From the instant Jesus left earth and returned to His gated community by ascending back to the right-hand side of the Father in heaven, there has been controversy about how to follow Jesus. The book of Acts in the Bible has multiple accounts where, even the apostles, argue amongst themselves about what to specifically do when it comes to following Jesus. We are a passionate people, and when it comes to our faith, things get very personal. Add to this natural phenomenon all the denominations and different religions throughout the world, and what we have is a mixed bag of ideas about what it means to get to heaven and what it means to follow Jesus. In fact, a majority of the New Testament is simply letters from the apostles, written to answer questions from local churches that were having problems. The Bible is a grouping of solution letters written under the guidance of the Creator, Jesus Christ Himself. This blog post is long but I hope worthwhile in painting a perfect picture of what it means to be a Christian.
I think the most important issue that we must deal with, in this blog post pertains to something that Jesus said Himself. It is recorded in John 14:6 (NLT). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
That is a very intense, bold, and what could be called, arrogant, statement. Could you imagine your child’s teacher sending home a letter with all his students that read like that statement. The letter sent home would be a short statement that reads like this: “To all parents of the students in my class: I wanted to simply inform you that there is a heaven and a hell, and I wanted to inform you that if you or your student wants to go to heaven, then please know that I am the way, the truth, and the life, and you or your student will not be able to enter heaven or meet the Father in heaven unless you go through me.”
Can you imagine the uproar? Can you imagine the controversy, the headlines? Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did. This statement from Jesus has caused an uproar since He said it. This statement has created controversy and anger ever since He said it. So, before we can become a follower of Jesus, we must sort it out in our own head and heart as to whether or not Jesus is who He says He is. I love the thought process that C.S. Lewis created a long time ago, in which he says that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord. It’s a fair proposal from Lewis. Someone can’t just show up on the scene, calling themselves the Way, the Truth, the Life, and not be considered one of those three. So as you read this blog post, I ask you to decide what you believe. Do you believe that Jesus is a liar? Do you believe that Jesus is a lunatic? Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is, and thus, is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and the only way to get to heaven?
If you chose either of the first two options about who Jesus is—a liar or a lunatic—then you can live the rest of your life however you want. I do not want to be cynical with you, if you have chosen either of these two options or both, but if you did choose liar and/or lunatic, then please eat, drink, and be merry…do whatever you want, for this life is as close to heaven as you will ever get. Enjoy it immensely. Indulge and grab life by the horns and live to the max. I would, if I were you.
However, if you chose Jesus to be who He says He is—Lord—then I want to welcome you to the path less traveled. You have chosen a narrow and challenging path that will rock your world. I am excited for you, and I hope the rest of what you are about to read will give you clarity on what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus.
The best example I use to help others fully understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus is actually an Old Testament example. The example is what is called a bond servant. I do not think someone can have a true and full understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus or a christian, outside an understanding of what a bond servant is.
A bond servant is an Old Testament term for what we might call a voluntary slave. I want to directly challenge the reader to remove all presuppositions from your mind as to what the American mentality of a slave is. Please understand that in the Old Testament Hebrew culture, to be a slave could be a very wonderful and voluntary form of making a living. It could be a lifestyle that someone would choose.
Now, when someone would become a slave in a Jewish culture, there were rules that God required to be followed, and they can be found in the book of Exodus in the Bible. Some of these rules may or may not make sense to us in our cultures today, and that is okay. They were still rules that God wrote, and thus, the people of that time must follow. Just for the sake of what I hope is your own curiosity, I want to include these rules below. Exodus 21:1-5 (NLT).
“These are the regulations you must present to Israel. If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.”
So, this gives us a perspective on some rules of slavery of the Hebrew culture in the Old Testament times. But something amazing is about to happen as you read the next verse of this same Bible passage I have quoted above. The next sentence is where we get the term bond servant. Just for clarity, it is Exodus 21:5-6 (NLT):
“But the slave may declare, “I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.” If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.”
That passage is astonishing to me. Let me put this in my own words. Remember, if someone becomes a slave, they can only serve as a slave for six years. In the Hebrew culture, every seven years, they forgave each other’s debts. Can you imagine how wonderful this system would be? I’m sure there are people who took advantage of this system, but it is still the system that God ordained. I have always wondered what this system would do to an American economy. I personally believe it would create an environment of honor and gratitude that would not allow the few bad apples to ruin it for everybody else. Call me an eternal optimist and idealist. I say all that to simply say this. I can’t wait for heaven!
So, back to point about this slave stuff. Once someone worked as a slave for six years, the Hebrew law required this slave to be set free. Now, a lot can happen in six years in the life of anyone, including the life of a slave, and even back in the day, where change came more slowly than today. So a man who became a slave, for whatever reason, in the Old Testament times, and six years later was set free, now was faced with a free choice and multiple choices at that. He could accept his freedom and move on with his life however he chose. One of those choices was to go back to his master and voluntarily become a bond servant. This was where we can begin to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
This slave could go back to his master and stand at his master’s front door and commit himself to his master. He would do this by stating to his master that he enjoyed being a slave under him. He would acknowledge that his life with his master, and as a slave, was the kind of life he wanted to live for the rest of his life. Now remember, when this man went to the door to say that he wanted to remain a slave to the master for the rest of his life, he was doing it as a completely free man and in a voluntary free manner. So when this free man, previously the master’s slave, came back to the front door of the master’s home and declared that he wanted to voluntarily remain the master’s slave, there were some critical and permanent things that voluntarily happened. The master accepted this free man’s lifetime offer, if he wanted to. This lifetime offer from the requesting person was one that acknowledges that everything he owned or had in his life, now fully belonged to the master, including his own life and his own family and material things, for the rest of his life, voluntarily. This act of commitment was a lifelong, irrevocable, and voluntary commitment.
It seems to me that for this kind of thing to actually happen, the master must have been a very special person for this kind of commitment to take place. In fact, to demonstrate how permanent this is, the man making the commitment would stand in the threshold of his master’s home, and the master would take a hammer and awl and drive it through the earlobe of man, making the voluntary promise. It would be through the right ear of the man that this piercing would happen. The man who made this lifelong commitment would stand, for a brief time, nailed to the doorframe of his master’s home, to allow for people to witness, and be witnesses, to this irrevocable life long commitment.
When the awl that is piercing the man’s ear and permanently fastening him to his master’s doorframe, is removed, the master would give this man a gold hoop earring to wear, and a title would be given to this man; bond servant. How remarkable. What a commitment. The quality of person that this master must have been to result in such a lifelong permanent, life-changing commitment is remarkable. I hope you see the similarities of the story with being a follower of Jesus Christ. However, our situation with Jesus Christ is even better.
In the bond servant’s case, the man had to work off six years of his life to be free. In a Christian’s situation, we don’t have to work off anything to be free. Jesus is the one who paid the time for us. His death on the cross is the time that was paid for our crime. Jesus’s death on the cross is what removed God’s anger from us and made us free men and women. Jesus’s death took all of God’s anger away from mankind. Heaven and Hell are full of people who were free to choose and God honored their choice. Hell is full of people who were given freedom to choose how they wanted to live their lives; they simply chose to live in the qualities of hell and evil, and God simply honored their free choice and extended it into eternity. I think it breaks God’s heart that hell is full of people whom He loves. I think it’s for these people that God wishes He were a control freak, and I’d bet He wishes He would have forced them to love Him. But God is love. Love does not control or force. Love allows freedom of choice and then simply gives consequences to those choices. It is a choice to become a bond servant or not, and each choice has one consequence. Choose to be a bond servant of Jesus’s, and when we die, we will be reunited with the Father in heaven for eternity. Choose not to be a bond servant of Jesus’s, and when we die, we will be separated from the Father and go to a place called hell that, by the way, was not created for people. Jesus says in Matthew 25, that hell is a place that was created for the devil and his demons. God never intended for people to spend eternity in hell. He only honors our choice to live with Him or without Him. How hard it must be to honor the wrong choice of people who He loves. But, this is how God created the whole thing to work and then placed it all in the hands of His only Son, because of the price that His only Son paid.
Because Jesus paid such a huge price for our freedom, God the Father gave Jesus all authority in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. This fact is found in Matthew 28:18. So, after being given all authority and after paying such a high price, Jesus has earned the right to lay down some new laws and rules. If someone doesn’t like that, then they will have to take it up with Jesus when they meet Him someday. We call these new laws and new rules the New Testament. Jesus is now given the authority by the Father to declare that He is the way, the truth, and life, and no one gets to the Father except through Him. The Bible, especially the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are where we have recorded what Jesus means when He says we have to go through Him to enter heaven. To go through Him means we have to go through His approval and His requirements to join the Father in heaven for eternity. These requirements, if we do them, are what cause us to earn the free, voluntary, lifelong title called a bond servant. Please don’t forget that it’s your free choice to become a bond servant or not. Please understand that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, where we get to the Father in heaven, we must be a bond servant. Please understand that you can’t earn this salvation. You can only earn a title. Salvation is the free gift, just waiting for you to open. The way you open this free gift is to approach Jesus Christ and commit to be His bond servant. Jesus is the one who did all the work, so that all we have to do is commit to the title. But what happens when you do admit that you want to be Jesus’s bond servant? This is where the work begins. The title is a free gift. The question is then, what does it require of me to have the title of bond servant? It requires everything from you. If a man became a bond servant in the Bible times, but then didn’t fully do what a bond servant was supposed to do, the title would be removed. The bond servant could actually be put to death, if the master chose it that way. Being a bond servant is more than a title; it is living as a bond servant everyday. Remove the title or the lifestyle, and one was no longer a bond servant.
Remember, a bond servant owns nothing. He voluntarily and freely relinquished all of his assets and his life to the master. As I think about the physical process that took place to become a bond servant, it causes me to be thankful that when I became a Christian, there was no awl being driven through my ear that day, even though body piercing is pretty popular. I see the awl being driven through the ear of a bond servant as to what baptism is to the one who is making the commitment to be a follower of Jesus.
So, are you a bond servant to Jesus Christ? It is a lifelong, free commitment to become a slave of Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered, as you read through the New Testament, what Paul meant in some of His letters when He titled himself a slave of Jesus Christ? I think it would have done all of Christianity well if the translators would have, more correctly, translated the word bond servant of Jesus Christ instead of slave. I won’t go into detailed Greek right now, but the word is doulos, which our translators translated as slave. There are some current Bible translations today that actually kept the word bond servant. I know that one is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. There are a few others as well. I think bond servant is the better translation. Keeping the word bond servant in our Bibles would cause us to look it up and study it and define it sooner and fully understand what the term means. James, Peter, Jude, and John titled themselves the same thing in their letters in the New Testament; bond servants!
So now what? I think it is important to understand 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT):
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
I do not belong to myself. You do not belong to yourself. We were bought through the death of God’s only Son. That is a huge price. Whether we have chosen to be bond servants or not, we are still owned by God. Whether you believe in God or not, you are still owned by God. I pray you will choose to become a bond servant if you have not. How does one become a bond servant today? As a reminder, a true Christian and a bond servant are the same thing. In the New Testament, there are recorded only nine situations in which an individual or a group of people chose to become bond servants of Jesus Christ. They are all accounted for in the book of Acts. Every time somebody became a bond servant of Jesus’s in the book of Acts, five things actually happened. First, they heard the news of Jesus Christ, then they believed that Jesus was Lord. They then repented from living their lives outside the will of Jesus and confessed Jesus as their Master. It is at this point that each of them was immersed in water, which is what is called baptism.
As I read through the book of Acts and see that these things always happen when someone becomes what we now know as a bond servant to Jesus, I have no authority to change any one of those five things. Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. If you have done those things by faith in Jesus Christ, you now are titled a bond servant to Jesus. A bond servant lives his/her life in a very specific way of obedience. The way of a bond servant is the way of obedience to the master. The next big question that I hope we would ask is, “Obey what?”
The answer, before I end this incredibly long blog, is simply, obey the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ. And when I say simply, I do not mean they are easy. The life of a follower of Jesus Christ is a not a path of ease, but a path of simplicity, of trust, and of focus. It is a good life that will someday become a great, eternal life. There are more than 300 specific teachings and commands of Jesus that we should obey, and they are all found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the Holy Bible. Read the and obey them. Of course there is a forgiveness clause added to this when we are not perfect in obeying all 300 plus of these; and none of us are perfect.
I hope that this study has been a motivating one for you. I hope that you will continue to grow as a fully developing follower of Jesus Christ. It is a life long process that only ends when your heart beats its last and you stand before Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lord and King of Kings and are told, well done good and faithful Bond Servant!