Gotta Serve Somebody

Man having to choose between an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other

Digital World

We live in a digital world, don’t we?

What does that mean to you? What does it mean to live in a “digital world”?

Heading to my Mac’s trusty dictionary (as I often do), its first definition of digital is:

(of signals or data) expressed as series of the digits 0 and 1, typically represented by values of a physical quantity such as voltage or magnetic polarization. Often contrasted with analog.

We are definitely in a computerized world…and computers, ultimately, do all their work in ones and zeros…but when I said, “We live in a digital world” I was really going with the idea that we live in an either/or world…an either this or that world.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

It is either 0 or 1…there is no 0, .1, .2, .23, and so on.

  • Just 0 or 1.
  • On or off.
  • Hot or cold.
  • Black or white.
  • Right or wrong.
  • Good or evil.
  • You are with me or against me.
  • Fast or slow.
  • Life or death.
  • Strong or weak.
  • Light or dark.
  • Married or single.

And we could go on. We have a very yin-yang mindset where there are only two, equal sides to a coin maintaining balance.

Analog World

But, that mentality is a bit odd given our actual reality…

Although it is true that some things truly have just two states, for instant you cannot be “almost” pregnant :-), we actually live in an analog world. There isn’t just fast or slow…there is every speed in-between them. There isn’t just strong or weak…there are people like me who aren’t The Rock nor the 97 pound weakling from the Charles Atlas’ ads in comic books I read as a kid. Neither strong not weak. There isn’t just hot or cold…there is lukewarm…and every other temperature in-between.

Although we may think digitally, until we get into quantum mechanics, everything in the physical realm around us is analog.

The Spiritual World

What about in the spiritual world?

Is it digital or analog?

I supposed it all depends on what aspect of the spiritual world you look at. There is a heaven and there is a hell. There is God and there is the devil.

But even in those cases, we have to be cautious…because often in our digital, either/or mindset we think of opposites as “equal opposites.” But, the devil is not an equal opposite of God…and…I would argue…some of our misperceptions of hell are because we think it has to be opposite of heaven in every respect.

But today we are going to talk about something that I believe is truly either/or…and we’ll do that thanks to Casey Kasem and Bob Dylan.

Casey Kasem and Bob Dylan

I am a man of habits, and as I get ready on Sunday mornings I turn on SiriusXM’s 70s on 7…and during that time they play reruns of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. A recent week they were playing the one for the week of October 27, 1979. #25 that week was a tune from Bob Dylan I don’t recall hearing before titled, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” It begins like this:

You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

 

But 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 somebody1

Pretty much the whole song follows that theme…talking about all kinds of different people…and then noting that regardless of who they are or what they do…they have to serve somebody.

It may be the devil or it may be the Lord…but you are going to serve somebody.

But, is that accurate?

Let’s see if the Bible supports such a digital, either/or statement, turning first to 1 Corinthians 10:14—21:

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

Let me ask you this. If we could build a time machine and go back to the day when Paul penned those words…and found one of the pagans the apostle was speaking about…

And we could ask him or her, “With your idols, are you worshiping demons?,” what do you think their answer would be?

I’m pretty sure they would reply, “No way, we aren’t worshipping demons…nor their leader, the devil.”

Yes, what does Paul state?

“No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.”

It does not matter who the pagans think they are sacrificing to…they are sacrificing to demons…participating with demons.

And then Paul provides a very digital, either/or:

“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”

It’s either one or the other. You will pull your chair up to the Lord’s table…

Or you will pull your chair up to the devil’s.

Joshua

It shouldn’t surprise you that this isn’t the only time that Scripture provides such a stark, either/or choice. Perhaps one of the most famous was stated by Moses’ successor, Joshua, in Joshua 24:14—15:

14 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

“Choose this day whom you will serve…”

And ultimately it is either God or not God. The Bible gives no in-between…God in different forms…

It is either the God of Israel or…going back to what we read in 1 Corinthians…demons…

Before we move on from this point…that it is either the God of Israel or demons…we have make sure we aren’t being spiritually smug. My guess is that nobody sitting here is worshipping idols or another supernatural being.

But we can still have other gods. We can put money first. We can put our spouses first. We can put video games first…jobs first…sports first…

We can put ourselves first.

And anything we put ahead of the true God is our god and is us pulling our chair up to the table of demons.

“Choose this day whom you will serve…”

Jesus

Even Jesus wasn’t fuzzy in the choice. George W. Bush took a big hit for once saying, “”You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.”2

However, the Son of God, while on earth, said this:

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30).

How divisive!

But, truth is often divisive…and, in the modern world, Jesus seems the ultimate divider.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:34-39).

As Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me…”

You are either on Jesus’ side…or not. As warm and fuzzy as it would be to try to treat it like “good” non-believers somehow are aligned with our Savior, they are not.

And if they aren’t at the Lord’s table, whose table are they at?

Yes, the demons’.

Let’s also not forget Jesus’ famous (or infamous to pluralistic believers) words in John 14:6:

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

You worship either God or demons. You either get to God through Jesus or you don’t get to God.

Pascal’s Wager

Now, some might say that they choose neither God nor demons. To them I’d like to quote part of what is referred to as “Pascal’s Wager.” Blaise Pascal was a 17 century multi-talented French man…of which my favorite features were his being a mathematician and Christian philosopher. Here is an excerpt from the third part of his work Pensées, translated into English:

Let us then examine this point, and say, “God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separates us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

Do not then reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. “No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all.”

—Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that He is.—”That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.”—Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager.3

Although as I reread his Wager on Friday night, the second half of this is less clearly said…I would summarize Pascal’s Wager as…

If I, as a believer, am right, I gain everything. If I am wrong, I lose nothing.

If you, as a non-believer, are right, you gain nothing. If you are wrong, you lose everything.

Now, there is quite a bit more to it…but in this sermon I want to focus on the part where Pascal’s hypothetical opponent says, “No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all.”

To which Pascal replies, “Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked.”

The moment we were born we were “embarked.” We have to decide because…either when we die or when Jesus returns…we will either spend eternity with God or not.

We will either “gain all” as Pascal says or…

Lose all.

And, we’ve previously discussed that there is only one way to “gain all”…to be saved…which is choosing God.

Even if we assume an atheist is right, the wager still comes to fruition at our death. Then we either we know nothing or find out we were horribly wrong.

Pull your chair up to a table.

The table of the Lord.

Or the table of demons.

You must choose…and in reality…it is really…

Your chair is at the table of demons unless you move it to the Lord’s.

Who Will You Serve?

Yes, in the spiritual realm the most important choice is digital…either/or. 1 or 0.

An infinitely good 1 and a infinitely devastating zero.

I get the sense that these words, said of Israel thousands of years ago, would be appropriate today for much of the modern world:

8 “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, 9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you (Deuteronomy 12:8-9).

Again, notice the either/or, digital choice. Doing what is right in your own eyes or God’s inheritance…which, for you…which for me…is eternal life.

Or, as our Lord elsewhere says:

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15).

Bob Dylan’s list of different people included this…

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride

I hope I do not have “spiritual pride,” but the chorus of Dylan’s song holds for this preacher as much as it holds for anyone else…for you:

But 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

I choose life.

I choose the Lord.

I choose Jesus.

You?

Footnotes

1Dylan, B. (n.d.). Gotta Serve Somebody. Retrieved November 19, 2016, from http://bobdylan.com/songs/gotta-serve-somebody/

2CNN.com – “You are either with us or against us” – November 6, 2001. (2001, November 6). Retrieved November 19, 2016, from http://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/11/06/gen.attack.on.terror/

3Pascal, B. (1910). The Harvard Classics 48: Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works. (C. W. Eliot, Ed., W. F. Trotter, M. L. Booth, & O. W. Wight, Trans.) (pp. 84—85). New York: P. F. Collier & Son.


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