“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. “Romans 10:9
When the bud of Christianity began to bloom on the vine, the first century pagan world must have seen it as just another addition to the plethora of gods that inhabited their daily lives. Jews were monotheistic in their beliefs but they were the minority. From the Egyptians to the Romans to the Greeks polytheism populated the minds and hearts of most cultures and people groups. This allowed people to explain the apparent capriciousness of how and why the supernatural interacted with mankind as well as permitted room to assimilate any new gods that may arise within the culture.
Therefore, when Christianity arose the apostles made it clear that if one was to become a Christian and to receive the gift of salvation from Jesus, he must distinguish himself from the polytheistic people around him and declare with his mouth that Jesus, and only Jesus, is Lord. And he must believe in his heart that God raised Him from the dead. Such a prerequisite ensured that this new religion and its central figure would not only be protected from being assimilated into the polytheistic religions of the day but would also establish that this Jesus held exclusive claims on his followers that surpassed any allegiances they might have had, both to the supernatural or in the natural realm.
Today, it may seem commonplace to say, “Jesus is Lord.” But in the first century this declaration was so much more than an offhanded comment. When the Apostle Paul wrote this verse, he used the Greek word “kyrios,” which we translate as “Lord.” To say that Jesus is kyrios was to declare that Jesus was master, the sovereign who held sole rights over the person making the statement, as well as supreme in authority over all else. But beyond the personal realm, “Jesus is kyrios” also rejected the existence and authority of all other gods. In Romans 10:13 Paul hearkened back to Joel 2:32, which says “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD (i.e. Yahweh) shall be saved.” (emphasis mine) So, Paul is equating Jesus with YHWH, the name for God in the Old Testament. In this way the confession that “Jesus is Lord” was exclusivist in nature. It meant that a person believed that Jesus was more than the supreme god among many other gods, such as Zeus. It meant that he believed that Jesus was the only god.
The question that we must ask ourselves is do we confess Jesus as Lord in our lives?
Today, Jesus may not compete with the ancient Greek and Roman gods in the religious marketplace, but differing worldviews, such as secular humanism and pantheism, offer naturalistic and spiritual explanations that can seep into and distort a Christian’s faith.
If we are to confess “Jesus is Lord,” we must be clear not only what we are saying but also what we are rejecting. For instance, when we step back and look at our lives objectively, what do we find ourselves clinging to?
What is it in our lives that we pursue or rely on to make us whole? What is it that, if we are honest, is more important to us than God?
What is it that we rely on and fantasize about in the hopes that it will meet all our needs? Is it money? Power? Sex? Identity? Comfort? Is it the escape of sports, social media, or the news? Perhaps it’s approval, the little dopamine bursts we get from our phone, or the desire to feel loved by someone.
Whatever it is, these are the things transform our hearts into a hearse. These are the idols that keeps us from truly following Jesus and giving Him all the glory that He deserves. If we really wanted to make the exclusive claim that Jesus is Lord in our life, we must realize that we cannot “Just say no!” to these idols. We must also continuously say “Yes!” to Jesus.
When we finally say that we find Jesus more appealing and more fulfilling than the images on our screens or the promotion that we’ve been seeking at work; when we finally see Christ as our treasure and not only as our savior, then we can say with confidence that Jesus is not only objectively the only god but can also subjectively claim Him as sovereign in our lives. And this proclamation (both word and deed), combined with the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, will continually challenge us to stand firm as the world assaults us and the Devil schemes against us.
To confess “Jesus is Lord” is not an easy life to choose. But it is a fulfilling one.
It may cost you your money, your identity, your pastimes, your approval, or the love of others. But it will never cost you Christ, neither in Heaven (“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” — Mt. 10:32-33) nor on earth (“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” — Jn. 16:33)
The man or woman who lives for Christ, in Christ, and with Christ, the one who daily proclaims that Jesus is Lord over all of their life may suffer, be persecuted, or even die. But in the end he can know that even though our opponents may regard us as sheep to be slaughtered, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” and that, through the denial of all other gods in our life we will be able to say along with the Apostle Paul “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Rom. 8:36; Php. 1:20-21)