Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Kingdom of Heaven is like...

What's really valuable to you? No doubt, if you're a Christian, you will put your relationship with Jesus at the top of the list, hopefully. But are we being honest with ourselves when we do? Is Jesus really first and foremost, and "I am second?" Or, is there something else that takes priority in our lives, even good things we place before an all out, sold out, and lived out commitment to Jesus first? That's a question we need to ask ourselves frequently, daily is best, to make sure we're really on the narrow way. For as David Platt points...
"I think the one thing that’s abundantly that there are a whole lot of people in our country who think that they are Christians, but they are not. There are scores of people—here and around the world who culturally distinguish themselves as Christians and biblically are not followers of Christ.” (more here.) 

In this Kingdom series we have been looking at the parables of Jesus where he said, "the Kingdom of heaven is like..." (see the 3 prior posts starting here). Today, I want to look at two parables, really similes, that communicate just how valuable the Kingdom is for us to take hold of.  Matthew 13 records in short order these two ideas about what the Kingdom is like:
“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." (Matthew 13:44) 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46) 
Matthew links these two statements by Jesus in his Gospel for at least three important reasons.

First, both speak to the incredible, immeasurable, incalculable value Jesus understood was inherit in the Kingdom. That much should be obvious from the similes. Jesus is telling us nothing compares to the Kingdom life he wants his followers to live. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus,  "the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace," as the classic old hymn puts its.

Second, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom needs to be intentionally sought, as one would seek something of great value. It is interesting that in Matthew 13:44 Jesus says the "man" found it, seemingly as if he accidentally stumbled upon this hidden treasure in a field. But this was no accident, the treasure was there for the finding, and the Greek word used for "found" implies a search of "thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, to find out by practice and experience." This idea of intentionality becomes clearer in Matthew 13:45-46 and needs to inform our thinking on our quest for a Kingdom life.The Kingdom life requires some effort to understand, enter and appropriate for ourselves.

Third, Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom requires something of us. Actually, more than something it requires everything. The common point in these two similes is that the Kingdom demands our "all" and our "everything" to attain God's all and everything in Christ. 

Can the Christians life be lived without demand for our "all" and "everything?" Some believe it can but as Platt asks, are they really Christians? I read this article late last week, entitled "The ‘new legalism," which referenced a prior comment by the author to the effect that: “Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism." According to this author, "We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).”

I couldn't agree more with the later, the need for ordinary God loving people who love others is clearly needed today. The author went on however to take issue with David Platt's book 'Radical' as he developed his thesis that living radically had become the "new legalism." He seemed to want to give permission to people, especially millennials, to live un-radical lives for Jesus because they were feeling guilt about their life choices. 

But what is radical? As an adjective, the word means, "relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough." Considering Matthew 13:44-46 and the two examples we have, isn't Jesus doing just that? Jesus calls us to affect change in the fundamental way we live, far-reaching and thorough affect in what we embrace as our "all" and "everything." It seems to me that the author referenced here seeks to give permission to live unradical lives, as long as we do so in accordance with the instructions Paul gives in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 to "live quiet lives," so as long as we love God and love others.

My question is how can we do that apart from a radical transformation of our souls to live as we are called? The fact is we can't and we won't love others without a radical love for God, that surpasses any worldly attachments.  It would be sufficient to seek to live a "quiet life," if we understand that Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 is calling us to do be witnesses of Christ in our daily live (see verse 12). If would be sufficient to consider how radically different "quiet life" is as compared to the busy, hectic, stressed out lives of our culture. Jesus no where tells us that the Kingdom life should be maniacal, rather radically meaningful.

It doesn't really matter where we live out our Kingdom life, in the suburbs as the above author defends or in an urban setting, or some foreign land. What matters is that we do - as a call from God to live radically different lives, sold out for His Kingdom. so others take notice. The quest for a Kingdom life is worth it, that's what Jesus is telling us here.

Is there great value in a "quiet life?" How could be better cultivate?

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