Do we realize how much we are loved by God?
My motive would be to see all of us strengthened and encouraged to follow Jesus better. I’m not making an assumption that everyone is at the same place. I realize we have people at different places. Some of us are seeking. Some of us are very intrigued. Some of us are just starting our journey. Some of us have been doing it for a long time. Wherever we are, I think God wants to meet us. So here’s the thing. Last week I particularly shared this parable that we’re about to look at. I want to read through it real quick to Matthew 13. These are the words of Jesus. You can follow along on the handout, Bible, or Bible app.
Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. We call these parables. These are mini ones. Parables were stories Jesus gave as a way of illuminating a principle that He wanted us to think about. He knew how we were wired. He knows how we work best, with a story. Human beings are wired to engage in a story. You could argue that God’s entire movement with humanity is a story. Jesus enters into that story. When the Lord taught us, when He taught truth, He used stories frequently. He knew He could get us to use our imagination. Oftentimes, things that were a little bit more difficult to appreciate, He could pull us into them by using a story and making the point either directly or indirectly.
In this case, these are two little stories that Jesus gives that are back to back, like twin parables. Let’s read them through again. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found in and he covered it up. He finds this treasure in a field that he’s plowing and covers it up because he doesn’t want anybody to know about it. We talked about why he would do that in their day. In his joy, he sells all that he has and buys that field. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl merchant in search of pearls. He’s a collector. When he finds a pearl, Jesus says that he finds one pearl of exquisite value, a pearl of great price.
When he sees it, he sells everything that he has and buys it. That was what Jesus gave us. We talked about those two parables last week. We used the opportunity to say, “Hey, this is what happens when someone comes to follow Jesus.” Some of us relate more to one than the other. They’re similar, but they’re different. Some of us, for example, weren’t really searching for the Lord. We were somewhat open, but we were just like the guy in the field, moving through life, maybe somebody had a conversation with us, or something occurred in our life. Or we had something happen that made us more open to going into church with a coworker or a friend.
I don’t know how it works, but for some of us, we either got presented with Jesus or we came into church after not having been here for a number of years or never at all. It’s not uncommon for someone to start feeling emotional and even feel like somehow what they weren’t expecting is happening. Something’s moving inside of them at a deep level. Some of us weren’t looking for the Lord so much as we just stumbled upon Him in a way. But when we found Him our eyes were opened to an opportunity. We saw it as the hidden treasure, as Jesus described it. It’s like we bought the field. “I want this. I never even knew it existed.” Others of us came to the Lord in a different way. We were more like the pearl merchant. We were searchers on a spiritual quest. We were looking for things. We were intentionally looking for something. We come in different ways. Some of us want to address the deeper questions of life. We were thinking about the why’s. We were wanting to know, is there a truth? Can that truth be known? What does Jesus have to say? We were searching for why am I even here as a human being? Can the truth be known? We were seekers and we found our way to Jesus.
When we really saw Jesus for what He was, a pearl of great price, we bought it. We sold it all. To use the words of Jesus, we sold everything to obtain it. That’s certainly one way to look at these two parables. We are, in this regard, the ones who are pursuing. We find Him and make a decision that we’re going to obtain the kingdom. In that sense, we are the ones who are the plowman in the field or the pearl merchant. If I can get you to think slightly differently because I’ve heard these two mini parables presented in a different way. It’s legitimate to look at it from the angle we’re going to look at it. I want us to flip it over and see it in a different way. Like a two-sided coin or something that has another side to it. There were times when Jesus would tell us stories, parables, and he would give precise meanings. He would interpret the parable. But there were other times where He didn’t. He was inviting us to think and to look at it from a different perspective.
We would look at something and come in from a different angle. We see a different nuance. So these two parables, I want to suggest that it is possible that what Jesus was getting at when He was talking about the reality of why He had come, that this is about you finding me as it is about God finding you. Almost like Jesus was saying, “Hey, let me tell you something about how much you’re worth to God. You’re like a hidden treasure in a field. When it’s found, I give everything to obtain it.” Or “You’re like a pearl to me of great price, exquisite value. I will give everything to obtain you.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Do you understand how much you’re worth to God?” It perfectly lines up with John 3:16, where God says He loved the world that He gave his only begotten son. Whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have life everlasting, not just now, but in the life to come, overflowing, the undying love of God. Because God did not send His son as Jesus said in John 3, into this world to condemn it. It’s already a mess and it’s got death all over. That’s the truth. But that the world through Him might be saved.
The fact is that Jesus entered into the human experience. God entered into this experience. He taught us that he wanted to really help. He wanted to meet us where we were. Let me put something up and just ask this question. Do we realize how much we are loved by God? I want to use it as a starting point. Because in the end, I know we can say, “Oh, yeah, God loves me.” But many times we rehearse. Sometimes some of us are so familiar with the story of Jesus that we say, “Oh, yeah, He died for me, God loves us and gave us His son and He needed to die. That was the purpose of the cross so that we could have a life. Jesus paid a debt that He didn’t owe so we could have a chance to be with God and we were separated.” It becomes such a part of our vernacular, or it’s just we’ve heard it so many times that it loses some of what it was intended to be. Do we realize what he did? He gave everything. He was broken for us. What Jesus taught us was that God has done absolutely everything He could do to obtain us. He could do nothing more and still allow us to be creatures of free will. The truth is, He literally has felt every human experience at the ground level. Any pain we have He’s felt it, not just as a God who created, but as a human being who fully experienced it. Jesus knew it as light to be rejected.
Jesus knew what it was like to suffer and be forsaken even by God. He knew what it was like to be abandoned by his friends, by the people who should have loved Him best. He knew what it was like to suffer at incredible levels at the hands of people who were cruel, inhumane, and unjust. He understood what it was like to suffer. Here’s the difference. He could have stopped it at any time, but he didn’t. He chose to allow Himself to suffer us. The scripture talks about it in Isaiah 53 and all through the New Testament. How Jesus takes on the sins of this world. He does for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He paid the price for us that we could never pay. He became in a language of scripture, poor that you and I might be made rich.
God loves us. That He gave his only son is living proof. Sometimes people say when things aren’t happening, ‘Well, why isn’t God good? Isn’t God good? Why would He allow this to happen?” I say, “Well, we live in a broken world? No question about it. It’s ugly. It has a dark side. It has a lot of good things, a lot of ugly things.” So why is this happening? I say that sometimes, no answer would suffice on this side of eternity. I do know one thing, God is good and He loves us. He gave His only son as living proof. A lot of times, He doesn’t always give the answer to the why. He gives Himself and He literally experiences the worst of humanity. Such is his love that it pursues us.
I was thinking about this parable and the idea of Christ’s woundedness. I came across a piece of writing from a pastor writer named John Oglivie. It was interesting because he was looking at the parable of the pearl and was talking about how Jesus was wounded on our behalf. He says, “Pearls are the result of invasion and injury. They are actually products of a living organism. A grain of sand gets within the oyster and injures it. The oyster cannot expel the sand. It only has one recourse. It tries to contain it. The oyster covers over the injury layer, on layer, on layer until the pearl is fashioned.” Then Oglivie said, “The wounding is a source of wonder.” The wounding is the source of wonder. Just as the pearl was birthed out of the wound, so the kingdom Jesus would say comes through His cross. In a very real sense, His body. We who follow and claim to know Him, love Him and whoever received Him.
We are literally born out of the wound of God. That’s why every time we celebrate communion, we are reminding ourselves of how He was wounded for our wholeness. Jesus, on the night of His betrayal, right before He would be killed, said, “This bread,” which has always been associated with sacrifice in the Old Testament. Jesus said, “Take this bread.” He broke it and said, “This is my body broken for you. See this cup, take it and drink it, it is to remind you of my blood that is being shed for you.” He said, “do this in remembrance of me. Don’t ever forget the extent of my love for you and what it costs me.” Death wasn’t the final word, but death was real. That’s why every time we receive the cup we take the Lord’s table and come together in communion. It doesn’t have to be this ritual thing. It is a reminder of how much we are loved by God. It’s real. It’s powerful. That got me thinking.
Are there wounds in our lives that God wants to envelop in His grace? I remember that there are things that happened to us. I’ve talked to a number of you at different times. Not anymore, everybody, but I hear stories. I know my own. There are things that we might call self-inflicted wounds. Stuff we do that hurts us. Something gets in there. We have one really to blame. We did it. We made the choice. We’ve got the consequences of our decisions. A lot of times we reap something that we sewed and it’s hard. We have to deal with the repercussions of decisions. Maybe part of us wants to blame somebody. Some of our wounds and injuries are a direct result of our own self. They are literally self-inflicted wounds. But there’s a whole lot of other wounds in life that have nothing to do with being self-inflicted.
They’re products of someone else’s decisions. They’re trust injuries. They’re people who should have loved us better. They didn’t do it right. Or someone breaks a promise or hurts us in a way that is hard to express. Some of us are still suffering from elements of that wounding. It’s not easy to pretend it’s not there. It can happen with parents. It can happen with people who have shared with us at the deepest, intimate level. The thing about it is that some injuries don’t just go away. They’re real. They get into our life and we can’t get them out. The Bible talks about us being like jars of clay. It says human beings are like jars of clay. It’s not just physical. In other words, we contain things, we crack easily. The Bible is reminding us that a lot of times we are very vulnerable to things. Far more vulnerable than we know. Plus life is complicated. We have emotions. We have feelings. People say, “Oh, what’s wrong with you? Why do you feel that way?” Sometimes there’s a logical answer. Sometimes there isn’t. Some of us struggle with addictions because we’re trying to deal with the pain or we wandered into a self-inflicted wound and we got ourselves in trouble. Now we don’t know how to get out of it. Some of us were just trying to deal with that intruder if you will. We cry to seal it off. There’s a part of us that’s not open to getting us to deal with that. That’s where His grace comes in.
There are some things that will not be healed without an invasion of grace in our lives. There will be no solution from our world, our culture for what ails us. But there is something from Him. There was a man whose writings I would periodically read. His name was Francis Thompson. Thompson was a poet. In late 1800, he wrote a poem that captured a dilemma he found himself in. On one hand, he loved God a lot. Early in his life, he wanted to be a priest. He was very artistically gifted with words. He loved to write. He also had a disease. It was a nerve disease that he acquired. He was in a lot of pain. He did what people still do today. He tried to medicate himself so that he wouldn’t feel his pain. He was in London at the time and ended up using opium. He didn’t just use opium. It was an opium ethanol mix. I think they call it laudanum. The bottom line was he became an opium addict.
It plagued him for the majority of his life. He constantly struggled with it. He eventually died of tuberculosis. Along the way, he wrote something that has inspired people for generations who follow Jesus. He wrote more than a few poems, but he wrote one that we now remember. It is often inspiring for people. He called it the Hound of Heaven. He talked about how God was on his trail even when he was trying to run away from him. He talked about when he was in his darkest place trying to literally just feel sorry for himself. He felt totally trapped. How he could also simultaneously feel the love of God relentlessly on his trail. I want to read a portion of it through.
It’s the language we don’t all use. It’s poetic, almost an ode, they call it. He writes out of his pain and out of his love for God. Those two things mix together as he grapples with the fact that God will not stop pursuing him. He says, “I fled Him down the nights and down the days.” He’s running from the Lord. “I fled Him down the arches of the years. I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways.” Again, the idea of a labyrinthine, the maze-like thing that’s fraught with dead ends and hidden dangers. He said, “I fled Him down the nights, down the days. I fled Him down the arches of the years, I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my mind and in the midst of tears I hid from Him and under running laughter up visited hopes, I sped and I shot precipitated down Titanic, loons of chasm fears from those strong feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy they beat and a voice beat more instant even than the feet. All things betray, thee who betrays me.” He’s talking about being pursued by God. How he can’t outrun him even in his shame. How he’s trying to escape. Part of him is afraid to surrender, but he knows he can’t run. This is a truth; Once you’ve come to know Jesus in any way, you are ruined forever in the best way, because you will never ever be able to run from His grace, even when we try. Thompson was saying, “I’m running. I’m that man. I’m running down the maze, down the labyrinthine ways into the corners and the places.
I can hear Him. He’s on my trail. I hear Him. No hurrying there. That unhurried chase, that unperturbed pace. The whole idea, just relentlessly coming after me. I try to get away. He’s on me. I try to run. He’s pursuing me everywhere I go. I can hear Him undisturbed but coming. The grace of God will never let us go. The love that pursues us always even when we try to run away. That’s what he’s talking about. Look how he finishes it up. I know that it’s the language because he’s basically saying there’s no way my life will work. That one phrase, “All things betray thee who betrays me. That voice, a beat more instant than the feet,” he says, “All things betray thee who betrays me.” In other words, your life will never work right without me. You can run, but I’m on your trail. The relentless pursuit of the love of God. “I pleaded outlaw wise like a rebel. By many a hearted casement curtain, red trellised with intertwining charities for though I knew His love who followed yet I was dread.” He’s saying, I had this conflict in me. I know He loves me, but I’m afraid to give up this stuff. I’m torn. I know if I surrender, I have to let go even though I don’t like what I have, part of me is so afraid you see it.
“I run from what I know is His love because there’s also fear working in me. Lest having Him, I should have not beside,” he’s talking about what he’s going to give up. But if one little casement, part of the why the gist of his approach would clash with fear. Look at that last phrase; “Fear, Wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue. Fear wouldn’t leave me even as I know, His love wind stopped pursuing me.” He’s fantastic. We’re talking about a couple of things here because he’s clearly alluding to pursuing the love of God. The devotion of the one who will not let them go, who just keeps pursuing him. Not only is Jesus teaching us at some level that God has been pursuing this world in its broken sinfulness and flaws. He’s pursued it by giving us Himself. So He’s pursued everyone. Whoever will have Him.
That’s humility. Secondly, for those who have received Him, we’re reminded that His grace will never stop pursuing us ever. So on one hand, He pursues this world with His love. On the other hand, He pursues us relentlessly even when we drift, run away, and get ourselves into stuff. Here’s where it brings us because it’s what I was really struck by. I think sometimes surrendering to His grace in certain areas of our lives, especially the struggling places, is going to involve patience. Patience with the process. You’re going to understand what I’m saying in a moment. Are there areas of our life that we need to surrender to His grace where patience will be required? What would that look like? What I’m going to suggest is yes, He loves this world.
Yes, He pursues us, but there are also things that He wants to do in our life. It’s going to take time and be more of a process than something that has been ripped away. Let’s go back to the pearl for a moment. Think about what happens when that grain of sand gets in, that invader drops in. That thing gets in there. Can’t get it out. I’m wounded, I’m hurt. I’m not getting better. What happens? It’s almost like God’s saying, “I want to cover you when that happens.” A lot of times we’ll say, “Lord, take it away from me.” But it doesn’t work that way. A lot of times the healing process of God in our lives is like a layer of grace over a layer of grace, over a layer of grace, over a layer of grace.
The way He deals with it in us is by us welcoming His grace at work in our lives. There are some things where the wounds go deep. Whether they’re self-inflicted like with Francis Thompson, a product of things that happened to us that we’re struggling with, or that are just weighing us down, they might be shame-based things. They might be things that we’ve done that we feel guilty about and seem to plague us. They might be habits that we’ve acquired. I’ve talked about that, that we seem to never get quite free of our bad habits, we fail, and we need God. In that place, we say, “Take it away, God. Take it out of me.” It doesn’t go though. It’s there. It’s invaded me. So what are we going to do about that?
How does He sometimes heal? I’m going to suggest what the Lord does is He seals that. I was reading about a pearl because pearls are nature-made, they really can’t produce them. Maybe they can do artificial ones that in some ways look even better. But really the light refraction is so unusual. They are completely different from what I did when I was doing the research on them. They haven’t quite figured out how it makes what it does. I said, “Oh, I was thinking, it reminds me of God’s grace at work in our lives. As He covers the wounds of our heart or the struggle we have, some of us have right now.” It got me thinking. I said, “I wonder how long it takes for a pearl to form naturally.”
I looked it up. It can take anywhere between six months to 24 months for a pearl to form after something has invaded it like a grain of sand. Layer, after layer, after layer. What struck me was how there are some things in our lives that are going to take time to let God’s grace cover one layer at a time. The thing about it is by the time it’s done, there’s actually something beautiful there that we can marvel at. It is beautiful. I’m reminded that I don’t know if some things are ever going to get completely better. I know this; there is something out of that if we’re willing to let God help us. A lot of times we get frustrated, we say, “I got to get this out now.” Or we start feeling really stressed and anxious. Instead, I’m going to suggest there are some things where the Lord is saying. “You are going to have to be patient with this process. You’re going to have to let my grace just envelop this, one layer at a time. You’re not going to get it right all the time. It’s okay because we’re working on something. I said, maybe it’s going to take a little while now. Maybe by the time we’re done, there’s going to be enough beauty there that you can say, “This is my story of what God can do.” Sometimes it’s going to take a long time.
I don’t know the length of time. I do think it’s fascinating to look at the fact that this is not a short-term quick thing. It’s a process. Some of us are very anxious. We get very frustrated with ourselves. I know when I say what I’m about to say, some of us might say, you’re giving us the easy out. I’m going to say there are some struggles inside of us that for other people, they’re not that hard. For us, they are hard. There are times every now and then I’ll say, “You need to be more gentle on yourself.” It’s okay. He loves us. He’s under no illusions. He’s pursuing us no matter what. He wants to cover us with grace in our lives. So that not only do we heal up, but it becomes a source of encouragement, ideally and beauty, even in the woundedness. We say, “I may not have wanted this, but God has used this in a way to show me something of who He is and how much I am loved.” To be a part of the healing process of layer upon layer of grace; doesn’t happen all at once. It’s time to be patient with the process. Jesus said I don’t want you to be anxious.
Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, don’t be anxious about your life.” Don’t be anxious about your life. He talks about the most basic things of life because a lot of times, that’s what we’re working for. That and a little bit of free time to do stuff, buy and do stuff in a prosperous culture. It says things like don’t worry about stuff. Don’t get so locked up in that stuff and flip to the next verse if you can. Look at what he says, “Just look at the birds of the air.” I imagine Jesus sitting there talking to the disciples or the people that were gathered by the hill in Galilee, when he said, “Do you see those birds flying over there flying through the air? They don’t have a care in the world right now.” Our heavenly Father has provided for them in their own way in their own time. He says. “Are you not of more value than even those birds? I tell you, you are. Which of you, by being anxious, can add one single hour to the span of your life?” Whereas the older version says, “add a cubit to your life.” Jesus is saying don’t try to squeeze too hard and fight so hard. Just trust me. Some of us are so anxious. We wrap ourselves up in mental gymnastics. We think, “I have to solve this thing.” Or “This hurts so bad. I’m so discouraged at how I’m handling it or how the situation is unraveling on me. I have no joy.”
Whatever that is. There are times we feel bad about how we feel. It’s like I not only feel bad about what’s happening, I feel bad about the way I’m handling what’s happening. I just feel bad. I want to say, the Lord right there is saying, “You know what? You need to let the grace of God work in your life. You need to let that thing get covered up a little bit. Quit fighting so hard.” Be patient with the process. Maybe pull back a little bit. Trust God’s goodness. He loves us. He pursues us. He’s given everything for us. His grace will be present in our lives, even when we don’t do it right. The Lord is going to come back around. It’s layer upon layer. This is a long-haul thing. Some things don’t happen overnight. It’s a long haul. It’s layer upon layer. It’s, “lose a little ground, gain some ground.” It’s overtime though. It becomes a beautiful thing.
Let me pray. Lord. I thank you. Because if nothing else, then to remind us that for some of us who are holding on very tight right now to certain things, it doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t. Yet I understand why we do it. I totally get it. You got it too. You understood why we do it. We need to trust you with our lives. We were invited to do so. We’re invited to welcome your grace into the places and spaces that are most difficult for us. We’re invited to let that thing layer over, and layer over the wound, the hurt, or the harm we do to ourselves. So that over time it becomes something even more beautiful. A testimony of your grace and what your love can do in our lives, even with our struggles and contradictions. I pray for your blessing over our closing time. Bless our time of giving. That’s how our church is prosperous and blessed. At the same time, I ask that you would be with us in this closing song. Help us since we even put it in this time, not to run past this moment. Let the word that we’ve heard settle in and let this song be the closing word for us. This benediction, if you will, this prayer of blessing. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.