This is a question I’ve been pondering over quite often lately. What does it actually look like to be fully committed to God? A fully devoted disciple of Christ? To be “all in”?
I’ve had to honestly own up to the fact that my answer to this question was different just a couple of years ago when I was serving as Lead Pastor of a local church because I needed the definition to include certain commitments to the local church as an institution. Attending regularly, giving, and volunteering in some area of ministry would all be part of the description I would offer for a fully committed follower of Jesus.
And those aren’t bad things. Certainly, a lot of fully committed disciples of Jesus attend church regularly, give financially, and volunteer in various programs and ministries.
I also would have included quite a few personal disciplines, especially Bible reading and prayer. Throw in some fasting and meditation and you’ll really be showing your commitment.
Those are all good things as well. In fact, without them, we cut short the capacity in which God can really work in our lives. We should also include sharing our faith and doing good works in the community around us.
But… I’ve often made the mistake that I have warned others about, which is…
Don’t make activity the measure of commitment.
If your idea of a growing, mature disciple is one who does all the good things and doesn’t do the bad things, you may be missing out on something that lies beyond the activities we associate with an active faith. And what lies further down the road than the activities and disciplines of the Christian life?
True spiritual freedom.
Jesus obviously invited people out of oppressive religion and into the “unforced rhythms of grace” (from The Message’s masterful paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30). While preparing my message notes for this week’s Reflectionary newsletter, I was struck by the sentiment Paul conveys to his protegé, Timothy…
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline… I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.
2 Timothy 1:7, 12 NRSV
Paul had tremendous confidence that, in light of his experience of God’s goodness, love, and grace, he could fully commit everything to God and God would be faithful and trustworthy with it all.
(You can read my message notes from that passage in this post entitled The God Who Has Proven Worthy of Full, Total, All-In Commitment.)
I think we would be better off if we shifted from seeing full commitment to God as being highly active to being fully yielded.
By yielded I mean open. Accessible. Available. Transparent. Willing. Listening. Etc.
We often tell people that Christianity isn’t about having the right religion but rather about having a relationship with God. How many of your relationships are defined by a list of activities you’ve committed to complete? Checking all the boxes won’t necessarily make your relationship stronger. Relationships are matters of the heart.
Do fully committed followers of Jesus go to church a lot, give a lot of money, volunteer, pray a lot, etc? Often, yes, but the activity itself isn’t the relationship. The activity is merely the conduit, opening the capacity for God to show himself to us and lead us closer to his heart.
Fully committed disciples discover, more and more each day, what it is to be spiritually free. To walk in the unforced rhythms of grace and loosen their attachments to anything that prevents them from a richer experience of God’s presence.
I wouldn’t advise anyone to do less of any particular spiritual discipline unless the discipline has come to be seen as an end in itself rather than the means through which we experience a greater depth of God’s grace and love.
In other words, rather than saying that the way to get closer to God is to pray, go to church, etc., we should instead say that the way to be closer to God is to be more fully open to him, which often happens when we’re praying, attending church, etc.
There is much more to unpack and nothing I’m saying hasn’t been written about in a thousand volumes by trustworthy teachers, but sometimes I need the reminder that God is HERE for an ever-deepening relationship with each and every one of us.
By the way, if you want to read further in this area, I’d highly recommend these three books:
- Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God
- Skey Jethani’s With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God
- Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash.