Free To Serve

Exodus 21:5-6
“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 bring him to the judges. He shall also 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.”

Paul often referred himself as a servant, or a slave. The word he used was “dulous”, which means bond-slave, or a person who was bound to another. It is not difficult to find examples in history of people who have been enslaved. Some are slaves because they were conquered in battle, others for religious or ethnic persecution, and still others because of debt or a criminal offense. It is quite difficult, however, to find examples of people who chose slavery as a way of life. I suppose no ambitious students ever pursued slavery as a career path, seeking a university that offers a good slave training program. Yet, Paul refers to himself as a bond slave of Christ. Exodus 21 gives a vivid picture of why Paul would choose to be a slave.

Under the Mosaic Law a person would serve as a slave for a period of six years. Slavery was a form of payment for past debts, and after six years, the debt was cancelled. However, a provision was granted for a person who did not want to be set free. They could choose to have their ear pierced, as a sign that they belonged to their master, and commit to a life of servitude. The reason behind their decision was love.

“I love my master… I will not go free.”

It was the goodness of the master that caused the individual to choose slavery over freedom. Someone, whose master treated him well, might choose to be bound forever, rather than be set free. Perhaps a man, prior to his servitude, had lived in poverty and suffering, but had a master that treated him like a son and gave him all he needed; that man might choose to be bound forever. Paul saw himself as that man. He looked at his life apart from Christ and realized, being under the authority of Christ, gave him greater freedom, than being bound to sin. He realized, the privileges of abiding in Christ, were better than life apart from Him. In a figurative sense, Paul drove an awl through his own ear, and committed himself to a life of following Christ.

Have you chosen to be bound to Christ forever? There is no higher place in life than serving Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

On Second Thought

Jeremiah 34:10-11
Now when all the princes and all the people, who had entered into the covenant, heard that everyone should set free his male and female slaves, that no one should keep them in bondage anymore, they obeyed and let them go. But afterward they changed their minds and made the male and female slaves return, whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection as male and female slaves.”

As proof of true commitment to the Lord, the people were called upon to obey the Word of God by setting slaves free. Because of the intensity of the situation they were facing, the people quickly obeyed and emancipation began. Sadly, this obedience did not last. We read, after the slaves were freed, the people changed their minds. Perhaps setting the slaves free had intruded upon their lifestyle and they did not like it. Having to make their own beds, cook their own meals, and clean up after themselves, was too great an inconvenience. It caused them to choose instead, to disobey God and turn back to their former lifestyles. It is common for Christians to come to the altar, confess their sin, and leave it behind. Unfortunately, it is also common for Christians to turn back and get involved in the sins they had once left behind. As time takes us farther away from our initial conversion, we can forget how empty life apart from Christ really was. We can have a romanticized view of life before Christ. The devil is a master at making disobedience look like something that brings pleasure, satisfaction, and purpose to life. The reality is, life is really found in obedience to the Lord and His Word. Don’t turn back.

Pastor Jim

 

Independence 

2 Chronicles 10:4
“Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”

Solomon’s expansive building projects did not come cheaply, and had a devastating effect upon the nation of Israel. The people sat under a heavy yoke of taxation. After Solomon’s death, the people had enough. They sought relief from the tax burden the government had imposed on the nation. Young King Rehoboam, in his arrogance, believed the government knew better than the people, and rather than relief, he promised an increase in the tax burden, and workload of the people. His words drove the citizens to rebel against his leadership, and resulted in ten of the twelve “states”  separating from the union. The northern tribes formed a new nation, and this became their independence day. Having experienced a heavy yoke, they broke away in order to have freedom. Sadly, the northern tribes never experienced true freedom. Soon after the nation was formed, they set up a system of idolatry, leading the people into a bondage that was much worse than the taxation they had experienced. Their example speaks volumes to us about bondage and true freedom.

The Bible explains, man is in bondage to sin and can only be set free by trusting in the work of Christ on the cross. His sinless sacrifice is the means to setting us free from the bondage of sin, death, and hell. True freedom is found, not when we consider ourselves to be free to behave however we want, but rather, when we are set free from the power of sin, and able to live lives that bring honor and glory to God.

“He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Pastor Jim

 

Set Free

John 8:34
“ Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.”

James explains the process of sin,

James 1:14-16
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

The gist of what he is saying is, while sin promises to bring pleasure, it can only produce death. We have all found that to be true. We all face temptations, and those temptations make promises, but when sin gets its hooks in us, we find that it really destroys. We find that instead of serving us, we are the slaves of sin. One of the worst elements of slavery is the hopelessness  it produces. When a person is bound up in sin, they see no way out. They may have resolved over and over to quit, but the grip of sin is too great, and they find themselves bound to it once again.

Into this hopeless scene, Jesus enters with a message to liberate captives. Earlier, He declared He came to set the captives free.

John 8:31-32
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”

Jesus promises, what resolve, counseling, even incarceration have been unable to do, He will accomplish through His Word. The process is in two parts. First, believe in Him. When you do, He will come into your life and wash the guilt, and penalty of your sins, away from you. Second, abide in His Word. The same Word that spoke the world into existence, healed the lame and the blind, and even raised the dead, is the same Word that can transform your life. It can unloose the grip sin has on you, giving you true freedom and a fresh start.

Today, if you find yourself enslaved by sin, I am sure you have lost a great deal in life because of it. You have given up personal freedom, and both negatively and drastically, impacted those who you love. I am sure you have also tried everything to be set free. You may even feel like the Pharisees who said;

“How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” John 8:33

Rather than question the promises of Jesus, how about obeying them? Let’s determine together that we will receive Him and daily dive into His Word, trusting that He will transform our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

They Could Not Tame Him

Mark 4:36
“When they had left the multitude”

IMG_1417Mark 4 ends with the story of a dangerous journey on which Jesus took His disciples. Knowing all things, He knew they would face a storm on the sea. He knew this storm would be so great that those who had grown up fishing those waters, and experiencing rough conditions, would fear for their very lives. But it is not until we venture into Mark 5, that we understand the reason for the journey was one man. Jesus left the multitudes and took twelve men on a death-defying trip across dangerous waters, in order to reach this one man. Multitudes were flocking to Him, but in the country of the Gadarenes, was a man in need. This becomes even more amazing when we understand who this man was. We read of him,

“. . .who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.” Mark 5:3-4

As sad as that description is, I am struck by the final phrase, “neither could anyone tame him.” Tame him! What a word. It seems so out-of-place to be used of a man. It is a word I reserve for animals; yet, it is so appropriate for this man. His lifestyle, whatever that was, had ruined his life. The world had done all they could do to help, but to no avail. He was now chained in a graveyard, and people simply avoided him. That is, until Jesus, not only went out of His way to rescue this man, but took His disciples on a trip they would never forget, for the purpose of saving this one lost soul.

When the story ends, we find the man in His right mind, sent out to tell His friends what Jesus had done for Him. No doubt, he would explain how Jesus crossed a turbulent sea to save him. Let’s learn the lesson the disciples were meant to learn: Jesus places the highest value on the human soul, even if he is living like a wild animal.

Pastor Jim.

 

Free Pass

Exodus 12:13
“…when I see the blood, I will pass over you…”

IMG_1406There are many pictures of Christ portrayed in the Old Testament narrative. We see Him as the offering of Abraham on Mount Moriah, the Angel wrestling with Jacob, the Captain of the Lord’s armies in Joshua, and on and on. One of the clearest pictures, is found here in Exodus. We see Jesus as the Passover Lamb. Paul, writing to the Corinthians put it like this,

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” 1 Corinthians 5:7

We see some of the most important aspects of our relationship with Christ illustrated in the Passover story.

Like Israel, who was in severe bondag under a harsh task master, and facing the threat of death, we are in bondage to sin and death. All other plagues, which represented natural events and Egyptian gods, were unable to deliver Israel. It was only through the shed blood of the Lamb of God that deliverance could be found. In the same way, Scripture declares boldly and consistently, there is NO salvation apart from faith in Christ. If a person wanted to be delivered from the curse, they must hide under the blood of the lamb. As exclusive as the offer of deliverance was, it was made openly to all of Egypt. All Israel, and anyone in Egypt, could have obeyed the message from Moses and been delivered from the curse.

Israel was instructed to eat the meal with their shoes on. It seems God wanted them ready to walk, once they had partaken of the Lamb. This walk included getting all the leaven out of the house. As the years passed, they would commemorate this event by removing leaven from their homes for a week after Passover. Leaven is used in Scripture to illustrate sin. Once a person comes to Christ, it is time to take inventory of life, and remove anything that is not pleasing to God. It wasn’t cleaning up their lives that delivered them, but once delivered, it was time to clean house.

The Passover changed the calendar year for Israel. From now on, their year would start with this event. It became the beginning of months for them. The same is true of all who put trust in Christ. No matter what our past holds, we become a new creation, once we respond to Christ. ALL old things pass away and ALL things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We no longer have to live with the guilt, fear, disappointment, weight, or baggage of the past. All has been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and we can press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

Will you make Christ your Passover? Will you partake of the Lamb whose blood was shed for you? His blood was spilled so your sins could be washed, and you could be made right with God. Partake of Him today.

Pastor Jim