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Great Themes of the Bible
In 1519 Spanish explorer Cortez landed at Vera Cruz to begin his conquest of Mexico with only 700 men. Legend has it that before they set off Cortez ordered the ships burned and made his men to watch their only means of retreat sink to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. There was now only one direction they could take.
Commitments are fast becoming outdated. People are reluctant to make commitments without having loopholes built in. We live in a world where long-term commitments are no longer wanted or desired. This is true in marriage, work, and even church.
Today we fear commitments and live by the creed, “I want to keep my options open.” We don’t want to get to the end of the buffet line only to find out we have no more room for cake and ice crème.
Because people don’t want to make commitments, they’re missing out on building a great life for themselves and their families. When we make a commitment we’re choosing how we want to live and what we want to invest our lives in.
The sad reality is that a lot of those who attend church will never be seen in two to five years. Some will leave town, others will attend other churches, but the majority won’t be found in any church because they didn’t or wouldn’t fully commit to the journey.
They refuse to burn the ships in the harbor, and so when things get tough or uncomfortable they retreat to the comfort of the ships and the old land, or the life they left behind.
Today’s churches are filled with casual Christians, those whom the Lord calls half-baked cakes of bread.
“The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake!” (Hosea 7:8 NLT)
Hosea is describing the northern ten tribes of Israel, who said they were following the Lord, yet all the while they were following the ways of the nations around them instead of the ways of God.
If we’re ever going to see a spiritual renewal, we first need to have that renewal in our hearts, and that takes a commitment, much like the commitment Joshua made.
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15 NKJV)
What I find fascinating about what Joshua is saying is that it comes at the end of his life, and he is now at the end of his life reaffirming the same commitment he made as a young man.
Joshua was fully committed to God early on, and he kept that commitment throughout his life. As a young man Joshua was fully committed to God, and he actually stayed at the tabernacle day and night, never leaving it while Israel was encamped.
Joshua kept that commitment to God even when facing possible backlash and death when the people rebelled against God taking the side of the ten spies who gave a bad report. Joshua stood on the promise of God no matter what others said and threatened to do.
Now after wandering for another 40 years in the wilderness, and leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land and securing the victory, Joshua had the people make a commitment to God asking them who they would serve, the Lord God or the gods of the lands about them.
And then Joshua makes this remarkable declaration.
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15b NKJV)
It was not some hidden decision where if things didn’t work out he could silently slip away with no one knowing the difference. It was open for all to hear and see.
When we come into that saving knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ, we are making the same commitment. We’re saying yes to Jesus, that we’ll follow Him, keep His word, and serve Him with the whole of our being, that is with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And so the natural question is what does this commitment look like?
It Involves Our Will
Let’s look at what Jesus said, and let’s also note that it was said when He knew His life and mission were at the end.
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39 NKJV)
Jesus understood the cost of commitment. He knew His commitment to God would cost Him His life, but He still kept true to His course and commitment and acceded to the Father’s will. In His prayer in the Garden He desired differently, but He gave up His desire and followed His Father’s desire.
Jesus turned over His decision making process to the Father. That’s what He meant when He prayed, “not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus was giving over His wants and desires and placing them squarely into the Father’s hands. He exchanged His wants and desires for that of the Father’s.
As believers in Jesus Christ, and therefore followers and disciples, we need to understand the cost of this commitment. Jesus mentioned what that cost would entail so that there would be no confusion when it comes to our commitment to Him.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)
To take up the cross was to walk towards one’s death. Therefore, as we come before the Lord and say we’re followers of Jesus, the Lord needs this same commitment from us.
It Involves Our Finances
“Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10 NKJV)
God’s people were commanded to give to the Lord the “firstfruits,” which not only meant the first of what they produced, but it also meant giving to God what was the best. This is what Jesus gave, the best, and it’s seen when Jesus is called the firstfruits from the dead by the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.
Solomon was saying that God’s people were to give God not only the first and the best. But Solomon also made the connection between our giving and God’s blessing. In other words, we can’t ask God to supernaturally bless us when we’re not following His way.
Jesus speaks of such blessing when he says to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and then all our needs would be supplied according to His riches and glory, Matthew 6:33.
But it really all boils down to our motives. Our giving should be from hearts that are full of God’s love. Our giving should be one of the ways we put God’s love into action. It’s out of our love for God that we give, and not for any gain we can receive in return.
It Involves Our Agendas
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)
Let’s take a moment and unpack this verse
Solomon says we’re to trust the Lord with all our hearts. This word, “trust,” means to cling to and lean upon. We need to cling to and lean upon the Lord with the whole of our hearts. We’re to place all our hopes and dreams in Him, and lean hard into Jesus for our lives.
Next Solomon says we’re not to lean upon our own understanding, that is, we’re not to rely upon our own judgment concerning the events that happen in our lives. We’re not to rely upon our own plans, nor are we to base our decisions upon our own take of the situations we face.
We’re then to acknowledge Him in all our ways. To “acknowledge” in the Hebrew doesn’t mean to acknowledge God’s presence, rather it means to know someone or something on an intimate basis, like a husband or wife is to know his or her spouse.
But here’s the kicker, such intimacy can only happen when we purpose to spend time with the other person. Someone once said that if we spend as much time with our spouses as we do with God, then the divorce rate would dramatically rise. We therefore need to spend more time with God.
When we trust the Lord with the whole of who we are, and no longer try to do it ourselves, and when we take the time to know exactly who God is, then He’ll direct our paths, that is, He’ll make His agenda our own.
It Involves Our Unity
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15b NKJV)
Joshua was talking about his own family, but when we speak of family we’re talking about the family unit, and as believers in Jesus Christ we’re all a part of the Lord’s family. God is our heavenly Father, and we are His children.
We’re the household of God; therefore, our commitment should be not only to our physical family, but also to our spiritual family, that together we’re to serve God.
The Bible continually talks about our need to be unified, and talks a lot about the blessings that come through such unity, but it also speaks strongly to those who would cause division and strife.
One of the seven things God hates are those who cause division and discord, Proverbs 6:16-19. And we can see why through what Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.” (Luke 11:17 NKJV)
And so the Apostle Paul says,
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace … until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:3, 13 NIV)
And when there is unity, then God’s blessings will flow.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.” (Psalm 133:1-2 NKJV)
This was the testimony of the first church.
“Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all. And with great strength and ability and power the apostles delivered their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace (loving-kindness and favor and goodwill) rested richly upon them all.” (Acts 4:32-33 AMP)
It was such a commitment to unity in serving God by serving one another with their finances and agendas that saw the first church grow so dramatically and produced a revival that has been and still is the desire of the church.
Our commitment to God and to His Word, will, and way is then key to our living our lives for Christ. Our success in this life hinges then upon our commitment of our wills, our finances and agendas, and our being unified with others in the body of Christ.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study