LESSON: COMMITMENT TO JESUS CHRIST
READING: MATTHEW 16:21-28
INTRO: When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did.
Would you be thinking about the radical nature of Julius Caesar's move and put yourself into the picture as we discover what it really means to follow Jesus-- from His own words?
JESUS CALLS EVERY ONE TO TOTAL COMMITMENT
Both our marriage to our spouse and our marriage to Jesus must be more than a contract. I must be a covenant. That is total commitment.
“Will you please tell me in a word,” said a Christian woman to a minister, “what your idea of consecration is?” Holding out a blank sheet of paper the pastor replied, “It is to sign your name at the bottom of this blank sheet, and to let God fill it in as He will.”
A minister in Haiti illustrated the need for his congregation to practice total commitment to Jesus. He told this parable: A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: He would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.
The Minister's conclusion: "If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation."
The Bohemian reformer John Hus was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all matters. He died at the stake for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus's last words were, "What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood."
Earlier in time Paul who said, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me..." had come to his end. He was in prison for the sake of Jesus and was on death row. His response gives new meaning to total commitment, unswerving devotion. Paul wrote, For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. II Tim. 4:6-8
Still earlier there was Stephen who preached the Word of God to a hostile audience till he died. The more merciful truth he told the more enraged they became. Why didn't he stop? He couldn't. He had made a commitment to God and was keeping it. As they stoned him, he prayed to God for their forgiveness. -Acts 7
But Huss, Paul, and Stephen were only following the one to whom they had made a commitment. The One who died as a criminal in the midst of criminals for our sins and who prayed, "Father forgive them."
Following Jesus is a personal choice, but we must understand what a tremendous commitment is required. When Jesus saw his earliest potential disciples, He simply said, "Come follow me." As time went on and the hype heightened, it appears that there was thought to be a novelty to follow Jesus, hence the need to spell it out carefully. We can read, "When many of His disciples heard[what he was demanding], they said, 'This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?'" More grumbling and discussion and then, "After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed walked with Him."(John 6:60-66)
It would not be reasonable to ask if you have done that. You would not be here. But, is it possible that you have not made a total commitment to Jesus forsaking all others?
Luciano Pavarotti relates. "He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, 'Shall I be a teacher or a singer?' "'Luciano,' my father replied, 'if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.' "I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it's laying bricks, writing a book--whatever we choose--we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair."
A missionary society wrote to David Livingstone and asked, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you." Livingstone wrote back, "If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all."