Whose Slave Are You?
May 15th, 1983 @ 10:50 AM
WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-15-83 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Whose Slave Are You? Well, you think that begs the question, whose slave are you? “I’m nobody’s slave.” But you are; you are. Inadvertently or willfully, you give yourselves to something, somewhere, sometime, some way. We all are slaves to something.
The reading of our Word is in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. This is what our Lord said in verse 32, John 8:32: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Then, in verse 34 [John 8:34], “Jesus said, Truly, truly”—Verily, verily—the Greek is amēn, amēn—“I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is”—and the King James Version translates it “the servant of sin” [John 8:34],; the word is doulos, which is a word for “slave.”
Whosoever committeth sin is the doulos of sin, the slave of sin. And the doulos, the slave, abideth not in the house for ever; but the—
It ought to be a small ‘s’—
but the son abideth for ever.
Now the last, thirty-sixth, verse of the text: “If the Son”—capital ‘S’ there—”therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free ontos, truly, verily, actually,” translated here “indeed” [John 8:36].
Whose slave are you? We live in a cosmic universe of iniquity, and we are inextricably bound up in it. We are a part of it. And we face the inevitable judgment of sin and of death.
“Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin” [John 8:34]. And we all have sin [Romans 3:23]. For one to say that he hasn’t sinned is the greatest sin in itself. And for one to avow that he has no fault is the greatest fault he could possess. We are all intricately, inevitably, inexorably, bound up in this cosmic universe of sin. The involvement we have in our so-called freedom and liberty is but an exclamation point of the tragic fact that we are bound up and enslaved by the universe in which we live.
An incorrigible, obstreperous boy says, “I am throwing off all restraint. I’m going to be my own. I’m going to do as I please.” What he doesn’t realize is he’s going to do what sin pleases. It is one of the tragedies of life that our very culture, our very science, our very advancement, our very civilization is a harsh and cruel taskmaster. It enslaves us.
I read of an artist who drew a picture of a brilliant engineer. He had designed and installed a great dynamo at one of our vast power plants. And the artist drew the brilliant young engineer down on his knees before that wonderful dynamo that he had designed and installed, which is but reflective and typical of modern culture and modern life. Uncounted multitudes worship at the shrine of success. Or, they belong to the cult of conformity. Peer pressure on the part of uncounted young people leads them to the sale of their souls. They trade their very lives for the privilege of belonging, of being counted one of the group. It’s a strange thing: when we take the world as our lord, the world takes us as its slave.
Whose slave are you? It is one of the most pitiful and tragic delusions of modern life that, for us to be free, we must throw off all restraint. We must obey no law. We must observe no commandment. We are at liberty. We are free. We do as we please. That’s all very well, except that there’s a concomitant. There is an addendum. There is a corollary that inevitably follows it. And that is damnation! We are free, throw off all restraint, only to be damned, to be destroyed.
I’ll never in this earth forget the first sentence of a judge who said to a teenager, “Stand up to be sentenced.” And the young fellow stood up before the court. And the judge looked at him, and this was his first sentence, “In free America, it is the privilege of every man to damn his own soul in hell.” Oh, what an awesome truth! The Lord God who made us, made us to observe all of these restraints and commandments and laws that shape our lives and give us freedom and liberty. A man who violates these great charging commandments of the Lord God finds himself destroyed. That’s not freedom.
God made an invisible force, for example, in this universe that we call gravity;unseen, indefinable, one of the mysteries of God. And a man says, “I will not obey,” and he casts himself down from one of these tall skyscrapers and he dashes himself on the earth below. He just illustrates God’s inexorable law.
Our freedom is only free in the restraints of Almighty God. And the commandments of the Lord, and the restraints of the Lord, and the hedging in of the Lord is the only way that we can find liberty to be free. A kite, for example, held on a string, severs itself from the string, and the kite is free. But it can’t fly; it plunges to the earth. A railroad, constrained and repressed by the tracks, is free when the tracks are removed, but it can’t run. An automobile without a steering wheel, without brakes, is free, but it’s useless and is dangerous. Freedom is only in the restraints of God.
In my reading, I saw one of these new kinds of modern poems. It just goes along without much meter or certainly no rhyme. But this one happened to have a great truth in it, so I copied it out:
I watched the leaves
That softly fell,
Into the streets
And the vacant yards.
Then I saw the wind
Begin to blow
A gentle jig,
And all the liberated leaves
Went dancing to the merry tune.
They looked as though
They were so free,
But did they know
They’re really dead?
Attached to the tree.
It lives, but the leaf.
I’ll be free from the restraint,
It dances merrily along,
In the autumn or spring breeze,
Whose slave are you? Whose restraints do you observe? What commandments do you keep?
You know, there’s so many anomalies in life; they’re everywhere. True freedom is of the soul, it’s of the heart, it’s of the spirit. It’s upward, God-ward. And it is not defined by any of the materialities that we know in this existence. True freedom is only in God, of the heart, of the soul, of the spirit.
Daniel, a young captive so far away from home, is freer than Nebuchadnezzar, the king who took him [Daniel 1:1-6]. Daniel, in the lion’s den, is freer than King Darius, who placed him there [Daniel 6:14-24]. Simon Peter, in prison, awaiting execution, is freer than Herod Agrippa I, who placed him there [Acts 12:3-6]. Paul and Silas, in a dungeon in Philippi, are freer than the jailer, who placed their feet in the stocks [Acts 16:22-24]. The aged apostle John, sentenced to die of exposure and starvation on the stony, rocky island of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-10], is freer than Caesar Domitian, who sent him there.
Those early Christians, herded into the Coliseum to be devoured by wild beasts, were freer than the Roman Caesar and his entourage, who watched them eaten up. John Bunyan, in Bedford Gaol, was freer than King Charles II, who sentenced him there. Roger Williams, our great Baptist leader, was freer than the Council of Massachusetts, who banished him.
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage.
[“To Althea, from Prison”; Richard Lovelace]
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How blessed would be their children’s part,
If we, like them, could die for Thee.
[from “Faith of Our Fathers,” Richard Lovelace, 1642]
Freedom, true freedom, freedom from slavery; a gift only from God.
In my reading I was introduced to Madame Marie Guyon, a wonderful sainted and noble French woman. During the years of 1695 and 1705, she was in one prison after another, one of them in the notorious and hated Bastille of Paris. Her offense was in her beautiful writings. She defended the soul’s right for communion with God, aside from the sacraments of the church, and as such she was incarcerated. And in her prison, this is one of the poems that this sainted woman wrote:
A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air;
Yet in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.
Naught have I else to do;
I sing the whole day long;
And He who most I love to please,
Doth listen to my song;
He caught and bound my wandering wing,
But still He bends to hear me sing.
. . .
My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly;
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of my soul.
Oh, it is good to soar
These bolts and bars above,
To Him whose purpose I adore,
Whose providence I love:
And in Thy mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom of the mind.
[“Freedom in Prison,” Madame Guyon]
Freedom is never delineated or defined by our outward circumstances. Freedom is of the soul, and of the heart, that soul’s to God, and that’s why our Lord says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free ontos, truly, actually, really, indeed” [John 8:36]. To be a slave of our Lord is to be free. In Romans 1:1, in Philippians 1:1, in Titus 1:1, the sentence begins like this: Paulos doulos Iesou Christou. In the beautiful King James Version, out of which I always preach, it’s translated, graciously, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” But, did you see that word doulos, again? Paulos doulos: “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” And the true liberty we have, we have in Him: “If the Son of Man shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” [John 8:36].
See that piano there? Beautiful Steinway, sounds glorious. I can be seated at that bench, before those ivory keys, and I am perfectly free. I’m under no constraint. I’m under no coercion. I’m under no law. I sit there at that piano. I am free. But if I become a master musician, I must give myself to slavery, to servitude; hours and days and months and years and a lifetime, slaving before that piano. I must give myself to it, a slave, if I become a master musician.
We’ll soon be entertaining in Los Angeles the Olympics of the world. And I can stand at an Olympic track perfectly free, under no compulsion, under no restraint, under no coercion. I’m free. But if I am to be a winner and a runner in the race, I must slave at it. I must give myself to servitude. There’s no other way.
Here is a young man, and he falls in love with a beautiful girl. Or, here is a beautiful girl and she falls in love with a young man. But if they have a marvelous, beautiful, precious marriage, home relationship, each one of them must give himself, herself, to the other. “I give up myself for you; to work for you, to live for you, to love you, to care for you, to pour my life before you, for your sake.” A voluntary, stated, chosen servitude; and there’s no glorious home without it.
It is thus in our relationship with God, with our Lord. To be a slave of Christ is to be filled with all of the wonderful glorious freedoms that are in His gracious and omnipotent hands. And I speak of it in three ways. He frees us from the bondage of our minds: “the truth shall make you free” [John 8:32]. He frees us from the bondage of our wills: yielded to Christ, we are free. And He emancipates us from the bondage of the soul: we soar into the very presence of the heavenlies of God.
First, the bondage of the soul. How tragic! How pitiful! The vast multitude and throngs of mankind, giving their souls, trading their lives, for the materialities, the cheap rewards of this world; that’s all they live for, think for, plan for, work for, just these that are so soon left behind. Free from the bondage of this world; soul freedom that rises above it, that lives for God, as the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:2: “Set your heart upon things above”—up there where God is—“not upon the things of the world that perish with the usage.”
Tell me, listen to me: here is a man, and everything for him is provided free. His food is given to him, he never has to worry about his meals. Look at him. His shelter is provided for him, he never has to worry about any tomorrow; there’ll always be a safe and secure roof above his head. He never has to be burdened about illness, he’s taken care of; immediately there are doctors and nurses to minister to him. He never has to think of clothing, it is given to him, it is furnished to him. He never has to worry about a job; he has a job given to him, secured to him. And he has so many things provided for him, they’re his. A spacious library, that’s his; all of the movies to which he’d like to attend, they’re his; radio, TV, that’s his. Everything you can name, his. But he’s spending a lifetime in the penitentiary! He’s been sentenced for the rest of his life in the pen. Can’t we see, life can never be defined in terms of “I have this” and “I possess this” and “These are mine”? They drag the soul down to the very dust of the ground.
Christ liberates us from the bondage of our souls [John 8:36]. We soar into the very presence of God. Our hearts are up there. Our treasure is up there. Our reward is up there [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Our inheritance is up there [1 Peter 1:3-5]. Our home is up there [John 14:2-3]. Our possessions are there with God. Free. Free. Freedom of the mind, of the mind; freedom of the mind. Yielded to Christ, our minds are free. Our Lord said it this way: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” [John 8:32]. Free: the knowledge that we find in Christ, the truth that we find in Him—in Him who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. Freedom of the bondage of our minds. There is such a vast hiatus, a vast abyss, a vast difference between facts such as we know and live with in this life, and the great truth that God would have us learn in Him; fact and truth.
Here’s a fact. One of you girls down there, I see you have a bow. A bow, and you have a violin. And you play here in our orchestra. Now, this is the fact of the violin. It’s back and forth, bringing those long horse hairs against catguts. That is fact. That’s fact. Truth—truth is music. And that violin, in the hands of these gifted musicians, it sings, it weeps, it cries, it laments, it exalts, it rejoices, it lifts up soul to God. That’s truth. That’s music. It comes from heaven. That’s God. Truth and fact.
I think of it so ofttimes when I read about these learned academicians. And they have blinded themselves to the image of God. And they look upon man and mankind factually, just factually. Seeing here or there, he’s so much potassium and magnesium and hydrogen and oxygen. He’s just so much physical structure. Then they go back into his ancestry, supposedly, and he was one time a paramecium or an amoeba. Then he was a crab or a duck or a marsupial. And then, one day, being an anthropoid, or simian, he stood up and he walked straight and became a Homo sapiens. And that’s all. That’s all. They never see the truth of Almighty God that, in the face of that child or that father and mother or that human being, is God; that’s truth! Far, elevated above any of the so-called facts of chemistry or physics or history, truth; liberating our minds that we might know the truth of God. Why, for us to walk around and to live as though we were just animals, facing inevitable death and dust, is to deny the great meaning and purpose of God for us. Truth refers to value, to the soul, to quality, to God.
And I have one other freedom liberated in Christ: the bondage of the will [Romans 7:15-25]. How easy it is for Satan to bind us! And we’re slaves to a pattern of life: to decisions, to choices that we make, bound by the will.
I have always, as some of you would know—I have always greatly admired a learned man, an educated man, who is a great Christian, who is not limited by the small intellectual achievements that we’re capable of discovering or knowing in this life; but he lifts up his heart and mind and soul to the great verities of God. I cannot help but inordinately admire a great academician, a great scholar, who also has found the truth of God. He sees over and beyond all of the facts of this scientific world. He sees the hand of the omnipotent Maker. He sees Jesus.
Well, anyway, one of those men was Henry Drummond. He was a Scotsman, a great, great scholar, a learned, educated man of the schools. He also was a mighty Christian. He worked, for example, with Dwight L. Moody, when Moody held his great revival meetings in the British Isles. He came over here to America twice. He loved to lecture to university students. He was so effective as a mediator of the mind of God, the truth in Christ.
Well, anyway—by the way, before this came into my mind, one of the deacons came up to me after the service at 8:15, and he said Dr. Truett used to take that very beautiful and famous little brochure, little booklet, by Henry Drummond entitled, “The Greatest Thing In The World.” It’s an exegesis, it’s an expository message on 1 Corinthians 13: Love, love, “The Greatest Thing In The World,” love. He said, “He married my father and mother.” And he gave to all of the couples that he married a copy of Henry Drummond’s “The Greatest Thing In The World,” love.
Now this is the man that I’m speaking of. Always, as God gave him opportunity, he spoke about our dear Lord, winning people to Christ. Well, this day he was seated on a public coach by the side of the driver. And, as would be typical of this wonderful man, he began to talk to the driver of the coach as he held the reins of the horses in his hands; he began to talk to him about the Lord and invited him to give his life to Jesus. But the driver of the coach was reluctant. He had a habit in his life that separated between him and God. And he didn’t think he was able to give it up.
So as they rode along, Henry Drummond said to him, “Sir, if these horses were to be frightened and to run away and were carrying you and this coach down a steep hill, what would you do?”
And the driver said to Mr. Drummond, “Sir, I’d be helpless. I couldn’t do anything.”
Then Drummond said to him, “But suppose, where I’m seated, by your side, suppose there was a skillful driver, much stronger than you, who could take the reins and guide these horses and this coach to safety. What would you do?”
And the driver said, “Sir, I would yield the reins to him. I’d put them in his hands.”
And Drummond said, “That’s what Christ is inviting you to do: to take the reins of your life, the control of your life, and place them in His strong and skillful and capable hands, and let Him see you through.” The man did it. And he was transformed.
Any man who will yield his will and his destiny, all of the decisive factors that make him what he is—any man who will yield himself to Jesus our Lord will find himself transformed. He will find himself liberated. He will find himself a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. That is the freedom Christ gives to the soul that finds choice and rest in Him [John 10:27-30]. Do it. Do it. It will be life now, and everlasting, for you and for those whom you love. Do it. May we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, if we have preached the truth of God this day, sanctify and hallow it with a gracious response. When we sing our hymn of invitation, dear Lord, may it please Thee. May the angels in heaven, rejoicing to see it [Luke 15:10], may the host of us in this great church, looking upon it—if it please Thee, Lord, make our hearts glad in heaven and in earth with a bountiful harvest, a beautiful response.
And in this moment when we sing our hymn of invitation, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, into one of these aisles, “Pastor, we have decided for God, and we are on the way” [Romans 10:8-13]. A family, a couple, a one somebody, a single, a child, a youth, you, “This is God’s day for me, and I am on the way.” May angels attend you as you answer with your life. And thank Thee, Lord, for the precious harvest, in Thy saving and keeping name, amen. Welcome, while we sing.
Dr. W. A.
of us will serve somebody
B. All of us in the
cosmic universe of iniquity (John 8:34)
1. Powerless to
deal with sin, death
2. Our culture,
science, civilization a cruel taskmaster
II. What is freedom?
A. Delusion of modern
life that to be free we must throw off restraint
1. We are free to
be damned, destroyed
B. Our freedom only
free in the restraints of God
III. True freedom is of the soul
A. It is not defined by
any outward circumstances
2. Simon Peter
3. Paul and Silas
4. John on the
isle of Patmos
6. John Bunyan,
IV. True freedom is to be a slave of Christ
A. Free indeed (John 8:36,
Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1)
B. The glorious
freedoms in His gracious hands
1. He frees us
from the bondage of our souls
2. He frees us
from the bondage of this world (Colossians 2:3)
3. He frees us
from the bondage of the mind (John 8:32, 14:6)