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"Joy to the World" (posted December 1, 2004)
God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
- Acts 2:36
"Joy to the world!" The old hymn by Isaac Watts is a Christmas favorite every year. Even those who minimize the spiritual meaning of Christmas seem to agree that joy and peace would be marvelous blessings for the world.
But Watts's words don't stop with joy. He announces the arrival of one who is Lord of the whole earth:Joy to the world! the Lord is come;What does it mean for "the Lord" to arrive? The disciples of Jesus lived in a time when the word "lord" could be used simply as a term of respect. For example, some Greeks addressed the apostle Philip as "lord" in John 12:21 (where many English translations use the word "sir"). The jailer of Philippi spoke to Paul and Silas with the same dignity, even though they had been treated like the worst criminals. "Sirs (lords), what must I do to be saved?" he cried (Acts 16:30).
Let Earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare Him room.
However, the disciples came to realize that this term had an unrivaled meaning when attached to their Master. Thomas acknowledged Jesus as both Lord and God (John 20:28). Peter declared that God had elevated Him to be both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). "Lord" became a title of unique importance for Christian believers.
The New Testament variously describes Jesus' authority. He is
What a position! There is no thought, word, or action of the Christian that is not subject to His authority.
- "the Lord of glory" - 1 Corinthians 2:8
- "the Lord from heaven" - 1 Corinthians 15:47
- "Lord of heaven and earth" - Acts 17:24
- "Lord of all" - Acts 10:36
Watts's hymn declares that every heart should prepare Him room when He comes as King. This actually describes Jesus Christ's second advent, still ahead. The Bible describes a kingdom when no one, from the lowest peasant to the grandest ruler, will be exempt from obedience to that blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:9-11).
Therefore, it is all the more poignant to read Christ's own words: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Five times in the gospels that double cry--"Lord, Lord"--is heard, and every time it comes from false believers. This becomes a warning for us: It is remarkably easy to claim a passionate interest in His person while having a complete lack of desire to let Him change the way we live.
Certain responses are expected from those who call Jesus their Lord.
Because He is Lord, we should learn God's will and do it. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Because He is Lord, we should ask where He wants us to serve Him. "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2). Because He is Lord, we should desire to be baptized as believers, giving a public testimony to His authority in our lives. "Arise and be baptized ... calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Because He is Lord, we should live blamelessly as we look for His kingdom. "Blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing ... He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of king and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:14-15). And because He is Lord, we should give over daily control of our lives to Him. "If we live, we live to the Lord. ... To this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:6-9).
When we realize that Jesus Christ is actually our Lord, we will have joy in our hearts day by day, not just when He comes to rule the Earth.