Whose Slave Are You?
May 15th, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 8:32, 34-36
5-15-83 8:15 a.m.
And we welcome the great throngs of you who are sharing this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Whose Slave Are You? The title sort of begs the question. "Whose slave are you?" "I am nobody’s slave. What makes you think I am?" "I think you are because you are." You are a slave of something, all of us are. We all bow at the shrine of something, somewhere, somehow, before somebody or something. We are all slaves. We give our lives to something.
Our Lord said in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, verse 32, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Then verse 34: "Verily, verily, amen, amen, truly, truly, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin," and the King James Version says, "is the servant of sin"; the word is doulos, "slave," "Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin. And the slave abideth not in the house for ever: but the son," it ought to be a small "s" there: "but the son abideth for ever." The next "Son" is correct, it’s capital ‘S.’ "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free ontos," truly, really, translated here "indeed." Whose slave are you? Whether willfully or inadvertently, we are a slave of something or of somebody.
We all belong to this cosmic world of evil, all of us, and as such, we are slaves to it and in it. Our Lord began the passage I read, "Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin," and if I say I have no sin, that is the greatest sin of all: if I say I have no fault, that’s the greatest fault of all. All of us belong to this cosmic universe of sin and death. A young fellow will say, when he becomes of age, a young fellow who’s incorrigible and obstreperous, "I’m throwing off all restraint. I’m on my own, going to do my own thing. I’m going to do what pleases me." Actually he does what sin pleases. He’s a bondservant of incorrigibility and obstreperousness and prodigality. He’s a slave. There is something about our very civilization, our culture, our life that enslaves us.
There was an artist who drew a picture of a young engineer. He is bowing on his knees before the great dynamo that he engineered and installed. A slave to success, bowing down before the god of fortune and affluence, or maybe a slave to the cult of conformity, peer pressure, selling your soul in order to be popular or to be received or to belong – when you take the world for your Lord, it takes you for a slave. There is a pitiful delusion of modern life which is this: freedom is to throw off all restraint and all responsibility. But there is with that renunciation of restraint and responsibility, there is an enslavement that is tragic. I remember a judge who began his sentence addressed to a young teenager standing before him, and the first sentence was this: "In the freedom of America, it is the privilege of any man to damn his own soul in hell."
I’m free. I throw off and renounce all restraint. But God has made tremendous inevitable, inescapable laws that if I do not obey them, I am enslaved by their inevitable judgments. Gravity is something that God made, inexplicable, unseen, invisible. "I’m a free man; I will not observe such restraint." And when I cast myself down off of the skyscraper here in Dallas, I don’t obviate that law or break that law; I just illustrate it. So with the great commandments of God: when I throw them off, when I refuse to be constrained by them, I don’t break the great moral code of God; it destroys me, it enslaves me, and I am helpless before its inevitable judgment.
Freedom is a matter of control, of pressure, of constraint, of restraint. A kite severed from its string is free, but it can’t fly anymore. A railroad train separated from the pressure of its tracks is free, but it can’t run anymore. An automobile without brakes and steering gear and guidance is free, but it’s useful no more. I was intrigued by one of these modern poems, the way it’s arranged.
I watched the leaves that safely fell
Into the streets and vacant yards.
And 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?
The leaf attached to the tree: "I want to be free." This little poem says they don’t know they’re really dead. Freedom; whose slave are you?
Somehow – and isn’t it a strange paradox – somehow freedom refers; real freedom refers to the soul, to the heart, to the inward self, and not to any outward circumstance. Daniel in his den was more free than Darius who placed him there. Daniel, a captive lad far from home, was more free than Nebuchadnezzar who had taken him for a eunuch and for a slave. Simon Peter in prison is freer than Herod Agrippa I who placed him there for execution. Paul and Silas thrust in an inner dungeon were more free than the jailer who put [their] feet in stocks and chains. The aged John exiled on the isle of Patmos was more free, he was freer than Domitian the Roman Caesar who sentenced him there. Those Christians who were herded into the Coliseum to be destroyed by wild beasts, they were freer than the Roman Caesars and the Roman populous who saw them so piteously devoured. John Bunyan in the prison in Bedford was freer than King Charles II who sentenced him there. Roger Williams, our great Baptist leader in America, was freer than the council of Massachusetts that banished him from their presence.
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage
["To Althea, from Prison"; Richard Lovelace]
In my reading, I came across the life of Madame Marie Guyon, a saintly woman, a noble woman; and during the years of 1695 to 1705, sentenced time and again to prison by the church because she was writing beautiful literature concerning the soul’s confidence to commune with God without the sacraments, or the priests of the church. She was a prisoner in the notorious Bastille in Paris. And this is a poem that beautiful 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.
Nought have I else to do,
I sing the whole day long;
And He whom most I love to please
Doth listen to my song;
He caught and bound my wandering wing;
But still He bends His ear 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.
[from "A Little Bird I Am"; Madame Guyon]
Freedom is a matter of the soul, of the heart, of the spirit; it’s a matter of God. "If the Son of man shall set you free, ye shall be free ontos, really, truly, indeed" [John 8:36].
That’s a paradox, isn’t it? If I become a slave of Christ, I am free. In Romans 1:1, in Philippians 1:1, in Titus 1:1, the letter begins, "Paulos, doulos," translated in your King James Version, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ." Let’s translate it as he wrote it: "Paul, a slave Iesou Christou, of Jesus Christ, a slave." "And if the Son of Man shall set you free, ye shall be free indeed." The true freedom: a slave of Jesus Christ.
See that piano? I can seat myself on that bench before those keys at that beautiful instrument, and I am perfectly free. There’s no law to control me. There’s no pressure or coercion. I am free. But if I become a master musician, I must be a slave at that keyboard; hour and hour and hour and after, slaving, if I’m going to be a master musician. Or I can watch the Olympic track, and I’m free, perfectly free; but if I become a winner in the race, I must be a slave. A young man before a young woman, or a young woman before a young man, perfectly free; but if they find a depth of companionship and love, and the oneness of heart and life that makes possible the building of the house and the home and the children, each one of them must give himself a slave to the other: "I give myself to you."
It is thus with the people of God. One of the most unusual passages in the Bible, I think, is the author of Hebrews’ description of Abraham in the eleventh chapter. It says that he was looking "for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," and that he was "a stranger and a pilgrim in the land of promise, dwelling in tabernacles, in tents," was Abraham, with Isaac [Hebrews 11:9-10]. And the author says if he had been of the mind, he could have gone back to the country from whence he came; but he sought a heavenly country and was persuaded of it. And because of his commitment and his faith, God hath builded for him that city [Hebrews 11:15-16].
A slave, giving ourselves to God: that means for us freedom from the bondage of the mind, and freedom from the bondage of the will, and freedom from the bondage of the soul. And I conclude speaking of those three. First; in Christ we have freedom from the bondage of the soul. We’re not bound down by the things of this world. We’re not limited by all of the materialities that are around us. But our souls soar, our hearts are lifted up; we hear the call of the heavenly Father, hear His voice, and we’re raised above the materialities of this life – we’re no longer enslaved by them.
Tell me, here is a man – listen to me, look at him. He has food given him, provided for him every day. He doesn’t have to worry about food. He has a place, shelter, provided for him, a roof over his head, and a wonderful and safe place, secure, in which to live, and he has free medical attention; if he’s sick, immediately he is cared for. He has clothing given to him, provided for him, furnished him. He has all of the other accouterments to make life full and meaningful. There’s a library free for him. There are free movies and television and radio for him. He has everything provided for him. But he’s serving a life sentence in the penitentiary!
Free, not bound down by all of the amenities, all of the providences, and all the materialities of this life; we are free. Our souls are lifted up above the things of this world, and our hearts are set on God; freedom, the bondage of the soul.
Free, free, the bondage of the mind: what do you mean by "free in the bondage of the mind"? "Free," as He says in my text, "to know the truth and the truth shall set you free,[John 8:36]. I am the way, the truth and the life" [John 14:6]; freedom of the mind, finding the truth in Christ: meaning, purpose, value in Him. There’s such a difference between fact and truth. We don’t have a violin over here, do we? This is a fact. The sound of a violin is the pulling of horse hairs over cat guts. That’s fact. But truth is the music that cries, and wails, and exalts, and rejoices, and lifts up the soul!
Fact and truth; it’s the same thing in the way you are taught. It’s a clever academician who sits in the class, and he speaks very learnedly of man; he’s so much potassium, he’s so much hydrogen, he’s so much oxygen, and he’s so much magnesium, and he’s put together in all of these physical ways. And then they carry that back and announce all of those far-out theories of origin and evolution. And they pride themselves on being factual. But they miss the truth of life! Life has meaning, it has purpose, it has value, and we are made in the image of God! [Genesis 1:27]. And to learn that truth, truth is above all else we could ever learn in school or in books or in the experience of life; truth, liberated from the bondage of the mind.
And this last: liberated in the bondage of the will. Free, volitionally, statedly, decidedly free to serve God, and to love the Lord, and to walk in the ways of our wonderful Savior. Free by choice, free, giving my heart and will to the call of Christ. In my reading – and I’m always, always enticed, interested in men who are highly educated, they are learned, they belong to the schools, but they are great and profound Christians; men like that appeal to me so deeply – one of the in this generation gone by was named Henry Drummond. He was a Scotsman, he was a brilliant man, he was a learned, educated man, and he loved to lecture in universities and to speak to young people. And he glorified the Lord; he was a great soulwinner, Henry Drummond, who wrote that beautiful little thing, "The Greatest Thing in the World." It’s a little exposition of the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians: "The Greatest Thing in the World," love. Well, anyway, Henry Drummond was on a public coach, seated by the driver, the reins in his hand, and the horses pulling the public coach. And Henry Drummond set himself to win the driver to Jesus. So as he talked to the man, the driver was reluctant to accept the Savior because of a confirmed habit in his life that separated him from God. And Henry Drummond, talking to him, was seeking to persuade the man to give his habit and to give his life to the Lord, that the Lord would liberate him, free him. But the driver of the coach couldn’t understand it. He couldn’t see it, bound down in his will by a habit that separated him from God.
So as they drove along in that public coach, Henry Drummond said to the driver, he said, "What would happen and what would you do if these horses were to be frightened, and to run away, and plunge you and your coach and your passengers down a steep hill? The horses running away down a steep hill, what would you do?"
And the driver turned to Mr. Drummond and said, "Sir, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d be helpless if the horses were running away and down a steep hill. I don’t know what I’d do. I’d be helpless."
And Mr. Drummond said to the driver, "But what if seated where I am was a man who was skillful and stronger than you and knew what to do? What if you had a man like that seated here by your side? What would you do?"
And the driver said, "Sir, I’d turn the reigns over to him. I’d put them in his hands."
And Mr. Drummond said to the driver, "That’s what Christ asks you to do for Him. Turn the reigns over to Him. Let Him have them, and He will see you through."
The man did it, and he was wonderfully transformed. That’s freedom from the bondage of the will. "O Christ, I turn over to Thee the destiny of my life. You guide me, You lead in the way, You make the decision," and that is the freedom indeed. His slave is free.
May we stand together?
Our wonderful, wonderful Lord, what a confidence, what a security, what a purposeful meaning to turn our lives over to Thee, to be disciples and followers and slaves of Christ. He alone can liberate us. And we soar into the very heavens with Him.
And in this moment when we pray and while we sing this song, a family you: "I have decided for Christ, and we’re on the way. This is my wife, these are my children; we all coming today." A couple you, a one somebody you, a child, a youth, a single, as God shall speak the word to your heart, make the decision now. And when we sing this hymn, on that first note of the first stanza, that first step will be the most meaningful you’ve ever made. "Pastor, I’m giving my heart and life to the Lord Jesus, and I’m coming"; do it, and may angels attend you in the way as you come. And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest, in Thy saving, and keeping, and delivering, and almighty, and omnipotent name, amen. While we sing, welcome.