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Counting the Cost

Kameron DeVasher
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Kameron DeVasher

Director of Sabbath School & Personal Ministries, Michigan Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Conference

Recorded

  • January 4, 2015
    9:45 AM

Series

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And all the people said? Amen. That was beautiful. Happy Sunday, GYC. It’s almost…You know, your mouth wants to…That’s okay. That’s all right. Everyone having a good day? Have you been blessed at GYC? Amen? Amen. I’m happy to be here with you this morning. I have a message that I want to share with you that’s a burden on my heart, and I’m just glad we can be here for it. It’s a blessing to be alive at all, and the Lord expects us to do something with that life. And that is why we’re here this morning. When we look at the life of Jesus Christ, the death of Jesus Christ, we need to examine our own lives at the cross.

 

But before we begin any study of God’s Word, let’s begin with a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, thank You so much for making us in the first place, much less redeeming us at such a great cost. And now, Lord, as we meditate on the depth of that sacrifice, Lord, help us to not only be inspired and admire but, Lord, help us to emulate that sacrifice in our own lives. For we pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

On the cross of Calvary, Christ embodied sacrificial giving. Jesus sacrificed Himself for the saving of others. We see this all throughout Scripture. Galatians, chapter 2 and verse 20, the apostle testifies that, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and,” (did what?), “gave Himself.” Now, I’m going to ask you to be interactive. When I say “‘loved me and what?” you know that text, “loved me and,” (what?), “gave Himself.” Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ also loved the church and,” (what?), “gave Himself.” First Timothy, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Titus, chapter 2, verses 13 and 14, reminds us that we are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

 

Christ gave Himself. He was the currency that God spent to buy you back. When the Father gave His only begotten Son, it was an eternal, nonrefundable ransom payment that secured our safe return. That language, by the way, comparing the infinite, inestimable sacrifice of Christ to a mere financial transaction, as though Christ were some sort of bill in God’s wallet that He paid out, it may sound crass, maybe even disrespectful, but throughout the Bible that’s exactly the language Scripture applies and describes the plan of redemption. This is seen especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul.

 

For example, in Acts, chapter 20, in verse 28 , the Apostle Paul describes the church as that which God “purchased with His own blood.” In Ephesians, chapter 1 and verse 14, he refers to believers as God’s “purchased possession.” First Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 19 and 20, we know this, “You are not your own…You were,” (what?), “bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Of course, we are God’s two-fold; you understand this, of course. It was Christ who made us in the first place. We’re His…Even if He didn’t die for us, we would still owe Him our allegiance because He has the patent on our life. He has a trademark on you. He built you in the first place, but then when you rebelled, He bought you back with the price of Himself.

 

Our Creator is our Redeemer. You are not your own. Now, you put all these phrases together that you see in the writings of the Scripture, and you get this very picture. By giving His only begotten Son, God bought you at a price; He purchased you as a possession; therefore, you are not your own.

 

Now, why would the Bible seemingly cheapen the infinite sacrifice of Christ by comparing it to, of all things, a common financial transaction? Well, the reason I can see is it’s simply this: Because that is the world that we live in. That’s the language that we speak. That’s a thing that we know.

 

Christ Himself would employ this type of teaching all throughout His ministry. He would take something far beyond our limited comprehension and boil it down and succinct it down to just something that we could grasp. He would say the Kingdom of God is like a seed. I don’t know much about the Kingdom of God, but I do know about seeds, right? I get that. To fishermen, it’s like a net. I understand a net. To shepherds, the lost are like sheep. In John, chapter 6, He would say that He is the bread of life. I understand bread. I understand having to eat daily. He would take these big concepts and boil them down to language that we could relate to. And nothing, especially in the times in which we live today, my friends, is as more commonly understood, something that every single one of us can relate to and appreciate, is money.

 

You heard the question and answer session. It had some questions about money. We all understand it. We all relate. We all interact with it on the daily, every single day. In our society, everything is a commodity requiring money. Raise your hand if you sewed your own outfit today. Okay, I’m glad that wasn’t the appeal, by the way.

Right? But we don’t farm our food; we buy our food. We don’t sew our clothes; we buy our clothes. We don’t build a house; we buy a house. Everything in this life. We’re in a consumer-driven society. Does that make sense? Almost imperceptibly we’ve come to understand every aspect of our life as requiring, necessitating, a financial transaction. If you’re going to do a thing, it’s going to involve money. That’s just the bottom line.

 

So with that in mind, let’s imagine something together. Follow with me, please. Imagine that if in your wallet, if in your purse, if in your moneybag there, besides the normal ones, tens and twenties, something new is invented that looks exactly like a one, ten or twenty, but it is not. It is a “Smart Bill,” okay? A special new thing, a Smart Bill. Though the same size, color, weight and texture of the others, this bill is unique. Where the usual bills represent merely a tiny fraction of your overall finance…You know, a dollar bill probably isn’t all that you have, but it represents a fraction of what you have. It’s a piece of it. It’s a slice of it. And anytime you want something for a dollar, you reach out and give a dollar worth of that, or you’re giving a little, tiny fraction of your overall financial portfolio for that one thing. I want a burrito; it will cost me this much of me. I want that extra topping on my pizza; that’s going to be one dollar of me. Does that make sense?

 

But this bill is different. It’s not just one little tiny fraction of your checking account or something. This bill is synced with the cloud to your financial institution. This bill is tapped into the entirety of your checking account, so that if you pull this bill out and spent it, it would drain that checking account completely. However much you had in there goes with that bill. And you have it right there next to all the other bills in your wallet, but this one is the whole account.

 

Now, imagine that in addition to your checking accounts, that this bill is also synced to every other account, even at different financial institutions. As long as it is in your name, it is tied to those accounts. Your savings accounts, your retirement accounts, all of the different investments that you’ve made, your entire liquid asset is tied, synced, to this smart bill. So that, in spending it, it would drain your entire liquid asset. Now, obviously this bill would be of different value depending on who held the bill. For some people, it would effectively be a 10,000-dollar bill. For other people, it might be a 10-million-dollar bill. For some of us sitting here at GYC, you’re like, “Nope, it’s still just a 10-dollar bill.” But you understand, proportionally to the individual, it would represent your entire financial holdings, right?

 

But that’s not all. This Smart Bill is smarter than you expect. Beyond these accounts, these liquid assets, this Smart Bill would also be loaded with the title to your car and the deed to your house, your property and everything that goes with it. Your entire financial portfolio, liquid or otherwise, that when you give this bill, you’re giving the right to your car, you’re giving the deed to your house, you’re giving your checking account, your savings account, your investments, your retirement. All of you is in this one bill. And you have it right there in your wallet; you can spend it anytime you want.

 

If you spent it, of course, you’d be left with…I mean, you’d be alive but that’s about it. You’d have the shirt on your back. What would it take for you to spend that bill? What item of clothing would you say, “That is worth it,” You know, “I’m going to…”? What app could they sell, where you’re like, “I want that so badly; I’m going to spend…” Hmm. Now, obviously the only thing for which any of us could imagine cashing in that bill would be in exchange for someone’s life, right? And then, probably, let’s just be honest, not just anybody’s life. You’re looking around like, “Hmm, I don’t know.” Probably we would most likely reserve that level of sacrifice for someone very, very close, someone very close, someone we love dearly like your spouse or your child. Only in the utmost extremity, in the worst-case scenario do you ever take out that bill and spend it.

 

You know, Mrs. White would write in language comparing the sacrifice of Christ to that very thing. Notice this from The Bible Echo, September 15, 1892. She writes, “The whole treasure of heaven was poured out in one gift to save fallen man.” She goes on to say, “When we more fully comprehend the magnitude and meaning of the great sacrifice made by the Majesty of heaven in dying for man, the plan of salvation will be glorified before us, and the thought of Calvary will awaken sacred and living emotions in the Christian’s heart. Praise to God and to the Lamb will be in our hearts and upon our lips; for pride and self-worship cannot flourish in the heart that keeps fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary. At what a cost has salvation been provided!”

 

You know, sometimes I think we use words like it was “infinite,” it was “eternal,” it was “inestimable,” and we put it so far out into the ether that it doesn’t have personal ramification for us today. I think there’s a reason Christ put these big concepts into concrete terms that we could engage with. It cost Christ treasure. It cost Him.

 

Now, in fact, let’s go back to our little metaphor of the Smart Bill and the treasure that it represents. Let’s extend it just a bit now. Follow this. Consider that there was one other added penalty attached to the spending of the bill that we haven’t mentioned yet. It’s down in the fine print. Always read the fine print. Let’s imagine that in the event you were forced into such a circumstance, and whatever came along, a situation occurred that you had to, or you felt you had to, and you decided to, spend that bill, everything is gone from your life. That after all that, then the other shoe drops because the government would penalize you for your reckless spending and your endangerment to yourself and your family.

 

So they would garnish for the rest of your life your income to such an extent…By the way, it’s ostensibly for your good, so you could never put yourself in a position to jump off a cliff like that again. They want to keep you real down low and safe, right? It’s for your own good, of course, but you will never be able to earn back up to the position you were. That you know by cashing that out you’re not only draining what is now, but you’re also setting the course for your financial future. You will never amass those savings again. You will never be in the position you once were. For the rest of your life, you’re standard of living would be permanently lowered in the spending of that bill.

 

I sometimes fear that I personally place too low an estimate on the sacrifice of Jesus. At times I unconsciously drift off into assuming that the sacrifice of Jesus was merely a single event that really only lasted a few days or at worst a few years. And it kind of blends in with the rest of the Scripture testimony of other great stories and other interesting experiences. You know, there’s Abraham, and there was Moses and Paul and Peter. Of course, what Jesus did, you know, we just kind of weave it into the rest of the codex of Scripture. The cross, it happened then, it happened there. It was about, you know two-thirds, three quarters of the way through the Bible, that’s when the cross was.

 

And while it is true that Calvary was a one-time event, praise the Lord for that, the reality is that the consequences of Calvary, the consequences of Christ’s sacrifice are permanent and irrevocable. When He was spent for our redemption, Christ suffered an eternal decrease in His standard of living.

 

Listen to this. In Desire of Ages, page 25, we read these words, “In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.’” And she comments on this, saying, “He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race.” Christ wasn’t loaned; He was given. It wasn’t temporary. It was permanent. She goes on to explain, “To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family,” listen carefully, “forever to retain His human nature.”

 

What He once was, He will never be again. The cross occurred in A.D. 31, but the consequences are still right now. And they will be throughout eternity. Have you ever wrestled with the gravity of that concept? The Savior is one of us. Jesus wasn’t loaned; He was given. Christ’s very category of being has been forever altered. He is a species unto Himself. There is no other Divine Human like Jesus Christ. In a sense, He will forever be alone in His standing in the universe. He’s the only one of those. And it wasn’t just for a time; it wasn’t just for a project; it’s for eternity.

 

By the way, that human body that He has will also not be without blemish. He’s the One who keeps our scars. You ever think about that? When we get changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, we all get new bodies – Praise the Lord! But Christ will always be scarred. The only innocent one of us, and He gets the scars. Just like the standard of living would be forever lowered if we were to spend that fictional bill. When God gave Jesus to humanity, it was a nonrefundable purchase with eternal consequences.

 

Now, one last time, let’s return to our metaphor. Let’s go back as we set the table for the rest of this message. Suppose now, that in the world would such a Smart Bill actually existed, that the unthinkable occurred, and someone that you loved very much, one of those very few you would be willing to spend that bill for, was taken hostage, was taken captive, tied up, and threatened with death. And they contact you, the captor contacts you and makes the demand, and you know what he doesn’t want? He doesn’t want a one, he doesn’t want a ten, he [doesn’t] want a twenty, what does he want? A Smart Bill. He wants to drain every account you have. “If you want this one back, I want your checking, your savings, your retirement; I want your investments; I want your car; I want your house; I want your property; I want your future financials; I want it all.”

 

What are you going to do? They took your wife. They took your son! Would you give the bill? Yeah! Of course you would. You wouldn’t even think about it. “You name the time and place. Let’s set this thing up. Let’s do it. I just want my son back.” Can you imagine the scene in your mind? There’s your loved one, bound, in the hands of captors. And a time and place has been arranged, and you come in, and you take out your wallet, and you have in your hand that bill. And you lay it down, and as the ties are cut off, and your little child, your precious wife, your sweet spouse is released, you stand there, arms wide open, not even thinking a moment about what was lost, but you’re thinking of what is now found, right? And with tears in your eyes and joy in your face, and your arms extended wide, you’re just welcoming them home! And that child doesn’t come running back. That sweet wife looks at you and says, “I mean, thank you. That was really, really nice. But the thing is, I actually want to stay with him. He lets me wear jewelry.”

 

“You don’t want to come home?” From that first-person perspective, you wouldn’t be thinking about the price you paid. The price would pale in comparison to the ingratitude shown. In fact, not even the ingratitude, just, “You don’t want to be with me nearly as much as I wanted to be with you.” By the way, from the perspective of onlooking witnesses to the scene, what would they think about that individual? It wouldn’t be sadness; it would be outrage. “You ungrateful, selfish…,” right? “Do you know what they gave for you?! He’s going to be poor for the rest of his life! And you’re choosing…” And it wouldn’t be about the jewelry. You could put in anything else. It’s just the mind-bending fact that there could be anything, big or small, that you wouldn’t sacrifice in return! If there was anything in the face of such amazing grace, such redemptive love, such sacrificing goodness, that would keep you there instead of coming home here.

 

And I don’t know what it is for you. It might be entertainment. It might be foul language. It might be, you know, pornography. It might be laziness. It might be smoking. I don’t know what your thing is, but could there be anything that God asks of you that you would not be willing to do in return for this sacrifice? And, by the way, thinking about this, this perspective, completely takes the legs out from under that most petulant phrase “salvation issue.” I can think of few things more patently offensive than attempting to negotiate a compromise with the One who clearly loves you so much that He gave Himself for you.

 

Friends, the only, and I mean the only genuine response to the sacrifice of Jesus is emulation. And it’s not just the willingness to sacrifice, it’s the eagerness to sacrifice! It’s not just what I will do or what I can do or what I’m…”Okay,…” And it’s not negotiating terms; it’s saying, “Lord, I want to do more! How can I be more like You? Not to repay, I can’t repay, but I want to be like You. You have demonstrated to me something that I have never seen in my life. I want what You’ve…I want to be like You,” not a willingness to give, an eagerness to give.

 

You see, when we get the tiniest glimpse over the horizon and begin to fully comprehend the depth of our redemption price, would it really cost Christ to buy us back, the mind of any truly converted person will immediately begin to race thinking, “How can I possibly reciprocate this? What can I do to demonstrate my love for such a selfless Savior?” The selflessness of Christ should eviscerate any selfishness in us. Are you with me? The selflessness of Christ should eviscerate any selfishness in us. This is the motive for obedience. This is the motive for self-sacrifice.

 

As the Bible describes in John, chapter 12, verses 32 and 33, Jesus Himself explains in these words, and notice carefully the language He uses, He says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will,” (what?), “draw.” Did He say He will force? No. He said, “When I’m lifted up, if you really look in My eyes, if you really understand, if you comprehend, if you get the gravity of it in your thinking, when you look at that, You will just be drawn to Christ.”  “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying the death which He would die.” When you look at the death of Christ and what it cost, you’re drawn to Him.

 

Philippians, chapter 2, go to the right in your Bibles, please, Philippians, chapter 2, again the Apostle Paul, speaking of the sacrifice of Christ and our reaction to it, our response to Christ’s sacrifice, Philippians, chapter 2, starting with verse 5 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Pause for a moment. It does not say, “conjure up” or “force” or “make” or “build” or “establish.” It doesn’t say that. It says “let.” The implication is, when you look at the selflessness of Christ, you would have to resist not becoming like Him. Just let it happen. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” and he explains what that mind is, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of,” (what?), “no reputation.” Sometimes in some people’s lives, it’s a temptation to make yourself of reputation.

 

Christ didn’t do that, and Paul says, “Let that mind be in you…no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man…” You know, it would be bad enough if all He did was become a human, but He went down even lower, “…found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Again, as you see the sacrifice, the selflessness of Jesus, Paul says, “You just have to let that mind be in you.” That thoughtful hour each day will start to make you have that mind of Christ. You won’t have to conjure it. You won’t have to force it. It just becomes part of you, and Paul says, “Let it happen.” Let that mind be in you.

 

Second Corinthians, returning to this theme of viewing Christ and the change that comes with it, 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, another very familiar passage to think about it in these lines now. Second Corinthians, chapter 3 and verse 18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The only genuine response to the sacrifice of Christ is emulation. “I want to be…” “I’m going to be…” “Lord, make me like You.”

 

The Desire of Ages, page 439, “Let the repenting sinner fix his eyes upon ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’; and by beholding, he becomes,” (what?), “changed.” She explains, “Gratitude springs up.” Has that happened in your experience, that gratitude just springs out of you? “Gratitude springs up. The stony heart is broken. A tide of love sweeps into the soul…Looking unto Jesus, we shall be ashamed of our coldness, our lethargy, our self-seeking. We shall be willing to be anything or nothing, so that we may do heart service for the Master.”

 

You ever think about it? We always think about, “Lord, make me this, make…” What about, “Lord, get me out of ‘make.’ Make me less, if that’s what You need”? “Make me anything You need or nothing at all. If You want me to sit here and be quiet, I will do it for You.” “If my role is to be something small, when I was thinking big, Lord, Your will be done, not mine.” But you don’t negotiate terms. You don’t put self-interest…You say, “Lord, You did that. I am Yours, 100 percent. You name it, I’ll do it.”

 

“We shall be willing to be anything or nothing, so that we may do heart service for the Master. We shall rejoice to bear the cross after Jesus, to endure trial, shame, or persecution for His dear sake.” By the way, would you be proud of that One who paid for you? Absolutely. If someone started to talk bad about them, would you come to their defense? Making little sly comments, putting down the teachings that He taught, would you say something, or would you kind of just let it go? I’m an advocate for Jesus Christ. He bought me back.

 

The Review and Herald, May 15, 1888, “When Christ is looked to as the great Exemplar, then [we] will seek to catch his spirit, and to imitate his example…As we see his love, his humiliation for us, the same spirit of self-denial and sacrifice for others’ good will be kindled in our hearts.” By the way, can we die for Christ in return? No. But we realize there are other people that need this message. “I’m going to go get some more for You.” By “beholding Jesus by the eye of faith, we shall be ‘changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’”

 

Here’s my point. At the cross, obedience and self-sacrifice have nothing to do with legalism and everything to do with loyalty. Legalism isn’t even on the radar screen. We give all to Christ because we love Him who gave Himself for [us]. Again, the only genuine, indeed, the only logical (think about this), the only logical response to Christ’s sacrifice is emulation, to sacrifice like He did.

 

Romans, chapter 12, notice the language here. Romans, chapter 12, when Paul gives the call to sacrifice, notice how he says it. He says, “I beseech you,” beseech means “beg,” to “urge,” to “plead.” “I implore you…” “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a,” (what kind of sacrifice?), “living sacrifice.” Has Christ called you to die? No. He’s called you to what? Live. It is far easier sometimes to think about a big, glorious way that I can go out in a blaze. No, no, no. What happens when He wants you to live that small, consistent daily life? He says, “I’m begging you, by the mercies of God, the mercies shown to you, that in return you would be a living sacrifice for Him.” And notice he says with your body, not just a mental or intellectual assent or agreement on your part. No, no, no. He said, “I don’t want you just to get it; I want you to do it.”

 

Can we talk like people today? There’s plenty of getting it. What we need is some doing it. He says, “Give your body, give yourself, give your toil, give your creativity, give your energy,” and, yes, young people, “Give your money.” We’re going to come back to that in a minute.

 

“A living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your,” (what does he call it?), “reasonable service.” What does reason mean? It makes sense. It’s logical. It’s rational. It’s coherent. It’s the obvious next step. How do I give back? You give whatever you’ve got. You just start giving - a living sacrifice for him.

 

Luke, chapter 14, let’s go back to the life of Christ. Luke, chapter 14, starting with verse 25, “Now great multitudes went with Him.” Jesus had crowds go with Him, right? “And He turned and said to them,” He’s basically going to build Gideon’s army here, “‘If anyone comes to Me,’” and He’s literally talking to people that are physically following Him around. “‘If any of you are coming to Me,’” which they all ostensibly were coming to Him, what does He say to them? “‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.’”

 

That is…You’ve never heard an appeal at GYC, as hard and raw as you think GYC is, to go home and hate your mom, right? Now, obviously He’s not saying have contempt for your mother. He’s not saying, “Dishonor your parents.” He’s the One who wrote, “Honor thy father and they mother,” right? What’s His point? It’s to, “Seek ye first…I’ve got to be your number one priority. I’ve got to be before those other things, good as they are.” Yes, we should give up bad things for Christ, but we should reprioritize even the good things for Jesus Christ. That’s great, mother, sister, wives, friends, that’s great. “Put Me first.”

 

Then He says, “And whoever does not bear his cross…” Did Christ give up His Father for you? Would you be willing to give it up for Him? He says, “You don’t understand the depth of the sacrifice yet. When you see Calvary, you’ll get it, but right now I’m just telling you in theory. Some day you’re going to see it in practice, but you’re going to have to change your priorities…’cannot be My disciple.’”

 

You know, Christ’s tower illustration, watch this, what He says here. He makes it so practical. “For,” He says in verse 28, “which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost.” Many people blindly assume, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to follow Jesus around. I’m going to do this and that.” Even here, maybe at GYC. Maybe in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, maybe in your own life, it’s easy to say, “I’m going to follow Christ,” but you don’t actually count out the cost, what’s going to be involved. We’ve got a whole lot of declaration. What we need is some demonstration, right?

 

“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—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” It reminds me of my oldest son Henry, true story. You know, the term “General Conference” can actually mean a lot of different things. It’s a reference to the total geographic territory of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the world field, if you will. We refer to that as the General Conference, right? It could also mean the building where the Seventh-day Adventist World Church is headquartered, the building itself at the GC office, you know, “The GC,” General Conference. Then again it can also be used to refer to the individuals and departments leading the work in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and we speak of something being done by the General Conference. We mean, talking about the people, the departments, the leadership; that’s what we’re talking about, right? And finally, it can also mean that [quinquennial] assembly of delegates referred to as the General Conference, which, of course, is incidentally coming up later this year.

 

So you use that term in a lot of different ways, and around our house we apparently say it enough in different ways that my 4-year-old son Henry has made it part of his vocabulary, “the General Conference.” Now, in his mind, he’s not thinking of any of those four. I honestly don’t know what’s in his 4-year-old brain, but I know what comes out. I’m not making this…almost every single day for the last at least six or seven months, he has said, “I need to go outside and work on the GC Conference.” And you ask, “What do you mean, to ‘work on the GC...,” and I’ll just sit down with him. “Henry, all right, that’s great bub. Tell me what that…Really. I really want to hear about this. What are you…hmm.” And he’ll just wide-eyed tell you, “Oh,” and some days it’s a big, mammoth building, it’s a big institution. “I’m going to build this, and it’s going to have…up here…It’s bigger than the house; it’s going to be taller, and it’s going to go…” Some days it’s a campus of buildings. “It’s going to be this thing over here, and over there’s going to be the house, and here’s where nanny and poppy are going to be, and here’s where grammy and granddad are going to be, and here’s…” I don’t know what that is. He’s thinking up a campus; I don’t know.

 

Some days it’s a castle with a gate, you know, and a moat. But every day he wants to keep going and working on it. And to hear him describe it, you would think he’s building this massive entity, right? But when you go outside, and you take a look at it, you know what it is? It’s a little hole in the ground filled with rain water, his toys and a lot of my tools. And he’s proud as punch, “Look at the GC Conference.”

 

Now, I can excuse him for not counting the cost to finish the building of his tower, right? He’s FOUR. What’s your excuse? “I’m going to do this for Jesus…” And what have we got at the end of the day? Holes in the ground with toys and dirt. Christ says, “If you want to come after Me, sit down and think first.” What’s it going to cost? What’s it mean in dollars and cents? What does it mean in time? What does it mean in energy and creativity? What does it look like in the life? I don’t want to leave GYC with this soaring theme of “At the Cross…” What does it mean for me when I go home?

 

I’m reminded of Pastor Ramdin’s Friday morning lamentation, how at one GYC appeal, literally hundreds of young people came forward, “I’m going to go give a portion of my life to mission service.” Two years later, one. This is my tenth GYC. I’ve tried to eliminate the phrase, “I’m going to be honest with you right now,” because it implies that I’ve been dishonest up until this point, but I’ll just tell you this. In this point in my life and ministry, not just here at GYC, but at all places that I go, appeals with no followup and accountability are very unappealing to me.

 

I am more and more convicted that if an appeal is made, it must involve several critical things. First of all, it must be a commitment beyond what you’re already required to do or what would be inevitable to do anyway. I think of the one, like, “If you’re with me today, let’s all stand.” Well, you’re going to stand to leave anyway, right? Now, I’ve made that. I’m not throwing anybody under the bus. I’ve done this. This is rebuke to me time. You’re just here listening to it. Okay? For this reason today, I’m not making an appeal for you to return a faithful tithe and regular offerings. You know why? Because that’s stuff you should be doing anyway. Are we still friends? Are we people today? Return a faithful tithe. Come on.

 

By the way, God expects you to do that, too. That’s why He calls not doing it robbery. It’s His stuff, not yours. Now, what He leaves you with, that’s what I’m talking about today, the other stuff beyond the tithes and offerings you’re already doing. Also it must be movement from conviction and not from coercion. I want the motive to be clear. The reason that you sacrifice anything in your life is not because everybody else is doing it; it’s not because the preacher told you to or not because there’s going to be a threat if you don’t or an incentive…It’s because you look at Jesus and you love Him and say, “Lord, I want to be like You. I just want to.” It must also have clear and tangible results, clear objective with tangible results.

 

You know, I made a call several years back at GYC in Houston. But there’s really no way to know for me personally if anyone actually followed up on that. Now, a few people come and tell me, “I saw the thing, and now I’ve done this,” and I praise the Lord for that. Any maybe every single one did; I don’t know. But that’s my point. I don’t know what happened. It just kind of went out into the ether; it went out into etherealness. It’s just gone, right? I’m not going to do that again.

 

By the way, in preparation for this message, I researched the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy looking for key words like “cross,” “self-sacrifice,” self-denial,” and I was amazed at how clearly, how practically and how repeatedly money was mentioned. Not that you shouldn’t sacrifice your time, energy, and creativity, do that anyway. But above and beyond, there is a clarion call through God’s maidservant for people, and in many cases specifically young people, to sacrificially contribute financial means to the work of soul-winning in foreign missions.

 

Let me read you a few. General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1899, she says, “I have a request to make: Let all that love the Lord who gave His life for them, make returns to Him who has bought them with a price. Through your own self-denial and self-sacrifice, return to God your offerings, to be used in opening new fields and planting the standard of truth in places that have never been worked.” And she then explains how. She says, “Economize in your expenditure of means upon yourself.” And I love this, “The first step of self-denial is generally the most difficult, but begin without delay… From the light given me of God, I make this call to young and old, men and women and children. God calls upon you to do your best. Practice self-denial in order to bring the truth before thousands who have never heard it. The missionary spirit needs to be revived in our churches. We want you to show your active zeal in doing something, and doing it now. Let there be planning of sacrifices for God in order to advance the work in the very places where it is most needed. Every place not entered, not worked, has its own claims.” And listen carefully, “The anticipation, the prospect of working these fields,” in today’s language, the promo-video about what could be, “must give place to the grave, decided, self-sacrificing reality of hard work itself. Anticipate all you please in regard to regions beyond, but go to work now.” That’s sharp.

 

The Review and Herald, November 21, 1878, “Self-denial is a mark of Christianity. To offer to God gifts that have cost us something, a sacrifice that we shall ask him to use to advance his cause in the earth, will be pleasing to him.” By the way, that’s the number one reason to give anything to God, because it pleases Him. “The Saviour will accept the free-will offerings of every one, from the oldest to the youngest. Even small children may participate in this work, and enjoy the privilege of bringing their little offerings.” We need to cultivate a self-denying, sacrificial giving lifestyle in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and it should start with the young people. But young people don’t have money, you say. Children certainly don’t. Young people with money?

 

You know what’s fascinating, that what might be such a common sense lamentation to us is not shared by the world. Why is it that the music industry, the movie industry, the fashion industry, the junk food industry and half of every other wasteful and awful harmful industry advertises so aggressively, and in some places almost exclusively, to young people? Because they know well enough that if young people get it in their minds to want something, they’ll come up with the money to make it happen. Am I right?

 

Then why is it that at church we subtly imply and sometimes outright say that the only thing young people contribute to the work of God are time, energy and creativity? I mean, somehow you got here. Still friends? Every one of you dressed, which is a good minimum, dressed. And, of course, you can and you should give to the cause through those talents of time, energy and creativity. Yeah, that’s great. But I think there is an untapped reservoir of means just waiting to be sacrificially saved, industriously earned, or creatively amassed through personal influence within the ranks of the Seventh-day Adventist young people. Saved, earned, or influenced for the cause of Christ.

 

The Review and Herald, November 14, 1899, “There is altogether too much self-indulgence among us. Money is spent for that which is not bread. Let those who would please the Master listen to his words, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ Let us willingly practice these words, and we shall be blessed.” Now, notice this, “If all that has been invested in self-gratification were counted up, the amount would astonish every church in the land.” Did you ever notice that how your spending can add up faster than you think you did it? You know, the same thing is true for self-sacrificial saving. If it’s just something that comes out of you, low and behold, before you know it, it’s a thing. How did that happen?

 

The Review and Herald, April 18, 1912, “Many today are keeping back that which the Lord has entrusted to them for the carrying forward of his work. Year after year thousands pass into the grave unwarned and unsaved, while the talent of means is hidden in a napkin, buried in worldly enterprises. The guilt of thus hiding the Lord’s money passes all computation. When I see persons spending money for needless trimmings and needless furnishings, I think of Jesus. He might have come to this earth adorned with the glory of kingly power. But he chose a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice. ‘If any man will come after me,’ said Christ, ‘let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ Those who follow in his footsteps will remember that every dollar they can spare is needed in the work that God has said shall be done in the earth.”

 

The Signs of the Times, June 15, 1904, “Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow more closely in the Saviour’s footsteps. Before you spend money, ask yourself, ‘Can I not save this money?’” What a radical concept. Before you spend – think. Isn’t that great? She’s like, “Here’s how you do this radical revolution: Think. As you take out that money, as you take out that card, whatever way you pay these days, before you spend, think, “Wait a minute. Do I need to do that? Or is there a way I could do whatever I’m about to do a little bit cheaper, and that difference that I was going to pay anyway can go to further the cause.”

 

Let me give you an example. I have no problem. You should dress…I’m not saying now you’re going to go with rags…No, no, no. Dress well. Men, put on a nice suit. Look representable for the Lord. Okay? But buy the tie at Wal-Mart. Nobody’s going to know the difference. You just saved 15-20 dollars, and that could go save a soul. Think about it. Before you spend, think. By the way, now you’re all wondering. Truth is, this didn’t come from Wal-Mart. I got it even cheaper. A guy who comes to our church pretty regularly and stuff, he doesn’t wear a suit and tie often, and he let me know about that, and he gave me a bag full of ties, like a Wal-Mart bag full of ties. And he’s like, “Here, you wear suits and stuff.” And, you know what, most of those ties, I’m not going to wear either. Somebody else will at the Goodwill, but I found one, and I said, “You know, that could work. It’s so old, it’s coming back in. I can make that work, and I’m going to wear it on live broadcast at GYC, and they won’t know the difference.” I only bring it up for the illustration. I could have gotten away with it, but anyway.

 

Pacific Union Recorder, March 16, 1905, “I appeal to every family of believers in our land to consecrate themselves to the work of soul-saving, pledging’ themselves to advance the Lord’s work by every means within their power. Let the older ones repress the desire to gratify self, and let the children be taught to save their pennies for the Lord. Let parents take up the cross of self-sacrifice, which lies so plainly in the pathway to holiness. Let the young men and young women who are tempted to expend means to gratify self, say, ‘No! I will not rob the cause of God by spending money for that which is useless.’” Every bag of Skittles, plus it’s bad for you anyway. Wouldn’t it be great to do something good for you and good for God?! Time and again the urgency for these sacrificially saved, earned, or influenced monies was the expansion of the gospel into new territories to fund the work of God in places most or almost completely unexposed to the light of God’s Word.

 

Counsels for the Church, page 282, I’m not going to say she was sarcastic, but she was clever. “There is no time to invent ways for using up money.” You know, if you’ve got 20 bucks lying around, you start to think, “What could I do with that thing?” We don’t have time for conjuring up ways…We’ve got plenty of ways to waste money. The world has seen to that. “Use your inventive faculties in seeking to economize. Instead of gratifying selfish inclination, spending money for those things that destroy the reasoning faculties, study how to deny self, that you may have something to invest in lifting the standard of truth in new fields. The intellect is a talent; use it in studying how best to employ your means for the salvation of souls.” Think, GYC.

 

Testimonies for the Church, volume 9, page 49, “Self-sacrifice is the keynote of the teachings of Christ…We are to practice the same self-sacrifice that led Him to give Himself up to the death of the cross, to make it possible for human beings to have eternal life…We are to place in the Lord’s treasury all the means that we can spare. For this means, needy, unworked fields are calling. From many lands is sounding the cry, ‘Come over, ... and help us.’ Our church members should feel a deep interest in home and foreign missions. Great blessings will come to them as they make self-sacrificing efforts to plant the standard of truth in new territory. The money invested in this work will bring rich returns. New converts, rejoicing in the light received from the word, will in their turn give of their means to carry the light of truth to others.” What if, by your sacrifice, you were an example to someone else who could sacrifice, too? Not only could you save your own money or earn new money, but you could influence someone else to give money. Save, earn, or influence.

 

Final one, Counsels on Stewardship, page 290, “As new fields are opened,” and, praise the Lord, new fields are opening right now today that were not available six months or a year ago. “As new fields are opened, the calls for means are constantly increasing. If ever we needed to exercise economy, it is now. All who labor in the cause should realize the importance of closely following the Saviour’s example of self-denial and economy. They should see in the means that they handle a trust which God has committed to them, and they should feel under obligation to exercise tact and financial ability in the use of their Lord’s money. Every penny should be carefully treasured. A cent seems like a trifle, but a hundred cents make a dollar,” I love her, “and rightly spent may be the means of saving a soul from death. If all the means which has been wasted by our own people in self-gratification had been devoted to the cause of God, there would be no empty treasuries, and missions could be established in all parts of the world.”

 

So here’s the need. We’re moving into the appeal. I don’t want to be in any way ambiguous, vague, opaque, obtuse or any other word you could put for “not getting it.” I want you to understand the appeal today. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the fastest-growing Christian denominations in the world, and we have a strong foothold in many, many countries. However, there are some regions of the world that, due to political instability, religious persecution, geographic isolation and other obstacles, have been almost entirely untouched by the everlasting gospel and the three angels’ messages. Today I’m calling for a special sacrificial offering to help the difficult and often dangerous front-line missionary work that these places so desperately need. One hundred percent of the funds from this appeal will go directly to front-line evangelism efforts in unreached people groups, but don’t reach for your wallet just yet. Let me explain how this is going to work.

 

Again, this is GYC. You’re the faithful. Amen? You should be. I assume you’ve already budgeted for returning faithful ties and giving liberal offerings in your own economy already. It’s already factored into the cost of doing business for you. If it’s not, start now. But what I’m calling for today is not merely a continuation of something you’re already doing comfortably in your own life. This is a special sacrificial investment in the cause of Christ for three simple reasons. Number one: You want to obey Christ’s command to take up your cross because you love Him. Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep my commandments,” and if He says you’re to carry your cross, you say, “I love You. Yes, sir.” Number two: You want to build a character like Christ’s. You want to become like Him in your own life. And number three: You want to see souls saved for Christ’s Kingdom.

 

If I’m not mistaken, you have a card in your hand, am I right? Please take it out. Now, while you’re free, now, let’s go to the front part here, the “About You,” where it says GYC in the corner there, “About You.” I’m not going to ask you to come forward; I want you to sit down, take out a pen, and write. I’m looking for concrete, tangible, accountable results. Okay? “About You,” fill out your name legibly, phone number, email. How can we get a hold of you, okay? And then it has you list; here’s how I want you to respond. Here’s how the Lord is inviting you to respond today through the message you’ve heard. If you are brand new to this whole Christianity thing; if you’re an outsider looking in, and I’ve seen around, there are some of those here. Praise God that you’re here. You’re welcome anytime. If you would like to explore relationship with Jesus Christ, put that on the front, right there, check that one. And along with that one, I would assume would come Bible studies to understand the Word of God more.

 

Some of you, I’ve seen the appeals all weekend long, there are some people here today who have not been baptized and need to be. Please check that box. Please check that box. Some of you are looking for service opportunities, and you’d be willing to go. You may not have the money to give, but you’ve got a you to give, and you’d like to be contacted about service opportunities, either local or foreign, but you’re willing to go, and you’re eager to go. Check that box – service opportunities. And the last line is what we’re going to start today: Sacrificial giving. Look at this, starting at one dollar a week. One dollar a week. That’s the floor, by the way. That’s the minimum. You’re like, “Good. I could reach down…” No, no, no, no. If you can do there, do two. Right? And you may not know what you can do yet. You might have to go home and think. Make a budget. Look at what you spend your money on. See how much of it is for “me,” and how much of it is for the Lord and see, “Can I reprioritize even the good things.” Eliminate bad things, reprioritize the good things, but make a personal, intellectual sacrifice for Jesus Christ.

 

How do I do this? Turn the card over, please. I want to turn your attention to the middle thing: Text to give. Text “GYC give to 313131.” Up on the screen is coming a slide of it: GYC give to 313131. This is for you at home, as well. Anyone can do this. What will happen there is you will receive almost instantly a text message back with a link to a website where you can put in the information, and you can start giving sacrificially. But I want you to…You can put it in right now. It’s so rare. Take out your phones and text during the sermon, but I’m telling you to do it right now. Take it out and do it right this minute so that you’ll have it right there on your phone. The next time you look at it, “Oh, there’s that thing I’m going to do.” GYC give to 313131.

 

Now, also, if you have in your head right now, “You know, I think that there is 5 dollars in my life every week I could find in the corners of my life, or I could earn through a little extra something, or I could trim off of something, or I could influence…I think I could do 5 bucks a week,” let’s do it. Check that. And if you want, by the way, if you want to make a one-time payment to this, that’s fantastic, but I want to be clear, that’s not what I’m asking for. I’m not going to turn it down, if you want to put 100 dollars in a bucket, that’s great. We’ll take it; it will go to this call. But what I don’t want you to do is, like, “Boy, I should really give something. I’ve got a 20 in my pocket right now,” and now the appeal is over, and you go home the same.

 

Friends, we need to go home and count the cost of being a disciple of Christ. Look at your budget. Look at your spending habits. See if there’s something I can do from me to give for Christ sacrificially. Put the billing information on there if you’re ready to set that up right now, if you say, “I’m going to make this commitment.” Some of you in this room, a dollar is probably maxed out. I get that. Five is reasonable. There might be a 10-dollar person, there might be a 20, and I promise you, there could be in this room a 100-dollar person, a week. You say, “Ah, that’s crazy. That’s insane.” But listen to me. My wife and I have two young kids. We’ve got another one coming in about six weeks (so keep that in prayer); we’re going to have five mouths in one house with one salary. And it’s a pastor’s salary, which is fine. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying. It’s a fact. But even within that, we care about their college future, and our two sons right now have 200 dollars every month going to the college they’re some day going to go to. “How in the world do you do that?” Well, first of all, I wear ties that people give me, ha.

 

But you prioritize already in your life for the things that are important to you. I’m just saying make Christ the most important thing in your life and give sacrificially. Save, by the way, in concrete ways. Drink water. When you go off pontificating to people about how you should drink water, and then we go over to Starbucks. Drink water. Cut out sodas, coffees, juices, those things you probably shouldn’t be drinking anyway, and give what you would have given already because it already fit in your budget, just give it to Christ instead of to you. Don’t snack. Buy one less burrito; that’s 1.29 dollars. You go to get a pizza, get one less topping, there’s your dollar – one dollar.

 

But think about it. Over the course of a year, one dollar will be fifty-two dollars. How much would that be if every, you know, registered GYC attendee put one dollar a week, what would the offering look like when you come back next year? How many missionaries would that send out? How many churches would that build? How many Bible studies would that give? How many souls would that save that would have gone to a mushroom on your pizza? I’m serious. Are we talking for real now? People kind of lament the plasticization of some of these big conferences. Let’s get real; let’s get raw. Give a burrito to Jesus.

 

By the way, a friend of mine, Alistair Huong, helps run AudioVerse. He has a little blog called SavingTheCrumbs.org, go check it out. He’s going to have a little post on there, “Twenty ways to save a dollar a week from the life you’re already living.” He’s got other great stuff on there. Check it out, but look practical, think about it. How can I say it? Earn, by the way. Offer to do menial five-dollar tasks for people. Wash somebody’s clothes for them. Iron a shirt; it’s a dollar. I live in Michigan. Anyone of you is welcome, for 20 bucks, to come and shovel snow out of my driveway. Now, I can only afford one of you, but just somebody can come do it, please. I’d love it. But somebody else could use that. Offer to help and say, “Look, for a little bit, it’s going to save you, and it’s going to save me, but most importantly, it’s going to save somebody else.”

 

Influence, recruit your friends and family to join you in sacrificial giving. Challenge your friends and families to match your savings or set up an account of their own or give of their own, that’s fine. Enlist your Sabbath School class. You may not have a lot of money; you have influence on others who do! Challenge your local church to give sacrificially, front-line mission work. Share this appeal online. Share it in person. Right now it’s live-streaming. You guys out there, do this, too. It’s a call for the world to give to the world. Just see how far and wide this revolution of simple sacrificial giving can go in the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

You know, I’d love to see this thing happen. I have this idea that we could have…You know, most of our expenditures, or a lot of them, are online or they’re virtual or they’re through a phone or some sort of plastic thing. Wouldn’t it be great if…Mrs. White talks about having a self-denial box in every home. What if you had a virtual thing? By the way, I’ve challenged you. I’ve seen them do this, and they promised that it can be done, so I’m going to say it’s going to be done. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just take out your phone, and anytime you save that ten dollars on a shirt you got on sale that you were going to spend that money for anyway, instead of saying, “Hey, now I get ten dollars.” No, no, no, no. Jesus gets ten dollars – boom -and you put it in your little virtual self-denial box, ten dollars, boop, give. Everybody has an account, you just give. You know, you saved that topping on the pizza, that’s one dollar – ba-boop – send for Jesus, that easy.

 

Wouldn’t it be great to have always with you a virtual self-denial box, that every little increase or every little savings you could just register right to the cause of Christ just directly? We should be brilliant Christians, thinking, intellectual, economizing, efficient, effective, and finishing this work in this generation. And next year’s GYC in Louisville will reveal how much by God’s grace you’ve amassed through savings, earnings, and influence. And I know you’re…This is the last thing at GYC. You are Gideon’s army. You are the remnant of the remnant, if you will, you know?

 

But what can you do? Do you believe, truly, that God can do big things through small, consistent sacrifices? What can you influence, young people, for the cause of Christ? By the way, this doesn’t take the place of personal soul-winning. Go win a soul through personal Bible studies, too. Amen? This doesn’t take the place of the other call. There’s a work that cannot be done by proxy, an individual goal. Go win a soul personally but give sacrificially.

 

I think of the words of that great hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”: When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died; my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride…Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, [love] divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

 

You should have had time to have filled those out. We have deacons; we’re going to start picking those up. Pass those cards in, if you would. But I want you to think about practical ways that you can give to the Lord, little things that you can do, corners you can cut, savings you can amass, influence that can spread. I want to see Jesus Christ come in my lifetime with these eyes right here, and I know you do, too, but it’s not going to happen by watching. We’ve got a church full of watchers; we need workers. There needs to be a revival of missionary zeal throughout all the ranks of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and there’s no reason it can’t begin right here. That is our appeal today.

 

So, as you return those, be thinking. As you leave today, I want you to be thinking. As you go home, I want you to be thinking, economize, save, earn, influence, but give to the cause of Christ.

 

Let me ask you a question, GYC: Has today’s message been clear? Can you hold up your hand? All right. Now let me ask you another question: With a round, hearty amen, are you going to go home and actually do something this year? Amen. Praise God.

 

Let’s bow our heads for a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, I thank You so much that You enlist us in Your cause. Teach us, Lord, how to think. Teach us how to give. Help us to work efficiently and effectively for Your cause so that the theory of Christianity will no longer be theory, but it will be practiced in our lives, and through our influence, the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. To that end, Lord, keep us faithful and make us useful for You, is our prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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