Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Acts 2:42-46, 2 Peter 1:5-7, Matthew 28:19-20, Romans 6:1, Malachi 3:10, 1 Peter 4:10, Acts 20:17-35 Downloads & Resources Revolutionary Commitment Dr. Jon Morrissette - 7/11/2004 When I was in grade school a neighbor offered me the opportunity of a lifetime. He had been our paperboy for years and he wanted me to take over his paper route. It was one of the most exciting opportunities of my young life. But before I could say "yes", I had to meet with a representative from the Kankakee Daily Journal. The representative came out and explained that I was taking on a major responsibility. I would be representing their company and their reputation was important to them. Why they chose to put their reputation on the line with me, I’ll never know. The paper route would need to be my first priority every day after school. Customers would be counting on me to deliver the paper every day, rain or shine. I would not be able to participate in after-school programs. I would have to wait until my paper route was finished before hanging out with my friends. When neighbors moved in I would need to see if they were interested in subscribing to the paper. When customers complained I would need to respond graciously and accommodate them as much as possible. Boy! Was that a thrill! I would need to set up a checking account, carefully collect subscription fees, and send payment to the newspaper. That paper route proved to be quite a responsibility. It was one of biggest commitments I had ever made. There were times when I loved it and times when I loathed it. For some customers the paper could never come early enough. They were always calling and complaining to the newspaper office. Some customers refused to control their dogs. One family named their dog an explicative. The only way I could keep the dog from biting me was to shout its vulgar name or kick it in the mouth as it nipped at my leg. Others complained if I walked on their grass, threw the paper at their door, or didn’t put their newspaper in a bag, even on sunny days. About anything you can think of, people complained about. And there were those wintry days when I had to hook up a team of horses and tromp through six foot of snow just to… oh wait, that was my grandpa’s story! Seriously, the rain and snow and weather made my paper route a real chore! But then there were the friendships I built with people, the extra cash I earned for things I wanted, the generous tips that came during the holidays, the joy and pride that came in doing a good job, and the challenge of signing up new customers. I enjoyed reading the newspaper every day. If I wasn’t a paperboy I wouldn’t have read it! There are two sides of every commitment. Have you ever noticed that there are two sides of every commitment? First there are the rewards, both tangible and intangible. We typically gain something positive when we make a commitment, which is why we make a commitment in the first place! Friendships, a sense of accomplishment, status, money, etc., are all positive rewards. But then there are the costs of making a commitment. It is true that costs can be negative. But that is generally only true in the short-term. In time, with the right kind of commitments, costs often translate into rewards. That was true of my paper route. That paper route consumed energy, but also taught me responsibility and kept me from trouble. Whenever we make a commitment or contemplate making a commitment there is this war that gets waged inside our minds. We begin asking ourselves questions like these. Will the rewards outweigh the costs? Will it all be worth it in the long run? Is this commitment worth trading in my freedom and flexibility? If I make this commitment will it cause me to miss out on something even greater? Commitment-phobia is common in our culture. Mark Dever, a Christian author, writes in The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church that we live in an age of 'commitment-phobia.' We are so afraid of limiting our freedom by making a commitment that we don’t make any commitments. We don't even make commitments that are really good and worthwhile! Dever says, "Commitment-phobia is the fear that in promising to do something good we will miss out on getting something even better. And so, although we see many good things we could be doing, we would rather just 'keep our options open.' " Commitment-phobia has taken over our culture and it's killing the American church. Take young couples as an example. A young man and a young woman meet, there is natural chemistry, the sparks are flying, and they fall in love. But then the couple decides they will make a deeper commitment to one another. So they give up their virginity and defile their bodies. They move in together! They buy a home or lease an apartment together. They have a child or two out of wedlock. At this point most couples think they are making a deeper commitment to one another. But in reality, they aren’t demonstrating a deeper commitment to one another. Instead, they are revealing their deep insecurities about themselves and each other. By not first getting married they are saying, "I’m not sure if this is the person I want to spend my whole life with. I’m not sure if the rewards of a marriage commitment will outweigh the costs of a marriage commitment. I’m not sure I’m ready to close my options with other people. If I make this legally binding, what if someone better and more attractive comes along later?" So out of fear, the couple makes a non-commitment to just live together instead of making a true commitment to form an inseparable bond in marriage. Commitment-phobia causes us to miss out on a blessed life. The danger of commitment-phobia is that it causes us to miss out on the blessed life. We live in an age when we expect great things to happen without commitment. Couples want to have great relationships without a marriage commitment. Parents want to have great kids who are moral, love Jesus Christ, love people, have wisdom, have good friends, have talents and skills, and a bright future. But these same parents in the same breath will not commit themselves to the work of raising such children. Young people, and sadly, older people too, want to possess the lifestyle of their parents, but will not commit to the hard work and discipline that got their parents there! People also want to improve society, solve the world’s problems, save the earth, become healthy, root out drugs and crime, restore decency, and so much more. But we want to save the world without any real commitment of paying any personal costs. The Church is affected by commitment-phobia. Surprise. We want God to release the floodgates of heaven and pour all the blessings of heaven on us. But we want the best of heaven without making any real commitment. It is alarming to see the impact commitment-phobia is having on Christ’s church. There is this pseudo-spirituality that permeates every Church fellowship. There is a shadow of commitment that upon closer examination lacks the reality and substance of sacrifice. For many, church is a way of looking like a Christian without really being a Christian. For many, church is a way to flirt with the purposes of God without fully embracing them. Our church programs can even be a form of non-commitment, where we touch on the surface of problems without fully investing the personal time and energy and prayer and resources necessary to resolve them. We want God to transform our fellowship. We want God to pour out his Spirit on this place and make all of us become like Jesus Christ. We want to be the city on the hill that shines brightly and gives hope to our world. We want to pass our faith on to the next generation. We want to advance the rule of Christ in men’s lives. We want to see God’s power, taste God’s grace, feel God’s presence, experience answered prayer, and receive God’s blessing. We want it all. But we are only fooling ourselves if we think this church will become great without any commitment or sacrifice or any cost being paid on our parts. It is time for us to stop seeing commitment as something negative, as merely a cost, as something that destroys our freedom and limits our options. We need to begin seeing commitment as key to unleashing God’s greatest blessings on our lives and on our church and even on our world. The blessings of commitment are numerous. Eternal life is one of the greatest blessings we can receive from God. But how do we receive that blessing? We receive that blessing by making a commitment to Christ. From start to finish, the Christian life is a life of commitment. That is why the Christian life is so incredibly revolutionary. Take the commitment out of your Christianity and there is nothing left but a social religion. So what kind of commitment will it take to revolutionize our lives and this church? It takes a total commitment. It starts with making a commitment to Jesus Christ. We trust Christ as Savior of our life. We confess our specific sins to God, but then we repent from those sins. And we prove that repentance, not just with words and good intentions, but with concrete action. We also pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ publicly and visibly by making a personal decision to be baptized into his Christ’s name. Baptism is our wedding ceremony. It is the altar where we make a commitment and become the bride of Christ. But this is just the beginning of what it means to make a commitment to Christ. Christianity requires several commitments. Christianity is a commitment to service. God wants us to be his hands and feet. He wants us to be the body of Christ and Christ's physical presence on earth. He wants us to get involved in people’s lives. There is so much work to be done in the harvest fields. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms." Christianity is a commitment to giving. God wants us to use his financial resources to build his kingdom. In the book of Malachi God withheld his blessings because his people refused to give generously. They built paneled houses for themselves while allowing God’s house to fall into disrepair. In Malachi 3:10 (NIV) God says, " 'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.' 'Test me in this', says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.' " Christianity is a commitment to obedience. God wants to bless our lives, but how can we realize that blessing if we reject godly living? In Romans 6:1 (NIV) Paul asks, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Christianity is a commitment to growth. In 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV) Peter says, "…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." Christianity is a commitment to disciplemaking. In Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) Jesus says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Christianity is a commitment to being a biblically functioning community. Acts 2:42-46 (NIV) says of the early Church, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Don't trade away God's blessings because of lack of commitment. Commitment-phobia is the fear that in promising to do something good, we will miss out on getting something even better. That pretty much sums up the state of the Church. The greatest God has to offer is right in front of us, within reach. It is so close. Why trade away the life God has for us, for a lesser commitment or no commitment at all? This week and next we are wrapping up our series on the book of Acts. Acts is a taste of the great things that come as we make a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ. I want to end by reading Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-35. I’m not going to give you any background except to say that Paul is seeing these men for the last time and he is hoping they will see the value of paying the costs, of making the small and large sacrifices, and of deepening their commitment to Jesus Christ. Acts 20:17-35 (NIV) says, "From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: 'You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.' " " 'And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.' " " 'Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.' " " 'Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " Where is God challenging you to make a deeper commitment?