Committed: to a committed God
'That seems like a pretty big, scary word. Sounds quite daunting. Not sure how I feel about that. Hmm...'
You might not think that, but apparently millennials do. In such surveys like one by Goldman Sachs, those born between 1980 and 2000 in Western society are wary of commitment. They marry less and marry later; the same is true for starting a family; they spend less time in a job; they live with their parents for longer and prefer to rent than to buy; they prefer to travel than to be rooted in one place; they prize new experiences over habits and routine.
There are many factors in play here - economic and political ones being the most obvious - but the weight of evidence shows that social and cultural norms for millennials make commitment something to be avoided than to be sought.
With all this, Jesus' words in the gospel of Luke carry an extra level of challenge:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (9:23)
These thoughts led us to our current preaching series entitled 'Committed' for Pursuit, our young adults Sunday evening gathering. What does it actually look like to be committed to Jesus in a generation that tells us it's best not to go after commitment, let alone Jesus?
We have unpacked many spiritual habits and character traits from Scripture these last few months to help answer this question (hopefully we can share some of them in further posts), but we have to start with the right perspective on this issue.
Commitment to Jesus isn't really about us at all.
Our commitment is simply the right response to His commitment to us.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
You see, being a Christian is about following a God who has always - and I mean always - been committed to His people.
Before preaching on this message, I skim-read through every book of the Old Testament to put some meat to this statement. You know, just for fun. And each one has some verse, chapter, or in fact an entire narrative, pointing to the faithful, steadfast, covenant-keeping nature of God. (If you fancy, check them out here.)
I wasn't surprised. The grand narrative of Scripture is of God rescuing His people from their disobedience and rejection of Him - their sin - and inviting them back into right relationship with Him. Old Testament, New Testament - same God, same story.
And the New Testament brings us to Jesus.
Committed to this earth in human likeness by God the Father, the Son of God lived amongst an uncommitted people and taught them what true commitment looked like:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
These weren't just words. He followed through, committing Himself to a cross to die the death we deserved. Our sin held Him there until the ultimate rescue mission was accomplished, making a way for the uncommitted to have relationship with God again by the simplest of commitments - believing in heart and confessing with mouth that Jesus is Lord.
And you know what? He is still committed to us now. Jesus, resurrected from the grave, ascended into heaven and He is now seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. He sent the Holy Spirit down onto His followers then, and still now the Spirit takes up residence in anyone who commits to Jesus to lead them and guide them every single day.
This remarkable story reaches its crescendo in Revelation, revealing a God committing relationship to His people for not just this life but for the life to come, fulfilling a promise He made from the very start:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (21:1-4)
This painting of the creation of Adam by Michelangelo tells this same story. Our commitment to God will never, ever compare to His commitment to us. Even when I feel like I am more committed to Jesus than ever, it is so weak and feeble compared to His outstretched arms of love that never fall or fade.
Living in a generation and culture lacking commitment, questions like the following come too easy: Why read the Bible? Why pray? Why worship? Why go to church? Why work hard? Why grow up? Why serve and honour others? Why do good?
But the underlying and altogether more important question of Christianity before all of these is why be committed to Jesus? Why take up my cross daily and follow Him?
Because He is committed to you. Because He took up the cross first. Because He loved you first.
This isn't about you. It's about Him.
About the Author
Sam Gardner is City Students leader and ID supervisor at the City Church, Canterbury and Whitstable. He is passionate about seeing young adults come to know Jesus and spend their lives following Him.
Sam loves his wife Andi, exercising, having dinner with friends and a good cup of tea in the morning.