Friday, November 11, 2011

Considerations for Entering Kingdom Living

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

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.  

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 13:44-46)

       A few weeks ago I began to get really serious about making some changes in my life, mainly with my work situation.  Since last December, I have been working nights in intensive care.  (I am a registered nurse.)  I've never been, and probably will never be a nocturnal creature, so working the night shift has been a tremendous struggle, one that has left me emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally drained.  Moreover, I've been a critical care nurse for more years than I want to count.  Recently, after a season of introspection I realized that I no longer enjoyed this type of nursing and hadn't for a long time.  It was time to make a drastic change!

       It is so incredibly easy to get stuck in a rut and never leave it.  Frighteningly, many people spend their entire lives doing the same thing over and over again ad nauseam hardly questioning why they do what they do.  After a number of years, they begin to function robotically by just going through the motions of life with little to no thought.  Undoubtedly, there are a number of reasons for this but regardless, the end result is almost always the same. 

       When we go through life with minimal forethought and purpose, we lose a sense of who we are, as well as any dreams we may have had for our lives.  Most tragically however, the Lord's destiny for us is never acknowledged much less released.  Thus, at the end of life we have little satisfaction to show for all the years of toil and labor.  Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes surely must have felt that disheartenment deep within his soul when he rhetorically asked, "What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?"  (Ecclesiastes 1:3)  And again he wrote in the same book, "What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?"  (2:22)  Indeed, these are valid questions that most of us ought to contemplate soberly in this "rat-race" age in which we live.

       Jesus spells out a different way of life for whosoever will heed the call of God's Holy Spirit, with spiritual ears to hear.  Now please, don't misunderstand.  His purposed life is by no means free of difficulties and heartaches.  Nor does living it mean that life is purely peaches and cream 24/7, 365 days a year.  However, it is a life of great satisfaction, peace and purpose to any and all who will accept it. 

       Perhaps surprising to many, there is a price tag attached to God's Kingdom and its way of life.  It is not free but must be purchased at great price.  You see, Jesus had to die on the cross and shed His precious blood to give us the right to enter into Kingdom living, but we too must take up our cross in order to enter in.  (Always remember the words Jesus spoke to the disciples, ".... a servant is not great than master...."  [John 15:20]  In other words, what He experienced while on earth, so will we.)  Lamentably, for many believers, taking up the cross to follow Christ in all His glory is too much to ask.  Sadly, many Christians will not attain this measure of promised, abundant life offered to them.

       I'd like to take the opportunity to exposit on a very fundamental level five considerations of the value of God's Kingdom and of entering into that Kingdom living, to which allude the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl.  I personally believe that these two parables, told by the Master, partially divulge the untold worth of the Kingdom of God, as well as the secret for entering into the Kingdom.  Think about it!  What would provoke any mortal man to trade every possession he had in this life, and do it joyfully at that, to purchase something else that cannot be quantified nor qualified by human standards?  After all, we humans greatly cherish our earthly possessions and social status, clinging to them with dear life!  And furthermore, for any soul who would dare to esteem the finest pearls (riches) of this life to be nothing in comparison to some seemingly elusive kingdom that Jesus describes as one of great value?  Saints of God, on what are we missing out?!?

       It is well beyond the scope of this particular blog to dive deeply into the Kingdom of God by defining it in great detail.  (NOTE:  The Kingdom of God is completely interchangeable with the Kingdom of Heaven.)  I do wish however to stimulate your thinking in such a way that perhaps you would at least begin to desire to seek the Kingdom of God.  I readily admit that ultimately, it is a divine work of God the Holy Spirit Who must show you, as well as me, the inherent value of the Kingdom, else we are destined for a substandard life here on planet earth.  That is not the will of God for any of His children, for anything less than the very best for us nullifies the work of Christ's cross concerning our lives, on this side of eternity.  Should Christ tarry and we live to a ripe age, we would then risk hearing the eternal, echoing words of King Solomon posed in Ecclesiastes as they resonate loudly in our souls, "What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?"  (Ecclesiastes 1:3)  Lest we fall into that trap, let us heed some considerations.

       Consideration #1:  The Kingdom of God is hidden from the world.  This really is no mystery.  Everything God has for His creation is "masked" to the world, and has been since the fall of man.  This is not God's fault, but rather man's.  Because of humanity's sin nature, his thoughts are primarily toward himself and the creation, not Godward.  The Lord has consistently revealed Himself to creation since the fall, but to no avail other than at judgment we cannot accuse the Lord of hiding Himself.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this when he says, “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:19-20)  In a nutshell, mankind will not seek God’s Kingdom when they won’t even look for Him, preferring rather to be their own gods running their own finite kingdoms.  Why would anyone seek the Kingdom or the Government of God and His Christ when they don't even acknowledge its King?

       The spirit of the world is antithetical to God and His nature hence it’s not possible for the world and its systems of thought to discern anything that isn’t borne of worldly wisdom and intellect.  “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  (I Corinthians 2:14)  Comprehending even the existence of the Kingdom of God clearly requires the work of God’s Spirit in an individual.  Yet paradoxically, no one has the Spirit of Christ unless he or she has accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.  (Romans 8:9)  Therefore, until an individual acknowledges Christ as Lord and Savior, his sin nature precludes any real knowledge and understanding of God, much more the Kingdom, because God remains hidden from him.

       Consideration #2:  The Kingdom of God is hidden from the believer.  This may seem contradictory or even nonsensical initially.  However, as we seek to know the Lord more intimately, we realize that indeed He does hide Himself and His treasures so that the believer will seek them out.  Perhaps this may seem to be an argument from a human standpoint, but if the Lord gave us all of Himself and all His hidden treasures initially from the point of our salvation, for us there would be nothing for which to strive.  Mercifully however, the Lord tantalizes our spiritual taste buds with glimpses of truth and glory, which in turn cause us to want more and more of Him and that which He freely offers to those who seek Him with all their heart, soul and mind.  The promise of revealing Himself and His treasures is clear to all who will heed the invitation.  “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”  (Isaiah 45:3)  And in the words of Jesus, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."  (Luke 12:32)

       Consideration #3:  Those who purposefully and intentionally seek the Kingdom of God reveal the nature of who they are.  Ponder the following scripture:  “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”  (Proverbs 25:2)  We see from this verse that as far as the second principle is concerned, God actually delights in concealing deep secrets.  On the other hand, only those who consider themselves “kingly” will seek out those hidden treasures that belong to the Lord.  This is a very important point because it speaks to the nature of how any Christian must perceive himself (herself implied) if he is to enjoy a successful, abundant life that is his in Christ.  (John 10:10)  Simply stated through the negative, if an individual does not understand the life he has in Christ, he will not seek the hidden treasures of God in Christ because he, the believer, doesn’t believe he is worthy.  This gross error in thinking will cause the individual to distance himself from the Lord thus making it impossible to seek God's finest.  If the believer in question actually knew that in Christ he is worthy of all things, he could perhaps move forward in his faith.  Consequently, it must be readily apparent why God's will is discovered only in the act of renewing the mind with God's Word!  "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  (Romans 12:2)

       “Kingly” believers know without a shadow of a doubt who they are in Christ hence, will seek the treasures of God, and even will unabashedly seek the face of God.  Nothing will hinder these people because they understand fully that their life is completely rendered anew through the atoning sacrifice of Christ and His finished work at the cross.  They completely comprehend that Christian life and Kingdom living is about “being” in the Spirit, not about what they must do.  (Please refer to Romans 14:17)  “Kingly” believers freely accept the truth of who they are in Christ, and nothing less.  "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."  (Romans 8:15-17)  If we know that we know that we are God's sons and daughters, how can we live any less than for how we were intended?

       Consideration #4:  As believers in Christ, once we discover the reality of His Kingdom, we must choose to pay the price to enter into Kingdom living.  Why?  Because again, Kingdom living isn’t free, as I stated earlier in the blog.  There’s a tremendous cost that must be paid by every believer.  This is where it gets quite sticky for many Christians.  Honestly, the majority of followers of Christ would surely want all that God has for them, until they come to the realization that the blessings come with a price attached to them.  The Kingdom is no less.  Jesus clearly speaks of a tradeoff that must be made in order to purchase the Kingdom.  In the parables of the Great Treasure and the Pearl, the first man gave up his possessions; the second, who was a merchant of great, earthly treasures, did the same.  Moreover, it stands to reason that the latter freely yielded any rights to further seek goodly, earthen pearls as well.  Beloved, it has to be this way!  There’s no other way it can be!  Having been created in the image of God, we humans were made with singleness of heart.  God Almighty is most assuredly of one mind, and His creation can be no less. 

       The double mindedness of the world is astounding!  Humanity is at a place in time where we want everything, we want to be everything and let's do it all NOW.  It’s as if we think we deserve any and everything the world can possible offer, but without any penalty.  But I declare to you that this is NOT God’s way.  We were not designed to be and do everything that our finite minds conjure up in the evil imagination.  Again, we are not greater than Christ.  Even He surrendered His human will to that of the Father when He finally declared in the Garden of Gethsemane that He could accept God’s will and not His own.  “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  (Matthew 26:42)  Successful Kingdom living is absolutely contingent on the believer, consciously of his own volition, forfeiting his will by accepting that of the Father.  Jesus did it; so must we.  Consequently, the price we pay is the totally complete surrender of our will.  It may sound easy, but it’s the most significant expenditure we’ll ever face in this life, make no mistake about it. 

       Consideration #5:  Double minded people will not seek the Kingdom much less pay for it.  This must by now be obvious to the reader.  Please indulge me however, as I look at this phenomena from a different angle.  I made a statement earlier that God is single minded and made His creation the same.  That being said, the creation was never designed to know the difference between good and evil.  (Please refer to Genesis 3:22.)  That knowledge, reserved only for an omnipotent, all-knowing God, would destroy the single mindedness of mankind.  For in possessing that knowledge, the creation was and still is automatically forced to make a choice between God and obedience to Him verses an existence separated from Him. (We’re meant to be single minded, remember?)  Sadly, God’s own creation will always choose to eat the forbidden fruit, as did mother Eve.  It’s the nature of human existence since the fall of creation.

       The option that God gives all humans with regards to salvation is the opportunity to accept Christ.  In turn, Jesus reversed the curse of eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  (“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.’”  [Galatians 3:13])  But the door of choice for all of us was opened in the Garden and cannot be closed.  We must hence choose Christ and return to God or else decide that we will partake a second time of the forbidden fruit.  In essence, when anyone rejects Christ as Lord and Savior, he is choosing to partake a second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. in eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Fundamentally, Christians who wish to “live in the world” and enjoy the benefits of Kingdom living are in basically standing before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil pondering its luscious, enticing fruit.  Their problem, uniquely different from those who reject Christ however, is that they don’t want to make a choice, or else they would prefer to choose both God and the world.  (I suspect the latter is more true for the "uncommitted" believer, while the former applies more to the unbeliever.)  These Christians do not understand mutual exclusivity and how it relates to Christian living in the world.   

       Fortunately, the Lord does not give up on those believers who choose to live double mindedly.  God’s Word beckons to the believing heart for anyone who would attempt to choose God and the world.  “…..and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  (James 4:8)  It is the Lord’s will that all believers consecrate themselves wholly to Him, His purposes, and His Kingdom.  In so doing, the believer can begin to receive the infinite blessings and secrets of living in God’s Kingdom. 

       Choosing to remain a double minded believer is dangerous and thus precludes the individual from receiving anything from God!  “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”  (James 1:6-8)  The Lord views any believer that is double-minded as unstable and incapable of receiving His finest.  They’re unfit for Kingdom living and will never enter in.  These believers literally squelch any hope of being blessed by God. 

       In conclusion, God has a Kingdom of abundant living in Christ by the indwelling Spirit that He wishes to give all people.  To access the Kingdom, the believer must accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior first before anything else.  The believer must see himself as "Kingly," a child of the Most High God and a co-heir with Christ the Son.  This self perception lends itself to searching for all the Heavenly Father has for His children.  Those people who wish to straddle the fence by attempting to live in the natural world and yet simultaneously reach for the supernatural of God's Kingdom must recognize that the Bible labels them as double-minded.  In this state of being, they will not receive God's blessings because they're literally being tossed to and fro by the world that literally enslaves them.  Hence, they're commanded to repent, to purify their hearts and seek all the hidden treasures and blessings the Lord has for all of us.  

       Dear Father in Heaven, I pray that the Holy Spirit will capture the heart of the reader of this blog.  If the individual is not a believer, I pray that God's Spirit will reveal to him or her the saving power of Jesus Christ by the engrafting of the Word that is more than capable of saving the soul.  If the reader has already given his or her heart to Jesus, may the Spirit arouse in the heart a yearning, a hunger and thirst for the deeper, more profound things that You, Oh Father, have for them.  May that longing in and of itself be so strong that they're compelled to begin a life-long search for the very heart of God.  In Jesus' Precious, Holy Name I pray, amen.