PO Box 3425
July/August Issue 2007 - Volume 26 Number 4
Whose Slave Are You?
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?”
Some wit has
said, “Marriage is not a word. It is a sentence--a life sentence.”
Another wit, probably a cousin to the first one cited, intones, “
Marriage is an institution in which a man loses his Bachelor's Degree and
the woman gets her Masters.” Jokes abound on the subject of marriage being like slavery,
but most of us understand that marriage is a give and take relationship---he
gives and she takes!
While we are not
discussing the subject of marriage in this article, the marriage
relationship is a helpful metaphor in understanding our relationship with
God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In fact, it is one that the Apostle Paul uses
to help us see how the church should be in submission to Christ (Ephesians
5:22-33). The idea of being in submission to anyone or anything is never a
very popular doctrine, and yet Paul indicates in the letter to the Romans
that we only have two choices to make and both of them put us in the role of
slave (Romans 6:16).
I thought of this passage in Romans
6:16 recently as I listened to a sermon delivered by a capable young
preacher. He was emphasizing the fact that we should be more positive in the
practice of our religion, and lamented the fact that the church seems to
always be saying “no” to things. This preacher was concerned that we
would be characterized more by what we are against than what we are for. He
encouraged us to to emphasize things to which we can say “yes” instead
of concentrating on things to which we must say “no.” I like the power
of positive thinking and it is important to let people know what we are for
and not just what we are against. However, it struck me that when we say
“yes” to certain things then we automatically are saying “no” to
certain things at the same time. And when we say “yes” to one way of life we are forced to
say “no” to the opposite way of life. We only have two choices before
us, and both of them cast us in the role of slave---either a slave to
righteousness or a slave to sin.
Let me illustrate this principle. God
gave this command through Moses at Mount Sinai:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not
make for yourself a carved image---any likeness of anything that is in
heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under
the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:3-5).
I don’t know how this particular idea
could have been stated in any way other than in the negative. While God
could say, “I am the only God and you are to worship only Me,” this
still does not convey the idea that God did not want them making any graven
images, not even of Him.
We may be misguided when we think that
saying “no” to something is always a bad thing. For instance, what if
some of the Philistines taunted their Jewish neighbors saying, “You Jews
are so narrow-minded. You are the ones who are always against bowing down to
an idol and you always bad mouth other gods.”
Should the Jew be ashamed of that accusation? It is the truth, isn’t it? And what is more, it is based on
the truth of God’s command. I suppose that the Philistines could have
characterized the Jews as just being negative and always saying “no” to
everything. The truth is that when the Jews say “yes” to Jehovah God,
then they automatically say “no” to every other god created in the minds
and by the hands of men.
Sometimes those who oppose women
speaking in the assemblies of the church are similarly characterized as
being narrow-minded and negative. Should
those who oppose women speaking in church assemblies be ashamed?
I don’t believe they should be any more ashamed than the Jew who
was maligned by a Philistine for saying “no” to all the gods.
When we say “yes” to the authority of the New Testament, we
automatically say “no” to a lot of things that it forbids.
When we say “yes” to Jesus then we are saying “no” to satan
and everything that he stands for. We can either be enslaved to Jesus or
enslaved to satan.
Certainly we want our speech to be
“with grace seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). We want to know how to give a wise answer to each man. There
are some ways that are better than others to approach a person with the
truth. However, in the end it
is the truth that must be delivered. There
are some definite “no’s” in scripture and we cannot turn them into
“yes’s” just so people will think well of us. Saying “yes” to
Jesus means that we also say “no” to things to which Jesus is opposed.
I can’t help but think of Adam &
Eve when we begin discussing positives and negatives. Just for the sake of
an illustration, let’s say that there were 100 trees in the Garden of
Eden. Of course, we don’t know how many there were of each kind of tree,
but we are just illustrating a point. God said “no” to one tree and
“yes” to ninety-nine other trees in the garden.
That means the meal plan for Adam & Eve was ninty-nine percent
“yes” and one percent “no.” Of
course, we know that the one “no” was a very important part of God’s
Satan beguiles and belittles Eve.
He beguiles her with the beauty of the fruit on that one tree and
with the promise of great wisdom for the one who eats it.
He belittles Eve with a bold lie. He tells her that eating from this
tree will not produce death. We can imagine the belittling tone in his voice
as he says, “You will not surely die.”
It’s as if he implies, “How foolish can you be, Eve? Come on,
don’t be so narrow-minded. Don’t be so negative!”
Adam and Eve are in the lovely garden
amidst ninety-nine trees with “yes” on them and just one tree with
“no” inscribed on it. But
to say “yes” to God means to say “yes” to everything that He
approves, and it also means to say “no” to the one thing that He
disapproves. They can be slaves
of God or slaves of satan. It depends on the choice that they make and there
are only two choices. Once they choose a master then they say “yes” when
their master says “yes,” and they say “no” when their master says
Of course, it isn’t always such an
easy thing, this saying “yes” and “no.” In fact, in essence it is
killing a part of ourself. My will must be made subject to His will. The end
result will not always be popular with my friends and neighbors either. It
may make them feel uneasy with me. They may accuse me of acting “holier
than thou.” They may say that
I am just so negative about certain things all the time.
They may call me a party pooper. They may laugh and tell me the story
about the little girl who walked out to the corral and saw old Jack the
mule. He had a long face and to
her he seemed so sad. She
exclaimed, “Poor old Jack. You
got granddaddy’s religion, too!” I guess granddaddy and his religion had
spoiled some of her fun.
Here is what the Apostle Paul once said
about these two choices:
“I am have been crucified with Christ; it is
no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live
in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave
Himself for me.” Galatians
No, I don’t
think that following Jesus means that we have to walk around with a long,
sad face and just say “no.” Jesus has promised to give us an abundant
life. In many ways it is much
like Adam and Eve’s situation. The Lord gives us ninety-nine percent
“yes” and one percent “no.” We tend to fixate on the “no,” and
Satan always offers plenty of plausible explanations to disregard it. We
must remember that saying “yes” to the Lord means we also are saying
“no” to Satan.
In another place
Paul wrote this:
“But reject profane and old wives’ fables,
and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a
little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the
life that now is and of that which is to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7-8
enjoys the best of both worlds. He is given life principles in God’s word
that make life on this earth more abundant and fulfilling. He is also given the promise of eternal life in the world to
wrote this devotional thought on the Galatians 2:20 passage:
These words mean the breaking of my independence with
my own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. No one can
do this for me; I must do it myself. God may bring me up to the point three
hundred and sixty-five times a year, but He cannot put me through it. It
means breaking the husk of my individual independence of God, and the
emancipating of my personality into oneness with Himself, not for my own
ideas, but for absolute loyalty to Jesus. There is no possibility of dispute
when once I am there. Very few of us know anything about loyalty to Christ -
"For My sake." It is that which makes the iron saint.
Has that break come? All the rest is pious fraud. The
one point to decide is - Will I give up, will I surrender to Jesus Christ,
and make no conditions whatever as to how the break comes? I must be broken
from my self-realization, and immediately that point is reached, the reality
of the supernatural identification takes place at once, and the witness of
the Spirit of God is unmistakable - "I have been crucified with
we think that following Jesus assures us that we can acquire all the things
we want in life. We strike a deal with Jesus and promise to give Him a
little of our time and maybe a little of our money, and in return Jesus will
make us rich and Jesus will be content with even less of our time because
now we have the means to travel and do much more than we could before the
Jesus deal. We are confused and believe that “thy will be done” really
means “my will be done.” In our enthusiasm we think that Jesus wants us
to have everything just the way we want it. Jesus is our coach and our
cheerleader, standing on the sidelines shouting our praises and telling us
to go for it all. We see following Jesus as the road to self-actualization
and not self-sacrifice. Everything with Jesus is “yes” and there are not
in his commentary on Romans 6:16 writes:
Sin is obedience of the evil one, as contrasted with
righteousness, which is obedience of Christ. It is true of all people, even
saved, regenerated, Christian people, that if, through exercise of free
will, they shall elect to serve the devil, they inevitably become in such
transgressions de facto servants of Satan, in exactly the same manner Adam
did in the beginning, only with this marked difference: whereas Adam knew of
no remedy and enjoyed no hope of forgiveness, the opposite is true of the
Christian. This cannot mean, however, that the indulgence of sin has lost
any of its dangerous consequences for humanity; because with every sin, with
every temptation yielded to, and in every transgression, the spiritual life
of the child of God is weakened and eroded, with the ever-existing
possibility that through dalliance with sin, the Christian may become
“entangled therein and overcome” (2 Peter 2:20).
writes in Romans 6:17-18, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves
of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you
were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of
doctrine Paul is speaking about is the gospel of Jesus Christ, His death,
burial and resurrection. The
form of the doctrine is our baptism into Christ (Romans 6:3-6). In baptism
we commit ourselves to Jesus as Lord. We
pledge to say “yes” to the things that Jesus approves and “no” to
the things that Jesus disapproves.
tells us in Romans 6 that we are going to be a slave one way or the other.
We only have a choice in the matter of choosing who our master will be.
There are two choices before us. I saw this illustrated in a cartoon strip.
There are two buildings with signs on the front, and a young lady is
standing contemplating the two buildings.
She is saying, “Hmmm. Now which one should I choose?”
One building is the Temple of Enlightenment and its advertisement
says, “Happiness Is Within You.” The
other building is the Den of Iniquity and its advertisement says, “Happy
Hour 5-7 p.m.” There are two
choices, two different roads promising happiness. Which road should we
(The following article is taken from Jim Mcguiggan’s
web site: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.
It is used with permission granted there.)
Lewis and The Great Divorce
C.S Lewis can be esteemed too highly. One acquaintance and ardent admirer of
his (Christopher Derrick) when he spoke to an audience of potential Lewis
worshipers wanted to make that clear and spoke of Lewis as a fat man he used
to meet casually. To his credit, on a couple of occasions Lewis confessed he
had to dismiss decisively an approaching awareness of his status. He can
also be over-rated as a thinker but more often he can be misunderstood and
underestimated by his critics. Furthermore, those who knew and know him well
assure us that his brilliance was greater than can be discovered by reading
his well-known publications. [Is that a surprise?]
He's always a challenging read even when you're reading his easily read
books and most of them are easily read. Part of the trouble is that
he makes it all appear so simple (isn't that a sign of brilliance?) but like
other intellectually rich men he is saying more than he consciously means to
say. At some point a writer makes up his mind about some specific things he
wants to say and if he's good he sticks to his purpose but he can't help
bringing with him on that specific journey all the richness of his mind and
experience and it's out of those that his current particular goal has grown.
In effect, then, each good book is sparking with insights and links to other
interesting and unstated convictions that are also rich.
The Great Divorce
is a great little book that makes demands of the reader, especially if
he/she's used to reading only the bland moralising that we get so much of in
the popular Christian "read-one-you've-read-them-all" books. TGD
takes as its point of departure an engraved book of thirty pages by William
Blake but Lewis reminds us that what Blake seemed to be saying is
something that in one form or another pops its head up in every generation.
In and around 1790 William Blake wrote The Marriage of Heaven and
Hell in which he appears to want the best of both realms as they
were presented by his generation. [One wit some time later said he wanted
hell for the company and heaven for the climate.] The heaven preached by
established religion and the barren rationalism of John Locke and Isaac
Newton was lifeless and hell, for Blake, stood for vitality, colour and
passion for life. To have real life there had to be a marriage
between heaven and hell.
Though admitting that he didn't know precisely what Blake was getting at,
Lewis deliberately chose the title The Great Divorce to
make it clear that heaven and hell can never be married. It isn't hard to
see that Lewis took numerous points from WB and set about exposing their
claim to produce real life. [Though Lewis didn't know Richard Dawkins or his
atheistic companions who worship DNA and "the selfish gene" his
work with Blake shakes their foundations as well as Blakes.]
Blake seemed to think that fullness of life could only be gained by
fulfilling one's desires and by refusing to allow either religion or reason
to tame the individual; it was critically important to taste and embrace all
that humans can experience, good and evil. Lewis in Divorce
insists that fullness of life can only be experienced by making a definitive
and permanent choice of goodness. Heaven (though in the book it's a
place) is to experience actual life to the full and hell is the
diminishing of oneself to the point of being ghostly and finally a total
loss of humanity. These two states result, finally, from one's submission to
the will of God or making one's own will the controlling factor of life.
("There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God,
'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be
In Divorce, Lewis warns the reader against taking his
description of heaven and hell literally though it would appear that Lewis
did hold both "places" not to be places but the experience of or
the absence of true life. It's certainly true that Lewis thought it was more
than naive to look for God in the sky as J.A. T Robinson had claimed most
In Divorce Lewis take a ride in a bus with a number of
ghosts from the land of shadows (an idea Lewis repeatedly thanked Plato for)
to a place which is something like the foothills of heaven (which is to be
found in the mountains beyond). It is only when he gets to that place that
he realises his companions are "ghosts" because it was then in the
great light that he sees them as grey smudges against the white background.
Greeting the ghosts on arrival are Solid people who are substantial and are
at home in that place (or increasingly so) whereas the ghosts feel awkward
and uncomfortable. In this at home/homeless notion we find a
central truth Lewis wants to convey. Those who want "hell"
could not endure "heaven".
Lewis introduces us to a number of ghost characters. Among them is a tough
guy who only wants his rights, an urbane modernist clergyman who won't
tolerate bold religious claims and wants everyone's views to be regarded as
good as another's and a self-piteous and self-centred husband who wants the
world to be miserable because he is.
Let me say it again, though it's not at all a difficult read it won't be to
everyone's taste. But it is so rich in so many ways that it's worth
the effort it will take to read it several times because the reader will
come away greatly enriched and marvellously challenged.