Today our passage comes from Matthew chapter 13 verses 44-49. Could you go ahead and make your way there as I introduce the passage to you. My question for you this evening is what is your treasure? What do you value more than anything else in this life? This is an important question because as the saying goes, the heart is where your treasure is. So let us seek to answer what drives us, what motivates us, what we are living our lives for?
This is very important question to answer, because there are wrong answers to this question.
Civil War Illustration:
Imagine you are alive at the end of the Civil War. You are living in the South, but you are a Northerner. You plan to move home as soon as the war is over. While in the South, you have accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Now suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war and the end is imminent. What will you do with your Confederate money?
If you are smart, there is only one answer. You should immediately cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency, the only money that will have value once the war is over. Keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short-term needs.
As there is nothing wrong with Confederate money, as long as you understand its limits. Realizing its value is temporary should radically affect your investment strategy. To accumulate vast earthly treasures that you cannot possibly hold on to for long is the equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money even though you know it is about to become worthless.
And as we will see in our passage today, Jesus displays to us that storing up earthly treasures is not simply wrong. It is just plain stupid. (Alcorn, 2001)
For example, living a life for your own glory is not worth it. For proof, by show of hands, how many of you all know the names of all four of your grandparents? How many of you all know the names of all 8 of your great-grandparents? And, finally How many of you all know the names of all 16 of your great-great-grandparents? You see, not many hands are still left up.
Therefore, if your own family will not remember your name two generations after your death, why would anyone else care about your life? Therefore, today I will be calling you to exchange a large role in a story that might last 60, 70, 80, maybe even 100 years if you’re lucky, for a small role in a story that last for all eternity.
So what is worthy of our treasure, what is it that is worth spending our lives for? Well, that is what our passage today in Matthew chapter 13 starting in verse 44 is addressing. Look with me at the passage:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
You see the main point of this story is that the treasure in the field is worth losing everything. The key phrase in this passage is “in his joy”. If we miss the phrase “in his joy” we miss everything. The man was not exchanging lesser treasures for greater treasures out of dutiful drudgery, but out of joyful excitement. He would have been a fool not to do exactly what he did.
Do not feel sorry for this man having to sell all that he has, he does not go against his will, but with joy. People in the market probably thought that he has lost his mind, selling all that has for an empty field. People are coming up to him, saying, you are crazy. Nevertheless, he was not crazy to sell everything he had; he was wise and happy.
He knows that there is a treasure there greater than anything else that he owns. This is not a fair trade, he goes with joy because it is infinitely more valuable than anything that he owns. And this is the main point of our message tonight, the kingdom of heaven is something worth losing everything for.
The traveler made short-term sacrifices to obtain a long-term reward. It cost him everything he owned, you might lament. Yes, but it gained him everything that mattered.
However, not only do we see the extreme value of the Kingdom of Heaven, but was also see that it is hidden to some. And we all know people that are like this. People that would love to embrace the kingdom, and yet there is something in their lives that is holding them back. They want to be on both sides of the fence. They want the kingdom and they want their sin. They want their kingdom and they want their worldliness. They want the kingdom and they want their materialism. They want their kingdom and they want their relationship.
We all have things that tug at us that we value perhaps more, some of us, than the kingdom itself. This passage is given to make sure that we ask ourselves the question, What do we love the most? What do we seek for first? And this leads us to our next passage.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Again, we see that the kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else that this world has to offer. This time instead of someone stumbling upon it, we have someone that is seeking after it. One wins eternal life after a struggle of years, another finds it in one hour. However, the result is the same, he joyfully goes and sells all that he has, even his past pearls, because he considers this one, more valuable than them all.
The worth of following Christ is important, Jesus tells his listeners that if you follow me, that I am worth giving up your entire life for. Which is important, because who is his audience? Well, it is the 12 disciples. Which is exactly what they end up doing, Peter was crucified upside down, the other disciples were stoned, burned, beheaded, and one was thrown from the temple, they traded in their lives for a greater treasure.
They were following a King who promised, “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time and in the age to come eternal life.”
We come to Christ because He is great reward. He is better than the best things of this world put together, and He is worth letting go of all things in order to take hold of Him as the one thing. You see the Jim Elliot quote rings true here, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (Alcorn, 2001)
However, as we come to our last passage we need to ask the question, why is this important? Why do we need to make sure that we have the right treasure? Let us look at verses 47-49 for the answer.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea andgathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteousand throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
You see we need to know what is the true treasure because having the wrong treasure has tremendous consciences. You see, the problem with many of us is not that we seek after treasures too much, the problem is that we are too easily satisfied. We too readily settle for short-term pleasures, when more satisfying long-term pleasures are offered to us. We are as C.S. Lewis describes, children settling for mud pies in the slums when the king has offered us a place at his table.
You might be asking, why did I choose this passage for our back-to-school message? Well, the answer is because if we really want to make a difference in this school and the next generation we have to have the right treasure.
There are two reasons why we need to make sure that we need to have the right treasure. First, is because we will never be able to sacrifice our lives unless we have our eyes set on a greater treasure. Otherwise, we will only talk a good game, or throw our scraps, or our spare time towards a good cause, but never making an eternal difference.
If we love Christ as our highest treasure, and if we love people the way He did, we will be ready to lay down our lives, even for our enemies. Then we will labor to spread a passion for our Treasure to as many people as we can. We will not be content to simply feed ourselves. If we treasure Jesus Christ, and if we love this community and our students, we will pray, give, and labor to change their lives, some until they leave for college, but many, I pray, for eternity. Share your joy. Do not keep it to yourself. Horded joy rots. Shared joy increases. (Piper, 2005)
The second reason, is because the next generation will not buy what we are selling unless they see the extreme worth of our treasure. We cannot sell them moralism, because they are not buying it. They have a culture that tells them that everything is relative; just do not go to the extremes that they can make up their own rules. They do not want to play by your rules because they find them burdensome. However, if we sell them the full Gospel and display to them our freedom that comes from Christ, then through the power of Holy Spirit they will become more like Christ.
You see too many of us just want the next generation to act right, we sell them a watered down Jesus. And as a result, they now think that religion is a set of rules that they must follow, they find it a burden to be a Christian. However, when we sell them the full Gospel, they see that these rules and commandments are not there to keep them from being happy, but to help them get the most joy out of life.
You see, too many of our students when they hear about Christianity think that it is spelled DO: they look at the Bible or the life of Christ, and they simply try hard to live like Jesus. However, Christianity is really spelled DONE: it is what Christ has done that enables us to live a life of obedience.
We need to stop asking our students to consider WWJD and start helping them understand WWJM. What was Jesus’ motivation. We need to display to them the treasure that motivated Jesus to do what he did, not just ask them to do it out of mere obedience. WWJD causes us to focus on Jesus as an example but fails to point us to why he did what he did. Having our eyes on the true treasure, that is worth spending our lives for, helps us ask WWJM because when we value what Christ valued, we will be motivated to do the same. (Patrick, 2010)
Our passage today forces us to ask the question: What is the kingdom worth to us? Is the kingdom my priority? Because our estimation of the worth of the Kingdom of Christ, tells us whether we are in the Kingdom or not. If we do not value the kingdom as the greatest treasure, if we do not value saving eternal relationship with Jesus Christ above all else, then we have cast our lot with those who do not have the treasure, because that is the treasure, and it is worth losing everything else to obtain.
So as we close, it is well for us to ask the question, How highly do we rate the kingdom? Are we ready to give up all for the kingdom? Is it the most important thing for us? It ought to be a settled principle, my friends, that we not rest our salvation on church membership or a past prayer or decision or Baptism, but that our salvation, our confidence, is based on a current living, active, vital, saving trust in Jesus Christ alone.
It is in embracing the King and the kingdom that salvation and assurance is found. And we must not fool ourselves, by going through the outward motions of church life, into thinking the inner realities and currents of the kingdom are in us. This passage we read tonight is here to bring us back to that very important consideration.
Where are you today? Is Christ, His kingdom your treasure? Or is it on a shelf with other treasures? Or, heaven forbid, is it even under your greatest treasures? Are those treasures relationships? Are those treasures family? Material blessings? Wealth? Power? Money? Status? Whatever the blessing that you crave greater than Christ, I pray that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, would give you the power this day to slay that blessing and to give all for the sake of the Kingdom. Only then when you get the true treasure will you be able to pour yourself out for the good of this community and for the glory of our Lord Savior and Treasure Jesus Christ. (Duncan, 1996)
This is so key. Jesus is better than the best things this world has to offer: money and health and strength and friends and family and husband and wife and children. He is better than all of them put together. Jesus is supremely satisfying in such a way that if you lose everything on this earth, your money and your heath and your strength and your friends and your family, but you get the kingdom of heaven, you will be like Paul in Philippians 3 and count it all as gain.
The rule and reign of God in Christ over your life is your joy which nothing in this world can ever steal from you, nothing in eternity will ever steal from you. The kingdom of heaven is something worth losing everything. We joyfully let go of all things in order to passionately take hold of one thing. Like a merchant who finds one pearl and gladly sells all of his other pearls to get that one. (Platt, 2012)
Now as the band comes up to play one more song for us tonight, I would like for all of the pastors to stand up. Now here is your chance to respond, maybe you have never experienced this treasure before and you want to find it tonight, I encourage you to do so. Maybe at one time Jesus was your treasure, but other treasures have snuck in and stole your joy, we would like to pray for you as well. Maybe you are like the traveler, you just came tonight because of a friend and stumbled onto this treasure and you want it. Or, maybe you have been seeking for decades and now you have found that one pearl that is worth it all. I encourage you to find a pastor that you love and respect and if you do not know one find the closest one to you or I will be down here as well. I encourage you to sell all that you have tonight and see the eternal worth of Jesus Christ.
Now pastors when it is all over, we are asking that you take your people and we would like to try our best to circle this entire school and have a time of prayer before we leave. So Pastors take the lead on that and lead your group in prayer as we go out.
Alcorn, Randy. (2001). The Treasure Principle. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers.
Duncan, Ligon. (1996, January 6). Treasure, Pearl, and Dragnet [Sermon]. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from First Presbyterian Church of Jackson Web site: http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/sermons/matthew/matthew_vol_5-6/30bmatt.htm
Patrick, Darrin. (2010). Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Piper, John. (2005, November 20). The Kingdom of Heaven is a Treasure [Sermon]. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from Desiring God Web site: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-kingdom-of-heaven-is-a-treasure
Platt, David. (2012, March 11). Parables of the Kingdom [Sermon]. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from Radical.net Web site: http://www.radical.net/media/series/view/893/parables-of-the-kingdom?filter=book&book=32&chapter=32