I just started reading John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus. What I am reading there definitely is shaping my thoughts today.
This book addresses a point of doctrine over which I was unaware there was any controversy. I will not pretend to understand all of the theological nuance regarding the question, but the question is basically this: Does salvation require submission to the Lordship of Christ?
Interestingly enough, my morning readings seemed to speak to this question. Hebrews 12:2 begins, “fixing our eyes on Jesus…” When I read this, it took me back to the days when I trained my dogs and a few horses. When a dog or a horse has acknowledged you as their master, they will watch you intently whenever you are around. They want to please their master, they watch you so they can understand what it is you want them to do, so they can do it! Dogs especially will avert their eyes when they know they have done something wrong. The verse goes on to say that Christ is the author and the perfecter of our faith. OUR faith – He put the seed of faith in our hearts, and He is the one who will perfect the faith within us. He is King, He is Lord, He is our master – keep your eyes on Him! Why? Because we have acknowledged His lordship over our lives, and we want to know how to please Him.
“A new commandment I give to you…” Jesus says in John 13:34-35. Who commands us? Our master, our Lord commands us. All others give us suggestions, good ideas, instructions – our master commands. What does He command here? That we love one another as He loves us. A quick aside – I know I believe myself to be lovable, and Christ loving me does not, at first glance, to be so unbelievable. Indeed, sometimes I find myself thinking it would be unbelievable if He didn’t love me! Isn’t that a pretty egocentric, or me-centered, way of looking at this relationship? He knows my thoughts, He sees my actions, He knows every weakness…all those things I hide from everyone else so the will love me. Why do I hide them? Well, because I know those thoughts, those actions, those weaknesses are particularly unlovable! Now let’s re-examine my attitude: Christ is without sin, He hates sin. He sees everything in me; even the things I don’t want anybody else to see, because those things are so unlovable. How can I expect Him to love me? He does, and that’s the miracle of it all, He does love me. Now He, as my Lord, commands me to love others that same way. Not because they are lovable, although some are, not because I feel like it, but because He love me, He commands me to love, and He is my Lord, my master.
Then in John 14:15 Christ says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Can we believe in the redeeming power of the blood of Christ, His sacrifice, His being and eternal presence as Creator God and NOT love Him? I don’t know how that could be possible. And if we love Him, we are to keep His commandments. There’s the beauty. He is our master, we are His slaves, and yet – He loves us, and we love Him.
Jesus tells us He is coming back for us, John 14:3. He doesn’t tell us that He will be passing through and if we want to go along, we’re welcome to hitch a ride. No, He says He is returning to take us with Him. He is our master, we are His slaves, He will take us with Him! Where? To a place He has prepared, in His Father’s kingdom. He takes us into the sovereignty of God…and this happens without me yielding to that sovereign God? I think not! He takes us into the presence, into the everlasting kindom, of the One to whom we are in subjection.
Peter says that we are aliens and strangers, 1 Peter 2:11. In Hebrews 11:13-16 we are seeking a different, a better country. And Hebrews 13:14 says we do not have a lasting city on this earth. Christ is taking us from this earth, this life, where we are strangers and aliens…where we no longer fit in, or belong. He is taking us to a better country, the Kingdom of God. Why are we aliens here? Why is Jesus taking us to His kingdom? The answer to both is this: because we are now citizens of the Kingdom of God, subjects of the King, slaves to our Lord. We don’t fit in because our thoughts and our actions are different, we don’t do what that great king, Everybody Else, commands.
We are under the Law of Christ, Romans 8:2, the law of His kingdom. We are no longer under the law of sin and death, the law of this world. We are no longer slaves to this world, we are slaves of Christ.
“Out of the fullness of the heart, the tongue speaks”, Matthew 12:34. Jesus is making a general statement to point out the wickedness in the hearts of the Pharisees. If our hearts are filled with Christ, we speak of Christ…we speak love. If our hearts are filled with this world, we speak death and corruption and temporary vanities. Out of the fullness of the heart…if we are truly saved, if we truly believe in our salvation and our Savior, if we understand our position before God – can we help but have our hearts filled with that? I don’t mean to say, if we are saved, then our hearts are always filled with good, with Christ, with love. No, but what I do mean to say is that faith in our salvation HAS to mean a filling of our hearts with something different from what was there before. This filling of our hearts, according to the truth spoken by Christ, will direct and affect our talk.
It seems to me, that even if it is possible to be saved without becoming a slave to Christ, making Him the Lord of our lives…even if it were possible, then it would be a spectacularly empty, hollow, unfulfilling salvation without Christ as Lord. If I do the same things, I am caught up in the same vanities and wickedness, I am not acknowledging the King of the kingdom I am saved to inhabit… If everyone else is doing the same, then we are looking forward to heaven, where everyone thinks and acts like they do on earth – because we haven’t learned differently – which means that the perfection of heaven will be corrupted by the selfish, venal behavior of man. I think that’s been done before…