There are some things in life for which total commitment is not necessary. One can enjoy a good swim without having to become an Olympic-caliber swimmer. A car worth $10,000 and a car worth $300,000 will be nearly identical in many ways, and the cheaper one will get you to the grocery store and back just fine. Sure, there are advantages to being a better swimmer or having a nicer car, but for the great majority of people, these advantages are not necessary to the enjoyment or progress of our lives. I can dabble in painting without having to become the next Rembrandt or Monet, I can learn how to change the oil in my car without having to learn how to rebuild the engine.
But there are some things for which total commitment is necessary, things for which you must be either “in” or “out” with no middle ground possible. A woman is either pregnant or she is not. Your heart is beating or it is not. With God, you are either in or out. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters” (Matthew 12.20).
The great problem is that although God sees our relationship with him as an either all-in or all-out kind of thing, we often view it as something in which it is fine just to dabble. This, however, is a dangerous mistake to make. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7.21-23). It is clear what is going on in this scene. These people thought they were going to be saved because they had dabbled in a relationship with Christ, but Christ reveals to them that dabbling was not nearly enough, that their salvation required much more. Even worse, they seem to have deceived themselves about this.
“All-in” is what God wants. First and foremost, being “all-in” is an attitude, a mindset, a decision, a determination. If I am “all-in” when it comes to playing the guitar, I will practice every day. I may not ever be as good as other people are at it, but I will get as good as I can be. If I am “all-in” when it comes to woodworking, I may never develop the steadiness of hand or the eye-hand coordination to carve a grapevine on the leg of a table, but I will do the best and most careful work of which I am capable. Being “all-in” is not measured by perfection, but by attitude. And even if I cannot achieve perfection at something, if I am “all-in” it will definitely show up in many ways in my life.
Likewise, if I am “all-in” when it comes to God, it will show up in all kinds of ways in my life. I will pursue my relationship with him as much as I can. I will put it first, I will pray, and I will read his word. I may not understand everything I read in the Bible, and I may not be able to serve God in the ways that others can, but if I am all-in I will serve him as best I can. If I am “all-in” with God, I will talk with him, think about him and his word, and I will follow it to the best of my ability. I will not allow other things to come first.
The “all-in” attitude will determine how we read, and hear, God’s word. If we are committed to a relationship with God, we’ll want to hear his every word, learn as best we can, and do it to the best of our ability. Those who only want to dabble in a relationship with God will not take the Bible so seriously. They will ignore parts that are not interesting to them, or they will feel free to add things to suit themselves. Our view of the Bible’s authority for us is directly related to our attitude toward our relationship with God.
We must be careful that we do not deceive ourselves like those people in Matthew 7. It is easy to convince ourselves that we are committed to God. We tend to be pretty soft on ourselves when it comes to judging ourselves. We may even see obvious signs of our own lack of commitment, but we minimize, excuse, or even deny them. The church in Laodicea was like this. “You say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3.17). Clearly, Jesus expected them to be able to recognize their poor spiritual condition, but they had convinced themselves that everything was fine. It wasn’t.
The reason we fool ourselves when it comes to being “all-in” with God is that usually we are far too “all-in” with ourselves. That comes to us naturally. The hard thing is to get out of our infatuation with ourselves and turn our attention to God and others, and be “all-in” for them. But it is entirely possible, and necessary if we want to live in the new heavens and the new earth – because that place is only for people who are “all-in.”
Some quotations about commitment are here.