Last week, I asked the question, why is it better for Jesus to ascend to heaven rather than physically stay on earth?
I believe it is because of where Christ was going, who he was going to send in his place, and what he was going to do when he got there. Grasping the where, who, and what will open our eyes to a new horizon. The question today is whether Jesus’ present location and authority make any difference for the type of work Christians can freely pursue. If Jesus is our Lord, does that mean certain professions are off-limits?
Jesus’ Location Indicates His Lordship
Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father to be crowned the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (this is sometimes called the “Session”). Christ went away to be seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33-34; Acts 5:31; Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). This means that he was being placed in the position of power and authority (the right hand). All authority is given to him (Matt. 28:18). He is now the Lord of all.
It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this understanding for the early disciples and for us. Peter says on Pentecost, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). “Jesus is Lord,” was their earliest confession. But because of the persecution of early believers, it was hard to say so.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:3 that no one could say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. This perhaps means that you could not say, “Jesus is Lord,” and mean it (without the Holy Spirit) or maybe that the cost of saying those words was so great that no one would do so without the help of the Spirit.
We do know that in the early church, the confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was seen as a threat to Roman authority, exemplified in emperor worship. At one point, Christians were forced to say Kaiser Kurios (“Caesar is Lord”) and put incense on the altar as an act of emperor worship and to curse Christ. It is not surprising that many Christians could not or would not do these things. Above all, they could not attribute ultimate lordship to Caesar because they already had allegiance to Jesus as Lord. Thus, they were persecuted, thrown to the lions, covered in pitch and set on fire as torches for Nero’s gardens, and covered with animal skins and attacked by dogs. To say, “Jesus is Lord,” had radical implications for their lives.
“Every Square Inch” of Our Work Belongs to Lord Jesus
The Lordship of Christ still has radical implications for us. Even though we may not be persecuted as many are throughout the world for their profession of faith, confessing Jesus as Lord deeply impacts our personal and public lives.
Theologian Abraham Kuyper said that there is not “one square inch” that Christ does not say “mine.” Similarly C.S Lewis wrote in Christian Reflections,
…there is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counter claimed by Satan.
Among other things, this impacts the way we think and the way we work. Augustine used to argue that all truth is God’s truth. Thus, we ought to learn everything we can about anything we can. Every particular truth leads us back to the God of Truth. Therefore, we need not fear exploring truth in any arena.
If we confess Jesus as Lord, then we will not fear investigating any area where truth may be discovered. We should be both fearless and zealous to pursue excellence in every field. This means every area of work, or every calling, is under the Lordship of Christ and must be pursued as unto him.
This pursuit of excellence is not only faithful to our Lord, a way to give him glory, and a way to develop the potential of our gifts and abilities, but it’s also a way to be more effective witnesses to Christ.
C.S. Lewis argues that the difficulty in any kind of direct apologetics is that, at most, we can make people listen for a half hour or so. But when they go back to the world, away from our lecture, or put down our article, “they are plunged into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted.” He maintains that the best way to counter this reality is not more little books on Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent.
When you add to this the reality that many intelligent, committed Christians respond to (for instance) political or economic issues of our nation with a less-than-enlightened understanding of the broader questions involved, it makes such a task even more imperative.
It is this kind of discipleship for public life that the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) seeks to provide. I pray that the truth of Christ’s ascension and authority over all creation sets you free to pursue your vocation, whether it be science, business, the arts, or education, with excellence for the glory of God.
Editor’s note: Want to read more about Jesus’ ascension and our work? Check out Art Lindsley’s full paper on the topic: “The Absence of the Ascension.”
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