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.
The link between last week’s message and today’s message is the kingdom of God. Our focus today is Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven [that is, the kingdom of God] 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.” We are focusing here because I want us to understand and embrace and enjoy the biblical foundation for Treasuring Christ Together. The link is back to Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” What we said there is important here:
- We said that the kingdom of God is not mainly realm or place but rule or reign.
- We said this reign is specifically his saving or redeeming reign. The kingdom is being manifested in power when demons and unbelief and unrighteousness are being defeated and salvation, righteousness, peace, and joy are happening.
- We said that this reign is present in part but will be consummated at the second coming of Christ. So the blessings we have now in Christ are great (forgiveness, imputed righteousness, acceptance with the Father, no condemnation, the fellowship of Jesus by his Spirit in our lives, progressive transformation into his likeness, gifts of the Spirit, usefulness in ministry, all things working together for our good, etc.), but the fullness of our inheritance awaits the coming of Christ—no more sinning, no more sickness, nor more injury or calamity, no more depression or spiritual warfare, no more ethnic strife or racism, no more war, no more death. All that will come with the final consummation of the kingdom.
- And we said that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are the same. God reigns where Christ reigns. And Christ reigns where God reigns. When the book of Revelation talks about the throne of God it says things like: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:10). And: “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd” (7:17). And: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in [the New Jerusalem]” (22:3).
Those four things: The kingdom of God is the reign of God. It is the saving reign of God. It is the saving reign of God that is partly present and partly future. And it is the present and future saving reign of God and of Christ.
Kingdom of Heaven = Kingdom of God
Now today our focus is on the kingdom in Matthew 13:44, “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.” So we need to add one more clarification, namely, that the term, “kingdom of heaven,” is virtually synonymous with the term, “kingdom of God.” The Jewish people, out of reverence for the divine name, were often hesitant (as indeed they are today) to pronounce the divine name, lest they take his name in vain. So they often substituted the word “heaven” or “the Blessed” for the word “God” (e.g., Matthew 21:25; Mark 14:61). So there is no significant difference between the term “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God.”
The Main Lesson from This Verse
The question today is: What do we learn about the kingdom of God here in Matthew 13:44? We learn one main thing: The kingdom of God is so valuable that losing everything on earth, but getting the kingdom, is a happy trade-off. Having the omnipotent, saving reign of Christ in our lives is so valuable that, if we lose everything, in order to have it, it is a joyful sacrifice.
The Meaning and Value of the Kingdom of Heaven
So let’s read it slowly and see this carefully. “The kingdom of heaven . . .”—I am taking that in its full, biblical context of the reign of God and Christ, triumphing over everything that stands between you and everlasting life and joy, if you will treasure it more than anything else. In other words, I think we can treat the kingdom of God here almost synonymously with salvation or with reconciliation with God through the work of Christ—because the kingdom of God is the rule of God to save us, and to save us is to bring us from destruction into the enjoyment of Christ forever.
Let’s keep reading in verse 44: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field”—so the focus is on the value of the kingdom. The worth of having God ruling over you and, for you, over everything else. It’s not hard to see why that is so valuable. If the omnipotent, all-wise God is ruling over all things for your joy, everything must be working for your good, no matter how painful. And in the end God will triumph over all evil and all pain. So this kingdom is a treasure.
Keep reading: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” I don’t think we should press the details here. Parables usually aren’t like that. They make one main point. And the point here is not that the kingdom is bought, but that if it costs you everything you have, it’s worth it. Notice two things: The man sold everything he had, and he did it with joy. “In his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The kingdom of God is so valuable that losing everything on earth, but getting the kingdom, is a happy trade-off. That’s the main point.
The apostle Paul expresses this very thing in Philippians 3:7-8, ‘Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 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.” In the parable the man sells everything he has so that he can have the kingdom. In Philippians 3:8, Paul suffers the loss of all things that he may gain Christ. I think those are virtually identical realities.
The point here is not that you buy the kingdom or barter for the kingdom or negotiate for the kingdom. The kingdom of God is received without pay, like a poor child, not a rich business man. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15). “You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:8).
So the point here in Matthew 13:44 and in Philippians 3:8 is that the people who receive the kingdom treasure it more than everything else. You don’t buy it. You get it freely because you want it more than you want anything else. It’s as if a poor child entered a toy store and the owner said: you can have the best and most expensive toy in this store if you want it more than anything else. In other words, there is a condition for having the kingdom—for having the King on your side and as your friend—but the condition is not wealth or power or intelligence or eminence. The condition is that you prize the kingdom more than you prize anything else. The point of selling everything in this parable is simply to show where your heart is. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). And if your heart is to have the kingdom above all things, then Luke 12:32 comes true for you: “It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” To give you the kingdom!
So the point of Matthew 13:44 is that the kingdom of God is so valuable that losing everything on earth, but getting the kingdom, is a happy trade-off. Or to be more personal and specific, we can lose everything with joy if we gain Christ. Don’t miss the word “joy” in this verse: “In his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The loss of all things is not sad if we gain Christ.
Oh, that God would make us real in our seeing and savoring Christ and his saving work above all things. I was listening a couple weeks ago to a message by another pastor and he told the story of his sister who lost her husband to cancer earlier in the year. He was in his fifties and had been a faithful follower of Christ. She was sitting by his special bed set up for him at home, wiping his forehead in his last hours. She seemed steady and joyful. One visitor became irritated and asked, How can you be so happy when something so evil is happening?
She answered, “My husband deserves to go to hell (like you and me). And because of Christ, in a few hours my husband will be with God in heaven. Is that not worth rejoicing about?” “In his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Treasuring Christ Together
The goal of Treasuring Christ Together (the leaflet in your worship folder) is bring as many people as possible into that kind of relationship with Christ.
I want you to feel the burden—the joyful burden—that the leaders of this church feel. If we love Christ as our highest Treasure, and if we love people the way he did—ready to lay down his life even for his enemies—then we will labor to spread a passion for Christ to as many people as we can. We will labor in evangelism and missions and reformation and spiritual awakening. We will not be content to simply feed ourselves. If we treasure him, and if we love them, we will pray and give and labor to reach more and more and more and more people. Will we not?
That’s one burden we carry as leaders. How shall we fulfill our mission—to spread a passion for the supremacy of God? Spread. Spread. Spread. That’s why Jesus came. That’s what he sent us to do. Go make disciples. Draw more and more people into the everlastingly all-satisfying experience of knowing and treasuring Christ. Share your joy. Don’t keep it to yourself. Horded joy rots. Shared joy increases. That’s our mission as a church. And one of our great burdens as leaders is find God’s strategy for how we should do that. Everything we do is part of that strategy.
But things get very concrete and specific. I want you to feel this with us, and own this, and invest your life and money in this if you are part of Bethlehem. What happens if God gives us some measure of effectiveness in these strategies to spread a passion for his supremacy? What if three thousand are added to the church in a day? Or a decade? What would you do? Where would you put them for corporate worship? Or children’s ministry and youth ministry? And if three or four or five thousand of them wanted to gather and hear the word of God together and sing together, where would you put their cars and their babies?
These are questions that concern every member of this church. The answer to these questions at Bethlehem are found in the strategy called Treasuring Christ Together. Our answer three years ago was not: build a four-thousand person sanctuary downtown. The answer we believe God gave us is in that box on your leaflet: “A multiplying movement of campuses, new churches, and a Global Diaconate united by a common mission and founded on a common biblical life and doctrine”—namely, the Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith.
Let me illustrate how this is working in these very days.
- Last Tuesday the Elders voted unanimously to present to you next Saturday night at a 7 pm special business meeting Rick Melson as the Third Campus Pastor for Worship and Vision. If you vote yes, he will come (Lord willing) near the end of the year and have about eight months to work with us in launching the third campus to the south or west. That’s Treasuring Christ Together—multiplying campuses.
- At that same meeting Tuesday the elders voted unanimously to recommend to the church on December 18 the funding of All Nations Christian Fellowship, a new church plant under the leadership of Sherard Burns and John Erickson and Wally Brath. The launch date is set for next March. About fifteen families have signed on to this new church in the Brooklyn Center area. They invite (and I invite and urge) you to attend information meetings. Get the info at the information desk. That’s Treasuring Christ Together—planting churches.
- Last week the call went out for men to go to Pakistan immediately because of the desperate need in the out-of-the-way valleys where tens of thousands are homeless as the winter approaches. Fifty men volunteered to go. We can’t send them all. But the first team from these volunteers leaves on Friday. The next team will leave a couple weeks later. This is being funded largely by the Global Diaconate. That’s Treasuring Christ Together—mercy to the poorest of the poor.
That is a snapshot of Treasuring Christ Together—a dream coming true: 1) Multiplying campuses—not centralized growth. 2) Planting churches—not just campuses. 3) Caring for the poorest of the poor through the Global Diaconate in such a way that compassion and a wartime life-style (we pray!) pervades not just fifty men but the whole church.
How Do We Pay for the Costs of Growth?
How do we pay the costs of growth? I believe if God gives the growth, God will provide the resources to sustain it. The basic funding strategy for paying for these advances of the kingdom is found in Matthew 13:44. We will give sacrificially toward the advance of the kingdom when we Treasure Christ more than we treasure our possessions and our leisure activities—and when we see and love the vision. I know you love the scriptures and love Christ. So I want you to see the vision more clearly. Because our financial secretary told me that a large percentage of our members do not give to Treasuring Christ Together. I don’t think that’s your heart.
So I would like to ask you and exhort you to give generously and regularly and joyfully to both the regular budget of the church and missions (about six million dollars this year) and to Treasuring Christ Together. Very simply it works like this. On the first line of the giving envelope it says “Church and Missions”—that supports all the regular ministries, ministers, and missionaries of the church—six million dollars worth, with about 30% of that going to missions.
Then on the second line of the envelope it says, Treasuring Christ Together. That is the way we pay for the new campuses, the church planting, and the Global Diaconate. Of every dollar on that line 80% goes to pay for the campuses, 10% for church planting, and 10% for the Global Diaconate.
The loan we have on the North Campus purchase and build out balloons for renegotiation of interest rate in August 2009. The present interest rate is 4.63% interest and costs us $42,000 a month. Would you join in praying with me and giving with me in such a way that when August 2009 comes, we will not have to renegotiate the loan because that loan will be paid. We would need about $2.8 million a year on that TCT line of the envelope for this to happen. God can do that. And I believe the way he will do it is by making Matthew 13:44 more and more real for us. “Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The point is not that campuses and church planting and Global Diaconate are the field. The point is that Jesus Christ, our Treasure, turns sacrificial giving into joy.