Monday, July 26, 2010

More Servant Thoughts

Last week we looked at the relationship between slave and master in the Bible. While there may have been some parallel to the Old Testament institution of slavery in the minds of the Apostles, it would have been the Greek system of slavery that they were most familiar with. The New Testament is filled with references to slavery, and some fantastic truths are illustrated for us using these cultural pictures of slavery. Here is an example:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"-- Galatians 3:13

The word "redeemed" translates the Greek word exagorazo which means to buy for one's self. The root word agorazo is related to the word agora which is the market place. We are said to be purchased, and taken off of the market forever. There is no chance that we are going to be marched back to the market by any stretch of the imagination, we have been bought for Him, by His sacrifice, for the purpose of His glory and pleasure. That is great news! We were bought from that awful and abusive master (the Law) by the grace of God. He paid the price and we are never to be returned to life under the suffocating standards of the Law again. Our new life is one of service to the Master who gave everything to redeem us by grace, he wants us to live the Christian life by relying on His grace and power, and He will glorify us with Him, all because of who He is and what He did at the cross through His Son Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth with accords with godliness... Titus 1:1

In a quick study of Scripture we see that Paul describes himself this way repeatedly, as does Peter (2 Peter 1:1), James (James 1:1) as well as Jude (Jude 1:1). What is this title that they all use to describe themselves? In the New King James Version we have it brought across as "bondservant of God" but could just as well be brought across with the word "slave." When we think of slavery we think of the tragedy that occurred in our own country (and much of the rest of the world) that reached it's peak in the American Civil War. This however was not the context of slavery that Paul and the other New Testament writers lived in.

While many important observations could be made about the system of slavery in Rome, and the systems that occurred throughout the ancient world, I believe their is something directly from scripture that each of these men were thinking of when they described themselves as "slaves of God." Exodus 21:5-6 give us the most beautiful picture of slavery I know: "But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall rbing him to the judges. He shall aslo bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever."

In this Old Testament picture we see a slave who is scheduled to be free (a clear difference between the slavery that we know about and the biblical system of slavery) but he loves his master, he loves the care that he has received, and he wants to be BONDED to that master for the rest of his life. This process was painful (the ear of the servant was pierced with an awl into the doorpost of the house) and the result was that person was forever bound to that household. This, I believe is the picture that Paul and the others had in their mind when they proclaimed themselves bondslaves of God.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Branching Out

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4

As we continue to study the various ways our relationship with God is illustrated throughout the Bible I pray that we are are growing in the understanding of the reality that the Faith of the Bible is a relationship indeed, and one greater than we could ever imagine. This week we get to look at the image that Christ gave us proclaiming us to be branches connected to Him, the vine. The reality of this is easy to understand, as God commonly uses the physical world that He created to display spiritual realities to us.

As we imagine a branch attached to a vine we see that it gets all of its definition from the vine to which it is attached. The branch can only become stronger by being more firmly attached to the vine. The life, energy and power of the branch to produce fruit rest solely, wholly and completely with the vine. Christ speaks so clearly that apart from him we can do nothing, why do we question Him? Why do we waste our energy and spin our wheels trying to produce love, joy, peace, patience, etc. When we really can go only to the source. If those qualities and characteristics are missing from our life we don't need to "try harder" we only need to turn our eyes with Christ and abide, once again, in Vine apart from whom we can do nothing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

More on that Relationship...

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep."
John 10:11

"Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship." This week we look at a different description of the relationship that we have with Christ, by His grace. This is truly one of the most comforting descriptions for me, Christ calls Himself "the good shepherd." This makes us His sheep. He alluded to gentile believers in John 10:16 Jesus tells the Jews that He had sheep that are not of the fold of Israel. Did you hear His voice? Did you put your faith in the gospel? Then you are one of His sheep. This is a fantastic realization! David wrote Psalm 23 as a marvelous hymn of praise to what it is to be in the care of this Good Shepherd. While many observations could be made about this wonderful relationship we can only mention a few here:

Firstly, a shepherd is in a position of responsibility for the sheep. We can look back to Jacob as he tended Laban's flocks. Whenever Jacob lost one of Laban's sheep he was expected to pay for it. It is the shepherd's responsibility to protect the sheep from disease, famine, predators, and tension within the flock. If a sheep is lost it is by the failure of the shepherd. Fortunately we can say with all confidence, "the Lord is my shepherd!" And we need never even fear the possibility of His failing, because He cannot fail!

As sheep we will live the most healthy, productive possible by trusting in, and remaining near our Shepherd. We never need to worry, concern ourselves, or fear; we need only to fix our eyes on the Shepherd trusting Him for care, protection and provision. I believe it was this relationship that Peter was considering when he penned the words, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." The idea is that the Lord has taken responsibility for us, we need only to look to Him. If you ever catch yourself wondering how much this Shepherd cares for you as His sheep remember that He would leave the 99 to find the lost one (Luke 15:4-6), remember He laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Don't lose sight of the Shepherd.