom, not as a cover up for evil, but as bond-slaves of God.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB."Thou Art Worthy" and "Never Alone" Illustrations by my sixteen-year old daughter C.V. Lacroix.  You can find these and more of her lovely artwork at A Brush With Life.

Author's note: You are invited to read Compelled by Love, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, The Cost of Discipleship, The Obedience of Faith, Separation from the World, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Seeking Glory from GodServants and Slaves in God's Kingdom, and Pleasing the Lord. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

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Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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