Light for 2016

PERSONAL MATTERS

2015 has been a year when comfortable Westerners basking in their moral and cultural Enlightenment have been forcibly exposed to the face of evil.

Global terrorism brings with it a power of darkness that is unfathomable to the secular mind (Luke 22:53).

As we turn to 2016 what then is the Spirit saying to the churches (Rev 2:7 etc.)?

Whilst singing last week at Perth Prayer I was reminded by the Christmas Carol “O Holy Night” that the light of the Lord shines most brightly when the world is at its most evil.  

The relevant line that challenged me,

Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.
 was first penned when a great Evangelical movement under William Wilberforce was visibly demonstrating the reality of the love of Christ in a dark world.

Whilst physical slavery remains a real problem today the ultimate slavery is the universal fear of death (Heb 2:14-15).

From violent jihadist to affluent Australian this is the power of Satan which outside of Christ no mortal can overthrow.

Realistically, our Aussie cynicism about religion’s true motivations will not be moved by mere words to do with Christ, even if they offer eternal life.

Christians may rejoice in the truth that,

our Saviour Christ Jesus…abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel

but our culture will be unmoved unless there is some radical shift in the way we do Church (2 Tim 1:10).

I believe the Spirit is saying that this shift involves becoming slaves of God and of humanity.

SLAVE OR SERVANT

doulos 

The word normally used for a slave in the Graeco-Roman world of the first century was doulos.

The simplest definition of a slave is “someone under the complete control of a superior”.

Slaves were bought and sold with great frequency across the ancient world as well as being born into this condition.

In contrast to the much later slavery of the Americas slaves during New Testament times could reach high positions in their master’s households and under certain conditions earn or buy freedom.

Whilst doulos, and related verbs, appear 182 times in the NT most modern translations render these words as “servant”.

The reason given for this is that “slave” will cause contemporary readers to confuse the slavery of the biblical period with the harshness of much later times1)On this, see http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/GTY129/servant-or-slave.

Fair enough, but doulos has connotations not shared with the many Greek words meaning “servant”.

When Paul tells us, 

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
 he makes it clear that we are blood-bought slaves and not simply servants .

We have a new master and now belong to the household of Christ!2)This article I will use the New Revised Standard Version, the Bible I picked up at Perth Prayer; this translation that has had the courage in the face of the indulgences of our comfort culture to consistently use “slave”.

CHRIST’S LIGHT

Initially one might argue that the light of God shines so brightly through Jesus because he is Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt 1:23).

I would suggest however that Christ is “the radiance of the glory of Godbecause he is God with us in the form of a slave (Heb 1:3).

v.5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, v.6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, v.7 but emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave,” (Phil 2:5-7).

For Jesus to be in the “form” of a slave, just as he was eternally in the “form” of God, must mean that Jesus was a slave.

But was he a slave to God, to humans, or to the enslaving conditions of our fallen humanity which he came to redeem?

The priority is clear.

Before Christ can deliver us from our enslavements he must become totally submissive as a human being to the Father (Rom 6:6; Gal 4:3; 2 Pet 2:19).

Following Paul’s line of thinking in Philippians 2, Jesus is the paradigmatic slave of God who moves from humiliation to a costly obedience that ends in exaltation; v.8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. v.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, v.10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, v.11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (vv. 8-11).

This form of enslavement brings glory to God the Father by detaching humanity from Satan’s grip; “glory” is a term for illumination about who the Lord really is (Isa 60:1; Rev 21:23).

In becoming slaves in Christ we too can enlighten a world in darkness.

OUR LIGHT

As we obey Christ in costly acts of service for the good of humanity people will see the light of God in us; ““let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”” (Matt 5:14-16).

Paul defines his ministry in a similar manner; “v.47“For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”” (Acts 13:47 cf. Isa 42:6; Luke 2:32).

The connection between being a source of enlightenment and an enslaved status on behalf of others is clearly stated; v.5we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. v.6 For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:5-6).

The light of Jesus radiates through those who minister for the glory of God in the humble and sacrificial obedience of Christ.

 
The death of Christ for lost men and women attains a visible form in the vicarious suffering life of every true disciple (Phil 3:10).

CONCLUSION

WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WANTS TO BE A SLAVE?
Anyone who wishes to share “the mind of Christ”! (Phil 2:5)
If we would see the lost behold the light of God’s glory in us, then our enslavement to Jesus must be deeper than their enslavement to sin, Satan and fear of death.

THIS MEANS UNLIMITED OBEDIENCE TO OUR LORD IN THE WAY OF THE CROSS.

A Church which holds on tightly to prosperity in this world, is a sure sign of fearing death, cannot persuade others of resurrection life.

A Body where the difficult demands of pastoral visitation have been laid aside cannot image the tireless care of the Son of God.

Only when Christian leaders carry an attitude of being slaves to all the churches will Jesus’ promise that outsiders recognise his deity through the unity of Christians come to visible fulfilment (John 17:21; 1 Cor 9:19; 2 Cor 4:5).

If we would wish others to see God in Christ through us we must become a set of slaves.

Only the power of the Spirit which enabled Jesus to become a total slave of God can effect such a radical transformation of mindset (Luke 1:35).

This is the call of God for 2016.

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References   [ + ]

1. On this, see http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/GTY129/servant-or-slave
2. This article I will use the New Revised Standard Version, the Bible I picked up at Perth Prayer; this translation that has had the courage in the face of the indulgences of our comfort culture to consistently use “slave”.

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