If we really understand what Lordship means

I think I finally have the words and the permission to share something that has been getting stronger and stronger inside my heart over the past year or so. Holy Spirit, please open the eyes of our hearts to understand Your Word accurately.

Last year at some point as I was reading my Bible, I read in Matthew where Jesus used the illustration of trees bearing good and bad fruit. I read these words, and I felt like the Holy Spirit underlined them.  

Matthew 7:21-23, “Not all who say to me ‘Lord Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ 

It troubled me. Here were people who called Him “Lord.” People who prayed and who appeared to walk with God enough that He answered their prayers with miracles… and yet He would not let them enter the kingdom of heaven! Why? Because they did not do His will and practiced ‘lawlessness’ instead, and because He never knew them. 
I have had many conversations with God about this passage in the past year. 
All my life, I have heard people say things like, “All you have to do to be saved is to believe that Jesus died for your sins.” Then when someone says the sinner’s prayer, we celebrate that they are saved. Repentance is sometimes (but not always) mentioned, but it is very rare for anyone to tell the person that they need to do the will of God.

There are other verses and parables where Jesus indicated that people would think they were saved, yet would be turned away from heaven.. often because of something they did or failed to do.

And yet, Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

God, I begged, When Paul was writing Romans and was spelling out salvation and how it works, he wrote, “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.” This does not seem to match what Jesus was saying. Open my eyes to understand!

I had many conversations with God over these verses, and finally, one day recently, He encouraged me to think more carefully about what Paul wrote in that verse. As I did, the Holy Spirit pointed out two specific phrases. Here is Romans 10:9 again:

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.

As I talked with the Holy Spirit about those two phrases, new depths of meaning came out. 

What does it mean to call someone your lord? Really

I looked it up in BlueLetterBible.com to see what the Greek word means. It means, “He to whom a person or thing belongs, about which He has power of deciding; master, lord.”

If we think back to feudal times, it was a hierarchy with the king at the top. Everyone except the king — from the dukes and barons right down to the vassals and most lowly servant — had someone who was their lord. Each person’s lord had the power of deciding things about them. So when the king called his dukes and gave them directions, they said, “Yes, my lord.” And when the dukes and barons called their knights and vassals and servants, the reply had to be, “Yes, my lord.”

If a vassal wanted the protection of the duke’s castle during attack, and if the duke wanted the king to summon his armies in case of attack, then they had to swear allegiance to their lord… and live out that allegiance! 

Who belongs in the kingdom is determined according to who has sworn their allegiance to the king. 

This is what a kingdom is. And Jesus said He was preaching the kingdom of God. 

Some English translations interpret Romans 10:9 as “…confess that Jesus is Lord” while others say, “…confess Jesus as Lord.”  The words “is” and “as” don’t exist in the original Greek. It has the word for confess, then the word for Jesus, then the word for Lord. English grammar requires another linking word to be added. 

I firmly believe that “…if you confess Jesus as Lord” is what Paul meant, for as James said, “Even the demons believe in God, and they shudder in fear.” 

There is a distinct difference between stating that Jesus is Lord in a general sense because God set Him above all things or because someone says He’ll save you if you say those words, and confessing that He is my Lord because I am swearing allegiance to Him and making Him the Lord and Master of every detail of my life. 

In fact, Jesus said that “not all who say (just words) to Me ‘Lord Lord’ will enter the kingdom.” That is not necessarily the same group of people as those who confess that He is their Lord.

Jesus Himself underscored this when He finished the parable of the houses being built on the rock and sand by saying, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock … and everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” He drew a distinction between the house-builders who only hear His words and those who act on them. Others who aren’t in His kingdom might hear them, but those who have made Him their Lord will act! 

But before it starts to sound like I’m saying we have to live a perfect life to get to heaven (because I’m not), let’s look at the second thing that the Holy Spirit pointed out in Romans 10:9. 

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.

What did Jesus — our Lord and Master — say about the heart? 

Answer: A lot! 

He said that sin comes from the heart. 

He said that if you commit adultery or murder in your heart, you are guilty, even if you didn’t do the action. 

I don’t think anyone would disagree that if our actions are obedient to Jesus our Lord, but in our heart we’re grumbling about what He has asked us to do, then our obedience isn’t really doing us much good. We are, in fact, sinning because our heart isn’t right. 

So what about the other way around? What if I have indeed made Jesus my Lord, and I sincerely from the heart desire to do His will, and yet I screw up and sin?  In other words, I am a person just like King David, who sinned many times. Well, God still called David “a man after My heart.” He assured Samuel, “Man looks at outward appearances, but I look at the heart.”

We might also find ourself lamenting with Paul, “I do the things I don’t want to do!” Notice that Paul was contrasting his heart’s desire to do God’s will against his actions which were sometimes contrary. But we can also can say, with Paul, “Thanks be to God who delivers me from sin and death!”

If we go all the way back to Matthew 7:23, Jesus didn’t say, “Depart from Me, all you who failed to live perfectly.” He said those who practiced lawlessness never knew Him.

He wasn’t talking about a list of things people did and didn’t do. 

He was talking about real relationship that went beyond just empty words saying, “Lord, Lord!” 

He said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” 

I am discovering that the more I know God, the more I love Him and trust Him!  

The more I trust Him, the more my heart really really REALLY wants to do His will! My reality now is that I want what He wants. I trust that He knows best, so to want anything apart from His will seems like it might be about the stupidest thing for me to want. Why would I not want the best?

And if I WANT His will, and I really believe that He knows best how to accomplish it, then why would I want to disobey what He asks me to do? 

When you really walk with God, you know that this isn’t about avoiding a list of sins. It’s not about whether or not you lie and who you have sex with and whether you drink or do drugs. It’s so much deeper, for we can “keep those laws” and still be quite disobedient and choose our own way and act like we think we know better than God. 

Obeying the One that I have a relationship with was about picking up the trash along the road in front of my neighbor’s house because that is what He asked me to do that morning. 

Submitting to the lordship of God was obeying when God asked me, that particular day, to stop and offer a ride to that particular stranger… even though though on most days He does not ask me to do this thing that is normally considered unsafe. 

Submitting to His lordship is forgiving and loving that person who seems to speak against so many things I do. 

Submitting to His lordship was giving a $20 tip on a $28 meal because He said to do it that day. 

Submitting to His lordship is willingly serving the person who is taking advantage of me, because that’s what He is asking me to do in this situation. 

Submitting to His lordship was typing out a message of the gospel to one person who emailed me, and saying nothing to another person, because that is the direction He gave me for each of them. 

Submitting to His lordship is refusing to follow my inclinations to comment on Facebook when He stops me. 

Submitting to His lordship is not buying that thing I want and have the money for because He said, “That’s not what I gave you that money for.”

Submitting to His lordship is to trust Him when He says to stay silent in the middle of a tirade being leveled against me, and to trust Him when He gives me words that seem to go nowhere.

Submitting to His lordship is to willingly walk into and through that difficult situation because that’s where He’s asking me to go. Even though I know it might involve heartbreak but I’m still excited because I know that He is enough for me.

When we really understand what lordship means, it’s easy to see it reflected over and over again in what Jesus preached.  

When we know who Jesus is, making Him our Lord in our heart becomes the natural reflection of our love for Him. This is why He said, “If you love Me, you’ll obey Me.” It wasn’t a manipulative, “If you love Me, prove it!” He was simply explaining the natural outcome of a faulty human (me) loving an all-knowing God who sacrificed everything He was for us. 

To know Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to obey Him. To obey Him is to love Him.

Is He your Lord? Or are you just offering lip service? 

What should we be telling people who ask how to be saved? 

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