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Bad to Worse: The Servant Olympics

“From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” (Genesis 39:5-6)

Looking to be a great servant? I mean, did you ever have a goal to be in the top five in your class in servanthood? Seriously, would you love it if every person had written in your yearbook, “Nobody was a better servant than you, dude!”?

btw_350Yeah, me neither. I wish I was that ambitious about being a servant. I wish my attitude was more like Jesus’ thinking. Remember what he said to the disciples when he caught them playing “who’s the greatest”? He said the greatest in God’s kingdom will be the servant of all. Much later, Paul wrote that Jesus nailed that attitude when he “made himself nothing” even though he was God.

Joseph, too, destroyed the servant competition. Okay, he was a slave, but he didn’t let that stop him from also out-serving everyone in his weight class. How? He did everything he was asked to do better than expected. If you gave it to Joseph, it always got done on time, on budget, and improved upon. He was so reliable, his boss gave up keeping tabs on Joseph completely. What was the point? That’s the quality of a great servant.

Think: Have you ever wished your were better at being a servant? Do you think there’s much competition for “best servant”?

Pray: Ask God to give you the desire to serve him and the people he puts in your life with excellence and dependability.

Do: Make a list of the top 5 most selfless and reliable servants you know.

Bad to Worse: Who Knows You Know God?

“When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.” (Genesis 39:3-4)

We saw yesterday that Joseph made a choice that would have been hard for some of us. He chose to continue to trust that God was with him even though his personal circumstances were devastating. He also chose to believe his God was still powerful and good. So Joseph chose to keep serving God with everything he had.

btw_350Today’s passage gives us some new evidence that Joseph still had confidence in his God: He talked about him. Joseph told his slave-owning master about the God he served. In a land famous for the open worship of many kinds of gods, Joseph was clear that his allegiance was to the one true God.

So when Joseph turned out to be the best slave Potiphar ever bought — when every area Joseph took charge of showed improvement — who did Potiphar give the credit to? He gave credit to the Lord, to Joseph’s Lord, to the only true God.

Think: When you do really well at something, who gets the credit? Do the people in your life know you well enough to give credit to God for your successes? Do you give him credit?

Pray: Ask God to give you the courage to let other people know you serve him.

Do: Make a quick list of your five greatest achievements during the last year or two. Put a check mark beside the ones you gave God some or all of the credit for. Put a star next to the ones anyone else gave God some or all of the credit for.

Bad to Worse: Still With Me?

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.” (Genesis 39:1-2)

“A good and powerful God would never have let such a terrible thing happen in my life!” Ever hear anyone say that? Maybe it was the divorce of her parents or some other personal betrayal. Maybe it was a physical attack, an illness, or a death. Maybe it didn’t even happen to that person but to someone she loved.

btw_350We understand the feeling. What’s the good of belonging to the most powerful being in the universe if he won’t act to keep tragedy from falling on our heads? Joseph could have asked that question. He’d just been attacked, robbed, and then sold to slave traders with little hope of ever seeing his dad and little brother again — and all of this by his 10 older brothers!

Instead of deciding that the God who would allow such a thing wasn’t worth following, Joseph seems to have made a choice to believe the truth — that God was still with him. He made a choice to continue to serve God. We’re not told about any of his feelings, but God blessed Joseph — and kept blessing him — even though God chose not to keep Joseph from experiencing terrible circumstances.

Think: Do you judge God’s goodness or power by your own personal circumstances? What’s wrong with that idea?

Pray: Ask God for the courage to keep trusting him even when hard things come into your life.

Do: Read Genesis 37:12-36 to find out exactly what Joseph’s brothers did to him.

Sin & Death: Dear Sin

“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:13-14)

“Dear Sin: I like you. I like the rush of doing something I know is kind of bad. I like the pretty package your gooey, ugly insides come wrapped in. I know I don’t have to serve you any more, so I’m making this official voluntary presentation of all my body parts — including my brain and mouth — to do whatever wicked stuff you can think up.”

sandd_350It’s never like that, is it? We don’t think about “offering” ourselves to sin. We just do the wrong, sinful thing — often without even thinking about it. But the result is the same as if we’d sent sin a love letter with all of our sinning body parts attached as a gift.

Paul urges us to think about it. To make a choice. To send our love letter to the God who freed us from sin and offer all our parts — mind, mouth, and eyes, included — for HIm to use to do good stuff. We’ve got to ask ourselves every day: Who do we really love? Who will we serve today — our want to sin or the God who saved us?

Think: Do you ever think of your brain and the rest of your body as tools you can use either to serve sin or God? How have you been using those “instruments” lately? Who have you been serving?

Pray: Ask God to give you a strong desire not to waste your life and body on sin but to let Him use it for accomplishing His work.

Do: Write a love letter to God, offering Him your body and brain to use however He wants for His purposes.

Sin & Death: Volunteer Sinners

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (Romans 6:11-12)

All week long there’s been this lingering question about sin: Why do we still do it? Why is it still such a battle for us NOT to sin? Paul keeps saying that we died spiritually with Jesus, right? He’s saying Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is applied to us when we trust in Him. We’re free, he keeps saying, from being sin’s slaves. It doesn’t own us any more.

sandd_350So why don’t we just stop? Here’s the deal: We’ve been freed from the power of sin. It’s not the boss of us. But we’re not free, yet, from the “want” to sin. We still like how some sin feels. Even though we know it leads to death. Even though we know it’s what Jesus died for. Even though we know it’s ugly and painful and wrong. We still want it.

Paul said it’s time to do battle with your wants; he called them “evil desires.” The want to sin is the want for something evil, even the want for the “little sins” that don’t seem like a big deal. Remember, Paul urged, you don’t have to do any of that any more. Now that you’re free, don’t be a volunteer sinner. You can tell it “no” and walk away. That’s what free people do.

Think: Are you ever tempted to think you have no choice about your sin, that you cannot control yourself? How does that fit with Paul’s teaching here in Romans 6?

Pray: Ask God to remind you that you never have to give in to temptation; you always have the power to say “no.”

Do: Try to memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13. It won’t take long, and it’s handy to have in your head when the temptation to sin feels especially strong.

Sin & Death: He Died Once

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. ” (Romans 6:8-9)

Have you ever heard someone say, “Every time you sin, you put Jesus to death on the cross all over again”? It’s a great line for trying to guilt-motivate someone to do good. “I’m making Jesus suffer even more by the sin I’m doing right now; that’s awful! I’ve got to stop!”

sandd_350It’s also a lie. Jesus died. Past tense. One time. He did suffer unbearable agony for our sins. If we have any conscience at all, we should feel overwhelmed with gratitude by the idea of the pain He endured for our selfish and worthless choices to sin. And every sin we do next did contribute to His pain on the cross.

But the cross is as empty as the tomb. That terrible moment is long over. He does not continue to experience it. Paul is clear: Jesus died to sin once for all. He cannot — will not — die again. Ever. He experienced death and beat it. Mission accomplished. He’s alive now and free to continue God’s work in the universe. Amazingly, Christians are also dead to sin’s power and free to serve God.

Think: Does it make your head spin to realize that Jesus died long ago for the sin you’ll do tomorrow? How does that make you feel about your future sin?

Pray: Thank God for Jesus’ willing death in your place on the cross — and thank Him that Jesus is done with that moment and His battle with death is over.

Do: See if you can find a passage in the Bible that describes where Jesus is right now.

Sin & Death: Master Sin

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. ” (Romans 6:6-7)

Romans 6 is like a “big ideas” parade, and it’s too easy to just watch them march on by without really getting it. Don’t do that! Jump up on the parade floats and experience them. Take a little time to really understand this.

sandd_350First: What is your “old self” that was crucified with Christ (if you’re a Christian)? It is not your “sin nature” or your “want” to sin. We’ve still got that, right? Your old self is the BC version of you — “before Christ.” Sin owned that version of you. You had to do whatever it said. You were powerless.

To escape sin’s slavery, that old self had to die with Jesus when you believed in Him for the forgiveness of your sin. Death is the legal termination of a slave owner’s contract. At that moment, sin became the powerless one. Its authority was “done away with.” You are free. You never have to sin again.

So why do we still sin? Stay tuned.

Think: Do you ever think of unbelievers as slaves to sin? How is a slave different from someone who volunteers to do the same thing?

Pray: Thank God for freeing you from slavery to sin by allowing your old self to be crucified with Jesus.

Do: Spend another couple of minutes on this big idea float by carefully reading Romans 5:6-8 again.