Our present subject follows logically upon the theme of our last paper, for we are saved to serve, as was adumbrated of old in connection with God's earthly peoples, "And the LORD spoke unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, thus says the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me" (Exo 8:1).
Pharaoh was a type of Satan.
The bondage of Egypt was a type of our "serving divers lusts" (Ti 3:3).
Israel's exodus from Egypt and their entering into covenant with JEHOVAH at Sinai (Exo 24:3-8) illustrates the experience of conversion, when a rebel against God throws down the weapons of his warfare and gives himself up to be ruled by His will.
Salvation, then, is a change of masters. There are but two masters, and each person serves one them — sin and God. Every man serves one of them, but no man can serve both. Every man serves either sin or righteousness, God or the devil, giving his time and strength to one or the other. "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Rom 8:5). There is no middle ground, or neutral state. Both of these services are entered by consent, "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Rom 6:16).
It is true there are degrees in this, some yielding up themselves more completely and entirely than others. Nevertheless, the service which the regenerate render to righteousness is quite voluntary. The service of sin must be abandoned, before the service of God can be entered, "But now that you have been set free from sin, and have become slaves to God — the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Rom 6:22). That order is unchangeable.
By nature, we are not in subjection to God, for man is "born like a wild donkey's colt" (Job 11:12). As they contemplate their unregenerate days, the Lord's people sorrowfully confess, "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way!" (Isa 53:6). Yes, that is the quintessence of sin — the determination to please ourselves.
Thus it was at the beginning. Our first parents chafed at the divine restraint, and took matters into their own hands. But by grace, all this is altered. The language of a quickened soul is, "Lord, what will You have me to do?" (Act 9:6).
True conversion is a being brought into subjection to God.
First, the conscience is convicted of insubordination to God, and we are made to tremble for having so long and so grievously defied Him. His claims are now recognized and felt, and there is a broken-hearted repentance for having disregarded those claims.
Second, there is a bending of our wills, a subduing of the fleshly principle within, and a being made desirous for God to rule us (Psalm 110:3). Self-love, self-will, and self-righteousness receive their death wounds!
Third, there is wrought in the heart a readiness to submit to God's way of salvation (Rom 10:3), so that we come as empty-handed beggars to receive out of the fullness of His grace.
Fourth, there is a receiving of Christ Jesus as Lord (Col 2:6). "O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor." (Isa 26:13). In the past, "lord" self-pleasing, "lord" self-love, and "lord" self-gratification — ruled us. But now, these are repudiated. We have become "servants to God," and a servant is one who owns the authority of a superior, who is yielded to the will of his master and lives and labors to promote his interests.
The true and normal Christian life consists of being in subjection to God. No longer is a quickened soul determined to have his own way at all costs, but instead, the dominating longing and purpose of his heart is to please and honor the Lord in all things. This is the result of a miraculous work of grace, for "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Co 5:17).
The best way to discover what is (ideally) signified by being a servant of God, is to ponder the life of the Lord Jesus. Of Him, it is written, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant" (Phi 2:6-7). And what did that involve? This — being "made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal 4:4). Therefore are we told that,"Christ pleased not himself" (Rom 15:3). As He declared, "For I came down from Heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). And again, "I do always those things that please him" (John 8:29). That was the character of conduct of the perfect Servant.
And, my reader, Christ has left believers "an example, that you should follow his steps" (1 Pe 2:21). Therefore does Christ say unto us, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me" (Mat 11:29). The "yoke" Christ assumed was that of unreserved submission to God's will, and nothing less than that is what He requires from His followers. We are not Christians at all, unless we are servants of God, fully surrendered to His will, and walking in obedience to His Word.
Alas, Satan is deceiving so many today by leading them to suppose that they are savingly trusting in the "finished work" of Christ, while their hearts remain unchanged and self-will rules their lives! "He who says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments — is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). What could be plainer than that?
What a searching and solemn word also is in James 1:22, "Be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." There are many "hearers" of the Word, regular hearers, diligent hearers, in some respects, very interested hearers, yet, what they hear is not incorporated into the life. It does not regulate their ways. And God says that they who are not doers of the Word, are "deceiving their own selves."
Alas, how many such there are in Christendom today! Those who are not downright hypocrites, but deluded souls. They suppose that because they are so clear on salvation being by grace alone, they are saved, and that because they sit under the ministry of a man who has "made the Bible a new Book" to them, they are growing in grace.
How many imagine that the mere listening to a true servant of God, or reading his writings, is feeding on the Word. Not so! We only "feed" on the Word when we personally appropriate, masticate, and assimilate into our lives what we read or hear. Where there is not an increasing conformity of heart and life to God's Word — there is increased condemnation. "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows!" (Luke 12:47).
God has given us His Word not only with the design of instructing us, but for the purpose of directing us — to make known what He requires us to do. In the Holy Scriptures, God has revealed the details of that service which He requires from us, and that, as it concerns every aspect and relationship of our lives.
The first thing we need, is a clear and distinct knowledge of our duty, and this entails a lifelong and prayerful searching of the Scriptures. And the first thing God requires of us is a conscientious practice, corresponding to our knowledge. "What does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Mic 6:8). The Lord Jesus affirmed the same thing when He said, "You are my friends, IF you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14).
Christian service, then, is a life of obedience — our inward and outward life being regulated by the divine precepts.
The service of God is one of freedom, yes, it is the only one where real freedom is to be found. Yet, that is the very opposite of the natural man's idea. So thoroughly has sin perverted his judgment and blinded his mind, that he calls light darkness and darkness light — bitter sweet and sweet bitter. The unregenerate suppose that to be in subjection to God is the end of all freedom, and taking His yoke upon them is irksome bondage. Contrariwise, they imagine that the more they refuse divine restraints, the greater the liberty. Poor deluded souls! It is the service of sin that tyrannizes and enslaves.
It is the one who willingly renders obedience to Him — who is "the Lord's freeman" (1 Cor 7:22). God does not force His people into service, but constrains them by His love, and their language is, "I will walk at liberty: for I seek your precepts" (Psalm 119:45).
Nothing is more honorable than to be a dutiful servant of God, for it entails the smile of approbation from Him who is the King of kings.
Nothing is more pleasant than to be subject to God's commands, for it secures His favor and fellowship.
What a rich reward is assured those who take His yoke upon them! The Lord Jesus declared,"Where I am, there shall also my servant be" (John 12:26). And again, "Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ" (Col 3:24). And yet again, "There shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him" (Rev 22:3) — now, serving Him in the office, the shop, or the kitchen, then, serving Him in the courts of the Father's house above.