FIELD OF DREAMS Part 3
Matthew 19:16-26 (NIV)
16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
18 "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "’Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,
19 honor your father and mother,’ and ’love your neighbor as yourself.’"
20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Before we being today, let’s just recap in a brief way what we’ve learned about the kingdom of God so far…
First, we learned that the kingdom of God/heaven at present is not something we can point to and say "here it is", or "there it is". In other words it is not at present a kingdom that is present on this world in a governmental sense whereby it’s influence is exerted on a particular nation or number of nations. However, it is something that is real within the lives of its subjects. And the subjects of the kingdom of God are found within the church. The kingdom of God is found wherever He rules human hearts and wherever His will is being done. We clarified that the church of Jesus Christ is not the kingdom of God but rather that the kingdom of God is manifested through the church in our world today. That last statement hints at another discovery made about the location of the kingdom of God. For we also uncovered that while it’s manifestation is found in believer’s lives, the fullness of the kingdom of God is something that is coming when Jesus Christ returns – when He will set up His kingdom as the ruling kingdom on Earth. The key understanding about all this is that when you make Jesus Lord of your life – you immediately enter into the kingdom of God (even though it’s presence is not physically on earth yet) and it is manifested in you!
Secondly, last week we learned through a question the disciples asked about the kingdom and through Jesus object illustration using a child that the greatest in the kingdom of God are those who receive it like a little child. In other words who are humble, trusting, and totally dependent on God. In fact, the kingdom of God belongs to those who realize their dependence on God and are able to humble themselves with this realization.
Today, we are going to take a look at two parables that Jesus related that once again contain secrets about His kingdom that will be revealed today. It’s interesting to note before I read them today that Jesus begins both these parables with the phrase, "the kingdom of heaven is like". This isn’t the first time. In fact, many of the parables that Jesus told were begun with the same phrase and indicate the intent of Jesus to describe the kingdom of God to his hearers.
Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV)
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.
Some of you may remember the movie "Field of Dreams". In this movie, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) plows under acres upon acres of his life sustaining corn crop in order to build a baseball field because a voice speaks to him, "If you build it they will come." The field plays host to legendary past greats such as "Shoeless Joe Jackson" and others. Ray is faced with the dilemma of either holding onto his field of dreams or selling the farm to save the life he knows. His brother-in-law counsels him with these words, "You’re going to lose your farm pal!…You’re going bankrupt and you will default your loan…Sell now or you’ll lose everything!…How could you plow under your crop?…You will lose everything!" As the story goes Ray holds onto his field of dreams at the high cost of possibly losing all this world has to offer. This field meant everything to Ray and because of that he was willing to sacrifice everything for it.
Ray’s story is similar to Jesus’ story of a man who came across a hidden treasure in a field. This treasure was so valuable and attractive that he sold everything he had to buy the field that he found the treasure in. The treasure was attractive and desirable but there was a cost to obtaining it.
To emphasize this point further Jesus told another parable communicating the same idea. In the parable of the pearl a merchant is looking for fine pearls and finds one of immense value. Upon finding it he sold everything he has to buy the one he found.
In both these parables Jesus is communicating two major ideas about the kingdom of God. First, it is something that is very attractive and desirable. Second, it can only be obtained at a great cost.
The question that is immediately raised upon discovering these ideas is what makes the kingdom of God so attractive and desirable and yet so costly?
In my study of what the scriptures say about the kingdom of God I believe I have discovered three important truths about the kingdom of God that would help to answer this question. These truths about the kingdom of God are not something I’ve made up but are taken from the pages of scripture and in most cases from the words of Christ Himself.
the kingdom of God is sovereign.
That is, the kingdom of God is supreme, king of the hill, best, most - any word that could be used to describe superiority would fit. Superior over what? Superior over any and every kingdom, government, nation, organization that has ever existed, is existing now, or will exist in the future.
Psalms 103:19b (NIV)
… and his kingdom rules over all.
Daniel 7:27 (NIV)
27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’
Since the dawn of civilization, mankind has striven for the perfect kingdom (or government). Some would argue it’s democracy, some would argue dictatorship, communism, capitalism, or monarchy. But with every attempt by man to create the perfect government there are glaring examples of its insufficiency to provide the elusive utopia or paradise so desired. You don’t have to look at the other side of the world or the underside of time to see the proof of this. Looking in our own backyard and in the present day gives notice to the fact that the kingdoms of the world fall terribly short of the paradise we want.
The kingdom of God does not. It is paradise - it is utopia. It is the best, the most, the supreme, kingdom. Its jurisdiction knows no boundaries. Paul tells us through his letter to the Corinthian church that, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power!" (1 Corinthians 4:20). It is the hope of every man, woman, and child – a place where one is free of war, where one has their needs met, where one can feel safe, where one can feel loved. In fact, a description of the Kingdom of God begins to sound very familiar to a description of what our idea of heaven should be.
This makes the kingdom of God attractive and desirable. In the end the kingdom of God is going to be the only kingdom on this planet. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a kingdom that fulfills every God-given dream to man since the Garden of Eden?
This then, is the first major truth that explains why the kingdom of God is so attractive and desirable. The second major truth is…
the kingdom of God oozes with the characteristics of its KING!
A cursory examination of the Bible reveals that any description of the nature of the kingdom of God is also an accurate description of the nature of God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit.
Righteousness, peace, joy.
Romans 14:17 (NIV)
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
1 John 2:1 (NIV)
1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
The kingdom of God is described as a righteous kingdom as is it’s king Jesus Christ. Righteousness, meaning pure – good – holy – blameless – without blemish. There is no evil in this kingdom – in fact the Bible makes it clear that evil cannot enter this kingdom. The very righteousness of Jesus Christ is found there – and as light expels darkness so His righteousness expels all unrighteousness.
It only follows, then that this kingdom would also be a kingdom of peace and joy! For these abound where there is righteousness! Isn’t this desirable to you – isn’t this something that is attractive?
Psalms 45:6 (NIV)
6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)
18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
The kingdom of God is also described as kingdom of justice. I could have included along with Psalm 45:6 many of the parables that Jesus told about the kingdom that describe God’s justice in the kingdom. Especially in the end times where God’s justice will be acted out upon all people and those who are a part of His kingdom will be separated from those who are not. Our God is just. Justice, meaning meting out rewards and punishment according to those who deserve either (getting what one deserves!), describing a place where order exists rather than chaos where what should be done is done and where all the "right" things go right. Probably the best illustration of the kind of justice in the kingdom of God would be best explained by this short story,
There was a rabbi on a journey with the prophet Elijah. They walked all day, and at nightfall they came to the humble cottage of a poor man, whose only treasure was a cow. The poor man ran out of his cottage, and his wife ran too, to welcome the strangers for the night and to offer them all the simple hospitality which they were able to give in such poor circumstances.
Elijah and the rabbi were entertained with plenty of the cow’s milk, sustained by home-made bread and butter, and they were put to sleep in the best bed while their kindly hosts lay down before the kitchen fire. But in the morning the poor man’s cow was dead.
They walked all the next day, and came that evening to the house of a very wealthy merchant, whose hospitality they craved. The merchant was cold an proud and rich, and all that he would do for the prophet and his companion was to lodge them in a cowshed and feed them on bread and water. In the morning, however, Elijah thanked him very much for what he had done, and sent for a mason to repair one of his walls which happened to be falling down, as a return for his kindness.
The Rabbi, unable to keep silence any longer, begged Elijah to explain the meaning of his dealings with human beings. "In regards to the poor man who received us so hospitably," replied the prophet, "it was decreed that his wife was to die that night, but in reward for his goodness God took the cow instead of the wife. I repaired the wall of the rich miser because a chest of gold was concealed near the place, and if the miser had repaired the wall himself he would have discovered the treasure." (Autoillustrator.com, "THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING")
This kind of justice is so attractive – we all desire to see true, untarnished, and complete justice!
Matthew 18:21-35 – the Parable of the unmerciful servant.
Jesus uses this parable to answer Peter’s question on forgiveness, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" (vs 21). Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a king who wanted to get back all the money oweing him from his servants. There was one servant brought before the king who owed an astronomical amount of money, far more than he could even hope to repay the king. Since he wasn’t able to pay, the king ordered that this servants wife and children be seized and sold as slaves to recoup some of this mans debt. The servant quickly fell on his knees and begged the king to be patient and that he would pay back everything. The king had a change of heart and forgave/cancelled the debt completely and let the servant go!
A short while later, this same servant came across a peer who owed him a piddly amount and beat him up demanding that he pay him back. His fellow servant repeated the same line that the servant had said earlier to the king, "be patient…" But the servant refused and had the man thrown into prison so he could pay the debt. Well, the other servants saw what had happened and they were greatly distressed an went and told the king everything that had happened. The king called the servant and ended up turning him over to the jailers to be tortured until everything was paid back.
Jesus concludes the parable with these eye opening words, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
This parable is another illustration of the justice found in the kingdom of God but more importantly is an illustration of the third characteristic of the kingdom. The kingdom is a place of grace!
And our God, through Jesus Christ is full of grace,
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV)
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
The scriptures are full of descriptions about God’s grace and his mercy. And this is a quality of the Kingdom a characteristic of God that probably makes the kingdom more attractive than anything else. For the kingdom of God is a place of righteousness, a place of justice and hence a treasure that is very attractive – but one that can not be obtained until we come to grace. For it is by God’s grace that this treasure is found, it is by His grace that this kingdom can be entered into. Who doesn’t want to be a part of a kingdom where totally/completely forgiven is the banner carried by the hurting heart!
The second major truth about the kingdom of God that makes it so desirable, so attractive is that it just oozes with the King’s righteousness, justice, and grace! But the first two major truths about the kingdom of God only describe what it is that makes the kingdom attractive and desirable – in other words they describe the treasure. The third major truth about the kingdom of God points to the treasure and exposes it to others. The third major truth describes how the kingdom of God is found attractive and desirable.
the kingdom of God dramatically impacts those who enter into it.
Ask anybody what influenced them most in making the step towards believing in Jesus Christ and invariably they will reply that they wanted what they saw in the life of a Christian. Folks the kingdom is exposed through the witness of its subjects. Remember the kingdom of God is manifested through believers. But the question is, is it manifested in your life? What do I mean?
In some of his parables (Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents), Jesus emphasized that those who possess the kingdom of God are those who bear it’s fruits. What "fruits" are we talking about here? Well let’s think about that for a minute before we go calling each other fruity! (ha, ha).
What is a fruit? A fruit is the part of the plant which contains the seeds of reproduction for the plant. It is from the fruit that the plant is multiplied. The fruit also identifies the plant that it comes from. In applying this analogy to the subjects of the kingdom of God Jesus is making clear that through it’s subjects the kingdom of God is multiplied in other people’s lives. But lest we go down the road in the wrong direction and start thinking that it is by our efforts that this takes place remember that at the heart of the fruit is the seed – and the seed along with the fruit all receive nourishment from the original plant.
So Christians that bear the fruit of the kingdom of God are in effect multiplying it’s presence in the lives of those who witness the fruit and are impacted by it.
But remember also that fruit identifies the plant. In other words you can tell what kind of plant it is by looking at the fruit. An apple tree has apples, a chestnut tree has chestnuts… etc. So when applied to a subject of the kingdom of God the fruit must have characteristics that line up with the kingdom! In other words, we talked about how the kingdom of God oozes with the characteristics of God – well guess what – so will it’s fruit. That is righteousness, peace, joy, justice, and grace. Of course those are only a few of the characteristics but I’ll leave you to discover them on your own in the scriptures. But remember the fruit is produced by the plant not the other way around. So too, the fruit of the kingdom that is born in its subjects lives is produced by the Kingdom of God. It is up to the believer to simply show it.
As people see the kingdom at work in other’s lives it becomes like a man who finds treasure in a field, or like a man who was searching for fine pearls and found one of immense value – get the picture?
So we’ve talked about what makes the kingdom of God attractive and desirable – but what about the cost? Why is it so costly to obtain this treasure? Why does it require the surrendering of everything to enter into it? Why did Jesus emphasize this in this parable? I think the key to answering this final question lies in Jesus’ words to Pilate on the day of his crucifixion,
John 18:36 (NIV)
36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
The kingdom of God is not something that is ushered in, or set in place by any human means. The kingdom of God is not something that can be described by anything found in this world. The kingdom of God is alien to what we find on our planet. And therein lies the reason for it’s costliness. For entering this kingdom requires "getting rid of" or "giving up" or "surrendering" every and all attachment to the kingdom of the world.
The sovereignty of the kingdom of God is attractive and desirable but the cost is to acknowledge it’s sovereignty over your own life. Righteousness, peace, joy, justice, and grace as found in the kingdom of God are alien to the closest imitations found here on this planet and make the kingdom of God attractive and desirable. The cost is realizing that there is nothing you can do to produce these things by your own efforts – and to realize that you fall far short of the requirements to enter into this kingdom. The cost is your pride.
Jesus emphasizes over and over again through his parables and teachings to his disciples that the kingdom of God cannot be entered into by any human means – it requires the complete surrender of everything in our lives and the total embracing of His life. It is so costly because it is not of this world – and people of this world cannot enter it – only children of God…
Cast your eyes over the field of dreams,
Where the treasure lays gleaming, more than it seems,
Where righteousness, peace, and joy abound,
Where justice and grace are always found.
The kingdom of God in its sovereign shimmer,
Makes the world’s offerings seem but a glimmer.
As its subjects come into sight,
You see they glow with otherworldly light.
The fruit they bear brings such pleasure,
As you notice its resemblance to the treasure.
Now with your eyes on the field of dreams,
Do you feel God tugging at your seams?
Is your heart pounding with the aching desire,
To possess what is found in that shimmering fire?
Then cast aside your worldly pride,
Sell all you have at your side,
Acknowledge your sin your unrighteousness too,
And look to the cross that it may do,
What nothing else on this world can bring,
Eternal life and the treasure’s king.
Now step into the field you see,
Welcome to life eternally
(poem written by Darren Ethier, ©2001)