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Faithlife
Faithlife

Commitment in Measure

Notes & Transcripts
Introduction:
A Forbes article Titled, "Job Hopping Is the 'New Normal' for Millennials" records the affects of our younger generation's lack of commitment in the workforce. The article says that the average worker (in 2012) stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, but the expected tenure (so says the article) of the workforce's youngest employees is about half that. What has happened to loyalty today?
Ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would likely have about 15 - 20 jobs over the course of their professional lives!
But it is not just the Millennials that have a lack of faithfulness!
According to data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 - a survey of American people born during the 1957–1964 period that examined the marriage and divorce patterns of "baby boomers" up to age 46. This survey also collected detailed information on fertility and employment outlined by ethnicity, gender, education, income and so forth.
About 5 years ago they posted the results of their study. 85% of the surveyed, were married by age 46, and among those who married, a sizeable fraction, almost a third, were married more than once. The bulk of marriages occurred by age 28. Approximately 42% of marriages that took place between ages 15 and 46 ended in divorce by age 46. In the study, women were more likely to marry and to remarry than were men. In addition, marriages of women were more likely to end in divorce, as were marriages that began at younger ages. On average, women married at younger ages than men. The probability of divorce did not vary much across the ethnic groups. The chance of a marriage ending in divorce decreases as educational attainment/degrees rise: over half of the marriages among people who did not complete high school ended in divorce compared with approximately 30 percent of marriages among the college graduates.
Sadly, the statistics are near the same for Christians!
Transition & Title slide:
The question I pose before you this morning is this: Is our overall faithfulness, our commitment in all our areas in life, us here at Grace, any different than our surrounding culture's counterpart? So this morning I want to explore some biblical ideas on commitment that we may look in the mirror of scripture and see how we measure up. This passage this morning from Romans 12First off:
This first point might already be a given to us here, but still deserves attention. The scriptures are replete with exhortations to walk so close with God that total, radical commitment is nothing less than the expected life of the born-again believer. So it comes as no surprise that every author in the Bible commands the Christian in either direct or indirect ways to be committed to our Lord without reserve.
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One clear example from the O.T. come from Joshua:
Joshua 24:14 ESV
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
Serving takes sacrifice and sacrifice takes commitment. There is no clearer example, in my opinion, from the N.T. than my favorite verse of this radical commitment:
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This challenge from Paul is so radical, I (with other godly men) fear that it is too much to ask of the average nominal Christian. This is because Paul is calling us not to become comfortable in this world, not to be complacent in our Christian lives, and it remedies atrophy in or faith. Paul calls us to the highest level of devotion and costly dedication in our walk with God--this call is a call to excellence which is a quality our culture is quick to push off when it concerns our personal lives (it is sad that excellence is pushed hard in our professional lives, but is neglected in our personal lives).

1 a Address zI appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, ato present your bodies bas a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,

b Characterization which is your spiritual worship.2

2 a Command cDo not be conformed to this world,3

b Command but be transformed by dthe renewal of your mind,

c Purpose that by testing you may ediscern what is the will of God,

d Characterization what is good and acceptable and perfect.4

Paul, here, has just exposed rich theology in the first
Romans 12:1–2 (NA27)
Address= Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν (radical language to describe the intense level of commitment) ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ,
Characterization: τὴν λογικὴν (our call may be radical, but it is also reasonable) λατρείαν (worship/service) ὑμῶν·
Command= καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε (conformed) τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ (This age),
Second Command= ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς
Purpose= εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ,
Characterization= τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον.
Commands are found elsewhere! In 2 Chronicles, King Jehoshaphat commands the Levites, the priests of our YHWH:
2 Chronicles 19:9 ESV
And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart:
Jeremiah, as well as all the other Prophets, commands committed obedience for the sake of the chosen peoples' lives:
Jeremiah 38:20 ESV
Jeremiah said, “You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the LORD in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared.
And then in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul gives an exhortation that applies to Grace Baptist Church today:
1 Thessalonians 4:1 ESV
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
It only makes sense that you are most committed to that thing(s) you love & enjoy most. Dr. Marty Von once told the students, "to really find out what a person loves most of all, you just have to look at what this person usually does the first hour of their day." For instance, if this person usually uses the first hour just on getting himself/herself ready for the day, then it is likely that this person loves himself/herself the most. Or, if this person gets up and only does the bare minimum to ready himself/herself then shoots straight off to work within the hour, then it is probable that he/she is most committed to work. At this point you might say that this is not fair, since maybe you have to be to work really early in the morning and don't have time for anything else. But then I would challenge you that people are always willing to wake early for the things they have the greatest care for. Again, you could possibly be calling foul play and saying, "Wait, but I always do my 'devotions' at night before going to bed!" There is nothing wrong about that, but again I would challenge you with, "Why wait until the end of the day and let your time with God be the last thing you do rather than waking up afresh and having your time with God be the first thing on your mind and on your to-do list?" For others, it might be taking care of the kids first thing--which is honorable, unless the kids come before God. What are your priorities?
Charles Kingsley, a university professor and priest in the Church of England, once commented:
My Favorite Illustrations Possess or Possessed?

Possess or Possessed?

We seek religion that is real rather than a sham. Charles Kingsley remarked, “What I want is not to possess religion but to have a religion that shall possess me.”

This is what, I believe, Paul meant by "A living sacrifice" in v.1 and "be transformed" in v.2. The Christian faith is not a hobby - God is not a part of the Christian's life, rather God is the whole of the Christian being! He wants all of our lives. I fear that many Christians today think that their faith is a very important part (if not the most important part) of who they are rather than everything they are. God doesn't want a piece of what we own, He wants us to recognize that it is all His anyway and that whatever He may ask of us, whether it be our time or resources, He will richly provide--even if it takes faith! What is He asking of you?
We are to be a "living sacrifice" an active sacrifice! Willing to spend and be spent for the Glory of our God!
We also see that it is the cooperative work of God within us and our free will that works in unity to bring about this level of loyalty:
Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
So, to take obedience to its proper degree:
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks in such a way on obedience and love, that no one could argue proper interpretation. Jesus says:
John 14:15 ESV
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
How do we remain in love with the Christ?
John 15:10 ESV
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
So do the Apostles confirm commitment's connection to obedience:
Romans 6:17 ESV
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Then the Apostles in Act are throne into prison and right after being divinely freed from prison (not by any human), they stand in front of the Sanhedrin and boldy say:
Acts 5:29 ESV
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
This is commitment to, in a human sense, escape from jail. Then, stand before those who threw you in jail and essentially say, "You know that one reason that you threw us in jail for? Well, we are going to continue doing it!"
And then, Paul again, in a very unique way, connects total commitment with obedience to the extreme end of justification:
Romans 2:13 ESV
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
This passage here in Romans 2 is very interesting and deserves a lot further study. But for our purposes today, this passage shows total obedience takes extreme commitment which has a direct relation to salvation/justification.
Faithful Church attendance is tantamount to loving Christ.
Christ built the Church,
Christ grew the Church,
Christ ordained the Church,
Christ heads the Church,
and Christ died for the Church.
The committed believer should never fall short in putting forth complete excellence in exercising his/her spiritual gifts within the ministries of the church-- and without grudge or complaint. In fact, our excellence should not be from exhaustive efforts, but by a love response immersed in eagerness & zeal. Our measure of love correlates directly to how motivated we are to eagerly serve in the church.
Usually, at this point in a discussion about going to church, the unfaithful ask, "Well, isn't it possible to be a Christian without attending a church?"
Someone came up with this appropriate answer: "Yes, it is possible. It is something like being:
A student who will not go to school.
A soldier who will not join an army.
A citizen who does not pay taxes or vote.
A salesman with no customers.
An explorer with no base camp.
A seaman on a ship without a crew.
A businessman on a deserted island.
An author without readers.
A tuba player without an orchestra.
A parent without a family.
A football player without a team.
A politician who is a hermit.
A scientist who does not share his findings.
A bee without a hive.
Now, I must be careful with this next point, because God does not owe us anything. It's not that we only do the Lord's work to receive blessings, as if we're trying to make a business deal with the Lord of the universe; rather, God is pleased to bless us as we commit our total being to Him.
Deuteronomy 30:20 ESV
loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Here we see two major blessings to the Israelites: longevity & Land! But these blessings were contingent on the commitment of the nation.
Then a sample from the wisdom literature:
Proverbs 16:3 ESV
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
And then, from the end of the N.T. we see that we, here, will receive crowns for our commitment-- especially in the face of severe persecution:
Revelation 2:10 ESV
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
This is directed at the Church in Smyrna, and of all the churches addressed in chapters 2 & 3, Smyrna was not indicted by Jesus for a sin problem.
Ge 22:17–18; Heb 11:8
Genesis 22:17–18 ESV
I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Hebrews 11:8 ESV
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
1 Kings 15:4–5 ESV
Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.
Right after the evil King Ahaz and just before Manasseh was the son of Ahaz, King Hezekiah (in the Southern Kingdom, Judah). Hezekiah turned the idolatry of other gods left over from his father into pure worship of the true God. The dedication to do such a thing, turn a whole nation back to YHWH, would take unwavering commitment.
2 Ki 20:3; 2 Ch 31:20
2 Kings 20:3 ESV
“Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
2 Chronicles 31:20 ESV
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God.
Faithful, radical, commitment transcends circumstances or situations
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 1500 As Usual with Wesley

A lady once asked John Wesley that suppose he were to know that he would die at 12:00 midnight tomorrow, how would he spend the intervening time. His reply: “Why madam, just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning; after that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I would then go to Rev. Martin’s house, who expects to entertain me, talk and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at 10 o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in Glory.”

Our call to unwavering dedication is matched by the One who calls us:
Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
And this is the bases on which our calling is on the one hand so radical, but yet so logical/reasonable: God's love & faithfulness is unmatched & His commitment transcends our lifespans to our kids and grand-kids!
Conclusion
If what I say is an accurate indictment of American Christianity, and if what I have said resonates with you personally; then how ought we go forward from a partial commitment to a full abandon of ourselves to the work of the ministry?
Repentance & surrender - Really, these two go hand in hand, but these are two answers to repairing a right response to what God deserves from us and what God expects from us.
Repentance - we must turn away from apathy and indifference and turn to the Living God with the sacrifice of yourself
Apathy toward the ministries of the church and toward evangelism
indifference to the world around you-- to the empty seats in here and the decadent neighbors that surround your property.
Surrender - a full surrender of our lives to whatever God would have. Is God calling you to lead? then lead in the church and out of the church. teach? then give yourself to God and study and teach! Is God calling you to fix toilets? then fix those toilets to the best that you can!! No, really though God calls some to positions of leadership and authority while others may be called to the seemingly menial tasks, BUT those tasks thought to be menial somehow become crucial when no one willingly submits their gifts before our Lord.
I'll conclude with one person's idea of total commitment:

The Baltimore Sun conducted a contest, and the following poem received a prize for the best answer to the question, “What would you do if you had one more year to live?”

“If I had but one year to live;

One year to help; one year to give;

One year to love; one year to bless;

One year of better things to stress;

One year to sing; one year to smile;

To brighten earth a little while;

One year to sing my Maker’s praise;

One year to fill with work my days;

One year to strive for a reward

When I should stand before my Lord,

I think that I would spend each day,

In just the very self-same way

That I do now. For from afar

The call may come across the bar

At any time, and I must be

Prepared to meet eternity.

So if I have a year to live,

Or just one day in which to give

A pleasant smile, a helping hand,

A mind that tries to understand

A fellow-creature when in need;

’Tis one with me—I take no heed.

But try to live each day He sends

To serve my gracious Master’s ends.”

—Mary Davis Reed

Does this poem describe your attitude toward commitment, toward loyalty, to dedication? Do others say that this level of faithfulness and excellence is true about you?
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