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Editorial: Commitment of Biblical Proportions

No doubt you have heard the following story in one form or another:

The pig and the chicken walked down the street together.  Every restaurant they passed had signs in the window advertising, “Ham and Eggs.”

“See,” said the chicken, “We’re famous.”

The pig grunted. “For you,” he said, “a plate of ham and eggs is just a cackle. For me it’s the supreme sacrifice.”

In a more concise form it is observed that when it comes to such a breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed!

Further, the difference between mere involvement and commitment can be seen in the dictionary definitions of the two terms:

  • The appropriate definition given by Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary for the word involve as we refer to it in the above illustration: “to engage as a participant.”
  • Webster defines the stronger term commitment in the following way – “the state of being obligated or emotionally impelled.”

So, again stating it concisely, when we are involved in a cause, we are engaged.  But, when we are committed to a cause we are impelled.

As our interest revolves around the spiritual, we note that scripture requires commitment to the Lord’s cause, rather than mere involvement in it.  There should be in us a sense of obligation, as the Lord clearly makes demands of His disciples.  The King James Version relates Paul’s sentiment in the matter in the following way, For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:14).

It follows that we must determine the extent of that commitment.  What it is that God requires?  Hence the title of this article, Commitment of Biblical Proportions.

You have heard the phrase “of Biblical proportions” used from time to time to refer to something awesome in scope.  A natural disaster might be referred to as a “cataclysm of Biblical proportions,” perhaps in allusion to the flood that destroyed the world in Noah’s time.  A personal tribulation may receive a similar description in an allusion to Job’s trials, or perhaps to the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians punished by God in response to the hard heart of their Pharaoh.

The term is appropriate in our discussion, as a careful reading of the New Testament reveals that God requires a big commitment from Christians.  The word ultimate does not state the case too strongly.  Consider the following words of Jesus, detailing what he requires of those who would be his disciples:

“But Jesus said to him [a potential disciple], ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:62).

“So He [Jesus] said to them [Peter and the disciples], ’Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life’” (Luke 18:29-30).

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39).

The current trend toward a social gospel emphasizes fun and frolic rather than commitment.  This is true in the denominations, and in some churches of Christ.  The desire is to entice the populace to involvement, rather than to bring the lost to repentance and commitment.  Consider the following:

  • The Redeemer Church in Fort Worth, TX invited those interested to attend what they referred to as Reformation Sunday on October 31st.  The activities, to be held at a local park following worship services, included, “your fill of food, fun and fellowship. The softball field is rented until 5 p.m.”
  • The First United Methodist Church offered, in a recent bulletin, news of an upcoming Women’s luncheon, free weekly blood pressure screenings, and the monthly “Parent’s Night Out” for November.
  • The University Christian Church offered on its events list in the past week (among others):  1) A light exercise class for all ages; 2) Lunch for college age kids in the Bible Cafe; 3) The weekly rehearsal for the locally famous bell choir; and 4) a meeting of the Weight Watchers organization, in their building.
  • The Broadway Baptist Church is in the midst of various classes as a part of the “Broadway Academy.”  Among these classes are offerings in digital photography and healthy lifestyle secrets.  Also on the agenda was a Halloween costume skating party, and a retreat “for study and discussion, music, fellowship, good food and fun as we spend the weekend in this beautiful and peaceful country setting.”
  • Members and visitors to the St. Andrews Episcopal Church are invited to the McFarland Lounge after the 10:00 am worship service for a “meet and mingle” with refreshments served.  Also on the agenda is an organizational meeting for an upcoming senior trip.
  • Christ Chapel Bible Church is advertising a free concert featuring some well known singing groups on November 19, a Women’s Christmas Brunch on December 4, and offers a separate contemporary worship service that may be more appealing to younger members and guests.
  • The First Presbyterian Church trumpets their Coffee Cart Fellowship, and their All Youth Dodgeball Party, held at the church gym.

The preceding took little research.  Just a simple internet search of Fort Worth churches, and a quick perusal of the Events List of the first seven churches found.  Obviously, examples could be expanded greatly.  Unfortunately, a search limited to “churches of Christ” would produce a similar list.

To be fair, there are other “events” – Bible Studies, Worship Services – included on the calendar of these groups.  However, these activities are still objectionable.  There is our first contention, that religious groups today are loathe to emphasize commitment or obligation, choosing rather to focus on food and fun.  There is the fact that such activities are without scriptural authority.  “Food and Fun” is not the work of the church, and true fellowship is found not on the softball field, but in the work and worship of the local church.  Finally, there is the perception that the visitor and the young will develop toward the church:  that the responsibility of the church is to cater to my needs, and to make me feel good about myself, rather than to convict me of my sin and save my soul.

Read again Luke 9, Luke 18 and Matthew 10, and then the list given.  The difference is jarring.  The discerning seeker will look elsewhere for spiritual growth and guidance.

As we accept that God expects a commitment of Biblical proportions from us, it is appropriate to consider where such a commitment will show itself.  Following are a series of applications of the principle.  These are by no means exhaustive, but serve to paint a picture of a life committed to the cause of Christ.

Attendance

The Hebrew writer admonished some whose “manner” was to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25).  Assembling to worship is a hallmark of the committed.  Forsaking the assembly is likewise characteristic of the apathetic.  While some will quibble over the necessity of attending a gospel meeting or Bible class, it is not a matter of relevance to the committed disciple.  When an opportunity to worship God is made available to him, he will be there unless hindered.  He will fill his obligation to serve his God, and to edify his brethren, “exhorting one another” (cf. ibid.).  He will rejoice at his opportunity to “go unto the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1).  It will not occur to him to absent himself from his brethren as they raise their voices in praise to the Almighty.  He recognizes the nature of his commitment, and is willing to deny himself the pleasures of recreation or rest to gain the greater joy that accompanies the act of honoring his God.

Study

The writer of Ecclesiastes acknowledged that “much study is wearisome to the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).  Many who contemplate a careful study of the Bible are put off by the commitment such an undertaking would require.  Time must be set aside daily.  Study techniques must be developed to allow the Book to be understood correctly.  A period of meditation must follow the study itself, that application of the learned material might be made.  Some of the material seems to be complex, even incomprehensible to the uninitiated.  It is a daunting task.  The faithful disciple, however, is undeterred.  He is a “learner” of Christ.  He heeds the admonition of Paul to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  He knows that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” and that by studying it he will be made “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  So, he dives in, learns God’s will, and “by reason of use,” has his senses “exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

Giving

Money is a sensitive topic to many.  It is an area where some preachers fear to tread.  While the Bible teaches clear principles regarding the necessity of giving back to the Lord, the apathetic do not want to hear of their obligation.  They certainly do not want to hear that God expects of them a commitment of Biblical proportions!  The committed servant of God, however, remembers the example of the Macedonians, who “according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).  He knows that the reason the Macedonians were so liberal with their giving is that they “first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (vs. 5). He carefully considers the admonition of Paul to give both sacrificially and cheerfully, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).  He remembers the stinginess of the Jews, recorded in Malachi 3:8, ““Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed you?’  In tithes and offerings.”  The committed man of God understands that what he has ultimately belongs to the Lord, and conducts himself accordingly.

Discipleship

At the heart of discipleship is self-denial.  Jesus affirmed it, saying, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).  Paul expressed it in his own life.  He wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  The apathetic servant struggles with the extent of this commitment, and falters.  The most obvious evidence of this is his struggle with worldliness.  Because his dedication is not total, there is a conflict that rages within him.  “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17).  In contrast, the committed disciple heeds the words of John, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

  • He is not motivated by possessions, knowing “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
  • He keeps himself sexually pure, heeding the admonition of Paul to, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
  • He/She dresses modestly, choosing a chaste decorum rather than heeding the siren call of worldly fashion (cf. 1 Timothy 2:9-10).
  • He guards his heart against worldly influences, making choices with regard the music to which he listens; the movies and television programs he watches; the books he reads; the internet sites he visits; and the friends he chooses; recognizing that “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33) and that “friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

In short, he is diligent in the practice of “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father,” determined “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

Defense of Truth

The Bible clearly reveals the importance of defending truth.  One of the primary qualifications for one who will serve as an elder in any local church is the ability “by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).  Paul told the evangelist Timothy to “Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for the themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2-5).  The apathetic is here described as those who will not endure sound doctrine, and certainly describes a large number of those who claim to be Christians in our time.  Commitment, which can also be described as militancy in this context, is considered unseemly, and oft rejected.  However, the faithful man of God recognizes himself to be a soldier, a watchman, a defender of truth.  He heeds the exhortation of Jude to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Conclusion

“Commitment of Biblical Proportions” is correctly defined as total commitment.  As a Christian you must love God "with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  Paul declared Jesus to the be the Head of the church, and declared that in all things He must have “the preeminence.” (cf. Colossians 1:18).  This is certainly true with regard to our hearts and lives, a truth to which every Christian must submit for the sake of his soul.  You will not be accepted of God unless he has the first place in your heart and life.

For those who have made such a commitment, the reward is sure.  Paul wrote, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).  It takes a commitment of Biblical proportions to be pleasing to God.  But those who make it secure for themselves a crown of righteousness, “which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to [us] on that Day” (2 Timothy 4:8).