Relevant: We Value Commitment

Sermon Summary
This message looks at the concept of commitment in the Christian faith. Jesus used the example of marriage to point out the high value God places on commitment. He uses the example of marriage for several reasons, and one of the most important was the fact religious leaders were twisting God's Word to allow people to flippantly disregard their marriage vows. He goes on to speak about the significance of personal honesty and keeping commitments in every area of life. Jesus wanted His followers to commit to a lifestyle of honesty in order to honor God and to be a good example to the world.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever been placed in, or caused a difficult situation because a commitment went unfulfilled? Explain why you think commitment is something we all should value.

2. Jesus used the commitment to the marriage covenant as a prime example of the importance of commitment. This was the second time He spoke of marriage in His Sermon on the Mount. Why do you think He would choose such a controversial topics as adultery and divorce to emphasize commitment?

Eph 5:31  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
Eph 5:32  This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Eph 5:33  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

3. There are times when a person finds themselves in a situation of abuse or repeated unfaithfulness and they have to exit a marriage. God certainly understands and gives His mercy and compassion to a person who finds themselves in such an unfortunate situation. If you have divorce in your past and it was not due to an extreme situation, we must remember that God is a gracious and forgiving God. However, He certainly wants us to learn from our mistakes and understand He desires for couples to work on their marriage, to build their relationship, to grow in their love for one another and to find ways to keep their commitment. What are some things a married couple can do to help divorce proof their marriage?

1 Cor 13:4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1 Cor 13:5  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
1 Cor 13:6  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Cor 13:7  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

4. When Jesus said in Matthew 5:37 "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one," He was emphasizing the importance of honesty, integrity, and truthfulness. The religious leaders of His day had become hypocritical and would find ways to say one thing and do something totally different. Discuss why a commitment to honesty is such a big deal when it comes to any relationship. As you read the following verses in Romans, remember these two things: First, the commandments that are mentioned, in some way, all have to do with trust, and your closest neighbor lives, not next door, but in your house!

Rom 13:7  Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Rom 13:8  Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
Rom 13:9  The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Rom 13:10  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

5. Nothing good comes from dishonesty! Now, why does God delight in those who are truthful? It's simple really. It's because those who are truthful have chosen the way of truth and God honors that and delights in that. Read the following verses and discuss how this praying this prayer could help us become more committed to honesty.

Psa 119:29  Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.
Psa 119:30  I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
Psa 119:31  I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame.
Psa 119:32  I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
Psa 119:33  Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
Psa 119:34  Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Psa 119:35  Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Psa 119:36  Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Psa 119:37  Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Full Sermon Notes

"He cancelled my debt and He called me His friend!" The fact that Jesus would be willing to take my punishment by dying for a sinner like me and then on top of that be willing to call me His friend, well, that's just amazing to me!!Those two things are so meaningful. Why would Jesus do that? Why would His Heavenly Father allow that? Well, it's called commitment! When God chose to create us, and gave us the ability to make choices, He was committed to making a way for us to have a relationship and fellowship with Him, no matter the cost! And though the cost was astronomical, God kept His commitment to make a way for us!! So it stands to reason that commitment is something God values greatly. In fact, let me just read you this one verse and I believe it really showcases God's commitment to love us. Jeremiah 31:3...

Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

"An everlasting love!" That's commitment!!
Our modern world has lost much of it's understanding of commitment, and the results have been catastrophic. Let's pray and ask God to teach us why commitment is something we should value highly! Let's pray!!

Back in Jesus' day and all the way back to Adam and Eve, there was one commitment God wanted people to take very seriously. In fact it is a commitment that God used many times as a picture of His relationship and commitment to us. Anybody want to guess?
It's the marriage commitment. As we continue our look at The Lord's sermon on the Mount, we see this in Matthew 5:31-32.

Mat 5:31  "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'
Mat 5:32  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

We Value Commitment to Marriage

I want to remind you again, as I did last week, Jesus was not trying to be legalistic and condemn everybody who had ever broken a commitment, but He was trying to point people, especially the religious leaders and teachers of the law, to the intent of the law. The intent of the whole law is about our relationship with God and with one another! And if this is the case, and it is, then that elevates commitment in those relationships to an extremely important status! You might remember, when Jesus was questioned by a teacher of the law about what laws were the most important, Jesus responded with this in Matthew's gospel...

Mat 22:37  Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
Mat 22:38  This is the first and greatest commandment.
Mat 22:39  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Mat 22:40  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

So if all of the other laws and everything the prophets had written about hinges on these two things, you can see why commitment is so very important. Without commitment, relationships can't grow and thrive. Without commitment, relationships lack the trust, and  the genuine love love needed for a strong foundation. This is the second time in His sermon Jesus used marriage as an example. Again, Jesus tells them what they've heard, but then goes on to tell them things that He hoped would help them see the intent of the law and to stop trying to find "letter of the law technicalities" to get around the intent of the law. So here's what was happening. The teachers of the law were teaching that as long as a man gave his wife a certificate of divorce, he could divorce her for any reason. Jesus called them out on this one! The world back then was male-dominated and the rights of women were many times totally overlooked. Jesus point blank said if the man divorced an innocent women, he was guilty of breaking the marriage commitment and the man was guilty of causing her to break the commitment. Thus breaking the command against adultery.

When you go back and look at the force of the Greek language here, you find that it's very difficult to actually translate this into English. Respected scholar and commentator, Frank Stagg, put it this way: "Jesus says that for a husband to divorce an innocent wife is to victimize her and her second husband should she remarry. It is to treat an innocent woman the way an adulteress is treated and to force a stigma upon her and her subsequent marriage."
Now, someone may ask this question: "What if my spouse is guilty of adultery?" Okay, Jesus already said in this passage, "except on the grounds of adultery." So you have the right to divorce in that circumstance. You have the right, but that doesn't automatically mean you should!  What I'm I saying here? If you have a spouse that realizes they've broken their sacred commitment and they are truly sorry, repentant, and desire to reconcile, you need to pray long and hard about the possibility of reconciliation.

And when you're making your decision think about the reconciliation that was given to you by Jesus Christ when He forgave you of your sins against God! He did that because you were truly sorry and asked for His forgiveness! When you were broken, ashamed, and fearful, He renewed you, cleansed you, and gave you peace!
Now, I know there are times when someone is not genuinely sorry. Maybe they're just sorry they got caught, and they have a pattern of behavior that indicates multiple infractions, and subsequent deception. If that's the case, there's no repentance and that puts things in a different light. And then there's other things like physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Sometimes, it's not healthy to stay in a marriage where the spouse is breaking their commitment to love, cherish, and protect. I get that! But apart from those things, it is always better to keep your marital commitment.

And, as I tell so many young couples, work at your marriage and it can become so amazing you would never even think about breaking your vows. And I believe with all of my heart the reason Jesus put so much emphasis on the commitment in marriage is when two people are truly committed to build a strong, healthy and beautiful marriage, they can, with His help create a human relationship that can mirror the relationship God desires to have with His Bride the Church!

Now I know this is very uncomfortable subject for some. You may be thinking, "Pastor Larry, I'm in trouble! I've broken a marriage commitment. I'm remarried. Is there any hope for me?" Listen, adultery is not the unforgivable sin, and I know that not all divorce is the result of adultery. By the way, the Bible says God hates divorce not divorcees. Why does He hate divorce? Because divorce hurts everyone involved and God hates for people to get hurt! And, I've never had a single person, in almost 40 years of ministry, tell me that divorce is so much fun, everyone should experience it!

Let me say this. When people ask me to perform their marriage, I ask them if it's their first. If not, I ask them what happened. Why? Because I want to help them in the pre-marriage counseling to figure out how not to repeat the same mistake all over again! And I ask them if there is a spouse still wanting to reconcile the marriage. If there is, then I respectfully decline to do the wedding. I don't want to be the one responsible for closing that door. But if that other person is unwilling or has remarried, then I will do the wedding and I let them know my desire is to help them make this new commitment one that will last the rest of their lives! Amen? Yes!

If you're single you might think none of this applies to you. Let me say this to you. If you are thinking you might get married some day, it applies to you in this way. You should commit yourself to becoming the kind of person that would make a great husband or wife. And the best way to do that is to grow in your relationship with Christ. Also, you should be committed to the concept of  marriage by living a lifestyle that honors the sanctity of marriage. I think you understand!

BTW, my wife doesn't want to be the most important person in my life! She wants Jesus to be in that position, because as long as He is number one, she knows He'll tell me she always comes next over everything else! And I want Jesus to be her number one for the exact same reason! Okay, Commitment to marriage is not the only commitment we value...

We Value Commitment to Honesty

Ok, you've got to remember what Jesus was trying to do in these verses. He was trying to bring the religious establishment back to a place of truth, honesty, integrity, authenticity, sincerity, virtue, and righteousness. He was also establishing the basic ground rules for His disciples and how they would represent Him to the world. He didn't want the adherents to the new covenant to fall into the same religious hypocrisy so many under the old covenant had fallen into.
So listen to His words in Matthew 5:33-37.

Mat 5:33  "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.'
Mat 5:34  But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne;
Mat 5:35  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
Mat 5:36  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.
Mat 5:37  Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Now before we move on, let me just say, Jesus was not trying to create another layer of complexity to the do's and don'ts list. He was not creating a new law. He was trying to simplify and take them back to the intent of God's original laws. So He wasn't saying a person couldn't take an oath of office or swear to tell the truth in a court of law. He was saying be honest, keep your oaths and tell the truth! You shouldn't have to take it to the level of "I swear I'm telling the truth" every time you talk to someone. People should know if you say it, it's true! It was so important for His disciples to understand this. Why? Again, they were going to be His representatives and His witness to the world. The teachers of the law, who were supposed to be God's representatives to the world, were always adding new laws to the original commands of God. And as we've already seen, their additions were not always designed to help people keep the intent of the original command, but to give some type of loophole to get around the intent. It had gotten so complex and convoluted! The rulers and teachers of the law had figured out wording for oaths in order to make it look like they were keeping them, but would allow them to break them! Remember, many were only concerned with how they looked to others rather than being truly righteous and Godly. In fact, later on, Jesus would confront them with their absurdity. Listen to just how weird it had gotten...

Mat 23:16  "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'
Mat 23:17  You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?
Mat 23:18  You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.'
Mat 23:19  You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
Mat 23:20  Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.
Mat 23:21  And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.
Mat 23:22  And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.

So basically Jesus is saying, stop playing these foolish, and silly games with God! Just be honest in the first place!
Of course we don't have a problem with any of this kind of stuff today, right? I mean we just let our yes be yes and our no be no! No need for lengthy contracts with page after page of legalese, because our word is our bond. Okay, I have a confession to make. There have been times when I install an app or a piece of software, or upgrade my I-tunes, which they seem to do every couple of months, and when it ask me if I've read and agree with the terms and conditions, I just click yes.
A few years back when that all first started, I would click on the "see terms and conditions." As I scrolled the many pages, I realized I had other things to do with my time. Thankfully now, many of them just ask if you agree, not if you've read! I'm not a lawyer, but let me just say, with some things in life, you better read the small print. Especially on contracts. I'm not too worried about I-tunes!

But here's my point, as a follower of Christ, we should be above reproach when it comes to our word being our bond! People should know they can count on us. Our children and grand-children are watching and listening to every thing we say. How many awkward moments have been created in our world by the honesty of little children? Come on! You're talking with someone when all of a sudden your kid says, "But that's not what you told Mommy!" Nothing like a little one to keep you honest. That's cute, but here's the problem, as they grow older, they just won't say anything, but they are processing and they are learning from what we say and what we do! The lessons they learn will go with them through life. And remember this, parents with little ones, if they see dishonesty in you, when they become teens, they will have a built in M.O. when it comes to their communication with you and you won't like it! And it could be that your inability to trust them, may be of your own making. Notice I said may be! Some parents who have always been a good example to their kids may have issues with them because of what they've picked up from their peers. Or it may just be that old sin nature coming out in them. I mean, you don't have to teach a kid to be bad, some of that comes naturally and that's why we need good parents who will teach us to do good. But remember this, if you teach them to be dishonest by your behavior, you will end up with some very difficult issues down the road.

The writer of the book of Proverbs had some really good advice for us in regards to honesty and keeping our commitments. He actually gives us some very compelling reasons to be committed to honesty.

Prov 12:17  A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.

When you read this verse, at first glance you might think, well of course, that's only logical. But the wisdom writer is reminding his readers of something beyond the obvious. A truthful witness gives honest testimony because he or she is committed to an honest lifestyle. A false witness lives a lifestyle of deceit. The truthful witness can be trusted, the false witness cannot. Here's something for everyone in this room to think about. What kind of witness are you? Do people know you to be honest, truthful, and a person who keeps their word? Or do they see you as someone who says one thing but does something totally different? If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ and you are not committed to honesty, you do great damage to the cause of Christ! None of us are perfect, I know that, but it's one thing to promise to do something with the purest of intention to fulfill that promise and then find yourself unable to do so because of something out of your control (like a sickness or unexpected financial crisis), and it's quite another thing to promise something without ever intending to keep your promise. In this context the wisdom writer goes on to say...

Prov 12:18  Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

In other words, don't be reckless with your words, or your commitments. If you are people will stop trusting you and that will destroy your relationships. Why? Because any good relationship is built upon trust. Trust is built when a person is committed to honesty and truthfulness in their dealings with others. In fact the writer of Proverbs says the tongue of the wise brings healing! Relationships are healed, mended, and strengthened by a commitment to honesty! I told my kids, when they were living at home, if I can trust you our relationship will be good, but if I can't trust you, no matter how much I love you, our relationship will be crippled. Why? Because relationships are built on trust.

The thing that destroyed Adam and Eve's relationship with God was they stopped trusting Him. The serpent deceived them by causing them to believe that God had deceived them. Satan told Adam and Eve God didn't want them to eat the fruit because God didn't want them to become as wise as God! Adam and Eve both bought the lie and we all know the results. Not good! Satan continues his deceit by leading people to think doing wrong is okay. People rationalize away dishonesty. "Well, it's just a little white lie!" Or "what they don't know won't hurt them!" Now I'm not talking about being mean spirited in the name of honesty. I've seen people try to excuse their meanness to others by saying, "I'm just brutally honest!" Sometimes my Grandmothers advice is so good, "If you can't say something good about someone, just don't say anything at all!" So aside from trying to use brute honesty as an excuse for being mean, God wants us to be committed to honesty. The writer of Proverbs went on to say...

Prov 12:22  The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

Why does the LORD detests lying lips? Because here's what lying lips do...

Prov 6:12  A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
Prov 6:13  who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers,
Prov 6:14  who plots evil with deceit in his heart-- he always stirs up dissension.
Prov 6:15  Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed--without remedy.
Prov 6:16  There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
Prov 6:17  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
Prov 6:18  a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,
Prov 6:19  a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Nothing good comes from dishonesty! Now, why does God delight in those who are truthful? It's simple really. It's because those who are truthful have chosen the way of truth and God honors that and delights in that. The Psalmist put it beautifully in Psalm 119:29-37

Psa 119:29  Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.
Psa 119:30  I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
Psa 119:31  I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame.
Psa 119:32  I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
Psa 119:33  Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
Psa 119:34  Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Psa 119:35  Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Psa 119:36  Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Psa 119:37  Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Dishonesty and a lack of commitment to the things of God will lead you to worthless things, but honesty and a commitment to the truth of God's Word will lead you to the things of God!
Let's pray!!