October 2009 - Vol. 33

You Gotta Serve Somebody

.Who is the freest of all?
by Don Schwager

From slavery to freedom
In the Book of Genesis, beginning in chapter 37, we read the story of a remarkable young man who was anointed by God with a prophetic mission to be a savior for his people. Joseph, the second youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons, knew he was destined to rule on God’s behalf. What he didn’t understand at the time was that this mission would involve testing, suffering, humiliation, and sacrificial service. His jealous brothers were determined to kill him. But out of fear of their father Jacob, who loved Joseph and favored him above all, they decided it was better to sell him into slavery to the Midianites who took him down to Egypt .

God was with Joseph through all his trials, sufferings, and setbacks. Whatever Joseph did he brought blessing both to his taskmasters and to those who ill-treated him. God reversed the curse of Joseph’s slavery by elevating him to the highest position in Egypt, second only to Pharoah. When famine struck the world for seven years and threatened to decimate the surrounding peoples, Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy grain, which Joseph had been wisely storing up for seven years previously. When Joseph recognized his brothers, he pardoned rather than punished them. He used his position to save his family from death and reunite them.

Who is your master?
The early church fathers recognized the Patriarch Joseph as a type or prefigurement of Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah, who came to lay down his life on the cross for our salvation. Through his love and obedience to his Father’s will, he willingly endured suffering and death on the cross in order to free us from bondage to Satan, sin, and death.  His death and resurrection brought about our freedom and new birth as God’s adopted sons and daughters. 

Our freedom in Christ comes with many privileges, choices, and responsibilities. We are free to choose any number of courses and options available to us – such as marriage and raising a family, the single life, the call to live single for the Lord for a season or for a life-time, the choice to pursue a profession in the field of science, medicine, technology, or the arts. 

The most important choice we can make and the one that will ultimately determine our final destination is, Who will be our master? Who will we give our full allegiance to? Who will we follow for the rest of our lives?

The Scriptures make clear that there are ultimately only two kingdoms, two masters, and two choices before us. We can choose for God’s kingdom of light and truth or Satan’s kingdom of darkness and deception. When Jesus stated his mission, he openly declared war on his arch enemy and rival, whom he called the deceiver and father of lies (John 8:44).  Jesus declared, “Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31).  John stated, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The freedom Jesus offers us is freedom to choose for his kingdom and for his wise rule as the Lord and Master of our lives. 

Who are you going to serve?
What’s the driving force in your life: Being number one? Success? Money? Power? Prestige? What rules us reveals who our true master is. We can be mastered by many things – drugs, sex, alcohol, fear, blind ambition, greed. Only one master can truly set us free – the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Bob Dylan wrote a gospel song in 1979 entitled, You Gotta Serve Somebody [link to YouTube clip of song]. Sung in Dylan’s characteristic, gravelly voice, the song made a simply point – no matter who you are or what your status is, you have to serve somebody. Refrain after refrain hammers home that telling reality of human existence.

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You might be a rock 'n' roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,
You may be a business man or some high degree thief,
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you're gonna have to serve somebody...

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk,
You may be the head of some big TV network,
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame,
You may be living in another country under another name

But you're gonna have to serve somebody...

You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody's landlord, you might even own banks

But you're gonna have to serve somebody...

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,
You may be workin' in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair,
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir

But you're gonna have to serve somebody...

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk,
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you're gonna have to serve somebody...

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy,
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy,
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray,
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

But you're gonna have to serve somebody...

Serving Christ in all things
We know by experience that the evil one, Satan, does not give up on those who choose to be disciples of Christ. He is in an all-out war for total domination of this world, and he refuses to rest in his attempt to bring everyone under his rule. If Satan can’t get us to give up our faith and  renounce Christ, he will nonetheless try to steer us away, little by little, from the safe and sure path which Christ sets before us.

Our life is like a boat on a great river with swift currents and hidden rocks. We are in constant need of an experienced guide who will help us navigate and choose the safest course. If we want to go it alone, the Lord can throw us a life raft, but there is no guarantee we will stay afloat. 

The Lord Jesus wants disciples who will let him be the steersman in their lives, so that he can take us where he will. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).

Our privilege is to follow the Lord Jesus as his personal servants. In fact, our call is to serve Christ in all things. Paul the Apostle states:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ..Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men” (Colossians 3:17,23). 
Whether at home or on the job, we are servants of Jesus Christ. We serve him full time, all the time. 

Freedom to be the servant of all
Paul the Apostle identified his life so closely with the Lord Jesus that he exclaimed, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). He called himself the bondservant or slave of Christ (Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1). And for the sake of Christ he made himself a slave to all. “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Corinthians 9:19). Paul used the freedom he gained in Christ in order to serve the gospel of Christ and to make it accessible to as many people as possible. He literally gave his life away out of love for Christ, so that Christ could use him as Christ saw fit for the spread of the gospel to all the nations.

Paul encourages each one of us to do the same – to imitate him in the way he loved and united himself to Christ and placed himself at the service of others. “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Christian servanthood is the flipside of Christian freedom. If the Lord Jesus has truly set us free from bondage to Satan, the flesh, and the world, then we are indeed set  free to give ourselves generously and without reserve to the one we owe the greatest debt of love and gratitude, the Lord Jesus Christ, our true Master and Liberator.

Only a heart that has surrendered to the greatest lover of all can be a servant of all. To lose all for Christ is to gain all in Christ (Philippians 3:7-8). The servant of Christ is the freest of all because nothing can separate that person from the love of Christ:

“..in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 8:37-39).
Are you ready to surrender all to the One who has given all – who has poured out his love and mercy for your sake, and who offers you abundant life now and forever?
[Don Schwager is a member of The Servants of the Word and the author of the Daily Scripture Reading and Meditation website.]
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