The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
July 30, 2023
What Is a Christian?
Someone Who Recognizes the Value of God’s Kingdom!
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. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
47“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
52He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What do you consider to be your life’s priorities? If you were to make a list, what would you include on that list? Faith, family and friends would probably be at the top of our list. Financial security and good health would be right up there too. Reputation and recreation would likely make the cut. But perhaps a more interesting question than “What do you consider your life’s priorities?” is the question, “Which of the items on that list would you be willing to sacrifice to save your top priority?” What if you had to give up the whole list— family, friends, finances, health, reputation, recreation— just to save one priority: faith?
Our sermon text for today gives us an opportunity to make an honest assessment of what really matters in life. Worldly wealth can bring us the things of this world— but they are things that rust and decay and wear out, things that will not last. True wealth is the wealth that will last for all of eternity;. True wealth can only be found in our God, in His eternal blessings for us in Christ, and in His glorious Kingdom. (Pointing to the cross) Today let’s see how these parables of our Lord remind us that a Christian is: Somebody Who Recognizes the Value of God’s Kingdom!
The three parables that we have before us today are all focused on the same subject, the Kingdom of God. And while all three of these parables have the same subject, they each have their own unique yet intertwined perspective on this subject. Let’s focus on these parables one-by-one.
Jesus’ first parable is found in the opening verse of our text. He says, “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.” In ancient times the people who were rich— today we might call them the top 1%— often divided their wealth into three parts. The first part was reserved for doing business. The second part was converted into precious gems to provide portable wealth just in case they needed to flee for some reason. The third part was buried in a safe place so that no matter what might happen, they could always return and retrieve their money from its hiding place. However, it was not unusual that people died before retrieving the treasure they had hidden.
This is the scenario that Jesus is picturing in this parable. A man unexpectedly discovered a treasure that had been long buried and forgotten. The man who found the treasure hadn’t been looking for it. It was indeed an unexpected windfall that came out of nowhere. So what does he do? As soon as he recognizes the tremendous value of what he had found, Jesus tells us, “In his joy, he went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Now the treasure was his to enjoy!
How does this parable apply to you and to me? To answer that question we need to go back and recognize the natural spiritual condition of all human beings. Ever since the Fall of mankind into sin, people are born with a “void” deep down inside of them. We instinctively know that there is something missing— something important, something valuable. We instinctively know that there is someone or something out there somewhere and that someday we will have to give an account of our lives here on this earth. We instinctively know that we need to do something to appease whoever or whatever is out there— before it is too late. That’s why down through history every culture has developed their own gods along with their own “religion,” their own system of how to worship and how to appease these gods. Tragically, every manmade god and every manmade religion is built on work-righteousness— which simply does not work! Work righteousness cannot bring true happiness. Work righteousness cannot provide lasting peace. Work-righteousness cannot fill that void, that emptiness we feel deep down inside of ourselves.
Then through the power of the Holy Spirit God leads us to “find” the “hidden treasure” of His Kingdom! Like a treasure hidden in a field, the Kingdom of God is “hidden” from our natural sinful eyes. But the instant God the Holy Spirit reveals this treasure to us we recognize its unparalleled value! Once we are given the faith that enables us to recognize the value of God’s Kingdom absolutely everything else pales in comparison!
To be more specific, the Gospel’s message of salvation purely by grace through faith in what Jesus has done for us (Pointing to the cross) is unparalleled. Nothing is more precious to someone whose conscience is burdened with guilt than hearing Jesus say to them, “Peace be with you! Your sins are forgiven!” When we truly come to grips with the fact that because of our sins the only thing we deserve to receive from God is His unending wrath and eternal punishment, hearing that God’s love for us is so overwhelming and God’s grace is so amazing that He sent His own Son to secure for us complete forgiveness for all of our sins, eternal life and salvation— well, my friends, that truth becomes more precious to us than all the gold and all the silver, all the pleasures and all the treasures of this world!
The second parable that Jesus gives to us here in our text is very similar to the first. Look at the second verse of our text, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” In our day and age pearls are nice, pearls are popular, but they are certainly not as expensive as many other gems. But in the Roman world of Jesus’ day people would pay unbelievable sums of money for a pearl they considered to be perfect. That helps us to understand why in the picture of God’s heavenly Kingdom that God gave to John the heavenly city of Jerusalem is pictured as having twelve gates and each gate was made of “a single pearl” (Revelation 21:21). And so when Jesus told the people about a merchant who found a “pearl of great value” that had a powerful impact on their hearts and minds!
The “merchant looking for fine pearls” reminds us of the people today who are “searching for pearls”— on a spiritual level. They may spend years searching through the writings of the great thinkers and renown philosophers of this world searching for that one “pearl”— the “pearl” that will fill that void they feel inside. They do not even know that there is only one “perfect pearl,” only one “pearl” whose value far surpasses all others! Then the Holy Spirit brings to them the “pearl” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reveals to them that this “pearl” is in a class all by itself! It far surpasses all other “pearls” because only this “pearl” can guarantee eternal life! Just like the man who found the “treasure hidden in a field,” so also this merchant recognized the value of this “pearl” and was willing to sell everything he had to make it his own personal prized possession!
Take a moment to think about how the picture of a “pearl of great value” helps us to understand and recognize the “value” of God’s Kingdom. Our life here on this earth is all too often marred and scarred by illness and pain, hardship and failure and disappointment. Praise God that as Christians we recognize that all of this is temporary! Praise God that as Christians we know what our God has waiting for us in His eternal heavenly Kingdom— glory and perfection, joy and happiness beyond our wildest dreams! The fact that through faith in Jesus, this is what we are guaranteed to receive in heaven makes it very easy for us to recognize the “value” of God’s Kingdom! Praise God that purely by His power and His grace His glorious Kingdom is now our personal prized possession!
Jesus’ third parable is found in verses 47-50 of our text. The Lord says, “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Just as this parable was easy for Jesus’ first disciples to understand, so also it is easy for us to understand. The “net” of God’s Kingdom— that is, the visible church— catches all kinds of “fish.” While we hope that everyone who comes to church comes for the right reasons, sometimes that isn’t true. Some people may come to church because that is the way they were brought up. They go through the motions week after week, maybe year after year, because that’s what they are supposed to do. They don’t really pay attention to what is going on during the service. Their mind and their heart are somewhere else. Some people may go to church because they know that their family and their friends will be there. It’s more like a social gathering for them than a worship service. Some people may go to church to gain a degree of respectability or to foster and/or strengthen a network that will help them in their life.
Jesus warns us here in this parable that God knows. God looks into our hearts to see why we are in church. God knows which people are “good fish” and which people are “bad fish”— from His perspective! God knows that if a person is coming to church for the wrong reasons, if there is no saving faith in their heart, if they do not repent of their sins, change their ways and trust in Jesus as their Savior (Pointing to the cross) then come Judgment Day He will send out His angels to “separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We need to take this warning to heart, my friends. We need to consciously examine our own heart and our own life so that when we gather together in God’s house we do so for the right reasons— namely, because we recognize the value of God’s Kingdom!
So, what do we want to take home with us today. There are two things I want to emphasize here. First, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl remind us of how important it is for us to stay focused on the value— the extraordinary value, the unparalleled value— of God’s Kingdom. As Christians we know the Truth concerning the “value” of God’s Kingdom. As Christians that is a piece of “head knowledge” that is easy for us to recall. Now we need to strive each and every day— with God’s help!— to make that “head knowledge” an essential part of our “heart knowledge.” How do we do this? A good place to start would be to ask yourself some questions: Do you take a moment to recognize the value of God’s Kingdom as you are getting ready for your day? As you are getting ready for work or school? As you are going out with your friends? As you are getting ready to come to church? As you lift up your eyes to the cross? How often do you stop to humbly and heartfully reflect on the value of God’s Kingdom?
Do you consider God’s message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as something that is so valuable to you that you are willing to put even your most valued earthly treasure aside in order to maintain your focus on God’ glorious gift to you? Are you willing to forego anything and everything that conflicts with or detracts from this treasure?
Secondly, I pray that we do not forget what Jesus says to His disciples in the closing verses of our text. Look at verses 51 and 52. “’Have you understood all these things?’ Jesus asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied. He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’”
See yourself as a “teacher of the law,” or as an “owner of a house.” Through your reading and studying of God’s holy Word, through your attendance at church and at Bible class you are adding to your “storeroom” the spiritual “treasures” that you have gleaned. Keep learning more and more about who your God is, what your God has done for this world (Pointing to the cross) and what your God has revealed to you in His holy Word. As your knowledge and your understanding of God’s Truth continues to grow you will always have “new treasures” to share with others— especially your children and your grandchildren. And do not overlook how important it is for you to review the “old treasures” too! Whether it is you or your children or your grandchildren going back and reviewing the truths you have already learned from God’s holy Word will help to strengthen the foundation of your faith.
We all have priorities in our lives. We all have things and people that we consider to be valuable. My prayer this morning is that as Christians we will daily ask our God to help us keep His Kingdom as our most valuable priority in our heart and the most visible priority in our life.
To God be the glory!