How in the world could a group of 11 or 12 people and 120 loose followers in 60 to 80 years, completely change the entire culture of the world? Because the kind of Christians there were - if I need to die, I need to die. If I need to go to the lion’s den, I need to go to the lion’s den. If you need my money, you can have my money. If you need me to relocate, I’ll relocate. I’m here in this thing called eternity, a little thing called time. Jesus, I’ll follow you. You tell me, I’ll do it. It was that radical kind of follower that revolutionized the world. And what was it that God extended? It was their faith that got translated into a love for God, through sacrifice, right? Greater love has no one than this that they lay down their life for another. And it was their love for others.
So with that, can I give you a picture before we look at what motivates and how to become a great Christian?
If, in fact, God is God and he owns everything, what part of Him asking for something that He owns makes us so uncomfortable? I have this amazing relationship with my bank. I don’t know if you do. But I’ve got an amazing relationship with my bank. I put money in the bank. And I go up to the window, to the teller, and I write down that I’d like to withdraw $1,000.00. And that teller doesn’t go what? Who do you think you are? What do you mean; you want to withdraw $1,000.00? Manager, Manager, Manager! Here’s a guy that’s trying to take $1,000.00 out of our bank.
And the manager comes over and goes, it’s his money. He gets to take it out any time he wants. So what part, what do you have that you haven’t received? That’s what Paul said. The answer is zero. So what part makes us so upset if children are a gift from the Lord? If life and breath and money and job and skills and gifts are all given by God; why do we get so upset when He says, I’d like to make a little withdrawal here? And when I make a withdrawal of money, it’s not like I’m going to go party with the $1,000.00. I usually kind of have something good to do with it. So if you want to learn to move from being a good Christian – and here’s what good Christians do – they do what’s required to demonstrate their genuine devotion and love. And I want to tell you, I want to be a good Christian.
But I want to give you now an overview of, here’s what great Christians do. Great Christians do what’s required and then they voluntarily go over and above what is required to express the depth of their love for their heavenly Father and their relationship with Christ. That’s what great Christians do. I mean, I don’t have any verses that Mother Teresa needs to clean up and help people in the slums. That’s kind of over and above, it’s it? I don’t have any verses that say that Bill Bright, near the end of his life, emptied his retirement to open up the country of Ukraine so there could be ministry in Ukraine. And he just figured God will take care of me, someway, somehow.
See great Christians – that’s not required. You see the difference is Abraham obeyed--give your son. Later, remember Hannah? See, Abraham was a good follower. Hannah was a great follower. God said, I want your son. What’d Abraham do? He obeyed. Hannah said, I long in my heart, I long to express my love. And I really want to have a son, someday, someway. And if you can get me this son, Lord, you know what I’d like to do? I’d like to have a few years and train this boy up. And then I’d like to give him back to you, sacrifice. Do you see the difference? Good Christians do what’s required. Great Christians give over and above.
So how do you become a great Christian? Now this is the part that gets very positive. Some of you feeling a little woeful can say, okay. Good, good, good. I’m ready for some of the positive parts. What motivates great Christians to great sacrifices? Let me give you four things that motivate them. Number one, they grasp God’s unconditional love. Great Christians are out of the performance trap. They’re not trying to get brownie points with God. They’re not looking for a big star on their refrigerator in heaven. They understand, I am totally loved, unconditionally, totally apart from my works.
What they want to do is they sacrifice out of gratitude. It’s about love. It’s about relationship and beyond duty. It’s a deep sense of brokenness over their own sin, their indebtedness to God’s grace and gratitude for God’s mercy and forgiveness. David was a great lover of God even though he failed. There in Psalm 51, he said, God if a burnt offering, was what you required, I’d have given it. He said, I’ve blown it, I don’t deserve anything. And then he comes to God and says, “A broken spirit and a contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise.” What motivated Paul to write 13 books? A night and a day in the deep, and being flogged three times within an inch of his life. What’d he say? I’m a chief among sinners. I’m a debtor to grace. How can I give back?
His life wasn’t about the rules I need to keep. It was about relationship. Great Christians grasp God’s unconditional love. I love in Luke 7:47, remember the immoral woman? She’s there with Simon the Pharisee. And Jesus is there. And Simon’s going through this deal where – she’s obviously not a prophet because this is a woman of the streets. And she is there crying and wiping his feet with her hair. This guy can’t be from God. Jesus reads his mind. And do you remember what he says? He says, “Simon, those who have been forgiven much, love much. And those who have been forgiven little, love little.”
Now we’ve all been forgiven the same. But this woman recognized because of the depth of her sin, how much God loves her. And see, the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t take any more grace to forgive her than it does you or me. But because of her experience, she’s aware of how much she’s been forgiven. And you find that the people that are the most tender toward God and have the greatest devotion, I will guarantee, most often, there is huge pain in their past. And there’s something where they’ve experienced such forgiveness that they really believe, not just with their head, but with their heart and their emotion. Totally apart from my works, I love my God.
I live with a woman like that. My wife, she went through horrendous things. I met here when she was about three years old in the Lord. I had, by this time, memorized several hundred verses. I was sort of a workaholic Christian in my early days. I memorized all these passages in my head. And I’d sit down and talk to her and we’d have a conversation. And I’d say, you know, quote this verse and quote that verse. She goes, that won’t happen. I said, what do you mean? God’s not like that. Do, do, do. What do you mean, God’s not like that? I just know Him.
He would never do anything like that. That’s not what He’s like. And I got drawn to her because what I realized is my head was filled with scripture like a Pharisee. And her heart was enlarged like the woman who’d been forgiven much and knew that she was loved. You read the mystics in church history, you know what you find? That people have this great passion for God. It’s grasping and understanding how much you’re already loved. When you’re already loved, it’s not tit for tat. If I do this, will God do that? I’m afraid if I give this much money… If I really put my job on the line…. We don’t believe down deep that God is for us. Great Christians grasp His unconditional love.
Second, they embrace God’s relational economy. God measures our love or devotion, not by the size of our gifts but by the size of our sacrifice. Luke 2:12. I mean, Jesus makes this clear. He’s apparently at the table. And there was a place where you could drop your gifts in. And he sees this woman. And people were giving large gifts. And it was great. It’s awesome. People that are given a lot should give large gifts. And then a lady comes by and she’s a widow. That means she has no way to support herself. I mean, that was way beyond welfare.
And she has two small copper coins. And it’s all she has. And she drops it in. Jesus said, whoa. Peter, James, John, come here. Come here. You gotta see this object lesson. And notice what this poor widow has put in more than all the others. They gave out of their abundance. And she gave all that she had. See, people that become great Christians, what they realize is, God doesn’t measure the way we measure. Just take a financial example. Let’s say, you’re making $20,000.00 twenty years ago. You’ve got three kids and things are tight and you tithe. And, you know, $2,000.00 out of $20,000.00, I’ll tell you what?
You’re talking some sacrifice, right? Well let’s say life really gets better. And you make $100,000.00 10 years later. And you give 10 percent of it. Well, you give $10,000.00 out of $100,000.00. Well, not so much sacrifice. Let’s say you make $200,000.00 20 years later and you give 10 percent. Now you’re giving, wow, $20,000.00. You say, wow. I am really supporting the Lord’s work. I am giving $20,000.00. And you’re eeking by somehow on that other $180,000.00.
I remember talking to a guy who was really excited and proud; I gave $10,000,000.00 to the work of the Lord. I said, that’s great! That’s awesome! But then – I kind of have these truth-telling sessions with people. And I get in trouble. And I said, but out of $100,000,000.00, how much did that change your life? How much sacrifice was that? Answer: zero. Now am I saying it’s wrong to give away $10,000,000.00? No, it’s wonderful. Praise God. What I’m saying is don’t confuse that with devotion. And don’t confuse it with sacrifice.
And so we have Christians that think, okay, 10 percent is God’s part. I’m playing by the rules. Duty, duty, duty. That’s not what this Bible teaches. The Bible says the first portion belongs to God to remind me that 100 percent belongs to Him. And I’m just as responsible for the 90 percent. And those of us that have been blessed (that means we live in America), for at least most of us, once I give that, then I should be asking God for opportunities. How can I proportionally continue to give more and more and more? I don’t have to. I don’t earn brownie points. Are you ready for this? I want to. I love Him. It’s not an ought, should, or duty requirement. I mean, do most of you go Christmas shopping thinking, how little can we spend on our kids? Over $5.00, that’s it. No, we’re always asking, you know. Oh, boy, we really shouldn’t spend quite that much but, it’s because you love them.
Then third, people who make great sacrifices not only understand God’s unconditional love and they embrace His relational economy, they trust God’s eternal goodness. It’s an absolute conviction that the rewards for their sacrifice far outweigh the cost. This is awesome. Mark 10, study that passage, verses about 28 to 31. Jesus is saying to the disciples – and I love Peter because Peter always asks the questions that I would ask, if I were there but I would get in trouble. Jesus is teaching strong discipleship. If any man would follow me; take up his cross and follow me. And Peter’s going, from the back row, Pastor Jesus. Yes, Pete. We’ve done that. Like what’s in it for us? I mean, I dropped the nets. I’m on another tour with you. My wife’s a little concerned about this. Kids haven’t seen me in a couple weeks. What’s in it for us? Notice what Jesus says, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me,” - for me. It’s personal. It’s not sacrifice for the cause. It’s not sacrifice so people think you’re spiritual. It’s not sacrifice so that it enlarges your spiritual ego. Anybody, who’s made a sacrifice, when you leave mother or brother or homes or jobs, for me and the gospel, will not fail to receive 100 times as much in the present age and in the age to come, eternal life. Paul, see Paul got this. Paul lived with this reality.
He said, “This present, temporary affliction, sacrifice price tag, is not to be compared with,” - what? “The surpassing glory and weight of what we’ll later receive.” You see, we don’t believe in heaven anymore. And we don’t believe in spiritual rewards. And we think right now really is all there is. And so, we’re holding on to those plastic beads. ‘Cause you know, I want to be spiritual and I want to obey and I want to be, sort of, right with God. So what’s the minimum? What’s the very minimum I can do, God? And we completely miss the point. God’s not looking for minimum Christians. He’s looking for people who believe they’re actually loved.
He is looking for those who recognize that He doesn’t measure by how much you give but by the level of the sacrifice that you give, of your time, of your energy, of your money, of your heart, of your job--in relationship. And He’s looking for people that actually believe. See, it’s a compliment to God when we believe what he says. And it’s an insult when we don’t. The scripture says, the Lord God is a sun and a shield. The Lord gives grace and glory. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. You’re not going to miss out.
Take off the plastic beads. You will get something better. The journey getting there will be scary. That’s why we talked about faith first. I mean, I was in India and here’s a guy that has a sound proof room that he’s made because if he’s caught, he gets killed. And at his own expense, he hires a security guard. And he takes our videos and the teaching of God’s word. And he brings people in, 15 people at a time in an illegal country to hear God’s word. Why? Because he loves Him. He believes God’s good. And you know I’ve got a good friend who’s pretty wealthy. And he has a good feel for money. And he has this phrase, I didn’t understand at first. He says, how many steaks can you eat in one day? It’s sort of like the Apostle Paul. Think on those things. It’ll come to you. I mean, I don’t care how much money you’ve got. There’s only so much pleasure and so many – do something with your money and your life that really matters.
You know, there are a lot of people that are going to die. And a lot of kids are going to get a lot of money that is going to totally destroy their life. And there are a lot of people who are so afraid of what might happen. You know what? You know, there are people who need to live to be about 250 years old so that their 401K can finally get used up. The goal is to die with zero. The goal is to figure out how do I work it so my money and my time, every ounce of it gets leveraged to help people and honor God.
The final thing that those who really make great sacrifices do, is they recognize God’s sovereign ownership. It’s an acute awareness that great sacrifice is not praiseworthy but a privilege since all that we have belongs to Him. In Luke 17, Jesus gave the parable and said, “Which one of you when your servant comes in from the field, say to him, oh, thank you very much and let me take care of you.” No, do you do that? No. Jesus says, no, what you do is you say to him, after you’ve cleaned your self up take care of my meal. And afterwards, you say to him, “You’ve only done what you’re supposed to do. In like manner, when you obey me and do what I’ve called you to do. You’ve just only done what you are supposed to do.” See, it’s not praise worthy. We have this idea that we really ought to get something special. That we’re really – and see, people that make great sacrifices, they realize they’re just regular people. David, notice what he says here in 1 Chronicles 29:14, “Who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you. And we have given you only what comes from your hand.”
Have you surrendered your whole life to Christ as a living and holy sacrifice? In my world, I can write down Penn State, 1975. Could it be that God brought you on this day so that a year or two or three from now you would say, I bowed my head. And I said, 24/7, all that I am. All that I have is yours. And then you tremble just a little bit. And then you start taking off plastic beads and say, Lord, do with me what you will. I trust you. You’re good. Are you growing in your loving in your heart, in your mind, in your soul? If your heart is enlarging in love, it will be revealed in financial sacrifice. If your mind is growing in love, you’ll find yourself renewing your mind with God’s word. If your soul is growing in terms of this relationship, you’ll find yourself having deep talks with your heavenly Father. And if your strength is growing, loving God with your strength, you’ll find yourself ministering somewhere or using what He’s given you. The conclusion is very simple. Sacrifice is merely love with clothes on. Where there is great love, there will always be great sacrifice. That’s really simple isn’t it? I mean, that’s how I know in my family, that’s how you know with your friends. Love is just sacrifice with clothes on. That’s what it looks like. God so loved the world He gave - because you matter.