You Gotta Serve Somebody, Yes Indeedy Doo

You Gotta Serve Somebody, Yes Indeedy Doo

Bob Dylan wrote some really great songs during his so-called ‘born-again’ period. Perhaps the most famous was, You Gotta Serve Somebody. The lyrics are pure gold:

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,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to 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.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes 
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.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed.

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

It’s astonishing that Dylan won a Grammy for singing so-blatantly a Christian song, but he did! (He won for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male, 1979.)

The message of the song is spot on – right out of the book of Romans. No matter who you are or what you do or where you live or how much you have in your bank account, you WILL serve somebody.

This is a universal truth. Even as you read these words today, it’s true of you.

And, in his letter to the Romans, Paul gives us a simple spiritual test to help us determine who we’re actually serving at any given moment.

It goes like this: The one I present myself to, the one I obey, THAT’S the one I serve. Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

Romans 6:16: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

If I present myself to gossip, I am serving sin. If I present myself to sexual immorality, I am making sin my master. If I present myself to dishonest gain, I am offering myself to sin as its servant. If I present myself to drunkenness, I am bowing before sin to obey it. If I present myself to the ‘god of stuff’ – materialism – I am not serving the God of Heaven, despite my claims to the contrary, I am serving sin.

If I present myself to any of these, sin is my master and I am its servant. Period.

Paul wrote that “the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” And then he adds, soberly, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

This is a hard word! Paul is not saying that a truly born-again Christian man or woman cannot fall into one of these areas of sin, for sin still works within us and wars against the Spirit. But he is saying that these practices mark the unbeliever, not the believer. Christians are slaves to Christ, they love and serve Him. Unbelievers serve only their flesh.

How arcane it is then – even unnatural – that a child of God, one who’s been released from his or her slavery to sin, should return again to sin and serve it!

How the angels of Heaven must wonder at the sight!

But we who have been given God’s own Spirit are now free to God, to present ourselves to Him. And the “fruit” of walking in the Spirit is far more lovely than the aforementioned “works of the flesh. They are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a). Who wouldn’t rather desire such things?

So, Paul enjoins all believers to a daily exercise of presenting: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). The Greek word translated “present” here (παρίστημι) is the same word used in Romans 6:16 above – “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey?”

Here’s the point: You’re going to do some presenting today, we all are. You’re either going to present your members – your eyes, your ears, your tongue, your heart – to God to serve Him, or you’re going to present them to sin to serve it.

Presenting ourselves regularly to God will lead to greater optimism, a clearer sense of purpose, and an increased commitment to purity. Presenting ourselves to sin will create a felt distance from God, a confused sense of purpose and will neutralize our effectiveness as God’s ambassadors.

‘Confusion’ is not a word I use randomly. Paul tells us that it is in presenting ourselves to God – in the transforming renewal of our minds – that we come to understand God’s will for us. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Confusion is the product of presenting myself to sin; clarity comes when I present myself to the true and living God.

So, Dylan follows Paul who follows God: ‘You Gotta Serve Somebody.’

May we fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all our hearts – and consider what great things he has done for us (1 Samuel 12:24).


To consider:

  • Let’s begin with Paul’s question in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey …”

Well, do you really know that?

Have you ever considered that allowing yourself to sin, giving into sin, is actually presenting yourself to sin as an obedient servant of it?

Do you see how slavery to sin makes us slaves, while slavery to Christ makes us free? What do you think this means?

  • Based on Paul’s insistence that the one I present myself to is the one I’m actually serving, who are you really serving? God or sin?

Are there areas of your life where you routinely obey your sinful desires rather than the Lord?

Consider the spiritual blessings such decisions are keeping you from!

  • Contrast the soul-crippling “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21) with the life-giving “fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23a).

What would lead us to choose the former over the latter?

How can we embrace these ‘better’ things as God’s people? (Hint: it has everything to do with ‘presenting,’ see Romans 12:1-2).

  • The Apostle Peter references a proverb that says, “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22).

While this is graphic (and pretty gross actually), how might it apply to born-again people who present themselves again to sin?

Consider this in light of Romans 6:12-13: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

So, who is ‘reining’ in YOUR mortal body? Who’s your king? Sin? Righteousness?



  1. Kathryn Boisvert : April 23, 2018 at 6:45 am

    So this blog is encouraging us to do a personal assessment daily maybe several times a day. Thank u, Pastor, for not candy coating scripture for us! May the Lord bless us as we continue in this journey together remembering to give grace to ourselves & others when we fail remembering that that’s what he does for us. I will be true to Him, striving to please Him first and serving HIM, at all times, even in my imperfections.


  3. i need to be strong instead of being soft i have a good heart because ofJESUS in my life

  4. It may be helpful in this struggle to put to death the power of sin in our flesh to “count the cost”. We place ourselves at the foot of the Cross, where Jesus paid the ultimate cost to redeem us, and lay down those sins we’ve been tolerating. In that act of submission, we will be empowered by His Holy Spirit to resist the enemy according to the promise of James 4:7.

  5. David Medeiros : April 23, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    It is quite evident from biblical texts used here, we have to choose which master we will obey. There can be no vascillating here or we will succumb to our flesh and the enemy’s subtle deception.Consider the words of Jesus in John 8:34,Jesus answered them, ” Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Every decision we make in the process of discipleship, it has to be intentional. Paul reinforces this principle in Eph. 4:13-15 ” until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

  6. Joy Lavallee : April 23, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    Yes challenging for sure. The enemy knows he can’t have us but he can surely neutralize us and our testimony to the world if they see us returning and returning to sin. What does that say to what we believe ?

  7. Good word Pastor G

  8. “Are there areas of your life where you routinely obey your sinful desires rather than the Lord?” It is very sobering to think upon that question.

  9. It’s easy to say “I surrender” and to even sing “I surrender all”, but there is a much more challenging reality behind those words. I know I owe my life to Jesus, but I don’t always live that way. Lord, give me a clearer and more honest view of my own heart …

  10. Karen Martel : April 25, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    This ties in so perfectly with Pastor Dave’s message about not allowing ourselves to fall into “respectable” or “acceptable” sin. We need not be soft on ourselves in ANY area of sin. Thank you, Lord, for showing us where we fall short and to give us grace to cover our shortcomings, and strength and desire to be more like you.

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