Friday, July 23, 2010

Our Commitment Is to God, Part 2

When we were baptized, we made a commitment to God to give our lives to Him, in spite of all trials. We were to count the cost of that commitment. Jesus said, "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:28-33). He said this right after He said, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26-27). We must be willing to give up family and friends, if necessary, to be faithful to Christ. Some in the Church have had to do exactly that.

We will go through trials, but God will save us and help us through Him if we remain faithful to Him (Psalm 34:17-22). We will have setbacks, but God will help us recover (Proverbs 24:16).

Many of us have had to come out of Worldwide between 1986 and 1996 to be faithful to God. Some of us left voluntarily and some of us were put out for our beliefs. Some ministers quit and some were fired. Some members in the Church today have only recently come into the Church of God or were children during those years and did not face that test.

I have had to "go out" of a church more than once. I was raised Catholic, and to come into God's Church I had to go out of the Catholic Church, and that alienated me from most of my family to a degree. Then to remain in God's Church I had to go out of Worldwide, and I lost many of the friends I had made. It was a period of confusion for me, trying to know God's will and make the right decision where to attend. I was encouraged by Christ's message to Philadelphia, when He said, speaking of their reward in the kingdom of God, "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more" (Revelation 3:12). It seemed to me as I read that verse that God was saying that He understood the trial of those who have to "go out" and He was giving reassurance that if I overcome and endure to the end, I will be with Him in the Kingdom and I will never have to go out again.

We must be so committed to God that we remain faithful to Him no matter how other people may betray or hurt us. And at the same time we must be careful to make sure that we do not mistreat or betray other people. We must not reward evil for evil. "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).

Jesus predicted, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:12-13). We must not let sin so discourage us that we lose our love for God or for man, if we want to be in God's kingdom.

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:44-48).

God can and will use the mistakes and shortcomings of others to test us, but we must remember our commitment to God at baptism to strive to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Our Attitude and Approach Towards God's Word, Chapter 1

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

God's Purpose for Mankind, Chapter 2

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