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 In October 2013 a flawless white diamond the size of a small egg was purchased at a Hong Kong auction for $30.6 million, setting a new world record. Offered by Sotheby's auction house, this 118-carat gem had been found in South Africa in 2011. It weighed 299 carats in the rough, and is described by the Gemological Institute of America as "the largest and most significant such diamond" graded by the institute. (1)

Jesus told an intriguing story about a gem of great value. It's of particular interest to us as we pursue the holiness of letting go. It's also a kingdom parable. "The kingdom of heaven," Jesus said, "is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matt. 13:45, 46).

Here Christ taught that securing something related to the kingdom of heaven involved giving up "all that he had." But what is the "one pearl of great value"and what is "all that he had"? Christianity in all its aspects is very valuable. Is there something within Christianity that the pearl represents? It could be eternal life, reconciliation with God, having Christ within, or the power of the Holy Spirit.

It's quite clear that reconciliation with God, that is, forgiveness and acceptance, is not the pearl of great value. The only requirement for a believer to be declared righteous is that he accept that gift by faith. Eternal life is not the pearl of great value, for when we are reconciled to God we have eternal life.

He Made a Bold Financial Move

Christ is the pearl of great value. He is our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). But, we ask, isn't Christ a gift? Yes. "He is a gift," Ellen White wrote, "but only to those who give themselves, soul, body, and spirit, to Him without reserve. . . . When we thus give ourselves wholly to Him, Christ, with all the treasures of heaven, gives Himself to us." (2) In the setting of our study of holiness, the pearl is having "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).

What did the merchant give for the pearl? All. Were these just the trivial things and the unneeded things in the back of his closet? No, he sold everything including both the ordinary and the highly prized. Total self-denial. Why? He knew he could expect to receive something even better, even greater, even more valuable. So for those of us who respond to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, all that we have and are is but a pittance to give so that Christ may abide is us and we in Him (John 15:4).

The merchant's decision was a bold financial move. In the past when he needed cash, he could sell one of his jewels and have plenty to live on until a further transaction brought him more income. But having all his assets

wrapped up in one object, one pearl, was risky. What he was counting on, we may suppose, was that the future sale price of this special pearl would so greatly exceed his present unusual sacrifice that he would have ample income for all his future needs.

Giving Up Everything to Have Everything

A believer's decision to surrender all in order to have Christ dwelling within is a bold spiritual move. This is more than prayers for daily bread or the pleading for forgiveness after a troublesome transgression. This is more than asking for a safe journey on the highways or the healing of a loved one. It is even more than requesting guidance in making a career decision. This is a transaction of much greater magnitude, for it involves giving up everything in order to secure everything.

The "everything" a believer relinquishes is so comprehensive that the vast majority of Christians turn away sorrowfully. They are in the company of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked, ""Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" After telling Jesus about his faithfulness in keeping the commandments, he asked what he might yet lack. Jesus replied, "'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property" (Matt. 19:16-22, NASB).

Is Taking a Spiritual Risk a Sin?

The issue with the rich young ruler might seem to be "wealth versus poverty," and in one sense it was. But the underlying issue was his security. While money cannot buy contentment, it can buy security. Shelter, clothing, food, daily needs. And in Christ's day, when personal security was uncertain even on such a short journey as from Jerusalem to Jericho, money could secure the services of bodyguards and servants and pay well for overnight lodging. When you can buy whatever you want whenever you want, you feel secure.

This obedient young man had probably never gone without. And he may not have heard Jesus say on an earlier occasion: "I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear" (Matt. 6:25). If he had pressed Jesus with another question-"How can I be secure without my wealth?"-Jesus would probably have repeated what He said in His kingdom sermon: "Do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For . . . indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Vs. 31-33).

The parable of the pearl and this story of the rich young ruler teach us that taking a spiritual risk is not a sin. Jesus risked eternal separation from His Father when He descended to earth. His disciples risked prison, punishment, and stoning to proclaim His resurrection. Paul said: "I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:8). But the rich young ruler "went away grieving."

Jesus Makes a Beautiful Mosaic of Our Lives

 

Here in a nutshell is the transaction. You and I gather together all that we are-our skills and talents, our most satisfying pursuits, the habits of everyday life, our attitudes, our loved ones and friends, even our eyes, our ears, our arms, and our legs-and place them at the feet of Jesus in full consecration, full surrender. We hide nothing behind our backs. Self and all that props self up are now lying at Jesus' feet. We feel undone and afraid. He tenderly picks up all the pieces of our lives, all that we have needed and cherished for years, burnishes them to reflect His glory, overhauls them to function effectively for Him, and arranges them to bring us the sweetest joy and highest sense of fulfillment imaginable. Then He returns the transformed mosaic of our lives to us to be used for His glory.

Unnerving though this transaction may sound, it certainly cannot compare to the risks and uncertainties involved in leaving the throne of the universe and descending to a wretched, crippled world with the danger of never returning to Heaven.

Ellen White wrote: "It will require a sacrifice to give yourself to God; but it is a sacrifice of the lower for the higher, the earthly for the spiritual, the perishable for the eternal. God does not design that our will should be destroyed; for it is only through its exercise that we can accomplish what He would have us do. Our will is to be yielded to Him, that we may receive it again, purified and refined, and so linked in sympathy with the Divine that He can pour through us the tides of His love and power. However bitter and painful this surrender may appear to the wilful, wayward heart, yet" "only through the surrender of our will to God is it possible for Him to impart life to us." (3)

Why, then, should we fear the practice of holiness, for it is simply releasing our grip on earthly security and taking hold of Christ, our eternal security. Now with all the wealth of Heaven at our disposal, we no longer engage in a hand-to-mouth Christian life. We no longer lurch from one spiritual crisis to another. With the Pearl of Great Price as our asset, we have no fear for the present or the future. The elements of life that would never stay arranged He now has formed into a pattern of unsurpassed beauty. Happiness floods our innermost being. We have soul rest and fullness of joy (Rom. 14:17). We are eternally secure.

[Note.-When the quotation by Ellen White, above, was penned, the word "sympathy" had a slightly different meaning than it has for most of us today. We understand it to mean entering into another person's mental or emotional state. In her writings it usually means "agreement in qualities; harmony; accord." (4) Using this now-rare definition, we read: "Our will is to be yielded to Him, that we may receive it again, purified and refined, and so linked in harmony with the Divine that He can pour through us the tides of His love and power."]