The last two readings - our reading from Romans and our reading from Matthew, show us a picture of the gift of good ... no, of GREAT NEWS that we have been given to share with the world around us.
I want to preach on both passages this morning so let me dive right into the deep end.
Turn to Romans 8 with me in your bible please. If you don't have a bible with you I brought some in the back on the library shelf there.
Romans 8 has been called the pinnacle -- the MOUNT EVEREST of the Himalayan (ROMANS) Range! Paul is preaching his gospel to the Gentiles throughout this book, and the great crescendo is this last verses of the chapter. Before this he is climbing the mountain, from the depths of human sinfulness in 1-3, through God's righteous provision in Christ through faith, 4-6, and through the steep slope of the battle with our flesh in chapter 7, to the climax at the summit in chapter 8.
We've heard these verses the past three Sundays as our lectionary broke up this 8th chapter into three section; likewise, the 13th chapter of Matthew, the parables of the Kingdom, for the past three Sundays. Why do you think that is? Why run these stories, side by side? It feels like a newspaper with two headline stories, run side by side on the front page!
Let's spend a few minutes exploring the lessons we've heard:
These verses in Romans this morning are the GREAT NEWS of the KINGDOM. This message IS THE SEED that the sower is sowing in Matt 13 - is IS the MUSTARD SEED! It IS the TREASURE HIDDEN and the PEARL OF GREAT PRICE!!!
Friends, THIS IS IT! If you want to talk to someone about all that God has done for, in, among or to US in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, these verses capture the GREAT NEWS even in the midst of the hardships of life.
You've heard me say it many, many, many times. There are two things we all do: We ALL suffer and we ALL try to get out of it! So how do we share GREAT NEWS in the middle of life's ... Ssssstuff?
You at Romans 8 yet?
1 - IN CHRIST - There is NO GUILTY VERDICT!
The word picture in the word condemnation is of that moment when the chairman of the jury stands to read at the end of the trial - "What is your verdict, Mr. Chairman?" We find the defendant NOT GUILTY, BY REASON OF JESUS!
2 - IN CHRIST - You are FREE to Walk According to the Spirit of Jesus, who is in you. The chains are broken and you are no longer tied face to face with the dead body of your sin!
3 - IN CHRIST - You have the daily choice to LIVE LIFE
"according to the flesh" OR "according to the Spirit."
Since the chains are gone, we have no obligation, no slavery to the flesh. Our MINDSET is to be on JESUS!
4 - IN CHRIST - You have the SPIRIT OF JESUS inside you, helping you at every turn - at every moment of decision! And every decision you make FOR CHRIST strengthens the HOLD of His Nature and weakens the hold of the OLD nature.
5 - IN CHRIST - You have received the Spirit of Jesus as an ADOPTED CHILD - You are no longer an ORPHAN! You are accepted in the family and given all the rights and privileges of a member of the FAMILY OF GOD!!
6 - IN CHRIST - HE HIMSELF, THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST is your helper, your strength, your power beyond all power!
As a Result:
7 - IN CHRIST - We have HOPE that NEVER FADES AWAY! NEVER!!! EVER !!!
Because ... NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS; NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES WE FIND OURSELVES IN ...
8 - IN CHRIST - The Spirit of Jesus is AT WORK doing INSIDE US, that which is the pinnacle of the entire work of creation and redemption: CREATING A JESUS LOOK-ALIKE ... IN YOU.
And not just in you... but in you ... and you ... and you... and you... and you... and ... get it?
JESUS wants, by the unlimited power of the Spirit,
to redeem and RE-CREATE HIS VERY SELF in you!
So that HE - JESUS is the "firstborn among many brothers and sister."
Here is the picture of the KINGDOM OF GOD COME -- ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN! What we pray for every week - every time we say the Lord's prayer. Wonder why He taught us to pray that way?
HERE IT IS.
HERE IS THE KINGDOM! Let's glance for a moment at Matthew 13:
THE KINGDOM IS LIKE:
A. SEED scattered wildly about in the world
B. A FIELD where both good and bad seed fell in the
good soil and grew up together. We need to
let the harvest sort itself out. Weeds and
chaff will be blown away or burnt up.
C. The SMALLEST SEED (Mustard Seed) that grows
into a large tree, providing home and shelter
to many kinds of birds.
D. The hidden LEAVEN in the loaf - a little bit of this
goes a very long way! Here its good leaven
but there is also bad leaven !!
E. The hidden TREASURE in the field - worth the
sacrifice of all else to buy it!
F. The PEARL OF GREAT PRICE - likewise worthy
of selling all to obtain it alone!
G. The Kingdom if like a great DRAGNET - that catches every sort of fish - the word here is the word we get SEIVE from. It is the sort of net that captures everything in its path!
My brother and I had two similar experiences fishing out on Bonny Reservoir when we were kids. He caught a beautiful 5 1/2 pound Walleye Pike - it was wonder at the table - like a white fish steak! 25 inches long and it took him a long fight to land that fish.
Similarly, I caught what I thought was a great fish, put up an unbelievable fight - at first I thought I snagged a rock, then it started moving around the boat - I had visions of a bigger fish than my brothers!!
When we finally got it up to the boat, we found that I had snagged a BUFFALO - A CARP! Just behind the dorsel fin, so that he could use all his swimming power to swim away, and I had no ability to pull him from the front toward the boat! It was a worthless fight, a disappointing catch!
The DRAGNET of the KINGDOM of God in the world catches all sorts of men and women, who will be sorted out at the end. And we, friends, are NOT the sorters of the catch. We are the pullers of the net.
As I told one friend a week or so ago, "God cleans His fish AFTER He catches them!" Our job is not to make sure that everyone is good, so that they can come to Jesus - but that everyone hears that they can come to Jesus just the way they are, and He will do the work that is needed in their lives. This is the good news.
So NOW WHAT?
Jesus' final parable here, speaks directly to us - the parable of the Householder: Let me quote Matthew Henry, a 17th century commentator as we end today:
"the parable of the good householder, ... is intended to rivet all the rest. the parable itself was to give his approbation and commendation of their proficiency. Note, Christ is ready to encourage willing learners in his school, though they are but weak; and to say, Well done, well said.
(1.) He commends them as scribes instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. They were now learning that they might teach, and the teachers among the Jews were the scribes. Ezra, who prepared his heart to teach in Israel, is called a ready scribe,Ezra 7:6, 10. Now a skilful, faithful minister of the gospel is a scribe too; but for distinction, he is called a scribe instructedunto the kingdom of heaven, well versed in the things of the gospel, and well able to teach those things.
(2.) He compares them to a good householder, who brings forth out of his treasure things newand old; fruits of last year's growth and this year's gathering, abundance and variety, for the entertainment of his friends
Imagine yourself entering a Minister's Study: Henry continues...
See here, [1.] What should be [included in] a minister's furniture, atreasure of things new and old. Those who have so many and various occasions, have need to stock themselves well in their gathering days with truths new and old, out of the Old Testament and out of the new; with ancient and modern improvements, that the man of God may bethoroughly furnished,2 Tim. 3:16, 17. Old experiences, and new observations, all have their use; and we must not content ourselves with old discoveries, but must be adding new. Live and learn.
[2.] What use he should make of this furniture; he should bring forth: laying up is in order to [be] laying out, for the benefit of others. Sic vox non vobis-You are to lay up, but not foryourselves. Many are full, but they have no vent (Job 32:19);[many] have a talent, but they bury it; such are unprofitable servants; Christ himself received that he might give; so must we, and we shall have more. In bringing forth, things new and old do best together; old truths, but new methods and expressions, especially new affections."
Our job friends, is to bring out the truths of the Kingdom of God for SHOW AND TELL!
And here is the best news of all! Life itself conspires to help us witness of God's grace and His unfailing love - of His amazing power and unending faithfulness - of His abundant provision and mighty protection.
Paul ends this chapter with a sprint to the finish, ending breathless on the other side of the line:
GOD is working all these things - the good, the bad and the ugly - the blood, the sweat and the tears - into something created for HIS GLORY AND PRAISE!
SO WHAT IS LEFT TO SAY!
IF GOD IS FOR US - WHO CAN BE AGAINST US!
IF GOD JUSTIFIES US, WHO IS LEFT TO CONDEMN?
How can we think that God who gave supremely by giving us His very own Son, Jesus Christ, won't, along with Jesus, give us ALL THINGS THAT PERTAIN TO LIFE AND TO GODLINESS (Words of St. Peter!)
In all the circumstance of our life, God is there. No matter what you are going through, Today, This week, This month, This year, next year. God has it covered.
The whole list is covered:
hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Paul says in conclusion
I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And note where we are at the end of the chapter ... again...
IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD!
Do we have good news or what?
Let us pray:
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.