Jesus is Lord, yet mankind insists on calling Him everything else… (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Two weeks ago I began this series (which I’ve entitled, Losing Control) by writing about the correlation between a pressing need to manage or manipulate the events and details of one’s life and an inability to submit to Jesus as one’s Lord. A fear of feeling powerless is what drives a person to attempt to gain or maintain control over circumstances, choices or other people. However, in giving in to this fear, instead of surrendering it to Christ, he or she is, in effect, stating that they do not trust Jesus with the details of their life. Unbelief is what characterizes such a life; not faith.
The first step in the spiritual process of losing control is to turn to Jesus and accept him as your Savior. This is what I wrote about last week. Each of us is in need of being saved from our innate self-centeredness. No matter how determined we are to curb or conquer it, we will inevitably revert back to what comes naturally to us: prideful self-interest. No one can can cure him or herself of this condition. Only Jesus, God’s sinless Son, can deliver us and transform our sinful nature. It all begins when we admit our all-encompassing need for him and his saving grace in our lives.
But some Christians act as though the role Jesus plays in their life is more like that of a servant than a Savior – someone who follows after them, smoothing out the difficulties and cleaning up whatever mess they make. As they see it, they can continue on with their lives as usual, but with an added bonus – their salvation is now guaranteed. However, life as we’ve always lived it is supposed to end when we turn to Jesus and accept him as our Savior because our sinful nature needs to be crucified, not supplemented, as the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (6:6). This means old habits and ways of thinking must be abandoned and new ones put into practice – according to God’s direction, not ours.
In my denomination, when someone is being baptized he or she is asked first, “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?” But this question is followed by another, equally as important: “Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?” The Greek word for “lord” is κυριος, which means: master or owner – the person who has complete authority over another. Being saved involves submitting to Jesus’ authority, allowing him to be Master of our life. He assured us his yoke is easy (Matthew 11:29-30) but it is still a yoke. And though we are yoked to him, he does the leading; he is not our co-pilot. Instead, he is our Master, whom we are to follow and obey.
Thirty-one years ago I claimed Jesus as my Savior. But, over time, I lost sight of the fact that he is also my Lord. I stopped seeking his will and direction day by day, moment by moment. I started to assume any choice I made was in keeping with his will for me. I suppose I justified this assumption because I still claimed him as my Savior. Yet, I had conveniently lost sight of the need to continually submit to him as my Lord. I had, in effect, turned Jesus into my co-pilot.
This will happen to any Christian who is not intentionally choosing, on an ongoing basis, to allow Jesus to be Lord of his or her life. Our natural tendency is to want to be in control; it goes hand in hand with our innate self-centeredness. Therefore, the choice to submit to Jesus’ lordship (authority) over our life is something that must be made every day, or we will resort back to what is comfortable and familiar, with ourselves at the center instead of Jesus.
We live in a culture which has some appreciation for the need for salvation, although the salvation often sought these days is purely superficial. Today’s saviors are those who are skilled in “delivering,” from public scorn, a tattered persona. They are the kind of person a celebrity or sports star will turn to if their actions or excesses get too out of hand. Tiger Woods is working with someone to rescue his image, but he gives every indication that he is still the lord of his life. This is the problem with modern notions of salvation: while we may concede the need for a “savior,” we still want to remain in control. Everyone wants to be their own lord.
Anyone familiar with the mechanics of a twelve-step recovery program, a program for those who are in recovery for an addiction of some kind, (and not pretending to be in recovery as is the case for some celebrities and sports stars) knows that the first step is to admit that one has an addiction and is powerless over it. Christians would do well to ponder the reasoning behind this step because in a similar way we are powerless over sin, which is like an addiction. Sin takes away the possibility of living life in the way we were all created to live it. And none of us has the power to change this condition which effects every human being. We can’t just hire someone to manage it. The only solution for us is to turn to Jesus and claim him as our Savior – and – submit to his yoke as our Lord.
Next week: What’s wrong with will-power?
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Absolutely right on, Claudia!
AA, the original 12-step program, was begun, as I understand it, by an Episcopal priest back when that denomination understood sin and our need for a Savior and Lord properly. It is based on the Gospel message. Brandy and I have often thought church meetings should be set up like a 12-Step meeting – “Hi. My name is Rick, and I’m a sinner!” We all really need to be reminded, and heed that reminder, that we are sinners by nature, and that we are currently in the process of being changed inside, but not until we die or meet the Lord at the end of the world will we be completely be changed to the perfect, loving creatures we were meant to be by God.
I know many folks who admit to having a hard time, as I do, letting God do whatever He wants in our lives. But as you point out, we are yoked with Him in life now that we have accepted Him as Savior, and trying to live otherwise only causes chafing and unhappiness as we struggle against the yoke.
Thanks for this clear statement of truth, a truth that many who profess to be Christians do not understand. And thanks for the reminder that He is not our co-Pilot, but our Pilot, and we must follow His orders as Captain and Owner of our lives.
Thank you, Rick! I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. Claudia
Claudia – wonderful series… and nicely timed for me. I’m in an interesting situation at work – I’m in the part of GE that is getting into a joint venture with a Chinese airplane manufacturer. Lots of questions and uncertainties, few answers.
You are dead on with your comments about seeing Jesus as a servant (or genie) rather than Lord and Savior. I see this as a trust issue – are we willing to trust God with our lives, or not? I’ve been wrestling with this question for quite a while now, and am slowing building up that trust.
Keep those cards and letters coming…
And yes, Grand Rapids is lovely in winter, if you can ignore the cold…
Chris, it’s great to hear from you. I agree with you about the trust issue — and I’m so grateful for the Lord’s patience because I’m a slow learner. Thank you for your comment. Claudia
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