Summary: The scriptures teach us that another critical part of our giving to God involves making a commitment
A young man went into a jewelry store. He poured out all the money he had and said “I’m looking to buy something special for my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day.” So they searched the store and then he saw a necklace with a heart-shaped pendant and said “That’s the one!” The clerk asked if he would like to add an inscription on the back of the pendant. Immediately, the young man replied, with a deep sigh reflecting the love in his heart, “Yes, put ‘To my one and only true love forever…” The clerk then asked for the name of his girlfriend, and he sighed again “Victoria”. So he began to inscribe Victoria’s name, when the young man said “Don’t put her name on it.” “Oh don’t worry, I’ll have enough room” said the clerk. Then the young man “No…That way if things don’t work out with Victoria, I can give it to someone else.” For love relationships to work, it takes making a commitment. But a lot of us don’t like to make these kinds of commitments. Sure, we like the closeness of the relationship, but we want outs, we want options, we want exceptions…just in case we change our minds. The same is true in our giving. Last week, we learned that God wants us to give to Him the very best we have. To hoard it and to keep it for ourselves shows we don’t trust Him or love Him more than ourselves. Last week, the main point was simply “give your best.” This week, the main point is “make a commitment.” The scriptures teach us that another critical part of our giving to God involves making a commitment. Let’s read from our scripture today. Nehemiah 10:30-38. Here’s the setting. The nation of Israel has been captured by the Babylonians. They’ve been taken from their homeland and forced to live in other parts of the world. Now, they’ve been allowed to go back and resettle. Nehemiah is led by God to go back and rebuild the wall. Ezra has done the same with rebuilding the temple. The work has been tough, but now everything is finished. And as part of the rededication of the wall and the temple, the people gather together. Listen to what they say (read scripture): Throughout the scriptures, we see times like this. Where all the people were gathered in one place and the law would be read or the prophet would speak the word of God. But the people wouldn’t just sit there or be silent. They would stand and then they would be asked “What will you do? What do you have to say?” And the people would stand and they would respond. Here, and in many times in scripture, the people made a commitment. First of all, the people made a public commitment to obey their laws. Look again at v. 30. “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons. "When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.” Now these were not new laws. Every Jewish person standing there could tell you this is what their laws said. But every person standing there could also tell you that they had not been doing it. Before the Babylonians came to conquer them, the prophets warned them over and over “God is going to allow the Babylonians to come and destroy us and here’s why…because you are intermarrying with these other cultures, which is leading you astray…and you are not obeying the Sabbath.” If you keep doing these things, this is what’s going to happen. And it happened. So now, as they started over with a new wall and a new temple, they said, “We will do the things we have been commanded to do.” But I want us to notice something here. I want us to notice HOW they made this recommitment. There wasn’t an appeal for everyone to think about it and try their best. They didn’t send out a memo asking everyone to pray about it and do whatever they felt was right in their hearts. Instead, it was done publicly. The leaders challenged the people to make a commitment to obey their laws that God had given them. And they asked them to stand and speak in front of everyone and to make a commitment right then and there. Do you think this was a good idea? Why was it important to do it like this? And what about today? Should our commitments to God be made public? Why is this important? Let me give you two ideas that might be relevant. First of all, it’s a great example. The apostle Paul made a commitment to follow Christ. And as he followed Christ, he encouraged others to follow him. Listen to how he says it in I Corinthians 11:1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” He’s not saying “look at me, I’m great, I’m perfect. Instead, He’s saying “I know where I’m going. I will follow the ways of Jesus, and I am so committed, that if you don’t know what to do, then follow me and I’ll take you to where Jesus is.” Would you say this to a new believer? Follow me? Most people don’t. We’re too modest, too humble, but we’ve made this too extreme. New believers need examples to follow. I don’t mind at all saying “Follow me”. Doesn’t mean I’m perfect or always right. Notice how Paul said it “Follow my example AS I FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.” In other words, the godly things you see in me, do those things. You see, me saying this publicly is good for me. It helps others to have an example, but it’s also helpful, because it keeps me accountable. That’s another great benefit to making our commitments public. Accountability! Being accountable helps me become stronger. Solomon put it this way in the Proverbs: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” You see, on our own, we love our independence. No one tells me what to do. I do what I want when I want. But how many of us are strong enough to push ourselves to get better? What if, in order to be a better follower of Christ, I laid down that freedom, and instead chose to be accountable? Voluntarily said “I will give someone the right to ask me about my actions?” A lot of people like to surf the internet. Right? Can do what you want when you want. A lot of bad stuff out there. You can read things and view things that you know are inappropriate. What if you made a commitment to be pure? And you said “I’m tempted by this” but instead of trying to do it all on your own, you made a commitment and said “Okay, from now on, I won’t view things on those sites anymore.” And instead of just saying it to yourself and trying your best on your own, you shared that with an accountability partner AND to keep yourself strong, you subscribed to one of those services they have that automatically sends an email to your accountability partner of every website that you visit? You see, some of us look at that and say “Well, I don’t know about that…” and we think we should do these things on our own. But we don’t realize that there is a positive power in making our commitments publicly. On our own, we fail, we stray, we wander. But when we make our commitments publicly, we give ourselves boundaries, that can protect us and keep us strong. I value my independence. But I value my relationship with God even more and if it takes giving up a measure of my independence to stay true to God, then it’s worth it.