WORTH OUR ABIDING COMMITMENT
People can try to excuse themselves from a true day-by-day "walk" with the Lord for any number of reasons:
— anger with some other person, anger at God for a lingering illness, a financial problem or difficult relationship with someone, or just sleepy apathy towards the Gospel's incredible gift because of a stronger desire for some selfish pleasure to provide a sense of fulfillment. Examples like those could each be compared to Christ's parable in which the seed of God's Word being sown fell among thorns. He explained that the plants arising from that seed were like people who hear God's Word, "but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature."
The goal here for us, therefore, is that we be encouraged to regularly renew our hearts' commitment to the Lord God as the only One, and whose Word and Sacraments are the only things, that are really WORTH OUR ABIDING COMMITMENT! They're worth it for these three reasons:
Because of the consequences we risk if we don't remain faithful,
because of God's own faithfulness towards us in the past,
and because of the enduring faithfulness of His promises that reaches into the future.
BECAUSE OF THE CONSEQUENCES WE RISK IF WE DON'T REMAIN FAITHFUL
There's the old saying that, "When God seems far away, guess who moved!" - It's right for us to constantly confess that we haven't been fully faithful to the whole-hearted commitment God seeks, because we truly are not. His own faithfulness certainly does remove our sin, but in this life we grievously and endlessly offend God's Spirit and holiness.
God isn't some easy "pushover." He's not just a kindly grandfather kind of figure who winks at our trespasses and quotes trite cliches like, "Boys will be boys." "The wages of sin IS DEATH," He says. He issues and means every one of the stern threats found throughout the Bible. Those who drift to a point of dulled hearts and consciences that they just aren't concerned or penitent over their unfaithfulness and sin any longer have placed themselves in extreme jeopardy.
Moses warned the Israelites, "If you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them, I solemnly warn you this day that you will surely perish." - Joshua reflected the same: "If you forsake the Lord...He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good."
Jesus once warned a group, "Unless you repent you will all...perish (like) those 18 upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them." In John's Revelation Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, "I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent."
St. Paul lamented, "Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me," and, "By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme."
Scripture also directly warns us things like, "God will judge the immoral and adulterous," and, "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption.." - Let's acknowledge, then, that the Lord our God is worth our abiding commitment, because of the definite risk involved and sure consequence if we get too wrapped up in the cares of this life, and ultimately would depart from Him in hardened impenitence and unfaithfulness.
BECAUSE OF GOD'S OWN FAITHFULNESS TOWARDS US IN THE PAST
The better reason for our abiding commitment, of course, isn't merely to escape God's terrifying judgment, but to rest on His own unchanging faithfulness and grace!
(AS HE WAS FAITHFUL TO THE ISRAELITES)
If you were to look at the preamble to Joshua's call for the Israelites' renewed commitment in Joshua 24, you wouldn't be able to miss how God was the sole Agent responsible for every good thing that ever came to the people! Throughout their entire history dating back to Abraham they had experienced God's merciful providence. Not only had God made a covenant with Abraham himself, but He renewed it through Abraham's descendants, rescued the people out of Egypt with great miracles, brought them to the Promised Land, cleared the way before them in that land filled with heathen enemies, and parceled out the land so that every family had their own possession. The people's renewed commitment was to be based on the undeniable grace and mercy they had already received at God's hand!
(GOD HAS LIKEWISE BEEN FAITHFUL TO US)
By the time young children are taught the Pledge of Allegiance, they've already been the recipients of a history of blessings predating their births by several hundred years here in America! Loyalty to our country and its Constitution doesn't arise from our own goodwill and noble-mindedness in the first place, but because we are the beneficiaries of this land's freedoms which we therefore recognize as worth preserving and protecting.
God has seen us through every one of this nation's fearful times. - Our Revolutionary and Civil Wars and other military involvements. Polio and other major epidemics. - After Japan's original encroachment in World War II, we didn't again experience such destruction within our borders that has constantly touched so many others until "9-11." - Since Kruschev's terrifying threat of nuclear war and the Cuban missile crisis, we've seen the demise of most the world's Communist regimes. Through all our wars, disease scourges and natural disasters God has still permitted and upheld our position as the world's greatest-ever power. He has granted advances in health, technology and economy that have been unparalleled in human history. - You and I have been the recipients of such unprecedented blessings at the Lord's hand, and all the earthly, physical and material blessings and freedoms we have enjoyed make Him worth our abiding commitment!
Yet under girding all that is the mighty salvation God already faithfully completed centuries ago at Calvary's Cross! God came to this planet in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, to identify with us in our sorrows, illnesses and temptations. He came to receive OUR scourging and crown of thorns, the nails meant for OUR hands and feet, the ridicule and scorn and death due US! And He came to credit us with His own righteousness. The Cross swapped things around(!), and as Jesus took on Himself our sin and shame and guilt, God declared us forgiven and clean and upright before Him. - Taking such a one-sided deal on Himself, He truly is worth our abiding commitment!
BECAUSE OF THE ENDURING FAITHFULNESS OF GOD'S PROMISES
Not only ought we recommit our hearts' faithfulness over God's past work, though, but because the deed of the Cross also ensures God's enduring faithfulness in His every promise for our future...
The Gospel of John, chapter 6, exposes how fickle human hearts can be. - Jesus presented Himself as the true "Living Bread" sent by God and gave tangible evidence by miraculously feeding the 5,000. At first the people recognized Him as a special Prophet and were set to proclaim Him as their King right on the spot. They soon challenged Him to produce another sign to show He was worth believing, though, and wanted Him to always provide them with miraculous food from Heaven. Many who expressed interest and perhaps had even begun to believe then became offended at the claim that He Himself was the true Bread and Source of life. It was an issue over which most drew away and would no longer follow or listen to Jesus.
As Joshua challenged God's people of old, Jesus now posed the opportunity to His closest disciples:— "Do you also want to go away?" - Not by his own intelligence or insight, but through the still budding faith given to him from the Heavenly Father, Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Receive Jesus for who He really is, and you RECEIVE the GUARANTEE of this life that will never end! What He accomplished in paying sin's wages of death on the Cross was irrevocably shown by His resurrection on the third day. He's alive forevermore Himself and IS, therefore, the "Bread" and Source for OUR eternal life. No one can go back and undo His atoning sacrifice, and so nothing can remove God's continuing faithfulness to His incredible promise of eternal life for all who believe!
"Choose this day," Joshua urged the Israelites. And he and his family and the whole nation did vow then and there to serve God only. The chapter indicates that at least that generation did in fact remain faithful, stating, "Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel."
It was likewise a "decide NOW" type of question that Jesus posed to His disciples, "Do you also want to go away?" Had they not received grace to respond with the truth about Jesus, we might not be here today.
Let's all therefore once again commit our hearts and faithfulness to the Lord OUR God and the Word and Will we have received from Him. It's worth our abiding commitment, not only because we might risk judgment for impenitent unfaithfulness, but for God's earthly providence and material blessings, for the events of Christ's Cross and empty tomb, and ultimately for the resulting blessing and certain hope of our everlasting life in glory! Let the commitment not be for today only, but let's practice recommitting our hearts every day God may yet grant us by His grace. - He IS worth our ABIDING commitment!