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Building God’s House
“Building A Committed Life”
In last week’s message on living a sacrificial life, I touched on the idea of commitment, which is also an important part of discipleship. It is building up the house of God within us by building a life of commitment.
With all the volatility in today’s market, with all the ups and downs and wild swings that dominate the headlines, many investors are desperately trying to figure out how to invest their money in order to maximize their return on investment. So they pull out of one fund and place it in another. They pull out of the stock market and put their monies into the bond market, or into commodities like oil, gold, or silver.
However, when talking to investment counselors and those who have succeeded in building up their finances, they basically give the same advice, “Ignore the daily ups and downs and commit to the long term.” And while they’re talking about the financial markets, this advice can just as easily be about life.
Long-term commitments pay off.
The sad thing, however, is that technology is speeding up the pace of change so much that people are reluctant to make any commitments. We don’t want to commit to a long-term career, a long-term investment, or marriage. We don’t want to commit to anything, including the church.
This attitude may best be summed up in this statement, “I want to keep my options open.” Most people don’t want to feel tied down by making a long-term commitment, because to them, life is one big buffet, and they don’t want to get to the end of the line with their plate filled with the wrong stuff.
This is a tragic philosophy to live by, because life cannot be lived withoutmaking commitments. You can’t buy a house, or rent an apartment without making a commitment. You can’t get married without making a commitment. You can’t even get a drivers license without making some sort of commitment.
Nothing great in life happens without making a commitment. Commitments give our lives direction and purpose, and if we choose not to make commitments we’ll find ourselves drifting with our lives off purpose and out of focus.
Today, I’d like to look at the power, price, pitfalls, and the payoffs of commitment.
The Powerof Commitment
Nothing affects our lives more than the commitments we choose to make. Commitments have three profound, powerful affects on our lives.
1. Commitments RevealOur Values
They show that what we think is important. They show what we value and love. There is no such thing as love without commitment. If someone says, “I love you,” and they’re not willing to commit to you, then they don’t love you.
If we say that Jesus is important to us. If we say that we love Jesus, but we don’t spend time with Him in His word and in prayer, then it reveals that we really don’t consider our relationship with Him to be important.
An uncommitted life means that nothing is important. If we don’t make any commitments, we’re saying that the only thing important to us is us. Therefore, an uncommitted life is a selfish life.
2. Commitments ShapeOur Lives
We become whatever we’re committed to. Our life is the sum total of our commitments. If we believe that making money is the most important thing, then our lives are going to be shaped by that. If we believe that being well liked and popular is important, and having a good time is important, then that will shape our lives.
Once we choose our commitments, our character follows. Therefore, we need to choose our commitments carefully. Our commitments not only show our values, but they also shape our lives.
3. Commitments DetermineOur Destinies
Our destinies are determined by the commitments we make. The commitments we make not only determine our present destinies, but our eternal ones as well. Our destinies, therefore, need to center upon the commitment we make to Jesus Christ.
The greatest commitment we can make is to Jesus Christ, where we make Him Savior and Lord. It’s a commitment that will determine our eternal destiny, that is, where we’re going to spend eternity, and when we make this commitment to Jesus Christ, then our eternal destiny will be in heaven. Jesus makes it clear that there is no other way to heaven.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father expect through Me” (Jn. 14:6).
The Priceof Commitment
There is a price to this commitment we make to Jesus. This commitment will cost.
Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. … For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”(Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV)
It’s this last sentence, or question, that I’d like to focus upon. “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
It’s an important question, because every day we’re exchanging our life for something. Some people exchange their lives for entertainment. Others exchange their lives for recreation and pleasure. And then there are those who exchange their lives for alcohol and drugs.
Those who are wise, however, use their time wisely. Wise people plan how they’re going to exchange their life. It’s called a commitment. When we make a commitment we’re choosing how we’re going to invest our lives. We’re choosing how we’re going to spend our time and resources.
Every choice we make, therefore, has consequences. It may seem to be an insignificant choice at the moment, but when we add it to all the rest, they become quite significant. So, it’s important that we learn to make wise commitments, because these commitments determine our choices.
When it comes to the cost of our commitment, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush, in Matthew 16:24. He said that anyone who follows Him, who makes that commitment, has to deny themselves and take up his or her cross and follow.
The cost of this commitment is also seen when Jesus said, “If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, more than your own life.” (Luke 14:26 NLT)
Jesus makes it clear about the cost of following Him. He’s saying we have to place Him first.
Unfortunately, people look at their life as a pie, and Jesus is just a slice of that pie. They have a career slice, a relationship slice, goals, ambitions, and dream slices, and then they have their Jesus slice.
But Jesus says, “I don’t want to be a slice of your life. I want to be the whole of your life.”
And so, if Jesus isn’t Lord of all, then He’s not Lord at all. Being a Christian is either all or nothing. Ladies, you understand this. There’s no such thing as being semi-pregnant. Either you’re pregnant or you’re not. Therefore, either Jesus is Lord of our lives, or He’s not.
And so, Jesus wants us to put Him first. How do we do that?
1. Give Him The First Thought
“In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5:3 NIV)
The first thing we should be doing in the morning is directing our thoughts towards God, even before we roll out of bed. When we get up in the morning it should be, “Good Morning Lord,” and not “Good Lord, it’s morning.”
When we talk with God before anyone else, and read God’s word, God’s good news, before we read the world’s bad news, it will help keep us focused and properly aligned.
It’s no wonder we’re stressed out. Instead of waking up to the Lord, we wake up to the alarm clock. We’re waking up alarmed. Then we read or watch all the bad news going on in our world, and we wonder why we feel so bad for the rest of the day.
So, our first thoughts should be about God and His good news.
2. Give Him The First Day
Give God the first day of every week. This is what the disciples and first church did.
In Acts 20:8, Luke said,“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul … spoke to them.”
The reason we worship the Lord on Sunday, the first day of the week, and not the Sabbath, or the last day of the week, is because this is the day that Christ rose from the dead. It was on the Feast of First Fruits, which was the first day of the week following Passover.
I believe that the other reason is what we’re talking about this morning, and that is placing God first in every area and aspect of our lives. And part of that is giving to Him the very first of our time by giving to Him the very first day of the week.
3. Give Him The First Ten Percent
“Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.” (Proverbs 3:9 NKJV)
This is called the tithe. The tithe means ten percent. One of the ways we show God that He is first is to give Him the first of what He has given to us. Give Him that first ten percent of what we make instead of what’s left over after the bills are paid.
Giving God the tithe not only to shows God our gratitude for the past, but it keeps our priorities straight in the present, and shows our faith in Him for the future.
If we really want to know what’s important, what we really love and are committed to, then we need to look at where we’re spending our money. If God is first in our lives, then He should be first in our time and checkbooks.
Now, there are promises attached to this commitment of the tithe. In Malachi, God tells us that when we give the tithe that His promise is to open the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing beyond belief. But not only that, when we give our tithe, then God promises to remove the destroyer from our midst.
But giving the tithe isn’t just so that we can get something better back from God; it’s an act of worship, which is why we do it as a part of our worship service.
The Pitfallsof Commitment
There are several things that will cause us to stumble along the way in our commitment to Jesus, and what I desire most is for people to make it to heaven and hear Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
I say this is because in a couple of years there are some that aren’t going to be here. And I’m not just talking about being at this church, but in any church, and that’s because they will no longer be walking with the Lord.
Over all my years of being an elder and pastor, I’ve seen this over and over again. The reason people depart from the faith is because while they may have made a decision for Christ, they never became committed to Him. Jesus was just a slice in their life, not the entirety of their life.
Their commitment wasn’t deep.
Jesus actually foretold this in His Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20). When our commitment to God doesn’t go deep into our hearts it can either be plucked up by Satan, blown away by life’s difficulties, or choked off by the cares and concerns of this world.
And so, when tough time comes, convenient Christianity goes right out the door along with the person. What are these Pitfalls?
What happens is that we lose our focus.
What I find humorous is that as I was thinking and writing about this pitfall, someone hacked or cloned my Facebook account. Immediately I got a phone call, e-mails, and Facebook messenger signals. Because of this “distraction,” I wasn’t able to get back to dealing with this pitfall until later. I just had to laugh when it all happened, and I think it kind of ticked off Satan when I did.
Going back to the parable of the Sower, it talks about how the cares and concerns of this world chokes out God’s word and thus our commitment.
“And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19 NKJV)
Now there’s nothing wrong with wealth, success, or nice things, but they’re not the most important things in life. Our quest for such things is not why God placed us here. We should never allow what the world considers to be important bump God out of first place. Don’t let good things get in the way of the best thing, which is our relationship with Jesus Christ, which means that the good things are often times the distractions.
When we become complacent, we start living off past commitments and don’t make new ones. Have we updated our commitment to the Lord, or are we still living in what we’ve done in the past?
When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan they were immediately confronted with the city and walls of Jericho, the most fortified city of that day. It was considered impenetrable. Yet, by faith they marched around the city without understanding how God was going to help them win. But they obeyed and shouted, and the walls came tumbling down.
A few days later they went to the next city, a small Podunk town called Ai, but they had now become complacent. It says when they spied out the city’s fortifications they said, “It’s a small city and it won’t take more than a few thousand men to destroy it.” In the end, Israel was soundly defeated by Ai, not once but twice. They got complacent and got clobbered.
It’s easy to get complacent, never stretching our faith. We don’t read God’s word or pray like we use to, and as a result we stop growing spiritually, and start spiritually withering away.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11 NIV)
The New Living Translation is a little more blunt. It says, “Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically” (Romans 12:11 NLT). We need to keep the spiritual fires burning brightly.
The Payoffof Commitment
We’ve looked at the power, price, and pitfalls of commitment. What then is the payoff? Yes, there is a price to be paid, but the payoff is greater.
In the short term, the payoff is receiving what we need in this life to live.
Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
The first payoff involves our life here on earth. When we are wholly and totally committed to Jesus Christ, we no longer have to worry, because He’ll assume responsibility for our needs. But God doesn’t assume that responsibility when we’re half, partially, or uncommitted. What we need to understand is that God doesn’t owe us anything. Instead, it’s by His grace He provides when we give our lives totally to Him.
In ancient Rome there were actually more slaves than there were free people. Many free people voluntarily sold themselves into slavery as servants. The reason was that by law the master had to take care of all the servant’s needs. So, when they sold themselves to a good master, that master took responsibility for their food, clothing, medical care, retirement, and education. Their every need was taken care of.
When we come to Jesus Christ, making Him our Savior and Lord, He then becomes our master, and we His servants. And the short term payoff is that He’ll take care of all our needs when we make our commitment to Him.
The long-term payoff is heaven. Jesus speaks of this in the parable of the talents
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.’” (Matthew 25:23 NIV)
When we make that commitment to Jesus Christ, using faithfully what God has given to us as His servants, then God will celebrate with us in heaven.
What kind of commitment, and what kind of life are we going to live? Unfortunately, most of us are over committed, and as a result we’re making halfhearted commitments to a lot of things rather than being totally committed to the one that really matters, our relationship with Jesus Christ.
God is looking for people to bless and to use for His purposes in this world. The one requirement is a fully committed heart, and a life given wholly over to Him.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV)
Let’s make it our goal to be fully committed to God. It’s the wisest investment we’ll ever make.
It doesn’t take great people to do great things. It just takes committed people. When we become deeply committed to Jesus Christ in this shallow everything goes world, then God will step in and bless our socks off.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study