What does the phrase “Jesus is Lord” mean? And how does it relate to evangelism?
Sometimes, when I hear about the Lordship of Jesus, I fear I could easily swap the phrase “Jesus is Lord” for “God is big” and there’d be no material change in the meaning.
So go and ‘do evangelism’ because God is big. And He says so… Remember Who’s Boss!
Of course I caricature.
But what does ‘Jesus is Lord’ mean? And how does His Lordship relate to evangelism.
Well first of all, “Jesus is Lord” literally means “‘Yahweh-to-the-rescue’ is Yahweh”. Which is a statement worth meditating on! Yahweh-to-the-rescue is Yahweh!
And now meditate on its implications for evangelism! To abbreviate the above (at the risk of causing misunderstanding): Our God is Jesus who is Rescuer. Therefore the Lordship of Jesus and His saving passion are not two different things. And obedience to this Lordship is not so much to be submissive to an edict as to be swept up into this passion.
Second of all, it means the true God of Israel and the true Lord of the universe is Jesus.
Therefore if you hadn’t already seen it, you need to go back and read the Old Testament properly (ie in the way it was intended). And also, if you haven’t already, you need to revisit your notion of God. He is entirely Jesus shaped. That Nazarene who bled for me is Lord. Not some ancient explosion or some foreign god. Not even some familiar theistic god of popular understanding. And certainly not little old me. No if we’re going to talk about God, let’s talk about Jesus. He is Lord. This will mean very different gospel conversations to the regular “Let’s first agree there’s a Higher-Power” chats.
Thirdly it means that the universe I’m in and the universe my friend is in is Christ’s universe.
Imagine you and your friend have been teleported into the tabernacle (and no-one’s said “Oi, goy, get outta here!”). But you’re surrounded by goats and bulls being slaughtered and priests with special clothes and holy spaces specially demarcated and furniture arranged just so. Imagine you lived there. Imagine you’d never lived anywhere else.
Your friend couldn’t help but be fascinated by some aspect of the tabernacle. Perhaps she’s besotted by the 12 precious stones in the high priest’s breastpiece. Or the cherubim woven into the curtain. Or the fire burning on the altar. It’ll be something. And she’ll no doubt have some ridiculous notions about what these things are all about. But whatever you talk about with your friend you’re actually in a gospel presentation. And the very terms of your discussion and the raw materials of her values, hopes and fears are derived from that gospel.
If you didn’t know how to “have a gospel conversation” in that environment it could only be because you yourself hadn’t grasped the gospel meaning of the tabernacle. You’d need to study the Scriptures more, understand the gospel more. In short you’d need to see how the whole tabernacle proclaims “Jesus is Lord.”
Well you know the application. We do live in a gospel presentation (Psalm 19; Rom 10:17ff; Col 1:23). And if we don’t know how to bring a conversation about a bullying boss or a wayward teenager or ongoing depression or state education or economic inequality or marital troubles or politics or mid-life crises around to the gospel then we need to take the Lordship of Jesus more seriously. We need to go back to the Scriptures and in His Light to see again.
I used to think evangelism was inserting trite presentations into trivial conversations. But ‘Jesus is Lord’ changes all of that. Jesus is not a foreign intruder into a conversation that’s about something else. He is the One who makes sense of it all.
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