by Don Watson
In Matthew 13 the disciples asked Jesus why He taught the people with parables instead of just speaking plainly. His reply is very important for us as well. "To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables." (Vs. 12-13) Jesus had said it hundreds of years before in a Psalm of David, "For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things." (Psalm 107:9) Because God never wants to impose or force His way into our lives, he framed His appeal to men in stories. If men were not interested (thirsty) at that time, the Holy Spirit could bring the stories to their remembrance at a later time and renew the invitation. Or if evil men wanted to use Jesus' words against Him, they would see nothing important in these "harmless, meaningless fables." But to people who had been battered by sin, starved, utterly dehydrated, and parched, the Holy Spirit found soil extremely fertile and receptive to the good news. These were the people who "listened" and God gave them understanding. Understanding isn't given to people simply because they are brilliant scholars, or highly acclaimed leaders. It is given to those who are thirsty, those who listen with hungry ears to hear salvation.
By the way, this question by the disciples (Why do you speak in parables?) came in response to Jesus' parable about the four kinds of soil. Remember the sower goes out and sows seed on a pathway where birds ate it, on rocky soil where the sun scorched it, and then among thorns that choked the seed. These are all examples of people who are exposed to the gospel but aren't thirsty and hungry for it. They don't hear it because life has them distracted, overwhelmed, or blinded. But the fourth soil is fertile and it represents people like the disciples and other simple sinners who are thirsty for the Good News of the Gospel. They are “listening” and it produces fruit in their lives – a relationship with Jesus.
So let's talk. Is a relationship with Jesus everything to you? I'm not asking you if you go to church and are super involved. I’m not asking you if you’re an active member in some good, solid denomination. I'm asking you, “Is being a disciple, following Jesus, everything to you? Do you have religion or do you have Jesus? Is He the SOURCE from which everything else takes place in your life – your marriage, your work, your investments, your giving, your kids, your education, your future plans, your purchases, your telephone calls, texting, twitting, Facebooking, every minute of your day?" I'm not talking about being a fanatic crazy person who can only speak in King James English, shout "Praise the Lord!" and only read the Bible. I'm talking about a relationship with Jesus where you follow HIM into everything you do and ask His opinion about every decision you make. I'm talking about total surrender of everything you have and are to Jesus. Not "taking-your-fun-away" kind of surrender, but a realization that Jesus, the Creator-God is a genius when it comes to people and how they work and act and think and do. I mean He knows us backwards and forwards and He knows what makes us happy and fulfilled – He's the inventor of our engine, the author of our story, the engineer of our entire mechanism. Only total surrender to our Creator will cause us to enjoy the purpose for which we were made.
By the way, that's where Jesus was headed in this whole chapter (Matthew 13) – total surrender (People who are really listening to Him in every part of their life). Here’s His punch line: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!" (Matthew 13:44-45) Don't misunderstand what Jesus is talking about here. He is not talking about your salvation; He is talking about being a disciple. Notice what Oswald Chambers says about this distinction: "Our Lord never requires the same conditions for discipleship that he requires for salvation. We are condemned to salvation through the Cross of Christ. But discipleship has an option with it." (My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 22) And here’s the option: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). God saved us in order to get us back, to reconcile us [Romans 5:10], because He knows that it is only in a totally surrendered relationship that the abundant life He promised is possible. If we want The Treasure, The Pearl (Jesus, inside us, in total control) we must sell everything we have to get it. God isn't talking here about a Garage sale; it is much more all-encompassing than that. He is talking about giving Jesus everything you are or have – every sin, every habit, every prejudice, every dream, every plan, every client, every contract, every family member, every car, your house, every pair of shoes, every gun, every magazine or book, every minute of every day, every day of every year. You have to surrender everything if you are to have Jesus.
But one word of caution, never make the mistake of thinking that when you totally surrender, Jesus will diminish one iota of your joy or real happiness. On the contrary, your joy will increase. John 16:24 “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." When we give everything to Jesus, we will begin to recognize how perverted our sense of what happiness is. We are like a man who has been sick all his life and doesn't know what it feels like to really be well. Paul puts it this way, "Our eye has not seen, nor has our ear heard, the things God has prepared for them that love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)
So how do I sell everything I have for the Pearl of great price? I don't know if God has A WAY that He wants us to do it, but ONE way would be to simply make a list of all the areas of your life – Your family (Go ahead, make it personal, list their names), your Job and the people at that Job, your stuff (Name it – your house, your car, your food, your gadgets, etc.), the intangibles like your thoughts, sins, habits, plans, hopes & dreams, ideologies, theologies, politics, etc., your ministry (Work in the church or community, offices you hold, organizations you belong to, activities you engage in, people you help), your vacations, leisure time, etc. So make that list and then solemnly lay that list before God and tell Him you give it to Him and ask Him to do with it whatever He wants to do with it, or use it however He wants to use it, or change it however He wants to change it. Then as you live your life every day, give Jesus your "to do list", ask Him to drive with you, speak on the phone for you, text for you, twitter for you, make the presentation for you, explain for you, confront for you, plan for you – well, you get it. That's living the life of total surrender – a live centered, focused around a relationship with Jesus. You and I, always including Him in everything we do – in every facet about us.
A word of caution here: This is not one of those lists that gives you control over God and heaven like before you heard the gospel. This doesn't earn God's favor – you already have it. It is not the price for heaven – that's already been paid. But if there is anything in your life that you will not give to Jesus, it is an idol, and any idol you have will drive a wedge between you and God and eventually you will find yourself a long ways away from Jesus and that’s a very dangerous place to be. Only in His arms are you really safe. Some of you will think that it’s no big deal to withhold one area of your life – control a few things – that you want to be in charge of, make a few decisions on your own. After all, God has everything else. Well, God will certainly allow you that liberty, but it's like stepping outside the walls of the Cities of Refuge back in Bible times – there’s no protection out of the arms of God. There’s no protection for that thing that is not surrendered and when one thing is withheld, Jesus is not KING so the entire relationship is put in danger.
Lastly, I want to remind us all why it is safe to surrender all. We may not know what God is doing with our health or our 401K, or our job, or our kids, or anything else, but we know who God is. Calvary has settled that. Because of Calvary we know that total surrender is safe – safer even than in our own hands. Romans 8:32 "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
So if you want to get it all, give it all up.