(A living room discussion during brunch in a nearby city)
He is Both Lord and Christ
In Acts 2, Peter said, “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” In other words, “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord, our Master and King, and Christ, His chosen One, whom He‘s empowered and poured His oil upon and selected to be Messiah.”
The ones who heard Peter say those words were cut to the heart. They realized now that they had crucified Jesus, whom God had made Lord and Christ. It sliced their hearts open. They asked, “What can we do about it? It sounds like a terrible thing. I didn’t know that we had done that! We’ve killed the One whom God chose as Lord and Christ. We crucified Him with our own sins.” They were cut to the heart. They let it get all the way inside of them and admitted: “I killed Jesus. I killed the perfect man, the man that showed nothing but love and kindness, generosity and patience, the one who forgives sins and heals sicknesses. I killed Him with my SIN. What can I do about it?” It cut to the heart, and you all know how they responded from that point on.
But the answer that kind of circulates in the religious world nowadays is that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified Savior. Not “both Lord and Christ,” but just Savior. People want to be able to say, “I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five, so I’m a Christian. And I’ll always be a Christian—end of story. Now I can live anyway I want to live.”
One gentleman in recent years has gone out on a limb with his national radio program and books he’s published to say, “That’s not how it works.” God has made this Jesus whom you’ve crucified both Lord and Christ, and as the saying goes, “If He’s not Lord of all, then He’s not Lord at all.” If you don’t give your life to Him—if you still have the right to make your own decisions—you really haven’t made Him King. It’s not about just saying some magic words and asking Jesus into your heart and all that goofy stuff that so many in the denominational world dispense. There’s not a single person in the entire Bible, if you actually go to the verses and look, who “asked Jesus into his heart” to become a Christian. You can read the Bible from cover to cover and never find one example that looks just that way. And yet that’s what a huge percentage of the denominational world says is becoming a Christian.
Faith-A Transferring of Ownership
The nationally known leader whom we were speaking of has been saying, “Look, you really do need to give your life to Jesus. There’s transference of ownership. It’s not about saying the magic words, ‘Jesus come into my heart.’ It’s about transferring ownership; that’s what faith is. It’s admitting you can’t run your life any more. Faith and repentance and “calling on the name of the Lord”—all of those phrases and concepts are totally interchangeable with Lordship. Because faith says, “I can’t run my life any more. I have to give it away. I have to let somebody else run my life, because I’m making a wreck of it. I’m selfish. I’m proud. I can’t control my mouth or my mind or my emotions. I’m making a wreck of things. I own my own life, and I better give the keys of ownership to Jesus, because He’s the only one that can make my life right.”
That’s faith, when I ask Jesus to take over my life. When I’m calling on the name of the Lord, it’s not saying certain magic words; it’s crying out to Jesus, “I gotta have help! I can’t do this myself. From this day forward, I give you my life. My life is not my own; I’m bought for a price. I give over the ownership of my decisions about the things I like or the way I dress, of the way I do my hair or the way I talk. I relinquish the right to decide who my friends are, where I go, what I buy. I give that all over to You, because You’re the only one that can make sense of it all. I trust You, because You are love, because You are wisdom, because You are grace and kindness and knowledge. You fulfill everything, because You are the Christ, the Anointed One of God. I can trust You with all of these things and I don’t have to trust myself more than I trust You; You’re better than I am, and You’re the only one that can make sense of my life. So it’s all Yours from this point forward.”
That’s what we should call conversion: giving yourself away. That’s faith: trusting Him enough to give it all away. Now I don’t know all that this leader says about it, or exactly how his reasoning goes, but here’s what he’s basically saying: You’re not saved by working hard and doing good deeds and being very committed. You are saved by grace through your faith. But faith isn’t just saying a few magic words. Faith is entrusting everything you are, everything you will ever be into Jesus’ hands. You could also call that repentance; you could call it “the walk of the cross,” “denying yourself,” “taking up your cross and following Jesus,” or “discipleship.” You can call it by a lot of different names, but it’s just basic faith. It’s saying that Jesus is trustworthy and I’m not, so I’m going to give everything to Him and let Him work it out. This gentleman is saying that the person we can legitimately consider converted is the person who lets go of his or her own life and lets Jesus take over.
Some people have responded, “I don’t believe in ‘Lordship Salvation,’ because that’s just salvation by works, and all I have to do is say I believe in Jesus. That’s enough, because God loves me. He’ll forgive my sins, because I believe in Jesus.” But the position that this man is trying to help people see, is that you don’t believe in Jesus if you still take control over your own life. If you still have the right to make all of your decisions and have all of your opinions, to go where you want, do what you want, live where you want in the way you want, and have all the friends you want to have—then you don’t believe in Jesus. You only believe in yourself; Jesus to you is a lucky little rabbit’s foot that every Sunday morning you rub to make yourself feel good. But you don’t believe Jesus is worthy to own your life if you still own it; that’s a contradiction. You can’t say, “Jesus, I believe in You,” and then really live like you only believe in yourself, because you don’t let Him make the decisions—you make them all. Does that make sense?
So a lot of the religious world just wants to say, “Just ask Jesus into your heart and then come attend where we are. Make sure that you give us lots of money and lots of manpower to do our program, and then basically you can live any way you want the rest of the week. Just make sure you do those things.” It’s a way to build an empire.
You’ll Pay a Price for Truth
Jesus’ way is not so popular. That’s why, as Oswald Chambers put it, all of Jesus’ accomplishments in His entire lifetime could fit in a row boat when He left planet earth. There weren’t very many people who bought into what He was doing while He was still here. Here’s a guy that walked on water and raised the dead, and He still couldn’t get very many people to follow Him. Think about it. Why not? Why did everything Jesus did on earth fit into a row boat when he left? Why wasn’t He more “successful”? They killed Him in 36 months. That’s how long He was actually able to say the things that cut people’s hearts before they murdered Him. It would be like if we talked to other people about Jesus, saying “No, you‘ve gotta give your life to Him,” and they responded by throwing a firebomb through your window and burning your house down. The kind of things Jesus said were so serious that it only took around 36 months until there were enough people mad at Him that they basically threw a firebomb through His window while He was sleeping and killed Him. Except what they did was obviously far worse than that. They wanted to humiliate Him before they killed Him. So they lied about Him, and they beat Him to a pulp, and then they murdered Him. They drug Him around in public telling lies about Him before they killed Him, but that’s what happens when you tell only the truth. And if it’s Jesus’ truth, then as Jesus said, “Don’t think that they’re going to do this to me and not to you. If they do it while the tree is still green, just think about when the tree is matured. If I’m just the beginning of all this, just wait until it takes over the earth. What do you think they’re going to do to you? No student is greater than His teacher, if they treat Me like this, don’t think that you’re so loving and wise that you’re going to avoid the same treatment that I got.”
I don’t think that you’re going to be more loving and wise than Jesus! People will probably not see you walk on water and raise dead people, either. Maybe they will, but they saw Jesus do it and they still hated Him and wanted to kill Him. He healed the withered hand right in front of them, and because of their jealousy they immediately went out and conspired with each other about how they might kill him. You may or may not be involved in healing a withered hand, but even that won’t be enough to make everyone like you. If you really speak the same message that Jesus spoke, they’ll still want to kill you. You’re not going to be liked if you give your life to Jesus. But your reward will be in Him now, and with Him fully then. You have to realize that a billion years with Him is a pretty good trade for mere humans not liking you. You can live with that. I mean, no one likes to be hated, and nobody likes to be lied about. No one enjoys that sort of thing. But it’s an OK trade in my book—a billion years with the Creator of the Universe, in His pleasure, in His company, in His power and life and love. Compare that to a billion years in hell because I decided to try and please people around me and make them like me. You’ve got to take that chance, I suppose, but it’s a pretty good investment!
Belief Equals Trust
The issue is that if you really believe in Jesus, you can trust him to take care of the details of your life. Does that sound so bad? Why do people hate that idea so much? It’s because they want to take control. They want to be who they want to be, go where they want to go, and do what they want to do. They don’t want anyone to get in the way, because they want to be gods themselves. That’s the same thing that got satan thrown out of Heaven. He wanted to be like God and to make his own decisions. He thought he was pretty. He thought he was smart. He thought that he could handle himself OK. And so an angel got turned into the devil, because he decided he had every right to make his own decisions. The process of separating yourself from God, is deciding you’re going to be god, and you’re going to do it your own way. You’re going to do what you want to do and how you want to do it. That process turns you into part of satan. It’s the law of the Universe. You separate yourself from God rather than yielding to Him and giving your life to Him and trusting Him to take control of your feelings and desires and plans. If you don’t take that attitude, then you’re trusting in yourself and making the same mistake that satan did in Heaven.
So it’s not such a hard thing. The only reason it seems so repulsive to people is because they want to be god. But when you really take step a back, it only makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t I totally trust Him? Why would I think I’m smarter and more loving than He is? Why would I think I have a better idea than He does? Why can’t I just do what Jesus did and refuse to do anything I don’t see the Father doing or go anywhere I don’t see the Father going? Why can’t I just trust Him to lead me to do whatever I need to do without having to take control over my own life? Why must I look a certain way and act a certain way to make people happy so I have what I want? It makes a lot more sense to trust the Messiah. “This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ.” And the people, cut to the heart, said, “What can we do? My selfishness killed the perfect man who loved perfectly, the one who was perfectly patient, perfectly kind, and perfectly true, who never compromised a day in His life. He never did anything for Himself. He only served God. And my sin crucified Him. I’m cut to the heart. What can I do about it?” Well you can become one with Him. You can’t change the fact that your sin crucified Him, but you can become one with Him by burying your life into His life and trusting Him completely for the rest of your days until you see Him face to face. He’ll forgive your sins. That’s the good news!
All the debate, then, is just a bunch of nonsense. Saying, “I don’t believe in Lordship Salvation” is saying, “I don’t believe that Jesus has the right to make my decisions. I’m not going to bury my life in Him. I’m just going to put Him on the shelf as something to make me feel better on Sunday mornings.” That’s a very hopeless approach, and it yields no fruit. It just yields chaos and confusion, self-centeredness and lawlessness. The happiness we think we buy by making ourselves gods only makes us more miserable and shallower in the end. By giving it all away, Jesus says, you get a “hundred fathers, mothers, brothers, lands, and possessions, and in the coming age, Eternal Life.”
It’s not a hard decision!
A Question: My Life for His?
“Lately I’ve been pondering that term-Your life or my life. How can we really say that it’s our life when we didn’t have anything to do with our birth, and we really can’t control whether we even get to inhale or exhale in the next second. I guess I’ve just been wondering, isn’t it really just giving back to God what is rightfully His?”
Yeah, but you have to be deep enough and humble enough to realize that. If you’re just shallow and your thoughts go no deeper than your forehead, if you let all of your mammal and animal instincts of doing what you want to do take over, if you’re no deeper than just living out a shallow existence, then you don’t even think about the fact that you didn’t create your life. On an intellectual level, that’s why most people can’t even read poetry. They’re not deep enough to really think through two lines in a row, all they can tell is it rhymes.
Albert Einstein said, “I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details.” Now there’s one of the most intelligent men that ever lived. There’s a guy that can read poetry: pretty bright guy. The more you think about it-rather than being run by your mammal glands, run by your selfish instincts to be like God-the more you think and ponder, the more you will come to grips with the fact that man can’t create life. Only God can touch something and make a human being come out of it with their own personality, their own brain, their own skills, talents, and interest. Only God can do something like that.
He is Sovereign-We don’t have Control
One of the poems is, “Only God can make a tree.” The nature of life, if you really stop and think about it, is that it’s so far outside of our control. Let me give you all an example. Do you remember the story about the Exxon Valdez? It happened about ten years ago when an oil tanker in Alaska ran aground somehow, and it resulted in the largest oil spill in North American history. The oil was deep for miles and miles and continued spreading. It cost Exxon billions of dollars to clean up the disaster. They had to clean up all the oil and take all the animals one by one and clean them up. For the most expensive seals and porpoises, it was costing something like up to a hundred thousand dollars each. So Exxon was paying crazy money to fix these animals, clean all the oil off them, and nurse them back to health. Well, just a couple weeks ago they released the last two seals after ten years. The bay was cleaned up and a whole crowd of people and all the media was watching the last two go back into their native environment. As soon as they went back into the water, a whale came and ate them both. True story-but the point is that that was just one of those, “I’ll show them things,” from God.
God authors every sunset. God authored the fish that ate Jonah and spit him back out on dry land exactly where he was supposed to be going; delivered him exactly to the shore he was supposed to be going to in the first place. And God authored that piece of humor in full sight of the media. The thing you have to realize is that, with any depth at all, we do not control our own lives. If we choose to live like little gods, with our own feelings, staring at ourselves, admiring our carbon and water and our flesh, enjoying garbage stuff that’s so ridiculous and shallow, if we choose to feed ourselves on that sort of thing, we’re going to end up just like the other mammals, the other Chimpanzees out in the world and nothing will come of us.
But as was said, if we’re really even half way intelligent, like Einstein, you have to stop and say, “I really don’t have that much control over my own environment.” I could put a hundred thousand dollars each into cleaning up a seal only for it to be eaten in fifteen seconds. We just don’t have control over our own lives, and if we act like we do, we’re just being fools. We lose both ways. We can’t control it anyway. No one, no matter how arrogant they are, or how talented they are, can really control whether or not they die of some disease in their sleep or if their heart stops. No matter how arrogant, how talented, or how intelligent you are, you can’t even live till tomorrow by your own will power. It’s out of your control. So it’s not only arrogance, but it’s also foolishness to think that you can. So to give back to God what’s already His anyway, is a choice we make of our own free will. But in the end He’s going to take it. You don’t have it either way. But the person who is at least intelligent enough and humble enough to offer it to Him, is about a billion light years ahead of the person that has it taken from him because he’s too arrogant to offer it back.
So, control your mind, control your emotions, control your desires, fears, and all that stuff. Be willing to lay that stuff at Jesus’ feet, because that’s what the universe was created for. That’s what you were born for, and it only makes perfect sense to give to Him what’s already His anyway.
How can we get past our animal instincts and get deeper?
Well, a lot of it is just the simple things. It comes down to the simplest of issues. When you’re tempted to stand in front of the mirror and look-decide not to. Just decide to recognize the truth of the matter-that this is foolishness, it has no value and only a shallow person values it. Decide, “I don’t want to be like that,” and turn your head away and go on. When you’re tempted today to dream about something you think you want, stop yourself and say, “This is shallow. All I want to do is please Jesus.” You force yourself to think God’s thoughts. You turn your thoughts away from yourself. When you’re tempted to look at the work of your own hands—whether it’s something you created in business, or in music, or in your research, or some report that you’ve done, or how you dress, and are properly color coordinated in the morning-when you start to think of the work of your own hands, force yourself to stop doing it. Everybody’s tempted to do that on one level or another.
You guys remember the conversation we had with a woman in Vermont? “I just don’t want to give it all up.” Here was a woman with the worst possible life in the world and she had nothing at all. Our response was, “Give what up? You don‘t have anything. You have no life, no friends, no passions.” It’s built into us to not let go. It doesn’t matter what you have. Whether you look terrible or look nice, whether you have a lot or have nothing, whether you have accomplished a lot or accomplished nothing, whether you have a lot of talents or you don’t even know if you have any at all, whether you have a lot of friends or you have none, the battle still rages of whether or not you’ll soften your heart and turn your eyes away from yourself. Some look at the work of their hands and flex their muscles. They’re haughty and foolish and proud; they need to turn away from that. Others feel sorry for themselves, they feel guilty, they feel weak, they feel hated, and left out. They have to do the same thing and turn away from their own thoughts of themselves and lay down their lives for others. So the battle rages, and it’s a practical minute by minute decision over thinking about yourself, what you want, what’s fun for you, what other people are thinking about you, or whatever. Lay all that stuff aside and turn your heart toward Jesus in a soft way. Those who do turn to Jesus in a soft way will find the Messiah and the Son of Righteousness will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter in their hearts until the full day. Those who continue to think of their own flesh, their own desires, what they want, feeling sorry for themselves, or feeling proud of themselves, and then try to add God on the side, just to make sure nobody is unhappy with them, is all garbage. Unless we really let go, we’ll never have anything but ourselves. We’ll never have Jesus in the full way that He wants to live in us and express himself through us. That’s poverty, shallowness, worthless, and a very dead-end road. A few people in the world actually know that that’s a dead end road and have the ability to make a choice to take the Road of Righteousness, the Highway of Holiness, as the bible talks about. You are amongst those few people that have the ability, and know enough truth to turn away from your self-life. Whether it’s pride or fear, having much or not having enough, whatever it is, you have the ability to center your eyes back on Jesus: loving Him and loving others.
A lot of people know that there’s something wrong with the self-road, but they don’t know what it is and there’s nobody to tell them about it. You guys do know. Not only should you make sure that you’re doing your minute by minute invisible thing, turning your face away from yourself, your vanity, pride, and your fear, and turning toward Jesus, emptying yourself of all those things, but it’s your responsibility to go forth and multiply and fill the earth with these truths. Make sure everybody else you know, or ever will know, has the ability to make those same choices to turn away from flesh and toward the Son of God.
What is “Evangelism” Anyway?
It takes some mystery out of this magical unbiblical word called evangelism. What is that? It ain’t nothing. All we’re talking about is speaking the truth in love. Letting people understand the nature of the universe they’re living in, that’s all we’re talking about. It’s not some subject that you have to be good at and then you try to make sure other people are good at it in order to make sure you feel good about yourself, or to get the guilt off yourself. That isn’t how it works. That isn’t how it worked in the New Testament age, and that’s not how it works now. The people that really serve God well will simply express His life and the truths that are real in this universe to the people around them. That’s all it is; no big deal. It’s not evangelism that you go and do; it’s a life that we lead. It’s reality that’s in your heart and you just want everybody else to know what’s real too. When you see somebody that’s honoring themselves and not honoring their maker, you need to let them know that that’s a dead-end road. You’re not going to go evangelize them; you’re just going to let them know that that’s a dead-end road. If they had a glass of turpentine on the lunch table and a glass of grape juice and they started to reach for the turpentine, you’d grab their arm and say, “Don’t drink that. That will hurt you.” You’ve just “evangelized” them. You told them the truth that will save their life. It’s just a natural reaction to the events of life. When you see people you know living for themselves, you help them to know that that’s turpentine. “You’re going to hurt yourself; don’t drink that stuff.” So it’s just the basic flow of life. It’s not some gimmick, it’s not some event, it’s not some notion, the basic flow of life, living in the depth of life and truth that honors Jesus and crucifies the flesh, while helping other people to see the way it really is too. The facts are facts whether you close your eyes to them or not. All you’re doing is pulling their hands down so that they can see it long enough to make a decision about it.