Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Commitment


I am going on vacation next week and this week is a busy time of preparation.  This will probably be my last post until next week if I do have the chance to post while I am away.  I hope so as I hope to have time to spend in prayer and I would love to share.  The prayer is a common one, for me, my family, our direction, and my direction.  I hope that this time away serves as not just a vacation but also a retreat.  Before I sign off for a bit, though, I wanted to take a moment to consider something that am hoping to be a large part of my prayers while I am away.  That thing I want to consider is commitment.  Jesus summed up commitment in a beautiful way. 
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."   Matthew 16:24-25 NKJV
This passage is not taught often enough in our churches today.  If anything, many of our churches avoid it like the plague.  They love to talk about wonderful promises never made and perversions of ones that are made, but they never talk about commitment.  We learn a lot about receiving blessings and favor but not often enough do we learn how to give.  We are not called to be spiritual mooches, but to be in a two-way committed relationship with our Lord.  It is true, there are many wonderful blessings of God in this life, but those blessings are not to elevate the self we are to deny or the flesh we are to crucify.  God does not contradict Himself by His word or by His blessings.  For example, God tells us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, which is not compatible with the idea of that God is going to lavish us with treasures while we are on earth.  Surely some Christians are rich, but there are many others who are even more committed and who live in poverty.  Very rarely, though, do we hear a good message on commitment. 

Commitment is peculiar.  It really is the one thing we can offer to God.  We have no possessions outside what God has allowed us to have.  We have no skill that God did not give us and that God can give to anyone He desires, even a donkey.  We have no righteousness apart from Jesus.  We have nothing, except us, to give to God.  Life would be so much easier if God just took away our free will, but that would take away our ability to commit ourselves to God.  Commitment must come from us, from our own choice to follow after Him, otherwise it is not commitment. 

This idea of choosing to commit ourselves to God is very scriptural.  Coming to Jesus does not make us robot followers of our Lord, it only frees us to make the choice to follow Him.  That is why the Bible lays out the choice we have so many times on choosing to present ourselves to follow sin or to follow Jesus.  This is why Paul calls himself and us bondservants.  Bondservants were slaves by choice.  The commitment ceremony for them was having their ears pierced, and not in the gentler  more sterile way we do it today.  It truly was commitment.  Thankfully for us, Jesus was pierced so we do not have to be, but that does not change the choice we face to commit ourselves to Jesus or to commit ourselves to the flesh. 

The Bible also makes it clear that we can not choose both.  One can not have two masters, plain and simple.  Marriage is an earthly picture of our relationship to Jesus Christ and in that it makes a wonderful example.  If you are a spouse and you are committed to your husband or wife just about all of the time, but have the need to sleep with someone else every so often, would you consider that to be committed?  Of course not, that is adultery.  If you sleep around, even if only once a year, you are an adulterer.  The same can be said whenever we choose to follow the flesh instead of following after Jesus.  We are committing adultery on our Groom.  If this is not right with our earthly spouses, then why do we act like it is alright with our Lord?  Yes, I know Jesus will not divorce us as He promises to never leave or forsake us, but does that make it any better?  Think about it: If a wife had a husband that loved her so very much that no matter what she did, no matter how bad she hurt him, no matter how many times she committed adultery, that he would never even consider divorce her, and the wife took advantage of that to do whatever she wanted, what would you say about her?  Anyone with any bit of decency would be shocked at how bad she treated him.  So then why do we do this to our Lord whenever we choose sin over Him? 

I think the theme that underscores most of my writing is commitment. I know some things I write are not popular, but I did not start this blog to win any popularity contests.  Commitment takes sacrifice and being a committed Christian means sacrificing many things that are pleasurable to the flesh.  It does not always make for many followers, but surprisingly this blog has many people from all over the world who read it.  Personally, I would love to hear from you all.  Maybe there are people from all over the world who read it because more and more preachers are moving away from commitment when that is all that so many of us desire to do.  Jesus tells us to make disciples of all nations, and a disciple is someone committed to following Jesus.  You can not make disciples without teaching commitment.  You can only make wandering converts hoping for direction. 

And so, before I sign off for vacation, I urge you to all take this time and evaluate your commitment.  Can you truly call yourself committed?  We like to say we are, but does your life reflect it?  Can an athlete say that he or she is committed to being the best when they choose leisure over practice?  Can a person who is overweight claim they are committed to losing weight when they choose a cheeseburger over a salad?  Can a person claim they are committed to their job when they are constantly seeking out another job?  Can a Christian call his or her self committed if they routinely choose sin over righteousness? 

Following after Jesus means following a path rejected by the world.  The world tells you to let loose, get drunk, and party.  The Bible tells us that is sin.  The world tells us that gossip is entertainment and has even built an industry around it.  The Bible tells us that is sin.  The world tells us that fornication is a normal part of life.   The Bible tells us that is sin.  Commitment to God means being committed to seeking after righteousness and fleeing from sin.  Being committed to God means sacrificing fleshly pleasures for spiritual blessings.  Being committed to God means being a Christian, the light and salt of the earth, an ambassador of the kingdom of God, and a bondservant of Jesus Christ all day every day.  I know we will make mistakes and I know we will all mess up at times, but commitment means getting back up and seeking after God again.  And, finally, commitment means that all that we have, our possessions, our bodies, and even our lives, belong to Jesus for His purposes and not our own.  Some may think that this level of sacrifice is extreme; however, the Bible only calls it reasonable.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your reasonable service.  Romans 12:1 NKJV

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