Not Slaves, But Sons
By Patricia Backora, author of the book
Tough Love in Christ's Millennium
Which you can order online from: http://www.publishamerica.com
What needless anxiety God's people could save themselves if only they stood with feet firmly planted upon what the Bible says about who they are in Christ. God wants His people to believe every word Paul and other New Testament writers said about the Christian's identity as a beloved child of God. Knowing what we are to God, as well as what He means to us, would revolutionize our walk with Christ as well as our daily service.
God's Old Testament saints were very precious to him (and still are). But they lived under a more difficult dispensation, that of Law, rather than grace. Old Testament saints were ruled by laws written on stone, whereas the Christian has the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus written upon his heart (Rom. 8:1-4; II Cor. 3:3). The Old Law was an imperfect covenant. It ministered condemnation to people's consciences because they could not perfectly keep it. Old Testament saints looked forward to the Cross, while we look back at it. Under their covenant, animals had to be ritually slaughtered as "promissory notes" in anticipation of the future Sacrifice of Christ on their behalf. But these sacrifices never could take away sin or make anyone perfect (Heb. 7:19; 9:9).
In John Chapter 3 Nicodemus came to Jesus in the middle of the night and asked him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Nicodemus was a good Jew, a conscientious Pharisee who did his best to keep the Law of Moses. But that wasn't good enough. Jesus said in verse 7: Ye must be born again.
How? Nicodemus asked him. Surely a man couldn't go back into his mother's womb and come back out into the world again! Jesus told Nicodemus he needed to be born again spiritually. The difference between us and the Old Testament saints is that becoming a new creation in Christ was only possible after Christ's death, burial and resurrection. They were saved from God's wrath through obedience to His instructions to carry out periodic animal sacrifices, thus showing their faith in the future coming of their Redeemer. But it was only after Christ's resurrection that He breathed upon His disciples and said: Receive ye the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). While Old Testament saints did the best they could to live under the Old Law and keep it, we are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, the Son of God, and so we cry, "Abba, Father!"(Gal.4:6-7). We have been delivered from the slavish fear of not being able to keep Mosaic Law perfectly. We have been born anew into the family of God through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). Not by any righteous works we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. We are no longer slaves, but sons and heirs of Almighty God.
In the ancient world, an unpaid slave was on society's lowest rung, hardly even considered a human being. He served his master not to get a reward, but out of fear of the stripes he'd get on his back if he didn't. Jesus got stripes on His own back because of our faults and failings, and He atoned for them forever. The hired servant was in a better position, because his goal was to get paid, not to avoid punishment. The unpaid slave was held in captivity by his master, while the hired servant could go elsewhere to work if he was dissatisfied. In Luke 15:11-32 we read of the Prodigal Son. After wandering off to a life of sin, the wayward youth returns home, ashamed of the miserable way he failed his father. He is determined to join the ranks of the hired household servants. Even if he is no longer a son, at least he will get something to eat. But the father joyfully receives the young man back and bestows the ring and the robe of a son upon him.
Some Christians act like the wretched slave, afraid of his master's whip, always scurrying about and keeping busy, lest they receive punishment. The best they hope for is to get something to help them survive. This bad hang-up tarnishes the love a son or daughter ought to have toward their Father. The relationship degenerates to one of servile fear, rather than love and reverence.
Other Christians are more of the hired servant mindset. The denominational church I went to in my youth never emphasized our relationship as sons and daughters of God, only the fact we were miserable sinners saved by grace, and servants of the Lord. Souls got saved, but they were poorly fed because that church did not know how to help new converts grow in the Spirit. It was more an effort on your own part to avoid cussing, stealing, lying, or whatever else was wrong. And when you felt bad about yourself, you'd go forward to "rededicate your life" in hopes that your own willpower would help you become a better servant of God. The only purpose that church taught Christians for their lives was to go out and reach others to get them to pray the sinner's prayer, so they, in turn, could go out and do the same. It seemed very superficial to me at times and I grew dissatisfied. Their focus was on the fact that we were to serve God in hopes of getting rewarded in heaven. That is putting the cart before the horse. We must BE before we can DO. Just what are we to God, and what is He to us? Does our service spring from the love of a child to his father, or does it spring from fear, or desire to earn wages?
Martha served Jesus out of anxiety that everything in the household would fall apart unless she kept on moving without stopping. Just think of it. Pots were boiling, feet were scurrying carrying food back and forth, the bread was about to burn, and there was Mary, Martha's sister, sitting quietly at Jesus' feet learning from him just like the male disciples. In desperation, Martha interrupted Mary's quiet time with Jesus, demanding that she join in the battle to serve Jesus a decent meal. But Jesus knew Mary was no slave. He said: One thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part which shall not be taken from her (Luke 10:41-42).
It wasn't until I was 19 years old that I found out about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some new friends took me out to their country church where I was led to pray for this wonderful Blessing to come upon me. It was still a tiny church. Just a few of us sat around in a circle, seeking the Lord to fill me. When it happened, I felt like a burst of new life came down from heaven and filled me through and through. After we all praised the Lord awhile, the pastor spoke this simple prophecy: "My daughter, you have praised me."
All the way home I rejoiced over those few words which revolutionized my life. Never before had I thought of myself as God's daughter, only as a barely saved sinner struggling to stay on her best behavior so she would appear to others like a good, respectable churchgoer. It's been 36 years, almost, and the Holy Spirit is still with me, building me up, encouraging me, and warning me away from dangers. The Well of Joy has always been in me, in good times and bad, and when I feel dry I draw deep from it.
God has given each of us a role to play in his kingdom. We love the Lord and want to do our best for Him, but it would be sheer arrogance to think that His work couldn't go on without us if He decided to take us home. The gifts we have belong to the Holy Spirit, and the fact He chooses sometimes to manifest them through us as individuals is by His choice and grace.
God loves each of us because of what Jesus has done, not because we do our best to prove we deserve His love. I'll go so far as to say that even if we go through dry spells where we don't feel very productive, God is still pleased with us. That's just our spiritual wintertime, when we are recouping our strength for more fruitful seasons. I know some will think that idea could engender a lazy attitude among believers who would just sit and dine at their Father's Table all day and do nothing. Truth is like a bicycle. If you get unbalanced you can fall off and scrape your knee. God doesn't even condemn you for those times. He just gives you a great big kiss and doctors up your bruises and helps you to go on. He even stands behind your bike and helps you steady it as you start over, so you won't fall off again.
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There are so many spiritual truths in this gem that it is hard to know where to start the Amen! The knowledge shared here can only come from a heart surrendered and sanctified unto the Lord. Praise God for hearts of flesh like this, where He can dwell by His Spirit. Pat, long may you continue to be the "daughter that praises Him".