Burning Incense

"For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9....."Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?" Luke 6:46..."It meant everything in those days to say 'Jesus is Lord'......"You cannot willingly take Jesus as Savior and wilfully deny Him as Lord." Vance Havner

Polycarp of Smyrna was a second century leader of the Christian church, a man said to be a disciple of the Apostle John. At the age of 86 he was killed by the empire of Rome for refusing to burn incense to the emperor. To do so was unthinkable for Polycarp and so many other believers of that day. In the burning of that incense they were saying that the emperor was their lord, that he occupied a place above all others, including Jesus Christ. In the burning of the incense, the word they would use for the emperor was Kurios, which meant "Lord above all." No true believer could or would do this, as for them, Christ and Christ alone had this place in their heart and life. So Polycarp, and so many others, died before they would call anyone or anything else their Lord over all.

Vance Havner makes a chilling statement concerning the church. He writes, more than 50 years ago, "There has been a cheap, easy profession of Christ as Savior, but no real confession of Christ as Lord. The lips claim Him as Savior but the life shows no evidence of His Lordship. We love the same things we've always loved; we do not abhor that which is evil, we live our own lives. Christ has no say in the matter." In short, in so many ways, we burn "incense" to Caesar, and to many other "lords" as well.

In His Word, Christ is called "Lord" far more than He is "Savior." He is both, but He cannot be our Savior alone. He must be our Lord, and that Lordship must be evident in our lives. It must be so deeply placed in us that like the early believers, we would choose death before we would give allegiance to anyone, and anything else. A death that goes beyond just a physical one. It means we choose to put to death our dreams, desires, hopes, pleasures, joys, relationships, or whatever it is that calls our hearts to in some way forsake Him, and choose them. Anything that asks us to "burn incense" at their altar over the altar of God. What things, what people, what habits, what loves, are asking this of us right now? Where is it that we burn incense to other, less worthy "lords" than Christ the King?

Havner is right. We love to call Him Savior, but we have little idea or experience of Him as Lord. In the Old Testament, it was said of the people of Israel that, "Word from the Lord was infrequent, everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Their hearts had wandered very far from His, and as a result were too dull to hear anything He might be saying. Are we not seeing much the same today? Are we not doing what seems right, sensible, and reasonable to our flesh, even when it stands in blatant opposition to His Word? Are we not, in so many places and ways, calling Him Lord while not doing what He says? We are casually doing what was unthinkable to the early church; burning incense to other gods and lords, giving our hearts to that which will eventually destroy us.

At what altars are you burning incense? At the altar of ambition, success, pleasure, riches, relationships.....
ministry? The number of competing "altars" are as endless as the number of our desires. Where are they located in your heart and mine? Where have we joyfully taken Him as Savior while coldly rejecting Him as Lord? Why do we go on calling Him Savior but refusing to live with Him as Lord? We all have "incense" to burn. Where are you burning yours?

Blessings,
Pastor O

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