PARTS 2-5 – THE SON OF THE KINGDOM
This is what I believe will be our final series on the kingdom of God this year, and this one is arguably the most important in terms of practicality. The reason I say this is because, in it, we are dealing with how we can become more kingdom-minded in our everyday lives.
So, what we are learning is how can we have this same attitude that the Jewish people possessed—a kingdom way of thinking.
You see, there was a strong kingdom mentality that was engrained in the Jewish people. They constantly were thinking things like “When is the kingdom coming?” and “How can we position ourselves to be greater in it?” Yes, many of the Jewish people had the kingdom on their radar.
But I believe we here in the United States today have been brought up with certain disadvantages:
For one, even though most of us have been born in the United States of America—a country that was established on Christian morals and the freedom of religion—our great nation does not operate like a monarchy (i.e., a kingdom). So, we don’t have it built into us to think in terms of a kingdom.
On top of that, the Jewish people not only operated under that type of government, but their religion was mixed into it as well. So, they not only knew how a kingdom operated, but they knew it was not man’s kingdom, but God’s kingdom. Therefore, their religion was woven into their government—thus, this mentality was threaded all throughout their culture.
And I made the point that this is why, when John the Baptist, and then Jesus after him, came on the scene preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, the people were not responding with— “What is all this kingdom stuff you’re talking about?” No, it didn’t need a lot of explanation because it was already engrained in them.
But my point is that most of our churches today are much more ignorant of these kingdom-minded things. This is why it is not something that the church has helped us with either.
You see, these things we’ve been learning about God’s kingdom are not things that are commonly taught in most churches. In fact, the kingdom of God is a foreign concept to most believers today. Therefore, we are at even more of a disadvantage to possessing this kingdom mentality because not only were we not raised this way in the flesh, but we have not been raised this way in the spirit either.
So, I say all of this to explain why this kingdom-mindedness is not our natural way of thinking like it was to a lot of the Jewish people. But this doesn’t mean that you and I are to just throw our hands in the air and claim ignorance and continue to think incorrectly.
And that’s why we are studying these things. So that we all can become more kingdom-minded in our everyday lives. So, that’s what we began doing in part one of this series.
So, let’s look again in Colossians chapter 3 where we have a powerful passage of Scripture that teaches us about this mentality / way of thinking that we are all to possess as the body of Christ:
Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
I made the point in part one of this series that after spending the first two chapters of his letter essentially describing what Christianity is not, the apostle Paul now “turns the page” and begins to show us what Christianity truly looks like. And I believe these truths perfectly summarize what a kingdom-minded person is to think like.
So, we saw in these verses that Christianity is all about a new identity and, therefore, a new mentality. We are now new creations in Christ—having received a new spiritual social security number, a new name, a totally new identity. All things have truly been made new in our lives as we were crucified with Him and raised up together with Him!
And we saw that this is what water baptism was meant to symbolize to us—that the moment we were immersed in that water, we were crucified with Christ being buried with Him, and then we were raised to together with Him to a new life. But it was not just symbolism. It is actually what happened, spiritually speaking. We identified with His crucifixion. We died with Him, and then were raised up together with Him to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Church, this is a big part of being kingdom-minded—because we must understand that we have changed addresses when we entered into Christ. We are now citizens of the kingdom of God. And that was a big point we made last week—that we are now citizens of heaven and have been left here on the earth to be Christ’s ambassadors, His ministers of reconciliation.
You see, the Word of God teaches us that our citizenship does not begin in heaven when we die and move there. It happens the moment we are born into God’s family that we become His nationality. In fact, the phrase “born again” that Jesus used could be translated “born from above”. That is why our citizenship is in heaven because we were born from heaven.
So, all of this means that we must learn to work down here while we’re living up there. And that’s the reason we have been left here; to see His kingdom come and grow. Yes, our purpose in still being here, even though our citizenship is in heaven, is to change other people’s address too.
Church, we have been raised with Christ to a new position and address—raised up to a new way of thinking and mentality. This is being kingdom-minded, church.
TO LIVE IS CHRIST
So, this is who we are! We have identified with Christ not only in His death & burial, but also in His resurrection & ascension. Thus comes to pass the saying—as He is, so are we in this world. Amen!
Now it is time for you and I to also identify with Him in what preceded these events. In other words, while it is necessary to know who we are and discover our new identity and citizenship, now we ought to live like He did during His earthly ministry before He went to the Cross.
This is why the apostle Paul said in Colossians 3:3— “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You see, when we identified with Christ’s crucifixion and were raised up together with Him, now our life is not our own anymore. Our life is now hidden, and the life that is now to be revealed in and through us is Christ’s life. As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21—now to live is Christ. In other words, since our life is hidden with Christ in God, our life on this earth should not be all about us and building our own proverbial “kingdom.” No, our life ought not to be the thing people see when they look at us. Now they ought to see Christ’s life revealed through us! This is kingdom-living and being kingdom-minded! Amen?
I believe far too many Christians do not truly understand the purpose of Christianity. To most, becoming a follower of Christ is no more than just us asking for Jesus to come into their heart, forgiving them of their sin, and then maybe they quit doing certain sins and they start doing some good things like going to church etc.
But Christianity is not like purchasing an insurance policy (in this case, fire insurance) to where we sign up for it, but then continue to live the way we did before. No, becoming a believer is meant to also become a disciple—to where we leave all and follow Him, to where we totally lay our life down and live for His kingdom’s glory.
You see, Christianity is not even just a changed life; it’s an exchanged life—our life for His. Now, it is no longer we who live, but Christ living in and through us. So, when you believed on the Lord and were saved, you were not just made a “better you”; no, you were made a “new you!” And that new you is now Christ in you. Amen!
Again, now, as the apostle Paul confessed in Philippian 1:21, for me, to live is Christ. And as we’ve made the point of numerous times, the title “Christ” literally describes “One anointed to be King.” In other words, what Paul was saying was that as far as he was concerned, life was all about the King. Amen to that!
But not only is it all about the King, it is all the King as well. In other words, it is Him actually living His life through us.
You see, Jesus does not just give life; He is the life (See John 1:4 & 14:6). This is why Paul goes on to say in Colossians 3:4 that when Christ “who is our life” appears. So, we ought to look at Jesus Christ this way—not just as the One who gives us eternal, abundant, and resurrection life—but as the One who actually is our eternal, abundant, and resurrection Life. Therefore, our thinking needs to change that we are not just given a better quality of life by receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior; our old life has been crucified and now we are letting Christ’s life be lived through us.
Now then, what does His life being lived through us look like? Well, I believe it looks like Jesus’ life while He was with us here on the earth! Yes, if Jesus is our life and to live is Christ, then that looks like His life for those 33 years He tabernacled with us.
THE FATHER’S BUSINESS
So, let’s look at some examples in the Gospels from the life of Jesus that show us what life for us ought to look like. And let’s begin by looking at His early years to the beginning of His ministry …
The first example I want us to look at is from Jesus’ childhood: You see, from a very early age, Jesus was already thinking kingdom thoughts.
After Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem and His parents did not know where He was, they found Him in the temple learning—for He was both listening to the teachers and asking them questions (See Luke 2:46). So, when Mary asked Him why He had done this, His response was— “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49)?
Well, this statement perplexed Joseph and Mary because we are told that they did not understand His statement (Verse 5). And just put yourself in their shoes here. I’m sure they were probably thinking just as carnally as Jesus’ followers were when He would refer to eating His flesh & drinking His blood and they thought He was literally talking about cannibalism. So, in all likelihood, they were probably thinking he was referring to Joseph’s carpentry business.
But allow me to draw a parallel: What was His earthly Father (Joseph’s) business? Being carpentry, it was building, creating, and fixing things. Well, wasn’t this what Jesus was doing here? He was in the shop building Himself up (i.e., edifying).
You see, He wasn’t in the temple ministering to others. These verses show us that He was there learning by both listening and asking questions. So, the Father’s business for Him at this point in His life was being built up for the ministry God had called Him to.
Church, we need to understand that preparation time is never wasted time. Jesus actually spent 30 years preparing for a 3-year ministry. So, sometimes being kingdom-minded is not all about doing something. Sometimes it’s slowing down enough to get ready for what you will be doing. It’s sitting. It’s learning. It’s letting the Spirit inside of you prepare you for the future. Amen?
IT IS WRITTEN
So, guess what happens next? The next thing we see is Jesus entering the scene all grown up and is then baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit. And when He was being baptized, the audible voice of Father God was heard saying, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
Now if you were to ask most Christians what God the Father said in that audible voice when Jesus was both baptized in water and baptized in the Holy Spirit, they would say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And they would not be entirely incorrect—for one Gospel writer (Matthew) records this event as God saying that. However, both Luke & Mark record it differently—they say that the Father said to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
Now if I were to say about one of you today, “So and so is my beloved church member, in whom I am well pleased,” who am I talking to? I am talking to “all y’all.” But if I were to say to one of you today, “You are my beloved church member, and in you I am well pleased,” who am I talking to then? I’m saying this to them, and therefore, for their benefit.
You see, I believe this what God was doing here with His Son: He was letting Jesus know that He was His beloved Son, and He was well pleased with Him. Which, interestingly enough, was before Jesus ever began His ministry—showing us that our identity is not to be found in what we do for God, but in who are in Him. Amen!
Church, you and I must directly hear from God who He says we are just like Jesus did here! Yes, just like it is important that we all come to the place of being able to answer the same question Peter did when Jesus asked— “Who do you say that I am?”, I believe that we must also answer the question— “Who do we say that we are?” And do you know why? It is because of what happens next in Jesus’ life:
Next, we see the Holy Spirit immediately leading Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And in two of the three temptations that are recorded, the devil prefaces the temptation with— “If you are the Son of God …” So, the root of those temptations was for Jesus to doubt who His Father said He was by proving it.
But what we see is Jesus using the Word of God to resist the devil’s temptations. And how did He do it? With an “It is Written” three different times!
My question then is—Would Jesus have been ready to wield the Sword of the Spirit like He was in the wilderness if He hadn’t hidden it in His heart for those first 30 years? Many might assume that he would have because, after all, He is the Word. But what we need to understand is that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are. So, He didn’t already know everything, but rather had to grow and learn things just like we do. And He did all of this as an example to us how we ought to walk.
But my point is that a kingdom-minded person realizes that the Word of God is the only way in which a son of the kingdom ought to think.
In fact, in First Corinthians 4:6, after talking about how we ought not to judge anyone (including ourselves), the apostle Paul said, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written …”
And with this Word-mindedness comes the verbal confession of it. So, once we’ve crammed it in there, we let it come out of our mouth from the abundance of our heart. Therefore, a son of the kingdom thinks on the Word and speaks the Word. They are Word nerds because we know that it is the Word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19). Amen.
I AM WHO HE SAYS I AM
And this being in the Word, getting it in us, and then declaring it is a big part in seeing it revolutionize our lives. We see this after Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness through when He goes to His hometown of Nazareth and enters the synagogue (See Luke 4:16-22).
As His custom was (that’s important), He went to the Synagogue to stand up and read. And He was handed the Book of Isaiah and He found the place in it where it was written concerning Himself.
Did you know that this is what you and I must do too? We need to make it our custom, on a daily basis, to search the Scriptures and find in it the places talking about our spiritual identity and who we are in Christ. Glory!
And, glory to God, Jesus didn’t just hide the Word in His heart, but we see that He stood up and boldly declared it before the rest of the assembly in the Synagogue. Likewise, a key to me renewing my mind to my true spiritual identity is my boldly declaring who the I Am says that I am. No, not necessarily before an audience, but before an audience of one. In other words, looking into the mirror and boldly declaring who the Lord says you are until you begin to believe it about yourself. Amen.
Then I love what Jesus did after declaring what He did. We are told that He closed the Book, gave it back to the attendant, and then sat down. And this is what we need to do as well: We must see it as a done deal, “sit down,” and rest in who and what God reveals to us that we are. Amen!
So, this is how you and I cultivate this kingdom mentality, church! We study to show ourselves approved. We rightly divide the Word until it divides that carnal way of thinking that the world has engrained in us. Then we begin wielding our Sword by confessing who we are. Like a machete, this cuts through the overgrowth of thorns, weeds, etc. and we have a clear path to walking in this kingdom-mindedness.
WHO ARE OUR FAMILY & FRIENDS?
So now, let’s move on to Jesus’ ministry—those 3 years that He spent displaying the truth and grace of God—and look at some examples of this kingdom mentality that Jesus possessed.
Let’s begin in Matthew chapter 12 where Jesus gives us some insight into how He even viewed His own flesh and blood (well, not actually “blood” as Jesus’ blood flowed from Emmanuel’s veins).
Matthew 12:46-50 gives us an interesting account where Jesus’ Mother, Mary, and His brothers send for Him. It says, “While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.’ But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
What an interesting way to look at the relationships of one’s life. I would imagine that most people in the Body of Christ today do not see things this way—because in most minds, there is a difference between our own flesh & blood and the church. But according to Jesus, His true family was those who did the will of His Father.
Now Jesus was not advocating that we devalue and disesteem our own natural family members—because that would contradict other verses like honoring our parents, loving our wives, respecting our husbands, and caring for our children. No, Jesus was not promoting us caring for our family members less; He was simply encouraging a different perspective of esteeming our spiritual family more.
You see, in another instance, Jesus brought up a controversial topic that many have argued over when He talked to His followers about the cost of being His disciples.
He said in Luke 14:26— “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
Well, how many of you know that Jesus was not endorsing us actually “hating” our own family members? For that would completely contradict His commandment to love one another even as He loved us. No, I actually like another Gospel writer’s take on it when He quotes Jesus as saying, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (See Matthew 10:37)
So what Jesus was speaking to was that in order to be His disciple, one must love the King, His kingdom, and His purpose and cause “more than” He loves His own physical family. And, in comparison to how devoted we are to the kingdom of God and how much we love the King, one might classify our devotion and love for our family as “hating” them.
But my point is, it’s clear how Jesus viewed these things: To Him, only being wrapped up in our own family affairs and seeking our own flesh & blood’s welfare is not being kingdom minded. Now, again, He was not saying that these things are unimportant, but rather that these natural things have the tendency to be too important to people.
So, to be kingdom-minded is to love, pursue, esteem, etc. our spiritual family like we would our own natural family.
And how many of you have noticed that when you were born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and were truly converted, that you found yourself feeling even more connected with your spiritual family than you did your natural family? Now it might not have been this way for everyone because maybe you were then evenly yoked with your own flesh & blood. But what I am speaking to is those of us whose own family might not have been believers, or they simply had not had their light turned to the truth yet. In those cases, we might have felt that bond with our brothers and sisters in Christ more than our own physical family members.
Well, that is not a bad thing—for our spiritual family is truly our new family. And this is having a kingdom mentality—knowing that those who do the will of God along with us are truly our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children.
Which leads me to another obvious mentality that Jesus had—He lived His life as a mission field to where not only did He love those who had dedicated their lives to the will of God like Him, but He loved the sinners. In fact, He said in one place that this was His purpose—to seek and save that which was lost. In other words, His goal in life was to pursue those who had gone wayward and had the need of salvation.
Jesus lived this way to such an extent that He was accused by the religious people of being a friend of sinners (See Matthew 11:16-19). This was due to the fact that Jesus spent time eating with the heathen, tax collectors, and such. The religious folks deemed this as unacceptable and Him sharing together with their deeds. But of course, we know Jesus did not dine with the sinners in order to partake of their sinful practices but rather to save them from those things.
And again, this is what a kingdom minded person will do—they will live their lives doing whatever it takes to seek & save the lost. This will be their goal. It will be their aim. Because they know that the only thing that matters in this life is being that minister of reconciliation that we’ve all have been commissioned to be. Amen.
Church, this is what disciples will do—they live their lives totally devoted to the kingdom’s cause and no one and nothing else is more important than that call.
FOLLOWING THE KING
Now regarding this, we have a very interesting dialogue between the Master and a few men who were either invited to follow Him or expressed their desire to do so. This account is recorded in Luke 9:57-62. Let’s read it: “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
So, this passage begins with “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road …” Now we know that this traveling was not being done for personal pleasure but because they were constantly on a kingdom assignment. Yes, all their journeying back and forth on the road was because they were doing the will of the Father and seeking first His kingdom.
So, this first guy who came to Jesus, I can imagine either saw them walking down the road or was already walking with them and took it upon himself to come to Jesus and tell Him— “Lord, I will follow You wherever you go.” And Jesus, knowing people’s hearts, saw a hole in this young man’s statement. It was as if Jesus saw that this person was willing to follow Him, yes, but that he thought he was f0llowing Him to a destination. This prompted Jesus to say what He did— “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Now some have taken this statement to say that Jesus did not have a home or other possessions and, therefore, we ought not seek after prosperity since Jesus was obviously poor. Church, this did not mean that Jesus was broke and lived an impoverished lifestyle. Have you ever seen people raffling off a poor person’s clothes? Well, that’s what they did with Jesus’ clothes. Not to mention, Jesus was said to have a treasurer (i.e., Judas). How many broke people do you know who need someone to carry around money they don’t have? No, church, this did not mean that Jesus had a taken a vow of poverty, but rather that His goal and mission was not to live a normal life here on the earth but to live His short time here doing the work of the kingdom. And this does not mean that you and I are required to do the same.
But what Jesus was correcting here was the false notion that this man had that His current journeying was not leading to a comfortable, prosperous destination. Rather, it was a life that was not comfortable and was extremely dedicated to the cause of the kingdom of God. Amen?
So, the kingdom way of thinking is this—we are not here to simply live a normal, comfortable lifestyle. We are here on kingdom business and that’s the purpose of all of our lifestyle and conduct. Again, it doesn’t mean God minds you having nice things; He just doesn’t want those things having you and making you and I worldly.
Then we see Jesus saying to another immediately after the first person, “Follow Me.” But we are told that he responded— “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” So, Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Wow! That seems like such a heartless statement, doesn’t it? But here me out—It only seems insensitive and inappropriate to those are not as kingdom-minded as they ought to be.
Let me ask you a question: If the Lord called you to go out of state to share the gospel with someone, but your mother or father passed away just before you were about to leave, what would you do? Well, most of us would say, “Just a minute, Lord. Let me take care of my parent’s arrangements and then I’ll go do what you told me to do.” But this is what Jesus was saying is the wrong mentality to have. Always the most important thing to do is what the Lord tells you to do. Not what your relatives think you should do. What your spouse thinks you should do. What your kids think you should do. No, following Him is what we all are called to do, and this is being kingdom minded.
You see, essentially what Jesus was telling this man is— “Hey, let those who are spiritually dead and are consumed with worldly things take care of these worldly things. You take care of mine—which is, proclaiming the kingdom of God.”
Friends, there is perhaps nothing greater that proves how kingdom minded someone is than how they view death: We all have seen how some are absolutely devastated when a fellow Christian passes away, and while it is certainly appropriate to grieve, we ought not sorrow like the world does. Why? Because we understand that there is more to life than just this life in the flesh, and they are now present with the Lord, being absent from the body.
I heard an account once of a grave that was uncovered in the catacombs underneath Rome which had inscribed on it— “Here lies the grave of my wife and six-year-old daughter who died today for the glory of God in the Circus Maximus.” Friends, this was a Christian execution where believers were thrown into the arena of the Coliseum to be mauled by wild animals and slaughtered by gladiators! And this is how this husband & father viewed such a horrific death. Do you know why? It was because he was kingdom minded. Yes, I’m sure he mourned and grieved, but as the apostle Paul encouraged us to do, I’m sure he did not sorrow as others who have no hope (See First Thessalonians 4:13). Rather, by his words etched into that gravesite, we can see that this man was abounding in hope. May it be said of all of us. Amen.
But, church, do you see how what might be considered a radical way of thinking is really the kingdom way of thinking? The natural concerns and cares of this life are not always beneficial. Now I know that we have natural responsibilities and things that are to be taken care of in this world, but my point is—When the Lord says to follow Him, everything else is to be laid down and take a backseat to what He says to do. Amen?
Finally, we see that another also said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus answered him and said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
So, what we have here is another guy who desired to follow the Lord but had something else he felt he needed to do first. In this case, it was simply going and saying goodbye to his family first.
Now, again, that doesn’t seem very unreasonable, does it? I mean, going back to say goodbye doesn’t seem to be too much to ask, right? One might think— “Well, I have to go to tell them I’m leaving or they might call the police, thinking I’m missing!” Well, I don’t think it was the fact that he was going to say goodbye; I believe it was what can happen when we say goodbye that might have been the real issue. The reason I believe this is because of what Jesus said in response to this guy’s request when He indicated that this man was looking back.
You see, sometimes when things like our family is involved, it can pull on our heart strings. We can be all excited about what the Lord has spoken to us, but when we turn to our family & friends, our heart can turn. This is why the writers of Hebrews say that the patriarchs of old who walked by faith did so by not calling to mind that country from which they had come out (Hebrews 11:15). This verse also said that if they would have done this, they would have had opportunity to return, which is the real issue. It’s how we must keep our eyes on Him, His purpose, and His kingdom so that we don’t allow even the opportunity for anything or anyone to keep us from pursuing His call. Amen?
So, Jesus gave these three individuals (and all of us) what might be considered very radical statements, but what we need to understand is that they only seem radical to those to those who haven’t completely renewed their minds to a kingdom way of thinking. Once we come to look at things like the Lord does and from this eternal, kingdom perspective, we will be like— “Oh yeah, of course it’s this way.”
Friends, the Lord is calling us to higher plane—to an elevated way of thinking. And this kingdom mentality might come against some of our traditional views, but it’s true, nonetheless. Let’s come up hither to thinking kingdom-minded thoughts like Jesus did. Amen?
THE MIND OF CHRIST
But the next example from the life of Jesus that I want us to look at is along these lines: I want us to look at His mentality about coming down lower rather than coming up hither.
Let’s begin in Philippians chapter 2 where the apostle Paul gave us a good overview of this kingdom mentality that Jesus possessed: In it, he told us to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Essentially, what Paul was saying was that we need to have the same mentality and mindset that Jesus possessed, and then he goes on to describe what His attitude was.
Now Paul had just told us in verses 2-4 to walk in one accord with our brothers and sisters and to esteem others interests above our own. Now he gives us the perfect example of someone who fulfilled this to the utter most—Christ Jesus! Yes, Jesus strived to live in unity with God’s people—not at the cost of the truth but with the effort to reveal the truth to them. Jesus had no selfish ambition nor was He conceited. He truly esteemed others better than Himself. Jesus looked out for the interests of others above His own. He was the best example of humility that there ever was and ever will be!
So, Paul is telling us here to have the same attitude as Jesus. He wants us to think like He thought—to have His perspective on things. Saints, this mindset that Jesus had has to be “in” us. It has to be an attitude that has become a part of us—that is, placed in our heart. It is only when this kind of thinking becomes a part of us that it will truly change the way we live.
So, what was Jesus’ mindset, attitude and way of thinking? We need to find this out because this is how we are exhorted to think as well!
Beginning in verse 6, the apostle Paul goes on to tell us the mentality of Christ. He says, “who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God …”
Now the word “form” describes the “nature or essence” of something or someone. This means that before Jesus came to the earth He had the complete nature of God—for He was, in essence, God Himself as a member of the Trinity.
Now regarding the phrase “robbery to be equal with God,” the word “robbery” is a poor translation because it gives off the wrong impression of what Paul was trying to say. With this incorrect translation it would seem to mean Paul was saying that Jesus did not consider it “stealing” to say He was equal with God. But the whole context of what Paul was teaching was humility and laying down our own rights for others. Paul was teaching us that we are to lay down our privileges as children of God for the benefit of others.
The word “robbery” comes from the Greek word harpagmos, which describes “a prize held onto tightly, a treasure to be retained at all costs, or something valuable that is too good to let go.”
So, Jesus “did not consider it robbery…” This is the “mind of Christ” mentioned in the previous verse, friends!
Jesus did not consider or regard what He had in heaven, when He walked in the full nature of God, something that He could not let go of. Jesus considered us more precious and worth being apprehended than His own status and nature as God Almighty! That is awesome, saints!
In short, He loved and valued us more than He loved and valued His position in heaven! And this is how we are to regard other people: more valuable than our own position, fame, and glory. Sure, we are the righteousness of God in Christ. Sure, we are the King’s kids. But if we usurp those positions above serving others then we are not having the mind of Christ!
You see, Christ’s attitude here was the exact opposite of that of Lucifer’s (see Isaiah 14:12-15). Lucifer had one of the most important positions in heaven. He was close to the throne of God, but he was not satisfied. He desired to be on the throne of God. He was not satisfied with being a creature. He desired to be the Creator.
One of the main differences between Jesus and Lucifer was that Lucifer said, “I will” and Jesus said, “Thy will.” Lucifer thought only of his own promotion to benefit himself and Jesus thought only of His demotion to benefit us. Christ’s humility in love is a direct contrast to Satan’s pride in his selfish ambition!
Then Paul goes on further to describe Christ Jesus’ mentality in verse 7: He said, “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”
By using the word “but,” Paul was saying that not only did Jesus not “consider” His position in heaven something that He had to retain at all costs, but He also acted on it by making Himself of no reputation.
We are told in First John 3:18 that we are to make sure we do not love in word or in tongue but in deed and in truth. James chapter 2 teaches us that faith without works is dead. We need to always judge our love walk to see if it is active. Jesus considered us of more value than His own position and then actively lowered Himself for us. Likewise, we need to not only see others as more valuable than ourselves, but we also need to willingly lower ourselves through selfless acts of love.
The words “made...of no reputation” come from the Greek word keno which means “to empty something.” This Greek word carries the idea in context that Jesus willingly emptied Himself of His divine privileges and glory that He had as being in the form of God. Saints, He willingly laid down all of His Godhead privileges!
I do like how the word “reputation” is used here. A reputation is the general opinion of other people towards something or someone. Jesus had the greatest reputation while He was in heaven as God. All the hosts of heaven highly esteemed Him. But He chose to willingly forget about His reputation in heaven and come to the earth, where He became despised and rejected by His own creation. Jesus literally made Himself to have no reputation with man rather than having the best reputation in heaven. So many people worry about their reputation with men that they compromise what is right. In Christ Jesus we no longer have our own reputation. We died to ourselves on the day we received Him so we should no longer be concerned with what the world thinks of us.
Then Paul said that He “taking the form”…
The word used for “form” here is the same Greek word translated “form” in verse 6. It means “nature or essence.” So, after Jesus laid down His nature and privileges as God, He took up the nature and lack of privileges of a servant.
But what makes what Jesus did so powerful was that, when He left behind all the glory and honor of heaven, He came to the earth and took the least glorious and least honorable position attainable—a bondservant—for the word “bondservant” comes from the Greek word doulos and describes the lowest form of slave.
Jesus said Himself, “the son of man did not come to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). He went from being the Highest to being the lowest!
Then in verse 8, the Apostle Paul went on to say, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Notice that it says that Jesus “humbled Himself”: The word “humbled” means “to make low.” This is what Jesus did in all of this, but particularly by becoming a bondservant (vs.7). Yes, He made Himself low.
So, this is the way Jesus thought, and it is the way Paul said that we too ought to think as well.
So, let’s now go over to John chapter 13 and look at an event from the life of Jesus that perfectly describes this “mind of Christ” …
THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS
Of course, this is the account of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet that most of us are familiar with, but I want us to notice a couple of important points from this story…
John 13:1-17 reads: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…
So, we see here that the topic of Jesus’ love for His own is the subject at hand in this chapter.
And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God (we will get back to this verse in a moment), rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
Now you have to hand it to Peter here… He sure was quick to repent! He loved the Lord so much that when Jesus said that he’d have no part with Him if he didn’t let Jesus wash his feet, he was like— “Well, don’t just wash my feet then! Wash my hands, head, etc.!” In other words, he didn’t just want a part of Christ, He wanted all he could get!
Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Now does this mean that we need to have a ceremonial foot washing service from time to time? Well, not necessarily. You see, foot washing was something that was done in those days because it was absolutely necessary. They wore sandals which exposed most of their feet and they didn’t travel on asphalt. Their feet were exposed everywhere they walked and were absolutely in need of these occasional foot washings.
Now I’m sure as nasty as some of our feet are, they cannot compare to these guys! Therefore, foot washing was not an ordinance that Jesus was seeking to establish; serving one another was the true lesson that He was illustrating to us.
THREE KINGDOM WAYS OF THINKING
But let’s go back to John 13:3, where there is a powerful verse located that unlocks the key to Jesus’ ability to lower Himself and serve like He did here. In short, this was His mentality and how He thought about things—which is the kingdom way of thinking.
This verse says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God …”
What makes this verse so powerful is that these were the revelations that Jesus had that enabled Him to perform this selfless act of servitude. But before we get into these three things, I don’t want us to presume that these were just true for Jesus. We know the truth that as He is, so are we in this world. So, these things that Jesus possessed, we also possess because we are in Him and He’s in us. Not to mention, He lived the way He did as an example to us, not having any unfair advantage over us. So, I say all of that to say that the things we are about to look at that Jesus knew are realities for us as well.
The first thing Jesus knew was that the Father had given all things into His hands. This means that Jesus knew (lit. saw and recognized) that God the Father had already given Him everything He could ever ask for. He did not have to try and exalt Himself or get people to do things for Him, because He knew the Father was His source. He was secure in the fact that God had blessed Him with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and with all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). Therefore, since He knew that everything He would ever need was already in His hands, He knew He did not have to fear opening up those hands and giving of Himself to others. Amen!
Likewise, when we truly recognize that God is our source and that all of these things are our reality as well, this will create such a security in our hearts that no person or circumstance can take from us! In other words, once we embrace in our heart that He has and will continue to give us freely all things (Romans 8:32), we will be less likely to try and promote ourselves and shy away from pouring out into others.
Number two, John 13:3 also says that Jesus knew that He had come from God: This means Jesus knew He had originated from God—He had been born of His Heavenly Father. He knew He had all of His Father’s divine nature and was born of His Spirit. Therefore, He knew what manner of love had been bestowed on Him to be begotten of God.
Likewise, when we realize that we have been born again and all that we are now as Christians is a result of God’s grace, then we will be more apt to show His grace to others through serving them.
And last but not least, Jesus knew He was going to God: This means that He knew where His true home was and that He would be spending eternity there in just a short period of time.
Likewise, when we get a revelation of heaven and how short this life on the earth is we will tend to live our lives laying up treasures in heaven through selfless acts of love— knowing that this is not our permanent habitation, but our eternal home will be in the glory of God forever and ever. Amen!
Through growing in the revelation of these three things, we will be in a better position to have the mind to serve others as our Lord and Savior did in this instance. We will, as the apostle Paul declared in Second Corinthians 12:15, very gladly spend and be spent for the welfare of others, even when the more abundantly we love them, the less we are loved in return. Why? Because we understand that we are filthy rich in Christ, and we are loved extravagantly by Him. Therefore, we will very gladly spend and be spent, knowing we can never out-give nor out-serve The Lord! Amen!
Friends, having the mind to serve one another is something that will absolutely cause us to live more fulfilling and blessed lives! As Jesus said time and time again— The last will be first, and we will find our lives when we learn to lose it!
So, the kingdom mentality is one of serving both God and others. We are not here to be served, but to serve one another. So, to have the same mindset that Jesus had is to lay down our lives so that we can live it serving others.
Being kingdom-minded is to think like Jesus thought. And if He could serve His own creation to such a base level, then we can too. But it will take us adopting the same truths that He did and knowing that we too have come from God, are going to God, and have had the Father put all things into our hands. This is where self-esteem is found—it is in possessing Christ esteem.
Those who are a part of God’s kingdom have all “come from God”—that is, we have entered it by being born again. Now our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, being registered in the kingdom of heaven. This means everything.
So, because we know where we’ve come from, we know where we are going! The kingdom of heaven is our home, not this world we currently live in. That is where our citizenship resides. It is where we’ve come from and where we will soon go. So, it’s fitting that we begin living for that kingdom now.
And, lastly, like Jesus, the Father has given all things into our hands. That means that we are already rich, possessing all things that pertain to life and godliness as His kingdom’s residents. Therefore, nothing and no one can subtract from us. So, we don’t have to feel like we have to hold on to everything in our lives. There’s more where that came from.
Again, this is being kingdom-minded—knowing whose we are and what we have and then living from that reality. It will certainly change the way we conduct ourselves here on the earth. Amen.
MINDFUL OF THE THINGS OF GOD
Now, finally, there are some more examples we can pull from the circumstances that revolved around the end of Jesus’ life & ministry here on the earth that show us just how kingdom minded He truly was as well. So, let’s wind up this teaching by looking at a few more things from His life here on the earth that show us how we too can become more kingdom minded like He was …
Let’s begin with Jesus revealing to His disciples the things that he would soon experience—that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the religious leaders. As you could imagine, this was not what His disciples would have wanted to hear because they did not understand that this was part of God’s plan of salvation.
So, as he was so accustomed to doing, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands by literally taking Jesus to the side and rebuking Him for entertaining even the notion that He would suffer and die.
So, how did dear, sweet Jesus respond to Peter? It wasn’t the way many would envision Him responding, that’s for sure. Jesus turns and looks at His disciples and rebukes Peter by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33).
Now while most of us are familiar with Jesus’ words here, I think we should ask some questions about them:
First of all, notice how Jesus says to Peter that he was not being “mindful” of the things of God, but of the things of men. What did He mean by this?
Well, the word “mindful” describes everything from to think, have an opinion, or to direct one’s mind to a thing. So, that’s what Peter was doing—His way of thinking was only geared towards things that people think about. In other words, His desire for Jesus not to suffer and die was only being concerned with things that concern things of this earth. But, and we know, God had a bigger purpose. So, if we are being “mindful” of the things of God, we are aware of that purpose and the things that He is mindful of. We see things more from an eternal, spiritual perspective. And the fact is that sometimes things that might seem to be important through our temporal, fleshly lens, just aren’t as important as they might seem.
Look at it this way—Are there things that you and I as parents/grandparents see and understand that our young children do not? Of course, there are! They don’t yet have the knowledge, understanding, and experience that we do. So, there will obviously be things that we know are best.
For example, I think we’ve all witnessed how when young children have some money given to them how they want to immediately go spend it all. Even if they go in a store that doesn’t have what they want, they will still want to spend those dollars on something. It’s called having money burn a hole in their pocket. But we have learned that not immediately spending those dollars on fleshly impulses is wise.
Well, in this case, Jesus was saying that in the mind of God, it was time to spend. As the apostle Paul once said, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” (Second Corinthians 12:15). In other words, Paul possessed this same kingdom way of thinking—that this life is all about giving to others, and that includes the giving of our own lives.
This is exactly what Jesus was thinking: these words uttered by the apostle Paul are Jesus’ sentiments exactly—He very gladly and for the joy set before Him was willing to spend and be spent for our souls on the Cross, even though the more abundantly He loved us, He will not be loved in return to the same degree. Glory to the Lamb!
But this is the kingdom way of thinking, church! It’s interested in life preservation alright, just not its own. The kingdom of God is more interested in laying down our lives and giving to others than it is being spent on ourselves.
Here is another question we ought to ask about Jesus’ statement: Why did Jesus seemingly call Peter “Satan” here? We know Peter was Peter and not the devil, right? But what Jesus understood right here was who it really was who was inspiring these words that came out of Peter’s mouth.
Now do you think any of us here today have ever been Peter? Do you think there’s a good chance that even the most godly, good-intentioned Christian in this place might have had the devil inspire us to do or say something that on the surface might have seemed right at the time, but was a temptation to the person we did or said it in front of? I’m sure we all have.
But the point is, if we are being kingdom-minded, we can detect when something that might have been said or done to us is rooted in a spiritual attack or temptation. In fact, the words “Get behind Me, Satan” was the same phrase Jesus used when He was being tempted of the devil in the wilderness (See Luke 4:8). Therefore, we can see that this was a popular phrase that Jesus used when resisting temptation.
And make no mistake about it—this was a temptation to Jesus because He had feelings like you and I do. He didn’t want to suffer. He didn’t want to be temporarily separated from His Father. We know this because of what He pleaded with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane— “Father, if there be any other way, let this cup pass from Me.” But being kingdom-minded, Jesus attached to His petition— “Nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done.”
So, Jesus’ mentality was that no matter what He might have personally preferred, it was all about God’s will being accomplished. If you think about it, there is no other way to live. It’s all about what our Lord & King wills. We as His humble servants, only do what He says. There is no room in living for ourselves—only for the honor of the King.
So again, what was the temptation here? It was to be mindful of the things of men rather than the things of God. You see, the things of men would be what serves our best interest. What do we want to see and not want to see? And that is certainly a temptation because no one wants to suffer. No one wants to lose a loved one. No one.
For example, how many times has the Lord called someone to go overseas and preach the gospel in another country for a long period of time, but a family member, not wanting to let them go, goes to them, and says, “Please don’t go! I just cannot bear the thought of you being away for so long.” Well, where do you think that’s inspired from? It’s not coming from the things of God. God told them to go. This person is wanting them to stay. That, my friends, is being mindful of the things of men, not God.
But the main area where we see this being mindful of carnal, earthly things is not in someone else trying to convince others to do something; it is usually in our own flesh not wanting us to do something. And that is just natural. That’s just when we need to allow that kingdom way of thinking to call the shots and say, “Not my will, but thy will.” Amen?
LIKE A SHEEP BEFORE ITS SHEARERS
So, let’s move on now to what transpired later: After Jesus followed through with the will of the Father and was arrested in the Garden, we see Him brought before His accusers. Then, being brought before everyone from the Sanhedrin, King Herod, and Pontius Pilate where he was beaten, mocked, scourged, etc. But remarkably, even though He went through such terrible persecution, He never retaliated. As the apostle Peter puts it in First Peter 2:23— “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
Isn’t that amazing!?! When Jesus was slandered, mocked, and had all kinds of terrible things said about Him and to Him, He never said anything back to them. When He suffered all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional abuse, He did not threaten them. Rather, He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
What does this mean? Well, the word “committed” doesn’t necessarily mean here what it means to us today. When we hear of a person being committed today, we think of them being put into a mental ward or an insane asylum. But this is kind of what Peter was saying Jesus did here: He gave Himself over into the hands of His Father and entrusted Himself to His power and keeping ability. In other words, He did the opposite of what most people do. Most take matters into their own hands and do everything in their own power to defend themselves.
Yes, it’s all about self-preservation to most. But not to Jesus! He put His preservation into His Father’s hands—the One who judges righteously. This is essentially saying that He committed Himself to Him who can defend us better than we can ourselves. Church, the only way one can do this is by knowing God. We must come to be intimately acquainted with Him so that we can entrust our lives to Him. But that is where Jesus lived, and it’s where we must live as well.
Isaiah prophesied this about Jesus as well in saying, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).
Church, this one example from Jesus’ life shows just how kingdom minded He truly was because we see that He did not defend Himself even when Pilate was obviously looking for a way to set Him free. You see, when you know that you are innocent and what is being said about you is unjust, the tendency is to open your mouth wide and let the world know it. But not Jesus! He stood before Pilate and nary answered him a word.
But it wasn’t that Jesus said nothing to Pilate. There was one question that got His attention: When Pilate asked him if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus answered and said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36).
You see, this is the main mentality that Jesus possessed that enabled Him to not defend Himself: It was knowing that His kingdom was not of this world; it was out of this world. Saints, when you know what kingdom you are of, you don’t feel the need to defend yourself on this earth. Like Jesus said here, “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight”—showing us where wars and fights come from among us. As James said, it is from our “members”—talking about our fleshly members. In other words, all of the strife and fighting that occurs between men is because we are being mindful of the things of men, and not of His kingdom. Amen?
But from Jesus’ example here, we see what being kingdom-minded looks like. And we also see how we ought to respond to suffering and persecution. Amen.
FATHER, FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO
Finally, we come to Jesus’ crucifixion. And even then, in the midst of complete pain and suffering on the Cross, we see Jesus’ kingdom way of thinking holding true, because when He hung on the Cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
Church, another wonderful kingdom mentality is in how we view the offenses of others. The truth is, anyone and everyone who sins against us does so because of this very reason— “they know not what they were doing.”
We might hear that statement and say, “Oh, they knew what they were doing when they hurt me.” But I am not talking about that; I’m talking about that they truly did not know the repercussions and reality of their sin. In other words, while they might have known what they were doing to us, they didn’t truly know the full effects of their sin against us.
You see, if we realized what sin truly does to us and to the one’s we are doing it to, we wouldn’t do it. People do the hurtful things they do because they are only consumed with “self” and only see what it does for them at the time. But if we knew the truth and were more kingdom-minded, even we could do what Jesus did here and ask God to forgive our offenders because the truth is, they really do not know what they are doing.
You see, having a kingdom mentality enables us to see why people say and do the things they do. They might not see it, but the kingdom-minded person does.
The best example I can think of is like how a wild animal that might have gotten caught in something behaves when a person is trying to help them. Well, what do these animals do? Because they don’t know the person’s intentions and think they are in danger, they show their teeth, growl, or even try to physically hurt the person who is really just trying to help them. But if we are that person trying to help, do we get all offended with the animal and let the things it is doing deter us from wanting to help it? No, of course not! Why? It’s because we know it doesn’t know any better. Might we say, “It knows not what it is doing.”
You see, that’s the way we need to see someone who is entangled in sin, even sin that is aimed against us. They simply don’t know and are just deceived. That’s how Jesus saw these Jewish religious leaders who had Him crucified. He knew they didn’t know what they were doing in having their Messiah crucified.
So, this is yet another way that Jesus was kingdom-minded. From His birth to His death on the Cross, Jesus thought on the things of God more than He did the things of men.
Yes, church, the Lord did say, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9), but the Lord was not saying that to His people because He didn’t want them to know His ways and thoughts. He had just said to let the wicked man forsake His ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts (See verse 7), so the ones whose God’s thoughts are higher than are those who choose sin and unrighteousness. But for us who choose His ways and thoughts above our own, there is access to them.
The Lord Jesus chose His Father’s thoughts and so should we. Let’s decide to do so today. Amen.
So, we have been on the subject of the kingdom of God since the beginning of this calendar year and, thus far, we have answered several questions concerning it:
We began by answering the question— “Why is it?” We did this through a series entitled “The Gospel of the Kingdom” where we looked throughout the Scriptures seeing how the message of God’s kingdom is emphasized time and time again. We looked at how the kingdom was the very gospel Jesus preached throughout His ministry. But we saw how the kingdom was not just Jesus’ message, it was the message of the New Testament. Yes, all the way from John the Baptist to the apostle Paul, the kingdom of God was the gospel they proclaimed. But we also saw that this was the message proclaimed to Israel under the Old Covenant. Yes, from Genesis to Revelation—from the Alpha to the Omega of the Holy Scriptures, the kingdom of God is the theme. Therefore, we learned that if the gospel of the kingdom is the message of the Bible, then it is our message too!
But then we moved into realizing that before we can carry this message of God’s kingdom, we need to know what it is we are carrying. So, we then answered the question— “What is it?” We did this by defining the kingdom of God—not only learning what is it, but where it is and when it is. And we learned that the kingdom of God is the king’s domain or the people or place where he has dominion. In other words, it is wherever His will is being done. I defined it as God’s government and that it is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. We learned that this can be now as demons are cast out, sicknesses are healed, and the good news is being proclaimed and setting the captives free. But it is also in the future as Jesus is returning to establish His kingdom here on the earth. This means that the kingdom is here now in part and will be here in fullness soon and very soon.
And most recently we have been answering perhaps the most important question of all— “How is it?” We’ve been answering this question by looking at the parables Jesus taught us about the kingdom of God which He called the Mysteries of the Kingdom. And I believe the best lesson we can learn concerning God’s kingdom is to learn what God’s kingdom looks like and how it operates—which is what these parables show us.
The truth is, just like we have natural laws that we must live by in this world in order to not only thrive but also survive, there are laws in God’s kingdom that we must learn to live by if we are to see God’s best produced in our lives. I am convinced that many of God’s people do not experience His perfect will for their lives because they have failed to operate under the laws that govern His kingdom. Some are simply ignorant concerning these principles while others are simply not doers of the Word. But the fact remains that God has set His kingdom up under certain principles and it is our job to walk in them just as He does Himself. When we do, we will get God’s results. When we do not, we will get the world’s results. Plain and simple. Church, this is how His kingdom comes and His will is done in our lives.
So now, this week, I want us to move into one final series on the kingdom of God: I want us to wrap up our study of God’s kingdom by learning how you and I can become more kingdom-minded. In other words, how can we have this same mentality that those like Jesus, John the Baptist, the apostle Paul, and many other Jewish believers possessed. In short, how can we think like they did?
You see, there was a strong kingdom-mentality that was engrained in the Jewish people:
For example, in Acts 1:3, the one question that we see being asked by His disciples after His resurrection is “When is this kingdom coming?” Notice how this was what they were expecting from their Christ & Messiah—to establish His kingdom. This was obviously on their radar.
How about in Matthew 20:20-28 when the mother of a couple of Jesus’ disciples came to Him on the side and asked if her two boys could sit at His side when He comes into His kingdom. That’s because this was the hope of Israel. In Luke 23:51, we see how Joseph of Arimathea was also waiting (i.e., hoping) for the kingdom of God.
In Luke 19:11, before giving them the Parable of the Minas, we see the reason why Jesus told them this parable: It was because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. So, again, they were thinking about the kingdom.
Even the thief that hung on the cross beside Jesus was kingdom-minded because we see him saying to Jesus— “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
So, the Jewish people obviously had the kingdom on their radar. But I believe we today have been brought up with certain disadvantages: For one, even though most of us have been born in the United States of America—a country that was established on Christian morals and the freedom of religion—our great nation does not operate like a monarchy (i.e., a kingdom). So, we don’t have it built into us to think in terms of kingdom thoughts.
On top of that, the Jewish people not only operated under that type of government, but their religion was mixed into it as well. So, they not only knew how a kingdom operated, but they knew it was not man’s kingdom, but God’s kingdom. Therefore, their religion was woven into their government—thus, this mentality was threaded all throughout their culture.
This is why when John the Baptist, and then Jesus after him, came on the scene preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, the people were not responding with— “What is all this kingdom stuff you’re talking about?” No, it didn’t need a lot of explanation because it was already engrained in them. The misconception they had about the kingdom of God was not what it was but how it was not to just be viewed physically and naturally. It was more of a spiritual kingdom that will manifest here on the earth by freeing them, not from the bondage of the Romans, but from the dominion of Satan.
But my point is that most of our churches today are much more ignorant of these kingdom-minded things. And, as a result, this is not something that the church today has helped us with.
You see, these things we’ve been learning about God’s kingdom are not things that are commonly taught in most churches. In fact, the kingdom of God is a foreign concept to most believers today. Therefore, we are at even more of a disadvantage to possessing this kingdom mentality because not only were we not raised this way in the flesh, but we have not been raised this way in the church either.
So, I say all of this to explain why this kingdom-mindedness is not our natural way of thinking like it was to the Jews. But this doesn’t mean that you and I are to just throw our hands in the air and claim ignorance and continue to think incorrectly. No, where much is given, much is required. So, for us here at HPC that are taught well and taste of the good Word of God, we are expected to be doers of the Word and adopt this kingdom-mindedness. Amen?
WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS
And that is what I want us to begin doing this week—learning how to how to become more kingdom-minded and to allow these truths about the kingdom of God to renew our minds, and thereby, transform our lives.
So, let’s begin in Colossians chapter 3 where we have a powerful passage of Scripture that teaches us about this mentality / way of thinking that we are all to possess as the body of Christ:
Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Now, after spending the first two chapters of his letter essentially describing what Christianity is not—namely, all of the things taught in both Gentile Gnosticism and Jewish legalism—Paul now “turns the page” and begins to show us what Christianity truly looks like.
It is all about a new identity, church! We need to understand that a born-again believer is not just a reformed individual; they are a transformed individual. We are now new creations in Christ—having received a new spiritual social security number, a new name, a totally new identity. All things have truly been made new!
And I want you to notice that this totally different way of thinking that we are talking about today is contained in these verses! Yes, I believe these truths perfectly summarize what a kingdom-minded person is to think like.
Notice that the apostle Paul starts off by saying, “If then you were raised with Christ …”
In the Greek language this word translated “if” is not meant to convey doubt but rather to make a point of emphasis. It would better be translated “since” or “in view of the fact.” Now there certainly is an “if” that can be implied if one has never received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Yes, one must be born again into to receive this resurrection, but if that has occurred in one’s life, then this “if” is a “since.”
So, the obvious reason why the apostle Paul was essentially saying, “Then since you were raised up with Christ …” is because this was a major point of his in the prior chapter (see 2:12-13,20). So, for the follower of Christ, this being raised up together with Christ is not something in question; every born-again believer has experienced this spiritual resurrection whether they realize it or not.
In fact, in the Greek language, the tense of the word “raised” denotes “once and for all have been raised.” In other words, this is a past tense accomplished fact for the Christian and is not something that we are waiting to be done.
But according to Colossians 3:3, not only have we been raised up with Him, but we also died with Him.
You see, this is what water baptism was meant to symbolize to us—that we were crucified with Christ, buried with Him and raised to together with Him. But it was not just symbolism. It is actually what happened, spiritually speaking. We identified with His crucifixion. We died with Him, and then were raised up together with Him to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Now we all know that this didn’t happen physically. Of course, none of us physically died when we were born again. But according to these verses in Colossians chapter 3, we did die.
Colossians 3:3 says, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You see, not only did Jesus die for us, we died with Him. In other words, we identified with Him, not only in His resurrection, but also in His death and burial (Compare Romans 6:3-12). Therefore, just as we are now made alive in Christ, we have also died in Him.
Now I am a big proponent of studying “in Christ” realities—that is, I believe we need to establish our hearts in who we are in Him and discover our true spiritual identity. But this is one that we usually don’t add to our list of “in Him” truths. However, the fact is, just as we are righteous, redeemed, delivered, etc., in Him, we are also dead in Him. In other words, while it is true that in Him we have life, we also need to recognize that we have died in Him—both dead to our old man and alive in the new man.
I once heard a story of two sisters who were big partiers in their “BC” days (i.e. life “before Christ”). Then, after they were born-again and had a drastic change in their life, they were invited to another one of those parties—to which they RSVP’d, “We regret that we cannot attend because we recently died.” Would to God that we would see our conversion like this!
But the truth is, not only have we been crucified and buried in Him. We have also found life in Him. That’s why Paul goes on to say that our life is hidden with Christ in God.
Now this is also not to be confused with our earthly life—because that life is actually not “our life” anymore. Why? Because we were bought with a price and are now Christ’s. So, technically, your life is no longer “your life”; now it’s His life. And now we have His life living in and through us—that is, the very quality of His resurrection life is now being lived through the remainder of our lives lived in the flesh. Glory, indeed!
You see, the apostle Paul said that, for him, to live is Christ (See Philippians 1:21). He also said in Galatians 2:20 that it was no longer him who was living. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
So, is this true for us too? Absolutely! The moment we were born again, a death occurred. We too were crucified with Christ—which obviously speaks of the death of the old man, not a physical death.
You see, in every place in the New Testament where the Scripture speaks of the death of the old man, it is spoken of as already having taken place (See Colossians 3:9, Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22 & 5:24). So, our old has already been crucified and is dead.
Then the apostle Paul goes on to say, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” That sounds a lot like our verse in Colossians chapter 3—It’s no longer me living because I’m dead. Now it’s Christ living in me and through me.” Amen!
Church, this is part of being kingdom-minded—because we must adopt this new way of thinking that our lives are not our own anymore. We are now Christ’s possession, so the life we live now is in complete surrender and devotion to the King who ransomed our soul.
So, we were crucified with Christ, died with Him, were buried with Him, made alive together with Him, and now, according to Colossians 3:1, have been raised up together with Him. Raised to where? Let’s look over at Ephesians chapter 2 to find out …
Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
These powerful verses eloquently describe what our Lord God did for us in Christ Jesus: Through the mercy that He is so incredibly rich in and because of the great love that He has for us, when we were dead in our sin, He made us alive together with Christ (having brought us to life like Jesus was on that Third Day). And then He took it a step further in raising us up to the heavenlies in Him, seating us together at the very right hand of God. Glory!
So, if all of this is true (and it is!), what Paul says in Colossians 3:1-2 is so very true— “If we have been raised up with Christ, we ought to be seeking those things associated with where we’ve been raised unto.” In other words, “since you have changed citizenships, seek that which will benefit our permanent home and not our temporary one.” And this change of citizenships is what actually transpired the day we were born again.
CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM
You see, the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Notice that Paul is saying our citizenship is in heaven right now. He’s not saying that one day of in the future when we die that our citizenship will be in heaven. No, he’s saying that our citizenship is in heaven right now! So, when our old man died and our new man was risen with Christ to sit at the right hand of God, our citizenship changed!
So, the Word of God teaches us that our citizenship does not begin in heaven when we die and move there. It happens the moment we are born into God’s family that we become His nationality. In fact, the phrase “born again” that Jesus used could be translated “born from above”. That is why our citizenship is in heaven because we were born from heaven.
You see, the Philippians whom Paul was writing, were Roman citizens and as it usually was with those who were Romans citizens, were quite proud of it. Paul was explaining to them that when they entered the kingdom of God they changed citizenships and, as great as the rights they had as Romans were, there is no comparison to the rights and privileges they have as citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Perhaps that is a Word for us today: As we are certainly to be proud of being American citizens and live in the greatest country on the planet, the truth is anyone on this planet who have been born from above are citizens of a kingdom that is far greater than any nation on this planet. Amen?
So, all of this means that our citizenship is in heaven while we are currently living here. We must learn to work down here while we’re living up there. And that’s the reason we have been left here; to see His kingdom come and grow. This is being kingdom-minded, church.
You see, in Second Corinthians 5:17-21, Paul gives a beautiful explanation of what our post-resurrection life’s purpose is:
Verse 17 starts off by saying that we are new creations and that all the old things (the past sins, the past lifestyle, etc.) have passed away and that everything has become new. Verse 18 starts off by saying that “all things are of God” or “all the things that have become new are of God.” Our new life, our new birth, our new perspective, our new ambitions, are “of” God. Then he says, “who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, “He has brought us back to God and now has given us the ministry of bringing people back to God.” Then in verse 19, Paul gives a brief explanation of what the ministry of reconciliation is. But I love verse 20: It’s as if Paul was getting this revelation as he was writing it. He says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” The reason that we were not immediately raptured when we were born again was because our ministry is to stay here and reconcile people with God.
Now what is an ambassador? An ambassador is someone that travels to another country to seek conditions of peace. Ambassadors are representatives of their own nation that go to another nation, that has tension with the other nation, to reconcile their differences.
So that’s a perfect illustration of us: Our citizenship is in heaven, just as an ambassador doesn’t have his or her citizenship in the nation that they travel to, but our temporary residence is in the world while we perform our ministry of reconciliation.
Therefore, our purpose in still being here, even though our citizenship is in heaven, is to change other people’s address too. That should be our main objective, but how do we maintain this attitude of “being in the world but not of the world”? Again, this is being kingdom-minded.
So, our takeaway today is evident— When we were saved and became children of God, there was a complete change in our identity. We are no longer the same—for old things have passed away and all things have become new. We died—being crucified with Christ—and now our life is Christ’s as we live by faith in Him and let Him live His life through us.
This will obviously result in some different ways of thinking, right? We will not continue to live self-serving, worldly lifestyles. No, we will live for this kingdom that we now are called citizens of. We will seek its welfare. We will seek to bring others into the same citizenship that we possess. In short, it will change our motivation and purpose.
Church, we have been raised with Christ—raised up to a new way of thinking and mentality. Now we are kingdom-kids, so that is to be our only aspiration and prerogative. Amen.
For a while now, we have been covering Jesus’ kingdom parables that He taught throughout His ministry, and what we have been learning as a result is how the kingdom of God works.
So, even though these parables were called “mysteries” by the Lord Jesus, what they are intended to do is take the mystery out of how things operate in God’s kingdom. But as I made the point of last week, it is possible for a born again, Spirit-filled Christian to go their entire life without understanding how God does things and, thereby, not experience all of the benefits of living in the kingdom. Therefore, the key to us not being in that company is for us to read, study, and meditate upon these mysteries of the kingdom of God, let these words of Jesus impact our hearts, and then be doers of the Word.
As it was with the children of Israel in the wilderness, if we would just receive the Words of our Deliverer and follow the path He has clearly laid out for us, we will enter into the Promised Land of the kingdom and partake of all of its fruit!
Church, it is time we move into all that God has for us in Canaan Land where His kingdom principle of sowing & reaping brings us into the fullness of His blessing. And this comes as we receive His Words and be doers of them.
So, we’ve covered some powerful truths from the importance of love & forgiveness in the kingdom to the role God’s grace plays in it all. And last week, we looked at a parable Jesus taught us about our marriage relationship to the Lord—the Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins found in Matthew chapter 25. And our big takeaways from this parable is that the Lord sees all of us as His virgins who possess the capability for light. So, we saw that even though five were wise and five were foolish, they had all received the same grace from the Lord that made them pure light. Therefore, who we have been made in Christ Jesus is different than our actions. So, while we certainly need to have our behavior line up with who He has made us, what we do does not change the fact that we are spotless in His sight. Amen!
But we learned that the fact is, some were wise while the others were foolish. And what made the five wise was the fact that they thought ahead and brought “extra oil” with them. Therefore, we learned that a prime characteristic of wisdom is that it looks into the future and prepares for it. Likewise, we need to be like these five wise virgins by looking into eternity and living our lives now for our eternal home.
But perhaps the point that was emphasized the most last week was what this oil was that they used to light their lamps: We learned that oil is almost exclusively used to typify the anointing of the Holy Spirit. So, we learned that without the indwelling Holy Spirit in our vessels, there would be no light in our lives. Yes, He is the oil who keeps our light shining bright for the kingdom of God.
But the fact is, all ten of these virgins had enough oil for their lamps to burn, but there was extra oil to be had—and that is what the wise ones received. Therefore, it’s evidently wisdom to receive what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit and not just receive what we did at salvation. Yes, the Lord doesn’t just want us to be sprinkled with a little oil of the Holy Spirit to light our lamps; He wants to pour out an abundance of oil in these here vessels! He wants us baptized in the oil of the Holy Ghost!
No, we don’t have to be filled with the Holy Spirit to get to heaven. We can receive an anointing from the Holy One by being born again and have our ticket reserved for those pearly gates. But without the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we might just get there a little quicker, that’s all.
So, let’s not be a part of the foolish brides trying to live this life without being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Be filled with Him and stay full of Him so that you can always be ready to meet the Lord Jesus. Amen.
GETTING OUR HEADS OUT OF THE CLOUDS
Now let’s move on to the final kingdom parable that Jesus gave us, His disciples—the Parable of the Talents (See Matthew 25:14-30). I believe that this particular parable rather fittingly summarizes all of Jesus’ kingdom parables because in it, He teaches us how to be watchful and ready for His Soon Return.
You see, immediately after giving His disciples the Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins, Jesus moves into this parable by saying, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them” (Verse 14).
Now when I see the word “For” I like to read it as the writer is saying, “Because …” So, why is Jesus telling His disciples this Parable of the Talents? It is because of what He just told them at the end of the Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins.
You see, after telling them this parable which emphasized wisely being prepared for the return of the Bridegroom, Jesus said in verse 13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” So, beginning in verse 14, what I see the Lord Jesus doing is explaining to them how they are to watch and be prepared for His Second Coming.
You know, one could be confused into thinking that this “watching” that He encouraged them to do in verse 13 is merely us gazing into the heavens, looking for His soon return. And some have certainly taken these words of Jesus this literally by ceasing to be productive members of society and literally sitting somewhere waiting for Him to come back. This is where others in the church have come up with statements like— “We can be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.” But I don’t believe that statement is entirely true.
Now if one has indeed become entirely unproductive here on the earth because they are only thinking of the next life, then yes, this statement can be true. But if one understands that what we do here on the earth for the advancement of the kingdom of God is laying up treasures in heaven and, therefore, how we are to effectively “watch” for His coming, then we will most certainly be of “earthly good” when it comes to the advancement of the kingdom here on the earth. In other words, it is only those who have a misunderstanding of what it means to be ready to the meet the Lord and enter those pearly gates that this statement is true for. But when we know the truth—that by being productive for the kingdom of God here on the earth is the way to truly “watch” for His return because, when He returns, we want Him to find us so doing—then we can be ultra-productive for His glory. Amen?
So, that is what I believe Jesus’ Parable of the Talents is teaching us—how He wants us to watch and be ready for His coming. Therefore, with that in mind, let’s see what Jesus was teaching us in this parable …
WHAT ARE HIS GOODS?
Again, Jesus said in verse 14 that the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country. Now this man is obviously referring to the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, right? And Him traveling to a far country symbolizes Jesus’ ascension to heaven where He is currently seated at the right hand of God in that “far country.”
So, in this parable, what we see is Jesus calling His own servants to Him just before His departure and giving them something. And this verse says that He delivered His “goods” to them. Now the word “goods” describes this man’s possessions, his wealth and/or property. And we don’t have to speculate as to what His goods were because the proceeding verses describe them as “talents.” So, specifically what the man left with each of them was his money.
So, what does this represent? I believe it is clearly describing what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:7-8 when he said, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
So, at the time of His ascension, Jesus delved out His gifts of grace upon the body of Christ. These are His “goods” that He has entrusted to His church—gifts and callings given to us such as the callings of an apostle, prophet, teacher, and other gifts such as the gifts of healings, administrations, ministry of helps, word of knowledge, etc.
But the amazing part is, we have these “goods” delivered to us! They are not of us, and are certainly not put in us because we are “good.” No, these gifts and callings are given “without repentance”—meaning, they are irrevocable. Therefore, they were not given because we’ve been good, but because He is good and He desires to minister to others through us.
So, in the next verse, we see how this man delivered his goods to his servants. They didn’t all get the same amount but were each given different amounts based on their own abilities. Let’s look at it: Verse 15 says, “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.”
TALENTS VERSUS MINAS
Now this has led to some confusion as to why the Lord gives some more than others, but the first thing we need to understand is that this is not talking salvation, but to those gifts and callings that each is given. And the fact is, when it comes to the specific part of the Body that we are assigned to and the giftings that are associated with that calling, not everyone is going to be given the same measure of grace. That doesn’t mean that the Lord loves one more than another. It just simply means that we all have different callings and because of this, there are certain gifts that we need to perform what we are called to do.
You see, just as it is with our physical bodies, just because certain parts of our body seem to fill multiple roles and have more functions than others, doesn’t mean they are more important than the other parts of the body. The fact is, every part of our body is important whether it has multiple functions or not. Likewise, in the body of Christ, we all are important, just with different parts to play. But this is talking about our calling and gifts in the Body, not our position as a child of God. In that respect, we are equally blessed, anointed, and loved by the Lord. So, in regard to our salvation, we all have been given an equal amount.
There is a similar parable that Jesus gave us in Luke 19:11-27 called The Parable Of The Minas which deals more with salvation.
You see, while both of these parables are very similar to where it might be supposed that they are the same, there are a couple of differences: One main difference in them is that in the Parable of the Talents the man delivered his goods to his servants in different increments—to one five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent. However, in the Parable of the Minas, the nobleman gave one mina to ten different servants thus giving the same amount to each one. So, just as the type of currency is different in both parables, the type of spiritual gifting is different.
Now both of these parables are similar in that they are meant to teach us to be faithful in our stewardship as servants of God, but I believe that they are referring to the stewardship of two different things:
It is funny that the Lord uses the word “talents” to describe one of the things we are to be good stewards of because this refers to the different measures of gifts and talents given to us by the Lord. Now some “talents” that we possess were given to us at birth and others were given to us at “new birth.” There are certain individuals that we see in the world today who do not know the Lord and never have, yet they are certainly gifted in certain ways such as singing or athletics. Therefore, the giftings they were given at birth, they may never use for His kingdom’s glory but only for their own glory. But there are other “talents” that are given to us when we receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior and others that are given to us when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit.
So, my point is, the Parable of the Talents is meant to teach us to be good and faithful stewards of the variety of gifts & callings that we have each been given where one may have been given five, another two, and another one. The Parable of the Minas, on the other hand, is meant to teach us the importance of being good and faithful stewards of the gift of grace that we have all been equally given when we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior. More specifically, this describes the “like, precious faith” that we all have received as believers and the same salvation that we’ve all received. Therefore, we have an awesome responsibility to not only be good and faithful stewards of that incorruptible seed that we have all equally received from being born again, but we also are called to be good and faithful stewards of the specific gifts and callings that we have received individually.
But the point is, how we steward our salvation will determine how we will rule & reign with Him. But how we multiply the varying amount of talents that we’ve been entrusted with also play a role in how much of the joy of our Lord that we enter into. Therefore, being good stewards of both the measure of faith we’ve all received and the varying gifts & callings we’ve each received will determine the quality of reward.
GIFTS, NOT WAGES
But what I want you to see today is that the gifts & talents given to you by the Lord are just that—they are gifts. They are His goods which He, in His great grace, has delivered unto us.
Take the gifts of the Spirit for instance: How many people believe you have to work for those gifts in their lives? You see, far too many believers do not see the gifts this way, but rather see them as a “wage.” What do I mean by that? I mean that most Spirit-filled believers think that you and I have to “work” for the gifts of the Spirit; that we have to do something to see them manifest in our lives. But that is simply not true. The gifts of the Spirit are free gifts! They do not have to be earned, worked or paid for! They are gifts, not wages! Amen?
But all of God’s gifts are to be viewed like this: In fact, the word most commonly translated “gift” is the word charisma and is defined as “a favour which one receives without any merit of his own; the gift of divine grace; a free gift.” This sounds an awful lot like the grace we receive at salvation, doesn’t it? Now we know that this grace is not obtained by any good works of our own. Rather, it is a gift given to us by God. Well, if these are “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, then they should be understood to be the same way—gifts of His divine grace, freely given without any merit of our own. Amen.
I looked up the various times that this Greek word charisma is used in the New Testament and guess what the common usage is? That we’ve already got it! Let me give you some examples:
First of all, if you back up to the beginning of this very letter, you’ll see the heart of God concerning the matter: First Corinthians 1:4-7 says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, Paul starts off this letter thanking God for the grace of God that was given to them by Christ Jesus. Now the grace he is referring to here is obviously the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit. And notice that he doesn’t say, “I pray to God always concerning you that God would someday give you grace by Christ Jesus.” No, he is saying they’ve already got said grace! Amen?
Paul continues that they were enriched in everything by Him—not hoped to be enriched in everything someday, but they already had been given everything and were enriched in this! In what? In all utterance and all knowledge! What does this mean? Well, “utterance” describes “speech,” which is an obvious reference to the vocal gifts of tongues, prophecy, etc. (gifts that he would have to correct them on regarding their usage later in this letter). The term “knowledge” is a likely reference to the revelation gifts of the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. But my point is that this church was already enriched in all of these spiritual gifts.
Now was this just true for the Church of Corinth or is this a reality for all of God’s Church today? It is for all of us today just like it was for them 2,000 years ago because God does not include these things just for the benefit of one select group! No, He is no respecter of persons! Amen?
Let’s look at a couple of other New Testament verses:
First Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Notice that each one of us have received a gift—not just some of us, not just the select elect! Everyone has received “charisma” from God. Therefore, our responsibility is to minister those gifts to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. And notice the parallel yet again of the gifts God gives us to the grace of God.
We understand well that we cannot earn the grace of God, right? So, why would we think we can earn the gifts of the Spirit, which are considered manifestations of His grace? We can’t! They are God’s grace to us, and we are simply stewarding that grace! They are in our possession, and we are responsible for handling them in the correct fashion.
So, if we don’t earn them—not receiving them by our actions—then can we lose them through our works? Nope! For Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts (Greek charisma) and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This means that any “charisma” of God (including the gifts of the Spirit) is unable to be changed or reversed. Another way of saying this is to say—God’s not an Indian giver! Once He gives it, He doesn’t take it away.
This is something the Lord has certainly established me in. Like many of our tendencies, I believed in the past that God used me based on my performance. So, while I knew I had a gift, I still understood that the gift was not completely free.
I remember a time early in my walk with the Lord, when I was busy teaching Bible studies at my local church, and I had made some mistakes at this particular stage. In the midst of having to teach these people, I felt as condemned as a man could be. If I had been given the opportunity, I would have handed that Bible study over to someone else! But I didn’t. I had to go teach it.
How could God use me that evening? I felt so unworthy! But here is a good point to interject here. Was I ever worthy (when it comes to things of the flesh)? Was I ever qualified in the natural? Heavens, no! I might have been holier at other times than at this time, but again, God does not grade on a curve. So, what if I was even the best sinner at other times. The fact is, I was still a sinner. I was still making other mistakes, whether or not they were the more glaring and obvious ones. And, saints, this is all of us. None of us, even in our best state, are qualified. As my father-in-the-faith likes to say, “God has never had anyone working for Him yet that was qualified!”
So, the whole time I was preparing and heading to this Bible study, I was crying out to God to please use me! I said, “Oh God, don’t let these people suffer for my failures! Please use me! Please use me!”
Well, that evening I can tell you, was the most I had ever experienced the anointing of God up to that point in my life! Glory to God! He certainly used me—in a grand and glorious way! Thank you, Jesus!
The next morning, I was praying and thanking God profusely! I was telling God, “Lord, thank you for using me! Thank you for using me!” And really what I was saying was, “Thank you Lord for using me for me!” In other words, “Thank you Lord for not letting me have egg on my face and for showing up in spite of myself.” I heard the Lord speak in my heart very distinctly as I kept repeating, “Thank you Lord for using me.” The Lord spoke the following words to my heart: “Trey, I don’t use you for you; I use you for My people.”
Then after I heard that, He began downloading certain Scriptures into my heart showing me how He uses His people in spite of their own weaknesses, failures and carnality. One of those primary examples He showed me is what we have been looking at: the Church of Corinth, the church that was enriched in the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Saints, this is the church who had so many of the gifts of the Spirit going on at the same time so that Paul had to actually tell them to do things decently and in order (First Corinthians 14:40)!
Was this because they were so holy and had no sin? Heavens, no! In one place, Paul called them babies! And why? Because there were factions among them—strife, envy and divisions (First Corinthians 3:1-3). This church was even abusing the Lord’s Supper—using it as an opportunity for the flesh to just pig out and disdain the poor around them. In fact, there was even a man in the church who was having an affair with his mother-in-law, and this church was tolerating it! Wow!
So, no, this church was far from perfect and had all kinds of problems. Yet God was still using them in a mighty way! And why? Because they received the manifestation of God’s Spirit by grace through faith.
So, yes, there is hope for you and I! God has given each of us gifts, and there’s nothing we can do about it!
Finally, let’s look at one more instance where this Greek word charisma is used, and in so doing, learn how to release the gifts within us:
In Second Timothy 1:6, the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy with— “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
Again, the gift of God is already in there; put in us by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. However, as good stewards of these gifts, we are called to “stir up” the gift! One might describe this as “unwrapping” the gift that we’ve been given!
Therefore, I believe we can see a principle here: When it comes to any of God’s gifts that are in us, specifically in this case, the gifts of the Spirit, you and I “stir up” those gifts through the faith that is in us! We can do this by praying in the Spirit and simply pressing into what we have within us!
THE KEY TO MULTIPLYING YOUR GIFTS
Now in this Parable of the Talents, we see how the Lord described these servants “stirring up” these talents that were given to them: We see that the one who had been entrusted with five talents “went and traded with them and made another five” (See verse 16). Likewise, the one who had received two talents “gained” two more (Verse 17). But the one who had been given one, dug in the ground and hid it (Verse 18). So here, Jesus is using the illustration of trading and investing to describe how one grows in and develops their spiritual giftings.
Now any of you who have ever dabbled in these ways of growing wealth know that in order to make money, you have to be willing to invest it. In other words, money will not usually multiply too well while it is still in your possession. So, we have to be willing to put our money into something else to gain interest on it. And this is how our gifts and callings are multiplied as well—by investing them in others. Yes, the more you and I exercise our gifts in the lives of others, the more those gifts can grow and multiply. But if we hide those gifts like the one who was entrusted with one, Jesus’ principle of “even what we have can be taken away from us” can become a reality.
Have you ever noticed that the two in this Parable of the Talents that were entrusted with multiple talents were the ones who ended up multiplying their talents? Yes, it was the one who was entrusted with one talent that never multiplied his, but rather buried it in fear of his master.
Now do you suppose that the Master might have had a little intuition as to who would be the good stewards of what they were entrusted with and who would not? I guarantee you that He did. He saw their hearts. He knew who was wise and who was foolish. He knew who was most likely to produce more with what they had. So, he gave to each according to their own ability (see Matthew 25:15). What does this mean— “according to their own ability”? It means that the master saw and understood what they were all three capable of. So, he distributed to each one very intentionally and specifically. This means that when God sees our faithfulness and He counts us worthy to be a carrier of the keys of the kingdom, He will entrust you and I with more.
You see, God is not stupid. He is the wisest investor in history! And when He finds someone whom He knows will be good stewards with His gospel and His power, He will show Himself strong through them. He counted Paul worthy! He took this man who was giving 110% for the work of satan and said, “I can use this man! All He needs is a little change in perspective and philosophy and that 110% he is giving to satan, He will give it to Me.”
Now, again, don’t misunderstand this: The fact that the Lord delved out different amounts of “talents” is not indicating that our salvation and His love for us is given out in different measures. Those things are the same towards us all and has zero to do with our works. What this parable is referring to is our hearts and how we are used by Him. We must be faithful with our gifts and then we will begin to see an increase in those gifts. Holy Spirit gives us the tools, but we have to open up the toolbox and use them. The more we lean on Him, recognizing that it's only by His grace that something good will come of this, the more we receive.
But as I have personally experienced myself and witnessed in others, the main reason that we do not feel confident to step out in faith and let God flow through us with those “talents” is because we fear missing God—which goes back to the condemnation thing. In other words, the primary reason we do not go out on a limb is because we are scared that it might not be God’s will, plan, or timing. In other words, we want to be sure its God. But this is not how it works! You have to step out in faith first and then you will come to that place of seeing and understanding. But what so many Christians want is they want to know, see, and understand everything before they step out. Just as it is in the natural, in the kingdom of God you are going to have to go out on a limb in order to get the best fruit!
But why do we fear missing God like this? It is partly because we fear failure. We are scared of falling flat on our face. But, thank God, Peter did not think like this. He stepped out of the boat, not fearing that He would sink. And that is the mentality that we need to adopt—not being afraid of falling flat on our face! Sure, we might fail. Sure, we might miss it sometimes if we live our lives like this. But what do you suppose God would rather you miss it in? Do you think He would rather you miss it in not praying for people or do you think He would rather you miss it in praying for people? I guarantee you He would rather you try to walk and fall down than never attempting to walk at all. This is simply a fact of life for any young child: They fall down several times before they truly learn to walk. Do we frown upon them when they fall? No, we understand that in order for them to learn to walk, they might have to fall a few times. Likewise, in order for us to learn to walk with God and walk in the miraculous, we might have to fall on our face a few times! And that is ok because this is how we learn to soar!
You know, it has been said that the way a mother eagle teaches her young to fly is by pushing her chicks out of the nest. It is during their fall that they learn to fly. Now this is a frightening thing, but what does it require? Faith! It requires faith on behalf of their mother to push them out of their comfort zone and risk them never learning to fly during their quick plummet to the earth. But we need to understand that God is a God of faith too, and He believes in us! He believes that we can mount up with wings as the eagle and learn to soar with Him!
Now the awesome thing about our God is that He does not want to push us out of our nests. He lets us choose to make that leap ourselves, just as He did not push Peter out of the boat, but let him make that leap of faith of his own initiative. God, likewise, will wait for us to jump out of that comfort zone—our proverbial “nest”—and learn to operate in the gifts and talents that He has given us stewardship over.
But there is another reason why so many of God’s children fear stepping out in faith to maybe pray for someone, speak into their life, or do something else for Him: It is because not only do they fear failure, but because they fear God! And no, I am not talking about that healthy, reverential fear of God, but the being afraid of displeasing Him.
Do you remember in the Parable of the Talents why the one who had only been entrusted with one talent buried his talent? It was because he “feared” his master (see verse 25). In other words, he had an incorrect view of him. In verse 24, he said that he “knew he was a hard man, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not scattered seed.” Friends, this is exactly why so many fail to grow in the operation of the gifts of the Spirit and in the gifts pertaining to their calling. It is because they have an incorrect view of God. They think He will be “hard” on them if they fail or do something wrong. This incorrect view of God keeps His children from growing.
For example, many people fear speaking out by faith the utterance given to them by the Holy Spirit. And this is why they don’t speak in tongues when baptized in the Holy Spirit. One thing I have told those who maybe only received one syllable from the Holy Spirit is— “Be faithful with that one word! Speak it out and let the Holy Spirit see your willingness to be faithful in little and He will make you rule over more syllables.” One might say, “Yeah, but what if it’s not the Holy Spirit and it’s just me?” God is not going to be angry with you if you are trying and fail. It is like a parent whose child has not learned to speak yet. When the child is trying to tell daddy & mommy that he loves them, but can’t say it perfectly, doesn’t that still bless the parents? Sure, it does! I believe our Heavenly Father is no different! He is blessed when His children are trying to obey Him! Amen?
But, no, God is not hard on us, and looking to come down on us if we make a poor investment with the talents He has entrusted us with. No, God is not sitting up in heaven with a scowl on his face waiting for us to mess up so that He can pour out his wrath and fury on us! No! Just like with any of us who know how to give good gifts to our children, our Heavenly Father is blessed with our good intentions! He is pleased when we, as His children, make the effort to multiply the gifts He has given to us! What actually displeases Him is when we do not try—making the effort to walk in the gifts He has given to us. That is what God does not want to see.
So, I encourage you, begin to put into practice this truth by taking your “talents” and investing them into others. For as you are faithful in your stewardship of the gifts He has put on the inside of you, you will be made ruler over much! It is simply a principle of the kingdom that as you are faithful to put yourself in position for God to flow through you that He will multiply those talents! Amen!
So, the way that you and I stay ready and watch for the Lord’s coming is not by sitting by idly; it is by actively investing the spiritual giftings God has put in us. Blessed are those servants that when the Master returns finds His servants so doing (Luke 12:43). Found doing what? Being about the Father’s kingdom business, of course. So, what Jesus is hoping to find when He returns is a bride who is prepared, doing the work of His kingdom. Everyone doing their share and their part. He certainly expects to make a profit when He returns, saints.
So, let’s be all about our Father’s business, seeking first the kingdom of God! He is not an unreasonable, hard Lord who expects more out of us than we feel capable of. No, He has given us the giftings, the calling, and the abilities to do all that He has called us to do. Let’s do it, as His huper “nikes” (i.e., more than conquerors). Amen.
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART FOURTEEN – THE WISE & THE FOOLISH VIRGINS
So, for the past several months we have been covering the various kingdom parables that Jesus taught throughout His ministry. These are those mysteries of the kingdom of God which illustrate to us what His kingdom is like and how it operates.
We have talked about how important it is that we understand how His kingdom works because it is possible for a born again, Spirit-filled Christian to go their entire life without understanding how God does things and, thereby, not experience all of the benefits of living in the kingdom.
A good analogy of this is that kingdom that we have in Orlando (I’m obviously referring to Disney World): Well, one could purchase their tickets to into that magical kingdom but if they do not know how things work at Disney, they might just use their ticket to enter the gates, but never go into all of it and experience all of the sites, rides, etc. As I was talking about this very thing with another minister, prophetically I saw that’s exactly what has happened in many Christians’ lives: they have entered the gates of God’s kingdom but immediately sat down on a bench just inside and never have experienced all that His magical kingdom has to offer.
Let it not be so with us, church! Let’s enter into the Promised Land that God has for us and partake of all of its fruit! No more being satisfied with just being delivered from Egypt and wandering around in the wilderness. It’s time we move into all that God has for us in Canaan Land where His kingdom principle of sowing & reaping brings us into the fullness of His blessing. Amen?
So, most recently, we have been looking at certain parables that show us what are some of the primary characteristics and attributes of His kingdom:
Which is a point I want us to continue looking at today—our marriage to the Lord and relationship with our bridegroom …
So, let’s move on to another parable Jesus taught us about our marriage to the Lord—the Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins found in Matthew chapter 25.
This chapter begins with Jesus saying, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (Verse 1).
So, as we have been doing during our study of these parables, we have been asking questions that we might understand what Jesus was teaching in them. And oftentimes we have seen that there were things mentioned in the prior chapters that helped us to see what Jesus was teaching in context.
So, when we see that Jesus began here by saying, “Then the kingdom of heaven …” we would do good to ask the question— “Then when?” Well, in order to answer that question, we need to back up to chapter 24 and see what Jesus had been saying.
Well, chapter 24 begins with Jesus telling His disciples how the temple and all of the buildings around it would not have one stone standing upon another. So later, as they were alone on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked Him when all of these things would occur and what would be the sign of His coming. This propelled Jesus to spend the rest of chapter 24 giving them events that would surround the end times before His Second Coming. But towards the end of the chapter, Jesus then turns His attention to how no one will know the day nor the hour when He will return but encourages them to watch and be prepared by being good stewards of what He will entrust to them.
So, this is what prefaced His Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins, and it will make sense why as we look at the details of this parable. So, let’s begin doing just that right now …
Now the first thing that is noteworthy to me about this parable is that Jesus described that “… the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”
Now we know that this parable will reveal to us the difference between the five wise and the five foolish ones, but the fact that all ten are considered virgins and had lamps is noteworthy to me. And by the fact that Jesus was encouraging His disciples to be ready for His return at the end of chapter 24 clearly shows us that these ten virgins were meant to illustrate His followers, those who had committed themselves to marriage with Him. So, this was them, and this is us. And what does He call His disciples? Virgins!
Do you see yourself that way or do you still identify with your uncleanness and impurities? Most do not see themselves as pure and spotless like a virgin because they still identify with their sins. But the fact is, this is apparently how the Lord sees us! He doesn’t see our sin. He doesn’t see our uncleanness. Rather, He sees us as holy, pure, spotless, and without blemish. This is how the Lord sees you and this is how you are!
Now whether we are prepared for His coming or not, or whether we are being good stewards or not, that’s a different story. But that never changed the fact that the Lord viewed all ten of these brides the same—as virgins. So always remember this one thing—our “do” does not affect our “who.” You are spotless and pure. You are sinless and holy. That’s who you are and that’s how He sees you.
Not only that, but these virgins are described as each possessing a lamp: Did you know that we all have this light? In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to His disciples, “You are the light of the world” (See Matthew 5:14). He then described this light that we are by saying that no one puts that lamp under a basket but puts it in a place where it can light up the entire house (See verse 15). So here, we see that this lamp that Jesus described each of the ten virgins possessing is that light that He said we all have been given.
Yes, we are all the light of the world, and the awesome part of that is that this is the same thing that Jesus said concerning Himself in John 8:12 when He spoke boldly, declaring that He was the light of the world. And did you know that this was the same exact terminology that He used in Matthew 5:14 when He told His disciples that they were the light of the world? How can this be? It’s because, as First John 4:17 says, “as He is, so are we in this world.” Amen! Let me say it this way— “As He is the light of the world, so are we the same light in this world.” Amen!
Therefore, this is the way the Lord sees us, His children: We are His pure & spotless virgins, and we are His lamps meant to shine in the midst of this dark and perverse generation. This is who we are, not who we are trying to become.
THE HEART OF WISDOM
Now that we have that settled, let’s look at the point of Jesus’ parable—how we, as His virgins, are expected to be prepared for His coming.
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 25:2— “Now five of them were wise and five were foolish.” Then Jesus goes on to describe the foolish as those who, while they took their lamps, they took no oil with them in verse 3. On the other hand, the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps (Verse 4). So, basically what made the five virgins wise was the fact that they took extra oil along with their lamps that probably already contained its oil. In other words, they thought ahead and brought extra oil, which wound up being necessary because the bridegroom was delayed in his coming and they would need it.
Did you know that this is one of the primary characteristics of wisdom? It thinks ahead and is always prepared. It is not caught by surprise when things happen that were unforeseen and unexpected. You know why? It is because wisdom foresees and expects.
Isn’t this just a common characteristic of a wise person? Through the knowledge and experiences of life, a wise person who chose to learn from their life-lessons, will make adjustments the next go around. In other words, because of what they learned will happen when they do certain things, they consider the outcome of their current decisions. This is wisdom, and this is exactly the opposite of what a fool does …
You know, as you read through Proverbs—the Book of Wisdom—you find that Solomon spent a lot of time differentiating between the wise person and the fool. And we also see that in describing the foolish person, he used the exact opposite characteristics for those who possess wisdom: They will speak without thinking. They will act without contemplating. Simply put—a fool does not think ahead and acts impulsively.
On the other hand, the wise will also consider where what they are about to do will take them before they move forward—thinking ahead as to whether or not their current decision will lead them away from God’s perfect plan for their life. To put it simply—the heart of wisdom is that it looks ahead and considers where it is going.
I like to call this characteristic of wisdom, “the heart of wisdom.” I get this phrase from the 90th Psalm, which was actually a prayer that Moses prayed during the time Israel was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. And in this Psalm, Moses prayed for something that I believe we should all pray for consistently in our own lives and the lives of others. In this awesome prayer, Moses shows us how the heart of wisdom applies to our life on this earth versus our life in eternity.
So, what was it that Moses specifically prayed for that will enable us to gain a heart of wisdom? In verse 12, he asked the Lord to “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” What a powerful verse this is!
What Moses was asking Yahweh was to teach them to count the number of days that they had. What does this mean? Just think about it: The carnal human tendency is to suppose that we will live on this earth forever. Most people (particularly young people) just float through life never considering that their life may end soon. Since this life is all that we have ever known, we just live life never really considering what happens after we die. But life after death is a reality that we must consider! As a matter of fact, eternity is something that we better consider because how we live our life now will determine where and how we will spend eternity.
Do you see how foreign this is to most people, even Christians? But this is exactly why Moses prayed this for Israel: He prayed that God would teach them to calculate and evaluate their days on this earth so that they would be ready for the next life.
You see, our life on this earth is so short in comparison to eternity. And I believe the church has allowed the same mentality of the world to creep into it. We have adopted the same carnal and foolish thinking that is only concerned with this earth-life. This is indeed a grave mistake because a day is coming—soon and very soon—when we will stand in front of our Master and have to give an account for the stewardship of our life on this earth. I personally want the Lord to look at me and say, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in little (i.e., in this short life) and now you will become ruler over much (i.e., in the eternal kingdom of God)!”
So, we could say that making current decisions that will positively affect our future is the heart of wisdom! And wasn’t this what the five wise virgins did? Yes, this heart of wisdom is apparently what five of these virgins possessed. They considered tomorrow. They were mindful of eternity. While they were certainly guilty of slumbering and sleeping like the other foolish five, they were prepared when they heard the cry at midnight. No, they were awake and alert to spiritual realities. Their eyes were open. Their ears were attentive. There was true wisdom in their heart—the heart of wisdom. Amen.
So, going back to our prior point: All ten of these brides were virgins, but only half of them were wise virgins—showing us that one can be spotless, pure, and without blemish and still be stupid. But in no way does our foolishness change who we are.
You see, the reason I harp on this is because the tendency in most people is to identify themselves with their actions. In other words, they see themselves through the filter of what they do instead of what Christ has done for them. The fact is, we’ve been washed. We’ve been cleansed. Our filthiness and immorality have been washed away by the blood. Now we are just as pure as if sin never existed. That’s who we are.
But the fact is you can be holy and righteous and still make foolish decisions just like half of these virgins did. And that’s the differentiator between born again believers. It’s not in what God has made us through grace; it is in the measure of wisdom that you and I choose to walk in. Amen?
PAYING THE PRICE OURSELVES
Well, we know what happens in this parable, don’t we (See verses 5-9)? The bridegroom was indeed delayed in his coming. All ten of the virgins slumbered and slept. But when all ten of them heard the cry that He was coming, they arose and began trimming their lamps. However, the five that were foolish were not prepared and asked the wise ones to share some of their oil with them. But the wise virgins essentially told them— “No way, Jose, because we might not have enough for both of us!”
Now on the surface, this might seem to be insensitive and cold on the five wise virgin’s parts to turn away the other’s request because they didn’t want to risk running out themselves, but we need to understand that this parable is meant to illustrate spiritual things, not necessarily how one is to behave in this world.
And the fact is, when it comes to the wise decisions we make in the kingdom of God and the spiritual things we’ve accumulated as a result, we cannot just generously give those things to other people. I wish that I could just lay hands on people and transfer the good things that the Lord has sown into me into them, but it doesn’t work that way with most things. Now there are spiritual giftings that can be transferred through the laying on of hands etc. but most things we’ve acquired in the Spirit are not able to be transmitted. They will come through one’s diligent pursuit of them themselves and through their own personal relationship with God. Yes, everyone must pay the price themselves. This is what I believe was meant by “but go rather to those who sell and buy for yourselves” (See verse 9).
Church, there is only one place to get the things we need to be spiritually prepared for His coming, and that’s straight from Him. We cannot depend on someone else to give it to us—not our parents, our pastors, or anyone else for that matter. We must pay the price ourselves in order to be as prepared spiritually as we need to be.
EXTRA OIL IN OUR VESSELS
So, as we’ve seen, the main issue in this analogy is that the five foolish virgins did not think to bring extra oil outside of what they had in their lamps while the five wise virgins brought extra in vessels along with their lamps.
Now I see this oil as representing something—namely, Someone: Now what does oil symbolize throughout the Scriptures? It represents the Holy Spirit, the Anointing Himself. Yes, throughout the Bible, oil is used as what anoints someone or something for the service unto the Lord, and it is clear that this anointing oil typifies the Holy Ghost and the enablement He gives us to minister to and for the Lord.
It is for this reason that I see the oil that these ten virgins used to light their lamps as a type of the Holy Spirit who now causes our lights to shine for the glory of God. Amen!
You see, without the indwelling Holy Spirit in our vessels, there would be no light in our lives. He is the One who supplies us with the joy, peace, love, and the abilities to do anything good for the Lord. Without the Christ—the Anointed One—we can truly do nothing! Yes, He is the oil who keeps our light shining bright for the kingdom of God.
But how many of you know that just as five of these virgins in their wisdom carried extra oil in their vessels, there is extra oil to be had?
You see, all ten of these virgins evidently had the oil in the lamps, right? The problem was the foolish ones just didn’t take extra in their vessels. I see this as how all born again believers who are a part of the bride of Christ have received the Holy Spirit in salvation. Yes, we all have been anointed by the Spirit of God, being washed and regenerated by Him. Therefore, the Holy Spirit lives in all who have received their Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t mean they have received all the oil that they needed to keep their lamps burning. The extra oil that the five wise virgins carried in their vessels is what I see as what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, or having the Spirit upon us.
Now this is something that you don’t hear a lot about in the modern-day church, but that should not be so. While many of our churches today are attempting to be less offensive and more seeker sensitive in their approach, there are certain topics that we should not be shying away from. Yes, subjects such as sin & repentance, the blood of Jesus, and, yes, the baptism of the Holy Spirit are eternal truths that we don’t need to hear less of, but that we need to hear more of! Amen?
You see, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is essential to us walking in the kind of life that Jesus died to provide us with. Sure, being born again is the first step into eternal life but being filled with the Holy Spirit is the next step into resurrection life. Amen!
Now because I don’t want to assume that everyone hearing this knows what I’m talking about when I refer to this second work of grace available to us called the baptism in the Holy Spirit, let me give you a brief explanation …
THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY GHOST
Let’s first look at this phrase—the baptism in the Holy Ghost:
In Acts 1:5, Jesus told His disciples, “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So, what does it mean to be “baptized” with the Holy Spirit? Well, notice here that Jesus made the comparison to John baptizing with water to us being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
You see, just as when one is baptized in water, he or she is totally immersed in the water, when someone is baptized in the Holy Spirit they are immersed in the Spirit—meaning, they are not sprinkled with a little bit of Him to where He only affects a relatively small portion of them. Like when one truly is “baptized” in water, they get soaking wet. Likewise, when one receives the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, they get soaked in Him—meaning, it’s not just their spirit that gets sprinkled; their whole man gets wet. That means our heart, soul, and body get affected. We get soaking wet in the Holy Ghost! Amen!
You know, even the baptism of John has been misunderstood: People today baptize incorrectly because when you look up the word “baptize,” it literally means to be “immersed or dunked” in water, not “sprinkled.” In other words, to be baptized in something means to be completely dipped or plunged into it.
So, if being baptized with water means to be immersed, dipped, dunked or plunged into the water itself, then it is to be understood that being baptized with the Holy Spirit also means to be immersed, dipped, dunked or plunged into the Holy Spirit Himself. Amen!
Saints, this is the difference between having the Holy Spirit “within” us and having the Holy Spirit “upon” us: Sure, as I have stated already, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us when we are born again and He regenerates our spirit, but there is a subsequent Promise which is what Jesus was talking about here where the Holy Spirit doesn’t just dwell in us, but He comes upon us. Amen!
I remember a time when I was attending Charis Bible College in Colorado Springs and a discussion came up in the breakroom about what is the difference between receiving the Holy Spirit at salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This question was being debated and then, by what I believe to be a word of wisdom, the Lord gave me the answer right then and there: You see, when one is born again, they receive the Holy Spirit to where He comes and regenerates, renews and then seals their spirits (Titus 3:5 & Ephesians 1:13). Yes, He dwells in that born-again believer’s spirit, but the hidden man of the heart is the only part of us that He affects. Amen!
This is where the baptism of the Holy Spirit (or, the Holy Spirit coming upon us) comes in: You see, while it is certainly important for the Holy Spirit to affect the spirit of man and perform that first work of grace in our lives, what about the other parts of man? What about the body and the soul?
You see, the question that was getting raised in that CBC breakroom that day was— “Did we not get all of the Holy Ghost when He came to live in our hearts at our salvation experience?” Well, sure, we didn’t just receive a part of the Holy Spirit when we were born again and another part of Him when we were baptized in Him. No, we received all of Him when we were born again but He did not receive all of us.
Let me substantiate this statement, further by us considering the different terminologies that are used to describe this second work of grace:
Therefore, from these terms we see how the Holy Spirit is supposed to be poured out “upon” us to where we are completely “immersed” with Him and totally “filled” by Him. Amen! But my point is that just the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit” shows us that the Holy Spirit is certainly likened to water, this is similar to how they anointed men for their ministry positions. They didn’t just dab a little oil on their foreheads, they poured it out on their heads.
Likewise, the Lord doesn’t just want us to be sprinkled with a little oil of the Holy Spirit to light our lamps; He wants to pour out an abundance of oil in these here vessels! He wants us baptized in the oil of the Holy Ghost!
And I can assure you, church, having the Holy Spirit in fullness and abundance is an essential part of kingdom living. Just as it is what the wise virgins did that kept their lamps burning bright.
So, it’s evidently wisdom to keep our vessels filled with the Spirit of God. It is what will keep us prepared and ready to meet our Groom when He appears.
No, you don’t have to be filled with the Holy Spirit to get to heaven. You can receive an anointing from the Holy One by being born again and have your ticket reserved for those pearly gates. But without the help of the Holy Spirit in your life, you might just get there a little quicker, that’s all.
Church, I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for me being filled with the Holy Spirit. He has kept me from harm countless times by leading and guiding me in various ways—through the inward witness, by my prayer language, and by speaking to me in other ways. It is foolish to try and live the Christian life apart from the Holy Spirit—for He is the Spirit of wisdom!
So, don’t be a foolish bride and try to live this life without being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Be filled with Him and stay full of Him so that you can always be ready to meet the Lord Jesus. Amen.
For the past several months, we have been covering Jesus’ “Mysteries of the Kingdom of God” which are the various parables that He taught concerning God’s kingdom. In it, we have spent most of our time looking at the parables Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13, but we have most recently seen that there are a few more kingdom parables that Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew. All of these parables were meant to illustrate the way things operate in God’s kingdom. And that has been the point of this particular series of teachings—to see how God’s kingdom works.
Church, this is so important for us to learn because there is the potential for one to be a born-again, Spirit-filled believer and not experience everything God’s kingdom has to offer. This can occur if one does not learn the in’s and out’s of His kingdom and apply those kingdom principles to their everyday life.
So, last time, we looked at Matthew chapter 20 where we have another one of Jesus’ parables which describe His kingdom—the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. We saw that this parable was given in response to Peter’s question towards the end of chapter 19 where he asked “what was in it for them” seeing that they had left all to follow Him. So, this is what led up to Jesus giving them this Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard—which is essentially a parable describing how there are those who leave all to follow and serve Him at different times.
Now we made the point that though the example is of the hiring of laborers and paying them for their work, this parable is in no way meant to illustrate to us that our salvation is on a works basis. In fact, salvation is not even what this parable is referring to because, based on Peter’s question earlier that provoked this parable, we are talking about the rewards for serving Him—which are most certainly based on the work we do in His vineyard. We saw in this parable that grace plays an integral role in the kingdom of God, but we made the point that we don’t need to make the mistake of thinking that God saves us according to our service of Him. Salvation does not work that way, but certain rewards & blessings do.
But the main point of this parable is the response we see in those who were hired first and worked the entire day for the agreed denarius when it came time for them to be paid: When they saw how those who were hired were paid at the various times after them, they assumed that the landowner would be paying them more. Well, he didn’t, but rather paid them what they agreed upon, which greatly upset them. But should they have been upset? No because they got exactly what they agreed upon. Whether or not the master wanted to give those who were hired later in the day the same was his prerogative.
I made the point then that I wonder if this same thing has ever happened to us—that we have expected the Lord to do something for us or someone we love because of what we or they have done or because of what we or they have not done. “This shouldn’t be happening to them because they are a good person” we say, but we need to understand that it doesn’t work that way. To have that mentality that they don’t deserve to have something bad happen to them because they are a good person indicates that we believe our works have something to do with our experiences. While both our good and poor choices can certainly have their ramifications, to think that one does not deserve to go through what they are going through is the wrong mentality. The truth is—if we were going to base everything on what we deserve, then we all deserve hell and every other kind of suffering. Why? Because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is truly none good, no, not one.
We then looked at the role God’s grace plays in our lives because this parable shows us the nature of His grace and that there are varying layers of grace. And we learned that is one of the most important aspects of God’s kingdom that we need to understand—how everything in God’s kingdom is grace-based. Yes, this grace is not just limited to our spiritual needs. The Lord also has given unto us all things that pertain to this life as well as godliness. Yes, we are blessed by His grace! We are healed by His grace! We have soul restoration by His grace! And the list goes on.
You see, we understand how this applies to our salvation—that no amount of good deeds one does can qualify them to be saved. Our salvation is completely a gift of God—meaning we can’t earn it or work to obtain it, but we need to understand that everything else from our being used by God to accumulating treasures in heaven as a result of working for Him is by His grace as well. This is why we are shown in the Bible that those who have been rewarded crowns in heaven for their service of the Lord throwing them at Jesus’ feet and saying, “Worthy is the Lamb.” It’s because they know that if it were not for the grace of God, they never would have been able to do the things they did to earn those crowns.
So, yes, grace is a big part of the kingdom of God. It’s how we are were saved initially and how we experience His salvation every day subsequently. It doesn’t matter if we have been a Christians for 50 years or 50 days, it will always be the same—by grace and through faith.
THE ARRANGED MARRIAGE
So, let’s move on to another parable that illustrates the way God’s kingdom operates. The one I want us to look at this week is found in Matthew chapter 22 …
This chapter begins by saying, “And Jesus answered …” Now we have no evidence at the end of chapter 21 that a question was ever asked for Jesus to answer. Just because it was not recorded doesn’t mean there wasn’t a question asked, but perhaps Jesus was answering the question that was in people’s heart regarding Jesus’ sayings from chapter 21.
You see, Jesus told two parables in that chapter that are similar to this Parable of the Wedding Feast: One was the Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32) and the other was the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-40). In both of these parables, Jesus described Israel’s rejection of the call of the Lord to work in His vineyard. As a result, Jesus described how the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a nation bearing the fruits worthy of repentance (See verse 43).
Then verses 45-46 tell us that when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard both of these parables, they picked up on the fact that He was talking about them. This, of course, infuriated them and they were ready to “lay hands” on Him right then and there. But they knew the multitudes thought He was a prophet, so they restrained themselves.
So, this is what led to Jesus’ response of the Parable of the Wedding Feast. Let’s now look at what Jesus said in it:
Verse 2 begins with— “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son …”
Now we are again obviously talking about God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, here. So, first of all, notice that in this parable God is called a “certain king”—and that He is. God is our King, which means that we ought to recognize Him as such by walking in obedience to Him, worshipping Him, etc.
You see, far too many people in the Body of Christ today lack the fear of God. They readily embrace the love of God, but that reverence and respect of the King is not practiced as much as it needs to be. Church, we must recognize Him as the King of all kings and live our lives like He is our Lord.
So, Jesus said that the Lord God, our King, “arranged a marriage for his son.” Notice that this was an “arranged” marriage. Now while our culture today does not necessarily embrace “arranged” marriages, they are not such a bad thing. Did you know that arranged marriages seem to be more successful than even our traditional “love marriages?” Now there are a lot of factors that might contribute to arranged marriages being less likely to end in divorce, but the fact is that there are certainly pros and cons to both types of marriages. And evidently the Lord isn’t against the idea of arranged marriages because that is how He has set it up with His Son.
In this case, the Father does know best, and He has specifically hand-picked the bride for His Son. In Romans 8:29-30 we are told that He first “foreknew” her. Then He “predestined” and “called” her. Therefore, the Lord’s marriage to His bride has most definitely been arranged by the Father, and praise God for that! Father knows best!
DOES GOD ALWAYS GET WHAT HE WANTS?
Then Jesus said in verse 3— “and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.”
So, this king sent servants out to call those who were invited to attend his son’s wedding. Who do you suppose these servants are in the kingdom of God? They are His prophets—those whom God sent to Israel and Judah time and time again. And as evidenced by those various times, the invitation to repent and return to the Lord was often rejected by His people.
And notice that Jesus said that “they were not willing to come”—which is the real issue here. You see, it’s not God’s will that is the issue. He has made it clear what His will is, and we are told to not be ignorant but to understand His will (See Ephesians 5:17). The real issue now is our will. Are we willing to come to the wedding? Do we want to come to the table and eat? Do we desire to come to the party?
Matthew 23:37 illustrates this truth: In it, Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
First of all, notice how Jesus is speaking to Jerusalem, God’s chosen city of God’s chosen people. He is lamenting over the people of God, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! Again, this describes those servants of God sent to invite them to the great wedding feast.
And what does Jesus go on to say? “How often I wanted to gather your children together …”
If you were to ask your average Christian “Does God get what He wants?” your resounding answer would be— “Yes, of course, He does!” But is that really true? Does God get everything He wants? According to this Scripture, He often wanted to gather the children of Israel together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! Yes, He wanted to gather His people together under His protective covering—close to Him and free from all danger—but they were not willing!
Now, again, was God willing? Yes! He wanted them under His wings! But they were not willing, proving to us that our will can override His will. And we have to know this is true when you see the majority of God’s church weak and powerless and living defeated, not turning the world upside down like the early church did. Friends, if we are not seeing what the early church did, then it is not God who changed; It is the church who is not willing. Amen?
WHY ON EARTH?
Then in verse 4, we see Jesus telling us what this king did next: He said, “Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.’ ”
Notice that word at the beginning of the verse— “Again.” You see, with the Lord there is always an “again.” In other words, He gives the opportunity to repent and is not a “one and done” God. Thank God for the multiple appeals He makes to all of us to make the right choice!
So, these servants come to those who were already invited to the wedding again with a message from the king. This time, he wants to share with them what is available at this wedding, and it’s a feast! He said to tell them, “See, I have prepared my dinner (for you to partake of), and the menu is the best meat! It’s all ready for you to come and freely partake of! Come to the wedding!”
You see, this is an illustration of the gospel message! The Lord told His servants to go tell them the good news of what is available for them by His grace! But did they just readily accept this gracious invitation? Nope! We see in verses 5-6— “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.”
Why on earth would some make light of such a wonderful invitation? That’s why—because they are “on earth.” In other words, it is because they are in the world and the world is in them. This is when they “went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business …”
Jesus illustrates what was happening here in a more detailed way in His Parable of the Great Supper in Luke 14:18-20: After the great invitation to His supper was given, Jesus described how all who were invited responded: “But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ ”
Now the reason this is in the Bible is because this is the tendency that is in all of us—to not prioritize the call of the Lord to come dine with him. Church, living in this world, it is just easy to love the things in it. We’ve all made this mistake multiple times in our lives.
But there were some who took it to a whole other level: While some went their ways—just being preoccupied with other things— “the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.”
This is obviously referring to how the Jews were known for taking the prophet who was sent to them by the Lord and persecuting the Lord’s servants. This is something that can be expected—that people will seek to silence the Lord’s mouthpiece by any means necessary.
But the fact is, there are all sorts of levels to rejecting the invitation of the Lord to His wedding feast, and we likely have all participated in it somehow. But while it might be something we’ve all experienced, that doesn’t mean the Lord condones it. In fact, notice how the king responded …
In verse 7, we are told— “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” This is, of course, showing the Jewish people what happened to them by rejecting His servants that He had sent to them—namely, His Holy Servant, the Lord Jesus.
Notice what Jesus said next in verses 8-10— “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore, go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
What we are seeing here is how after the Jews would reject their Messiah, the Lord would then target the Gentiles. These are those in the “highways.” And notice how those His servants found were “both bad and good.” To me, that’s just beautiful!
You see, the Lord hasn’t just invited the “good” to His wedding feast; He’s invited the “bad” too. In other words, there is no distinction made. As the king told his servants, it’s “as many as you find” that need to be invited. Aren’t you glad for that!?! The Lord was not cherry picking. He said to invite “whosoever will”—both good and bad. Amen!
THE WEDDING GARMENT
But, finally, notice what happened after the hall was filled with its guests: “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So, he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Verses 11-14)
You see, it was customary in their culture for the one who held the wedding to provide all their guests with wedding garments. Therefore, it would obviously be expected that all of the guests be wearing those garments at the wedding. Likewise, our Lord and King has provided all of His guests with garments and a robe! This is spoken of in Isaiah 61:10 when we are told— “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness …”
Praise God, this is what He has done for all those who have been born again and are the true children of God—He has clothed us in the garments of His salvation and has covered us in His robe of righteousness! And it’s important for us to know that this was necessary:
You see, before coming to Christ, our garments were tattered. They were filthy. Isaiah 64:6 says it this way— “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags …” So, all of our garments were filthy and unclean. Yes, as Romans 3:10 states, there is none righteous, no not one.
So, we all had need of new garments. That’s where Jesus came on the scene, and He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Second Corinthians 5:21). Now, we have been provided with His garments of salvation—meaning, we have His peace, His joy, His deliverance, His healing, His blessing, etc. Now, we have been covered in His very own righteousness—having exchanged our filthy rags for His rich robe! Amen.
Then notice what Isaiah 61:10 goes on to say … “As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” So, do you see the comparison of these garments of salvation and robe of righteousness to wedding garments? I believe this is what Jesus was illustrating to us.
But for whatever reason, there was a guest who didn’t have on the wedding garment that the king had so graciously provided. So, Jesus told us that when the king saw this, he approached the man and asked him how he got in without a wedding garment, and we are told that the man was speechless.
I see this as descriptive to how there are people who are trying to enter the kingdom of God by their own righteousness. You see, there are going to be those who think they will attend the marriage supper of the Lamb because they do things or don’t do certain things. This is essentially what Adam and Eve did when they sinned in the Garden. Instead of being clothed in the glory of God, they attempted to cover their shame with fig leaves. Church, these fig leaves will never suffice to cover our own unrighteousness. We must be clothed in the raiment of Christ in order to be a legitimate guest in this marriage feast because when the Day comes that we all stand before the judgment, those who have not put on His wedding garments will stand before him like this man, “speechless.” As the prophet forecasted— “every mouth will be stopped and the whole world will be found guilty before God” (Romans 3:19).
Zephaniah 1:7-8 prophesies this beautifully when he says, “Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; For the day of the Lord is at hand, For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests. And it shall be, in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.”
This is a prophecy of the Great Judgment which correlates with Jesus’ parable that describes to us that all must accept the gospel invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb and be clothed in His wedding garments.
Church, this what the King of king’s kingdom is all about—a marriage feast! It’s about joy! It’s about prosperity! It’s about favor! But, most importantly, it’s about a marriage—our marriage as the Bride of Christ to our Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Never forget that we are in a marriage with Jesus. Therefore, it is all about relationship with Him—the love He has for us and the love we have with Him. This will be a point we will hammer in a couple of weeks, but until then—don’t miss the invitation to the party! While the kingdom of God is not about eating & drinking; it is about eating & drinking from the table of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Amen!
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART TWELVE – GRACE, GRACE, AND MORE GRACE!
So, for several months now, we have been covering what Jesus called “The Mysteries of the Kingdom,” which are the parables that Jesus taught concerning the kingdom of God. We have spent most of our time looking at the parables Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13. But I have found that there are a few more kingdom parables that Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew that were meant to further illustrate the way things operate in God’s kingdom.
So, last week, we looked at one of them in Matthew chapter 18 commonly known as the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, and we learned some super important things: For one, we learned from this parable that God’s kingdom operates on forgiveness. Yes, we see this subject referred to time and time again throughout the New Testament. Forgiveness is what the Lord has freely given us and what He expects us to freely give to others. And the reason why forgiveness is such a big part of His heart is because love is paramount to Him—and forgiveness is what love does. So, we learned that just as we are commanded to love one another as He has loved us, we are also called to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. And this is what Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant teaches us: It shows us how great our sin debt was that the Lord forgave us of, and how the Lord then expects us to forgive our fellow servants who would ever owe us a much less significant debt.
So, we then looked at a few of the variables of unforgiveness such as how to do it: We saw how the King in this parable forgave His servant—by being moved with compassion. And we learned that this compassion is something we can learn to put on, which will help us forgive others with the love of the Lord. Likewise, we found that we can also put on forgiveness like compassion and choose to forgive others.
But we made the point that this is not always easy to do. I’ve talked to people who have been so hurt that while they honestly want to obey the Lord, do not know how to release that person because the offense was so great. So, we saw that, in some of our greatest exhortations to forgive others, the forgiving is being done while in prayer. Therefore, there is apparently a connection between the process of forgiveness and our own personal prayer lives. We saw that this is why Jesus combined Mark 11:25 with Mark 11:23-24: After teaching us the principles of faith of speaking to our mountains and letting our faith-filled words frame our world, Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
So, it is no surprise then that so many people have a hard time releasing people in their hearts. Why? Because they are not doing it God’s way; they are doing it their own way—trying their best to forgive but failing to truly release that person in their hearts. Yes, when we do it God’s way—which is taking it before the Lord when we stand praying, and confessing before Him our willingness to release them for the hurt they caused us, and sincerely praying for them. This is where God’s supernatural ability to forgive gets activated in our life! It is where we are truly able to release them and the anointing to forgive is released in our lives! Hallelujah!
Now this week, I want us to move on to Matthew chapter 20 where we have another one of Jesus’ parables which describe His kingdom—the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
THE PARABLE OF THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD
Now this parable is only given to us in the Gospel of Matthew, and it was given in response to Peter’s question towards the end of chapter 19. So, let’s go back to the previous chapter and look at the context of this parable …
Beginning in Matthew 19:16, we have the story of the rich young ruler—which is where a rich young man came to Jesus wanting to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life. So, Jesus told him that he needed to keep the commandments. Then this young man asked Him, “Which ones?” So, Jesus gave him a few examples of the righteous requirement of the law to which the young man said that he had kept all of them from his youth and asked, “What do I still lack?” So, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect, he could go sell all he had, and give it to the poor, and then he would have treasure in heaven. But then we are told in verse 22 that he went away sorrowful because he had great possessions (and I might add that great possessions had him).
You see, Jesus was not trying to get this man to take an oath of poverty and subtract from him. No, how many of you know that the Book of Proverbs said that he who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord and the Lord will repay what He has given them (See Proverbs 19:17). So, according to this promise, what would have happened to this rich young ruler if he would have sold all he had and given it to the poor? The Lord would have repaid him! So, Jesus was not trying to just get something through this guy; He was trying to get something to him. Well, someone might ask, “So why didn’t Jesus remind him of this promise in Proverbs?” I believe the answer to that is obvious because Jesus was getting at his heart and didn’t want him doing this because of how it might benefit him.
So, then Jesus began to share with His disciples how hard it was is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven—for it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Now this is something you see as a reoccurring theme in the New Testament—that the rich seemed to be condemned while the poor are lauded. But this is not because God has something against people who have wealth, and those who have lack in this life are the only ones God accepts. No, whether someone has money or not is not the issue. Like in the example of the rich young ruler, the problem is whether or not the possessions have the person. And generally speaking, those who have wealth have a difficult time not letting their possessions be their priority.
Now these sayings by Jesus evidently floored His disciples because notice how they responded in verse 25— “When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’”
I have wondered before, why were they astonished by this? A lot of people in the church today certainly aren’t astonished by this saying, I’m sure. And why? Because we have been taught by religion that poverty is holy, etc. So, while we might not be astonished by Jesus’ sayings here today, the disciples were then. So why? I believe it was because they were not taught this under the Old Covenant.
You see, there were plenty of examples they had of godly people who were rich. They had Abraham who was said to be “very rich” yet was also considered the Father of Faith. They had King David who was also very wealthy and was called a man after God’s own heart. And of course, we have King Solomon, who was extremely wealthy and was also very wise. In fact, they had promises under the law that if they would obey His commandments and heed His voice, that he would bless and prosper them. So, from these examples alone, it shows us that wealth in and of itself is not what makes it hard for someone to enter the kingdom of heaven, because some of the godliest examples we have in the Old Testament were rich.
So, this is why I believe Jesus’ disciples were so astonished at what Jesus said to them—it was because prosperity was considered a blessing from God, not something that would condemn a person. However, Jesus reassures them and us in verse 26 by saying that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”—meaning even though it might be hard and difficult for some people to inherit eternal life, nothing is too hard and difficult for God. Yes, with Him, all things are possible! Praise God for that!
So, this is what led to Peter’s question that I referred to earlier that led to this parable we will be covering today: So, let’s pick up in verse 27, which reads— “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’”
What was happening here? Well, Peter saw that Jesus had told the rich young ruler that he was to sell all he had and come follow him. So, what do you suppose those rascally disciples would be thinking? “We’ve done this, Lord! So, what’s in it for us?”
This is when Jesus began to tell them about the great reward for laying our lives down for him, from receiving thrones in the kingdom of heaven to receiving a hundredfold in this life (Mark’s account is sure to add that these blessings will be reaped in this life, not necessarily in the next one).
But notice verse 30—because I see this statement by the Lord as being the one that the following parable is built upon. Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
So, who are the “first” Jesus is describing here? Well, based on the context, it obviously would be Jesus’ disciples because they were the ones He called first. So, I see Jesus as preparing them for something in His eternal kingdom—that they shouldn’t think that because they were the first who left all and followed him that they would be more privileged than others who would do the same after them.
So, this is what led up to Jesus giving them this Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard—which is essentially a parable describing how there are those who leave all to follow and serve Him at different times. Let’s look at it …
Matthew 20:1 starts out by saying, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Now the “landowner” here is obviously the Lord—which should be an easy way to see Him because He is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (See Psalm 50:10). Yes, God is the Creator of this earth, and therefore the owner of all that is within it. Amen.
So, based on the context, this going out “early in the morning” is primarily a reference to when Jesus came on the scene, when His ministry as the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in His wings. That’s right—Jesus’ manifestation here on the earth was similar to the sun rising early in the morning. Therefore, these laborers that were hired early in the morning are an obvious reference to Jesus’ disciples, those whom He invited to follow Him early in His ministry.
So, in verse 2 when Jesus said that this landowner “agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day,” what we are seeing here is that there was an agreement made. There wasn’t (as we are about to see) a trust factor between the laborers and the landowner for him to pay them appropriately. No, they essentially had a contract—which reminds me of how the Old Covenant was drawn up. It was essentially a contract saying, “we do this; God does that.” And while the law was good in its own rite as it was certainly better to be a laborer in His vineyard than to not be, it was not God’s best. The New Covenant of Grace that you and I are a part of is God’s best, a “better covenant established upon better promises” (See Hebrews 8:6).
But the fact is God will obviously deal with us on a contract basis if we desire to do so. Yes, He’s okay with that even though it might not be His best. What is in our best interest, however, is to trust and believe Him and to not base our relationship with Him on what we do or don’t do. Faith always gets the grace; works don’t. It’s that simple.
So, the first round of laborers had this agreement with the Master for a denarius a day, but beginning in verse 3, we are told— “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. (See verses 3-4)
The third hour of the day was 9 AM. So, we are talking just a couple of hours after those who started the day as His laborers were hired. And notice how he told them to go work in His vineyard and “whatever is right I will give you.” The word “right” here is a word that was primarily translated “righteous.” What a beautiful picture here of how righteousness is put towards our account. Whatever is righteous, He will give us! Praise God!
Then in verse 5 we are told— “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.” This is at noon and then at 3 PM. So, it’s getting later and later in the day, isn’t it? But notice verses 6-7— “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’” So, the eleventh hour is 5 PM! Now that’s extremely late in the day, isn’t it?
Then, beginning in verse 8, we are told what happened when the workday had ended— “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
So, the “evening” coming primarily represents when our time working on this earth has ended—thus, the end of this age and the time for rewards to be delved out. But what is interesting to me about this part of the parable is how the owner of the vineyard told his steward to first pay the laborers who were hired last. You would think that the ones who worked the longest and hardest should get paid first, but this is just not how things work in the kingdom of God. The Lord doesn’t necessarily do things the way we think they should be done, and do you know why? It is because most of us are works-minded, thinking more along the lines of—What do they deserve? No, the Lord operates more on a grace system. That’s why you will see blessings, giftings, etc. being given to those who definitely seem to deserve it the least. Thus, bringing to pass the saying that last will be first and the first last. So be it.
Now let me say that even though the example is of the hiring of laborers and paying them for their work, this parable is in no way meant to illustrate to us that our salvation is on a works basis. In fact, salvation is not even what this parable is referring to because based on Peter’s question earlier that provoked this parable, we are talking about the rewards for serving Him—which are most certainly based on the work we do in His vineyard. You will see in this parable that grace plays an integral role in the kingdom of God, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that God saves us according to our service of Him. Salvation does not work that way, but certain rewards & blessings do. But guess what? Even the rewards for our service have an element of grace to them—which is a big point in this parable.
But the main point of this parable is the response we see in those who were hired first and worked the entire day for the agreed denarius: When they saw how those who were hired at the various times after them were paid, they assumed that the landowner would be paying them more. Well, he didn’t, but rather paid them what they agreed upon, which greatly upset them. But should they have been upset? No because they got exactly what they agreed upon. Whether or not the master wanted to give those who hired later in the day the same was his prerogative.
I wonder if this same thing has ever happened to us—that we have expected the Lord to do something for us or someone we love because of what we or they have done or because of what we or they have not done. “This shouldn’t be happening to them because they are a good person” we say. But we need to understand that it doesn’t work that way. To have that mentality that they don’t deserve to have something bad happen to them because they are a good person indicates that we believe our works have something to do with our experiences. While both our good and poor choices can certainly have their ramifications, to think that one does not deserve to go through what they are going through is the wrong mentality. The truth is—if we were going to base everything on what we deserve, then we all deserve hell and every other kind of suffering. Why? Because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is truly none good, no, not one.
BECAUSE OF GRACE
But the fact is—this parable reveals to us the grace of God. It shows us the nature of His grace and that there are varying layers of grace. And that is one of the most important aspects of God’s kingdom that we need to understand—how everything in God’s kingdom is grace-based.
We don’t get what we deserve; we get what Jesus deserved. He who knew no sin was made to be sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (See Second Corinthians 5:21). We didn’t deserve to be justified; we deserved to be condemned to death because we all had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But even though our own righteousness was as filthy rags, the Lord clothed us in His robe of righteousness—all because of grace.
But this grace was not just limited to our spiritual needs. The Lord also has given unto us all things that pertain to this life as well as godliness. Yes, we are blessed by His grace! We are healed by His grace! We have soul restoration by His grace! And the list goes on.
So, if it is all by His grace, then it’s all going to be experienced by our faith—for faith is the only way to apprehend His grace. It won’t be by our long hours of serving the Lord in His vineyard (i.e., because we’ve been a Christian a long time and have been doing a bunch of good works for Him). His grace comes because we respond to His call and serve Him without an agreement. Amen.
Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches us this principle: These verses say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Notice what is mentioned first in these verses—the grace! Paul said, “For by grace.” You could translate this phrase— “because of grace.”
You see, as important as faith is (and we will get to this in a moment), grace is the most important—for if there was no grace provided, there would be nothing for us to have faith in. And just as it was in our salvation, grace came in the person of Jesus over 2,000 years ago. Jesus came, went to the Cross, became our sin, died in that state, and then was raised from the dead. All of this had to take place in order for us to be born again today. So, the grace for salvation had to be provided first. It is all “because of grace.”
So, grace had to come. The provision had to be made. The promise had to have substance. Now, comes the “through faith” part. Some that move over into error concerning the grace of God begin to believe that it is all completely by grace and then begin to believe that since salvation was provided for all men on the Cross, everyone must be saved.
Well, this discounts this phrase “through faith,” doesn’t it? You see, everything in the kingdom of God must be received. It is not forced on us. It doesn’t happen just because God made a way for it to happen. No, God has made the provision, but that provision of grace must come through a channel or an avenue, and that way is “through faith.”
But again, this is not just how it works for our salvation from sin; it works this way in every area of our life.
In Colossians 2:6, the apostle Paul said something very interesting: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” What this verse is saying is that the same way you received Christ Jesus, that is the same way you are supposed to walk in Him.
So, let me ask you a question: How did you receive Him? It was by grace through faith, right? Most Christians have no problem embracing the truth that we are saved solely by God’s grace and by simply putting our faith in Him. But what most fail to understand is that this is exactly how we are supposed to receive everything from the Lord even after our salvation. This is exactly what the apostle Paul was saying in Colossians 2:6—that everything in the Christian life is to be received the same way, by grace through faith. Saints, we will never cease to receive from the Lord this way. If we fail to embrace this truth, we will live a frustrated Christian life. It then should be of no surprise why so many believers experience the joy of the Lord when they are first saved and then, as time passes, they lose their joy and even become more miserable than they were before they became Christians.
Notice then how this process of salvation is explained in the rest of verse 8 into verse 9: “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Now we understand how this applies to our salvation—that no amount of good deeds one does can qualify them to be saved. Our salvation is completely a gift of God—meaning we can’t earn it or work to obtain it, and God’s reasoning behind this is that no one would be able to boast and say, “Hey, I did all of this and look what I’ve earned.” No, we understand that salvation is a free gift, cannot be earned and no one will be able to boast saying they earned it somehow.
So now, let’s look at the meaning of that one word “saved” in this verse. It means more than just the saving of our spiritual condition. It describes safety, deliverance, provision, healing, etc. So, for example, we could translate this phrase: “For by grace you have been HEALED!” “...and that HEALING is not of yourselves.” “...not of works (getting into all the things we try and do to get and stay healed and healthy) “...it is the gift of God” (Do you know when something is no longer a gift? When you have to pay for it!)
So, we see that healing is all “because of grace”—meaning, it has been provided for us all because of the grace of God. This is the first thing we need to get our hearts established in—the grace of God has provided healing and wholeness. And we also need to understand that although this healing is received through faith, it is not obtained nor walked in “of ourselves”—meaning, we do not need to see our healing as having anything to do with us. The reason I say this is because of the subtleties of our flesh to believe that we are healed because of our “great faith,” our dietary habits, our exercise routines or our own righteousness etc. No, no, no, you must always remain sober to the fact that receiving and walking in divine health and healing “is not of yourselves.”
The reason this is so important to understand is because it is easy for our heart to be deceived and begin to believe that our own works of diets, exercise, applying spiritual principles and even our “believing” is what obtained the healing. And if that is how we believe, we are in danger of taking our eyes off of the object of our faith—the Grace of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is not a good place to be.
Then, it is imperative that we know that it is all “because of grace” that we have been and can be “saved” in any area of life. Grace is first, then faith comes next.
So, we have seen today that grace is a big part of the kingdom of God. It’s how we are were saved initially and how we experience His salvation every day subsequently. It doesn’t matter if we have been a Christians for 50 years or 50 days, it will always be the same—by grace and through faith.
And once we settle this in our hearts and begin trusting the Lord to do what is “right” in our lives by serving Him out of love and not trying to earn something from Him, then we can see grace, grace, and more grace in our lives!
There is more grace to be had, church! Let God be gracious to you today! Amen!
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART ELEVEN – THE FORGIVEN SERVANT & THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
Most recently, we have been covering the kingdom parables that Jesus taught in His sermon by the sea. But I have found that there are a few more kingdom parables that Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew that were meant to further illustrate the way things operate in God’s kingdom. So, I want us to begin looking at them this week—for in doing so, we can further learn the ways of the kingdom of God. Amen?
So, let’s begin by turning over to Matthew chapter 18, where we have a parable that reveals to us a critical part of the method of operation in God’s kingdom—forgiveness.
Church, forgiveness is one of the most important practices in God’s kingdom. We see it referred to time and time again throughout the New Testament. Forgiveness is what the Lord has freely given us and what He expects us to freely give to others. And the reason why forgiveness is such a big part of His heart is because love is paramount to Him—and forgiveness is what love does.
A CALL TO LOVE
How many of you know that love is the greatest of all commandments? In fact, Jesus told us that it is the new commandment—that we love one another as He has loved us (See John 13:34). Therefore, love is the life of the kingdom. It is God—His way of operating here on the earth and thus the principle that His kingdom operates on.
Now this is not a “new commandment” in the sense that love was a foreign concept to those who were once under the Old Covenant. They had the commandment to love their neighbor as themselves emphasized throughout the law and the prophets. In fact, Jesus referred to these commandments of loving God and loving their neighbor as being the things that all of the law and prophets hung on (See Matthew 22:37-40).
So, this New Testament commandment to love one another was not new in that the subject of love was a new concept to them, but it was new in that it gave us a new standard of love. Today, we are not to love one another as we love ourselves; now, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Now I will say that loving your neighbor as yourself is a very practical way to love others because it offers us a simple change of perspective which can help us to love our neighbor. But the focus in this verse is not simply loving our neighbor, but rather loving one another—that is, loving the brethren, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our church family. And we have a lot more Scriptures in the New Testament that refer to loving our fellow church members than we do loving the world. Why is that? It is because you evidently are going to have a lot more of a temptation to not walk in love with the brethren. Let me explain …
You know, sometimes it is harder to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. The reason is because we expect more out of them. Therefore, there is a greater opportunity for offense with our brothers and sisters in the church because we place greater expectations on them than we do the world and the ungodly.
As a general rule, we don’t expect the world to love us and treat us a certain way—certainly not to the degree that we expect the church to. Therefore, when our brothers and sisters don’t do right, the temptation to be offended is much greater. This is why we are exhorted time and time again throughout the epistles (the letters written to us, Christ’s church) to love one another and the specific ways to do so. The reason is because the opportunities not to do so will be abundant.
You know, many in the church have this misconception that until the body of Christ eliminates all the disunity, strife, unforgiveness etc., that we will not see the power of God manifest. I’m here to tell you, that is simply not true.
How do I know this, you ask? Well, just look at the early church. They walked in a realm of the kingdom of God that we hope to as well. But were they so perfect? Were they that glorious bride without spot or wrinkle? Absolutely not! No, the apostle Paul had to exhort these churches to stop lying and stealing. He told some of them that certainly had the supernatural operating in and through them that they were divided, full of strife and spiritually immature. So, no, these churches were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they were just like us in many ways.
But my point is this—the fact that we are told so many times to love one another in the letters to the church is proof that we are going to have ample opportunity to put these commandments and exhortations into practice. Amen?
And as First Thessalonians 4:9-10 makes the point of, God, who is Love, is primarily going to deal with you to love one another. He is not going to vary from His Word. So, if His Word is emphasizing loving the brethren (and it does in case you haven’t picked up on that yet), then the Lord is going to emphasize that with you in your personal walk with Him. So, He is not going to spend more time talking to you about what a basket case they are; He is going to spend more time teaching you how to love them in spite of the basket case they are. Amen!
So, there are going to be problems in Christ’s church. You know why? Because you’re here! Because I’m here! And with us comes problems. My first pastor used to tell us that if you find the perfect church, don’t join it or it won’t be perfect anymore.
But this is why it is so important for you and I to embrace this new commandment of the New Covenant: Because if both you and I, who are imperfect, will both pursue this love for one another, then we will avoid most of satan’s devices meant to steal, kill and destroy. Sure, there are going to be issues that will come up between us. But if we will commit to making the love walk our highest priority, we will walk in the unity that we are called to walk in and the unity His kingdom is meant to function in.
Church, love is the way and life of the kingdom of God. This is why we are commanded to walk in it with another. And the point we are going to make today is because we are commanded to love one another, then we are also commanded to forgive one another. In fact, just as we are called to love one another as Christ has loved us, we are called to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us. Amen.
So, let’s go over to Matthew chapter 18 and see what Jesus had to say about this subject of forgiving one another since it is such an integral part of loving one another …
THE PARABLE OF THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
In Matthew chapter 18, we have a parable about the kingdom given to us by Jesus. He began in Matthew 18:23, “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”
Now as we like to say here, when you see the word “Therefore” you need to find out what it is “There for.” In other words, the things that occurred in the verses prior to this one are why Jesus was telling this parable. Therefore, it’s important to understand the context.
Now if you look back at the beginning of chapter 18, you see where Jesus’ disciples came to Him wanting to know who the greatest is in the kingdom of heaven. So, Jesus used the humility of children to illustrate to them what greatness looks like in heaven. Then, after Jesus talks about receiving children in His name, He moves into warnings of not offending one of them.
In verse 7, Jesus makes it clear that offenses are going to come, while warning us not to let them come through us. But I think the latter point is something we need to realize—that we are always going to have opportunities to be offended. You see, it seems to me that one of the things that opens us up to offense the most is the fact that these offenses take us by surprise. In other words, many people live their lives not expecting them. So, when someone does something hurtful or betrays them, they are devastated. Now I’m not saying we should go around looking for people to do the wrong thing to us, just that we need to be cognizant that there is a devil out there and he is always going to be trying to get to us, and this will be through good, well-meaning people. Living our lives in this sober and vigilant manner is a vital way to not being devoured by the offenses the enemy throws our way (See First Peter 5:8).
Then Jesus goes on to show how the Lord even desires to restore these offenders by describing them as lost sheep and giving us step by step instructions of how to bring them back into the fold.
So, in giving His disciples this tall order of forgiveness and restoration, it provokes a question in Peter: Peter asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)
You see, Peter said this in response to this apparent call by the Lord to forgiving our brothers—to which the Lord responded by saying in verse 22— “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times! That’s a lot of times the Lord told us to forgive our brother when they offend us, isn’t it? But it was not like Jesus was giving us a specific number of times to forgive our brother—for I would venture to say that we have not needed to forgive one person 490 times unless we are married of course😊. No, Jesus was just using a play on words to describe unlimited forgiveness. Amen.
So, this is what led up to Jesus giving His disciples His Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Now let’s look at the parable in detail so that we can learn more about this kingdom principle of forgiveness …
THE PARABLE OF THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
You see, in this parable, Jesus likens God to the King of a particular kingdom—which is certainly an appropriate analogy considering we are talking about the kingdom of God.
So, we are told that this king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. Now we are not necessarily talking about the end time judgment here. The reason I say this is because we know in this parable that the servant went out and held a fellow servant’s debt against him. Therefore, this “settling of accounts” is something that is done while we are still here on the earth, not when our time here is done. Amen?
So, Jesus describes the King as wanting to settle accounts with his servants. And this is something we need to understand: that the Lord desires for all men to “settle up” and get their sin debt taken of care here on the earth by calling on the name of the Lord, becoming a saved, born-again Christian, and having our sins forgiven and cleansed.
Then we are told that one servant in particular was brought to this king who owed him “ten thousand talents”: Now depending on what resource you use, ten thousand talents can have a wide range of meaning in today’s economy. You see, depending on whether the talents are of gold, silver, or some other precious metal, ten thousand of them could have been worth anywhere from two hundred million dollars to twelve billion dollars! But regardless of if we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars or tens of billions of dollars, the point is clear—this was a tremendously steep debt and one that I would venture to say that we all would be unable to pay just like Jesus said in verse 25 when He said, “but as he was not able to pay.”
To me, the way this is worded shows us that there was no way that he could have paid it. It is a statement that basically says, “And, of course, he was not able to pay back that kind of debt.” Likewise, we could not ever have done enough works to deserve the forgiveness we needed. Yes, our debt towards Him was so large that it was impossible to deserve the mercy He showed us. Amen, and thank you, Jesus!
So, we are then told that when the servant was brought before his king that judgments were made that both he, his wife, children and his possessions all be sold until his debt was paid. Church, this is something that we need to understand about our sin debt. The poor choices we make and the things we tolerate in our lives that are wrong can affect those we love. I know a lot of people make all kinds of bad choices with their life and think the only ones its effecting is them, but that’s not true. Our sin can affect the ones we love.
For example, I can remember all the terribly poor choices I made with my life and, guess what, they hurt those who loved me. I wonder how many people who have made the ultimate worst decision of taking their own life have affected those they left behind, leaving them wondering what they did to drive them to that point, etc.
I’m reminded of the life of David and how although he was shown mercy for his sin with Bathsheba, it still affected his household. In fact, the Lord told him that the sword would never depart from his house—which was obviously manifested in his sons leading Judah and Israel down the wrong path more times than not.
Church, our choices absolutely affect those around us—and that is something we need to consider before making them. Amen or oh me?
So, this servant’s response would be like any of ours if we were in the situation—he threw himself down before the king and begged for patience and mercy until he could pay back the debt.
Now an important thing to point out from verse 26 is the attitude of the servant as he pleaded for mercy. He wanted mercy so that he could pay back the debt. No, He was not asking the king to cancel it, just to give him a chance to pay it back. To men, this shows a truly repentant heart because he wanted to do what he could to make it right. You see, if you are truly sorry for what you have done you will have a heart to make it right and not just expect someone to give you a clean slate. Now, of course, we know we cannot make our sin debt to God right no matter how hard we try but the principle still holds true. Our repentant heart will be to serve Him for the massive dept He forgave us of.
Of course, we know that the king was moved with compassion, released the servant, and totally forgave him of this multi-million even billion-dollar debt—which shows us the heart of our God: When we are truly repentant and cry out for mercy from Him, His compassion wells up. He just has such a heart to show mercy and forgive, and why? Because He loves us with all His heart!
Did you know this is why He desires for us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? It’s because He first loved us with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is love, church, and His heart is moved with compassion for us! Never forget that!
The story then progresses to that same servant who was forgiven of this astronomical debt going out and finding a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii—which, like the ten thousand talents, can have a range of equivalent. I’ve heard that it can describe anywhere from $20 to $2000. But again, the point is not what is the exact amount of the money in today’s economy; rather, it is what is the difference between 100 denarii versus ten thousand talents. And I don’t have to tell you that there is a big difference between $20 and two hundred million and between $2000 and twelve billion.
So, when he found that fellow servant, Jesus tells us that he grabbed him by the throat and said, “Pay me what you owe me!” Notice what the other servant’s response was in verse 29 … It was exactly the same response that the original servant gave to the master— “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” But this time, the outcome was different: The servant who was forgiven of the huge debt threw his fellow servant into prison till he could pay back the little debt that he owed.
But there is another important point here: How was this servant going to be able to pay back the debt while he was imprisoned? That is exactly what we do when we do not forgive people. When we choose to confine people to the debt we feel they owe us, it does nothing to recompensate us. Instead of showing them mercy and restoring them into your good graces, we ostracize them to where they do not have the opportunity to make up for their mistakes against us. If we would just give them grace, then that kind of unconditional love might end up bringing conviction to them and they would be more apt to pay us back. Not to mention, releasing them of that debt in our hearts sets into motion things that restores the things they might have robbed us of. Amen.
Nonetheless, when this got back to the king, he was extremely angry. He called that servant to return to him and said some powerful things: He said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Verses 32-33)
THE HINDRANCE TO WALKING IN FORGIVENESS
You see, the main issue of this parable is compassion and pity. These virtues really describe being touched with the feelings of another—that is, being able to sympathize or empathize with them. But how do we do that? By staying mindful of the great sin debt that God canceled on our behalf. If we would keep this fresh on our minds, then when our brother sins against us we can just refer back to all that God has forgiven us of and be able to have compassion on them.
You see, this is the main point of the parable: We ought to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ because God has forgiven us of infinitely more than they could have ever done to us. In other words, in light of how much mercy God has given us, forgiving the brethren of the sins that they commit against us should be no problem whatsoever.
Let me share with you what the Lord shared with me several years ago …
Back in the first few years of my Christian walk I was spending some time with the Lord and was specifically thanking the Lord for making me the righteousness of God in Christ. I was praising Him for putting me in right standing with Him not by anything good that I had done but simply by His awesome grace. As the words— “Thank you Lord for freely putting me in right standing with You”—came out of my mouth, I heard the Lord say to me, “Freely you have received, freely give!” What I knew Him to be saying was, “Just as you have freely received right-standing with Me, you freely give right-standing with you to other people.” In other words, when people are hurtful, hateful, and just plain ugly towards me I should grant them good standing with me even though they might not deserve it. Why? Because what someone does to me in the natural cannot hold a candle to what I have done to God in the spiritual.
You see, it was my sin and your sin that put Jesus on that cross! He would not have had to die in my place if I would have not sinned against Him. And no one has ever done anything as wicked to me as killing my own son. Therefore, if God can extend me grace for all that I have done against Him, then I most certainly can extend grace to someone who has done much less than that to me. Amen?
You see, this is the main reason why a believer has such a hard time forgiving someone else for an offense. It is because they are totally focused on the sin committed against them and are absolutely not considering the sin God has forgiven them of. If we would just take the time to consider all that God has forgiven us of when someone has hurt us, we would be more able to show mercy to the ones who have hurt us. Amen.
HOW TO FORGIVE
But, you see, this isn’t all there is to it. Even though we might totally be cognizant of all we have been forgiven of and know that we have no right to hold anything anyone else does to us against them, we still need to know how to handle the hurts and truly forgive them from our hearts.
So, a good question then is—How do we forgive? Let’s wrap up this teaching today by answering that question …
Well, how did the Lord forgive this servant in this parable? We saw that He was moved with compassion for him. That means His heart was moved for them. He wasn’t totally focused on the debt they owed, but rather how this judgment was affecting them—which is a big part of this forgiveness thing.
Church, we need to be able to see beyond the offense and have compassion on the person who offended us. In other words, understand why they might have done the thing they did.
You see, anytime a person is ugly towards us it for this very reason: because they are currently, at that moment, not knowing how loved they are by God. Yes, hurting people hurt people! God did not create us to be mean-spirited, angry, and hateful. So, when we are, it is because we are operating outside of our God-created value. Therefore, when someone else is hurting us know this—that is not who God created them to be, and all they are doing is hurting themselves, and they are doing it because they are already hurting themselves. This will help us to be more compassionate towards them and to more readily forgive them.
But, you see, so many people think that you either have compassion or you don’t. They don’t realize it’s something you can choose to put on. The apostle Paul taught us this in Colossians chapter 3 …
In Colossians 3:12, he said, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering …”
So, Paul told us—the church—to “put on” on these specific virtues. He didn’t pray to the Lord to give them to you or wait until you grow up spiritually and they just become a part of you. No, he simply said, “put” them on. This literally describes someone “clothing or dressing” themselves with something. In other words, it is as if the following virtues and fruit that Paul is about to give us are like pieces of spiritual clothing that the Lord has put in our closet (i.e., spirit), and it is our responsibility to cloth ourselves with them.
Now I want you to notice the first one he tells us to put on— “tender mercies.” This phrase comes from two different Greek words— the words spalgchnon & oiktirmos. The word spalgchnon is the word translated “bowels, intestines, and other inward parts of the body.” The original King James version actually translates this word as “bowels” and the reason is because in the First Century, they located the deeper emotions in the intestinal area—saying that this was the seat of both the tenderest compassion and the strongest anger. Today, we might say that the seat of those strongest emotions is in our heart. But the other word Paul used (i.e., oiktirmos) shows that he is only talking about the good affections of our heart such as compassion, mercy & sympathy. Thus, a good translation of this phrase would be— “tenderhearted sympathy” or “heartfelt compassion.”
So, to me, an interesting point here is Paul is telling us to put on this compassionate heart. One might tend to believe that you either have these tender emotions or you don’t. For example, some people believe you possess sympathy & empathy when you have actually experienced what the other person is experiencing. And while that certainly can be the case, we are wrong to think that is the only way one develops compassion. According to Paul, it is apparently a choice to become more compassionate & sympathetic.
Now here is the key to doing this: Begin to put yourself in other people’s shoes by imagining what it would be like to go through what they are going through. Consider and imagine it! No, not because you want it to happen to you too, but because you are strategically wanting to be touched with the feelings of their infirmities. Sounds like a godly aspiration to me!
Then guess what Paul moves into exhorting us to put on. He goes on to say in verse 13, “bearing with another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.’
So, apparently putting on forgiveness is the same too. It’s not something we wait for God to clothe us with. No, we choose to put it on like we choose all other godly virtues.
Now I looked these words “forgiving and forgave” up and noticed something very significant about forgiveness: The word “forgive” comes from the Greek word “charis” which is commonly translated “grace.” Now the word “grace” means to give something freely, with no strings attached. If you are giving someone “grace,” you are giving them something they don’t necessarily deserve nor have they done anything to earn it. Therefore, a common definition for “forgiveness” when considering the word “grace” is to freely forgive.
Now why do I make this point? It is because oftentimes the mentality that people have which causes them to have a harder time forgiving people is that the person that offended them doesn’t deserve to be forgiven—maybe they haven’t even been repentant and asked for forgiveness.
Now I would venture to say that most of us, if the person that hurt us came to us and said something to the effect of— “You know, I was wrong. I am so sorry. Please forgive me” that we would forgive them. But what makes forgiveness a little more difficult is when the person who hurt us doesn’t show any signs of being repentant and no remorse for what they did—which is, unfortunately, what happens most of the time.
But that is when this true meaning of forgiveness becomes so important—because now I know I am called to forgive freely whether I feel they deserve it or not. I am “for-giving”—that is, I am giving them grace in advance of them deserving it or asking for it.
Then Paul goes on to say in the rest of verse 13 that “if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
You realize that if everything you and I did to sin against the Lord and everything we did to put Jesus on that Cross could be weighed, there would not a be enough scales on the planet that could measure the greatness of that sin? We have truly been forgiven much! And you also realize that with the vast majority of these sins that Christ forgave us of, we are unaware of them and have not confessed them to Him? Absolutely!
I know there are people in the church out there who believe that we have to specifically confess our sins in order to be forgiven of them, but that is not what First John 1:9 was teaching. You realize if that were true, then we are all in trouble because there is no way that we can specifically confess every single sin we’ve ever committed?
So, it is apparent that Christ has freely forgiven us of things we never sought forgiveness for—and aren’t you glad for that?
Well, when Paul said, “even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” the words “even as” literally mean “to the degree that.” So, we are told to forgive one another to the degree that Christ has forgiven us.
So, this tells me that if Jesus forgave me of this magnitude of sin that I committed that put Him on the Cross, then I am expected to forgive others to the same degree. This is why Paul said at the end of Colossians 3:13, “so you also must do.”—which is the whole point of Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
So, this is the first step to forgiveness—understanding that we are expected to forgive, that it is a command, and it is our duty to do so.
But I understand and the Lord understands that this is not easy to do. It is not always something that we can just choose, in ourselves, to do. I’ve had people who have been hurt that, while they honestly want to obey the Lord, do not know how to forgive because the offense was so great.
Well, as Jesus’ disciples obviously understood, we will need faith to forgive sometimes. It might be too much for us to handle—releasing someone from the pain that they caused us. This is when our faith in God becomes key.
The Lord recently showed me that one of the ways that we forgive by faith is through our prayer life. What do I mean by that?
Have you ever noticed that in some of our greatest exhortations to forgive others that the forgiving is being done while in prayer? Therefore, there is apparently a connection between the process of forgiveness and our own personal prayer lives.
This is why Jesus combined Mark 11:25with Mark 11:23-24: After teaching us the principles of faith of speaking to our mountains and letting our faith-filled words frame our world, Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
You see, these principles of faith don’t just work on the healing of our bodies, finances, etc. They also work in the healing of our hearts. That’s why Jesus answered His disciple’s plea for help in forgiving our brothers with speaking to the mulberry tree (See Luke 17:5-6). Why? It’s because that’s how it works.
How many people when they want to see a tree uprooted or mountain removed in their life, ask the Lord to do it? That’s what the disciples did here. They asked the Lord to increase their faith. But Jesus essentially replied, you don’t need more faith; you just need to use the faith you have.
You see, well-meaning believers who love the Lord and want to love & forgive others will ask Him to “help” them in this respect just like the disciples did here when they said, “Lord, increase our faith!” We might say, “Lord, increase my love” or “Help me to forgive them.” That’s not the right prayer. The right thing to do is when you stand praying, use your faith and love to remove the offense and bitterness from the roots!
One way we do this is by doing what the Lord taught us to do in response to the pains and offenses others might have caused. He said, in Luke 6:27-28to love them. How? By doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, and by praying for those who spitefully use us.
You see, it is no surprise then that so many people have a hard time releasing people in their hearts. Why? Because they are not doing it God’s way; they are doing it their own way—trying their best to forgive but failing to truly release that person in their hearts.
When we do it God’s way—which is taking it before the Lord when we stand praying, and confessing before Him our willingness to release them for the hurt they caused us and sincerely praying for them—it becomes much more doable.
This is where God’s supernatural ability to forgive gets activated in our life! It is where we are truly able to release them and the anointing to forgive is released in our lives! Hallelujah!
It is just a matter of perspective, church. Are we going to magnify the sins people commit against us, or rather, are we going to choose to consider all that we have been forgiven of by God? Freely we have received, so freely we ought to give! Amen and amen.
We have been looking at the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a few months now where we have been studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom works and what it looks like. Thus far, we have looked at seven parables that Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13, Mark chapter 4, and Luke chapter 8 in His famous “Sermon by the Sea.” We have learned some incredible truths from how the Lord established His kingdom in the first place to why He did it. And the latter was the most recent thing we have been studying by looking at Jesus’ Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.
In these two parables, we learned that the Lord was first this man/merchant in them because He first sought out and saved we who were lost and paid His all to purchase us out of the world. Thus, He began His kingdom by seeing a valuable treasure and pearl of great price that was hidden to the naked eye. He came to seek and save that which was lost and paid the greatest price to redeem us—that pearl of great price and that treasure hidden in the field. That’s you!
But like it is with valuable things like treasures and pearls, they are not usually found on the surface. They must be dug for because they are hidden underground, underwater, within rocks, inside of oysters, etc. God designed it this way—because the true riches and treasures that are found only in Christ are hidden in Him. And since Christ now lives in us, we have those treasures hidden in us, awaiting our discovery.
So, we are those hidden treasures & pearls of great price that the Lord searched for and bought for Himself. This is how valuable we are in His sight, and it is what caused Him to pay such a tremendous price to apprehend us!
You see, sometimes we get so wrapped up in the greatness of the price that was paid that we totally miss the value of the object that was being paid for. Church, while we certainly need to always honor the great price Jesus paid for our salvation, we also need to realize that if God were willing to pay such a great price for us, then we must have had some value as well.
Do you believe God is a wise investor? Well, He did choose the Jewish people, did He not? Yes, saints, the Lord knows how to make a sound investment. Well, do you think He would have paid that high of a price if there was not some comparable value in the item he was purchasing? Of course not! No, He paid such a great price for us because of the great value He saw in us. Thank you, Jesus! He saw a treasure in each one of us and He saw a pearl of great price in this church that He saw in His heart to create!
Now we move on to the final parable that Jesus taught in His “sermon by the sea”—which is appropriate for its subject matter, the Parable of the Dragnet. This parable was the last one recorded before Jesus asked His disciples— “Have you understood all these things?”—to which they responded— “Yes, Lord.” (See Matthew 13:51). So, this parable is how Jesus chose to wrap up His teachings on the kingdom of God/heaven, and fittingly so because this parable illustrates to us the culmination of all things in His kingdom. Let’s look at it …
In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
THE COAT OF MANY COLORS
First of all, before we look at the dragnet itself, let’s consider where it was being cast and what it was intended to gather:
Jesus said that the dragnet was cast into the “sea”: We need to understand that the sea is oftentimes used Scripturally as a "type of humanity. Therefore, this dragnet was being cast into the sea of this world where all of mankind resides to gather something. And Jesus went on to say that in this sea of humanity, there are “some of every kind” that are being gathered. Amen.
Church, in the ocean, there are many different kinds of fish: There are blue fish. There are green fish. There are red fish. There are black fish. There are white fish. Likewise, in mankind we have people of all different races, creeds, and colors. The point is that it doesn’t matter what kind of fish you are or what color your scales are, we are all in the same “boat”—in this case, we are all in the same net. Yes, we all make up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ—and His church is made up of all different denominations and skin color.
You see, I see the church as Joseph’s coat of many colors: We know that Joseph was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in more ways than one. But one of the things I believe we can see in his story is how the coat of many colors that he was clothed with by his father is a type of all of us who have put on Christ. Yes, it described how we are made up of all different kinds of races, creeds, and colors, yet we are all woven together in Christ and one in Him. Amen.
So, this spiritual dragnet is cast into the waters of mankind is collecting all kinds of fish. So, let’s look at what this dragnet is …
WHAT IS THE DRAGNET?
Now when Jesus refers to the “dragnet” here, He was not referring to that television series that ran back in the 50’s & 60’s. That’s just the facts, ma’am! No, He was referring to a weighted net that was used by fishermen to drag through a body of water to catch an abundance of fish. This was the primary way that people fished back in their day, mind you—not with rods, hooks, and lures, but with nets like this.
And aren’t you glad that the Lord fishes for us this way? He doesn’t use specific lures or bait, which would only catch certain kinds of fish. No, He uses a dragnet that will gather “some of every kind.” Praise the Lord!
So, this “dragnet” is obviously the tool that you and I are to use to be the fishers of men that we are called to be. So, what do you suppose this spiritual dragnet is? What is it that we cast into the waters to catch people and bring them into the boat with us? It’s the gospel, of course! Yes, it’s the Word of God that the Lord has commissioned us to preach to every creature in the waters of this world (a point we will revisit shortly). Therefore, the gospel message is what we have been given to “draw” sinners to repentance and bring them into the boat with us.
Do you know how hard it would have been for these fishermen to catch fish without a net? In fact, what if they had no tools whatsoever to catch these fish with and were expected to do it with their hands? Well, I would imagine they would not be having fish for dinner that night! Well, just as we obviously need tools to successfully catch fish, we need tools to be successful fishers of men. And one of these tools is the gospel itself!
You see, far too many people lean on their own techniques and eloquent words to evangelize. And the problem with this is that they are relying on their own efforts to see people converted. Church, people receiving Jesus is not going to occur because we do everything perfect. People will receive Jesus when the true gospel of Jesus is preached. Why? Because the Word does the work. Never forget that! The gospel changes people—not the ones who share the gospel. This is a point we have made over and over in these messages on the kingdom of God, but it is point worth making again—the Word does the work in people’s lives. Planting its seed in our hearts will change us from the inside to the outside. Amen!
Now part of the gospel certainly involves our testimony and how the gospel itself changed our lives. Yes, it’s not just about us preaching the Bible to people, but also involves us proclaiming how the gospel has impacted us. But how many people lean on even how perfectly they share their testimony? As the Lord once showed me, all one needs to get a “conviction” in a court of law is a “testimony.” Likewise, all we need to see someone brought under the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit is the word of our “testimony.” It’s not about how great of an orator we are or how much charisma we have; it’s all about the truth we are sharing. So, if we will just open our mouths and share the good news of Jesus Himself and/or how Jesus changed our lives, the Holy Spirit can then perform His ministry of convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
THE ART OF NET CASTING
However, while we do not have to know the Bible backwards and forwards or be the most eloquent of speech to be a good witness, there is an art to “casting our net”:
How many of you know that there is an art to casting these nets and collecting the fish? If you or I were to go out on a lake today and start trying to fish that way, we would probably be unsuccessful. But someone who is proficient in using this method of fishing would most certainly catch more fish than us, wouldn’t they?
Well, I believe that when it comes to us casting our nets before people, it’s not just important that we do it; how we do it is important too. And again, I’m not talking about doing all the natural, carnal things perfectly; I am referring to doing things right “spiritually.” In other words, being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led is what greatly increases our effectiveness in the waters of evangelism.
Church, I believe that the Holy Spirit is the best & most experienced fisherman in the business! He knows how to cast the gospel before people and get the best return. The key is us being led by the Holy Spirit in who, when, and how to share the gospel with people. He will lead us to the right people at the right time if we will yield to Him.
Just think about it—what if when you went fishing, you were able to somehow know exactly where the fish were at and weren’t just casting your net aimlessly in places where they were not at? That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Well, the Holy Spirit is there to supernaturally give us the best information when it comes to being fishers of men.
For example, you might be in church and someone across the sanctuary catches your eye that you don’t recognize. Your heart goes out to them for some reason and it just “seems good” that you go introduce yourself to them. So, you yield to that prompting and are “moved with compassion,” and as you are talking to them, the Lord shows you something about them—they just lost a loved one and are deeply saddened. So, you share with them things that come to you—perhaps Scriptures you didn’t even know you knew—and it greatly ministers to them.
Another example might be that we are in a restaurant, and we notice someone there who is obviously having a bad day. So, love wells up in our hearts for them and we approach them, with a desire to share the truth with them. In the conversation, we ask them if they know Jesus and discover that they are not a believer. So then, the Holy Spirit starts giving you all kinds of parable like examples to use to share the truth with them, mixing in Scriptures in with them. You didn’t even know you knew those things! The person is obviously touched by the Holy Spirit and receives Jesus right then and there in that restaurant.
So, what happened in these two examples? First, the Holy Spirit showed them to you. Then He showed you what they were going through. And, finally, He brought the verses up in your heart to share with them. So, that is just one of the myriad of ways that the Holy Spirit can help us in sharing the love of God with others and seeing their lives changed.
But it’s not going to be a formula or some mechanical method of evangelism. It needs to be a love motivated, Holy Spirit inspired thing—which will require us being flexible and willing to yield to the Spirit of God inside of us.
But as we talk about being Spirit led etc., don’t be mistaken: The Lord wants everyone to hear the Gospel. So, it won’t be a case that the Holy Spirit is not leading us to share the truth in love more times than He does. No, it will actually be few and far between the times that we are not led to share Christ with others.
You see, Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). He didn’t say go into the parts of the world that I lead you to and preach the gospel to those I put on your heart. No, the Lord already told the church to go everywhere and preach to everyone. Of course, this does not mean that you and I are to personally go everywhere and preach the gospel to everyone. That’s not possible. But what it does mean is that the Great Commission involves us being willing to proclaim the gospel where we are at. Always remember: the truth of God’s Word always trumps any perceived directions from the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is not going to lead one to do the opposite of what the Scriptures clearly teach us to do.
So, yes, more often than not, the Holy Spirit will be leading us to share the gospel with others because the Lord wants as many people as possible to come into His family. To me, this describes the purpose of the dragnet in Jesus’ parable—it is to be cast before all mankind with the intent to gather as many as possible. Amen.
THE NET IS FULL!
Therefore, this is why Jesus went on to say, “which when it was full …”
You know, the Lord is all about the net being full, isn’t He? We have a couple of instances in the Bible where the Lord showed His goodness to His fishermen disciples:
In one instance, He “rented” Simon’s boat for His ministry’s purpose, teaching the multitudes from it (See Luke 5:1-11). Well, after Jesus was done, He told Peter to launch out and let down his nets for a catch—to which Peter responded— “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your Word I will let down the net.” Now most people read this as if Peter was doing something admirable here in agreeing to let down the net like the Lord told him to even though they had caught nothing. I don’t believe this was admirable at all. I see Peter as saying something to the effect of— “Lord, we haven’t caught nothing, so this in on you that we are casting the nets down again and will continue to catch nothing.” In other words, I believe Peter was relieving himself of all responsibility, so he didn’t look bad if they tried again and failed. Also, notice that Jesus told him to let down the nets (plural), and he responded by saying he will let down the net (singular). Therefore, he was being obedient, but only partially obedient. So, guess what would have happened if he would have let down all of the dragnets? I think we all could agree that all of them would have been filled! This is why I believe Peter responded the way he did, when he saw the great number of fish they had taken in (i.e., “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”). He knew what was in his heart. He knew what he had done.
But the fact is, the Lord desired to fill all of their nets up, not just the one Peter let down. Therefore, it was them who did not allow the full magnitude of that provision to occur. I wonder if we’ve ever done that. Have we ever only partially obeyed the Lord and not had the best attitude while doing that? I’m sure we have all been guilty of this at some point. But Isaiah 1:19 teaches us that we have to be willing and obedient to eat the good of the land—not just obedient. Sure, you might eat of the land just by sheer obedience, but you might not eat the good of it without a willing heart. Amen? The Lord wants our nets to be full of the good of the land!
The other instance I refer to is after Jesus’ resurrection: In John chapter 21, He appeared to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, but they didn’t recognize them. He speaks to them from the shore, asking them if they had caught anything. So, when they answered Him that they hadn’t, He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. Now, the word “some” is not in the original text, and that is because they didn’t wind up catching just some; we are told that they caught a multitude! In this case, they had to drag the net to land because it was full of 153 large fish. However, the net did not break (See John 21:1-11)!
Now the interesting part of this story to me is that they initially didn’t recognize Him. For some reason, their eyes were constrained from knowing that it was Him just like those disciples on the Road to Emmaus. But it was when they experienced yet another miraculous catch of fish that they recognized Him, saying, “It is the Lord!” In other words, while they didn’t recognize Him physically, they recognized His goodness! Yes, they were reminded of how the Lord is in the “net filling” business.
Now the net being filled in this parable is indicative of when the fullness of time comes where all things are complete and ready to be pulled ashore. Jesus told us that this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world and then the end will come. And the reason that it works this way is because the Fisher of men wants His net full. In other words, He wants as many in His net as possible—all because He is merciful and not willing that any be wasted or perish. Yes, He wants His gospel being heard by everyone!
And, church, there absolutely is a “fullness of time” where the dragnet will be pulled out of the waters and drawn to the shore. That will be the end of time where we will all be brought before the judgment seat—the thing which this parable is speaking of where the good will be separated from the bad, the just from the wicked. Jesus described this event elsewhere when He spoke of the time when the sheep would be separated from the goats (See Matthew 25:31-46).
This is a very serious and sober time, friends—because we need to know that just because we are in the net doesn’t automatically mean we are “just fish.” In other words, just because one calls themselves a Christian, goes to church, etc. does not mean that they really are a child of God. No, what makes us good and just in the sight of God is not whether we are good and just in our behavior and actions, but whether we have been born again or not and walk by faith in Jesus. Yes, it is not whether we simply name of the name of Christ or not but whether we have truly put on Christ and born of His Spirit.
Church, when we consider God’s kingdom, what is truly important is the outcome—and that is the point Jesus is making in this parable. He was teaching us that the gospel is sweeping through the world, and it is collecting all kinds of fish, and there is a Day of reckoning that’s coming soon and very soon. As one of our elders, Donna Nye, likes to say, “Get ready! Get ready! Get ready!”
So, we started a study on the various parables that Jesus taught about God’s kingdom a few weeks back in an attempt to learn how the kingdom of God operates. And I entitled this series “The Mysteries of the Kingdom” because this was the terminology Jesus used to describe these various examples He used to describe how the kingdom works!
We’ve started out learning that the analogy of sowing & reaping / seedtime & harvest is the most oft used example that Jesus used to teach about what the kingdom is like.
We looked at this kingdom principle of seedtime & harvest through Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. In it, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the ground that it is sown into is our hearts. So, while everything in God’s kingdom begins with a seed, it all has to do with the heart. This was Jesus’ most foundational and fundamental parable describing God’s kingdom.
Then last week, we looked at another one of these seedtime & harvest type parables—Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed: We saw that through this parable, Jesus was drawing on the single best natural example that He could to paint a picture of what the kingdom of God is like. That’s why He asked the question— “What shall we compare the kingdom to? With what picture shall we use to describe it? This is important, church, because out of every example from this world that Jesus could have used to illustrate God’s kingdom, He chose to use the example of a mustard seed. And that is the part of this parable that is of the most importance—the mustard seed.
So, we looked at the example of the mustard seed and saw how it was a reoccurring example used by Jesus in His ministry to teach on faith. Therefore, we made the point that in God’s kingdom, everything operates by faith. It’s not our works; nor is it solely God’s grace. No, faith is what the kingdom of God works on. But we saw that the point that Jesus was making through His examples of the mustard seed was that we do not need great faith to see great results; all we need is faith as a mustard seed—which was widely viewed in their days to be the smallest of all seeds. But many Christians still err today regarding this, believing that they just need “more faith” in order to see “more results.” This is exactly what Jesus was countering in both of these passages. No, friends, we do not need more faith; all we need is to use a little of the faith that we already have: We saw that a little mustard seed does you no good if it is not planted and allowed the opportunity to grow and produce, does it? And as we are about to learn in this Parable of the Mustard Seed, this particular seed has a supernatural ability to produce and grow to become greater than all other herbs. So, it’s not about more faith; it is simply about learning to plant the faith we have and allowing it the opportunity to grow and produce its supernatural results. Again, this is how the kingdom works. (If you missed that last week, I would encourage you to go back and listen to it).
But what we mainly looked at last week was, not what, but Who the mustard seed in this parable represented: We saw how this mustard seed was HIM. Yes, the mustard seed in this parable was referring the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!
We saw from Luke’s account how Jesus described this mustard seed as that “which a man took and put in his garden” (Luke 13:19). You see, the “man” that Jesus was referring to was obviously God the Father. God took His only begotten Son and intentionally sowed Him on the earth, which is His garden. And we saw that this is reminiscent of how the Bible teaches us that God placed the first Adam in His garden: In Genesis 2:15, where we are told— “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” So, just by that one Scripture, it seems obvious that the “man” that Jesus referred to is “the Lord God” and the “mustard seed” that He put in His garden is the Man, Jesus Christ, also known as the Last Adam. But in the case of the Last Adam, He wasn’t just put here on the earth to tend and keep it; no, Jesus—as that mustard seed—came to be sown into it not just onto it. And we know how this happened: He was crucified and sown into that tomb like a seed, but like it is with planting seeds, the purpose was not just for His crucifixion and burial; the ultimate goal was for a resurrection of that Seed! And this is exactly what happened! God received a harvest from that Mustard Seed He sowed into the earth! Amen!
Then we saw how in Luke’s Gospel, we are told that this mustard seed “grew,” which is also how Jesus was described in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. As the prophet Isaiah also stated— “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.” (See Isaiah 53:2). Yes, saints, Jesus was that mustard seed—that tender plant that grew up out of dry ground! He was the Word sown by the Father into this world which is His garden, and that mustard seed grew.
But we saw that it wasn’t just Jesus that was doing the growing; it was His kingdom that was increasing as well! Yes, throughout His entire ministry, His kingdom was growing. It was expanding. Might we say, the King and His kingdom were taking “ground”?
Finally, we saw how Jesus went on to describe that when this little mustard seed grew up, it become this great tree with large branches to where “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” And we saw from this that these birds represented heavenly beings, specifically God’s heavenly angels: You see, the Book of Hebrews teaches us that when Jesus came to the earth, He was made a little lower than the angels (See Hebrews 2:9). Now, after He was raised from the dead and received His glorified body, He is no longer lower than the angels. He is now become greater than they! (Hebrews 1:4-14).
So, a great principle of God’s kingdom for us to understand is this—We are His branches that these birds are now nesting in (See John 15:5)! Therefore, being parts of His body and heirs of this kingdom, we have the blessed promise that the Lord’s angels will minister to those who have inherited salvation. Amen! Church, Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, and we are that church—the branches of that mustard tree that was sown into the earth and has arisen from the ground!
THE PARABLE OF THE TARES AND WHEAT
So, let’s stay on that same vein of sowing & reaping, seedtime & harvest this week, shall we? Let’s look at a parable that Jesus taught on the same day that He taught those ten-plus kingdom parables, commonly known as “The Parable of the Tares and the Wheat.”
Now, consequently, this parable is only told in the Gospel of Matthew. So, for some reason, the Holy Spirit did not inspire the other Gospel writers to tell this one—even though this was the one that Jesus’ disciples specifically came to him, inquiring as to what it meant.
It is found in Matthew 13:24-30. Let’s look the parable itself and then we will look at the interpretation Jesus gives:
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So, the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’.”
Now here’s Jesus’ explanation in verses 36-43: “Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
First of all, notice the unique phrase— “Another parable He put forth to them …” The words “put forth” literally describe placing something beside something else like if you were to put a book on the nightstand beside your side of the bed.
So, I see Jesus as essentially letting His disciples know— “Hey guys, I’m going to just leave this with you. Put in on the shelf and keep it nearby because this is a good piece of information about My kingdom.”
Then Jesus tells them (& us) the parable: He begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field …”
So, again, the man in this parable is obviously the Lord. We know this for a fact because in His explanation of this parable, Jesus said in verse 37 that the One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man—an obvious allusion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now it is important to note that this is one of those times where Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man.” As one reads through the Gospels, we can see that sometimes Jesus is referred to as the Son of Man and other times as the Son of God. So, which one is true? Is He the Son of Man or the Son of God? The answer is—they both are! Jesus is 100% God, and He is 100% man—not 50/50. And when we see Him referred to as the Son of Man, this is referring to His humanity, not His deity.
So, when Jesus refers to Himself here as the Son of Man, we are not talking about Him sowing this good seed from His heavenly position, but from His position as a Man. Therefore, the time frame which these good seeds are sown was most likely during His earthly ministry if not soon thereafter, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
So, what is the good seed that He sowed? Again, we don’t have to speculate because Jesus told us plainly that they are the “sons of the kingdom”—this being, the children of God and those born of His Spirit (See verse 38).
So, it is interesting to me that in one sense, Jesus uses the seed to describe the Word of God (See the Parable of the Sower), and now uses the seed to describe us. Perhaps the reason for this is because we are the ones who are called to bring His Word into His field.
THE GOOD SEED SCATTERED
But I want you to notice how Jesus does not just call us seed here; He calls us “good seed.”
Do you see yourself that way? Do you see yourself as “good seed”? The Lord does. He sees you as containing potential like a seed, but not just any old seed; good seed!
Now you might not look like much. I might not look “good.” But the Lord sees me as good seed. More specifically, He looks at us as good seed capable of producing “wheat.”
Now wheat has always been an important commodity because it holds so many good health benefits, but back in Jesus’ day, wheat was all the more valuable. And this is the way the Lord sees us! As good grains capable of producing invaluable spiritual resources!
Church, when the Lord looks at you and I as His new creations in Christ Jesus, His heart is the same as it was in the beginning when He made His original creation. He looks over all of His completed creation and says, “It is very good!” So, like He spoke over His creation in the beginning, He says concerning you today, “They are very good.” Go to someone who is in Christ today and tell them, “You are good.”
This example of the Lord referring to us as seed reminds me of how James addressed the recipients of his letter: In James 1:1 he began by saying— “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.”
Notice, first of all, this interesting label he gave them of “the twelve tribes.” Now the recipients of his letter were Jews, but I don’t believe that is the only reason he referred to them as the twelve tribes.
You see, these twelve tribes of Israel, that is an important part to the history of God’s people, originated from the twelve sons of Jacob (i.e., Israel). These twelve men were who God was going to use to establish His first covenant people. But I want us to pay particular attention to what these twelve sons of Jacob were really like in the natural… They each had their own different personalities and their own weaknesses and strengths. As a matter of fact, only a few of them were honorable sons and the rest of them were just simply a mess, full of faults and mistakes.
For example, you have Levi who murdered many men and was a cold-hearted individual. But it was through the offspring of Levi that God gave His people their deliverer—Moses, and also gave them Aaron along with the rest of the Levitical priesthood. That is a pretty rich heritage, isn’t it? Many times, we think of all the bad things we’ve done and think— “God could never use me to do anything; I’ve been too bad.” But God does not view these things like man does. He is proficient in erasing our moral and ethical failures and calling us in spite of our past. This is how good our God is! Hallelujah!
Another good example is Benjamin: Although Benjamin himself did not have any major weaknesses that we know of, he did not have any extraordinary talents or obvious strengths that we know of either. In other words, he was a good description of God calling those that are weak, base, and foolish to put to shame the mighty, noble, and wise. But guess who came out of this very ordinary man? Our beloved apostle Paul! You see, God specializes in taking those who do not have a bunch of things going for them in the natural and using them in great and mighty ways. He does not want our “abilities”; He just desires our “availability.” So, if you do not feel like you have a lot to offer, good! Then you are a prime candidate for God to use mightily!
And, last but not least, let’s look at Judah: Judah was a leader, and he is well known for being the one who talked his brothers out of murdering Joseph. But although he did some good things, he als0 had relations with a harlot who ended up being his daughter! That is a pretty big moral failure, you think? So, Judah was no spring chicken either. And guess who came through his lineage? King David, Wise Solomon, and subsequently the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ! Oftentimes, we base our usefulness to God on our performance. If we have been reading our Bibles lately and if we have been praying regularly, then we feel qualified to be used. But the moment we blow it and don’t make the best decisions we let condemnation steal our confidence that God will use us. Friends, God desires to use us not because of us, but because of those we are ministering to! Never forget that! In regard to God’s willingness to use us, it doesn’t matter how “holy” we have been or not been. He always wants to minister to people through us, period!
You see, these great works came through these twelve men who were not perfect and made many mistakes. I believe this is to teach us that the fruit that He has called us to produce and the callings that He has given us are not going to be successful because we do not have any faults or make any mistakes. These twelve sons of Jacob are to show us that God indeed calls natural people to do supernatural things.
Now we all have certain inadequacies in the flesh. We all have weaknesses and limitations in the natural. My point in mentioning this is to show us that although most of twelve sons of Jacob were less than honorable vessels naturally speaking, God still used them to be the foundation of His covenant people that were to be used to spread His covenant to the rest of the earth.
But this is when we must understand that it is not who we are in the flesh that is going to do great things for God; It is who we are in Him and who He is in us that is going to do mighty things.
So, we can see that God’s first covenant people—Israel—began from 12 men that were full of faults and weaknesses, but God still worked through them to bring His eternal purposes to pass because of who He is, not who they were.
Likewise, Jesus had twelve disciples—most of them having some major flaws and weaknesses. And it was through this group of twelve imperfect men that God began His next covenant people—the church—and used them to do mighty things.
I believe the greatest example of this out of all of Jesus’ disciples is Peter: Most people would look at the life of Peter as He followed Jesus during His earthly ministry and think— “Did Jesus make a mistake with this one?” We have the benefit of reading the Book of Acts and seeing the finished product but for those who did not see it, I’m sure they thought Jesus had missed it with that one. He seemed like he was completely unqualified and the wrong choice, but God does not make mistakes. Eventually the Lord really did an awesome work in and through Peter and he stepped into his calling to be the leader of the church. And even though he still was not perfect, and he made other mistakes even then, he was fulfilling his call and commission that the Lord gave him to be the leader of the church.
So, we can see through this pattern that God does not call the equipped; He equips the called! As my father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, has said time and time again— “God doesn’t have anyone qualified working for Him yet”, and you and I are not the first. You see, all of us are full of imperfections in the natural, similar to how these two groups of twelve men had. But you know what? … God used them to be the foundation of a great number of His covenant people! Likewise, God will use us to be the foundation of a great number of future disciples and of a great deal of fruit. The Lord does not need “able” people; All He needs is an “available” people—that is, a people who are fully committed to Him.
Now I want us to pay specific attention to the second half of James opening address: He said, “To the twelve tribes scattered abroad.”
These two words “scattered abroad” literally describe seed that is taken from a farmer’s bag and sown all around in various places. This is how God sees us—His children and disciples. He sees us as seed that has been in the Lord’s satchel and He has sown us, is sowing us, and continues to sow us into different areas for the purpose of establishing His covenant on the earth.
Church, this is how God sees each and every one of us—as those seeds—good seeds—that are being scattered all around in order to bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
You see, a seed has two main purposes: Number one, they are programmed to produce the fruit that they were created to bring forth. And number two, they are programmed to reproduce themselves at the same time by creating more seeds.
This is significant regarding our calling: You see, we at this church have had the opportunity to be programmed by God’s Seed, His Holy Word. And now we, as these programmed seeds, are called to produce fruit to the glory of God and to reproduce ourselves. The fruit speaks of our production to establish the kingdom of God on the earth. Mark chapter sixteen gives us some of this fruit that we are called to produce—preaching the gospel, casting our demons, healing the sick, etc. The reproduction of seeds speaks of us making disciples and reproducing ourselves by putting into other people what God has put into us.
In reference to us being seeds, I believe the greatest example of a seed that we have is Jesus: You see, God sent His only begotten Son to a specific place, to a specific people, and at a specific time as a seed for the purpose of reproducing Himself. You could basically translate John 3:16 as— "Because God so loved the world, He sowed the best Seed that He had so that we would not be eternally separated from Him, but to become seeds just like Jesus." And through God’s eternal plan and purpose, He was sown into the earth for three days and three nights and then on the morning of the third day He was resurrected. And now, because of His death, burial, and resurrection, God has gained His harvest—an innumerable number of other sons and daughters! This was the purpose of God’s Seed!
In John 14:12 Jesus made an incredible statement concerning this harvest of believers that would come as a result of His work on the cross. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” You see, the word “greater” in this verse can also just be simply defined as “more.” So, the greater works that Jesus was speaking of were not necessarily greater works in regard to quality but were greater works in regard to quantity. In other words, He was looking at the result of the millions of people that would believe on Him and have the same signs following them as He had been following Him, and therefore, there were “more” works!
You see, this is the power of a seed! Not only does it have the capability of producing its fruit (i.e., the works) but it also produces more seed. Likewise, not only are we capable of producing the fruit of Jesus, but we also are called to produce disciples— As Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” Just as there was great fruit that came through the twelve sons of Jacob and through the twelve disciples of Jesus, likewise, we are called to produce the fruit we are called to produce, and to reproduce ourselves. This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us!
So, we are God’s seeds. We are those good seed that the Lord has sown. And even though our outer shell might not look like it has much going for it, what has been placed on the inside of us is what is going to bring forth fruit and glorify God. It didn’t begin with you and I, of course. It started with Jesus’ disciples that the Son of Man sent out 2,000 years ago and has now culminated in us being the good seed sent out by the Master.
TARRY NOT ON THE TARES
But as Jesus’ parable makes the point of, it is not just the Lord who has sown His seed into the world; the wicked one (i.e., the devil) has sown his tares in among the wheat. These “tares” are described as the “sons of the wicked one” (See verse 38).
Did you know that just as God has his children, the devil has his too? And the truth of the matter is—there are not any children of anyone or anything else! There is only the children of God and the children of Satan. And as this parable points out, they are sown together in the field. Therefore, while it might be apparent to the angels which are the wheat and which are the tares, it will not be so obvious to us.
You see, Jesus described these children of the devil as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (See Matthew 7:15)—meaning, they might look the part of a Christian. They might talk the talk. But their fruit will give them away. Which is why Jesus taught us to judge them by their fruit because if one is child of God, they will have much of the same fruit as God in their life because, after all, if God is their Father, then they ought to grow to become like Him, right?
On that note, notice how Jesus’ disciples gave this parable a different name: In verse 36, when they came to Jesus, asking Him for an explanation of this parable, they said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
So, they didn’t call it the “Parable of the Wheat and the Tares” like it’s most commonly referred to today; they only recognized the tares’ part.
Church, how easy it is for us to only focus on the negative side of things. I’ve seen how so many in the body of Christ tend to do this very thing. “Oh, it’s so bad!” they say. “There’s so much wrong with the world” and “The state of the church is not good.” But what about everything that is good in the world? What about all the advancements the kingdom of God is making? Why not emphasize that?
Now if you only watch the news and listen to/read what is being propagated on the internet, you will have a hard time seeing all the good going on around us. But I challenge you to not just listen to the bad news; feed your faith on the good news—that is, the gospel! And there is plenty of it!
THE CONDITION OF THE WORLD
Now Jesus explains that the “field” that His good seed was sown into is the world (See verse 38).
Many people have attempted to use this story as an illustration of the condition of the church, noting that there are both true believers (i.e., wheat) and false Christians (i.e., tares) in both the church at large and individual local churches. And this certainly is true—for in the universal church as well as in individual local churches, there are always going to be wheat (that is, those who are legitimate, born again Christians) and tares (those who are still under the sway of the wicked one). In fact, in every denomination there are both legitimate and illegitimate children of God. There is no corner any denomination has on the truth, nor is there any group that all its members are saved. I personally believe every group & denomination of believers has both some good and some bad in them.
But let’s also consider this when it comes to the true church—you and I: You see, God’s church is not brick & mortar. No, it is comprised of each of us who know the Lord and are known by Him. And inside of each of us—there is wheat. There’s good seed. But guess what else we all have? Tares. There is ungodliness, faults, mistakes, and failures in all of us. So, to expect perfection from ourselves and have these unrealistic standards is not warranted. Sure, we should aspire to grow and mature in Christ, but there are just some things that we are going to struggle against as long as we are in this flesh. And your flesh might differ from mine, and mine might be different from theirs, but the fact is, we all have carnal flesh, and it is likely not going to be fixed until we receive our glorified bodies. I bring this up because I know firsthand how much the enemy uses this against us. Yes, he will constantly remind us of our imperfections and those proverbial “tares” that are in our lives to keep us under condemnation—thereby keeping us from reaching our potential.
I mean, I’ve met people who are so driven to see the world saved that they have zero joy in their lives because they are constantly focused on the countless thousands who are dying without knowing the Lord. And don’t get me wrong—we certainly should have a heart for the lost. But the error that I’ve seen in those who admirably have this heart of evangelism is they fail to rejoice in the ones who are saved! Did you know that’s what the angels do? Jesus told us that they rejoice over the one who turns to the Lord, not grieve over the 99 who don’t.
I think this principle is applicable to us as well—because shouldn’t we be more “glass half full” when it comes to the progress God’s kingdom is making in the world around us instead of the apparent progress the devil is making in the world around us? Likewise, shouldn’t we learn to rejoice more on the progress God has made in each of our lives instead of mourning over the flaws that remain in us?
However, while this is the case with the Lord’s church—both universally and individually—Jesus made it clear that the field is not the church, but the world (See verse 38). So, this means that in the world itself, there will always be good seed that the Lord sowed, and there will be bad seed that the devil sowed. And we are not going to change that—nor should we try.
You see, there is this contingent that wants to clean the world up and save it. And while this is certainly noble and these people have good intentions, it is important to understand that cleaning up all of these tares is not our job. In fact, the Lord even told the angels to not try and remove these tares until the end of the age. So, no, just as it is not the angels’ job to clean up the Lord’s field, it’s not our job to clean up our own field.
Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t play a part: Notice how Jesus said that these “tares” were sown “while men slept” (See verse 25). This sleeping is the opposite of what the Scriptures teach us to do—watching and being vigilant. So, Jesus just simply made the point in His parable that the sons of the wicked one who have been sown are not to be focused on, but people remaining spiritually awake and watching can keep those tares from ever being sown into the world.
THE LONGSUFFERING REAPER
But, finally, one of the more fascinating parts of this parable to me is how the Lord will deal with these things:
We are told how the reapers—those servants of the owner—came to the owner (likely referring to Almighty God who sent Jesus into His field to sow His seed) asking, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” (See verse 27). What a profound question by the Lord’s angels, and one that so many do not know the answer to today.
You see, so many have the idea that God is in control and He is going to do whatever He wants to do. So, when there is evil in this world, questions arise like— “Why would a good God allow evil?” Well, what they fail to realize is that we have a devil out there! Yes, Satan is the cause of all of the stealing, killing, and destruction out there, not God.
Well, we don’t exactly know why the devil is here and why his judgment is set off in the future, but we do know God is good and He is absolutely just in all His judgments. Amen.
So, this is a big part of understanding how the kingdom of God works—It operates according to the seedtime & harvest principle, but the enemy is busy sowing bad seed just like God is busy sowing good seed. Therefore, we need to know that the enemy is in charge of the bad fruit that we see in the world today. God is the One sowing the good seed, which is meant to produce all of the good fruit we need in this world. It is that simple, but religion has helped many to misunderstand it.
But the fact is, God is apparently not quick to judge the tares! No, His judgment is apparently suspended. Why? As the Scriptures teach us, it is because God is longsuffering, not desiring that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance (See Second Peter 3:9). Yes, He gives all of the tares out there space to repent and turn to Him. That is the gracious and merciful God we serve! Hallelujah!
But I want you to notice in this parable that this impending judgment of being thrown into the fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth was not reserved for the wheat but for the tares. In other words, the judgment was not for the good seed that the Lord sowed; it was for the bad seed that the devil sowed. Now, which one are you? Well, I hope that we all here today are the good seed—the wheat sown by the Lord Jesus—and if we are, we don’t need to fear God’s wrath and punishment—for we are not reserved for wrath but that we might be gathered together and put in God’s barn as Jesus said here. Glory to God! Then, as Jesus said, “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (See verse 43). What a day! What a kingdom!
All of you High Pointers out there know that recently we started a study on the various parables that Jesus taught about God’s kingdom in an attempt to learn how His kingdom works. We are doing this through a series entitled “The Mysteries of the Kingdom.”
So, we started out looking at the kingdom principle of seedtime & harvest through Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. In it, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the ground that it is sown into is our hearts. So, while everything in God’s kingdom begins with a seed, it all has to do with the heart. It’s been very eye opening as we have learned how to get this seedtime & harvest principle working for us instead of against us.
But this Parable of the Sower certainly was not the only time Jesus used the analogy of sowing & reaping to describe the workings of the kingdom of God. In fact, the analogy of a seed and the fruit it produces was His most oft-used analogy to teach about what the kingdom is like.
And today, I want us to look at another one of these seedtime & harvest type parables—because I see this next parable as a beautiful description of exactly what we celebrated last Sunday: Let’s look at Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed.
First of all, let me say that I consider the truth contained in this parable to be so pertinent to understanding the kingdom of God because a failure to understand this is what caused much of the doubt in God’s chosen people regarding their Christ.
You see, to the Jewish mind, the Christ was coming to release them from their captivity. He was coming to deliver them from their oppressors. This was how they interpreted the various prophecies that were made concerning their Messiah, and understandably so. For it would have taken one with exceptional spiritual perception to see that the Messiah was first coming to free them, not from the natural oppressor, but from their spiritual oppressor. But the Lord Jesus indeed came to, first of all, deliver mankind from the dominion of sin. In other words, He came to deliver us from the root of sin before He set us free from the fruit of sin—which were all of the injustices going on in this sin-cursed planet. Therefore, even those as spiritually perceptive as John the Baptist doubted because they did not see the immediate freedom from their Roman oppressors.
And this is why I believe Jesus gave us the Parable of the Mustard Seed—It was to teach the people that the kingdom will not appear and manifest in the manner in which they expected it to, but will come in a slow, gradual manner.
So, let’s begin looking at this parable and see not only what Jesus was teaching His disciples of that day, but also what He is teaching His disciples still today.
THE KINGDOM’S PERFECT PICTURE
I want us to do this by looking at all three instances where it was given in the Gospels. Let’s look first at Matthew’s account:
In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus said, “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’”
In Mark 4:30-32, Jesus said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
And finally, in Luke 13:18-19, we see that Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
Now, first of all, it is important to note that in both Mark & Luke’s account of this parable, they both quote Jesus as saying essentially the same thing— “What is the kingdom of God like? And with what parable can we use to compare it to?”
This shows us that Jesus was drawing on the single best natural example that He could, to paint a picture of what the kingdom of God is like. In other words, this parable is the one specific illustration Jesus chose to use to describe to us what things look like in the kingdom of God. This is important, church, because out of every example from this world that Jesus could have used to illustrate God’s kingdom, He chose to use the example of a mustard seed. And that is the part of this parable that is of the most importance—the mustard seed.
FAITH AS A MUSTARD SEED
It shouldn’t surprise us that out of all the things Jesus could have used to describe the kingdom of God, that He would use the mustard seed. Why? It is because this was one of Jesus’ most oft used objects to illustrate the workings of His Father’s kingdom. In fact, twice we see Jesus teaching His disciples how if they just had faith as a mustard seed that they could see supernatural results such as mountains being removed, and trees being uprooted:
In the first instance I am referring to, Jesus was talking about the casting out of the demon from the epileptic boy, and when His disciples asked him why they could not cast it out, He responded— “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you had faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing shall be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20). In the other instance, Jesus’ disciples heard Jesus teach on the importance of forgiveness. So, His disciples immediately responded to the call for unlimited forgiveness by saying, “Increase our faith!” Then Jesus responds by saying, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6). So, in both of these instances, faith is the subject, and it is likened to a mustard seed. (Isn’t it also interesting that He talked about something being “uprooted” when talking about the faith needed for unlimited forgiveness?)
Now as we are looking at how the kingdom of God operates in this series, this is a point that needs to be made—EVERYTHING in God’s kingdom operates by faith. It’s not our works; nor is it solely God’s grace. No, faith is what the kingdom of God works on. Yes, what God has done had to happen first, and yes, what we do plays a part in some things. But faith—which is simply us believing in what God has done by His grace—is necessary to receive all of the benefits of His grace.
But the point that Jesus was making in these Scriptures is that we do not need great faith to see great results; all we need is faith as a mustard seed—which was widely viewed in their days to be the smallest of all seeds (a point we will get into later).
But many Christians still err today regarding this, believing that they just need “more faith” in order to see “more results.” This is exactly what Jesus was countering in both of these passages. No, friends, we do not need more faith; all we need is to use a little of the faith that we already have. But someone will invariably respond to this, “But Trey, I do believe! I do have faith! Yet I am not seeing those results.” But this is when we need to consider what else Jesus was saying in these verses.
You see, a little mustard seed does you no good if it is not planted and allowed the opportunity to grow and produce, does it? And as we are about to learn in this Parable of the Mustard Seed, this particular seed has a supernatural ability to produce and grow to become greater than all other herbs. To me, this is the point Jesus was making: It is not about having more faith; it is simply about learning to plant the faith we have and allowing it the opportunity to grow and produce its supernatural results.
So, then the obvious question is: How do you plant those mustard seeds of faith? And the answer to this question is found in both of these passages of Scripture: Jesus said Matthew 17:20, “You shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’” And also in Luke 17:6, “You shall say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea.’”
What is the common thread you see here? It is that the way we plant our faith into the situations and circumstances that are currently in our lives, in order to see them removed, is by speaking to them. Yes, we sow little mustard seeds of faith by speaking faith-filled words! This is how faith works! This is how faith produces wonder-working results! It must be planted, and then allowed the time to germinate under the ground until it springs up in the natural and changes those situations and circumstances! Never forget: saying is sowing. Hallelujah!
But where you see this kingdom principle fail in so many believers’ lives is in that time between when the mustard seed is sown and the time it begins to bear fruit in the natural. And sometimes that is a long period of time, saints. But this is how the kingdom generally works: First seed, then time, and then (after what generally is a longer period of time than our flesh would like) the harvest! His kingdom does not usually manifest when we want it to.
And this is exactly what Jesus was teaching in His Parable of the Sower we are looking at—that the kingdom of God is progressive, and it is growing. But the key in understanding them is in knowing that it grows underneath the ground first. In other words, its progress is usually unseen. And that is when we must believe that God is working—not when we see it, but when we know He said it. This is faith and this is kingdom living.
WHAT IS THE MUSTARD SEED?
But let’s continue today focusing on the example of a mustard seed itself because I believe we can see from this example why this was what Jesus chose to use …
Now it has been said that a mustard seed was one of the smallest seeds that they had in Jesus’ day. However, this very small seed was capable of growing up into a large shrub that would usually get up to ten feet in height (in some cases 20 feet). While there were many other seeds that they had that were larger than a mustard seed, a lot of them would only produce a plant the fraction of the size of these mustard trees.
So, the obvious point Jesus was making was that the kingdom of God does not come in a grand and glorious fashion. It begins rather humbly, small, and seemingly insignificant.
Now this has a whole range of applications but one of the main ones that I want us to see (and that I believe the Lord wanted us to see originally) is how this mustard seed was HIM. Yes, the mustard seed in this parable was referring the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! Let me explain …
Notice in Luke’s account how Jesus went on to describe this mustard seed as that “which a man took and put in his garden” (Luke 13:19).
Now I think it’s obvious who this “man” was that Jesus was referring to—It’s God the Father. God took His only begotten Son and intentionally sowed Him on the earth, which is His garden. Yes, He took He Whom was from the beginning—the Word—and sowed Him into His field known as the earth.
Now that is reminiscent of how the Bible teaches us that God placed the first Adam in His garden, isn’t it? In Genesis 2:15, we are told— “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” So, just by that one Scripture, it seems obvious that the “man” that Jesus referred to is “the Lord God” and the “mustard seed” that He put in His garden is the Man, Jesus Christ, also known as the Last Adam.
But in the case of Jesus, He wasn’t just put here on the earth to tend and keep it; no, Jesus—as that mustard seed—came to be sown into it not just onto it. And we know how this happened: He was crucified and sown into that tomb like a seed, but like it is with planting seeds, the purpose was not just for His crucifixion and burial; the ultimate goal was for a resurrection of that Seed! And this is exactly what happened! God received a harvest from that Mustard Seed He sowed into the earth! Amen!
Then Luke’s Gospel goes on to tell us that this mustard seed “grew,” which is also how Jesus was described in the beginning of this very Gospel:
You see, we understand that from the time Jesus was born in a stable to the time of His death on the Cross, He had no form or comeliness (i.e., no majestic form or splendor) and there was no beauty that we should desire Him. As the prophet Isaiah also stated— “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.” (See Isaiah 53:2). Yes, saints, Jesus was that mustard seed—that tender plant that grew up out of dry ground! He was the Word sown by the Father into this world which is His field. Indeed, our Heavenly Father said, “Light be,” and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (Compare John 1:1-14).
In Luke 2:40 we see that Jesus “grew” and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him. Then in Luke 2:51, we see that He “increased” in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
But it wasn’t just Jesus that was doing the growing; it was His kingdom that was increasing as well! Yes, throughout His entire ministry, His kingdom was growing. It was expanding. Might we say, the King and His kingdom was taking “ground”?
So, this is how it started. But when Jesus went to the Cross for us, that was when that mustard seed brought forth the most “mustard!” A point we will get into momentarily.
But back to the fact that the Mustard Seed was one of the smallest:
THE SMALLEST TO THE GREATEST
You see, as I just mentioned, the kingdom of God and its Christ did not come in a grand and glorious fashion. Jesus and His kingdom came as the least, humbly to be a servant of all. From His own mouth, He said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).
And, herein lays another great principle of the kingdom of God: it is that the first will be last and the last will be first. As this same passage in Matthew chapter 20 states—“whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.” (Matthew 28:26-27).
This is how God’s kingdom operates, church. We see this by how the Christ and His kingdom came in an unassuming way. And it will operate the same in our lives as we lay down our lives and learn to become “the least of all seeds” ourselves. May it be so in all of us, Lord! Amen.
But the wonderful promise that we have through this kingdom principle is that when one does humble himself and puts him or herself last, promotion is on the way. This is what Jesus went on to describe in the Parable of the Mustard Seed when He said, “but when it is grown (i.e., this is that due season where we will reap if we faint not), it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree…”
We see this in the life of Jesus, who humbled Himself even unto the death of the Cross. And we see how now God also has highly exalted Him, giving Him the name above every other name! Amen! (Compare Philippians 2:5-11). And I can assure you, church—the same will work for us too! As we sow ourselves as a mustard seed into this world, laying down our lives and taking up our cross, we can expect the Lord to exalt us in due time. This is just how the kingdom works!
Saints, do you want to be great in the kingdom of God? Do you want to be a great tree, planted in the most honorable place and position? Well, this is what the Lord wants for you as well. He says, “Oh, that all of my people who are called by my name may become trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that I may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3) Be it so, Lord, according to Your Word. Amen.
THE BIRDS AND THE BRANCHES
And, last but not least, Jesus goes on to describe that when this little mustard seed grows to become this great tree, “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
So, what do these birds represent? Well, earlier in the day when Jesus gave His Parable of the Sower, the birds of the air described the prince of the power of the air—Satan—and his demons who come to steal the Word that is sown in our hearts.
Now we know that Satan and his demons are not finding refuge in God’s kingdom, so this could not be the correct interpretation here. But I do believe in this parable, Jesus is again referring to heavenly beings, but this time it is God’s heavenly angels.
You see, the Book of Hebrews teaches us that when Jesus came to the earth, He was made a little lower than the angels (See Hebrews 2:9). This did not mean that He lost His divinity or was considered lower than God’s angels in rank or position, but rather that He was made lower through His humanity and abilities. In other words, because He became human for the suffering of death on the Cross, He was made flesh and, thereby, became lower than the angels.
Now we know that after He was raised from the dead and received His glorified body that He is no longer lower than the angels. Now He has become greater than they! (Hebrews 1:4-14).
So, in this parable, the mustard seed which once was "food" for the birds of the air has become so much greater than those same birds and even provides for them now. In other words, when Jesus Christ was a man, He was indeed a little lower than the angels, but now He is so much greater than they.
Saints, Jesus has received a more excellent name through His death, burial, and resurrection! And now that He has been seated at the right hand of His Father and has been given the name above every name, He is far above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name that is named! (Ephesians 1:20-21). Hallelujah!
So herein lies another great principle of God’s kingdom for us to understand: If all things have been put under His feet (Ephesians 1:22), then all things must also be put under us because we are His body, the church. Yes, saints, we are His branches (See John 15:5). Therefore, being parts of His body and heirs of this kingdom, we have been given authority to use the name of Jesus and cast out the kingdom of darkness and we also have the blessed promise that the Lord’s angels will minister to those who have inherited salvation. Amen!
Beloved, this is something that we need to understand and embrace: that we are extremely valuable and blessed being a part of this kingdom. Many Christians have this mentality that we are just little sinners who happen to be saved by grace, but nothing could be further from the truth! We were sinners, but when we were saved and became members of this everlasting kingdom which cannot be shaken, we are no longer just helpless pawns to Satan and his kingdom. Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, and we are that church—the branches of that mustard tree that was sown into the earth and has arisen from the ground! Glory to the Lamb!