Self-Promotion or Self-Denial

Last night I downloaded and watched a sermon entitled The Greatness of Being a Slave by John MacArthur.  What brought my watching this sermon about was several discussions I saw on twitter yesterday about Pastor MacArthurs’ book entitled Slave. It may have also had to do with something I read in John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ where Owen made a reference to Christ being equipped for the office he was appointed to and the scriptural reference was Philippians 2:7 which reads as follows:

“but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

The Greek word for servant is δοῦλος (doulos), which can be translated as “someone who belongs to another, the property of another; a bond-slave, without any ownership rights of their own.”  That made me wonder if Christ actually became a slave, which has much lower connotations in our present world, instead of just a servant, which is a step above a slave in our thinking.  I believe that Christ was both a servant, but he was also a slave.  Isn’t that an amazing thing?  God incarnate in Jesus Christ became a slave in our world.  In a sense, he was a slave to us to save us.  He willingly humbled himself, prostrated himself before us, if you will, to save his sheep.

Paul also used this “slave” motif in Romans 1:1 when he said he was a δοῦλος (doulos – slave) of Christ Jesus.  In a way, it almost seems as if Paul wore this as a badge of honor.  Isn’t it ironic that doúlos (“bond-slave”) is used with the highest dignity in the NT – namely, of believers who willingly live under Christ’s authority as His devoted followers?  What sounds like the worst thing possible for a man to be is actually the greatest thing in the eyes of God.  This is just another case of what Dan Phillips calls The World Tilting Gospel.  Or as John MacArthur said in his sermon:  “Self-promotion works in the kingdom of men, it works…it works all the time. But it doesn’t work in the Kingdom of God. Self-denial works in the Kingdom of God, but it doesn’t work in the kingdom of men. Self-promotion is the world’s way, self-denial is God’s way. Self-promotion works in Satan’s kingdom. Self-denial works in God’s Kingdom.”

Christ, in his incarnation here on earth, denied himself the glory that he was due to show his followers the way.  He led by example.  It is amazing that even at the last supper he was still trying to get this point across to his disciples.  Pride is so rooted in our nature that it is something we battle all our lives.  Yet, look at Peter; by the time he wrote his Epistles, it is obvious that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit had brought about a great change in his life.  God is working in us to accomplish the same thing.  Be encouraged that God is in the business of completing what he starts.  As Pastor Kent Harding said in a message he preached a few weeks back, we need to “Cultivate a patient faith with a long-term perspective.”  What Pastor Harding was getting at is that we need to relax and realize that change comes slow.  God works much slower than we like (I struggle with this concept), but He works and He completes the work.  We are called to have faith in Him and trust that the work will be completed in his time.

Be encouraged in that.

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