(Note: This post was originally written as a devotional column for my local newspaper)
As part of my research into the history of the Second Baptist Church, I’ve been reading some of the books written by former members and pastors. One of them, Rev. Walter Cook (who went on to serve as a professor at Bangor Theological Seminary for many years), wrote a book of devotions for young people, in which he challenged them to live lives that are wholeheartedly committed to God.
Too often we respond to God’s grace with half-hearted measures, wavering back and forth in our commitment to follow his ways. Now, while it’s true that our salvation rests on God’s grace alone, and not on how perfectly we are able to walk the path of Christian discipleship, it’s also true that we do ourselves a grave disservice by not pursuing a wholehearted, all-out commitment to the ways of love and truth revealed in the Scriptures.
Rev. Cook put it this way: “Many of us try to keep God himself at a distance. We would prefer not to know too much about his will for our lives, because he might command us to do things for him and our acquaintances that we are unwilling to do. God does not want us to be ‘reasonably’ generous with others, ‘moderately’ kind, ‘relatively’ thoughtful, ‘mildly’ considerate. He calls us to be more than half decent, requiring us to love him and our neighbors with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.”
We tend to avoid God’s call to all-out commitment because it seems hard. We think that we’ll have to lay aside some of our old comforts in order to live the kind of life he’s calling us to live. But what we ignore when we choose to follow him in half-measures is that the life he’s offering us is more than simply difficult: it is wonderful. In the words of the apostle James, it is “the perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25). Rather than restricting our freedom, God’s way actually opens us up to a whole new world of living that we never could have known before. To live all-out for God is to live life to its absolute fullest. When we are loving God and loving others with every fiber of our being, only then do we begin to taste the beautiful, unhindered life of deep-running joy that he offers to each one of us. All we have to do is yes to him, and begin the journey of living like a true believer.