Tough Teaching: Be a Slave?

1044555_505774096157330_1420433932_n

My sermon notes from the June 30, 2013 sermon “Be a Slave?” from the series “Tough Teachings of Jesus”.  You can hear the podcast on the Adventure website.

Be a Slave?

Intro:  Pastors, church staff and church leaders revealed in a recent survey that some of the most difficult challenges they face each week are church member’s apathy, inward focus and the inability to motivate and keep volunteers in ministries.  If “we” (meaning Christians) just understood and took to heart this one “Tough Teaching” from Jesus, it would go a long way toward eliminating those challenges.

Mark 10: 43-45 — “Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus tells his disciples, and us, that to be “great”, we must first become a slave — a slave to Jesus Christ and His purposes!

The Christian Paradox

This scripture, and teaching, reveals another aspect of the “Christian Paradox”.  A paradox is what seems backwards, inside-out, upside-down.  A paradox is not the natural way we think of things.  The Bible is full of them.  Examples:  to live you must die, to be rich you must be generous, to lead you must follow, and, to be first you must be a slave.

What Are the Characteristics of the Christian Paradox:  Be a Slave?

It’s Voluntary

No one is going to make you do it.  The word “slave” means “bondslave”, which is a voluntary position of servitude.

It’s a Choice

You can say “yes” or “no”, but not both, and not neither. — note:  saying “no” is obviously a rejection of doing what the master wants.  But, we need to also realize that failure to say “yes” (i.e., sitting on the fence, or trying to remain neutral) is also saying “no.”

Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other….” — note: while Jesus was teaching on the love of money in this scripture, the principle remains the same: we cannot not be both devoted to the things of God and the things of “something else”.

It Means Submitting to the Master’s Will

Submission to God’s will and not your own will is the characteristic of a slave.  God is our master.  Submission to His will is going to require us to sacrifice.  We will have to sacrifice our comfort, our desire, our time, our energy, our money, and our priorities to what He wants.  We will be asked to do things that we may not want to do.  We will be asked to do things that we would rather not do sometimes.  But “slavery” to the will of God is doing what He wants, not what we want.  — This will become real in our lives as we serve in ministries in the church, as we allow our lives to molded in His holiness, and as we live a life as directed by the Bible.

Luke 22:42 – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” — As Jesus prayed this on the night before He was crucified, Jesus gave a perfect example of what it means to submit to the will of God first, and to be willing to sacrifice everything.

It Requires Action Toward Others

Saying yes.  Declaring your intention to do something.  Wanting to submit to God’s will. — All of those things are great.  But they are all meaningless without action.  There is a big difference between saying you are going to do something and actually doing it.  We only reveal ourselves as “slaves of Jesus” when we actually act on what we say and what is in our heart.

Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, …. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Remember that when you serve that you are not just serving another person, you are actually serving Jesus Christ, your master.  You are connecting to Him by way of the Holy Spirit as you submit yourself to Him and you are connecting another to Him as you represent the hands and feet of Christ to that person.

Conclusion

If all of our church would allow our hearts to be transformed by this one truth, we would make an impact for the Kingdom that would be beyond our imagination!

How Can You Know God’s Will?

Question mark

 

Recently, I conducted Question & Answer sessions during our weekend services at Adventure Church.  People asked questions via email, text or notecards during the services and I attempted to answer as many as I could during each service.  There was a HUGE response to this activity and many suggested that I blog some of the questions and answers as well.  So, here’s the first one.

The actual Question:  “How do I really know if God wants me to move my family?”

Answer:

This question, and a few similar ones, has to do with God’s will for our lives.  It’s a common inquiry.  And, it should be.  Of course we should all want to be within God’s will for our lives and to do our best to direct our families to be within God’s will.  So, how can  we know God’s will?  The answer comes in a few parts.

God’s Hidden Will

It is only logical, and reasonable, that there are some things about God and His will that are not now known, and will not be known presently.  At first that statement might confuse you or even anger you because we can sometimes feel that it is our “right” to know everything.  But, if you really think about it, is that your right?  And, is it even necessary?  The short answer is:  of course not!

God is God.  We are not.  He gets to decide what He reveals about Himself and His will.  We don’t get to decide.  He’s the Creator.  He’s the One in control.  He’s God.

He even reminds us of this in His Word in the book of Job where God essentially says “Who do you think you are?   Did you create the world and everything in it?  Were you there?” (see especially chapters 38-40)

But, don’t fret.  God is also perfectly just and perfectly loving.  He’s not going to hide something from us that He desires us to know.  Why would he?  Even I, an imperfect father to my children, wouldn’t hide from my children knowledge that I want them to know.  It just wouldn’t make any sense to do so.  So, whatever is within God’s hidden will should be hidden, and it will stay hidden until God decides otherwise.  And, it does not and should not affect anything about our present day living.

God’s Revealed Will

Then, there is God’s revealed will.  This is His will that can be known by us.  And, when you really search for it, you can find it.  See below.

God’s Universal Will

Part of God’s revealed will is called His “universal will.”  That simply means that whatever is within God’s universal will is God’s will for everybody.  There is a lot of God’s universal will in nature – for example – oxygen to breathe, gravity to bind us to the earth, and sunlight to provide energy.  There are also other things that are clearly God’s universal will – for example, it is His will that all would come to know Jesus as Savior for He sent Jesus to the world because “God so loved the world …”  See also, 2 Peter 3:9.

Outside of God’s Will

Then there are some things that are clearly outside of God’s will.  Sometimes these can be easy to identify.  It is outside of God’s will for me to murder someone, to steal, to cheat on my wife, or to be selfish with my possessions.   When we are outside of God’s will, we are committing sin.  God has given us the Bible so that we can know what is outside of His will.

God’s Specific Will and God’s Permissible Will

At times, God has a “specific will” for us.  And, at times God’s will is what is called “permissible will.”  This is where most of our questions about “God’s will for me” come from.  I hope that I can explain these for you to ease some pressure for you and to get you to focus on a better question for your life.

First, let me explain the difference between specific will and permissible will.

“Permissible will” choices are those choices / decisions that God allows us to make on our own, that are not outside of His will (i.e., sinful).  Most things in life (that are not sinful) fall within this category.

“Specific will” means that specific calling that God has for you at a particular time and place.  Frankly, most decisions we make are not really within or outside of God’s specific will.  I’ll explain more below.

If God has something specific for you — i.e., a decision that He desires for you to make, a choice to choose, or a path to take — we would further define that as a “calling.”  When God is calling you to something, He is going to specifically gift you to accomplish the goal or to meet the challenge.  He is going to give you passion for whatever it may be.  And, it is going to further His kingdom specifically in some way.  (That’s the kicker and is often the difference-maker between specific will and permissible will).  Some things that may be included in this are being called to the mission field, called to the pastorate, marrying a Christian if you are going to marry, etc.

However, all other choices, as long as they are not sinful, are going to be within God’s permissible will.  That simply means that God allows us to make a choice and whatever choice is made, He can bless that choice and use us within that choice.  By far, most choices that we make (that are not sinful) are permissible will choices.  Here are some examples:  who you marry, whether to take the job at company A or company B, whether to live in Louisville or New York, whether to buy a house or not, which prom dress to wear, what gift to give your wife for her birthday, etc.  Those are all permissible will decisions because no matter what we choose (as long as it’s not sinful), God can bless that choice in a special way.

Where I have seen people get hung up, and stressed out, is thinking that a permissible will choice is somehow a specific will choice.  I’ve seen someone truly fearful that she was going to be outside of God’s specific will by choosing to take a job at Starbucks instead of working at the local mall.  Believe me, God is a very big God and he can use you at Starbucks or the mall so either choice is permissible!

So, relax.  Spend your time in prayer, studying the Word, and seeking advice from other Christians on the important question in all of this “will” stuff:  is this decision outside of God’s will or not?  In other words, if I make this decision (this choice) will I be sinning?  If we all spent more time on that question, the rest of our decisions would be a lot easier, and, frankly our lives would be a lot less complicated and a lot more holy.