My Bible study habits tend to vary—sometimes I plow through chunks of Scripture, sometimes I bite off a small verse and meditate on just that verse for a few days, sometimes weeks (Ps 119:15). (There’s no formula that needs to be universalized, I don’t think, since we are all unique.)
All the same, the past few days I have been meditating upon four words: “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11). I found myself needing to meditate on these words, soaking them up, breathing them in and out and back in again. Why? Because I know these words; I know them all too well. That’s the problem, in fact. Having heard them for years, they have grown to sound trite and cliche. I have said, “Jesus is Lord,” probably a thousand times. (I have probably said them more than that; I’m a baptist preacher, after all.) These words are fundamental words for all Christians, for they embody the truth of our most basic Creed—that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the true Lord of all. The church universal has proclaimed this message since the beginning; I would do well not to let them become yet another tired cliche.
The thing with words is that, when they become important and timeless, they become familiar. And the thing about time and familiarity is that these two often give birth to indifference. As someone who believes that holy Scripture is a divine speech to people, I must not let an attitude of indifference take over—not least in regard to an important Creed such as “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Yet, I found that to be the very issue: Am I indifferent to the divine proclamation that, indeed, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’?” I’m not responsible for anyone, except for myself. Therefore, that question remains immensely personal. That is why I have determined to revisit this Creed by way of a journey through meditation and contemplation (a journey inspired by Craig Bartholomew’s wonderful new book on hermeneutics). I want to share, briefly, a few things from that journey below. Specifically, I want to share what this Creed means to me. What has God said with this statement to me? And furthermore, what am I to do with it? I pray that this is encouraging to you on your journey with God as well.
1. That Jesus Christ is Lord means that I am not. If Jesus of Nazareth is Lord, then it follows necessarily that no-one else is. And that includes myself. Every person must grapple with the agony that comes from surrender (shall I be honest: it is agony, isn’t it?). Indeed, I must grapple with this reality. The Christian faith is one of the white flag. Jesus called it a daily death (Luke 9:23). Paul called it a “death,” too (Rom 6). Surely of all people, he would know all about death. As Saul, traveling to put others to death, he found his own Self dying at the sound of the divine Voice, a divine Speech addressed to him. This is the personal reality that I, and you, face. There is no compromise, only surrender. For as much as he loves me (John 3:16, 2 Pt 3:9), he has never once lowered his terms of surrender in order to be reconciled to me. His terms are repentance and trust in Christ as Lord. He will not be pliable to my demands, to my image, to my liking. He will be Lord over me. He will not be molded or crafted or fashioned to my whims. He will be Lord over me. Saul must die; so must I. The beauty, furthermore, that must not be forgotten is that for every death on a Damascus Road, there is also a rebirth. For every baptism into death, there is a resurrection to life (Rom 6:5). To say that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is to deny that I am and to affirm that he is. In my dethroning the Self, I am recognizing the established truth that there is One greater who is enthroned in the heavens, Jesus of Nazareth. The great temptation is that I can be lord; the great truth is that this lie is enslaving, for I cannot be lord. I have failed at all such endeavors. There is but one Lord, and he is Jesus—a liberating truth for exhausted mortals like me.
2. That Jesus Christ is Lord means that worry and fear is vain. There is no purpose to worry, no matter what type of worry one worries about. Whether I worry about failure or fret over the unseen or the might-be or the going-to-be, all worry is vain. Whether I fear devils or man or beast (sometimes these three are the same person), fear is still pointless. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then that means all others are not. All others are, really, “non-Lords.” Why should I fear the non-Lords? Why should I grow anxious over the threatenings of mortals? It is unreasonable to allow non-Lords the right to lord themselves over me. Moreover, to give trembling fear to non-Lords is to steal from Jesus Christ, the true Lord. Worry and fear, pointless activities, are shown to be spiteful blasphemies. After all, to fear non-Lords is to say, at the same time, that the true Christ Lord cannot save me. But he can, and he will. All who believe so will never be put to shame (Rom 10:11), nor should they fear or worry. Just because there is much to fear and worry about does not mean there is a good reason to do so. Why? Because Jesus Christ is Lord.
3. That Jesus Christ is Lord means that he wins. The nations rage, their kings mock and their rulers plot, but God laughs (Ps. 2). Why? Because his son, Jesus Christ, is Lord. He knows that all planning and plotting and fighting and killing on the part of arrogant, earthly powers is to be seen for what it truly is: a profound folly. But it is more than a folly, it is a temporary folly. The powers of the earth rule the earth for but only a season; yet Jesus has a Kingdom that endures through all times (Dan 2:36-45). Ours is a time of a temporary Winter that will soon give way to an eternal Spring. How so? Because Jesus Christ is Lord. No matter the political upheaval in the world—especially in my part of the world—there is one Mover and Shaker who will restore the world anew (Rev 21). My hope is built on this fact: Jesus wins because Jesus Christ is true Power over non-powers; he is the true Lord over non-Lords.
4. That Jesus Christ is Lord means that I must act. I have given myself to Jesus Christ as Lord. Like a scribe, I know those words, kyrios Iēsous Christos, much like I know the ABCs. But for all the memorization, meditation, and contemplation there must be application. Like the Shema, one does not truly hear unless one’s hearing becomes one’s acting. God calls us to hear so that we can act. As divine speech to me, mere musing must find its culmination in the acting. To believe “Jesus Christ is Lord” is a call to move, to walk, to run, to jump, to plead, to rebuke, to love, to proclaim. The Christian life (a life that is founded upon the idea that “Jesus Christ is Lord”) is no private matter. It is not a secret, tucked-away-in-my-room sort of calling. Rather, it is a public endeavor, an outside-the-four-walls-of-the-church endeavor. There are real consequences to such belief. The news that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is public news. Its truth is not restricted to me, nor will it be narrowed to any one group. It’s an announcement that demands an audience. All announcements demand an audience. An announcement ceases to be an announcement when there is no audience; news must ultimately be told. I must find people. Will they embrace Jesus Christ as Lord? I can’t answer that.
But will I? That’s a question I can answer.
And so can you.