BEHIND THE PASSAGE
We are continuing again in “The Kingdom” series, which is our series on the book of Matthew
Matthew is one of the 4 books of the Bible specifically about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection…these are commonly called “The Gospels”
And today, we’re going to look at two of Jesus’ short (and I mean very short) parables.
Parables are short stories that help explain a spiritual truth.
These are really two of my favorite parables in the Bible, but I must warn you about something…
They are challenging.
Sometimes when you come here, we might laugh a lot and be inspired.
Other times you might just learn a ton.
But some passages of the Bible are simply extremely challenging to your life.
This is one of those Sundays
If you don’t want to be challenged today, I suppose you can leave whenever.
I’d suggest you pretend like you have to go to the bathroom in 3 minutes and just sneak out J
But I recommend you stay…because God wants to change your life
Jesus is going to continue to tell us what the Kingdom of God is like…
Or, sometimes Matthew uses the phrase “Kingdom of heaven,” which is interchangeable with the Kingdom of God.
And the Kingdom of God is this: It’s what your life would be like…if you let Jesus be king over every aspect of it. (repeat)
And, even more so, imagine if everyone was doing that…then we’d see the beautiful kingdom of God.
And it would be glorious…amazing! Stunning!
Let’s take a look at our parables about the Kingdom…
Or Renovation App
By the way, this app has the whole Bible in it.
Even, Bible reading plans!
Use the app to read the Bible…it’s another great tool.
(Matthew 13:44-46) – NIV
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
So you have two examples of two different people, finding something of such great worth, that they sold EVERYTHING they had to buy it.
A few notes on the first one about the field…
Parables make general points…They’re not word-by-word treatises like one of Paul’s letters in the Bible.
And this parable’s main point that the Kingdom of God is SO valuable that losing everything on earth, but getting Jesus…is worth it.
More than worth it in fact!
We always have to be wary of over-analyzing the fine details of parables.
For instance, it’s not saying that you can BUY heaven or something like that.
It’s about the main point.
Also, Jesus is NOT giving a lesson on business ethics or real-estate ethics (I.e. Should you tell the owner you found it on his land?)
It’s just a made up parable to make a point…about how valuable the Kingdom of God is!
THEY SELL EVERYTHING
Fascinating stuff though!
Think of the first story.
You’ve got this guy…who’s for whatever reason hanging out in someone’s field…(we don’t know why)
And he discovers this amazing treasure…
Worth probably WAY more than everything he owns put together.
You might be thinking, “Who’s burying treasure?”
Are there pirates in Jesus’ day or what? What is this Blackbeard or something?
But in those days, there weren’t really banks and vaults…If you had a ton of money, you hid it…buried it. That was normal.
And this treasure in the field has been long forgotten. Otherwise the owner would have known about it and not sold him the field.
Maybe the owner of the original treasure died, or often what would happen in those days, when the enemy army was approaching, people would hide things in fields (because the army would certainly raid and plunder their house)
But sometimes the raiding army would actually kill that person, and their treasure would be left buried.
So the man finds it, and then sells EVERYTHING he has.
This is key. Don’t miss this. He sells EVERYTHING.
He has to liquidate his assets.
I mean, this guy is selling all of his possessions, goods, his house, his carpooling donkey…
And then, when he has every penny he can get from his life…he goes and buys the field…
And now he has…much more.
And Jesus is using this as an example of how He is worth more than everything else in your life.
He comes first before everything.
It reminds me of a quote from Jim Elliot, the famous missionary who was martyred while attempting to spread the Gospel to the native people of Ecuador…(they made a movie about him (called End of the Spear)
Which I infamously and accidentally showed on a bus ride when I was a youth pastor and taking my high school kids on a missions trip
I was just trying to show a Christian movie, and I didn’t think about it until later that showing a movie of missionaries getting murdered wasn’t the best choice J
But Jim Elliot famously said this (very applicable to our passage:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” – Jim Elliot
So, we put Jesus first…God’s son who died for us.
The one who came and took our punishment for us, willing to forgive us, show his love, and offer us eternity in paradise.
We put that God first…above all things.
And it’s not foolish to put him first.
It’s not foolish to sell off everything for Him, because the things you do for Him will last for eternity while other things will quickly perish.
Now, it’s a parable…so it’s about how much more worthwhile Jesus is…and how much more important obeying Him is….
It’s not necessarily saying you need to sell all of your possessions.
But it’s not saying you don’t either.
That’s for God’s Spirit to tell you.
But Jesus is first. Jesus comes first.
Look at what Jesus himself says in Matthew:
(Matthew 10:37-39) – NIV
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
We are called to love Him FIRST, to give our lives to Him FIRST, and make him #1 in everything we do.
But the other point of the parable is that, in doing that (hard as it is), there is greater reward in that than everything this world can offer you…PUT TOGETHER!
SOME DISCOVER THE TREASURE…BUT WON’T SELL THEIR LIVES
So let me just straight up ask you: How do you relate to the people in these parables?
Have you let go of everything else to follow Jesus?
I don’t mean is there nothing in your bank account…
I mean: Is following, loving, and obeying Jesus of more value to you than anything else?
Would you gladly do that more than anything else?
Is that you??
Unfortunately, in the context of our mostly apathetic American Christianity, it’s not most of us.
Just being honest.
But how do you know if it’s you?
A lot of Christians sing, “You are my everything. My all in all Jesus!”
We give God lip service like He’s #1 in our lives, but then with our schedules (for example), we treat Him like the Doctor’s office treats us.
We say, “Huh, uh, sorry, super busy this summer. I’ve got an opening in September? You could call me back and see if I have a cancellation?”
“God, if anything frees up, I’ll try and squeeze you in!”
Two weeks ago, when I was teaching the parable of the soil, we saw how Jesus warned us about the divided heart.
The heart that just “adds” Jesus into your life. Which is most American Christians.
Jesus just gets “added in”
But He’s not their king.
We’re not leaving everything behind for the Kingdom.
We’re just trying to add the Kingdom to our other treasures we’ve amassed.
If we were to use the parable of the “Pearl of Great Price” as an analogy…
It’s more like we’d prefer to just add the nice pearl of Jesus to the collection we already have.
We don’t really want to sell all the other coins we have now.
And a lot of the reason for that is because we’ve overvalued the pearls we already have.
Jesus tells us that they aren’t worthy ANYTHING compared to Him!
Or, let me play off of the hidden treasure parable some more.
Here’s how I think a lot of people look at the field:
We’re out wandering, and we see Jesus, and we think, “Ooo…I’d like to add that one to my treasure collection! It looks great! I could get some more joy out of it, forgiveness, and some new friends! Neato!”
But the landowner says, “This land will cost you (and he gives you an exorbitant price…a price that you know will cost everything you have)
And this is where a lot of people in the church are stuck.
You caught a glimpse of the treasure. You know it’s good. Real good.
But to get it, to live in it, to actually enjoy its reward…its life……you’ve got to let go of your old life & priorities.
You’ve got to go into town, sell your house, sell your donkey, sell everything…
Put Jesus first. Make Him king.
And we get stuck right here. We start thinking, “What if He’s not as good…as my stuff…as what I have…as the life I’m already living?’
And out of fear…or pride…or lack of trust…or selfishness (pick one)…we get stopped in our tracks.
I mean think about this…what did this guy’s friends & neighbors think?
“YOU DID WHAT?!?! Sold everything to get an empty field!?! ARE YOU NUTS?!
So most people…just come out…once a week to the land…they sneak a peak at the treasure…and go “Should I?”
Maybe you even take it out for an hour and play w/ it, and it makes you happy.
And you think, “Maybe I’ll buy the whole field…but then I’d have to….and you just go home.”
Until you go back the following week and think about it again…but you never got “sold out” for Jesus as they used to say.
Where did that phrase “sold out” come from? Matthew 13. From people who were willing to put Jesus first. Always.
Because they knew it was the greatest deal ever!
TRUSTING & OBEYING THE KING
But to be sold out, it means you let Jesus be in charge of your life. Is He in charge?
Here’s an interesting way to think of it:
I’m a big MN Timberwolves fan.
Which is just stupid.
Besides the fact you can get tickets for a good price because no one goes to games.
They actually have the longest streak, out of any NBA team in not making the playoffs.
10 years. Yikes.
And now, they have more troubles, because they have, what some are calling the most powerful man in sports running the show: Flip Saunders
It’s a really unique situation actually.
First he paid some money to become a part owner of the team
Then, he somehow also got hired as the General Manger of the team..
Then, he conveniently appointed himself the coach.
And you wonder why they haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years.
But this guy has massive power.
If you’re on the Timberwolves, you play for Flip…in a 100 different ways.
If you’re a believer in Jesus (I’m not talking you’re checking this out)…I’m saying you believe he died for you, and you’re trying to live for him…then Jesus oughta be in charge of your life in the same way.
He’s your coach. He’s your general manager. He’s your owner.
But most of us just want him to be a consultant.
The guy we call when we’re in trouble or out of work or out of money.
And here’ is the question that the book of Matthew will ask us over and over and over again this year: Is Jesus your King or is He not?
And here’s where the parable starts to get quite challenging.
In fact, let me ask you a question: Can you look at your life and say “nothing is more important than Jesus to me.” Or “nothing is more important than obeying the king” to me
If I have to choose between that and Jesus….I’ll choose Jesus!
My reputation or Jesus…it’s Jesus.
Even if I have to sell something…or sacrifice.
If I have to suffer loss to please him, than I will.
Is Jesus your KING?
Most of us can’t answer yes to those questions.
Let me show you with an easy one why this is true. J
Take money for instance (yikes! Let’s pick another topic! J)
The Bible clearly says that everything you have is from God.
He gave it to you. He can take it away. There’s no UHaul going to heaven. It’s His. You’ve got it on loan.
He just asks, that you give a minimum of 10% back to Him.
But we say, “Nah, I can’t or I don’t want to…
And we say that because our ultimate authority and our actual king…is us. It’s us. Not Him.
You’re saying, “I’m not willing to sell that…so I can give…” He can’t have that. I’m not going to do that!”
Because you know better.
You’ve got other things going on
Your situation is different.
We say, I’m pretty poor for a Minnesotan, so I’m only richer than 96% of the rest of the world, so it’s okay.
We rule…not Him.
If you say, “I will obey God IF…” or “I will obey God WHEN…”
“If I get this…”
“if this condition happens, then I will ____”
Or, “If I get happy…or WHEN I get more money…or WHEN I have more time….then I will…”
Then he’s not your king.
You are your king. You are your king.
You’re saying, “Something is more important than Jesus”
I trust something more than Jesus
I need something more than Jesus
I can’t buy the field…because I’ve got to keep “this” I couldn’t give up “That”
We’ve got a crisis in American Christianity.
Jesus has become more of a Santa Claus than our Almighty King who sits on the throne.
He’s more like someone who makes sure we’re being good and brings us goodies!
Let me ask you: Who is Jesus to you?
Is Jesus someone that exists for you…to benefit you?
Or do you exist for Him?
Which one is it?
That question is usually filtered out, by the way, when people encounter suffering.
Think of Job in the Old Testament.
Job loses his business, all of his animals, basically everything he owns, oh yeah, and all of his children die. At once.
And this happens:
(Job 1:20-22) – NIV
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Some of us, we lose our jobs, or our friend gets cancer, and we say, “I’ not sure God is good.”
That’s because God is still just something we’ve added to our life, and not the Lord of our life.
We don’t take time to get up early and pray…or time at night to read the Bible…cuz it was a busy day…and you’re tired. You’re not getting up at 6 to pray…you need sleep!
That’s because your schedule is king. Sleep is king.
Jesus is not…King.
And it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how we live.
These “things” we keep putting before giving our all to Jesus…they can’t do much for us.
They can’t save us. They can’t truly comfort us. They can’t be with us forever, but we choose them instead.
Time and time again.
See, when Jesus is King…he’s first. We sell off everything else for Him. He’s so good…we only want to live for Him!
And therefore, if that’s the case, and He is king, there can’t be conditions to your obedience.
You either let God be your king or You are king. There’s no negotiation.
If God is King in 60% of your life, you’re King.
It’s not about doing it “sometimes”…it’s about handing all of your life over.
That’s why the man liquidates his assets, gets rid of it all, and moves to a new field.
Put up the white flag! Surrender to Him!
Look at the words of the great Apostle Paul…one who sacrificed so much…let go of his position…let go of his great authority…let go of his academic and religious standings…and gave it all to Jesus…even though he would be persecuted, beaten, and ultimately killed.
(Philippians 3:7-8) – NIV
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
Listen, I’m pleading with you (and myself here)…let go of everything else…put Jesus first. Come alive with me
Let go of the selfishness inside that’s trying to sneakily keep you on the throne instead.
You know, the parts of us that say things like:
“God, I’d like to talk about You to my co-workers, but that could put my job at risk…
But then your job is king, not Jesus. You’re choosing your job, your paycheck, not Jesus.
I’m not telling you to be stupid and get on a loudspeaker…but spread the Good News to the people you know.
Otherwise we’re choosing a temporary paycheck over people’s eternal salvation.
Our mission, once we discover how amazing the treasure is….is to sell everything (that means to put to DEATH everything else in your life that puts itself before Jesus)…Remember: The Kingdom of God is to LIVE as if Jesus is King…
and then spend the rest of our lives trying to convince other people to buy fields that look empty, but really are full of treasure.
That’s why we exist as a church.
“To be a people, being changed by God (encountering Him…letting Him be King)...and then…when you let Him be King…you’ll realize that this treasure is so amazing and so worthwhile that you won’t be able to stop telling people to find the treasure!
Now listen, we do have to be realistic.
We’re sinners. Always will be. We’re pretty messed up.
So, therefore, you’re always going to have areas where He’s not yet king in your life.
But for too long, some of us have used that as an excuse.
“Well, I’m a sinner, what can be expected of me? No one’s perfect.”
That’s not the Bible talking…that’s our American excuses.
But Jesus tells you, you’re not going to be perfect, but by golly with every ounce of your being, surrender to His power, and sell everything.
Sell off your selfishness.
Sell off just how you’d like your schedule to be
Sell off every part of you that isn’t of Him.
Give him everything.
Attempting to live for Jesus in any other way, completely misses the boat.
If you thought Jesus just wants to make your marriage better and you a nicer person, that’s not it. That’s maybe how a lot of American churches describe Jesus nowadays…
That’s not the Bible.
He wants your life.
And hear me, I’m not saying, “Give up your happiness…”
I’m saying, “Trade in your foolish pursuit of happiness for the risk of joy”
I’m not saying, “Give up your career dreams or your family dreams…”
(Look at me…) .I’m saying, Dream bigger”
Jesus isn’t a killjoy…He’s the real joy
THAT’S what the parable is saying.
Some of us just want some small doses of happiness from Jesus while we pursue the American dream.
Trash the American dream! And pursue a radical, crazy, life-changing one with Jesus instead.
Did you notice that when it said the man bought the field, it says that “in his JOY, he went and sold all he had and bought the field”
The picture is of a man who’s almost giddy about what He’s about to do.
It would be like if you were a baseball card collector and some guy willingly approaches you, and wants to trade his Mickey Mantle Rookie Card (worth $100,000) for your beloved Joe Mauer Rookie Card…which is worth about $20…on a good day J
But to you, it’s your favorite card…it’s not easy to give up.
But in the end…you know…you KNOW…that’s it’s worth it to make the trade. So you do! And eventually…in joy!
It’s that sort of picture Jesus is painting.
Listen, as many have said, “Jesus demands far more from you than you can imagine…but he’s going to give far more to you than you could even imagine!”
Randy Alcorn, who’s a great author, tells a story in one of his writings about a missions trip he took to Egypt.
While there, his hosts showed him an abandoned graveyard and pointed out the tomb of William Borden who died in 1913.
William was heir to the Borden dairy estate, a millionaire by the age of 21 (not a small thing in those days)..
But he renounced his fortune, and gave nearly all of it away to missions.
His heart’s desire was to take the Gospel to Muslims in China.
On his way to China, he stopped in Egypt to study Arabic, but contracted spinal meningitis and died at age 25.
Alcorn, dusted of the epitaph on the headstone of Borden’s grave and read it.
After it described his love for Christ and his commitment to and his love for the Muslim people; and his sacrifices for God’s Kingdom, it ended with these words:
“Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life”
–William Borden (1887-1913)
(–NOTE: Leave this up until I reference it again)
That’s a man who’s number 1 mission was to change the world. It was to live for Christ and put him first. No matter what.
And this world can look at that and say, “What a shame. What a loss for him. He missed out.”
BUT HE DIDN’T!
He was honoring God, and so what, he died early… “He’ll be spending all of eternity now in the presence of God…probably honored for His great faith!”
It’s not a loss.
He isn’t dead.
He probably was actually one of the few of us to truly live.
You look up at that statement and it makes you wonder, “What’s the explanation for your life going to be?”
No seriously, “What will it be?”
“Her life was just like everyone else’s.”
Will that be it?
Or will you dream bigger?
Will you be “sold-out” for Jesus and dream bigger?
DL Moody who CHANGED THE WORLD in the 1800’s was deeply moved when he was a young man…he heard a preacher say:
“The World has yet to see what God can do with a man fully surrendered to Him.”
And Moody that night said to himself, “By God’s grace, I’ll be that man!”
He ended up bringing over a million people to Christ!
He lived an amazing, ALIVE life!
I’m telling you…Jesus isn’t a killjoy, he’s the real joy.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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