Jesus is Lord - a call to radical discipleship (Notes compiled by a listener at an address given by John Stott in 2003)
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These notes were compiled by a listener who attended a talk given by the Anglican evangelist, John Stott in 2003. The topic of the talk was "Jesus is Lord - a call to radical discipleship"
What is meant by "radical discipleship"? The word "radical" comes from the Latin, radix, meaning "root". Radical discipleship is a deep, thorough-going discipleship to Christ, down to the roots of our humanity.
This discipleship springs from the fact that Jesus is Lord. This is the shortest, simplest and earliest Christian creed (Romans 10:9-10). It is this confession by which people are saved. It is a confession that can only be made by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Are these words not inadequate as a summary of Christian belief? They are so brief! No, it is not inadequate, because these words are pregnant with meaning and carry enormous implications. In essence they express two things: a conviction about Jesus and a commitment to Jesus.
A conviction about the identity of Jesus
In Philippians 2:1-11, the apostle Paul describes how Jesus humbled himself in taking on human likeness and becoming obedient to God to the point of death on a cross. It is because of this very fact that God "highly exalted" Jesus so that everyone should confess that "Jesus Christ is Lord". Consider three things that Paul did in using these words:
Paul gave Jesus a God title
The Greek translation of the Old Testament substituted "The Lord" where it found the name of God (Yahweh), which occurs 6,156 times. The disciples knew very well that "Lord" was the title for God. Yet they did not hesitate to apply it to Jesus, as Paul does here in Philippians 2: 11. In fact, the New Testament writers do this 700 times. To apply the title that belongs to God to Jesus is equivalent to saying "Jesus is Yahweh". If Jesus is Lord, then Jesus is God.
Paul gave Jesus a God text
Paul's description of Jesus takes up Isaiah 45: 23 which says: "By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return, 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear'". In this passage God is declaring his right to receive universal worship as the only true God. In the preceding verse it says, "Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other". In applying this text to Jesus, Paul is clearly saying that it is not just God the Father who deserves universal worship, but Jesus Christ also. In this way, Jesus is given the same status as God.
Paul demanded for Jesus God worship
When Paul says "So that every knee should bow... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (verses 10-11) he is referring to the worship of Jesus. This is the only fitting response if Jesus is God.
It is clear from this passage and the rest of the New Testament that from the earliest days Christians confessed Jesus as God. The widespread denial of Jesus' divinity these days simply does not fit with the evidence of the New Testament.
A commitment to Jesus
The word "Lord" (in Greek, kurios) was used in the Greek world to refer to the owners of property and slaves. As owners, they had the right of control and disposal of those things. From the truth that "Jesus is Lord" comes a commitment to Jesus that is to penetrate every aspect of our being. Our commitment to Jesus as Lord has the following dimensions:
An intellectual dimension
We must start with our minds because the mind is our control tower. Often our minds are the last part of us to capitulate to Christ. In Matthew 11: 28-30 Jesus calls people, saying "Come to me". He says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me". The yoke, laid on oxen, is a symbol of submission to authority. Jesus is saying submit to his teaching authority. At the same time Jesus assures us, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light".
This submission is indispensable to Christian discipleship. We cannot claim to be converted unless we are intellectually converted. We cannot dispute and disagree with our master. There is an urgent need today for us to take on Jesus' yoke, to listen at his feet. This is were we find intellectual freedom because intellectual freedom is the freedom to believe the truth. It is only under the authority of the truth that our minds are free. This is why Jesus says, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." (John 8: 31-32)
A moral dimension
In these times people are confused about morality. Frequently people say, "It all depends on your point of view."
Jesus says, "They that have my commandments and keep the mare those who love me. And those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." (John 14: 21). Jesus is giving a conditional promise. He will only reveal himself to his lovers, and his lovers are those who obey his commands. That is the only way to prove that we love Jesus. The test of our love is obedience and its reward is that Jesus reveals himself to us.
The current confusion is most evident in sexual ethics. People will often say that Jesus never addressed these issues, but that is not true. Jesus clearly upheld marriage between a man and woman as the only relationship for sexual activity (Matthew 19: 1-12)
The question before us is this - who is the Lord? Is it Christ or the church? Who has the right to determine these things, Jesus or us? Jesus says, "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 7: 21)
A vocational dimension
To say, "Jesus is Lord", commits us to a lifetime of ministry. It is inconceivable that Christians should spend their lives in any other way. It is incorrect to refer to people entering the ministry, when what me mean is the pastoral ministry. There is not one ministry that we can call the ministry, but many ministries, of which on is the ministry of pastor and teacher. All Christians have ministries by which they serve Christ, and this is what we are to spend our lives doing.
As a part of this we need to affirm the value of the ministry of being a mother and a home-maker. A woman converted by the evangelist Gypsy Smith wrote to him saying that she felt God has called her to be a preacher, but there was one problem - she had twenty children. Gypsy Smith wrote back saying, "How thankful to God you must be that he has not only called you to be a preacher, but he has given you a congregation!"
Christians have responsibility to the society of which Jesus is Lord, even if the society does not recognise his lordship. Jesus has disarmed the powers and triumphed over them in the cross (Colossians 2: 15). He declares to his disciples, "All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28: 18). In the terms of Psalm 110: 1, Jesus is to reign until God puts all his enemies under his feet. This will happen finally when Jesus returns.
In recognising this, Christians cannot acquiesce in any situation in society that goes against Jesus' lordship. What God desires (justice and truth) we should likewise desire. Everything in our world belongs to Jesus, and we should act in society in accord with that truth.
A political dimension
Jesus' mission brought him into conflict with political authority. He was condemned by the Jewish court for blasphemy and in the Roman court for sedition. Likewise, Jesus' lordship had political implications for his followers in the early church. The emperors expected to receive homage as a god. A provincial governor might require his citizens to offer incense to kaisar kurios (Lord Caesar), which Christians had to refuse (at the risk of death) since they could only affirm iesous kurios (Lord Jesus). The same can be true today under totalitarian regimes where the state is deified.
Although Christians are called upon to obey the government, as we see in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, this obligation cease in those instances in which a government requires Christians to do something contrary to the will of God. One example of such civil disobedience is seen in the Hebrew midwives who refused to obey Pharaoh's orders to kill all the baby boys that they delivered. The confession "Jesus is Lord" has political implications, since Christians must not compromise their obedience to Christ.
A global dimension
Christians cannot surrender to the pluralism and relativism of our times, nor can we accept other religions as a valid way to acceptance with God. As we have seen, it is God's will that "Every knee should bow... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2: 11). Mission is not an impertinent interference in other people's lives. It is the unavoidable deduction from the lordship of Jesus Christ. The greatest motivation in mission is a jealousy for the honour and glory of Jesus. Our confession that Jesus is Lord must cause us to look out upon the whole world as God's mission field.
One of the greatest needs at the present time is for men and women of integrity. Christians need to be wholly devoted to Jesus Christ. We are to be integrated as whole people - our words and actions must correspond, our beliefs and behaviour must correspond, our public and private lives must correspond, going together to form a whole. It is only when Jesus is Lord that we become whole. We find our integrity under his lordship.