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Back to school, Back to church!  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:26
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Is living the Kingdom life being crowded out by lesser pursuits?

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Back to school, Back to church! There is a get back-to-it mentality that goes with the season. Refocus. Reorder. Recommit. (Surely I’m not the only one who was a totally different student in August than in May!) Have you lost your spiritual focus, slipped or grown sloppy in the practice of Christian faith? Our theme this year is Engage—for each of us to be more engaged with God, the church, and the work (Kingdom life). How are you doing with it? Let’s get back to being church with renewed enthusiasm, reordered spiritual disciplines, refocused in our passion, recommitted in our devotion.
I want to invite you to consider a couple of tiny parables this morning. These two parables are similitudes [pop quiz - What do you call a figure of speech that directly compares two things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’? A simile.] Think simile: Jesus gives us two extended similes to tell us about Kingdom life—life under the good rule and reign of God.

The Unexpected Find

Matthew 13:44 ESV
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Now who doesn’t like to find treasure! My brother and I used to dig in the field behind our house, mostly digging up old trash but every once in a while we’d find something big… you know, like a marble. In first century Palestine it was not unusual for treasure to be hidden and forgotten. That said, this man doesn’t appear to be searching for treasure—he simply stumbled onto a once-in-a-lifetime find.
Perhaps this was a hired hand, working the ground of another man’s field. He struck something hard. Curious, he uncovers it. It was big!
Covered it - The old rule, “Finders keepers, losers weepers” doesn’t always apply. Such a find might be disputed by the owner of the field. So, to ensure he doesn’t lose it, he intends to buy the field.
He was not a rich man - to buy this field would cost everything: “in his joy he goes and sells all that he has”
He knew that what was in the field was of greater value than all his possessions.
Matthew 13:45–46 ESV
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Here Jesus tells us about a merchant—likely a wholesale dealer. Unlike the man in the first story, this man was looking for treasure (fine pearls). And he found one pearl that was a once-in-lifetime find.
Pearls were then what we would now call “bling” — they were in high demand, very expensive, and they were a status symbol of wealthy people.
Some came from the Red Sea. The better pearls came from the Persian Gulf and the coasts of India. Divers—without gear—would tie themselves to a rock to get the pearls. Merchants like the one in this story would travel great distances to find the best pearls.
This man knew pearls, and this one was like no other. He was also a business man who knew a deal when he saw it, so he “went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
What both of these men found (their unexpected find) was of greater value than everything they owned. Kingdom life—life lived under the good rule and reign of God—is like that. And those who get it are marked by joy and a kind of recklessness with the stuff that the whole world clings to.

The Problem

Do you see yourself in these parables? In my study this week, I came across the observation that "we would like a little of the kingdom as an add-on to the rest of our lives.” I’ve also been re-reading an old favorite of mine called The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He writes about a cheapened form of Christianity which cultivates trust in God without discipleship (“followship”)—where we think of Jesus as an “ever present help in times of trouble” but not the Lord of our whole life (59, 63). This parable urges us to recognize the incomparable significance of the Kingdom, to follow Jesus with total abandon, leaving lesser pursuits to focus on Kingdom life with radical obedience.
Philippians 3:8 ESV
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“All these things” can be a problem for us. We get hung up on so many things we've just got to have or keep or do or experience or achieve—while Jesus and his Kingdom get our leftovers (time, attention, service, resources). But if we listen to Jesus, he reorders our life: seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Kingdom First

I was reminded of an illustration I was told about years ago. A man was presenting to a group of business people and filled a jar full to the top with large rocks. While it looked full, he then illustrated how gravel, sand, and water could all still be added. What is the point? One attender said: “No matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it.” The man presenting said: “No, that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
What are the “big rocks” / “Kingdom rocks” that need to be in your life?
radical obedience to Jesus, service, fellowship with the church, generosity toward God & the vulnerable, prayer, spiritual disciplines, family devotionals, mission, “practice love”
If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. And here’s the thing that Jesus is telling us: That life—the life lived entirely under his rule—is indeed the pearl worth selling all, the treasure worth more than all that you already have.


John 10:10 ESV
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Don’t be deceived by one who is actually stealing your life; give yourself radically to the one who gives life full and eternal.
If you are not a Chrsitian: Hear the offer—it’s a pearl!
Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
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