Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: 1 Peter 3:15a (CEV)
Honour Christ and let him be the Lord of your life.

Confirmation & commitment

We went to circus a few weeks back Ė it was a circus of amazing feats done by people, not animals. There were 3 young men on a wire high above in the top of the tent, and to Mexican music they danced, rode bikes, carried each other in a pyramid formation while balancing on the high wire. How was it possible for these men to do such amazing things Ė stunts that left us gasping as they defied gravity, swaying to keep their balance. The only way they could possibly do all this is because of their dedication to practice, practice, practice until they got it right.

Athletes are beginning to gather in Athens for the Olympic Games. These people have been preparing for this moment for years. Hours of exercising, coaching, swimming, running, weight lifting every day, giving up all junk food, and late nights, living a disciplined life, and even going into debt to be able achieve all this. They are totally focussed on winning and doing their best and are happy to make the sacrifices that are required. That they have made it on to the Australian Team to go to Athens is an indication that they have the stickability, the commitment to do their best.

Commitment is a word that is used often these days, in lots of different situations, from the world of sport to the area of politics, from the home to the work-place. But the meaning is always the same - to give yourself wholly over to someone or something. When you join a sports team or learn to play a musical instrument you commit yourself to practising, doing your best, even when it is tough going, you become tired, or sick of the coach or teacher. Commitment means to give yourself wholly and totally to sticking to the task as best as you are able - even when you begin to get sick of it.

The Bible says quite a bit about commitment. For example, in the book of psalms we read; "Commit your way to the Lord" (Psalm 37:5).

What about the 12 disciples who gave up what they were doing and responded to Jesus call, "Follow me". In fact, we know that their commitment to Jesus led most of them to suffering painful deaths at the hands of Jesusí enemies.

On several occasions in the New Testament, the apostle Paul talks about athletes who need to go into strict training and in the same way we are be committed to winning the prize of eternal life (1 Corinthians 9 24b-25).

And why is there this emphasis on commitment? The answer is simple? Because God has committed himself to you and me.
In Jesus, we see God's commitment to us when he was born in the manger at Bethlehem;
we see God's commitment to us when we see Jesus dying on the cross;
we see God's commitment to us when we see Jesus rise from the dead and assure us that we too shall come alive again;
Godís commitment to us is clear when he gives us his Holy Spirit so that we would continue to grow closer to him and so that his love for us would be a real thing in our everyday lives.

God's commitment to us is summed up in this well known verse. "God loved you and me so much that he gave his only Son, so that we might not die but have eternal life" (John 3:16)

Now he didn't have to do that. He could have quite easily ignored us and let us go to hell, and he would have been quite justified in doing so. But no, he stepped into our history and lives and committed himself to us. He has bound himself to us in the greatest displays of love and commitment ever shown.

At your baptism, you were made a member of God's family. Jesus made a commitment to you at your baptism to be your helper and give you the strength you need through all and every situation that life brings. He made a commitment to love you and to forgive you, to answer your prayers, to give you a place in heaven, to be there for you and bless you as you make those important decisions in life like:
What shall I do when Iím finished at school?
What kind of a career am I interested in?
Iíve got two choices Ė which is the right one to make?
How serious should I take my relationship with this girl or that boy?
If something serious happens to a member of my family or one of my friends, how will I deal with it?
At every corner, especially those dark corners where you feel uncertain and insecure, God will be there. He has committed himself to you because of his love for you.

Now when we are confronted by such a powerful commitment by God toward you, how will you respond?
One is to be very blasť about it and say, "how nice", and carry on as if God's love for you is something unimportant.
Or on the other hand, the love of God for you blows you away and you want to respond in some positive way.

It's like the coach who sees some talent and maybe possibly a future Olympian in a young swimmer. He says, "I want to be your coach. I will be here at the pool early in the morning to train you. I will teach you everything I know. I will give all I have to make sure that you can be the best that you can be". Of course the coach is hoping that the swimmer will make the same kind of commitment and respond with the same kind of dedication in return. In that way they will have a happy and successful time together.

Confirmees, God has given himself to you in the past (he has provided you with wonderful homes, placed people in your life who have encouraged you in your Christian faith) and promises to be committed to you in the future. What will your response be?
He has committed himself to you and he is hoping that your response will enable beautiful growing relationship that will last for a lifetime into eternity.

Let me tell you of the way one person responded. A missionary in the country of Chad in Africa tells of a most unusual offering in the native church he served there. At the appropriate time in the service the offering plate went around the congregation. A new young Christian woman had nothing to give - no money, no belongings - yet she knew she had been saved from her sin, given eternal life and blessed with a new life. As the offering plate came to her, she silently put it on the floor, got up...and stood in it.

We might think this rather strange, and it would be even stranger if someone did it here in this service today, but this is what commitment to our Lord means. It means giving our whole self to God and living as someone who belongs to God, being committed to serving, loving, helping others. As the woman was indicating when she stood in the offering plate - we are not to give just a few dollars, not to doing a few good things now and then, not to just turn up at worship services occasionally - but to be totally committed to Jesus in everything we do because he is totally committed to us. We are God's chosen people and so we are to be committed to being God's people - think as God's people, act as God's people, care about the filings God cares about.

The apostle has some excellent words for your confirmation day, "Honour Christ and let him be the Lord of your life". Honour Christ. To honour means to lift up. Give him the place in your life he deserves. And it means in everything. In the way you think, in the way you speak, in the way you act. Honour Christ.

We dishonour him when what we say doesnít match what we do - when we are known to be Christians, but our actions donít measure up.
We dishonour him when we put ourselves first.
When we say we believe things but donít practice them.
Like saying you trust God but then go on worrying about everything.
Like believing God looks after us and then get into a frenzy when things are going the way we think they ought to be going.
Like believing God forgives but then not being able to forgive ourselves or those who hurt us.

Honour Christ. Let him be your Lord. That means he is the one in charge of your life Ė all your life. Not just when it suits, or you feel in the mood, or when you have time. When we call Jesus "Lord" that means he is your God, Helper and Saviour all the time. "Honour Christ and let him be the Lord of your life".

Today God is repeating Ė confirming Ė his commitment to you.
"I will never give up on you.
My love is too strong to forget you.
Iím always there for you. I will never turn my back on.
I am committed 100% to you."

He says that to all of us. When these young people are confirmed in a moment, join with them and renew your commitment to God, and as God blesses them bow your head and receive again the blessing of God.

And then when you go from here, "Honour Christ and let him be the Lord of your life".

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
1st August, 2004

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