The Cost of the Kingdom

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his famous Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. One of the stories in this narrative is the Knight’s Tale. As a group of pilgrims is on its way to Canterbury, the knight tells his tale about two rival knights, Arcite and Palamon, both vying for the hand in marriage of a fair maiden, Emily. The knights face each other in a public tournament for her hand. Both seem to want victory, but…

But then come the prayers which reveal their true desires. Emily prays that she will marry the one who truly loves her. Palamon prays that he will marry her. Arcite prays for victory in the tournament.

All three prayers are answered when Arcite wins the tournament, but then he falls off his horse and dies, so Palamon, who truly loves Emily, gets to marry her.

This story shows what happens when true desires are exposed, which is what we see in Matthew 13.

In Matthew 13:44-46 we see two short parables about the Kingdom.

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. “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.

Jesus tells two short stories of men who found something of great value, and whose desire for that object was greater than any other they had. From this we learn…

3 Observations of the Kingdom

1. It must be personally appropriated

Notice that neither man inherits his treasure. It didn’t come to them automatically. Each one had to make a personal transaction to appropriate it.

This was important to the audience because many Jews believed that they could expect salvation by virtue of being born Jewish. Many people today believe that their heritage will save them: “I was born in a Christian home, went to a Christian school and college, and have been a member of this church for as long as I can remember… what do you mean I need to convert and become a Christian?”

Listen to what Peter pronounces to the crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2: 38-39 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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

Don’t rest on your family’s involvement, don’t rely on your parents’ faith, don’t think ‘I’ve always been a Christian.’ No you haven’t!  You must make a decision for yourself.

2. It will cost you everything

Let me ask you: which cost more, the field or the pearl? The cost of the field, and the cost of the pearl was the same – for both it cost everything they had. And they were both willing to sell everything to obtain their treasure.

Remember what Jesus said to the rich ruler in Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

What?! Jesus, don’t you believe in grace by faith alone? What’s this about selling my house, my boat, my SUV?

But Jesus was exposing the man’s deepest values, his true desires. This is a common technique Jesus used when sharing the gospel. He asked people to give up something they were not willing to give up, to show that their desires were too weak. They didn’t desire salvation enough.

Jesus also said in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Doing these things won’t save you, but not being willing to do them exposes a heart that is not ready to be saved.

Would you be willing to part with everything you prize—your reputation, your income, your accomplishments, your relationships, your comfort, or even you very life, if it meant the difference between being saved or damned?

God doesn’t always require you to actually give up everything, but he may do that. It can look like this: If a man lost his job, would he lie/cheat/steal to get money? If a couple lost their child, would they curse God and walk away from the faith? You hear people say “If it was God who did this to me, I want no part in him.” That shows something you are not willing to part with.

Here is a way to diagnose your heart condition: Draw two columns: things you are willing to give up for Christ, and things you are not.

If there is anything in that second column you cannot be a Christian.

You need to clear that column through prayer and soul searching.

Ask God to change your desires. As the old adage goes, “Salvation is free, but it may cost you everything.”

3. It is the source of true joy

Neither of the two men in the parables was forced to give up everything. Both chose that for themselves. It was not a burden. It was a joy. Joy is the basic desire of all human beings. Everyone wants to be happy. And all the other desires serve the desire for joy.

  • John 15: 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
  • 1 John 1:4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
  • Gal 5: 25 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace…

And many verses in the New Testament tell us that it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can have true joy.

I know what you want: you want to be happy! But your desires for happiness are too weak. They are satisfied with cheap, worldly substitutes. God has designed us to have ravishing, passionate desires that cannot be fulfilled by anything or anyone but him!

C.S. Lewis:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Are you satisfied by money and entertainment and pride and work and sin? Or are you satisfied by Christ?

You need to get to the place in your life where you can honestly say and mean that you would choose to please Jesus, follow him, and worship him, over everything else. Herein is true joy.

Clint Archer bio

Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.

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