Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered January 23, 2010 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

The High Expense of Atheism

Mark 8:36-38

(RealAudio available)

There was a man who was selling ice cream.  It was a hot day and the mother stood beside the ice cream man's cart with her three children.  She said, "What flavors do you have?"  He said, "I have vanilla and chocolate.  Which would you like?"  She said, "Well don't you have any more choices than that?"  The man said, "Listen lady.  If you knew how much time it takes for kids to make up their mind just on these two flavors, you wouldn't have any more flavors either." 

Two choices.  And as Christians we have two choices.  That's all we have.  We can choose God or reject God.  That's the choice.  You can be a believer or you can be an atheist.  An unbeliever.  I really don't think there are very many atheists, that are true atheists, because on a dark night with the tornado sirens going off, I think they are half Christians, sort of.

Many who choose the world claim that they do so because it costs too much to be a Christian.  They just can't afford it.  They would have to pay tithe.  They would have to give a liberal offering.  They would have to spend 14% of their time dedicated to God.  One day in seven.  No drinking and they'd have to pay tuition for the elementary school over here at Spaulding.  They just can't afford it.  No wild parties.  No fun.  It just costs too much.  I think that's nonsense.  I think it costs too much not to be a Christian.  That's my opinion.

Look at one verse here in Mark 8:36.  Here Jesus is asking a question and He says, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"  That's a serious question.

There was a Sabbath School teacher who said, "Boys and girls, how many of you remember any experience in the Bible or anywhere where somebody made a bad bargain?"  One little chap raised his hand and said, "I know.  Esau sold his whole inheritance, sold the farm, for a bowl of soup."  Another child said, "Judas traded 30 pieces of silver for eternal life."  Another child said, "I remember Ananias and Sapphira.  They made a bad bargain."  The fourth child read this verse.  She said, "God says that we make a bad bargain when we trade the whole world and lose our own soul."  And that's the truth.

My wife and I happen to be related to J. Paul Getty, one of the richest people who ever lived.  But it doesn't do any good because he doesn't know us.  None of those rich people know us.  I just don't know what it would be like to be the richest man in the world and be lost.  And I'm not saying that any of them are or will be.  But what a tragedy it would be to lose your eternal life.

Charlemagne, that great ruler, gave instructions, "Now when I die I want to be in the tomb seated on my throne.  I want to be wearing my crown and I want to have that sword that I always carried in life.  I want to have that in my hand so that when I die I'm there in that position.  I want the Bible on my knee."  And so they followed those instructions and for 180 years, he remained in the sarcophagus, just like that.  Finally around the year 1000 A.D. his tomb was exhumed by the great Emperor Otto and they found the skeleton of Charlemagne still there, still as you might expect it, all withered down.  It was in a hideous position and the crown was still there on his skull.  The bony finger of the skeleton was pointing toward the open Bible and the verse that the finger was pointing at is our scripture reading this morning.  "What will it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"  Isn't that amazing.

Native hunters in the jungles of Africa hunt monkeys.  They can sell them.  People eat monkeys there, and they could also sell them for various other purposes.  For research or for zoos, and so forth.  They make a pretty good amount of money at that.  So they take a coconut and split it in half and hollow it out and put in an orange.  They make a hole in the top of the coconut about that big.  Smaller than the orange.  They tie it together.  They tie the whole thing to a tree and then they wait.  A monkey has a good sense of smell.  They smell that orange.  That's a treat, and so they rush over and they see a hole and of course that's where the smell is coming from.  They stick their little hand in that hole and grab the orange and try to pull it out and it won't come.  The hunters sense that the bait has been taken and so they rush over and throw a net over the monkey and they have the monkey.  They also have the trap, complete with the bait. 

Now the monkey has a choice.  He could let go of the orange and escape before the hunter arrives or he can hang onto the orange and lose everything, and they will not let go.  It works every time.  They simply stroll up and there is their prized possession just waiting for them. 

I think as Christians we can be trapped into thinking that we can have both.  We can have our freedom, and we can have the world.  It doesn't work that way.  The world's wine tastes good, but eventually the world's wine will rob us of our freedom.  Our happiness.  Our marriage.  Our life.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:19,20, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break in and steal but store up for yourselves treasures" where?  "In heaven."  That's where the treasure is supposed to be.

Now, the atheist misses out on a lot of things.  An atheist does not really have true peace, number one.  They don't have true peace.  Isaiah 26:3 says "Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in Thee."   If you trust in God you will have perfect peace.  An atheist never has perfect peace.  If your mind is stayed on God, you will have that kind of peace.  When your thoughts are fixed God, absolute peace will fill your life.  Atheists argue, and I read this in the January edition of the Wall Street Journal.  It says, "Atheists argue that religion is a social evil and that it is the root of all evil."  Religion.  They say, and I'm quoting, that "Religion is the cause of terrorism.  It's the cause of hatred.  It's the cause of war, and atheist Richard Dawkins said, 'If we would just rid people of all of there religious beliefs, we would have paradise on the earth.'"  That's their belief.  Religion is the culprit.  The cause of all this evil.

Actually, my Bible does not tell me to be a terrorist.  My Bible does not tell me to kill you.  Your Bible does not tell you to kill me.  That is not the case at all.  In fact, I read here in Luke 6:29, if somebody slaps you on one cheek, what should you do?  You need to turn the other cheek and say, "Here."  That's what we need to do as Christians.  If somebody demands your coat, the Bible says, offer him also your shirt.  Matthew 5:44 tells me. "Love your enemies."  So I don't think they're going by this book when they are into terrorism.  That's not the case at all.  Terrorism is something that comes from some other book.  Now it may be a bad religion that would tell people to do that, but my Bible tells me in Luke 6:31 that I should treat others like I wish that others would treat me.  My Bible says, in Matthew five, that I am supposed to be a peacemaker.  What was the Sabbath School lesson this morning?  One of the fruits of the Spirit is that we need to be peacemakers.  We do.  We need to be peaceful and make peace.  A religion that is based on the Bible will be a peaceful religion and have peaceful people.

Psalm 119.  David knew a lot about peace and war and he says here in verse 165, "Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them."  Now pay attention to those last words.  "Nothing shall offend them."  You know, a lot of people are saying, "You know, that offends me.  When you put that cartoon in there in the paper about my God and all that, that offends me and I think that the cartoonist should be killed, because that's offensive to me."  The Bible says nothing shall offend the people of God.  Don't wear a chip on your shoulder all the time and always be that type of a person that's offended so easily. 

According to John MacArthur, some years ago the Mayo Clinic did a study.  They stated that statistically, 80% or more of their total caseload were sick, either in reality or artificially, because of mental stress.  Stress will get you.  Stress is responsible for 80% of the illnesses at the Mayo Clinic.

Number two.  The unbeliever will never achieve the highest happiness.  That joy won't be there for the unbeliever.  First John 1:4.  "And these things I write unto you that your joy may be full."  God wants us to be a joyful, happy people.  The Bible was written for that purpose of bringing joy and hope into your life.  The godless say, "Let's eat and drink and be merry, because it's all over.  This is all we're going to have."

There was a drunk husband at a bar, and he had a crowd of cronies around him and they started making bets.  The wager was, this husband said, "You know what.  I will bet you that if I call my wife, it's almost 1 a.m., if I call my wife right now and we go home and knock on the bedroom door, she will come out of there and if we demand a nice meal, she'll get up with a smile on her face and make a meal like you will never forget."  They said, "It won't happen."  He said, "It will."  So the wagers were on and they marched to the house.  A little house, a poor house, because people who drink often times waste their money on alcohol and don't put it into the house.  So the poor little house, they woke the wife up, he beat on the door and he said, "Come out here.  My friends are out here.  We're hungry.  Make us a nice meal."  She said, "I'll be out in a minute, honey."  So she got dressed, came out, and pretty soon she was cooking and they could smell great things coming out of the kitchen.  She set the table, lit the candles and provided a wonderful meal and the men sat there like that and they ate it and it was delicious.  He said, "Fork over the money."  Afterwards, one of the men, who was slightly more sober than the others said, "Why did you do this for your husband?"  And she said, "Well sir, when my husband and I were first married, neither one of us were Christians, but I became a Christian and he did not.  He chose not to, and that's his choice.  It's okay.  But I know that as a Christian this life is all the joy he is ever going to have.  And so I want to make this life as nice for him as possible."  What an answer.  I am happy to tell you that later he did become a Christian. 

That's how you win your wife.  You don't win your husband, you don't win your wife by beating them over the head with the Bible, or beating them over the head with the Spirit of Prophecy.  You don't win them by arguing with them.  You win them by letting them see Jesus in you.  That's what we do.  The nonbeliever does have joy, but it's not the highest joy.  Personally, I would rather be a Christian than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.  Hebrews 11:25.

There were four youngsters.  They were killed out there in Moses Lake, Washington,  They were trying to beat the train.  Don't ever try to beat the train.  The train is in charge.  They did not beat the train and all four were killed.  They were all killed.  What a grim trophy they could have had.  What would be the benefit of beating the train.  Maybe two minutes, and the rest of their lives were gone.  And that's so similar to zillions of people who gamble on drugs and wine and illicit sex and lewd pictures and any other sin.  They want a few moments of sinful pleasure in trade for what?

I think of that skydiver who was a professional photographer.  They all jumped.  They were going to link up and make this huge formation and there were a couple photographers that were going to get pictures of it as they all descended down.  So they all jumped, including the photographer of course, and they all descended down.  They did link up and he got fantastic pictures.  The pictures eventually showed that as they got close to the ground the whole thing goes into total chaos as the cameraman makes the horrifying discovery, as he reaches back to pull the ripcord, there's no parachute on his back.  He forgot to put on his own chute.  The jump was exciting for a while, but the pleasure was very short, and the pursuits of sin can be temporarily very exciting, but the end result is death.  It's death.

Number three.  The atheist will never have true success.  Not true success.  There are atheists who are very, very successful.  They don't believe in God.  They hate the Bible.  They own all kinds of land and television stations and companies. 

I have a question for you.  If you are successful for five minutes out of say, 50 years, you live 50 years and you're successful for five minutes of that 50 years, were you really successful?  No.  What if you were successful for 50 years of your life, but not for 50 zillion years of your potential life.  Were you really successful?  If you're only successful here on this earth and you miss out on eternity, were you really successful?  I don't think so.  Do you see what I mean?  He who provides for this life but not for eternity is wise for a moment and foolish forever.  Mark 8:36.  "What profit is it if you gain the whole world and lose your own life?"  Ellen White says it this way.  "Earthly gain and honor are all the reward that certain persons will ever receive."

Number four.  An atheist will not receive the rewards of heaven.  He'll miss out on heaven.  Several years ago, Philip Brooks, that famous preacher, was on his deathbed.  Even his church members were not allowed to visit him, but one man, Robert Ingersoll, the famous agnostic, came to visit Philip Brooks and he was admitted.  He said, "Well I sure appreciate you having me.  Even your own church members can't come in.  Why, may I ask, did you allow me to come and visit you?"  Philip Brooks said, "Well, I'm going to see my church members again, but this will probably be my last time to see you."  A dying atheist will never see his friends again.

What is the greatest reward that God can possibly give to us?  What do you think it is?  Well, I read in the first volume of Selected Messages, "Eternal life is the richest reward that heaven can bestow."  If we miss that we have really missed everything.  We have missed it all.  Even if there were no heaven, I think I would be better off living a Christian life right here in Collegedale, Tennessee than in being an atheist.  Having a moral life and being an honest person and being respected for my morals.

I want to close with an illustration about King Pomare, the fifth.  He was the king of a magical paradise island.  He died in the year 1881.  He was the king of Tahiti.  It's a beautiful island.  One of the most beautiful places in the world.  He was the king of this paradise.  The waterfalls and beaches and beautiful weather.  He was the king of it all.  The French came in and they said, "We would like to take this island over, and we can either kill you, but if you will cooperate, we'll build you a palace.  We'll provide you with however many women you want and all the food you want, and a nice income for the rest of your life."  So he agreed to do that.  He became the king of, basically, his castle, and the French took over the rest of the place.  He became addicted to liquor, and near the end of his life, which only lasted about a year beyond that time, he requested, as he was dying, to be buried in a coffin specially made.  You can see on the Internet, his coffin and on top of his coffin there is about a 6 or 7 foot tall replica of a bottle of his favorite vodka.  That's what he got.  He got his wish.  Probably he will miss heaven.  We don't know, we're not to judge.  He spent his last year drinking and spending his time with his mistress.  What a loss.

Friends, it costs too much not to be a Christian.  We're going to miss everything if we're not a Christian, so as we begin this year of 2010, let's be Christians.  Thursday night the tornado sirens were going off and the loudspeakers over at Southern Adventist University were going off saying, "This is a tornado warning.  You must take cover immediately."  Well we were in the Spaulding elementary school gymnasium.  So Shannon Auge' announced, "Let's go out of this gymnasium.  Let's get down in the lower hallways here and take cover because this could be it."  Fortunately it was a false alarm, but you never know when your life could be gone.  You don't know.  It could've hit the school.  A lot of people could've been killed. 

Give Jesus your life and you will have true peace.  You will have true happiness, true success, and an eternity in heaven with Jesus.  I don't want to miss that.  And I wonder if you would be willing to stand where you are and just say, "I want to put Jesus first in my life.  I want to renew my commitment to Jesus Christ.  This is worth it and I just want to stand and let everybody know, I am a Christian!"  Would you be willing to stand?  Would you just stand where you are to say that for the Lord?  You want to put Jesus first in your life.

Dear Father.  I praise Your name for those who are making this decision.  Maybe You will come this year.  We don't know when the time is, but we want to be ready.  So bless this congregation.  May we all be in heaven, together with our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.  Come quickly and save us, we ask in Jesus' name, amen.

Let's sing our closing hymn, Wholly Thine.

Dear Father in heaven.  There are many great things in this world, but may they never, ever be greater to us than Jesus.  May Jesus be first in our lives, and best and last.  Dismiss us with the joy of Jesus in our hearts, we ask His name.  Amen

Hymn of Praise: #82, Before Jehovah's Awful Throne
Scripture: Mark 8:36-38
Hymn of Response: #308, Wholly Thine
Sermon Notes:  Sermon notes available as PDF

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 2/9/10