“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.
Matthew 13:43-45

One day, pondering the Kingdom of Heaven, I came across this verse and thought I knew exactly what it meant. I knew all about selling stuff and getting different stuff. We had done that to go overseas to serve as missi0naries. I knew all about working hard, throwing all my weight into something good, to gain something better. I was fully engaged in church ministry and was running the race flat out. And I was exhausted. Longingly, my thoughts turned to the days when I walked with Jesus, as though knowing Him was enough…when I didn’t understand the Kingdom at all.

How quickly the simple gospel, “Follow Me”, had become the human substitute, “Work the system”. Why? It’s easier. Let me explain. The challenge of listening for His voice in the midst of a cacophony of other noises is hard work. The human mind, the press of the culture of the age, the sounds of very convincing systems managers, and the pervasive voice of the temper all harmonize on the same theme. It goes something like this, “You, puny human, are too weak to actually think you can hear the voice of God! Get real! Listen to the experts. Listen to the famous people, to the well-educated, silver-tongued men and women who really know Jesus. Then, get with some successful Christians. They get it right. Be part of that parade and it’ll all be fine!” Whew! Easy, right? Just follow the steps and be a success. Follow the right leader and reap spiritual rewards- a good reputation, a nice family, a clean life. Why doesn’t everybody follow?

It’s a simple exchange- an inner knowing of Jesus and His ways, communion with Christ by His Spirit, sweet fellowship with like-minded believers- for a system of knowing Him which one can wrap one’s mind around. Understandable steps, achievable goals, clearly defined success- all these marks of the attainment of a life of secure, well-respected faith are so very tempting, and so very enslaving, at least to me.

Jesus calls us to join him “outside the camp”.

12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:12-14

In the days of the Hebrews, when God was in the business of showing us that even a nation with perfect laws given directly from heaven can never rescue humanity, God’s people figured they knew Kingdom business really well. It took a visitation from the King himself, wrapped in the clothing of simple humanity, to subvert the human system of righteousness they had conspired to create. Many dear, humble hearts within the system of Hebraic law received their King and abandoned human methods of becoming like Him. They embraced His sacrifice and were cleansed by His blood alone, the atoning Passover once and for all, continuing in faith within the Jewish culture. This went on until a final break occurred.

At some point, the requirements of a system will always come into direct conflict with the command of the Master. At some point the fatigue of human effort overcomes the life of the Spirit within and it is just at this point where Jesus calls us out to Himself, “outside the camp”. Will you go? Will you go lovingly, obediently, faithfully?

The Kingdom of Heaven is undefined, uncontrollable, seemingly inchoate…a leap in the direction of a beloved Voice off a cliff of man-made solid, systematic ground. The Kingdom of Heaven is not safe. Many have paid the price of this leap with their lives. The Kingdom of Heaven is powerful, and potent, and every whit holy. It is good to a degree of goodness we cannot fathom. It is the Pearl of Great Price…costing everything.

Are you at the point of no return? Be encouraged.

“A man is no fool to give what he cannot keep, in order to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot, martyr

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