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Not Your Own!

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2019-01-20 AM
  • Sermons


Well this morning, as we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Table, I want us to step away from our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Romans. Lord willing, we'll be back there next week in the new section that we'll begin, but today I want us to think about our relationship to Jesus Christ.

I think you understand that one of the most important values in the culture in which we live is personal autonomy. Autonomy's not a word we use very often, and yet the reality of personal autonomy is everywhere. The Oxford English Dictionary defines autonomy as "the right or condition of self-government." The English word goes back to the early 17th century. It was actually formed from a Greek word, autonomous, a Greek word that was composed of two separate words brought together. First of all, the Greek word autos meaning "self," and nomos meaning "law." So, autonomy at its heart means having one's own law, being a law to oneself. The basic principle of autonomy or the right to self-rule is, in fact, woven throughout our entire culture. And you hear it everywhere, even in popular expressions like these. Be your own person. Be true to yourself. You don't have to do what anybody wants you to do. You don't have to do what anyone tells you to do. It's your life. Or the California expression: you do you.

But to us as Christians, autonomy should actually be an alien concept, because nothing could be further from the reality of our situation. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. One of the foundational truths of the Christian faith is that if you are a Christian, if you sit here this morning as a true follower of Jesus Christ, you belong to Jesus Christ. As we prepare for the Lord's Table this morning, I want us to reflect on that great truth, the reality that we are His. And I want us to do so under three headings. First of all, the spiritual reality. Secondly, the biblical reason. And then thirdly, the practical ramifications.

So let's begin then by considering the spiritual reality. And it's simply this: you, Christian, belong to Jesus Christ. You belong to Jesus Christ. There are so many passages in the New Testament that make this point. Let me give you just a couple of examples. In Galatians chapter 3, verse 29, and in Galatians 5, verse 24, Paul defines a Christian simply as those who belong to Jesus Christ. That's at its heart what it means to be a Christian. In Romans chapter 8, verse 9, Paul writes this: "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." In other words, if you're a Christian, you have the Spirit of Christ, His Holy Spirit residing within you. And that means you are, in fact, a Christian. And how does he define being a Christian? You belong to Him. You belong to Him.

Let me show you though how Paul develops this idea in his first letter to the Corinthians. Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 3. First Corinthians chapter 3, and begin in verse 21:

So then, let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas [that is Peter] or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, [why? because] you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

In other words, all things are yours, because all things belong to Christ, and you belong to Christ. That's just at its heart what it means to be a Christian. You belong to Jesus Christ. Go over to chapter 6. Chapter 6, verse 19. Paul writes, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" You don't belong to you. Why? Verse 20. Because—here's why you don't belong to you. "For you have been bought with a price." You belong to God through His Son Jesus Christ. Go over to chapter 7. Chapter 7, verse 21. Paul's talking about the circumstances, the human circumstances in which the first century believers were called to believe in Christ. And he says in verse 21,

Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you [were] able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman.

He's saying listen, if you're a slave—in first century context—if you're a slave and you come to Christ, understand that you are now freer than the person you serve, because he is a slave to sin and you are not. You are freed in Christ. But then he says, the end of verse 22, "Likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave." If in your context in life you were called to believe in the gospel and you were free, then you have become Christ's slave. Verse 23: "You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men." You belong to Jesus Christ. That's what I want you to get in your mind. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you—I'm talking to you individually. If you claim Christ, if you're His, you belong to Jesus Christ. You're His possession. He is your Master, your King, your Lord. That is simply the spiritual reality. It's what defines a Christian.

So, let's consider, secondly, the biblical reason. Why is that true? It's because He legally owns you. You belong to Christ, and the biblical reason is that He legally owns you. Why is that? Well, there's not just one reason. In fact, there're a number of them. I'm not even going to give you all of them this morning. Let me just give you four reasons that you legally belong to Jesus Christ.

Reason number one is creation. Creation. He made you, as He did all things. Turn to John's gospel, the first chapter. John chapter one. And you remember the prologue of John's gospel as he introduces the Eternal Son. He says in John 1, verse 1, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." He was in fact deity. "He was in the beginning with God." Here you have the concept that the Eternal Son was in fact God, and yet He was with God. You have latent in this the teaching of the Trinity. He was in the beginning with God. Now notice verse 3: "All things came into being through [the Word]." That is, through the Eternal Son, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life.

Paul, in Colossians chapter 1, verse 16, says it in very similar language. He says, "By Him [that is, by Jesus Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities." In other words, not just what we see, but those powerful beings that inhabit the spiritual world. "All things have been created through Him and for Him." Christ made all things. There are no exceptions. What that means practically is that you were ultimately created by Jesus Christ.

Now maybe you're thinking, well, wait a minute Tom. You know, I-I am the product of a reproductive system. I came from my mom and my dad, and that's really why I'm here. Well, of course that's true. But understand what both John the Apostle and Paul are saying. They're saying, nothing that exists was created apart from Jesus Christ. He is the One who created the reproductive system, and the only reason that it worked in your case and you sit here this morning is because of His sovereign decision.

Now, why does it matter that He created all things, that He created you? Listen carefully. It matters for this reason: creation implies ownership. Creation implies ownership. This is why our world loves the evolutionary theory. Because if we can somehow remove ourselves from having been created by God, then we're not owned by Him; He has no right to tell us what to do. If, on the other hand, He created us, then He owns us, and He has a right to tell us exactly how we ought to live.

We understand this principle. I mean, it permeates human life. Over in my office, just across the way in the chapel building, there is a standing desk that I made. I read Winston Churchill's biography, was inspired by the fact that he did much of his work behind a standing desk. And so I built that, and it's there in my office. Because I made it, legally I automatically own it. I didn't have to trademark it. I didn't have to patent it. I didn't have to somehow indicate that it's mine. It's automatically mine, because I made it. The same is true with everything that you make. The only exception to that is if you give away your rights of ownership. For example, some of you work for companies where in exchange for your paycheck you agreed that whatever you create on the clock belongs to that company. But you had to initiate that. You have to agree to that. Apart from the intentional relinquishing of your rights, whatever you create belongs to you.

Ultimately, Jesus Christ created you along with all things. So, let me just say it as bluntly as I can. Even if you're not a Christian, even if you have never embraced Jesus Christ as Lord, by virtue of creation, you belong to Him. You can deny that reality. You can imagine that it doesn't exist, but it doesn't change the fact.

Now the following reasons that I want to give you are only true of His disciples. That one's true for every human being. There isn't a human being on this planet for whom that's not true. We belong to Christ, all of us, because of creation. But if you're a genuine Christian, you not only belong to Christ because of creation, but secondly, you belong to Him by donation. By donation. You see, the Father gave you to Jesus Christ. The Father gave you to Jesus Christ. In eternity past, the Father, as an expression of His love to His Son, gave you to Him. That's because, you see, in the ultimate sense, God's entire plan of redemption was not designed for us but for Christ. Now don't misunderstand. Obviously, there are amazing and wonderful benefits and blessings that come to us through the eternal plan of redemption. We can know God. We can experience forgiveness. These are magnificent realities. But in the ultimate sense, the plan of redemption is not about you or me, but it's about Christ.

This becomes very clear in John 17. Turn there with me. This is the high priestly prayer of our Lord on the night before His crucifixion. And throughout this prayer Jesus uses a very interesting expression. Let me show it to you. Begin in verse 1:

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come [of course talking about the hour of His death and His sacrifice for sin]; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, [now watch verse 2] even as You gave [Me, the Son] authority over all flesh, [now watch this] that to [Jesus is speaking to the Father] that to all whom You have given Him [that is, Me] [I] may give eternal life."

Notice that expression: all that You have first given Me, I can give them eternal life. Verse 6: "I have manifested Your name to the men [watch this] whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word." Verse 12: "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name." I kept them. Why? Because You gave them to Me.

Now, when you read those first few verses, you might be tempted to think, well, yeah Tom, but he's talking about the apostles; He's just saying that You gave the apostles to Me, Father. Well, let me show you that that's not what He means. It's more than that, because go down to verse 20. Now Jesus changes the tenor of His prayer. He has been praying primarily for the apostles, but in verse 20 that changes. "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but [I'm also praying] for those... who [will] believe in Me through their [that is, the apostle's] word." Folks, that's all of us. He looks into the future, and He says there're going to be people, Father, who believe in Me, who don't see Me firsthand but believe in Me through their word. That's all of us.

Now notice what Jesus says about us. Verse 24: "Father, I desire that they also [now talking about all who believe in Him through the words of the apostles], whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." Do you understand the enormity of what Jesus was praying here? He's saying that the people God is saving in time had already been given to Him by the Father as an eternal love gift to the Son. The Father designed a redeemed humanity who would be with His Son forever (as He prays there in verse 24 and in the rest of this prayer), who would reflect the glory of His Son by being in His image morally. You belong to Christ, Christian, by divine donation, because in eternity past as an expression of His eternal love for the Son, the Father gave you to the Son.

There's a third reason you belong to Christ. And this is the obvious one: redemption. Redemption. He purchased you with His own blood. You see, all of us, without exception, were born as slaves of sin. Here's how Paul puts it in Romans 6:17. Speaking to us who are now Christians, he says, before you became followers of Christ (this is Romans 6:17) "you were slaves of sin." You just were. If you're here this morning and you're not in Jesus Christ, you are a slave of sin. You say, well, what defines a slave of sin? Well here's Jesus. John 8:34. Listen to what He says. "Jesus [said to] them, 'Truly, truly.'" That's Jesus' way of introducing a solemn pronouncement of some great truth. "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who [is in a pattern of committing] sin is the slave of sin." If you're in a pattern of committing sin from which you cannot remove and extricate yourself, you are a slave of sin. We all were by birth and by nature. But here's the wonderful reality of the gospel: Jesus redeemed us.

I want you to go back to 1 Corinthians 6. I read it for you a moment ago, but I want you to see it in this context. First Corinthians 6. Paul is dealing at the end of this chapter with the fact that we are not to commit sexual sin with our bodies, and he's arguing for that on several fronts. And one of them comes at the end of the chapter, verse 19. First Corinthians 6, verse 19: "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you." Christian, you are indwelt by God's Holy Spirit. Your body is like a temple in which the Spirit of God lives. And you have that Spirit from God.

And here's another reason: you are not your own. "You are not your own. For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." Now, you understand the picture, and the readers in Corinth in the first century understood the picture. The picture is of an ancient slave market. There was a large one in Corinth. Paul is arguing that we were in that slave market of sin, and Jesus bought us out of that slave market of sin. He bought us by the sacrifice of His own life. There has been a change of ownership. You remember, we saw it in chapter 7, verse 22. You are Christ's slave.

What was the price He paid? Well, there are a number of places in the New Testament that talk about this. But Revelation 5, verse 9, tells us the price. It says, "They sang a new song, saying, [this is to Jesus] 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals, for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'" We were slaves of sin. But by an act of God's grace, Christ purchased us with His own life, so that we are now slaves of Jesus Christ.

Now that word "slave" is the Greek word doulos. In the first century it only meant one thing: slave. Doulos was so common that anyone hearing it would have immediately thought of someone owned by and in the service of another. It refers generally to every genuine believer. In fact, in the New Testament, to say that a person is a doulos, a slave of Jesus Christ, is simply another way to say that he's a Christian. It describes believers as those whose lives are wholly devoted to the service of their Lord Jesus Christ. It describes complete allegiance, absolute ownership and total authority. If you're a Christian, brother and sister, you are not free. You belong to Jesus Christ. He is your Master and Lord.

Now you say, wow, that sounds like a pretty harsh picture to describe our relationship to Christ. Understand this. Our new master—unlike our old master, Satan and sin—our new master is kind and gentle and gracious and loving. In fact, He treats His slaves not as slaves but as His friends and His family. Listen to John 15:15: "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." Galatians 4:7: "Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." That's grace.

Now please don't misunderstand this New Testament image. Doulos, the New Testament word, should not conjure up images of American slavery. This is a different message for a different time. But both the Old Testament and the New Testament condemn the kind of slavery in which a free man is taken by force from his home and his family. It's called kidnapping, and under the Old Testament law it was punishable by death. God hates that. In the American system of slavery, a man or a woman often had their humanity taken away. They were degraded. They were brutalized, treated as an animal. That's not what the New Testament means by a slave of Jesus Christ. Instead, Paul is thinking back to Old Testament terms. His language is intended to remind us of something altogether different. It brings to mind the scene in Exodus 21, the image of an Old Testament slave who is offered his freedom and who refuses, choosing instead to stay voluntarily with his master for life, because of the good and kind and gentle, gracious nature of their relationship. You see, being Christ's slave isn't something negative, it's something that's filled with joy and gratitude and the kindness of the One who bought us with His own life.

Let me just be very direct and frank with you. Today, everyone in this room is a slave. You are a slave. According to the New Testament, according to Jesus Himself, you are either a slave of your sin, or you're a slave of Jesus Christ. There are no other options. You're one, or you're the other. If you're a Christian, the slave-master picture describes your relationship to Jesus Christ. Jesus is your Kurios, your Lord, and you are His slave, His doulos.

There's a fourth reason you belong to Christ, and it's devotion. Devotion. You have devoted or committed yourself to love and follow Jesus Christ. You see, the call to salvation, the call to believe the gospel invitation is a call to devote yourself to follow Christ. Listen to Mark 8:34: "He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and [He] said to them, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself [and] take up his cross and follow Me.'" Follow Me. You see, the willingness to follow Christ as Teacher and Lord marks all true Christians. It's what true repentance and faith look like.

Jesus says—if you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, you're not His disciple, you're not right with God, Jesus says if you want what I have to offer, if you want the forgiveness that I have to offer, then you must deny yourself. That's not asceticism. It's not somehow hurting yourself, depriving yourself of things. Literally it means to renounce yourself. In other words, it's like saying to God, "God, I renounce the person I've been. I no longer want to have anything to do with that person. I'm coming to You, God, and there's nothing in me I want to try to salvage. There's nothing worth keeping. I renounce myself." That's what it means.

And "take up [your] cross." The cross was an implement of death and execution. Jesus wasn't saying that you're going to have to die for Him. A lot of Christians live their whole lives and don't. They die normal deaths. Jesus' point is if you want to come to Him for salvation, if you want to become His disciple, you have to value Him more than your own life. Take up your cross.

And He says, "and follow Me." To follow Jesus is to submit to His will. It's to value Him more than our own will, to put Him and His kingdom first, to serve Him wherever, doing whatever He wants, and obedience to His revealed commands. So to follow Jesus is to own Him as Lord. It's to do whatever He wants in service to Him and in obedience to His Word.

Now here's my point. If you're a Christian this morning, that is the very commitment you already made. At the moment of salvation you renounced yourself. You took up your cross, and you committed yourself to follow Jesus Christ. And no matter how long you've been in Christ, that commitment is still binding. It's still true. You belong to Christ because of the commitment you made to follow Him.

So we have seen, then, the spiritual reality: you belong to Christ. We've seen the biblical reason: He legally owns you. I just want to very briefly consider, thirdly, the practical ramification. It's you are not your own. You are not your own. That general ramification is presented in 1 Corinthians 6. Jesus bought us out of the slave market of sin. There's been a change of ownership. We now belong to Him. Listen to 1 Corinthians 6:20: "You have been bought with a price." Now notice the general ramification of that reality. It comes in the previous verse, verse 19. "You have been bought with a price"; therefore, "you are not your own." You are not your own. You don't belong to you.

Well, what does that mean practically? Well just very briefly, let me give you some specific implications of the fact that you are not your own, that I am not my own. I'm not going to take time to develop these. I'm just going to give you a little list. And I want you to think about it in the coming days and apply this to yourself, because this is the reality. Here are some specific implications of the fact that you are not your own.

Number one: your entire life belongs to Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 5:15: "He died for all [of us], so that they who live [that's us] might no longer live for themselves." Did you hear that? "Might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." Your whole life belongs to Jesus Christ.

Number two: your body belongs to Jesus Christ. We're going to get to Romans 12:1. When Paul comes to the practical application of the great gospel he taught, this is how he starts. "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Do you understand your body isn't yours? You have no right to decide what to do with your body. Only Jesus Christ has that right. That's why in 1 Corinthians 6 he talks about sexual sin. You don't have right to use your body the way you want because it doesn't hurt anybody else. No. Your body belongs to Jesus Christ.

Number three: your mind and thoughts belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 12:2 says—right after it says present your bodies, it says present your minds. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." He's not talking there (by the will of God) about what color car you buy next. He's talking about what's revealed in the Scripture. He's saying renew your mind with the Scripture. Think that way. You know what most people do when a subject comes up, some contemporary issue? Their first response, even as Christians, is "Well, I think." Who cares? You're a Christian. You don't have a right to think what you want to think. Your first response should be, "What does Christ think about this?"

Number four: your spiritual life belongs to Christ. And here's how He wants it lived. Romans chapter 6, verse 19: "Just as you [used to present] your members [your body's members] as slaves to impurity and... lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now [here's what your Christian life should look like] present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in [increasing] sanctification." By order of Christ you are to pursue righteousness. Your response to sin shouldn't be, "You know what, Tom? You're right. I really shouldn't do that." No. Your response to sin should be, "I have no right to do that."

Number five: your time belongs to Christ. Ephesians 5:16: "Making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Your time isn't yours to spend as you choose.

Number six: your marriage belongs to Christ. In 1 Corinthians 7 we learn whether or not you become married belongs to Christ. It's His decision to gift some for marriage and some for singleness. But if you are married, how you respond to your spouse isn't yours to decide. I promise you there are some people sitting in this room who think they can decide how to treat their spouse. You have no right. Christ has said here's how you're to treat your spouse.

Your kids belong to Christ. Ephesians 6:4: "Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

Your work and career, number eight, belong to Christ. You realize you work—I don't care who you work for. You work for Jesus Christ. Would He be pleased with your performance?

Your possessions belong to Christ. Luke 14:33, Jesus says, "None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions." Literally, "all that he has." It doesn't mean you have to sell everything you have. It means you have to recognize it's not yours. It's not yours, it's His.

Number ten: your normal decisions belong to Christ. Your daily decisions are not yours to make. Luke 17:10 says, "When you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; [because we've] done only that which we ought to have done.'" You ought to spend your life, I ought to spend my life, following Jesus' commands. Our daily decisions are not ours.

Number eleven: your decisions about issues of conscience belong to Jesus Christ. I wish I had time to take you to Romans 14. You know what Paul says in Romans 14? You better make the decision about those things related to Christ.

Finally, number twelve: your priorities belong to Christ. Your life's priorities are not yours to determine. Listen to Paul. Galatians 1:10: "Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be the [slave, the doulos] of Christ." Your life ought to be about pleasing God, pleasing Christ. Philippians 1:20: "My earnest expectation and hope... [is that] Christ will.. be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." That ought to be your ambition for living. "For to me, to live is Christ." Understand, you live entirely for someone else. Everything about you He bought, He owns, He has authority over. Every day and in every moment we must ask ourselves, "What does my Lord want me to do?"

How would Jesus finish this study this morning? I think I know, because it's what He had to say to His disciples in John 13, verse 13, in the Upper Room Discourse. After washing their feet, He says this to them: "You call Me Teacher and Lord [Teacher and Kurios, your Master]; and you are right, for so I am." That's how we're to respond to Jesus Christ. He is our Teacher and our Master, our Lord.

Communion is a chance to reaffirm our commitment to follow Jesus Christ, but more importantly, it's a reminder of His purchase of us with His own blood. Take a moment and prepare your heart as the men come.

Our Father, we do acknowledge the reality that we have studied together this morning. For all of us who have repented of our sins, who have put our faith solely in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as as our only hope of being right with You, being reconciled to You as sinners, and who were the slaves of sin, Father, for us we acknowledge the reality that we belong to another, we belong to Jesus Christ. He bought us. He owns us. Father, help us to live in the light of that reality. Thank You that He is gracious and gentle and He doesn't treat us like slaves but He treats us as friends, that we have become His brothers and sisters, that we're in Your family. Father, don't let us get over what has happened to us and who we are in Christ. I pray for those who may be here this morning who are not believers. Lord, help them to see that they are, in fact, right now, slaves of their own sin. And Lord, if they're not convinced of that, make that clear to them in the weeks ahead as they try to change, and bring them to Christ, who is the only One who can make us truly free. And Lord, for us as we now take of the Lord's table, we come seeking Your forgiveness, as we already have even as we read Psalm 130 this morning. But Lord, we come again asking You to forgive our sins for Jesus' sake. Lord, we confess them. We own them as our own. We ask for Your forgiveness, and by Your grace we acknowledge that we want most of all to walk again in the path of obedience. Help us to do so. And help us now as we take of the Lord's Table to do so with clean hands and pure hearts, because we have confessed our sin individually to You. Receive our worship. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.