Last Sunday’s sermon text, Psalm 24, starts like this; “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” The meaning is clear. God owns everything and everyone, and all belong to Him. The implications are drastic. All we have is ultimately His. We owe our very lives to Him. In fact, because He owns us, we are quite simply His servants (whether or not we are willing to acknowledge this).
This brings up an interesting question for those who remember Jesus’ own words to His disciples in the Upper Room discourse. In John 15:15 Jesus says to them; “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus here relates that those who follow Christ are no longer servants, but intimately brought into a circle of fellowship with the second person of the Trinity. As Christians we are close associates of God Himself.
So how does this jive with the truth of God’s universal ownership laid out in Psalm 24? As Christians, should we see ourselves as servants of God, or friends? Is Jesus our Lord or our homeboy?
Maybe this is one of those things that shifts with the change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, we are servants of God who owns us. In the New Covenant, we are now brought near to God in Christ, and are friends. Are we now no longer servants? Do we leave that concept behind along with prohibitions on eating shrimp and pork?
The problem is Paul, a New Testament author, refers to himself as a servant of God (Titus 1:1) and a servant of Christ Jesus (Romans 1:1). He uses the Greek word doulos (δοῦλος), which simply means servant or slave. So which is it? Are we friends or servants of God and Christ?
Of course the answer is yes. We are both friends and servants of God. This is one of the incredible implications of the Gospel of Jesus, and the significant truth Jesus communicates in the Upper Room. We who are rightfully servants of God, we who are in every way owned and possessed by God, we who owe our very lives to God, we have now by some miracle become friends of God through Christ. In fact, we are now brothers and sisters of Christ (Hebrews 2:11), and children of the living God (Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5-6).
So yes, absolutely, God is our Lord and Master. Like Paul we are His servants. And yes, absolutely, God is also now our Father, our Family. We are His children and friends. Incredibly, we who follow Christ have been lifted up with Him in His resurrection, and we who formerly were distant from God have been brought near to Him, free to enter into His presence (Hebrews 10:19-22). Through our union with Christ, we approach Him with intimate familiarity while never losing our awestruck reverence.
This should probably shape our worship, both corporately and individually. I think it has to. And I think we lose something important if we lose either of these postures/perspectives. We will either think too little or too highly of ourselves, or we will think of God as either too distant or too similar to us. So let us worship with great familiarity and reverence. Why? The God who owns us is, because of Christ, the God who now calls us a friend.