Introduction and Warning
Jesus is Lord. Hear that again. Jesus… is… Lord! Do you feel the weight of those words? One short sentence. Three simple words. Yet each one explodes with meaning. Jesus. You know. The baby born of a virgin. The man who said “no” to temptation every single time it offered its pleasantly plastered poison. The man who said, “if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” Yes, that Jesus. He is the one who shared the Father’s glory long before time began. The eternal Word who created the cosmos and formed the first man––now made flesh. The one who bore the weight of redemption on his shoulders in the place of those who never could. The one who was cut off from the land of the living so that dead sinners like you and me could be brought into it forever. The one who gave death a death blow it will never recover from, bursting forth from the tomb as the conquering Son, the firstborn of a new creation, and the second Adam who will not fail in taking dominion on Yahweh’s behalf. He is seated at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for his own until he makes all his enemies a footstool for his feet.
Jesus is Lord. This isn’t some theoretical, pie-in-the-sky, noble intention. This is reality. Now. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Not “will be” or “might be” but “has been.” Or to paraphrase slightly, “All authority is mine right now, right here, and everywhere else.” Yes, Christ is seated now at the right hand of the Father. That is the place of authority––of power and dominion (see Eph 1:20-21). When Peter preached his first sermon to the crowds in Jerusalem, this is what he declared, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) The Lordship of Jesus is not postponed until some future date; it is a present reality. And this has major implications.
Jesus is Lord. The word “Lord” is near the top of a really long list of abused and misunderstood terms by us Christians today. Like when well-meaning evangelists encourage others to invite Jesus to be their personal Lord and Savior. In fact, “Lord” is so misunderstood that it often gets left off of these formulaic prayers altogether. Others get the term intellectually, but, man, is there a disconnect. Gulp. Spirit of God, help us. Help us to feel the weight of what this meant for the early church. They were risking everything––defying Caesar––when they made this declaration. Do we really acknowledge you as the supreme authority over every area of our lives––as our master and king? If so, is this acknowledgment borne out in our lives? Would others say that this is true of us? Do our lives display absolute submission and service to you at any cost? Lord, humble us. Help us to see the full implications of these three simple words.
When by faith we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord, what are we really saying? Do we justify ourselves through our ongoing submission to Christ’s lordship? No, we are justified by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ and by nothing else! But having acknowledged that Jesus is Lord, do we go on living as if he were not? Do we go on sinning so that grace may abound? Here’s Paul’s answer: “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (Romans 6:2, 19b). The process of sanctification (being made more holy, becoming more like Jesus) requires submission to Christ as Lord as a slave submits to his master. This too is enabled by grace alone, but unlike justification, we do play a part in it. We are active participants in sanctification, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling while knowing that is God who ultimately works in us (see Philippians 2:12-13). To say it another way, the ongoing journey of discipleship is really about growing in submission to Jesus as Lord and teaching others to do the same. This submission must not be confined to some opaque “spiritual” portion of our lives as some would have us think, this must extend to every area––every sphere of our existence on this earth! For Christ is Lord of all. And while submission must begin in our hearts, true heart-submission will lead to real transformation in our thinking and actions within the family, the church, and society at large. The early church got this, and it terrified the Roman authorities.
Jesus is Lord. What does that really mean? Likely a whole lot more than we often think. That’s what the rest of this series is about––discovering from Scripture and living out by the Spirit the full implications of the lordship of Jesus Christ in every area, from relationships, sexuality, and work, to politics, science, and education.
In our current cultural climate we are faced with a dilemma: die the death of a thousand nuances and caveats to avoid offense or… say it like it is and be branded as an arrogant jerk. It is of course true that “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1), and Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of that Scripture––the one who shows true gentleness in action. Yet having a gentle character must not be in contradiction with speaking in a pointed and straightforward manner. It must not be in contradiction with confronting others and directly calling out their sin. For without apology, Jesus publicly rebuked the Pharisees and forcefully drove out the money changers from the temple. He didn’t hold back from calling out the religious elitists, skewering them with terms like: “hypocrites,” “son of Hell,” ”blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” and “offspring of vipers,” just to name a few instances from Matthew 23. Since Proverbs tends to be a book of general principles, a gentle response generally does turn away wrath and should be employed in many situations, but Jesus shows us that one can be perfectly godly while at times unleashing anything but soft words, and boy did he stir up the anger of hypocrites! It is true that we cannot hear the tone in which Jesus speaks, but in today’s PC culture merely saying these kinds of things, regardless of the tone, is considered at odds with true gentleness. Could it be that we’ve swallowed the culture’s redefinition of gentleness? That’s a thought worth considering.
To be clear, entering the war of words and ideas requires humility and self-control because our sinful flesh is adept at converting righteous anger into self-righteous belligerence and loving rebukes into hateful jabs. I cannot write these articles without the Spirit’s help, without prayerful dependence at each point along the way. My desire is to follow Jesus and the prophets of old (those guys didn’t mess around either) and say what needs to be said without fear of losing man’s approval. Lord, help me.
If you’ve been swimming in the sea of political correctness for long, you’ll likely take offense at some of what I have to say in this series (I was there too, and often didn’t even realize I was wet). But I encourage you to climb into the boat with me and breathe the fresh salty air. You may get seasick along the way but hold tight and keep your eyes on the horizon, remembering the words of another Proverb: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)