Christ’s Claims Come First
One of the parables Jesus told was about the reaction of some people to the kingdom of heaven: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matt. 13:44).
Here is someone who comes along and stumbles, as it were, onto the Gospel message and believes it. We are told he sold all he had and bought that field.
Concerning another person Jesus said. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46).
This person is looking for the kingdom of God. He is looking for a purpose in life, a reason for living. Then he hears of the love of God in Christ. He hears that this Creator, this holy One, is also love. He embraces Christ as his Saviour and we are told he went away and sold everything he had and bought that one pearl.
These men stripped away all their assets and concentrated it in one area: the kingdom of heaven. The relationship which they had with God through faith in His Son now became their all, their everything. It consumed their life.
“Everything” – does that describe your relationship to God? Is the kingdom of God worth more to you than anything else? Is it worth a supreme sacrifice, so that you are willing to let nothing else come before the kingdom in your life? It does not matter what you have to lose as long as you get to keep your relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Have you determined in your mind, “My relationship to Jesus Christ means more to me than absolutely everything in life?”
It is not a question of adding Christ or adding religion to your life. For those in the parables, it was not a part of the whole. They did not reason this way: “I have now heard a message which describes the only way I can have a relationship with God through turning away from my sins and putting my faith in Christ Jesus. Now I am going to make that part of my life and I am going to be very conscientious about my religion, but it only is going to be part. I am also going to make sure that as I go through this life, I leave room for the finer things, the things which I appreciate: for pleasure, popularity, possessions.” No, for these men the kingdom of God came first.
Worth More Than Pleasure and Popularity
Is the kingdom worth the sacrifice of pleasure to you? The kingdom does not deny that pleasure exists, does not deny that pleasure is God’s good gift, but it does insist that if it comes down to a choice of following Christ or enjoying pleasure, even legitimate pleasure, the pleasure has to go.
What is the opposite of pleasure? Pain, trouble. The Lord said that trouble is what we can expect if we are faithful to Him. How far is your love for Christ going to carry you? Is it going to reach a stopping point where you will say, “But if I am faithful to the Lord in this situation, I am going to have to give up this or that pleasure”? Are you willing to trust the Lord to give you pleasure on His terms, in His time, in His perfect will? Is the kingdom worth more to you than pleasure?
Is it worth more to you than popularity? We are created by God to be social beings. One of the most difficult problems that any human being can ever face is loneliness. Yet those who are faithful to Christ must often pay the price of loneliness. Often you must stand for Christ when all around are not. Is the kingdom worth more to you than the praise of men or the ridicule from unbelievers?
Jesus clearly sees that there will be times, as He says in Matthew 5:11, “when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Do you realize how dominant a theme suffering for the sake of the Gospel is in the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of His apostles?
As the Apostle Paul seeks to plant little flickering outposts of light in the vast pagan darkness of the Roman Empire, what was his theme? “To strengthen and encourage you in your faith so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you we kept telling you that we would be persecuted” (1 Thes. 3:2-4).
Pressure is being put on these new Christians and they are paying a price. It is happening all the time in this world in which we live. Is the kingdom worth more to you than persecution, than praise and popularity?
Worth More Than Possessions?
Is the kingdom worth more to you than possessions, more than wealth, and money? “The deceitfulness of wealth chokes the word, making it unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). God does not say that money is unimportant. He says that it is dangerous. Unless you take care, there will come a point where you will convince yourself that you are able to serve both God and money.
In Matthew chapter 10 the Lord says that when He comes into our life there will be some strife with people who are closest to us. Read Matthew chapter 10 and reflect on how Jesus views the conflicting loyalties and priorities that legitimately are part of our life. When He comes second, they become idolatrous.
Christ says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:34).
In the outworking of our relationships, I could say, “Lord, you have to understand. I do not have time for my devotions today. I have to take my grandmother for the weekly visit to the mall, shopping. I am tired when I get home and then I have to take my daughter out, help her play outside, let her get some fresh air. Then I have to help my wife. Then it is bedtime and I haven’t had any time with You. Lord, you will have to understand. These are family responsibilities.”
But friend, the kingdom makes a total claim on you. Not that we are to neglect those whom God has entrusted to us. We are certainly responsible before God to care for them and provide for them. Did not Jesus, with the final breath He took on the cross, provide a home for His mother and a son to replace Himself? “This is your mother; this is your son,” He said to the beloved disciple, John.
The Bible is very clear that we are not to neglect our family. But it is also very clear that legitimate concerns in this life can rob us of the blessing that comes from wholehearted commitment to Christ.
No one is to take the number one place in our life except Christ. Everything, everyone else is to come after. This is our rightful relationship to God – God who made us, God who gives us the very breath that keeps us alive this moment, God before Whom we will stand one day! These men who found the kingdom sold everything they had to get that kingdom. It was worth the supreme sacrifice.
The first of the ten commandments God gave to His people of old was: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Before money, before family, before career, before even life itself – God comes first. Christ is worth everything. There is nothing worth more than knowing Him. When you have Him, you have it all, and you will never be ashamed of your choice!
– Arranged from Dr. Daniel Lundy, Gospel Witness.