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Slave or Master of Jesus?






Slave or Master of Jesus?

Romans 1:1

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

I think it probably is, 47 years ago, I stood in a little church on the University Campus of Minnesota and started. It was a rare situation because old Pope John the 23rd had called a Vatican Council. The reason he called it was that everybody was uncertain what reality was and what to believe. There was a general – it wasn’t just a malaise – it was a real sense of a loss of our anchors and a loss of our foundations. That was probably in about September 1976. We were all uncertain, “What is right? What is wrong?” The Catholic Church was filled in uncertainty, too. That was the most horrifying part of it for most of us who knew the normal position of the Catholic Church which was certainty, absolute certainty written into its Cannon Laws and all its beliefs — and here was the Catholic church in some degree of change. Pope John, who was an old pope who was meant to be just a night watchman, he of course began to take hold of that and decided it was time to take care of the church and to look at itself and check what was important to it and what wasn’t. So, he called the Vatican Council and they began to meet.

Out of that of course, came all the things that disturbed your parents and lots of people in the Catholic Church – because they could stop eating fish [on Friday], and all the other things we were used to. We changed the mass into English out of Latin. Everybody wondered in the Catholic Church, “Was this the certainty that we hoped for?” But, it was a shaking off the nothingness or the lack of thought that filled the Catholic Church and filled especially, the normal world at that time. Nobody really was absolutely sure what was right and what was wrong. We’d gone through the sixties and we were into the seventies. We were very uncertain and things were changing and in a fair degree of uproar.

It was in the midst of that we started. I said on that morning that there was a certainty that was firm and solid – and there was an explanation of reality that was known for generations and it was always available to us in the book of Romans [in the Bible] which was well-known throughout human history as being the basis of beliefs and the basis of reality – and so, that was the book to look to. That was when we started the exposition of Romans and began to go through it verse by verse.

The situation NOW is remarkable when you thing of it because we have even more uncertainty in the Catholic Church, more doubt, more questioning basic faiths that it has had for years — as if we got used to no fish – as if we got used to those changes — but NOW we are questioning everything. Of course, the secular state is in a far worse state. The beliefs today and FAR more chaotic, I think that you are aware. Nobody is absolutely sure what is true and what is real. There are all kinds of bluff realities being put forward. WHAT to believe is reality is MORE chaotic than it was in those days.

It is quite interesting – back in 1976 the Catholic Church did somewhat answer the questions. It did bring somewhat the certainty into some of its beliefs. The society itself hardly ever stopped despite the spiritual activity that there was in the seventies and eighties. The general society wasn’t really affected in its beliefs. We continue to get more and more development – not only the belief in evolution, but the whole evolutionary attitude to life. We became more and more sure that it was millions of years old, that it was very uncertain what real truth was and that it never

really was answered.

Today, in the midst of all of the chaos, there is of course – “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” [Genesis 2:17] – it really is. You cannot now search for something [on the computer] – if you want to buy a coat or a hat or a motor bike or glasses or certain food – you can’t search it and freely get a presentation of all of the possibilities. You are bombarded by all kinds of subtle machines that have already looked over your email and see that you like this color and see that you like this kind of hat and these kinds of shoes and you eat this kind of cereal! Everywhere now you have this “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. We’re all so pleased about it, that’s the funny thing, “Oh, information is wonderful! This is the information age! We’re able to get all the information we need and make all the wise decisions we want to make” — except we don’t. They make them for us. You are bombarded.

Some of us do think about things so we can resist it. But thousands of us are absolutely overwhelmed by Facebook and by Twitter, and by all the things that so-and-so is wearing or eating or the shows that that person is going to. There is no such thing as a movie coming out now and getting a fair trial among the public. It comes out immediately as a “blockbuster”. They have calculated immediately what it will make in its first week. It becomes a blockbuster. (Fortunately, everybody just goes once to see it and that’s the end of it!) Less and less we have real choice. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is massive. It’s all there for us. We don’t really need to make a decision. You think of buying a car and you start looking through Google and very very quickly your decision is trying to be made for you.

If you say to me, “Well, isn’t that all right?” I think some people are strong-minded enough that they take that information and they think for themselves. But if you ask me what the majority of people do, I think they take the easy way out. I think they take any suggestion – particularly the majority — particularly if there is a majority of opinion on this cereal, or that piece of clothing, or this color. We know even in the fashion business, “What’s the color this season? What’s the color?” The choice is disappearing. We’re all eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and so overwhelmed by it that there is little use of the will. The mind becomes more and more passive as the decisions are made for us. I would suggest that it even affects people like ourselves. We’re all very aware, “What’s the best car? What is the best hybrid? What is IN in clothing this season? What should we be wearing?” What should we be wearing?

Increasingly, you are having not a free population able to use the free wills that the Creator has given us, but you are facing a group of people who march in lockstep and do what they’re told to do. I know that probably some here this morning that say, “Ah. It’s not that gloomy!” But, it’s close to that gloomy. It’s true of great groups of our society. As China and India with their billions come online it will be increasingly so.

We have a huge tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is turning people increasingly into robots or passive consumers that do what they are told. In the midst of all of that, there is this dear book [Romans in the Bible]. I’d ask you to look at Romans 1:1 because it is right there at the very start. I can only remember some of the things that I said 47 years ago. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” The one that ties up immediately with what we’ve just said is just the third word there, “Paul, a SERVANT”. There is little footnote – but I can tell you what the Greek is because I know it – it is “doulos”. You can see in the footnote, “a slave”. “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle.”

I know that sounds like a contradiction, but THAT’s the alternative. The alternative to Facebook and Twitter, the alternative to a 1984 kind of dominated willpower in humanity, the alternative to us all walking in lockstep with what the advertisements and what the publicists say we should have, the alternative to that is this: “a SLAVE to Jesus Christ”. “But surely, a slave is not free!” But this is a slave of Jesus Christ who would DIE for you rather than take your free will from you – and indeed died so that you could retain your free will.

A slave of Jesus Christ is a free person. They are directed by Someone who cares so much that they will become free children of his own Father that he will die for them to make that possible. You got Somebody safe to be a slave to – “a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” Of course, the gospel of God we already talked about. The Gospel is that mystery of “Christ in us, the hope of glory”. [Colossians 1:27] It’s Christ IN you directing your life along the lines of what his Father wants and encouraging you to say, “yes” to it. THAT is the alternative to this tree of knowledge of good and evil.

What I remember saying 47 years ago was, “Remember that it’s your freedom and your freedom depends on you being a slave of Jesus Christ. A slave of a person doesn’t question the master. He is a slave. He trusts the master. He trusts that his will for him will be the best. A slave is not one who discusses and debates with the master. A slave is one who does what his master tells him to do. In that he finds his freedom.

I know even then, 47 years ago, I was able to say from my own experience, that it’s the little things that your Master guides you to do that keep you free. It’s the little things that he guides you to do that keeps you free. It’s quite interesting – if you ever get used to saying, “That’s not an essential. I think it DID come from within me. I think it MIGHT have come from Jesus, but it’s not essential or it’s not essential at this moment.” Little bit by little bit – it nibbles away your freedom. It’s quite interesting. It doesn’t make sense. You think to yourself, “Ah. What does it matter whether I do that or that? What does it matter whether I speak at this moment or that moment? This isn’t a game. I don’t have to say it because the Holy Spirit told me now.” Well, why did he tell you now?

I saw that in my own life. It’s the little things that you hesitate on that STEAL your freedom, steal your freedom that is attached to your Master. Your freedom hardly exists apart from him. “He who the Son has made free is free indeed!” [John 8:36] Anybody else is not really free. It’s HIM that makes you free. You lose that freedom the moment you start making a distinction between the things he REALLY wants you to do and the things that h’s just kind of just giving you a little piece of advice on.

It’s interesting that the only people that are free from this tree of knowledge of good and evil, this huge mass of knowledge that is now taking hold of the world – because it is – all the new investments are going into huge machines like Google, huge machines like Calum, like other programs that devise the managing of huge data and the grouping of it together so that it can be used to influence the public – all that huge tree of knowledge of good and evil – good and evil: what’s good for you, what’s evil for you, what’s the best coat, what’s the coat that’s not so good, what’s the best shoe, what’s the one… — everything that governs you, that tries to tell you, “You ought to do that because everyone else is doing it” — the only thing that saves you from that is a Master who really does love you and loves your freedom and does everything to preserve it – and does it through directing you from within, directing you in what is HIS life as well as yours. He’s doing the very best for you. He’s doing something that will glorify his Father.

It’s interesting that a slave of Jesus Christ is a free person. That’s what God has called us to. I think it’s probably the only spiritual power that will save us from this huge massive and powerful body of knowledge of good and evil that is now being shared throughout the world. There is hardly a website that is not influenced by it. Hardly a book can you open which is not influenced by it, where you are not being told by this… — I wonder who? I wonder who really runs that operation? Certainly you can say elemental spirits of the universe – whether you want to lay it on the devil or Satan – it’s certainly elemental spirits of the universe. It’s movements of men and women who are living as if there is no God. In that situation, they are trying to make the place as comfortable and as manageable as possible. They are collating all the of the things that they believe will make this world paradise – which is not God’s purpose for it anyways – but they will do everything to make this world liveable – if possible, forever!

They know or they suspect that they WON’T live forever but they will continue to live the lie that they will live forever and they’ll make this place a pleasant place and here’s the way they’ll do it. They have this huge developing body of knowledge that will guide us to live – really what the Bible says – sin and die not. “Surely, you will not die.” That was what was said there. “Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? You will not die. God wouldn’t bring that about.” Mankind is bent on proving that. That’s his [Satan’s] purpose, to make life comfortable here in the world, doing what YOU want with it because there is nobody else that has made it. “You are your own maker.”

It seems to me, that is what we are facing. That’s the witness we are here to bear. And the first place we have to bear it is here in our own home, in our own family.

Let us pray: Dear Father, we thank you for your goodness to us. We thank you for all the things that you have made real to us. We thank you for the light that you give and for the little insights and understandings that you graciously explain to us. We come to you now, Lord, to pray for each other.