Text of a message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, February 24, 2013:
There was a time in our lives when we lived for the moment. Many of us can point to the period of time and space when we moved away from the house we grew up in with our parents and went away to college, or when you got your first apartment. It was at that time you told yourself, “Now I can do what I want to do.”
Many of us did exactly that–lived for the moment and did what we wanted to. Some of the results of this “living” were good experiences, and some were not as memorable. It is from these life lessons that we eventually made the following statement (either to ourselves or out loud) in one of those infamous moments: “I’ll never do that again.”
A lot of our decisions early in life were based upon testing the wisdom of our parents or loved ones, or even going contrary to the advice of wise counsel. Even those of us who went to church at an early age heard good advice from a pastor or a Sunday school teacher. But did we take that advice when it mattered the most? No. The result of all of this, hopefully without enduring the harshest consequences of our actions, is that we really weren’t living as we thought we were. It was, in fact, an ongoing exercise in sinful behaviors that showed we weren’t really as grown up as we thought we were.
We noticed the harsh reality that maturity is not measured by how old you are…it is measured in how consistent your life decisions are towards personal growth and development. True maturity is when you take your college courses seriously and make a concerted effort to graduate. You show maturity when you start using language that will help you to make an impression, not just personally, but also professionally. You also show maturity in the type of relationships and friendships that you value…are your friends people who challenge your intellect…or are they just drinking buddies?
When you wake up one day and decide that you need to make the best choices to promote your maturity, then congratulations–you are making a commitment to be a better person. A commitment is more than just a single decision. It is a series of decisions that a person makes to support a position that leads to a goal. A commitment, even more specific–the level of commitment–is measured by how the series of decisions line up with it. For example, is a person doing the best that he or she can do to realize goals that have been set? The commitment must show some sort of progress as a person pursues a goal.
In the same way, a person who lacks spiritual maturity may come to a point where it is time to get serious about their faith and their relationships with God and with others. Sadly, there are some that never come to this conclusion. Just as there are people who are over 40 years old and never “grow up,” there are also people who do not believe that there isn’t anything that they need to do as far as a commitment to Christ.
The fool says in his heart, “God does not exist.”
They are corrupt; they do vile deeds.
There is no one who does good.
There are some that believe they have a close relationship with God, but their actions show something completely different. This is a more insidious deception that they are under because it is based upon a false sense of faith.
13 The Lord said:
Because these people approach Me with their mouths
to honor Me with lip-service—
yet their hearts are far from Me,
and their worship consists of man-made rules
learned by rote—
14 therefore I will again confound these people
with wonder after wonder.
The wisdom of their wise men will vanish,
and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden.
7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said:
8 These people honor Me with their lips,
but their heart is far from Me.
9 They worship Me in vain,
teaching as doctrines the commands of men.”
They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.
All of this represents a spiritual immaturity that reflects a separation from people who claim to be following and serving God with those who are serious about where they are in their relationship with God, and how they live their life accordingly. The person who makes the commitment to serve God is most likely to please God in His worship and service because it is all based upon a sincere practice of faith.
We are to be reminded that our actions alone do not merit or warrant God’s acceptance.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
9 “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Faith requires a commitment to go beyond what you see and hear. It requires you to focus on God in ways that are beyond human understanding. It is this practice of faith that is often viewed as exceptional within a worldly environment. A consistent trust and faith in God allows the believer to be a part of those exceptional experiences where everyone present (both believer and non-believer) knows that there is no doubt about God’s presence in situations and circumstances.
In keeping this commitment to seek God and live for Him on a regular, daily basis, there are two key elements of practice for each person who is a believer in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The commitment requires action steps in these two key categories:
The Seeking God Category
The Do the Right Thing Category
The first category involves personal preparation. It involves the commitment to read and study the bible more than you did in the past.
Reading and studying the bible is important because it is God’s Word to us in written form. It is His clearest form of communication to us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
10 For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
11 so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.”
Reading and studying the bible now requires absorption of God’s wisdom through understanding by way of the Holy Spirit. This requires a commitment to pray more each day. God’s Word communicates to us, and prayer is your communication with God. Effective prayers require practice and regularity.
26 In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. 27 And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
The second category, The Do the Right Thing Category, requires the committed believer to take the wisdom and knowledge acquired during The Seeking God Category and putting it to practice. Here are the elements of practice in doing the right things that are in line with the commitment to grow in Christ:
- To Sin Less
I have treasured Your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against You.
Thankfully, Jesus gives us the ability through the Holy Spirit to resist sin, and there will be struggles, but we can indeed sin less when we rely upon our faith.
2 Corinthians 12:10
So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
1 Peter 5:10-11
10 Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. 11 The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen.
- To Make Good Decisions More Often
With better information you will ultimately make better decisions. This is where the reliance of God’s wisdom, discernment and understanding promotes better decision-making.
1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 listening closely to wisdom
and directing your heart to understanding;
3 furthermore, if you call out to insight
and lift your voice to understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and discover the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He stores up success for the upright;
He is a shield for those who live with integrity
8 so that He may guard the paths of justice
and protect the way of His loyal followers.
9 Then you will understand righteousness, justice,
and integrity—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your mind,
and knowledge will delight your heart.
11 Discretion will watch over you,
and understanding will guard you.
- To Become Selfless
Your commitment to Jesus Christ means developing a heart for God, which means that you will have a heart of concern for others more than you ever have in the past.
3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
2 Corinthians 4:5
For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.
1 Peter 5:5
In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because
God resists the proud
but gives grace to the humble.
- To Respect Others
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.
Love Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect,therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Children and Parents
1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
All of these actions require a foundational understanding of God’s Word for effective implementation. There will be greater success in doing the right things as noted here with a greater dependency on God’s Word and with supplemental prayer.
Your commitment to be a true believer in service for Jesus Christ requires a consistent approach to these things that we just discussed:
- Reading and studying God’s Word
- To Sin Less
- To Make Good Decisions More Often
- To Become Selfless
- To Respect Others
Each of these require a commitment to a closer relationship with God in Jesus Christ and to be obedient to His Word, which invariably will help you to do the right thing.
If you’ve been on the fence as far as your walk with the Lord, or if you haven’t been as serious about this matter as you know you should be, then make today the day that you make the commitment to be a better believer in Jesus Christ. It won’t be easy, but the rewards of doing so are far beyond what you can imagine.
Matthew 6:33 says all of this in the best, most concise way.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.
All verses from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.