We all serve something
We are either a servant of sin or a servant of God - you cannot be both at the same time. One or the other, you must choose. We either actively obey God or we disobey him. We make our choice by either obedience or disobedience. There is no middle ground. Apathy and indecision is disobedience. We are not talking about the occasional stumble in the midst of the battle, we are talking about the lifestyle of disobedience.
Slaves to sin
Jesus actually has a lot to say about this subject in John chapter 8. In verse 34 he states very matter-of-factly: "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin."
I don't want to be a slave of anyone or anything and yet I find myself enslaved by many things. I live in Bend Oregon, arguably one of the most amazing and beautiful places on the planet, I am surrounded by beauty, nature, luxury and culture. All of this wonder and beauty collide here in our town, it is very easy to be hedonistic here. I can indulge in nature, hobbies, cultural experiences or even a lifestyle of luxury if I choose. It's all available.
Slaves in the land of plenty
Even though we are surrounded by so much beauty and bounty, our suicide rates here in Deschutes County are off the charts! Why? How could it even be possible in such an amazing place where most everyone appears happy and healthy? I am learning that people on the inside; in their soul, are not always as they appear on the outside. There is a verse in the Bible that describes this phenomenon in Nehemiah 9:36, it says: “So now today we are slaves in the land of plenty that you gave our ancestors for their enjoyment! We are slaves here in this good land.” This phenomenon happens because we forget God and begin doing things on our own. We don't want to be controlled or told what to do by God, so we ignore him and try to find fulfillment apart from him. The result is that we become slaves anyway. We serve our work, our cravings, our passions or even our lusts; the result is that what starts out as beautiful and exciting and enjoyable - no mater what it is- can turn into a bondage and a drudgery. The reason is because none of these things were meant to bear the weight of our worship or devotion. In the end, they all prove to be hollow, shallow and unfulfilling.
The vanity of misdirected worship
This unfulfilled, empty longing is what King Solomon describes as "vanity" in his great treatise on humanity doing life in the book of Ecclesiastes. Even though we have everything that we think we want, it doesn’t seem to satisfy the deeper craving in our soul. The only thing in all of creation that was meant to bear the weight of your worship and devotion is God himself. He is the originator of love and life and joy. He made us to glorify him and to enjoy him forever; anything short of that is only a shadow of the truth, not the truth itself.
The road to freedom
If freedom is what we truly want, the only way to achieve it is to completely surrender to the Master of the Universe, Jesus Christ. He is a benevolent master who is good and kind and he always exceeds our expectations, often not how we expect it, but the end result is "exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we could ask or even imagine.” Whether you live in Bend, Oregon or anywhere else - being a slave to him is truly the “happiest place on earth.”
“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”
Romans 6:16 NLT
Pastors Phil Harris of Epikos Church in Bend, Oregon.