By: Rev Bill Sanders
Reading – Matthew 13:31- 33, 44- 52.
Our passage today is clearly about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, in his discourses about the Kingdom of Heaven attempts to describe to the people what the Kingdom of Heaven Is. He does this using the medium of parables. He begins the different descriptions of the Kingdom of Heaven with the words, “ the kingdom of heaven is like…” The phrase introduces six of the seven parables in this chapter ( all but the parable of the sower). In all seven parables the Kingdom of Heaven Is likened to, in order; The Sower; a man who sowed good seed (parable of the weeds); A mustard seed; Yeast working through dough; Treasure hidden in a field; a merchant looking for fine pearls; A net that was let down in a lake and caught all kinds of fish.
Jesus is telling us how important the Kingdom of Heaven Is and how critical it is for us to understand it so we may repent and enter into it. It is also important for us to understand that the Kingdom of Heaven and the church are not the same, although obviously interrelated.
When both John the Baptist and Jesus began their preaching ministries they both proclaimed, “ Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near,” Matt. 3:2 and 4:17. We, as God’s people, are the church, the Body of Christ, but we are to become Kingdom people. As the church we are to live out Kingdom principles. This means we will be with Christ in eternity, reigning with him, restored to our inheritance, because the Lamb of God was worthy and able to redeem us back to God. But it also means that we will have access to the resources of the Kingdom of Heaven in this life, as dearly loved Children of God, becoming spiritually fruitful and being prepared by the Holy Spirit for life in eternity.
We are told in Matt. 6:33, after being instructed by Jesus not to worry about our physical needs, such as food, clothing etc., “ But seek ye first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. One of the titles given to God in the Bible is Jehovah Jireh, which means, “ The God who foresees (our needs) and provides for. God is our Provider.
In our own ministry we have consistently known God’s provision as we have sought to be obedient to him. For example, when we knew God was calling us into ordained ministry we had next to nothing and had to uproot our family to move to Oxford for two years. Alice and I had to give up our rented council house which at the time was the most secure thing we had. We had no savings, a £300 overdraft, and no income. But God had promised us that he would provide for all our needs. And he did. The money we needed to live on, the fees for college, the rent for accommodation, all of it just came in, on time, for the 2 years leading up to my ordination. And it came in from numerous sources including our church. At that time in 1981 the diocese didn’t give grants to Ordinands except for a one-off payment of £300 for the whole of our time in Oxford. When we needed to pay a bill at one point somebody put the money under our door. We never found out who that was, but we know God had provided for our needs through that person. God is nobody’s debtor. When he calls us, and as we seek first his Kingdom, he will always provide. This is his promise to us.
As God provides for us he expects that we will share what he has given us with other people. This includes not just material things and money, but the spiritual gifts he provides as well. The Lord makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 12, the passage on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He spreads these gifts around the church, the Body of Christ, and distributes them to each one just as he determines. But verse seven tells us clearly that each gift, though given to different people are for the common good. All the gifts are meant to be used for the benefit of every member of the church. This will bear spiritual fruit, together with our sharing of all that God gives us including our material possessions.
As God’s people we are meant to be his Witnesses in the world, as Matthew 28:19 and 20 clearly instructs us. The King of the Kingdom, Jesus, is clear about this as he takes up his authority and delegates authority to us, “ All authority in heaven and upon Earth has been given to me. Therefore go…” of course, bearing fruit in our life in Christ isn’t simply a matter of evangelizing. As people born again by the spirit of God we are built into the Church. As the church the gifts given by the Holy Spirit are to be used in our individual lives and corporately as the Body of Christ, using Kingdom principles.
As churches of various denominations, we tend to stress our doctrines, some of which are peculiar to a particular denomination. Because we are sometimes imperfect, there can be a man-made element to some of our doctrines in every denomination, that is not always strictly God-given. Hence the negative differences that often exist between denominations detract from our spiritual fruit bearing. We use these often like formulae and insist they be followed religiously. This is the difference between Church and the Kingdom of Heaven. Where the Kingdom of Heaven is concerned we use Kingdom principles which are God given. If we seek first the kingdom of God we will increasingly employ these principles and be much more fruitful for God’s glory and the blessing of the people to whom we minister. The church, and our own lives, will become rich and exciting, attractive, in the right sense of the word, to those outside the church, who will find that we are scratching where they itch. Thus more and more people will be added to our number, Acts 2:41, 47.
So bearing fruit for the kingdom of God/heaven, is more than evangelizing and sharing our testimony. We will build each other up in the Faith. We are meant to be encouragers, like Barnabas. We are to care for new Christians and each other as we grow in maturity. We are to keep close to Jesus, learn to hear his voice and obey it. We are to love each other( remembering that love is about what we do not just what we say. That is, love in action). We are to pray for people everywhere. We are to share our possessions, care for the weak and oppressed, to help and Heal the sick. We are to become all things to all men (and women). In all these things we will bear fruit, achieving spiritual gain for the sake of Christ, in whom we live and move and have our being. And so we will become more profitable and rich in Christ. Why? Because we are being prepared to reign with Christ in eternity.
In finishing I would like to remind us all that bearing fruit for the Kingdom is a process. I remember when I was a young man and lived next door to my wife’s sister and her husband whose garden was beautiful, unlike ours at the time. We had bought two apple trees and planted them along the fence which separated the gardens. As a joke I bought some apples and tied them to the trees so Millie and Ray could see them. We all had a good laugh about it, but of course, we knew they hadn’t grown there overnight. Fruit bearing is the culmination of an often lengthy period in which the plant starts as a seed and ends, if it is healthy, producing fruit which contains in it the seeds which when planted in good soil begin the process all over again. This is how it is for God’s people. We begin as babes in the Faith and grow to maturity. At some point along the way we should begin to bear fruit for the Kingdom, reproducing Christians who themselves will be fruitful, but only if we begin to live as Kingdom people, applying Kingdom principles to our lives in Christ. But we know that he is the source from which we draw sustenance. And our effectiveness is guaranteed. Why? Because “ For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14.
May God bless us as we live and work together for the Kingdom of Heaven as God’s dearly beloved church.
Your brother in Christ,