What Kind of Commitment?
Read Galatians 3:1–10
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:3
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area I often heard the Oakland Raiders’ team motto, “Commitment To Excellence.”
That could have been my personal motto as a Christian! I was committed to do better. And when I inevitably failed, I would recommit my life to trying harder for Jesus. That commit-fail-recommit cycle was my lifelong pattern. And it wasn’t working.
I still believe God wants people to commit their lives to Him. But there’s a lot of confusion about the definition of commitment.
In English, “commitment” has two definitions that are almost opposites. “Commitment” can mean trying harder (as in the Raiders’ motto) or it can mean the exact opposite (as in the Raiders’ play on the field! Just kidding!).
Here’s an example of the second kind of commitment: When my wife committed herself to the care of the doctor before her surgery (gall bladder surgery if you must know, and she’s fine, thank God!), her commitment meant that she surrendered control to the surgeon. She yielded. She trusted the doctor entirely. She certainly wasn’t on the operating room table saying, “I’m trying real hard to give him my gall bladder! Ooomph!” No — she wasn’t even awake!
It’s that second kind of commitment that God wants me to make to Him.
When I committed my life to Jesus Christ, I surrendered my will entirely to His care. Having proven that my self-efforts were incapable of producing life-saving change, I gave up to God and had a spiritual rebirth. Most Christians understand that part. But here’s where we go wrong: the key to growing my character is to remain committed, in the second sense of the word, to His care.
As Paul points out in today’s verse, the Galatians had slipped from the second definition of commitment back to the first. Having started their Christian lives by grace, they were now trying to get the rest of the way to Christ-like character through mere human effort, just as they had been living — without success — before they became Christians.
I really get that. For many years my faith, which I called Christianity, was really Churchianity: just garden-variety “try harder” religion based on rules and human effort. It had a thin veneer of Christian theology. I had trusted in Christ to save me from sin. But after that, I lived like I was on my own again.
Instead of a whole new way of thinking and living, I had just made a short detour from the standard religious road of self-effort. I did “accept Jesus.” Then I was right back at it, doing just what I had always done: trying harder to do more. My efforts were really indistinguishable from any devout performer in any other religious system.
But real Christianity is something else: “We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6)
Notice how Paul says we still serve, but we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not the old way of the written code. My entire motivation for obedience has changed from rule-keeping to a more mature desire to grow closer to the God who lavishes His love on me! More on that tomorrow!
Which definition of “commitment” is dominant in your life?
Why is it so easy for Christians to slip from the second definition of “commitment”(yielding) back to the first (trying hard)?
Today, yield your life to God, maybe for the first time or as a re-surrender. Give to Him the areas of worry or compulsion, or addiction you are struggling with today.