Radical Devotion

Radical Devotion

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

John 2:23-25 NKJV 23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

Matthew 19:11-12  But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

How many of you have heard this before, ‘You need to get closer to the Lord’? What does that even mean?  Usually it is said when a person senses that someone is losing their faith, or when someone has made a mistake.  But really , all of us can increase the level of our devotion to God.  So, this is for all of us today.  We need to practice what I call ‘radical devotion’.  Radical devotion means that we are on a never ending quest to become more like Jesus, and to be useful in the kingdom of God.  This is actually a series of teachings, but today I want to share a new tool for you to use.  I call it ‘spiritual celibacy’, and it is a radical teaching to be sure!

Before I get into the subject matter, I want to make a few things very clear so that I am not falsely accused of teaching false doctrine.  In this teaching I believe that Jesus is speaking about spiritual matters that manifest in the natural realm.

For example, the spiritual application of being devoted to a spouse in marriage.  Or the folly of divorce for no good reason, or promiscuity.   But, as we will see in this lesson, the point that the Lord is making is quite spiritual.

Bible teaching and study requires that we know when to take a principle, or a parable at it’s word, or whether the correct application is metaphorical or literal.  We will see in this lesson that the improper application of what Jesus said can cause huge misunderstandings about what God really wants from us.  This can cause us to live by rules that are not necessary, or cause people to live in a way that is ungodly which is exactly the antitheses of the point.

The first point that I want to make is that the Lord knows what occupies our hearts. (John. 2:25).   This is a huge revelation with many applications in it for us as believers.  This means that He knows why we do what we do.  He also knows if our actions are pure.  (It is very possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons).   The Lord knows what is in our hearts and minds.

The second point to be made here is that Jesus is aware of those who choose to go above and beyond in their dedication to Christ and His Kingdom. Being the discerner of the hearts of men, the Lord can tell when we are really doing our best in service, or whether we are only going through the motions without any real devotion on our part.

We talk a lot about excellence in the kingdom, but this needs to be redefined from God’s perspective. Excellence varies.  This is because people have varying degrees of potential.  An example of this is found when Jesus was observing the offerings that rich men were making in the temple treasury. The Lord does not only measure the amount given in an offering.  One person’s dollar may have the same level of devotion as another person’s million dollar offering.  (See Luke 21:1-4).

The Lord is teaching about marriage divorce and celibacy in Mt. 19.  But this is obviously not as a commandment for everyone who serves in the kingdom to become a eunuch in order to please him.  I want you to see the spiritual application here.

The sacrifices we make for God may vary, but we can all be used of God in our own way.  We need to know that the Lord will reward us individually according to our faith, and the extent of the sacrifices we make for him.  In other words, all of us can become a eunuch in the spiritual sense, and we can all practice ‘spiritual celibacy’ in our own way for Christ.  It’s like they say of fallen war veterans, ‘All gave some.  Some gave all’.

In Mt. Chapter 19, a great number of people were following Jesus, so He blessed them and healed them.  The Pharisees took of notice the crowd, so they use this as an opportunity to trip Jesus up intellectually with the purpose of making Him look bad. The devil it seems always has an agenda when he is around the Lord.  He will do the same thing to you. So the critics pose a loaded question to the Lord about divorce.

Now the reason I am going into detail about the scene is because I want you to understand the context for Jesus’ answer to the question.  You see, there are many critics of the church of Christ even today who love to talk about how all the church wants to do is to control people.  But I have seen over and over that critics will misuse scriptures, or isolate portions of a scripture in order to make God look like the ‘Controller In Chief’.  Or they will use the words of Jesus and the Apostles while they were rebuking the enemies of Christ, or those in the Church who simply have no intention of submitting themselves to anything or any one, other than the devil, or for their own agendas.  This is one of those times, and I want you to see it for what it is.

Matthew 19:3 3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

It is obvious from their question, and the fact that they interrupted a healing revival, that they really didn’t want an answer from Jesus.  They wanted to test him.  But remember, the Lord knew their hearts.  He begins to deal with them and their convoluted hypocritical religiosity.  He puts them in their place giving them a lesson on marriage and divorce.  The Lord was so hard on his critics, that his own disciples said something like this: ‘That answer is pretty harsh Lord.  Maybe it would be better if people never got married at all then!’   It is in this atmosphere that Jesus gives us this new glimpse of dedication for the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:11-12 NIV 11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Here is an important point.  It was not Jesus who brought up being celibate, (staying unmarried), it was His disciples.  I believe that the improper teaching and application of this scripture is the reason why some priests in the church are forbidden to marry, and the source of much confusion in the church.  This need not be the case especially if we understand what Jesus was saying about the ‘spiritual application of celibacy’.  Jesus said not everyone can accept it.  This is only for those who should accept it, and the presumption is that these people will know who they are by the leading of the Spirit, or some other unction from God.  I believe the same application can be made in the realm of the spirit.

So, what exactly is a eunuch?  A eunuch is man who cannot produce children.  Jesus said there are basically 3 kinds of eunuchs.  The first is one who was born that way.  This person was born without the ability to produce children.  It is also interesting at least to me that the Lord knew about this, and was willing to speak about it.  (Note that Jesus didn’t solve all of the problems of humanity while He was on earth, a lesson in itself for us I think).

The second kind of is one who was made a eunuch purposely by someone else, (another person).  Ok. Ouch!  Remember that all of this was being said around ‘0 AD’, so there were no hospitals, etc.

These men were rendered eunuchs for the purpose of overseeing another man’s ‘goods’.  This sacrifice meant that the eunuch could not ‘cheat’ on his lord with women. (Please read between the lines here so that I can keep this message PG-13).  Remember, I’m going somewhere with this….

There is also a third class of eunuch.  This kind rendered themselves incapable of certain pleasures or activities.  Now why would someone do this to themselves?   The Lord gives us the answer to this question.  He said that someone may; ‘live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.’  And once again Jesus give this caveat. ‘The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Now let’s talk about the spiritual application for all of us, (both men and women).  Let’s get the principle here.

In the times of the bible it was very common for a king, or a lord to have eunuchs on his staff.  Because of their unique condition a eunuch could be trusted to have access to every area of a palace, including a king’s haram.  (See Esther 1:10 – Acts 8:27).  These men could roam freely throughout the king’s palace.  They could mingle with queens and concubines.  From the king’s standpoint these women were a part of his most valued properties.

The main point I want you to see is the level of access and trust that these eunuchs had with the kings.  Nothing was off limits to them because of the level of devotion and trust.

In fact, the Ethiopian eunuch of Act chapter 8 had a chariot, and body guards.

So here is the application for us today.   Jesus said the celibacy, (radical devotion), is not for everyone, but there are some who for the sake of the kingdom will take that vow.  There is an important principle here for all of us.  The level of trust God has for you is related to the amount of sacrifice you are willing to make for Him.   Jesus put His stamp of approval on celibacy for those who should receive it.  I am not suggesting that any of you become celibate, or become eunuchs.  But I think we all can agree that the Lord knows our hearts, and that what ever sacrifices we are willing to make for the kingdom will be rewarded with increased access to God’s riches.

And I am not talking about natural wealth alone.  There are gifts and riches in realm of the spirit that can only be accessed by people who are willing to give things up for them.

In Titus chapter 2 and 3 the apostle Paul talks about people.  Husbands, wives, children, the elderly etc.  In every case he tells them the radical devotions they should have for God.  Critics of the church see this as ‘control’.  They only see the sacrifices that everyone is making.  What the critics don’t see is the rewards that come from these great sacrifices.

They don’t see the ‘spiritual’ application of these radical choices.  Jesus said that there would be those who voluntarily give up the pleasures of life in order to please God, and that these people will have access to God’s riches.   Paul tells the elderly woman to ‘give up’ things like gossip, so that they can become mentors to the younger women.  He tells pastors to give up teaching false doctrine that might make them rich, and fleecing the sheep for money.  Paul told them to preach the truth so that believers can have access to the power of God that will transform lives.  In order to have access to God’s treasures you must give up something.  This is the way of Christ.  This is radical devotion.

Celibacy. Castration.  Sacrifice.  OUCH, I know!  But I have a question for you.  What thing(s) in your life is standing between God opening up His treasures to you?  What level of trust do you really want God to have with you?

God is looking for those who are willing to give up pleasures in order to have His true riches.  Someone needs to tell God by their actions; ‘Lord,  I am ready for you trust me with the things that are valuable to you’.   Moses practiced ‘spiritual celibacy’ along with others in the bible.   He sacrificed a life of luxury in order to have power with God.

Hebrews 11:24-26 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Let me conclude by reminding you that the Lord KNOWS our hearts.   John 2 says that many people believed on Christ because of the miracles that He did.  These people thought that they were ‘in’ because of the outward sign of following where Jesus went.  But the bible says that the Lord did not commit to them!  Why? Because they were not willing to cut anything off, or out for him.  He knew that they were only in it for the fish and loaves.  What does God know about your heart?

We want power with God but some of us are not even willing to cut off our phones for a few minutes for him.  But, when you are truly ready, some of you will be lead to sacrifice something, in order to have access to God’s real power in your life.  I guarantee you that that trade will be the best one you ever made.  Are you ready?

Bishop Horace Ransom Jr.

Bishop Horace Ransom Jr.

Senior Pastor, Board of Directors

Bishop Horace Ransom Jr. is the Senior Pastor and Founder of New Covenant Church International in Detroit, Michigan. He is a Jurisdictional Bishop and serves on the Board of Presbytery for the Jabula International Network, North America. Bishop Ransom is an outstanding teacher of the Word of God with a passion for challenging believers to become the best that they can be. Faith, Purpose and the Kingdom of God are frequently the subject matter of his dissertation.