While I was walking in my neighborhood, I passed a man sitting on a bench in his yard. About ten feet away from the man was his dog, a German Shepherd. To the casual observer, the dog appeared to be doing nothing at all, but I sensed that the dog was actually waiting for a command from the man, his master. Although apparently relaxed, the German Shepherd had its ears cocked and tuned to any utterance from its master, ready at any instant to do whatever was commanded. As I thought about that, I realized that the dog is made for no other purpose than to obey a master. This German Shepherd has no goal in life and, by itself, no inherent reason for existence. But when the dog has a master who commands the dog for the master’s pleasure, then the dog has a purpose.
THE NEED FOR A MASTER
As I contemplated these things, I began to see that the life of every person is similar to life of a dog in this sense, that as the dog seeks a master to give its life meaning, so the human being is adrift in the world until he submits to God to direct his life. We have been created to serve our great God and to obey His commands.
MAN, THE HIGHEST CREATURE
Now, to some, this sounds preposterous and maybe a little insulting. Man is the highest of the creatures on the earth, the only one created in God’s image. Man has intellect and volition and is able to comprehend both the future and the past. Man has been able to accomplish phenomenal things in every conceivable field of endeavor. And all of that is remarkable and certainly sets man apart from the rest of the creation.
MAN, THE MORAL CREATURE
But the fundamental difference between human beings and the rest of the created order is not man’s intellect but is man’s morality. Man is the only creature that is morally aware, so that man is responsible to God for his moral judgments and his actions. He has been created by a holy God to obey His Creator’s commandments and to live in harmony with his holy God and to enjoy fellowship with Him forever. When a man submits to God as his Master, then that man has peace and purpose.
MAN, THE FALLEN CREATURE
Now, we know that most human beings do not submit to God as their Master. This is because man is a fallen creature and has rebelled against God. Man is born as a sinner and therefore refuses to submit to God. The natural man rejects God as his Master and instead chooses to do whatever he wants to do. In this sense, then, natural man is similar to the German Shepherd without a master. Both have a life without purpose.
REDEEMED MAN, THE BORN AGAIN CREATION
But there is good news! For even though man is born into this world as a sinner and as a rebel against God, he can be born again and can be made into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In the analogy with the German Shepherd, as the dog can find a master and be trained to obey him, so a human being can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and can obey Him as Master. The person who submits to and obeys Jesus Christ is a person who has found meaning and usefulness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
Here are some illustrations of how this analogy might work.
A dog who has submitted to a master and is well-trained does not evaluate the commands of the master. The dog simply obeys the master’s command as issued and leaves the reason for the command up to the master. In other words, the dog does not need to understand the reason for the command to obey it.
In the same way, the disciple of Jesus should not evaluate the commands of the Lord or delay obedience until they understand the reasons for the commands. They should be as Abraham when he was told to take Isaac to Moriah to sacrifice him there (Genesis 22:1). Abraham obeyed, even though he could not have understood why the LORD would give him such a command. The disciple of Jesus obeys by faith, even if they don’t understand.
As I have already argued, a dog’s life is relatively useless without a master to give it direction, but with a master who will train the dog, the dog can be very useful.
In the same way, a man is relatively useless until he is called to salvation. In fact, often without the Lord’s call a person’s life is destructive and negative and worse than useless. In Matthew 20:1-15, in the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the owner of the vineyard goes repeatedly to the marketplace where the workers are just standing around doing nothing. This is an illustration of our life before we know Jesus as Lord and Savior. No matter our labors before Christ, we are simply standing idle in the marketplace. But once we are figuratively hired and sent out to labor in the vineyard, then our lives are useful as we produce fruit for the Kingdom.
The dog who is properly trained by its master seeks only the approval of its master. It may be friendly to other people, but its primary motivation is to please its master.
In the same way, the disciple of Jesus who has submitted to Christ seeks the approval of Christ above all things. His primary aim is to hear from the Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
The trained German Shepherd waits for its master’s commands. Remember the dog on the lawn beside its master. Even though apparently at rest, the dog was actually in focused anticipation for any command from its master.
In the same way, the disciple of Jesus eagerly reads the word of God so that he may know the commands of the Lord. The trained disciple seeks the Lord’s commands so that he may eagerly obey.
When the trained dog hears the voice of its master, it goes from dead still to obedient action in a moment. Just so, when the trained disciple discerns the voice of the Lord, he moves into action without hesitation.
A dog that has been properly trained will attempt to obey the master’s command, even if that obedience results in the dog’s death. For the dog with a master, obeying its master is more important than life itself.
Likewise, the disciple of Jesus joyfully obeys the Lord regardless of the circumstances. This is captured in the words of the apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
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