Throughout our churches and in our prayers and songs, Christians routinely address Jesus as Lord. It is a designation that we are so familiar with that we seldom reflect on its implication. Indeed, Jesus is identified as Lord more than 80 times in the New Testament.
But what does the Lordship of Jesus entail? Firstly, the confession that “Jesus is Lord,” affirms a fundamental truth concerning the relationship between Jesus and the cosmos. Jesus is not just the Saviour of humanity, he is the Ruler and Lord of the universe. More poignantly, by virtue of our personal commitment to him, “Jesus is Lord” means that Jesus is the Ruler of our lives.
In confessing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we acknowledge that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, our sins have been fully paid for and we have been reconciled to God, and the lives we live on earth should be lived in a manner worthy of him (Ephesians 4:1, Philippians 1:27, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12).
Furthermore, for Jesus to be our Saviour, he must also be our Lord.
The Biblical teaching is that it is not possible to separate Jesus’ role as our Saviour from his lordship over our lives. Hence, at Audacity Malaysia, we believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the ‘new birth’ we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus, and submit to his will for our lives. In other words, Jesus is not our Saviour unless he is also our Lord.
The conversion experience is the act of turning away from our sins in repentance and turning to Jesus in faith. This act of repentance and faith is what results in the forgiveness of God for our sins and the birth of a new life through the Spirit of God. The conversion experience and its emotional accompaniments vary greatly indeed and every believer should have his own testimony of a personal conversion experience. Nonetheless, it inevitably comprises turning away from sin and toward Jesus in faith.
This is made abundantly clear throughout the New Testament. In his short admonition in Mark 1:15, Jesus sets forth what constitutes the essential personal response for salvation — repentance and faith.
Repentance was the central proclamation of John the Baptist, Jesus and the early church; and the focus of apostolic teaching. The New Testament teaching of repentance centres around the Greek word, “metanoeo” which essentially means “to know after,” that is to have knowledge about something after it happens. It involves the change of opinion resulting from such knowledge. It also involves the resolve to alter one’s future in response to the regret and sorrow ensuing from the changed opinion.
Repentance is intricately linked to conversion and involves a radical change within the core of our personal being.
The inner change is the evidence that repentance has taken place. Without the recognition of the need for repentance, we cannot receive the provision God made in Christ. It is not enough to believe in Jesus and accept the offer of God’s forgiveness without a true change of the inner man.
However, repentance alone is insufficient for salvation. Our sense of sorrow for sin cannot make amends for the past; nor can our desire for change alter the future. The other aspect of the conversion experience is faith. Jesus and the early Christians emphasised the importance of responding in faith to the gospel. Likewise, faith was central to apostolic teaching.
Saving faith comprises three components — knowledge, assent and trust.
It begins with the hearing of the gospel message (Romans 10:17). Then following that, assenting to the truth claims contained in the gospel message and making a personal commitment to the truth. Faith remains incomplete without personal trust.
In repentance we see ourselves as sinners alienated from God. We become aware of the good news that Jesus died for our sin and rose again by God’s power. We acknowledge this truth as applicable to us personally and we appropriate the work of God in Christ for ourselves; trusting Jesus alone for salvation and confessing him as Lord. In doing these, we are born again into a new life as a child of God!
Although we might think of conversion as our response to the work of God in Christ, the Biblical truth is that even repentance and faith are gifts from God. It is the Holy Spirit of God who convicts us of sin and gives us faith to trust in Jesus. So our salvation is truly a gracious work of God in us and for us.
While growing in our submission to the Lordship of Christ is the lifetime journey of a believer, we need to constantly remember that the Lord himself says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26, NIV).
- Erickson, Millard J. Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1997).
- Grenz, Stanley J. Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).