We grow through commitments. Think about it. When you make a commitment to something, it leads you to a new place of growth and maturity. Maybe you’ve made a commitment to complete your education. It’s a struggle. It’s hard. But you follow through with your commitment and you grow as a result. Marriage is a commitment. You make the choice to love your husband or wife, “till death do us part”. It’s a lifelong commitment. And when things are hard or challenges come, you keep working your way through them, because you made a commitment. Commitments are important. When you look at the life of Jesus, He was constantly calling people to make a commitment. He seldom left them the option of just coasting. You were either going forward with Him or moving in the other direction, there was no middle ground.
The first time Jesus encountered a group of men with spiritual questions, He invited them to “come and see” (John 1.39 ESV). They had a choice to either press in closer or bail out. Jesus called for a commitment. About eighteen months later, Jesus ratcheted up their commitment level again by calling these same men to leave their family businesses and follow Him full time (Matthew 4.18-21 ESV). Again they had to make a decision to follow or fall back. About six months later Jesus called them to another level of commitment. After praying all night, He called 12 men to “be with Him” for the purpose of leadership training. These men were being called to a higher level of commitment and accountability (Mark 3.13-14 ESV). And finally, after months of intensive training, Jesus gave them their greatest commitment challenge yet, calling them to deny their own selfish ways, take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9.23 ESV). As you look back over Jesus’ ministry, He was constantly calling people to make greater and higher levels of commitment.
This has certainly been my own experience. When I was a young man, I heard the Gospel and was convicted of my sin, and I turned to Christ in faith. It was a life-changing commitment. But Jesus didn’t leave me alone. That initial commitment was only the beginning of a journey that has involved many steps of faith. When I got to college and strayed from the Lord, again Jesus called me to follow Him in a fresh and powerful way. A few years later, Jesus called for commitment again as He clearly called me to shepherd His people as a pastor. My whole relationship with Jesus has been following Him and responding to His constant calls to greater and higher levels of commitment. That is what Jesus wants from you. He is never going to be satisfied with you just giving Him your bare minimum. He’s never going to be happy with you portioning out your life saying, “Jesus, I’ll let you have this much of my life, but the rest is mine.” He wants all of you! And while He loves you the way that you are, He loves you too much to leave you the way that you are. As you follow Him, He will always be calling you to new, challenging, faith-stretching, fear-conquering, confidence-building levels of commitment.
If Jesus called people to commitment, and still today He is continually calling us to follow Him in fresh new ways, then it stands to reason that the way we help people to grow spiritually is by calling them to new levels of commitment and faith. New growth seldom happens in your zone of comfort. If you want to get fit physically, you have to push your body outside of what’s comfortable in order to reach new levels of strength and endurance. Growth happens outside you comfort zone. The same is true spiritually. People must be challenged to put into practice what they are learning, because new growth and strength is waiting for them outside the zone.
In (Matthew 28 ESV) Jesus gave His men the “Great Commission”. Part of that commission was to teach these new disciples “to obey all I have commanded you,” (Matthew 28.20 ESV). Many times when I hear people teach this passage they put the emphasis on teaching. They will read it, “…TEACHING them to obey all I have commanded you…”. This is unfortunate, because that has led to a great deal of emphasis in the church on teaching Bible facts and doctrine without practical obedience. People now can attend Bible Studies, read Christian books, know lots of Bible facts, and still not be living like Jesus. Rather, this passage should be read, “….teaching them to OBEY all I have commanded you….”. The emphasis is obedience. And how can you know if a person is obeying Jesus? One way is to help that person make a commitment to obedience and then hold them accountable. I will deal with the importance of accountability next week, but let me just say that commitment without accountability produces nothing. But commitment to obedience, coupled with loving, God-honoring, grace-filled accountability produces transformation.
Photo Credit: Edward Cisneros