Category: Hell

Story 93: Commissioning the Disciples: Hope Beyond the Bars

Matthew 9:35-10:42; Mark 6:6b-11; Luke 9:1-5

Looking at a Soaring Bird Out of a Prison Window

Jesus said that His followers would face persecution and imprisonment in this world if they remained faithful to Him. But even in the darkest dungeon, a follower of Christ knows what is true. Beyond the bars of any prison made by the hands of men, God exists. He sees the faithfulness of His beloved and He will reward it lavishly. There is always hope beyond the bars.

The time had come for the Lord to prepare His disciples for when it would be their job to tell the world what God had done through the work of His Son. Jesus was going to offer His life to pay for the sins of humanity. Through His sacrifice He was going to utterly defeat sin and death. It was the best news in the history of the world, and it was His disciple’s tremendous honor to declare it. But Jesus wouldn’t be walking among them when they did it, and He needed to get them ready.

It wasn’t going to be easy. Not everyone would be happy to embrace this new work of God in the world. Many wouldn’t understand. Religious leaders and rulers would feel their power threatened. As Jesus prepared the disciples for their calling, He warned them:

“‘Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On My account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what you say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’”

Wow. There is a lot going on here. Becoming a disciple of Jesus wasn’t going to bring them the wealth and status of the world. They would be brought before powerful rulers, but often, it would bring them the shame and suffering of beatings and imprisonment. From an earthly perspective, they would have to give up having the kind of lives most people hope for. But think about what they would gain. The Spirit of God the Father, who rules and reigns in His heavenly power with unspeakable holiness and might, would fill them with His message to the lost. They would bring the words from the Throne Room of God into the throne rooms and courts of this world. And within a few decades, the suffering and challenges of being a disciple would be over.  They would leave the shackles of this corrupt world.  They would enter into everlasting life where they would forever be honored in the Throne Room of God for the obedience they offered Him when they were here on earth. Taking all things into a consideration, it is brilliant trade.

Jesus went on to explain the kind of troubles that the message of the Gospel would bring:

“‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’”

When we read Scripture there can often be several meanings, some are short-term and some are long-term. Scholars have different ways of understanding what Jesus means here. Clearly, the disciples and those who responded to Christ’s message were going to face painful conflict…the kind that can lead to death. It would be so extreme they would have to literally flee for their lives. Their challenge would be to stand in their faith in the midst of it all.

But what did Jesus mean when He said they wouldn’t finish preaching to all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes? Was He talking about the epic, final Day of the Lord? Some scholars believe He was.  According to this view, Jesus was saying that throughout the ages, His disciples would have to continue to preach the Gospel to the Jews right alongside their proclamation to the rest of the world. This makes sense because it seems like Jesus’ message to the disciples is also a message for all of His disciples of all time, including us.

Other scholars believe that Jesus is talking about when He returned through rising from the dead. Still more believe it is about Pentecost, when Christ would send His Spirit to enliven His disciples with power after He ascended into Heaven.

There are several different ways to interpret this verse (Matt. 10:23), but they all carry the same hope. Whatever we go through here on earth, the suffering is limited.  Jesus is coming back.  In fact, it is kind of wonderful to realize there have been many ways the Savior has returned to us and will return to us still. He is the Lover of our souls, indeed.

Jesus went on:

“‘A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant to be like his master. If the Head of the House has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of His household!’”

When the most powerful religious leaders in Jerusalem sent their messengers to Jesus in Galilee, they did not come to accept Him. They wanted to silence Him.  But they had to do something about all of His powerful, amazing miracles…if His power didn’t come from God, where did it come from?   Imagine how many people who had been lame or sick or demonized were walking around as evidence that Jesus was no ordinary man.  The religious leaders couldn’t argue that it wasn’t happening, so they had to come up with a reason for His power that took God’s anointing out of the picture. You may remember what they decided to do. They accused Jesus of being empowered by Satan. That was the ultimate rejection. It proved the hardness of their hearts…and with that they lost their right to hear more. For well over a year of His preaching they had received many, many opportunities to recognize God’s work through His Son.  Again and again they refused to accept their Messiah.  Finally, God the Father accepted that rejection.  From that point on, Jesus began to speak in parables so that only those with ears to hear could understand. Jesus knew that He wouldn’t be the only one accused of operating in Satan’s power.  His disciples would hear that, too.  Jesus went on:

“‘Do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.’”

Wow. If we take the words of Jesus seriously, this is both terribly difficult and remarkably wonderful.  It forces us to consider the grip we have on this life and all the things we want to do to garner and preserve our own happiness here.  It also gives breathtaking assurances for what is possible for those who take hold of it.  Jesus was penetratingly clear: there is a level and grandeur of faith available to us that is so powerful that we will no longer be afraid of persecution and death. And we are meant to pursue it.   The key is to look at the bigger picture. When you align with loyal devotion to Christ, you side with the One who has the most important power. In the end, that is going to be the only thing that matters.  In the beginning it might feel like an epic loss.  Ultimately, it becomes a wildly great freedom.

Jesus understood that it wouldn’t be easy:

“‘Are not two sparrow sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’”

Isn’t it amazing? In the midst of the epic calling of a disciple, there is also a tender mercy and nearness to God. He knows how many hairs are on our heads. He attends to every falling sparrow, and we have a far greater worth.

These are the words of a deeply loving Lord. They are worth sitting with in our hearts and minds, meditating on and praying through them until we understand them in the deepest places of our hearts. They have the power to help us overcome all the fears that would stop us from being the courageous disciples that Christ is calling us to be in this passage.

Jesus was still walking around with His disciples when He spoke these words, but He understood the challenges they would face…that millions of His followers would face over the thousands of years that would follow His death and resurrection.

As I prepare this lesson, I can hardly keep from weeping. We live in an amazing time. A girl like me in California can post stories about Jesus, and they can be read in countries all over the world within seconds of their posting. It is breathtaking. Yet we also live in a terrible time. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted all over the globe. The last century has seen more martyrs than any other time in history.

When I look at the stats for this blog, there are readers from the very countries where persecution is most intense, and I wonder who might be reading this. Are you okay? What have you endured? What will be your call? How can we pray? It shows how important this particular story in the Bible is, and how clearly Jesus understood the opposition that the Gospel would have in every age. He gives His chosen ones the dignifying role of taking up His cross. And He is worth it. May the family of Christ across the globe be faithful to our brothers and sisters who have the honored role of standing for Jesus in the darkest places. Their reward is going to be unspeakably great. And may their faithfulness cast a vision for greater faithfulness in us.

For wisdom about how to pray and support our brothers and sisters undergoing persecution of the globe go here www.persecution.com or here www.spiritofmartyrdom.com

 

Story 92: The Commissioning of the Disciples: On Becoming Harvesters

Matthew 9:35-10:42; Mark 6:6b-11; Luke 9:1-5

Wheat field against a blue sky

You may have noticed on these blogs about the life of Jesus that the stories from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John get a little mixed up. For example, when in the book of Matthew we read from chapter eight before we read chapters 5 through 7, which are the Sermon on the Mount. That is because we are reading all four of the Gospel books together at once. The writer of each Gospel had His own way of telling the story of Christ’s life. Each of them had an audience they were trying to reach with the Gospel, and so each told Jesus’ story in a way that would help that group of people understand Him and why He came.  Some of them wrote the order of the stories in a way that highlighted certain ideas.  If we want to see the clearest explanation for how the story unfolded across the three years of Jesus’ ministry, the best book to read is John.

Some people are bothered when they learn that each book doesn’t go exactly in the order and timing that it actually happened in Jesus’ life.  But if you think about it we tell stories in different ways all the time.  If you became very sick, you might tell the story of your illness differently to your doctor than you would to a child that you didn’t want to scare with the details.  For the doctor, you might select all of the different ways you have been sick in the last year.  For the child you would might tell a funny story or emphasize how you have gotten better in the past.   Each time you told your story, you would be telling the truth, but you would be choosing the details that were most important for the person you were describing the story to. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John choose different details of the same stories about Jesus in order to help their audience understand His amazing message.

We believe that Matthew wrote these stories down in a way that could be used to teach the disciples how to live for Jesus. It was a little bit like a textbook.

Matthew organized what He wrote in a special way to make it easy to teach others. Part of that organizing was to take the five main themes that Jesus taught about and write them down in five sections. The first section was the Sermon on the Mount, which teaches about how members of God’s Kingdom are supposed to live. The next section is the one we are about to read. Jesus taught how His disciples are to live as they preached the Good News of God’s Kingdom.

As Jesus continued to go out and preach through the cities and villages around the Sea of Galilee, He felt tremendous compassion for the crowds that came to Him. They were in distress, with all the pressures and suffering of life under the misery of the Curse. They were like sheep without a shepherd, fragile animals that were hunted and wounded and torn by vicious enemies. As Jesus looked around at the multitudes, He said to His disciples, “‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’”

What a sorrowful statement.  On a farm there comes a time when the fruit or grain is ready to be picked. It can be a time of great labor and celebration as the riches of plenty are brought in. Everyone has to get to work because it is important to get everything in from the fields on time.  If the harvest is taken too soon, it won’t be ripe.  If it is taken too late, it will go bad.  When Jesus looked out on the crowds that followed Him, He saw that there were many whose hearts were ready to be harvested for the Kingdom, just as wheat becomes ready to be harvested. Yet the harvesters were few.  The leadership of Israel had risen to join the Savior.  Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “‘Ask the Lord of the harvest…to send out workers into His harvest field.’”

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus saw the tremendous need, the first thing He did was call on His disciples to pray? This was no idle request. Jesus knew that it was the truly effective, important action they could take to meet the great needs of the people. Prayers to the Living God are not simply sounds aiming at Heaven. They are heard by the Mighty Lord who created the entire universe by speaking it into existence. He has somehow linked His salvation work in the world to the prayers of His people. Our prayers are acts of power, and He wants to answer them. When we have a truly eternal vision for what it means to pray, we realize it is insane not to. Jesus made it clear that the first job of the disciples was to pray for workers who would partner with God in His great harvesting work of bringing salvation to the lost.

In the very next story we see how God answered those prayers. Jesus was going to send His disciples out into the harvest. And He had a strategy for how He was going to do it.

First, the Lord Jesus brought His twelve disciples together and put them into pairs. Simon Peter was put with His brother Andrew. James and John were next, then Philip and Bartholomew. The Lord put Thomas and Matthew together, and then James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaues. Finally, Simon the Zealot was put with Judas Iscariot. Judas was the man that would one day betray the Lord. These pairs were to go out and spread the Good News of the Kingdom, just as their Master had.  Jesus gave them authority over evil spirits. He empowered them to be able to heal every kind of illness and disease as well.

Can you imagine what that was like for the disciples? After travelling all that time with Jesus and watching Him do His wondrous deeds, they had been invited to share the same message and the same power! Their new authority was so far reaching that even the demonic beings…the fallen angels… were subject to them! This was a new commissioning. They had moved from being mere disciples to apostles. They were being sent out on a radical mission. It was an important part of God’s preparation for their lifetime ahead.

Let’s take a second to consider how brave these men were. Consider the faith that had been growing in them. Jesus was the most controversial man in Israel. He was either sent from God or He was God’s enemy. The disciples were not men of great education, power, or status. Most of them were either common workers or had been rejected as sinners or zealots. They were not well traveled. If this didn’t work out, there was nowhere to go. Everyone in the nation was associating them with Christ. Yet the disciples had watched the most powerful men in the cities and villages of Galilee condemn Jesus.  By following Jesus, they had taken on the condemnation. And now they were going to go traveling around the countryside exposing themselves even more. Except now they would be doing it without the presence of their fearless Leader.

Instead of growing weaker in faith as Jesus met with opposition, their faith had grown stronger.  Imagine what must have been developing in their hearts.

Before they left, Jesus gave them a set of instructions about what to do and what not to do. He said:

“‘Do no go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: “The Kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.’”

Wow. These commands of Jesus required radical trust. Put yourself in the disciples shoes. Imagine what the week ahead was going to look like. The power of God was going to flow through you to bring major healing from illness, death, and demonic oppression. The glorious power of God moving to break the destruction of the Curse through His Son was now going to work through you.

Would you be excited? Scared? Would you feel nervous about not taking extra money to feed yourself? God was going to show His disciples just how well He could use them and take care of them, but it was going to take courageous, surrendered faith to step out into His plan!

It is interesting that Jesus was sending His disciples to cities and villages of Israel. He was giving those people yet another chance to respond to the message of their Messiah.  Jesus went on:

“‘Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you to listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’”

Jesus understood the situation in Israel. There were many who wanted Jesus dead. But He also seemed to understand that there were many in the nation that would welcome His men. There were special, powerful blessings in store for them as they received Christ’s messengers. Consider the gift someone gave to his neighbors if he welcomed in the disciples. Jesus’ men would bring healing, freedom from death…and some kind of special anointing of peace. They brought the Good News of the Kingdom that the nation had been waiting on for thousands of years! It seems crazy that anyone would reject it. But that is the nature of sin and the rejection of the things of God. It doesn’t make sense. It is irrational. And those who chose it would pay a great price. From the perspective of the world, the disciples were simple men making their way along the road with a dubious message. From a heavenly perspective, they were the honored bearers of the Greatest Treasure, the golden truth that was going to change the world.

 

Story 88: From Devastation to Transformation

Matt. 8:28; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:22-25

Jesus healing the demoniac boy

The Lord Jesus calmed the mighty storm. Imagine it. All the winds and waves raging, creating a terrifying howl, filling your boat with water…and then up He rises… commands…and everything slows to calm.

Jesus and His bewildered disciples sailed their boats to the other side of the Sea to the region of the Garasenes. Many Gentiles lived there. When they got out of the boats, a man came towards them. He had been roaming around the lonely tombs that were cut into the rocky hills around the water.

The man was from the local city, but had been driven out because he was dangerous. He was possessed by powerful demons, and they had driven him insane. He had been bound by chains on his hands and feet and put under guard, but the demons gave him supernatural strength to break free. He simply tore the shackles apart. Nobody was strong enough to control him or keep him from harming others. The people of the nearby cities ran him out of town. He had lived among the tombs for many years, naked and isolated, with no home of his own.

Imagine the terror this one man brought to the people of their area! He was so violent that nobody could pass through his direction on the road.   Yet the worst victim was the man himself. Day and night he cut himself and slashed his own skin with rocks. What terrible bondage.

The evil one and all his demonic followers long to destroy humankind. This desperate soul shows exactly what they would like to do to the rest of us if they could. We are the beloved of his great enemy, the God of the universe, and Satan delights in using us as pawns against Him.  The best way he can do that is to get us to hurt ourselves and each other.

When the man first saw Jesus, he was far away. The demonic forces drove him to run frantically towards Christ. Jesus commanded, “‘Come out of this man, you evil spirit!’” The man fell at Jesus’ feet and cried out with a loud wail, “‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come to torture us before the appointed time?’”

The demons were talking through this man, using his throat and his mouth, and they were being extremely rude. They were basically telling Jesus to mind His own business.

Isn’t it interesting that they knew exactly who Jesus was? Deep in past eternity, the demonic beings had been angels, serving God in Heaven. Jesus was there with them, the Son of the Father who sits on the Everlasting Throne. They had seen Jesus in all His divine majesty.  In spite of their privileged position in the eternal realms, they chose to rebel against God…and His Son. They waged a war against the angelic host that remained loyal to God and lost.  The Lord cast them out of Heaven.  Now they roam the earth seeking who they can destroy.  When the evil spirits were confronted with the presence of Christ, it didn’t matter that He came in the from of a Man; He was still God.  They understood His power and holiness, and they couldn’t bear it.

The evil spirits also knew that their time to torture and harass humanity was not going to last forever. Humans may have sided with Satan in the Garden and submitted the human race to his rule, but God wasn’t going to allow that bondage to last forever, and they knew it.  When the evil spirits complained that Jesus might torture them before the appointed time, they were talking about the day when God will judge the wicked spirits just like He will judge unrepentant humans. They will all be punished at the end of this Age. These demonic beings were afraid that the Son of God might send them to their punishment ahead of time!

Did you notice that they didn’t argue about whether Jesus could do it?  These deceitful, low down, dirty spirits knew that they couldn’t trick Him or have any real power against Him.

Jesus asked him, “‘What is your name?’”

“‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many’”

Wow. A legion was a troop of Roman soldiers that could be made of up to 6,000 men. There were many, many demonic spirits tormenting the poor man.

They kept begging Jesus not to send them into the Abyss.  Imagine if you were a disciple watching that discussion!  Out in the distance, there was a large herd of pigs… at least 2,000…feeding along the mountainside. The demons began to beg Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’” Anything was better than the Abyss!

So Jesus gave them permission, saying, “‘Begone!’”

The demons came out of the man and went into the pigs. Their evil presence sent all those pigs into a mad stampede down the steep side of the hill. In their madness they rushed into the sea and drowned in its waters. Imagine the thundering of their hooves, the splashing chaos, and the squeals of the helpless creatures. Imagine the shock of the herdsmen as their animals fled to their own deaths. This was the world the demons wanted to create. They brought insanity, life among the tombs of death, self-hatred and self wounding, and total destruction of property. Whoever owned those pigs lost a great amount of their wealth that day.

The herdsmen ran off to the city and began telling everyone what had happened. People began to come out to see.   Pretty soon, the whole city was there. When they arrived, they saw the man who had been tormented by a legion of demons. Only now, he was sitting quietly at the feet of the Lord Jesus. He was fully clothed and in his right mind.

What a beautiful Savior.  What a beautiful moment of peace, relief, restoration.

When the crowds saw this, they were terrified. They had lived for years with this man’s horrible behavior. They had agonized over how to stop him and protect themselves from his violence and terror. They had guarded their children from him and changed their paths to avoid him. They were fully aware of how impossible it was for this man to be okay. They were deeply aware of the miracle, and their immediate response was to be terrified.

Not delighted at the man’s transformation.  Not filled with hope that a Healer had come.

The men who had seen it all happened began to tell the crowd how Jesus had cast the demons out. They explained how the pigs rushed into the water. The people of Gerasenes and the whole region around began to beg Jesus to leave. They did not want this Man in their region.

So Jesus went down and climbed into the boat.  He could have lashed out at their rejection.  He could have tried to explain Himself or persuade them.  He could have pushed back with a blow of power.  But in breathtaking humility, He simply turned and walked away.

The man who was set free came to Jesus and pleaded with Him. He wanted to go with the Lord! But Jesus sent him back. He said, “‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.’”

Imagine how painful this man’s insanity had been for his family for all those years. Imagine how amazed and happy they were to see him calm, in his right mind, and able to share life with them. The Lord Jesus had restored life in a beautiful way. It was not just for this one man, but for all those who loved him as well.  This man had a whole life of dignity to reclaim, and Jesus sent him to it.

The man was so deeply grateful to Jesus that he began to go around the whole region of the Decapolis proclaiming the Good News of what Jesus had done for him. The Decapolis was a region of ten cities that was almost completely on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River from the nation of Israel. It was Gentile territory. The people that lived there were despised by the Jewish people. But now, this man…this Gentile…who had been in such wretched bondage to evil was going out to those regions and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ! God had chosen him for the most sacred task of all: He became a herald for the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Story 86: Parables of the Kingdom: Hidden Treasures and the Heavenly Vision

Matthew 13:44-52

Fairytale Castle

When we hear about Heaven or the Kingdom of God, it can be hard to grasp how amazing it will be. The streets will be lined with gold and Christ Himself will be our source of constant, radiant light. It is almost as if the dream of what is coming is hidden in the hearts of humanity. We imagine it in our art, we create visions of utopia in our books, and we long for it in our souls. That yearning is not there because we are a delusional race. It is there because it is what we were made for.

Jesus continued to teach parables to help his disciples understand how the Kingdom of God would work in the world as true believers waited for Him to return.   These next two parables explain the great worth of the Kingdom of God:

 “‘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 that he had and bought the field.’”

Wow. When Jesus tells a story, we are meant to spend a little time pondering it. We will understand more of it’s meaning if we picture it in our heads, think about what it would be like to be the person in the story, and allow it to affect our emotions. When we give these stories our time and deep attention, they work with greater power in the deep places of who we are.

Imagine if you were digging in a field and you found a bag of something worth millions upon millions of dollars…gold or diamonds or ancient artifacts. It is enough to not only buy the field, but to change your whole life. You would have the power to buy new homes and cars for everyone you love. You would never have to work again. You could travel, buy all the fanciest new clothes and cell phones and gadgets. You would always get the best medical care, you could always pay for your family members to go to the best doctors. The terrible pressures of every day life would completely change.

Imagine the happiness of that man in the story as he thought about all the wonderful things that treasure would bring him. But as helpful as many of the things that money can buy truly are, they are nothing in comparison to the vastly greater hope of God’s Kingdom. The excitement that is so easy to imagine of the man who suddenly became a billionaire is the same excitement that Jesus said we should feel about becoming members of God’s Kingdom. It is so great, in fact, that it is worth getting rid of everything else…including a ton of money…in order to get it.

Jesus told this parable to show us a lot of things about ourselves. For many, this story will seem strange because they know they would never be as excited about the things of God as they would be about becoming a millionaire…especially if the things of God require sacrifice. Jesus understood that we find it hard to fully grasp what He is offering us. It is much easier to imagine ourselves in a new car than living in the eternal realms.  When we get to Heaven and live forever and ever in total joy and happiness, we will begin to understand how silly we were to put all our hope in things like cell phones that will die the minute we accidentally drop them in the toilet. With this story, Jesus is inviting us to realize that we can already begin to live in the wild happiness and excitement of being the extravagantly spiritually wealthy members of His Kingdom.

That is the right response of the heart to the splendid, unspeakably great gift of the Gospel. We can measure our own hearts against the heart of the man in the parable. Does our excitement about the Kingdom match his excitement and joy? Are we willing to give up everything for it? Or are we dull in spirit and blinded to its tremendous worth? Are we more like the disciples who understood that following Jesus was more important than any other thing in life? Or are we like the crowds who could not see the glory of who Jesus is? Jesus told another parable to help His followers understand the great value of what they had found in Him:

“‘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.’”

It is interesting to see that Jesus did not offer the Kingdom as one option among many. This treasure is the only option. God is the only thing in the universe we can really hang our hopes on. In God’s wonderful grace, He keeps the whole universe going in all its beauty and glory. He continues to give life and breath to every living thing, even the ones that are in horrific rebellion against Him. He doesn’t declare that He is the only treasure because He is selfish…He declares it because He really is the treasure. He’s just being honest.

Because He is generous and loving, there are many things God has created that give joy, pleasure, a sense of stability…the deeply satisfying things of life.  But each of those things only function in the human soul in a healthy way when they are received with gratitude towards Him.  The minute He isn’t the center, we turn those things into idols.  We start to worship them as our answer to life.  We come to find our identity and hope in having them.  Eventually, they will become gods that control us.  Instead of being gifts that draw us nearer to God as we express thankfulness, they cause us to draw away from Him in increasing rebellion and self sufficiency.

For those who choose to love evil and embrace the Kingdom of Darkness…for those don’t seek God’s Kingdom as their Great Treasure…there will come a time when God will remove His wondrous gifts of grace. The ungrateful and the wicked will be separated from all His blessings permanently. God has continued to sustain the world for thousands of years, but the Day of the Lord is coming and it will bring that to an end. We won’t be able to choose His gifts over Him anymore.  In fact, our ability to make any choices at all will be gone.  This is what Jesus said:

“‘Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Road to hell. Religion metaphor.That is a sobering thought if there ever was one. Imagine what separation from the only source of Good in the world will bring. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is a terrible darkness that Jesus came to save us from, and the greatest tragedy is that so many will refuse to receive His offer.

When Jesus finished with this parable, He asked His disciples if they understood. They said yes. Things were finally starting to make sense.

Jesus knew that these revelations were secrets of God that had been hidden since before He made the world. The disciples were learning a magnificent new part of God’s plan that had not been revealed to the prophets of old. They were learning how the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah and the Day of the Lord fit in with the new things that God was revealing through His Son. This is how Jesus described it:

“‘Therefore, every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’”

Jesus was describing the ideal here.  The problem was that many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were so stuck on the old things that they refused to embrace the new things that God was doing through Christ. But the faithful would understand both the new work of Jesus and the things that had been taught about the Kingdom of God from ages past. Their trust in the Lord would give them the restful flexibility to honor the teachings of God in the past, yet remain open to the new things He was doing…and to listen by faith to learn how those things came together.

Someone once said that it was almost like all the goodness of God from the Old Testament was stored in a darkened room…it was truly there, but cloaked in shadows. When Jesus came, it was like He shined a light in the room so we could see God’s prior work with clarity and understanding.

Jesus was showing His disciples how God’s work in the Old Testament had prepared the way for this new work that came through His Son. This would become the message of the Lord’s disciples as they proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

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