“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
God really worked on my heart last night thinking about this topic. I have been in a season of spiritual drought lately. I’ve been doing all the right things, but have been feeling frustrated because I’m not as far along as I feel I should be. There are still wounds in my life that I thought would be healed by now. Doubt and anger have started creeping back into my relationship with God. Many of my prayers have been filled with “why”, “how come”, “when”. Last night, the smoke cleared, and I realized that I’m not waiting on God, but God is waiting on me.
Savior vs Lord
Few Christians have any trouble viewing Jesus as Savior. We all think it’s a pretty good deal for him to save us from our messes and to pay for our sins. But what about Jesus as Lord? We use the term all the time, but do we actually acknowledge and understand what it means? Lord actually means “master” or “someone who has control of you”, essentially an owner over your life. God is not just your savior, but also your owner and when you get down to the heart of the meaning – you’re his slave.
The idea of God being your ruler is much less appealing. You can still maintain the life you’ve always lived, continue engaging in the behaviors you know are wrong, and fail to die to self when you view Jesus as only your savior. You can’t when he becomes Lord.
“But I read my Bible. I go to church. I pray…isn’t that enough?” No. As long as you are not willing to give God complete control over your life, you will never grow. Also, as Jesus tells us in Matthew, you will actually end up hating or despising God. Seem like an exaggeration? Nothing could be further from the truth.
Serving Two Masters
It’s not just a warning; it’s a promise. If I look back on all the times when I’ve questioned God, when I’ve been upset with him, or doubted his judgement, it is always because it is opposing my self-will. When we think about controversial topics in Christianity today, such as premarital sex, our will tells us, “that’s unrealistic”, “no one could ever do that”, “God puts way too many demands on me”. As those thoughts creep into our mind, suddenly we find ourselves angry at God or even doubting his existence. Is it because the statements are true? No. It is because my will is getting in the way of God’s.
The hardest part of becoming a servant of God is unchaining yourself to your current master – yourself. We don’t have any problem doing God’s will as long as it’s on our time and fits into our schedules, but arranging our lives around God is a whole different story. We put things off, pretend we’ll serve later, and make excuses why right now isn’t a good time.
Does a servant talk back to a master? Does a servant dictate how much or how little work they will do that day? Does a servant leave the master’s house for days, weeks, months, or even years at a time and expect things to pick up right where they left off? Absolutely not. They know their lives are completely under the master’s control.
The first misconception that we need to destroy is the idea that there is such a thing as complete freedom. Everyone is a slave to something. Whether that be a lover, a child, a desire, an addiction, self, etc. No one is without chains to someone or something. As Jesus says, “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
That’s the Jesus as Savior that we love…that is until you realize the word “yoke” basically means the same thing as being shackled, except on an animal. So even in this famous passage, Jesus’ “rest” only comes after we attach ourselves to him. You can either “yoke” yourself to Jesus or desires of the flesh, but you can’t be attached to both at once.
Sacrifice and Death to Self
Throughout the Bible, God demands that we make sacrifices to follow him. Sometimes these sacrifices seem even extreme, such as when Jesus tells the rich man that he must give away all his money or the man that he can’t wait to bury his father. But sometimes we look too much into what God is asking and not why he is asking it. God has no desire to make you suffer for no good reason. He goes to extreme measures because for many of us it takes extreme circumstances to die to ourselves. Just as a parent disciplines their child or doesn’t give their child what the they want when the parent knows it’s not good for them, God cares more about what will give you long-term joy over temporary happiness.
One of the most frustrating parts of living a spiritual-centered life is putting so much time and energy into growth and not seeing any changes. You see other people reaping the benefits, but you’re doing the same things they are and are unchanged. It is enough to make you angry at God and want to walk out. I think there are times in our lives when God puts us through hard times to strengthen and grow our faith, but for the most part I think when we’re not seeing any fruit, it’s because we’re holding onto our will.
It’s like having an affair. It doesn’t matter if there’s one lover on the side or 20; it is still going to destroy your relationship. No spouse is going to just accept your reasoning of “it’s just one person” or “it doesn’t happen very often”; it is either let go and change or the relationship is over. In the same way, our will is our lover we keep from God. As long as we are cheating on God with ourselves, we can’t move forward. It doesn’t matter if we’re doing all the right things. God stops our growth until we take our hands off the wheel and let him drive. Is Christ just a savior to you? Or is he both Savior and Lord?
photo credit: national museum of american history via photopin cc