26th June 2016
The God Who Is Committed To You
Genesis Chapter 15
We have been over the past couple of weeks looking at the subject of fear in our lives. This week in particular the thought that I am sure is on many peoples minds is the fear of uncertainty.
A huge decision was made on Thursday in regard to the country and since then the papers, social media, television have been full of comments about all sorts of stuff related to this decision.
Fear for the future is certainly one of them, and uncertainty about what happens next.
I reckon the fear of uncertainty is high up there for all of us, not just in regard to this issue, but so many others in our lives.
It got me thinking this week, that once again in a world where we don’t know what is round the corner, in a world where things so often change, indeed in a world where we can be certain of very little, there is one thing, one person who never changes.
One person whose commitment to his people never waivers, one person who through the ages, has come up against rebellion and luke warmness from his people, there is one person for whom commitment to His people can never be questioned, one reason that we should never fear uncertainty, no matter what.
Our God is committed to us.
God Is Committed To Us.
You know we can be great commitment breakers but we need have no such concerns about God.
All the way back in Genesis, God made a startling promise to a childless man named Abram. In Genesis 12 v 2-3, we read, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.”
Abram lived away quite happily for a few years with the hope of this promise, but as the seasons passed and Abram saw that he wasn’t getting any younger, he began to have second thoughts, and a few doubts began to creep in.
The next time that God appeared to Abram he took the opportunity to remind God that His earlier promise hadn’t yet been fulfilled, this is where we pick up our reading from earlier, in verses 2-3 of chapter 15 we read…
“But Abram said, `O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, `You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
The Lord then reinforces his promise to Abram and then does something else which is absolutely stunning when you understand the nature of commitment – making in Abram’s days.
As we read on in that chapter 15, we see that to renew his commitment to Abram, God asked Abram to split a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old along with a dove and a young pigeon, and lay the sides out, with a pathway in between the split carcasses.
Now it might seem a bit gory and barbaric to us, but God knew exactly what he was doing. When two people made an agreement in the days before lawyers, and contracts, they would sometimes walk in between the two sides of animal carcasses, giving each other a clear picture of what would happen should the commitment be broken.
The difference this time however as we can see from verse 17, “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.” God had sent Abram into a deep sleep and then symbolised by that blazing torch, God alone passed through those carcasses. In essence, God was telling Abram, “I promise to do this. It is going to happen.”
God’s commitment with Abram who was to become Abraham was just one of many commitments He has made.
God promised Noah that there would never be another world wide flood.
God once made a commitment to David, saying that he was going to make Israel a great nation of world significance. He kept that promise and Israel became a world dominating power.
God also made a commitment to Solomon, David’s son, promising him he would get to play a role that even his father could not play. Solomon would build the temple of God and bring in the most prosperous period of Israel’s life before the coming of the Messiah. God kept His promise and built the temple.
God also made a commitment to Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus. They would have a special child, and indeed this turned out to be so true.
God the father also made many commitments to Jesus, the most important being the assurance that His work on the cross would satisfy the requirements of justice and make salvation available to any undeserving person who trusted in Him.
God promised the early church in Jerusalem that they would be the launching pad for churches that would someday spread all around the world. At first such a thought must have been laughable, as these first churches struggled against persecution and opposition, as laughable as a childless man becoming the father of many nations.
But God kept his word, and today, that little church in Jerusalem has produced little communities of faith in almost every city, town, and village around the world.
We could go and on, but again the question we ask ourselves is, what difference does this make to me, what does this knowledge, this experience of God’s commitment do for us in our walk with the Lord.
Does it make us feel relaxed in that we know our future is secure in Him, does it make us feel confident that God is not going to let us down, but will be with us through thick and thin.
Or is your experience this morning one of fear for the future, doubting his commitment to you, maybe your not a Christian, or maybe you are, but you find it hard to believe that God is committed to you, maybe you are facing difficulty, trauma in your life and are struggling to recognise God’s commitment to you, and yes while there is all this evidence in the Bible about God’s promises and commitment to keep them, and indeed the evidence that He has, you feel as if He isn’t committed to you.
We all go through difficult times, times when we struggle with our faith, and yes struggle with God. There is no easy answer to why at times we feel God isn’t there, and why he seems to have let us down. But friends we need to trust that he hasn’t, we need to look afresh at the cross to see his commitment to us.
Think of the implications of the cross. Jesus Christ exchanged the glories and pleasures of heaven to have thirty three years of life on this planet, with all it’s sin, all it’s darkness, but he came with a fixed mission, he came to die on a cross, he came to release us from the strangle hold of sin that was keeping us from knowing God.
He came to pay the price for our failures and rebellion, and pride, he came and did all that not because it was a nice thing to do, it was far from that, he came and did all that not because he had to, friends he came and did all that because he loves us and is committed to us.
Look at the opposition that Jesus faced on these short years on this earth, think of the jeers as he was led to that cross, imagine the cries of crucify. He could have walked away, he could have said stuff it, why am I bothering.
But then you see he couldn’t because he was fully committed to his father who is fully committed to those who shouted that day, to those who have shouted down through the ages, to those who shout today, in their unbelief, in their apathy, in their rebellion, indeed to us today sitting in this church.
So friends when we are struggling, when we are doubting God’s commitment to us, his love for us, look to that cross, God on a cross, God giving everything for us, God holding back nothing for us, and friends there we see commitment.
As I said if there were easy answers we would know them, and we wouldn’t struggle as we so often do, so often we look at situations and we cry Why Lord? We don’t understand, sometimes we never will until we go to be with Him, but friends let us understand fully, let us never doubt one thing.
God is committed to us. We deserve nothing, we deserve death, we deserve for God to turn away from us and say I’ve had it with them, but instead his nail pierced hands reach out to us in love.
Friends I know that I am still going to struggle on many occasions through my life, as indeed you will, I know there will be many times that I will want the answers and they wont be forthcoming, as you will, but I pray that my knowledge of the character of my God will free me from the crippling fear of uncertainty and enable me not to doubt his commitment to me.
I pray that when I am let down by so many, and indeed when I disappoint so many, that I will know the peace of God’s commitment to me.
God is committed to us. But what about us, as we move to our second point.
God Expects Us To Be Committed To Him.
As I said at the beginning, we had a big week in politics, a big decision making week in the life and future of the UK. I’m sure many of us watched the unfolding drama through Thursday night and into the small hours.
One of things that struck me was the way that everyone was waxing lyrical about the amazing turnout. I think it was about 72%, and how much better it was than the general election etc.
I thought the same and then sort of stopped and thought wait a minute that is still nearly 30% of people just didn’t bother to turn out and vote.
Although much better this time round this apathetic reaction to exercising your vote is an ongoing issue.
Again all the questions rear up, about people and their commitment to democracy and indeed to the country. The question we ask this morning is not how committed we are to our country, but how committed are we to God, and our mission in light of His commitment to us.
With David Cameron stating in his decision to resign this week, that another captain was needed to steer the ship, this illustration came to mind.
On a sunny August morning, three different couples prepare for a weekend of “sailing”. One couple get out of their car, the one with the sticker in the window that says, “I’d rather be sailing”, and begin to bring all their provisions to the boat. It takes several trips to carry their picnic basket and the rest of their gear to the boat.
Once aboard, they change their clothes, turn on the music, and then spend the better part of the day lounging around on the boat, which is still tied to the dock, reading and napping and talking. They sleep in the cabin on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning go through the same routine of the previous day. Then about four o’clock, they pack everything up and drive back home.
The second couple get to their boat early on Saturday morning. They travel to the same marina, they have the same window sticker, they bring the same gear, turn on the same music, socialise a bit, but then they do something strange.
They start up the motor, they untie the ropes, and they cruise round the harbour. The couple may spend an hour looking at the other boats in the harbour and then drop anchor to cook a meal. That evening they may venture out by the breakwater, to gaze out on the open seas, but then they come back in, sleep on the boat, and repeat the whole process on Sunday.
The third couple get to their boat early on Saturday, bring their gear aboard, head into the harbour, and then make straight for the breakwater. As their heading out, they hoist the sails, and when the wind fills them, they shut off the motor and enter the open sea.
They hear the sails straining and the water rushing along the hull. They feel the swells rising up underneath them, and they keep going until the sight of land is lost. They spend the entire night out on the seas, cooking in spite of the motion of the boat. They use a torch at night to look at the charts and to keep their bearings. And then they come back into the harbour late on Sunday night.
“On Monday morning, each couple will be asked , “What did you do at the weekend?” and each couple will give the same answer, “We went sailing.” But did they really do the same thing?
It can be so like that with our commitment to God. Some people can play at being Christian. Maybe come to church a couple of times a month, put something into the offering bowl, do their best to look religious, but they never untie their boat. They always manage to maintain a connection with the safety of the shoreline.
Others attend church every week, boost their offerings, volunteer for the odd thing. They’re willing to motor around the harbour and experiment with dependence on God, but seem to stop short of the open water, they never really know what it would be like to trust God deeply and fully.
The really committed leave the safety of the harbour, accept the risks of the open seas of faith, and set their compasses for the place of total devotion to God and whatever life adventures he plans for them.
Friends do we truly trust God deeply and fully, do we truly let go and let God, do we trust Him that much, do we commit ourselves to Him that much? There are a number of things that we are called to be committed to I’ll mention just two, we need firstly to be committed to God.
In Matthew 6 v 33, we read the words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you instead.” Eugene Peterson in his translation of Matthew in the message puts it this way, “Steep your life in God reality, God initiative, God provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Seek first, steep your life, God has committed himself to us, we need to commit ourselves to him, maybe for someone for the first time this morning, maybe we need to re-commit ourselves, to seek him first, to steep our lives in him.
Friends we can respond to the wonderful truth of our Salvation in many ways, the wonderful truth of the cross in many ways, but the only way that we can fully respond is by giving our life over to Jesus, by being committed, not just for now, now just when things are going okay, but by being committed in every area of our lives, and by doing so this then naturally leads on to, secondly, a commitment from us to make a difference. We can think we are the most committed of people, we can think that we can be no more committed. But we need to ask ourselves am I making a difference.
Is my commitment to God overflowing into my commitment to the message, indeed my commitment to others.
Friends we live in a world where commitment is a word that is often mouthed but yet rarely taken seriously, and you know I think that so often it is the same in churches. It must grieve God to see the lack of commitment in his children, it must grieve him to see how casually we view the cross sometimes, must grieve him to see that he has changed our lives so much that we can’t be bothered telling anyone about him, that we so often live changed lives which don’t seem to be changed at all.
What’s our excuse, oh it’s a scary world we live in, and God doesn’t care about me, he isn’t committed to me, he isn’t faithful. Friends we have none of those excuses. We need to let the impact of the God who is committed to us, impact, revolutionise our lives.