The following extended quote comes from an appeal Hudson Taylor published in response to the Great Commission’s call to take the gospel to all creation.
“How are we going to treat the Lord Jesus Christ with reference to this command? Shall we definitely drop the title Lord as applied to Him, and take the ground that we are quite willing to recognize Him as our Saviour, so far as the penalty of sin is concerned, but are not prepared to own ourselves ‘bought with a price’, or Him as having any claim to our unquestioning obedience? Shall we say that we are our own masters, willing to yield something as His due, who bought us with His blood, provided He does not ask too much? Our lives, our loved ones, our possessions are our own, not His: we will give Him what we think fit, and obey any of His requirements that do not demand too great a sacrifice? To be taken to heaven by Jesus Christ we are more than willing, but we will not have this Man to reign over us?
The heart of every Christian will undoubtedly reject the proposition, so formulated; but have not countless lives in each generation been lived as though it were proper ground to take? How few of the Lord’s people have practically recognised the truth that Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all! If we can judge God’s Word as much or as little as we like, then we are lords and He is the indebted one, to be grateful for our dole and obliged by our compliance with his wishes. If, on the other hand, He is Lord, let us treat Him as such. ‘Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not do the things which I say?’” (“Biography of James Hudson Taylor” by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor [Hodder and Stoughton/OMF, 1985], pg. 439-440)
I don’t want to take our attention away from the Great Commission but I also know that the Lordship of Christ extends over each and every part of our lives. This past weekend I spoke to a group of middle school students about God’s ownership of us. We began at Acts 9:15-16 and the conversion of Saul.
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’” (Acts 9:15–16, ESV)
In fact, in this passage God lays claim over two men. Both Ananias, who has just protested against going to see the man who was set on destroying the church, and Saul are confronted by the Lord. We must notice the tone here and that this is the farthest thing from a middle school-er asking their parents for a bit of cash. God does not take the time to soften anyone up before making a timid and round-about request. It is simply, go. Go and tell him because he is mine and I have chosen him to carrying my name through suffering. God does not ask for input from either man. Nor does He pass out a waiver form to get their permission for His plans first.
Notice as well that God has chosen for Paul to suffer in his task. In Acts 14 Paul visits and is run out of Iconium. As he continues on through the area, a group from Antioch and Iconium come to find him in Lystra and raise a crowd to stone him. Paul is left for dead after having his body crushed by rocks but then rises and the very next day begins a journey that will take him back through Iconium and Antioch! As they travelled they were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22, ESV).
This account clearly demonstrates Christ’s lordship of Paul which follows from his ownership of Paul. The apostle’s actions only make sense if he is either insane or owned. But it also demonstrates another side being the chosen vessel. Did you notice back in Acts 9:15-16 that Jesus said that Paul would be successful in his mission? When God owns us, He gets to set the terms and He promises to provide for them to be met. Paul was chosen to carry the name of Christ before Gentiles, Jews and kings and so he was going to do it. As John Paton would say, Paul was invincible until the work God had given him was done. He was guaranteed not only suffering, but success.
It is all too easy to read Hudson Taylor’s stirring words from the beginning of this post and do nothing more than agree that it is true before you move on to the next thing. Go back and read it through again so that you can grasp it with your heart and not just your mind. Are you living as your own master? Are you willing to obey his requirements only so long as they do not ask too much from you? Do you expect Jesus to be obliged by your compliance to His wishes? Are you being called to go somewhere new so that the gospel can be proclaimed to the very ends of the earth?
As you ponder these questions remember these two things. First, as question 1 of the New City Catechism reminds us, that our only comfort in life and death is that we belong, body and soul, in life and death, to God and to our Saviour Jesus Christ. Second, that if Jesus is not lord of all, than He is not lord at all.