We all have ideas of what it means to be free. In America, I believe we have a very
particular definition of freedom. We
celebrate Independence Day and revel in the freedom of speech, freedom of the
press, and the freedom of religion. I
should mention that I am very thankful for these freedoms and in no way do I
wish we didn’t have them. It is also not
my desire to belittle the United States.
I do, however, wish that we could step outside of ourselves for just a
few minutes and think about the word “allegiance.”
In America we have a President that can be voted out of office
every four years. We have senators and
congressmen that must be re-elected every 6 or 2 years respectively. Every state has a governor, state
congressmen, and various other state, county, and local officials who must go
through the rigorous and expensive process of election. We have a glut of responsibility when it
comes to voting for elected officials.
But one area in which we have a significant lapse in our knowledge of
government, however, is in that of a royal family.
There is, technically speaking, no royalty in the United
States. If we don’t like a leader, we
don’t have to keep them for very long.
What this has taught us, then, is that we really don’t have to submit to
authority, at least not the same way they do in countries with a supreme
monarch. We have no idea what it is like
to serve a King and a Kingdom. This is
tragic because, as followers of Jesus, that’s exactly what we serve, a
sovereign King in a Heavenly Kingdom.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I know that I say quite often that a particular verse or
group of verses is my favorite. The
truth is there are many passages that I find myself drawn to for one reason or
another at one time or another. These
two little verses are no different. They
come at the end of a discussion on sexual Immorality that sees Paul exposing a
terrible problem with the Corinthian church.
Earlier in this letter Paul berates the Corinthians for the blatant
disregard for sexual immorality that existed within their congregation, and not
only that, but they all thought it was a good idea! Something was not right there. So Paul took the opportunity to talk to them
about something deeper even than this particular depravity.
“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, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Basically what Paul was arguing was that since the very
Spirit of God lives inside you, you
should have greater regard for your body.
In the Corinthians’ case, they were sexually depraved. In other instances Paul attacks drunkenness,
gluttony, greed, theft, and idolatry.
The point he was trying to make (and the one I’m trying to get across)
is that you do not belong to yourself.
As we continue with our series our desire has been to take
you from the stage of being a “fan” of Jesus and lead you into being a
“follower.” If you claim to follow
Jesus, then I have news for you. You
don’t belong to yourself. Paul says “you
are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”
When I say the word “slave” there are many possible images
that could be conjured up in your head.
For example, you might think of the sex trafficking that takes place
right now in the Far East, Africa, Europe, and even here in the United
States. You might think of the Roman
Empire conquering most of the known world and enslaving everyone along the way. You could possibly think of the movie Spartacus in which Kirk Douglas as the
title character led a slave revolt against the aforementioned Roman
Empire. It is very likely, though, that
you think of the African slaves who were brought across the Atlantic Ocean in horrid
conditions to work plantations of wealthy American landowners.
Whatever image enters your head, however, we all have an
idea of what slavery is. I want us to
look at a few passages of scripture that should probably come as a shock to
many of us.
2 Peter 1:1
There is a common thread in each of these
introductions. Each of these four men
considered himself to be a “servant” of Jesus Christ. The Greek word in each of these four instances
is the word “doulos.” In some
translations of the Bible the English comes out as “servant.” In others it is either “slave” or
“bondservant.” Thinking about our
series, I would like to point out a couple of things. If you look back over the past two weeks, you
may begin to notice a trend. Everything
about being a follower points to one thing, letting Jesus lead. Two weeks ago we talked about being filled
with the Spirit. This is incredibly
important because being filled with the Spirit is what the mystery of Christ is
all about. The fact that we can know
Jesus at all is incredible, but the idea is that his sacrifice paid the price
for us to have a completely new spirit, God’s Spirit! With God’s Spirit inside of us, we relinquish
control and surrender everything to him.
When everything is surrendered, we become servants of Christ, slaves to
his will. We give over every bit of
control to him.
Looking at these four scriptures we see that this is not an
obscure reference, but something at the very heart of who the apostles
were. Paul said of himself “a servant of
Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” Likewise, Peter called himself “a servant and
apostle of Jesus Christ.” James and Jude
were remarkable because, being half-brothers of Jesus, still made the claim
that they were “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “a servant
of Jesus Christ” respectively.
All four of these men could have made other claims. When I introduce myself and people want to
know who I am, I might describe myself in a few different ways. I am a pastor. I also work at a car dealership. I am the son of David and Martha. I am the husband of Amanda. Depending on the context of the conversation
I’ll use different defining characteristics about myself as a point of
reference so the other person will have some idea of who I am. Paul could have made the claim that he had
been a Pharisee but was converted when the resurrected Christ revealed himself on
the Damascus road. Peter could have
argued that he had been with Jesus from the beginning, had seen all of his
miracles, and had preached an important message at Pentecost. James and Jude, well, they had them all
beat. They grew up with Jesus. But what did they all say? How did they introduce themselves? They called themselves servants. They called themselves slaves.
What would it sound like to introduce yourself as a “slave
of Jesus Christ?” It should be said that
this could come off obnoxiously and that’s definitely not what we’re going for,
but the idea is sound. We are not our
own. We have been purchased with the
blood of Jesus, and that is no small thing.
Often we like to talk about salvation as a free gift, and it
is. But it cost something terrible. It cost Jesus his life. The sacrifice had to be made in order to make
us pure enough to have God’s Spirit placed inside of us. With such a high purchase price, let us not
take that lightly, but instead embrace who we are, ransomed servants that
belong to Jesus.
In this passage Paul gives us a broader discussion on the
idea of being slaves. There is truly
much to say about this concept. In other
passages we are described as brothers of Jesus, as co-heirs with him. We are “children of God.” We are also considered “friends” of God as
well. So why all the discussion about
slavery? I think Paul illustrates the
point rather well in these 9 verses. In
verse 16 Paul asks the Roman Christians “Do you not know that if you present
yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you
obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to
righteousness?” Paul makes the argument
that you are going to obey something, either sin, which leads to death, or
Christ, which leads to life. You are
destined to obey something. When you
think about it, this is true. Either you
are going to do what you want to do and not ever measure up to what God desires
for you, or you are going to follow Jesus and inherit life. And whatever (whomever) you end up obeying
becomes your master. By that argument,
who wouldn’t want to be considered a slave of Christ?
We are slaves. I know
that is hard to swallow, but that’s what we are. While there is certainly free will and while
we have the ability to choose what we will do, there are consequences whichever
way we go. We are slaves. For some of you this may seem like we’re
reading you the “fine print” of Christianity, like you weren’t really prepared
for what was going to happen to you when you got in.
Have you ever gone on one of those “free” (or at least
really cheap) vacations offered by one of those companies trying to get you to
buy time share? Those seem like a great
deal, don’t they? You get to spend 3
fun-filled days and 2 spectacular nights in Disney World, or Cancun, or nestled
in the Piney Woods of Lake Palestine.
(I’m serious about that last one.
We actually got an offer for that.)
I’m not knocking them. I’ve been
on some of those trips. It always seems
like they’re not really telling you the whole story, though, doesn’t it? They lure you to exotic locations with the
promise of only having to spend 1 hour listening to their “low-impact” sales
pitch. That 1 hour sales pitch turns
into 3 hours and the salesperson is getting progressively disgruntled because
it’s obvious that you can’t and won’t max out 4 credit cards to pay the
down-payment on a $50,000 timeshare that you can only use on the third
Wednesday in February. You finally tell
them “no” and then they offer you the “one-time offer” of $10,000 but that’s only
accessible every other leap year. By the
time you get done with the sales-pitch, you’re angry that you ever came on the
trip and you just want to go home.
I think for some Christians the concept of denying self was
not part of the deal. They signed up for
a fun-filled life of Youth Camp and Disciple Now and when everything didn’t
match up to those expectations they didn’t like it as much. When we start talking about surrender and
slavery, they simply want out. They
can’t wait to get home so they never have to do that again.
In the Bible it seems very clear cut. There are followers of Jesus and there are
those who aren’t. Somehow something got
lost in translation and we tend to grow up thinking that there are two types of
Christians: radical Christians who are
missionaries in Africa and normal Christians who are doctors and teachers. Jesus didn’t make such distinctions. He simply said “follow me.” For far too long we’ve tried to create a
church culture that says “whatever you want you can get it here.” But the invitation of Jesus is “Give up
We are slaves.
1 Corinthians 9:16
Let me try to illustrate this another way. In this verse Paul speaks of his necessity to
preach the gospel. In the New Living
Translation Paul says that he is compelled by God to preach the Good News. He is compelled. This is slave/master terminology. I can imagine what Paul was thinking at this
point. In another passage Paul talks
about being compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem even though he knows he
might die and in fact his friends warned him not to go. Why do this?
Because he knew that he was not his own.
We are slaves. We are
not our own. We have been bought with a
In some translations this idea of being a slave or a servant
is translated a slightly different way.
It is translated as “bond-servant.”
This is a specialized term in the New Testament that I think warrants a
few moments of our time. It is probably
more in line with what we do in a modern sense.
The one thing about becoming Jesus’ slave is that it is a free choice.
According to the Hebrew law, slaves were to be set free
every seventh year. But there was a
provision for slaves who didn’t want to be set free. I know this seems like a crazy concept
because of the way we’ve been taught to view slavery and because of the
obsession with freedom that we have in America, but there were people who
decided that they didn’t really want to be free. They wanted to remain with their masters.
This is the idea of being a bondservant or bondslave. It’s the act of giving yourself over into
slavery. It’s a decision to be linked to
your master for life. This is a complete
act of self-denial. It’s willingly
committing yourself to serve another.
This is the choice we each have to make.
Being a follower is a commitment.
Jesus says to deny yourself. This
Why would anyone choose slavery? Deuteronomy 15 explains that the servant who
chose to stay with his master did so out of love. That’s what a follower does. He realizes that even though it may be crazy
to everyone else, he knows that he is better off a slave in the house of the
master than struggling on his own. A
follower looks at his life with Jesus and then looks at his life without Jesus
and realizes that even though he may not get to do everything he wanted in this
life, the reward is so much better.
Fans think that by denying themselves they will miss out on
life. Followers realize that there is no
life apart from Christ. Fans believe
that following Jesus will cost them too much.
Followers know that they never really had anything to begin with, so the
trade-off is more than worth it. Fans
don’t want Jesus to get in their way.
Followers get out of the way of Jesus and walk behind him. Fans long for their freedom and
“rights.” Followers realize that freedom
outside of Christ is really the worst kind of slavery.
Paul reminded the Romans that whomever they chose to obey
became their master. They could either
obey sin and that would lead to death, or they could obey Christ and have true
From Kyle Idleman:
Jesus invites you to deny
yourself. He invites you to be a
slave. But as a slave may I tell you
about my master. My master will provide
for you. He owns the cattle on a
thousand hills; he can take care of your needs.
My master will protect you. He
speaks and even the wind and the waves obey him. My master has the power to forgive sins. If being a slave to sin has left you broken
and bruised and you find your life is in pieces, my master can take the pieces
of your life and turn them into a beautiful mosaic. If you are worn out and exhausted, my master
gives rest to those who are weary and heavy burdened.
Don’t you know that you are not your own? Don’t you know that you have been bought with
a price? You have been ransomed. You have been paid for. You are God’s twice. You were made by him and purchased by
him. Don’t you know that you are a slave
anyway? You will either be enslaved to
sin and death, or a slave for Jesus, which leads to life.
May Cornerstone be filled with slaves. May we set aside our own desires and chain
ourselves to his will. May we surrender
the lives we planned on leading to fulfill what he would have us do.
We are slaves.