The dictionary definition of commitment is: "a state of being involved in."
Commitment has almost become the unmentionable word of the 21st century.
I am always amazed at people when they are invited to something can say yes as long as something else does not come along. The church is somewhat plagued with other things getting in the way of its members commitment.
It is true to say that people are far busier these days than ever before and so logically they cannot commit to the church in the same way as Christians have done in the past. We cannot for instance announce a 4:00am prayer meeting on top of Pen-y-Fan and expect Christians to be there but in Korea that is a regular occurrence and such meetings are extremely well attended.
Therefore is our level of commitment a serious failure?
I would like to attempt to answer that question by considering:
- The believer’s commitment to the church.
- The Lord’s commitment to His people.
The Lord's commitment to His people:
I have to be very careful here because this is such a massive subject. If I were to begin a comprehensive study of God’s commitment to His people we would never get to the end of the sermon!
God is totally committed to all that are called to be His servants. Peter in answering the question of those who were cut to the heart by the Spirit of God’s application of his gospel preaching said in verse38-39 that they must:
- Repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. That is an absolute necessity. The very fact that this is made possible declares God’s commitment to His people. Naturally we cannot gain forgiveness from sin but by God’s amazing grace our chains are gone, we have been set free. Our God and Saviour has ransomed us and has given us a tsunami of mercy and unending love! This is God’s commitment to His people, He so loved all who will be saved that He committed His precious Son to the cross on our behalf.
- The gift of salvation is for all from all generations and in every era. I always feel sorry for those who believe that Jesus must be constantly sacrificed in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Christ’s death was once, it was sufficient for all who will believe and is effective for their forgiveness, so much so that God will never see our sin again but only righteousness which is His gift to us in Christ Jesus. That is His total commitment to an undeserving people. Israel of old are a wonderful object lesson to us, they were chosen by God simply because He loved them and not for any attractive attributes that they had. In fact I believe there is a case to be made that He chose the worst there was. By choosing Israel God demonstrates His undeserving love to a sinful world.
There is no question that Almighty God is totally committed to His people, that being true is it not fair for the recipients of such amazing grace to be totally committed to Him?
Whatever that means!
The believer’s commitment to the church:
It is always useful to go back to grass roots and so to have this account of how the first Christian believers responded upon their conversion is helpful. It is also helpful for us as believers to look back at the first days of being a Christian and considering what our commitment was like then and what it is now. The Lord Jesus when He assessed the state of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2 commended them for being orthodox in every way, they were a great example of a true Christian church but yet the Lord warned them that they would lose His blessing. The reason for that was that even though they were a good church they had lost their first love! Their commitment to good church practice was greater than their commitment to God. One of Satan’s most effective ways of sidetracking believers is to make them more involved in “churchianity” than in true worship! There is no better place to observe this than in the church or our meetings together. We can get so passionate about practice but be unmoved by the glory of Christ! When did you last hear spiritual conversation after the service, I guess much is said about church practice but very little about the Saviour of the church. Our commitment so easily slides from Him to something else. Churchianity is only the tip of the iceberg we are so easily detracted from true commitment in all sorts of ways. The bible truth is that if anything takes more of our love than God does then it is an idol. We need to pray along with the hymn “the dearest idol I have known, help me to tear it from its throne in my heart.”
So what do we learn from the first converts?
They committed themselves to 4 things! They did not wait for a special spiritual experience to do this it was purely the natural reaction to having been recipients of such amazing grace.
They committed themselves to:
- The Apostles teaching.
- The breaking of bread.
This was the day of Pentecost which is officially next week, 50 days after the Passover. Pentecost was the day when as we read the Holy Spirit came as had been promised by Jesus. Many today have a strange view of the effect of the work of God’s Spirit upon believers but here we have the official record. The believers became devoted to the Lord and His church. That is what it means to be committed to the Apostles teaching. The Apostles were God servants who recorded the works of the Lord Jesus and teach how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are the fulfilment of all promised throughout the scripture. The foundation of the church is laid on the teaching of the prophets of the Old Covenant and the application of that foundation in relationship to Jesus Christ who is the promised Saviour of the world.
A truly born again Christian will display exactly what these believers did; they will be devoted to the Apostles teaching. Doctrine, theology, bible study are all absolutely essential to the believer, in exactly the same way that the recipe book is to the cook. A manufacturer might make something the looks like Coca Cola but if it is not made from the authentic recipe even though it looks like Coca Cola it may taste nice but it most certainly is not the real thing! In the same way a life following anything other than the Apostles teaching is false faith.
We must be committed to the Apostles teaching and it is in the church where you will learn it BEST!
They also committed themselves to the fellowship. They needed to be together, a football team is hopeless if they are not committed to each other. How can they understand how their players work unless they train together? The church is like that we must be in fellowship together in order to function correctly as the body of Christ here. It is literally like having an arm cut off when one is absent from the fellowship.
I must at this point add a note of caution. I mentioned at the beginning various groups that seem to be far more committed than we are at times. There is an order of priority that is important here. The creation order is helpful to us, God is creator and so He deserves our undivided love but He has set us in families to love and care for. They come second in the chain of responsibility and then God set His people into a nation to which they belong. That is the important third area of responsibility. It has been and is abused by some as it often demands second or even first place. Church is important and our families need to see the importance of meeting together. Sunday is referred to in scripture as the Lord’s Day and so it demands special attention. It is right to give praise and worship to God with fellow believers and to absent ourselves is removing ourselves from the place where God chooses to speak to and bless His people and also it is depriving fellow believers from our fellowship and encouragement,
The first believers were committed to the fellowship and so must we be!
There may be duties that prevent us from being in fellowship and that is acceptable but desires that stop us from being here are before God wholly unacceptable!
The breaking of bread or the Lord’s Supper is the only ritual that Jesus ordered for His people to regularly perform. There is nothing magical or mystical about it. It is merely a remembrance service that tells us of God’s amazing grace found in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
Isaac Watts so many years ago grasped it perfectly. Believers must be committed to the Lord’s supper because it is the constant reminder in picture form of such amazing grace.
Conversation is a delight. I hate the uncomfortable silences that you get when with people with whom you are at odds. Free flowing honest conversation is an absolute delight. Family discussions and banter thrill the heart. Communication is vitally important. It is amazing that in the explosion of communication technology conversation has been relegated to sound bites of bad English and poor wit via trite text message and tweets etc! Real heart felt discussion is rapidly becoming a thing of the past and sad to say so is prayer! The early believers committed themselves to prayer both individual and corporate. We have a number of occasions reported of the New Testament church praying in difficult days. The one I love the most is when the believers were praying for the imprisoned Peter and whilst they prayed Peter was released and knocked on their door. Poor old Rhoda who answered the door was so shocked that Peter had been released that she shut the door in Peter’s face in order to inform the others. Prayer is our conversation line with God and I am sure He is not pleased with our text speech prayers. He is the God of communication, He tells us all that we need to know about Him, He has shared the deep secrets of His heart with us! Does He not deserve us to be committed to prayer? The prayers that He loves the best are from His family unit, when they are gathered together on the Lord’s Day and whenever we rightfully meet within our programme!
This is not legalism but it is true biblical Christianity! Some are rightly too busy for the time being or are too ill to be in attendance. Duties do at time exclude us, old age will one day, illness might but all can and must pray.
What is your prayer life like?
What about the church prayer life?
Are you committed?
If not then you are not a biblical Christian!
The conclusion of the matter:
Our God is totally committed to us are we committed to Him and His people as He demands of us?