Slaves of Christ

Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  22:34
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We are reminded that God graciously unites us into one family. We are encouraged to serve one another with humility.



Onesimus, the person that Paul is talking about in these verses, was Philemon’s slave. In our reading, the word used is bondservant but it’s the same word used to describe slaves. And I understand totally why so many English translations use words like servant or bondservant instead of “slave,” because the Biblical idea of slavery differed pretty dramatically from the one that a lot of us picture today. Slavery in the Jewish culture wasn’t typically racially based, it was fundamentally an economic arrangement. If someone couldn’t pay off their debts, they would sell themselves into slavery for a period or the courts would give them into. It was also sometimes the byproduct of war and conquest. How the Jewish laws handled slavery was much more humane than what most of us today think of. So I can understand using a different word, like servant or bondservant, to distinguish the slavery that the New Testament is talking about.
On the other hand, slavery in relation to Christ can give us helpful language to how we relate to our Lord and Savior. In fact, it can even be helpful when we consider how we serve one another. Paul calls both Onesimus and Philemon his brothers in these verse, yet he asks that Onesimus would be able to continue to serve, he puts himself in a position of submission and service before Philemon, and he asks Philemon to obey. Even today, we are called to be slaves of Christ and in that relationship with God we are instructed to serve one another. Which makes it worthwhile to consider, what does it mean to be a slave of Christ? There’s a book titled Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ that explains “as Christ’s purchased possession, the Christian is wholly devoted to the person of the Master.” The author goes on to explain that slavery to Christ is complete devotion to Christ.

Humble Submission

He explains that slavery to Christ, this total devotion, has three distinct elements. The first is a humble submission to Christ, giving Him absolute and exclusive rights to our will and affections and energy now and forever. That means whatever we think, say, or do we ultimately give up to Him.
When we are organizing our schedules, everything is in submission to Him. If anything stands in the way of our worship or our devotion, that thing gets cancelled, not our worship or devotion.
When we are setting our budgets, everything is in submission to Him. If we have to cut our spending because of our situation or because of the economy, our giving is nonnegotiable.
When we are faced with an uncomfortable situation, everything is in submission to Him. If He is pushing us into a situation where we might be sharing our faith or doing something for the church that is outside of our comfort zone, that desire for comfort caves to His call to be in mission and community.
When we are thinking about different relationships we have, everything is in submission to Him. If we have a friend, a family member, or a significant other who is pulling us further away from Christ, our relationship with that person yields to our relationship with God.
When we are facing temptation, everything is in submission to Him. No matter how badly we want to do something, no matter how encouraging our friends and family might be about it, no matter how it might feel; we don’t do it.
Everything. Every part of our lives. Every second of our days. Every thought in our heads and every word from our mouths. It’s all supposed to be in submission to Christ, and when we fail to submit everything in our lives to Him - we break that relationships and leave ourselves in a place with no hope - slaves to sin, death, and the devil instead of slaves to Christ.

Unquestioning Obedience

The second element of slavery to Christ, of total devotion, is unquestioning obedience to the Master’s will. And when I start saying things like “unquestioning obedience,” that’s a red flag. Understandably so, human history is littered with examples of people with unquestioning obedience doing terrible things.
But what if you could guarantee the person giving the instructions was doing the best thing for you and for the rest of the world? Wouldn't it then make perfect sense to obey them without question? Imagine there is a boss of a company. He knows all the ins and outs of the business, he built it from the ground up, he wrote all the manuals and procedures, he’s worked in every department, he sees all the numbers. This boss wants what is best for the company and truly, genuinely loves his employees. One day, he calls down to the mail room and asks one of the interns there to send out a memo to all the employees. That intern sees the memo and thinks that it’s going to be really negative for the morale of the company so he doesn’t send it out - he thinks the boss must be out of touch with his workers.
That is, until two weeks later, when the entire business is shut down for violating federal law in a way that the unsent memo could’ve avoided. The mail room intern thought he knew better, he didn’t unquestionable follow instructions, and because he didn’t have the full picture the company suffered.
Now sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, human bosses don’t necessarily have the best interest of the company or employees at heart. But when we talk about unquestioning obedience to God, He does. He is perfect in every sense, including in how He loves and cares for us. He sent Jesus to live on Earth, to suffer and die, to pay the price for our sins, and raised Him from the dead in victory. And that doesn’t sound like a great plan, that sounds like the kind of plan that you might not want to accept without question, but it was the plan that saved all mankind. God sees the big picture, and He loves us enough to have our best interests at heart in everything He does.

Exclusive Preoccupation with Pleasing Christ

And that incredible gift has paid the price for us, we are slaves of Christ - bought and paid for. And that slavery is total devotion to Christ that calls us to humble submission and unquestioning obedience. And it also leads us to the final element of this slavery to Christ, this total devotion to Him, that is an exclusive preoccupation with pleasing Christ.
So what does it mean that we are “exclusively preoccupied” with pleasing Christ? That means the only thing we are worried about is making God happy. It means that with every decision we make, every way we handle a situation, every thought, every action - it’s all done with the hope of pleasing Christ and doing things the way He wants us to. In my experience, it takes the form of an internal dialogue - a conversation with myself. I’ll think to myself “how would God want me to handle this?” And I’ll be totally honest with you, sometimes I ignore that voice, sometimes I don’t listen for that voice until I’m going to sleep later that day, but the more I’ve listened to it - the louder and more consistent it’s been. It takes practice, and I’m going to start you off now, we’re going to read this line together.
What would Jesus have me do?
There, just keep asking yourself that when you come across situations and it will become more and more automatic. And in hopes of helping, I have another graphic for you. If you subscribe to the text lists you should get it automatically at around noon, if you don’t you can find it on our socials. Because, for better or for worse, a lot of our interactions with the world involve our phones - so now you can have a lock screen or home screen that reminds you to ask yourself *gestures* “what would Jesus have me do?” Amen.
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