45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
- Matthew 13:45-46
This parable appears in a section of Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus first teaches the crowds using parables, but then he continues his teachings to a smaller group of disciples.
All of the parables are about the kingdom. I mean, not all the parables that he teaches in this section are about the kingdom and they explain different features concerning Jesus's spiritual kingdom. For example, the parable of the soils or the seeds talks about how the kingdom grows.
The parable of the tares and the wheat talks about the pretenders that are in the kingdom. The parable of the mustard seed talks about the potential and the power of the kingdom. Jesus was not able to say everything about the kingdom in one single parable.
And so he talked about different aspects of the kingdom using different parables. And so the parable of the costly pearl talks about the great value of the kingdom. And it is valuable for many reasons, but two in particular.
First of all, it is a one of a kind pearl. It's a one in a kind of thing, if you wish. Nothing is quite like the kingdom of God, there are many imitations. There are lots of religions, you know, with plenty of ceremony in pomp and history, and you know, many books of philosophy and theology written about these religions, millions of followers, but there's really only one kingdom of God.
And so Paul describes some of the features that make this kingdom so unique. We read about that in Ephesians chapter four, he says there is, in this kingdom.
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
- Ephesians 4:4-6
Its unique features is what makes it so valuable. No other kingdom, no other entity has these features.
Another feature that establishes its value. It can be lost. You wouldn't think that that's a feature, but it is. It can be lost, you can lose it. We value things that we could actually lose. Like the sun, can you lose the sun? It's pretty valuable, you need it to live, right? But I mean, it's always there.
There's nothing I can do to lose the sun, you know? I mean, I have no power over the sun. I kind of take it for granted. It's there. It's not there. It's cloudy. It's sunny, you know, whatever. But the pearl, the pearl of great price, that I can lose. That's not a popular idea in Christiandom, if you wish, that you can actually lose the kingdom.
There are many examples in the Bible of people who found it and then let it slip through their hands.
Saul, for example, (I Samuel), I mean chosen by God himself, blessed to be the king of God's people here on earth. I mean, how much more of a pearl can you have? And yet he disobeyed. He lost the crown. He died by suicide.
What about Judas? He was a chosen apo, he didn't just happen to become an apostle, trip into the job. He was chosen. We don't have the story of when he was, but he was chosen. We assume he performed miracles. It says the apostles went out and did miracles. He taught others about the kingdom that they should have the pearl, but he himself didn't believe in the end. He himself betrayed Jesus. He ended up hanging himself.
What about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, we know about them. They were among the very first converts of the church at Jerusalem. Imagine, original members of the original church, original preaching of the inspired apostles, but they lied to God about money and they were struck dead because of their deception. They had it, and they let it slip through their fingers.
And of course, the most famous one we used in The New Testament, Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), he was an associate of Luke and Paul, lived with the apostles, ate and drank and traveled and worked with them. Heard them, heard the teaching, had everything. And then simply decided that they, that he would rather live in the world than live in the kingdom. I don't need this pearl. There are shinier things out there for me.These people, they had it. And then they let it get away forever.
Some people in the Bible lost it, but found it again. For example,
David, another man chosen by God to be the king of God's people, given so many advantage. He had it. And then what did he do? He committed adultery and murder, among other sins, but God forgave him after he repented.
And another example mentioned this morning already. Peter denied Jesus. Not once, not twice, three times. This is just after he said, Oh Lord, I'll even die with you. Never, I'm going to be there for you. You ever hear somebody ever say that to you? I'm always going to be there for you, bro. I got your back. Watch when something bad happens to you, that's when you figure out who's got your back, I'll tell you that. The Bible says even he denied, he denied. And then just to make sure that they understood that he was denying, it says he cursed... and denied. That's pretty bad. And yet what happened? The Lord forgave him.
So the point is that it's possible to let this pearl slip through. It's possible to lose it. So we have to be careful not to let it get away from ourselves.
The Pearl Has Purchasing Power!
Now, these things, and there are things that those in the kingdom, those who have the pearl, there are things that they have that no one else can have. In other words, people who have this pearl can obtain things with it, that other people who do not have it cannot have in any other way.
Paul mentions four of these things in his prayer for the Colossian church in Colossians 1:9-14. I want you to note that he prays for those who have the pearl. He prays for those who are in the kingdom. He prays for those who are part of Christ's body, the church. And he says the following things are available. But only to those people who have the pearl.
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
- Colossians 1:9
This is a condition of mind that is able to see and understand things from God's perspective, not only man's perspective, there are many wise people in the world and their wisdom comes from their perspective, how they see the world.
But the people who have the pearl, they're able to see things from God's perspective. That's the value. Why? Because our knowledge and our understanding will be spiritual and not only of the flesh. Why? Because our knowledge comes from the Spirit! There is wisdom from below, yes. Bit there's also wisdom from above.
And Paul says, those of you who have the pearl have access to the wisdom from above. And how do you get this wisdom? Not by a sudden flash of inspiration or a magic formula or some kind of secret code that a lot of religious peddlers are selling these days from time in memorial. No, this enlightenment comes as a result of prayer and study of God's word and obedience to what we have learned in and from the kingdom.
Let's look at [II Peter 1:5-8, a familiar verse that talks about this process of enlightenment.
He says, "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence." In other words, you got to work at it. "Applying all diligence, in your faith." Well, your faith is what started everything. Your faith is what got you the pearl. And so applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence.
You ever notice the first thing that the person who enters into the kingdom usually does is start getting rid of old worldly baggage. I used to curse all the time. Yeah, that's not the way I'm going to act from now on. I used to the, you know, whatever, abuse something, I'm going to stop doing that. Lying was my go to position to get out of trouble, maybe now, maybe I'm going to start to tell the. You know what I mean? Moral excellence. The first step, right? We try to get rid of the old life, the old us. And we try to act in a, in a new way.
And then he says "in your moral excellence, knowledge," because the more you unload some of this old stuff, more new stuff starts coming in. Knowledge of God's will, knowledge of what is pleasing to God, knowledge of what the kingdom is about. Knowledge of God's word. Add knowledge, as you empty out the old stuff, the new knowledge is taking its place.
"And in your knowledge, self-control," because this new knowledge gives you the power to begin controlling self, which you know, people in the world, they have no interest in controlling self. They're interested in gratifying self, there's a difference brothers and sisters.
And then "in your moral excellence, knowledge, in your knowledge, self-control, in your self-control, perseverance." Somebody says, I want to learn how to persevere. And the answer to that is then start working on self-control. I want it learn how to, you know, hang in there during tough times, then start working on hanging on to your self-control, controlling your mouth, controlling your heart, controlling your impulses.
And "in your perseverance, godliness." You can't go just from faith and skip over everything and get to godliness. Yeah, you have that fake kind of godliness where you're talking to the religious talk, hello brother, hello sister, you know? God be praised, what a wonderful morning. That's not how it works. You got to do the work. You got to do the due spiritually to get from faith to godliness, but then he goes on and there's more.
"And in your godliness, brotherly kindness." It requires an individual that has a taste and an ability for godly behavior to exercise brotherly kindness. Why? Because usually brotherly kindness is required when you're offended! (chuckles) It's easy to be kind to people who are kind to you. It's easy to be kind to people who give you stuff. It's hard to be kind to people who are not grateful. It's hard to be kind to people who you don't think deserve your kindness.
"And in your brotherly kindness," the pinnacle, "love." Love. It says, "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Well, what exactly is the true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? It's just another way of saying, eternal life. Because Jesus himself says in John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that you shall know God and His Son, Jesus Christ."
That's eternal life. Peter is explaining how you get to there. The due diligence, the brotherly kindness, the pinnacle love, Christian love. Christian love brings you into the presence of God. And as you come into the presence of God, you begin to know Him, to taste Him.
That brings us to the second idea I want to bring here. Obedience must come before enlightenment is given. We're always trying to do things the opposite way. We want God to reveal himself before we obey.
That doesn't require any faith. Obedience based on faith leads to enlightenment. You ever wonder why baptism is first? Do you ever wonder why baptism isn't last? It's so much easier if baptism was last, but baptism is first. It's the first thing that God asks of you. How do we know? Peter said so in Acts 2. They had faith because they said to him, "what do we do now? We we've killed our Messiah. We believe what you're saying, now what do we do?" Repent, be baptized. Very first thing. Obedience comes before enlightenment every, every time.
so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
- Colossians 1:10
The enlightenment that we receive is the true direction that God wants for our lives. I am enlightened, therefore, I walk in a certain way. I live in a certain way. Why? Because I have been enlightened, that's why.
I hear people all the time, what is God's will for us? Well, I'll tell you, here is God's will for us. God's will, is that first of all, we walk in His way. What Paul says, "We walk in ways worthy." That Greek word means equal weight. We place equal weight on the things that Jesus places. Equal weight, okay? We walk in ways worthy of the Lord and thus, we please him. You ever see people say, well, he's just like his father, you know, in describing a son or a son's personality. Or he's just like the Lord, in describing our conduct.
God's will for us is that we walk in His way that we bear fruit in good works. Paul says. This is why we exist, to do good deeds that will glorify God. People say, I want to know, I hear these kind of non-scriptural things that sound scriptural, but they're not really scriptural. You know people, God's got a plan for you. God has a plan for everybody.
It's the same plan. That's the thing. It's the same plan, James, for you, as it is for you Kendall or Kerri, and you know, let me name Beverly you know, it's the same plan! Young, old, male, female, tall, short, it's the same plan. The plan is that we, we walk in His way. We bear fruit. This is the why of the life in the kingdom of God. Even people who don't have the pearl, but who somehow discover that doing good things feels good.
The big time lawyer, for example, who's making a ton of dough and living a wild life and you know, drinks too much. And finally, you know, I don't know, he crashes his car and nearly dies and because he was drunk and blah, blah, blah, and then he all of a sudden wakes up and realizes, I got to change my life. This is, I'm going nowhere. And then all of a sudden, he cuts down on his drinking and he starts giving his money to the cancer association. And all of a sudden, he finds a cause of some kind. I don't know, whatever. Animal shelter, okay. Going after stray animals and helping animals. Great! And he goes on TV and it gives his witness. My life was in the dumps and all of a sudden I realize oh, so many suffering, abandoned animals, and I decided I'm going to help animals. And he feels good, he's found his purpose in life. And you know what, he's also found his reward in this life.
The difference is we do it because of, because of Christ. Our problem is that we always want to walk in our way at the same time as we walk in His way. And the decision in our lives to follow His plan is not a change of career necessarily or moving to another city. Our decision is, am I going to walk my way or am I going to walk His way? That's the decision. No moving required, no special dress required. You don't have to shave your head. You don't have to do any of those things in order to walk in His way. And he also wants us to know Him, not just about Him.
There's a lot of information about God. We go online, you'll get a, you know type in God. You'll get, you know, you can't read all the stuff there is about God, but that's not what he wants from us who have the pearl.
Those who have the Pearl have the opportunity to know him personally, intimately. Doing good deeds worthy of Christ and walking in His way is the process which enables us to know Him. Right knowledge produces right direction, wrong knowledge produces wrong direction. When you don't know the way, you can't be on the way. The people who have the pearl know the way. And if they're on the way and stay on that way, they get to know God, that's the reward.
Not that your life and business is going to flourish or it might, praise be to God if it does. Not if you eventually meet Ms. Right, or not, or Mr. Right, or not. The ultimate goal of the way is to know Him. That's the goal, that's the reward. Everything else in life, you know?
strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience;
- Colossians 1:11
God gives those who have the pearl, the strength to keep it, the strength to walk in His way. The strength He gives is the type of power that resembles His own strength. For example, the strength he gives us is the ability to pursue longsuffering. Another word in the Bible used for that is steadfastness. What does that mean? It means the ability to hold out a long time against provocation to decisive and or retaliatory action. In other words, long-suffering, steadfastness means you're able to hold on before blowing up or caving in or giving up or giving in.
Long-suffering, you're able to suffer long. And it also enables us to have patience, the pearl, the strength we get, I'm able to exercise steadfastness, and I'm able to exercise patience, brave patience in face of trial and suffering. You know, when we talk about patience, we're talking about our ability to maintain our bearing under difficult circumstances, under difficult and trying events. When you exercise the long-suffering, you're doing the same thing, but you're doing it with people.
Long-suffering is about people. Patience is about things and events. God enables us to have Christian bearing. I use the word bearing because when Paul and Julia (two of my children) were active Marines, many, many years ago, they used to talk about that coming home from either bootcamp or whatever, we have to maintain our bearing. And I remember one time Julia was being meritoriously promoted. They tell me it doesn't happen very often in the Marines, but anyway, she was, and she was going to receive her corporal chevrons, I guess. And anyways, they had a big ceremony there, there were several people receiving different things and there was a parade and all the pump and glory of the military. And Lisa and I happened to be there. And I had the great privilege of being able to pin those on her. That's a special thing for a dad to be able to do that for his daughter. And before we were talking, you know, before the ceremony and everything, and I was saying, I'm going to make you laugh. I'm say I'm going to do something goofy, like goofy dads do to try to make their daughters laugh or whatever. And she warned me with a strict warning, "No, no, no, no, dad, "you must do nothing to provoke me to lose my bearing." And in my mind it was ah, it's a ceremony, it'll make for a memory, yeah, not a good one for her. She's still talking to me. So it means we managed to get through that wonderful moment.
God's power, the thing, I don't want you to forget the point here, God's power is manifested in these kinds of things. In the world, it's how loud you are or how tough you are, how smart, how able you are to win the argument, just go online and you'll find out what that's like, how rich you are, these are the signs of power. But God is not some kind of internet pundit, He's not some kind of comic book hero. His power is demonstrated through patience, through long-suffering, which is expressed joyfully and not with a sigh or some kind of weak smile.
- A really strong man is one who is insulted and can keep his cool, who can search to make peace with his attacker. That's a strong man.
- A really strong woman is one who can cheerfully bear the sometimes unfair demands of her family without resent, without having a resentful heart or falling into self-pity.
That's what a pure heart is. That's strength. That's the kind of spiritual strength that God gives us to live our lives in the way. And this is spiritual strength available for those in the kingdom who have the pearl. We have access to that strength.
joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
- Colossians 1:12
The key word here is inheritance. In English we would say your lot. You know, this is my lot in life. Paul is saying, this is our lot in Christianity in the kingdom. God has given us a lot, a purpose in life. Paul is not talking about heaven here. He's talking about the new life that we have here on earth. Once we have found the pearl, we have a new life, a new lot, if you wish, in this earthly life. Not marriage, not career. The lot that God has given to the saints in this life is their life in the kingdom. That's our lot.
And what is that life? To bear fruit in every good work and to grow in the knowledge of God, to do this by means of the power that He provides to persevere and to be patient. Why? Because it's not easy to do good. It's not easy to be good in this evil world. And so He provides us with the strength to be able to do that. And He also provides the power through the knowledge of Himself, which comes through enlightenment. How do I get the power? I get it from knowing Him. You ever notice you're braver when you're with someone who's brave? You're more polite and gracious when you happen to be with someone who is polite and gracious.
You kind of pick up stuff from, you're stronger and braver when you're with a strong person, you know, if she can be strong, I can be strong. Imagine how you are when you are with God, you're with Him, you become like Him.
That's the point of all of this. So don't ever be afraid that you are being too zealous or too devoted or too involved in the kingdom. You need to realize that like the man in the parable about the pearl who had to sell everything he had in order to buy the pearl, you also have to let all the other things that you hold precious, you have to let these things go, of you want to possess and take advantage of the pearl.
I'm not talking about, you know, letting go your little baby. No, you know what I'm talking about. The things we hold precious inside that don't coincide with life in the kingdom. Loving my grandbaby, right? All of them.
God never asked me to stop loving my grandbabies. He might, he might show me how to love them better for their own edification. Maybe He'll do that. That's how He works. When you have the pearl, it's the only thing you can possess, there isn't room for anything else. So don't be afraid of commitment. Don't be afraid that you're going crazy or you're overdoing it. If in your heart, you want to give up everything and follow Jesus, you want to be a fool for Christ. Well, that will be foolish if I did that for the Lord. Don't be afraid of that moment. Don't be embarrassed if you love to be here on Sunday. And you go Sunday night? Yeah, sure. Well, you know you don't have to. No, I go because I like it. I want to be here.
And Wednesday, I remember our family when Lise, when we first became Christians, we were so excited. Loved to hear the word of God. And it was just so different. It was so different being with the church than being at work or being with our families, it was so different. And they were like, I think the word was incredulous. You go to church Sunday night? I remember, yeah, 'cause I mean, I grew up Catholic. So you went to Mass, it took 30 minutes. (claps hands) You're done, till next Sunday. You go in the morning? It lasts two hours!? You go back at night? I mean, they didn't say it, but it was written like a neon across, you know, are you nuts? You people crazy? Don't be embarrassed by that. I tell you live it to the fullest. God is pleased when you do.
Now in verse 12, Paul says that the Father has enabled us to share this inheritance in Light, meaning enlightenment. In verse 13, Paul explains how God has made the pearl available to us.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
- Colossians 1:12
So many ways of saying the same thing in the Bible. You didn't have the pearl, He gave you the pearl. You were in the darkness, He transferred you to the light. Always the same idea being described using different ideas and metaphors. How did he do it? Well, this is the familiar part. We were in ignorance and death. He put us into the light and gave us the pearl. How? God took us out of the darkness and brought us into the light.
How did He do it? He redeemed us. Jesus died on the cross in order to pay the debt for all of our sins. He produced the pearl. This enabled us to be free from judgment, free from condemnation, free from fear, free from guilt, no more guilt, no more sin, forever and ever and ever for those who are redeemed.
And then He forgave us. The fact that our sins were paid for allowed God to offer us forgiveness and along with it, a new life in the kingdom. In other words, he takes us out of the darkness. He purifies us. He gives us the pearl. He sends us on the way. Everyone who believes in Jesus and repents of his or her sins, is baptized, is forgiven, and enters the new life in the kingdom with the pearl in his or her hand.
So to speak. Well, I want everybody to do a little thing here. You can kind of do it secretly, okay, 'cause I'm not much for hold your hand up or write down on a piece of paper or you know, I'm not much for that or stuff. Dramatics, I think is what I call it. But I want you just quietly, secretly to, don't even look at it, don't, just open your right hand, just open it up. Just open it up. If you had it closed or, open up your right hand. Now I want you to close it again and just keep it balled in a fist. And I have a question for you. Do you have the pearl in your hand? I mean, I've talked about it now for more than a half hour. Do you have it? If you've believed in Jesus Christ, repented of your sins been, baptized, you have it.
And if you don't have it. Why not? Have you not, you know, remember I said, obedience comes before enlightenment, have you haven't done the obedience part yet? Or have you kind of like Peter, like David, to a greater or lesser degree, have you let it slip away? I pray that when we all come before Jesus and I mean all of us here one day will, we'll be able to open up our hand and show Him that we still have the pearl of great price.
If you want it, or if you want it back, then I encourage you to come forward now this morning, as we stand and as we sing our song of encouragement.