If you travel around East Texas at all, you’ll be struck by the sight of wooden crosses adorning the yards of many homes. Emblazoned on each are the words, “Jesus is Lord”. A little research turns up that the crosses originate from a church in Nacogdoches whose members simply had a desire to proclaim their faith. Soon the crosses spread to other churches; now they dot nearly every neighborhood. A pastor in neighboring Lufkin explained the beauty of the phenomenon this way, “People are able to pick up a cross like this and display it on their properties to show that they have a Christian faith and trust in Christ as their Lord.” As I observed these crosses yard after yard–in the city, the country, and everywhere–I began to further ponder the meaning of this statement. What exactly does it mean that Jesus is Lord and what should that look like in my life?
The lordship of Jesus is a subject found throughout the New Testament. My church’s recent Bible study on Acts focused on one such example in Peter’s statement to Cornelius and the people of Joppa in Acts 10: “You know the message which He sent to the sons of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all— you know the things that have taken place throughout Judea, starting in Galilee after the baptism preached by John— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with great power” (Acts 10: 36-38a AMP). Peter’s affirmation of Jesus’s lordship is still good news—no less to us two thousand years later than it was to the Gentiles in Peter’s day. Our Joy of Living commentary on this verse explains, “Jesus came as a man through whom God worked in love and power. He came to show us how a human being can live in utter dependence on God. We cannot be fully human as God intended us to be, until God dwells in us and lives His life through us. That is what Jesus came to show us. Only when Jesus becomes Lord does He become our Savior” (Joy of Living Study of Acts, p. 93).
Paul highlights the significance of Jesus’s lordship in Romans, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10). The take-home then for us is that when you and I accept Christ as our Savior and recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord, the logical and necessary next step is the choice to utterly and completely obey and submit to Him. Such a response only makes sense in light of the supreme authority granted to Christ. Jesus made this truth abundantly clear in His departure for His throne in glory, “ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to ME” (Matthew 28:18). He also challenges those who would follow Him, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). In other words, calling Him Lord and truly living under His lordship are two separate things. Obedience makes the difference.
The only reasonable understanding of the declaration, “Jesus is Lord,” is that a Christian is meant to live in faithful submission and obedience to that lordship. We do this by daily – even moment by moment – surrendering control to Him, seeking His will. Is this hard? Yes! But it was never meant to be something we could do in our own strength, power, or skill. Only as we depend on Jesus Himself can we accomplish it. Note Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Thus, in His kindness, Jesus Himself graciously and lovingly undertakes to give us the courage, the strength, and even the desire to bend ourselves in the needed ways to obey and submit to what He asks of us.
Obedience to anything He asks is Christ’s will for us—and that we respond to that call with faith and trust. Every reason the Bible gives for our obedience is compelling, but perhaps none is more compelling than this: Jesus equates our obedience with what it means to truly love Him. See John 14:21: “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones that love me.” To the obedient (those who love Him) He promises, “And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them” (John 14:21 NLT). What precious benefits does Jesus promise when we only “trust and obey”!
In her book, Discerning the Voice of God, Priscilla Shirer gives us her personal insight into obedience, driving home how important it is to always remember that God is good and kind, that He is working for our good. She writes, “God has often had to remind me, whenever I can tell that my desire to obey is waning, that He is love and He is good. These are not mere personality traits of God; they are innate to His being. And while that doesn’t mean I’ll always enjoy His choices, knowing these certainties about Him assures me that He will never ask me to do anything that is not both best for me and in keeping with His plan.”
What a comfort it is as a believer, striving to obey, sometimes in very difficult situations, to know that our Lord and Savior has only the best plans for us when He urges our submission and compliance. We can trust Him and follow Him with complete assurance that His will is good and perfect. Truly I have seen over my own long lifetime that Jesus is Lord – over everything and in every situation — and I praise Him for the perfect examples He has shown me of His love, His mercy, and His obedience to the Father.
Jesus asks us to do nothing He Himself has not done. Read Paul’s summation: “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! 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” (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV).
What does your own submission to Jesus’s lordship look like today? A sign in your yard, but perhaps many particular areas where you are struggling? Let’s go to Him directly and ask for the best help there is to grow in our submission and love for Him this year!
Dear Heavenly Father, I praise your Holy Name and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. As I consider the birth of Christ we so recently celebrated this Christmas, I am humbled and in awe of Your love and grace. I praise You for Your Word and Holy Spirit that is given to me and to all believers to guide us. Help me in this year ahead to always be sensitive to Your leading and to be quick to recognize and be obedient to Your perfect will for my life. I know that I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.
In the Name of Jesus my Savior, Amen.