Monday, July 22, 2002

Lordship: Who's the Boss, Part Three, New Beginnings, What It Means to Follow Jesus

Lordship: Who’s the Boss
Part Three, New Beginnings, What It Means to Follow Jesus
July 14, 2002

In an Eastern European country some years ago, one-hundred people were gathered on a Sunday morning to worship God. They had just finished praying, when a squadron of menacing Communist soldiers burst into their meeting area, submachine guns in hand. Going toward the podium, they insulted the worshipers, calling them “filth of the earth” and weaklings of whom the nation would best be rid. Saying that they knew there were some present who didn’t believe in all this nonsense about Jesus Christ, the soldiers then gave the worshipers sixty seconds to clear out of the room. Half the congregation rushed for the doors and windows.

A minute later, the the soldiers dropped their guns and their leader called out to the remaining worshipers, “Brethren, we have come to worship with you! But first, we had to get rid of the hypocrites.” One word separated those who stayed from those who left on that Sunday morning. That word is Lordship. The believers who bravely stayed behind were those who truly followed Jesus Christ as their Lord.

Lord is a word that doesn’t get used very often in our culture today. But it was a common word in both the Hebrew language of the Old Testament and the Greek language of the New Testament. The Hebrew word for Lord is adon. The Greek word is kurios. In the Biblical thought-world a lord was an absolute king, ruler, authority, boss. A person who thought of someone else as their lord also thought of themselves as his humble, obedient, submissive slave.

This is all a bit grating on our modern ears and sensibilities. So, what exactly does it mean to live under Christ’s Lordship, to call Jesus our Lord?

First: It means that we are under Christ’s ownership. Over the past few weeks we’ve been saying that Jesus brings freedom to live eternally, freedom to live rightly, and freedom to live purposefully to all who follow Him. But here is a strange paradox: The only way we can ever be truly free is when we allow ourselves to be slaves of Jesus Christ. He must be our Lord!

Jesus once said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Jesus is the only doorway to God and to eternity. And He is the only doorway onto life lived according to the master plan of the One Who made us. To become truly free means to get in sync with God. It means to live under the authority—the Lordship--of God among us, Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament book of First Corinthians, the apostle Paul talks about this. He writes to a group of Christians who think that the freedom Jesus gives them is license to do anything they want with their bodies. The Corinthian congregation was one in which people ate and drank to excess and slept around. But Paul asks them pointedly, " you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit..., which you have from God, and that you are not your own? [And then, referring to the fact that Jesus paid for our sins through His death on a cross, he says] For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."

When Jesus is our Lord, we give the ownership of our lives to Him.

Having Jesus as our Lord also means that we put God first, obeying God’s will for our lives. God’s will for us, according to Jesus, boils down to this: we’re to love God completely and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus summarized this commandment well when He told the disciples not to worry about their lives or their futures and said, "...strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things [these things we worry and stew over] will be given to you as well."

Last Sunday, our son Philip and Andrew Wood watched Chariots of Fire at our house. That movie tells the true story of two runners who participated in the 1924 Olympics as part of the team from Great Britain. One struggled to become the best in order to validate his very existence. The other, Eric Liddell, ran to give glory to God. He risked the wrath of king and country when he refused to run his main event on a Sunday during the Olympics. In his view, God’s will was that he not work on the Sabbath day. By withdrawing from the event being run on a Sunday, he cleared the way for the other man to win the Gold Medal. Interestingly, after having run in several races the next day, he still won the Gold Medal in what was for him, a replacement event. His triumph was widely seen as God’s endorsement of a man who preferred doing God’s will and seeking God’s kingdom over the accolades of the world.

As I watched the movie again, I thought of the passage from the Psalms in the Old Testament that encourages all believers. "Take delight in the Lord" it tells us, "and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act."

Having Jesus as Lord also means we accept our accountability to Him. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of three slaves of a wealthy man. The wealthy man, who represents God, goes away for awhile. But before doing so, he entrusts various amounts of money to the slaves. When he returns, the wealthy man is happy to find that the two men to whom he entrusted the bigger amounts of money have doubled what he gave to them. But the third man, who had been entrusted with the smallest amount of money, afraid of losing it and incurring the master’s anger, had buried the money given to him. He returned the original amount, thinking that the master would be pleased with him for that. But the master in Jesus’ story flies into a rage, “You wicked and lazy slave!...[Then to other servants he says] take the [money] from him, and give it to the one with [more]. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for the worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Some people are blessed with more talent and more abilities than others. Some people have more opportunities than others. That’s life. But here’s the important point to remember: God doesn’t hold any of us accountable for the talents and opportunities we don’t have. God does expect us to be accountable for the talents and opportunities we do have. Living under the Lordship of Jesus means having a Savior and Lord Who is committed to helping us make the most of the life that He gives to us...and Who expects that we will do just that!

As many of you know, I have a collection of buttons. One of my favorites is a white circle with a red line around it and a diagonal red line through a single word written in bold black letters in the middle: Whining. The message is No Whining! That’s really the message of Jesus’ story of the rich man and his three slaves. There’s no room for whining in this life. Through Jesus and our faith in Him, God has already given us new lives that will be lived with Him forever. The New Testament tells us that “if anyone is in Christ Jesus [that is, if we believe in Christ and are following Him], there is a new creation. The old has passed away!” I’m so glad to follow a Lord Who is helping me become, not somebody else, but my best self! Jesus also promises to be with us always. Now, as slaves of a loving master, our call is to make the most of every second of life that God gives to us.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with our own Paul Niehaus. As you know, Paul lost his job in one of those machinations that go on in corporate America these days, even though he’d worked for his company capably for more than two decades. And though there are times when Paul understandably feels down, he also says that no matter how things go, he knows that God is blessing him and supporting him. Because Paul lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I feel sure that he will make the most of God’s blessings in his life. That inspires me...and it should inspire everybody here this morning!

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that not everybody who calls Him Lord—not even those who do notable things through His power—will enter heaven. That wonderful blessing will come only to those who believingly trust in Him. They’re the people who take Jesus into their work places and homes, their leisure activities and their relationships, into their lives. To truly believe in Jesus means that He is our Lord—that we live under His ownership; that we put God first, submitting to His will for our lives; and that we make ourselves accountable to Him.

The choice is ours: We can choose the freedom of this world and become slaves to death or we can choose to be slaves to Christ and be set free to become and experience the very best God wants for all of us, now and forever!