Picture this scenario… The football game is tied in the fourth quarter. The increasing intensity of the fans’ cheering causes the stadium to rumble. Exhausted football players continue to take their three-point stance on the line, running on pure adrenaline. The men in black and white stripes scatter across the field with whistle in mouth, watching every move to make sure the game is played by the rules. In a final attempt to score and win the game, the coach turns to a player that has been on the bench the whole game. He has the perfect play for a fresh player that will fool the other team and launch them to victory. “Put your helmet on, you’re going in!” commands the coach. With lazy, uninterested eyes the player replies, “Oh I’m not here to play football. I just want to wear the jersey so I can say I’m on the team.”
Sound ridiculous? Of course it does. Someone who just wants to wear the jersey for their own benefit with no respect for the coaches, no dedication to the team, and no real passion for the game would be considered a fake.
This scenario represents a person who wears the name “Christian” with no real love, respect, and dedication to Jesus Christ and his teaching. Many people are more than willing to accept him as Savior but less willing to serve him as Lord. Let’s explore the difference…
In II Peter 3:18, Peter encourages us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever.” Notice how he specifies the two different titles when referring to Jesus Christ… “Lord AND Savior.” Let’s break it down….
First let’s explore Jesus’ title as “Savior”. A savior is “a person who rescues others from danger, evil, destruction, or death.” That is exactly what Jesus did when he gave himself up to be crucified on the cross for us. II Timothy 1:10 says that God’s grace has been shown to us “by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Many people have realized what a great gift salvation is and have received forgiveness for all their sins by accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. But it doesn’t end there. And that’s the point of this message. It’s one thing to accept Jesus as your Savior so that you won’t go to Hell, which is obviously smart, but it’s another thing to accept him as the Lord of your life, choosing His will over your own.
Now let’s explore Jesus’ title as “Lord”. A lord is “a master, the one in control, the supreme authority.” Jesus is only our Lord if we are fully submitted to his control and authority in every aspect of our lives. Do you know why many of us are quick to acknowledge him as Savior but not so quick to acknowledge him as Lord? It’s because we don’t want to lose control of our life. Basically what we are saying is “Jesus, keep me out of Hell but keep out of my life.” This is obviously not what Jesus had in mind when he suffered and died on the cross for us. Calling Jesus your Lord and following Jesus as your Lord are two different things. If Jesus is really Lord to you then you are studying his teachings and applying them to your life to the best of your ability. However, if we confess him as Savior yet live life our way and ignore his instruction given to us in the scripture, then we have become that football player who just wants to wear the jersey but doesn’t want to get in the game.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to get us to question our salvation. But I am trying to get us to question our level of dedication to the Savior that suffered so much to save us from our sins and give us “abundant life.” And, honestly, I’m just trying to expose a lie of satan that attempts to convince us that we win with Jesus as our Savior but lose with Him as Lord. With Jesus as our Savior we receive from him. And who wouldn’t want to receive from the hand of their Creator? With Jesus as Savior we receive forgiveness, peace, joy, promises, eternal life, and much more. But with Jesus as our Lord we give of ourselves to Him. We give our desires, goals, time, devotion, talents, worship, and our whole hearts and minds. The truth is we don’t lose by giving to God; we gain even more. He is a good Lord! A really, REALLY good Lord! He loves us with a love that we can’t even fathom. And that is why he so desperately wants us to follow him and obey him as the Lord of our life. Not so much for his benefit as it is for ours.
So that you don’t think this is just my opinion, let me quote Jesus: “Not everyone that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”(Matthew 7:21-23)
Now between you and me and the fence post, these verses bring shivers up my spine. Jesus is making it very clear that he is not just looking for some empty confession from us. He is looking for people who will “do” his will as Lord, not just call him that. So what we find here in Jesus’ comment is that it’s really not possible to accept Jesus as our Savior without also accepting him as our Lord.
For many years, the church has contributed to the confusion on this matter, begging people to come to the altar and “repeat this prayer after me” in order to get some sort of confession out of them. Sometimes it’s done with the best of intentions and a true desire to lead people to the Lord, and sometimes it’s done with a selfish motive so that they can brag about leading “so and so” to the Lord. It ends up becoming a race to see how many people they can get to make a “confession of faith.” Every “confession”, many made without true repentance and a faulty understanding of the gospel, becomes a trophy in that church’s trophy case, so to speak. What this has done is create an incomplete understanding of what the gospel is really all about. If we can convince people to accept Jesus as their Savior so that they won’t go to Hell without teaching them that changes must take place in their lives by surrendering to him as Lord, then we end up with a lot of people “saying Lord, Lord” with no true conversion. What has anyone gained if we have a bunch of halfhearted confessions, dull and meaningless baptisms, and a roster full of unrepentant names on our church membership books? All we’ve done is give people a false sense of religious security that will not stand up on the Day of Judgement, according to Jesus.
How would your boss at work react if you constantly called him boss, told him how great of a boss he was, gave him a gift on Boss Appreciation Day, but then wouldn’t do the tasks that he asked you to do? He’s not impressed that you call him boss if you’re not obeying him as your boss. Jesus doesn’t just want us to call him Savior; he wants us to obey his instructions as Lord. Some of us need to ask ourselves this simple question: “what if I gave my boss the same dedication I give to Jesus?” How long would you be employed? I think that’s a fair question don’t you?
Jesus maintained this kind of teaching throughout his entire ministry. In Matthew 25:1-13, He told an illustrated story that represents what “the kingdom of Heaven is like.” It goes something like this: there were ten women…virgins to be exact. And to be even more specific… they were bridesmaids. Five of the virgins were considered wise and the other five were considered foolish. We will get to that part of the story in a minute. All of these ladies were dressed to the hilt in their finest wedding dresses, giggly and excited for the bride-to-be. All of these ladies had a lamp in hand as they went to the designated place to meet the groom.
Now let me explain something before I go on. Jewish weddings of that day were much different than our weddings today. Whereas today’s weddings last an average of a few hours, the Jewish wedding lasted a few days. Typically with weddings today, we have approximately a thirty minute ceremony in which we repeat after the preacher and say “I do”, followed by some cake, punch, peanuts, butter mints, and if you’re lucky…pulled pork! Then the happy bride and groom will lock their arms together, attempting to sample some punch, just before romantically feeding each other a small piece of the wedding cake that generally ends up crammed into their nostrils. Toasts are made, dances are shared, presents are opened, rice is thrown, and everyone is home in time to watch Matlock.
However, the Jewish wedding was much longer and much more complex. I won’t go into all the details, although it is pretty interesting, but will rather just explain the parts that are relevant to the point Jesus was trying to make with this story. Before the Jewish wedding took place, the bride and groom were separated for a period of time in which the groom was away preparing a place for him and his new wife to live. Once it was completed, the groom would gather together all his buddies, aka groomsmen, and head to the home of his bride. The bride and bridesmaids didn’t know exactly when he would show up, so they just had to have everything prepared when he got there. Once he arrived, the celebration began. After the huge wedding ceremony at the bride’s house, the entire wedding party formed a huge parade and continued the celebration all the way to the home that the groom had prepared, where a huge banquet awaited them. And that banquet would last for days.
Now keep all that in mind as we go back to the ten virgins in Jesus’ story. All ten of them were dressed in their wedding garb. All ten of them had a lamp in their hand because it was night time. And all ten of them were at the designated rendezvous point to meet the groom. So what was the difference in these ten ladies that made five of them wise and five of them foolish? It was just one thing…extra oil. Remember now, nobody knew for sure when the groom would arrive so his instructions were to keep themselves ready. Knowing that it could be a long night of waiting, the wise virgins took the command to be ready seriously and took extra oil just in case their lamps ran out. The foolish virgins decided to gamble it. Ignoring the command to be prepared, they took only the oil in their lamp, hoping it would be enough.
Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t enough. The night was getting long, and everyone’s eyes were getting heavy. At some point after the foolish virgins had dozed off, their lamps ran out of oil and went dark. Suddenly their eyes flew open, and they jumped to their feet as they heard a loud announcement at midnight. “The groom is coming!” Their hearts sank as they realized their lamps had gone out and they had no more oil. No oil meant no light, and no light meant they couldn’t make their way through the dark to meet the groom. In a panic, they realized that they were going to have to make a mad dash to the store to buy some more oil. So they jumped on their camels and headed to Wal-Mart. (Okay I made that part up.) But by the time they got back from the oil store, everyone was gone. The five wise virgins and the rest of the wedding party had all went inside to the marriage ceremony, and the doors were locked tight. Desperate not to be left out, the five foolish virgins pounded on the rough, splinter filled door and begged the groom to let them in. Through the thick wooden doors their muffled voices cried out, “Lord, Lord, open to us.”
Did you catch it? They called him Lord even though they refused to obey his instructions. They wanted his company and all the blessings that went with it, without respecting his authority over them. But the groom wouldn’t have any part of that kind of relationship. He replied through the locked barrier that stood between him and the foolish virgins, “I don’t know you.” Ouch! In essence, he was saying, “I’m only going to invite people in to my marriage that submit to my authority and obey my instructions, not just the ones who talk a good game.” Jesus told this whole story for a reason. He told it to show us what we can expect from his heart and what he expects from ours. The Bible uses this Jewish wedding scenario to illustrate Jesus’ return. Jesus is the groom who went away “to prepare a place” for his bride, which is made up of all the people who have accepted him as Savior and Lord. Someday, he will return to take his “bride” to the “marriage supper of the Lamb” that will kick start our eternity with him. And just as the virgins didn’t know when the groom would come, we don’t know when Jesus will come. There will be many who remained ready and watching that will enjoy eternity with Him. But unfortunately there will be many who will ignore him their whole life and hear him say, “I don’t know you.” Our instructions from Jesus are the same as their instructions were…just be ready! So put on your jersey and get in the game…because “The Lord” said so.