Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Call to Commitment

This morning I want us to think about our commitment to the work of Christ. To help us I will be using a lot of statements from Charles Stanley’s book Confounding Casual Christians.

I want to introduce you to a mythical church member that I am going to call Peter. When we first meet Peter he is attending services at First Church but he left because the services were too formal, every one on the platform wore a tie. He and his family then wandered over to Grace Church because they had a great choir. But before long, we hear they are "happy" at the Christian Worship Center. Soon, however, they move their membership to the Community Church because of the great Bible teaching. After that the youth program at New Hope catches their eye. Now, at least for the moment, they are at the church uptown, at least until something else catching their roving eye.

What ever happened to commitment?

Why do you suppose that there are close to 100 million church members in America yet they are not making more of a moral and spiritual impact?

Why is that on Sunday morning thousands of churches have more empty pews than full?

Why is it that the average Sunday School in America has less than 66 in attendance and that the average worship service has 84?

Why is it that only 50% of the number on any church membership roll can be expected to attend?

If Christians really believe in a real heaven and a real hell, how can we be so silent?

The answer to all of these questions is tragically simple!

Charles Stanley said in his book Confounding Christianity: "God’s people have made a decision about Jesus….but have never made a commitment to Him."

There is, of course, a difference between a decision and a commitment.

Perhaps this cannot be seen any clearer than it is in the failure rate of marriages in America. According to statistics at least 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Why do you suppose that is happening?

Again let me quote from Charles Stanley: "It is because these couples made a decision but did not make a commitment. Every person who married made a decision! They stood before a preacher and made promises and recited vows. They made a decision, they kissed each other and walked out together to live, but not necessarily 'happily ever after,' and not necessarily together. So why did they divorce? The answer is that they made a decision, but they did not truly commit their lives to each other. But when a couple marries and makes a commitment to one another that is a different story."

The same is true in the church. The reason that the church is not making more of an impact in our society is that many church people made a decision about Christ, but have not made a commitment to Christ.

When the pilot of a giant airline is speeding down the runway, there is a certain point where it staying on the ground is no longer an option. When he crosses that line, he is committed to the air, he will take off or a disastrous crash is imminent. At the pilot the pilot can no longer change his mind he is committed.

Unfortunately, churches are filled with people who have never got off the ground. They have been sitting there, gunning their engines, making noise but getting nowhere. They have been planning on it, meaning to, wanting to, trying to, going to, aiming to, hoping to. But tragedy of tragedies, they have never got off the ground.

I want to challenge you this morning to "get off the ground."

The Apostle Paul issues a clear call for commitment when he says,
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." --Romans 12:1-2
The word "present" is a technical Greek word used for offering a sacrifice. This is a voluntary act, it does not say "I command you," it says "I beseech you or I beg you." This is something that is completely up to you. He says the motivation is to be, remembering "the mercies of God."

Close you eyes for just a moment think of all that God has done in your life. Think of the "mercies of God." Based on what you have received, can you really say that you owe him nothing? When we reflect on the goodness of God how can we be anything other than committed? Paul goes on to say that it is our "reasonable service."

Based on what we have received, it is "logical" that we would commit ourselves to God. Under the sacrificial system the animal to be sacrificed was committed to the priest, was killed and consumed on the altar. The believers are told that they are to present themselves as "living sacrifices" with the understanding that there is no such thing as "partial sacrifice or a partial commitment."

It is impossible to be "sort of committed." You are either committed or you are not committed. It is not possible to be a partial sacrifice.

There is a story told about a pig and a chicken walking down the road together. As they walked along they read a sign advertising a breakfast to benefit the poor. The chicken said to the pig, "You and I should donate a ham and egg breakfast."

The pig replied, "Not so fast! For you it would just be a contribution, but for me it would be a total commitment."

The pig, at least, understood that it is not possible to offer a partial sacrifice, neither is possible to offer a partial commitment.

To commit ourselves to God means that we are to yield ourselves to him, surrender to him, abandon ourselves to him, entrust ourselves to him and place ourselves at his disposal.

True commitment is not something that you can take back.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…" There are two words in the original Greek that deserve special attention.

The word translated "conformed" is the word that we get our English word "scheme" from. It means conformation that it is outward without necessarily any inner change. The word is also sometimes translated "fashioned." He is saying, "Do not allow yourself to adopt the fashion of this world, to be forced into its mold."

The word translated "transformed" is the word from which we get the English word "metamorphosis." This is an inner change, which has observable outward manifestations.
This is not something you do yourself. If you "present yourself as a living sacrifice" and you reflect on the "mercies of God," you will be transformed progressively. This is a work of the Holy Spirit but it requires cooperation on the part of the believer. The end result is that you may "prove," that is test out and discover by proof, what is the will of God.

It all begins with commitment.

Today I want you to see with me three clear calls to commitment that every believer has to face. This is based on the supposition that you made more than decision about Christ and that you have already made a personal commitment to Christ.

1. Commitment to Personal Growth

We are called to commit ourselves as disciples. Disciples are learners. We should never reach a point in life at which we are no longer learners.

One of the things that I admired about my wife’s dad was that at ninety years of age he still wanted to read. When he got to where he couldn’t read anymore he would listen to tapes of Bible reading. He was still a learner.

We never reach a point in life at which we have arrived. Even Paul said about himself:
"Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on …Brethren I don not count myself to have apprehended…" --Philippians 3: 11-12
Make a commitment to continue to grow spiritually. Take positive steps to do so.
  • Start a Bible reading plan.
  • Set aside time each day to pray.
  • Read good Christian literature.
  • Watch some good Christian programming.
  • Never give up on learning.
2. Commitment to the Local Body
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." --Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us consider one another to encourage each other in loving fellowship of the church. Individual and personal Christianity always involves incorporated and public Chistianity.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church said: "The Bible knows nothing about solitary religion."

The church is described in the New Testament as:
  • the building
  • the bride
  • the brotherhood
Why do we need each other?
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." --Hebrews 10:24-25
To provoke is "to incite , or to stimulate, to arouse" each other to love. This scripture says do this the more as you see the day approaching.

The local church is the first level of commitment outside of our personal relationship with the Lord. The local church with all its imperfections is still the Lord’s major avenue through which he accomplishes his work.

The church gathers for worship, teaching and fellowship to gain power to carry out the ministry as each member is scattered to their various places of responsibility in the world. The people who "forsake the assembling together" forfeit the power of a corporate identity.

Sometimes church attendance is beyond our control, I understand that, but we must not let Satan rob us of fellowshipping with the body of believers called the church.

There are those who are too lazy to go to church and they justify it by saying, "I went to church in my living room by watching a T.V. preacher." That’s called recliner religion!

There are some who have to have church in their homes to be able have service. In fact, this church started in the home of it’s founder until the community building opened up.

But some people just do not see church attendance as a necessity. They see recreation as a necessity. They see yard work as a necessity. They see entertaining as a necessity. They see viewing sporting events as a necessity. In far too many lives, church attendance seems to be relegated to last place.

Commitment to church is deeper than just attendance to the worship services, but it does begin there. Commitment to a local church also demands loyalty. When we criticize our church to the outside community we are shooting ourselves in the foot, or as my mother says, "Cutting off our nose to spite our face." Who is going to come with you to a church that you have torn down in their hearing?

Get involved in a Sunday School class. Get involved in Bible study. Get to know the other people of the church.

I know that there are some who are still looking for a church home. We want to be a church that makes them feel at home! We are a loving church. I pray to God that we will always be a loving church.

People who do not have a church home need to keep looking until they find some place to worship and become a part of a Bible-believing church.

3. Commitment to Ministry

Commitment to a local church means deciding on a church "home" and moving in for a permanent stay.

Commitment to the local church also means actively using the talents and gifts to serve in the various ministries of the church. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:6 that "we have different gifts, according to the grace given us." Ministry means putting those gifts to work. We need to be a part of what the church is doing not just spectators.
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: ….. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." --I Corinthians 12
We are told that God has sovereignly placed individuals with the various gifts in each of the churches. If the persons with those gifts are not using their gifts then those jobs are not being done. We must commit ourselves to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and use the spiritual gifts that God has given us.

Will you make a commitment that you are going to look for opportunities to put your talents and abilities to work? The greatest ability is availability.

It takes us all to make up the church and to be what God wants us to be! What happens at Ozark View Chapel affects us all! Are you doing your part?

I want to close with a story about a mouse.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered.

He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.

But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.


Karla said...

Good challenge! And very timely! Thanks for sharing it with ME!

Dori said...

are you preaching at me? We are trying to find a church to help with Garrett...and give spiritual food...hmmm, should we just stay put?

Rachel said...

Wow! Darrell, I always love to hear you preach. You have lucky church members. That was great. I needed the reminder.