Commitment to God
My topic today is "commitment to God," but I am not here to convince you to be more committed to God. I am not going to harangue you about how much more you need to do.
The fact that you are here shows that you probably already put a high priority on spiritual commitment. You want to draw closer to God, and that's good. The most difficult aspect of my topic has already been done. You already have the motivation.
However, I still need to talk about the most important thing in the universe, so I will try to address the subject in a way that helps you think about commitment to God.
HOW do we become more committed to God? How do we show our commitment?
Unfortunately, I cannot give you a formula for how commitment to God should be expressed. I could prescribe a certain length of time in prayer, study, and service, but we are all different, and our needs are also different. Our relationship with God goes through different seasons and strategies from year to year.
So what is right for you is not necessarily right for me. Christianity is not a mechanical device that comes off the assembly line, every motor working exactly the way that every other motor does. We are not mechanical beings — we are human beings, and that makes the job much harder, more challenging. It requires more skill to work with people than with machines.
I've got a machine at home called a computer, and it gives me no end of frustration. If I ever want my ego to be deflated, all I have to do is try to fix that computer. It resists every attempt. It resists reformatting and reloading all the software. It resists professional help from customer-service experts.
Machines can be frustrating, but people are even harder to figure out. We cannot be programmed to give the right results every time. We cannot plug in a half hour of prayer and an hour of Bible study and setting up chairs every week and passing out hymnals as any sort of spiritual assembly line that gives a predictable result. Humans are much more complicated than that.
I can't even figure myself out, and I certainly can't prescribe a formula for anyone else. Now, we can see that the ingredients of spiritual success include prayer and Bible study and helping other people, but we cannot prescribe the same formula for everyone. For one thing, we have different positions to play. We cannot expect the pitcher to practice in the same way that the second baseman does.
In our commitment to God, we all have prayer and Bible study and involvement with the church, but we do it in different ways, according to our different spiritual gifts and our different responsibilities and our different stages in spiritual development. So I can't give a precise formula — it is up to each of us to develop our own game plan, and to keep examining ourselves to see how the game plan needs to be changed from time to time.
Now, as part of this talk on commitment to God I could talk at length about Bible study and prayer. I suspect that most everyone here thinks they need to do more prayer and more Bible study. I do not need to convince you of that, nor do I think that I would be effective if I tried to get you to do more of something that you already want to do more of, but find for numerous other reasons that it is difficult to do what we want to do.
We have multiple commitments. We want to be committed to family, to church, to personal growth, to community, and to worship. All these commitments are good, but they are not equally good.
Sometimes our commitment to family comes before church, and sometimes our commitment to the church comes before family. Sometimes we have to set aside our Bible study to take care of community concerns; sometimes we have to skip the community thing and spend time in the Bible. The balance is constantly changing and needs constant monitoring to see what we need to do at each particular moment.
But there is one commitment that always takes priority, that should never be compromised, that should never be relativized — and that is commitment to God. This comes before all other commitments — and in fact it is because we are committed to God that we also want to keep our commitments in all the other areas. Commitment to God is the foundation for all the others, for why we do them - and how we can be successful in managing our multiple commitments. Put God first.
But like I said, there's no magic formula for how.
I would therefore like to talk about why — and why not.
Let's start with the second one, the "why not." Why aren't we as committed to God as we want to be? What are the obstacles, the things that compete for our commitment?
One major obstacle is time. We have got only so many minutes in each day, and, thanks to CNN and CBS, we have 7 billion people to keep track of, 200 nations, and at least 10 wars going on at any given moment, and 200 million Jones to keep up with.
We have families that expect more out of us, jobs that expect more out of us, economies that expect more out of us, and a 100 different charities that expect more out of us. We have machines that save us time and machines that waste our time. We have electronics that add to our stress and electronics that are supposed to help us unwind.
And then we have to spend time trying to fix the things that are supposed to save us time, and we have to spend time paying for the stuff that's supposed to save us time. We have to keep up with more than one career, and we have to pay for a place to live when the market is driven by people who borrow more than we do, cheat more than we do, and don't keep all the commitments that we do.
We have a 100 different things to do — and that's just counting the good things!
Maybe the Amish have the right answer. Technology can be a real time waster, and an enemy of the family, and an enemy of spiritual health. All our busyness makes it hard to be spiritual. All our commitments to other things crowd in on and takes away from our commitment to God.
The devil has two strategies to keep us away from God: he can tempt us with evil, or he can distract us with things that are merely good. If we spend all our time on good activities, maybe we won't ever draw close to God. If we always choose second-best, we are doing very good, but we are still sinful because we have not chosen the most important thing, and that is God.
So we must take control of our schedules, to say no to perfectly good activities for the simple reason that we have something even more important to do. Every time I say "yes" to one thing, I am saying "no" to something else. So I need to choose my yes'es wisely, to make sure that there is room for God in my life. My commitments to family and job and community must come from God, rather than crowding him out.
Another reason that we find commitment difficult is because we have other gods. One common competitor today is Mammon, the god of money. Money is a powerful god.
This god can deliver the goods in a way that no other god can.
This is a god that makes us feel good.
This is a god that lets us be in control.
This is a god that lets us make our own rules.
It makes no moral demands. It requires no commitments.
It just offers power.
Now, money can be good. It can be used for good things. It can help us serve our families. It can help the church do its work. It can even help us worship. But it is so helpful that it is also tempting, distracting, and deceitful.
That money we work for, is it really to help us serve others, or is it to serve ourselves? All that time that we put in, what is it really for?
Ah, that is a sly question, because the money that was earned for one purpose is so easily spent upon another. We are still in control. The money is easily re-routed for something else, and we just think that we will just earn some more. But at that point, the money is already controlling us, and we are serving it.
Earlier, when I said the word Mammon, a scripture probably came to your minds. It was Matthew 6, verse 24. "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon."
So, how does a person serve Mammon? Do we bow down before it and take care of its needs? Is money a weak and needy god that needs the help of strong and powerful us?
No — it's exactly the opposite. We serve money when we think it will take care of our needs. We serve money when we think it has the power to help us with our weaknesses. We serve money when we think it has power. We serve money when we are devoted to it, when we spend our time trying to acquire its power. We are praising it by our actions, by the amount of time we devote to it. We look to it as the real help that we need.
So when it comes to worship, the word serve has the opposite sense than it usually does. We serve money if we look to it to take care of our needs.
In the same way, we do not serve God because he needs our help. We do not serve him because we have the power to help him. Rather, we serve God by looking to him for the help that we need. We serve him and praise him when we see him as the power to help us in our real needs, when we spend time looking to him. That shows he has value, that he is valuable to us, that we treasure him.
Our desires are a measure of our worship. Do we desire God more than anything? Do we desire to do his will? Do we desire to spend time with him? This is how we serve and worship a God who does not need our help, does not need our service, does not need anything.
We serve him by admitting that he does not need anything, that we are the ones who have needs, and he is the one who can take care of them in a way that nothing else can. We look to him, not to money, for power and help. We are devoted to him, committed to him.
Oh, but money is so much easier to handle! We can count it, store it, manipulate it, even borrow it. Money is really handy.
People had a strong desire for money in New Testament times. Ever since people invented money, it has been in great demand. But I think the problem today is greater than it has ever been, and I think the primary culprit in that is advertising.
Some advertising exists to provide information, to help you realize that something you wanted is in fact available. But that is probably a pretty small percentage of the advertising that is actually done. Most advertising exists to create desire, to make us want something we didn't want before, to make us want something we don't have, or to make us want more of something than we already have. Advertisers spend millions and billions to create desire.
Another way of saying that is, that they work to create discontent. They want to make us unhappy with the amount we have, or with the lifestyle we have. The next time you watch TV, remind yourselves that the ads exist to make you unhappy. They are designed to manipulate your desires.
Advertisers spend billions of dollars to make us spend more than we would otherwise spend, to make us want more than we would otherwise want, to make us want more than we need, and in the end, to make us spend more than we have.
That is because advertising works to create a never-ending desire. They do not want you to ever be satisfied, because if you ever became satisfied, you would stop buying their stuff.
That is why the most successful advertising sells not a product, but an image. If it's just a product you need, then you can go get it and be satisfied. But if it's an image, an idea, then you can never achieve it. You can never get enough of it. You can always want more.
So you never see car ads that say, "If you want a car, we've got one that works." No, the car ads project image — of sleekness, of speed and power and luxury, and fun that real cars never give. If real cars really gave us the feeling of fun, then the ads would not be very effective. We wouldn't find them appealing because we would already have what they were offering.
Maybe I'm just too cynical, but I think that's the way that advertising really works. The ad would not be effective if it offered something we already had, and in today's prosperous climate, most people already have everything they need. So the ads have to create new desires for things we don't need. The ads have to create desires — desires that are never completely satisfied.
And that is why Mammon is such a powerful god today. It has a great advertising system working for it, calculated to make you want more and more stuff, and more and more money to get that stuff.
So I think that when we boil it down, we can see that we serve Mammon as a god when we desire it, and when we look to it as the answer to our desires. Desire is another way of saying, that is where our heart is.
Now I would like to turn that same idea toward our relationship with God. The way we serve God is by desiring God, by wanting him. We see him as the answer to our innermost needs. We spend our time seeking him, obeying him, wrapping our lives around him.
Notice that I did not say that we are seeking the stuff that God gives. We are seeking God himself — not to possess him, but to be with him. Our ultimate desire is not material stuff that will someday rot away — our ultimate desire is a friendship with the eternal God.
With friends like that, everything else will be taken care of. That's Matthew 6:33 — seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things will be given to you.
This idea is also found in John 4, where Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well, and he says, "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst." He is talking about a thirst, an internal desire, that is fully satisfied in Jesus Christ.
We all have an inner desire for something, and that something is Jesus Christ, and our thirst can be satisified in no other way than through him, and in him it can be fully satisfied. God satisfies in a way that nothing else does.
And until we find our satisfaction in him, our souls will thirst and we will be on a never-ending quest to fill a void in our lives. We might try to fill it with cars, or with booze, or with careers, or with money, all to no avail. When it is God that we need, nothing else can substitute.
And that is what commitment to God is. It is a recognition that he is what we need. He is the power — the only power — that can help us with our deepest and most permanent needs. God wants us to desire him, to seek him, to look for ultimate satisfaction in him. It doesn't get any better than him. With him, we can be content. With him, our souls have rest. That is what we were made for, and that is what we need.
We can chase the wind, or we can seek the Spirit of God.
We are to be content with God, and to trust him with our lives, to trust him to take care of everything else, to trust his instructions for how we ought to live, to trust him for guiding us in work and in church and in family.
And we are to trust his judgment as to how much of himself he reveals to us. In this life, we will never have a complete and full relationship. We will never be like Moses or Jesus or Samuel. But neither are we to fret about it.
We are not to be frustrated by the limits that God puts on himself. We are not to be frustrated by the limited relationship with God that we currently have. Rather, we are to have faith that he gives us as much of himself as is good for us. We seek him with a focus on how much we have, not on how much we lack. We want more, and yet we are content with what we have. We are satisfied even as we seek for more. We enjoy what he has already given, and know that he will give more in the future.
Now, when our innermost desire finds its satisfaction in God, we will not be racing around for other thrills. We will not be driven by money, or driven by career success, or driven by public opinion. We will have no other gods before God.
Everything else will be brought into subordination to God. The commitments we make to our families will flow from our desire to honor God and do what he says. The commitments we make to the church will be made in that framework, in obedience and worship of God. The financial commitments we make will serve God, and not Mammon. Life will have a stable order and structure to it because it will have the right foundation
— and the key to that foundation is desire.
Commitment to God boils down to a desire for God. He is our treasure, our hope, our value, our supreme goal. He is our God — and there is no competitor.
Now, we have discussed one of the false gods of the first century, Mammon. Let's go further back in time to the Old Testament, to one of the famous false gods of ancient Israel, the god Baal. It was Elijah who said, If Baal is god, follow him. But if the Lord is God, follow him. Don't try to do it half one and half the other — make a clear choice.
The principle is still true, for any false god.
But perhaps it would be helpful to review why Baalism was such an attractive religion. Baal was a storm god, a god of thunder and lightning and rain, and rain was precisely what the people in Canaan needed for the fertility of their crops.
Baal was a fertility god, and he was often pictured as a bull, because bulls have lots of semen. So in the mythology of the Baal religion, semen was associated with rainfall, and the religion involved some imitative rituals. The Bible has the decency not to give us too many details on this, but archaeologists have dug up more explicit descriptions of Baal worship in the Canaanite cities north of Israel. Baal was a god of sexuality, and apparently the people liked the worship rituals.
Baal as a name is long gone, but sexuality remains as a powerful god that takes people away from the true God.
Now, sexuality is good — God made it, and he made it in such a way that it feels good — but it is precisely because it feels good that it is also a power that can be misused, a power that can pull us away from the Creator and toward the created. So in this sin-tainted world, sexuality has become a competitor to God, and a competitor to our commitment to God. It can distract us.
Sex would be a strong competitor just by itself, but in this culture, it is not by itself. Just like money, sex has powerful advertising agencies working for it. Our ideas about what is sexually desirable are created in large part by advertising. Two centuries ago, sexy European women were supposed to be a bit chubby and pasty white. Now, they are supposed to be thin and tan.
I see no reason for this difference other than what society creates — what movies and magazines tell us is sexy. I imagine that sex with either type of woman would feel about the same, and yet, we have been shaped by culture to prefer one shape to another. The kind of makeup or clothing or behavior that is sexually suggestive in one culture, isn't necessarily sexy in a different culture.
I think this shows the role that media has in shaping our expectations, our desires, and our distractions.
Now, not only do the media affect the kind of things we consider to be sexy, the media also affect our level of interest. We are frequently hit with the idea that sex is essential to happiness. Ads for cars, beer, clothing, and holidays imply that we need to have a woman with us in order to enjoy life. Movies imply that we need sex in quantity and in quality.
Of course, ads and movies are fiction — they do not present a picture of the real world. People do not pay money to see stories of the ordinary, to see pictures of the ordinary. So movies portray people who are out of the ordinary and, with the marvels of makeup and plastic surgery, are not real. The movies picture relationships that are not real, because people don't pay money to see a story that they live everyday at home.
So our logic tells us that this is fiction, that it is not normal, that it is highly unusual, and yet somehow our emotions say that we want this. We want this idealized life, this idealized relationship, this idealized sex, this idealized sense of excitement — we want this fiction to be true in our lives. The media has created expectations that are incredibly hard for anyone to fulfill.
Notice that I am talking about ordinary movies — not pornography. Pornography is notorious for creating unrealistic expectations and unfulfillable desires. It creates discontent and frustration and a never-ending cycle — and lifetime customers who always come back because they never find anything satisfying.
But even regular movies on regular TV can present an unreal picture of what life is all about, and can create desires that cannot be fulfilled.
Again, my point is that God, in contrast, fulfills the desires that he creates. It is in him that our thirst can be quenched, that our hunger can be alleviated, that our souls can find rest.
The two most common competitors in this culture, money and sex, cannot satisfy the desires they create. Only God fills the need that we have within our souls, and he is to be the focus of our desires — not just our willpower, not just a mechanical decision to be committed to God, but our desires need to be focused on God. It is only when we treasure him above all else, that all else will be given to us.
It is God that we want, even more than a commitment to God. If we seek after a commitment to God, it is too easy to look for something we have done, something we have decided to do, something we can boast about. "What a jolly good person I am, because I am so committed to God."
It is like Jesus described the Pharisee in Luke 18:12: "I give tithes of all I possess, and I fast twice in the week. What a good person I am. I am so committed to God."
Now, that scripture puts a different slant on things, doesn't it? Jesus is taking the concept of "commitment to God" and putting it in the form of a Pharisee! If we are not careful, we can do the same thing. We can turn "commitment to God" into some good thing that we do and pat ourselves on the back for it.
So what do we do instead? Do we refuse to tithe, and refuse to fast, and pat ourselves on the back for that? No, that was not Jesus' point at all. Jesus was not encouraging us to be unfaithful. He was not saying that we should sin so that grace might abound.
But he was saying to watch our attitude — to watch our attitude about our commitment to God. We should never let obedience or commitment become an end in itself, as if that were our main goal in life.
Our main goal is actually God, and when we seek him, obedience and commitment will naturally follow. But if we make commitment our main goal in life, then we are making commitment a god that comes before the true God. We are taking a good thing and treating it as if it were the most important thing, when it isn't.
We don't want to put the horse before the cart. We have to see commitment not as the main goal of life, but as a necessary result of seeking God as our main goal. When we seek God himself, the commitment will automatically be there, following right along. It is not really something that we achieve, but something that God puts in us when we put him first.
It is easy for us, as men, to see sin as the main problem in life, and to think that our main goal in religious life is therefore to stop sinning. But if that is our main goal, then we are leaving God out of the picture. We are putting human behavior as more important than God. Oh, I know, we try to re-define the behavior as God's law and therefore a good goal, and I don't argue with that. It is a good goal, but it's not the best goal. It's not the most important goal.
If our main goal in life is to stop sinning, then Buddhists do a pretty good job of it. Dead people do a pretty good job of it. They have stopped sinning.
I agree, we should stop sinning, but when we focus on that as our main goal in life, we have set our sights too low. We are not aiming high enough. That's because we need to look not at what we can do, but we need to look to God, to seek him and his righteousness. We need not just an absence of sin — we need righteousness itself, and that comes only from a gift of God, not through our own works.
If we focus on behavior, we are tempted to brag. Jesus' comments about the Pharisee show that quite well. But if we focus on God, we have nothing to brag about, and we have the right behavior as an added bonus.
Jesus contrasted the Pharisee with a tax collector. The modern equivalent today might be an extortioner, or somebody who takes bribes. This man prayed something very different, and was accepted by God. The extortioner prayed, God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
He saw himself not as a good model of commitment, but as a sinner in desperate need of God's mercy. And he was accepted by God and given mercy, and in Jesus' analysis, this man had a better commitment to God than the diligent Pharisee.
It is hard for us behavior-oriented people to accept this parable. We want to argue with it. We want to add something to it. We want to save the importance of obedience, of diligence, of commitment.
Yes, Jesus himself talked about the need for us to be obedient. Yes, that's true. But the point right here in Luke 18 is that obedience alone is not enough. It is not the most important thing.
The tax collector could be accepted by God without one word of obedience. The tax collector was not asking God to make him more obedient. He was not asking God to help him be faithful to his commitments. No, he started more fundamentally by asking for mercy.
The key word in his prayer is "mercy," and I believe that this concept is key for our understanding of commitment to God. We always have to see it in the context of mercy, not of righteous things we are doing.
I think this is substantiated when we see the way that the Bible talks about commitment to God. The word isn't used that often, so we can look at the verses that talk about being committed to God.
First, Acts 14:23. This is on Paul's first missionary journey, when he was about ready to go back to Antioch. "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust."
These elders were committed to the Lord. This is not talking about their commitment to obey God. Rather, it means that Paul was leaving them in God's care. It talks about their faith, their trust in God. That is what it means to be committed to God - it means to trust in his care for us. If we seek him first, he will take care of our other needs.
The second verse that uses the concept of commitment to God. Acts 20:32. this is a similar situation. Paul is leaving Asia behind, and talking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, and he says, "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified."
When Paul speaks of commitment, he is not talking about obedience. He is not talking about how faithful we have to be toward God. It's true, we should be faithful, but when it comes to commitment, the far more important thought is that God will take care of us. He is committed to us. His word of grace will build us up and give us an inheritance among all the saints.
Commitment starts not with us, but with God. He has committed himself toward us, to call us and save us and build us up and give us an eternal inheritance. We need his mercy. We need his grace. We need him. When we seek him and put ourselves in his care, and put our trust in him, he will take care of the other stuff.
The third and final verse about being committed to God is 1 Peter 4:19: "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
Here we at least have a mention of good behavior, but still, in the word "commit," we have more the sense of trust than of obedience. The Greek word has the sense of handing over, of giving. Those who suffer put themselves in God's hands.
Sure, they are willing to do what he says, but the fundamental attitude is one of trust, of receiving something from God rather than of giving something to him. Our relationship includes both giving and receiving, but it starts with God's grace toward us, and it is always dependent on his mercy toward us.
As Jesus said, the person who is accepted by God is not the one who brags about his commitment to God, but the one who looks to God for his mercy, the one who puts himself into God's hands and trusts in him. That is the foundation of all true commitment. Our relationship with God starts with faith and depends on faith throughout our lives. Commitment to God depends on faith, on something we cannot see.
That puts commitment in another light. Commitment to God includes the element of trust. We have to trust in a power we cannot see, a power we cannot control. And why do we trust in this power, this person? Because he has shown himself to be utterly trustworthy. In the language of the New Testament, God is faithful.
He who did not spare his own Son, to save us while we were yet sinners, he can be counted on to do whatever it takes to finish the work he has begun in us. We were rebellious, we were bribe-taking extortioners, we were unfaithful, and Jesus died for us. That is the foundation for whatever response we give him.
The reason that we can be faithful is that we know that he will be faithful to us. Our work is not all for nought — it will all be rewarded. He will not forget the work we do — and, since we all fall short, it is also essential that he will never change in being gracious toward us, in showing us mercy that we do not deserve, that he accepts us according to our faith and not on the basis of our faulty works.
If there was no grace, we would soon despair of ever doing anything good. We would disqualify ourselves and then have no hope whatsoever. But grace encourages us to keep at it, to be faithful, because we are assured that God will continue to be merciful toward us.
So our commitment to God is based on faith — a faith in his mercy. Faith means trust, a recognition that we are powerless and must depend on a power greater than ourselves.
Faith also means belief. We believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. We believe that God is love, that he is truth, that he is absolutely reliable. We believe what he says about righteousness and sin and guilt. We believe what he says about our need for mercy and grace. We believe what he says about salvation possible only through Jesus Christ.
We believe, we trust, and therefore, as a result of believing trust, then we obey. Faith must come first, for faith is the foundation of our relationship with God and the foundation of our commitment to God.
The book of Hebrews talks a lot about faith, often in the sense of being faithful. The whole book was written to a people who were on the verge of apostasy, of falling away from the faith. The whole book is written to encourage them to remain committed to faith in Jesus Christ. The book is a manual for commitment to God.
Do not drift away, he says. Fix your thoughts on Jesus. Don't fall short. Make every effort. Hold firmly to the faith. Approach the throne with confidence. Go on to maturity. Draw near to God. Hold on to the faith. Encourage one another. Meet together. Throw off the sin and run with perseverance. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Strengthen yourself. Worship God.
The positive exhortations outnumber the negative ones four to one. There is a lot more said about seeking God, than about stopping sin.
In this book, the author uses a variety of arguments to make the case from as many angles as possible. He threatens punishment at some points, promises rewards at other points. But a large part of his argument is really a commentary on how much Jesus has done for us.
Jesus is greater than angels, he starts out. He is greater than Moses, greater than Aaron, and God has exalted him to the highest place. And the author sums up the argument in chapter 8 verse 1 by saying, "The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, [a perfect high priest] who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 02 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man."
The point is, that we need grace, and we can be confident that we can get grace, because Jesus is there for us. That's where we start. That's where the Hebrews apparently were. They had already fallen short, already sinned, already flagged in their commitment, and one of the first things they needed to know is that grace was freely available. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Heb. 4:14.
All because we have a High Priest in heaven, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Now, how did Jesus get to be in this role? The author explains in chapter 9: Christ entered heaven itself, to appear for us in God's presence, by his own blood. Verse 28: "so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."
This is what Christ has done for us. He has been faithful to us, and he is even now a faithful High Priest.
And he wraps up a major part of the argument in chapter 10, verse 10: "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." And in verse 14, "By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."
Now, all this is part of his exhortation to faithfulness. He is explaining what Jesus has done for us. He has made guarantees for us. This is the foundation for all commitment to Christ. We need first to learn of what he has done for us, and what he is now doing for us, and it is by him that we have been made holy.
And the conclusion of his doctrinal discussion is in verses 17 and 18: Your sins and lawless deeds have been forgiven. There is no need for sacrifices, because Jesus has done all that was needed. All there is now is forgiveness. The throne of God is a throne of grace, because of what Jesus has done.
And then, it is on that foundation that he argues for faithfulness and for commitment. The foundation — chapter after chapter — is on what Jesus has done for us. That is the essential starting point for any message about commitment to God. All this is seen in the first word of verse 19: "Therefore." That word "therefore" means, "Because of everything I've said before, this is now what I conclude:
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence [faith] to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, [why?] for he who promised is faithful."
And then comes chapter 11, the heroes of faith, the hall of fame. This is not here just as a historical digression — it is part of the exhortation to faithfulness. This was one of the rhetorical techniques used in the ancient Greek world — the list of examples. Yes, they did it. They believed God, and they obeyed him, and God did what he said he would do. The people had faith, and God was faithful. He delivered. He rescued. He saved.
And some were tortured and imprisoned and killed, but they all died in faith, knowing that God is faithful, that God has planned something better for all of us. That is the foundation of being faithful — knowing that God himself will be faithful toward us.
And then, coming to chapter 12, we read, "Therefore, because we are surrounded by witnesses like this, evidence like this, we are exhorted, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 02 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 03 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
And he goes on to remind them that they are God's children. God has done something for them. He has chosen them. Even their hardships should be seen in that light.
And then we read in verse 12, "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 Make level paths for your feet." Keep running with patience, with perseverance, because the reward is guaranteed.
And he goes into a passage about how much better the new covenant is than Mount Sinai. We have come to Jesus, to the blood that gives us forgiveness, and we have been promised an eternal inheritance.
Therefore, we read again in verse 28, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire."
When we realize what Jesus has done for us, what he has already purchased for us, what he has guaranteed for us, we can do little but to be driven to worship. We seek him, for his goodness, for his love, for his beauty, for his utter faithfulness toward us, despite our shortcomings.
And it is there, when we grasp his goodness toward us, when the greatness of that outshines everything else in our minds, that is the foundation of whatever faithfulness we may have.
That compels us. That commits us. We are looking straight to him, not to how good we are in seeking him, not in a decision we have made to follow him. Rather, we are captured by his decisions to seek us, to save us, to intercede for us, to sacrifice for us, to be committed to us, and what can we do but to respond to him in trust and commitment?