So, we learned in the last series some very important facts concerning God’s kingdom. We learned what it is, where it is, and when it is. And through answering these questions, we learned that a kingdom is the literal place where a king has dominion, and that is any people or place where a king has rule and His will is being done. Therefore, the kingdom of God is any moment where God’s will is accomplished in someone’s life whether that be through a change of direction or a change in situation.
Then we learned last week that although His kingdom has come and is in our midst, it will not be fully realized and manifested until Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on the earth. So, His kingdom is here in our midst right now, spiritually speaking, but our hope is that it will be consummated in this physical world soon and very soon.
Friends, this is the gospel that is to be preached to the ends of the earth—that His kingdom is at hand and can be tasted here now on the earth as we invite the King of kings to reign in our lives. Then it does not end there: The good news gets even better as we understand that the best is yet to come! We now have the hope that we will experience the complete manifestation of His kingdom here on the earth. This is the gospel! It is the message of our new and better covenant. This is why it is so important to know what the kingdom of God is, when it is, and where it is.
But, in my opinion, one of the most important things you and I can learn about God’s kingdom is not just what it is, where it is, or when it is; I believe the best lesson we can learn concerning God’s kingdom is how it is. In other words, learning what God’s kingdom looks like and how it operates is one of the most important lessons that we can learn concerning it.
You see, I have come to realize that this is one of the areas that most Christians are the most ignorant of—how the kingdom of God works. And religion has even helped us to believe incorrectly concerning God’s kingdom. For example, it has taught many, many believers to think that it’s all up to God. So, when they have a need, at best they cry out to Him, begging and pleading with Him to meet that need. And while there is certainly not anything wrong with prayer and God absolutely wants us to ask Him for things, I have found that there are certain kingdom principles that these Christians do not understand. Yes, there are specific laws/principles that govern how His kingdom operates, and God is not just up in heaven arbitrarily doing everything He wants to do when He wants to do it. No, there is the law of sowing & reaping. There is the role & responsibility we have in seeing His kingdom come and His will being done. But, unfortunately, most Christians do not realize this.
The truth is, just like we have natural laws that we must live by in this world in order to not only thrive but also survive, there are laws in God’s kingdom that we must learn to live by if we are to see God’s best produced in our lives. I am convinced that many of God’s people do not experience His perfect will for their lives because they have failed to operate under the laws that govern His kingdom. Some are simply ignorant concerning these principles while others are simply not doers of the Word. But the fact remains that God has set His kingdom up under certain principles and it is our job to walk in them just as He does Himself. When we do, we will get God’s results. When we do not, we will get the world’s results. Plain and simple.
So, it for this reason that we are going to look at what Jesus taught us about the kingdom of God and see how He said that it works so that we can get better results in our lives. Yes, over the next several weeks, I want us to learn how God’s kingdom operates in order that we might learn to function under its laws. Jesus called this the mystery of the kingdom—that is, the hidden principles that govern how God’s kingdom works and operates. And He taught this mystery through many different parables.
Now did you realize that Jesus spent nearly all of His ministry teaching people what God’s kingdom is like? Yes, constantly throughout the gospels, we see Him teaching through parables saying, “The kingdom is like this” and “The kingdom is like that.” Jesus used all sorts of natural examples to paint a picture of His Father’s kingdom and to illustrate to His disciples how it operates. This is why I am firmly convinced that understanding how God’s kingdom works is one of the most important lessons we could learn concerning His kingdom—simply because Jesus spent some much time explaining this.
So, let’s look over at Matthew chapter 13 where we have the most concise teaching of Jesus concerning these mysteries of the kingdom of God. In this chapter, Jesus gives parable after parable attempting to describe and illustrate what God’s kingdom is like and how it operates.
DISCIPLES OF THE WORD
Let’s begin in verse 10 when after Jesus gave the people who had gathered on the shore the Parable of the Sower, His disciples came to Him and asked them why He spoke to the crowds in parables. Jesus’ response is so important for us to understand. “He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
Now it is so important for us to realize whom Jesus was addressing here. It was not just your casual believer who comes to church once a week and never seeks the Lord on their own. It was not just those who showed some interest in the things of God, but those who wholeheartedly sought them. And how do I know this? It is because the “them” that Jesus said that this mystery of the kingdom have not been given to were those who indeed came to hear Him! In other words, it was not those who shunned Him and turned a deaf ear to Him that these mysteries were hidden from! No, these mysteries of the kingdom were not revealed to those who actually showed some interest in His teachings; they were revealed to those who had left all to follow Him—His disciples!
You see, those whom Jesus said that these mysteries of the kingdom were given to were those who were fully committed and sold out to hearing the Truth and seeing Him in action. The mystery was reserved for those who had pledged their life to following God’s Word.
In fact, the Greek word that was used to translate this word “mysteries” is the word musterian. This word described something that had been kept secret for ages but had now been disclosed to a certain group of people. Therefore, it is a secret known only to the initiated and something that required special revelation to know it. For this reason, it actually was a word used to describe the secrets only shared within a fraternal group or organization.
So, this means that those who are true disciples are the ones initiated into the secret things of the kingdom of God. It is not your average “nod to God” crowd who will know the mysteries of the kingdom; it is the disciplined follower who has these truths revealed to them.
Now why do I make this point? It is because if we want to truly understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God, we must adopt the lifestyle of a disciple because it was just these committed and dedicated believers who would be able to receive these marvelous secrets. Yes, becoming a disciple of the Word of God’s kingdom is a foundational key to understanding its mysteries and secret principles.
Didn’t the Gospel of John say that in the beginning was “the Word”—speaking of Jesus (See John 1:1)? So, a disciple of the Word would be one who does much more than just casually read the Bible. It would describe someone who commits their time to following God’s Word. It describes the person who disciplines themselves to reading, studying, and meditating the Scriptures. And it is this “disciple” of God’s Word that has these mysteries of the kingdom revealed to them.
KNOWING GOD’S WAYS
A great example of this is found in Numbers chapter 12: In verses 1-2, we see the offense that Moses’ own kin took against him because he married an Ethiopian woman—which then turned into a root of bitterness that caused them to murmur, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?”
You see, bitterness and offense usually begin by an action or word of some sort—which in this case was when Moses married someone of a different nationality. And here it morphed into questioning who the ones are that “hear from God.” Church, these are things we need to guard our heart against lest we open ourselves up to the same thing Aaron & Miriam did. Amen?
Then we see in verse 3 that familiar verse that teaches us that Moses was the humblest man on the face of the earth at that time—which is very telling because that shows us that Moses wasn’t puffed up and haughty about the position God had given him and the relationship he had with God.
And then in verses 4-5, we see God calling the three of them out on the carpet to address this issue, and in verse 6-8 told them like it was: “He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?’”
So, the Lord made it clear how Moses had been given even a greater privilege than the prophets—because while they could hear from God in a dream or a vision, Moses had a face-to-face relationship with his Creator. And because of this fellowship with God, the Lord said that He spoke to him “plainly, and not in dark sayings.” Might we say that the mysteries of the kingdom were revealed to Him and God didn’t speak to him in parables? Sounds like the same thing to me.
You see, it was said of Moses that while the children of Israel saw God’s “acts,” Moses knew His ways. In other words, they saw what God did, but Moses saw why He did what He did. There is a big difference there.
But again, why was Moses able know the mysterious ways of God—because He was a disciple of the Lord in every sense of the word. God said here that He was “faithful in all His house.” That means that Moses was wholeheartedly sold out to knowing and following Him. Yes, He was committed. He was a disciplined follower of the Lord. Therefore, he was qualified to know the mysteries of God “plainly.” Amen.
You see, there is a difference between your average Christian and a disciple just as there was between your average Israelite and Moses: A disciple of the Word is one who leaves everything behind—all the distractions and the weights of life and is completely committed to Jesus. But you see, to become disciples of Jesus, you also must be a disciple of God’s Word because Jesus and the Word of God are one in the same (See John 1:1)! Therefore, we need to become disciples of the Word of God—that is, a people that abide with and in the Word of God and forsake all that would distract or would vie for our attention.
You see, these disciples of Jesus were continuously with the Word, hearing and hearing and hearing His teaching. This is why they had “ears to hear” and, therefore, were enabled “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” Wow! Do you see that? It takes a committal of one’s time, efforts, and energy to truly dig up the treasures of God’s Word! One of the most important things in gaining knowledge, revelation, and wisdom is having a desire in your heart for it. Yes, if you really want it bad enough, you will invest your time in it!
FOR WHOEVER HAS
Now the reason the casual hearer does not have God’s mysteries revealed to them is not because God is withholding the truth from them because they are not doing this or that. No, as we see Jesus going on to say, it is because they disqualify themselves from knowing the truth through closing their eyes, ears, and hearts to it.
In verse 12, Jesus begins with the word “For.” This means that beginning in this verse, Jesus was about to give His disciples the reason why it had been given to them to know the mystery of the kingdom and to the others, it had not been given. Let’s take a look at these verses …
Verse 12 says, “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
Now the questions one should ask when attempting to interpret this verse is: “Whoever has what?” and “Whoever does not have what?” Well, if you back up to verse 9 where Jesus concluded his Parable of the Sower, you will find your answer: Jesus said, “He who has (Has what?) ears to hear, let him hear.”
So, when you consider the context, it makes verse 12 easier to understand: Let’s translate it with this truth we have just seen in verse 9— “For whoever has (ears to hear), to him more will be given (i.e. the ability to hear), and he will have abundance (of the revelation of God’s mysteries); but whoever does not have (ears to hear), even what he has (i.e. the ability to hear) will be taken away from him.”
So, you see, it is not God who is withholding these mysteries from man; it is man who withholds them from himself. So, we should not blame God for our ignorance or even beg Him to show us these mysteries; we should position ourselves to understanding these mysteries by continuing in His Word. And as Jesus said in John 8:31-32, as we abide in His Word, we are His disciples indeed. Then we shall know the truth and the truth will make us free. Notice that it is when we make the decision to continue in His Word that we shall know the truth. Saints, it is not all up to God; it is up to us to decide that we will become His disciples.
Then, beginning in verse 13, Jesus begins to explain why these others are not able to obtain the secrets contained in His parables of the kingdom. It is because seeing, they do not see, and because hearing, they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Again, it is not that God is withholding truth from them, but as the Prophet Isaiah forecasted, their eyes they have closed and their ears are hard of hearing—all because their hearts had become calloused and hardened through allowing themselves to become more sensitive to the world than to the things of God.
Saints, this is why it is so important that we maintain the heart of a disciple when it comes to the mysteries of God’s kingdom by seeking out those treasures and staying hungry for the truth. This is the heart that gains an abundance of revelation and discovers the glorious mysteries of the kingdom of the Christ. Amen.
THE TREASURES OF THE KINGDOM
You know, the Word of God has a lot to say about things like hungering and thirsting for the things of God and seeking after them with all of our hearts (Compare Matthew 5:6 & Jeremiah 29:11-13). The condition of our hearts is the real key to everything in the Christian life. The more I learn and grow in my understanding of the kingdom of God, the more I see just how simple the things of God are. They are so simple that even a child can get its results. The church today has complicated things so much by believing that you have to go through these three or seven steps, but the kingdom of God does not operate in steps; the kingdom of God has to do with the heart!
You see, our hearts have the ability to transform us to whatever we set them on. So, if we want to see success in the kingdom of God, our heart has to be set on the things of God. Regarding the Word, if there is not a real desire in your heart to understand the Word, you won’t really apply yourself to it. There is no substitute for hungering and thirsting for the Word. You will obtain whatever you really desire in your heart! Again, whatever you devote yourself to is what your soul will adapt to.
In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon gives us some great descriptions of this subject of valuing the Word of God that really shows us some characteristics of the person who has set his or her heart on the Word of God. Let’s begin in Proverbs 4:20-23:
He begins instructing us by saying, “My Son …” Now this is a very important point when it comes to how we read and study the Word:
You see, we read this like it is Solomon (the author of Proverbs) speaking to one of his sons, but we need to understand the truth contained in Second Timothy 3:16 which says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Therefore, this doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction that seemingly Solomon was giving to his son must also be the instruction that our Heavenly Father is giving to us His children! Why? Because He wants us to be fully equipped for everything life will throw at us, so that is why He instructs us like a father would.
Saints, this is how we need to read God’s Word—like our Heavenly Father is addressing us personally. Also, read it like it is God’s love letter to you—like a husband is addressing His bride. What I am saying is personalize it! Make it an intimate thing as you read the Word!
So, this passage begins by saying, “give attention to my words”: This “giving attention” describes the giving of one’s undivided attention to something. Another way of saying this is that you are honoring and respecting God’s Words through paying attention and listening attentively.
Then he says next, “incline your ear to my sayings.” This phrase describes putting yourself in a better position to hear like tilting your head towards the one speaking. Do you know what this phrase denotes? It denotes that there must be distractions present because if we have to put ourselves in a position to hear better, there must be a lot of commotion going on around us. And this commotion comes from the world.
You see, in the world that we live in, there are many things that will vie for our attention—such as television, relationships, our careers, etc. Therefore, we have to discipline ourselves to shut out the distractions—give attention to God’s Word and put ourselves in a better position to hear what the voice of truth is saying.
But someone will inevitably say, “But Trey, I just don’t have the time to do this!” Well, first of all, let me say that you make time for what is important to you. But I also understand that there are certain responsibilities that we have to take care of while we are in this world and that is when you have to get creative. Perhaps verse 21 will explain this …
In verse 21 he goes on to say, “Do not let them depart from your eyes.” Just as with the ears spoken of in the previous verse, this is referring to the eyes of our heart and not just our physical eyes. You see, you cannot continuously be “physically” looking at your Bible all day because you have responsibilities to attend to. But there are some practical things that you can do …
As the Lord taught His chosen people Israel, you can put the Word all over your home. For example, you can write some Scriptures on sticky notes and put them on your bathroom mirror or the dash of the car. You can listen to teaching CD’s while you are getting ready in the morning and while you lay down at night. You can listen to the Bible on tape while you are in the car.
There are many ways that you can keep the Word of God ever before you, but the best way is to do what Solomon said next— “keep them in the midst of your heart.” Why is this the best way to keep the Word before your eyes? Because if you get it in the middle of your heart, you are giving His Word the proper place and value in your life and then you can effectively meditate on the Word without having to have your Bible open in front of you.
Now let’s go over to Proverbs chapter two where Solomon gives us a similar exhortation as we just covered in chapter four. What I like about the following passage of Scripture is that Solomon gives us a progression that needs to take place before we will increase in the knowledge and understanding of the Word.
In Proverbs 2:1, he starts off by saying, “My son, if you receive my words”: Again, these are the Words of a Father being written to His son (and daughter). So, as with all Scripture, we need to be sure we read this verse this way—as our Heavenly Father talking specifically to you and expressing His will and prayer for you.
Now this word “receive” in Proverbs 2:1 describes accepting His Word as opposed to rejecting it. You see, it is important that we keep a teachable heart and do not reject wisdom as it constantly cries out to us. He goes on to say, “treasure my commands within you.” You see, it is not good enough to just accept God’s Word; you also have to treasure it in your heart—that is, making it one of the most valuable things in your heart. Then in verse 2, he says, “so that you incline your ear to wisdom.” The prior two things—receiving and treasuring His Word—will make your inner ear attentive to wisdom’s voice (which is how to apply the Word you’ve received and treasured to your daily circumstances). Praise God! That’s good stuff!
But that is not all that receiving and treasuring His Word does … It will also produce understanding because Solomon then goes on to say, “… And apply your heart to understanding.” The word “apply” means to “stretch out or extend.” So, when you receive His Word and then treasure His Word in your heart, you will put yourself in a better position to grow in wisdom and you will also extend yourself towards understanding it. Hallelujah!!! In other words, Wisdom and understanding are a result of receiving and treasuring God’s Word in your heart.
Then in verses 3-4, Solomon gives a couple of descriptions of how hungry we should be for the Word: He says in verse three— “Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding …”
First of all, this verse denotes a sense of urgency and desire, similar to a baby’s cry when he is hungry. You see, this phrase indicates having a total dependency upon Him and a need for help, and we express this heartfelt attitude through prayer. You need to cry out for it with such a hunger—like a baby cries out for milk! First Peter 2:3 says that we are to desire the sincere milk of the Word that we may grow thereby. We need to be this hungry for the Word that we “cry out” and “lift up our voice” to the Lord for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding!
Verse 4 goes on to say, “If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures …” You know, nothing valuable is ever found on the surface. Far too many people give up when seeking the kingdom because they struggle at the beginning. They say, “This is too hard to understand!” and just quit. But if we seek and search for the truth like this verse says, there won’t be quit in us. I liken this to someone telling you, you have silver and treasures buried in your yard. You wouldn’t just go dig with a shovel for a couple of hours and then quit, would you? No, you would go rent a backhoe or something! You will dig deep—like Jesus taught us in the difference between the hearers of the Word and the doers of the Word. That is why we must dig deep into God’s Word—that is, putting forth effort and desiring the truth like it is actually buried treasure.
When we get this hungry for understanding, look at what Solomon says happens in verse 5— “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” If you want to find the knowledge of God, you have to get this passionate about God’s Word! You need to seek for the truth like you would for hidden treasures! It all comes down to hunger and value. If our hearts are in this condition, we will absolutely, positively find the knowledge of His kingdom that is buried in the Word of God!
So, we have learned today that knowing and understanding the mysteries of the kingdom is available to all of us, but it won’t be obtained by everyone—because these secrets are reserved for the disciples of Christ, not just your nominal Christian. Yes, it is the serious and dedicated who will discover the riches of this mystery!
So, let’s decide today that we will be among the few who will follow after—earnestly hungering and desiring for—the Word of God’s kingdom. As we are promised, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. Those who seek His face with all of their hearts, they will find Him.
This is the foundation key to unlocking these mysteries in our hearts, church! Our eyes we must open. Our ears must be listening. Then, and only then, will we come to know the truth of God’s kingdom and let those truths make us free. Let’s do it!