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Monday, July 12, 2010

Whose Slave Are You?

A person will worship something, have no doubt about that,” said Emerson. A corollary to that would be that we all serve something; for that which we worship we serve (in some manner or other). Or, to put it more dramatically, we are all slaves to one thing or another.

Of course, this runs quite contrary to the nature of most every American. We are, after all, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Time and again, whether from Hollywood, politicians, pundits, or even the pulpit, the independent, free spirit of Americans is cheered, celebrated, and encouraged. Since the late 18th century the message has been clear: Don’t Tread on Us.

Putting Emerson’s conclusion in a spiritual light, the Apostle Paul said in the book of Romans, “…you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

So, we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. In other words, we are either slaves to Satan or slaves to Christ. Being a slave to Christ is a theme that runs throughout the New Testament. Time and again in his letters, Paul referred to himself as a “slave (or “servant” in some translations) to Jesus Christ,” as did Peter, James, Jude, and John.

John MacArthur writes that “Being a slave of Christ may be the best way to define a Christian.” He later adds, “When you give somebody the gospel, you are saying to them, ‘I would like to invite you to become a slave of Jesus Christ. I would like to invite you to give up your independence, give up your freedom, submit yourself to an alien will, abandon all your rights, be owned by, controlled by the Lord.’ That’s really the gospel. We’re asking people to become slaves.”

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’”

However, he concludes, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self – all your wishes and precautions – to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way – centered on money or pleasure or ambition – and hoping, in spite of this to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.”

Of course, “trying to…remain…ourselves” sounds innocent enough, even downright American. However, this is one of the great lies of the enemy. It is great, because it is so subtle and deadly. Through what is commonly referred to as “pride,” many have been led into what Lewis refers to as the “Dictatorship of Pride.” Pride, he notes, comes straight from hell. “It was through Pride that the devil became the devil; Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

Many people have overcome poverty, physical disabilities, addictions, and so on, through their pride. “The devil laughs,” says Lewis. “He is perfectly content to see you becoming (wealthy), brave, and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride—just as he would be quite content to see your (cold) cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer.”

A dictatorship: now that is about as American as a Swastika. Yet that is exactly the view of humanity that many Americans espouse today. In pop culture and politics Americans are told again and again that they need to be true to themselves and take what is theirs. Liberals, Conservatives, and Libertarians all often fall prey to a pride-centered view of the person.

Many of the political problems we currently face would be greatly reduced - if not eliminated - if we ceased being subjects of a "Dictatorship of Pride." Problems with health, poverty, and old age would be alleviated if we were focused on serving God and our neighbor rather than ourselves.

For each of us, this battle against our pride is our ultimate challenge. Unsurprisingly, victory lies with humility, with surrender—giving ourselves over to the One who has purchased us with His blood. The Bible tells us that we are not our own; we have been “bought at a price.” Sounds a lot like a slave, doesn’t it? Make no mistake about it; each of us is serving something. The only question is whose slave are you?

Copyright 2010, Trevor Grant Thomas