Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ…
~ Jude 1:1
In my Bible reading and study time this morning, I was reading the little book of Jude when the word “servant” gripped my heart and mind as it so often does. Like many of you who passionately love Jesus, I want so desperately to faithfully serve Him. I want to allow my God His rightful place to reign as King over my life… and over me. Problem is, as much as I am passionate for the things of God, I am equally frustrated by the continuous reminders that I am a sinner. Like Jude, I want to be a servant, but the reality that I am a sinner so often gets in the way. I think if it were me writing the letter of Jude, it would start something like “Nicole, a dreadful sinner…”
In the Old Testament Church, the title “Servant of Jesus Christ” was seen as a title of honour. One look in the mirror at my life and I might be tempted to believe it is one I might never achieve. Thankfully, being a servant in the biblical understanding of the word is not a role that can only be obtained at a certain level of righteousness. It is also not a complete lack of freedom to exercise our own will because of forced submission to a master. This modern idea of what being servant means has no place in reference to our relationship with Jesus. The Greek word doulos, translated into servant, actually has three main meanings which are generally translated into three different words in our English Bibles: servant, slave, and bondservant.
The complete lack of freedom kind is usually translated “slave” and often refers to how we are tied to our sinfulness. Romans 6:20 is a good example of this:
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
“Bondservant” tends to be used when a person submits to a master for a definite period of time, for example if a debt is owed. After the debt is paid, the bondservant is released from his obligation. Colossians 3:22 talks of one of these types of bondservants: Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. The idea of a bondservant can also be applied to our relationship with Christ, especially when referring to the price Christ paid on the cross to free us from the penalty of our sin.
When doulos is translated servant as it is in the introduction to some of the New Testament letters like Jude, James, and Philippians, it carries a sense of freedom with it. Jude is not saying that he is a slave of Jesus, without freedoms, he is saying that he is choosing to devote himself, with the full freedom of his will, to serving Christ. This is why the Word of God uses the word servant in these cases.
What does all this mean for a sinner like me? It means that my good desire to serve Jesus, to be His servant, is not dependent on me. It is not dependent on my behaviour; it is not dependent on my ability to stop sinning, and praise God, it is not dependent on my own personal level of righteousness. Quite the opposite, actually ~ I am a servant of Jesus Christ because I know who I am; I know who He is, and what He has done! I can humbly surrender my will to His, and allow Him lordship over me because of this, and because I have a deep, personal understanding of how much I need Him.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~ John 8:12
Servanthood to Jesus is not in spite of my sin, it is the answer to it! It is in choosing to surrender, and choosing to be a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ that the Light of the world will shine His perfect light in my darkness. As a servant, I have the freedom to let my heart wander, just as much as I am free to be in complete surrender bowing with my face to the ground in worship to the King of Kings!
By His grace alone, this morning I chose the latter.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” ~ Ephesians 2:8-9