Committed to God more than to Ourselves

The author or Total Church shares a story of an incident at his church.

“Matt rang to ask what he should do.  His friend George has asked him to go street preaching.  Matt wasn’t interested but didn’t know how to respond.  So the three of us got together.  As the conversation began, it was clear that George thought we were selling out in some way.  But as we talked about sharing our lives with unbelievers, about evangelism that was 24/7, about opening our homes, George’s tone changed.  At the end of our conversation he admitted, “I’m not sure if I’m up for that kind of commitment.”

We would like an easy out.  Our fallen nature would like to be right with God by going to church every time the doors open, evangelize one night a week, and have the rest of our lives to ourselves.  But this just is not being a Christian.  There are reasons that we come to church and gather together – I think it is extremely important, but I think the most important places to worship God is at our workplaces and in our homes.  Our faith, if it stays in this building, is no faith at all.  And our faith, if it remains only words, is a mockery of the life Jesus intends for us to live. 
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.   James 1:22-27 (ESV)
There is a danger in talking about loving people in that we can talk about it so much that we deceive our hearts and believe that we are doing it.  God is not impressed with us if we just sit around and talk about loving others.  He enjoys us when we actually go out and do something.  It can be small like giving our neighbors a present, it can be significant like giving someone a car, it’s helping out and meeting people’s need however we can.

If we have money as Paul taught in Ephesians 4 when talking about the new self and old self, then we are to use that money - not to fulfill our own dreams of having our dream home, nicer cars, or something for ourselves - to help those in need.  Most churches do not have the resources to significantly help people because we are like the Israelites at the time of Haggai the prophet (Haggai 1).  We spend all of our resources on our homes and our own desires while the work of the church struggles on.  So we, as a church find small things to help people in, but we could do so much more if we were all committed financially to ministering through the church, committed more than we are to our homes, to our cars, our entertainment, or other indulgences of this world.  Are we living our live for things that will last or for things that will pass away?

The church is a great tool to help us be who God intends for us to be.  But if we just talk church, go to classes, listen to sermons, yet do not let Jesus’ life of love shine out from us, then we are guilty of a grave sin.  Pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  We see the pendulum swinging here, a struggle within the faith.  Some like to abstain from sin and think that makes them right with God.  Others like to do loving deeds and think that makes them right with God.  The truth is that it is a combination of the two that is pure and undefiled religion.

In the documentary, Lord Save us From Your Followers, Tony Campolo shares the following illustration:

When I was in high school there was this boy name Roger.  He was outed - a gay kid and his homosexual orientation became known.  West Philadelphia High was a huge and tough inner-city school.  You can imagine what we did fifty years ago when ignorance prevailed on this issue.  We humiliated this kid at every turn.

On Fridays, after phys-ed, when all of the other kids would go into the shower Roger wouldn’t go in with us; he was afraid to.  When he took his turn we waited for him with our wet towels, and when he would come out, we would whip him and sting his little body.

I wasn’t there the day that they took Roger and dragged him into that shower room
and shoved him into the corner.  While he yelled and screamed for mercy, five guys urinated all over him.  I wasn’t there when that happened.

He went home.  He went to bed at about ten o’clock.  They say it was about two o’clock in the morning when Roger went down into the basement of his house and he hung himself.  I knew I wasn’t a Christian because if I was a Christian, I would have been Roger’s friend.  You don’t have to legitimate somebody’s lifestyle in order to love that person, to be brother or sister to that person, and to stand up for that person.
A true faith, one that isn’t just about me being sinless and me getting to heaven, lives itself out through meeting other people’s needs.  It is about befriending the friendless, giving to those who are not able to give back, and loving those around us any opportunity that we get.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.  James 2:18-26 (ESV).