Tough Teaching: Be a Slave?

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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!

Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible

This article continues my series on spiritual disciplines titled Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible” and speaks to the continuing development of the Christian into a person who is “perfect”  as our “heavenly Father is perfect.”

Did You Say: “Be Perfect”?

Sometimes I am disturbed by what Scripture says.   An example is contained in Matthew 5:48 where we are commanded to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Really?  Be perfect?  That appears quite impossible.  I know I am not perfect.  Far from it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not perfect.  And neither are you.  So, why would God issue this seemingly impossible command to us?  (It is a “command” and not a “suggestion” by the way).

Well, I know that God is perfectly just, meaning that He is perfectly fair to us.  So, I can know that God would not require something of me, or from me, that would be impossible for me to attain.  Therefore, it is only logical that “being perfect” must be possible.  And, more than that, not only must it be possible for me to achieve, it also must be GOOD FOR ME! (see Matthew 7:9-11)

The good news for us is that God doesn’t leave this “possible impossible” task to us to attain on our own.  Quite the contrary.

We are Perfect because of Imputed Righteousness 

The Bible tells us that when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that God considers us righteous in his sight.  This means that even though we aren’t “really” holy, God chooses on His own to declare us holy.  Essentially, for our benefit, God “pretends” that we are completely righteous because Jesus has “covered” our unrighteousness with his sacrificed blood.  That’s the only way true relationship with a completely holy God can exist – if He chooses not to count our unholiness against us.  It’s imputed righteousness that “gets us into heaven.”

That’s the first way that the “impossible becomes possible” – just because God says so!

We are becoming Perfect because of Imparted Righteousness

It is not so difficult to accept that God can look past our transgressions and determine on His own that we are righteous (i.e., perfect) in His sight.  God is merciful.  God is full of grace.  However, it is hard to accept that we are also being made perfect; that in this life that we can live a perfectly holy and righteous life.  But that’s also what the Bible teaches.

In 2 Peter 1:4, we are told that we are “partakers of the divine nature.”  What that means is that over time, through our circumstances, our choices, God’s leading, and our decisions, that we become more and more holy.  We become more righteous as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ.  Our daily lives here on earth actually change from unholiness to slightly less unholiness to slightly less unholiness and on and on.

This takes training and it takes time.  Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, participating in worship, learning self-control, seeking wisdom and patience and goodness and kindness, and allowing love to be evident in our actions slowly (and not so slowly at times) mold us into people who reflect Christ and are permanently changed.  This is referred to as “imparted righteousness” meaning that God is “imparting” (or “giving to us”) righteousness.

This training is not easy.  It takes the discipline of making the right choices daily.  It means sacrificing what we may naturally desire in exchange for what God desires.  It means being obedient to the Word even if we don’t feel like it and even when we don’t fully understand it.  It means learning from failure.  It means conforming our attitudes, our minds, our hearts and our actions to the Word of God and His ways, more and more every day.  It’s imparted righteousness that makes us better disciples and ambassadors for God’s work here on earth.

The Bottom Line

God gives us the ability to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12).  As we “train” ourselves by engaging in spiritual disciplines, regularly and in increasing measure over time, we do just that – we work out the unholiness that wants to control us, and allow God to work in the holiness that He wants to control us.

What’s Next?

Hopefully, you’ve been reviewing the various spiritual disciplines that I outlined previously and have been identifying which of those could use some improvement in your own life.  If not, I suggest that you review them now.

It is now time to make a specific plan of action.  What is your plan for Bible study?  What is your plan for quiet devotion time?  What is your plan for prayer?  Where are you going to serve the Lord this week?  Make a decision to implement these into your life right now in specific, detailed ways.