Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What do you Treasure most in Life?

The question of what we treasure most in this life is probably the single most important question that any person can ask! What/who is the person, object or activity that for you is the most important thing in your life?

This is another post prompted by my reading of John Piper’s Desiring God. He refers to Matthew 13:44 at one point and that verse stuck with me:

Treasure after

“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.45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding a one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

I include verse 45 and 46 as it also makes the same point that struck and challenged me. I have heard and read that verse many times over the years but the full meaning of it has never really jumped out at me before. What is Jesus saying here? What is this kingdom of heaven that he is referring to? Why should it be our ultimate treasure that we would give up everything else to gain it?

So what is the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus is referring to here? As I would understand it the Kingdom of Heaven is where the King resides. A desire for the Kingdom here is not a desire to just live there and enjoy the benefits, but a desire to be with the King himself. The Treasure therefore in the Kingdom is intimate fellowship with God in Christ. The thing that is worth giving up everything else in the the world for to have that treasure is Christ Himself. Not His gifts, blessings or any of the other benefits lavished on us by God, but Christ alone.

Paul put it brilliantly in Philippians 3:7-11:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

The translation in the King James of ‘rubbish’ in verse 8 is ‘dung’. This to me is a more powerful image of the comparison between what he has gained in Christ to what he had before.

But going back to Jesus’ words. Notice another word used here describing the way in which the man sells all that he has in order to gain the treasure. In ‘Joy’ he does it. I had never noticed that word before. Or rather it had never jumped out at me. To gain Christ is a Joy. Not only that, I would suggest the greatest Joy any human can ever know. The joy of fellowship, relationship, intimacy and being fully known by our wonderful Creator God is comparable to nothing else. It was what we were created for and is what was broken by the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. From then on we settled for treasure that was under our control. Our thirsts and desires became corrupted. Instead of desiring intimacy with God as our greatest source of pleasure, joy and satisfaction we turn to created things to satisfy that longing for what only God can provide. Be it sex, money, power, recognition, relationships, kids, drugs, pornography, alcohol, religion. Whatever becomes the central thing in our lives that fills that gap.

The trouble is these are dung. Some in and of themselves are not sinful. It is not wrong to want friendship, to do well at work, to have a happy marriage etc… but when those things become primary or pre-eminent then they have become idols. Something created in the place of God the creator. This is a bad thing indeed and far more insidious than many realise. Satan's greatest achievement is to get us to worship and idolise anything apart from God. That is the root of Sin in our lives, idolatry!

Our desires have become so corrupted and weak that we no longer desire God. Our thinking has become foolish Jeremiah 4:22, Jeremiah 5:21 and Romans 1:21:

For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Also Psalm 14:3

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

So left in our sinful states we will never seek God for satisfaction. We in fact are incapable of doing so since we are in darkness because of Sin and actually prefer to stay that way given the choice.

John 3:18-20

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

So left to our own devices we will never choose God as our treasure. Like in the film Wall-E he finds a box with a diamond ring in it. He does not know that the diamond ring is beautiful and valuable, so throws the ring out being more enamoured by the box that contained the treasure. It is a work of God to open our eyes to the beauty of Christ by the process called regeneration. Our dead hearts are made alive and we, for the first time, see Christ for who He really is. The most important and beautiful treasure we have ever seen. Our hearts can do nothing but respond in repentance and faith and with Holy Joy trust in Christ. What once seemed boring and irrelevant becomes the greatest desire of the heart. Not health, wealth, prosperity but God. This is the new birth of a person passing from death to life. From Hell bound to Heaven bound. From a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26 and Jeremiah 24:7. The birth of a new Christian!

To quote John Piper from Desiring God, page 73, Chapter 2 – Conversion (see link below):

Saving faith is the confidence that if you sell all you have and forsake all sinful pleasures, the hidden treasure of holy joy will satisfy your deepest desires. Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction not only that Christ is reliable, but also that He is desirable. It is the confidence that He will come through with His promises and that what He promises is more to be desired than all the world.

So is that you? Would you say that you treasure Christ in this way? It is easy to say you believe in Jesus. Many people ‘believe’ in Jesus. But unless you have and know Christ as your ultimate treasure then you just know facts and your ‘faith’ may not be a saving faith. For when we are converted we gain a new taste, a new desire. That of knowing Christ Crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Worship and praise becomes a natural response to this new desire for we praise what we find glorious. Gratitude for what Christ did for us on the Cross and through the resurrection. Only a true believer can understand and experience what Matthew 13:44 is really talking about.

Psalm 63:1-8 gives us a feel for what it means to thirst after and be satisfied in God:

thirstquench O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will a lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Is that the depth of feeling you have when you open your heart and allow it the freedom to cry out its deepest desire? For God is most Glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him (John Piper). God’s first and foremost desire is that He is Glorified above all things. Our purpose in this life is to Glorify God by enjoying Him forever as the Westminster Catechism states, slightly altered by JP. So we are satisfied and God is Glorified. In fact God commands that we be satisfied in him:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Where those desires are the renewed desires post conversion. I don’t believe this means God just gives us what we ‘want’. He may do out of His divine goodness and has certainly promised to give us what we ‘need’. However I believe the desires of our heart that the Psalm is talking about are in fact God himself in Christ. If God is our supreme treasure then it follows that the desires of our heart will be Him. Our Joy is found in delighting ourselves in Christ where He responds by giving Himself to us as our hearts deepest desire.

If this is something Alien to you then may I suggest you ask God to reveal who He is to you. You need to be saved from, to be blunt, an Eternity in Hell. This is not an eternity away from God, or Annihilation, it is a conscious and justified eternity of punishment and torment. However to just want to avoid that is not enough. I am sure everyone would want to avoid that but apart from Christ where doesn’t become you saving treasure. In order to enter Heaven for eternity you need to desire Christ as your ultimate saving treasure and want to spend eternity with Him. Ask God to renew your heart and enable you to see Christ fully. Get a Bible and read it. Join a church of like minded believers who treasure Christ and live to Glorify Him.

This is a journey I have only just begun. At the beginning of the year I stated my goal was to learn what it means to find Joy in God. Now, in December, I am starting to see the faint embers of understanding what that actually means. It is an exciting journey to start. After 20 years of being a Christian God is calling me to a deeper level with Him that I could not have imagined 20 years ago when I first placed my trust in Christ as my saviour. I pray, God willing, that the next 20 years see me cling to God and fight for Joy in a way that Glorifies Him and deeply satisfies the cry of my heart.

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