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A Marriage Covenant and Spiritual Recommitment

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A Marriage Covenant and Spiritual Recommitment

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A Marriage Covenant and Spiritual Recommitment

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In this sermon we're going to take a look at marriage, a special covenant, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and our commitment to put sin out of our lives.

Transcript

I worked at Ambassador Auditorium for fifteen years and one of our highest ranked performing artists was Luciano Pavarotti. And there are some others here that actually worked at Ambassador Auditorium, too, with the concert series fifteen to twenty years ago or so.

Now Pavarotti tells the story about how he made the choice to be a singer. At a young age his father introduced him to singing and, as you know, Pavarotti took to it with great professionalism and skill.

At one time in Pavarotti’s life he was enrolled in both vocal lessons from a professional tenor, and also, he was in college studying to be a school teacher. And when he graduated from school he faced a dilemma: he could become a singer, or become a teacher.

And when he asked his father about which course to take, his father responded, “If you try to sit on two chairs you’ll fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.” So Pavarotti’s dad was giving his son a lesson on making a decision, and commitment - choose one chair.

And here’s another story about commitment: here’s one from a biblical perspective. In the last chapter of the book of Joshua - I’m not going to turn there right now - we are given a glimpse into Joshua’s farewell address to the people. He’s about to draw his last breath and he gives an impassioned speech, an exhortation to the people of Israel.

One last time Joshua summons the elders; this time at Shechem, about ten to fifteen miles north of Shiloh, and Shechem was the place where the blessings and cursings had been pronounced more than twenty years earlier. Maybe Joshua knew that, and that’s why he was going to give his speech from that location. And in this speech he rehearses mush of Israel’s history, much of which occured within the last two generations.

The Exodus had occured just seventy years earlier so coming out of Egypt was still fresh on their minds. Moses had died less than thirty years ago. God had said He would send the hornets to drive out the inhabitants of the land, and so hornets, and bees, and wasps went through the land and drove out the people so that the Israelites could then move in. And that did, indeed happen. The Israelites were able to take over the cities and orchards without having to start over. They moved into ready-made crops, and buildings, and nations.

Now there are some real interesting words that I want to focus on. I’m going to read to you from Joshua’s words in Joshua 24:14 Joshua 24:14Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve you the LORD.
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where he says,

Joshua 24:14 Joshua 24:14Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve you the LORD.
American King James Version×
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“Now therefore, fear the Lord,”… here’s the culmination of his speech. “…serve Him in sincerity and (in) truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt… .” So he’s reminding them they came out of Egypt. “Don’t serve those gods. Serve the Lord!” Joshua says, “…in sincerity and truth.” Now this closely parallels the apostle Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians 5 , doesn’t it, where we’re told,

I Corinthians 5:8 - Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. It’s a parallel between Old and New Testaments when it comes to the idea of putting out sin, coming out of Egypt. It’s the same sincerity and truth as mentioned by Joshua as by Paul.

So the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures putting out of sin, and coming out of the sinful ways of the world - coming out of Babylon, coming out of Egypt, as Joshua essentially put it. “…And forsaking the following of anything that rivals the true God, replacing that with godly purity.” And this is, of course, something that we’re focusing on at this time of year, the unleavened bread.

And then comes Joshua’s declaration of his own direction in life, no matter what anybody else in the nation would do. Joshua says, “No matter what you do, here’s what I am going to do.”

Joshua 24:15 Joshua 24:15And if it seem evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you 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 you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
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- “…But as for me and my house hold , we will serve the Lord.” And it’s a very inspiring passage to read - of Joshua’s commitment to God’s way of life right up to the day he died.

Commitment to God is what is most important, and we find ourselves now in the midst of the spring holy day season. We have to ask ourselves, “What can we learn from Joshua’s commitment? What can we learn from what the apostle Paul said? What can we learn about unleavened bread, and from our commitment to God? What can we learn from our baptismal commitment where we’ve pledged to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives?

So, in the sermon today we’re going to take a look at marriage, a special covenant, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and our commitment to put sin out of our lives. The title of this sermon, “A Marriage Covenant and Spiritual Commitment,” and you’ll see why here as we go along.

Just six nights ago we observed the Passover, as we are instructed to do each year. Why do we observe the Passover service annually? And furthermore, why are we here again today to once again observe these seven days of unleavened bread?

Truly, once you get baptized, isn’t that just enough? Why do you have to do it every year? Couldn’t we just do it once? You know, be baptized and then move on? Why the need to repeat these ceremonies every year?

Well, the answer lies inside part of the title of the message today - A Spiritual Recommitment. By nature, we, as human beings need to be reminded of important activities. Otherwise we forget. That’s why we have calendars. That’s why we have appointment books. That’s why we have alarm clocks. That’s why we receive text messages, to remind us of things that we’re supposed to be doing.

When it comes to God’s way, “The Way,” we need to be reminded, and recommitted on a regular, annual basis. In society in general commitment to almost everything is waning, and it’s a human problem, commitment. Notice this quote from George Barna’s book, “The Frog in the Kettle.” Barna wrote a book called “The Frog in the Kettle,” and he has a list of signs of reduced commitment in life. So he sees in society in general, reduced commitment. And here are some of the signs.

1 - He says, “The divorce rate is climbing. Half of all new marriages end in divorce.”

2 - “Adults feel that they have fewer close friends than did adults in past decades.”

3 - “Brand loyalty in consumer purchasing studies has dropped in most product categories, and by as much as sixty per cent in some categories. The proportion of people willing to join an organization is declining in relation to churches, labor unions, political parties, clubs, and community associations.”

So it’s pretty much across the board, including churches. People are just less committed. Book clubs and record clubs are less likely to attract new members in multiple years when multiproduct commitments are required. People want a no commitment contract these days. In fact, they don’t even want to commit to a contract at all. When they sign up for cell phone or cable they don’t want a contract. They don’t want to be committed to the long term.

Out of a percentage of adults who said they’d fight for their country regardless of the cause has dropped. The percentage of people who commit to attend events and fail to show up is on the rise. And today’s parents are less likely to believe that it is important to remain in an unhappy marriage for the sake of the children than they were twenty years ago. So lack of proper commitment, as Barna shows, has become worse in recent decades.

So not only do we need to be committed to what’s most important, we need to be reminded regularly of our commitment, especially to God. Now the apostle Paul recognized this two thousand years ago. Let’s turn to II Peter 1:10 , and notice the words here that Peter writes.

II Peter 1:10 - Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;

Verse 11 - for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So Peter wants the brethren to make sure that they are part of God’s everlasting kingdom. Notice verse 12 -

Verse 12 - For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things,… Peter saw the necessity to remind the brethren of these things, … though you know and are established in the present truth . It’s not that you don’t know the truth; but reminders are good.

Verse 13 - Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, or this body, to stir you up by reminding you,

Verse 14 - knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.

Verse 15 - Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. Peter saw the necessity to be reminded on a regular basis about our calling. So even today lets ourselves be reminded of our spiritual commitment become truly recommitted to strive to put all sin out of our lives.

Let’s take a closer look at our baptismal vow, the marriage covenant, and our annual observance of these days of unleavened bread. And shortly you’ll see how all three of these tie together as we move forward.

Vince Lombardi, American football coach for the Green Bay Packers, a few here of Packer’s fans, I know that. He was a winning coach, and he said, “The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence regardless of his chosen field of endeavor.” That famous coach saw that the quality of a man’s life is related to his commitment to excellence.

Peter Drucker, a U. S. management professor, and advisor to different businesses and governments says, “Unless commitment is made there are only promises and hopes, but no plan.” And so, we too need commitment, not just from a physical perspective, but when it comes to God’s way, and our commitment to our baptismal vows in the past service.

So let’s commit to the topic today. I’ve divided the topic into three points. Not seven, not twenty-two like I did one time, three. So even the younger folks like, even Lynette Fa… can follow along today with three points. She hassles me about how many points that I have.

So, number one is a marriage covenant. Few people realize that the old covenant God had with Israel was essentially a marriage covenant by which God was a husband to Israel. And in this covenant Israel, the wife, had agreed to submit to God and obey His laws, but she did not. The people never had the right heart and mind to fully obey, and this fault of the people, the book of Hebrews explains, was the problem with the old covenant, and the reason a new covenant was necessary.

What then is the new covenant? The new covenant is basically a marriage contract that God lays out with Israel and Judah. And we see this reflected in God’s words and actions on the evening before His death. Notice Matthew 26:27 Matthew 26:27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it;
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because during the last parts of a meal He shared with His disciples Jesus introduced the symbols of broken bread to represent the sacrifice of His broken body, and wine to symbolize His shed blood which was his death.

Matthew 26:27 Matthew 26:27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it;
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Then He took the cup, (and) gave thanks, (and) gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.

Verse 28 - “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Jesus was explaining that the shedding of His blood as a sacrifice for sin was required to make the new covenant possible. This was going to replace the old covenant that God had with ancient Israel.

Without this new covenant there was no way to atone for the sins of all who would participate in the covenant. Christ’s blood had to be spilled, and just as Jesus initiated the new covenant, he proposed marriage, shall we say to his true followers.

Even Christ’s disciples, the most faithful people of His day, were still carnal and condemned because of their sins. They needed to be changed into a new, spiritually converted people to enter into this new relationship with Jesus Christ, and this was accomplished through Christ’s death, and then, of course, His resurrection, and their receiving of God’s holy spirit which enabled the spiritual transformation of the new covenant to begin, and having agreed to the new covenant the church from the book of Acts , and you and me are now betrothed to Christ. Let’s go to II Corinthians 11:2 , so we’re talking here in point 1. A marriage covenant.

II Corinthians 11:2 we read, the apostle Paul saying, For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” We are betrothed and the husband, for us, is Jesus Christ. It’s a marriage commitment. It’s a marriage covenant. We are betrothed under the terms of the new covenant but as we know we’re still awaiting the coming fullness of the new covenant marriage to begin at the marriage of the Lamb.

Revelation 19:6 Revelation 19:6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunder, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.
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is a good place to turn to now. Here, then we see the Revelation of Jesus Christ, where John writes,

Revelation 19:6 Revelation 19:6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunder, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.
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- And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” A nd as you know, this is talking about a time after Christ’s return to this Earth as king of kings, and lord of lords.

Verse 7 - “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

Verse 8 - And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. So who is the wife? It’s the saints of God. It’s the people of God. It’s the Church of God. The bride, you see, what we’re a part of is a marriage commitment, a marriage covenant.

Verse 9 - Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” When we read Revelation 19 , can you just picture it? Can you imagine it? This marriage?

There’s a lot of hype in the world right now for the wedding that’s taking place next weekend. Right? The royal family in the British Isles, in England. But imagine this wedding in Revelation 19, y our wedding to Jesus Christ. We are part of a marriage covenant. We’ve been betrothed to Jesus Christ, and that wedding will take place. We need to keep that in mind as we go through our daily struggles in life.

Remember what we are a part of, and what we are heading towards. We will be part of that marriage supper. Being betrothed to Him, the members of His church submit to His loving leadership and guidance as the head of the church. For the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church, and we are preparing life for an eternity with Him.

It’s a marriage covenant. Now, here’s the clincher. To be a part of that church and part of that covenant agreement requires the taking of the symbols of the new covenant each year. We have to reaffirm the terms of the marriage contract. It’s a recommitment to obey God and the acceptance of Jesus Christ’s blood to atone for us, and any failure we might have to completely obey Him, and as we just read in Revelation 19 , at Christ’s return those who are betrothed to Him prior to that time will actually then go through a wedding ceremony and celebration.

Glorified as spirit beings we will be perfect and will never sin again. We will have God’s laws ingrained perfectly into our very character. It’s who we will be. This is the culmination and fullness of the new covenant marriage and God intends to offer this marriage relationship eventually to all human beings. All who will ultimately agree to surrender themselves and be spiritually transformed in the same way can receive it, to be part of His covenant.

When Jesus returns and joins into the fullness of marriage with His church He will then also extend his engagement proposal to all of mankind, and as all of mankind is brought into this relationship peace will extend to encompass the entire planet all under the rule of Christ and the perfected saints - the glorified, spiritual Israel.

So this is the gospel of the kingdom of God. This is what we’re part of, this marriage covenant; this marriage commitment with our husband Jesus Christ. We are the bride.

When two people exchange wedding vows they make a lifelong commitment, and biblically speaking this is a covenant, a marriage covenant.

Malachi says in Chapter 2:14 - …she is your companion and your wife by covenant. It’s a marriage covenant that husbands and wives have, and that we have too, with our elder brother Jesus Christ. It’s a solemn promise to God and one’s mate to be faithful.

This commitment, this marriage covenant, should not be taken lightly, you know, or only maintained when we feel like it. God does not advocate only occasional bursts of loyalty, and obedience to Him whenever it’s convenient for us. This is a total commitment that we have to Jesus Christ.

I have a story for you here that’s about a lack of commitment. A college student walked into a photography studio with a framed picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the picture duplicated by the photographer, and this involved removing it from the frame. In doing this the studio owner noticed the inscription on the back of the photograph.

“My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity.” And it was signed, Helen. And it contained a P. S. - “If we ever break up I want this picture back.” So, Helen was not totally committed to the relationship, was she?

When we make a covenant with God there’s no P. S. There’s no going back. Our baptismal vows are for life. I mean we’re reminded of that marriage covenant each year at the Passover. He expects us to annually recommitment to Him in the Passover service, and He expects us to annually observe His holy days as a reminder of His way. Let’s go to Ecclesiastes 5:4 Ecclesiastes 5:4When you vow a vow to God, defer not to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools: pay that which you have vowed.
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Wise King Solomon explains commitment, being totally committed to God.

Ecclesiastes 5:4 Ecclesiastes 5:4When you vow a vow to God, defer not to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools: pay that which you have vowed.
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When you make a vow to God,… and this could, of course, go for our baptismal vow or any vow … When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed -

Verse 5 - Its better not to vow than to vow and not pay , or not to fully commit.

Verse 6 - Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error…. Don’t say, “I’ve changed my mind now.” … Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?

Verse 7 - For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.

So Solomon says that when you make a vow to God, something like a baptismal commitment, it’s serious. It’s a marriage covenant we have with our future husband. So emphasizing the personal responsibility each of us must take in fulfilling our vows is very important.

King David wrote a Psalm that included this phrase in Psalms 56:12 Psalms 56:12Your vows are on me, O God: I will render praises to you.
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King David said,

Psalms 56:12 Psalms 56:12Your vows are on me, O God: I will render praises to you.
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“Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God…”

So to summarize section 1., our baptismal commitment leads us to a marriage covenant with Christ. We are betrothed, awaiting the marriage ceremony. And we’re betrothed under the terms of the new covenant in Christ’s church but still awaiting the coming fullness of the new covenant which is our marriage to begin with the marriage of the lamb.

To be part of that church, and part of that covenant requires partaking of the Passover symbols of the new covenant each year. Re-affirming, recommitting to the terms of the marriage contract. It’s a marriage covenant and a spiritual recommitment, and in our society of reduced commitments you can easily see why God outlines for us and requires of us observance of His annual holy day plan because people too easily forget.

How many people do you know who used to be part of the Church of God at one time, and if you mention unleavened bread or the Feast of Tabernacles they’ve forgotten all about it, even forgetting when it is, or when it was? It happens fast when we don’t have an annual observance and recommitment.

Before we get into our second point, let me give you a quote from Mario Andretti about commitment. There are also some NASCAR fans here, I know. This is from Mario Andretti. He was born in 1940. He was an Italian American, and a former automobile racing car driver. He was one of the most successful Americans in the history of auto racing. He’s one of only two drivers to win races in the four major motor racing categories. He won Formula I, IndyCar, World Sports Car Championship, and NASCAR, all four categories. He also won races in midget cars, sprint cars, and drag races.
He said, “Desire is the key to motivation, but its determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal, a commitment to excellence that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” So, an unrelenting pursuit of your goal, a commitment to excellence….

Whether it’s a physical goal like auto racing or a spiritual goal, like being there at the marriage ceremony, we too must have an unrelenting pursuit of that goal, must not ever let it go. And it begs the question of us. How unrelenting are we in our pursuit and commitment to attain the kingdom of God?

Here’s a couple more quotes from Mario Andretti, these ones are a little bit more on the lighter side, have nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I have to mention them to you. Mario Andretti says, “Everything comes to those who wait, except the cat.” So he was quite wise after all.

“If everything seems under control,” he says, “you’re not driving fast enough.”

He says, “If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.” That’s Mario Andretti.

Let’s move to the second point which I’ve titled, “A Baptismal Covenant.” So the first one was, “A Marriage Covenant.” Let’s look more closely at, “A Baptismal Covenant,” because the two do relate quite closely.

Baptism goes right to the heart of God’s forgiveness of our sins, and the gift of salvation. Through His death, Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and it is through baptism that we formally make our commitment to permanently turn from sin and surrender our lives to God. When we make a covenant with God, He expects us to honor that commitment. In fact, He expects us to annually recommit our baptismal vows to Him at the Passover service, and He expects us to annually observe His holy days as a reminder of His way.

In the book, Actions Speak Louder than Verbs, Herb Miller recounts an illustration from World War II. It’s on page 103 of the book. Herb Miller says, “While visiting in Leningrad, a woman heard the story of nine hundred thousand people who perished in the long siege of Leningrad during World War II. At one point they were trying to save the children from both the Nazis and starvation, so they placed them on trucks to cross a frozen lake to safer locations. Many of the mothers, sure that they would never see their children again yelled to them as they got on the trucks, “Remember your name. Remember your name.”

By our baptism we commit ourselves to faithfully remember who we are. We are now betrothed to Christ. We are now God’s children. We show our baptismal commitment of who we are by living our lives in such a way that we bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and we remember that we now are a part of God’s church. We bear His name.

Matthew 3:7 Matthew 3:7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
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and 8 -
reminds us about our baptism, and how we must live our lives in a repentant manner.

Matthew 3:7 Matthew 3:7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
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But when he (talking of John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,”Brood of Vipers! Who (has) warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Verse 8 - shows that we are the people of God, and we live in a repentant manner. If we continue to show the fruits of God’s way, being led by the holy spirit, God will never forget who we are, and He entered into a special covenant with us at baptism, and we are reminded of it each year at this time, and so we diligently put all sin out of our lives because now we are called by His name.

Isaiah 49:15 Isaiah 49:15Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget you.
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asks an interesting question. Isaiah writes, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” You say, “No,” not very likely at all that a mother would ever forget that baby that has suckled, but then God says, … “Though she may forget, I will never forget you. It’s extremely unlikely that the mother would ever forget that child, but if even if she would, God says, “I will never forget you.”

God will never leave us or forsake us. He will remember our name, and during these seven days of unleavened bread we picture putting sin out of our lives, and living lives of sincerity and truth. We are to examine our hearts. We are to ask ourselves some searching questions about our intentions toward God and our fellow human beings. We have to ask if we show humility in service to others. Do we honor God in our everyday lives? What do we spend our time on? What are we watching on television? What music are we listening to? What do we do on the Sabbath? These are searching questions to ask during these days of unleavened bread. I Corinthians 5:7 leads us straight to the core of these days.

I Corinthians 5:7 - Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. And verse 7 is actually encouraging to know that once we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, and by taking of those Passover symbols as a baptized member we now, before God, truly are unleavened. We are sinless before God once we honor him in that way.

Verse 8 - Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Once we have accepted our Passover, once our sins are forgiven we truly are unleavened, just like our homes are, our lives are.

As we, then, live a life led by the Spirit of God, we show forth fruit of that spirit of repentance, and we live a sincere, truthful life. And so, during this week of putting leaven out of our lives, purging the old leaven, each of us, even though called, repentant and forgiven, will fall down from time to time, and sin. We will find some spiritual crumbs buried somewhere, maybe some physical crumbs too, but we also need to be looking for the spiritual crumbs. But as long as we’re genuinely repentant, striving to overcome sin, we can still attend the marriage of the lamb. We will never be perfect, but as long as there is that goal in life, we will attend the marriage of the lamb.

I John 2:1 John 2:1And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
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, let’s turn over there for a moment. A good reminder for us on these days of unleavened bread, to remind of us what Jesus Christ has done for us.

I John 2:1 John 2:1And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
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My little children,” says John, “ these things I write to you, (so) that you may not sin….” We are not supposed to sin, …”but (and) if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Verse 2 - And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Verse 3 - Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

Verse 4 - “ He who says, ‘I know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Verse 5 - “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.

Verse 6 - “ He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”

If we say we’re in Jesus Christ, if we’re part of that marriage commitment, that marriage covenant, if we are partaking of the Passover symbols, we too must walk as Christ walked in every way of our life. Putting sin out, living as Christ would have lived, and we are ourselves,
so how would Christ live? What would Christ do? Am I doing it? Let’s go back to I John.

I John 1:7 John 1:7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
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But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. Once again a reminder of what we were thinking about at the Passover service.

Verse 8 - If we say (that) we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. For nobody is actually perfect.

Verse 9 - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The poll shows that the earliest Christians not only observed this festival annually with its new symbols of bread and wine that Christ instituted to represent his suffering and death, but also that all Christians would continue observing it until Christ returns, and we have the actual marriage of the lamb.

Our baptism and covenant with God to put His way first in our life is a marvelous ceremony. It’s only fitting that each year we are reminded of our commitment, that we are recommitted, and then strive to once more to put sin out of our lives, and thus the seven days of unleavened bread. When we make a covenant with God He expects us to honor that commitment. In fact, He expects us to annually recommit our Baptismal vows to Him in the Passover service. It’s a marriage covenant and a spiritual recommitment.

And now, point 3, which is related, of course, to the first two. These are all part of our unleavened bread commitment. We have the marriage commitment, the Passover commitment, and our unleavened bread commitment.

Perhaps many of you have heard some variation of the story about the chicken and the pig when it comes to involvement versus commitment. Now here’s the basic version of the story, and I want to replace the pig with some version of clean food. It’s found on the internet everywhere, this story. You’ll understand it. It’s a story about commitment, and this is something that is used in management seminars and used by various companies as a motivational story to motivate their employees.

And they say, “Think about a meal consisting of eggs and ham, and consider the contributions made by a chicken and a pig. A chicken provided the eggs, and a pig provided the ham. It could be said the chicken was involved, because the chicken continued to live as it laid more eggs. It could be said that the pig was committed because it gave it’s all to provide the ham and other pork products.”

So this is one of those motivational stories that sounds great when you read it, and upper management of various companies has used it to make their staff be more committed, like the pig; totally committed as opposed to just being involved, like the chicken.

But continuing to follow that analogy probably isn’t what man even had in mind. The chicken is contributing for the long term, at a sustainable level. She’s able to keep giving as her output is renewable. The pig, however, is in deep trouble. He gives everything at a single burst, and that’s it. No more pig, and I don’t think there are many employees that want to be the pig.

Everyone who is part of the team would much rather be the chicken. And the next time a motivational speaker uses that analogy think of this, and they’re all over the place in these motivational websites.

The point that I’d like to draw from the story is that a committed Christian has to be in it for the long haul. We have to sustain our commitment for a lifetime. You cannot allow anything get the better of us. We have to become both the chicken and the pig; willing to die for what we believe, yet be filled with the holy spirit to be sustained each and every day in God’s strength.

So yes, we do live a life of commitment where, if necessary, we will forfeit our life, but live on a daily basis of sustained commitment, and so this leads us to these Days of Unleavened Bread and our sustained commitment to God’s way. Let’s go to II Timothy 2:1-2, look at how the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy.

II Timothy 2:1 - You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Verse 2 - And the things (that) you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. …commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

As God’s people we have to be able to teach others. We have to be committed to the point that it’s in our hearts. We know it. We know the way.

I’ve been very encouraged with our new website that’s being launched in May, and by the Facebook pages that we have as a church. We’ve got a Beyond Today Facebook page, a United Church of God Facebook page, a youth Facebook page, and also several others as well. But what’s been interesting is, quite a number of people who were watching Beyond Today go online to our Beyond Today website or to our Beyond Today Facebook page, and leave comments. And the last couple of weeks, we’ve got a lot of comments.

That was the program against Easter, and the program against hell. “Will I Go To Hell?” And people who have the traditional understanding of heaven and hell were really upset by those programs, and those who, of course, observe Easter were upset, and they went onto our website and onto our Facebook page and left comments about how ungodly we were, how we didn’t know our Bibles, and you know what the members did? United Church of God members would go on and add to the comment; tell them which scriptures to read. Tell them to get the booklet. Show them where they had made a mistake. Tell them that this church knows what it’s talking about.

And so there is a time for the membership to be committed as well to the way, and to be able to teach others also. And what I see coming with our new website that’s launching May 1 is that because it’s very much a socially interactive site; because you can friend authors, because you can have, like a church book site, not Facebook, but church book.

Because you can interact with authors, and readers, and viewers, and other church members, it’s going to become very much a social network of believers, and there’s only going to be so much that our personal correspondence department can do to keep up with all the comments that are left, because people can comment on anything they read on that site, and I think we’re going to need help from the church members to help answer some of those questions; to point people in the right direction, and it’s going to be an important part that the membership will play because the home office will not be able to do it all if this thing takes off.

If we reach a tipping point, we will not be able to handle it ourselves with just a couple of PC people in the office. So we, too, have to be strong in faith in Christ Jesus; committed as faithful men and women able to teach others also. So we’ll just see where it all goes with our new website, but I believe that there’s a possibility there for a tipping point. And so, here today, we commit to the faithful teachings for us, and we teach others also.

Why the need to repeat these ceremonies every year? Because we’re part of a marriage covenant, and a spiritual recommitment, and as I said at the beginning, by nature we humans need to be reminded of important activities. That’s why we have our calendars, our clocks, and our alarms.

Let’s turn to Exodus 13 , and once again be reminded of why we are here today, this week, keeping these Days of Unleavened Bread. I want to read through it for you, and notice a couple of words.

Exodus 13:3 Exodus 13:3And Moses said to the people, Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.
American King James Version×
- And Moses said to the people: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, of course, out of sin, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.” What did Moses say to the people? “Remember this day. We know how quickly you’ll forget if you don’t keep observing it each year.”

Verse 4 - Remember , “On this day you are going out, in the month Abib.

Verse 5 - “And it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month.” So it’s an annual observance.

Verse 6 - “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Eternal ( Lord).

Verse 7 - “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters.

Verse 8 - “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.’

Verse 9 - “It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes,….” What’s a memorial? Memorials are usually something we observe on an annual basis. “… that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.

Verse 10 - “You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.” Every year, lest we forget, it’s a memorial. We have to remember it, and if we don’t keep these holy days, if we don’t have an annual reminder we will forget.

Leviticus 23 , I’m not going to turn there but it outlines this holy day period in more detail. Leviticus 23 , and you’re very familiar with it.

Let’s dwell just for a few more minutes on our unleavened bread commitment to sincerity and truth. After all, God’s word is truth. The psalmist also wrote, “The entirety of your word is truth…,” in Psalms 119:160 Psalms 119:160Your word is true from the beginning: and every one of your righteous judgments endures for ever.
American King James Version×
.
Not just is God’s word truth, the psalmist said, “The entirety of your word is truth…,” everything.

So how serious is our marriage covenant with God? How serious is our annual spiritual recommitment? Because we have something very valuable here that we’re part of, something worth living for, and it’s worth everything that we have. Matthew 13:45 Matthew 13:45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
American King James Version×
, and look at the parable of the pearl of great price.

Matthew 13:45 Matthew 13:45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
American King James Version×
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Christ says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,
Verse 46 - “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Our calling is the most valuable pearl we could own. It is the one pearl of great price. Notice Luke 14 now because Jesus told a story that showed the value of this pearl, and He says we must forsake all to obtain it. Here we see how deep our commitment has to be to Jesus Christ and to His way of life.

Luke 14:28 Luke 14:28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
American King James Version×
- “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–

Verse 29 - “lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

Verse 30 - “saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Verse 31 - “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

Verse 32 - “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.

Verse 33 - “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” It’s all about commitment, forsaking all for Christ, forsake all that he has, and at this time of year it’s a reminder of spiritual recommitment of our marriage covenant with Jesus Christ. We have agreed to forsake all for Jesus Christ, and so we strive to put sin out of our lives. We want to be at the wedding dinner, at the wedding supper.

As I wrap up this message today, I’d like to turn back to Joshua 24 . That’s what I mentioned or alluded to at the beginning of the sermon. Back to Joshua 24, here’s part of Joshua’s final speech given in his ailing hours.

Now you remember what we read in I Corinthians 5:8 , which was: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Now look at Joshua 24:13 Joshua 24:13And I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you built not, and you dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive groves which you planted not do you eat.
American King James Version×
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” ‘I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’” And that is because, as was said in the beginning, that God drove the people out with hornets, and it was like they moved into a prebuilt cities.

Verse 14 - “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” Of course, for us today, we put away anything that separates us from God. Do not serve any other gods in this life.

Verse 15 - “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So there’s Joshua’s final reminder of his commitment to God, and how he was urging the Israelites to be committed in the same way.

Living this life has its costs in this world. It’s not easy. We stand out. We’re different. Persecution can come. Sometimes it’s not easy but when we live this way of life diligently, when we go above and beyond to be Christ-like it shows people that we’re serious. It shows people that we have something valuable, something worth living our lives for, and even dying for if necessary. It’s a pearl of great price.

The feast of unleavened bread pictures the putting out of sin and coming out of the sinful ways of this world, not crossing back over the river to Egypt. Replacing that way of life with godly purity, sincerity, and truth, and as we continue the spring holy day season for a couple more days let’s continue our pledged baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ totally, and live our part of the marriage covenant until death do bring us together for eternity. Not death do us part.

This marriage will bring us together for eternity at the resurrection of all the things. It’s a marriage of covenant, and a spiritual recommitment to Jesus Christ and our Father in heaven.

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Comments

  • Ivan Veller
    Re: “[W]hat is written in our hearts should be something that is permanent and lasting, just like the character of Jesus Christ” (Beyond Today): “God very much wants us…to become…thoroughly committed to [his way of life]” (Foster 2003, “God's Commitment to Change Our Nature”). http://www.ucg.org/bible-study-lesson/bible-study-course-lesson-8-what-christian-conversion/gods-commitment-change-our-nature/ “We are part of a marriage covenant. We've been betrothed to Jesus Christ…When two people exchange wedding vows they make a lifelong commitment…It's a solemn promise to God and one's mate to be faithful. This commitment, this marriage covenant, should not be taken lightly…or only maintained when we feel like it. God does not advocate only occasional bursts of loyalty…whenever it's convenient for us. This is a total commitment... ‘My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity.’…P. S. – ‘If we ever break up I want this picture back.’… ‘When we make a covenant with God there's no P. S. There's no going back. Our baptismal vows are for life…He expects us to…[be] totally committed” (Eddington 2011, “A Marriage Covenant and Spiritual Recommitment”). http://www.ucg.org/sermon/marriage-covenant-and-spiritual-recommitment/ “An old Navy expression conveys such a total commitment as found in these vows. When…heading into battle, the captain…ordered that…their flag be nailed very high up on the mast…[with] no possibility of lowering them in the heat of the battle… Such is [to be our] commitment… ‘I think [this letter] has profound meaning when it comes to our baptismal vows… ‘Before your mother and I got married 42 years ago I made a commitment to her… ‘…the marriage vows are invaluable and by entering into them I am binding myself completely and for life. The idea of estrangement from you…will never at any time be allowed to enter into my thinking... I have loved you dearly as a sweetheart, and I will continue to love you as my wife, but over and above that love, I love you with a Christian love that [safeguards]…the supreme [spiritual] objective of both our lives, and I pray that God himself will make our affection for one another perfect and eternal’’” (UCG 2002, “Commitment of Marriage”). http://www.ucg.org/sermon/commitment-marriage/
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