Justin McNeilus, President, Generation of Youth for Christ
Summary: The Christian life is a life of surrender, of surrender of self in order to give oneself to God and to others.
As I think of this topic, one text immediately comes to mind: “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me?
Exactly, because more than anything else, the Christian life is a life of surrender, of surrender of self in order to give oneself to God and to others. Though, at its core, Christianity is all about what God has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ—“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We must never forget the other part of the Christian life, and that is, what we do for God because of what He has done for us.
Of course, the issue of what we do for God is not salvation by works. To think that our works could add to the cross is the height of hubris, of arrogance; it is even the spirit of the anti-Christ, which claims to add more than what was done in our behalf by Jesus at Calvary. The Creator of the universe, the One who “made all that was made” (John 1:3), came to this earth, took upon our sins, and died for those sins.
What could we ever add to that in terms of salvation?
At the same time, as a response to the salvation that we have been given in Jesus, we have been called to live a new life in Christ, a life centered not on self but on the Lord. Perhaps the text that best describes this is found in the Old Testament:
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
Revival and Reformation
As we all know, since the Atlanta General Conference Session in 2010, our church has been called upon to seek out the Holy Spirit so that there can be “Revival and Reformation” in our ranks, one that is so desperately needed. But true revival and true reformation aren’t just slogans or platitudes. A revival means a revival in our faith commitment to the Lord and to what He has called us to be and to do. And a reformation means just that, a reforming, a changing in how we live our lives.
And central to how we live is the whole area of stewardship. Yes, stewardship, because as Christians, who have been given so much, we have also been called to be stewards of what we have been given.
Don’t miss the key word in the last sentence: “given.” Nothing that we have- no talent, no possession, no knowledge, no business, no job, nothing is ours. Everything belongs to the God in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), the God “in whose hand is . . . [our] breath” (Daniel 5:23).
A friend who has worked at the General Conference for almost 30 years said something that catches the essence of stewardship.
“I don’t own,” he said, “the pencil on my desk. I am called to be a steward of it, to use it to God’s glory, not my own, and to further God’s work, not my own.”
Ellen White expressed it like this: “God desires to bring men into direct relation with Himself. In all His dealings with human beings He recognizes the principle of personal responsibility. He seeks to encourage a sense of personal dependence and to impress the need of personal guidance. His gifts are committed to men as individuals. Every man has been made a steward of sacred trusts; each is to discharge his trust according to the direction of the Giver . . ." (7T: 176).
Right off the bat, we must remember that we are not our own, that we have been “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20), and I don’t need to remind us of what that price was. Thus, all stewardship must begin with our own bodies, with our own flesh and blood. Contrary to ancient pagan philosophies, our bodies are not evil, but in fact good. What’s evil is when we, as poor stewards, misuse and abuse them in ways that go against the truths that God has revealed to us.
Revival and reformation cannot be a corporate experience until it becomes an individual one-one that starts with us, and what’s more personal than our own bodies? We are not called to be health fanatics; we are called to be good stewards of the wonderful gifts we have been given in health. We need to take care of our bodies, and they will take care of us, and allow us to do more for God and for others.
Our Special Talents
Just as each of us is unique, each has unique gifts. Even if we are talented in the same area, our manifestations of those talents are distinct. Whatever our gifts are, it is so easy to use them only for ourselves. Good stewardship means, however, that we make sure that these gifts aren’t selfishly exploited. Imagine the blessings we could be to our church and community were we to carefully and prayerfully, under the a heart submitted to the guidance of Holy Spirit, devote ourselves, especially during this call to revival and reformation, to making sure that our special gifts were being used to bless others. If you really want to be reminded how important this is, read again Matthew 25:14-30. God takes seriously how we use the gifts He has given us. We would be very foolish to do anything but take them seriously as well.
As one of the most famous texts in the Bible goes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). In many ways, time is our most precious commodity. None of us knows how much time we have; we all know, however, that it is finite and constantly diminishing.
How crucial then that we be good stewards of our time; that is, we take a close look at what we do with the time we have and ask ourselves: Is my time being used selfishly, or for the glory of God and for the benefit of others? The gift of the Sabbath, for all the other truth that it contains, shows in a general sense that God cares about how we use our time. Now, especially, as we are called to revival and reformation, we need to make sure that our priorities in life are straight. And how we use our time truly reveals what priorities are.
We all know the old saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.” However trite, it is powerfully true. It is easy to go to church on Sabbath, utter platitudes about faith and salvation, and maybe even thrown a few dollars in the collection plate once in a while.
But, in the end, if we truly believe in what we profess, faithfulness in tithes and offerings and others gifts reveals it. Though stewardship of our possessions is more than tithes and offerings, it is nothing without at least that. To take, right out of the gate, 10 percent of what you earn (what you have been given of God) and return it to Him is an act of faith, an act that, when neglected, not only reveals a lack of faith but that will, over time, weaken it more.
God doesn’t need us to give of our possessions; we need to do it for ourselves. It is for our good, because each act of giving is an act of faith. And we need all the faith we can get, because only through faith will the Lord be able to work in us the changes so desperately needed to bring about a revival and reformation.
Though our church’s cry for revival and reformation is a corporate one, one that is calling our whole church to renew its commitment to our Lord and to the message He has given us, nothing will happen until something happens in each of us, individually. We each, as individuals—regardless of what anyone else does or does not do—have to make the choice to surrender to the Lord, to be open to His Holy Spirit, and to act upon His leading in our life.
And, central to it all is stewardship, what we do with all the gifts that we have been given.