Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Jesus as Lord

Some time ago John MacArthur wrote The Gospel According to Jesus in which he explained, among other things, the concept known as "Lordship Salvation". Using passages like Paul's response to the Philippian jailer on how to be saved (Acts 16:31), he argued that we aren't saved by simple profession of faith, but by submitting to Christ as Lord. There was and has continued to be no small furor over the notion and I do not intend to discuss nuances or prove one or the other here today.

Instead, I'm going to face the question of being a basic Christian. I'm going to look at it through Christ's words. What did Jesus say was required to be a Christian? Here is the clearest statement I find.
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23)
Okay, so let's unpack this, beginning with "wishes to come after Me." We call ourselves Christians today. The first term was "followers of the Way." Same thing. "Christian" isn't like "Jewish". "Jewish" is a religion, but not always. There are Jewish atheists, for instance. No, it's something else. It's bloodline, a family, a culture, a philosophy. The religion we call "Judaism" is only part of it. "Christian", on the other hand, refers to followers of Christ. That is exactly the phrase Jesus used. Those who wish "to come after Me" -- to be followers of Christ. The question He is answering here is "What does it take to be a Christian?"

Part 1: Deny himself
This isn't hard to figure out. This is the basic definition of repentance. It is a turning from sinful self, ungodliness, and worldly lusts. It is throwing out self-based righteousness and self-made glory. It is setting aside the pleasures and purposes formerly embraced that compete with Christ. It is releasing worldly expectations and demands and turning to one singular aim -- to be Christ's bondslave.

Part 2: Take up a daily cross
Perhaps "cross" isn't something we are familiar with. His listeners weren't unclear at all. If you saw someone carrying a cross, you saw a dead man walking. Life was over. All that had gone before was at an end. Jesus said to make this your existence. I used the Luke version because Luke included "daily", but it can be drawn from the Matthew and Mark quotes as well. The Christian life is one in which we die daily, immersed in Christ's death in order to share in His new life. In a way there should be little correlation between life before and life after Christ. Same body, perhaps, but living an ongoing, continuous dying to self and to the world and to the flesh and a new life lived in Christ. Taking up your cross is embracing Christ's death on your behalf, your own death to self and the world, and whatever pain and hardship this walk with Christ will include. It is submission and it is work.

Part 3: Follow Him
Having turned from self and taking up an ongoing cross, we are to follow Him. Where is He going? Wherever that is, follow. What does He want of us? Whatever it is, do it. What if He runs afoul of our thinking or our world's views? Wherever that happens, follow Him. Follow. Be His disciple.

Jesus had some strange things to say about being His disciple.
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26)

"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:27)

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions." (Luke 14:33)
If He is not first in my affections, I cannot be His disciple. If I do not accept that cross, I cannot be His disciple. If I cling to what I have rather than surrendering it to Him, I cannot be His disciple.

Now, maybe that's not "Lordship". I don't know what else you would call it. And certainly this is a process, the completion of which doesn't come this side of the grave. But this is Jesus's description of following Him, of being His disciple, of being a Christian. Paul said, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Simple. Straightforward. However, it seems abundantly clear that remaining the lord of my own life is not on that list. We need to surrender that self-rule as it becomes apparent, but clearly we need to deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow Christ. That's what Jesus said.

4 comments:

Bob said...

I cannot do this. when i try, i fail. when i succeed, i become prideful.
like many demands that Jesus makes. this one is no different. "if you love me you will obey my commands" do i really love Jesus so much so, that i obey all His commands? not really. perhaps the best thing i can come away with from your post, is the conviction that i do not measure up. and if i do not measure up now, i never will. who will save this wretched body of sin and death? Apart from His help i am lost.

Stan said...

No, this side of heaven we will not make this. Yes, apart from His work I am lost. So this would be something to aim for, the salvation we are to work out with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13). But it gives me a direction, instructions for life, something to aim at. And it reminds me that I'm NOT okay as long as I'm not in total submission.

Bob said...

is there a distinction between being saved and being a disciple?
i can imagine that all disciples are saved , but not all that are saved are necessarily disciples. or is this just ridiculous...

Stan said...

If "saved" is sins forgiven, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, adopted by God, heaven-bound and "disciple" is a learner and follower of Christ, I think you can be saved but not exercising the learning and following or not exercising it very much. So, yes, there is a distinction. You can NOT be a disciple of Christ and not saved, however.