A“THE CHRISTIAN’S COMMITMENT – TO LIVE FOR HIM”
A chicken and a pig were walking down the street one morning when they saw some poor children who looked as if they hadn’t eaten anything in days. Moved with com-passion, the chicken said to the pig, “I have a great idea! Let’s give those children a nice hot breakfast of eggs and bacon.” The pig contemplated the chicken’s suggestion for a moment and said, “Well, for you, that would be a lovely contribution, but for me, it would be a total commitment.”
Sadly, when it comes to our Christian lives, many of us are chickens. We’re pretty good at making contributions. We say, “It really isn’t convenient, but I’ll make a small temporary contribution and leave a few eggs.” But is that true Christian commitment? Is that what Jesus wants from us – a temporary inconvenience every once in a while? Is that what Jesus died for?
Jesus’ death is the ultimate illustration of commitment. That’s what God wants to pro-duce in us. If the chicken and the pig had fed those poor children, the chicken would have walked away after her contribution, but the pig would have laid down his life. The chicken would have been involved, but the pig would have been committed.
Another illustration that most of us over the age of fifty can relate to was called “going steady.” Nobody goes steady anymore! You remember – the exchange of class rings. A guy wearing his girlfriend’s ring on his pinkie; a girl wearing her boyfriend’s ring on a chain around her neck or on her ring finger wrapped with yarn, so it wouldn’t fall off.
Going steady was a sign of a certain commitment made to someone else. This was true at least until the almost inevitable and dreaded “breakup.” But before the breakup, going steady assured all involved they would at least have dates on the weekend. Now to be sure, some of those who “went steady” saw that blossom into a life-long commitment to each other. But for most of us going steady was temporary.
But things have changed. A few years ago the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel published an article about the dating habits of young people today. Many of them are only doing “first dates” on week nights. One young woman was quoted as saying, “This way, you haven’t lost a very precious Saturday night to a ‘maybe.’” The article went on to say, “…the shift to week night dating is more than an issue of time management… it’s a reflection of a society growing increasingly afraid to commit to anything.”
It seems people want their freedom above all else. They see personal commitment as somehow detrimental to that freedom. If all this is an accurate assessment of the way many young people think today, is it any wonder that commitments to the two institutions established by God are suffering from a lack of commitment today as well? What are the institutions established by God? There are two.
The first – established in Genesis 2 – is marriage between one man and one woman for life. The second – established in Acts 2 – is the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s a well-known fact that half of all marriages end in divorce. But it’s worse than that. How many couples live together today without marriage because they refuse to make that commitment to each other. Statistically, those breakups aren’t considered divorces.
We, as Bible-believing Christians, are affected by the society around us. The cliché is, “We’re in the world, we’re not of the world,” but the world affects us and our thinking far more than most of us are willing to admit. While most Bible-believing Christians remain committed to their marriages, there are two things being seen in the church today that were not at all common even just a generation ago.
1. The Christian’s commitment to regular church attendance is not what it used to be.
In times past Sunday morning was almost always reserved for God and for God’s people. But today there are so many secular activities on Sunday mornings that, for many believers, church is no longer a priority. Just try to get into this parking lot when basketball and soccer tournaments are held here on Sunday mornings.
2. The Christian’s commitment to a specific body of believers has become secondary.
Church membership means commitment, and many Christians simply won’t give up what they perceive as their personal freedoms to join together with, and commit themselves to, a group of like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ.
It’s bad enough when a society refuses to commit to God’s established institutions, to marriage and to the church. But today, as God’s own people begin to waver and even see those commitments begin to fade away, then the traditional family and the Christian church find themselves in serious trouble.
Look around you. Where is the commitment to marriage and the church? Do you see the family and the church being strengthened in this country today? You most certainly do not! On the contrary, the popular culture of our day is far more likely to denigrate and ridicule marriage and any kind of serious commitment to the church than it is to embrace or promote them.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about marriage or the church, a serious commitment to these institutions results in things like service, selflessness, sacrifice, and personal surrender. But those things aren’t popular subjects today, even among many of those who profess Christ. Going back to the opening example, it’s hard enough to get the chickens to contribute the eggs, let alone to get the pigs to contribute themselves.
Christian commitment – our marriages need it and our churches need it! Neither of these God-ordained institutions can survive without it. So let’s begin by looking at the biblical principle behind Christian commitment. Turn with me to…
*Romans 6:13, 19
13 …do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
It is only when we consciously and deliberately give ourselves to God that we can have any hope of living a committed Christian life. Romans 6 is about our sanctification, about our becoming holy. Becoming sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit is how God prepares us for eternity in His presence. We present ourselves to God and He does His work in us.
Chances are that when you think of presenting something, you picture a sort of a putting forth; something bestowed; a “from me to you” kind of thing. But here the meaning is different. It isn’t primarily a putting forth, an aggressive action. Rather, it’s more like pulling back, a submissive action. It has everything to do with humility.
When we present ourselves to Christ, we literally turn ourselves over to Him. We can’t make ourselves holy. Therefore, we give ourselves to Him and He makes us holy. We humble ourselves, we make Him our master, and in the process, we selflessly and sacrificially make ourselves available for service. We commit – He sanctifies.
Do you see it? This is personal surrender. It is total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hymnal contains over seventy hymns and songs that, in one way or another, speak of commitment and obedience. One of those that we often sing is “I Surrender All.” Listen as I read verses 1 and 4.
“All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power, Let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”
This is good theology. “…all to Him I freely give,” says, “Everything I have I give to God – no strings.” “…Lord, I give myself to Thee,” says, “Everything I am I give to God – no strings.”
Service, selflessness, sacrifice, and personal surrender are all proof of our commitment to the One who saved us. If Jesus is our Master, then there is no room for any other. In Matthew 6:24 He said, “No on can serve two masters;
for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money).”
It is recognition of this truth – that we are in Jesus and He is in us – that we are pre-pared to begin the life-long journey of being sanctified, of being made holy.
Paul speaks of a God-pleasing sacrifice in his letter to the church at Philippi. The Christians there have exercised good stewardship, and they have demonstrated Chris-tian commitment to Paul and consequently, to God. The apostle writes to the church and says in…
18 But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
This is an example of Christian commitment to God and to His work resulting in good stewardship. These things are acceptable to God. Let me ask you a question. In light of all that God has done for you, isn’t it only reasonable that you would want to give yourself back to Him? Or put another way, in light of all that God has done for you, isn’t it unreasonable that you would not want to give yourself back to Him?
Granted, giving of ourselves costs something. But isn’t it supposed to? Isn’t Christ our example? True God-honoring worship must involve sacrifice. There is a wonderful example of such sacrifice in the OT. When King David confessed his sin of disobedience, God told him to build an altar. It was to be built on the spot where David’s son, Solomon, would later build the temple. But the land belonged to a Jebusite named Araunah. David attempted to buy the land, but Araunah wouldn’t sell it. On the contrary, he wanted to give it to David, his king.
2 Samuel 24:24
24 However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings (sacrifices) to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.”
Think about that for just a minute. “I will not offer my God anything that costs me nothing.” Commitment! Earlier we talked about the institutions God created (marriage and the church) as two things to which God calls us to commit ourselves. God never intended for His institutions, to be things about which we make decisions without making the corresponding commitments. For example…
• Don’t make a decision to live with “your significant other” unless you are willing to commit to him or to her in Christian marriage.
You cannot have a godly relationship without a personal commitment.
• Don’t make a decision to loosely attach yourself to a local assembly of believers unless you are willing to commit yourself to them.
You cannot have a properly functioning church without personal commitments.
• Don’t make what is commonly called a “decision for Christ” unless you are willing to commit your life, the truth you know about Him, your testimony, your time, your talents, your things, your treasure, and yourself to Him.
And despite the popular theological position that says simply believing in the historic Jesus results in eternal salvation, I tell you plainly that…
You cannot be truly saved without a personal commitment to Christ.
I am fully aware that some would say, “Wait a minute, you’re preaching ‘Lordship salvation.’” No, I’m preaching the Bible. Nowhere does the Bible speak of “decisions for Christ.” So a so-called “decision for Christ,” without a corresponding commitment to Him, will get you nowhere – kind of like a new Mercedes-Benz with an empty gas tank. It may be nice to sit in, but you aren’t going anywhere.
R. A. Torrey, early twentieth century theologian and President of Moody Bible Institute, said, “The Lordship of Christ is the goal of evangelism.”
Winston Arn, of the Institute for American Church Growth, speaking on the failure of contemporary methods of evangelism has said this… “Nowhere in Scripture is the concept for ‘decisions’ found. The bottom line is a transformed life and an active Christian – a disciple… a follower.”
But some would still argue, “Since salvation is by believing in Christ, any requirement to follow Christ becomes a work, and is therefore, not a requirement for salvation.” But go with me to a well-known incident in Christ’s ministry while He was here on earth. We know it as the story of the rich young ruler. By the way, this is not a parable. This is Matthew’s report of an actual incident.
We’ve looked at the principle. Now let’s look at an example.
16 And behold, one came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”
17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Jesus is telling Him that the standard for obtaining eternal life is absolute perfection. Since the Ten Commandments are a reflection of God’s absolute perfection, Jesus is saying to him, “Be perfect just like God is perfect.”
But the young man doesn’t “get it,” does he? He is spiritually bankrupt, and he doesn’t even know it.
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;
19 honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as your-self.”
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”
Self-righteousness just oozes out of him. He refuses to admit his sin or worse, he does not even acknowledge it. But notice that in his refusal, he still recognizes that he does not have salvation.
Listen, please. This is so important. This rich young ruler believes in Jesus, but he has no saving faith. True faith, saving faith, would lead him to surrender himself to Christ and would finally lead to Christian commitment as Scripture defines it. But there is no saving faith in him. Jesus exposes his heart for what it really is. What is he still lacking? Commitment! He is saying, “Oh, I believe in You, just don’t expect anything from me. “Don’t expect me to act on that belief.” So…
21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (“You already believe – now do something about it!”)
22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.
Willingness to commit to Christ? It’s not there! He was a “believer,” but he was lost.
“…he went away grieved.” And don’t miss this: This young man was already religious. He wanted a Savior, but only as long as it didn’t cost him anything. He wanted a Savior, but not a Lord. Do you know anybody like the rich young ruler?
• He was unwilling to become selfless for Christ.
• He was unwilling to sacrifice for Christ.
• He was unwilling to serve Christ.
• He was unwilling to surrender himself to Christ.
This so-called “believer,” this rich young ruler, presents us with a graphic illustration of so many in the church today. They want a Savior. They want the benefits of salvation. They want it all, as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. Their lives reflect a form of belief in Jesus that asks for nothing in return. But there’s a problem with that. The Bible does not teach that kind of belief, because that kind of belief does not lead to salvation. It only leads to eternal destruction in hell.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me,
you who practice lawlessness.’” (Ask, “Does anyone in hell ‘believe’ in Jesus?”)
Going back to our opening story – these are the ones who will drop off a few eggs now and then, but the very thought of providing some of the bacon is not even on their radar.
What about the rich young ruler? The sad reality is this – there is no biblical record of him ever coming to faith in Christ. Could he have? Of course, he could have. But I suspect that if he came to saving faith, there would be some account of it in the NT. And it just isn’t there. If he was never saved, why was he never saved? He wanted Jesus on his terms, that’s why! Savior, but no Lord! Salvation, but no commitment to the Savior who does the saving!
You need to consider the ultimate consequence if you say to God, “Gimme the good stuff. Just don’t expect anything from me.” You may think you can have a Savior with-out having a Lord. But remember this – the Bible never presents Jesus as “Savior and Lord.” The Bible only presents Jesus as “Lord and Savior.”
*Matthew 22:36-40 (a Pharisee challenging Jesus)
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (the first four)
38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 “And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (the last six)
40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (the entire OT)
If you and I are going to genuinely love God and man, we must be totally committed to Jesus. We must be totally committed to obeying Him and His Word. We cannot truly love anyone unless we are totally committed to Jesus. We must identify with Him even to the point of His death on the cross. That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about in his letter to the churches in Galatia. Listen to him…
19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. (If I am truly saved then the old me is dead, and the Law has no more claim on me.)
20 “I (the old man) have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I (the old man) who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I (the new man) now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
21 “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness (salvation) comes though (obeying) the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
John MacArthur has said there are three unmistakable marks of a committed Christian. They are (1) an unending preoccupation with the glory of God, (2) an unfailing love for the children of God, and (3) an unswerving loyalty to the Son of God. I like that. It puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?
I want to close with an imaginary dialogue between Jesus and a young man who is looking for a Savior. It is paraphrased from an old Call to Discipleship magazine arti-cle written by evangelist Juan Carlos Ortiz back in 1975.
In the story the man finds Jesus and realizes that Jesus alone possesses the Pearl of Great Price. Within this pearl is found true happiness, joy, peace, healing, security and eternal salvation. The man marvels at the pearl and says…
Man: “I want that pearl. How much does it cost?”
Jesus: “It’s very costly, very dear.”
Man: “Yeah, but how much?”
Jesus: “It’s very expensive.”
Man: “Okay, it’s very expensive, but can I buy it?”
Jesus: “Yes, but it will cost you everything you have – no more… and no less.”
Man: “I’ll buy it.”
Jesus: “Well then, what do you have? Let’s write it down.”
Man: “I have $100,000 in the bank.”
Jesus: “Good, $100,000. What else?”
Man: “I have nothing else. That’s all I have.”
Jesus: “Have you nothing more?”
Man: “Well, I have a few dollars here in my pocket.”
Jesus: “How much?”
Man: “Let’s see: Forty, sixty, eighty, one hundred, one hundred ten, one hundred sixteen, one hundred seventeen – one hundred seventeen dollars.”
Jesus: “That’s fine. What else do you have?”
Man: “I have nothing else. That’s all I have.”
Jesus: “Where do you live?”
Man: “I live in my house.”
Jesus: “The house, too.”
Man: “Do You mean I must live in the garage?”
Jesus: “You have a garage? That, too. What else do you have?”
Man: “Do You mean I must live in my car?”
Jesus: “You have a car?”
Man: “I have two.”
Jesus: “Then both cars will become Mine. What else do you have?”
Man: “You have my money, my house, my garage, my cars. You have everything.”
Jesus: “What else do you have? Are you alone in this world?”
Man: “No. I have a wife and I have two children.”
Jesus: “Your wife and your children, too.”
Man: “Them too?”
Jesus: “Yes, everything you have. What else do you have?”
Man: “I have nothing else. That’s all I have. I am left alone now.”
Jesus: “Oh no, you have misunderstood Me. This pearl will cost you yourself as well. Everything! Everything becomes mine – your wife, your children, your home, your cars, your possessions, your money, your time, your talents, and you – everything.”
Then after a pause, Jesus said to the man. “And one more thing – once you have given them to Me, and after they are all mine, I will return them to you – if you will commit to be a good steward with all of them. “If you will make that commitment you may use and enjoy all of those things as long as you live, but never forget they are all mine, as are you. When I ask for any of the things you are using and enjoying, you must give them back to Me. Do you still want to buy this pearl?” ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Thus ends the narrative. Now the question for you and for me is the same. Do you still want the pearl? Or do you already have it?
If you do, or if you have, then let me urge you to recommit this day to your spouse, recommit this day to your family, recommit this day to your church, and recommit this day to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He has committed everything to you.
Please hear this. If you are not willing to commit all that you have to Him,
why would you expect Him to commit all that He has to you?
~ Pray ~
Pastor Jim Timms
Lighthouse Bible Church – Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – 262-949-1007 – www.lighthouselakegeneva.com