Committed

I’ve spent some time pondering the great theme of commitment this Easter. It is, of course, a central theme of evangelicalism but if we scratch a little below the surface it is also a theme of the left as well. Liberalism has always supported an agenda of justice and equality and it is clear that neither of these are possible without some significant commitment from individuals to both behaviours and policies which support them. Commitment, it would seem, is necessary for the realization of any hopeful future.

However, we don’t travel too far down this path before we strike the rather turgid note of moralism or even legalism. It is a mere step to the side from the valid observation that for most good things to persist they require good people to be committed to them to the deathly notes of condemnation poured out on all who will not bow the knee or sign the petition. Salvation by works is writ all through this music.

So how do we strike a balance. Christ calls for commitment to Himself and to the Kingdom in multiple places throughout the Gospel. (Take for example the ‘follow’ motif  in the NT. Jesus uses this word to call for commitment on multiple occasions and it is expanded in many other places to summarise the whole of a disciple’s duty and, indeed, to call for greater commitment to the cause of the Gospel.) There can be no doubt that we are to commit to both him and to his kingdom and that the decision to commit is both worthy and required on more than one occasion. (Rev 32) Recommitment is, in fact, another significant theme in the NT. I suggest the balance is struck in this way…

We should not shy away from both the notion of commitment to God and to the needs of the kingdom of God but this should always be tempered by an even greater emphasis on the commitment of God in Christ to us. Always and on every occasion it is the commitment of Christ which is the greatest theme of the NT and which also acts as the truest motivation for commitment to God by the individual. Every individual commitment should reflect that in committing to God what we are really doing is offering a small (but necessary) token of thanks for the enormous commitment God has shown to us.

So on this Easter morn I rejoice in Christ’s commitment to us all and I am reminded that this commitment calls forth a renewed commitment from me to all that Christ would have me be and do.

Sermon for Easter Sunday 2018

He Is Risen!

John 107-13/ Phil 26-11 / Ruth 41-6

Today we celebrate with all our might the commitment of Jesus – the man who faced down death and won!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Empty tombThe only people who truly commit are those who believe. Without belief, commitment is either fake or it is fleeting. It is either pretend commitment or it is  passing commitment. Passing commitment is commitment that looks good to begin with but is withdrawn when it becomes inconvenient. But Christ’s commitment to us is unquestionable because He gave all that He had to give – He gave His life!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Commitment proves itself largely by staying in the game, by remaining faithful; by finishing the job and by paying the price. And there’s always a price friends for without a price there’s no need for commitment. Without a sacrifice there’s no work to do and without an exchange of goods our commitment is an empty promise.

Today of all days we celebrate commitment but not ours. Rather we celebrate One who was committed to us! We celebrate One who stayed in the game till the very highest price was paid. Today we celebrate the commitment of Jesus!

 Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

We need to ask ourselves what the essence of this commitment was however. We all know He died but His death is really just the top of a mountain of commitment. Underneath that is the bulk of the mountain upon which the top rests and for Christ this bulk is the greatest mountain that ever existed.

You see Christ’s commitment begins with a terrible wrenching away from His home in eternity with God. Christ has left His home and His comfort and all that was familiar to Him to commit to us – very much as Ruth left her home and people and everything she had known to support her mother-in-law Naomi.

And this is a commitment that is counted daily in grief and loneliness as we exist without those whom we love. Christ choose to leave His loving relationship with God and to commit to us

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Secondly it’s a commitment to the cause of a separated and barren people; the same kind of commitment Boaz was willing to make to Ruth. Naomi had nothing left in the world except a property she could not manage and a daughter-in-law who had no future. So her future was blank; her present was one of desperate poverty and her past one of complete loss. However, Boaz was willing to buy into that bloodline in order to revive it and bring hope to it. He was willing to bear that risk in his own flesh.

Christ does the same for you and I today. He buys into our checkered past and our barren future and he says to each one of us – through me you shall prosper again; you shall rise again; you shall rejoice again! I shall bless your bloodline and restore it to its intended glory. You shall live again.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Finally Christ is not only willing to restore our bloodline but he is willing to invite us into His bloodline; to make us inheritors of what was only His. His future has become our future; his possession our possession; his glory our glory; his place in heaven our place in heaven! We get to share in all that was his just as Ruth and Naomi get to share in all that belonged to Boaz.

It’s a double whammy. Christ restores our inheritance and He makes us to share in His inheritance. Christ saves us and he give us a new future which was wholly His.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

I wonder, are we prepared to receive these things? We can only do so when we realise that our futures are nothing without Christ. We can only do so when we realise that what we have is ashes. We can only do so when we desire health more that we desire  comfort and security.

The surgeon promises healing but only if we’re prepared for some discomfort. We cannot be operated on at home. The ground promises a crop but only if it will yield to the plough first. The grain will give us bread but only if it is crushed first to make the flour. We have to leave behind the body of death if we are going to receive the gift of life and, frankly, some people prefer certainty so much that they will not open their lives to Christ and to His uncertainties. Come Lord – help us to let go of the past.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Today Christ is Risen but not so that we may stay at home – rather so that we may enter into a new home with Him; a home we could barely imagine – a home where pain and grief are gone and where we may find true joy and true comfort.

What we experience today is but a shadow of the things to come. What we are addicted to today is but a shadow of the comfort and joy Christ has won for us today but – we have a choice to make. Shall we stay with the old and let Christ hang on the Cross or shall we make the swap; rags for riches; pain for pleasure; grief for fulfilment.

Are we prepared to listen to the Good Shepherd and follow Him into the good pasture or will we prefer our old inadequate joys instead? He longs that we should listen. He longs that we should follow. He longs that we should enjoy the blessings of a life committed to following His call.

He is committed to us. Are we now to be committed to Him?

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

I appeal to you today. Don’t stay at home! Don’t stay in your comfortable but sad existence. Take a risk with God! God risked everything for us – will we not take a risk with Him? Choose today whom you will serve. Choose today whose future you will take. He will not force us but He continually calls to us as the Good Shepherd to open our hearts to His voice and to say to Him, ‘Yes Lord, I will follow you.’

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Sunday is, in fact, a day of decision for us all because it’s the day that God’s decision for us becomes clear. With Christ’s rising it is clear that God has conquered death and crossed the last barrier between us. God has come to us and we are now faced with this incredible offer… ‘Come with me now and walk with me.’ ‘I give you honour for shame; peace for hostility; joy for sadness; riches for poverty and passion for apathy. I have come, says Jesus, to bring life, life in all its abundance. But we need to say yes to God! Are we willing to say ‘Yes’ to God today? Are we willing to open our hearts to Him again. Are we willing to take a risk with God because essentially faith is a risk in that it is always a step into the unknown.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

This is not a foolishness risk. It’s not an unwise risk. It is, rather, a step of trust and, wherever trust is involved there is an element of risk. Marriage involves risk. We cannot know what the future will hold. Our promise at the alter isn’t to guarantee the future of the one we are giving ourselves to but to guarantee our love in that future. When we have children we take a risk. When we play sport we take a risk, when we invest we take a risk but these are usually not foolish risks. God calls us today to take risk with Him – to put our lives into His hands and to trust Him.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

If you’ve never made that commitment before I invite you now to say yes to this prayer I am about to pray and then to tell one of the people you know is already following God and we will help you grow into this wonderful inheritance.

Dear God, I see you died and rose again to give us all a wonderful inheritance. I want to be a part of that. Help me to receive all that you have for me today. Help me to open my heart to you and to become your follower. Help me to say ‘Yes’ to you today and every day from now on. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.