The Committed Christian
by Cooper Abrams
Introduction: Down through history men have used many ways to identify themselves as Christians. The sign of fish, chains around their necks with crosses are two of the most popular. Once Christians even identified themselves by a special haircut. Many wore marks on their coat lapels, robes and special clothes. Today we see, "Jesus First Pins", crosses, fish, bumper stickers, posters, T-shirts, Bibles. Many "clergy" wear, collars, robes, black clothes. By the way we biblical Baptists do not use the word "clergy" to identify ministers. The word came from the Roman Catholic church to make a distinction between the people and the religious leaders. There is no such distinction with God or in His word. We are all servants of the Lord, who are required to be faithful stewards where ever the Lord calls us to serve Him. We use the biblical word pastor which likens the pastor to a shepherd looking our for his sheep. It is also a common mistake that pastors refer to themselves or allow themselves to be called reverend. I do not use that term or title because in God's word...only God is to be revered and only He is reverend. See Psa. 111:9)
People use these symbols to identify themselves as Christians. There is nothing wrong with the symbols, yet they present a problem.....they are totally superficial! It is fine if you are a Christian and wear a button or pin, but I think God has a better way for a believer to identify himself.
You see could wear a button, be a church member, identify yourself as a Christian and not be one. I recently saw a man who was arrested for murder who had a cross around his neck. I saw on a TV news report where a prostitute was wearing ear rings that were crosses. God's way is to be preferred, which means a Christian is to be recognized by how they live. You see the buttons, etc are totally superficial or out-ward.
There are even persons who ID themselves with Christ by the way they talk. They speak much of Christ using the expressions,"praise the lord," "God bless you," or "Jesus loves you." Some talk about Christ all the time. There is nothing wrong with any of this. But a lot of the things done outward, and if the heart is not right, or they are not living as the Bible teaches it is of no value. Many of these people attend unbiblical churches and are a part of churches who teach and practice false doctrine.
In Salt Lake City there has been a controversy with the Mormon church because a street next to their Temple Square is used by "street preachers" who openly and loudly condemn the Mormons to hell and carry large signs with offensive messages. By the way I have never heard of even one person they have lead to the Lord. If the Gospel is offensive to people it should because they reject the message of Jesus Christ...not because some loud rude professing "Christian" was carrying an offensive sign.
Much more noticeable than any button is the way one lives his life. A true Christian who is committed to Christ, can readily be recognized by what they do. A true Christian doesn't need a button or the sign of a fish bumper sticker on the back of their car to let people know they are a child of God.
ILLUS: While traveling to Salt Lake City recently, a lady cut me off in traffic. It happens all the time, but this time the I took special notice. The car had one of those Christian "fish" signs on the back. Another time, a car that cut in front of me had a bumper sticker that said, "Christian are not perfect, give forgiven." Being the person driving had been so impolite and dangerous, I said, "Yes, that is certainly true!"
JESUS' FINAL ADDRESS BEFORE GOING TO THE CROSS. John 13:33.
Jesus gives His disciples, this final address which is recorded in John 13:31 to 16:33. These instructions are warnings and commandments that stand as orders to us from our Lord down through the ages. They are rich powerful, motivating and coming from our loving Savior who wants the best for each of us. They are all things a true Christians committed to Christ must know and LIVE!
These words are significant because they are the final words of Christ just before He leaves His disciples and goes to the Cross. The Disciples had before this time enjoyed the protection, and leadership of Christ in person. Now he was going to leave them! They would be alone. They needed instruction to now carry on their own.
WHAT IS THE GREATEST NEED TODAY IN THE LIVES OF BELIEVERS!
What each of us who profess Christ must have is a life that shows a genuine, dynamic, visible, detectable commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not unusual, or out of ordinary, THIS IS NORMAL, ORDINARY WAY OF A CHRISTIAN'S LIFE.
It should not be normal for a Christian to be complacent, uninterested and not committed in their lives to Christ! However, we all know that there are many such people who profess Christ as their Savior.
THE COMMITMENT OF PETER. John 13:36-37.
Peter's statement of committal to Jesus was, "I will lay down my life for you!" Jesus's response to Peter's enthusiastic was to tell him that before the roaster cocked three times he would deny him. That at first seems to be very negative thing to say. Jesus not trying to discourage Peter. Peter was learning, as we even need to learn something that would be important for his life. Please take this message in the spirit that Christ gave it.
We are not born committed to Christ, that comes from learning all about God's plan for the world and our part in it. As we learn we become more committed. Peter's response was an emotional one. Yet to truly live for the Lord and be used by Him we need more than an emotional response to the call to serve our Savior. Much of the Christian movement today has as its driving force, an emotional reaction to service to the Lord. People are stirred by music, choruses, and rhythmic preaching! People rush down isles in a moment of emotional, yet often never live for the Lord, or see their lives changed. Emotional response is good, and one gets emotional when you see all the glory and love of God in coming to this Earth and dying on the cross us who are lost in our sins. He, loved us who are His creation so much the even when we rebell against him and sin, he came and suffered and died for our sins. THINK. Who is Jesus Christ? He is our God, and Creator who is all powerful who spoke the universe into existence. Yet, Almight God, came to this earth, humbled Himself to sinful men and allowed them to crucify Him...Why that He might redeem them from their sins, make them the children of God so they would spend eternity with Him. That is AMAZING and shows the Love of God.
But the emotional of the moment will fade. Then the question is: What is motivating you and filling your heart with joy when the emotion of the moment fells? What will keep you going when you are alone, or are tempted, physically tired or exhausted, or you just feel complacent? Peter did deny Christ, as Christ said, but later, when completely disillusioned, Christ appears to Peter by the side of the sea. Peter had left with several other disciples and returned to his trade as a fisherman after Christ's death. Jesus appears to Peter as he is returns from a night's unfruitful fishing. Jesus tells him to cast out again and put the nets on the other side of the boat. Peter complains saying they had fished all night with not luck, but because Christ said it would obey. Needless to say the nets then were overflowing with fish.
Jesus then says to Peter, "Peter do you love me more than all these?" (probably referring to his business of fishing) Peter responses, Lord, you know I do! Three times Jesus asked this question of Peter and each time after Peter's response that he does Jesus says to him, "Peter, then feed my lambs!
Jesus, the Lord, was showing Peter that to be true to Christ one had to live it. Peter had often given it lip service, yet when the emotion fades, and he thinks Christ is no longer with him he returns to fishing. Jesus wanted him to see that he was not as committed as he even thought he was. Peter was embarrassed and he saw himself as God saw him. Outwardly, Peter had a good talk, but he was failing in his daily walk with the Lord.
Peter also did not get mad and take offense at being challenged to examine himself. Later, Peter writes his Epistles or 1 and 2 Peter. What a change! As you read through the verses of these epistles, note that he is encouraging and urging fervently, passionately for believers to serve the Lord. The emotion is still there, but now it is accompanied by a devoted and consistent service for the Lord.
Have you thought about what is true faith? Faith is action that is founded in commitment. The part of faith that gives its life is its trust and commitment to the promises of God. Committment and devotion to the Lord in His truth will keep you going no matter what the circumstances.
In Hebrews 11, the Bible gives us faith's hall of fame. In each example, in spite of whatever hindrance or difficulty, the person acted upon the promises of God. Coupled with God's promise was a vision and desire to see God's will done. These people got down and did the often hard and difficult work, because they believed in God and His word. Many gave up their very lives serving the Lord.
Today we can see the end result of their faith and we think of their work in glorious terms. We think it was exciting and thrilling. Yet the truth is, often, all they had was God's promise to keep them going. They had no other encouragement. Often it was hard, tiring, and disappointing work. Think of Noah. No one outside his own family believed God's message. Wasn't that wonderful?! He worked hard long day after day, building a ship on dry ground. Did the people compliment him and recognize him for his great achievements? No, they mocked him to shame. It was hard back breaking work. Yet, his faith, yes, his commitment in trusting God kept him going and he completed the task which took 120 years! During all that time he preached and not one person outside his family believed!
Why didn't Noah just quit?! Surely, most people would quit, and for good reason, there was no result. He couldn't see how it made any difference. He had every human reason and right to quit. Everyone belittled him and thought him a fool.
He wanted to be liked just like everyone else does. He wanted to see some success just like you and I. He did not want to be at odds with the whole world!
But you see, Noah knew God and he trusted God. His faith was real. His trust was real and because of his faith in God his course was set. He could not quit not matter what.
ILLUS: During the many persecutions of Christians in the first 300 years after Christ returned to heaven, Christians were often tested as to their commitment to the Lord. Many thousands were committed to Christ and proved it. Even as the lions and wild beasts rushed to devour them, they kneeled in prayer and thanked God for His great love for them. They did not have to die! All they had to do in order to be released was to offer a small penance to the Roman emperor or give a small sacrifice to a idol. Yet, their walk matched their talk. An eighty year old man named Polycarp, the second century martyr, who was burned alive at the stake said, "I can not deny Him, who has been so faithful to me all these years." As the flames were burning his body, the soldiers thrust spears into his side. The blood ran so from his body that it partly put out the flames. So they rekindled the fire and finally burned to death.
TODAY CHRIST IS NOT ASKING YOU AND I TO DIE FOR HIM. HE IS SIMPLY ASKING US TO LIVE FOR HIM
How does all this relate to us today? What are our churches doing? What are we individually doing for the Lord?
The Bible says God gives gifts (talents for service) to every believer to do the job God wants done. The question then is this am I in faith, committed and trusting in the promises of God? Am I faithful in prayer and studying the word of God? Am I faithful to my local church that Jesus in Ephesians 5, says He died for? Am I faithful in my attendance and giving, in doing the work that needs to be done? Am I being a faithful witness for the Lord in how I live and in telling others about how they too can be saved?
There is work for all. You see it is not a matter of CAN I do, but rather WILL I do what God wants done. Am I faithful in loving and serving my fellow believer? Do I call and encourage him. Am I friendly, do I visit and am sensitive to the needs of others. If I am available when needed?
Often the everyday work of serving the Lord does not seem glamorous as the lives of those in the Bible. Today we are not ask to do great things like building a great ark, or as Abraham, taking a great journey, or Moses leading the Hebrews and doing great miracles, or Gideon, mighty fighting the hordes of the Midianites?
Are you sure that what God told them to do, is more glamorous or easy than what He ask of us today! God put Noah to working building a ship on dry land and preaching to people who thought he was crazy. God sent Abraham on a journey in a strange land full of people who wanted to kill him. Moses surely had it made didn't he? How about having to listen year after year to the bickering and complaining of the faithless Hebrews.
What of the great job God gave Gibeon of delivering the Israelites. The first thing he is seen doing is destroying the altars of Baal "in the middle of the night." Some of them belonged to his own family. That was work that surely would get him in trouble with his family and the local idol worshipers.
Do you see what I mean? Commitment, the result of true faith works , just works and does what must be done. It is not looking for the lime light. Often it is never publicly recognized. There is no thought of reward. In times when all seems lost, the way seem fruitless...the commitment of faith to the Lord just keeps on going. That is sign of true commitment. It is always easy to get folks to do the jobs that everyone knows must be done. Some are menial and not seen. Christ may have such a position for you, would you serve gratefully, thankfully anyway just to have a small part in the Kingdom of God.
Dear friend do you rely on carrying a sign, talking a certain way, wearing a pin, or having a bumper sticker on your car to identify yourself as a Christian?
Or, dear friend, can people see you are a child of God, by the committed way you live your life.
Is your service with your lips or your feet. If we are truly Christ's, then we in the Spirit must say, "Yes I desire to serve Him from the heart! The proof is in what we do. That is the test. It is not what you say, but what you do. Would you be honest enough to ask yourself that revealing question? Does what I do so I love the Lord? Would you love the Lord enough and are committed enough to where you see your failure, to confess it as sin and make a new commitment to live for Christ.