Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: In a letter the apostle James referred to himself as a servant. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says this is an incredible choice of words.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Don’t you think if you were sending a letter to someone and you wanted them to know who you were that you’d put the really important thing in your introduction. This is, “Do you know who I am? We grew up together—Jesus and me.”

But he didn’t say that. It’s like his greatest claim to fame, the thing he most wanted people to realize about him was that he was a bondservant of Jesus Christ.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, June 1, 2015.

"The young actor exudes self-confidence, striding into the room . . .”

Leslie: Open any newspaper and you’ll see success defined in a certain way.

“The team’s point guard isn’t afraid to brag about his heroics on the court . . .”

Leslie: It seems like everybody is trying to create an impressive bio. But there’s an important concept that gets forgotten far too often when mentioning credentials—the concept of servanthood. Here’s Nancy to explain, beginning the series "Serving Like the Savior."

Nancy: How many of you have ever had to fill out a resume, or you’ve gone in for a job interview? Okay, most of us in this room. If you had to fill out that application or that resume, they probably wanted to know what qualifications you have for this job. What have you done? What can you do? What makes you think that you can do this job?

Maybe you’ve been in a position, as I have, of hiring someone to work in your company or your business or your organization; and you want to know of that applicant, what qualifications do they have? Can they do this job? There are certain qualifications that you look for when you hire someone.

If you have chosen a mate, those of you who are married, there were certain qualifications you were looking for. I know we have some gals here today who are in high school. You haven't pick a mate yet, but you probably from the time you were like four years old had an idea of: "This is what I want to be true of the man I marry. These are the qualifications." You look for certain qualities.

You look for certain qualities in a leader. When we pick the president of our country, we want him to have certain qualities.

When you pick a pastor for your church, you want him to have certain qualities. If you’re going to have a successful marriage, in preparing for marriage there are certain qualities that you need to have in that marriage. There are certain qualities that need to be true in a church and in people in a church if it’s going to be a healthy and functioning church.

But I want to talk today, whether it is in the workplace or at home or in the church, about a quality that determines whether somebody will really be great. In fact, I think this is the single greatest quality to put somebody on the pathway to true greatness. It’s a quality that probably doesn’t appear on most applications or most resumes. In fact, I think it’s one of the most overlooked and the least common and one of the least valued qualities in our culture.

It’s a quality you don’t find very often in people in the workplace or in homes or in churches. In fact, to many people in our culture, this quality is something they look down on. It's something they actually don't respect. It's something that some people find kind of repulsive. It’s a quality that sometimes we want others to have, but we’re not so eager to have it ourselves.

Of course, I’m talking about the qualification of a servant’s heart. Servanthood is something you don’t hear a whole lot about today. It’s not necessarily something that’s considered impressive. If you apply for a job at Burger King or some local business, it's not something that you think to put on the top of your resume—"I'm a servant. I'm a good servant. I've developed the quality of servanthood."

It's not something considered impressive. People want to know: Are you a leader? Do you have achievements? But I believe that servanthood, having a servant’s heart, is really a key to performing well in any role that you have in life.

In our culture we’re a whole lot more into success than we are into serving. We’re more into celebrities than servants. Look at the people who make the news, the people who make People magazine. They’re the celebrities, the stars, the people who have all kinds of achievements.

We don’t usually shine a spotlight on somebody because they’re a great servant. Often servants are the people who are behind the scenes. They’re not in the spotlight. They’re not noticed. They’re kind of obscure.

Who wants to be a servant? We want to be on top. We want to be performers. We want to be celebrities.

But the Scripture has a perspective on servanthood, on being a servant, that is exactly the opposite of the world’s perspective. That’s because God’s perspective on greatness is exactly the opposite of the world’s perspective on greatness.

Now, we’re going to give a little Greek lesson today, a very simple one because I don’t know much Greek. (Actually my background is Greek, but I don’t speak Greek.) But we’re going to give a little, simple Greek lesson in this series. We’re going to talk about two different words in the New Testament in the Greek language that when you open your English Bible you will find those words translated servant or serve.

There are two primary word groups in the New Testament in the Greek language that have been translated servant. We want to look at the first of those two words today. It’s the word doulos (d-o-u-l-o-s). The word is often translated slave or servant.

Sometimes in your Bibles, depending on your translation, it will be translated bondservant. Have you seen that word? Bondservant? It’s the word doulos. This is the most common word for servant in the New Testament, and it speaks of someone who is in a permanent relationship of servitude to his master. His will is totally consumed in the will of his master. It’s a permanent relationship; it’s a relationship of total servitude.

Now the concept for a doulos or a slave, a bondservant, is first found in the Old Testament in the book of Exodus. If you have your Bible, let me encourage you to open it to Exodus chapter 21. This is where God is giving to the Jews the laws for how they’re to function as a nation—the civil laws, the relational laws, the laws of employment, practical laws for working together as a nation.

In Exodus 21:2 God introduces the concept of what in the New Testament is called a doulos, a bondservant. Exodus 21:2: “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.” In other words, you cannot have a slave, somebody who is permanently serving you, you cannot keep him as your slave forever. You have to let him go in six years.

Sometimes people would be poor and they would sell themselves to someone else so they could have a job. Sometimes the slaves were better taken care of. Their needs were better met—they had an income; they have a place to live; they were fed. So to pay their debts or pay their bills, they would go become a slave to someone.

But God said in the seventh year you have to let slaves go. You cannot keep them any longer than that. However, look down at verse five. “If the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”

This is the first reference I think that you find in Scripture to pierced ears. How did that start? Pierced ears—it started with this whole issue of a bondservant.

Here’s what happened. The slave was going to be able to go out free, but in this case the slave said, “I’ve got it good here. I’ve got it better here than I would have it anywhere else. I have a job. I have an income. I don’t want to leave.” So he would go to his master, and he would say, “I want to work for you for the rest of my life.”

Now, you’d really have to trust somebody to make that kind of commitment. I mean you think about that job you have at Burger King. You probably don’t want to work there the rest of your life. But this slave would say, “I want to work for this man because I have a relationship with him. I love him. This doesn’t feel like slavery to me. He’s meeting my needs. He’s providing for me. He’s providing for my family, so I want to make a lifelong commitment to serve this master.”

So as a sign of this covenant, this relationship, this bondservant relationship, the master would take his servant and they would have this public ceremony in the presence of God, because God was the witness of this covenant; and the master would take a sharp tool, an awl, and he would pierce a hole in that servant’s ear.

That hole was always a sign, a permanent, visible picture to anyone who would see that servant that he belongs to his master. He’s a bondservant. He has a great relationship with his master. He’s chosen to serve that master for all of his life, and he shall be his slave forever.

Now notice that this was a voluntary choice. It’s not coerced. It’s not, “I have to serve this man.” It’s, “I want to serve this man. I love him. I want to be his bondservant.” So it’s motivated by relationship. It’s motivated by love for a good master.

But once they have that relationship, the servant, the bondservant, is owned by his master. He doesn’t belong to himself anymore. He belongs to someone else. That means he’s no longer free to do what he wants to do. He can’t decide which hours he works, which days he works, which jobs he does.

Whatever his master says, that’s what he does. His whole reason for living as a bondservant is to fulfill the wishes and the desires and the direction of his master. It’s a permanent relationship. You can’t get into this and six months later say, “I changed my mind.” You’ve got that hole in your ear to remind you this is permanent. I belong to this master. There’s no turning back.

If you think about running away from the job, if you think of changing your mind, you’ve got that visible mark of ownership in your ear all your life. Everyone else can see it. Your master can see it; your friends can see it; your family can see it. They all know this person is a bondservant, freely chosen. He loves his master. That probably means he has a good master.

I mean you wouldn’t do this, you wouldn’t become a bondservant of someone who was a cruel master or someone who didn’t feed you or didn’t meet your needs or didn’t pay you properly. That hole in your ear signified not only who you were, but it signified something about your master. He’s good. I love him. He’s a good man. So it reflected positively on the master.

To serve as a slave has an emphasis. This bondservant idea has an emphasis of subjection and of relationship—the subjection of my will to another. When we talk about the Christian being a doulos, a bondservant, a slave, who’s our master? Jesus Christ. It’s a picture of our relationship with Jesus as Lord.

So all through the New Testament you find God’s servants talking about themselves as bondservants of Jesus Christ, slaves of Jesus Christ. Now, we don’t think of a slave or a servant or a bondservant as being any high exalted position or something that anyone would aspire to be. But in the New Testament, those who ministered for the Lord considered it a privilege, a high and a holy calling, to be a bondservant of Jesus Christ.

So as you read through the New Testament Epistles, notice how many times the authors identify themselves—they give their bio sketch. Now most people wouldn’t put in their bio sketch, “I’m a slave. I’m a servant.” What’s the big deal about that? The disciples thought that was a really big deal. That’s all they wanted to be was bondservants.

Romans 1:1, Paul says, “I’m a bondservant of Jesus Christ” (paraphrased). It was one thing to be an apostle, to be called, but he said, “I’m a bondservant of Jesus Christ.” At the beginning of these letters the writers would introduce themselves. Here’s who I am. In Philippians 1, what does Paul say? “This is being written to you from Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ” (v. 1 paraphrased). They were His bondservants.

James 1:1, he’s introducing himself. Who’s the author? James. What’s his bio sketch? He’s a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now that’s pretty amazing, by the way, for James to say that because do you remember who James was? He was actually the brother of Jesus.

Don’t you think if you were sending a letter to someone and you wanted them to know who you were that you’d put the really important thing in your introduction? This is, “Do you know who I am? I mean, we grew up together, Jesus and me.” But he didn’t say that.

It’s like his greatest claim to fame; the thing he most wanted people to realize about him, was that he was a bondservant of Jesus Christ. He said, “That is my greatest joy to be a slave, a servant, of Jesus Christ.”

You see the same thing in 2 Peter 1:1. “Simon Peter, a bondservant and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (paraphrased). Yes, an apostle. There were only a few of those. That’s a high and exalted position. But what did he say first? “I’m a bondservant, a doulos, a slave. I’m a man with a hole in my ear. I have this mark of ownership. I don’t belong to myself; I belong to Jesus.”

The same thing in Jude verse 1. Jude was also a brother of Jesus. And what did he say? “I’m a bondservant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (paraphrased). He didn’t even claim his relationship with Jesus because his humble heart was like, “I’m not worthy to be the brother of Jesus. All I want to be is His bondservant, His doulos, His slave.”

I remember meeting a man a number of years ago named Josef Tson. Some of you have heard me talk about him before on Revive Our Hearts. This man is a brilliant man. He grew up in Romania; he’s Romanian. He was for many years a pastor in Romania back before the revolution.

In Communist Romania he served the Lord and had many difficult and painful experiences there. He was persecuted for his faith. He’s Oxford educated. The man is a scholar; he’s smart; he’s articulate. He’s one of these guys you listen to and you say, “This man is so brilliant.”

He was coming to speak to our staff one day. He had been exiled from Romania for his faith. Subsequently, he’s been able to go back. But at the time he was living in exile in the United States. He came to speak to our ministry. We asked him at the beginning, “How would you like to be introduced?”

Usually when people ask me that question, we hand them a biographical sketch, and it tells what you’ve done and where you’ve been and where you’ve spoken and how many books you’ve written and what your accomplishments are. But Josef Tson said, “I just want to be introduced as a slave of Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters. I am his doulos. I am his bondservant.”

You know the story of Mary of Nazareth. When the angel came to her as a young teenage gal engaged to be married, she was looking forward to having her wedding and to having a family and being the wife of Joseph. When the angel came to her and said, “Mary, we have a different plan for your life in heaven. God has a plan for your life and here’s what it is. You’re going to have a son. He’s going to be the Son of God.”

Mary has this incredible conversation with this angel. She says, “How can this be? I’ve never been intimate with a man. How can I have a child?” And the angel tells her, “The Holy Spirit is going to do this. It’s the power of God that’s going to make this possible.” When Mary responds to this incredible challenge, this calling that God put on her life, this impossible thing God was asking her to do, how did she respond?

You read about it in Luke 1:38. This is one of my life verses. It’s the verse that I want to be true of my responses to the Lord. Mary said to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. I am the Lord’s handmaiden” (NIV, KJV). It’s the feminine form of the word doulos. I am the Lord’s female bondservant. I’m a woman with a hole in my ear. I am His bondservant. “May it be unto me as you have said.”

What was she saying? “You know what? My life is not my own.” This is a teenage girl. Gals—and we have some teenagers here today—let me just tell you you’re not too young to say yes to the Lord. Now is the time to say "yes" to the Lord in your life.

Mary’s life was blessed through all of her life because as a young teenage girl she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. I am the Lord’s bondservant. I am His doulos. I am His slave. I am willing for God to do whatever He wants to do with my life. My life is not my own. It’s not mine to choose. These weren’t my plans, but they’re God’s plans."

“Lord, You want me to be married? I’ll be married. You want me to be single? I’ll be single. You want me to go to a Christian school? You want me to be home schooled? You want me to go here? You want me to do this? You want me to respond this way? I will do whatever You want me to do.” That’s the relationship a doulos has with his master.

In our ministry we have a motto that we try to keep before our staff. It’s a way we try to respond when we’re asked to do things. And we don’t always say it, but we keep it in the back of our minds. It’s something that just runs through our ministry, and it’s this line: I serve at the pleasure of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now, that phrase, “to serve at the pleasure,” is a phrase that actually if you’ll look in business circles and political circles and certain kinds of corporations and companies, it’s a phrase you’ll see. If you go to a website of a university and they’re giving the job description of the president, they’ll say, “The president serves at the pleasure of the board,” the board of directors at the university. Or you go to certain businesses and they’ll say, “This job functions at the pleasure, this person serves at the pleasure of the people who hire him.”

I remember reading about Colin Powell in 2003 when rumors were flying about whether he was going to continue serving in the Bush administration. And his response was simply, “I serve at the pleasure of the President.”

What does it mean to serve at the pleasure of someone? It means they appointed me. They chose me. They can hire me; they can fire me. They can use me; they can dispose of me. They can send me wherever they want. It’s not mine to say what I will do. I serve at the pleasure of the person who chose me. That’s the heart attitude of a doulos. I serve at the pleasure of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Who do you serve at the pleasure of? Yourself? Your friends? The crowd? The culture? Who do you obey? Who do you follow? Who do you seek to please?

Who do I serve at the pleasure of? Revive Our Hearts, our constituents, our listeners, people who read my books? Are they the ones who drive my life?

I want to serve at the pleasure of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What He says I will do. He is my master. I am His doulos. I am the Lord’s servant. May it be unto me as He has said.

Leslie: Are you ready to take on the important title of servant? Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray that you will develop a servant’s heart.

Without people serving faithfully, there would be no Revive Our Hearts. Every day teams of people are editing this program, developing the website, and transcribing Nancy’s teaching.

And other people—in fact, listeners just like you—serve by praying for this ministry. And other listeners serve by giving financially to the ministry.

If God’s using Revive Our Hearts in your life, would you consider supporting the ministry with your gift? When you make a donation of any amount, we’ll say thanks by sending Nancy’s classic book, Surrender: The Heart God Controls.

This book will show you why it’s so important to say, “Yes, Lord” day after day, decision by decision. Nancy will help you walk through a process of embracing your role as a bondslave of Christ and living out that decision moment by moment.

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, ask for Nancy’s book, Surrender. The number is 1–800–569–5959. We’ll send one book per household for your donation of any size during this series. Or, visit

Do you ever feel like God’s requiring more from you than He’s requiring from someone else? Nancy will give you important perspective on that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Now, Nancy's back to pray.

Nancy: Thank you, Lord, for being such an incredible master. You are a good Lord, and we love You, and we want to serve You with all of our hearts and with all of our lives for all of our lives, to serve at the pleasure of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What an incredible honor it is, Lord, to be Your servants, to be Your handmaidens, to be a doulos of the Lord.

I pray that we would live and serve as women with a hole in our ears so that everyone would know we have this mark of ownership. We don’t belong to ourselves. We don’t serve at the pleasure or at the beck and call of anyone or anything else other than You. May we live this day as bondservants of the Lord and have the joy and privilege all our lives of serving at the pleasure of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whose name we pray, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.