Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pentecost 7: The Kingdom is like this

Read Introduction to Parables of the Kingdom here

As we saw last week, Jesus spoke a great deal about the Kingdom of God, and in this part of Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 13), He has put 8 of them together, all beginning with the words, “The Kingdom is like this:……”  and He ties up His teaching with a parable about a homeowner who has stored up treasure in his house, some of it old and some of it new.  In the context of the parables that He has just told, the “old” treasure is the homeowner’s understanding of the Law, the “new” treasure is the homeowner’s understanding of the Kingdom of God/Heaven.  Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets …… and we now live in that time of fulfillment, where by our kingdom actions,...... the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, enemies are loved and swords are beaten into ploughshares...... when we choose to do these things, God’s Kingdom comes and God’s Will is done.  Simple, isn’t it? …… and the world, Alberton, AMC …… change as we change and become more like Jesus. 

So what do these parables tell us about ourselves as Kingdom people?

If we skim the surface: the mustard seed and the yeast speak of small things having a great affect.  The treasure, the pearl and the net speak of …… value.  
So what – how does that apply to my life?  Well …… sometimes we feel small, don’t we?  Sometimes others make us feel small/insignificant, and sometimes we are quite good at belittling ourselves.  Hear this: You don’t know what God is still going to do with you.  A little mustard seed might say, “What can I ever become?”  God says, “Just you wait and see.”

You may be thinking: “What difference can I make or am I making?” or “What difference does a little bit of prayer at bedtime with my child make …… or Bible reading …… or bringing them to Sunday School …… what difference?”  Jesus says: “These things, your contribution, are working through the dough which is your home, your workplace, your church, your city …… when the Kingdom is in you, you are working through the dough”....and the kingdom things you are doing are making a difference.

So ……if the Kingdom is in you,...... please be encouraged …… but be convicted if the Kingdom is not in you.

Now, the next three parables; the treasure, the pearl, the net full of fish …… these speak of value.

They speak to us as mustard seeds and as yeast and ask: Is the Kingdom of God …… precious …… to you?  (Please remember: this is not asking if the church is precious to you.  We saw last week that the church is not the Kingdom of God …… the Church is where, as a gathering of people who have the Kingdom in them, we learn more and more of what it means to be Kingdom people out there!)

God doesn’t really care whether the church is precious to you or not, it’s whether His Kingdom and His ways are precious to you. So......are they?

Are we willing to, and do we, sacrifice, give up, give away, do without …… for the Kingdom (again, please notice, not for the church.)  And sometimes that question is best answered by asking another: “What do I hold on to …… What will I not surrender …… What will I cling to even if it means I lose my soul?”
Please watch this 60 second

It’s what we refuse to give up that often shows us how far we are from God’s Kingdom …… even if we are “pillars of the church.”

So, we are not insignificant, if we’re in the Kingdom of God, in fact, the least is the greatest in the Kingdom of God (but that’s another sermon) …… and whether we have the Kingdom in us or not is reflected by how precious the Kingdom and the Kingdom’s ways are to us ……

Finally, these parables talk to us about something we often hate doing..... WAITING.  
In each of these parables, there us an element of waiting:
          the mustard seed – years
          the yeast – hours
          selling all you’ve got – weeks/months
          searching for the finest pearl in the world – years – a lifetime
          separating a huge catch of fish – hours

So …… be patient as you continue being a mustard seed, being yeast, as you continue being a sacrificer for the Kingdom, be patient as you continue searching for the finer pearls in the Kingdom of God.

Take heart, be encouraged, be patient.

I close with some selected verses from the epistle reading for today:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.......And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,..... If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?......Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ........No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Take heart, be encouraged, be patient.

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
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. 46 When 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. 48 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. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

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