What does it mean to declare that Jesus is Lord? The Greek word kurios is a word that can mean lord, master, or sir. It is also the Greek word which the translators of the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) used when translating YHWH, a Hebrew name of God connected with the meaning “I am what I am.” Setting apart Jesus as our Lord involves both publicly confessing him as Lord and living in submission to his authority. Seeing Jesus as Lord sets us apart from those who are interested in Jesus only for a season.
Do you recall the story of Rumpelstiltskin? A young lady’s dad boasts to the king that she is able to spin straw into gold. When the king hears this, he locks her in a tower with a choice. Either spin straw into gold (and he will marry her), or don’t spin straw into gold (and he’ll cut off her head). The problem is that she can’t do it; it was all a misconception based on a reckless boast her dad had made. But Rumpelstiltskin can. The impish Rumpelstiltskin shows up, willing to turn the straw into gold, but only if she promises to give him her firstborn child. (The guys in this story are awful.) So, she’s forced with a tough dilemma. She’s got a pathway to becoming queen (and not getting killed), but it comes with a painful subtraction problem: she’ll get good things but minus her firstborn.
Let’s say you make such-and-such amount of money each month, and that’s great. But it’s not all yours, is it? To figure out how much money you really have, you have to figure in taxes. There’s the gross versus the net. Taxes can make for a painful subtraction problem.
“Taxes can make for a painful subtraction problem.”
Let’s say you’ve put away such-and-such for retirement, so that by a certain age, you should have a certain amount. That’s great, but then you have to figure in inflation, and how, by that date, that amount is really only going to feel like such-and-such amount. Again, it’s a painful subtraction problem.
Here are some painful, everyday subtraction problems: It’s like a Doritos bag, but having to minus all the empty air in the bag. It’s like an hour of watching TV, but having to minus all the commercials you didn’t want to watch. It’s like a week of vacation, but having to minus all the travel time to get there.
A Subtraction Problem in John 1
First of all, there are some really cool things we learn about Jesus in John 1 (before we get to the painful subtraction problem). The Word (John’s name for the pre-incarnate Jesus) “was with God, and the Word was God” (see John 1:1-9, NIV). He created all things, and in him was life. This life is the light that came into the world.
This is a great reminder that God was never lonely. God didn’t create us because he was lonely, as if he were empty. He created us out of his fullness, out of joy, out of love. After all, God is a community—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. John 1 tells us how one of those persons, Jesus, became flesh, put on skin, and lived among us (John 1:14). The Son of God became a human in order to make humans into children of God (John 1:12).
“The Son of God became a human in order to make humans into children of God.”
Yet John 1 comes with a painful subtraction problem:
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:9-11, NIV)
The movie The Patriot suffers from a painful subtraction problem. Once you’ve watched the movie the whole way through, you can’t watch it again without that subtraction problem in the back of your mind. There’s a young romance: the young man and woman had known each other as kids, grew up, fell in love, started courting, and then got married. But throughout the course of the movie, she dies in a fire and he dies by a bayonet. From then on, it’s hard to watch the movie without the painful subtraction problem in the back of your mind.
If you’re a germophobe and you go to the bathroom in a restaurant restroom and find out (too late) that they’re out of soap, that’s a problem. (Or if you’re really a germophobe, it’s the same problem if there is soap, but there’s only a hand dryer with no paper towels—because let’s face it: the door handle is basically just as dirty as the toilet handle). If you get back from the bathroom to eat your food with dirty hands, it doesn’t matter how great the food is: that meal suffers from a painful subtraction problem.
“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
It’s painful to know that, as amazing as Jesus is, many people still don’t receive him. Everybody has a problem with sin, guilt, and death. Jesus offers the definitive solution to all 3, and yet way too many people say, “Not interested.” The gospel is what everybody needs, but it’s not what everybody wants. It’s hard to read through John 1 without verses 10-11 raining on the parade. It can even be tough to think about the joys of heaven without also thinking about the people who won’t be there.
When You Subtract Those Who Aren’t Interested…
When the people not interested in Jesus are minused, what are we left with? God’s salvation minus those who aren’t interested equals what?
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13, NIV)
What’s left is the “remnant.” This is the word the Bible uses for those who, although the culture is rejecting Jesus, remain faithful to him. They remain a faithful remnant.
Jesus is Lord: “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Written in 1973, Os Guinness’s Dust of Death describes the cultural battle between the 50’s culture and the 60’s hippie counterculture. He then explores how the church fits into all the confusion. His conclusion was that the church shouldn’t be all about preserving 50’s culture, but it also shouldn’t be all about jumping on board the 60’s counterculture. Rather, the church has always been meant to be a “third way,” a group of people who actually live out the way of Jesus.
Today, our identity as Christians isn’t based on one political platform or the other. Rather, our identity is based on Jesus. We present to the world not a baptized copy of itself, but rather the gospel of Jesus. At the end of the book, Guinness sets before Christians two options—our only two options if we are serious about living like Jesus. Option #1 is revival. Perhaps as we bring light and life to a dark and decaying society, we will see a revival of our faith in our time. Option #2 is to remain a faithful remnant, faithfully following Jesus long after the culture has rejected him.
Jesus is Lord: “We present to the world not a baptized copy of itself, but rather the gospel of Jesus.”
God’s salvation minus those who reject Jesus = the remnant
What Sets the Remnant Apart?
What sets the remnant apart from everybody else? What makes the remnant the remnant?
- Is it the family they grow up in? Yet there are kids who rejected Jesus after growing up in good Christian families. John 1:13 tells us it’s not a matter of our physical descent.
- Is it that they don’t struggle with sin? But no, these aren’t stained glass saints who don’t really need God’s forgiveness. Rather, these are people who have received “grace in place of grace already given” (John 1:16).
What sets the remnant apart is that we recognize something that others don’t.
Jesus is Lord: “What sets the remnant apart is that we recognize something that others don’t.”
Some people see Jesus as:
- Someone to pity. A good ethical teacher who preached revolutionary concepts that undermined Rome and that’s why they put him to death.
- Someone to manipulate. Some Hindus see Jesus as an enlightened guru. Muslims see Jesus as a prophet of Allah. The Baha’i see Jesus alongside Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, and others as one of the Manifestations of God. In mainstream American culture, Jesus is used for whatever cause we’re fighting for. He’s either a vegan pacificist Marxist hippie or an outspoken supporter of building walls, nuking enemies, and citizens packing AR-15’s.
A Babylon Bee headline says, “Jesus Was a Socialist, Deconstructionist Feminist, Claims Socialist Deconstructionist Feminist Scholar.”
And it’s not just the internet crazies who manipulate Jesus; we’re all capable of it. Anytime you think, “Yes, Scripture says something is wrong, but I do it and I’m pretty sure that Jesus would affirm it,” that’s manipulating Jesus. “Sure, Scripture says a thing or two about forgiveness, but I’m pretty sure Jesus would affirm the grudge I have because that person really hurt me.” “Sure, Scripture might warn against certain sexual behaviors, but it’s just what I do and who I am, so I’m sure Jesus would affirm it.”
“It’s not just the internet crazies who manipulate Jesus; we’re all capable of it.”
Rather than someone to pity or to manipulate, the remnant sees something else in Jesus.
What the Remnant Sees in Jesus
What sets the remnant apart isn’t the family they grow up in or the mastery they have over sin. What sets them apart is something they recognize that others don’t. For example,
- John 1:4 – The remnant sees in Jesus light and life.
- John 1:14 – The remnant sees in Jesus glory, grace, and truth.
- John 1:18 – The remnant sees in Jesus God himself.
The remnant are the people who see Jesus not as someone to pity or manipulate, but as someone to worship.
In Disney’s cartoon Robin Hood, the evil Prince John wants to capture Robin Hood, so he announces an archery tournament, with the prize being a golden arrow and a kiss from Maid Marian. Of course, Robin Hood will show up for a couple reasons: he’s the best archer around and he’s in love with Maid Marian. But he can’t just show up or else he’ll be captured. So, he dresses up as a stork with a huge beak and tail feathers and disguises his voice (he’s a fox, so he’s already an animal, so it’s not a huge stretch). When Maid Marian first sees him at the tournament, at first she’s amused, but then she looks into his eyes and recognizes Robin Hood. “I wish you luck,” she says, then whispers, “with all my heart.” Why did she say that? It’s because she recognized him.
Jesus is Lord: “The remnant are the people who see Jesus not as someone to pity or manipulate, but as someone to worship.”
The remnant are those of us who say, “You know that Jesus of Nazareth from a couple thousand years ago? I think he was actually God. We’re the ones who recognize…
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV)
C.S. Lewis said it well in Mere Christianity: “You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.”
Confessing Jesus as Lord
Confessing Jesus as Lord plays a part in our “new birth,” or being “born again” as a beloved son or daughter adopted into God’s family. So, how are we born again? We are born again as we place our faith in Jesus by repenting of our sins and getting baptized. Another part of the process which the New Testament shows us is that we should publicly confess that Jesus is our Lord. This was never meant to be just a private decision between you and God, but a public declaration of your faith in Jesus. Consider the following Scriptures:
- Matthew 16:15-17 – “…You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God…”
- John 20:28 – “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”
- Romans 10:9 – “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Are you ready to be part of the remnant who recognizes Jesus as God? Are you ready to confess Jesus as your Lord and King?