Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

“The Lordship of Christ”     

Text:  Matthew 7:21-23        

Ephesians 4:17-24

       From the earliest days of the Church, we Christians have formulated and used a two-fold  declaration of our relationship with Christ.  We hear it in our liturgies and prayers.  We confess  it on occasions of baptism, confirmation, and uniting with the church.  We reaffirm it upon   ordination to positions of church leadership.  Most everyone hearing this sermon has, at one   time or another, spoken these words before a gathered body of Christians:  “Jesus Christ is my  Lord and Savior.”  Much preaching in the mainline church emphasizes the second part of this  declaration:  Jesus Christ as Savior,  while often neglecting the first part:  Jesus Christ as Lord.    Perhaps we need to re-examine and re-evaluate what it means to profess Jesus, not just as our  Savior, but as our Lord.  A good starting point would be to ask ourselves a few simple questions:    What does Jesus’ Lordship look like in our lives?   Is calling Jesus “Lord” merely a word, or does  it mean something more? 

    If we open a concordance of the New Testament, where we are given all the instances where   a particular word is found, we discover the word “Lord” [in New Testament Greek, the word is   kurios] is used some six hundred times in reference to Jesus.  But Lord is a word which has fallen   largely into disuse in modern English.  When it is used, it’s generally as a negative connotation,   such as someone trying to lord it over us, or it’s used in connection with another word like   landlord, drug lord, or slum lord.  Webster defines “lord” as “one having power and authority over   others,to whom service and obedience are due.”  No wonder the word has fallen into disuse.  It’s   not a popular idea, especially in this era which emphasizes ultimate obedience to self, to recognize  anyone as having power and authority over us;  as having due to them service and obedience.   We tend to resent those in power.  We are apt to reject authority.  We feel we owe obedience   to nothing or no one.  Whatever service we render is usually based on reward.  Maybe that’s   why it’s a lot easier to preach and profess Jesus Christ as Savior than it is to preach and profess Jesus Christ as Lord.  Yet, borrowing the words of Frank Sinatra from an old song called “Love and Marriage:” “You can’t have one without the other.”  The truth is, and it may be a truth we don’t necessarily want to hear:  In order to receive  Jesus as Savior of our lives, we need accept   Jesus as Lord of our lives.  Both theologically, and practically, you can’t have one without the other.

       In this morning’s gospel lesson, Jesus has recently – in obedience to His heavenly Father’s   will – been baptized by his older cousin John in the Jordan River.  We join Him as He’s drawing  to a conclusion His Sermon on the Mount, giving instruction on how God intends we should live.    He closes with this final admonition, not easy to bear:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord,   Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in   heaven.  On that day [Jesus referring here to that day of final judgment and salvation] many will   say to me ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name,   and do many deeds of power in your name?’  Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you….’”

       Jesus makes it startlingly and abundantly clear that His Lordship in a person’s life is about   more than hollow phrases, and pious professions, and easily-spoken words which folks say, but don’t necessarily live.  It’s about more than even great works done in Jesus’ name.  If we declare that Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, and if we desire the spiritual salvation He offers, we must be prepared to submit to His Lordship, and everything that goes with it.  Jesus asks nothing less   than our accepting His power and authority over our lives, however politically incorrect that may sound.  Jesus asks nothing less than our obedience to God’s will, that which Jesus came as God    in the flesh to teach and to live.  Jesus asks that we serve God out of willing obedience to the One we so readily call “Lord, Lord.”  On that day, or in that blink of an eye, when the Savior of humankind fully reconciles the world to Almighty God, the roll call will include those who have   submitted to the Lordship of Christ.  You see, it’s not about saying the right words or performing the right acts.  It’s about relationship with Christ as both Savior and Lord, and it’s out of this relationship from which flow right words and right acts.  Let’s call it righteous response.

       All that having been said, again, what does Jesus’ Lordship look like in our lives?  Have we   truly submitted ourselves to Christ as having ultimate power and authority in our lives?  Have we returned the service and obedience due Him as Lord of our lives?  Or as we examine our lives, do we find that we’ve allowed Jesus to be something less than Lord of our lives, perhaps we even   rendering service and obedience to the lesser “lords” of this world:  wealth, success, leisure,  desire, power over others?  Only we can answer those questions for ourselves.  Whatever the answer, we need not despair.  If God’s incarnation in Christ means nothing else, it means that   there is always opportunity for new beginnings;  for a new and fresh relationship with Christ as  Lord of our lives.  Why don’t we resolve – this very day – to renew our commitment [or maybe  commit ourselves for the first time] to a relationship with Christ in which He is truly Lord of our  lives;  Ruler upon the throne of our hearts;  Artist of the landscape of our personhoods.  This is   accomplished in three areas.

       First, we must allow Jesus Christ Lordship over our minds.  Protestant reformer John Calvin emphasized Christ’s role as Lord of the intellect, helping us to better understand Him, ourselves,   and the world around us.  When we accept Christ’s rule in the domain of our thoughts and our reasoning’s – when we let him into our heads – we begin to see things with greater clarity.  For   lack of a better way to say it, we smarten up; become wiser.  Things that once made no sense at   all, from an intellectual standpoint, begin to fall into place.  This is nowhere more evident than in   our understanding of the Bible.  Until your pastor accepted Jesus as his Lord, the Bible was a total   mystery to him.  I tried to read it, but I became discouraged.  I had a hard time comprehending   how any part of the Biblical witness related to a bigger picture, or had anything to do with my   personal life.  Submitting to Jesus’ Lordship over my frequently hard head made passages I had   read many times without understanding suddenly come alive with meaning.  The Book started to   make sense.  I’m still in the process of coming to understand, and my head remains hard at times.    But I find that in obedience to Christ’s authority and power, I’m making progress.

       The apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 speaks of the futility of one’s thoughts when not under the   Lordship of Christ, led by the unenlightened mind into acts of impurity and unrighteousness.  Yet   once accepting the truth of Christ – submitting to His role of Lord in our lives – we experience   renewal in the very spirit of our minds, even putting on a radically new nature.  In 1918, William   Foulkes wrote a hymn we’ll close with this morning:  “Take Thou our minds, dear Lord, we humbly   pray.  Give us the mind of Christ, each passing day.  Teach us to know the truth, that sets us free;    Grant us in all our thoughts, to honor Thee.”

       Second, we must allow Jesus Christ Lordship over our hearts. There are few things more difficult than dealing with and keeping under control our emotions.  Some of the most intelligent,   thoughtful, and gifted people I know are stunted in their personal growth and faith because of  unresolved emotional baggage - anger, fear, greed, jealousy, bitterness - all of which rule their   lives.  Many relationships are undone because of emotional immaturity;  a heart which has never   quite grown up.  Admittedly, our emotions are a God-given and natural part of our personhood,   not good or bad in themselves.  How we deal with and express our emotions, however, is paramount to our quality of the life, and the quality of lives close to us.  When we accept Christ’s Lordship in the domain of our feelings and emotions – when we let Him into our hearts – we begin to mature; we grow up.  We start to readily express that which is   deep inside us in new and constructive ways.  Anger begins to give way to peace.  Fear begins to   give way to courage.   Greed begins to give way to contentment.  Jealousy begins to give way to   gratefulness.  Bitterness begins to give way to forgiveness.  We become transformed, and often   transformed in radical ways, by Christ’s Lordship at the very core of our beings.  Our hearts are   changed as even our emotions and feelings become obedient to the beating heart of Christ.    Hardened hearts are saturated and softened by Christ’s love.  Eventually, we begin to feel as Jesus   feels;  pleased by what pleases Him;  saddened by what saddens Him;  gladdened by what   gladdens Him;  touched by what touches Him.  We begin to act emotionally as Jesus acts, bearing   the spiritual fruits of compassion, tenderness, and mercy.  Our hearts and the heart of our Lord   come to beat in unison.

       Third, we must allow Jesus Christ Lordship over our volitions.  Simply stated, we submit to   God’s will and act in full accordance, even as Christ submitted Himself to the Father’s will.  We   make a conscious decision to journey in the direction God would have us go.  This is not an easy part of our Christian walk because it takes discernment to recognize what God’s will is.  Rarely is  God’s will spelled out across the sky.  We shall certainly make some wrong turns in this journey of discernment, and hit a few dead ends in the process of our searching.  As Ben Campbell Johnson so succinctly puts it, it can be laborious “to will God’s will.”  But submitting to Christ’s Lordship in the domain of our minds and our hearts is imperative, and certainly strengthens our ability to discern and act in accordance with the will of God.

            In this area, we assume a very active partnership with our Lord.  Our conscious decision to   engage in reading and studying the Bible is not an option.  It is a virtual necessity.  For there, we have revealed the mind of God through the person and Spirit of Christ.  Our conscious decision to engage in a vital life of prayer is not an option.  It is a virtual necessity.  For there, we get in touch with the heart of God through the person and Spirit of Christ.  Then we need to move upon what   we’ve come to know in our minds and hearts.  It ultimately breaks down to a conscious act of our wills.  The fruits of Christ’s Lordship in the domain of our volition or will is most evident to those  who witness our Christian walk.  When Christ is truly Lord of our wills, we serve – not out of blind obedience, but out of love for the One who, in the words of Foulke’s hymn:  “holds full sway.”  We   serve less out of obligation, more in response.  We serve not out of compulsion, but in context of   relationship to Jesus Christ as Lord.  So what does, and what will, Christ’s Lordship look like in our lives?  Will we allow Him Lordship over our thoughts?  Over our emotions? Over our wills?  Will we allow Christ to hold full sway in every domain of the landscape of our personhood?  Let’s consider these questions carefully as we   bring our confession of Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior.  We can only answer them for ourselves.