Divine Slavery

An Interesting Choice Of Words

The Apostle Paul introduces himself, in his letter to the Church of Rome, with these words, “Paul, a SLAVE of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news” (Romans 1:1) I respect the editors of the Holman translation of Scripture for their decision to use the word “SLAVE”. Many translations have chosen to use “servant” or “bond servant” instead of “slave” out of respect for our human brothers and sisters that have been, and continue to be, subjected to the inhumane cruelty and bondage of human slavery.

The Spirit’s Use Of The Word “Slave”

But, here’s the facts – that word in the original Greek language is “doulos” and it means “slave”! So, if we believe the Scriptures are the inerrant, inspired Word of God (and I do!) than we’re left with the cold, hard truth that the Holy Spirit of God inspired Paul to use the word “slave”. It was NOT Paul’s choice! He was moved by the Spirit of God to use that exact word – for a purpose!

A “slave” – in the Roman world – was “owned”! A slave was purchased, “bought with a price”! They received no wages for their efforts; and, didn’t have any rights of their own. They were the personal property of the slave owner. A “servant”, on the other hand, had rights – they were free to quit; and, they were compensated for their work. They belonged to no one!

We Were Bought At A Price

So, I was meditating on Paul’s words to the Church of Corinth, “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) While he doesn’t use the word “slave” (“doulos”) he does use descriptive phrases that define slavery – “you are not your own” “you were bought at a price.”

Now, it’s not like I’ve never thought about this before! It’s not like I haven’t preached this passage before – probably numerous times! But, I grasped it’s meaning in a whole new way – I had an “epiphanous” moment!

I am God’s “slave”! I was “purchased” by the blood of Jesus Christ – “bought at a price”! I am not my own! Everything that I tend to see as “mine” is not mine! It all belongs to Jesus – because He bought me!

If I live my life as an “owner” of my life then I’m NOT HIS! I can’t have it both ways – I’m either “free” (Not really! Sin is the ultimate cruel taskmaster!) to live as “owner” of my life; and, live with the consequences of that decision! Or, I’m a “slave” to God; and, I reap the benefits of His well-intended benevolence toward me! “Slavery” to God is the better choice!

How Does That Flesh Out?

Nothing I have is mine! We tend to gloss over that thought! But, it makes all the difference if we look at all our “stuff” in the light of Divine Slavery – our homes, our savings accounts, our IRAs – none of that is “mine”! It all belongs to Jesus – He BOUGHT it! But, let’s go deeper – what about our thought life, our attitudes, our sexuality, our grudges & feelings toward someone else! If we have been “bought”; if we are “not our own” – we can’t take “ownership” of those things!

We don’t “own” our attitudes – they belong to Jesus! We don’t “own” our thought life or our sexuality – that all belongs to Christ! As a “slave” He doesn’t give me permission to use any of those things for my own benefit and pleasure! In fact, Paul says “…therefore glorify God in your body.” That helps me think correctly about my attitudes, my feelings toward someone else, my movie & TV choices, my hobbies & reading materials – all of it in light of my Divine Slavery to God!

I can’t look – with lustful intent – at the woman walking down the street or the image in a magazine or on the internet! My eyes aren’t “mine”! The “thought life” that develops, from that look, is not “mine”! My “sexuality” is not “mine” – remember? All of those things were purchased by Jesus and to be used for HIS GLORY ONLY! Joseph figured this out, in Genesis 39:9-10, when faced with the offer of an intimate encounter with a woman he wasn’t married to – “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” His “sexuality” was not his to use however he wanted; but, rather for God’s “glory”!

So, if you’re struggling with some “addictive behaviors” ask the Spirit of God to help you meditate on these truths – you don’t have any “rights” to those addictive behaviors! Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost! Your body belongs to Jesus! Ask His Spirit to keep reminding you about these truths!

So, Does God Approve Of Human Slavery?

Let’s be real! God opposes every kind of sin against humanity. “Kidnapping” and “slavery” are condemned – “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his passion, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16) “If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 24:7) ‘Nough said? I thought so!

Don’t mistake Paul’s words to “slaves” in Ephesians as approval! He simply wrote those words to teach believers how to respond – like Christ – in even the worst of human conditions!

So, why does God inspire Paul to use the word “slave” to describe our relationship to Him? I don’t pretend to know all the reasons! But, clearly God sets Himself apart from a mankind that would enslave other humans! He is love! He is benevolent & well-intended toward us! To be a “slave” to Him is to enjoy the BEST LIFE we could ever have – He is not a “kill-joy” in the sky trying to spoil our fun! All His commandments are perfect & for our good!

Happy is the man who submits himself a “slave” to the God of faithful love!

What Should We Value In Church Ministry?

The American Church Landscape

For most of the last 36 years of my life I have been on the staff of a local church; so, I like to think that gives me some “depth perception” — I’ve observed the landscape of the church for nearly 4 decades! That said, the health of the church in America has never been more alarming. According to the United States Census Bureau Records, 4000 churches close their doors each year while only 1000 new churches start up. Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity; or, put another way, people are leaving the church! Since 1992, church attendance has dropped around 13% while population growth as increased by 9%. If we all do the math we’ll all come up with the same conclusion — we’re losing ground! And, it’s snow balling! “Humanly” speaking it’s an irreversible trend!

Thankfully, we serve a God that is neither limited by nor impressed with human trends. He transcends human trends! He loves to step into our world supernaturally & overcome all human logic and wisdom by His eternal power; and, He does it for the glory of His name!

How Should We Respond?

I’m privileged to be part of an Elder team that really cares about the church to whom we minister. We begin each of our meetings in prayer — sometimes lengthy prayer — seeking God’s direction for our meeting and for His church.

One of our Biblical titles is “Overseer” — pretty straight forward, isn’t it? We’re responsible for the “oversight” of our local church ministry. It means we’re “stewards”! We’re not “bosses”; nor, are we “owners” of the church! It belongs to Jesus because He “bought” us; and, we’re not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)! As Elders, we “oversee” the work on His behalf.

We concluded that too much of our ministry effort, in the past, has been the pooling of human wisdom. We had bowed down to the “Idol of Pragmatism” which led us to “add this ministry” or “do it this way” because it worked at Mega Bible Church in Big City, USA. Which begs the question, if it’s Jesus’ church why don’t we ask Him how to run His church? And, so we did!

What Should We Value In Ministry?

What you’re reading, in this series of posts, is the result of months of prayer time & Scripture study in an all-out effort to discover what Jesus would have us “value” in our local church ministry — “Ministry Values”! And let me be clear about something from the start: these are NOT our Ministry Values because we say they are! As an Elder team, we’ve carefully studied God’s Word in an attempt to “confirm” what He wants us to value in ministry!

You may not come to the same conclusions as we have! And, I’m okay with that! Can you be okay with that? Every local church should be an individual expression of our Awesome God’s creative character! My son has his own little saying when we play games together as a family: “You be you,” he says. In other words, play the game the way you play it! You don’t have to play it like everyone else!

Let’s stop trying to be like every other church! You need to uncover who God made you to be through prayer, fasting, and a healthy diet of the God’s Word! Be still; and, know who God made you to be! When you discover “who” that is, it will set you free; and, provide passion & meaning to your local church ministry that trying to copy all the “big dogs” never will!

Right now we find ourselves on an exhilarating journey as a church. It’s a paradigm shift in the way we do church — rather than sitting around a table wringing our hands over “church business” we are learning to pray together and seek God’s help for the work He has given us to oversee!

We’ve Focused On All The Wrong Thing

I submit to you that the reason for decline in the church has been one of FOCUS — for decades we’ve focused on all the wrong things: politics, issues, music & worship styles, church attire, seekers, etc. We’ve made church about our agenda; our personal “hobby horses”! Not only have we been guilty of asking the wrong questions; we’ve asked the wrong person! We’ve sought answers from man instead of the All-Knowing One!

Let’s be gracious; and, assume that the church meant well! Her motives may have been right! But, in reality, too much church ministry has been done in the flesh for the last 50 years — when we work hard & pray little we’re telling the world that we have a weak God! When we pray hard we’re telling the world we need His presence in our ministry or nothing will happen!

If you’re like me, you long to see something happen! I long for a great moving of God’s Holy Spirit — one that brings the saints to their knees in repentant broken humility; and, one that brings the lost to an awareness of their lostness and their need for Jesus, the Savior!

I hunger for the presence of God to be manifested in our local church community of faith; to see the trail of His glory made known through the changed lives of our people. That’s the “Ministry Value” I plan to flesh out in my next post — Living each day in a way that brings God glory!

Thanks for blessing me with your time! Hope you’ll share some encouraging feedback! Like Jesus told Peter: “Feed My Sheep!”