I have been thinking for several months now about the central Biblical truth that all of our lives are lived out under the Lordship of Christ, or Coram Deo. The following is a sermon I preached on this issue to a group of my brothers in ministry yesterday.
Life under the Lordship of Christ
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Eric Liddell served the Lord as a missionary to China in the early part of the 20th Century. But he was also a world-class sprinter, who went on to earn a gold medal and break a world record at the 1924 Olympics, and his Olympic career is chronicled in the 1980’s movie Chariots of Fire. There’s a scene in that movie in which his sister, Jenny, sits down with him, concerned that his athletic training and preparation for the Olympic Games are distracting him his true purpose, serving the Lord as a missionary. In the movie, Eric Liddell looks at his sister and famously says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
Do you hear what he’s saying? While of course he is called to serve the Lord as a Gospel minister and Christian missionary, there is also a sense in which he can serve the Lord in other ways – in this case, by running.
I think he’s on to something.
Beginning in Colossians 2:6, Paul begins to describe to the Colossians what it means for them in their every day lives to follow Jesus as Lord. He says, “Therefore, having received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him . . .” And after a long series of instructions about what their lives should and should not look like as those who are hidden in Christ, he arrives at verse 17 and it is as if he realizes that if he is to sum up the essence of the Christian life, he must show them that it encompasses far more than any list of things to do and not do that he could possibly compile. And so he writes, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Paul says, yes, the Christian life means putting off sin and vice, and yes it means putting on Christian virtue. Yes, the Christian life means singing together in gathered worship. But it is also far more than that: it is the recognition that Jesus is Lord over every aspect of your life, everything that you say and do. Every moment of our lives is to be lived in the joyful recognition of the Lordship of Jesus.
This is important for you and I to consider this morning, because every one of us is in danger of living “compartmentalized lives.” By that I mean that we can live as if some parts of our lives are religious or spiritual, and some are not. Going to church, preparing sermons, studying our Bibles, are spiritual, but the other matters and activities of our lives – in the home, workplace, and classroom – are not spiritual. We can think that we engage with Jesus during our morning quiet time, and then set him aside to “get on with our lives” and attend to other things. But to do this is to live an impoverished, fragmented, and frustrating existence, when we are called to something far more joyful and satisfying and wonderful. Scripture is calling us here to a grander picture of Christ’s Lordship and to a more comprehensive picture of what it means to serve Christ. It calls us to a proper view of the Christian life. This is what Francis Schaeffer called “The Lordship of Christ over the whole of life.”
What does a life under the Lordship of Christ look like?
I. A Life under the Lordship of Christ is a Life of Service to the Lord
The Lord of our Service
Notice that Paul here refers to the “Lordship” of Jesus. Perhaps the chief reason we have a small view of serving Christ with all our lives is because we have a small view of the Lordship of Christ. What exactly is Christ the Lord of? Is he simply the personal Lord of the Christian’s heart who calls us to make good, ethical decisions? Well, he is certainly that, but his Lordship does not stop there. Paul in this letter has already given us a picture of the scope of Christ’s Lordship, and the picture is breath-taking. Turn quickly to Colossians 1:15-20. And let us read this.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Among other things, Paul tells us here that Christ is eternal, that he created all thing, all things were created through him and for him, and in him, all of reality is held together from second to second by him! Then, when his Creation rebelled in sin, Christ became a man “in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” he came and made peace between God and sinners by the blood of his cross, he rose from the grave as the firstborn of creation and the Lord of his church, and the purpose of all this, Paul tells us is “that in everything he might be preeminent.”
This is what we mean when we confess, “Jesus is Lord.” He is indeed to be the Lord of our hearts, but he is in fact far more; he is the Lord of all, the Pre-eminent One.
The Scope of our Service
When we recognize the greatness of the “Lord of our service,” we then understand what Paul tells us about the scope of our service. Notice in verse 17, that when Paul wants to sum up life under Christ’s Lordship, he reaches for the broadest possible terms: whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul is leaving nothing out when he describes the scope of our service; every part of our lives belongs to Christ. And this is, in fact, the standard way in which Paul describes the Christian life. He writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat, or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” And to the church at Rome he writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Do you hear the comprehensive language Paul uses to describe the Christian life? It is not simply performing a list of religious duties; it is consecrating our every activity to the service of our Lord Jesus. As Abraham Kuyper famously put it, “There is not a square inch in the whole realm of human existence over which Christ does not cry, “That is mine!”
Everything about our lives is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This means that everything is to be done conscious of the presence of Jesus, under the authority of Jesus, and with the goal of the glory of Jesus. Everything. A Latin phrase that describes this view of life is Coram Deo. It means “before the face of God.” Every moment of every day, from public worship to working a part time job, from playing catch in the yard to hanging a screen door: before the face of God. What a powerful, beautiful, exhilarating thought: in all that we do, we are living before the very face of God, and so we are to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. A life under the Lordship of Christ is a life of service.
There are a number of applications we could make, but chiefly, recognizing all of our life as service to the Lord should increase our joy in all of life. In particular, we should find a deeper satisfaction and delight in those areas of our lives we do not initially consider to be “spiritual” when we recognize that these are received as acts of worship by the Lord when they are offered up in his name. This goes especially for those daily activities that we find mundane or difficult. We can find joy in putting weather stripping around our door or working a part time job you otherwise wouldn’t have chosen or reading for class or laboring with children when we know it is service to Christ. Remember we carry these tasks out Coram Deo: in his presence, under his authority and for his glory.
We need to encourage our people with this wonderful truth. There are men in our churches who think they are not spiritual enough and are failing in their Christian duty day after day as they come home from their jobs. The reason for this is because they do not see that there is real, eternal spiritual value in work itself when offered to Christ. We need to encourage them with the words Paul gives to servants in Col 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Spurgeon said of this verse, “This saying ennobles the weary routine of earthly employments, and sheds a halo around the most humble occupations. To wash feet may be servile, but to wash his feet is royal work . . . The shop, the barn, the scullery, and the smithy become temples when men and women do all to the glory of God! Then “divine service” is not a thing of a few hours and a few places, but all life becomes holiness unto the Lord, and every place and thing, as consecrated as the tabernacle and its golden candlestick.” Likewise, there are Christian mothers who find that their days are consumed with caring for children and keeping up the house, and this just doesn’t seem like “important, spiritual work.” We need to affirm that, when folding clothes and changing diapers are done in Jesus’ name, this is valued, Kingdom work. Luther said: “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors.” This will help them see life as a whole, with every bit of it offered up as service to Christ.
II. A Life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a Life of Thankfulness
As Paul is describing all of life under Christ’s Lordship, he points to the importance of thanksgiving in the second half of verse 17. If you glance at the verses above, this is the third time in three verses he has told us to be thankful. Why is thankfulness so essential to the Christian life, and how does it relate to the Lordship of Jesus? This is a lesson that the Psalms teach us with such power. We find here in Paul the same idea that is behind verses like Psalm 24:1: The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and all who dwell therein. God created all things, sustains all things, and therefore owns all things. He is the sovereign Lord over every aspect of his universe. If this is so, then we are forced to recognize that everything that we are and everything that we have is directly from his hand. And the only proper response to such provision is a life of thankfulness.
Notice that this thankfulness is directed to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. What does this mean? It means first of all that we are living as Trinitarians, knowing and serving a Triune God. But it also means that we are living according to the Gospel. We spend our every day basking in the truth that God the Father has put us right with himself through his Son, Jesus. Our identity and every activity is shaped by this Gospel work of our Triune God. And so everywhere we go and in everything that we do we can lift our voices heavenward and cry, “Father, thank you that you do not count my sin against me for Jesus’ sake; I can enjoy every good gift from your hand now and for eternity because of Christ.” Viewing life through the lenses of the Gospel means a life of continuous thankfulness.
This means that we should be marked as a profoundly thankful people. As we move through our daily lives, we are recognizing every good thing not as something that we have by chance, that we won for ourselves, or that we are entitled to. But everything – from the beautiful spring weather, to the food we had for breakfast, to the friendships we enjoy – all of these are gifts of grace from the Lord, for which we should offer continuous, humble thanks. Not simply in church services – but in “whatever we do.” In everything, we are giving thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Even in hard times, we can give thanks because we know that the Lord is in fact our shepherd who at all times and in every way is leading us, sovereignly ordering our steps as he moves us to conformity to Christ. Thankfulness is a hallmark of the Christian who is properly viewing the world.
This is important, brothers, because we live in a remarkably ungrateful age, and we are impacted by this culture of ingratitude far more than we might first imagine. Whining, grumbling, complaining, wallowing in self pity are all around us, and we are tempted to them all. These are not just annoying habits, but they are communicating that Jesus is not a faithful Lord, and your Father in Heaven does not know how to give you good gifts. In fact, Paul speaks of unthankfulness as the very essence of sin. In Romans 1:20, as Paul describes a godless culture, he says, “Although they knew God, they did not acknowledge him as God or give thanks to him.” This is Paul’s description of what we call atheism: taking and taking and taking all that God gives to us, but refusing to respond with thankfulness. Brothers, to live without thankfulness is to live as a practical atheist.
But a life under the Lordship of Christ is marked by this: in whatever we do, in word and deed, in everything, we are giving thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: A Compelling Vision of Life to its Fullest
Brothers, I close with an appeal. Is this not a compelling vision of life? To live out every moment of every day conscious that we are Coram Deo, before the face of God, under the gracious rule of the Lord Jesus; to carry out our callings and our tasks with a sense of fulfillment and delight, because we know that we are in fact serving Christ; to pass our mornings and our evenings in a state of thankfulness, in constant communion with the Living God our Maker, who has purchased us with the blood of his own Son. Is this not the beautiful vision to which all of Scripture sweetly calls us? Then we must not only embrace it for ourselves, but teach our people to do so as well.