Back in August I had the chance to speak at a retreat on discipleship. I gave three talks on “The Crisis of Commitment: How We Can Seek First the Kingdom in a Me First World”. Today I’ve adapted the first of those talks for this blog. If you’d like to take a listen to the full version you can find it on our podcast.
The Threat of Our Time
I believe we are facing a crisis of commitment in the church the likes of which we have not seen for centuries. The enemy we face is shallow devotion. Easy believism. Consumer Christianity. The promise of discipleship without cost. The epidemic of chronic immaturity among God’s people. And we’re so clueless in our insincerity, that we don’t even recognize the threat. To us, this is what normal looks like.
This phenomenon reminds me of a story:
“…two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way. He nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What the heck is water?”
You see, the greatest threat to the devotion of the American Christian is not the devil. It’s the American dream. You’re going to be hard-pressed to sync life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with “deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me.” You’re going to be hard-pressed to go through life demanding your rights while at the same time “making yourself a slave to all so that you might win a few to Jesus.”
We’re shaped by our time, by our culture, by the society we find ourselves in. We’re shaped in ways we can’t even recognize.
You have to take the time, to make the effort, to step outside yourself, so you can see the bigger picture of what God is doing, so you can develop a kingdom perspective.
If instead, we seek first the kingdom of God. If we look the crisis of commitment squarely in the face, and instead surrender ourselves fully to the Lord Jesus then our life will look radically different than 99% of the people around us. To live in our generation with God’s perspective is discipleship. And it will always look radical.
Moses the OG
Let’s take a look at one of the original greats of the Old Testaments for an example:
Moses started out life about as unprivileged as you can get. Born into slavery, he barely survived genocide at birth. But then he hit the jackpot. He was adopted by a royal family and spent years at the pinnacle of luxury, power and wealth. But then he did the unthinkable. He chose to turn away from this life of power and privilege and to devote himself to God and to a higher purpose instead.
The writer of the book of Hebrews put it this way: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose instead to share the oppression of God’s people rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking to the reward.” (Heb 11.24-26)
So let’s think about what Moses did here! He turned away from wealth, privilege and comfort, to choose adversity of his own volition! Truly not an easy path to take.
But we, too, live in unparalleled times. We live in the wealthiest, freest society that has ever existed in the history of the world. And our devotion to Christ is being crippled by it. We grow up surrounded by water and never realize it.
Who among us will refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and choose instead to share the oppression of God’s people? Who will consider the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt?
A New Perspective
Such a life can only be lived by those who have committed themselves to God. And that commitment starts with perspective. Moses was looking to the reward for his perspective. In the same way we must fix our eyes on Jesus.
You and I are called to belong to Christ and to live for Christ in this generation. To be all in for him right where he has placed us. In short, we are called to be committed.
But before you can commit to him you must recognize who he is.
Jesus: Worthy of our Commitment
Jesus is worthy of our highest commitment because he is unlike anyone who has ever walked the Earth:
- Jesus is the only man whose life pre-existed his birth. Unlike us, he chose to be born. He chose to come into this broken world.
- Jesus is the only man who has lived a perfect life. Unlike us, he never made a mistake. He never gave in to temptation.
- Jesus is the only one who has sacrificed himself for the sins of mankind. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
- Jesus is the only man who has overcome death and the grave. He alone possesses an indestructible life. (Heb 7.16)
- Jesus is the only one who has been given all authority, all power, in heaven and on Earth.
- Jesus is the only one who has been given a name that is above all names. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that
- Jesus Christ is Lord. He alone has been given all judgment, he is the one we will all one day stand before and be accountable to. No one else. He’s the only one whose opinion and judgment of you matters.
- Jesus is the king of kings and the lord of lords.
Call to Action
At the beginning of Acts (chapter 2) we see the Holy Spirit fall for the first time and a crowd understandably gathers. Peter ends up sharing the good news about Jesus with them. Now this is an important moment! It’s the first instance of evangelism, of a follower of Jesus sharing the message about him with non-followers. And this is how Peter ended it!
“Everyone needs to know that God has made him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified!”
Peter says that God has made Jesus 2 things: God has made him both Lord and Christ. We have to recognize that, too. And then we have to respond to it. And that’s what we see the people doing in Acts 2:37 when they respond to Peter. You see, they knew that it’s not enough just to know who Jesus is, we have to then respond accordingly! Recognize and respond. That’s the call to action!
But, we don’t accept Jesus as our personal savior. No. We must recognize that He is the savior, that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And then we respond by putting all of our trust in him.
And in the same way, we don’t make Jesus the Lord. We have nowhere near enough power to do such a thing! No, we recognize that God has made him Lord already and then we respond by submitting ourselves to His authority.
Jesus wants so much more from us than an emotional moment and the sinner’s prayer. He wants our uncompromised allegiance. He wants us to live for Him. Or to quote Paul, He wants to live His life through ours.
A Life of Commitment vs. Emotional Highs
If we don’t start by committing ourselves to Christ, by surrendering all that we are because of everything that He is, then chances are we’ll go through life playing a game when it comes to faith, going through the motions, checking the box every Sunday for those two hours.
Oh you’ll have moments, emotional highs when the fog machine starts up on Sunday morning and the music stir you. You’ll feel brief times of conviction when the sermon hits too close to home. But then life will return to normal. You’ll be a fish, happily swimming through the water.
Instead, like Moses, will you refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter? Will you consider the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of America? Will you be crucified with Christ so that he can live his life through you — in this time, in this place, in this generation? Will you rise up and defend the faith that God has entrusted to us?
Will you commit to Jesus?