"Are you still here? We thought you were gone!" We hear this quite often. Yes, we are still here. Africa must wait until our house is sold. I may have to donate something to the building fund and see if that helps.
"Is this your last sermon? Now is your chance to tell what you really think! You need to be sure to say this and be sure to emphasize that. After all, you're leaving. What can they do to you?" I don't believe in "last sermons." Every sermon that I preach could be my last. In fact, every sermon that you hear could be your last! We don't know what tomorrow holds. I am still on the sermon schedule for December 24, by the way. We'll see. Besides, I say what I really think in every sermon, with much prayer.
My family has never made it a secret how much we love you or how much we have loved serving you. You have uplifted Jesus before us and we hope that we have done the same for you. But the time of our close association appears to be drawing to a close. So I guess maybe some last words could be in order. We'll see. If we have offended any of you, please forgive us. Sometimes that's my job. Sometimes it's my human nature. If you have borrowed any of my books from us, please return them. When we left our first church, a lady who had borrowed a set of books from us had lost them. I said, "Don't worry about them. They really aren't worth that important to me anyway. If you find them, just keep them." I wasn't about it. But she was worried about it and I didn't know it. Years later, after much searching on the internet, she found another set and purchased them for us. She handed them to me in triumph one day at camp- meeting. I had already found them for ten cents apiece at a book sale. If I have borrowed anything of yours, you had better remind me. It may end up in storage for six years.
We will always consider McDonald Road to be home and you to be family and will constantly be reminded of how nice it is here when the going gets tough there. Remember us in your prayers!
Eight and a half years ago, Elder Gettys was pestering me, "What's your sermons title going to be? Your first sermon?" "I don't know. I'm not used to coming up with a sermon title. We didn't print them in our bulletins in our last church. And nobody ever asked." And I didn't have a clue to what I was going to preach about. "Well, it's got to go in the bulletin and it's gor to go in the Manna at the beginning of the month." "What? I don't know." But I remembered a story that I believe Dr. Bennett told when he was my professor at Southern Missionary College. A young man went to his professor. He was a theology student and was having a hard time finding a title for his sermon. The professor asked him, "Are there any lions in your sermon?" "Well, no." "Are there any tigers in your sermon." "No, I don't think so." "Are there any bears in your sermon?" "No, sir. Not one." Well then, there is your title: No Lions, No Tigers, and No Bears." So, that was the title that I chose for my first sermon here. I was having a tough time trying to decide what to preach for today back when the information was needed in the church office. So, I took the same title and added, II. Now that I know what direction the sermon took, I would like to change the title to Daddy's Pearls.
Have you ever had a desire to find buried treasure? I believe that could go for most of us. I love stories of lost treasures being found. I have always had a fascination for archaeology. I love finding lost and forgotten things. I found the remains of a Model T Ford in the hills around Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains. But that is about it. I would like to take a back hoe behind a house in Murfreesboro Tennessee to dig up the yard where my mother buried a quart jar of Indian Head pennies when she was a child and then forgot where. I would like to be in that backyard digging it up. If archaeologists ever dig in the back yard where my cousin grew up, they would wonder about all the broken dolls they would find. She buried every toy that broke. I'm surprised that she never became a funeral director. Whenever a toy broke she would take a shovel out in the back yard and bury it. I'm surprised she never became a funeral director.
When we bought our house that we live in now, the woodworking shop out back was literally full of stuff left by previous owners. We hauled truck-loads of things out. But there is still lots more. I decided that I would get rid of most of that stuff before we left so that the next owners won't have to. But, I was secretly hoping to find treasure. Maybe a forgotten coin collection. Maybe another pearl ring like I found under my dishwasher. I went through every bucket and box of stuff out there. All I found were rusty nuts and bolts and screws, and that's about it. No buried treasure.
One day, a man was plowing the field that he had rented from a neighbor for his crops. He wasn't wealthy enough to own his own land. He had to pay something so he could plow the neighbor's field. He would share some of the crop with his neighbor and some he'd keep for himself. At first, he believed that his plow had hit a rock, but as he came around again with his plow, his eye caught a gleam of gold on top of the dirt. Sure enough, it was a gold coin. He stopped the plow and started digging around. Another coin, and another one! He dug around and found what his plow had hit. It was an old rusty box, full of treasure. Quickly, he covered it back up, he buried that treasure again and ran home. "Martha, quick! Let's sell all we have to buy our neighbor's field." "Oh, that field is full of rocks. Are you nuts? What are you talking about?" "It's not full of rocks, dear." And he pulled out a gold coin. There's a lot more where this came from. With great joy they sold everything. The neighbors thought, "Are you going to buy that old rocky field? "Yep! Just call it a whim." They went to the neighbor and he was surprised, too. "Sure. I've been wanting to get rid of that old piece of property anyway. And he bought the field fair square and legally. The treasure was his. This story is found in Matthew.
Turn to Matthew 13:44. "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."
Who told this story? Jesus did. As is so often the case with the stories that Jesus tells, the little unimportant nobody wins big. This was not so far fetched a story as it might seem at first. In those days a person's field was as safe a place as any to hide the treasure. Any wealth that you had you had to put somewhere to hide it from, who knows, the neighboring city might come and raid your city. There might be an army coming through wanting everything that you have. And of course there was always the IRS. You had to hide your treasures. The problem was whoever hid the treasure was the only one who knew about it. If that person died, the secret was buried, too. A new owner might know nothing about treasure on his land.
What is the main point that Jesus is trying to get across by telling this story? The treasure in a field represents the Gospel in God's Word. Do you own a Bible? Then you'd better plow through it because there's treasure here, the treasure of the Gospel, the story of Jesus. God's people in those days had the prophecies in their hands that described Jesus' coming perfectly. Guess what! We do, too. We have this same treasure describing Him coming again. But all the scholars did not recognize him. It was the poor, common people that saw Jesus as a special treasure, that followed Him wherever He went.
Let's look at I Corinthians 2:14. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. Foolishness: It's not logical. I can't be right. This is what was going on in that day. The leaders were going, "It's not logical that the suffering servant is coming. That's not what we need. We need a conquering king." So, the Scriptures seems foolishness to them. They cannot understand them because the Scriptures are Spiritually discerned.
The scholars and religious leader had vast amounts of knowledge of the Messiah but different motivations than God. They were making Scripture fit their preconceived ideas rather than making their ideas fit Scripture. Their knowledge was not based on a love of God's Word but on a love of their own power and influence and their desire to be unshackled from the Romans.
A rich Dutch merchant was seeking to buy a diamond of a certain kind to add to his collection. A famous dealer in New York found such a stone and called him to come and see it.
The merchant flew from Holland immediately to New York to see this rock. The seller had assigned his best diamond expert to close the transaction. After hearing the assistant describe in perfect technical detail the diamonds worth and beauty. The Dutchman decided not to buy it because he didn't feel right about it. Before he left, however, the owner of the store stepped forward and asked, "Do you mind if I show you that stone once more?" The customer agreed, "I have time."
The store owner didn't repeat one single thing the salesman had said. He simply took the stone in his hand, stared at it, and described the beauty of the stone in a way that revealed why this stone stood out from all the others he had seen in his life. The customer bought it immediately.
Tucking his new purchase into his breast pocket, the customer commented to the owner, "Sir, I wonder why you were able to sell me this stone when your salesman could not?"
The owner replied, "That salesman is the best in the business. He knows more about diamonds than anyone, including myself, and I pay him a large salary for his knowledge and expertise. But I would gladly pay him twice as much if I could put into him something I have which he lacks. You see, he knows diamonds, but I love them."
Do you love Jesus? Or do you just know a lot about Him? There's a big difference, especially when you go to selling Him to somebody else. Is He in your heart or just in your head? When it comes to sharing Christ with others, the issue is not so much how much we know about Jesus, but how much we love him. God is not interested in how much we know but in how much we love. When we truly love Jesus, we love others as well, and that is how the good news of the Gospel is spread.
Turn with me to I John 4:7-12. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. It doesn't say, 'knows about God.' they know God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, Did you catch that. This is not about us loving Him as it is about Him loving us. And that's where our love is born from: loving Him back. This is love: not that loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
If we could understand that, we could understand much.
Turn back to Matthew 13:44. Here we find that the man is not content just to find the treasure. He must have it at all cost. He is not only willing to give up everything that he once thought valuable. He does it! It's not just a willingness, it's a doing.
So many look for shortcuts to get the treasure. So many look for shortcuts to find wealth. That's what our prisons are full of, by the way. People looking for shortcuts to wealth. They are not very bright because there is no real shortcut to wealth. Most criminals are not the smartest of people, like the two thieves I recently read about.
A man walked into a convenience store, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled out a gun and demanded all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man grabbed the cash from the clerk and fled leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer? Fifteen dollars. Not real bright.
In San Francisco a man walked into a downtown Bank of America and wrote, "This is a stickup. Put all your many in this bag." While standing in line waiting to give his note to the teller, he began to worry that someone had seen him write the note and might call the police before he reached the teller window. So he left the Bank of America and crossed the street to the Wells Fargo Bank.
After waiting a few minutes in line, he handed his note to the Wells Fargo teller. She read it and, guessing from his spelling errors that he was not the brightest bank robber in the world, she told him that she could not accept his stick-up note because it was written on a Bank of America deposit slip and that he would either have to fill out a Wells Fargo deposit slip or go back to Bank of America.
Looking somewhat defeated, the man said, "Okay," and left the Wells Fargo Bank. The Wells Fargo teller then called the police who arrested him a few minutes later, while he was waiting in line back at the Bank of America.
There are no shortcuts to the treasure of the Gospel, and if you're trying them, you're about as bright as these guys. I think the most common shortcut is trying to work your way into the kingdom of heaven. This shortcut ends up being the long way around to nowhere. Jesus already loves you! Just as the farmer sold all he had to gain the treasure, you must accept the love of Jesus with everything that you have! Our man in the parable doesn't just lie around wishing he had it. He gets it! And, according to this verse, he gives up everything with joy! There is not a hint of "You wouldn't believe what I had to give up when I became a Christian." Jesus is a treasure that is of far greater value than anything or any idea that we are holding onto!
What is amazing is the fact that Jesus sees us as a treasure as well. The Ellen White indicates that one can find a double meaning in this parable. One can say that the farmer is Jesus and he finds a great treasure in us. Just because the treasure is covered in dirt does not make it less valuable. Just because the treasure can't clean itself does not make it worthless. See this twenty dollar bill? It's not mine I borrowed it from my wife. Would you like to have it? If I wad it up, do you still want it. If I drop it in the mud, would you pick it up? Of course! It's still worth something, isn't it. It's still worth twenty bucks. Amazingly enough, as dirty and filthy and unable to clean ourselves as we are, we are still a treasure in God's eyes. A treasure that He was willing to give up everything to gain us. As it says in Romans 5:8, ....While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Yes, Jesus risked everything for us just like the farmer risked everything for the buried treasure. Just like we should risk everything for the Gospel found in the field of Scripture, just like Abby, who was baptized today. She has purchased the field and owns the treasure of Jesus in her heart! What could possibly hold us back?
Jenny, the cheerful girl with bouncy curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?"
Her mother checked the back of the little foil box and said, "Jenny, these pearls cost $1.95. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you to do and raise your allowance. It won't take long for you to save enough money to buy them yourself."
Her mother was right. After only two weeks, Jenny had enough money saved for the pearls. Her mother took her back to the store, where Jenny proudly counted out her money to the cashier.
Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel pretty and grown up. She wore them everywhere Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or took a bubble bath. Her mother said that if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.
Jenny also had a very loving daddy. Every night when she was ready for bed, her daddy would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he said to Jenny, "I love you, sweetheart. Do you love me?"
"Oh yes, Daddy," Jenny replied. "You know that I love you."
"Then give me your pearls," her father said.
Jenny was confused. "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls," she said. "But you can have Princess, the white horse from my collection. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me last year? She's my favorite."
"That's okay, Honey," Jenny's father said. Daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About a week later, after story time, Jenny's daddy said once again, "I sure do love you, sweetheart. Do you love me?"
"Daddy, you know I love you."
"Then give me your pearls."
Jenny was confused again. "Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful. You can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper, too."
"That's okay," Jenny's father said. "Daddy loves you. Good night." And as always, he gave her a gentle kiss.
A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?"
Jenny didn't say anything, but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy, it's for you."
With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's daddy reached out with one hand to take the necklace. With the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case and gave it to Jenny.
When she opened it, she found a beautiful strand of real pearls.
What are you hanging on to? What kind of cheap, dime-store jewelry is preventing you from receiving the blessings that your heavenly Father wants to pour out on you?
Jesus said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). If you truly love Jesus and want to follow him, then you must let go of worldly things that seem so important to you and trust that he will give you much more in return.
Maybe it's your friends that are holding you back and keeping you from being the kind of person God wants you to be. The thought of letting them go, of being rejected, of being alone may scare you so much that you refuse to do anything about it. But God is faithful and good. He doesn't want you to be rejected or alone any more than you do. Trust that he will give you back some new friends better friends because you've been obedient to him.
Maybe it's wrong or childish thoughts about God. He's not waiting for you to mess up, so he can zap you with zits! He's not waiting for you to become perfect so that He can love you.
Maybe you're holding onto the fake pearls of popularity or acceptance. You've been desperate to be liked and, until now, have been holding on to fake acceptance from your peers, rather than the unconditional love and acceptance that God gives.
Maybe you are hanging onto a false since of security that says Jesus will save me no matter what I do. I don't have to give everything totally to Him. I can keep living this way and don't need His help.
What's your string of cheap pearls? What feels risky to let go of even though you know it will be better to go for the perfect pearls?
As we get into the Christmas season, focus on receiving the ultimate gift, the greatest treasure in the universe. But we cannot cling to Jesus when we are still clinging to the world. Sell off the old life and purchase the new. Come and adore Jesus with all of your heart. If this is done, I can guarantee that what is soon to separate our family from yours will only be temporary, for we will all have a share of the Kingdom of God.
Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks Youth Specialties
Christ's Object Lessons, by Ellen White
Hymn of Praise: #115, O Come, O Come, Immanuel Scripture: Matthew 13:44,45 Hymn of Response: #132, O Come, All Ye Faithful
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last updated 08/10/05 by Bob Beckett.