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The Treasure 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. Matthew 13:44 (NIV)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)
Imagine I am rummaging through that old classroom in your church where old Christmas musical props, broken high chairs, and old literature is stored. (This isn’t this week’s article, but can anyone tell me why we keep this stuff?) I find a box. I look inside and my mouth drops open, but I don’t say anything. I go home and sell my car. I sell my wife’s Hyundai. We have a huge garage sale and sell everything. I mean everything. Furniture, electronics, clothes, household items, everything. I cash in my retirement. I leave just enough money in the bank to fly back out to the church where I found the box. I say these cryptic words to them: “I came across a box in one of your storage rooms. I have sold what I have and gotten a cashier’s check. I don’t know if it will be enough, but it is all I have. I’d like to buy that box.”
I know what you are thinking: what is in that box?
Jesus told a story like that. Funny thing is, in the story he didn’t explain what was in the box with any more detail than, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure.” The kingdom of heaven is the box that a man sold everything to get. What is in the box? I think it is the abundant life of John 10.10.
John 10.10 is in the box. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Imagine a box like this. It is full of little viles of what look like perfume. But this is no ordinary perfume. One whiff and you are changed. Not 100% changed. It doesn’t turn a brute into a charmer. But, it does make a significant, noticeable difference. The change is instant and it grows. It is like you are suddenly infected with a virus that causes you to grow more and more into the person you want to be.
As you pick up the first bottle, you notice it has two letters: S.C. The fine print says, “Self-control.” You open the top, break the seal and take a deep breath. It smells good, and immediately, you start to feel different.
Suddenly, you have self-control in terms of eating and exercise. You will be able to control yourself to eat what you know you ought to eat and, on one level want to eat. You will have the power to exercise as much as is appropriate to your goals. In short, if I met you a year from now you would be trim and fit and healthy. Consequently, you would be energized, vigorous, and full of vitality.
But your self-control would not stop there. You would have self-control with reference to your money. You wouldn't buy things you don't need with money you don't have to impress people you don't like. You wouldn't buy things because they were shiny or trendy or cool. You would never experience buyer's remorse. You would live gladly within your means. You would have money left at the end of the month. Your credit cards would be paid off and your bills would be current.
You would work, but not too much. You would work and work hard with the energy that comes from God and from knowing you are in the flow of living the calling of God on your life. Most of the time you are energized with the energy that comes from knowing you are doing what you are supposed to do. When you work you work hard. But when you play you play hard and when you rest, you rest well. You are able to play with your child and not get impatient that you need to do something important, something meaningful, something grown-up. You would have the self-control that comes from knowing that sometimes the most important thing we can do is to sit with a child.
I could go on and on about this, but this is only the first item in the box. It is not even the most important item in the box and there are many more.
The second bottle in the box causes you to internalize love. It is the profound, inescapable awareness that you are deeply loved by God. You are the apple of His eye, His precious child, His treasure. This is not mere head knowledge; it touches the heart. You feel it. In a way it makes you more confident and self-assured. But really, it gives you the freedom to forget about yourself altogether. It gives you the power to get past yourself. It is easier for people who are loved to love. Because you feel profoundly loved, you have the power to love.
This begins a cycle in motion that causes many good things to happen. You feel loved so you love others. They feel this love and will tend to love you back. In a group where many of us are tapping into the power of the box, incredible things can happen. Many of us feel loved and when we get together we come eager to love each other. Many of us come together not to be served but to serve. We don't come with an empty cup hoping someone will fill us; we come with a full heart eager to give to others. The magic of the Christian life is that as we do that, as we come eager to fill others, we find ourselves feeling more full. You cannot bless others except you get blessed yourself.
This leads us to the third bottle in the box–this one gives you the power to love. It allows us to be substantially more loving. Again, let me be clear. It is not magic. It does not make you perfectly loving; it does make a substantial difference–like a proper dose of Prozac makes a depressed person less depressed.
We all want to be loving, don't we? It is puzzling that we are not more so, since we all want to be loving. The box helps us to be more loving, more kind, more thoughtful, better listeners, more generous. Don't you want to be that way? The box gives you the power to do so. What would you give for that?
One breath of this and you start smiling. This is the joy perfume. Not merely the joy that some believers speak about– that deep undercurrent that is rarely actually felt and really–what good is it? No. This the kind of joy that you feel. This is the kind of joy that makes you smile.
And not just smile; at times it makes you sing and shout and lift your hands and clap. It is the kind of joy that can make a Baptist dance–at least occasionally. Now, that is joy!
In the worst of times, you feel the undercurrent that some people speak about. You feel that foundation that underneath you are the Everlasting arms. There is a level below which you will not sink. And, in the best of times the Joy buoys you to places previously unimagined. And in regular, ordinary, routine days, it makes those positively delightful.
One breath from this vial and your soul is at peace. Worry and fear and anxiety melt away like water on a sidewalk in Phoenix during August. No more worries. Ahhh.
The box has a whole slew of bottles that could be called “removal tools.” They remove things like worry and fear, anxiety, and the blues.
There are many more things in the box, some fifty bottles in all. And, from what you can tell, everyone of them has an instant, significant and growing effect. This is the John 10.10 life. What would you give for that box?
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” you say. No such box exists. Christianity is certainly not that way. Not that you are not a believer, you are. But, you know that although you love the Lord and believe in His ways, you are also experienced enough in the Christian life to know that it doesn’t offer that kind of change. There are good days and bad days. On the whole, you are glad you are a Christian, but you are realistic about how much change you will see this side of heaven.
Let me ask you a question: have you ever wanted what I have described as being in the box? I mean really wanted. Really, really wanted. “It doesn’t matter,” you repeat, “because it is not possible.” Christianity does not offer that. It is best not to want things you can’t have.
What is the lesson of the parable–not my parable, Jesus’ parable. As I see it, there are at least five lesson here:
When I say they don’t want it, I don’t mean that they wouldn’t like it if it were offered for free. But it is not offered for free. It is expensive, very expensive, in fact, in costs you everything. You must want it that bad. You can never have it if you don’t want it that bad.
You must want it more than you have ever wanted anything. You must want it like a 23 year-old virgin wants to be with his bride on his wedding night. You must want it bad. Ever walk into Krispy Kreme when the red light is on and they hand you a free donut, still warm from cooking? What if they pulled it back and said you couldn’t have it, not at any price. You must want it like that.
Have you ever really, really wanted something? I confess to being more than a little materialistic, and I have, on a number of occasions wanted something too badly. For me, that wanting was usually about something that plugs in–a new laptop, or MP3 player, or gizmo, or gadget. It is impossible for me to describe how badly I have wanted some of these things.
I remember when I was learning to play the piano. Nintendo had come out with a keyboard that you could hook up to your Nintendo and learn to play the piano by playing Nintendo. You would shoot ducks in they key of C and pound ground hogs back into the ground in three flats. It would have you play a simple melody and it would orchestrate a symphony behind it so any numb-skull could sound pretty good.
They had one at the mall. The mall–that marvelous temple of modern delights. I remember going by there and by there and by there. I read every word on all six sides of the box. Oh, if I could just have that. If I could have that my life would be complete. If I could have that I would never want again. If I could have that, oh, if I could have that.
Until I got it. Oh, it was fun for a while. And, I did learn to play a little keyboard. I am trying to remember what ever happened to that old keyboard. Did I donate it to a friend or give it to Goodwill? You see, there came a time when it was cool, but. But, it didn’t really have the full, rich sound of a real keyboard. And now, Korg has a real keyboard with full, rich sounds for around a thousand dollars. WOW. That is about half the price of the one I had been looking at. I got it and enjoyed it, but. . .
But, there came a time I wanted the one I always wanted. And that was nice till they came out with one with intelligent accompaniment. This is where you play any melody and it figures out what you are playing and adds a band playing along with you. Drums, guitar, horns, the whole deal. You just play a couple of notes and it plays the rest. Too cool. I gotta have that. And that was cool till they came out with one to teach my daughter to play. It lights up the keys you are supposed to play. I gotta have that for her. Not for me, for her.
In some ways Christians struggle with this more than most, because we add in one more twist. We not only want this, but we want it for God’s work. That thought has caused me to pull out a credit card many times.
I don’t know if you struggle with the wants, but I do. I have, I probably always will. I tasted the wants recently when my laptop crashed. It was under warranty, so they will fix it, but it will likely take three weeks. How am I supposed to live without a laptop for three weeks? I have this article to write, lessons to write, God’s work to do. Sure, I have an extra one laying around the house, but there is a reason I quit using it. It crashes. It crashes a lot. I think. Seems like I worked on it after I got the new one. Seems like I fixed it. But I am not sure, and who wants to take a chance on a laptop that crashes? Besides, it is at home and I am on the road. If I had a laptop, I would work on some lessons for God’s work.
This passage is teaching me a very profound truth. If I can imagine a time when I wanted something really, really badly (and I can, because, in my case, it wasn’t very long ago). Multiply that by 10, no, 10,000. That is how God wants me to want the treasure. I will never have it till I want it like that.
I have wanted some things pretty badly. But, I have never wanted anything enough to go and sell everything–cars, house, clothing, electronics, laptops–everything to have it. Jesus taught that I must want the treasure like that. I will never have John 10.10 till I want it like that. C.S. Lewis says, “He doesn’t find our desires too strong; he finds them too weak.”
If you are a teacher, this truth informs your job. Your job is to incite desire. Your job is to paint a picture of the John 10.10 life that is so compelling people want it in spades. They want it so badly that it takes their breath away. They can’t quit thinking about it and they are willing to give up everything to have it. Only those who want John 10.10 like that will have it. Your job is to incite that kind of desire.
Too much teaching is about what you ought to do, or should do. It is about what God wants you to do. Or, in some cases, it is not about us at all. It is about the history or Israel, or kings and prophets and poets. Many lessons don’t touch life.
But, if they do, they are all about “ought” and “should”. That is not the kingdom. The kingdom is about desire. It is about want. As you teach, make them want. Make them want John 10.10 more than anything. Make them want John10.10 enough to give up everything. Paint a picture so compelling, so captivating, so intriguing that it takes their breath away. Make them want it.
John 10.10 only comes to those who want it enough to gladly give up everything.
I write two lessons a week that follow a question and answer format. These follow the curriculum outline for the Family Bible Series and the Explore the Bible Series.