PRAYING THROUGH THE WORD: COLOSSIANS 1

I recently took it upon myself to train myself in praying through the scriptures. I started off with Colossians chapter 1. I thought I would share it, as it opens up a more structured manner of praying, and keeps one focused on single points at a time. I have always viewed prayer as a process of zoning into and being transformed by the will of God as revealed through His word.

I start off by focusing my mind and heart on what the scripture reveals about God, and Jesus Christ. This keeps my thoughts from drifting into other places, and ultimately causes joy and deep affection to arise in my heart, as the Holy Spirit reveals the attributes of the Godhead.

Secondly, I then proceed into a time of petitioning, and praying in line with the will of God for me, and other believers, as inspired by the scripture, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is like a magnifying glass being cast onto a patch of grass. If we keep it on the same spot long enough, it will eventually cause a flame. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is like the Sun. When we position ourselves on one portion of scripture, and zone in onto specific points, it will cause a burning passion to be ignited in our hearts for the purposes of God – I trust that it will be the same for you, as you submit yourself to the scriptures, prayerfully.

Check out the two sections below:

Praise Points

  1. Thanksgiving for Faith, and Love which the Father has granted us in Christ
  2. Thanksgiving for deliverance from Darkness into light.
  3. Christ is the Image of God.
  4. He is the firstborn of all creation.
  5. All things are created through Christ, and for Christ.
  6. Christ is the faithful head of the Church.
  7. He is the firstborn from the dead.
  8. He is the Preeminent (Best/Unique) one.
  9. He is the fullness of God.
  10. Through Him we are reconciled to the Father.
  11. His blood is our peace offering towards God.
  12. His aim is to present us Holy and blameless and above reproach.
  13. Christ in us is the hope of Glory.

Petition Points

  1. That we would share the gospel and that it would bear fruit.
  2. That we would be filled with the knowledge of His will.
  3. That we would receive Spiritual wisdom and understanding.
  4. That we would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
  5. That we would bear fruit.
  6. That we would increase in a knowledge of God.
  7. That we would be strengthened with His might.
  8. That we would receive endurance in faith, stability, steadfastness, hope in the gospel and joyous patience.
  9. That we would be faithful in the proclaiming, warning, and teaching the truth of God’s word.
  10. That we would be mature in Christ.
  11. That we would be empowered with His energy and power working mightily in us.
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WORSHIP: A BANQUET FOR THE MIND, A FEAST FOR THE HEART – Part 2

HOW

Let us consider the second facet of our pursuit of biblical worship, namely the HOW. What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? I have proposed that our minds are to dwell on the glorious riches of the attributes of God, and so inspire our hearts to feast upon the very nature and character of God, and that we so glorify Him as we are satisfied by every dimension and facet of His Person. We can say that to worship in spirit is related to the heart, and to worship in truth is related to the mind. Let us firstly consider worshiping in spirit.

  1. Spirit: In contrast to the woman’s claim of where to worship and in part the outward ritualism surrounding worship as they understood it, Jesus points her to the inward place where worship should in essence take place – in the heart and affections of the person. To worship in spirit is to worship from the depths of the heart, and involves the emotion and feelings. In Matthew 15:8-9 this people honours me with their lips,but their heart is far from me in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

LIFT UP YOUR HANDS, BUT FIRST LIFT UP YOUR HEART

Here we see that we can outwardly with acts convey worship, without having any affections for the one we are worshiping. It is important that we acknowledge that without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead. True worship must include inward feelings that reflect the worth of God’s glory.

I am not saying that outward acts of worship are not important. The greek word for worship is proskynéō which means to kiss the ground when prostrating oneself before a superior. The Hebrew word Shachah means to bow down/prostrate oneself. Worship is bowing, lifting hands, praying, singing, reciting, preaching and many of the things we do.

What I am proposing is that there is a connection between the feelings of the soul and the sensations of the body. In other words, heartfelt gratitude can make you cry. Fear of God can make you tremble. Joy can make you laugh. The inward feelings and affections define the outward actions in worship.

The command to the heart is simple:

Psalm37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
 and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 42:1-2 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 63:1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

The real duty of worship is not the outward duty to say or to do. It is the inward duty. The true worshiper longs for God Himself. To know Him and to delight in Him is his souls feast. Beyond this there is no further quest worth embarking on.

  1. Truth: Let us now look at the other side of the same coin. True worship does not come from people whose feelings are like air ferns with no root in the solid ground of biblical doctrine. The only affections that honor God are those rooted in the rock of biblical truth. The following scriptures come to mind:

Romans 10:2 for I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

FREEDOM

Holy Freedom in worship is the fruit of truth. Feelings that arise from an inadequate apprehension of who God is are neither holy nor truly free, no matter how intense. To worship God in truth is to worship Him for all that He is in the majesty of His attributes as revealed in ALL of scripture, as well as through the Incarnate Word – Jesus Christ. We worship Him for His love, but also for His justice and His wrath. We worship Him for His divine providence and kindness, but also for His severity. We worship Him for His Sovereignty and for His Grace. We worship Him when He gives and when He takes away. We worship Him for all His ways.

Woe to us if we do not worship the God of Scripture in His entirety. I beseech us to take the scriptures which challenge our theological stances and allow it to inspire true worship in our hearts. The same God who judges the wicked for their sin, is the same God who extends the free gift of salvation, AND HE IS WORTHY TO BE WORSHIPED!

HEAD AND HEART

To worship in Spirit and in truth is to meditate upon the nature and character of God, and to be overcome with passion and affection for all that He is. Worship must be vital and real in the heart, and worship must rest on a true perception of God. Worship must have head and heart. Worship must engage emotions and thought. True worship comes from people who feel deeply, and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God, rooted in and shaped by the truth of Scripture – this is the bone and marrow of biblical worship.

WORSHIP: A BANQUET FOR THE MIND, A FEAST FOR THE HEART – PART 1

In this two part blog, I aim to unpack what Jesus was teaching about worship in John 4:23-24. Part one will address the WHO of worship, whilst part two will address the HOW of worship.

ULTIMATE END

I would by introduction propose that this is indeed the ultimate end for worship. That our minds dwell on the glorious riches of the attributes of God, and so inspire our hearts to feast upon the very nature and character of God, and that we so glorify Him as we are satisfied by every dimension and facet of His Person.

Let us look at a few definitions for worship:

“Worship is our innermost being responding with praise for all that God is, through our attitudes, actions, thoughts, and words, based on the truth of God as He has revealed Himself.” – John MacArthur

“Worship is all that we are, reacting rightly to all that He is.” – John MacArthur

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.” – William Temple

These are wonderful definitions of what worship is, but let us consider from scripture what Jesus taught concerning worship. We all have heard the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and the conversation she has with Jesus about living water and the revelation that she is an adulteress. It is here, right in the middle of a story concerning whoredom that the Master teaches us about worship. I would like us however to pay special attention to two verses from this passage.

John 4:23-24 (ESV)

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

There are two very important points which we can take from this scripture, that make up both the foundation and building of what worship is. Namely, the WHO of worship, as well as the HOW. It is impossible to have an accurate biblical understanding and practice of worship without these two fundamental concepts intact. I would propose to  that we cannot have an authentic, biblical expression of worship if we do not first understand and accept WHO it is that we worship.

WHO

  1. God is seeking: This is a fundamental truth. We would go no further in our pursuit to define worship without firstly having an understanding that God seeks it out. I must make it clear that this seeking on God’s part, does not point to a deficiency in His character or nature. Rather it is shown to be love. John Piper said it in the following way:

In view of God’s infinitely admirable beauty, power and wisdom, what would his love to a creature involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would show him most loving? There is only one possible answer, isn’t there? Himself! If God would give us that which is best and most satisfying, that is, if he would love us perfectly, he must offer us no less than himself for our contemplation and fellowship and joy.”

God created the world for His own Glory. Everything, including the salvation of His elect and even the damnation of the wicked, will result in glory to God. Our desire to worship God, does not primarily spring from our efforts to do so, but is rather informed and brought about by God Himself, through salvation, whereby He enables us to participate and enjoy making much of His Glory.  Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth, namely HE IS GLORIOUS!

1 Corinthians 10:31 so, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

  1. God is Spirit: In verse 24, Jesus is not only revealing the essential nature of God as Infinite, Invisible, Omnipresent, but in so doing he refutes and demands that there is no other human way to worship God who is Spirit. If we backtrack to verse 20, we will see that the woman has made claims concerning worship from a human perspective. Jesus has refuted this by revealing that God cannot and will not be worshiped within the parameters of human effort and design, but only as God demands and prescribes.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

 

  1. God is Father: Jesus emphasises this three times (v21, v23 x2) to the Samaritan woman. This is significant as it firstly shows that God is the Father of the Samaritans. Secondly, Jesus is pointing out that the Father has spiritual children. Having children is what makes one a father. Thirdly, and most importantly. God is the Father of His Unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and this relationship points to Christ’s sharing the same essential nature as the Father. Jesus is God.

John 5:18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.

 

Enslaved to Bear Fruit

In my previous post, I attempted to provide clarity around the nature of the relationship we have with Christ, namely Him as Master, and us as slave. In this follow up post I would like to identify for what reason Christ has purchased us. Obviously, He has purposed us to enjoy Him and be enjoyed by Him, but He has also prepared good works for us to walk in.

What Fruit?

I believe the main purpose of the believer is to Glorify God. How do we glorify God? By bearing fruit. I have spoken to many believers, and besides the fact that most struggle with putting sin to death, the number one concern for most is: bearing fruit. Some have fallen into such a state of depression because they do not see the fruit in their lives. John 15:8. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. The next logical question I have asked myself is – What does the fruit look like? Is it making disciples? Is it works of ministry? Healing the sick? What is the fruit we are to bear?

One of the most obvious conclusions to draw is to immediately assume that the fruit we are to bear, are the fruit of the Spirit. This is not an incorrect assumption to make – it does clearly say Fruit of the Spirit and it is not incorrect. But I am convinced that the fruit of the Spirit are consummated and expressed in one overarching fruit.  I am going to throw out a couple of scriptures, and then we will examine what the fruit is, although, you should be able to see a thread pulling through all of the text:

John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 14:15 If you love me, keep my commands

John 14:21-26 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love

Gal 5:13-26 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

1 John 4:7-21 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

It is clear from the text that the fruit we are to bear is LOVE! Now these are only a few of the scriptures to try to point out to us what fruit we are to bear. If you would read through the gospels and epistles you would see this come through in almost every single letter. Paul even goes as far as to say that Spiritual Gifts are outweighed by Love. Love is a big deal. It is the mandate of the Christian – to love as He has loved us.

Notice how love is contrasted to not walking in the flesh, and then is accompanied by walking in the Spirit. The same is true in John 14 – The Lord speaks about love, and it is smack bang in the middle of His discourse on the promise of the Holy Spirit. Here we find a clue to the answer to our second question – which is How do we bear fruit?

Fresh Produce

Now I am not a farmer, but one thing I know is – No fruit grows by its own effort or strength of will and determination. The growth of fruit is completely dependent on factors beyond its control. Furthermore, no apple tree has ever produced oranges. The growth of fruit is entirely dependent on its connection to the tree and it’s roots, and the type of fruit produced is directly connected to the nature of the tree it stems from.

In order to reach an answer to our second question, we have to look at what type of love do the scriptures intend or require from us? Once again, the English language falls short in conveying the depth of the word love used in these verses. We must understand that when the word love appears in scripture, there are 4 Greek words, which are all translated as love. The first word:

  1. Phileō: is a companionable love. ii. This love speaks of affection, fondness, or liking. Phileō is a love that responds to kindness, appreciation, or love. It involves giving as well as receiving; but when it is greatly strained, it can collapse in a crisis.
  2. Storge: This love has its basis in one’s own nature. ii. Storgē is a natural affection or natural obligation iii. It is a natural movement of the soul for husband, wife, child or dog. iv. It is a quiet, abiding feeling within a man that rests on something close to him and that he feels good about.
  3. Eros: This love is erotic love ii. Eros is a love of passion, an overmastering passion that seizes and absorbs itself into the mind. iii. It is a love that is an emotional involvement based on body chemistry. iv. The basic idea of this love is self-satisfaction.

As we can see from all of these translations of love, the love is inspired/kindled by self, or given in response to love from another. But none of these words for love are used in these verses we have read. The word used as love here is:

  1. Agape/Agapao – properly, to prefer, to love; for the believerpreferring to “live through Christ (1 Jn 4:9,10), i.e. embracing God’s will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power.  (agapáō) preeminently refers to what God prefers as He “is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16).  (agapē).  With the believer, /agapáō (“to love”) means actively doing what the Lord prefers, with Him (by His power and direction). True /agapáō (“loving”) is always defined by God – a “discriminating affection which involves choice and selection” is Christ living His life through the believer. In other words, it is love which originates from God, and is always self-denying in nature.

WOW!!! Doesn’t that put everything into perspective? So when Jesus says: “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” What He is really saying is: If you submit yourself to my rulership as Lord, and allow me to live my life through you – I will provide the power and direction for you to keep my commandments and bear fruit– namely to love others as only He is able to love.

I don’t know about you, but I am a selfish human being. I tend to only like to hang out with people who like me, and better yet – my sphere of love spans no further than my front door, unless the person can give me something in return. How wicked is my heart! The expectations the Lord has placed on me is too great! I cannot love as He requires me to love. I have only one option, but to submit myself to Him, and allow Him to work through me! We are but vessels through which Christ can move powerfully, to love the world, as only He Himself is able to.

The Apostle Paul says the following about love. 2 Corinthians 5:14. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. This is not the idea of love that we have grown accustomed to in our daily talk. We have limited love to a mere emotional feeling. In essence love is a constraining agent. When we consider the price paid for us – the love demonstrated by Christ compels us to turn away from our will, and willingly submit to our Masters will. Love brings us to a place where we say, I cannot do this, unless You do it in and through me Lord. Love brings us to the place of denying ourselves, so that He may be all in us. It is LOVE working in us, and LOVE working through us!

Here is the fascinating part about being enslaved to Christ. Not only do we have a master who gives us great works to accomplish and do, but He Himself is the strength and ability to do the work. Not only does He do the work in and through you, but he gives you the will and desire to WANT to do the work.

Death precedes a Harvest

Jesus says in John 12:24-25: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

The requirement for fruit bearing is clear – DIE! Give up your rights! Deny yourself! Confess your inability to produce anything of eternal value! If you want to truly mature in your walk with the Lord, if you want to be effective in the work of ministry, if you want to accomplish great things for the Lord, and ultimately love as He requires – the answer is simple – Be enslaved to Jesus! Jesus, though He was fully man and fully God, chose to deny Himself and be completely submitted to the will and work of the Father. He was enslaved to the will of the Father – His master!

This relationship between slave and master, is not one of abuse, but one characterized by love for the purpose of love! A love which says: Master, you have prepared good works for me to do. In my own strength I cannot live up to your standards and requirements. Yet you have not left me on my own. You are the one who works within me to please Yourself. I submit myself to You as slave.

Enslaved to Christ

The Lord continues to work in me regarding the topic of His Lordship, and more appropriately my response to that Truth – which according to scripture reveals that my relationship to Christ is one of being a slave to Him. Now, just me saying that already might not sit well with some of you. Slavery in our history is tainted with the abuse of another human being. So when I mention that we are slaves to Christ, the automatic response is one of disgust. Surely slavery cannot be the appropriate way to describe our relationship with Jesus?

Surely not Slavery

In our contemporary Christian circles, we hardly ever use this slave term to describe our relationship with The Lord. We are all about freedom, liberation, fulfilling your purpose, fulfilling your dreams and visions. God wants you to be the best you, you can be. He wants you to accomplish all your dreams, give you your hearts desires. The Christian’s relationship to God is all about personal fulfillment, personal liberation, personal satisfaction, all of this well summarized in a catch phrase – A Personal Relationship.

We have been bombarded with the message that the gospel offers us a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. What does that mean? How does that relationship look?

The word slave/doulos appears 130 times in the new testament in the original text. However, we would not see that from the surface, because the word is translated servant/bond servant in most of our English translations. I don’t know about you, but there is a massive difference between what I understand from the concept servant, and the concept slave. Let us look at the meaning of the word doulos. It is described as a kind of service which is not a matter of choice for the one who does it, a kind of service which he has to perform whether he likes it or not. It describes one who is subject to the will of another, the will of the owner and in total and utter dependence on that owner.

Take Matthew 6:24 as an example: What does your bible say? “No man can serve two masters” The original text renders it: “No man can be a doulos/slave to two masters”

The only time they translate the term correctly is when it literally refers to a physical slave – Colossians 3:22. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Or if it refers to bondage to an inanimate object such as being a slave to sin, or a slave to righteousness – Romans 6:17-18.  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. But when the term is in relation to another person namely to God or to Christ, they render it servant or bond servant.

Turn with me to Ephesians 6:5-9 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.  Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

In this portion of scripture, Paul addresses slaves in verse 5, and their masters in verse 9. Here, the word doulos is clearly translated as slave, because Paul addresses Slaves. Here we see the first introduction of the phrase: “Slaves of Christ.” Here, the translators are comfortable to use the term slaves of Christ because the metaphor is built on the literal use of slaves who are being addressed in verse 5.

Do you remember these words, we so often quote in church? Matthew 25:21 Well done good and faithful…” Guess what the word is there in the original text? DOULOS! “Well done good and faithful Slave”

We must realize that when we are giving someone the gospel, we are saying to them: “I would like to invite you to become a slave of Jesus Christ. To give up your independence, your freedom, and to submit yourself to the will of another, abandon all your rights, be owned, be at the disposal of the Lord” This is in fact the message of the gospel. We’re asking people to become slaves.

We are called to be slaves. It is interesting that the word slave is a favorite self-designation for the apostles and other writers of scripture. The Apostle Paul, did not see himself as “the founder of Christianity” He saw himself as a Slave of God and of Jesus Christ.

  • Romans 1:1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God
  • Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.
  • Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people?If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
  • Titus 1:1 Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

Furthermore, James, the half-brother of Jesus claims the exact same. James 1:1. James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

The words of Paul best sum up the attitude all of these men had in conveying themselves as slaves: “If I was trying to please men, I would not be a slave of Christ.” They understood that slavery means: “I only do what pleases my master”. This is the singular focus of being a slave – You don’t have to please a lot of people; you only have to please one. It is critical that we understand this metaphor of being a slave. If we are going to talk about a personal relationship with God, then our personal relationship with Him, is that we are Slaves. That’s the best way to define the relationship.

Nature of the relationship

Let us look at the nature of a master/slave relationship. If there is a slave, let me tell you something, there is a lord. If there is a lord, there is a master. If there’s a master, there’s a slave. You don’t call yourself a master if you don’t have a slave and you’re not a slave if you don’t have a master. When you come to Christ – He is your Lord. That is obvious. When you confess Jesus as Lord, you are at the same time confessing yourself as slave.

  1. Exclusive Ownership

An acknowledgement and awareness of the chattel nature of the relationship – tangible personal property. Both Owner and slave see the slave as human property. This is not a figurative concept but a literal one: occasionally slaves are indeed sold in this sort of relationship configuration, and the slave in question – if they wish to remain a slave – goes obediently (perhaps happily, perhaps not) to the new Owner. A servant could be hired and quit. A slave was owned. That means exclusive ownership because he was bought with a price. Does that sound like New Testament talk? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

  1. Complete and constant availability and obedience

The slave makes a choice to live in voluntary servitude, and thereafter lives out a commitment to obedience.

  1. Subject to the will of another

The Owner is the final decision maker in all things, except whatever s/he may have chosen to delegate to the slave as the slave’s sphere of responsibility. There is no part of the slave’s life or being that the Owner does not have the option to control, if s/he wishes to do so. How much is actually controlled is the Owner’s choice and decision, but there is an agreement that the Owner will in fact control and command the slave (to an extent determined by the Owner).

  1. Complete dependence

The slave would have complete dependence on His master for everything, absolutely everything. The Owner assumes ultimate responsibility for the well-being of another human being.

  1. All discipline and reward came from that one master

Just because a slave is expected to be obedient to the Owner, does not by any stretch of the imagination mean a slave becomes a mind-dead zombie, bereft of opinions, creative ideas, input, desires, even temper tantrums and vocal demands for something s/he wants in his/her life. A slave can bring all those things to the table and more (and usually does). The only real difference between a slave interacting with an Owner, and any other relationship couple in the world, is that The Owner Gets to Decide. Period. The slave has a voice and often gets a vote. However, the slave does not get to make the Final Decision

That’s what it is to be a slave. You were owned by one person. You were completely and constantly to be available and obedient to that one master. You had one consuming reason to live and that was to please that master. You were dependent on that master for absolutely everything. And all discipline and reward came at the discretion of that master. All of that is directly connected to what it means to be a slave of Jesus Christ. We are owned by Him because we’ve been bought with a price. We are in a position of complete and constant availability and obedience to that one master to the degree that we can say, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” all the time. We are singular in our devotion and that means we have no other master to obey and no other master to serve. We are totally dependent upon our one master for everything – protection, provision now and in the future – totally dependent on Him.

Slave yet Free

The theme of Doulos is submission. Yet, it is not the tyrannical concept most of us have harbored in our mind. Rather, it Is freedom. Slavery to Christ frees us from ourselves, and our bad thinking and choices. It is a safe place of absolute surrender to the Lordship of Christ, characterized by love and trust. It is a position of death to self. It is a place of humility, where we confess: Your will be done Lord, not mine.

The position of Doulos brings us to a place of fruitfulness. When we consider the price paid for us, we in turn live from the place of love, for the purpose of love. It is love that has redeemed us, and it is in love that we abide in Christ, and it is for love that He has predestined us. We abide as we lay down ourselves at His disposal.

Can we come to place where we confess – “Jesus you are Lord! I am slave! I am at Your disposal. Have Your way through me. I deny myself. I reject my efforts to produce anything worthy of Your approval. I rely on You as master, from a place of love, to source this life I live, so that I may echo the words of Paul when he says:  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith (utter reliance and dependence) in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

I heard the Shepherd speak

One of the fundamental building blocks of the believers’ walk with God is their ability to discern His voice over their lives. The desire of every believer is to please their Lord and Master. It is quite foreign to hear a believer not wanting to walk in the will of the Lord for their life. It is for this reason, that hearing and discerning God’s voice is important.

Many Voices – Always Listening

Firstly, we must realize that there are many voices speaking to us daily. Not all of these voices have physical mouths, and we don’t realize that we are always listening. As we find ourselves in a post-modern world, where absolute truth has been replaced with relativism – we are constantly being bombarded with new ideas about who we are. Without us realizing, we have subtly been listening to and influenced by the many voices the world has been whispering into our ears.

Many believers have become deaf to the Lord’s voice, because we have entertained the voice of the world – “Make money!” “Live your best life now!” “You don’t need other believers to have a growing relationship with God!” etc. We all are guilty of drifting away from listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.

A return to discerning and hearing God’s voice will require a divorce from the patterns of this world, and their thinking. Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

God is Speaking

Amidst the many voices of the world we have a Sovereign God, always speaking to us. It has been said that the problem is not God’s ability to speak, but more so our ability to listen. Not only do we often times lack the ability to listen, but we also listen in the wrong places.

I believe that the Lord has spoken and is speaking to us through the 66 books of scripture. If we are to return to a place of listening to God speak – it is firstly to this place we need to return. Many have downplayed the value of the written word of God and it’s ability to accurately speak to us. If we truly submerge and saturate ourselves in the written word, we will begin to discover that more than just great principles to be found within the text, there awaits a revelation of a Person who is the Incarnate Word.

Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the worldNot only has God given us the Scriptures, but He has and is speaking through the revelation of His Son – Jesus Christ. Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” It is only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that we are able to hear the Father speak. He has spoken in the Person of Jesus, and if we are to know His will, we must come into fellowship with Christ as Lord, Master, Lover, and Friend.

Why Listen?

For a long time I have believed that I only need to hear the voice of God so that I can know what to do. I firmly believe that we relate to God in a Master/Slave relationship, but I also believe that only to relate to Him as such, is to miss out on the fullness He has for us. In John 10, Jesus reveals the nature of Him speaking and our listening and obeying.

John 10:4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 

Our doing the will of Jesus, comes firstly from a place of knowing His voice. I want to propose that I listen to the voice of Jesus, not only so that I can know what He wants me to do, but purely that I may know Him more. For if I know Him, I will know what His desires are.

The call for each of us as believers is to ground ourselves firmly in the written word of God and secondly for the written word to be revealed to us in the Person of Christ as we walk with Him in relationship. Finally – it is for us to be obedient to what He asks of us, and to in turn be the word made flesh to a fallen world, who too, is always listening.