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Our Commitment

Our Commitment poster

Sermon preached by Dr. H. Wilbert Norton on December 6, 1964.

Our prayer has been, “speak to my heart today.” One hundred years ago a young man heard God speak to his heart, and The Moody Church became a reality. He became a witness to Jesus Christ throughout Chicago, the Midwest, the United States, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

In commemorating the response of this young to the voice of God speaking to his own heart and life, this church has accepted a statement reaffirming its faith in the One Who was the heart of the message preached by Dwight L. Moody. The statement is as follows:

Whereas God had endowed The Moody Church with the rich, spiritual heritage of the ministry of its founding pastor, Dwight Lyman Moody;

Whereas the authority of biblical preaching has characterized the ministry of The Moody Church with the continuing result of lives converted and the faith of believers strengthened;

Whereas social and spiritual problems persist in our city, nation, and world, reflecting the lost condition of mankind;

Therefore we reaffirm our faith in a personal, self-sustaining, self-disclosing God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, revealed to us in His Word, the inspired Holy Scriptures without error in the original writings;

We reaffirm our confession of sin and need of cleansing and forgiveness; and of faith in the atoning death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;

We reaffirm our confidence in His bodily resurrection and our union in eteral life with Him and with one another in His Body, the Church, of which He is the living Head;

We affirm our consecration of ourselves and our possessions in obedience to the task of evangelizing the entire human race, recognizing the equality of all men in their need of Christ, their perilous position of judgment before God, and the inequality of opportunity to know His grace;

Therefore we affirm our commitment of our personal energies in the practice of Christ’s standards of proper ethics and social conduct in such a manner as to glorify Him in the community and in the world outreach of the Gospel, fully assured of His imminent, personal, second coming to rule in righteousness and equity on earth;

We reaffirm our purpose therefore to love one another in Christ, to pray for one another fervently that revival and spiritual quickening may characterize the ministry of God through The Moody Church until Christ returns.

Signed: In the year of its Centennial, The Moody Church.

This reaffirmation carries with it very serious implications. Those of us who are guests and visitors might feel, “Well, this perhaps does not pertain to me immediately or particularly.” But it pertains to all of us who believe in the Gospel which was preached by Dwight L. Moody. And we are therefore gathered today to consider in the light of the previous statements this statement on Commitment “of our personal energies in the practice of Christ’s standards of proper ethics and social conduct in such a manner as to glorify Him in the community and in the world outreach of the Gospel, fully assured of His imminent, personal, second coming to rule in righteousness and equity on earth.”

Our concern therefore is, what does it mean to be committed to God? What does it mean to be committed to His purpose in the earth? What does it mean to me personally that God committed Himself in Jesus Christ in order that you and I might understand Him and know Him and love Him and submit ourselves to Him?

What we do reflects our commitment, and all we have to do is analyze what we have done this week and what our relationship has been with God and with our fellow man in order to know just what kind of a commitment we have personally. We cannot consider this without personalizing it because Jesus Himself was committed. Jesus in John 8:29 said, “I do always the things that please Him.” This was His commitment. And He said this very conscious of the fact that, as He testified in John 17, “I and the Father are One.”

Therefore there is no choice as to whether or not we who say we are born again Christians wish to be committed, desire to be committed, or have it within our thinking to be committed unto God. If we have received Jesus Christ, we have received Him in His totality, which includes that commitment which He had, which He manifested, and which He lived unto death.

Not long ago some of the national periodicals have carried the story of a man who was committed unto death. I attended the memorial service at North Park College for Dr. Paul Carlson. I heard his voice in that memorial service coming to us by tape from the last tape recording which he sent to his parents in California, quoting 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be unto God Who always leads us in triumph in Christ.” My heart was moved to a new commitment of myself to Him. This man, in the shortness of his ministry of medicine and healing of body and soul in the northwestern corner of the Congo Republic in the Uganda District, knew within his soul what it meant to be committed to God. As a result his testimony lives today and will penetrate some of our hearts. God is at work in the world today, and He has, as it were, placed before us the martyrdoms of the several missionaries who with Paul Carlson laid down their lives in the northwestern corner of the Congo. He has given us a great picture of what it means to be committed. Some of us expect that Jesus had to die. Some of us hoped that Dr. Paul Carlson would not have to die. But this is the Christian life—committed unto death.

In Hebrews 12:2 we read, “Look unto Jesus Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the pain, endured the cross.” “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Let us define commitment. It is the act of doing or performing something; it is a commission. According to the dictionary, it is “a promise or a pledge to do something, the purchase or sale or agreement to buy or sell a security.” Perhaps some of us are more acquainted with this kind of a commitment because it relates to our every day living if we are in the business world. Yet commitment is really putting our lives where our convictions are, putting our lives where our beliefs are, putting our lives where our lips are. But if we know Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and love Him, we must necessarily commit ourselves to Him. What we do reflects our commitment.

The meaning of commitment from the New Testament is described in Philippians 2:5 where it says that the Lord Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death. He was fully committed unto you, and unto me, and unto all the world in the needs which are found in the world today because of the equality of human need which prevails in all of us because of sin. Jesus was fully committed to you and to your need. We must respond to His commitment with thanksgiving. “Lord, I thank Thee.”

In Psalm 116, the psalmist says, “I love the Lord, for He hears my voice, my supplications. The Lord is committed unto us. He has inclined His ear unto me; therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. The cords of death were around me. The terrors of the grave had laid hold of me. I suffered anguish and griefs. Then I called on the Name of the Lord; I beseech Thee, O Lord, save my life. Gracious is the Lord and righteous indeed; our God is merciful.” And the nature of our Lord is disclosed in His commitment to us in Jesus Christ, and how can we do less than give Him our best after all He’s done for us?

Thus with His heart, with all His soul, and with all that is within God Himself, He has committed Himself to us in Jesus Christ. Dwight L. Moody found this truth for his own heart and life. May I help you to see what his response was, as his biographer speaks to us?

Let us speak of salary, which is a point at which we are all affected since the degree of our income determines the degree of our living and of our giving. Though uneducated and though he had not graduated from some great graduate school of business in that great commonwealth which he claimed as his home state, Massachusetts, Moody was nevertheless a young businessman with a goal of making money while loving the Lord Jesus Christ. But when he understood the fullness of the commitment of God in Christ to him, he responded with complete and total commitment to God. Fleming H. Revell says of him in a letter of 1917, “Mr. Moody never accepted a salary after he gave up a business which, I’ve always understood, yielded him $5,000.00. That was a reasonable amount of money in those days for a young man. During his first year afterwards his income was $150.00, a test of real faith.” “That a young man,” said another friend of his, “overflowing with human spirit and interest in everyday life should be able for Christ’s sake to put the world completely under his feet and to ask for nothing that this world has to give is not to be accounted for on any natural principle.” Moody had it in mind to become a millionaire when he came to Chicago. He because a multi-billionaire because he capitulated completely and totally in his commitment to Jesus Christ. Moody poured himself recklessly, spending the resources of his nearly full-grown might into missions Sunday School. The North Market Hall could hold 1,200 and it must be filled.

He did what he could in the light of what he had at the time of his commitment, and this is something that some of us are slow to recognize. God doesn’t expect us to do what missionaries can do. God doesn’t expect us to do what the doctors of philosophy can do. God doesn’t expect us to do what others can do, but he expects us to do what we can do. For that there will be ample reward.

Moody’s pockets as always were full of pleasant delights. He would offer a prize, such as a squirrel in its cage to the Sunday School Scholar bringing in the most recruits in a given time. Now, I do know how many of you would ever try to catch squirrels and put them in cages for boys and girls to receive as prizes for bringing new boys and girls to Sunday School, but the point is that he used what was available in his time for the meaning it conveyed in its day. This is commitment.

Moody never failed to keep the children to their promise of attendance. When they did not come, he was not like many Sunday School teachers today who do not even send a card or make a phone call. He went after them even to the point that when he had no money somebody gave him a pony so that he could get around a little more and a little faster. He was persistent in his commitment.

On one occasion a drunken father had a number of children in his home. Moody tried to get these boys and girls to Sunday school, but the father said, “absolutely no.” However, Moody went up there and go the boys and girls. He also took a jug of whisky that was there because he waged a ceaseless war on whiskey. He was committed to God, and the impact of his commitment to God was felt in the world where there is sin. This fellow said when he came the next time, “Did you take my jug?” Then he said as he took his coat off, “I’ll thrash you.” Now what would you have done? What did D.L. Moody do? He said, I broke the jug for the good of yourself and your family, and if I’m to be thrashed, let me pray for you all before you do it.” Now there is commitment. Moody’s heartfelt prayer on the tenement floor was different from the whining chant the man expected from preachers. Shamefully he mumbled, “You had better just take the kids, not the whipping.”

Some of us are just a little bit perturbed that we may have to go way out into the jungles of the Congo or some place like that, and we may have to, and we should have done it long ago. Then we would not have the dilemmas in the various parts of the world had we as Christians committed ourselves when the opportunity was ours. There are others more zealous today than we are with a gospel that has no hope, and no salvation, and no redemption, and no god and no savior.

One day a boy whom Moody had been asked to secure for the Sunday school proved to be the son of a saloon keeper. Moody said, “I had never been in a saloon in my life.” Unitarian though his mother was, she was very strict. She laid down the law, and the boys made their pledges, I reckon. Moody said, “I walked by the door about a dozen times, and I said ‘I can’t go in there. People will think I’ve come to get a drink.’” He looked to the right and he looked to the left. Since he saw no prying deacon, he went on. “The old father was behind the bar, and when I told him what I came for, he said, ‘We won’t have any hypocrites in here,’ and I went out quicker than I came in. I went in a second time, and again he drove me out. I went back the third time, and the old man wasn’t quite so drunk or quite so cross. He said he would rather have his sons drunkards and his daughters harlots than Christians.” When it was discovered that the fellow edited a cheap, rationalist magazine, Moody waded through Tom Paine’s “The Age of Reason” in return for a promise of this fellow to read the New Testament. I wonder how many of us would be willing to read through any philosophy book or political science book that somebody is interested in, in order to get that person to read the New Testament. On Sunday morning Moody said, “I wish you’d go with me to church.” He said, “I haven’t been to church in eighteen years,” and he gave a vigorous rub to the gin glass he was polishing. “No, I won’t do it, but you may have church here if you want to.” Moody was shocked—a church service in a saloon? It was the only way to a man’s heart. Afraid of deacons’ disapproval, Moody set the hour at a time when they would all be at a proper church. The saloon keeper said, “I want you to understand, young man, that you are not going to do all of the preaching. Moody brought a little boy with him, and when they jeered and sneered at Moody’s prayers, Moody called on this little boy to pray. He knelt and they jeered and sneered as he prayed aloud, this little Sunday school boy, but Moody’s instinct was right. The boy created a sensation when with a fleeting voice he prayed God to forgive these men for talking so against His dear Son. The atheists were silenced and they began to steal away. The old saloon keeper said, “If that’s what it is that you’re teaching the children, you may have mine too.” Thus he had the saloon keeper’s boys and girls for Sunday school. And they found Jesus Christ, these boys and girls, one right after the other. Why? Because a man was committed. This church has reaffirmed its position that it will commit itself as Moody was committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its power in each member’s life. You see if we are so committed to God and the light of human needs in Jesus Christ and His so great salvation; some of us will begin to take pen in hand and the typewriter. There will be a million letters written to our President about inequalities and injustices and unrighteousness in our land. There will be letters written to our Senators and Congressmen by born again Christians who are concerned about the lawlessness in our day and age. We will concern ourselves with the terrible social mess which we find within our own city and state and government. But actually, friends, we are not committed to God in the way Dwight L. Moody was committed. The slums meant something to him, and he applied the Gospel to the slums. But a man can stand up in this enlightened age with all the suave aplomb of our society and, calling in different amendments of the Constitution, declare sixty or sixty-five times that he does not have to answer the questions of the Senate Investigating Committee because these questions are leading him to incriminate himself. What right does society have when human individual rights overwhelm the rights of the rest of us, and what are we doing about it? It is high time for us to stand up and affirm God so loved the world (that’s individual rights) but the Church of Jesus Christ is a body called together to live the truth, to speak the truth, to accept the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. No man has the right in our society to declare that he refuses to answer questions that might incriminate him. All the rest of us are condemned by his so doing.

Thus, we reaffirm our commitment to God through Jesus Christ, thanking Him for His commitment to us. I can only pray that you will join with the psalmist in his testimony of commitment; “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice and my supplications.” When we love the Lord, we have His commitment; God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son. When we receive the Son, we receive the Son’s commitment, “I do always the things that please the Father.” We stand for truth, and we reach out to save men and women, and we reach out to proclaim that righteousness must prevail in our society, and we take our stand as Christians in the world of government. May the Spirit of God give us courage and determination to reappraise our personal convictions and our personal commitments, because what we do determines or reflects our commitment.

Shall we pray—

O Father, sin is so much a part of our world today. It creeps right into our very hearts and souls and into the issues of life until it seems as though we are just a part of it. It dulls the sensitivity of our souls to the needs of others until our goals are only those which we have set for ourselves, and we forget that Thou are coming again, O Saviour. Thou are going to set up a kingdom of justice and equity on Earth, but we live today as though it does not matter. And yet in our heart of hearts we do not want to be this way. We come before Thee, thanking Thee that it is possible for us to commit totally and completely unto Thee, and we thank Thee for the man who gave up his earthly goals for making money for the goal of winning men to Christ. We thank Thee for the memory of the man who founded this church, and we pray, O Spirit of God, do it again. Re-establish our work here, join Thy people together with heart and mind in a new way, cause old things to pass away, and make all things new during these days of reaffirmation.

Perhaps God has spoken to your heart as a Christian, as a member of this church. May I ask you now to make your commitment to Him quietly in His presence? Whatever it is, Lord I commit myself totally to Thee. I rededicated myself to Thee. I give my ideas, my conceptions, my biases, I surrender myself completely unto Thee. Will you give yourself to Him once again in a new way? Perhaps you have never received Jesus as your Saviour. Will you say “Thank you Lord, for committing your Son to the Cross for me. I believe in Him. I trust Him now. I receive Him as my Saviour.” O Spirit, O Spirit, perfect and do for us what only Thou canst do through Jesus Christ as we trust Thee now for each life. Amen.