Perhaps you’re like me, having heard various teachings & sermons that revolve around the idea of commitment; that is, our commitment to God. Christian bookstores have a whole section entitled, “Christian Living” where one can find much material on the subject. Whether it be the call to prayer, or fasting, or serving, or loving, or following various precepts or spiritual disciplines, the call to being committed to God rings loud and clear. Its even been said that Christianity can best be defined as a commitment; namely, our commitment to God.
But is this a good definition of Christianity?
I started thinking on this one evening and decided to ask a question about it to a friend over email. I wasn’t looking for a theological dissertation on the subject, but was just curious how someone else in the body of Christ would respond. The lucky recipient of my question that evening was Shelby Hadfield, a friend of mine who is passionate about knowing God and abiding in Him. Her response was, well, pretty deep and definately thought provoking! I think it’s a balanced response that touches on this whole issue of commitment from a grace based, Christ centered perspective. I’ve chosen to share her response below and then add some additional thoughts on the subject of commitment and how it relates to the Old and New Covenant. But first, here was my question:
“Is Christianity primarily about our commitment to God? Or God’s commitment to us?”
I’m no religious scholar by any means, but this is what I think. God has shown us continually throughout time His commitment to us. From the beginning of time when Adam and Eve sinned and He remained committed, to Abraham and God’s promise of many nations coming from him, to sending His Son Jesus Christ down from heaven to walk among us, teach us, and give up His life for us (the ultimate commitment!) If Christianity was primarily about our commitment to God, it would fail miserably because of our human nature. We are commitment-phobes! We promise to commit, to do better, to not sin – fail miserably – feel guilty and repent only to do it all again. Thank God that He is more committed to us than the other way around!
On the flip side of that…without our commitment to God and following what His plans and purposes are for our lives, no matter how many times we fail, would Christianity exist? Without our commitment to Him to go and make disciples of all nations, without our commitment to Him to love one another, care for one another, humble ourselves to one another, what would be the face of Christianity? Words of history in pages of a Bible? It’s up to us to bring the Bible to life, to be the light of God here on earth to others, Christians and Non-Christians alike. Christianity is a relationship with God. In order for a relationship to work, there needs to be commitment from both sides. So, I guess I’d have to say that it’s a mix of both. What the percentage of that mix is, I’m not sure. It sure seems like God is always giving more =) After all, He is perfection!
Thank you, Shelby, for some great feedback!
With that being said, what does “commitment” look like within the Old Covenant? And does it look any different within the New Covenant? I want to share some thoughts on this to hopefully bring everything “full circle:”
The old covenant was dependant upon Israel’s ability to be faithful in keeping covenant with God. By reading the “blessings and cursings” of Deuteronomy, we can see that if the children of Israel were faithful in following God’s commands, they would be blessed. But if they didn’t, they would be cursed. The results were, well, pretty disastrous! They didn’t do too well in keeping their commitments!
Hebrews 8:6-12 speaks of God’s remedy for this dilemma; it is the New Covenant:
“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is a mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said, “the time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying ‘know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness, and will remember their sins no more.”
Notice that the Old Covenant paradigm of “if the people do this, then I will do that” is not present when the above passage speaks of the New Covenant. The reason why the New Covenant is superior to the old and founded on better promises is because rather than the covenant being dependent on man’s ability to keep his commitments to God (old covenant), it’s now dependent on God’s faithfulness to keep covenant forever according to His promise and oath that He made to Himself (Hebrews 6:13-20), without any contributing factor on our part! Even in the midst of our flaws and failures! Because of the finished work of Christ accomplished on our behalf, God is now TOTALLY COMMITTED to us in keeping covenant forever. The blood of Jesus, which ratified this covenant, accomplished for us what we could never have accomplished through our own ability. This is new covenant grace, and it’s our inheritance in Christ! We are secure in our covenant relationship with God and can now abide in the rest of faith.
With all this being said, I think it’s important to note that God’s will, desire and expectation to have a people who will be obediant to His voice and follow His ways has not changed. But how obedience is accomplished HAS changed with the inception of the New Covenant.
I’m convinced that our obedience to God (our commitment) is the natural fruit of having a clear revelation of God’s grace and commitment to us through the New Covenant. It’s God’s goodness that leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4). When fully realizing the extent of God’s mercy, grace, faithfulness and goodness to us, what other reasonable response is there other than to yield our lives to Him?:
“We love God, because He first loved us…” (1 John 4:19)
But God did even more. Desiring a people who would walk in His ways, He has given His people grace through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…writing his laws on our minds and hearts… providing the desire and power we need to walk in His ways:
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Hebrews 8:10
“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:5-6
Grace for obedience…..WOW! Think about it: even our own commitment to follow Him is empowered by the grace of God!
Can anyone disagree with Paul’s admonition that Christ is to have the preeminence in all things? I think not!