The key is understanding that Jesus is already Lord of your life. We do not make Jesus Lord. Jesus is Lord. What we are supposed to do is submit to His lordship. Another word for our response to Jesus’ lordship is “submission.” To submit is to yield to the will and control of another, and, with reference to Christians, it is yielding to the will and control of Jesus Christ. This means that when Scripture commands believers to love one another (John 15:17), that is what is to be done. It means that when Scripture says we are not to commit adultery or steal (Exodus 20:14-15), these things are not to be done. It should be understood that submission, or obedience to the commands of God, is related to Christian growth and maturity, and is not related to becoming a Christian. A person becomes a Christian by faith alone in Christ apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We should realize that complete obedience cannot be accomplished simply by willing it to be done or in the strength of one’s inner being. It will not happen simply because we “decide” to do it. This is because even believers are prone to sinful conduct and thoughts apart from the work and power of the Holy Spirit. In order to be obedient, we must rely on the power provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). This in itself is an act of obedience, for we are commanded in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. This doesn’t mean that a believer gets more of the Spirit, but rather that the Spirit gets more of the believer—which is the whole idea of submission. Being filled with the Spirit is yielding to the Spirit’s control. Practically speaking, this happens as a believer responds positively to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean feeling one is being lead into full-time Christian ministry and obeying that feeling, although this may be included. Rather, it refers to the day-to-day decisions we make, such as responding kindly to someone who has mistreated us (Romans 12:17); being truthful in our communication with others (Ephesians 4:25); being honest in our business dealings (Ephesians 4:28); spending time in prayer and studying God’s Word as we are commanded (2 Timothy 2:15). These are a just a few examples of daily decisions that demonstrate submissiveness to Christ.
It is also important to note that even when we fail to obey, God has made a provision so that we can remain in fellowship with Him. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Even this is part of submission and obedience—to confess our sins to God so that we can remain in fellowship with Him. It is important to note that when tough decisions arise, the first thing we should do is pray, asking the Lord to help us to make the right decision and/or be obedient to what we already know is right from the Word.
To sum up the idea of the Lordship of Christ, it does not consist of one act of obedience but rather is measured by the sum of our obedience, and it cannot be accomplished in our own strength or power, but by the power available to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are strongest when we are relying on Him (2 Corinthians 12:10).