There is an amazing scene in the Revelation of the Apostle John, in chapter four. John is taken to heaven, to the very throne room of God. He describes for us the worship that takes place around God’s throne. Surrounding the main throne, where God sits, are twenty-four other thrones, with elders sitting on them. The elders seem to represent the twelve Patriarchs (heads of the twelve tribes of Israel) and the twelve Apostles (the disciples Jesus poured His life into during his earthly ministry, who became the leaders of the early church).
There are four living creatures who give praise to God, saying:
‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8 NIV)
When the four living creatures call out “Holy, holy, holy…” the twenty-four elders bow before the living God and lay down their crowns at His feet. (This is likely where the singing group, Casting Crowns, got their name!) I believe this laying down of their crowns represents two very important things for every disciple of Jesus Christ.
First, the laying down of the crowns symbolizes the great truth that all glory for everything we do or accomplish belongs to Jesus Christ. If the crowns symbolize the reward for our faithfulness, then casting them at the feet of Jesus signifies our understanding that even our faithfulness is a direct result of the grace of God working in and through our lives. Without the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, I would be a slave to my sin nature and live only to bring honor and glory to myself. Grace breaks the slavery to sin and allows us to live other-centered, Christ-centered lives! Any good thing you see in my living is a direct result of Jesus living and working in me.
Second, the elders casting crowns at the feet of Jesus represents a greater truth, in my mind. A crown is worn by a king. A crown symbolizes the authority of the king to rule and reign. The Bible calls this authority Lordship. Kings here on earth have often been addressed as “my lord the king.” A Lord is one who rules. Since this is true, then it seems to me the laying down of their crowns at the throne of God symbolizes who is Lord and who is not. The elders represent the condition of the heart of any believer in Jesus who has made Him the Lord of our lives. Every time we love Jesus enough to obey Him, we are living with Him as our Lord. When we do our own thing, we are exercising the lordship that is rightfully His for ourselves.
The first temptation and the first sin – that of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – was about Lordship. Who will be God of their lives? The serpent tempted them to become the lord of their own lives. And our fallen, human nature has been tempting us to commit that same sin over and over again ever since. When we exert our own autonomy, we are, in essence, saying to God who created us, “I don’t need you. I will be god of my own life. I will be lord and sit on the throne of my life. I will call the shots.” But when we climb down off of that throne in our hearts and gladly, in love, let Jesus rule and reign, we make Him Lord as He rightfully deserves to be.
You see, “No, Lord” is a contradiction in terms. If we say “no,” then Jesus is not really our Lord. If Jesus is our Lord, then we will love Him enough to say “yes.” Even when it is hard. Even when we don’t understand. Even when we would rather not. Even when we think we know better. One who lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ always tells him, “yes, Lord.”
Jesus modeled this for us in the Garden of Gethsemane, when His human side wrestled with His divine nature over going to the cross. He knew the mission. He knew the calling of His Father. He knew the only way to really redeem us was to make the only perfect sacrifice for us by dying in our place. Here is what He prayed:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV)
When we pray what Jesus prayed, we submit our lives to His Lordship. When we honestly admit to Him, “I’d rather not,” but willingly tell Him, “yet not my will, but yours be done,” we are giving Him Lordship in our lives and living for His glory, not our own. Is this easy? Oh, no, it’s not! Is it costly? Well, it cost Jesus an excruciating death. And it will mean we have to die to ourselves so He is Lord of us. Is it worth it? Oh, yes, it is! God accomplishes far more through a surrendered life than through our best efforts and most intentional work. The elders in Revelation 4 have it right. The glory is all His. The Lordship is all His. The One who died for me can be trusted with Lordship in my life. He will always work for what brings honor and glory to His Father, and that will always be the very best that can happen in and through my life.
In a way, it’s a sad thing for an old man to have a trophy room filled with the awards of past accomplishments, gathering dust. My trophies will not matter in eternity. Only what is done for Jesus will last. And it is worth living all-out for Him, laying up for ourselves “treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20 NIV)
Who is sitting on the throne of my heart? Every day I must climb down from there and allow Jesus to take His rightful place as Lord. Then Jesus will get the glory and Lordship He rightfully deserves.