“How Much for the Treasure?”
Pastor Tom Millner
March 6, 2011
Jesus used a number of statements about the kingdom of heaven to gain the attention of folks, yet few really seemed to understand. Not even His disciples were savvy to His teachings. Everyone was looking for the earthly kingdom; so much of what Jesus was saying may have made little sense to the crowds around Him. It was more in retrospect that these words of Jesus bore greatest meaning to those who heard. We’ve heard it said that “the kingdom of God is now and not yet.” Human nature hasn’t changed much over the years, even with the Good News of God’s grace and provision for us. We have been given, by the grace of God, the most precious gift – life Himself, as our brother, Father, our next of kin. What we fail to do is enjoy the relationship because we are too busy trying to hang on to OUR goals; OUR possessions; OUR feelings; OUR hurts, and OUR accomplishments. The illustrations that Jesus used in today’s scripture point us to a different action. If we’ve found in Him the greatest treasure, what would we give in exchange? Grace is free, but it’s not cheap! We want the treasure that He gives and all our “stuff” too. Our “stuff,” according to Isaiah, is nothing more than menstrual rags! The purpose of being born again in Him is new birth in His character; the one that is pure before God because of His sacrifice of all that was self-interest. And that sacrifice was all for me and for you! What does it mean, then to be born again? It means taking off the old and living in the new. Though the redemption work has been done, the treasure is not free and clear until all that we hang on to has been disposed of. In each of the scriptural illustrations today we see that ALL the person possessed was sold in exchange for the newly found treasure. Getting rid of OUR treasure is the cost of discipleship. I’d like to offer three points of encouragement this morning.
1. The Kingdom is worth more than a tag sale. Jesus said that each of the characters in His illustration went and sold all that they possessed and then went and purchased the treasure (Kingdom) they had found. Many of us, however, don’t want to get rid of all our stuff. Therefore, we engage in our own little tag sale, saving up for when we believe we’ll have enough to make the purchase complete. Let me look through my emotional and character trait attic and see what things I can easily discard. Let’s see, there’s my old resentment of Mary Lou who called me names in second grade. That can go, but the resentment of my Dad who put me down so much; well, that’s too precious to let go of yet. Ah, here’s my demonstrated talent. Let me package that up for the tag sale. Maybe they won’t notice that their use for His kingdom is restricted to what I like or have interest in. Oh and here’s two cups of coffee at the local hangout that I’ll sacrifice as my giving. They won’t notice that my tithe has gone to fund my own interests. Here’s my lust for attention. What a treasure! I’d throw that in the sale, but I’d just miss it too much. What on earth would I have to entertain me or to affirm me? On the other hand, here’s my pitied self; the one that has been so misunderstood, unloved because things didn’t go my way self. I’ll put that out for sale. No, wait, that has been such an old friend, I can’t bear to part with it now. Sound familiar? You’ve heard all these and more and struggled with letting go of any or all. God wants us to get rid of them all, to let them go forever and replace them with Kingdom living. He wants us living in the place He is present, the one without resentment, hostility, impatience, control, and fear of loss. That’s the place of relationship; a place of wholeness, a place where we can own our actions and say forgive me without trying to justify. That is a place of relationship where Kingdom growth occurs; the place where His will is done here on earth just as it is in heaven. He paid the price for our participation!
2. Jesus saves so we can invest. John 3:16 tells us that because of God’s love, He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life instead. We said last week that everlasting life is not a future event to happen sometime in the future; it is both now and then! We don’t have to save ourselves. God’s done all the saving. When we truly recognize that He’s done all the saving, we can let go of our self-saving attitudes and behaviors and start investing in the relationship to which He calls us! That investment is one of time with Him in prayer and meditation, time in loving fellowship with others who share in the relationship with Him, and giving of your tithes and talents for the advancement of His Kingdom. These are investments that yield a higher return for a higher good than any of us could ever earn. We can afford them because God has already given us His savings to invest! We more often than not act as though we are giving away what we’ve somehow earned or deserved. The reality is that God has given freely for our good and the full joy of His gift to us is only experienced when we invest it back for the good of His kingdom. When I invest, we all reap a return. When I invest out of the bounty from which I have been given, the return is far greater than my investment. John 15: 7-8 read; “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” There is much to be gained for the kingdom when we invest (remain) in Him.
3. God's exchange rate is in our favor. When we were in England a few years ago we were always watching the exchange rate at various locations. Sometimes the best rate wasn’t the best when fees were added. We were always looking to get the most in exchange because the dollar was valued so much less than the pound. The Brits come here and they’re in heaven, so to speak. What we think is expensive here is virtually half the price to the Brits. Looking for the best exchange rate? Let me tell you about one that’s to die for. You see, God (Who is the creator of all that is, was, and ever will be) exchanged His position as God to become like us. When He did that, He was the perfect example of how and why He created mankind in the first place. He did this because the rift between us and our selfish desires to be in command was so great that only God could restore it. So. He gave up EVERYTHING for us to be restored to relationship with Him. In exchange, He asks that we give up also and take on the character that over lays us now; the very character of Christ. To live in Him is to engage a relationship with Him that honors Him first, and honors others as being as worthy of honor as yourself. He does not call us to physical pain and death for His sake. Physical pain and death are a part of being in this human form. He calls us to exchange our filthy rags for the robes of righteousness that He has already acquired for us through His own ungodly pain and suffering! To receive the treasure of eternity that cannot be gained by our own searching or efforts, all we have to give is our hearts. To gain the joy of our inheritance we exchange our mind, body, heart, and soul. His exchange rate is so very much in our favor!
So knowing that the kingdom is worth more than a few items at a tag sale and that Jesus saves so we can invest, and that God’s exchange rate is in our favor, what are you going to do? Revelation 3:20 reads “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Is it worth your investment of energy to answer the door? Get ready for a house cleaning, an investment portfolio that doesn’t fail, and an exchange rate to die for!