Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pentecost 12: Does Jesus Really Mean What He Says

Our journey this far in our series from Luke, Learning from the Master, has had Jesus teaching us who our neighbor is in the parable of the Good Samaritan; about the importance of prioritizing in the story of Mary and Martha; how to pray with the assurance of God’s positive answer to all our prayers; last week He taught us what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit consider to be foolish behavior on our part.

We are Learning from the Master what it means to be Kingdom people, which, remember, is central to the prayer Jesus taught us 2 weeks ago: “Thy Kingdom come”: God’s Kingdom comes when you and I live like Kingdom people.

And so, our reading for today, begins with a command and a promise:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

You’ve often heard me say that this command, the most repeated command in Scripture “do not be afraid”, occurs 365 times……Phillip Yancey suggests that is once for each day of the year!  Jesus commands you and me: “Do not be afraid.”

And He goes on and tells us why we needn’t be afraid: it is because God has given us the Kingdom!  This is an incredibly amazing statement ...... you……I……have the Kingdom of God……IN US! (Later, in 17:21, Jesus will say, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”)  Therefore……what do we need to be afraid of?

Obviously, I need to ask: Do you have the Kingdom of God in you?……this is not something we need ever have any doubt about, because Jesus can be taken at His Word.  If He says it’s been given……it has!  If He says it’s within you……it is!

So, is the Kingdom within you?  This is an incredibly important question because it is only if the Kingdom of God is within us, that we can be sources of it into the world around us.  The deep river of God can only flow from us, as Jesus said it would (come to Me and drink and streams of life-giving water will flow from you)......... if it is first in us.

Perhaps the reason that God’s Kingdom does not come (wherever you live) even though we pray, “Your Kingdom come” is because the Kingdom is not in those who pray the prayer.

So what is this Kingdom that Jesus says has been given to believers and is within believers?  Paul answers that question perfectly for us in Romans 14:17.

The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

We’ve looked at this before, so I don’t need to remind you that righteousness is not sinlessness, peace is not the absence of war or trouble and joy has nothing to do with happiness.

Do you have the Kingdom of God within you? Do you have this righteousness, peace and joy.Is Jesus speaking the truth when He says in our reading “The Father is just so pleased to give it to you”?  (Please remember: Ask, seek and knock from 2 weeks ago if your answer is no.)  This is really important, because it is only with the Kingdom within us that we have any chance of “not being afraid.”  And it is also because He has given us the Kingdom that He can command us 365 times to “fear not” or “be not afraid.”  The people of the world cannot understand this can they; praise God that (in the words of Jesus) we are no longer of this world.  And it’s only because of His Kingdom within us that Jesus dares, yes, dares to say:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

The people of the world, when they hear these words, think to themselves or ask one another: “What was Jesus smoking when He made this outrageous statement?”  It must have been good stuff because He’s obviously in the clouds when He says:

“Build up treasure in Heaven.”

Praise God, once again, that we are no longer “of this world” and that we know that Jesus wasn’t on drugs.  Praise God that we are people who believe that Jesus means what He says.

So what does He mean?

Remember that this teaching of Jesus follows last week's when we looked at the foolish rich man who built barns for his excess income.

So what must I do with my excess wealth? Must I throw it away? Must I go and bury it in the ground? No, that would be bad stewardship and Jesus condemns bad stewardship. 
You must invest it. 
Where must I invest it? 
Well, here’s Jesus’ investment tip. Some people pay other people lots of money to get their investment tips about investing in this or that. Here is an investment for you, for me, for today and always:

In vs 33,  Store up your treasure in the bank of heaven and God will give you what you need in your time of need. 

I would imagine that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Heaven is probably God himself. Wouldn’t it be nice to invest your money there? To put it in his hand, as it were, and to know that if you need it, he’ll give it back. 
Jesus commands us to store up treasure in heaven. How do I obey that command? .................You know, we can really be tempted to think, when we read this verse, that this is airy-fairy stuff, this is spiritual stuff that doesn’t make earthly sense,....... give me something concrete and down to earth. What kind of investment tip is that – store it up in heaven? How do I do that? Is there a simple answer to that question, Cedric? 

There is. It’s found in Proverbs 19:17, the Good News Bible puts it like this: 

“When you give to the poor it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back.” 

Do you believe that? Do you have faith in God and his promises? The King James Version puts it like this: “He who has pity on the poor, lends it to the Lord, and God will pay him back what he has given.” 

“Cedric you have R10 000 right now that you don’t need right now. Invest it in heaven by giving it to the poor. When you need it I will give it back to you.” 

That either sounds like incredible wisdom or it sounds like absolute foolishness. Last week we looked at God's point of view regarding what is wise and what is foolish.

And then Jesus says:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

This is a warning more than a statement.  It sums up what was wrong with the man God called, “You fool” in verse 20 of this chapter, which we looked at last week.  The man was a fool because his heart was where his treasure is – that didn’t make him a fool though; what made him a fool was that his treasure was in his investments, and that meant that was where his heart was.  

I asked last week and I ask again this week:  Where is your heart?

And then Jesus continues by teaching about His return, His Second Coming……and He speaks very specifically, in 2 short parables, about being ready.

“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

That’s really what everything today is about……being ready and living as if we really do expect Jesus to return.

So, in conclusion, let’s look at what can distract us from being ready for Christ’s return:

Worry and fear can be a terrible distraction……so Jesus says: “Do not be afraid” and goes on to give us good reason to not be afraid or worried.

Our possessions can be a terrible distraction, so He encourages us and gives us good reason to hold on to them loosely, rather than tightly.

And finally, He once again begs us to have our priorities right, to remember that the greatest treasure we have, the pearl of immense value, the treasure worth selling everything else for in order to get it is: 

the Kingdom of God which is given to us and which is within us.

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