Determination to Remember
Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgements he uttered. (1 Chronicles 16:12)
Somewhere along the line, the idea of being a decisive and determined Christian has lost out in the fashion stakes. We have let the world squeeze us into its mold. For there, in the world, the idea of permanent commitment is rare indeed, even in areas like employment or marriage. Nowadays we cannot promise anything.
The tragedy is that the spirit of the age has infected the people of God’s new age, in the church. Sometimes we cover our failure over with theology (of all things!)- we know ourselves too well to promise very much to God! But that is bad theology. It is also bad spiritually. For God calls us to promise ourselves to Him in a lifelong commitment of faithfulness and obedience. He does not regard our failure here as a becoming modesty, or an understandable reticence. He has other names for it: disobedience, disloyalty, backsliding, faithfulness.
Our spiritual forefathers recognized this disposition in their own hearts, but determined to have “hearts for God”; they made every effort to overcome and conquer it. That is why their diaries would sometimes contain vows or covenants they made to the Lord. In His presence they would commit themselves, by His grace, to remember Him and to live the whole of their lives before Him.
Do you have the resolution to vow to the Lord that, in a new way, you will remember Him? If the knowledge of God is to be anything more to you than an intellectual pastime, you need to do this. It is part of your worship of God. The praise we are to give to Him includes the praise of a life that fulfills the vow to serve Him (Psalm 65:1). Yielding yourself-deliberately, intelligently- to the Lord is part of your worship (Romans 12:1-2).
At every observance of Communion we are told to remember. Jesus as He sat at the table with the disciples instructed them “to do this in remembrance of me.”
“For I received from the Lord Himself that [instruction] which I passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is (represents) My body, which is [offered as a sacrifice] for you. Do this in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are [symbolically] proclaiming [the fact of] the Lord’s death until He comes [again].”
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
We ought to constantly remember what Christ has done for us not just at intervals or through rituals, but daily. It is easy in our relationship with God to let it drift away as it does in every relationship. We all know that left to itself with no determined commitment that every relationship would drift apart. In our world today there seems to be the idea that relationships ebb and flow and the idea of commitment and faithfulness are considered to be foolish and naive. Trust has by and large disappeared in a world where we practice giving way to impulsive living and selfish
decisions. As we watch the divorce rate climb in formal ceremony marriages, not to mention the couples who choose to live together without a formal marriage; who do not wish to make such a commitment and in the end often are engaged in an on-again, off-again relationship, we see the almost a fear of making a commitment. I recognize that for some a previous bad experience certainly gives credibility to the idea that full commitment is a risky decision. And it may be true that full commitment to any other human is risky for in doing so you put everything in one basket.
However, this is not true in our relationship with God for God committed Himself to us
and gave evidence of it in sending His Son to the cross on our behalf.
In the world of the pandemic, everything has been interrupted and at times life feels surreal. Our usual routines and norms in many occasions are no longer available. To some degree our anchor points have been moved or disappeared altogether. This past year has been defining for us and the coming months and years ahead will reveal how we have processed and what determined commitments we have made. Church statisticians are predicting that as many as 40% of church attendees who were attending church pre-pandemic will become dropouts. As we progress through the pandemic and are pressed to find new ways and means to worship and connect, there are those who seem to not be able to flex. We hear that if the church doesn’t return to the sanctuary for worship, there will be those who will not come and we hear that if the church returns to the sanctuary there will be those who will not come. It is almost as though we are saying that our commitment to the church and to God must be conditional on our preferences rather than our determination to “go with Him all the way.” The same is true in every relationship. If there is no determined commitment then no relationship will survive the difficult moments.
Let me interject here something important for every relationship. At the root of every relationship must lie the fact that this is the person for me and that person must feel the same about me. I’ve asked a lot of couples that have been married for over 50 years their secret to success and to a person they have basically said the same. They began their marriage with a determined commitment. Even in the most trying times, when they were the angriest with each other, they never entertained the idea of separation. They chose instead to work through the crisis and allow their love for each other to determine the future. It was never one-sided- it wasn’t only the one who yielded or gave in- it was a mutual respect and love toward the other person and a trust built in that in troubled times they sought each other rather than other people or things.
In my life I’ve encountered many reasons, justifiable reasons, to give up on the church and to some degree to be enticed to give up on my relationship with God. Over the years there have been those moments when I’ve observed Christians act in ungodly and selfish ways. I’ve watched changes come to the church that were immensely disturbing. There have been many times when it would have been easier just to walk away and decide that it wasn’t worth the pain or trouble. But 47 years ago I made a determined commitment to God to follow Him. Sometimes it’s been in green valleys beside still waters and at others in the wilderness surrounded by ferocious beasts but whatever the conditions, the joy of His presence carries me on. I know that He has made a commitment to me and has displayed that over and over. Can I do anything less than a determined commitment back to Him. I know there are those who leave the church because someone has hurt them, disappointed them in some way. For me, I’ve just discovered that wherever I go there will always be ugly people disguised as Christians. This should be no surprise for the Bible says that “Satan appears as an angel of light.” I’ve just made a determined commitment to Christ that no matter what comes, I’m His. I’m so determined to make heaven my home that I will endure whatever I must to make it there. Since the church is the “body of Christ” then I must be committed to it irregardless that it is flawed.
Sherry and I celebrate 42 years of marriage and ministry this year. I’m sure that both her and God have had reason over the years to walk away from John. I have no doubt that I have driven both to a breaking point. But I’m glad, oh how glad I am that they made a determined commitment to me and here we are still walking together in spite of all my flaws.
Life and church may never be the same as it has been. That may not necessarily be a bad thing. I pray that the lessons the pandemic has taught is that we recognize what’s really valuable. We take many things for granted in life, even life itself. I pray that we will choose to make a determined commitment first of all to Christ, second to family and then to other things such as church and work.
To those who may be struggling with their walk with God, may I suggest that you take the time right now to renew your commitment to Christ. We may not ask this as often as we used to in the church and perhaps we need to return to asking. Would you choose today to re-dedicate your life and heart to God. Make it a habit of doing so frequently.
To those whose marriage may be struggling, may I ask that the two of you come together and just for the moment set aside the issues and pledge yourself and your love to each other again. Take the time to pray together and to pray for each other and pray that God would give wisdom and instruction as to how to resolve all conflict.
To those who may feel like a fish out of water with the disruption of church routines, may I ask that in your heart you make a renewed determined commitment to worship and connect with all available means without condition even if it doesn’t fit your preference.
If we choose to not commit to God and His church, then what shall we commit to. Peter says I this way:
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]. We have believed and confidently trusted, and [even more] we have come to know [by personal observation and experience] that You are the Holy One of God [the Christ, the Son of the living God].”
Finally, let me share the words of an old song:
Where could I go
Where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to save me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord!
May we return to Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Dr. John Thompson