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Radical commitment 2



'Take up your cross daily, and follow me.' Luke 9:23 NLT

We know that God wants us to be people who are fully committed in all areas of life. Here are three areas we can look at:

(1) Commitment at work. 'Obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ... Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people' (Ephesians 6:5-7 NLT). Whether we are an employee or an employer, we need to remember that we're ultimately working for God. (2) Commitment at church. We may sometimes have a casual approach to church. We may pick what we like and leave what we don't like. But when we're committed to our church, we commit to encouraging, nurturing, protecting, cherishing and praying for each other, to fulfil our mission together (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). We can make more of an impact outside of the church when we're committed inside the church. (3) Commitment to Christ. Jesus made a radical commitment to us through his birth, life, suffering and death, and he asks us to commit radically to him. 'Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me"' (Luke 9:23 NLT). This means we no longer follow our own wishes or will, but God's. That's radical commitment.

So what now? Think of one of these areas: work, church or Christ. Think of one way you could improve your commitment in that area, and then put it into practice.

Soulfood: Isa 40:9-11, Isa 42:1-4, Ps 18:31-35

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Radical commitment 1



'I have been crucified with Christ.' Galatians 2:20 NIV

We live in a time that is so full and busy we can find it hard to commit. We may tend to prefer meetings, sermons and appointments to be simple, entertaining and, above all, short. We may find it easier to take than to give back, to be there for others in good times but not in the bad times, to avoid responsibility and obligation because it demands too much from us. This may seem extreme, but maybe we relate to it to some degree? And, quite possibly, maybe this lack of commitment is not bringing us peace?

The Bible says, 'It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfil it' (Ecclesiastes 5:5 NIV). How many times have we felt let down by others? And how many times have we been the one to not stick to a commitment?

The apostle Paul said: 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me' (Galatians 2:20 NIV). That's Paul completely committing to Jesus. He surrendered to God's will for his life; he let Jesus take control.

Radical commitment is what God wants from us. It means allowing Jesus to have all of our lives, so that he can teach us the true meaning of commitment to God and people, in all areas of our lives.

So what now? When you're chatting to someone today, give them your full attention. Do not be distracted by those around you, or your phone! Ask God to help you be a person of radical commitment.

Soulfood: Rom 7:1 - 9:16, Matt 14:13-21, Ps 145:14-21, Pro 4:23-24

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Encourage your pastor



'Honour...your leaders in the Lord's work.' 1 Thessalonians 5:12 NLT

God's Word says: 'Encourage one another and build each other up' (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV) - and that includes encouraging and building up our pastors and leaders. In fact, the verse straight after says: 'Honour those who are your leaders in the Lord's work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance' (1 Thessalonians 5:12 NLT).

First up, we need to stop criticising. If a particular sermon doesn't speak to us, it might just be that somebody else needed to hear it. It's not all about us. If we go to church expecting to be given something, we'll probably be disappointed. Pastors can't meet everyone's needs - they are not God. We need to be going to church with an open heart and asking God to speak to us, whatever the topic of the sermon. Secondly, we need to be praying for our pastors. They work on the frontline of the Kingdom, sharing God's Word every week. They face struggles, temptations, exhaustion and stress just like the rest of us. We can use our gifts and skills to help the pastor, and the church, out: whether that's offering to put the chairs out, using our musical gifts in the worship team, or inviting people round for a meal.

Let's stop speaking negatively about our leaders. Let's be people who counter negative talk with positive comments, and who correct misinformation with truth. Let's be encouraging and build up our leaders.

So what now? Write or email a letter to your pastor, encouraging them and thanking them for what they do.

Soulfood: Eph 5:21-33, S of S 2:1-7, Ps 45, Pro 5:15-19

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Make abiding your top priority



'Remain in me, as I also remain in you.' John 15:4 NIV

Jesus used the analogy of grape vines to explain what he meant when he told his disciples to 'abide in him'. He said: 'Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing' (John 15:4-5 NIV).

Abiding in Jesus simply means to stay with him. When we're connected to him, we can do far more than we can do alone. We are connected to his strength, his love and his wisdom. And that will make us fruitful - read about the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. When we are producing these fruits in our lives, we're living more like Jesus. Abiding in Jesus also means remaining in his presence. It's in his presence that we find rest, courage and peace. In the Psalms, David said: 'One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple' (Psalm 27:4 NIV).

Abide in Jesus: it is the source of our existence.

So what now? Make abiding in God's presence your top priority. From his presence will come everything you need for your life and for your day-to-day life.

Soulfood: Rom 3:21 - 6:23, Matt 14:1-12, Ps 145:1-13, Pro 4:20-22

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His grace abounds



'Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.' Romans 5:20 NIV

Sometimes we worry that God won't accept us because we've made too many mistakes, or have gone too far off his path for us. But we don't need to worry. Paul could identify with this: before his 'Damascus Road' conversion (see Acts 9), he was 'Public Sinner Number One' (1 Timothy 1:15 The Message version). And then... God used him to reach the world with the Gospel! He said, 'Where sin increased, grace increased all the more' (Romans 5:20 NIV).

'Grace' was so central to Paul's message that he mentions it in all his letters. God's grace means that we have his favour, even though we've done things that don't deserve favour. And on top of that, God's Word says that we don't have to do anything to earn this grace: 'You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God' (Ephesians 2:8 NCV). When we try and make ourselves right and pure before God it will always feel impossible; but when we believe that God's grace covers us, and all our mistakes, we can stop striving to be perfect and allow our perfect God to sort things for us.

We're God's redeemed children and he sees us through the blood of Jesus, which cleanses all our sins (see 1 John 1:9). There's nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make him love us less.

So what now? Stop striving to earn God's acceptance. You have his favour. Thank him for his gift of grace.

Soulfood: Rom 1:1 - 3:20, Matt 13:47-58, Ps 141, Pro 4:18-19

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The spirit of Caleb



'My servant Caleb has a different spirit.' Numbers 14:24 NIV

Ever read the Bible story of Caleb? Here it is in his own words: 'I was 40 years old when Moses...sent me...to explore the land...I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed...God wholeheartedly...that day Moses swore to me, "The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance"...So here I am today, 85 years old...as strong...as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me...Then Joshua blessed Caleb... and gave him Hebron as his inheritance...because he followed the Lord...wholeheartedly' (Joshua 14:7-14 NIV).

We can learn many valuable lessons from Caleb. He had 'a different spirit' to those around him. He was a positive and optimistic person. He believed that with God's help every giant that stood in the way could be conquered, even when others said they couldn't be. He had a vision that he stuck to, even when he grew older and had to face tough circumstances. He was willing to wait and work for it even though it took 45 years to fulfil. He remained totally committed to God.

So, let's use Caleb as an example of how to live life well.

So what now? This week, get to know Caleb a bit better (see Numbers 13-14 and Joshua 14). Then ask God to give you a spirit like his.

Soulfood: Isa 63-66, Matt 13:36-46, Ps 138, Pro 4:14-17

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Your significance is in Jesus



'For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' Matthew 11:30 NIV

If we don't find our significance in our relationship with Jesus, we'll allow other things to give us our self-worth. We'll allow insecurity to rule our lives. We may become people pleasers or become resentful when others seem to get ahead of us in life.

In God's Kingdom we don't achieve success on our own, we receive it from God. While David's brothers were striving to be Israel's next king, David kept tending his sheep and doing the job God gave him. We can be tempted to start competing and comparing, but we just need to stay faithful to our own personal journey. When the time is right, he'll use us. He has a plan for us all. We can't compare our journey with others because they're called to do something different from us. Jesus said, 'For my yoke is easy and my burden is light' (Matthew 11:30 NIV). When we try to promote ourselves, we'll strain and struggle, but when we trust God and do things his way, it comes 'easy'. That doesn't mean we won't have to work hard or make sacrifices; it means we won't have to strive to get or keep our success.

Knowing God is in charge takes the striving out of life. We needn't be stuck in a cycle of insecurity, people-pleasing and comparison - we need to allow God to do things his way.

So what now? Each time you compare yourself to someone else or try to gain the approval of others, remind yourself that you are significant because of Jesus.

Soulfood: Isa 58-62, Matt 13:24-35, Ps 134, Pro 4:5-13

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