Reading For The Head And The Heart

Over the summer break we’re exploring some of the Psalms in our Sunday gatherings. I was able to kick off the series this past weekend by preaching through Psalm 1. It was an apt Psalm to end 2018 and look toward a new year. Like much of the Psalms there is a call for a response. One aspect to this is the assessment, or re-assessment, of our delight and meditation in the instruction of the Lord.

The start of the year is often a time of assessment. New Year’s resolutions aside; the sun, warm weather, and most people being on of holiday helps conjure up an environment for reflection. Continuing on from my last post, particularly point six of my 10 Tips For Reading In 2019, Psalm 1 challenges us to re-assess our affections and reading habits of God’s Word. Psalm 1 encourages people to delight and meditate on the Lord’s instruction because this is the way to happiness.

Reading For The Head And The Heart

The first three verses of the Psalm read:

1 How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams
that bears its fruit in its season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

The central verse for the whole Psalm is verse two. The way of happiness – which is a contentment, a peace, a satisfaction – is through the delight and meditation on the ‘law of the Lord’, the Lord’s instruction, the Scriptures.

And here we find two characteristics of the way of happiness:

First, there is the aspect of the heart. The delighting in the Lord’s instruction.

Here is our emotional response to God.

We are to have affection for him and his instruction. We know God through his Word, through his instruction, and our heart response is to be delight. We are to be moved in feeling and fondness toward God because of his instruction. As Psalm 37:4 says,

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Our heart, our desires, our delight is to be in the Lord and his instruction. This leads to the way of happiness.

John Piper, in his book, Desiring God, puts it this way,

“Strong affections for God, rooted in and shaped by the truth of Scripture – this is the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”

Second, there is the aspect of the head. The meditating on the Lord’s instruction.

Here we read of our knowledge and understanding of God that affects our thinking.

Day and night, we are to chew over the Word of God in our minds. Like a never ending piece of gum, we’re to chew over the Lord’s instruction in our heads. Our minds are created to understand the things of God through our thoughts, this in turn is to influence the way we live. This is why Paul, in Romans 12:2 says,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” 

In its proper vision, we find the knowledge of God is to touch our hearts and inform our heads.

Theology, which is simply the study of God, is not just head knowledge. It is something that affects our heads and our thinking, but it should also move us and affect our hearts and affections for God.

As we start off a new year I always find it helpful to re-assess my devotional life. The habits of reading Scripture and prayer. The start of the new year is great for starting a new bible reading plan, creating a new prayer list, beginning a new devotional work. It’s essentially a good time to re-assess a lot of things, so why not be intentional about it for your faith?

This year I’m seeking to read through the Bible using this plan. Other plans worth looking at are the one from The Bible Project (which I wrote about last year) or simply reading through four chapters of the Bible per day. In reality, if you’ve got a Bible and you’re using it then that’s a great thing. 

The Holiness of God by RC Sproul

The Holiness of God by RC Sproul is a well known and highly regarded book. Like Packer’s ‘Knowing God’ and Piper’s ‘Desiring God’, my understanding is that this is Sproul’s flagship book. The one that put him on the map at least. I can see why.

Sproul is terrific, from start to finish, in outlining the holiness of God. He starts by talking about God’s holiness in relation to his creation. He leaves us with dealing with the mystery of God’s holiness. He speaks of how the Old Testament shows so clearly that holiness is a huge factor in the way he relates to his creatures. And, by through understanding holiness more we see just how patient, gracious, and merciful he is to each one of us.

I found his chapters in dealing the the justice of God and holiness, and also his approach to some tough passages of the Bible very helpful. For example, he deals with how Aaron’s sons die when they offer the wrong fire to God. This is because of God’s holiness. He also tackles the passage where one of the Ark bearers seems to stop the Ark of the Covenant from falling. In touching the Ark the man dies. This is again because of holiness. In each of these chapters it was highlighted to me just how holy God is and just how unholy I am. Hence, the greater appreciation for God’s patience, graciousness and mercy.

I don’t think holiness is a theme or characteristic of God spoken of much these days. Nor is it applied very well either. Perhaps the only time we hear of holiness is when we are told to obey God’s ways, yet this is often heard as rules and regulations. There’s always a danger in trying to encourage people toward holiness and godliness because it can often be heard as works-righteousness. Sadly, this distorts the gospel and is a poor witness. While our faith may impact our lives we don’t pursue the holiness God requires of us.

And when I say, ‘of what God requires of us’, I want to make sure that we are clear on what I mean.

This is not saying that we need to be holy in order to attain salvation, in order to be made right with God. No, Christianity is not a works-based faith. It is a faith built on the ‘rightness’ of Jesus Christ, and the work he has done on the cross. As Sproul articulates so in the final chapters of his book,

“That a saint [a believer] is a sinner is obvious. How then can he be just? The saint is just because he has been justified. In and of himself he is not just. He is made just in the sight of God by the righteousness of Christ. This is what justification by faith is about. When we put our personal trust for our salvation in Christ and in Him alone, then God transfers to our account all the righteousness of Jesus. His justness becomes ours when we believe in Him. It is a legal transaction. The transfer of righteousness is like an accounting transaction where no real property is exchanged. That is, God puts Jesus’ righteousness in my account while I am still a sinner.” (p212)

The calling we have as believers is to follow Jesus and become more like him. An aspect of this, and as Sproul strongly prioritises as number one, is that of holiness. We are to become more holy as believers. We are seeking to do away with sin in our lives and continue to live lives that are transforming us into the likeness of Jesus. The likeness of God. Holiness is then sought as a sinner-saint. We continue to examine our own lives in light of God’s holiness and know we have a lot of work to do.

Again, the trouble with talking this way is often we find ourselves slipping into a regulated or rules based faith. Yet, we must constantly remind ourselves that the heart of the holiness transformation is for the joy of being with God, knowing God, and being made right by God.

In reading this book, and thinking about it further, I have found myself appreciating the impact it has on my heart and mind. I have particularly found myself thinking about the undeserved grace God gives to us in light of his holiness. Furthermore, it is his holiness that impacts so many areas of the biblical storyline. In fact, from Genesis 3 right through to the end of the New Testament this theme of holiness plays a significant role.

I think this book inspires a greater understanding of God. A deeper appreciation for his grace and mercy, a real understanding of our sin and sinful nature and the impact of that on our relationship with God and this world. And then, the way God’s justice plays out because of his holiness. There are so many aspects to our faith and theology that this book speaks into. And is so helpful in our personal walk with Jesus, and our own transformation toward holiness.

I couldn’t recommend it more.

Are You Walking WITH God?

The book, With: Reimagining The Way You Relate To God by Skye Jethani, was probably the best book I read last year. It was just brilliant. It was challenging and helpful in thinking about what it is to relate and commune with God. It’s a book I’ve made our interns at church read. And more recently, it’s a book I’ve quoted in one of my sermons when talking about what it is to grow as a follower of Jesus.

Are You Walking WITH God_

One of the helpful ways Jethani frames this idea of walking WITH Jesus is by highlighting how we perceive our relationship with God. In doing this he talks of four postures:

First – Life from God

These are people seeking blessing and gifts from God, but aren’t particularly interested in God himself. God is seen as a combination of a “divine butler and a cosmic therapist”.

Second – Life over God

Here people have lost the wonder and mystery of God and his world. Instead they seek to earn God’s favour through formulas and proven controllables. Those who believe God operates this way will seek to put the right techniques in place for faith, church, and life so a relationship with God can occur.

Third – Life for God

This is the posture of being concerned with serving God and expending all energy in doing something for God. Whether it be service or mission this posture highlights those who believe a relationship with God is founded on the things done. Identity is wrapped up in doing and service for God.

Fourth – Life under God

People who have a posture of life under God sees God in cause and effect terms. Through obedience to his commands God will bless life, family, and the nation. In this posture the believer is to determine what God approves and make sure they remain within those boundaries in order for God to uphold his part of the deal.

I find that these postures are fairly accurate in terms of how people think about their faith and relationship with God. But as Jethani rightly outlines, our relationship with God is exactly that, WITH God. It is a relationship, not a religious exercise with rules and rituals. And so, when speaking about being with God Jethani says,

“The life with God posture is predicated on the view that relationship is at the core of the cosmos: God the Father with God the Son with God the Holy Spirit. And so we should not be surprised to discover that when God desired to restore his broken relationship with people, he sent his Son to dwell with us. His plan to restore his creation was not to send a list of rules and rituals to follow, nor was it the implementation of useful principles. He did not send a genie to grant us our desires, nor did he give us a task to accomplish. Instead God himself came to be with us–to walk with us once again as he had done in Eden in the beginning. Jesus entered into our dark existence to share our broken world and to illuminate a different way forward. His coming was a sudden and glorious catastrophe of good.”

How about you, do you walk WITH God? Or, do you find your relationship with God is depicted through another posture? 

 

Published: Clarifying The Call Of God

‘Calling’ is one of those Christian words, used by Christian people, that is more confusing than clear. In this article for Rooted Ministry I try to unpack the meaning of calling and seek to bring helpful clarification.

“To feel called by God would be evidence that we are unique, that we are special, that we are being used for a divinely appointed task. To feel called would be proof of some sort of special anointing upon us, a special anointing that no one else would have. To feel called would mean that we have been set apart to have a significant part in the movement and growth of God’s kingdom.

To some extent all of this is true, but the trouble we run into with this thinking is that it places the emphasis on us and not God. God has called us unique, special, anointed, and called, whether we feel it or not.

We have confused feelings with calling. God’s actual calling does not always show up on a billboard, nor does it always feel right.”

You can read the whole thing here.

This article was republished at The Gospel Coalition Australia on June 27, 2018.

Published: Bible-shaped Youth Ministry

I’ve managed to re-work a short talk I recently delivered into an article for The Gospel Coalition Australia. It’s all about the usefulness of the Bible in shaping youth ministry.

“I can’t remember what we were explicitly studying during that season, but I do know that we were walking slowly through a book of the Bible, verse-by-verse, section-by-section. Through this experience I, and I’m sure the rest of the group, came to realise not only in the importance of the Bible but its usefulness as well.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Divine Action In Youth Ministry

One particular aspect to Andrew Root’s latest work, Faith Formation In A Secular Age, is the concept of divine action.

Divine action is God’s work in the world. It is his activity in the world through the means of the Spirit and human beings. An older generation would term this ‘God’s providence’, and Root himself uses ‘God’s transcendence’ to describe the same thing. Nevertheless, divine action is helpful in capturing the idea that God is actively at work in the world.

Divine Action In Youth Ministry

Root wants to counter the disease of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) and believes that reaffirming the concept of divine action will do just that. MTD is the idea that God wants me to be a good person (moralistic), God is a being who should help me feel good (therapeutic), and God is a concept to decorate our lives with but isn’t an agent who really does anything (deism). Divine action, and the truth that God is at work even in the ordinary lives of middle-class Westerners, is Root’s solution to the ‘D’ in MTD.

With the loss of recognising God in our lives we are left believing that God isn’t there. We are left wondering if God is actually real, and whether he does indeed care for us.

As I finished reading this book I was also working through a teaching series on the story of Ruth. While the Lord barely makes a mention throughout the four chapters, never actively speaking himself, his handiwork is clear in the lives of the characters, Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. If there is ever a book of the bible that teaches God’s divine action and transcendence in the lives of ordinary people then this is it.

When we turn to youth ministry I wonder whether we recognise the handiwork of God?

In all aspects of youth ministry in your church; with your students, with your families, with your leaders, God is at work. He is working in each of their lives and in the ministry-at-large.

And of course, it’s hard to see how God is working at times. It’s hard to see, in the moment, the ways God is comforting, strengthening, freeing, connecting, growing, and inspiring different people and their lives.

It is hard to see God at work when our eyes aren’t seeing it or our hearts aren’t feeling it.

How often we might doubt when someones say they think God is speaking to them? How often do we question whether someone is actually growing in their faith? How often do we feel disappointment over a poor conversation, or a seemingly poor youth night, or a rowdy couple of kids in our small group?

Yet despite this, God is often working while our limited perspective clouds our view of God’s divine action.

In this day and age of result driven, short-term, growth it’s hard to gain perspective. In this day where God is seen as a divine being who will only give happy, heart-warming therapeutic advice, it is no wonder we exclude the divine action of God in our own lives and the lives of others.

The bible promises that God is with us. And through his Spirit he continues to be at work. May we remember this in the excitement of summer camps and in the depths of winter lock-ins.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6:)


You can read my review of Faith Formation In A Secular Age here.

Day 14 – You Are Relational

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

The God we worship is a relational God.

He could’ve done anything he liked and what he chose to do was create humanity in order to have a relationship with him. We see in the first book of the Bible that he not only creates the world and everything in it, but there is a particular emphasis on him creating humanity as the pinnacle of his creation. We as his creatures reflect the image of God. We carry within us, and possibly outside of us, aspects of God himself. In recognising this we find we are image bearers of God. We bear the image of God as we walk and talk, as we connect and commune with others.

God, being a relational God and creating us to be in relationship with him, therefore, puts into us something of that relational characteristic that he has.

We reflect God’s relational character in our lives.

Therefore, we find we have a yearning for relationships.

We seek after relationships with others, we seek their company, friendship, acceptance and love.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Relational

The explosion of social media in recent years highlights the fact that we want to tell others about ourselves, and probably highlights our voyeuristic tendency to want to see what others are up to as well. But, it seems that we want to be in relationship with others, and seek that relationship in a variety of places. Whether it is face-to-face or online there is a yearning and desire for relationship in our lives. Some find these fulfilling relationships in positive places, others fall into the arms of harm and pain, suffering as they seek to find the relationship they desire.

This creation narrative in the opening chapter of the bible (Genesis 1:26-28) reminds us we are not accidents and that we are made for one-another. Not all relationships need to be physical or sexual, but they do need to be person to person, seeking to love one-another because that is what we are created to so. This kind of relationship is not simply between one person to another either. It is relationship with groups of people, with a community.

Thankfully, God in his infinite wisdom provides a community for believers that is to meet aspects of this relational need.

God has designed a community in the form of his people, the Church.

When we think of church we may not have great things to say about it. We may think of it as only a meeting place for singing songs, praying prayers, and hearing someone speak to us. Church is meant to be much more than a place to gather for 90 minutes on a Sunday. The church is to be a place where we find God-fashioned community.

In Acts 2:42-47 we see the early church, those who had contact with Jesus in his lifetime and witnessed his presence in physical form, came together with other believers in community. As part of that coming together they had meals together, prayed together, heard teaching together, and simply hung out with one-another. This was the germinating church, the church in its infancy as believers came together, bonded together, and were in community.

This is God’s people living together as God’s people.

In today’s Western society we can look around and see that our churches and communities of faith are not expressing themselves in the same way. Due to cultural and societal factors this doesn’t occur as it did in first-century Palestine. But as God has designed it we are made to commune with one-another on a regular basis, as an expression of our love for God and love for one-another.

In the book of Hebrews 10:24-25 we are encouraged to not stop meeting together but continue to do so in love and worship.

“…let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other…”

This is not only an expression of church but an expression of worship through community.

Just as we are made for relationship with God and with each other we are also made to express our relationships through community. Together with a group of people we play an important role in helping people know they are loved by God and others.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What relationships are most important to you?
  • How does knowing you were made for relationship and community affect your view of others?
  • In what ways can you contribute to a local church so that others know the love of God?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God
  11. You Are A Slave
  12. You Are Made For Good Works
  13. You Are A Follower

Day 13 – You Are A Follower

“Come, follow me…” (Matthew 4:19)

A disciple is someone who follows another.

When Jesus was hanging around earth in human form he collected 12 disciples. Each one he called to follow him, and as they travelled with him they got to know him more and more. This was typical of the day. Rabbi’s, Jewish teachers of the Law and Prophets, would have a group of followers, a group of disciples, who they would teach. In the case of Jesus, he choose people who weren’t typically considered disciple material. Lacking in education, and not well versed in the scriptures, Jesus’s disciples would not be people normally associated with a Rabbi. Yet, Jesus doesn’t do things that people would expect, does he?

Today, we are expected to lead from the front. You may even hear the term ‘self-leadership’. This means that we are to take responsibility for our own learning, growth, and decisions, and lead ourselves. We’re not people who are to follow others but are to follow our own dreams, passions, and feelings.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Follower

From a young age we’re told we can do whatever we want. We can do anything in life, whether that be career, study, or sport. We’re constantly told that the most central and important person in the world is us. And with that comes the expectation we are to forge our own path in life.

For some this comes in the form of not following the advice and desire of parents. The rebellious nature of adolescence, pressures of school and family too, can bring about feelings of resentment. Instead, some decide to follow their own path out of spite, in direct opposition to what their parents would believe is the best for them or approve of.

Others recognise they have a particular passion and gifting in an area and seek to pursue that until they have reached a level of success others around them will never attain. The pressure of popularity, being better than others, and comparison, can drive people to work hard at following their passions and desires.

And then, of course, there is the chase of wealth. The pursuit of money and riches is easily one of the defining pressures of our day. Wealth and perceived success is a certain driver for many decisions and career choices.

When we look at Jesus we see he chose people who were ordinary. He didn’t choose those who were the best at their craft or artistry. He didn’t choose them because of their wealth or potential success. No, Jesus chose some average and ordinary men to come and follow him.

In Melbourne we support our football teams with passion. We’ve all seen those supporters who go the extra mile. They buy the membership and all the gear–the jumper, the scarf, the hat, the badges. They have their seat at the ground. And they follow the players and team constantly.

In some ways these kinds of supporters put many believers to shame. Why don’t we follow Jesus with the same passion and support as these football supporters? Often we find ourselves dragged down by what life throws at us. But considering we know what Jesus has done for us through the cross shouldn’t we be the ones who are passionately and actively following him?

Following Jesus isn’t always easy. That was never the deal when we committed our lives to following Jesus. Following Jesus may bring with it a fair bit of struggle. People may not like us, we may not be popular, we may have to sacrifice wealthy opportunities, but within all that surely we should be passionate about following the one true and almighty God!

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in his book, The Cost of Discipleship,

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

This means that he calls us to follow him with our all. He calls us to follow him with everything. He calls us to follow him with our lives. Not just part of our lives, or on a particular day of the week. All.

It’s a gripping and scary thought.

But for those of us who believe it resonates and resonates strongly – That we are followers of a great and holy God who through his Son has enabled us to have hope now and for the future.

When we say “yes” to God we are saying we are willing to become a follower.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Do you consider yourself a follower of Jesus?
  • Are there areas in your life that you aren’t following Jesus in?
  • That quote by Bonhoeffer, how do you react to that? Are you letting Jesus lead in your life?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God
  11. You Are A Slave
  12. You Are Made For Good Works

Is It Time To Take The Guilt Out Of Your Bible Reading?

I suspect, every year, thousands of people give up on their attempted bible reading plan because they’ve fallen so far behind they don’t believe they’ll ever catch up, and they feel guilty about it.

You know the situation, I’m sure. You start off the new year with a plan to follow. You’re aiming to achieve what seems like the impossible–finish the whole bible in one year. But by the time the third week of January comes to a close you find yourself three days behind, the equivalent of 12-15 chapters to catch up on. The doubt about actually doing this in the first place creeps in. The guilt of not doing what you said you’d do piles up. And suddenly you find yourself questioning whether your relationship with God is actually where you thought it was.

Is It Time To Take The Guilt Out Of Your Bible Reading_

From a young age, in church or in a Christian home, we are taught that reading the bible and praying are simply parts of the Christian identity and rhythm. I’m not going to disagree with that. I think the bible itself speaks of the need to read God’s words and be active in prayer with him. This is vital to any relationship with God.

When God gives Moses his words in Exodus 24 there is the understanding that his people are to respond and obey it. Then as part of the words God gives Moses, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, there is the command to have them on repeat.

“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”

A bible reading habit is about having God’s words on repeat.

Yet, while this is vital, helpful, and beneficial for us as believers we often feel guilty if we skip a day or fall too far back on a bible reading plan.

The point of a bible reading plan is not to make us feel guilty.

It’s to help us in our worship of God. It is to help us hear from him.

It is to help us understand the story we are part of.

It is to help us know more of our identity as the people of God.

When we do fall behind in our bible reading our response doesn’t need to be guilt. We aren’t saved or made right with God because of our bible reading. We are made right with God because of what Jesus has done. The Good News. Instead, when we do fall behind, we just continue reading where we were up to.

You see, there are no explicit rules around reading the bible. No one is restricting or demanding or making it a law to read a certain part or certain amount of the bible. The important thing is to read it. If you read a verse or read a whole book, whatever it is, the aim is to read it.

I was talking with someone a month or two ago who had a 100-day streak in their bible reading. Things then came up and they didn’t do it for about a week. Instead of just picking it up from where they left off, they gave up. They felt they were too far behind that they couldn’t catch up. Therefore, they didn’t see much of a point to continue reading.

But that’s not the point!

It’s an awesome achievement to read 100 days in a row, but the point isn’t how many days in a row you can read your bible. There’s no competition going on (unless it’s self-imposed, and that’ll probably raise questions around ‘heart’). It’s about connecting and engaging with God through his words. The point is that reading the bible is helpful for our relationship and understanding and worship of God. It’s vital.

I like bible reading plans because they actual help me work through scripture systematically. They help me have a goal and show me where I’m going. But at the end of the day they are just that, a plan. If I didn’t have a plan then I reckon I’d be flip-flopping through the bible and never really achieve anything in my reading. Instead, a plan gives structure in my bible reading and shows me what I have actually read.

I’d always encourage a bible reading plan to anyone (this one is a good one). What I wouldn’t encourage is feeling guilty about not meeting someone else’s bible reading requirements. Read what you can, work through a plan at your own pace, and worship God in the process.

Day 11 – You Are A Slave

“…and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

The bible pictures being a servant of Jesus in extremely strong language.

In the New Testament the use of the word servant can often be translated as the word slave. You can see the two uses of the word in the verses above.

One writer has talked about the distinction of a servant and slave in this way,

“While it is true that the duties of slave and servant may overlap to some degree, there is a key distinction between the two: servants are hired; slaves are owned. Servants have an element of freedom in choosing whom they work for and what they do. The idea of servanthood maintains some level of self-autonomy and personal rights. Slaves, on the other hand, have no freedom, autonomy, or rights. In the Greco-Roman world, slaves were considered property, to the point that in the eyes of the law they were regarded as things rather than persons.  To be someone’s slave was to be his possession, bound to obey his will without hesitation or argument…” (MacArthur, Slave, 16-17)

To our modern ears the use of the word slave sounds harsh, ugly, and distasteful.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Slave

When we think of a slave or slavery we think of someone who is being used and abused for the profit of another. We think of sex slavery, the slavery of Africans for the promulgation of the United States, the slavery of young girls and women for the pleasure of ISIS fighters in the Middle East.

Slavery is not seen as a good thing. Nor has slavery ever been thought of as a good thing. It has constant negative connotations associated with it.

Yet, the word servant, as in being a servant of Christ, can also mean being a slave, being a slave for Christ.

And while we aren’t being used and abused by our perfect Heavenly Father there is a sense of the commitment and identity we now have when we are follower of Jesus.

When we are called and chose to follow Christ we are all in.

To be a believer in Christ is to not just assent to being a Christian of some description. No, to be a follower of Jesus means we sacrifice our whole lives to follow him.

Our all.

Our everything.

Our entire being and soul and purposes are committed to follow Jesus.

There is no turning back.

When Jesus calls his first disciples we read in many of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke particularly, of how he instructed them to “come, follow me”.

The call to follow Jesus is not simply a call to come with me to the shops, or let’s go for a drive, or “c’mon, let’s go to the footy match”. The call to follow me is a costly call.

It is a call to slavery.

This slavery is not the slavery depicted above. This call to slavery is one that recognises that we are now servants to the Most High God. That we are at the beck and call of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yet, while this slavery is all that and more, it is really a freedom-giving, redemption-purchasing, forgiveness-finding kind of slavery. It is a kind of slavery that places us in a better position than we find our self otherwise. We find ourselves loved, adopted, and saved through being slaves of Jesus Christ.

In this way, our identity has changed from being about self to being about service.

Our identity is not defined by who we are in any way but by who he is.

Our identity is not determined by the failures we have but by the faithfulness of God.

Jesus calls us to follow him and in doing so calls us to a life of service. A life of slavery for the cause of Christ.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What kind of thoughts come to mind when thinking about slavery?
  • Have you thought about the cost of what it is to follow Jesus? What do you think that means for you?
  • How can knowing being a slave for Jesus inspire you to greater works and commitment to follow him?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God