Sanctification, part 5: The Lordship of Christ
I have just done some study on the Lordship of Christ as part of a devotional book I'm writing. What blessed truth there is in the Lordship of Christ! What safety, what joy, what integrity of life! Jesus has delivered a clear, strong, clarion call: "Follow Me."
Accepting Christ as Savior but not as Lord is thinking of salvation as a ticket to heaven. But what are we being saved from? What did Christ promise to free us from if we believed in Him and learned His truth? He promised to free us from SIN. When we are freed from sin, our eternal destiny has changed directions. Righteousness cannot be sent to hell.
Jesus Christ promised eternal life to those who believed in Him because He offered the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17). To be freed from evil and from the evil inclinations within is LIFE indeed. This is who God is: wholly without sin. His goal is to make us into His own image, that we might have life that is truly Life (I Timothy 6:19). God is in the business of sanctifying us, or cleaning us up wholly to be set apart for His purposes as His people, fully conformed to His likeness.
Sanctification has three levels or aspects: positional, practical, and perpetual. When we put our faith in Christ, acknowledging our sin and our need, believing in His death on the cross as the payment for our sins and His resurrection as proof of the Father's acceptance of His sacrifice, we receive forgiveness (just as if I'd never sinned) and imputed righteousness (Romans 4). Imputed righteousness is the complete perfection of Jesus Christ credited to our lives, to our account in His books. The death of Jesus wipes out our sin in its totality, and the resurrection of Jesus credits to us His very own perfection (Romans 4:25). Our right standing before God is the same as Christ's. Here's how I like to define imputed righteousness, or justification: just as if I'd always done the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons. This is the declaration of who we truly are in Christ Jesus. Our slate has been completely wiped clean, our debt paid in full; but we've been given far more than just getting out of the red and back to zero. Our account has been accredited with all the riches of Christ's perfection. This is our position in Christ.
We've been given a new lease on life! We are reborn. We have a new family, a new heritage, a new spiritual DNA, a new identity. The righteousness of Christ is who we now are, and we begin to live in the light of this new reality, this truth about ourselves: we have become the righteousness of God in Christ (II Corinthians 5:21). On the practical, real-life level, we are still used to living our own lives out of our old sinful propensities—our soul patterns or pathways. We certainly don't feel or even act like we have become the righteousness of God. We know ourselves, and we see all the wrong ways we think and respond. So we must remind ourselves continually of the truth of who we now are. We live in light of the truth, and we begin to walk out our lives in a new way, guided and instructed by the Spirit of Christ who now indwells us—we have a new Master.
Romans 10:9-10 clearly states that those who confess Jesus as Lord will be saved. When Jesus, by His own Spirit living within us, is acknowledged as Lord, as the One who calls the shots in our lives, as the One who is to be followed and obeyed, we begin to walk in His footsteps, following His paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3). This is practical, moment-by-moment, step-by-step salvation. By listening to His instruction and obeying, we will do what is right and refuse or turn away from the things that are sinful: we are saved from sin. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).
When the people of Jesus' day asked what they had to do to do the works of God, Jesus told them, "Believe in Me . . . whoever believes in Me shall have everlasting life" (John 6:29, 40; paraphrased). This was no mere mental assent; rather belief in Jesus is putting our full trust in Him and following His lead. Therein lies eternal life, the salvation of our souls. When a young rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to sell out and follow Him (Luke 18:18-23). It is the Lordship of Christ that leads to eternal life. Embracing this trust in His wise, perfectly right leading saves us. When we submit to Jesus as the Lord of our lives, we are saved from sin. Following His Lordship delivers us from sin on a daily, practical level.
Peter says that the goal of our faith is the salvation of our souls (I Peter 1:9). It comes from believing Him (I Peter 1:8), that what He tells us is right and good; so we follow in obedience. This is how Paul begins and ends his great treatise on the Gospel in the book of Romans: "the obedience of the faith" (Romans 1:5, 16:26). There is no salvation without obedience, no sanctification without obedience, no eternal life without obedience. Faith is demonstrated through obedience (James 2:14-26). Jesus' final injunction to His disciples was to "go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe (i.e., DO, OBEY) all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).
Life in Christ is righteous living; and righteous living has a new focus, a God-ward focus rather than a self-focus. We have transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God's Son, the Kingdom of Light ( Peter 2:9, Colossians 1:13). The path of the righteous leads upward till we at last bask in the full light of the Eternal Day (Proverbs 4:18). The Lordship of Christ delivers perpetual, eternal Life. "He who believes in Me will never die" (John 11:26). Then He asks, "Do you believe this?"