How Much Will You Give Up for Jesus?
by Abner P. Dizon
Copyright 2012 Philippine Frontier Missions
"Reaching Unreached People Groups in the Philippines"
"Reaching Unreached People Groups in the Philippines"
Passage for Study: John 13:36-38
I have shortened the title of my sermon this morning. It used to be is entitled, "How much are you willing to give up for the Master?" But a Filipino pastor in Toronto (after asking me for my sermon's title said: Isn't that a mouthful for title?). So, I am changing it to: "How much will you give up for Jesus?"
Today, I found myself asking that question. How much will to give up for Jesus? Everyday we are faced with choices which answers that question. Should we do this or that? Everyday we are answering that question, and saying to those around us:
"I cannot live without this or that." Or "I don't care enough about this or that."
When I was a student missionary in the Northern Philippine tribal province of Ifugao, I heard about an encounter between the rebel New People's Army and the Philippine military. The dead on the rebels' side were put out on the town plaza for identification. One of the casualties was a young woman, around 18 years old. The parents arrived from Manila to identify her body. "Yes, this is OUR daughter!" They cried out.
She was a student at the University of the Philippines, a university famous not only for their bright students, but also for activism. Anyone who comes from that university has a good future. Yet she spurned all those advantages, went to the mountains to join the armed struggle for a cause that she truly believed in. It was a lost cause, yet she was willing to leave everything - wealth, fame and even life - for the sake of her ideology. When I heard of this, I began asking myself: "How about me? What am I will I give up for my Master?"
Living for Him is more difficult
In one of the islands of Mindanao, lives a man who has decided not to get married because he did not feel his would-be wife would be safe among the Muslim tribe where he felt called to serve. Yet he continues to minister to the people even though it meant
giving up his right to have a wife. How much are you willing to give up for Him?
Someone had said that it is easier to die for Him than it is to LIVE for Him! True it takes a certain kind of courage to die. But once you die, that' s it. Finished! But living 100% for the Master.. That's a 365-days-a-year, 7-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day thing! When I read the book of Acts, I seem to find a hidden message, and it is this: "Because they loved the Master so much, they were willing to give up EVERYTHING for Him." They laid down their money, influence, time, loved ones, even life itself that they might accomplish the mission He left them. You know the result? They turned the world upside down! The apostolic church sure knew how to show their love for the Master. They were willing to do ANYTHING for Him.
How about you and me? How much are we willing to give up for Jesus? Are we willing to give up much-cherished ambition so that we can go and bring His message to those who do not know about Him? Are we willing to give up comfort and luxury in order to be God's spokesperson among those in darkness and ignorance? Are we willing to give up fame and fortune that we might make a difference in the lives of the lost? How much are we willing to give up for the Master? How much are we willing to do for Him? Just like the usual question I ask people, "How soon do you want Jesus to come?" Or "When do you want Jesus to come?" The usual pious Adventist answer is: "Today!" "Soon!" Unfortunately, for Filipinos, the words "today" and "now" means things other than what the dictionary defines them! You see, for Filipinos, a deadline is seldom DEAD! It is ALIVE, it moves. When one says, today is the deadline, it means, any day, as long as it is called TODAY! It's like the "mañana" mentality which says: "Why do today what you can do tomorrow!"
Almost all of us Seventh-day Adventists say we would like to see Jesus come soon. Many of us say we would like to hasten His coming. Many of us say that we are willing to give up everything for the sake of holding on to our faith in Jesus. But have you noticed that for most us, there is a big gap between what we say we believe and what we actually do? One church planting author said that "Your Theology dictates methodology." What he meant was that if a church planter believes that salvation means simply being baptized then all he will try to do is to get people to say yes to church membership through baptism. Never mind if they have not come to love Jesus. As long as they are baptized, they are saved and that's all there is to it. I guess it's just like saying that marriage simply means going to church for the wedding! (Married folks realize that the wedding, important as it is, is the least of their worries in terms of staying married!) Simply put, what you BELIEVE is what you will DO.
Now, I am not saying that we do not really believe in the imminent coming of the Lord because we do this or we do that. Nor am I suggesting that the discrepancy (if we can call that) between what we say and what we do shows that we are "FALSE" believers. As a cross cultural missionary, I learned that in every culture - and all of us are part of a certain culture - there are always two sets of BELIEFS. One is called the theoretical belief and the operating belief. The theoretical belief has to do with creeds which have little practical impact on values and behavior. Ultimate concerns like "Where did I come from?" "What will happen to me when I die?" so on and so forth, are addressed by the theoretical belief. However, as far as day to day actions, values and behavior, people - of any culture - resort to their operating beliefs. How will I eat? How will I drink? What is good to do with my money and time? What do I do when I get sick? Now, these two beliefs are not necessarily contrary to each other. In fact they work on different levels so that the person does not always notice that he has shifted from the theoretical to the operating belief. Interestingly, in the Philippines there is this joke that we are called Seventh-day Adventists because we are Adventists on the seventh-day. But the rest of the week we aren't! That is the theoretical and the operating beliefs in action.
When what we belief (in church) does not affect our operating beliefs (in every day affairs), we have what missionaries call "dual allegiance." We see it all the time. A tribal person who accepts Jesus and who honestly believes he is saved by the death of Christ, when he or a member of his family becomes extremely sick would go to the witchdoctor and pray to the spirits. The missionary only touched the theoretical but was unable to impact the operating belief. Obviously, that is not the way to go. Romans 12:2 says: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind; so that you may prove what is that good and acceptable will of the Lord." The belief system has to be overhauled – and not just the theoretical, but the operating part as well.
You know the bad news about continuing on to have two different sets of beliefs? In Revelation 14:9 it says that the mark of the beast (representing opposition to God) is placed on either the forehead or on the hand. Forehead means, you are convinced and you believe in it (theoretical). Hand means, you follow suit because it is a convenient (practical, day to day) thing to do. There is a saying in the Philippines that where a tree is leaning, there it will fall. The "leaning" of the tree represents the operating belief which will decide what we will be in the end.
The point is: What we BELIEVE in theory, Must be seen in What We Do Daily! I realize that is a lot! But no one said being a follower of Christ is easy! There is a cross to be borne, and a narrow rugged way to walk on. That is why I said that it might be easier to DIE for Him, than it is to LIVE for Him! We all believe that the Lord wants every tribe on earth to have the Advent message, right? Revelation 14:6 depicts the Adventist movement as an "angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, tribe, tongue and people."
Now, an "angel FLYING" denotes speed. Yet we as a people are working like SNAILS in entering unreached tribes. Not that I blame anyone. The places where these unreached tribes live in are "terrible places." There is no electricity, no good bathrooms, no roads - and pigs roam around freely in the villages! (I remember a Chinese student in Phil. Union College who visited the village where I was a student missionary, together with other ministerial students. When she returned to PUC, her comment was: "The Ifugaos we saw were deep in sin and darkness. They don't take a bath, they don't brush their teeth - they are sinful people!") For most "Lowland" Adventists, these isolated, far flung villages are terrible places to live in. Add to it that usual threat of rebels, tropical diseases, plus the natural resistance of tribal people to change - and you have effectively discouraged most workers from going to these places.
But God has not slept. If these Adventist children of His will not go and send the whole truth, let the stones cry out! So even Roman Catholics have become channels of muddled light because we have not been quick in going to them.
Time after time, I have faced a native from a distant village who, after I have opened the Bible to him, asked: 'Why hasn't your church come to our village?" "If you have the Truth, Why only now?" "What about my parents who died steeped in superstitions and errors?" There were times I would hike for 5 hours. I would stand on top of a steep
mountain trail and look down at the cluster of grass-roofed houses. You know what else I would see? A nicely built native Catholic chapel. I would hike for one whole day to another very far and rebel-infested village. And there would be a Roman Catholic nun, living with the people - ignoring the danger and isolation. It's embarrassing to think of it. Where are the Seventh-day Adventists who say these Catholics is the false religious system? Where are the self-sacrificing SDA missionaries who say they have the Truth - the life and death message for the last days?
It is not an argument against the Truth. It is an accusation, a charge against those who know the truth but are not committed enough to bring it to those don't know it. Ellen White says: "My brethren, we have erred and sinned in attempting too little. There should be more laborers in the ... missionary field." (5 T 391) Why can't we do more? Why can't we send more missionaries? The Lord knows that we can do much, much more than we have done so far. Sure, this is no ego race. It's not about who gets in there first. But when a tribal chief's wife who just lost her beloved daughter wails and asks you: "Why only now?" What comfort can you give her? Can I tell her that we believe we should "go into all the world to make disciples of all the nations." But we also believe in comfort and security. (Sorry, making disciples is my theoretical belief, but comfort and security is my operating belief!) Should I tell her, "It's too bad about your kid. Sorry, but there are no Adventist who wants to go to your village?" Or maybe, "There are missionaries who want to go but no one wants to support them!"
(continued on next column right)...
Business as usual?
A communist student leader once said to a Christian: "The gospel is a much stronger force to change society. Still, communism will win because we are doing everything to propagate it. While you Christians are not even willing to soil your hands for the gospel!" It hurts, but it often is true. Theoretical belief and operating belief. Friends, let us reconcile them. Let us be sure our theoretical belief overrides our operating belief.
The first point it’d like to make is this: Jesus is coming very, very soon. All the things we now have will soon be of no value. You can't take them to your grave. You can't take them to heaven. But you can invest them now for eternity.
Just prior to World War II, there was a rich lady in Lucena City (Philippines). She had acquired a brand new Volkswagen beetle. Top of the line during that time. Because the government was getting ready for war, they needed all the vehicle they can get. The army called up this lady and asked if she would be willing to lend her car so the troops could use it. She flatly denied the request. A few months later, the Japanese landed in Lucena. Everyone fled. As my father, an army sergeant, joined the rest of the people leaving the city, this lady grabbed his arm and begged him to take her car. Unfortunately my father did not know how to drive! When my father reminded her that the army needed it months ago, she cried out in desperation: "My car, my car, the enemy will get it!"
When will you use your means for God? When will you use your time, talents and influence for the Master? Now is the time to use them. "The signs reveal to us that 'the night cometh, in which no man can work.' The time is coming in which you can neither buy nor sell." That is exactly what Rev. 13:16,17 says. She further says: "Now you can sell and give alms. Now you can send your treasure before you into heaven. God calls for your means to advance his cause." (Review & Herald, Dec.18, 1888)
Yes, a crisis is just upon us. I'm not one to set time - but signs indicate that God must be getting fed up with this world! The last prerequisite for His coming - the preaching of the gospel to everyone - is surely coming under way. Even closed countries are opening up to organized mission work. Afghanistan, one of the most unreached country in the world, has seen recent developments which opens the door to the gospel. In the Philippines, the New People’s Army has laid low and now missionaries are better able to enter in previously unentered villages. In Mindanao, the Muslims are becoming more open to change. As Mindanao becomes more autonomous, more freedom would be gained and more missionaries can safely go to Muslim villages. Sure the devil won't be idle. But there is nothing he can do to truly stop the gospel from being proclaimed! Matthew 24:14 is quietly but rapidly being fulfilled before our eyes.
I believe we have reached a point in history, unlike any other time, when every condition and sign in the Bible prior to Jesus' coming are all present: 1) The papacy is healed. The pope is accepted and honored by every national leader. 2) Protestants and Catholics shake hands to bridge the gulf. 3) The deteriorating morality both in Christian and non-Christian lands. 4) America is now the only super power in the world. 5) The movement in the Christian world to enter every place without Christians and to convert people to Christ. 6) In our own church, the number of lay people involved in the proclamation of the gospel.
Friends, we are nearing home! We are nearer home than any other group of Christians ever was. We are on the verge of stupendous events. The imminent coming of our Lord is truly more imminent today than ever. Romans 13:11 says "it is high time to awake for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed!"
The next point I’d like to make is this: People are dying for lack of the knowledge that you and I have. People will die, they will turn to false sources of salvation and be totally unprepared for the coming of Jesus - unless we send missionaries to them soon. When we hear about thousands of who are dying in error and superstitions we console ourselves by saying: "I am not called to go." "Go send someone else!" This is what I call the Moses Syndrome (should I say SINdrome?). When God told him what he needed to do, Moses gave God all the seemingly "valid" reasons why he should not go. Each time God gives him an answer that obliterates the objection. Finally, without any excuse, he simply says:
"Please send someone else!" (Ex.4:13). "Lord, I BELIEVE in what you are saying, but I love comfort and security more than I love You!" In effect he was saying: "Yeah, Lord, I hear what You are saying, and of course I believe it's important to do what you say. But it simply is not convenient or practical for me to follow."
Well, God wasn't pleased with that answer. When God asks "Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?" (Isa.6:8) you better not answer "Please send someone else" (Ex.4:13) You say, "Well, God can use stones. He said so Himself!" Okey, but do you want the stones to take your place in heaven? Now, this is not a "salvation by works" kind of thing. I am not saying you are saved by sharing the gospel to others. But if you are truly being saved, being sanctified by the Truth, you WILL share it with others. "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you." "Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not what I say?"
God could send angels too. In fact, the angels would love nothing more than to be the ones to tell that "old, old story" to people who do not know that Someone had paid their debts. But no, God has reserved the privilege of preaching the gospel to puny men like you and me. Because in so doing, in being involved in saving others, our character is changed. We become more Christlike - more selfless - more loving and lovable.
Does God use angels and dreams? He does. Remember Cornelius? He saw an angel, but the angel did not tell him the gospel story. He still had to wait for Peter to come and preach to him the good news. Angels and dreams are used primarily to prepare people for the living missionaries or witness. That is why it is important for us to send missionaries to the most isolated places on earth. Because they are waiting for the message which you and I can give.
Finally, the question is: What Are You Going to Do About it? Two chicken were standing in front of the church one morning. One read the sign on the bulletin board which says: "Fellowship dinner this coming Sabbath. Bring your own lunch." "Good!" Said the first chicken. "I will bring fried eggs. You bring the fried chicken." The second chicken looked sad. "Easy for you to say that. For you to bring fried eggs is just a donation. But for me to bring a fried chicken is COMMITMENT!"
Too often we merely give a portion of ourselves to God. And we content ourselves by saying, "That's better than nothing!" Well, I have bad news for those who think that way. Jesus says to the Laodicean Church: "I wish that you are either hot or cold. But because you are neither, I will vomit you out!" Friends, do you think God wants a 50% commitment? How about an 80% commitment? NO? Why, that's higher than half-hearted commitment! Friends, the Lord will not accept a DONATION - even if it's a 99.9% thing! What does He want? He wants you 100%!
Are we willing and ready to give ourselves to Jesus 100% or Are we going to just DONATE part of ourselves? He does not want your money. (He has lots and lots of that!) He does not want your time. He does not want your wealth and properties. What does He want? He wants you - He wants me. Romans 12:1 says: "Present your bodies unto God, as living sacrifice, which is your acceptable worship." Fried chicken, friends. Not just fried eggs! When you do that, you know what will happen? God will use you to turn the world upside down. Someone once said: "The world has yet to see what God can do through a man who is 100% committed to God."
When Peter told Jesus that he was willing to do ANYTHING for Him, Peter didn’t realize that being committed to Jesus involves more than just TALK. It does not only involve his theoretical belief. It must be part of his daily action, part of his everyday OPERATING belief. As a consequence, Peter let Jesus down. You and I have let Jesus down so many times in the past. For the most part, it's not because we do not love Him. I believe we do. (Will you say "Amen?") But we have yet to go beyond the DONATION mentality towards the COMMITMENT mentality. We have to be 100% owned and operated by God!
In closing, may I ask: How many of you here wishes to sacrifice himself or herself to God today? Not just a donation, but to die to self and live for Jesus. Shall all those who are willing and ready to give their all - to give themselves to the Master right now, kneel with me in prayer?
Let us pray.
Our Gracious Father and Lord. Thank You for Your love. Thank You that You have called us to be Your special children. We know that we are not worthy of You. We confess that we have done nothing worthy of such love and privilege. In fact, we have, even after knowing the truth, gone far from You, each of us doing our own thing. We have not given You our best - and that is understandable, for have You not said that
without You we can do nothing?
Dear Lord, today…this very minute…we lift our hands before You in a gesture of commitment…of sacrifice…of obedience. Bind our hands, our hearts, our minds, our lips, that we may be 100% dedicated to Your purpose and will.
Cleanse us, dear Jesus, from our defiling sins - both the known and the unknown. And make us vessels fit for Your service. And dear Lord, please send us Your Holy Spirit - just like a dove - to dwell in a special way on each of us kneeling here before You. This, we pray, in Jesus' Holy and Mighty name. Amen.