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Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, July 26, 2020

Hidden Treasure

Text: Matthew 13:44–50

For the past month we have considered Paul’s teaching on the futility of trying to please God in our own strength. In Romans 7, Paul confessed that even though he was an apostle of Jesus Christ he still struggled with keeping the law of God. In Romans 7:18–20,

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

He found that when he wanted to do good, that evil was right there confronting him. There was this turmoil between the desires of the flesh and his desire to be moved and led by the Spirit. It’s a daily war going on and Paul finally cries out in verse 24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

The truth is that anyone who tries to follow the law of God in their own strength will find themselves frustrated and continually failing. That’s one of the major frustrations with those who pursue “Allah” through the teachings of Islam. They are taught that they will be judged by their obedience to the Koran. They never have any sense of whether or not they have been good enough to enter heaven, they’ll just have to wait and see. There isn’t any relief, just hope that you did enough. Paul brings relief to those in Christ in Romans 8:1–2 with the good news of the Gospel,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

What a relief! It’s all because of the mercy of Christ who paid for our sins on the cross, we are no longer ruled and frustrated by the desires of the flesh. In Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within the believer. Of course, there is still a war going on within us but the promise of the Spirit is that we can be victorious over the flesh. In Romans 8:11 Paul writes,

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The following week we saw that not only does the Holy Spirit dwell within the believer, but he/she has been adopted into the family of God and has the same relationship of intimacy with the Father that Jesus has. We are invited to call him Abba, Father, which in Aramaic is similar to “Daddy” in English. The most amazing part of all this is found in Romans 8:16–17,

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

I must confess that I have never ceased to be overwhelmed by God’s love and decision to bring me into his family as a son with full rights of inheritance of all that my Father has in his kingdom. This is the family that we have longed for.

Last week at the baptismal service we saw that one of the greatest delights of baptism is being able to come to the family meal through the Eucharist. The meal that we share at the table of the Lord is a foreshadowing of the Great Banquet spoken of in Isaiah 25:6–8,

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

We find this prophecy being fulfilled in the Book of Revelation with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6–9).

If you are like me, there is the question of how did this happen and why would God show such mercy to those who have so often turned away from him? Today in our passage from Romans 8:26–34 we’ll see that it is God who has worked this out in us, apart from our ability to accomplish it on our own.

Then finally, we’ll see how this portion of Romans 8 reveals to us the deeper meaning of the Kingdom Parables from Matthew 13:44–50. In Romans 8:26–27,

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Right before this passage, Paul acknowledges that those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and have received the Holy Spirit as the first fruits (or down payment of future glory) and still eagerly wait for adoption and the redemption of their bodies and restoration of all things. In verse 24–25 he admits the struggle of this,

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Paul encourages us that God understands our frailty, so the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Most of us have come to the place where we are overwhelmed by circumstances and don’t even know how to pray. Have you ever been there, feeling that the greatest need that you have is to connect with God, but you can’t even begin to pray as you should? Paul shows us the promise:

…but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

What does that mean? This help from the Spirit may include praying in the Spirit through the gift of tongues, but it isn’t limited to that. It’s the ability to communicate with God even when there doesn’t seem there are adequate words to express the pain or suffering. One of the purposes of the gift of tongues is to communicate with God in a way that isn’t limited to our knowledge or ability to know our own hearts' greatest need. Often in grief people are unable to articulate their need for God’s help and find themselves on their knees groaning.

A pastor friend of mine went through some very difficult times in his ministry. His son told me that he often was prostrate before the Lord crying out and groaning with anguish of mind. It surprised me to hear about this because he was always such an effective pastor and preacher. I can only assume that the Holy Spirit would come to him bringing relief and allowing him to continue.

I’ve had those times in my life when the darkness seemed to be extinguishing the light. It was when I cried out to God, not because I had a list of things to do when I was struggling, but in my spirit I knew that crying out to God was my only refuge.

The Holy Spirit knows exactly what the need of the heart is and prays for us and directs our prayers according to the will of God. Romans 8:28 is an often-quoted verse that is full of encouragement,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

When the Spirit leads the believer in prayer and leads them in life choices, then all things work together. Even when we mess up, God through the Holy Spirit wants to bring us back to the path he has for us. God leads the believer in conformity to Christ through his divine providence, guaranteeing that all things will ultimately work for good to us as Christians and for the glory of God. God’s sovereignty and ability to manage every aspect of our lives demonstrate to us why all things work together for good, even though we fall short of God’s glory every day.

The next section brings clarity as to how all the promises of God for the believer are fully realized and why we should have such confidence in God’s divine will for us. Let’s read Romans 8:29–30,

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Words like predestination and election tend to be very controversial among many Christians. Nor is it a new discussion but has gone on for many hundreds of years. However, the discussion of free will versus predestination is best left to Bible studies rather than a 25–30-minute sermon. But I will make this observation, the Bible is very clear, that due to the sin within man, he is unable to be an active part in his own salvation. Paul, quoting Psalm 14:1–3 wrote in Romans 3:10–12,

…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

In our passage from Romans 8:29–30, Paul is saying that God is the author of our salvation from the beginning to the end. We should never assume that God can only take action when we give him approval. According to Paul, if we had any part in the process, we would never know Jesus as savior. Actually, since Romans 8:28 reminds that, “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” we see that through the word of God we can trace our faith and salvation back to the eternal plan of God to bring us to glory, through the work that only he can do. This should bring us to our knees in praise and thanksgiving. Only through God’s divine mercy and calling could we ever come to the place where we bear the image of Christ. This is the reason for God’s plan. He adopts us into his family for the purpose of making us more and more like Jesus, his eternal Son.

Paul sums up his conclusion to this section, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

If all we had was the first three chapters of Romans, it would appear that God is against us. Praise God that we have the entire Book of Romans and the entire word of God that teaches us how far God was willing to go in order to save man from his wrath and bring him to life and victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

We have often seen those who are terrorists committing terrible and brutal crimes claiming that they are doing God’s will. They claim that God is for them. The Holy Spirit guards this claim with an “if” so that we can know that just because a person thinks God is for them, doesn’t make it true. God is only for us if we are reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ. Paul’s conclusion to that is since God is indeed for us who can be against us? The question might be raised, “Well, if God is for us then why do so many Christians suffer?”

This is a very common question that people ask when God doesn’t give them what they ask for or doesn’t intervene when they suffer through circumstances, not of their own making. One of the problems that many people have is the lack of understanding about the seriousness of the problem of sin. Sin has permeated our hearts and even now we see the effects of sin and unrighteousness in our own culture. When a culture decides that they don’t need God, then he is prone to give them what they ask for and lets them see how that works out. G.K. Chesterton wrote,

People often reject the idea of original sin when it is the only doctrine in Christianity that can be empirically proven.

The fact that Jesus was willing to come and die on our behalf shows how serious sin is to the God who is Holy, Holy, Holy! That fact that he would come at all never ceases to amaze me. You have heard me speak of the Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria, Ben Kwashi. He, his family and the many Christians under his care in Nigeria have been brutalized. His wife Gloria was brutally raped by Jihadist Fulani soldiers who broke into their home. Their schools, churches and many, many of their homes have been burned down and many have been killed and young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. For me, one of the greatest testimonies of God’s being for us comes from Ben Kwashi himself. He was interviewed in April by David Virtue of Anglican Mainstream. Virtue asked him: “They say that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Is that the case in Nigeria?”

KWASHI: “I will respond to this by praying to God that that will be the case, and perhaps long after I’m dead and gone history might say so, and I would love history to say so because I believe with my whole heart that we have a gospel that is worth living for and a gospel that is worth dying for.”

I spoke briefly with Ben at Gafcon in Jerusalem in 2018. So many awful things had happened to him and his family, but he was going back to Jos to continue the work that God gave him. The only way he could do that was because he knew that God was for him, despite all that had happened. His hope is in the resurrection to new life for all believers and he wants to take as many of the Fulani soldiers and those within Boko Haram with him into eternity with Jesus as he can. He understands the heart of Jesus and intentionally lives for God’s glory.

When I hear stories of those who willingly lay down their lives for the glory of Christ and the building of his kingdom on earth, I wonder about the wealth of faith this has brought them.

Finally. Let’s briefly see how Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:26–34 points us to a deeper understanding of the parables that we read in Matthew 13. I specifically want to focus on the “Hidden Treasure” and the “Pearl of Great Price”.

Matthew 13:44,

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.

Matthew 13 is a chapter of parables that Jesus used to illustrate the unfolding of the kingdom of God on earth. He used them to reveal and to conceal. In Matthew 13:35 Jesus quotes from Psalm 78:2,

“This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’”

Most people listening to the parables would likely see the surface meaning, but not the message Jesus was conveying. Certainly, a buried treasure or a pearl of great price would be desirable, but what did that have to do with the Kingdom of God? The concern of the parable of the treasure raises some questions. If the man was digging up treasure in a field that didn’t belong to him, he was trespassing. By burying the treasure and then selling all he had to buy the land, could be seen as defrauding the owner by concealing the real value of the land with such a treasure. However, what if Jesus is the man who gave all that He had to buy the field. Could it be that Jesus himself, at the cost of his life, which was the ultimate cost, buy the world to gain his church, which was the treasure that he desired? What about the next parable in Matthew 13:45?

“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.”

This parable could mean that someone hears the gospel of Jesus Christ and gives up everything else so that Jesus is of first importance. If Jesus is the Master then all that the servant has in his possession actually belongs to the Master.

However, again, it could be saying that Jesus is the buyer and he gave all that he had to purchase the church, that he felt it had great value above everything thing else on earth. In both parables, the point is the same with either interpretation. The kingdom of Heaven will be composed of those who Jesus valued enough to lay down his life and those who saw the offer of Jesus for salvation as the greatest and most precious possession.

We are living in a time where priorities must be evaluated in light of the importance of building the kingdom of God on earth. Men like Ben Kwashi point us to what Jesus asks of his church and encourage us to allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our hearts.

I forgot to mention that Ben and Gloria Kwashi have six children of their own, but they have taken another 54 to live in their home. Why? Because they are precious and of great value to Jesus. The Anglican Church in Nigeria is praying for the church in America, that we will see the kingdom of God placing great value on those who are perishing and without hope. They are hoping we will give all that we have to purchase them for Jesus.

Let’s pray.

©2020 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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