Committed To Committed - Acts 14:21-28 NIV
Two Greek words for committed:
Verse 23: to place beside, to set before
Verse 26: to hand over, to give or deliver over
Both cases "para" as in parallel, along side of. Commitment along side of Holy Spirit AND Christian brothers. Note the word "tithe" inside v.23. As well as "give" in v.26. Commitment is setting aside our best to give over! Christians don't just commit, they commit to remaining committed!
#1 - Understanding the commitment through _____________ .
"[Paul and Barnabas] preached the gospel in the city and won a large number of disciples... When they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia." Acts 14:21 & 25 NIV
Paul and Barnabas never stop preaching. Their churches never stop needing preaching - it is one means by which Holy Spirit speaks to us. Why?
We stop. Busyness of life keeps us otherwise diverted.
We gather. There is a power to being together with other Christ-followers.
We listen. Our spiritual antennae are rarely tuned in as well throughout the week - the prayer of preaching!
4th - not about WE but about God. Preaching is HIS plan:
"Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe." 1 Corinthians 1:21 NLT
We don't get connected to God through our own wisdom. But God uses foolishness of preaching. Interesting phrase "to save those who believe" - we usually read this in a traditional salvation way, those who believe are saved (through their belief / faith). But this is worded the other way. Could it be that we who already believe (and thus are already saved) remain committed to our salvation by the use of preaching?!
#2 - Growing into the commitment through ________________ .
"Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples." Acts 14:21b-22a NIV
Part of the growth of our Christian lives is to grow stronger in our faith. Doesn't it make sense that our commitment to Christ is stronger when we are stronger in our Christian faith? Both mean the same thing, right? Just like the weight lifter grows stronger to lift a greater amount of weight by the practice of lifting weight, Christians grow stronger in their faith by practicing their faith. Those who pray a lot grow stronger in their prayer life. Those who read God's Word grow more knowledgable about God's Word (and about God!) We must be committed to becoming stronger!
"I can do all this through him who gives me strength. / Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." Philippians 4:13 / Ephesians 6:10 NIV
This is both a statement of truth and a promise from God. We can do more than we think we can do - not because of us and our strength, but because of God in us. God gives us strength that we otherwise would not have. At the same time this is a command - to "be strong in the Lord." Note "in his mighty power." NOT our puny power. When I sit down to write sermons, they are not mine but His. Not my power, but HIS! What do you do only because of your commitment to HIS strength?
#3 - Remaining in the commitment through _________________ .
"They returned ... encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said." Acts 14:22b
Our commitment to our Christian faith requires encouragement! 2 ways:
1st - We receive encouragement. When we hang out with other Christians, we should be encouraged. By their commitment. By their words. By their deeds. By their joy. By their determination. This is why it is so important for you to consider who you're hanging around with. Are they lifting you up or dragging you down. You need people who will encourage you to be even more committed in your Christian walk.
2nd - We GIVE encouragement. Encouragement is not a one way, like a DC electric current (example battery). When we only receive encouragement but it stops with us, the flow stops and the power stops. (Same when we give but never receive.) Encouragement should be AC, alternating between giving and receiving,passing on what we receive:
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, ... encouraging one another. / Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." Hebrews 10:25 / 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
That "stirring up" is the AC of encouragement. Why the right church is so important. It's not about the theology or the pastor (both important), but a place where we go to charge others up and where we get charged up!
#4 - Committing the committed through _____________________ .
"Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in who they had put their trust." Acts 14:23 NIV
Another word for "elder" is overseer. Also known as "bishop." Paul and Barnabas could not physically stay and oversee the ministry in each place where they started a church. It was important for the ongoing ministry of each church for their to be an elder (overseer, bishop) to lead the ministry. Jesus left apostles to start the church.
Paul and Barnabas left elders behind to oversee the continued ministry of the church in each place. Later, Paul gave guidelines and qualifications that through practice, he felt was crucial:
"Whoever aspires to be an overseer ... is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a love of money." 1 Timothy 3:1-3 NIV
This aspiration to become an elder is not something to take lightly, either by the aspiring one or by the church. It's NOT plug and play. It's not positional. (Well we need an elder. Here's who we got. Let's vote.) It's never about church politics. It's always about living out the life of an elder and then the church confirming what God has already made clear. One does not become an elder and then live out the qualifications. It's the other way around. A person distinguishes himself and his commitment to his Christian faith that it becomes clear to all those around him that he is qualified already to become an elder.
#5 - Owning the work of the committed through __________________ .
"They sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed... and reported all that God had done through them." Acts 14:26-27 NIV
No one owns himself in this Christian work. There are no pastoral sole proprietors. This is Christ's church. He is the owner. Even in the case of the greatest evangelical apostle in the history of the Christian church, Paul was not above reporting back on the work he had done. It's more than just "see what I have done." It's "see what God has accomplished" through our faithful work. The result of reporting should be affirmation. But if there is a problem (such as issue of following Jewish rules) then the result should be a dialog that takes us back to God to decide. Today especially it's important to remember that popular preachers are not gods but people responsible for reporting back what God is doing.
What about your commitment to your commitment today?