Do you and I have to serve God? No.
As Christians, do we have to?
No again, but when you and I recognize all He’s done for us, we want to serve Him.
As slaves of sin, we earn our wage. We deserve it.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23
As God’s slaves then, we don’t get what we earn – we get what we’re given. And God gives over and above anything we could need. So yeah, I want to serve Him.
But why would God keep slaves if they’re not productive? I have no idea (maybe He loves them). Whatever the reason, I’m insanely thankful He does. And that’s why we choose to serve Him.
I’ll lay this out in four sections. The more you do any one of these, though, the more you’ll want to do the next… and the rest.
You can’t become God’s slave if you don’t know Jesus.
That’s a fundamental prerequisite no one can avoid now. We can try to serve Jesus without knowing Him, and many have, but the result isn’t service. It’s an attempt to earn righteousness. Jesus responded to that directly in one of the scariest passages in the Bible:
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” -Matthew 7:22-23
I’ve never prophesied (in the strict sense) in Jesus’s name. I’ve never cast out demons or done many wonders. I don’t even measure up with these guys in works. But what I do doesn’t matter.
What matters is whether or not Jesus knows me (and I know Him). How’s Jesus going to respond to me?
I want to know Jesus, and I want Him to know me. That precedes anything you and me try to do for Him. Serving God is a response to what He’s already given us, not an initiation to receive it.
How to know Jesus
I’m not just talking about receiving Him into your heart for the first time. I’m also talking about studying Him, learning more about Him, the way you would in any close relationship.
And my best advice for that comes straight out of Acts:
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” -Acts 2:42
Dumping your old master
Is your master pornography? Is your master the desire to control? Is your master pride? As I’ve already mentioned, you’re a slave anyway. In the most general sense, you’re either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness, a slave to self or a slave to God.
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” -Romans 6:16
I’ve been addicted to sin. I’ve felt its influence and control in my life. Have you? I still do at times, but I want to give that up. I want that influence and control to come from God.
I want to be addicted to righteousness… so much that it doesn’t even feel like it’s me anymore.
How to dump your old master
You and I have to link massive pain to our old masters to want to dump them. You and I already know in our minds sin is destructive. I know that even while I’m sinning. But it’s not enough to know it – we have to realize it, literally make it real in our lives.
[I've also written about how to help someone overcome temptation. You might find some of that helpful.]
Submitting to your new master
Instead of just giving up sin, going from -10 to zero, I want to allow God’s will to guide me into His presence, from zero to +10. In other words, I don’t want the weight of my past sin to be greater than the warmth of God’s present guidance. As Paul said…
“[H]aving been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” -Romans 6:18
No middle – you’ll slip one way or another. You and I can’t “give up” sin, without also “putting on” righteousness.
When required, slaves for God are literally jerked around by His guidance. They respond instantly. They choose to serve God, not when or how to serve Him. There’s no “Is this the best idea?” questioning involved.
But there’s also no fear associated with the outcome. God takes responsibility for the results of our service to Him. Success for us has nothing to do with results. Success for us is based purely on submission and obedience. If you and I obey, no matter what the overall outcome, we’re successful.
How to submit to your new master
The best way I’ve found to do this is to practice. Start small. Search out the little things God wants you to do and do them immediately and without question. Examples:
- Reading the Bible
- Opening the door for a stranger
- Buying lunch for a friend
- Sharing your testimony with a relative
- Planning according to what God wants for your life
God’s good about building on what’s available. He’ll never give you more than you can handle. But you have to be ready to say yes.
Oh, and track how well you’re doing. Journal or meet with a close friend to discuss the progress. (Remember: you’re measuring submission, not results.)
Changing your identity
Not only do you and I submit to God’s leadership in our lives, we’re called to become entirely new people. We’re called to an identity switch, not just a master switch.
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” -Colossians 3:3
God wants my identity, Marshall Jones Jr.’s identity, to dissolve into His. And He’s not doing it selfishly. God knows my identity is corrupt and frail and falling apart. He wants to allow me to become a new person, a perfect person, through His Spirit.
And He wants the same for everyone.
“[I]f anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” -2 Corinthians 5:16
When you and I give ourselves over completely to God, our outward lives look and feel dramatically different. The Bible often calls this “fruit.” You can tell a lot about a tree by its fruit, what kind it is and how healthy it is. Same goes for us. Our fruit shows what kind of person we are and who our master is.
“What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” -Romans 6:21-22
The more we identify with God’s will, the more you and I will want draw closer to Him… and as a result, the more our lives will reveal God to others.
How to change your identity
“[P]ut off… the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” -Ephesians 4:22-24
This is a continual process, and the only way to keep it going is to constantly allow God to align our desires with His. No matter how much you and I try to live for God, if we’re not submitting our thoughts and desires to Him, we’ll never become that new person.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” -Colossians 3:1-2
[I'll share more about fruit and revealing God to others in next week's edition.]
Welcome to the slave cycle
I tried to share this in a somewhat logical order, but it actually all happens together, not necessarily one at a time the way it’s laid out here. It’s more like a cycle.
- The closer we draw to Jesus, the more we can dump our old baggage.
- The more we dump old baggage, the more we can submit to God.
- The more we submit to God, the more our identity is found in Him.
- And the more we identify with God, the closer we draw to Jesus.
And over and over and over. It’s a massive, beautiful, glorious cycle God wants us caught in. As long as we’re in it, the cycle continues to grow and expand until it’s completely out of our control. That’s when we’ve become slaves to righteousness, slaves to God.
(1) I challenge you to commit your life and desires to God. Not just when you think it’s right – all the time. Completely committed. Allow Jesus to become your Lord, not just Savior.
(2) Assuming He is your Lord, what does He want you to do? How do His plans affect your life? How committed are you?
(3) (Re)read Slavery 101. Many of the lessons here for serving God are taken straight from that introduction.
This post is part of “The bondC guide to slavery” series. Click here to read the rest.