Must Christ be Lord of your life to be saved?
Before answering this question, we must establish one unchangeable truth: Jesus is Lord. Whether we bow to Him as such now, or not, Philippians 2:10 is clear that one day every knee will bow to Him and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. I remember the first time I grasped this truth while reading Paul Washer’s “The Gospel’s Power and Message” (a book I would highly recommend). The concept in one of those chapters has stuck with me ever since – we don’t “make” Christ Lord, and we certainly don’t have the power to do so.
“So if Christ is already Lord of all, then what are we to do?” you might ask.
The scriptures would argue that we are to confess this truth, submit to His Lordship, and live our lives like He is Lord (because He is). “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10) And even this act of confession is a gift of the Holy Spirit – “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Submission to His Lordship is active and continual – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
And our lives should look dramatically different because of it. Brand new desires from a new heart. “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17) “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)
This may sound harsh or close-minded, and with that, I do believe the Bible gives an exception to this rule of transformed lifestyle – the deathbed profession of faith, a.k.a. the “thief” on the cross. Not long before he gave his final breath, the criminal on the cross next to Christ asked Jesus to remember him in His Kingdom (which would imply that he understood Jesus to be King) and Jesus said “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) There is no questioning whether or not this man was saved, simply because He came to know the Lord at the end of His life and didn’t have time to do anything for Christ. (Which also stands to show that our obedience to the Lord is only an outflow of what He’s already done through our salvation, not the means of it.) So in the same way, God can still choose to save some who lay on their deathbed and no longer have the ability to carry out many commands of scripture.
But since most of us reading this are not on our deathbeds (am I right?), we are without excuse to live our lives in a manner worthy of our Lord. Each day, every moment, should be a reflection of the fact that He is the One who provides life and breath and graciously gives new life to wretched sinners like you and me. We have been bought with the precious blood of the lamb (1 Peter 1:19). “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)