Commitment

* Commitment learned through being tested

Why did God ask Abraham to perform human sacrifice?  Pagan nations practiced human sacrifice, but God condemned this as a terrible sin.  God did not want Isaac to die, but he wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abrahm loved God more than he loved his promised and long-awaited son.  God was testing Abraham.  The purpose of testing is to strengthen our character and deepen our commitment to God and his perfect timing.  Through this difficult experience, Abraham strengthened his commitment to obey God.  He also learned about God’s ability to provide. (NLT)

Genesis 22:7-8 – Isaac said, “”Father?”  “Yes, my son,” Abraham replied.  “We have the wood and the fire,” said the boy, “but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”  “God will provide a lamb, my son,” Abraham answered.  And they both went on together.

* Don’t compromise commitment to God

Pharaoh wanted a compromise.  He would allow the Hebrews to sacrifice, but only if they would do it nearby.  God’s requirement, however, was firm: The Hebrews had to leave Egypt.  Sometimes people urge believers to compromise and give only partial obedience to God’s commands.  But commitment and obedience to God cannot be negotiated.  When it comes to obeying God, half measures won’t do. (NLT)

Exodus 8:25-29 – Pharaoh hastily called for Moses and Aaron.  “All right!  Go ahead and offer sacrifices to your God,” he said.  “But do it here in this land.  Don’t go out into the wilderness.”

But Moses replied, “That won’t do!  The Egyptians would detest the sacrifices that we offer to the Lord our God.  If we offer them here where they can see us, they will be sure to stone us.  We must take a three-day trip into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, just as he has commanded us.”

“All right, go ahead,” Pharaoh replied.  “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness.  But don’t go too far away.  Now hurry, and pray for me.”

“As soon as I go,” Moses said, “I will ask the Lord to cause the swarms of flies to disappear from you and all your people.  But I am warning you, don’t change your mind again and refuse to let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.”

* Renew your commitment to God by taking a spiritual holiday

God placed many holidays on Israel’s calendar.  The Festival of Trumpets was one of three great holidays celebrated in the seventh month (the Festival of Shelters and Day of Atonement were the other two).  These holidays provided a time to refresh the mind and body and to renew one’s commitment to God.  If you feel tired or far from God, try taking a “spiritual holiday.”  Separate yourself from your daily routine and concentrate on renewing your commitment to God. (NLT)

Numbers 29:1 – “The Festival of Trumpets will be celebrated on the appointed day in early autumn each year.  You must call a solemn assembly of all the people on that day, and no regular work may be done.

* Commitment destroyed by sex outside marriage

Prostitution was not overlooked in God’s law–it was strictly forbidden.  To forbid this practice may seem obvious to us, but it may not have been so obvious to the Israelites.  Almost every other religion known to them included prostitution as an integral part of its worship services.  Prostitution makes a mockery of God’s original idea for sex, treating sex as an isolated physical act rather than an act of commitment to another.  Outside of marriage, sex destroys relationships.  Within marriage, if approached with the right attitude, it can be a relationship builder.  God frequently had to warn the people against the practice of extramarital sex.  Today we still need to hear his warnings. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 23:17-18 – “No Israelite man or woman may ever become a temple prostitute.  Do not bring to the house of the Lord your God any offering from the earnings of a prostitute, whether a man or a woman, for both are detestable to the Lord your God.

* How we live shows our commitment to God

In taking a definite stand for the Lord, Joshua again displayed his spiritual leadership.  Regardless of what others decided, because Joshua had made a commitment to God, he was determined to set an example of living by that decision.  The way we live shows others the strength of our commitment to serving God. (NLT)

Joshua 24:15 – But if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve.  Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates?  Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live?  But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

* God wants our total commitment

Many people find it difficult to commit themselves to anything.  They are tentative, indecisive, and afraid of responsibility.  Asa and his people were different–they had clearly declared themselves for God.  Their oath of allegiance was punctuated with shouts and trumpet blasts!  This decisive and wholehearted commitment pleased God and resulted in peace for the nation.  If you want peace, check to see if there is some area where you lack total commitment to God.  Peace comes as a by-product of giving your life wholeheartedly to God. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 15:14-15 – They shouted out their oath of loyalty to the Lord with trumpets blaring and horns sounding.  All were happy about this covenant, for they had entered into it with all their hearts.  Eagerly they sought after God, and they found him.  And the Lord gave them rest from their enemies on every side.

* Commitment brings rewards

Everyone wants to be a hero and receive praise, honor, and wealth.  But few are willing to pay the price.  Mordecai served the government faithfully for years, bore Haman’s hatred and oppression, and risked his life for his people.  The price to be paid by God’s heroes is long-term commitment.  Are you ready and willing to pay the price? (NLT)

Esther 8:15-17 – Then Mordecai put on the royal robe of blue and white and the great crown of gold, and he wore an outer cloak of fine linen and purple.  And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree.  The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere.  In every city and province, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday.  And many of the people of the land became Jews themselves, for they feared what the Jews might do to them.

* Confession involves commitment 

What is confession?  To confess our sin is to agree with God, acknowledging that he is right to declare what we have done as sinful and that we are wrong to desire or to do it.  It is to affirm our intention of forsaking that sin in order to follow him more faithfully. (NLT)

Psalm 32:5 – Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone.

* How we commit everything to God

David calls us to take delight in the Lord and to commit everything we have and do to him.  But how do we do this?  To delight in someone means to experience great pleasure and joy in his or her presence.  This happens only when we know that person well.  Thus, to delight in the Lord, we must know him better.  Knowledge of God’s great love for us will indeed give us delight.

To commit ourselves to the Lord means entrusting everything–our lives, families, jobs, possessions–to his control and guidance.  To commit ourselves to the Lord means to trust in him, believing that he can care for us better than we can ourselves.  We should be willing to wait patiently for him to work out what is best for us. (NLT)

Psalm 37:4-5 – Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.  Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him, and he will help you.

* Commit to praising God daily

David made a vow to praise God each day.  David continually praised God through both the good and difficult times of his life.  Do you find something to praise God for each day?  As you do, you will find your heart elevated from daily distractions to lasting confidence. (NLT)

Psalm 61:8 – Then I will always sing praises to your name as I fulfill my vows day after day.

Temptation distracts us from commitment 

We appreciate a friend who remains true to his or her commitment, and we are disappointed with someone who fails to keep a promise.  God was pleased when his people obeyed initially, but he became angry with them when they refused to keep their commitment.  Temptations distract us from God.  Think about your original commitment to obey God, and ask yourself if you are remaining truly devoted. (NLT)

Jeremiah 2:2 – “Go and shout in Jerusalem’s streets: ‘This is what the Lord says: I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.”

* Commitment in marriage – designed for a lifetime

Divorce is as hurtful and destructive today as in Jesus’ day.  God intends marriage to be a lifetime commitment.  When entering into marriage, people should never consider divorce an option for solving problems or a way out of a relationship that seems dead.  In these verses, Jesus is also attacking those who purposefully abuse the marriage contract, using divorce to satisfy their lustful desire to marry someone else.  Are your actions today helping your marriage grow stronger, or are you tearing it apart? (NLT)

Matthew 5:31-32 – [Jesus said] “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a letter of divorce.’  But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery.  And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

* – Most religious leaders of Jesus’ day permitted a man to divorce his wife for nearly any reason.  Jesus’ teaching about divorce went beyond Moses’.  Stricter than any of the then-current schools of thought, Jesus’ teachings shocked his hearers just as they shake today’s readers.  Jesus says in no uncertain terms that marriage is a lifetime commitment.  To leave your spouse for another person may be legal, but it is adultery in God’s eyes.  As you think about marriage, remember that God intends it to be a permanent commitment. (NLT)

Luke 16:18 – [Jesus said] “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

* What true commitment to Christ means

We must be so committed to living for Christ that we “despise” our lives by comparison.  This does not mean that we long to die or that we are careless or destructive with the life God has given, but that we are willing to die if doing so will glorify Christ.  We must disown the tyrannical rule of our own self-centeredness.  By laying aside our striving for advantage, security, and pleasure, we can serve God lovingly and freely.  Releasing control of our lives and transferring control to Christ bring eternal life and genuine joy. (NLT)

John 12:25 – [Jesus said] “Those who love their life in this world will lose it.  Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

* Our commitment for Christ must be total

Jesus was always direct with those who wanted to follow him.  He made sure they counted the cost and set aside any conditions they might have for following him.  As God’s Son, Jesus did not hesitate to demand complete loyalty.  Even family loyalty was not to take priority over the demands of obedience.  His direct challenge forces us to ask ourselves about our own priorities in following him.  The decision to follow Jesus should not be put off, even though loyalties compete for our attention.  Nothing should be placed above a total commitment to living for him. (NLT)

Matthew 8:21-22 – Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”  But Jesus told him, “Follow me now!  Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead.”

* What it means to take your cross and follow Jesus 

To take up our cross and follow Jesus means to be willing to publicly identify with him, to experience certain opposition, and to be willing to face even suffering and death for his sake. (NLT)

Matthew 10:38 – [Jesus said] “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

* What commitment takes to follow Jesus

When Jesus used this picture of his followers shouldering their cross to follow him, the disciples knew what he meant.  Crucifixion was a common Roman method of execution, and condemned criminals had to carry their cross through the streets to the execution site.  Following Jesus, therefore, meant a true commitment, the risk of death, and no turning back. (NLT)

Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”

* Commitment determines our fate in God’s Kingdom

There will be many surprises in God’s Kingdom.  Some who are despised now will be greatly honored then; some influential people here will be left outside the gates.  Many “great” people on this earth (in God’s eyes) are virtually ignored by the rest of the world.  What matters to God is not a person’s earthly popularity, status, wealth, heritage, or power but his or her commitment to Christ,  How do you values match those of the Bible?  Put God in first place, and you will join people from all over the world who will take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. (NLT)

Luke 13:30 – [Jesus said] “And note this: Some who are despised now will be greatly honored then; and some who are greatly honored now will be despised then.”

* Jesus’ commitment to love us

A hired hand tends the sheep for money, while the shepherd does it out of love.  The shepherd owns the sheep and is committed to them.  Jesus is not merely doing a job; he is committed to love us and even lay down his life for us.  False teachers and false prophets do not have this commitment. (NLT)

John 10:11-12 – [Jesus said] “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming.  He will leave the sheep because they aren’t his and he isn’t their shepherd.  And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.”

* Commitment fades quickly when based on wrong things

The people flocked to Jesus because they had heard about his great miracle in raising Lazarus from the dead.  Their adoration was short-lived and their commitment shallow, for in a few days they would do nothing to stop his crucifixion.  Devotion based only on curiosity or popularity fades quickly. (NLT)

John 12:18 – That was the main reason so many went out to meet him–because they had heard about this mighty miracle.

* Commitment determines our ability to keep promises

Peter proudly told Jesus that he was ready to die for him.  But Jesus corrected him.  He knew Peter would deny that he knew Jesus that very night to protect himself.  In our enthusiasm, it is easy to make promises, but God knows the extent of our commitment.  Paul tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  Instead of bragging, demonstrate your commitment step by step as you grow in your knowledge of God’s Word and in your faith.

John 13:37-38 – “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked.  “I am ready to die for you.”  Jesus answered, “Die for me?  No, before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

* God calls us to commitment not comfort

Faith in Christ brings great blessings but often great suffering, too.  Paul would suffer for his faith.  God calls us to commitment, not to comfort.  He promises to be with us through suffering and hardship, not to spare us from them. (NLT)

Acts 9:15-16 – But the Lord said, “Go and do what I say.  For Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.  And I will show him how much he must suffer for me.”

* Submission is mutual commitment

The principle behind Paul’s words is submission, which is a key element in the smooth functioning of any business, government, or family.  God ordained submission in certain relationships to prevent chaos.  It is essential to understand that submission is not surrender, withdrawal, or apathy.  It does not mean inferiority, because God created all people in his image and all have equal value.  Submission is mutual commitment and cooperation.

Thus, God calls for submission among equals.  He did not make the man superior; he made a way for a husband and wife to work together.  Jesus Christ, although equal with God the Father, submitted to him to carry out the plan for salvation.  Likewise, although equal to man under God, the wife should submit to her husband for the sake of their marriage and family.  Submission between equals is submission by choice, not by force.  We serve God in these relationships by willingly submitting to others in our church, to our spouses, and to our government leaders. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 11:3 – But there is one thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ, a woman is responsible to her husband, and Christ is responsible to God.

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