A Gallery of Christmas Portraits – The Intruder
“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:7
Jesus as the Man Child
A cute little baby sweetly tucked away in swaddling clothes and quietly sleeping in a warm manger without disturbing anyone – that’s how most people in this world see Jesus.
A baby lying in a manger. Innocent and sweet, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Someone non-intrusive, meek and mild.
Many in our world, who only ever see Jesus as the Christ-child, end up assuming that this is all he was. That he always was a Christ-child and that even as an adult he must have been among the meekest and mildest of his day.
He must have been a man-child who carried lambs in his arms and got lost in his own thoughts with kids playing at his feet; an earlier version of Peter Pan or Michael Jackson in Neverland.
In fact, artists portray Jesus that way. Someone who remained as innocent as a dove; a man-child who allowed himself to be manhandled.
He was Mary’s little boy child, who never got married, who was a bid of a dreamer and wanderer. Certainly not man enough to stand up to those who pushed him around or man enough to exert his own rights
Meek and mild, sweet little Jesus. That is how many see him.
Not So Mild After All!
Let me tell you that nothing could be further from the truth than the portrait I just painted for you. Wherever that image of him came from, it was not from the pages of the Bible.
The Biblical Jesus was anything but a wimp, pushover or someone you would get away with things.
How else do you think he got himself killed at the end except that he got enough people angry and stirred up that they rather preferred him dead than alive.
There were a good number of people hoping for his death with some actively plotting to see that happen. All because of what he said and some of the things he did.
So let’s adjust the stereotypical image of Jesus as a man-child to better reflect who he really was. The biblical Jesus was someone who left many feeling incredibly uncomfortable.
“He crashes the party. He tears aside curtains; throws open locked doors, and hits the light switch in rooms of darkness and evil. The Lord pulls the fire alarm in stuffy, sacrosanct hallways. He oversteps comfort zones, grates against self-will. He invades, advances and barges into areas people wish He’d ignore.”
Joni Eareckson Tada
In other words, the historical Jesus bursts through comfort zones and the smoke and mirrors of outward perceptions to confront issues of the heart. Only then can lives be truly changed.
He doesn’t smooth things over, nor does he lull people into sleep.
Sure he gives people second chances, turns the other cheek more than once, and is ready to forgive when no one else would but he did so, not by whitewashing people’s sins and shortcomings but by confronting them.
That is what got him into trouble and in the end led to his death.
On more than one occasion scribes, teachers of the law and spiritual leaders were furious with his comments on their inner lives.
I am sure you have heard of his “seven woes” where he so infuriated these people that they were ready to lynch him right on the spot as he repeated seven times this refrain: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Matt. 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29.
He called them broods of vipers, snakes and whitewashed tombs. This is not how to make friends and influence people!
No wonder it says that: “they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus” Luke 6:11
Who, of course, can forget the infamous temple cleansing episode, where he made a whip out of cords and drove the merchants and bankers out of the temple?
“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:15-16
Again, this is not really how to make friends and influence people!
Not that he was a bully or had anger management issues. He remained, all his life, the meekest man on earth:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:29-30
But meekness does not mean pushover or doormat. Meekness actually means incredible restraint. It means emotions under control at all times. Webster defined it as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment”.
It takes a real man to have such self restraint, without blowing your stack or losing your cool.
Don’t ever mistake self-restraint with wimpy-ness anymore than meekness equals weakness!
Courageous Enough to Get to the Bottom!
He was courageous and strong enough to confront the issues that blocked the abundant life that people could have.
He didn’t whitewash things, didn’t gloss over things, and didn’t ignore it because he knew that he wasn’t doing anybody any favors by turning a blind eye.
They tell us that the first step to recovery and a turn-around is always by taking ownership of wrong behavior.
That’s what Jesus did. He was courageous and strong enough to peel back the layers of pretension, so as to allow the real issues that were keeping people from the abundant life to surface and be dealt with.
You have to be man enough to do that. So none of this talk about Peter Pan or the man-child.
In fact, let me show you a couple of examples where precisely that sort of thing happened. It was a similar pattern of Jesus, courageous enough to go after heart issues that would result in incredible life changes.
The Woman at the Well
The first one is the story of the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus engages in a conversation that moves from physical water, quenching physical thirst, to the deeper thirst in her soul that she was filling with multiple partners.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:13-18
Even with the smoke and mirrors of what she was throwing up to distract him with questions of worship etiquette, he keeps pushing through to the core of her insatiable thirst by linking it to the real water only Jesus could give her.
At the end of the day she walks away having her thirst stilled, not with yet another man but with the living giving water only Jesus can give.
What courage it took for Jesus to persistently keep his finger on the real issues of her heart, not to mention risking shame and ridicule by being seen with a Samaritan woman.
The Little Man in the Tree
Let’s go back to Zacchaeus, whom we know as the little man in the Sycamore tree.
It was a perfect little hiding spot for him to glimpse Jesus without being spotted, or so he thought.
This wasn’t just a novelty for him nor was Jesus just a sideshow that he didn’t want to miss out on.
There was something that was drawing him in and yet he didn’t want to get too close. So the tree was perfect.
You know the rest of the story how: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” Luke 19:5, 6
What else was he going to do – say no to Jesus? I don’t think so. So he did welcome him gladly.
Nothing is said of what went on at his house that afternoon when Jesus came calling. But by the time dinner is over and its time to say goodbye something has defiantly shifted in Zacchaeus’ heart.
The man stands up and makes an incredible offer of generosity and restitution that is stunning in its scope.
“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Luke 19:8
This was not smoke and mirrors nor was this a deflection. He gave half of his possessions away on the spot. Who does that sort of thing? Something profound shifted in his heart.
This man was all about the money. He was chief tax collector and amassed a huge amount of personal wealth. The man lived for his wealth the same way the woman at the well lived for her men.
Somehow Jesus unearthed all this and made him an offer of real wealth that he could not resist. So the man stands up and gives his earthly things away.
Not only that, he stops the fraudulent means of how he acquired his wealth by making restoration four times what he amassed and in so doing called his fraud by its real name, namely theft!
This is not a token. This was not a deflection nor smoke and mirrors but the real deal.
This was a radical life change rooted in a fundamental spiritual experience that Jesus called salvation akin to the Samaritan woman giving up her men. Radical conversion!
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9, 10
Do you realize the kind of courage it took to confront the chief tax collector who had connections in all kinds of high places?
It’s similar to the courage it took to confront alone a Samaritan woman about her multiple affairs.
While we marvel at the incredible life change, what I want you to see is that this only happened because of Jesus being strong, courageous and bold enough to go after the issues of the heart!
The Rich Young Ruler
It’s not that all ends well every time. There were times when people walked away very disappointed and other times when people were beside themselves with outrage.
I think of the encounter Jesus had with the Rich Young Ruler. That didn’t end well.
“17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Mark 10:17-22
It was the same thing here again. This is becoming a pattern. Something about Jesus, and what he offers, draws people to him.
In this case, a rich young ruler wants eternal life. This is the same as the woman at the well wanting living water or Zacchaeus wanting salvation.
Jesus courageously pushes through the smoke and mirrors, in this case consisting of rules and regulations diligently observed and gets to the heart of what is in the way.
Just like the woman at the well had an insatiable physical and emotional appetite, and the little man in the tree had a hankering for fraudulent gains, so this rich young ruler had a love for money that exceeded anything else.
You know the rest of the story, and what Jesus tells him to do, and the tragic response of his unwillingness to part with his wealth.
It wasn’t the wealth that Jesus had a problem with but it was that the wealth was his god.
The Courageous Intruder
The point is that it takes courage to confront someone who had all the power in the world while Jesus seemingly had none.
It takes courage to tell the woman caught in adultery: “Go now and leave you life of sin”, knowing that he would risk the scorn of her accusers.
It takes courage to tell one of the most respected teachers of his day: “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?” as Jesus confronts this old, esteemed teacher of his need to also be born again.
It takes courage to call the religious elite hypocrites, snakes and broods of vipers and to say to them: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matt. 23:27
This courageous Jesus, who is far from the man-child Peter Pan image of our modern society, comes also to you!
He may well ruffle your feathers when he lays his finger at the heart issue deep down at your core.
All of us are obviously drawn to Him, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Ask yourself: “What draws me, and what do I long for the most?”
And most of all: “What stands in the way?”
You need to know that Jesus doesn’t come to you as a sweet little lamb, but as the Lion of Judah whose gaze goes right through you.
John says that his eyes are like “blazing fire” (Rev. 1:14), not as though in rage, but as though he sees right into our heart and right through us.
This is not to condemn nor to punish us, but to bring to us what our deepest longing is.
Call it living water, eternal life or salvation. Call it what you may but it is your deepest eternal longing.
More often than not, in doing so he lays his finger on the biggest barrier that stands in the way of that abundant life.
For the rich young ruler it was the love of money. For Nicodemus it was the pride in his prestige and position. For Zacchaeus it was his fraudulent ways. For the woman at the well it was her emotional and physical needs.
What is it for you? If Jesus were to come knocking on your door, what would he lay his finger on and what would he want to gently remove from your life?
By letting Him do his deep work in your heart you will receive what your soul has always longed for!
Gallery of Christmas Portraits: The Corner of His Eye
The Reason For The Season
The first Sunday of Advent. I love this time of year, with lights burning brightly even as darkness descends more and more upon the land.
I also love the trappings of the season; the carols, the yuletide, the festivities and of course, most of all, I love the Christmas story.
And, of all the characters in the Christmas story, the Christ Child – the babe born in the manger, remains the central figure not only of the story but also as the reason for the season.
No Christ, no Christmas. You remove Jesus from the picture and you may have festivities and perhaps even celebration but you don’t have Christmas.
Jesus is indeed the reason for the season.
People love the image of a baby in swaddling clothes, love the idea of a baby boy wrapped up snug and warm against his mom in a cozy country barn.
For many that is who he remains; the eternal baby Jesus. Never gets lifted out of the crib nor ever placed on a cross. For others he remains in the realm of the moral teacher, social advocate or compassionate friend.
This raises the question: Who is this Jesus? To us he is our Savior: “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21).
He is our Savior and our Messiah; the one who saves us from our sin. What more would you want him to be?
Chisel and Sandpaper
He is, of course, Son of God and Savior of the world. Yet we need to push a little harder, we need to go beyond this sweeping generalization so that the finer nuances of who he was as Savior are not lost on us.
Which is what is at the back of my mind with this new sermon series we are calling, “A Gallery of Christmas Portraits”.
What I would like to do over the next couple of weeks is tease out some of those finer nuances of who Jesus is, that may otherwise be lost to the vastness of the fact that He is first and foremost the world’s Savior.
I want to paint for you four pictures of Jesus that bring out some of the finer nuances of his person. It’s like taking a fine chisel and some sandpaper to the wooden statue of Jesus our Savior, to bring out the finer features that are otherwise lost.
The wooden statue of Jesus as Savior is incredibly inspiring and important to us. So imagine our surprise as we chisel down a little that he is also a Savior who, amongst other things, has time for the little man!
It’s easy to have an image of Jesus as incredibly preoccupied with being the Savior of the world. What an ambitious agenda. Talk about something all consuming, with little time and energy left for anything else.
So imagine our surprise as we tease out the fact that the sparrows in the trees and the flowers in the fields are not lost to him and that he actually stops midsentence and midway to take time for the little guy.
Be it little children who got in the way, a shy woman with an issue of blood who just needed to touch him, a blind beggar who calls out from the back of the pack or quite literally, a little guy hiding up in a tree.
Jesus finds time for the little guy! So he is forever catching people out of the corner of his eye and making them the apple of his eye, as he turns his full attention to them.
A Wee Little Man was He!
A great example of this is the little man who catches the corner of Jesus’ eye, and that at a time when Jesus obviously had bigger things on his mind.
The story starts out with Jesus passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through” (Luke 19:1)
Luke 19:28 tells us where he is going and what the occasion was: “After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” in what we now call the Triumphal Entry, a week before his death.
This was an incredibly important time in his life. He was on his way to become the Savior of the world; on his way to the cross where He would eventually conquer sin and death.
So don’t disturb him and don’t get in his way.
“If Jerusalem was the finish line, then Jericho was the back stretch. Less than twenty miles away from a collision that would jar the foundations of the world. The mighty gears of wrath and redemption were about to mesh. Earth trembled. The cosmos held its breath.” Larry Libby
He was a man on a great mission. He was on the road to the cross. “Surely he needed to focus. Cement his gaze. Shove aside distractions. Marshal his energies.” Libby
He was passing through Jericho. Who’s got time to stop when the cross awaits? Stay focused, keep moving, don’t stop; bigger things await.
Jericho. No sense stopping there. Keep moving to Jerusalem.
Perhaps that’s you in Jericho. Perhaps it feels as though he is passing through your town on his way to a much bigger thing.
Maybe that’s how it’s always been for you with Jesus; glad that he is passing through my town, thrilled that he is my Savior but doubtful that he knows my name. Happy to have him be my Savior, with no need to bother him with my little old life.
I bet many think that way. This world is full of little guys named Zacchaeus.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” Luke 19:1-4
In this story Zacchaeus becomes a picture of every one of us.
We may not be miserable tax collectors, and certainly not chief tax collectors, nor have we accumulated our wealth by illegal means, but in many ways Zacchaeus is a picture of you and me. We are sinners in need of salvation.
There is Jesus on his way through to Jerusalem. Happy for him to be my Savior. Don’t need him to know me by name. Just want to see a glimpse of him passing through.
If that is not us, then I don’t know what is! We are that wee little man, we really are!
I Must Stay at Your House Today
Then the most remarkable thing happens. Jesus notices this wee little man.
“ When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5
It was such an odd time to talk to a little man in a tree. How he ever spotted him is beyond me. He must have somehow caught him out of the corner of his eye.
Before anybody can say anything, the little man in the tree becomes the center of his attention as though nothing else mattered.
“I must stay at your house today.” Stunning, to say the least! Jesus knows him by name. Knows what kind of a scoundrel he really is. Knows that his wealth was accumulated in a fraudulent manner on the backs of the poor. Yet he invites himself over for a stay.
“He has gone to be the guest of a sinner!” people muttered under their breath. He was forever going to be the guest of sinners. He got himself into hot water more than once with eating with so called tax collectors and sinners.
His only response has always been: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
The Corner of His Eye!
It wasn’t just Zacchaeus. There was always someone catching him out of
the corner of his eye. A leper here, a blind man there. Someone deaf here, a caboodle of kids there. A guy being lowered on a stretcher through an opened roof, or a woman needing forgiveness at a well.
So what’s one more tax collector dropping out of a tree?
No sooner does he get back on his way after helping Zacchaeus come to faith and makes things right, that he hears the pitiful cry from the back of the crowd: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk. 10:47).
Jesus instantly picks up on what he hears and makes Blind Bartemaeus the center of his attention next:“Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ ” (Mk 10:49)
This is so typical of him; be it Bartemaeus, the blind beggar or Zacchaeus, the tax collector!
He sees someone out of the corner of his eye, and then makes her the center of his attention as if nothing else matters.
“For all His relentless sense of mission, there’s something about our Lord’s peripheral vision that merit’s a moment’s pause.” Larry Libby
Actually, it merits more than a moment’s notice because it’s not just that you are in his peripheral vision or that he happens to notice you out of the corner of his eye but that once he does you very quickly become the apple of his eye.
The Apple of His Eye
We would be very happy to be in his periphery, right? We who think He never ever notices us would be thrilled to be in his periphery. What a thrill to be seen out of the corner of his eye!
You need to know that you are not only in his periphery, but in the center of his vision; not only are you in the corner of his eye but you become the apple of his eye!
That is so much more than we could ever fathom. The Psalmist wrote: “Keep me as the apple of your eye.” (Ps. 17:8). There are many references to his people as the apple of His eye.
Do you know what the apple of your eye is? It is the little person staring back at you when you look at someone’s eye close up.
“The original Hebrew for this idiom can be literally translated as "Little Man of the Eye." This is a reference to the tiny reflection of yourself that you can see in other people's pupils.” The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament
The ‘little man of the eye’ is actually your image reflected back when you look into the eye of someone right in front of you. The person is so close to you that his eye acts as a mirror.
When it says that you are the apple of God’s eye it means that He not only has you on his periphery but that He sees nothing but you!
You are what’s on his mind. You are what he is concerned with more than anything else. He’s got you in his eyes; He’s got you on his mind! When He sees you nothing else matters.
“Zacchaeus, I will find a way to get to Jerusalem but right now the only thing that matters in the world is that I come to your house and be with you.”
“Bartemaeus, don’t listen to what they are telling you about not bothering me. The only thing that matters is that you tell me what you want me to do for you?”
You can put in anyone’s name including you and it will be the same.
You are not only in his periphery, and he not only notices you out of the corner of his eye, but you are the apple of his eye and nothing in the world matters more to him than you!
He will stop everything in this world to come along aside of you, and be with you where you are today.
How do you explain that except to say that it has to do with his omniscience and omnipresence (meaning, He is all knowing and all present or present everywhere at once) coupled with his incredible love for you that makes you the apple of his eye.
Believing that will make you climb out of sycamore trees, shout for his attention from the back of crowds, make holes in ceilings so as to be lowered down to his feet, or push through those in the way until you touch the hem of his garment.
The Evidence in Front of You
Do you believe that you are the apple of his eye? The evidence sits on top of the Communion Table!
There is a piece of bread and a cup of drink with your name on it! No, it’s not that you are sharing Him with six billion others or that you are getting just a tiny piece of Him.
When you eat that bread and drink that cup, God’s entire eye is on you! You are not in his periphery, but in the center of his eye. It is as though his body and blood are exclusively yours.
There is a line in the song “O How He Loves You and Me” that says “He gave his life, what more could he give?”
Him giving his life just for you shows you how much you are the apple of his eye.
I invite you to come down from your tree, push through the crowd and be lowered from ceilings as you receive the fact that you are the apple of his eye!
A Glimpse Into Eternity: Investing In The Right Tomorrow
Return on The Investments
How are your investments this morning? Been a bid of a rough patch the last couple of weeks.
More downs than ups, that’s for sure. Makes you kinda nervous when it comes to your precious investments, doesn’t it?
But we are told that things are still on track and that we need to take a longer view of things then momentary glitches.
We are also reminded of 2008 and the dive that many took at that time; and how things surged back from there as a way to provide some reassurance to jittery nerves.
Yet there is always an element of risk when it comes to investments with stories of people who were wiped out and left destitute. Makes you wonder if there are any rock solid safe investments at all.
Yet throughout this series, if we have learned anything it is that there are great investment opportunities with God.
The parables from last week talked about earthly, material things that we have been entrusted with – the three t’s of stewardship, namely time, talent and treasure.
In the parable of the talents it was all about goods in the form of talents; in the parable of the minas it was all about money in the form three years worth of salaries; and in the parable of the tenants of the vineyard it was all about property in the form of vineyards.
All of it given from owners to the servants who were expected to steward it; which if done well would assure them a great treasure or a guaranteed return on an investment.
Here’s the thing you need to realize: No matter how you come at it, no matter how you do stewardship sooner or later you are going to come up against money.
Yes, we are to steward time and we are to steward talent but at some point we are also asked to steward treasure. You can’t get around the question of the money that’s been entrusted to you and the ability that you have been given to make money grow.
You see, money is what makes the world go round.
Clive Pick whom some of you remember from years ago used to say that that the most expensive undertaking in the world is realizing the return of our Lord Jesus Christ since it necessitates among other things that the Gospel of our Lord having been communicated in a such a way that everyone has had a chance to respond.
His point is to see that happen requires great resources, which is why God has given most of us the ability to make money and some of us to make loads of money.
It is not to be rich in this world but to invest our treasure so that the Kingdom of God would advance.
What you do with your treasure and money says everything about what you are investing in and how safe those investments are.
Peter was among the first to make that connection when he heard Jesus tell the rich young ruler “You will have treasures in heaven” (Math 19:21) if he were to only invest his possessions to advance the Kingdom and then follow Jesus.
When Peter heard that, his response was “See, we have left all and followed you. Therefore what shall we have?” (Math 19:27). Instead of scolding Peter for his self-interest, he told him what his reward for giving up all for the Kingdom would be:
“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” Math 19:28
They would be rulers and administrators of nations and tribes in the world to come. Not only that, Jesus then says in the next verse:
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. “ Mth 19:29
The most amazing thing is that in this life between birth and death everything is determined.
Destination is determined (“will inherit eternal life”) by making Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Quality of eternity is determined (“will receive a hundred times as much”) by using your treasure, talent and time to advance not your kingdom but God’s.
Hundredfold is the equivalent of a 10,000 % return on the investment. That’s how you get rich in God’s eyes!
This is how the Donald Trump’s and Conrad Black’s of this world who maybe first in this world will be last in the next one while ordinary followers of Jesus like you and I will actually be first: “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” Math. 19:30
Transferring Your Treasure To Heaven!
Lest you think that somehow that is not real treasure; that it’s spiritual treasure or spiritual blessings, I need you to know that the treasure you will receive is like hard currency you can take to the bank.
The crowns, rewards and commendations you turn into heaven’s currency that will support the quality of your eternity!
I am not making this stuff up, folks. Take a look at Math 6:19-20
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
The same word for treasure is used to describe treasures on earth and treasures in heaven!
If treasures on earth have a monetary value attached to it and if the same word is used for treasures in heaven then you can assume that heaven’s treasures will also have some sort of value attached to it.
These are not going to be just halos on your head in heaven but something what will eventually be some kind of a currency that will support your place and role in eternity!
Which makes it sound like there is going to be a life to be lived there; and a society in eternity just like there are societies on earth where you and I will have full, productive meaningful existences.
We will not be sitting on clouds playing the harp gazing off into a sunset.
Your life in eternity will be made possible by what you have earned while on earth. So I say to you, start now and start young.
Just in case some of you are struggling with questions of fairness. Maybe it’s child that dies young or a man who dies too soon and with it at that moment the earning power on earth is done and you wonder how is that fair?
Or someone comes to faith late in life and won’t have the potential that you and I have who have been serving God for a long time; and we wonder how will they make out?
For those and many more there is God’s great equalization plan found in the Parable of the Workers in in Vineyard of Mathew 20 where those who were hired for shorter periods still received the same denarius as those who worked longer.
While this addresses the extenuating circumstances of life such as a premature death, it does not fix the problem of those who had Jesus in their hearts but chose not to live lives invested for the Kingdom.
Therefore start now and transfer your treasure to heaven!
It’s like when you make the big move. When Reni and I packed up all our stuff and I watched that truck roll out of Lindsay I knew that it would be months before we would get out of stuff out of storage and into our new house.
The same thing with what I am telling you this morning.
“We forward the treasure of our lives on to heaven a lot like that. We stay behind with the essentials. But the real goods – if we intend to keep their value through eternity – must go on ahead” Bruce Wilkinson in “A Life God Rewards”
In some ways, this is God’s moving plan. “To move your treasure to heaven, you have to send it ahead” Wilkinson says; which is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33
That’s sending treasures up ahead. Every time you do selfless things such as give to the poor, you provide purses or wallets for yourself in heaven that will not wear out. These are the treasures in heaven that will never fail.
The same link again this time in Luke 16:10-12
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”
If you can be trusted to turn the talent or two or maybe even five into double that you will be trusted with incredibly more in eternity!
The kicker is that in heaven it will not be someone else’s property instead it will be yours. Everything is now on loan. Everything there will be yours.
The house your own here is not yours. The earning power you have achieved is not yours own. The incredible talents you have developed and possess are also not your own.
God loans talents, time and treasures to you.
When you return these at the end of your earthly life, the value of your stewardship will be placed in heaven’s bank.
To be left there until some future day when the dead in Christ will rise and heaven’s bank will be opened and you and I will be given as your very own what we have earned while serving Jesus on earth.
So be trustworthy with what you have been given here.
What does that look like for you? That’s the question, isn’t it! What treasures has God given you? What is your mina? It may be one talent or maybe five talents
The question is what has God given you and what are you doing with it? What is God saying you should do with these treasures of yours?
These are the questions that matter most.
Eyes For Eternity
Investment advisors will tell you to have a long-term view in terms of your investments. Don’t look at what the market is doing today. Don’t see only today’s volatility or you will drive yourself crazy and want to pull the money out every time there is a dip or downturn.
Have a view to the long term, so we are told.
Well, when it comes to eternity the same approach is needed because it is after all long-term investment. You do not see the payoff tomorrow nor will you see a return on the investment the day after.
So tomorrow will dawn, the sun will rise and you will still be planted with both feet in terra firma, in this soil and on this planet. You will wake up facing the same struggles of this life.
The pressure of raising a family, the stress of starting out a life and worries of old age will all be there. In all that sometimes you can loose sight of what you are really living for.
You may wonder what is happening to all these investments of mine. So I am investing in the five crowns of selfless service, sharing the Gospel with others, living for his return and living a consisting Christian life despite pressure, ridicule and trouble.
And I am doing it for all the right reasons so where is my return and payoff?
For everyone who has ever lost heart, Paul says:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 1So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”1 Cor. 4:16-18
Earth may be temporary but it sure is convincing!
Unless you have eyes of faith that sees the long term and sees down the long and winding road toward the edge of eternity, you will be driven mad by what seems like the short end of the stick.
God’s Scroll of Remembrance
So for every missionary, for every church volunteer, for every giver to the Kingdom cause, for everyone who has every stood in prayer or has given their very best to the Master, I give you God’s Scroll of Remembrance:
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?
But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”
Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
“On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:15-18
This is God at his most tender. This is God who understands that we in jars of clay limited by time and space and can easily loose heart and become discouraged with the pressures of this life.
And so he creates for us a Scroll of Remembrance in which every deed done in the name of Jesus is recorded and the distinction will be made between those who serve God and those who do not.
He will open the Scroll of Remembrance and the truth about his generosity, faithfulness and justice will be evident to all.
In fact, so concerned is He that we are shown as quickly as possible that our investments of talents, time and treasure were not wasted.
The very first thing he does at the Resurrection is to show us our reward:
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every one according to his work” Rev. 22:12
Doesn’t set up his kingdom as his first business - that can wait. Doesn’t throw the party of the ages – that also can wait. The first thing He does is show his people their rewards.
So believe in God’s eternal reward for you and live for that day! Live in the blink of an eye between birth and death and in this tiny dot on the timeline of eternity as citizens of heaven.
That’s what it comes down to as we wrap this up: Whose citizen are you? Are you a citizen of the world or a citizen of heaven?
A citizen of heaven with a longing to be there knowing that my investments of talents, treasure and time entrusted to me on earth will greatly impact my life as a citizen of heaven.
So this day, in these closing moments I want you to commit your life anew to being a citizen of heaven. If that is in your heart, then pray after me:
“Dear Jesus, I have heard what you said about my real home. I believe you and can’t wait to get there. Until then I renounce my allegiance to the things of this world and pledge my allegiance to you, the King of Heaven. From this day on, I will live as a faithful steward of what has been entrusted to me. I will take every opportunity, gift and resource that you place in my hand and multiply it greatly for you. And I look forward to the day when I stand in your presence, receive my reward and serve you forever”
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.