THE HOLY HEART ASSOCIATION – COMMITMENT
July 21, 2019
From the nice, refreshing Sundays of late spring to now the double dog days of mid-summer, we have been exploring what it means to become card-carrying members of the Holy Heart Association…that is, to embrace the virtues of the heart from a biblical vantage point. We are discussing such virtues as courage, faith, direction, character, discernment, joy, simplicity, righteousness and gratitude. Yes, we are moving beyond the American Heart Association to become full-fledged members of the Holy Heart Association!
This morning’s message is centered around the virtue of COMMITMENT.
Our key verse is the first portion of Matthew 22:37. Jesus says,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…
To love the Lord our God with all our heart is to stake our lives upon God in radical, unwavering commitment. And yet, when it comes to such commitment, we often find ourselves searching for excuses.
We hear excuses every day. Someone once said an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.
And yet, some excuses seem pretty plausible. A friend of mine who owns a small contractor supply firm said one of his employees, who was two hours late for work last week, offered the alibi that his dog had chewed through his phone charger cord overnight and his phone had died. Thus the alarm on his phone did not go off to awaken him.
My Aunt Molly maintained a lot of vanity about certain things. She and my mother were heading down the long road to Richmond one morning, rolling north on 95. And when the state trooper pulled her, she was doing 95 in a 55 zone, zooming along in her huge boat of an Oldsmobile.
When the trooper asked her if she had been paying attention to what was registering on her speedometer, Aunt Molly shared that she couldn’t see her speedometer. She fully confessed that she was far-sighted and didn’t like to wear her glasses because they made her look old. The officer got a pretty good chuckle out of hearing that from an 80-something year-old lady. She got out of a reckless driving ticket, though he did make her dig her bifocals out of her purse and put them on!
This morning we hear of Jesus’ encounters with three different fellows. We hear the hemming and hawing of excuses being made. And we hear Jesus saying in no uncertain terms that, first of all…
COMMITMENT SUPERSEDES SECURITY – Luke 9:57-58
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Art Turock once observed, “There’s a huge difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
We see a huge disconnect here. Jesus’ time is on earth is growing short. There’s an urgency to his mission. His face is set resolutely toward the cross.
A gentleman comes up to Jesus who wants to join his entourage. It seems like a fun thing to do. Reading between the lines, I think this man is saying something like, “I want to join the party.” He’s attracted by the crowds. He’s amazed by the miracles and astounded by Jesus’ teaching. He was awestruck when he heard about Jesus walking on water and was astounded by the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Who wouldn’t want follow someone who could raise the dead?
This fellow is very much sincere in his desire. He just has not counted the cost of what it means to follow Jesus.
In our own generation we have not counted the cost either. Jesus sounds kind of interesting, at least on Sundays. We’ve swallowed the false notion that to follow Jesus is to name and claim the security of health and wealth. We’ve forgotten that Jesus himself had no earthly home or earthly possessions.
And yes, to commit ourselves to our Lord is never allow our possessions to possess us….to love him above all these things, and to willingly abandon them if we are so led by his Spirit.
In a gift shop in Camden, Maine I saw a painting of the harbor in that beautiful village. And beneath it was this rhetorical caption “A ship in the harbor is safe, but is that what ships are built for?”
We each are secure in our own harbors. And yet, our Lord has gifted us with ingenuity and ability to sail beyond these safe confines… to make the ideals of his heavenly kingdom a reality on earth.
Loving our Lord with all our heart means radical commitment…such commitment supersedes security, and also, such…
COMMITMENT SUPERSEDES SOMEDAY – Luke 9:59-60
59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
In this case, Jesus asks the man to follow Him. This second potential disciple seems to have a legitimate excuse. He wants to be pardoned to go and bury his father.
Jesus’ response seems more than a bit harsh. He doesn’t accept the excuse. Is Jesus implying we should neglect our family in their time of need? I don’t think so. Most scholars agree the phrase “First, I must bury my father” refers to the duty of a firstborn son to stay close to his home until his father died. It’s unlikely this man’s father had just died. Jewish burial customs dictated that one be buried within 24 hours because they didn’t embalm like other cultures.
If his father had recently died, he wouldn’t have been out in this setting where Jesus was calling for disciples. He’d have been following the carefully prescribed burial customs at home. Let’s be clear – Jesus is not telling this young man to forego making funeral arrangements for his dad.
This man’s father was very much alive. So what’s going on here?
The young man is telling Jesus someday he’ll follow Jesus. It would be sometime in the future after his father died, then he’d follow Jesus. In other words, he was making the excuse, “Lord, I will follow you, but let me get all my family obligations out of the way first. And if his family was like mine or yours, that would probably never. He’s the someday guy.
It’s so easy to become a spiritual procrastinator. We’d rather keep burying the dead-pursuing the same meaningless ruts and routines – than join Jesus in raising the dead – experiencing challenging and exciting ventures in creating new life for others.
Yes, we experience that inner compulsion, that nagging impulse, that relentless restlessness, to serve our Lord in some way. It may be something as small as stopping along the side of the road to assist a stranded motorist….or something as big as making a change in career. And yet we fail to seize the moment, and the moment is lost.
We say we meant to say or do something, but it’s a fact of life that we run out of days long before we run out of intentions.
Our train never leaves the station.
Regrettably, someday never comes.
Loving our Lord with all our heart means radical commitment…such commitment supersedes security, such commitment supersedes someday, and such…
COMMITMENT SUPERSEDES SENTIMENTALISM – Luke 9:61-62
61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Gardening was my father’s favorite pastime. He looked forward with great anticipation to each spring, planting enough vegetables in our back yard to feed half of Chase City. Each seed, each tomato plant, each onion set, was meticulously placed in the fertile dirt with gentle care.
That is why, at the age of 12, I was so shocked when my daddy handed me the handles of our ancient push plow and told me to open some cornrows.
Up until that point I had been permitted to do only such menial chores as picking up rocks and filling the sprinkler can.
I enthusiastically grabbed the worn, smooth handles of the push plow. I buried the plow point into the fresh-tilled soil at the edge of the garden. I began laying open a row, grunting with all my might with each step. I was all over that plowing thing…at least for a short while.
Unfortunately, I had the attention span of a flea back then. And soon my eyes and thoughts began to wander as I spied my friends Keith, Gary and Robert playing basketball next door over my left shoulder… and then I caught a glimpse of the neighbor’s dog chasing a cat up a tree over my right shoulder.
Finally, with sweat dripping into my eyes and my chest heaving for air, I reached the opposite end of the garden. I turned around to admire my newly-created masterpiece of a row.
To my utter dismay, it resembled a snake—meandering this way and that. And my father, who had been keeping a close eye on my work, hollered to me, “Boy, (he always called me “boy”) that’s a fine job of contour plowing!”
I learned an important life lesson that day: You cannot plow a straight row forward if you’re distracted by what’s over your shoulder, by your attachments to the past. God’s kingdom is only for forward-looking folk.
And yet, so many persons are not able to truly live in the present and reach toward the future because they are dwelling in the sentimentalism of the past. Their history is a hitching post, not a guide post. They are always returning to say goodbyes rather than moving forward to offer hellos, plowing rows forward straight into God’s future plans.
Did you notice there’s one common thread voiced by the three fellows Jesus encounters? “I’ll follow you, Lord, but…”
And Jesus responds by kicking buts!
Maybe it’s because Jesus’ time is short, and his face is set resolutely toward the cross…He certainly minces no words. He tolerates no excuses.
You have to wonder what Jesus might say to us….Here’s a typical scenario I’ve seen played out dozens of times over the years:
A Bible study group in the church sits around talking before their meeting: “Did you hear about First Church of What’s Happening Now’s youth group? They, along with several parents and sponsors, spent a week over spring break in North Carolina repairing homes and conducting a Vacation Bible School for a struggling church there. The kids came back on fire for the Lord. Every teen said it was a life-changing experience!”
“Wow, wouldn’t it be great if we could do that here?” The leader of the group then asks, “How did they fund it?” “The youth and their parents did car washes, yard work, and other projects for an entire year–with the church matching each dollar raised with 2 dollars. The entire church was committed to helping them. The youth had nearly $600 left over which they used to provide Sunday School materials for children there.”
“Geez, we could do that, couldn’t we!” Jessica says, “Yes, I know it would be great for my two boys, but we have basketball, soccer and baseball every Saturday–so we couldn’t be involved in the fundraisers.”
Danny chimes in, “It surely would make a difference in the lives of my daughter as well as the ones we minister to, but our family is thinking about going to see the Mouse over spring break.” And Mallory adds, “This is exactly what God is calling us to do–to love the least and the lost–but my daughter is allergic to sunlight and she is a picky eater–I don’t think she would be able to cope with such a mission trip.”
And that’s just one example among so very many in all ages and stages in the life of any given church.
Do you think Jesus sometimes wishes he could just kick all the buts out of the church? We say we want to serve our Lord, but only in an advisory capacity.
Jesus says, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…
To love the Lord our God with all our heart is to stake our lives upon God in radical, unwavering commitment.
Commitment that supersedes security.
Commitment that supersedes someday.
Commitment that supersedes sentimentalism.
Jesus says, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart!