Moving From Slave to Servant to Child: The Soul’s Reckoning of an Immediate Reality of Grace

The soul’s reckoning of God’s work of salvation is a common battle ground for Gospel assurance.  When I say “slave”, I intend that slavery to sin that the unbeliever relishes and continues to live in until they come to Christ.  When I say “servant”, I intend that servitude made explicit in that transference from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ.  And when I say “child”, I intend that sweetest reality that is lavished upon the blood bought sinner.

The Christian, I think, easily understands the transference from slavery to sin as an unbeliever to the reality that any believer finds themselves in at this very moment.  It is, however, with this new relationship to God in Christ in mind, that the relationship of the Christian as servant, and the relationship of the Christian as child, is often unrealized or confused.  This, I have found, is one of the greatest struggles of the Christian life that need not be so.

Do not mistake the title to mean that the Christian is not to be a servant of God – he is indeed!  Paul wrote of himself as the “bondservant of Christ” (Romans 1:1, etc.).  But the Christian is not only a servant in the house of God, no, but a child in the house as well.  He has not only be redeemed and declared innocent on account of the saving person and work of Christ, but in the Beloved Christ, the Christian has also been adopted as God’s true child.  It is the souls understanding of identity in Christ that appears tantalizingly difficult at times, caught between the earthly image of a servant and the biblical reality of the servant-child (and how to reconcile the two).  It is no doubt due to our very nature as human beings living in a fallen existence, living in a culture of merit and demerit on the basis of deeds done or undone.

But this is not how God has redeemed, it is not how He has saved; it is not how He sanctifies or brings home to glory.  No!  The good news of God in Christ is that while we were yet sinners, dead and ungodly, God demonstrated that He loved us in that He gave His Son to die for us then, and not when we had cleaned ourselves up and put on a painting of moral reform.  And God’s love is the love of a Father upon those redeemed.  And while it would have been well enough to be delivered from sin’s mastery and brought into God’s house as a servant only, His love would have none of it; His redemptive purpose intended something much more splendid: in Christ, God adopts the one who was a slave, and so the Christian is made a child of God.  Indeed, the Christian has the place of a child at God’s table.  The Christian is as much of a child of God as God’s only Begotten, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And in Him, our acceptance with God stands on the basis of the perfect Child, Jesus of Nazareth.  Our Father observes and accepts us freely and fully in Him, and thus, legal obstacles removed by the cross, our acceptance is as high, as sure, as unchangeable as Christ’s is – it cannot be any greater, and it will never be any lower, least of all on the basis of what we do or don’t do.

And let not this justification lend itself to licentiousness, for the one who presumes upon such freedom has not understood in the soul the nature of regeneration (that our freedom is a freedom dominated by God’s Spirit, new loves, joys, and desires to follow in Christ’s footsteps and to please our Father) or the joy of childhood (which in Jewish culture implied the imitation of one’s father).  But I will pass on further explanation.

In sum, I submit to you that there should be no anxiety upon these two aspects of relationship – servant and child – for they, while nuanced, are one and the same, or at least complimentary.  For the child loves the Father, and desires to serve Him, even as he has been loved and served.  And the servant relishes his duty, for his duty is rendered unto his perfect Father.  Thus, love and service, that of the child and the servant, are not to be seen as separate, but necessary to one another.

Furthermore, I would bid you to realize, if you are a Christian, that your disobedience will be met not with the lashes of God upon a disobedient servant, but the loving discipline of God upon a disobedient child.  And I would bid you still, if you are struggling with this transition – I say “transition”, but truly, when one is redeemed, he or she is immediately made a child also; but it appears that many battle with the “transition” of this reality from mind to heart such that it enflames the soul with love and wonder, etc. – to consider those sweet passages of Scripture that serve as candles illuminating the soul to the Father and His perfect Fatherhood.  He will not cast you off; He will not leave you or forsake you; no, dear soul, but in Christ, He will love you perfectly, in discipline and compassion, so that you may know your unchangeable place with Him.  You are no longer the slave awaiting auction to the greatest bids of sin; the Father has bought you with the blood of Christ, and you are His child.  And the child loves the Father’s allotted service, knowing that services rendered do not affect his or her status as a true child of God.  Let us rejoice in this, and have our worries dispelled.  The servant is a child, and the child a servant; and the combination of the two implies both our security and the working out of our faith.  And when doubt begins to creep, remember, our Father is good, and He is faithful.  He will deal with you as child, if indeed, that is what you are.  So dear brother or sister, let us take heart in our Divine Father, and His sweetest love.

The Manhattan Declaration

This is a declaration of the wider Christian conscience against abortion, the subversion of the institution of marriage, and religious liberty.  It is a must read.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, blogs about it here.

A brother, Patrick Schreiner, pulls a few helpful resources together here.

Read the Manhattan Declaration here.

Leaves and the Design of God for His Children

It was a Saturday morning.  November.  Autumn.  The air was cool and crisp.  The trees were growing thin according to God’s sovereign allotment.  I had decided to take a jog, stretch my legs a bit.  As I, with heavy legs, plodded along my usual path, I took notice of one particular tree.  While the ground was beautifully colored with leaves brown, orange, red, yellow, this tree held on to its lemon colored wings.  And, then, a few of these leaves, one at a time, slowly floated to earth to take its place among the rest.  And I found myself thinking of the beauty of that one leaf – not only its amazing brightness, but the way that it fell, how it rocked back and forth until it softly landed upon my way, and theologically, how God in His meticulous providence knew that leaf, its color, its flight pattern, its final resting place among the other thousands that He knew with identical perfection.  But avoiding (for now) the urge to speak of God’s immense omniscience and wonderful providence in things much more valuable than a single leaf, I will continue on my jog –

After watching that leaf reach its destination, my eyes were caught back up to the fullness of this tree itself, and the hundreds of leaves that yet remained in harmony, blowing with soft unison in that autumn breeze.  And there, I began to think: while the singular leaf was particularly beautiful, the body of leaves, comprised of a multitude of such leaves, was significantly more beautiful.  And there I was reminded of the individual Christian and the church of the living God.  Now you might ask, to what end and how so?  And I would be quick to qualify such a comparison – that I am not saying, like it is somewhat fashionable to do, that one can find God in nature and that they then have no need for the church; rather, I am saying quite the contrary.  Do not mistake my words.  For God has revealed Himself in two ways: generally and especially, that is, by general revelation and special revelation.  Leaves fit into that category of general revelation, whereby it is to be understood that there is a God who created such things as a display of His existence and glorious nature.  One is not made a Christian by this kind of revelation, but rather by that other kind – special revelation, that is, what God has revealed in the Bible about Himself and all in relation to Him, the center of which is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is by believing the Gospel, trusting in the saving person and work of Jesus Christ that one is made a Christian by God.  And once this has happened, then general revelation – like the leaves in this instance – tends to and should lead the regenerated heart and mind to consider what God has revealed in the Bible.  And so, we come to what I was reminded of by the multitude of leaves in harmony –

That while God saves individuals, and preserves individual personalities, and makes use of such individual distinctiveness, He intends that individual Christians live out their lives within the greater fellowship of the body of Christ, or the local church.  And while the individual Christian should be marveled at as a work of God’s free grace, so the church, comprised of these regenerate miracles, is significantly more beautiful when functioning biblically, in harmony one with another.  We were not saved to be individualistic.  We were not saved to be lone wolves.  We were not saved to drift off into some sort of contemporary monasticsm in the desert for private contemplation.  We were saved to be communal.  We were saved for fellowship with one another.  We were saved to congregate and worship and disciple and study and pray together.  We were saved to be the family of God who delight to proclaim together the excellencies of Jesus Christ.  One verse will have to suffice for these things: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim that excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9.  And let us not forget that the letters of the apostle Paul are written to the church, to the body of Christians.  And so I was reminded on this jog of the indispensable value of the local church, and the amazing potential that the multitude has to display the glory of God in this world (surpassing the potential of one individual believer). 

Let us, then, seek out our brothers and sisters.  Let us seek the Lord, that He might reveal to us where we have tended to be individualistic in our Christianity; and then, let us seek that balm, the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He might cleanse us of such a tendency; let us be purified by the Holy Spirit’s fire, that the pride which deceptively keeps us from wholehearted community with one another be burned away, that we might recognize and embrace God’s design for His children – treasuring and glorifying God together.  And a note to caution us, that the leaf which alone was plucked, fell to the ground alone, there to die.  Let us take heed from the fullness of those autumn trees – that the whole, living in harmony together, far surpasses in beauty the one that loves its separation.

M’Cheyne on a “Full Joy”

An excerpt from his sermon on 1 John 1:1-4 (1839), particularly dealing with “and these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” –

Other joys are not filling.  Creature joys only fill a small part of the soul.  Money, houses, lands, music, entertainments, friends, these are not filling joys; they are just drops of joy.  But Christ revealed makes the cup run over.  ‘Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.’  Believing in a manifested Christ fills the heart full of joy.  ‘In Thy presence is fulness of joy.’ Christ brings the soul into God’s presence.  One smile of God fills the heart more than ten thousand smiles of the world.  You that have nothing but creature joy, hunting after butterflies, feeding upon carrion, why do you spend money for that which is not bread? You that are afflicted, tempest-tossed, and not comforted, look to a manifested Jesus.  According to your faith, so be it unto you.  Believe none, and you will have no joy.  Believe little, and you will have little joy.  Believe much, and you will have much joy.  Believe all, and you will have all joy, and your joy will be full.  It will be like a bowl lipping over, good measure, pressed down, and running over. Amen.

Thoughts on a “Brush Over” Passage

Typically, Exodus 22 is not one of those chapters that you take the time to . . . think through.  And this is poor on many of our accounts.  Recent time spent translating the text caused me to slow down and deal with what was in the chapter.  Here are some thoughts, oxen, donkeys, and all:

Three simpletons:

God is concerned with reconciliation man to man.

God is concerned with justice.

God desires for man to love his neighbor.

Four More:

The love in this chapter prescribed for man implies the seedbed of that love, contextually (think Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments), the love of God.  Indeed, every act of reconciliation, every act of love and compassion by man in this chapter is grounded in the expectation, nature, character, and redemption of God.  Thus, because He redeemed them out of Egypt, they are to deal kindly with sojourners; because God is compassionate, they are to be compassionate to the widow and the orphan, that pure and undefiled religion; because God is just, we are to deal justly with one another; because God is wrathful, we should fear Him by providing for those who do not have instead of taking for ourselves from the poor so that he has none.

This chapter teaches that God is intimately involved in the contingencies of human life.  Those things that we think about that make us anxious, He looks at with prescriptions, healing words, and the comfort of His concern and sovereign involvement in the intricacies of human affairs.  There is a straight link to the apostle James here, where it is written that we should cast all of our anxieties upon Him precisely because He cares for us.  This Mosaic text reveals the same truth.  God cares for human beings.  God cares for those intricacies, those contingencies of human life that tend to be the very things that we fret over.  And because He is involved in them, and knows them, indeed, prescribes them and gives the balm and answer to them, we can simply cast our cares upon Him and trust that He knows how to spin all things for the good of His children who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Moreover, Christ fulfilled every point of the law prescribed in this chapter by God.  Jesus Christ accomplished every expectation that God had of humanity and their dealings with one another.  He fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law.  He loved sinlessly.  And those who have believed upon Him, and have received His righteousness as their own – a gift from this God – are now free to do what this law prescribes without the fear of condemnation; rather, they are freed to do what this law prescribes with the fullness of joy and liberation because of the knowledge of complete acceptance with God on the basis of Christ’s person and work.

Therefore, God, help us to love other people.  Help us to love our neighbor – to care for the widow and the fatherless child; to meet the needs of the homeless and the impoverished; to engage in honest transactions of business; to work hard and not steal; to make restitution where restitution is needed; to go and tell others of the freeing news of God in Jesus Christ which is the basis of any hope for such a life as this; this will not be accomplished by moral reformation, and it is not mere moral reformation.  Doing these things apart from faith in Christ will leave the laborer woefully short, in infinite debt to be everlastingly paid off in hell – I say this harshly, for the reality is, again, that apart from faith in Christ, the ideal of God in this chapter cannot and will not be met.  In fact, both by Scripture and observation, humanity’s dealings with one another on both small and large scales are quite the opposite from the heart of God in this chapter.  This is the outworking of the love of God, produced by the work of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby God makes God lovers, and thus, people lovers. So this outworking has a horizontal reach.

At least there is food for further thought!

On Loving God

The following is, I think, a lengthy, but remarkable excerpt from On Loving God by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153).  Due to its longevity, I have italicized some parts for those who may want to breeze through it (i.e., Patrick Schreiner).  Nevertheless, careful reading will be greatly rewarded in this encouraging, refreshing, and illuminating excerpt of Bernard.  It is a beautifully and intelligently written 1800 words, with several thought-provoking insights into the human soul – for the unbeliever and believer alike:

And now let us consider what profit we shall have from loving God. Even though our knowledge of this is imperfect, still that is better than to ignore it altogether. I have already said (when it was a question of wherefore and in what manner God should be loved) that there was a double reason constraining us: His right and our advantage. Having written as best I can, though unworthily, of God’s right to be loved. I have still to treat of the recompense which that love brings. For although God would be loved without respect of reward, yet He wills not to leave love unrewarded. True charity cannot be left destitute, even though she is unselfish and seeketh not her own (I Cor. 13.5). Love is an affection of the soul, not a contract: it cannot rise from a mere agreement, nor is it so to be gained. It is spontaneous in its origin and impulse; and true love is its own satisfaction. It has its reward; but that reward is the object beloved. For whatever you seem to love, if it is on account of something else, what you do really love is that something else, not the apparent object of desire. St. Paul did not preach the Gospel that he might earn his bread; he ate that he might be strengthened for his ministry. What he loved was not bread, but the Gospel. True love does not demand a reward, but it deserves one. Surely no one offers to pay for love; yet some recompense is due to one who loves, and if his love endures he will doubtless receive it.

On a lower plane of action, it is the reluctant, not the eager, whom we urge by promises of reward. Who would think of paying a man to do what he was yearning to do already? For instance no one would hire a hungry man to eat, or a thirsty man to drink, or a mother to nurse her own child. Who would think of bribing a farmer to dress his own vineyard, or to dig about his orchard, or to rebuild his house? So, all the more, one who loves God truly asks no other recompense than God Himself; for if he should demand anything else it would be the prize that he loved and not God.

It is natural for a man to desire what he reckons better than that which he has already, and be satisfied with nothing which lacks that special quality which he misses. Thus, if it is for her beauty that he loves his wife, he will cast longing eyes after a fairer woman. If he is clad in a rich garment, he will covet a costlier one; and no matter how rich he may be he will envy a man richer than himself. Do we not see people every day, endowed with vast estates, who keep on joining field to field, dreaming of wider boundaries for their lands? Those who dwell in palaces are ever adding house to house, continually building up and tearing down, remodeling and changing. Men in high places are driven by insatiable ambition to clutch at still greater prizes. And nowhere is there any final satisfaction, because nothing there can be defined as absolutely the best or highest. But it is natural that nothing should content a man’s desires but the very best, as he reckons it. Is it not, then, mad folly always to be craving for things which can never quiet our longings, much less satisfy them? No matter how many such things one has, he is always lusting after what he has not; never at peace, he sighs for new possessions. Discontented, he spends himself in fruitless toil, and finds only weariness in the evanescent and unreal pleasures of the world. In his greediness, he counts all that he has clutched as nothing in comparison with what is beyond his grasp, and loses all pleasure in his actual possessions by longing after what he has not, yet covets. No man can ever hope to own all things. Even the little one does possess is got only with toil and is held in fear; since each is certain to lose what he hath when God’s day, appointed though unrevealed, shall come. But the perverted will struggles towards the ultimate good by devious ways, yearning after satisfaction, yet led astray by vanity and deceived by wickedness. Ah, if you wish to attain to the consummation of all desire, so that nothing unfulfilled will be left, why weary yourself with fruitless efforts, running hither and thither, only to die long before the goal is reached?

It is so that these impious ones wander in a circle, longing after something to gratify their yearnings, yet madly rejecting that which alone can bring them to their desired end, not by exhaustion but by attainment. They wear themselves out in vain travail, without reaching their blessed consummation, because they delight in creatures, not in the Creator. They want to traverse creation, trying all things one by one, rather than think of coming to Him who is Lord of all. And if their utmost longing were realized, so that they should have all the world for their own, yet without possessing Him who is the Author of all being, then the same law of their desires would make them contemn what they had and restlessly seek Him whom they still lacked, that is, God Himself. Rest is in Him alone. Man knows no peace in the world; but he has no disturbance when he is with God. And so the soul says with confidence, ‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee; and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. It is good for me to hold me fast by God, to put my trust in the Lord God’ (Ps. 73.25ff). Even by this way one would eventually come to God, if only he might have time to test all lesser goods in turn.

But life is too short, strength too feeble, and competitors too many, for that course to be practicable. One could never reach the end, though he were to weary himself with the long effort and fruitless toil of testing everything that might seem desirable. It would be far easier and better to make the assay in imagination rather than in experiment. For the mind is swifter in operation and keener in discrimination than the bodily senses, to this very purpose that it may go before the sensuous affections so that they may cleave to nothing which the mind has found worthless. And so it is written, ‘Prove all things: hold fast that which is good’ (I Thess. 5.21). Which is to say that right judgment should prepare the way for the heart. Otherwise we may not ascend into the hill of the Lord nor rise up in His holy place (Ps. 24.3). We should have no profit in possessing a rational mind if we were to follow the impulse of the senses, like brute beasts, with no regard at all to reason. Those whom reason does not guide in their course may indeed run, but not in the appointed race-track, neglecting the apostolic counsel, ‘So run that ye may obtain’. For how could they obtain the prize who put that last of all in their endeavor and run round after everything else first?

But as for the righteous man, it is not so with him. He remembers the condemnation pronounced on the multitude who wander after vanity, who travel the broad way that leads to death (Matt. 7.13); and he chooses the King’s highway, turning aside neither to the right hand nor to the left (Num. 20.17), even as the prophet saith, ‘The way of the just is uprightness (Isa. 26.7). Warned by wholesome counsel he shuns the perilous road, and heeds the direction that shortens the search, forbidding covetousness and commanding that he sell all that he hath and give to the poor (Matt. 19.21). Blessed, truly, are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5.3). They which run in a race, run all, but distinction is made among the racers. ‘The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: and the way of the ungodly shall perish’ (Ps. 1.6). ‘A small thing that the righteous hath is better than great riches of the ungodly’ (Ps. 37.16). Even as the Preacher saith, and the fool discovereth, ‘He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver’ (Eccles. 5.10). But Christ saith, ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled’ (Matt. 5.6). Righteousness is the natural and essential food of the soul, which can no more be satisfied by earthly treasures than the hunger of the body can be satisfied by air. If you should see a starving man standing with mouth open to the wind, inhaling draughts of air as if in hope of gratifying his hunger, you would think him lunatic. But it is no less foolish to imagine that the soul can be satisfied with worldly things which only inflate it without feeding it. What have spiritual gifts to do with carnal appetites, or carnal with spiritual? Praise the Lord, O my soul: who satisfieth thy mouth with good things (Ps. 103.1ff). He bestows bounty immeasurable; He provokes thee to good, He preserves thee in goodness; He prevents, He sustains, He fills thee. He moves thee to longing, and it is He for whom thou longest.

I have said already that the motive for loving God is God Himself. And I spoke truly, for He is as well the efficient cause as the final object of our love. He gives the occasion for love, He creates the affection, He brings the desire to good effect. He is such that love to Him is a natural due; and so hope in Him is natural, since our present love would be vain did we not hope to love Him perfectly some day. Our love is prepared and rewarded by His. He loves us first, out of His great tenderness; then we are bound to repay Him with love; and we are permitted to cherish exultant hopes in Him. ‘He is rich unto all that call upon Him’ (Rom. 10.12), yet He has no gift for them better than Himself. He gives Himself as prize and reward: He is the refreshment of holy soul, the ransom of those in captivity. ‘The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him’ (Lam. 3.25). What will He be then to those who gain His presence? But here is a paradox, that no one can seek the Lord who has not already found Him. It is Thy will, O God, to be found that Thou mayest be sought, to be sought that Thou mayest the more truly be found. But though Thou canst be sought and found, Thou canst not be forestalled. For if we say, ‘Early shall my prayer come before Thee’ (Ps. 88.13), yet doubtless all prayer would be lukewarm unless it was animated by Thine inspiration.

Samurai Letters Commenced

I have no need to explain this here (as it is explained on its page), but the new tab above entitled “Samurai Letters” has become operative – indeed, there is a letter awaiting!  For all who know of these two beloved people, you may begin – as I am certain you have  already begun – to pray for, encourage, exhort, and love on them in accordance with the gracious command of Christ.  You may enter the tab to read more.  You may email me to respond.  May God bless this endeavor – as He is so gracious and, thus, worthy to be praised for His certain knowledge of and help in this simplest of labors (if it can even be called a labor, no, let it be named a delight)!  And may God bless these two laborers in God’s harvest field, as always, for the conversion of souls and the glory of God.