Saturday, December 13, 2014

Serving A Cruel Master

"No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  - Luke 16:13 (KJV)


The meaning of "master" in our Lord's discourse can be summarized by a definition provided by Joseph Thayer.  Literally, "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding."  It is the same Greek word which is most often translated as "lord" in the New Testament and is, as such, applied to the Lord Jesus Christ.  More simply stated, a master is that which has the ultimate control in an individual's life and is their lord, owner and ultimate possessor.  Christ made it very clear that it is impossible for more than one entity to serve in that position and any attempt to serve two masters results in a completely divided heart, mind and conscience.

To have a more adequate understanding of who we are supposed to be as Christians we must first determine what entity we are serving and the nature of that which holds the position of "master" or "lord" over our life.  Our understanding must be clear enough that we base our decisions and our concepts about ourselves upon the sovereignty of our master.  Unfortunately there are many who cannot make this honest examination without reaching very unreasonable conclusions.  Many have an understanding of God which portrays Him as a malevolent and vengeful being who exists for the purpose of punishing all of humanity for every infraction.  God is the all-seeing eye-in-the-sky waiting to pounce on any hapless individual who would deviate for a fraction of a second from a path of perfection.  The Deity becomes not only the policeman of the universe but the obsessive stalker with a voracious appetite for the blood of those weaker than Himself.

The image of God which has been created in the mind of too many Christians is that He is so holy that He cannot possibly be as gracious and loving as other Christians seem to believe.  The result is the tragic creation of a "two-ditch" theology where God is either so holy as to require total asceticism or so gracious as to demand nothing of His creation.  One is a tyrant while the other is a libertine.   Both are equally wrong and of an unnerving origin.  Both theologies are created by another master, another deity.  This one is the cruelest master of all: a master called "Self."


Sadly, too many Christians spend their lives trying to fulfill what they think God expects out of them rather than actually living the life the Lord intended for them to live.  This creates a paradigm of chronic spiritual dissatisfaction.  Just as a drug addict pushes the limits of his addiction in pursuit of the next high, the one who serves Master Self is perpetually bound to fulfilling the desires that "God" has for their lives never realizing that the only god imposing such high expectations upon them is the Master Self.  Gross hypocrites are born under the tyrannical reign of such a cruel deity.  Jesus Christ promised that His children were to have "life and that more abundantly," yet such a life cannot be found in the perpetual pursuit of what one "thinks" God expects from them.

Master Self will remind you that you are not possibly living a life that is pleasing to God because you still fight spiritual battles.  Master Self will berate you for reading five chapters in your Bible instead of ten.  Master Self will beat you for praying thirty minutes instead of an hour.  Master Self will put a saddle on your back and ride you into the ground while convincing you that the voice of self is the voice of Jesus Christ.  But herein we may see the great difference between Master Self and Master Jesus.  The nature of the voice of Master Self will rain down chastisement with condemnation while the voice of Master Jesus will chastise lovingly as a father disciplines a child (see Hebrews 12:7).  The Christian is often his own worst enemy victimizing himself in the name of God.

One of the greatest hindrances to a move of God in an individual's life is low spiritual self-esteem.  Saul McLeod commented, "people with high self-esteem focus on growth and improvement, whereas people with low self-esteem focus on not making mistakes in life."  There must come a point in a Christian's walk with God where it is realized that God is looking for personal progress instead of human perfection.  The Christian's perfection is in Christ (see Hebrews 10:14).  The will of God is that we grow in grace (see 2 Peter 3:18).  No, you probably aren't where you "could be" in your spiritual walk.  That doesn't mean that you aren't where you "should be" at that point in time.

Consider the following points that may help you in shutting out the voice of Master Self and once again being able to hear the voice of Master Jesus in your life:


1. Stop gauging your spirituality by the "spirituality" of others.  "But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding."  (2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV)  Christians are soundly admonished by the Apostle Paul that comparing ourselves to ourselves is ignorance.  Stop looking at other people and trying to be as "spiritual" as they are.  Find your own relationship with God and walk with Him.  It is okay to look at others as examples but when the example of another becomes a point of personal condemnation, it's time to put your eyes back on Christ.  While there are many generalities which God expects out of everyone, the particulars of your walk with God will most likely not be the same as anyone else.  For example, one may be very boisterous in prayer and demonstrative in praise while another is very quiet.  That doesn't mean one is more or less spiritual than the other.

2. Stop judging your present spiritual condition based upon past experiences.  "Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions." (Ecclesiastes 7:10 NIV).  This does not mean that we should never "remember from where you have fallen" (Revelation 2:5) but that living in the past is unhealthy and unwise.  Today is not yesterday.  Things change.  People change.  Circumstances change.  Living for God is not about trying to measure up to your nostalgic perceptions of how things used to be.  It is finding God again today and walking with Him today and following Him today.  A lot has changed since yesterday.  Don't build your house there.  Live with God today.  Your experiences will not always "feel" same but that doesn't mean that God disapproves of you.  Adolescence doesn't feel like infancy.  Middle-age doesn't feel like adolescence.  Old age doesn't feel like middle-age.  Just because the feeling and dynamic of your walk with God today are different doesn't mean that you're doing something wrong.

3. Stop thinking God expects you to be "enough."  "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Just as with the Apostle Paul, there are things in every Christian's life which serve as thorns in the flesh.  While they may not be sinful, they are burdensome and produce anxiety in the Believer's heart and mind.  Christ would call us to Himself and declare that, though we are not enough, His grace is enough.  Am I praying enough? Am I fasting enough? Am I reading my Bible enough? Am I witnessing enough? Am I living the perfect Christian life?  The answer to all of those questions is, "Probably not."  This should not be a point of self-condemnation.  The purpose of an honest introspective inventory is to reassess your spiritual habits and make adjustments as need be; not to provide Master Self with ammunition to accuse you with.  The truth is you will never be "enough" nor does God expect you to be "enough" in your own judgment.


1. Start forgiving yourself and reminding yourself that you are forgiven.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."  (1 John 1:9).  Who are we to hold against ourselves the fact that we are forgiven?  And in this we may known for certain that God has forgiven us: the Christian is promised that confession brings forgiveness.  The Christian may not feel forgiven because of the weight of condemnation brought down upon him by Satan and Master Self, but forgiveness is a reality, not a feeling.  When you feel like you can't forgive yourself, let Jesus Christ be your Master again.  He has forgiven you.  God has not only forgiven you of your sins but understands you.  God knows what it feels like to be a human being with all of our emotional, physical and spiritual battles and is "touched" by it (Hebrews 4:15).  Literally, Christ sympathizes with us.  That is not the perspective of a God ready to destroy; it is that of a loving Father ready to restore, to heal and to forgive.

2. Start reminding yourself daily of who you are in Christ. "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord." (Psalm 34:2).  Start each day by reminding yourself what God has said about you as one of His children; as a Christian.  You can download a free .pdf file called Who I Am In Christ by clicking HERE and use it as a guide in helping remember all that God has said about you in His Word.  These are not comments made about perfect people or perfect Christians.  This is how God views you as His child.  Learn to see yourself as God sees you and you'll find a loving Master in control of your life.  Having been born again puts the Christian into a particular relationship with God which is different from the rest of the world.  As a Child of God by the new birth (see John 3:3-5) you enjoy a familiar relationship with God.  While an earthly father may love other children, the relationship with his own is far different in every aspect.  How he thinks of them, cares for them, provides for them, loves them, disciplines them, his opinion of them; in every point the relationship is particular.  So it is between the Heavenly Father and His Children.

3. Start living instead of surviving. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."  (John 10:10).  Holding yourself to high expectations might be good but holding yourself to unreasonably high expectations is unhealthy in any area of life.  This is especially true in your walk with God.  God did not purpose for us to merely survive this life.  Start examining your expectations of yourself reasonably.  Write them down on a piece of paper and ask yourself: IS THIS WHAT GOD EXPECTS OUT OF ME OR WHAT I EXPECT OUT OF ME?  If you are living to please God you will find an abundant life ahead of you.  If you are living to please Master Self, a life of fear, doubt, discouragement, self-loathing, condemnation and frustration awaits.  It is wonderful to have plans, dreams, aspirations, ambitions and goals but those are all secondary to the primary desire of God for you: life and that more abundantly.  If there is no joy in your Christian service, you just may be serving Master Self instead of Master Christ.  Live while you're alive.


The Master Jesus defined Himself, His nature and His gift to others beautifully in Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

In this we can easily discern the voice of Master Jesus.  His voice is gentle and gives rest.  When, as a child of God, the voice blasting out expectations in your head is harsh and unnerving, rest assured you are not hearing the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The voice of God will be convicting but never condemnatory to His child.  The Lord Jesus has called us to peace in Him and life more abundantly.  When the Christian is weary from his own exalted self-expectations he may run to Christ and find rest.  Walking with the heavy load of self-loathing from failure to measure up to your own expectations placed upon you by Master Self in the name of "Jesus" is so wearying that many simply collapse beneath the weight and die spiritually.  Don't allow it to happen to you.

"But if you try and fail in your trying,
Hands sore and scarred from the work you've begun;
Take up your cross, run quickly to meet Him; 
He'll understand; and say, "Well done." 
 - Lucie Eddie Campbell