History tends to repeats itself. Old problems, new ways. Even though our tools and technology and standards of living have progressed exponentially, we are still bent inside. This puts us in a tailspin and we can see ourselves struggling with similar proclivities that culture did a thousand years ago. As the old adage goes: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Since the beginning of mankind we’ve seem to struggle with a dualistic nature, jumping from one harmful extreme to another. God’s people are just as prone to this. In the Old Testament we see Israel go from the lawlessness of idolatry in one section, then into an external facade of “goodness” and self-righteousness in the next. The New Testament repeats the pattern. Modern Christianity? Yup, us too.
Perhaps this is the fruit of us defining God rather than being defined by Him. A repentance is needed all around to not pick and choose the type of Christ we want, but to behold the fullness of who He is. This can cause some interesting, and what I mean is unpopular, dynamics of faith. Consider the metaphor Lewis uses in dealing with the awe-full beauty and strength of the Lord.
“Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion. “Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.”
So how have different eras of Christianity esteemed one aspect of Christ, while neglecting another? How are we missing, or even self deceiving, the wholeness of who Christ is? Are we able to not make the same mistakes as those in the past?
Jesus: Savior, But Not Lord?
Fifty plus years ago, A. W. Tozer, a pastor/prophet, wrote…
The Bible does not tell us to believe in an office or a work, but to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Person who has done that work and holds those offices.
What Tozer is saying with “those offices” is that he was seeing in his time (and how much more now) a gospel being received and preached that effectually was saying Jesus can be your Savior even if He’s not your Lord. Christ, however, is a whole person, He’s not just Lord, He’s savior; He’s not just Savior, He’s Lord. “No one can receive half of Christ.”
As part of the teaching/preaching team at my local church, my role is to help lay out the landscape of the book of the Bible we will be teaching, creating a blank canvas of structure for the other teachers to then paint on as the they exegete in more detail. We started the Epistle of James at the beginning of the year. One of James’ primary desires, in my opinion, is for the people of God to have not a fragmented faith, but a faith and a life that is congruent in God, one where words and actions are in harmony with one another; a people who are not double minded. James wants the church to be whole and “perfect” because Christ is whole and perfect and they are in Him. James goes after this via how we love others (which in turn points back, one way or another to who we think Jesus is or is not). It it not coincidental that so much of what James is writing is an echo of Jesus’ Sermon on The Mount. Christ is our Savior, is He our Lord?
A check might rise up in our spirit, probably from some protestant roots: “But, sir, we must not become legalistic in our thoughts of Christ.” I’m becoming more convinced that, in myself and us Millennials especially, whenever we are using the counter-point of not being legalistic, we are trying to put a spin on the fact that we don’t want to submit to Christ. Perhaps our generation’s most thought of spiritual expletive, which we see as a curse rather than a blessing, is obedience.
You see, in our time we have over-emphasized the psychology of the sinners condition. We spend much time describing the woe of the sinner, the grief of the sinner, and the great burden he carries. He does have all of these, but we have over-emphasized them until we forget the principal fact that the sinner is actually a revel against properly constituted authority.
Submission and obedience are a blessing. Is it not the work of redemption for the Father who is rich in mercy to transform rebels and tyrants and terrorists against His Kingdom into sons and daughters and heirs of that same Kingdom? Is that not what the person of Christ does through His Spirit? Christ doesn’t make us better, He makes us new… that includes our wills.
Again, wholeness is the focus here. The wholeness of Christ, the wholeness of us in Him. In this specific example of Lord and Savior, we must consider the reverse. As Mr. Newton said: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The Other Side of the Coin
I theorize that within the past decade or two, and growing increasingly into the near future, we will struggle with a gospel that divides Christ by seeing him as Lord and not Savior.^ The resurgence of humanitarian efforts via the Church is a much needed movement. Taking care of widows and orphans and the sick and lame in the name of Christ is solid in responding to Christ’s Lordship. But we have also seen it be shallow, ill thought through, image based, and can easily lead into care for others all the while neglecting the adoration of our first Love. Here, because we are doing the works of Christ, being “obedient” even, we surely must not need Christ as Savior. We forget the interaction in John 6…
The crowd said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
To believe in Jesus is to believe in Him as a Person, of all He has and is revealing Himself to be. He’s not a lucky rabbits foot to get us out of trouble. He’s not an employer who pays us to do what He says. He’s Lord and Savior, the Messiah, God in the flesh, the whole deal. Not a concept, not an ideal, not a philosophy. Any metaphore used about Him in Scripture always has it’s end in a Being, a simple complex being at that. Jesus is a living, breathing, resurrected, exalted Person and you are made complete in His completeness.
God, praise be to You for Your greatness, for Your Oneness.
Thank You for Your patience with us.
Grant us Your shalom to trust and follow and fall upon the whole of You.
Have mercy, Lord, we pray.
^note: This is all semantics, for if Christ is not truly Lord, He’s not Savior and vice-versa. Still, it’s helpful in post processing of this with the Spirit in prayer have the mind engaged.
reference: A. W. Tozer, “I Call It Heresy!”
photo credit: gadl via Compfight cc