When we got our boys a swingset years ago, I was surprised that this massive structure came in a long, narrow box. Nothing was together. There were hundreds of parts, bags of screws, bolts and attachments…and pages of instructions. It took hours to put it together. But finally there it was. The boys loved it. I was proud. And then as I was gathering up the leftover parts, I read the final note on the instructions: retighten all bolts once a month as long as the swingset is in use. In other words: for the rest of my natural life.
I wasn’t providing my kids a play toy, I was making a lifetime commitment to a metal monster.
Making a commitment involves dedicating yourself to something or someone and assuming the obligations and responsibilities of that commitment.
Probably the best picture of commitment is marriage. What begins with vows or promises that establish the foundation for building a life together is intended to continue for the duration of the marriage.
We are so happy making our vows, then life starts. We settle down. Routine, busyness, illness, kids, moving, in-laws, disagreements, change. After a while our commitment grows cold and the vows become a faded memory. We are consumed with duties and responsibilities. The relationship goes stale. What had started as a fiery hot volcano of passion, now is only a Bick lighter that doesn’t always work. Where are the flames, where’s the passion?
Woman asked her husband—“Why don’t you ever nibble on my ear anymore? I loved it when you nibbled on my ear. They’re dangling.” He said, “Well, just a minute, let me go get my teeth.”
Our marriage commitment obligates us to not settle for less but to press on to what’s best. To live out our devotion. To love and be loved and do the actions that demonstrate that love.
If you’ve ever played with fire, you’ve taken a fully enflamed log out of the fire and watched it slowly quit burning and grow cold.
Well, what if we’ve pulled away from the fire? What if we’ve grown cold and somewhat indifferent? What if we’re just going through the motions? How do we get back what we once had? How do we renew a commitment back to how it was in the beginning?
In the Revelation of John, Jesus told the church of Ephesus: But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first. (Rev 2:4)
The issue Jesus had with the Ephesians was they had grown cold in their devotion to Him and were no longer doing the things that they used to do that expressed that love. So He told them, “Think back to the earlier days when what drove who you were also driving what you did. When you lived out the excitement of belonging to Me.”
First rule of fixing a computer that’s quit working is to reboot. To turn it off and restart it to what it was like before things messed up. To bring us back to where we were before we drifted away, often God reboots our commitment, by reminding us how this all got started and what life was like when He was our first love.
Then He gave them the process of renewal: Change your mind, turn your face back to look at what consumed your passion and start doing the things you used to do. Things that expressed your love for Me. I’m not asking you to just change your behavior but renew your mind to the love that used to drive your life. Then live that way.
Deep inside them was life-giving evidence of a changed heart.
Prov 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flows the springs of life.
The heart drives the actions. Reviving the heart will change how we live and what we do.
Paul said: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
What initiates the transformation? Renewing or reviving the place within your heart that holds your commitment. Jesus called that place your first love. Go back there, let the love grow hot again and let that love control your attitudes and actions. Returning to your first love. That works in marriage. But that process was designed for rekindling our relationship with the Lord.
God used that method with many people in Scripture. Each had a significant moment of commitment but had strayed away. He brought them back to a memory where they first made their commitment and then gave them the opportunity for a second chance.
Jonah 1:1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa… Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land. Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you." Let’s go back to that moment before the fish…
Jdg 13:5 "For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines." Jdg 16:17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, "A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man." Jdg 16:20 She said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And he awoke from his sleep and said, "I will go out as at other times and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. Jdg 16:22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off. Let’s go back to the promise from your birth…
Mar 16:7 "But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'"
But while they were supposed to be waiting for the Lord…John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" They answered Him, "No." And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch." So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.
Joh 21:11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
John’s memory of that moment was the net didn’t break. Peter’s memory was of a seashore and a different boatload of fish—153 to be exact. There was no other reason to number them. It was a number Peter remembered.
What was Jesus doing? Tying the two events together to bring Peter back to when his heart was softer and more excited about following Him. Back when he made his first decision to make Jesus his first love, to leave everything and go with Jesus.
In John’s story, the crucifixion had taken the wind out of Peter’s sail, doused water on his fire (use any cliché you like). He was loose from the dock and drifting and Jesus knew it. It was too easy for Peter to go back fishing instead of waiting for Jesus.
Same things as with Ephesus: “Your love has lessened. I can see it in your actions. Don’t tell me you love Me and live like this?” But He wouldn’t leave them there. He offered the way back. “Remember when you first believed, renew your mind to what that was like and start doing again the things you did at first, the things that demonstrated your love.”
What things: Remember…
· When Prayer became important – Prayer changed from saying words to speaking with God. It was the time in my day I acknowledged God’s presence in my life.
· When the Bible became alive – When I would intentionally seek insight into the ways of God. Reading to discover something that would help me know God better and live more effectively for Him.
· When you would Worship – Worship isn’t attending a worship service. It is a heart connected with God expressing praise and devotion. It is telling Him you love Him. Thanking Him.
· When trusting God with the details of your life was easy – Back when your first thought in a crisis or trouble was God help me.
· When you would let God help others through you – When you looked for ways to minister and serve—to be of use to the Kingdom.
Commitment speaks of obligation. There are things we do when we’re committed. There are things we don’t do if we’re not committed.
· The swingset never was retightened again. I wasn’t committed.
· Marrying my wife was a good thing. That commitment changed my life and continues to change my life for the better.
· Following Jesus is a commitment that has obligated me to live within the delight of His love. It is renewed daily with an on-going response to continue doing the things that show Him I love Him.
To rekindle our love for Him, God often takes us back and reminds us of those early days of our commitment, reminding us how this all got started and what life was like when He was our first love.
- Commitment is an obligation that begins in our hearts and spreads throughout our whole lives.
- When we choose to live out our commitment, the evidence of that choice becomes obvious.
- If the things of God are not obvious in my life, it is because I have moved away from the fire and lost the passion I once had for Him.
- The journey to renewal reignites that flame, rekindles my love, redirects my thoughts and revives the practices that once expressed my devotion to Him.
- A renewed commitment—like a renewed marriage—can be even more life-changing than the original.