Jesus Christ Is Lord
Spiritual Buffet Table
When I was in seminary, I had the opportunity to take a course on The Sermon on the Mount. I loved that class and learned a great deal from it. One of the big ideas I learned early in the course related to the first 12 verses of Matthew 5, which we call, The Beatitudes.
The professor said we often read the Beatitudes this way: We approach them as though they were a buffet table, in which we pick and choose the one or two verses we like and disregard the ones we don’t, as if we’re selecting a meal. We tend to do the same with the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
The big idea the teacher taught me was this: These so-called “lists” are really meant to be looked at as composite portraits of what each Christian is to look like. Each of these characteristics or attributes is to describe each and every Christian. Each and every Christian is to be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, and so on. Of course, none of us exhibits each of these in our lives to the same degree, but that is still the goal Jesus set before us.
But again, we tend to gravitate toward the ones we like or the ones we think we’re good at, don’t we?
Spiritual Life Checkup
The church I serve recently used a spiritual inventory called, The Spiritual Life Checkup. Its purpose is to focus on the various areas of a Christian’s life to discern how the person is doing in the areas assessed, much like bloodwork focuses on the different components of a person’s physical health. One of the things I learned as I talked with folks about their checkups was that it’s easy to have a “buffet table” approach with this as well.
For example, the first three chapters of the Checkup focus on our vertical relationship with God - our devotional life, intellectual life, and our struggles and temptations with sin. For some of us, reflecting on God and looking inwardly are two areas we love thinking about and where we want to spend our time.
The following chapter of the Checkup takes a look at our outer life – our horizontal relationships with others. And for some of us, this is our sweet spot and we would be very happy to focus only on how God is calling us to interact with others.
Here’s the point: While there are some aspects of the Checkup we like more than others, that we’re better at than others, each part is for each Christian. And if we focus on only one part of it, we will find ourselves living compartmentalized lives.
Compartmentalized vs God-Centered Living
The third question of Part 1 of the Checkup asks this: Do you have a God-Centered life? Perhaps you are wondering what that means.
Many of us live compartmentalized lives. Think of a compartmentalized life this way: Imagine you are looking at a large office building. As you look at it you observe many different windows representing many different offices. Each of those office windows represents a different part of a person’s life. For example, one office window may represent God, while another might represent your family, or job, health, friendships, private time, and so on.
Here is the problem: While there are many parts of your life represented by the office building, none of them is directly connected to another. Your faith may be in the top left corner of the building while your family-life might be in the bottom right. They are simply compartments of your life, seemingly unrelated to one another and therefore, without the power to influence one another. God may be one part of the structure, but in a compartmentalized life, he is not connected to, or impacting, the other areas of your life.
Rather, God is calling us to live God-Centered lives.
Instead of an office building, now think of a bicycle wheel. The hub, where all the spokes meet together, represents God. Each of the spokes represents the various spheres of a person’s life: faith, family, work, community, health, politics, etc. Each sphere of a person’s life finds its stability and integrity in the hub, which again, represents God.
When God is at the center of who you are, your life will become more holistic because each part of who you are is grounded and centered in the same Person, the One who gives your life meaning, purpose, and value.
The take-away from this is not that we are either living a compartmentalized life or a God-centered life. None of us is doing this perfectly. The point really comes in the form of a question: Is a God-centered life the direction you desire to move in, and if so, are you making progress in that direction? Direction, not perfection, is what is in view here.
The Foundation of God-Centered Living
Our Scripture from Philippians gives us the foundation for God-centered living. The Apostle Paul was writing from a prison cell to a church he was very fond of. As he moved through his letter, he told the Philippians he wanted them to be of one mind, that is, to be unified in who they were.
And Paul, understanding the human condition so well, knew the key ingredient to unity was humility. That is why he wrote in Philippians 2:3-4,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
It is hard to have unity if everyone is putting themselves first. That usually brings about division.
Paul then made a move to help them understand what this humble, other-centeredness ought to look like. He wrote in verses 5-8,
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
If anyone could have held on to his own position, glory, comfort, and power - it was Jesus. He did not owe us anything. We did nothing to deserve his love. And yet…
And yet, though he was truly God, he did not hold onto that privilege, or the glory, comfort, and power that went along with it. He took on human nature. He became a servant, not to a fan club of folks who already loved him, but to those whose sins would ultimately nail him to a Roman cross. And he did this voluntarily. He did not have to do this. His love, mercy, and grace compelled him to choose to do this.
When you work through the first three parts of the Spiritual Life Checkup, one of the discoveries you make is that you must humbly submit yourself to the Spirit’s direction, encouragement, and even correction in your thinking. That can be hard to accept.
But when you do, you cannot help but be humbled. Your thinking takes on a God-centeredness, and as Paul declared in verse 5, you begin to take on the same mind or mindset as Christ himself.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul wrote, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” That renewal in our thinking begins to show up in our living (Rom. 12:2). Our attitudes toward others, the things we value in this world, and the way in which we live our lives - it all begins to change.
We discover God is doing a great work in us from the inside out. We cannot help but put the interests of others before our own, because that is what Christ has done for us.
In verse 9, we get the all-important, Therefore.
Paul was teaching that because of all the Lord Jesus voluntarily did on our behalf, this blessed suffering-Servant was given something special. Paul declared,
God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
What did God give Jesus? He gave him a name. And not just any name, but “the name that is above every name.”
It is not the name Jesus. It is the name Lord. In Old Testament times, the name for God was so holy and sacred, the Jews would not even speak or write it. Instead of writing God’s holy name, YHWH, they wrote the name, LORD - in all-caps – to represent God’s most holy name and position.
Paul was saying Jesus was given the name Lord, to acknowledge who he was. He was no mere teacher, philosopher, apocalyptic prophet, or revolutionary. He was God in the flesh. And because Jesus is Lord, Paul said,
…every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Matthew 28 puts the same idea this way,
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
In Colossians 1, Paul says this of our Lord,
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
John 1:1-3, Hebrews 1:1-3 and Ephesians 1 all teach the same thing. Jesus Christ is Lord over heaven and earth. Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth.
St. Augustine supposedly once said, “If Jesus Christ is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.
The Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper declared,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
It all belongs to Christ. Jesus Christ is Lord over every sphere of life.
Therefore, we are called to submit every aspect or who we are to his Lordship. And this submission produces the God-centered life I was addressing earlier.
Jesus is Lord over our private lives, relationships, workplaces, finances, ethics, politics, values and priorities, doctrinal beliefs - everything about us - Every Sphere of Life. This is not a call for all Christians to look the exact same. There is still much room for variety of personalities, interests, callings, and gifts. However, submission to Jesus Christ as Lord is still the command and standard for every person.
And yet, we cannot simply will this to happen. We are powerless to submit to his Lordship, to grow in his likeness, and to love and serve others if we are not first empowered by his Spirit. And so, in the name of Jesus, I pray each of us would turn in trusting-dependence upon Christ as our Savior and all-sufficient treasure, for it is only then that his Spirit will enable us to bow our knees before him and confess with our tongues that Jesus Christ is Lord.
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