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February 2010

Kingdom Thinking

I would like to tell you a story and talk to your heart.

There was a man who grew up serving God. He believed in the covenants of God and the Law. He was faithful in keeping the Law as well as in his dealings with people. He grew up with the favor of God and men, and he became a man of wealth and influence with his people.

One day this rich influential man came to Jesus and said:

Mark 10:17-27

"Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother."

Now this man could have gone home happy with this. He had been doing all of this since he was a boy and could have felt that everything was great. But something was drawing him to Jesus, so he continued.

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

Jesus looked at this man and saw someone he would like to know. Someone he would like for a friend and companion. His kind of guy. So he said to 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."

If I may paraphrase, Jesus said:

One thing you lack. Take everything God has blessed you with, all the results of your sowing and reaping, all the results of your faithfulness, all your influence with your community and give it all away. Let your heart, influence, and treasure be in heaven. Then follow me, become my friend and stay with me. Become despised and rejected. Fellowship in my sufferings and you will share in my resurrection.

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Had this man done what Jesus said his friends and family would have thought him crazy. Israel was under captivity to the Romans. This was not a peaceful time for the Jews. The nation was looking for people who could change things. This man had money. He had influence. He had resources to help ensure that his people would be treated justly; as much as possible. He could have helped make decisions to improve the economy, to help people get jobs, to help people find a way to provide for their families. If he had given all of this up they would have thought he had abandoned God.

But what they would have seen, without knowing it, would have been the kingdom of God.

Mathew 13:44-45
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.

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.

We are not called to give up sin for the kingdom. We are called to give up our treasures, our pearls. These are real treasures. Things God has blessed us with. Provision. Security. Influence. Freedom. Heritage. Rights. Dreams. Plans. These really are very great treasures and can be used to do good for people around us.

But sometimes Jesus looks at people he has blessed with these treasures, people who are being very faithful with those treasures and are using them to help people, and he loves them. He thinks, "I want this person for my friend. I want them to hang out with me and fellowship with me." And so he says to them, "One thing you lack . . "

If you can, joyfully, give up all your treasures, pearls, and influence in this world to know Jesus, fellowship in his sufferings and share in his resurrection; well, that's kingdom thinking.