Sunday, May 2, 2010

The 7 Points of Valour: #7 - Dedication

If you watched the closing ceremonies of the winter Olympics from Vancouver a few months ago you saw a cross between a circus, a parade, and a stage show all dedicated to the stereotypes of Canada. Rooted in both Big and small RCMP, you saw giant floating moose and beavers, you saw Maple leaves and William Shatner. When things are dedicated you give a nod to the history and worth of the object. In almost every book you can find a dedication to someone or something that the author appreciated and allowed the book to be written. Dedication also means something given over for a specific use. In the Old Testament the utensils and items used in the Jewish temple were dedicated items. A very strict protocol was instituted for both the items and the priests charged with using them. In the IT world they talk of dedicated servers, a computer that has one use and only one use. When we talk of dedication as a point of valor, we are talking about this sense of focus. We are talking about the denial of selfish ambition and the complete surrender of all that we have - body, mind, strength, possessions - to the control of Jesus. Toby Mac in his song Made For You expresses it as “Anything I would give up for you. Everything, I'd give it all away.” That is what Jesus asks. He set the example in the incarnation. Not us, but Him. Not ours, but His.

DEDICATION is a man or women of whole-hearted dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the 7th Point of Valour that ties the previous 6 together. This dedication, this complete surrender of self is the heart of the Gospel. It is part of the story of God. There is the historical story that goes way back to the beginning of time. It involves Creation and a Garden, a snake and a single command; and ends with a death on a cross followed by a resurrection. This is the story of redemption. Then there is your story. It too begins with a creation - your creation by the God who created all around us. It too is a story of redemption, but it is also a story about purpose. You were created with wonderful gifts and strengths. In generations gone past the church has focused on the separation between man and his Creator.  It has focussed more on where you and I have gone wrong rather than the stuff that is good. There’s a truth there about sin that we all have to face at some point, but beyond that is the story of God in the world today. This story talks of a community marked by justice and love and peace and holiness. We live in a fallen world and there is much we can and should do as the people of God. He has called us to live out our faith in ways that reveal who Jesus is, His love and grace.

So what do we do with this? First of all, know that the One to whom you dedicate your life to is your Creator. Let me read you a favourite story of mine from Bonnie’s Your Best You.

The Palmist reminds us in a different way of who we are before our Creator in Psalm 139:1-16 “God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight. You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can't take it all in!
Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you're there! If I go underground, you're there! If I flew on morning's wings to the far western horizon, You'd find me in a minute— you're already there waiting! Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I'm immersed in the light!" It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvellously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.” That’s you! You are loved and known by the creator of the ends of the earth. The One who calls you to follow Him has Love at the heart of His very character. If God is anything, He is love.

To what does the Object of our dedication  ask us to dedicate ourselves too? Some people would try to sell you the Health and Wealth schtick. These are the people at the top, in leadership roles. The reason they do it is so you will give your money to the church so they can have more. They love the things of the world. It is easy for them to say it works because everyone gives money to them. Have you ever thought it odd they don’t live any longer than the next person? If God was really about health, wouldn’t they be the ones to live to 110 or 130? Unfortunately, the love of the Father is not in them. God did not come to make you rich, or keep you healthy. You can’t serve God and money; you can’t serve 2 masters, it just doesn’t work. So if it isn’t health and wealth, what is it?

There are 2 things we dedicate ourselves to. We dedicate ourselves to allowing the Spirit of God to work in our lives, to holiness. Paul put it this way in Romans 8: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” Well, that sounds great. You understand though, it is a challenge? How much are you willing to struggle with an addiction? How long will you struggle against anger or gossip or bitterness? The challenge to be like Christ is done in the power of the Spirit, but it takes will and effort to respond to God. Listen to the Romans passage preceding what we just read: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” We are citizens of two places. We have a heavenly citizenship marked with the seal of the Spirit and we are tied to this Fallen world while in these physical bodies. These bodies age and suffer the results of sin and the Fall from so long ago. But we know we will be changed one day, and see Jesus face to face in glorified bodies, changed into His likeness more completely than we could ever imagine.

The second thing we dedicate ourselves to is kingdom living - God’s kingdom. The command was to love our neighbour. Remember the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus talked of a changed life, a life that is bent to holiness and love. Jesus challenged us in each area of our life to be involved with others. We know this - this has always been the challenge of the Church. In dedication, we renew this commitment to do it in God’s strength and God’s timing. We don’t do it just out of duty, or out of a sense of evangelism, but because we are called to give that gift of cool water to the stranger on a hot day. The Gospel is about holiness and love. We are changed towards holiness before God, and challenged to acts and attitudes of love before others.

 I am a big believer in setting markers in our lives. As you read through the OT you see again and again a mound of stones raised to commemorate a special event, a time when God stepped out of eternity and acted in time.  In a sense Christianity has a huge one - the cross is a marker of the point of salvation, of the finished work that Jesus did on our behalf. The cross reminds us as does communion, of our relationship with Him. They are markers, and Jesus asked us continue with the Bread and the Cup until He comes back so we will remember. What about your spiritual walk? Do you have markers along your path that you can remember? Can you remember not just the times that God reached down and did a miraculous thing in and around you, but when you made a stand and said this is where I make my commitment? This is my future, He is my all in all. I have talked about how every day we need to wake and make that commitment. We dedicate ourselves to God, to following Jesus with all we got regardless of the cost. There is great value in marking these moments. In our tradition we ask people to come up and kneel at the alter rails and surrender all you are to God. Seek His Perfect Love, His entire sanctification. Every service you can do that as we close, but I also believe strongly this is a decision of the will. It is not made in some emotion, where when the emotion is gone so is the will to follow through. I invite you to take a few minutes in the quietness of your own mind, and dedicate yourself anew to Jesus.  You have been given a card and a pen. Put the date down, May 2, 2010, and write a statement about who you are before God. Are you sold out? Are you surrendered to Him? You can make that decision today, now. Making a mark on that paper is much easier than making a pile of stones to remind yourself, but the challenge is here to make an alter to praise God. Out of the stones of your life, set them down, rough as they are, and raise them up. He can make them holy - He can make you holy. Take that card and put it in the back of your Bible or on your dresser where you will come across it from time to time so you can be reminded of this moment of dedication. Listen to this song as you consider what is before you. We are dismissed when it is done.

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