What does it mean to say that Jesus is our Lord? How do we know we if we are living up to this declaration? Scripture sets up an exacting standard, such as the first commandment described in Exodus 20:2-5. (NLT)
“I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” (emphasis added)
As God incarnate, this strict demand for affection extends to Jesus as well. The New Testament reiterates that Jesus is the only one worthy to sit on the throne of heaven. Jesus exercises his Lordship over all things and will not share his throne with any other. He will not share his throne with any other gods. He will not share his throne with any other cultural identity-shapers. All other allegiances and names are to be submitted to him as our Lord. This includes our magazines, our families, and our politics. They cannot be held in tension together, or even as greater thrones and lesser thrones (i.e. greater lords and lesser lords). Jesus demands all these identity shapers be submitted under him and that his lordship encompasses and supersedes them all.
In The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch says:
“When the New Testament people of God confess that “Jesus is Lord and Savior,” it is not just the simple affirmation that Jesus is our Master and we are his servants. It certainly is that, but […] this confession… take(s) us directly to the nature of God, his relation to his world as King, and his covenantal claim over every aspect of our lives, both individual and communal.” (pg 93)
Christianity is distinct among religions because of the implications of the claim “Jesus is Lord” on our personal and corporate lives. In this article, part 1 of 3, we will explore what it means for us to confess Jesus Is Lord, not only to our private life of faith, but also our public witness before all of humankind.
Jesus is Lord of All
One of the struggles of our Christian walk in a post-Christian world is not our distinctiveness, but our lack of it. What does it mean to be in the world and not of it? How do we let go of culture wars without letting go of the great commission? Such debates have existed for quite a while. Even the pharisees talked about the tension between culture and what God was asking them to do. But the problem is that these conversations can often remain very pragmatic without addressing our underlying heart motivations. We keep talking about how to live for Jesus without ever really getting to a conversation of how to love Jesus. This is how we end up adopting religious practices that are used in service to other gods, such as the gods of youth, war, celebrity, consumerism, and power.
The scandal of declaring Jesus as Lord is not a confession that there is only one god. Rather, it is the confession that in light of all possible gods, saviors, or lords of our life and informers of our identity, we choose Jesus and Jesus alone.
Hirsch puts it this way, “We need only look into our own lives; when we deliberately sin, or when we refuse to allow his claim to seep into all the dimensions of our lives and respond in obedience, we effectively limit the lordship of Jesus and his claim of absolute rule (e.g., Luke 6:46).” (Forgotten Ways pg. 107-108)
When we come to Jesus as savior for the first time, we may ask Jesus to be Lord of our hearts, or our pain, or our fear. Some of us may have even asked for him to be Lord of our life. But as much as we may sincerely intend to, giving Jesus lordship over every part of our life takes time, healing, and increased trust. Walking this out is the process of discipleship.
Practically speaking, the questions we must ask one another are personal and challenging. Jesus intends to be Lord of the following parts of life:
how you see yourself and body image
resources, including the earth and your money
future and plans
anxiety and inner thought life
marriage and parenting
politics and ideologies
We must ask ourselves and each other if there is any part of our life and personhood of which Jesus is not Lord.
As we increasingly give Jesus lordship of our lives, we begin to see that he wants something much more from us than a sinner’s prayer or occasional church attendance. He wants us to be the same person in each sphere of our life, and for that person to be a reflection of him, to the glory of God. This is how we are to live, not just on a Sunday, but everywhere, every moment of every day. Jesus wants us to reflect him well at home, at work, out with our friends, in our fear closet, and at our faith gatherings. This complete integration of life spheres is called non-dualism. It means that there is not a separation between the sacred and the secular. It stands in stark contrast to a theology, called dualism, which sees God and the world as separate, one good and the other bad.
Dualistic theology, which is still taught and practiced by some, is illustrated in the diagram below.
I was raised with a dualistic theology. I was taught that I had to be separated from the sinful world, otherwise it would taint and pollute me. I was taught not to have non-Christian friends, because they would pull me into the mire of sinful temptation. And I was told that my choice in life was to either choose God or choose the world. I could not have both and there was only one right answer.
There is so much wrong and harmful with this dualistic view, not the least of which is the false choice between righteousness (which is already bought by the blood of Jesus) and the mission, or co-mission. Instead, of trying to maintain personal righteousness by being segregated from the world, giving Jesus lordship of our lives leads us to a place of incarnation - or going into the world. In following Jesus, we learn that God is always actively pursuing the world himself. As my friend David Rhodes puts it, “When I pursue God, I end up pursuing the world, because that is what God’s heart is after.”
The paradigm of life where everything falls under the lordship of Jesus,it is called non-dualism, which is illustrated below.
We can see this biblical worldview in the exhortation of Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 (NIV):
“For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
When Jesus is our Lord and we live from a non-dualistic paradigm, all work becomes worship, the struggles of life become discipleship, and we love Jesus by loving our enemies well.
What does it mean for you to give Jesus increasing lordship of your life? What is to be gained by such a life?
Jesus doesn’t refuse to share thrones because he is threatened by us. He refuses to share out of kindness and love for us. He wants to show us a better way and take upon ourselves the responsibilities that only he can bare. Jesus asks for lordship of our life, our team, and our organization because he cares for us.
Re-orienting our lives around Jesus and making him the center of how we live, move, and have our being in the world makes all the difference. We can move beyond being just one more functional citizen of the world, living a moralistic but self-serving life, with compartments and boxes. We can increasingly become ‘little Jesus’ recognized as such by the world because we resemble our Lord and King. What greater purpose could there be than we being found in him and him being found in us? This is the non-negotiable standard of Christianity, and Jesus deserves nothing less than all of you.