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Lordship

06 Dec

jesus-is-lord-of-my-lifeWhy do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46

“Last year I falsified my income tax return, and I haven’t been able to sleep since. Enclosed is $125. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest.”

Jesus has called us to be different. He has described Christians as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” He has pointed out that the Christian and non-Christian communities are fundamentally different.

John Stott put it this way, “The world is like rotting food, full of bacteria, which cause its disintegration. The followers of Jesus are to be the salt of the world, arresting its decay. The world is a dark and dismal place, lacking sunshine and living in shadows. The followers of Jesus are to be its light, dispelling its darkness and its gloom.”

Jesus then went on to show how different Christians are: Our righteousness is to be deeper, reaching even our hearts.

John Stott summarizes it this way, “Our love is to be broader, embracing even our enemies. Our giving and praying and fasting are to be genuine, not for show. For our treasure, we choose that which lasts for eternity, not that which disintegrates on earth.”

” I think the church needs to lift its head up to heaven, repent of its small mindedness and ask God for a fresh vision of who the Lord Jesus Christ is. Without a God-given vision, we will not have the hope, the strength, the rationale, the wherewithal to move forward in personal holiness and witness for the Lord; effort without vision is like making bricks without straw—it’s just drudgery, like living in an old town where all it does is rain day in and day out.”

Can we dream for a moment about what God could do in our homes, communities, countries, world with one man fully committed to him?” What could the Lord do with our lives? With the lives of our friends? He is “the Lord” you know!

But any vision from God begins with a vision of God. So we begin by repenting from all known to sin and turning wholeheartedly to God; we turn from our worthless idols to the true and living God. And Lord we say to you, our King: “Please show us yourself in ways we could never have imagined (Jeremiah 33:3).

Fray Luis (Luis de Léon) was an Augustinian monk who lived from 1527-1591. He was imprisoned for many years during the Spanish inquisition, but his work lives on. He is well known for his commentaries on Song of Songs and Job, for his mystical poems, and for his great work, The Names of Christ.

In this latter work, he discusses why Christ is given so many names in Scripture: “Christ is given so many names because of his limitless greatness and the treasury of his very rich perfections and with them the host of functions and other benefits which are born in him and spread over us. Just as they cannot be embraced by the soul’s vision, so much less can a single word name them. Just as he who pours water in a bottle with a narrow and long neck does so drop by drop so the Holy Spirit who knows the narrowness and poverty of our understanding does not give us that greatness all at once but offers it to us in drops, telling us, at times something under one name, and some other thing at other times, under another name. Jesus Christ is the Lion of Judah, the Bright and Morning Star. He is the Branch, the Messiah, the Son of God, Son of David, and the Lamb. He is also the “King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.” [1]

He Is Sovereign Creator — John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 1:2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 1:3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.

I am reminded of a cute story that brings home the fact that the Lord Jesus created the entire cosmos from nothing: there was once a brilliant scientist who prided himself on his brilliant discoveries. He had won several awards for his creative abilities and was world renown for all his skill. But it was not long before it went to his head, as it would with any of us. On one occasion he was taken with the idea that he was just as powerful as God. He turned his eyes to heaven and proclaimed in the hearing of the Lord that he too could create a man just like the Lord had done. In his infinite playfulness, the Lord descended to take the scientist up on his claim. The Lord said to him, “So, you think you can make a man just like I did.” “Yes,” was the confident assertion. “OK,” said the lord, “Go ahead and give it a try.” The brilliant scientist, delighted with the challenge and confident in himself, reached down and picked up some dirt…. Immediately, however, a voice came from heaven: “No, no. Get your own dirt!”

He Is the Sovereign Sustainer

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

At this moment, there is a reason why all things hold together and the entire universe doesn’t collapse in a heap. It’s because of Christ and the power of his word.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Eph 1:10).

He Is the Sovereign Redeemer

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

God is the divine lover. He just can’t stop thinking about us. Was the Lord married during his earthly ministry? No. But did you know that he has always wanted to get married? He left home, went to the worst part of town, won a bride for himself and now is in the process of wooing her into his arms. In Revelation 19 the apostle John proclaims that Christ will come and take her (the church) to be with him forever…ah yes, the love story is complete…bride and groom together forever!

He Is the Sovereign Judge

What did Abraham say about God in light of the incident with Sodom and Gomorrah? “Will not the judge of the entire earth do what is right” (Gen 18:25)?

A remarkable television programs vintage aired on PBS entitled “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace” is an introduction to the life of a remarkable martyrs of recent times. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German minister who joined the German resistence when the evils of Naziism became apparent. He was arrested in 1943 for plotting against Adolf Hitler and hanged at Flossenberg prison on April 9, 1945. [2]

The film is framed by Hitler’s demand that German citizens swear a type of allegiance that Christians could only render to Christ himself. Bonhoeffer is pictured in Berlin in 1939 as the film opens:

”. . . let’s not delude ourselves that if we take the loyalty oath to Hitler it means they’ll let us worship in peace. The Nuremberg laws are an attack on Christianity itself. Adolf Hitler demands nothing less than total commitment. He’s the elected chancellor, yes. But more than that, he considers himself der Fuhrer and as “the leader” he craves to be the conscience of every living German. But his claim upon us is a claim that a Christian can only accept from Christ himself.”

Thus Bonhoeffer and a small group of friends, ministers, and students refused to take a loyalty oath. He helped write a document called the Barmen Declaration that called on Christians to remember that their first allegiance is to Christ alone. He and other German churchmen who refused to accommodate their faith to the evils of Naziism left the state-supported churches and created what came to be called the Confessing Church.

One who watches the film comes to understand what Bonhoeffer meant by writing that “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient, believes.”

The Earliest Confession

The martyrdom of such persons as Stephen, the apostles and Polycarp is predictable in one sense. If one truly believes that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, that one’s own identity is defined by him, and that one’s welfare is better served by dying for Christ than by betraying him to save one’s own neck, it is to be expected that there will be occasional martyrs for Jesus’ sake.

When a man or woman gives heart, soul, mind, and body to him, Jesus Christ becomes not only that person’s Savior but also his or her Sovereign. That is, a saved person acknowledges the right of Jesus Christ to own, command, and reign over him. Thus such texts as these in the New Testament:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Rom. 14:7-8).

The term “lord” (Gk, kyrios) basically affirms a position of authority for someone. To the Greeks, a kyrios is one who has the right to rule over another. But there is a related-but-quite-different Greek term that is also translated into English by the same term “lord,” despotes.

The difference in the terms is critical. Despotes sometimes carried with it the notions of harshness and unpredictability. A pretender and usurper might be despotes to those he ruled.

Kyrios, on the other hand, points to one who has legitimate authority and who uses it appropriately. Only the person with the lawful right to rule could be kyrios.

How did Jesus get his “right” to rule over us? How do we know he is not a usurper? “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living” (Rom. 14:9).

Tom Boyd tells the story of a woman who was a member of his church. She was a bit flamboyant and eccentric in some ways, but Boyd was impressed with the depth of her commitment to Christ. He was having dinner at her home one evening, and his hostess had him engaged in animated conversation about some biblical theme. In the midst of the conversation, the woman’s teenaged daughter — perhaps a bit frustrated with the tone of the conversation — asked, “Mother, why do you talk about religion all the time?”

The girl’s question brought an ominous silence to everyone’s conversation at the dining table. Her mother paused dramatically, pushed her chair back, stood up, and said, “Every morning before you are awake, I rise and walk into the living room. I lift my arms and ask, ‘Who’s in charge here?’ The answer always comes back: ‘Not you!’ That’s why I’m religious. Because I am not in charge!”

That lady understood something critical to faith. A truly spiritual life begins with the understanding of Sovereignty, Lordship, and the Right to Rule. We are not in charge, and from that understanding we can proceed to align ourselves to the One who is.

Case Studies

The defiant unbeliever Robert Ingersoll was belligerently assailing Christianity in a conversation with Lew Wallace. Wallace, himself an unbeliever, said, “I am going to read the New Testament and find out for myself.” For six years, he pored over the pages of Scripture. When he had finished, he said, “I have come to the conviction that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of the Jews, the Savior of the world, and my own personal Redeemer.” Wallace proceeded to write the book Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

C.S. Lewis underwent a similar conversion through diligent study. An agnostic who became a prolific apologist for Christian faith, he once wrote: “Jesus was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects — hatred, terror, adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.”

He is right. And the posture of adoration is the one adopted by those who, like the apostle Thomas, fall at Jesus’ feet to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28; cf. Rev. 1:5; 19:15-16). This exclamation is more than a posture or verbal formula. It is a life commitment that shows itself in changed values, new priorities, transformed behavior.

Take the case of Jack Eckerd, founder of the Eckerd drugstore chain, as a case in point. He was walking through one of his stores and notices the magazine racks with their glossy copies of Playboy and Penthouse. Though he was retired from active management at that point in his career, he called the president of the company and urged them to get rid of those publications that degraded women by exploiting them as sexual objects.

The president protested that substantial amounts of money were at stake. Eckerd, himself the largest single stockholder in the company, stood to lose money by such a decision. But he remained firm in his newfound conviction. He prevailed, and the magazines were removed from all the stores that were then operated under the Eckerd name — 1700 stores at the time! When he was asked what motivated him to press for such an action, Eckerd replied, “God wouldn’t let me off the hook!”

Conclusion

Bonhoeffer published a book titled The Cost of Discipleship in 1937. In it he attacked what he called the “cheap grace” of the German churches. It was a view of grace, he said, designed merely to make people comfortable with their weakness and sinfulness.

By contrast, “costly grace” carried with it the presumed obligation of discipleship, obedience. He insisted that “it is only through actual obedience that a person can become liberated to believe.” Faith and obedience, he argued, are ultimately all but indistinguishable, “for faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.” [3]

That is ultimately the point of claiming Jesus as one’s Lord. It is a pledge of obedience. It is the surrender of one’s total life to God. It is not the mistaken belief that following the rules exactly will bring one to heaven but the abandon of a lover’s commitment that says I will do anything that would honor or please him.

Bonhoeffer’s commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ sent him to the gallows. Yours will more likely send you home, to the workplace, or back to school with a renewed sense that your obligation is not to yourself, the bottom line, or being cool.

It is to prove that you have understood the words of your Savior that it would be foolish to try to call him “Lord, Lord!” and not do what he has commanded.

[1] As quoted in Peter Toon, Spiritual Companions: An Introduction to the Spiritual Classics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 124.

[2] An excellent summary of the life and writings of Bonhoeffer may be found in Susan Bergman, ed., Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), pp. 155-168. One who has never read the works of Bonhoeffer owes it to himself to read such classics as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1990), p. 93.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2017 in Doctrine

 

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