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 have been covering the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a couple of months now where we are studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom operates and what it looks like. And thus far, we have covered various parables such as Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and the Parable of the Growing Seed where we have learned some awesome truths from how the Lord established His kingdom in the first place to how the principle of sowing & reaping is the law that governs God’s kingdom.
Most recently, we covered the Parable of the Leaven and learned how the devil himself even puts this kingdom principle to work in an attempt to corrupt and pervert us. We learned this by considering that every time leaven is used in the Scriptures as an example, it is not used in a positive sense. In fact, it is used to describe sin, false teaching, wrong belief systems, etc.
We saw that “leaven” (or what we would call “yeast”) describes a single-celled organism which belongs to the fungi kingdom used to make bread rise and tastier. But since leaven is essentially a fungus, we can see why it is used in a negative sense in the Scriptures because fungi aren’t usually good things, are they?
So, we looked at some Scriptural examples of “leaven” and we saw that the first example we have of leaven is in the Book of Exodus when the Lord instituted the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And we saw how those things were simply types and shadows of spiritual realities because we looked in First Corinthians chapter 5 and saw what they represented—things like sin and wickedness. In this chapter, the apostle Paul likened the toleration of wickedness in their church as “a little leaven leavening the whole lump.” Therefore, we learned that it is not about simply observing a feast and performing some rite or ritual; the issue is us purging wicked things from our lives that the leaven symbolizes.
But we learned that Jesus also compared this leaven to other things such as the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod—and we learned that what He was referring to was the teachings, the way of thinking, and the agendas that these parties projected on people which were:
So, we learned that the devil is constantly trying to sow these various kinds of leaven into our hearts. And why? So that he can leaven all three measures of meal within us—that is, our spirit, soul, and body. And we learned that this is not done in some overt manner. It is a sly, cunning, and subtle “leavening” just as the woman in this parable was said to have “hid” the leaven in the three measures of meal (i.e., dough). The fact that Jesus describes her as “hiding” it shows us that it will not be on the surface, apparent to everyone, but will work underneath everything doing its corrupting work. But we learned that even though the leaven is all around us, the Lord has promised that He Himself will sanctify us completely and our whole spirit, soul, and body will be “preserved” blameless (See First Thessalonians 5:23).
So, while there certainly is the negative side of it, there is good leaven that can infiltrate our lives and cause us to “rise” and be more “flavorful,” and that is God’s Word and His Holy Spirit.
We saw that Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” So, just as that woman hid the leaven in the three measures of meal, you and I can choose to hide His Word, the Gospel, in our hearts and when we do so, it can keep us from sinning against God! Hallelujah! Therefore, we saw that the key is us learning to sow God’s Word in our hearts and letting that seed spring up and affecting all the issues of our life. Yes, His Word is what sanctifies us (See John 17:17). That’s what we’ve been learning for weeks now—that the kingdom of God works like this—seedtime and harvest. But the devil has perverted this kingdom principle and now is trying to hide his leaven to where our whole spirit, soul and body is infected by his deception.
So, let’s continue this teaching on the mysteries of God’s kingdom by looking at two more parables that Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter 13—the Parable of the Hidden Treasure & The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (See Matthew 13:44-46). I believe that these two parables will reinforce to us these very truths of how God views us, His church.
WHAT IS THE TREASURE & THE PEARL?
You see, these two parables are yet another attempt by our Lord and Savior to illustrate to us how His kingdom operates. But this time, Jesus attempts to reveal to us another aspect of His kingdom.
Now there are two ways that you hear these two similarly themed parables being interpreted:
One is that the treasure and pearl illustrated in these two parables are the kingdom of God itself and we are the man and the merchant who discover it. Then, having found this precious commodity, we sell all we have for the joy set before us by laying down our lives for the cause of the kingdom. Therefore, most believers see these parables as how the disciple of Christ will react once discovering the kingdom—we will forsake all to experience the life of the kingdom. This is probably the most common interpretation of these Scriptures.
Secondly, these two parables have also been interpreted to mean that the treasure and the pearl is us, and the man or merchant that sought out and found the church was Jesus. The Lord then forsook all He had to purchase us by first leaving His glory in heaven, becoming a man, and then ultimately by giving up His life for us on the Cross. So, this interpretation could be summed up by saying that Jesus sold all He had in order to redeem us as His own.
So, as I have considered both of these possible interpretations, I asked the Lord which one was correct. Is it that the treasure/pearl is Your kingdom and the salvation one experiences when entering your kingdom or is the treasure/pearl the church that You died for? Is the man/merchant us discovering the kingdom or is this person Jesus who was seeking after us?
As I asked the Holy Spirit these questions, He responded to me saying that the answer is both. Yes, He told me that both interpretations are correct because, as He put it to me, you cannot have one without the other. Let me explain …
You see, the Lord never encourages us to do anything that He Himself has not already first done. Always remember that. He, as any good leader, will first practice what He preaches. And these two parables perfectly illustrate this principle of God’s kingdom.
The Lord was first this man/merchant in these parables: He discovered this kingdom in first seeking out and saving we who were lost and paying 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.
Now there was a slight difference in both of these parables regarding this interpretation. So first, I want us to begin by looking at Jesus’ Parable of the Hidden Treasure—for in it, we learn some tremendous truths about God’s kingdom …
THE HIDDEN TREASURE
Now Jesus “again” begins this parable by saying, “…the kingdom of heaven is like …” But this time, He begins by saying, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like …”
By using the word “Again,” I see Jesus saying that this is yet another way that we can illustrate how things work in the kingdom of God. And one important take away from this is just how important it is that we hear over and over how things work in the kingdom. Why? Because faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s Word. So, hearing and hearing again and again about God’s kingdom is evidently an important part of hiding these truths in our hearts.
But when Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is like,” what He was saying was that the kingdom of God can be illustrated like so. In other words, this is yet another way that God’s kingdom can be described and how it works.
So here, Jesus uses the example of a treasure hidden in a field to describe how the kingdom of God operates. And like we said, this treasure was first us and Jesus was the Man who discovered us, but then because of what Jesus did for us, it can also be the kingdom of God itself and we were the ones who discovered it. But I want us to focus mainly on how it all started—how we were that hidden treasure that Jesus found and hid for Himself.
You see, the fact that Jesus describes this treasure as being hidden in a field reveals something to us—that the world itself (which the field represents) is not aware of the treasure contained within it. Yes, it’s hidden. So, that means that when it comes to this natural, carnal world, it’s hard to see what is truly valuable.
Let me tell you what’s important, church—people are important. All of the gold and silver and other things that this world values are not the real treasure—human beings are. That’s what the Lord esteems.
So, this ought to be something that we seek to discover since the world and our flesh are hiding it from us. We should seek to know in our hearts just how valuable others are while also knowing that we too are valuable to the Lord. Amen? And I can assure you—you will have to “dig” for this revelation like one digs for buried treasure. Why? Because it not something that the flesh will generally focus on. It is spiritual truth that must be sought out and revealed by the Holy Spirit.
You know, things that are precious and valuable are usually never 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.
But lest we get the wrong idea—these riches and treasures are not something that we don’t already possess. No, if Christ—the One in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge dwells in—lives in us, then these treasures are already in us! Yes, they are not hidden from us; they are hidden in us! Glory to God! Therefore, we are not digging for something like we don’t already have it. We are looking within us for all the riches and treasures of all Christ is in us and all we are in Him. And how we do look for these things? By the treasure map, of course!
So, all we need is that treasure map to guide the way—and that is the Word of God. Yes, we will discover this treasure contained within us by looking in the mirror of God’s Word and digging for all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are contained in the Holy Scriptures! But do you know what it is going to reveal to you? That the X that marks the spot is not going this way or that way; the X that marks the spot is in you! Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, saints (Colossians 3:16) and discover the treasures buried within you!
A beautiful illustration of this is found in the account of Joseph and his brothers reuniting in Egypt: If you recall, Joseph hid his identity from his brothers when they came to Egypt during the famine to purchase food. So, at one point, he put their money that they brought to pay for the grain back in their sacks. When they returned and confessed to Joseph that their money was returned to them, he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks …” (Genesis 43:23).
The Lord referred to His original covenant people this way—as His own special treasure (See Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6 & 14:2). So do you think He would view His church any different. I tell you the truth—if He did, it would be better than even this because the blood of the Lamb of God does what the blood of bulls & goats could never do. Amen?
THE TREASURE CHEST
But it is not that we are His treasure because of who we are in the natural & physical. No, it is not our works or anything else we are or do in the flesh that gives us our value to God. It is what Jesus Christ did on the inside of us that is of great value! The apostle Paul describes this in Second Corinthians chapter 4. Let’s look at it …
In Second Corinthians 4:7, Paul tells us— “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
The word “earthen vessel” describes something like a household utensil that is made of the earth like a porcelain cup or a jar of clay. In fact, the New International Version translates these words that way by describing these earthen vessels as “jars of clay,” which is where a Christian band got their name from.
And oh, how people love to emphasize this about themselves—how they are just of the earth and how they are only human. And the connotation is that we are all just broken, cracked, and fragile—full of flaws and imperfections. Well, while a lot of those things are certainly true, why do people tend to focus on the imperfections in themselves instead of celebrating the treasure that is contained in these cracked and broken vessels.
You know, if I were digging for treasure and came upon an old chest that was molded, dilapidated, and worth nothing, would I just throw it away because of how flawed the chest was? No, I would do everything I could to open it up to see what was inside of it. Why? Because if there was a treasure inside of it, then it just became a treasure chest and, therefore, has great value! So, if this happened, how do you suppose I would describe what I found to others? Would I say, “I found this disgusting old chest.” No, no, no! I would basically only refer to the treasure I found, not to the chest it was buried in. Amen?
Well, we have this treasure in these earthen vessels and so our value is not based on who we are on the outside, but who we are on the inside and what we have contained within us! Amen.
But then notice what Jesus said in His parable … He said that this man “found and hid” it.
I think it is interesting that when Jesus found this treasure hidden in the field, He then re-hid it Himself. In other words, in His wisdom, He knew He needed to put that treasure in a secret place so that when He purchased the field, the treasure wouldn’t be discovered by someone else.
But notice that Jesus said that this man “found” this treasure. Now the fact that it was a treasure that was hidden in a field and he “found” it indicates that he was looking for it and didn’t just stumble upon it. (A point we will touch on momentarily in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price).
FOR JOY OVER IT
But in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, after finding the treasure in the field, he did not simply attempt to attain the treasure. No, he paid the price to purchase the entire field—knowing that in purchasing the field, He was purchasing the treasure hidden in the field. What a wise God we serve!
This paints a beautiful picture of the lengths that love will go to redeem the object of its love. And in this illustration, we can see how God paid the price for the whole world and not just for those who would receive His call for salvation. In other words, He paid for all man’s sin, not just the redeemed people’s sin. He went to such great lengths to offer this free gift of salvation to the whole world to where all one needs to do is receive the price paid—the blood of Jesus. Then, if they receive the price that was paid to redeem them, all other sin issues are taken care of. But if they reject the lamb who was slain for their sins, then they reject the gift of salvation.
But not only did Jesus pay the price to redeem all of mankind, He also paid the price to redeem all of the world itself. Yes, this planet which has thrown into a sin-cursed state when Adam sinned, was also purchased, ready to be redeemed when Jesus returns, bringing with Him the new heavens and the new earth. Come Lord Jesus, Come! Amen.
Now like we see that the field here represents the world itself—God’s creation, if you would—I also believe we can see the “field” here as representing our physical flesh & blood body. So, like we’ve seen, the treasure hidden in the field can represent all of the worth, value, potential, and capabilities that are contained within us. And, church, that is what this Man, the Man Christ Jesus, saw in us—and it was the thing that motivated Him to sell all that He had on the Cross to buy us with His very own blood! Amen!
And do not be mistaken by thinking that Jesus did this reluctantly or as a matter of obligation. No, this parable shows us that the man in this parable goes and sells all He has “for joy over it.” Amen!
You see, church, we are what Jesus was looking at when He died on the Cross! We are what enabled Him to endure such suffering! Hebrews 12:2 says that it was “for the joy that was set before Him …” that He “… endured the cross.” And based on this parable of the Hidden Treasure, we were that joy.
Oh, church, I wish we all saw our Lord this way—as One who rejoices over us and would do anything to possess us! He truly is this good! Amen!
So, yes, the treasure was first us in that Jesus sold all He had to purchase not only us, but the whole world. Yes, Jesus paid the ultimate price to redeem this entire planet and all that is within it—and that includes you. And why? It’s because He values you and gets joy out of you!
So, what is the response this should generate in us? Well, that’s the other possible interpretation of this parable: We then ought to sell all we have—that is, lay our lives down for the One who laid His down for us—for the seeking first of His kingdom and His righteousness. Amen?
Let’s sell out for Him today, church. Let’s give Him our all, in return, since He gave us His all on the Cross. It is our reasonable service, and it is our privilege & honor. Amen.
THE FATHER’S BUSINESS
Now let’s look at Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price because while it is very similar to the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, it does have some differences that are worth noting.
First of all, notice that Jesus uses the example of not just any man, but of a “merchant.” So, as we saw in the previous parable, the Lord is this man. So, what does this teach us? It teaches us that the Lord is a merchant. Now this is much more significant than I have personally ever considered it to be:
You see, a merchant is defined as someone who is involved in wholesale trading and/or supplying merchandise to a particular trade. In other words, a merchant is a businessman (or woman, of course).
When Jesus was a young boy, He referred to His “Father’s business.” Church, we need to understand that while we are a part of the family God, having been born (again) of our Heavenly Father, we have also become a part of our Father God’s business. And He absolutely has expectations as to how His business is being run by His children.
You see, merchants are not in this just for fun or a hobby. No, they are in it for profit. Likewise, our Heavenly Father is in the business of making a profit too. No, I’m not talking about income like we think of it, but in the things that are truly valuable—souls! As we learned already—people are what are valuable to Him. So, that is the kind of increase He is looking for—people coming into His kingdom, family, and business. Amen!
Another thing I found interesting when I looked up the definition of a merchant was that they described this person who was involved in trading and merchandise as “especially one dealing with foreign countries.” In other words, this is indicating that merchants oftentimes do business with those in other geographic locations, supplying goods that they might not have.
Well, this makes me think of how the Lord Jesus came from heaven to earth on His Father’s business in search of these valuable commodities. Yes, like a sea merchant will go out into the waters on a ship to find these beautiful pearls, the Lord left His abode in heaven in search of a foreign commodity that to Him was and is precious.
SEEKING WITH ALL HIS HEART
And that is a big point not only in Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price but also in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure—that the Lord sought us out!
You see, one thing I think a lot of believers’ miss is the fact that if God commands us to seek Him with all of our hearts, He does the same. No, He is not going to tell us to do something that He is not first willing to do. And the truth is—He wants us to seek after Him because He already sought after us. Amen?
You see, in His Parable of the Hidden Treasure, Jesus said that this man “found and hid” the treasure. Now the fact that it was a treasure that was hidden in a field and he “found” it indicates that he was looking for it and didn’t just stumble upon it. And here in Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, He said that this merchant was “seeking” beautiful pearls.
Did you know that this was one of Jesus’ primary missions of coming from heaven to earth—to seek after the lost? It was. He said in Zacchaeus’ house, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (See Luke 19:10).
This is the point that we see Jesus making in Luke chapter 15: In this chapter, we see that when the Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus was receiving the sinners and eating with them, Jesus began to give them three parables that illustrate God’s heart for seeking to save the lost.
The first one was Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Sheep where He illustrated how any person who lost one of their sheep will leave the ninety-nine to go in search of the one that was astray (See Luke 15:4-7). But what Jesus did in this parable that most people miss is He showed the heart of the man who had found his lost sheep. He describes him as laying the sheep on his shoulders and rejoicing as he brought it home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors, inviting them to rejoice with him.
The next parable was very similar: It’s the Parable of the Lost Coin. In it, there was a woman who had ten silver coins, and when she lost one of them, she turned her house upside down trying to find it. But when she finds it, she does the same thing that the man who lost his sheep did—She rejoiced and invited others to rejoice with her!
Then Jesus concludes with the more commonly parable known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. However, I do not like this title because this parable was not just about the lost son (which is a better title in itself because it fits the context better), but it was a parable of three people, not just one.
You see, there were two sons in this parable—the older son and the younger, prodigal son. Then there was also the father of them both—which is what we fail to see a lot—that we have a Heavenly Father and a Savior who seeks us out, desiring to have us in His house. This is our God! He’s looking for us and searched high and low to find us all because He loves us passionately and extravagantly! Amen!
So, both His Parable of the Treasure Hid in a Field and the Pearl of Great Price are meant to illustrate how the Lord searches for treasure and beautiful pearls (which are you and I) with the same kind of heart that we do the things we value. You see, church, God values you, and He will search high and low to find you, His lost sheep. He will turn everything upside down to find you, His lost coin. He will look for you like a Father whose child is lost. He loves you, and He moved heaven and earth to find you. Amen.
And like in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, we see why the Lord seeks after us like He does—it’s because He truly values us! Yes, we saw that He sees us like a treasure, and we see here that He sees us like “beautiful pearls.” Therefore, He sought us out like one seeks after pearls.
Do you know what the odds are of finding a pearl in an oyster? They say that it is like one in every 10,000! Wow! That is not good odds, church. But that would require a lot of effort, hard work, and time to find the one beautiful one, wouldn’t it?
So, look at someone today and tell them— “Sorry, you are not one in a million; you’re more like one in 10,000!” But actually, we might be one in a million because notice how Jesus says that this merchant was seeking “beautiful” pearls. That speaks to me that he wasn’t just looking for any old pearl; he was in search of a certain quality of pearl—the beautiful ones. Amen!
You see, this is, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems we have in the world today—the insecurities in people.
You do not have to look too far to see people starving for attention, communicating through their actions “Look at me! Tell me how important I am! Tell me I’m handsome or pretty!” Things like Facebook, Instagram, and Tic Toc are all used to fuel this drive that is in people for recognition and to feed their insecurities. Don’t get me wrong—that’s not how everyone uses them—but you can see how these various platforms are used to post picture after picture and video after video that screams for attention.
But the problem is not the pictures, the videos, or the posts; the problem is the insecurities that drive these things. Yes, the issue is that there are so many people who are not complete, who hate themselves, and who are in desperate need of attention to make them feel better. That’s not right!
And this is not just a problem in the world. Even in the church, these same insecurities exist. This is why people flock to hearing messages that tell them how important they are, how much they are loved, what all Christ has done for them, and what their calling and giftings are.
Now don’t get me wrong—There is certainly a place for us hearing these truths. You will hear me teach & preach these truths with the best of them, but there is still a reason people, as the Bible says, love to heap up for themselves teachers. Second Timothy 4:3 goes on to say that it’s because they have “itching ears.” And that’s the problem—people tend to want to hear what satisfies that part of them that is still in need.
But let this truth resonate in your heart today—If the Lord is the merchant here and you are the pearl that He has found, then you are beautiful. That’s the way the Lord sees you!
So, it doesn’t matter if the world has told you that you’re ugly, good for nothing, and unimportant. The Lord thinks otherwise. And I can guarantee you—He is the One who is right, not the world. Yes, His value system is not the one that is incorrect; the world’s is. Therefore, what makes one beautiful is not our eyes, weight, hair, skin, etc. What makes us beautiful is the Lord! We are light! We are love! And we are life! That is who we are and that is how He sees you today! Amen!
For example, in Hebrews 11:23, we see this is how Moses’ parents saw him. Let’s look at it because I believe it reveals to us some important things …
Hebrews 11:23 says, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.”
Now I’ve never heard parents who give birth to a baby say that their baby is ugly. No, they all think their baby is beautiful. So, this isn’t talking about “beautiful” in the sense of they thought their new baby boy was good looking physically. No, they saw something else in Moses—and we have to assume that what they saw was a purpose, a calling, and something special about him.
Well, what do you think the Lord sees when He looks at you—His born-again children? He sees a beautiful girl and handsome boy. Others might look at His babies and say, “Man, I don’t know what He sees in them because they are one ugly baby.” But the Lord says, “They are mine, and I think they are beautiful” Yes, church, like Moses’ parents, the Lord looks at us and sees purpose, destiny, and someone who is special. Sure, we might have poop in our diapers and spit up on our chin, but the Lord, through His eyes of love, sees someone beautiful whom He can use. Amen.
BOUGHT WITH A PRICE
So, if this is the way the Lord sees us—as beautiful, precious, and a treasure—what do you figure His response would be? Jesus told us that when this merchant found that one pearl of great price (like the man in the prior parable) he sold all he had and bought it.
Did you know that you’ve been “bought”? Yes, the Bible teaches us that we have been bought with a price by our Lord. Amen. This is what the Bible calls “redemption.” We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus—which means that we who once were in slavery to sin and Satan were purchased out of our bondage and brought into the family of God. Amen! And what was the price that was paid? It was the blood of Jesus spilt on the Cross. His blood is what purchased our freedom! Glory to Jesus!
First Peter 1:18-19 puts it like this— “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
So, the apostle Peter is making the point here that we were not redeemed with money or any other corruptible thing, but with the “precious” blood of Christ. Now the word “precious” here describes something that is valuable, costly, or “of great price” as the Blue Letter Bible puts it. So, our God took something that was valuable and costly to purchase and redeem us. Wow! I hope you are seeing this!
But since we have been bought at such a high price, there is a responsibility we have. It’s not just so we can go around talking about how valuable and important we are; there is an expectation the Lord has on His purchased possessions.
First Corinthians 6:18-20 teaches us what these expectations are when the apostle Paul says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
So, Paul is laying it all out there in these verses, isn’t he? Because we have been bought at a price, our responsibility is to glorify God both in our body as well as in our spirit. Why? Because they are God’s possession. Amen?
But the point we really need to see here is how the Lord did indeed buy us, and He did so with His own valuable & costly blood—His blood “of great price” if you would. So, if you and I are those pearls of great price, then it took blood of great price to purchase those pearls. Amen?
In fact, the words that were used in Matthew 13:46 when describing this one pearl of “great price” was only used one other time, and that was in John chapter 12 when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with a “very costly” oil of spikenard (See John 12:3). Now we know from that story that this indeed was an extremely valuable perfume that she offered to the Lord—so much so that it was the equivalent of a year’s salary for the average worker.
So, again, while we would view this extremely extravagant offering that Mary gave to Jesus as being something we ought to strive to give the Lord ourselves, this is the same terminology that Jesus used to describe us, His pearls of “great price.” Amen.
So, the point I want us to understand about these two parables—the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price—is how Jesus chose to describe us as a treasure and a pearl of great price. Oftentimes, 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. Now, please understand me: This is in no way an attempt to diminish the focus on Jesus’ precious blood. Oh, how we should always pay great honor and reverence to His redeeming sacrifice! But at the same time, we 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 the truth of the gospel is that once we see this great love that God has for His church and for each of us individually, we can truly sell out ourselves. Amen. We can sell all that we have to gain entrance into this grand and glorious kingdom that is so precious and powerful.
Always remember that it is the goodness of God that leads man to repentance (Romans 2:4). This is why our message to the lost is called the gospel: It is because it is good news, not bad news! And the good news is that we have a Lord and Savior who sold all that He had to purchase and redeem each one of us to rule and reign with Him in His everlasting kingdom.
I pray that you see this great love that has reconciled you today! May you see the value you have and as that kingdom principle is birthed in your heart, may your light begin to shine brightly as you give Him all that you are in gratitude for all that He has done. Amen.
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART SEVEN – LEAVENING THE WHOLE LUMP
We have been covering the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a couple of months now where we have been studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom works. Church, Jesus gave us these parables to teach us what His kingdom is like. Therefore, we need to get an understanding of these analogies and examples as well as apply these truths to our lives so that we can get these principles of how His kingdom works working for us.
Thus far, we have covered Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and last week, we looked at the Parable of the Growing Seed. And we saw how in this parable, we have what I consider to be the most concise description of how His kingdom operates.
I made the point that it could be considered the kingdom principle. That’s right—not a kingdom principle or one of the kingdom principles—This is the law that governs God’s kingdom. Now I understand that this is a strong statement to call this the absolute law of the kingdom, but I can assure you, just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the law of sowing & reaping is the way, the truth and the life of the kingdom of God. Amen!
We learned that when Jesus said at the beginning of this parable— “The kingdom of God is as…”, Jesus was saying, “This is how the kingdom of God operates! This is a law of the kingdom, and it will work this way every single time!”
Then Jesus went on to say it is “… as if a man should scatter seed on the ground …” We took note that by using the word “if” here, Jesus was saying that this principle of the kingdom is conditional. Conditional on what? Conditional as to whether or not this man should scatter seed on the ground! What this means is that it is not up to God! It is our responsibility if this kingdom law will take effect in our lives or not.
Now we also learned that the seed is the Word of God and the ground is our hearts. Jesus told us this in the Parable of the Sower. So, the condition to seeing this kingdom principle becoming effective in our lives is if we are going to take the time to sow the Word in hearts that are good, noble, and pure. But we saw something else that is very interesting: In His interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus told us what both the seed and the ground represent, but He never told us who the sower was? And do you know why? Jesus doesn’t tell us who the sower is in these parables because it does not matter who the sower is. Yes, the seed will produce when sown into good ground every single time, and it doesn’t matter how the seed got there. That’s right church, the seed and the soil are no respecter of persons or we could say that they are no respecter of “sowers!”
But the main point we saw from this parable is that this man just simply scattered seed on the ground and then went about his business. He didn’t stay up all night, wringing his hands, fretting over whether he was going to get a harvest or not. No, Jesus told us that after he scattered the seed on the ground, he just went to bed and rested.
Church, whenever we begin to fret, get anxious and worry about the things that we need or desire to see change in our life, we are not operating according to this kingdom principle. No, when we are abiding in this law of the kingdom, we will enter into His rest. And this is such a super important part of kingdom living even though it is so hard on our flesh—for to enter into His rest is what faith does.
But we learned that resting does not mean we just kick back, relax, and let God do everything. No, we have a part to play in it, and that is to sow the Word! Yes, our only job is to sow the Word into our situation and sit back and watch God’s grace do the work.
This is why Jesus went on to say that “he himself does not know how,” which I believe is the most powerful statement in this parable. Why? Because when we are living in this kingdom principle, we will not be able to explain how all this fruit is being produced in our lives. Yes, we will be like this sower who had to respond when asked about the harvest he had in his field— “You know what? All I did was put the seed in the ground. I couldn’t tell you how those little seeds produced all this. It just happened on its own. I can’t figure it out. I don’t know how this happened!”
And the thing we learned last week was how Jesus then gave us the steps for how this harvest took place, and this speaks of patience. Therefore, patience is a big part of this kingdom principle because we cannot expect all this fruit overnight. How ridiculous would it be for a farmer to plant some seed and then after a week or two, when it hasn’t produced, dig up the seed and say this farming stuff doesn’t work? No, reaping a harvest is a process! And we learned that patience is certainly one of the most important virtues in the kingdom of God because the fruit we desire rarely comes when our flesh wants it to. No, growth in the kingdom is a process.
So, when we desire to see the fruit of God’s kingdom coming in our lives, sow the Word! When it comes to situations and circumstances in our lives that we know need to change, sow the Word! Find Scriptures that promise what we want to see and begin to let God perform His good Word and let it prosper in the thing for which He sent it! It works every time, my friends! We just have need of patience and knowing that God’s kingdom comes by grace as the God of grace does the work. Amen.
Now let’s move on into looking at the Parable of the Leaven—a parable that Jesus told immediately after the Parable of the Mustard Seed. And this particular parable is even shorter than it, in that it is only one verse.
Matthew 13:33 says, “Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.’”
Now when Jesus began by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven …” this doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus was specifically likening God’s kingdom to the leaven itself. It can also mean that the kingdom of heaven works like leaven works. Therefore, He is just simply describing that in the spiritual realm, where the kingdom of God exists, this is how things work.
And the reason I make this point is because when we consider Jesus’ use of leaven here, we have to consider that every time leaven is used in the Scriptures as an example, it is not used in a positive sense. In fact, it is used to describe sin, false teaching, wrong belief systems, etc. So, for Jesus to compare God’s kingdom to this thing that is never used to describe anything but evil & wicked things would be inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.
However, there is a group of people that believe that is exactly what Jesus was doing here. Yes, they take this parable as an illustration of how God’s kingdom is infiltrating the earth. And while I believe that we can see how God’s kingdom is indeed doing just that, I also believe that what we are meant to see in this parable was how in the unseen realm, there is a hidden spreading of things from the spiritual realm that affects this natural realm. So, let’s look at this parable in detail …
Now “leaven” is not the terminology we would use today. Today, we would call this thing “yeast” because what Jesus was describing was that single-celled organism which belongs to the fungi kingdom. So, leaven is essentially a fungus. No wonder it is only used in a negative sense in the Scriptures because fungi aren’t usually good things!
But when it comes to the making of bread, “leaven” (or “yeast” as we know it) is indeed a good thing in some respects because of how it makes bread rise and provides it with a better flavor. But while those benefits of yeast are appealing to our flesh, they are not necessarily the healthiest things. Likewise, the things that the Bible uses as illustrations for leaven might be things that appeal to the carnal side of us but are not necessarily good for us spiritually. Let’s look at some of these Scriptural examples of “leaven”:
Of course, one of the first Biblical examples we have of leaven is in the Book of Exodus when the Lord instituted the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, telling the congregation of Israel to eat no leavened bread, and not even have any leaven found in their houses during that prescribed period of time.
Now we know all of those things were symbolic in nature—for God doesn’t have anything against yeast in and of itself. But what He is vehemently against is what yeast symbolizes.
You see, in First Corinthians chapter 5, the apostle Paul likens the toleration of wickedness in their church as “a little leaven leavening the whole lump”—and he continues to describe how purging out vices like malice and wickedness is how we today fulfill the feast of unleavened bread (See First Corinthians 5:6-8).
So, it is not about simply observing a feast and performing some rite or ritual; the issue is us purging wicked things from our lives that the leaven symbolizes.
THE LEAVEN OF THE WORLD
But Jesus also compared this leaven to something else: For example, one thing that Jesus spoke out against on a number of occasions was the leaven of the Pharisees, the leaven of the Sadducees, and the leaven of Herod (See Matthew 16:6 & Mark 8:15). So, what was He referring to here? It was the teachings, the way of thinking, and the agendas that these parties projected on people. No, it was not just the words they spoke, but the leaven in their hearts that inspired the words that they spoke.
Let’s look at the first example: In Matthew 16:6-12, we see where Jesus, in speaking to His disciples, said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’ But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? — but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Now let me explain what happened here: Jesus was attempting to give His disciples some spiritual insight and told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. But when the disciples heard this, they thought Jesus was giving them a subliminal message—rebuking them for forgetting to bring the leftover bread from the feeding of the thousands. And don’t we do this, church? Perhaps you were making some homemade bread for one of our church luncheons, but you messed it up, not adding enough yeast, and it fell flat. And then Pastor Robert stands up here during announcements and says, “Watch out of the yeast of false teaching out there.” You might start thinking what the disciples did— “Did Pastor Robert say that because he knew I messed up the bread I was bringing today?” We’ve all done things similar to this, but this is very eye-opening.
As Jesus goes on to explain to them that He wasn’t talking about physical bread when He spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, we need to understand that there is a tendency in our hearts to gravitate towards this natural, carnal way of looking at things. We might call this the “leaven of this world”—that is, the mindset and way of thinking that is in the world around us that just naturally adapts us into its mold.
So, we need to beware of this as well—that there is just this carnal, natural and “worldly leaven” that is trying to take us from all that is spiritual and eternal and “dumb us down” to where the truth of His kingdom is not on our radar in the least.
But notice that Jesus spoke specifically here of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and how Mark specifically tells us how He was referring to their “doctrine” (i.e., teachings).
THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES
So, let’s first look at the leaven of the Pharisees: What is it that they taught that had the capability to do this kind of damage? Well, the Pharisees were obviously very legalistic. They believed themselves to be such strict observers of the Torah to where they aspired to follow every jot and tittle of the law. However, they took it to another level to where they even added their own ideas and philosophies to it.
So, the leaven of the Pharisees is that subtle, religious, and legalistic way of thinking that enveloped their teachings. And it wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the Torah in and of itself, but the spirit in which it was handled by the Pharisees and projected on the people from them was the “leaven” Jesus spoke of.
You see, even today, folks can take something that is as good and perfect as God’s Word and teach it in ways to where it affects people in a way that it was not intended to. For example, the Pharisees were known for placing these heavy burdens on people, telling them “you have to do this” and “you have to do that.” It was never enough. There was always more to do. And these Pharisees are still with us today, church. Yes, there are those who lace their teaching & preaching with a spirit that only brings people into bondage and condemnation—thus rendering them powerless. Yes, these modern day “Pharisees” might have good motives and think they are doing God a service, but the leaven is still there and it’s not God’s best.
But it’s not just the preacher’s fault. It can also be in the hearers’ heart already, so they take what it is being said and hear it in this legalistic, condemning manner when that was not at all the way it was being said.
The bottom line is that this “leaven” is here in the church today—preachers are proclaiming it like the Pharisees did back then and congregants have already been infected by it. So, these are things we need to guard our hearts against—from not letting this leaven pervert how we hear God’s Word and certainly not adding our own views and ideas to it like the Pharisees did. As Jesus said, this will make the Word of God of non-effect in our lives.
THE LEAVEN OF THE SADDUCEES
Which brings us to this other example of leaven that Jesus used—the Leaven of the Sadducees.
You see, while the Pharisees tended to strictly observe all that the Torah said and even add to it, the Sadducees were the opposite. Their tendency was to subtract from God’s Word.
In Acts 23:8, we have a concise description of their beliefs. It says, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” So, here was the difference: While the Pharisees were the “Word-people” of their day in that they believed and embraced all that was in it, the Sadducees didn’t believe in all that supernatural stuff like angels, demons, a resurrection, etc.
Can you see how this same spirit is still in the church today? And the apostle Paul prophesied it when he said that in the last days people will have a form of godliness and deny the power (Second Timothy 3:1-9). This same “leaven” of doubting the supernatural and miraculous things of God is and has been at work in the body of Christ. It will try to explain everything naturally or scientifically, excluding any existing power of God. It believes that the signs, wonders and miracles died with the church of the Book of Acts. Many teach these things, and I would compare this to the leaven of the Sadducees in Jesus’ day.
Saints, God has not changed! Miracles still happen, angels are real, and the healing, resurrection power of the Holy Ghost is still with us! The only thing that has changed is the church’s faith in these things, which is due to this leaven of the Sadducees infiltrating people’s belief systems!
You see, these religious leaders had a way of instilling their doctrines and mindset on the people. So, the Lord was quick to tell His disciples to beware of this leaven. Why? Because if the Pharisees and Sadducees way of thinking and subsequent teachings were allowed to influence them, it would have a leavening effect on their hearts.
THE LEAVEN OF HEROD
But Jesus did not just warn His disciples of the leaven of religious leaders. In Mark 8:15, He warned them of the leaven of Herod as well. So even the king had his own leaven—that is, his own agenda and mentality that he projected on the people—showing us how even secular leadership can easily influence people just like religion can. And Herod’s influence obviously came from his position as king, but it was his self-serving, wicked, political wheeling & dealing example that Jesus referred to as the “leaven.”
So, likewise, we need to beware of even the leavening effect that those in secular leadership positions have on us—for it is easy to get swept away by the indoctrination & agendas of those who seem to be somewhat among us. And in case you haven’t noticed, that is exactly what the world has been successful at doing because people have been conditioned to think a certain way and do certain things because of what has been projected on to us by the media, etc.
HIDDEN IN THREE; HIDDEN IN THEE
And don’t be mistaken: This is not done in some overt manner. It is a sly, cunning, and subtle “leavening” just as the woman in this parable was said to have “hid” the leaven in the three measures of meal (i.e., dough). The fact that Jesus describes her as “hiding” it shows us that it will not be on the surface, apparent to everyone, but will work underneath everything doing its corrupting work.
But notice that this woman in Jesus’ parable hid it in three measures of meal. Why three? Why did Jesus choose to use three measures here and not some other number? Well, there are various opinions and speculations regarding this, but let me give you why I think three was used. It is because the god of this world is looking to affect and infect all of who we are. Yes, he is not just after your spirit, he is not just after your soul, and he is not just after your body. Like God wants to sanctify you completely that your whole spirit, soul, and body remains preserved and blameless (See First Thessalonians 5:23), the devil would love that your whole spirit, soul, and body are set apart completely unto him and that you are utterly and thoroughly corrupted by his leaven. And he doesn’t accomplish this by kicking down your front door wearing red pajamas and carrying a pitchfork. No, he does it as an angel of light, in a cunning and crafty manner, sowing a little tare here and injecting a little leaven there, here a little and there a little, until the entire meal is perverted.
I’m reminded of how Balaam did this in the Book of Numbers: We know the story—how Balak paid off the prophet Balaam to curse the children of Israel. But when Balaam tried to curse them, only blessings came out. Why? Because you cannot curse whom God has blessed. So, realizing this, Balaam came to Balak with another idea. Since he couldn’t defeat them from the outside, he would try to do it from the inside—by tempting the men of Israel to break God’s law. This worked and brought swift judgment on them, thus accomplishing what Balak wanted all along.
This is called the “doctrine of Balaam” in Revelation 2:14, and we are warned that the enemy of our soul is using this same principle against us—attempting to sow this leaven in us by getting us to make poor choices and wrong decisions. Contrary to what a lot of people say, the devil cannot make you do it. He cannot put this leaven in you without your consent. It’s up to us what we let in and what we keep out. The Lord ultimately does the sanctifying work in us, but we must let Him do it. Which leads to my final point …
WHERE’S THE GOSPEL?
Now while this is certainly referring to the negative side of it all, I don’t want to leave it at that: How many of you know that all of this works in the positive too—for if we will allow the Word of God to influence our way of thinking and let the Lord Jesus determine how we view things, that good leaven can infiltrate our lives and cause us to “rise” and be more “flavorful.”
Psalm 119:11 says it best— “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” That means that you and I can choose to hide His Word, the Gospel, in our hearts like that woman hid the leaven in the meal, and when we do so, it can keep us from sinning against God! Hallelujah!
Now I believe this has a two-fold meaning:
Number one, God’s Word can remove any and all of the bad kind of leaven out of us as we sow it into our hearts and allow that seed to germinate and grow. In other words, the Word of God hid in our hearts can eliminate the sin and grow us into maturity.
I had someone ask me not too long ago what is the thing that I would attribute my spiritual growth to, and while I might tend to think hard about things like that before I answer, I didn’t need to with that question—the answer was God’s Word!
You see, while I know it all begins and ends with the Alpha and Omega Himself—the Lord Jesus. And while I know that the Holy Spirit plays such an integral role with helping us walk this Christian walk. I have personally found that by reading, studying, speaking, and meditating on God’s Word, I have been grounded and have grown up in Him. Yes, all these things work together, but as Jesus said, as I have continued in His Word, I have come to know the truth, and His truth has made me free. Amen.
Number two, God’s Word also can keep us from stumbling when we are exposed to the leaven of this world.
You see, by studying to show ourselves approved, we can be so familiar with the light that the darkness is exposed every time. And, church, this is how the counterfeit—all the bad leaven out there—is detected. It is by knowing the true genuine article!
Like I have learned through years in banking, the best way for one to recognize a counterfeit is to study the genuine article thoroughly. When I handled money for hours on end, I found that when a counterfeit bill was presented to me that it stuck out like a sore thumb. Now the client who accepted the fake bill didn’t recognize it when someone passed it off on them nor did they recognize it when I told them it was fake. But to the person who handled money all day, a counterfeit bill was obvious.
It is for that reason that I strongly believe Christians should spend the majority of their time studying the truth as opposed to error. I have seen believers spend their time studying this false religion and this bad doctrine in an attempt to become more familiar with it. They do it for noble reasons, such as wanting to reach the people who ascribe to those wrong beliefs, or to make sure they don’t fall for those lies. But I am of the persuasion that we need to be doing the opposite—both becoming so familiar with the Word of God and spending time getting to know the Word Himself. The reason is because, as it is with recognizing counterfeit currency, the more we know the true, genuine article, the more we will be able to distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
So, the key is us learning to sow God’s Word in our hearts and letting that seed spring up and affect all the issues of our life. That’s what we’ve been learning for weeks now—that the kingdom of God works like this—seedtime and harvest. But the devil has perverted this kingdom principle and now is trying to hide his leaven to where our whole spirit, soul and body is infected by his deception.
My prayer for us is that of the apostle Paul—that the God of peace Himself with sanctify us completely, that our whole spirit, soul and body are preserved blameless until the Lord’s coming. And how did Jesus tell us that He does this sanctifying work? By His truth—and His Word is truth (See John 17:17). Amen
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART SIX – THE KINGDOM PRINCIPLE
So, over the past few weeks we have been covering the mysteries of God’s kingdom—which are the parables that Jesus taught describing both the nature and operation of the kingdom of God. And through these parables, we are learning how the kingdom of God both works and functions so that we can begin letting those spiritual laws work for us in our lives.
And, church, it is such a refreshing thing to me that God’s kingdom has principles that govern it just like this world around us has its natural laws that determine how things work. Why? Because if it is not a hit or miss thing, where I am dependent on something or someone else, then I know I can choose to cooperate with these kingdom laws and determine myself just how fruitful I am in my life.
So, that’s what we’ve been doing—We’ve been looking at some of these principles that govern God’s kingdom and learning how it works. But we have begun by learning that the analogy of sowing & reaping was the most oft used example that Jesus used to teach about what the kingdom is like. Yes, He used the example of seedtime & harvest more than any other thing to describe how the kingdom of God works.
Most recently, we looked at the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. And, no, not the Parable of the Tares as Jesus’ disciples called it. And that was a point we made concerning it—that while we have the tendency to look at the negative side of things in the world around us, the tares don’t deserve all the attention. There is also good seed that has been planted and is bringing forth fruit, and that is worth celebrating!
You see, the kingdom of God is always advancing and ever increasing, and we must avoid the tendency to let what we see and hear in the world around us steal our faith in what God is doing. And we do this by keeping ever before us the good news instead of the bad news.
So, yes, while there is certainly the bad seed out there—the tares sown by the wicked one—there is the good seed too. That means that in everyone and in everything—from the entire world to our individual lives—there will be good and there will be bad, wheat and tares. So, why focus on the flaws and the evil instead of the beauty and the good that God has made and is making?
Which is another point we made: We are one of those good things God has made! Yes, we learned from this parable that part of the gospel is that we are “good seed.” Yes, the Lord sees all of the sons of His kingdom as “good seed.” Do you see yourself that way? You should—because God does. Amen.
But, as I made the point of last week, one of the more fascinating parts of this parable to me is how the Lord will deal with these things: God is 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. 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 we also noticed in this parable that this impending judgment of being thrown into the fire 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. Amen. Then, as Jesus said, “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (See verse 43). Glory, church, our destiny is to shine as the sun (i.e., Son)—all because the Lord sowed us, the good seed.
Then, the week before last, we looked at another agricultural parable given to us by the Lord—The Parable of the Mustard Seed:
We learned in this parable 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. So, 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.
We learned that in God’s kingdom, small and seemingly insignificant things have great potential. We looked at Jesus’ example of faith being like a mustard seed as how God’s kingdom works, where it is not by works and self-effort that things get produced but by faith in God’s grace.
But we saw how this mustard seed in Jesus’ parable was not just faith; it was Himself because of how it was said to be taken by the man and put in his garden. This was how the First Adam was said to be placed in Eden. So, the Last Adam was sown not just on to the earth, but into the earth like a mustard seed. And the fact He described Himself as a mustard seed shows us how “little” He was, being made a “little” lower than the angels. Yes, as Isaiah 53 said, He was a tender plant and a root out of dry ground, having no form or comeliness.
So, we saw how this mustard seed grew and became a large tree, full of large branches. And we are those large branches, church! Now that little mustard seed has become even greater than the angels, having received an even more excellent name than they! Likewise, 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!
But the first parable we looked at that teaches this principle of sowing & reaping was Jesus’ Parable of the Sower: We spent a couple of weeks in this parable, learning that this was Jesus’ most fundamental and foundational teaching, describing how the kingdom of God worked. We saw both what the seed is and what the ground is, and how God’s Word being sown into the good ground of our hearts is how the fruit of God’s kingdom is produced.
We learned that just as Jesus said in this parable that a sower that went out to sow, we too must be intentional and deliberate in, first, seeing ourselves as sowers and, secondly, as living our lives sowing seed in a purposeful manner. We do this by understanding what the seed is (i.e., the Word of God’s kingdom) and selecting specific seed from His Word to sow into our own lives and into the lives of others.
We also learned how to sow this respective seed—by first meditating on these truths until they are planted in our hearts and then speaking those same truths out of our mouths until they change the very circumstances that we desire to see God’s kingdom come in. Amen!
Church, this is how things work in God’s kingdom. It is a spiritual law--the kingdom principle if you would.
THE PARABLE OF THE GROWING SEED
So, what I want to talk to you about today is the kingdom principle. That’s right—not a kingdom principle or one of the kingdom principles—This is the kingdom principle.
Now I understand that this is a strong statement to call this the absolute law of the kingdom, but I can assure you, just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the law of sowing & reaping is the way, the truth and the life of the kingdom of God. Amen!
Well, this week, I want us to move on in discussing this kingdom principle by looking at another parable that Jesus taught us using the same example of sowing & reaping found in Mark 4:26-29. I believe this parable more concisely illustrates to us this kingdom principle than the Parable of the Sower …
In this, what is traditionally called the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus uses a similar example to the Parable of the Sower. But this time, the lesson to be learned is not about the condition of the ground; the focus of this parable is how the ground (i.e., the heart) and the seed (i.e., the Word) already have programmed in them what to do when the seed is planted in the ground.
So, let’s look in depth at this parable and pick out some of the powerful nuggets contained in it:
Verse 26 begins by saying— “And He said …” Now by using the conjunction “And” here, we should see our need to understand what He had just said before moving on into this parable.
Of course, Jesus had just taught the Parable of the Sower, and then, in verses 23-24, He says, “’If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ Then He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you, and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, but whoever does not have, even what has will be taken away from him.”
Basically, what Jesus was teaching here is that we need to both take heed to what we are hearing and how we are hearing it. Why? Because this is evidently how the seed of God’s Word is sown into our hearts and can greatly determine both the quantity and quality of fruit that we produce. Amen! So, we need to be extremely vigilant concerning what we allow to be sown into our hearts because, as Solomon taught us, out of our hearts flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).
Then Jesus went on to say in verse 26— “The kingdom of God is as…” In other words, Jesus was saying, “This is how the kingdom of God operates! This is a law of the kingdom, and it will work this way every single time!”
So, let’s look at this kingdom principle as illustrated in Jesus’ Parable of the Growing Seed and find out how His kingdom works so that we can see it working in our lives! Amen?
NO RESPECTOR OF SOWERS
Again, Jesus says in verse 26— “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground …”
Now notice that He used the word “if” here: By using the word “if”, Jesus is saying that this principle of the kingdom is conditional. Conditional on what? Conditional as to whether or not this man should scatter seed on the ground! What this means is that it is not up to God! It is our responsibility if this kingdom law will become effective in our lives or not. Amen?
Now I believe this point needs to be made here: Did you know that if everything that happened in our lives was the will of God, we could have no “if?” Absolutely! If there is an “if” in a passage of Scripture like this one, then that indicates that there is a part we have to play in seeing God’s will come to pass in our lives. Amen?
Now we know from the previous parable in Mark chapter 4 (the Parable of the Sower) that the seed is the Word of God and the ground is our hearts. So, the condition to seeing this kingdom principle becoming effective in our lives is if we are going to take the time to sow the Word in hearts that is good, noble and pure (See Luke 8:15).
But I find something very interesting here in Mark chapter 4: In His interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells us what both the seed and the ground represent, but He never told us who the sower was? And do you know why? Jesus doesn’t tell us who the sower is in these parables because it does not matter who the sower is! Amen!
You see, a seed will produce when sown into good ground every single time! It doesn’t matter how the seed got there or who it was that sowed it! The seed is programmed to work no matter whose hands it was scattered through. So, who the sower might be is irrelevant.
But I know some people might argue this point, saying, “No, brother, I believe the sower here is the Lord Himself!” I differ from that interpretation, however, because notice what Jesus went on to say that the sower did next in His Parable of the Growing Seed (verse 27): He said, “and should sleep by night and rise by day …” Don’t the Scriptures teach us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121: 3-4)? Don’t they teach us that there is no nighttime in the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 22:5)? Therefore, the man in this parable that did the sowing cannot be symbolic of God; it has to be a man since God does not sleep, correct?
But the fact of the matter is, it does not matter who that sower is because the seed and the ground do their thing whether one person sows it or another person sows it.
Saints, even if it was God who was doing the sowing here, it still would not matter because (get this now!) God’s Word coming out of our mouth is just as powerful as God’s Word coming out of His mouth! Amen! How can I make such a bold statement? It’s because it is God’s Word, and it is a seed! Therefore, if we just take His Word that He has already spoken and plant it in good ground, it will produce the same results! Amen!
Friends, the seed and the soil are no respecter of persons or we could say that they are no respecter of “sowers!” Praise God!
ENTERING INTO HIS REST
But the point of this parable is that this man (whoever he happens to be) just simply scattered seed on the ground and then went about his business. He didn’t stay up all night, wringing his hands, fretting over whether he was going to get a harvest or not. No, Jesus told us that after he scattered the seed on the ground, he just went to bed and rested.
You know, whenever we begin to fret, get anxious and worry about the things that we need or desire to see change in our life, we are not operating according to this kingdom principle. No, when we are abiding in this law of the kingdom, we will enter into His rest.
Friends, this is such a super important part of kingdom living—entering into the Lord’s rest! Yet this is so hard on our flesh. And, no, I am not talking about “resting” from a natural perspective, but “resting” from a mental, emotional, and spiritual perspective.
Do you remember the words of the Master in Matthew 11:28-30 when He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you … for My yoke is easy and My burden is light”?
I would venture to say that every one of us has to learn this at some point or another once we become Christians. Why? It is because it is so easy to try to make things happen in the arm of the flesh and lean to our own understanding. When we do this, what this causes is undue stress as opposed to living in the rest that Christ has afforded us.
But do you know what I’ve learned? As I have come to know God—intimately and experientially—I have learned how to better enter His rest. Let me give you a good example: If I buy something from some person or company, and it is defective or maybe never even arrives, I might tend to be a little anxious and fret if I’ve never done business with them before. Will they make it right? I might be thinking. But if I know the person or company and have seen their integrity or their good customer service before, I will be more at peace even though there might be issues with the product. Why? Because I have come to know them and trust in how they do business.
Likewise, we need to be so much about our Father’s business to where we are convinced and persuaded of how He does business. When we do this, we will learn to enter His rest. Amen.
You see, we cannot bear fruit in God’s kingdom by “white-knuckling” it. What I mean by that is that the fruit that comes according to this kingdom principle will not be produced by the will of man or the will of the flesh (See John 1:13). No, the transformation of life in God’s kingdom only comes by resting in the work of another—namely, the Grace of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
So, with that said—Does this mean we can just kick back and relax and let God do everything? Does it mean that we have no part to play? Of course not, or else every born-again believer would be bearing a bunch of fruit, right?
So, what part do we have to play? It is found in these kingdom parables found in Mark chapter 4—just sow the Word! Our only job is to sow the Word into our situation and sit back and watch God be God! Hallelujah!
Isaiah chapter 55 describes how this works in a nutshell:
Beginning in verse 6, he says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘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.’ ‘For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Verses 6-11)
Notice in these words how the Lord’s thoughts and ways are described as being higher than the earth. Then he goes on to describe how the rain and snow come down from the heaven. I don’t believe the Lord was changing “thoughts” here; I believe He was describing how His thoughts and ways have come down to us, and how they will produce when sown into the ground of our hearts.
You see, Jesus was telling us here that His Word already has programmed in it to produce what it was sent to perform and the good and noble heart that is not full of the weeds, thorns and rocks of this world will germinate the seed. All we have to do is spend time meditating on His Word till it becomes planted in our hearts and then just rest from trying to force fruit in our lives! Amen!
Church, the Word is the source of our fruit, not us. This is why Jesus went on to say in this parable— “and the seed should sprout and grow …” Amen! It’s the seed that does the sprouting and growing all on its own, without any of the sower’s help! He can just kick back and rest knowing the seed is working behind the scenes! Thank you, Lord!
Now that leads me to what I consider to be the most significant phrase in this parable …
Notice what Jesus said in the rest of verse 27— “he himself does not know how.” I believe this is the most powerful statement in this parable and I also believe that it is the point Jesus was trying to convey.
Again, this sower simply planted the seed in good ground and then there was nothing else he could do to help the process! He could just rest! Then, after the process of time, the seed began to sprout and grow, and he couldn’t even explain how it happened.
You see, this is the only way God will allow you to grow spiritually. He is not going to let you try and force fruit in your life. Actually, if you try to force fruit, the Bible teaches us He will actually oppose you (See Proverbs 4:6)! Why? Because He wants all the glory! He does not want you to be able to take credit for your growth. He wants you to be like this sower who would have had to say if asked about the harvest he had in his field— “You know what? All I did was put the seed in the ground. I couldn’t tell you how those little seeds produced all this. It just happened on its own. I can’t figure it out. I don’t know how this happened!” Thank you, Lord!
You see, in verse 28 Jesus goes on to say, “For the earth yields crops by itself …” Here, Jesus reiterates that the earth produces by itself—not with any help from the owner of the ground. The crop just comes forth independent from his help.
Friends, the earth—being the heart of man—will produce whatever you sow into it. As Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Never forget this one thing: you will become in your actions whatever you have allowed yourself to become in your heart. Therefore, when you meditate on the Word of God and allow those seeds to be planted in your heart you will eventually produce the fruit of the Word. You become transformed by the renewing of your mind (See Romans 12:2).
Finally, notice that Jesus gives us the steps that this harvest takes place in the remaining part of verse 28: He says, “first the blade, then the head, and after that the full grain in the head.” What this is speaking of is patience!
You see, most believers, when they get a hold of this principle, will begin to read and meditate the Word and then when they don’t see any results in, for instance, a month, they quit and say it doesn’t work. Well, how ridiculous would it be for a farmer to plant some seed and then after a week or two, when it hasn’t produced, dig up the seed and say this farming stuff doesn’t work? That would be ridiculous, right?
No, reaping a harvest is a process! Eventually, we will start seeing some results as we abide by this kingdom principle, but don’t expect the full harvest to come quickly. We have to go through stages one and two first (i.e., “first the blade, then the head”)! And then, don’t quit—knowing that the full grain in the head is coming in due season if we faint not!
This is why Jesus said in His Parable of the Sower, that the good ground—the one that produced some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundredfold—bore fruit with patience (See Luke 8:15). There will be an element of patience involved in whatever God gives increase in. Although there are certainly the “immediately’s” and the “suddenly’s” in God’s kingdom, this is not how the fruit that endures is generally produced. In God’s kingdom, abiding fruit is produced through patience. Amen!
But this abiding fruit comes when God’s Word is sown into our hearts, and as we allow God’s Word to spring up in our hearts, then we will begin to see the production of it in our lives.
So, when we desire to see the fruit of God’s kingdom coming in our lives, sow the Word! When it comes to situations and circumstances in our lives that we know need to change, sow the Word! Find Scriptures that promise what we want to see and begin to let God perform His good Word and let it prosper in the thing for which He sent it! It works every time, my friends! It is a law! It is the kingdom principle! Amen!
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!