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Issues of the Heart: Bondslavery

by A.D. Reese

Two recent comments made to me, and the pastoral messages of the last few weeks got me really thinking about what it means to be a bondslave of the Lord Jesus.

I recently visited a church I'd passed many, many times over the years. Housed in a tired looking little A-frame building, somewhat dimly lit, and very sparsely attended, the ambiance of the fellowship prompted my remark to a friend that this was not a "suburban-type church." I let that remark go by unexplained, but my friend asked, "What makes any church suburban versus urban? Do you mean because most of the people are from the suburbs? Or is there a quality that is different? I guess I don't concern myself with calling a church suburban or urban, because it's really more than that - it's usually a Spirit issue, a heart issue. I think!!!!!?"

She was right - it is a heart issue, and the term I chose to describe that heart issue was probably not the most accurate one; but, it came out of 40-plus years of experience in churches of all sizes and persuasions, located in small rural towns, prosperous suburbs, and within a big city. I responded to my friend's query with the following, which was borne out of my own convicted conscience following my visit to the tiny, humble fellowship.

"In general, what I meant by 'suburban church' is one comprised of people who live relatively comfortable lives and come to their clean, brightly lit churches, to sit in their pews while the addicts, homeless, prostitutes, mentally ill, and destitute pass by the stained glass windows, not having a clue about what life in Jesus could TRULY be like.

"The people inside do their church thing, then leave: to feed their overfed bellies, sit in their comfortable living rooms and read the paper, or go home and wash their new cars, play with their latest high tech toys, complain about the moral state of the country, and about those people who moved into the duplex down the street.

"They don't have to wonder where their next meal is coming from or where their son is, (who may be in jail for all they know). If they opt to minister to someone 'less fortunate,' they do their ministry thing and LEAVE - to return to their comfortable lives. They 'pray' for the sick, but rarely visit them, don't want a new jail built in their town, and hope the boss will say yes to the big raise they feel they deserve.

"They're so busy making life comfortable for themselves that anything uncomfortable is viewed as a threat, or an attack from the enemy.

"They are people who have 'always gone to this church' or 'belong to this denomination,' and church is something you do because you're a Christian and that's what Christians do; but, most of their efforts are to benefit the institution, of the church or to maintain their secure place in the fellowship's social hierarchy.

"God forbid that one of those people should walk in the doors and need anything, let alone stay.

"In a nutshell, American 'Christianity' is the suburban church. And yes, I'm pointing fingers at you and me and everyone else who has nothing to share but platitudes quoted from the Bible, or our tales of woe - when we actually have no idea of what woe really is. We have no power, and no life flowing through us because we consume it all on our own selfish, petty selves and interests. Everyone else had better Keep Out!!"

The following is a meditation from a book of devotions, Sunrise Sunset (Harper Collins/Harper San Francisco), by Rowland Croucher. It's entitled "Love One Another" and is used with permission.

"'Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind' (1 Peter 3:8-9).

"An English preacher named Alexander Whyte was very disturbed one night because his closest friend was at the point of death. Whyte was praying earnestly to God that this man might be spared when suddenly a Voice said to him, 'How serious are you about this one's survival? Would you be willing to divide with him the number of years you have left to live upon this earth?'

"With that, Whyte reports getting up off his knees in a cold sweat for suddenly intercession had become more than a matter of words. Now it was the precious substance of his own life that was at stake. He pondered this question very deliberately for a while and dropped back to his knees and said, 'Yes! I hereby relinquish half of the time I have left, if this will enable my friend to survive.' He got up with no idea what the ultimate outcome of this agreement would be.... Here I am with a given pool of physical and emotional and psychic vitality. How will I spend it? How much of it will I keep for myself and how much of it will I make available to others?

"Lord, am I willing to train myself away from selfishness toward the point where I honestly care how the other person feels? It is in giving and receiving, Lord, that we learn to love and be loved, and encounter the meaning of life, the mystery of existence - and discover You. Amen."

The pastor of the church referred to at the begining of this article preached things like: relinquishing everything to God; dying on the cross with Jesus; doing what it takes to walk in the miraculous; and, said that one of the reasons Jesus died was so that we could preach the gospel of reconciliation - the same gospel Jesus preached during His earthly ministry. Then He sent His Spirit to empower us to do all these things.

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures (comforts)" (James 1:22, 27; 4:2-3).

What does all this have to do with worshiping the Father in spirit and truth? It has to do with the fundamental issue of bondslavery to Jesus Christ. As we consider what a bondslave is, we first need to realize the difference between a servant and a slave. A servant gets days off, but a slave is a slave for 365 days a year. A servant has discretionary money he can spend on whatever he wishes. A slave has no money of his own; if he wants something, he must ask the master for it. A servant can marry whomever he wants. A slave must marry whomever the master tells him to marry. A slave has no possessions of his own, no rights, and he is obligated to do whatever the master commands him to do.

In our western concept of slavery, we tend to think of someone either being captured and forced into slavery, or born into slavery. It is almost outside of our thinking to imagine someone walking up to a master and volunteering to become his permanent slave. Yet, that is the Biblical definition of a bondslave. A bondslave is a volunteer permanent slave. The passage in Scripture that defines bondslavery is found in Exodus 21:2-6:

"If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife; then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.

"But if the slave plainly says, I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,' 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...."

A Hebrew was made a slave on a temporary basis (for a maximum of six years). After his time was fulfilled, he could go out as a free man. However, if because of love of his master, he said that he did not want to go free, then his master would take him to God for a spiritual commitment, and then to the door or the doorpost. There he would pierce his ear with an awl or, in other words, with a large hole - one that would never grow back. That slave would then serve him permanently. He is then a bondslave. From that moment on, he would have no time of his own, no rights of his own, no money of his own, and no possessions of his own. He would have to do whatever the master told him to do.

Even though the cost of being a bondslave is high, the rewards are even higher. I used to think of it just from the viewpoint that the master was getting a fresh slave. Then I realized that the master was also making a very significant commitment. He was committing to take care of that slave, to protect him, and to provide for him for the rest of his life. As we make this commitment to God, He makes that type of commitment to us in return. The cost of becoming a bondslave is not high, it is total. And so is the commitment of the Master.

The real motivation for making a bondslave commitment to God is because of our love of the Master, and not because we want His divine protection (Exodus 21:5). That is simply one of the benefits. Therein lies our premise that bondslaves and true worshippers are one and the same. Compare the total commitment of the bondslave with the practical lifestyle of a true worshipper as defined in Psalm 15:

"Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved."

Probably the most important lesson God will teach you is about becoming like Jesus. We find that Jesus was a bondslave of God: "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 bondslave, and being made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:5-7).

If we truly want to follow in His steps, then we too will want to be bondslaves of God. God is doing a dividing today. He is dividing out those who will be His bondslaves (worshippers in spirit and truth) - those willing to live holy, righteous and pure before God, and to be obedient to Him. In the future, the protection of God's people is going to be dependent upon their obedience, just was it was with the last plague in Egypt (the first Passover) and with Noah. Those who are willing to be totally obedient to God are going to be sealed in their forehead and protected (Revelation 7:2-3). Those who are not willing to be obedient, evidently will not be.

When Gideon blew the trumpet, 32,000 people came out. He told all of those who did not want to fight to go home, and 22,000 left. He then marched the 10,000 back and forth until their tongues were hanging out, then took them to the water to drink. Only 300 of them did not dive in, but scooped up water in their hands and lapped it like a dog, while keeping their eye on the horizon. It was those 300 totally obedient men that God used for a miraculous victory. They had to be totally obedient, because if one had broken his pitcher too early, or had blown his trumpet early, everything would have collapsed.

A similar kind of dividing is happening today. Life has not changed so much. For example, suppose there were three large auditoriums, equal in size and shape. In one, there was a Christian music group; in the second, there was a miracle and healing service; and in the third, there was a lecture on how to live holy, pure and righteous before God. If you were to turn 32,000 Christians loose, telling them they could go to any one of the three events, what would most likely happen?

It's just like in Gideon's day. It is the bondslaves whom God is going to weld into the army that is going to achieve miraculous victories at the end of this age. I have a feeling that during the days ahead, the bondslaves (also called "My precious ones" and "My holy remnant" throughout Scripture) will radiate the glory of the Lord and be known as "the children of light." Thus, God and His only begotten Son will get the glory for all of the mighty miracles they will be doing.

How will we spend the blessings God showers upon us? Do living waters flow out of you, or do you save it all for yourself? A friend who is originally from Portugal once said, "We (Americans) are cursed with blessing." With that statement, I believe he meant that God has so poured out His blessings upon us that we have been virtually flooded with more than enough for everyone. However, we have come to believe that every blessing we receive is meant just for us, and our prosperity and comfort (spiritual and material) have been hoarded to the point that we believe God owes us rather than owns us.

Who (or what) owns you? Who do you say you love? May we step forward in faith and place our lives totally at the disposal of the Lord Jesus Christ, who asks no more of us than what He Himself did as He poured out His life to others - not only on the Cross - but as He walked this earth.

"Pierce my ear, O Lord, I pray;
Take me to Your door this day.
I will serve no other god;
Lord, I'm here to stay.
For You have paid the price for me;
With Your love you ransomed me.
I will serve You eternally;
A free man I'll never be."

Utter devotion, total abandonment to the will of God, and radical obedience to everything He tells us to do is the lifestyle of worship our Father is looking for. What is Jesus telling you to do today?

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