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I A Slave of Christ
06/05/2011
Scripture: Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:1-5, 10-16; Acts 26:1...
Track 2 of 8 in the Slaves of Christ series
Running time: 1 hour, 05 minutes, 52 seconds.
For Paul the call to be a slave for Christ had a serous meaning to it. To Paul it meant to give up everything; to give up his choices, his expectations and all of his rights.



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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


A Better Freedom
I ______ A Slave of Christ

I have to confess to you all that there are many places in scripture that I read many times and I miss a lot only because I have some preconceived idea what the scriptures are all about. As I get older I’ve learned to rediscover not only what the scriptures are telling me but also what emotions, experiences and passions are behind them. There are repeated terms and phrases written by the authors that become themes for us to follow. The problem is, the themes for many believers don’t get past the theme idea and become reality.

A good example of this is the phrase or theme, A Slave of Christ. I have to admit that even though that theme and idea is found all throughout scripture, being a slave is a hard concept for me to actually relate to. I have never been a slave to someone nor have I seen slavery up close. Slavery is something I’ve read about or seen portrayed on TV. I personally have not talked with anyone who was an actual slave. It is hard for me to comprehend and it is hard for me to relate to even though my life in Christ is a life of slavery to His Kingdom.

I can however relate to freedom. I live in a country where freedom and liberty are precious and worth fighting for. I can say this, tread upon my freedom and liberty and you will get a serious response from me. Americans lives in a very dangerous time because there are so many forces within our nation working and scheming to limit the freedoms we have today. For what purpose I am not sure but I know this, I am willing to do what it takes to stop those forces.

How passionate are you about your belief in Christ? Are you easily scared off from witnessing about your faith? What is your response or reaction to the idea that Christians should not force their beliefs on others? Are you willing to die for your faith?

True or False: I love Jesus so much that I am willing to kill for my faith?

What would you call someone who is willing to kill for his faith?

Acts 8:1-3 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

In Acts 8 we are introduced to a very power follower of God, his name was Saul. He loved his faith so much that he was willing to inflict great pain upon those who opposed it. There were Jews who defected over to a new cult later to be called Christians. Their belief in a dead man named Jesus posed a great threat to the Jewish faith and like so many, he was willing to even kill for his religious convictions, though presumably not ready to die for them. He labored a life-time at being the perfect Jew and he even considered himself the Pharisee of Pharisees. He was in control and he earned the privileges of his rank.

Someone describe for me what the term “religious convictions” means. How many of you have these convictions? Give me an example what some of these convictions are? How far are you willing to go for them? Are you willing to go so far as to die for them? (Or maybe surrender them)

Acts 9:1-5 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

This passage has some startling facts in it. The primary fact or truth one comes to immediately is this, when introduced to Jesus or in Saul’s case, confronted by Jesus, He is Lord and we are not. In a flash, the once powerful Saul lay sightless on the ground. As Jesus spoke to him Saul asked what was a logical question, “Who are you, Lord?” And there lay Saul outside of Damascus, moments before a powerful man, and seconds later on his hands and knees, as a slave.

As Luke writes this account about Paul’s conversion to Christianity, Luke does something to gain the readers attention more than we understand. To a Christian who knew Paul, using the name Saul would not have the impact as someone who was reading this who was a Jew. The name Saul was famous; Saul was the first king of Israel. Not only was he the first king but he was also famous for something else, he was removed from being king because he opposed God by not being obedient. Saul was more interested in doing what he wanted than what God wanted and because of that attitude, God replaced him with David.

David was anointed king. The problem was, Saul was still alive and was still king. From that point on Saul was David’s immediate enemy. Saul attempted to kill David several times but was not successful. At the appointed time, God removed Saul through the Philistines in a battle where Saul lost his life along with Jonathan. To the Christian, Saul is seen as the enemy of David and God’s plan for his people. Saul in Acts 9 is no different. The second Saul outright opposed the 2nd David, the son of David, Jesus.

As a parent, what would your answer be if your child came to you and said, “I have been called to witness to al-Qaeda, I leave for Pakistan tomorrow?” What would your answer be and why?

Acts 9:10-14 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

Anything in this passage that you see that is ironic? Whose house is Paul staying in? Can you think of two more famous enemies of God other than Saul and Judas? Both names are in the same house waiting to fulfill the will of God. Ananias is also a famous name. He too died opposing God’s will. Later in Paul’s life another Ananias will show up. He will be the high priest who will oppose Paul.

Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Later when Paul is witnessing before King Agrippa, he adds that Jesus also told him while on his knees:

Acts 26:15-16 “‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness…

When you want to get someone’s attention, what are the ways in which we do it? Your kids for example, how do you get their attention concerning a really important matter? Concerning God and his will, what have been some of the ways in which God used to get people’s attention?

Paul’s conversion and transformation is very dramatic. Here was a very powerful man called by God to become a servant. It was only after he was blinded, that he was ready to perceive the mystery of true freedom. God brought Paul to the point of humiliation, terror and on his knees to make him ready to become the most fearless spokesman for Christ the world ever knew. Paul literally knew the identity of his master and he was ready to become his slave.

True Freedom is a mystery. The truth about the three personalities of God also is a mystery. They are facts but very hard to explain. True freedom is only experienced when a person becomes a slave to Christ. It s a paradox in life but something that is very powerful for the Kingdom when experienced.

Using Paul as an example, describe for me what a slave of Christ means and how that gives you and I true freedom?

The difference between Paul and many Christians today is, for Paul the call to be a slave for Christ had a serous meaning to it. Many Christians wear the title as something of honor. We might where the name as a charm around our necks like we do the cross. But for Paul as a Roman citizen and living in a Roman world, there was nothing glamorous about it. In fact, to admit to being a slave was a mark of humiliation. To Paul it meant to give up everything; to give up his choices, his expectations and all of his rights.

It is interesting to see what new words get added to the English dictionary every year. In 2011 can you tell me how many were added? Over 1900 new words. What were some of them? Couch surfer, drill down, biker, cream crackered, OMG, LOL, ♥

Paul introduced to the world a whole new meaning for the word Slave. When Paul called himself a “slave to Christ”, he introduced a newly born word.

Acts 20:19, 22-24 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

As Paul prepares to leave the church in Ephesus where he served for over three years, he describes his efforts there in terms reserved for slaves; served, great humility or lowliness of mind. All words associated with slavery as documented by writers in ancient times like Plato and Plutarch. Paul describes his work as a humble slave going about his simple daily chores. Later both Paul and Peter encourage believers using the very same word urging them to be humble.

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

There are some really interesting words Paul used to describe this freedom he received by being a slave. If you were asked to use words to describe your freedom to become a slave, what words would you use that relate to slavery?

A Gift of Grace

Two words I would not associate with slavery are “a gift” and “Grace”. But to Paul, slavery in Christ is something he holds onto dearly as a precious gift, something he didn’t deserve to have. In Paul’s mind the “gifts” of grace flow from slavery. In fact, the three greatest gifts from Grace come to us from the world of slavery. Justification, Redemption and Reconciliation.

Justification:

Romans 3:23-24a For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace…

The word Paul uses here for “justified” refers to “judicial acquittal”, doing justice toward another person. To vindicate them, placing them in the right relationship. In the context of slavery the word means bestowing liberty to a slave by “letting go of the hand”. The master fully vindicates the slave and sets him free. What is important to note, the slave usually maintained an interdependent relationship with the master. Just because the slave was now a freedman, the relationship between the master and the slave became deeper. In most cases, the slave continued to serve the master as a free man, not forced. This happened because of grace.

1 Corinthians 7:22 He who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman.

Redemption:

The word Paul used in several places in his letter is the word “redemption” or the process of buying back a slave, paying the ransom to set one free. The word is based on the idea of freeing someone from prison.

Ephesians 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Paul wants us to fully understand that we were bought back at a price; not with silver or gold, but with the blood of Jesus sacrificed for us.

Reconciliation:

The third gift of grace that is related to slavery is reconciliation. The whole idea of reconciliation comes from the word that simply means to alter or change. Paul paints the picture of a slave whose position in life has been unalterably changed. In the slave market, when this was done, there was an invitation to enter into a new relationship with the master totally changed by the gift of freedom. The free slave had the opportunity to serve not as a slave, but as someone who volunteered to serve with their own free will out of gratitude for their freedom.

On his hands and knees, Paul cries out “Who are you, Master?” In his life of servanthood, Paul would learn the answer to that question. The world offered Paul power and position that promised freedom but delivered slavery in the end. Jesus called him to become a slave and thereby discover a better freedom.