Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Make No Promises, Just Believe

Every year many make New Year resolutions. A New Year's Resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to a project or a habit, often a lifestyle change that is generally interpreted as advantageous. The change can be either to start, increase or decrease something or stop doing it altogether. Some are socio-centric in nature and other self centered, examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more economically or environmentally responsible, and losing weight or becoming more fit. The name comes from the fact that these commitments normally go into effect on New Year's Day and remain until fulfilled or abandoned.

In essence there are promises or vows that we make that for the most are never fulfilled or kept. Like most other promises we make, New Year’s resolutions are broken. We make promises to never leave something or someone when it is only a matter of time that we will. We make vows to commit wholeheartedly to something, and if we ever do, it is not completely. We take oaths we never keep. How many make marriage vows to their spouse only to end up in divorce. Politicians plead for votes by making promises they have no intentions of keeping. Marketers and Salespersons make promises only to get a sale. We promise a friend we will be there not realizing we had promised another one to meet him or her at the same time.

As we see in the Bible, making promises and vows that one is either incapable or has no intention of keeping is not new. Consider the scribe in Matthew 8:19-20,

Matthew 8:19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
Matthew 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Jesus’ reply reveals that this man was either not sincere or had not considered the cost of his vow of faithfulness. Are you willing to make sacrifices by leaving all your conveniences? The Son of Man had none. Are you willing to let go of your position and the privileges it offers? The Son of man did.

Consider Peter when he vowed to stay with Jesus even if the rest abandoned Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33). At first Peter was willing to go the distance. We read in John 18:10,

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.

But, Peter misunderstood Christ. Peter was willing to die as long as it was fighting. He still had to learn the meaning of the cup that Christ had to drink. After this Peter denied Christ three times, even after Christ warned Peter he would.

In Luke 14 Christ says a parable of a man who was hosting a great supper. He had invited many would be guests – a chosen few. While the Bible does not say they had accepted, it could be understood this way because when all things were ready they were asked to come. They seemed to promise to be there but, at the hour of truth they all had excuses to not keep their promises,

Luke 14:18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
Luke 14:19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
Luke 14:20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

A similar parable in Matthew 22 said that those invited, “made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise…” (Matthew 22: 5). The Host-King was displeased with those who broke their promises and vows. So, He invited everyone else to his event – those who the few had despised. These made no promises, they just showed up. This means that they believed the servants when they said that the Host- King was indeed inviting them. This was all that was required. The Host King said to them, “Put on the wedding garment, and show up. I will receive you and not cast you away.” The Host-King kept His promise.

This invitation and promise is to us. Do we believe He is inviting us, and that if we let Him put on us His robe of righteousness He will not cast us out? He is not asking us to promise to be there. He is asking us to believe that we are invited. And, as long as we believe His invitation and promise to us, we are allowing Him to dress us with His Robe. That’s all that is required.