Personal Dedication (142)
James R. Davis
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags. Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward. Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton. At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr, noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt. Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside
as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields
and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived
in forests and caves,
Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
They gave you and me a free and independent America. The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government! 87 Years later, equally principled men met at a crossroads town in Pennsylvania and sanctified that ground forever with blood shed in defense of their principles. Whatever your geographic or political point of view, you cannot help but admire the courage and fortitude of men like Joshua Chamberlain and Lew Armistead.
Gettysburg in 1863, like Philadelphia in 1776, San Juan Hill in 1899, Midway Island in 1942, and Normandy in 1944, were all turning points in the course of American history at which everyday Americans risked everything and stood up to be counted. Some of us take our liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't. So, take a few minutes this year while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank the patriots of the past. It's not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: freedom is never free!
It's time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball game.
Maybe it is time for Christians to look back and learn a lesson about dedication from our founding fathers. Nathan Hale cries "Give me liberty or give me death." Spiritual freedom will never be discovered with a willingness to die to self. If there is no longer anything worth dying for, then there is nothing worth living for. Jesus told Peter: "And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:32) Paul wrote, " . . . For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (2 Timothy 1:12) "Be urgent . . . " 2 Timothy 4:2) Christian commitment and dedication is important for at least two reasons. First the urgency of the time demands it; second, it s the emphasis of the Word of God.
A. It is difficult to communicate the gospel of Christ worldwide in such a way as to challenge men to a genuine decision to commitment.
B. Except for some few pockets of genuine commitment, the church has become a field for evangelism more than a force for evangelism. Committed Christians are a minority at the present time!
C. It is far easier to talk about commitment than to actualize it in one's personal life. But, in spite of our own personal inadequacies and frailties, we must face up to the Biblical demands for commitment.
1. Christianity has never survived on the basis of a mild and uncommitted theism; it is every Christian's business to understand the meaning of what it means to be dedicated.
2. We see men and women who made and are making supreme commitments. The object of their commitment is different from that of the Christian, but the fullness of their commitments often puts the Christian to shame.
3. Let us, for a few moments, think about commitment, personal dedication.
Personal Dedication Requires A Primary Decision.
A committed dedicated life begins with a primary decision. If one chooses to dedicate his life to any field regardless of the field of endeavor a primary decision must be made.
Joshua told the people of his day, " . . . Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell . . . And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey." (Joshua 24:15, 24)
We find Jews and Gentiles alike in the New Testament beginning the Christian walk with a primary decision. (Acts 2, 8, 9, 10, 16, etc.)
It would help us today to understand something about sanctification. Moses sanctified the book, people, tabernacle, and vessels. (Heb 9:19-23) This set everything apart to a holy calling. It was for the purpose of dedicating, committing, or sanctifying . . . set them apart to a holy calling. When that primary decision is made at that time one has set him apart for a particular service.
Personal Dedication Requires Four Things?
Personal dedication requires DETERMINATION. Paul said of the Macedonians, "And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." (2 Corinthians 8:5) I see a determination in Paul's life in Philippians 4:13: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before."
There must be a determination to give the Lord priority. After all the Lord has determined to have first place in the hearts and lives of those who would be his followers.
In Matthew 6:33 we se an obligation: "But seek ye . . . "the object to be sought is: "His kingdom, and his righteousness." The order characterizing such seeking is to be "first". And the conditional promise is "all these things shall be added" (literally, thrown in extra).
It is crystal clear from this verse that the Lord is satisfied with nothing less than top priority in our hearts and lives. To put him first means simply that if we have two places to go . . . one, involving our own interests, the other, his . . . we must make the Lord's trip first. If we have two task to perform . . . one, the Lord's the other, our own . . . we must take care of the Lord's task first.
Christianity should be our vocation and our livelihoods should be our avocations. That is, we should give primary attention to spiritual things and secondary attention to the means by which we sustain our lives.
Our determination must be in spite of cost. Jesus said, " . . . Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33) To be a genuine disciple of the Lord, one must not only be willing to put the Lord first in all things; one must actually have done so! A mere profession is far from sufficient.
We may have a tendency to impulsively offer to follow the Lord, but they have not sufficiently counted the cost, and are not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary.
The determination is our priority setting must be in spite of our feelings. Some allow their feelings toward others govern the amount of service rendered. We must be willing to give up father, mother, brother and sisters.
Moses and Paul serve as good examples.
People do about what they are determined to do.
Personal dedication requires DISCIPLINE.
We see little church discipline and it seems even less self-discipline. But when we determine to do a given thing the next step to enable us to carry through with that decision is discipline.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Jesus said, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." (John 15:2) We must allow God to prune and clean us with His word. We must pray to God and ask Him to bless our efforts.
Do you know anything more excruciating than self-discipline? Those who are overweight, on drugs, have bad attitudes and other spiritual ailments. We must endeavor to discipline our lives.
It requires discipline to teach a class, to attend church, etc.
Personal dedication requires DEVOTION TO GOD.
The deepest yearning of our hearts is the desire to grow into the kind of person that God would have us to be. We do not always remember this because we live in a world, which involves many kinds of pressures. Spiritual growth is sometimes precedence for a time.
For too many people, Christ is not very real and Christianity is not very meaningful. Religion can become only a perfunctory, surface, casual kind of thing. It is only skin deep. It is largely habit. It is "what's expected." They follow the Lord but they follow him like Peter in the long ago, "afar off."
Many do not find Christianity very meaningful. Among these people we find those who have become Christians largely out of fear. They confessed Christ as Lord and were baptized, but the motivation was essentially selfish. They did not wish to be lost, so they became Christians.
Through the years their Christianity has been little more than having become Christians and then eating the Lord's supper with some degree of regularity.
It has not meant a new way of living. It has not meant a higher set of values to live by, a life of service to one's fellowmen, and hours of meaningful worship to God. It has been largely negative and threadbare.
It was not Christ's intention that this should be the kind of religion that he came to establish.
2 Corinthians 3:18
2 Corinthians 5:17
Personal dedication requires DESCRIMINATION.
Joshua told God's people to "choose you this day whom you will serve." Paul said that we must grow in order that we may be able to discern between good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14) We as Christians must set our minds on things above. (Colossians 3:1)
A Christian is a saint and that means that he is one who is set apart. He is not of this world, thought he is still in the world. (John 18:36) The ship is in the ocean but the ocean must never be in the ship. One living a Christian life having escaped the world must not see how close one can live to the world and yet not sin.