I want you to turn back to the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John. This is a subject that has been much on my heart, probably for fifteen years or so.
I remember flying to England, flying to London to do a Banner of Truth conference, and for the first time really awakening to the truth that I want to point out to you today. I knew it was there, but it was below the surface until that particular flight. I spent hours tracing a specific word through the Scripture and coming to a fresh understanding of the concept of “slave,” slaves of Christ, which is the theme. And it was a few years later that I wrote a book, and I presented it to the publisher, and they were not sure that I should be allowed to title the book Slave. That term is fraught with all kinds of expectations and implications; and they tried to get me to change the title, and I refused to do that because essentially I was uncovering a cover-up by using the word “slave,” and I wasn’t going to cover up uncovering of a cover-up by changing the title. So it’s available; it’s called Slave.
As we come to the fifteenth chapter of John we find ourselves in the upper room Thursday night of Passion Week. This is the night when the Lord celebrated Passover with His disciples. This is the last authorized and official Passover, the last one because after His death and resurrection the Lord instituted a new Passover, memorialized – not the blood sprinkled on the doors to deliver Israel from Egypt, but the blood on the cross sprinkled by the Son of God for our salvation. This was then the final Passover.
By the time we get to the end of the fourteenth chapter, it’s winding down. Our Lord has taught some amazing things in chapters 13 and 14. Judas by now has left to go meet the leaders of Israel who will pay him to deliver Jesus to them. His betrayal is obviously known to all of us. They’ll take his thirty pieces of silver; it’ll burn holes in his hands and his mind and drive him to hang himself. But Judas is gone from the upper room, and as we come to the end of the fourteenth chapter, we read that Jesus says, “Get up, let’s go from here.” “Get up,” because they reclined at a supper like this, many hours of enjoying that meal, remembering the Passover, and looking forward to our Lord’s death.
They’re now walking toward the garden. They’re walking toward the garden where He will be tempted, where the temptation will be so severe He’ll sweat as it were great drops of blood. They’re walking toward the garden where they along with Him for the purpose of prayer will rather fall asleep. It’s very late, it was a long meal, and they’re sleeping when they should be praying. It is the garden of His temptation. It is the garden of His arrest. And the next morning after a fake trial in the middle of the night there will be the crucifixion of the Son of God.
As they walk, the Lord tells them of His love for them. In fact, He’s been telling them that since the beginning. This is really a night of love. From chapter 13 on through chapter 17 you hear Jesus. In the first few chapters He’s talking to them, in the final chapter He’s talking to the Father about them and us. But love is on His mind.
Chapter 13 begins, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them,” – eis telos – “He loved them to the end,” to the max, to the fullest capacity of His holy heart. It was about love. Verse 23 says, “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples whom Jesus loved.”
In verse 34 it says, “A new commandment I give you,” He spoke, “that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Chapter 14, verse 21, He said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Verse 23, “Jesus answered and said to Judas,” – not Iscariot – ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.’” In verse 28, “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”
Then when we come to the fifteenth chapter and come down to verse 9, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” In verse 10, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” Verse 12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” That culminates in His prayer in the seventeenth chapter. At the end of His prayer to the Father, He says, verse 25, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” It’s a night of love.
It’s the legacy of Jesus. Between chapters 13 and 17 He leaves the legacy to all who are His. He demonstrates to them His love by washing their feet, humbling Himself. He gives promises of His love by pledging to them peace, joy, the Holy Spirit who will come and take up residence in them, righteousness, access to all heavenly resources, assurance of salvation, and eternal life. All of these are promises of love.
And He does give commands, but there’s a purpose for those commands. The purpose of those commands is that their joy may be full. Full joy is the product of obedience. That’s what verse 11 of chapter 15 says. If you’re looking for joy apart from obedience you’re not going to find it.
But the power behind all of this and the motive behind all of this is love. This is alien to any religion in history. No religion has a god who loves. Every manufactured religion is a product of Satan; and Satan is, by nature, a hater and a killer.
Christianity distinguishes itself on that basis alone. God is love. God loves, and He loved us while we were yet sinners. Christ loves us, and the Holy Spirit sheds love abroad in our hearts. If you belong to Christ you are loved with a divine love that wants to lavish on you peace and joy, righteousness, all the riches of heaven, assurance, comfort, and eternal life. Followers of Jesus then are bound up in His love. We’re connected to Him, as I read earlier in the beginning of this chapter, as branches to a vine; and the life flow is the flow of His love.
But I want us to look this morning at verses 12-17 in particular, and especially at two terms that describe believers. We find them in verses 14 and 15: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves,” – meaning, “No longer do I only call you slaves” – “for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I’ve made known to you.” Two key words: slaves and friends, slaves and friends.
Does it seem strange to you to read verse 14, “You’re My friends if you do what I command you”? Try that on anybody and see if that develops into a friendship. Not likely. Friendship should be kind of a relation of equity and equality. Friendship does not really define itself by an authority-submission relationship. What kind of a friendship is it where you’re commanding? Verse 12, He commands. Verse 17, He commands. His whole discussion is bracketed by commands and says, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” That introduces us to the other part, which is the slave part. We are slaves who are friends.
You say, “Well, that seems like a strange relationship.” Not really. Slavery was common in the ancient world. It was common even in the history of Israel. But it was common in the ancient Middle East, common in the Mediterranean world; and for many people it could be the best of all relationships - it could. In fact, there were some conditions of slavery that were so wonderful, so fulfilling, and so rich a blessing to the slave, that the slave would choose never to be turned loose.
Exodus 21 - listen to what Scripture says - verse 5: “If a slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man, I don’t want to go anywhere else because I love my master and I love my family, so I want to keep all of us under the care of my master,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.” I’ll tell you what: that’s virtually a perfect relationship, to have a loving master that you want to serve the rest of your life because you love him and you know he cares for those you love. That same statement is repeated again in Deuteronomy 15, verses 16 and 17.
So there is no stigma necessarily on slavery. The Bible doesn’t condone it and it doesn’t condemn it. It recognizes it as a social construct; but it does regulate it. And the slave in Israel would be freed at the Jubilee Year, which was every seventh year, if that’s what he wanted. But there were some masters who were so loving and kind and generous that the slave would want to be a slave for life, and he would have a hole in his ear to signify that commitment.
Fast-forward to the time of the New Testament and you realize that probably a fifth of the whole Roman Empire were slaves, maybe as many as 12-15 million slaves. In fact, every skill and every profession involved slaves. It wasn’t that they did merely menial tasks; they were teachers, and they were artists, and they were architects, and they did virtually every kind of skill. But they were owned; and that ownership, depending on the treatment of the owner, could be difficult or it could be the greatest of all blessings.
But if you were a slave who was a friend, then you had the perfect environment. You had access. You had intimate knowledge of your master. You were trusted by him, and you trusted him. You were faithful, you were dutiful because you knew he cared for you – very personal.
Ramp that up to the highest level. The ruler had slaves. Caesar the emperor had slaves. History tells us that they had slaves who were more intimately acquainted with them than any noble or any politician or any senator or any other person. Most likely they were more intimately acquainted with the ruler than his wives, and sometimes even then his children. They would be the ones who would take off his sandals at night, take off his robe. They would know his most personal desires, his weaknesses, his strengths. They would know his ambitions, his hopes, his joys. His slaves were his most intimate friends. They knew more about him than anyone knew. The slave was intimate with the master. And when the master loved the slave, there was a bond of service and friendship that was unique.
Back in 1869 there was a hymnwriter who saw that in this passage, and he wrote these words: “O Jesus, I have promised to serve You to the end. Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend. I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side, nor wander from the pathway if that wilt be my guide. O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee, that where Thou art in glory, there shall Thy slave be. And Jesus I have promised to serve Thee to the end. O give me grace to follow my Master and my Friend.” That hymn celebrates intimate fellowship. It celebrates protection, “I shall not fear the battle if You’re by my side,” and guidance and reward. “O let me see Thy footprints,” – it ends – “and in them plant my own. My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone. O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end, and then in heaven receive me, my Master and my Friend.”
It’s an incredible thing that Jesus calls us “friend.” “Friend” is the word philos. The verb is phileō. It means “to have affection for.” It’s to love. And we learn something about the intimacy of His friendship; look at verse 15 again.
In what sense can a slave be called a friend? Well, normally a slave doesn’t know what his master’s doing, he’s not privy to inside information. You say to a slave, “Go here, go there.” But the difference is, “I’ve called you friends.” Here’s why: “All things that I heard from My Father I’ve made known to you.” No secrets. Incredible. No secrets. Christ keeps no secrets from His slaves because they’re His friends.
This is a slavery that is marked by affection; verse 12: “I have loved you.” Marked by salvation; verse 13: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” That’s marked by revelation: “All things I heard from My Father I made known to you.” That’s marked by election, verse 16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Marked by commission – “appointed you that you would go and bear fruit,” – marked by fruition – “your fruit would remain,” – and marked by provision – “so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” That’s just overwhelming, isn’t it?
This friendship involves affection, salvation, revelation, election, commission, fruition, and provision. This is almost enough to take your breath away, to think that you have a relationship with Jesus Christ that’s defined in this way. Stunning, stunning truth. We live in a dangerous world; I think we know that. There are deadly dangers all around us, both materially and spiritually. We need a Master who can protect us, provide all we need, and love us all the way into glory.
Now I’m going to say something you probably don’t know. The most common term in the New Testament for “Christians” is “slave.” That’s right. It’s the most common term in the New Testament for “Christians.” And by the way, Jesus has more slaves than anyone, so we’d better start tearing down the statues. He is Lord of all who belong to Him.
So having said that, that’s just the introduction, you can start timing me now. Let’s back off from that passage for a minute. What is the fundamental truth, the foundational reality, the core doctrine, distinguishing absolute of Christianity? What is our common confession? “Jesus is Lord.” “Jesus is Lord.”
Paul says in Romans 10, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” First Corinthians 12:3, Paul says, “No one can confess Jesus as Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” So when the Holy Spirit regenerates a heart, that new heart will confess Jesus as Lord.
You who’ve been around Grace Church any length of time know that I have tried to emphasize the lordship of Christ for decades and decades and decades because there’s so little interest even in the church in the lordship of Christ. It’s been replaced by the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus. By the way, everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus, and with most, it’s not very good. He will be their Judge.
To say someone has a personal relationship with Jesus is just too vague. What you need to say is, “Jesus is Lord, and I am His slave, the object of His love.” That’s a God-centered understanding of Christianity, not a man-centered one. Jesus said in John 13:13, “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.” Being a Christian is confessing Jesus as Lord in full dedication to obedient submission to Him and to His will.
Again, back to the fifteenth chapter and verse 10, “If you keep My commandments, you’ll abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Listen, you are obedient to the Son as the Son is obedient to the Father.
The true reality of Christ’s lordship is constantly obscured because it’s so demanding, so demanding. The fact that Jesus is Lord is clear. Listen to Ephesians chapter 1, a passage we looked at a few weeks ago. The apostle Paul tells us concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 20, “Christ, whom God raised from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, and not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” He is the head over all things. He is Lord of the universe, King of kings and Lord of lords.
When He rose from the dead, in Philippians 2, the apostle Paul says, “God gave Him a name above every name.” It’s not the name “Jesus,” it’s the name “Lord.” It’s the title “Lord,” Kurios. Kurios is the Greek word, and it appears 747 times in the New Testament. What does it mean? “One who has power.” “One who has ownership.” “One who has absolute right to command.” That is kurios.
It has a synonym. The synonym in Greek is despotēs, from which we get the English word “despot.” Kurios is a sovereign ruler. Despotēs is an absolute ruler. And in Jude verse 4, Jude brings it all together when he says, “Certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Despotēs and kurios, extremely powerful words.
Our Lord is referred to ninety-two times in the book of Acts: two times He’s called Sōtēr, “Savior”; ninety times He’s called “Lord.” And He is called “Lord” to designate His absolute rulership, absolute dominion. He is a slaveowner, and any denial of that is heresy, heresy. I’ve tried to help people understand that in the books The Gospel According to Jesus, The Gospel According to the Apostles, The Gospel According to Paul, and other books. People seem afraid to call people to submit to the lordship of Christ. The Lord doesn’t exist to fulfill what you want, but to have you bow your knee to Him as Lord.
It’s pretty clear from His words in the familiar ninth chapter of Luke. And I know you know this portion of Scripture, but it’s one that we should proclaim widely when we evangelize people. Luke 9:23, “He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me,’ – you want to be a follower of Jesus, it’s going to take more than a wristband – ‘if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” “Deny himself,” literally his will, ambition, plans, desires. Christ does not want to come into your life to give you what you want. He comes into your life to command you to do His will.
“Whoever wishes to save his life,” – if you’re just trying to hang onto your life and have Jesus accent it with a few dust-ups and brush-ups, you’ll lose your life. On the other hand, “If you lose your life for My sake, you will save it.” “What does a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” What’s the point in diving into the prosperity gospel lie and thinking you’re going to acquire everything you want and lose your soul forever?
How is it possible that we don’t understand this truth? In the language of Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord,’ and not do what I say?” This is very strong call. Jesus is Lord. If He is Lord, and sovereign and absolute Master, what does that make us? Slaves. The Greek word is doulos, doulos. It’s used 130 times in the New Testament. It only means one thing: “slave.” Not ambiguous; doesn’t mean “servant.” There are six other Greek words that mean “servant” and they nuance the idea of service in different ways. It means “slave” and it never means anything else.
Well, what do we mean by “slave,” someone who is owned? Someone who has no rights of his own, but somebody else has to plead his cause. In the Roman Empire, slave couldn’t give testimony in court. He had no legal rights, no legal standing; could own no property, had no freedom and no autonomy.
That’s a perfect definition of a Christian. You have no rights of your own to lay any claim on God. You have no legal status with God that could cause God to benefit you in any way. You need an advocate. You have to have someone acceptable to God, a free man who comes in your place; and that, of course, is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What did it mean to be a slave? Doulos according to one lexicon is so unequivocal and self-contained that it is a word for which it is superfluous to give examples because it clearly means “slave.” What does that tell us? Slaves were chosen, they were bought, they were owned, they were cared for; and in the case of the Lord: loved, protected, lavished with heavenly riches. Yet when you go to your English Bible, I don’t care what translation you have – there are about 20-plus English translations – you’re not going to know where the word doulos is because there’s a cover-up.
The only time that the New Testament translators in all of these – with very few exceptions – translate doulos as “slave” is when it’s actually talking about a slave, or metaphorically, such as Romans 6, “A slave to sin or a slave to righteousness.” But whenever doulos is used to speak of a Christian, it’s translated “bond-servant” or “servant.” Why did they do that? Why did they do that? Goes all the way back to the early English translations when slavery was such a horrendous thing. All they could think of was some person in chains, that they were loathed to translate doulos as “slave.” There was just too much stigma, and so they invented a word, “bond-servant,” or they just used “servant.” And consequently they stole this tremendous truth from generation after generation of Christians.
By the way, the language scholars of The Master’s University and Seminary have finished the New Testament Proverbs and Psalms on a brand-new translation called The Legacy Standard Bible, that will translate doulos, “slave,” every time. They’re working now on the Old Testament – incredible task.
Our Lord said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can be a slave to two masters.” Now if we just say, “No man can serve two masters,” yes, you can. Some of you have two jobs. Some of you have ten bosses. Some of you, everybody’s a boss, everybody in your building is a boss.
You can serve lots of people, but you can’t be owned by more than one. A servant works for someone; a slave is owned by someone. That’s what it means to follow Christ: deny yourself, take up your cross. What does that mean? Be willing every day to die for your Master. Take up your cross does not mean bear difficulty in life. Really Jesus was saying, “It may cost you your life, so you have to calculate whether it’s worth it, and then follow Me,” which means, “Do what I say.”
Back to Luke 9 for a moment, and verse 57, “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go. I want to be a Jesus follower.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Good, because you’ll be rich.’” That’s not what it says.
“Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ He said, ‘Lord, but permit me first to go and bury my father.’”
You say, “Well, that seems reasonable.” No, his father wasn’t dead. He wanted to hang around the house until his father finally died so he could get the inheritance, then he would follow.
“And so, Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead to bury their own dead; as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’
“A third would-be disciple came along and said, ‘I’ll follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home. Let me go and raise some support.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” This is what it means to deny yourself: follow Christ. It’s a total abandonment to serve Him.
This is such a challenging concept, that over in the thirteenth chapter of Luke, Someone in His traveling group of disciples said to Him, in verse 23, “‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door.’” – it’s a narrow door; it’s like a turnstile; and you can’t carry your luggage through a turnstile – “‘Many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’”
Chapter 14, He’s still trying to get them to understand this, verse 28: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who doesn’t give up all his own possessions.”
It’s a willingness to abandon everything. John 12, Jesus said, “even your own life.” This is the call to salvation: abandonment of everything to follow Christ. The language of the New Testament supports this. Paul says, “You’re bought with a price.” Peter says, “You’re bought with precious blood.” In fact, look for just a moment at the book of Acts, chapter 2, prophecy of Joel, as Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost. Acts chapter 2, pick it up in verse 17. “This is what the prophet Joel said. ‘It shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My slaves,’” – is the word – “‘both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.’” Even the Old Testament knew that those who followed God were identified as slaves.
In Acts chapter 4, verse 19, “Peter and John said, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.’” They knew where their allegiance had to be. Go down to verse 29: “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your word with all confidence.” The apostles Peter and John acknowledged they were slaves. You don’t see that there because a word was invented to replace the stigma of the word “slave.” The apostles were happy to call themselves the slaves of such a loving Lord.
Chapter 16, just another one from Acts, verse 17, “Following after Paul and us,” – this woman, this slave girl – “kept crying out, saying, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God.’” Even a demon-possessed slave girl knew that. They were slaves. I don’t have time to take you through all the passages that indicate this, but they’re everywhere throughout the New Testament. As I said, 130 times the word “slave” appears. Colossians chapter 1, “Epaphras, our beloved fellow slave,” “our beloved fellow slave.” Not “bond-servant” – “slave.” In the fourth chapter again, I think it’s verse 12, “Epaphras, a slave of Jesus Christ.” He’s called that twice.
Perhaps a more stunning realization – and there are many other uses of “slave” – but the book of Revelation. I just point out that in the book of Revelation we are identified as slaves. It’s really remarkable; I won’t go through all of it. But wherever you see “bond-servant” or maybe “servant,” you need to look behind it and see if it’s not “slave.” Let me just show you a few.
Chapter 7 of the book of Revelation. During the time of the tribulation, God protects the earth until He seals, verse 3, “the slaves of our God on their foreheads.” These are believers in the coming time of tribulation who are identified as slaves. In chapter 10 of the book of Revelation, verse 7, “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he’s about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His slaves the prophets.” They were slaves.
Chapter 11, verse 18, “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your slaves the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name.” Whether you’re talking about Old Testament, New Testament, believers in all periods of time in redemptive history, they’re all, all, always slaves.
And in the nineteenth chapter, the proclamation of the return of Christ. “Hallelujah!” verse 1, “Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He’s judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His slaves on her.” Even in the end time when God destroys the world system, He identifies His people as slaves. Look at verse 5: “A voice came from the throne” – this is heaven – “saying, ‘Give praise to our God all you His slaves, you who fear Him, the small and great.’”
Chapter 22, we’re in heaven. Do we get promoted there from slavery? No. Chapter 22, verse 3, “There will no longer be any curse; the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and His slaves will serve him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” Slaves were branded; did you know that? You’re going to be branded eternally as a slave of Christ.
Verse 6: “He said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His slaves the things which must soon take place.” The angels brought the visions in Revelation for us His slaves; and when we get into eternal glory we’ll fully enter into our loving slavery to Christ.
Romans 1, Paul calls himself a slave. Philippians 1, he calls himself a slave. Titus 1, he calls himself a slave. James calls himself a slave. Peter calls himself a slave. Jude introduces his epistle identifying himself as a slave. Revelation 1:1 introduces John as a slave. Everyone who’s in Christ is a slave.
What does that mean? We were chosen; we were bought; we’re owned; we’re subjected; we’re dependent. We’re disciplined by a loving Master. We’re empowered. We’re evaluated. We’re rewarded. We’re protected. You say, “I don’t know if I can handle this. I don’t know if I can see myself as a slave.” Well, let me give you a good example you can try to follow.
Philippians chapter 2, verse 3: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” This is talking about humility. “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” And here’s your example: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave” – doulos. You’re not too good to be a slave. Jesus wasn’t too good to be a slave. He was a Son who became a slave. We are slaves who become sons. Right? He was a Son who became a slave, so that we who are slaves could become sons.
How did Jesus manifest that slavery? He said, “I only do what the Father tells me to do. I only do what the Father shows Me,” all through the gospel of John. “My food is to do the will of My Father.” Oh, by the way, you are a slave. If you’re not a slave of Christ, you’re a slave of sin. You aren’t free; choose your master.
First Peter 2:16, Peter describes us as slaves of God. We’re slaves. But John 1:12, we’re slaves who not only are friends, we’re slaves who become sons, joint heirs with Christ. Christ was a Son who became a slave, and was glorified. We are sinners who become slaves who become sons who become glorified.
I want to show you something in Luke 17, and I’ll close with this, although I have a lot more I’d like to say. That’s what the preacher says when he’s just run out of material. I know you don’t believe that, but...
This is so wonderful a place. Luke 17, verse 7, Jesus says, “Which of you, having a slave” – and there it’s translated “slave” because it’s talking about an actual slave – “plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he’s come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?” Who’s going to do that, feed the slave first? “Will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?” He doesn’t thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say this: ‘We are’” – What? – “‘unworthy.’”
What did you hear in that song? “He is worthy, we are unworthy. We have done only what we ought to have done.” And what is the benefit of this? What is the fruit of this? Joy. Full joy. Full joy. Now I know you’re going to want to get a copy of The Legacy Standard Bible when it comes out by Shepherds’ Conference so that you’ll see this word where it is, and it’ll totally transform your understanding what it is to be a Christian.
If you’re looking for a church, ask one question: “Is it full of those who confess Jesus as Lord and themselves as His willing, loving, obedient slaves?” We have been chosen. We have been captured. We have been bought. We have been given all the resources of heaven. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We have the promise of eternal life and of being joint heirs with the Son of God Himself, sharing in all His inheritance and glory.
Why does He lavish us with this? Because our Master is motivated by infinite, divine love. “God so” – What? – “loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” One day, according to Matthew 25:21, you’ll stand before Him and you’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful slave.” Lesson learned. Let’s pray.
It’s just overwhelming to think about this and to realize that we’re so unworthy, sold in bondage to sin, slaves who have iniquity, transgression; incapable, unwilling to be obedient to You. You picked us up. You chose us. You regenerated us. You justified us. And now you’re sanctifying us so that we can be useful slaves. And what a delightful slavery it is. You meet every need. You provide every resource. Your love lavishes us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus; we have everything we need and more. We don’t even begin to tap into the riches that are ours; we have not because we ask not. We leave so many treasures in heaven that could be deposited in our lives if we were more faithful and obedient and prayerful. And yet in our unworthiness You have seen fit to hold onto us, to protect us and bring us to glory, and there make us perfect like Your Son, to share in His eternal inheritance, to be lavished with all that heaven possesses forever and ever.
Happily we acknowledge You as our Lord, and we’re so thankful to be Your friends, intimate friends who know everything because You’ve held nothing back. We have Your mind; we have the mind of Christ. We know our Master very well, and we know You love us and You only wish for us the best; and You’re actually working everything together for that. Because of that love, may we return that love in joyful obedience, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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