Freedom in Christ – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The Greatest Among You Will Be A Slave

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Serving as a Slave

Paul willingly submitted himself to others to help win them to Christ.  Jesus Himself said that we should serve in a like manner:

26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave

It is only when we are able to serve in a selfless capacity that we are able to truly be effective for Christ.  Freedom gives us the opportunity to serve in this way, for sin causes us to pursue self-centeredness and prevents us from being fully useful to God.  Jesus was completely yielded to the Holy Spirit, and was able to put aside everything that would have impeded Him in His ability to live a life without sin.

Living the life of a servant can be lonely, difficult, unthankful, and unacknowledged by men.  We need only to look at the lives of the Apostles to see that their journeys were fraught with danger, difficulty, and at the time, little recognition from men.  We greatly value their contributions today, but while they lived their lives, they were seen as weak, inferior, and dangers to society.  Servanthood is a characteristic of God and should be greatly desired and emulated by those who walk with His Son.  The true test of a servant is how they react when they are treated like one…

Identify with Individuals

When people identify with you, they are more likely to listen and accept what you have to say.  And while salesmen and advertisers do their very best to get you to identify with them, their spokespeople, their products, or public figures with whom they tie their brands, it is for their own personal gain rather than true relationship.  Identity is still one of the strongest forms of persuasion that exist.  When people see that we are like them, they allow you to interact with them on a more personal level.

Paul did his very best to identify with those whom he interacted:

  • He became like a Jew to minister to the Jews
  • To those under the law, he behaved like them (though he was not under the law)
  • To those not under the law, he became like them (although he was under Christ’s law)
  • To the weak he became weak

In every aspect, Paul endeavored to be like the people that he was trying to reach.  And while this can be used for nefarious purposes (confidence men, rip-off artists, etc.), Paul was using the technique to seek greater access to those whom he was trying to reach.  We can do the same with those that we encounter.

Scatter Seeds

In all of this, Paul used his freedom to sow the seeds of the Gospel.  Although he had free will, he chose to use his freedom for the work of Christ.  In the Western world, we are taught to seek our own benefit first.  Both Paul and Jesus sought the benefit of others first, and lived their lives in such a way that it was attractive to those who they were trying to reach.  And while not everyone will respond, it is the duty of disciples of Christ to bring the good news of Jesus to every nation and people.  Use your freedom wisely, and allocate the time that God gives you for His plans and purposes.  When we do that, we are truly fulfilled and are then able to find the calling that God has intended for us since before the foundation of the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I using the freedom that God has given to me to glorify His name in the manner that He has appointed to me to fulfill?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious in providing freedom from sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, shed upon the cross for my sins.  Help me to use the freedom that You have given me to fully dedicate myself to the plans and purposes which You have determined long ago.  Help me to fulfill Your desires and to do that which I am intended to do.  Keep me close, and remind me to always follow Your lead.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Identity in Christ – John 15:5 (ESV)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Just as a branch needs the sap of nourishment from the tree, so do we need the same from Jesus Christ.  The branch is attached, and attached tightly; it’s not on the ground, or off doing its own thing.  It is bonded (even if grafted in) to the plant itself.  We should be so firmly bonded to Christ and in Christ, that there is no break between Christ and ourselves.

And Jesus shows us the benefit of this: when we are In Christ, we will bear much fruit.  When we go off and do things ourselves, there may be a result, but it is not bearing spiritual fruit in accordance with the Will of God, for the Purposes of God, in the Timing of God, and to the Glory of God.  Jesus also says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

This is a sobering thought.  When we are not in/attached to the vine, receiving nourishment and direction, we may be doing things, but not bearing the correct fruit.  It is as if we were a foreign, invasive species of plant trying to imitate the original plant.  Others may think that we are part of that plant, because we have mimicked the original; however, we have no part in the original plant.  Jesus gives us this direction as well:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 

When we have our identity in Christ – when we solely and ONLY identify with Him – we will bear much fruit, receive nourishment from the vine, and find the small gate with the narrow path.  Once we do that, we, like Christ, will be able to say,

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Our citizenship will be solely in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than in earthly things, like race, ethnicity, nationality, religious denomination, Northerner or Southerner, political affiliation, sports team, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or any other thing on earth.  For when we identify with Christ, all are ONE in Christ.

So, let’s ask the question:  With whom or what do I identify most?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we thank You for the wonderful opportunity to be reconciled to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You love us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us on the cross.  Lord God, we have been set free from sin; but we were made to worship and serve.  I greatly desire to serve You and You alone.  Remove from me any and all identity with earthly things that would hinder my walk with you.  You have shown me the small gate and the narrow path.  Guide my feet, my heart, and my mouth, that as they see to glorify your name in and offer themselves as a living sacrifice to You, that my feet would not slip, and that they would not wander off the path.  Bring revival to Your body, that it would turn away from the draw of temporal blessings and set our hearts on Heaven, so that our treasure may be found there.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Identity in Christ – Ephesians 1:13-14

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

It has been claimed by culture that Identity is the strongest persuasion technique available (Scott Adams, the writer of “Dilbert” cartoon, talks about this more than once in his blog).  Commercials found in all media types – TV, radio, print, and Internet – often use spokespersons or models to provide someone for us to identify with.  We have beautiful women modeling clothing, making the implied message “if you wear this clothing, you will be perceived as beautiful as this model.” And women often buy them.  Why?  Sports legends wear athletic clothing, and as an endorsement of their wearing it, people often buy the items.  Why?

When we wear the items, we identify with with the spokesperson or model.  We may already identify with them as our “hero”, and want to further identify with them by wearing the clothes they wear, or eat what they eat, or drive what they drive, etc.  Sometimes when wearing the clothing, we feel we look more attractive, like the models who wear them.

And while this observation appears to be true, Satan corrupts what God intended for good.  We were meant to identify with God’s most beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  It is IN HIM that we are reconciled to God; have been given every spiritual blessinghave been adopted; that we would be the praise of His Glory; have been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms;  and so much more…

So, let’s ask ourselves a question – who do we identify with most?

A short prayer of preparation:

Glorious Father in Heaven, we thank You for Your love and preparing a place for us with You in Heaven.  We thank You for who You are, and for sending Your Son, that through Him, we are reconciled to You.  You have given us this wonderful opportunity to identify with Jesus.  Work on our hearts that Jesus would be who we would most identify with, for this is what You intended from before time began.  Guard our hearts against the false calls of culture and the pleasures of this world, that we might have greater joy in the pleasure of Your company and communion.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?