In 1979, Bob Dylan recorded a song, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may by the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” John Lennon was so embarrassed by Dylan’s overt Christian lyrics that he responded with his own song, “You gotta serve yourself.”
Lennon’s song didn’t go far; Dylan’s song is still played by rockers, blues, country and even in church. Why? Because he’s right. You either serve the Lord or you serve the devil.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ emptied himself and became servant of all to set us free from our slavery to sin, self, and the devil. This morning our focus is “What the Bible says about Lordship”. Specifically, the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Throughout history, Old Testament, New Testament, even to the present day, God’s people have been put to the test. Pagan leaders have demanded their subjects proclaim them to be Lord! Those who refuse have been thrown into fiery furnaces and lion’s dens. They have been boiled in oil, skinned alive, burned at the stake, tortured, and most recently beheaded.
So “Who do you say is LORD?” The Bible is clear. “Only Jesus is Lord, yesterday, today, and forever. He is LORD of lords and King of kings.” But that’s not what Satan or the powers of this world want to hear. These enemies of Jesus are uniting in their crusade to abolish the name of Jesus and destroy everyone who lays claim to it. That shouldn’t surprise us.
The Bible warns us this will take place. Satan has been at it for over 4,000 years. He has murdered millions of God’s people, but he still hasn’t succeeded in wiping out the name of Jesus, or eradicating God’s people and he won’t. Why? Because “Only Jesus is LORD!”
I was 23 years old when I first began to understand this truth. I knew Jesus as Savior. My mother told me I had knelt beside my bed when I was 4 years old and asked Jesus to come into my heart. She said she knew it was real. From the time I can remember, I have known Jesus as my Savior. I knew he was there to forgive my sin and help me. He was always there whenever I needed to talk to him.
But I hadn’t matured enough to understand what it meant to have Jesus as my Lord. The word Lord means master. We don’t like the imagery of slave and master because it sounds like oppressive and abusive. It threatens our idea of freedom. We want to believe we are masters of ourselves and not in bondage to anyone!
Jesus told the Pharisees who claimed to be free that they were really free at all. They were slaves of their own sinful nature whether they acknowledge it or not. Luther said we are slaves of sin, death, and the devil and cannot free ourselves. He got that from Jesus, right out of the Bible. Like Dylan said, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may by the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” We need a Lord, a master more powerful than the one we now serve to set us free. Only Jesus can do that! Why, because “Only Jesus is Lord!”
It was when I was 23 that I began to realize I wasn’t as free as I thought I was. Being master of my own destiny wasn’t working out so well. I was fighting my way to the top of the hill only to discover, I had climbed the wrong hill. On the outside I seemed to be achieving the success I’d been chasing, but on the inside, my life was empty and I didn’t know why.
So I enrolled at Lutheran Bible School in Seattle to try and figure it out. That’s where I first heard about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I’d been living as if I was Lord and Jesus was there to help me accomplish my goals. How childish!
As I began to study the Bible the Lord began to change my heart. I realized I was afraid to let Jesus be Lord for fear of what he would do. I was afraid of what I’d have to let go of - afraid of what I might become. I was afraid to turn over the keys to my heart and let him into every secret place. I was ashamed of what he would find there. Anybody relate to this?
Saying “Jesus is Lord” is not the same as actually surrendering your life to him as Lord! Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Mt 7:21
I realized those words were for me. When I read Paul’s words in Phil 2, it was like they were written just for me. “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” Phil 2:1 (This is what it means to know Jesus as Savior and friend)
“… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phil 2:2-4 (That’s discipleship – being teachable, willing to grow in your faith)
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Phil 2:5-8 (This is the meaning of Lordship!)
Jesus modeled Lordship for us in his obedience to his Father and the emptying of himself even to death on the cross for us. So what was the outcome?
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 9-11
Satan and the powers of the world thought that by killing Jesus and scattering his followers, they could claim the title of Lord but it didn’t work. God exalts the humble and he humbles the proud. He holds the bullies accountable. Why, because only Jesus is Lord, not the bullies of the world.
Jesus told his disciples “If you want to be great in the kingdom of God, learn to be servant of all.” Then he demonstrated it by washing their feet. 12 hours later, he allowed himself to be crucified. Weakness, no! This was a power the world can never understand.
What a challenge this is to us as people who love Jesus. We know he’s our Savior but are we willing for him to be our Lord and master? Are we willing to follow him down into a new way of expressing leadership in the world?
I remember as a child, my mom would leave the house to go on an errant. She would give us all jobs to do and then put one of us in charge. As soon as she left the house, we’d start bickering with each other. “Mom, made me the boss of you and you have to do whatever I say.”
How childish! Our bickering was rooted in our misunderstanding of Lordship. We wanted to be lord and master. We wanted to be boss! How unlike Jesus who demonstrated that leadership is rooted, not in demanding our own way, but in submission to God’s way.
This isn’t pacifism. There are times when we must take up arms in the protection of those who are abused. This is about our daily relationships with each other. It’s about how we express leadership. Are you thankful that “Jesus is Lord”? What other hope do we have for our petty selfish behavior? Are you willing to confess “Jesus, it’s you, not me that’s Lord!”
Let’s read these words from 1 Peter. Peter was an ego guy. He believed himself to be master of his own ship, his own business. He was used to having his way. But Jesus taught him, he really wasn’t Lord, in fact, all his vain attempts to be Lord ended in disaster. He later wrote these words, “In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” 1 Peter 3:15
When we bow to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, he begins to change us. Rather than putting ourselves first, we begin to put others first. We lead through humility, gentleness and a servant heart. Paul was an ego guy until he learned that it was Jesus was is Lord. Here’s how he puts it.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing…”
This is a description of us trying to promote ourselves as Lord! Not only ugly, but vain and worthless! But something very different happens when Jesus is given first place as Lord.
“… Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Cor 13:1-8
Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Salvation begins with inviting into your heart. Do you know him as Lord? Have you turned over the keys and the deed to your life to him? This is true for people, and its true for congregations as well.
A day is coming, maybe soon when we will all stand before him. We will see him as he truly is – Lord of lords and King of kings. On that day, read it with me, “… at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:11