Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 6:15-23 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Control is a funny thing. Most of us wouldn’t consider ourselves slaves to anything or anybody, but truth be told, each of us is a slave to something.
One of my favorite television comedies in recent years is The Office. The show features are two salespeople—Jim and Dwight—who sit across from each other in an open-plan workplace. Dwight is an odd individual whom Jim likes to prank. In one episode, Jim decides to do an experiment similar to the famous one the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov did with his dogs. Each time Jim restarts his computer and it makes the start-up noise, he offers Dwight a mint. He does this over a period of days, and then one day, he starts his computer, it makes the usual noise, and Dwight reaches out his hand for a mint. This time Jim has no mint. He gazes blankly at Dwight and says, “What are you doing?”
Dwight looks confused and says, “I don’t know.”
Dwight had become a slave to something and had no idea what had happened to him.
Bob Dylan released a song about this in 1979 called “You’ve Gotta Serve Somebody.” The first verse and chorus goes like this—
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
It’s true. We all have to serve somebody. Through three decades in ministry, I’ve seen a lot of slave masters. Drugs, alcohol, pornography addiction, workaholism, greed—all of these are brutal slave masters that strangle the joy out of life and relationships and all that makes life potentially wonderful.
The unfortunate thing about these kinds of slave masters is that the slave doesn’t choose them. Yes, they may have dipped their toes in the water of these kinds of experiences, but the addiction that overwhelms them later on sneaks into their lives and handcuffs them. It’s tragic every time I see it.
I’ve also seen scores of people run away from their old slave masters into a life dedicated to serving Jesus. We don’t like the term “slavery” because of all it conjures up about our country’s history, but being a slave to Jesus isn’t anything like being a slave to the devil and sin. In fact, being a slave to Jesus is kind of oxymoronic because we can never be as free as when we are His slaves. He offers us freedom that will make us free indeed. Free of death, free of regret, free of hate and greed. Being a slave to Jesus will make us free indeed.
Recalibrate: Discuss with a friend or loved one the concept that giving your will over to Jesus is the key to true personal freedom.
Respond: List in prayer the things that Jesus has set you free from because you’ve given your will and desires over to Him.
Research: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is an excellent read on how habits (bad and good) are formed.
Remember: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, ESV).
As a parent, what are you a slave to? Maybe to a strong sleeping and feeding schedule for your new baby. Maybe to potty training. Maybe to your family's diet if your child is allergic to something or is just a very picky eater. Try to prioritize these things that you and your kid or kids might be slaves to. What are the things that are of high importance, and which ones could you put on the back burner or even let go of completely? Try this exercise by saying, “I belong to Jesus” every time you feel overwhelmed by something else you are a slave to.
Do you know what the word slave means? It’s more than just being told what to do by someone else or having someone be your boss. It means you belong to someone or something. Paul talks about us being slaves to sin, but also that Jesus freed us and made us slaves to God. Do you think it’s a good thing to be a slave to God? Try to make up your own game of follow the leader with Jesus. Create a list of things Jesus asks us to do and try to follow them throughout your day!
In my short 24 years of life, I have learned that no matter what job you have, your boss can make or break your happiness. One summer when I was in college, I worked as an intern. The first day, I realized my boss was less like a boss and more like a slave master. I had to tell him when I was going to sleep, where I was getting dinner, and basically every detail of my day. This made my life very difficult. I had no freedom and that summer will forever be etched in my heart as a wilderness experience. The main devotion today is about how each of us has to serve someone. That is the truth whether you want to admit it or not. As we discussed yesterday, each of us has a deep desire to follow something or someone. When talking about Christ in Galatians 5:1, Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has made you free.” How does it make you feel to follow Jesus knowing He is a God of Freedom?