Thursday, February 11, 2016


It is interesting, I think, that the Bible doesn't talk about commitment very much - hardly any, in fact. But consider Luke 9.51:  
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
John Piper wrote,
To set his face towards Jerusalem meant something very different for Jesus than it did for the disciples. ... Jerusalem meant one thing for Jesus: certain death. Nor was he under any illusions of a quick and heroic death. He predicted in Luke 18:31f., "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him." When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die. 
That's commitment. 

The Jewish prophets, Jesus and the apostles did talk a lot about obeying God and his commandments. For Jesus, commitment to him meant obeying his commandments: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” John 14.15. 

What that means is that Christian commitment is a matter of love, not mere duty. Nor, more importantly, does God demand obedience from his position power over us mortals. God, being infinitely more powerful than we can even imagine, surely could compel obedience if he wanted to. 

But he does not want to. God invites obedience from love rather than forces it from power. Do you wish to know how the the power of God and love of God are the same? Here is a hint:

And here it is fully known and displayed: 

Jesus explained this while he lived: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." 

One of the central spiritual disciplines for Lent is commitment to shed habits of ungodliness and sin and to adopt habits of virtue and holiness. This is the real intention of Lenten sacrifice - to use the 40 days of Lent to kickstart enduring progress toward Christlikeness.

However, in some ways Christian discipleship is a zero-sum game. That is, if we are to grow in discipleship we have to shrink in whatever hinders us from it. If we are to add holiness to our lives, we have to give up ungodliness. In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church’s main misconception is “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin.” We think we can change what we believe without changing what we do. We want revival without reformation, says Morley, and rebirth without repentance.

That is why this Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, is commitment Sunday at our church. Everyone will have the opportunity to make a personal, and private, commitment to God for this Lenten period. We distributed a from last week, and will again this Sunday, a form that may used as a template for Lenten commitment. Of course, you may make Lenten commitments as you wish; the form is merely a suggestion, not a requirement.

Everyone this Sunday will be handed an envelope. After completing your Lenten commitment, fold it and place it inside the envelope, the write your name and address on the front and seal it. Bring the envelope when you come forward to receive the bread and wine of Communion, and leave it at the altar area. After the service, a team of volunteers will gather to pray for each person individually. Then we will mail your envelope back to you, unopened.

Methodists have understood that the fullness of Christian faith and practice is found in four main areas:

  • Acts of worship - the public, communal praise of God and renewal by the Holy Spirit to be in discipleship throughout the week.
  • Acts of devotion - prayer, Scripture study, meditation, or journaling that opens the heart to the indwelling of the Spirit and asks God’s intercession for those in need. 
  • Acts of justice - those done in Christian concern, in cooperation with other people, which help affairs of the world or the church come more closely to the ideals of God as explained in the Scriptures
  • Acts of charity - personal acts of love or care that are individual rather than communal. 
No one is required to make resolutions according to these areas; they are one way to think about personal spiritual growth and religious life. Your resolutions are private. Please prayerfully consider ways that God is leading you to grow in Christian love, devotion, and service, and then bring your resolutions to worship on February 14.

Here is a link to download the form in PDF format:

God bless you for a holy Lent, and may the grace of our Lord rest upon you all!