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The Slave, the Servant and the Son

The Christian life is not just about learning to be a good person, rather it about learning to live as sons and daughters who in turn reflect the Father’s goodness.

Imagine, if you will, a master sat at his banqueting table. In our picture this master represents God and within His household there are various people.

First there is the slave:

The slave doesn’t really live in the house. Of course, he is fully aware of who the master is, but prefers to keep his distance. He does his duty every day and he receives his instructions from the master’s servants. So each Sunday morning he goes up to the masters house – he sings along to the words of the sons and servants as they extol the masters goodness and glory and he listens to the masters instructions via the ‘preacher’ who reads from the masters letters. But he never chooses to worship the master himself or read his writings during the week. He is content to be clothed and fed and remain a slave. Like the Israelites of the Old Testament who were invited to draw near to God but declined asking Moses to communicate with God for them, the slave has rejected the master’s invitation. He has chosen to remain a slave keeping a ‘safe gap’ between himself and the master.

You see this distance affords him just enough independence to keep a little piece of his own life, a tiny part of his own world, and a small slice of his own choices. But he fails to recognise that by existing this way he loses all the benefits and treasures that the master has laid aside for him.

The servant however, lives inside the master’s house:

The servant waits at the master’s table and does the master’s work. He speaks often to the master but always with his eyes down because he never really feels worthy to be in the presence of such a great man - after all he ‘knows his place.’ He is task orientated, always careful to do his job well because at any moment the master could decide that he is no longer good enough and dismiss him from his household. The servant dresses and acts in accordance with the rules of the house, he obeys the master’s instructions without comment or question and although he lives with a constant nagging fear that he is neither loved nor appreciated he is grateful for his positon and the benefits it brings.

The servant is only interested in what he should “do” – it’s all he ever asks of the master, it’s all he ever wants to know. His relationship with the master is superficial and driven and as such it reveals that he doesn’t really know the master at all.

Finally, there is the son:

The son joins the father at the table, lays his head upon the fathers chest and they share a smile over a funny moment that happened this morning with a donkey and a cart full of fresh dung! The son loves to be with the father, he feels safe and secure and happy. He knows he is loved. He has also been about the fathers business but in his case he doesn’t ask the father what he should do rather he walks besides him, watching the fathers every move, engrossed with the father’s passions and desires.

He is interested in more than just the father’s actions, he longs to understand the father's heart and motivations. He wants to learn to see things the father’s way. So he asks, “What are you doing father so that I may join you?” “Why are you doing this, what are you thinking and feeling about that?” These are the questions that the servant and the slave could never ask. The son wants to know everything about the father because he so admires him and so adores him that when he grows up he wants to be just like him.

God's heart for us is that we live not as slaves or servants, but as sons and daughters. He has paved the way for this to happen with the blood of His Son. He has given us all the strength we need to help us walk in the light of this in the person of the Holy Spirit. It is the daily invitation of the Father and it is extended to us all.

“For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One”

Eph 1: 4-6

Quoted from a sermon I preached at GodFirst Church-11th September 2016. Entitled : Knowing God - Hear the full version at

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