Matthew 13-18; The Kingdom of God

I have a burden for the Church, we who are God’s Kingdom through the blood of Jesus. I’m concerned because it seems we are looking more and more like the world, and less and less like the Kingdom described in Scripture. I’ve been encouraged, and convicted as I’ve spent some time these past couple of days looking at what Jesus said about His Kingdom. I’d like to pass on to you what God has laid on my heart.

William Barclay says, “To be in the Kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2; page 87;Westminster Press; Philadelphia, PA; 1975) God’s Kingdom isn’t some future phenomenon. It’s us today in 2018. And our King has drawn pictures about how He expects His Kingdom to look.

Matthew recored seven parables that Jesus taught in the chapters I’ve been looking at. Each one begins, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” As we look at these I pray we will consider our own standing in God’s Kingdom, that we will consider how our church fellowships are doing, and what we can do to make the Church, God’s Kingdom, be exactly who He told us to be.

The first three parables Jesus spoke in these chapters concern something small growing to something big. The good seed (13:24), the mustard seed (vs 31), and the yeast (vs 33). I’ve looked at this a couple of ways. One, when we first come to know Jesus as our Savior (the Sower of the good seed),  our faith is often as small as a mustard seed, our knowledge limited. But as we spend time with our Savior, as we read His Word and fellowship with other believers, that faith grows. Or it should. I wonder if there are people in our churches who are satisfied with their seed-faith. What good is that? There can be no harvest of stunted seeds. That can’t be good for the Kingdom.

The other way I see this is in the common misconception: “What can one person do?” We are tempted to focus on the weeds growing all around us. God is telling us not to worry about that. He’s got it covered. We are asked to do is grow, stay connected to Him, the source of all we need to be healthy Christians. Yes, there is a force of evil out there that intends on choking the life out of us. But if we are growing, those weeds have no power over us. And God is the One who will weed out the evil. He wins.

And, like the yeast, if we are faithfully doing what God is asking of us, it will spread. You might think you are insignificant in light of the Billy Grahams of the world. Your contributions to the Kingdom might be done behind the scenes, your efforts quietly transforming your surroundings and the lives of people you touch for Jesus’ sake.

What can one person do? There is no limit if Jesus in it! Dear one, nothing done in Jesus’ name is insignificant! And it all works together to produce the Kingdom of God Jesus is describing.

Jesus said the field in which He is sowing good seed is the world! Oh that the world, our world, our homes and neighborhoods, would be germinated with the Gospel… and thrive!

The next two parables are about treasure. (13:44-45) What is that treasure other than Jesus Himself? The world is desperately searching for Him. They keep turning over rocks and finding fools gold and glass pearls. But the truly valuable treasure, the real thing they are looking for is Jesus only. And those of us who know Him know He’s worth everything.

But God is asking me if I’m content to hoard the treasure I hold, when I can look all around me and see people who are still looking under rocks, who are parading around their fools gold and glass pearls and trying to pass them off as the real thing. Is it ok for me to say, “They can believe what they want to believe. If they want to think that glass is a real pearl, who am I to say it’s not?”

It’s not! And you know it.

It’s not enough to be in possession of this priceless treasure. There are people in your life, and in mine, who are searching. But is the Kingdom (are we) failing because we aren’t showing those people where they can find the real thing?

The sixth parable (13:47-50) is about the fisherman who throws out the net and brings in ALL the fish, good and bad. As the Church, we are told to go into ALL the world and share the Gospel. Sometimes I think we can get comfortable writing our check out to missions and feel we are obeying that commission. But is that how Jesus is describing His Kingdom?

All of us need to be faithful to throw out those nets in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, in the streets, wherever there are people who don’t know Jesus. It’s not up to us to decide who will be responsive. We don’t pick and choose who we think deserves God’s grace. We aren’t told to be judges. We are called to be fishers of men. I wonder if God’s Kingdom (you and me) doesn’t need to repair some nets and get busy throwing those nets out there.

The music minister at my church is an amazing fisherman. Recently he stopped at a gas station, and went inside to pay for his gas. The only person in the store was a young man behind the counter, tattooed, pierced, and sporting a spiked purple hair-do. Paul, whose teenaged son was waiting in the car,  didn’t throw his money on the counter and run. He stopped and started talking to the young man. And as Paul often does, he steered the conversation to Jesus.

He asked the young man if he knew Jesus. The boy said, No. Paul asked if the boy would like to know more about Him. The boy said, Yes. Right there and then Paul shared the Gospel with a weird looking young man who’d been searching for that treasure. Paul asked him if he’d like to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior.

The young man said, “Yes!”

But just then, another customer came into the store. Then another, and another. Paul went out to his car and sat with his son for awhile. They had somewhere to go, but there was a young man in that store who was more important.

Finally, the store cleared. Paul went back into the store and prayed with that young man to receive Christ. Paul threw out a net, and Jesus reeled him in.

I think that’s exactly what Jesus is saying to us through these parables. When we are faithfully doing what He’s asked us to do, He does the rest. And His Kingdom grows one soul at a time.

The last parable is found a few chapters later. (18:23ff) It’s so easy to recognize other people’s faults. Not so much when recognizing our own. And sometimes, we don’t forgive like we have been forgiven.

It always hurts me when I hear Christians say about someone who has hurt them, that they hope God will give them what they deserve. “What goes around comes around.” “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” I think that attitude is hurting God’s Kingdom.

We should never NEVER forget what God has forgiven of us. When Jesus taught us to pray He told us we should ask God to help us forgive others the same way He forgives us. That, my friend, is undeserved forgiveness, complete forgiveness, self-sacrificing forgiveness. And that’s the forgiveness we are to extend to others.

We as the Church of God are under attack. The Kingdom of God is being criticized for things that we should be criticized for, and for things that are outright lies. We, as members of God’s Kingdom are walking around with targets on our backs.

But we need to remember how Jesus told us to deal with our enemies. Love them. Pray for them. Turn the other cheek in Jesus’ name. If we get caught up with the social media frenzy, if we think we have to have a response to every stupid thing people say, we aren’t representing the Kingdom of God very well. Because Jesus died for every one of those people.

Every one. Including people with purple hair and nose rings. Including people who have treated us unfairly. Including the Muslim who just moved in down the street, or the homosexual who delivers your mail.

As I look at the Kingdom of God as described in these verses I am encouraged. I do see people who are farmers sowing seed, people who are sharing their gold mine, fishermen who are casting out their nets with abandon. May God bless each of you and grow His Church as you are yielded to Him.

But I also have a concern. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Are we making God’s Kingdom stand out because we are being faithful, are we sharing the amazing treasure we have in Jesus, are we that yeast that is transforming the world by our presence? And are we casting out the Gospel net, and drawing people in?

May each of us consider our role in the Kingdom of God. And may we all be the people God can use to sow the seed, transform the dough, direct people to the treasure, cast the nets, and demonstrate what His forgiveness looks like.

For Jesus’ sake. And for His glory, may the Kingdom of God stand, and grow, until He comes.

 

 

 

 

 

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