Our Lord Jesus Christ
September 2, 2018
The English-speaking members of our church have been going through the opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I thought it would be good to just continue that series for today’s joint worship service.
We considered the story of Paul and how we are God’s saints. We remembered the grace and the peace that we have. We thought about the Trinity. We believed that we are children of God the Father. And now, here at the end of this wonderful salutation, we come to these words: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Lord. I am sure that all of you here know this. But this morning, I would like to talk to you about how this truth can be used incorrectly in the life of a believer. By the end of this sermon, I hope that you will have a better understanding of God’s grace in our lives and a greater joy of our salvation in Christ as we wait for his return.
Jesus Christ is the Lord. This means that he is God. This means that he has ultimate authority. This means that he is matchless in his power and majesty. This means that he deserves to be worshipped as the king.
Jesus Christ is the Lord. We worship on the Lord’s Day. We observe the Lord’s Supper. We say the Lord’s Prayer. We grow in the fear of the Lord. We wait for the Day of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the Lord.
This is all very good and true. But in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a controversial movement in American Christianity that took what was good and true and made it bad and false. And while this movement in one sense ended a long time ago, its effects continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of so many believers today.
This is what people in the movement said. They said that it is not enough for us to accept Jesus as our Savior. They said that if you wanted to be a legit Christian, you need to accept Jesus as your Lord.
They said that there was a difference between Christians who merely believed in Jesus and Christians who really made Jesus the Lord of their lives.
They preached this to churchgoers, and they preached it hard, challenging them to genuinely surrender everything and experience a higher level of spirituality. They basically said, “Sure, Jesus is your Savior. But is Jesus really your Lord? You need to make Jesus your Lord!”
Does this sound familiar to you? Perhaps you have heard of such things. Perhaps you think that it is all very good. I admit that I’ve preached and taught like this in the past. And since I didn’t know better, I thought that I was doing a good thing.
But there is something strange about what the people in this movement were saying. And there is something strange about what is still being said today.
The idea that we need to make Jesus our Lord is deeply problematic. Here are two reasons why.
First, if we say that we have to make Jesus our Lord, then we might be adding something to the gospel. We might be adding something that we need to do - something that is beyond trusting in Christ and resting in his person and work for our salvation.
If say that we have to make Jesus our Lord, then we are saying that it is not enough to believe that Jesus is your Savior if you really want to be a true Christian. If you really want to be a true Christian, then you have to go further than that. You have to make Jesus your Lord.
This is a very subtle but dangerous move. This ultimately calls for self-righteousness and works-righteousness to seal the deal for our salvation.
And this essentially creates two stages of salvation: justification (where you believe that Jesus is your Savior) and sanctification (where you make Jesus your Lord). Stage one begins with a moment of decisive faith in Christ. Stage two begins with a moment of decisive surrender to Christ.
All of this adds to and changes the gospel to a non-gospel. And as a result, salvation depends on the free will of the individual. Salvation becomes a man-centered enterprise. And ironically, at the end of the day, salvation no longer belongs to the Lord. Salvation belongs to us. Jesus is no longer the Lord of our salvation. We are. And that is the worst gospel in the world.
We do not believe in this. We believe that trusting in Christ and resting in his person and work is the only thing that we need to do in order to be fully and truly and wholly saved. And all the credit and glory belongs to God, because our belief and trust in Christ is really a gift from God.
We believe that salvation is grounded in the righteousness of Christ alone, not in how good we are at making Jesus the Lord over our lives.
We believe that justification and sanctification are not two separate stages of the Christian life, but rather one glorious gift of salvation that we have in Christ Jesus.
We believe that we have all of Christ’s benefits because of our union with him. We have election. We have justification. We have sanctification. We have glorification. We have it all, already, fully in Jesus Christ. To think otherwise is to chop Jesus up into pieces.
And all in all, we do not believe that we have to make Jesus our Lord. We are not saved by “making” Jesus our Savior and Lord. We are saved because he IS our Savior and Lord. This is who he is. We don’t “make” him anything.
This is the first reason why the idea that we need to make Jesus our Lord is deeply problematic. But there is a second reason too.
Second, if we say that we have to make Jesus our Lord, then we might be harming the assurance and certainty of believers, and we might be creating division and disunity in the church.
What do you think can happen to the fragile hearts and minds of believers when they hear that they have to make Jesus their Lord? The result is that they can be scared and uncertain about themselves.
People may say, “Oh my gosh, is Jesus really my Lord? I mean, really? What if he’s not? I don’t know.”
And what do you think can happen to the body of Christ when they hear that they have to make Jesus their Lord? The result is that some will feel good about themselves when compared with those who are lower carnal Christians, while others will feel bad about themselves when compared with those who are higher spiritual Christians.
People may say, “Wow, look at these other church members. He doesn’t clean up after lunch like I do. She doesn’t give snacks or serve like I do. Jesus is clearly not the Lord of their lives. At least Jesus is the Lord of my life. Sigh. I will pray for them.”
We do not believe in this. The fuel of our sanctification must not be apprehension and guilt. It must be assurance and grace. And the fruit of our sanctification must not be pride and disunity. It must be humility and love. All in all, we do not believe that we have to make Jesus our Lord.
Brothers and sisters, it is worth thinking about why this strange stuff exists today. This stuff exists today because believers are worried about their sanctification. They worry about their spiritual growth and maturity. And in their worry, they knowingly or unknowingly turn sanctification into a matter of works.
But we who are in Christ enjoy his sanctification. And his sanctification is not by works. His sanctification is by grace. Sanctification is a gift, just like justification, just like election, just like glorification, just like God’s love.
We indeed do good works, but our good works is not our sanctification. Our good works is our thanksgiving and joy. Our good works is our gratitude - and that’s it.
Our good works have no effect on anything. Our good works don’t change anything. Our good works don’t have anything to do with our status as saints before God. Our good works don’t make God love us more or less.
Please understand this. This is a very different way of looking at the Christian life. We may not be used to it. But it is a Christian life that is based on grace.
Brothers and sisters, we do not have to make Jesus our Lord because Jesus already is our Lord. The Apostle Paul did not write to the Ephesians, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ - who is truly the Lord if and only if you have made him your Lord and surrendered your whole life to him.”
No, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Ephesians: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (period).
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians does not begin with what we need to do for God. It begins with what God has done for us. It begins with God’s grace and peace. It begins with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!