It May Be the Devil, or it May Be the Lord

There are words that society uses to indicate weakness, defeat, setback and a host of negative terms and conditions. From our earliest conscious moments we are taught the concepts of winning and losing. Submission, surrender, yielding, obedience to another, these are taught as negative responses to life and so we tend to develop a certain stubborn resistance to anyone or anything claiming superiority or dominance over us. In the late 1960’s, rebellion, resistance, rejecting the social order of a previous generation characterized a rising tide of “anti” attitudes and developing life-styles among young people in Western culture. The enemy of a growing, defiant segment of society became a vague image known as “the establishment.” Paul Anka echoed the attitude of self-centeredness and self-fulfillment when he wrote the song that Frank Sinatra would make famous called “My Way.” Anka and Sinatra and Presley and all those who sang the song with great conviction and with deep emotion were wrong. Consider these words of the final verse of the song,

For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels; And not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows – And did it my way!

Yes, it was my way.

Holy Scripture indicates a day and an hour in the which “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Anka’s “My Way” asks, “…what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught.” No, what a man has, what anyone has that will stand the test of eternity is full and complete submission, total surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. Submission, surrender, yielding, obedience to Christ; those words and the attitudes we were taught to abhor as children are the very words and attitudes that will enable us to gain eternal life. The Bible record is replete with stories of people who rejected the rule of God over their lives and suffered eternal grief as the result. One man, Saul of Tarsus sought to live a perfect and God honoring life without surrendering his heart and soul to Jesus. His quest for self-righteousness brought him into the dirt of a pathway where he found himself blinded and terrified at the voice of the One who would he later would confess with great gladness was his Master. Saul, turned Paul at his conversion would wear the label “bond-servant” with great affection and joy. Paul learned the glory of surrender and the honor of subordination and wrote throughout the New Testament to underscore the absolute necessity of a life-submission that would bring to mankind a freedom broader and deeper than any human association could provide. Continuing with the disclosure that song lyrics can provide, think about those written by Bob Dylan in his song, “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

And since it is true, we will serve somebody, whether that “somebody” is a person, a thing, an addiction or an attitude, we all, regardless of every effort to the contrary will find ourselves serving “somebody.” And we cannot serve more than one master. Jesus said in attempting to serve both God and earthly treasure and affluence we will love the one and hate the other. Here is how He said it: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Notice that Jesus did not say that money is evil or that we ought to live as paupers but that serving money and its apparent power is the antithesis to serving God (because the apparent power of money becomes a substitute for total reliance on God for our lives and our livelihoods). In spite of all the philosophical dancing and rationalizing and justifying that so many of us have become adept at performing, we all, willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unwittingly will serve “somebody.” And there is room only for one master in our lives. And the choices of master distill to these: It’s God or mammon, God or money; we will bow either to the supremacy of God or the muscle of money. Oh yes, we can serve the masters of alcohol or drugs or relationships or sports or a plethora of false and man-made gods, but these all are condensed to that term Jesus used: “Mammon,” “money” and the perceived power that money can purchase. Billy Graham once opined that he had never seen a U-Haul trailer attached to a funeral coach. When we leave this world and this life, our money and all its supposed power ceases to be a factor in either our destination or our eternal condition. Money leaves the playing board upon death. God continues to be God. And serving God is not an onerous thing, because “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, (physical, temporal satisfactions) but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. When God is our Master, we have peace and joy. When He is in control of our lives, we are not tossed about by the storms and the tempests of life. When we have submitted to Him, He is our Protector, our Provider, our Peace and the place of rest and comfort for our souls. When God is in charge, I can be assured that though I may not know the way forward, and though the future may be a cloudy and imprecise thing I know that I can face any future, and overcome any obstacle because,

I know Whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day.

To believe on Him is to submit to Him, to entrust our eternal souls to His care and to His wisdom and to His way. To submit to Him is to confess that He, Jesus is Lord of our lives. To make Him Lord and Master is to find ourselves and in finding ourselves, to know peace and joy and comfort and the fulfillment of the desires of our hearts. As Mr. Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody,” and I hope that it’s the Lord.