Free To Honor God
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
“Be thou exalted” is the language of victorious spiritual experience. It is a little key to unlock the door to great treasures of grace. It is central in the life of God in the soul. Let seeking man reach a place where life and lips join to say continually, “Be thou exalted,” and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once. His Christian life ceases to be the complicated thing it had been before and becomes the very essence of simplicity. By the exercise of his will he has set his course, and on that course he will stay as if guided by an automatic pilot. The hidden motions of the Spirit are working in his favor, and “ the stars in their courses” fight for him. He has met his life problems at its center and everything else must follow along.
Let no one imagine he will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sell-out of his all to his God. Rather, he finds his right place of high honor as one made in the image of his Creator. His deep disgrace lay in his moral derangement, his unnatural usurpation of the place of God. His honor will be proved by restoring again that stolen throne. In exalting God over all, he finds his own highest honor upheld.
Anyone who might feel reluctant to surrender his will to the will of another should remember Jesus’ words, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). We must of necessity be servant to someone, either to God or to sin. The sinner prides himself on his independence, completely overlooking the fact that he is the weak slave of the sins that rule his members. The man who surrenders to Christ exchanges a cruel slave-driver for a kind gentle Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
As we observe Holy Week, moving from the Triumphal Entry to the cross let us think about what God intended and what His purpose was in all the events that we see.
Each part of this week speaks of the cumulation of the plan of God in His involvement with humanity.
We know that in creation, God designed that man would be His companion for the Bible teaches that man was made in the image of God and that each evening God came to the Garden and walked and talked with His creation. We read that Adam sold himself and all humanity to come into slavery to sin and Satan. It wasn’t long before we see the power of the slave master of sin bring hate, murder and sorrow to God’s creation. Cain, operating under the power of sin murders his brother Abel as a result of jealousy and that day Adam and Eve lost two sons, one to death and the other to banishment. From the happy environment of the Garden, the new slave master brought pain and suffering instead of joy and peace. It has been true ever since. But God did not fold His hands and give up on us! The Bible says that in due time, God sent His Son into the world. The very Son of God was clothed in flesh and lived among humanity, displaying for all to see the true nature and character of God.
“Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father and then we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time, and you do not know Me yet, Philip, nor recognize clearly who I am? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’
To broken humanity, bowed beneath the weight of the burden of sin and driven by the cruel taskmaster, Satan, Christ came to deliver and restore. The justice of God demanded that penalty was to be paid for wrong conduct and behavior. Satan had no power to destroy God’s creation but he knew this principle of God and he set out to entice humans to engage themselves in sin and rebellion and he fully expected God to ultimately destroy His creation. But God had other plans and so Christ came.
Christ came not to fix social or economic ills. He came to address the real issues of humanity, the bondage of sin. Everything wrong in our world may be attributed to sin. I realize that is a bold if simple statement for there are those who insist that if we could fix the social and economic problems the world would be a better place. So let’s investigate this hypothesis. If these are the root of unrest, hatred, wrong behavior and the like, how do we reconcile the fact that individuals who have elevated social or economic status often engage in acts of wrong behavior. We see that those who have are just as wicked and just as prone to all the acts of sin as those who have little or none of these things. So Jesus came not to address social ills but to deal once and for all with the sin issue. As long as we remain sinners, we are under the bondage as servants(slaves) to sin and we will find ourselves despite our best effort engaged in the practice of sin.
The Bible says that Christ is our Redeemer. This implies that we had been sold and were the possession of another and that required us being purchased back. The reality of this was brought home to me a few years ago as I was on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic. We were there building a retreat/ restoration center for young girls that had been sold into slavery as prostitutes. No, they had not been stolen or kidnapped. Their parents, their own mother had sold them to the pimps. What a powerful slave master sin is. Who could imagine that a mother would do such a thing? One of the girls explained it to me this way. She had several other siblings and her mother sold her to have enough money to feed them. This young girl every day was treated as a commodity rather than a human. She was the property of her master and the only way she could ever be free was that someone would pay her worth to the master. That, my friend, is you and I. Our ancestor sold himself and by default us to the slave master, Satan and the only way we can or could ever be free is that someone with the means would be willing to pay the price. In the case of the young girls, their families had no means to redeem them so the missionaries, those sent by God for that very purpose, brought with them the sum necessary to meet the slave master’s price. This is the picture of God sending His Son as our Redeemer. We have no means to meet the price Satan demands for our souls so God offered the treasure of heaven for us. This is what the cross and the crucifixion were about. Christ was paying the penalty for our sins to satisfy the justice of God and at the same time paying the price that our master, Satan demanded for our release. Once you see your helplessness to meet either of these demands and you find yourself as a Christian being the recipient of such an incredible act of love, your desire to honor and glorify and worship and proclaim such a Savior becomes the automatic outflow. Once you truly receive Christ, you cannot but do these things. As we worked at the retreat those weeks and got to know some of the young girls who had been redeemed, I heard over and over them speak with wonder that someone would love them, strangers, enough that they would give their resources for them with no demands in return. The missionaries told us that part of the restoration was to teach the young girls that they were not required to pay their deliverers for their release. They were to accept is as an act of love from God and His servants. I thought about us and how we try in vain to somehow repay God for His act of love in redeeming us and to Christ for taking our punishment upon Himself and I thought how foolish it is for us to offer anything other than the fullness of our hearts and the surrender of ourselves completely to the Master who loves us and has nothing but the best in store for us.
For this to sink in and affect us, we must see the thing of our lack of independence. Oh I know that we pride ourselves in our supposed independence, but Christ made it clear that there are only two masters and we are not one of those. When Adam chose in the Garden, he gave up having God as his master in exchange for Satan being his master. When we come to God in salvation, we too, make an exchange. We are not saved to become our own master for indeed we would soon return to our old master, sin. We come into salvation exchanging the cruel taskmaster Satan for the kind loving mastership of Christ. When we understand the price God paid for us, how can anything except grateful worship and honor come from us.
“You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]. So then, honor and glorify God with your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:20
So this week as we think about Christ and His suffering and dying for us, let us become more than mere servants, let us become with all our being bond-servants.
To explain, servants were those who had been bought on the auction block for the express purpose of serving their master. For those fortunate to be purchased by a good master, their service was not difficult, yet they had no choice in the matter. No doubt many carried out their instructions dutifully but resentfully. For many it was an obligation, a task that must be done, but in reality it was chores without desire. In the parable of the Prodigal, we find the elder son in exactly the same place. Though he was a son, he operated as a servant. While he obeyed his father with his actions, it was obvious that he disdained and dishonored him in his heart. We, too, may obey God as our Master, all the while dishonoring Him in our hearts; our relationship that of servants rather than children. Bond-servants, on the other hand were those who had been bought servants and then were offered their freedom by the master. Because they had loved their master, they chose to give themselves into willing service for the rest of their lives. They and the master would go to the officials and there in a public display, the servant would have himself marked as the lifetime property of the master. The servant did this not by pressure by by love. The bonds between master and servant were no longer just bonds of legality but bonds of love. As we consider the great price God paid in buying us back from the master of sin, ought not our gratitude become love- love that brings us to the place of bondservants?
The power of the cross is that it speaks of God choosing us. Imagine if you will, that we are on the auction block of the world. Our old master, Satan has drawn from us all the usefulness we had. Sin has has its way and left its wounds and scars and brokenness and our value to Satan and the world is minuscule. What I know is that the value set at an auction is not real value but perceived value. I’ve seen junk sell for incredible prices because two bidders were trying to out bid one another. I have no doubt that this is the case of us when we are placed on the block. What I am sure of is that Satan has no means to out bid God for God offers His Only Begotten Son as the price. To Him be all glory, honor, power and praise.
“In Him we have redemption [that is, our deliverance and salvation] through His blood, [which paid the penalty for our sin and resulted in] the forgiveness and complete pardon of our sin, in accordance with the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and understanding [with practical insight]”
“For you know that you were not redeemed from your useless [spiritually unproductive] way of life inherited [by tradition] from your forefathers with perishable things like silver and gold, but [you were actually purchased] with precious blood, like that of a [sacrificial] lamb unblemished and spotless, the priceless blood of Christ.”
1 Peter 1:18-19
“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.”
Dr. John Thompson