He Goes Before Me

He Goes Before Me

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Pioneers are fascinating, whether Gutenberg and the printing press, Jenner and vaccinations, or the Wright brothers and flying. Whether travel and exploration or inventions, people who went first or paved the way for us are people we may never think about but who we owe so much to. Even our highway systems, with paved roads that go through tall mountains, took people to make a way when there was no way.

Hebrews 6:20 uses a word only found in that verse–“forerunner.” The word had a diverse usage. It was used in athletics, of one who runs forward at top speed. It was used of one who went in advance of others, like horsemen or guides ahead of the army. In Alexandria, Roman ships heavily loaded with grain, were led out by a small guide ship. It was used in botany of the first green shoot, tree, or flower of Spring. Metaphorically, it was used of a “precursor” like the apostles or John the Baptist. 

The idea in Hebrews 6:20 is that Jesus has gone behind the curtain before us into God’s presence. We can join Him there because His death made it possible for us (Heb. 5:8-9). But we also have unrestricted access to God’s presence now because He prepared the way. The writer tells us that this is our sure and stedfast anchor of hope that allows us to take refuge. 

It is beautiful to think that Jesus has gone before us and paved a way for us. This is a theme the writer addresses throughout Hebrews. He shows us how Jesus has done that in the past, is doing it now, and will do it in the future.

He went before me in the creation (Hebrews 1). In the most elementary sense, Jesus went before me in that He brought me into being (Heb. 1:2). He made us knowing that He would someday become one of us, with a human body (Heb. 10:5). He made the circulatory system, the nervous system, the respiratory system, the skeletal  system, as well as every other system, cells, tissues & organs, knowing He’d experience them. He was here on earth before most, if not all, the recipients of Hebrews and certainly before all of us—but He paved the way for life on this earth for all of us. He provided for my material needs (Mat. 5:45; 6:25-32; 1 Tim. 6:17), my emotional needs, my social needs (Gen. 2:18; Prov. 17:17), and my spiritual needs–He created me with a desire for worship, fellowship, and discipleship and guides me in the proper expression of each of them. 

He went before me in my salvation (Hebrews 2:10). Your version probably says author, captain, founder, or even pioneer. The original word was used of one who founded a city, gave it its name, and became its guardian. Or it was used of a head of a family, a founder of a school, or military commander. The context of Hebrews 2:10 is that Jesus came to earth to experience humanity firsthand, but He’s called the author of our salvation. He does the sanctifying and we’re the sanctified (11). His death freed us from the one who had the power of death (14-15). He made forgiveness for our sins (17). 

Hebrews uses “salvation” seven times, but also speaks of sanctification, propitiation, purification, and the like. The letter is full of blessings He gives now because of our salvation–assistance when tempted (2:18), assurance (3:14), bold approach to the throne (4:16), hope (6:19), mercy and forgiveness (8:12), confidence (10:19), nearness (10:22), endurance (12:1), and an unshakable kingdom (12:28). I get a clear sense that He wants me to make it through this world spiritually alive!

He has gone before me in my eternal destination (Hebrews 12:1-2). The writer draws to his conclusion, pointing us to “the race that is set before us.” Everyone of us is still in the race, running toward some conclusion. The writer says to look away from all other things to look at Jesus. He took the lead and is setting the example at the front of the pack. In fact, He successfully finished this race and is waiting on us to finish and join Him in a victory celebration. The only way to lose this race is to stop running, but if we keep our eyes on Christ we won’t stop. Jesus is our leader, inspiration, and goal we are running toward in our race.

The Hebrews’ writer says judgment is coming, but Jesus has paved the way for us. Throughout Hebrews, he tells us we can have confidence (4 times), assurance (4 times), and hope (7 times). Jesus is the basis for all of that. 

Jesus made the hard choice. He left heaven and came to take the punishment we deserve so we could receive the reward He died to give us. He could have chosen to save Himself and let us die lost and without hope, but He made the unselfish choice. What about us? Are we willing to sacrifice now, so that we can ultimately receive the prize? We can do it! Jesus showed us how!

Neal Pollard
Join The Winning Team! Come Together And Give Selflessly.

Join The Winning Team! Come Together And Give Selflessly.

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

The 2022 college football season has gone, and the Georgia Bulldogs have repeated as national champions. Some argue that our national admiration of sports numbs us to the deterioration of our society. (Think ancient Rome and circuses and bloody spectacles.) However, there are also critics within the college football fan base who believe that the current method of crowning a national champion is unfair. The latter is more a matter of sour grapes. But when I consider paid college football players and transfer portals that foster a sense of entitlement among four- and five-star recruits, I find it difficult not to listen to some criticism. 

As Kirby Smart’s teams have improved over the years, so has their emphasis on teamwork and selflessness. They’ve made it a permanent part of their game strategy, and as a result, they consistently give it their all in most contests. ESPN sports pundits marveled at Kirby’s ability to make his team believe they were undervalued and disrespected despite being labeled the favorites. But, as the adage goes, the proof is in the pudding. Many athletes wanted to help pave the way to victory for their teammates. That is to say, rather than dwelling on how many times they had possession of the ball or how many big plays they had made, they celebrated the accomplishments of their teammates. Nolan Smith, a senior, is a prime example of this because his senior season was cut short due to an injury. After his stellar play on last year’s national championship team, he was eligible to enter the NFL draft. But he returned to Georgia for his senior year. However, his injury hasn’t stopped him from acting as a de facto coach for the rest of the team. Marvin Jones, Jr., one of Smith’s admirers, says he wants to fill the void Smith will leave after graduation. 

Some readers might assume I’m just trying to boast about “my” Georgia Bulldogs. Trust me; there’s more to it than that. An even more valuable group needs the same sense of teamwork and selflessness. Yes, I’m referring to the church. Like sports teams, the church requires teamwork and a selfless attitude to work together for the same mission. Paul writes that each church member contributes to its growth by fulfilling their role (Ephesians 4.16). One aspect of this role is encouraging and supporting each other (1 Thessalonians 5.11). Paul even went so far as to say that we should defer to our weaker brothers’ scruples to pursue peace and edification (Romans 14.19). While it is true that we will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14.12), we must focus on the “team.” Jesus loved the church so much that He gave His life for her (Ephesians 5.25). As a result, we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2.5ff). And the early church had its counterparts to people like Nolan Smith, most notably Andrew and Barnabas, two men about whom less is known but who undoubtedly had a significant impact on the early church. These two provided the selflessness and humility the church needs today by following the Lord’s call and putting aside their desires. 

Remember, we are not competing for a stylized black football atop a golden pedestal. Instead, we seek an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9.25). As a result, our devotion to the church must outweigh our enthusiasm for a football team on any autumn Saturday, especially in the South.  

Sources Consulted: 

Bender, Bill. “Entitlement at Georgia? Kirby Smart Keeps His Bulldogs Hungry and Focused on Winning Titles.” Entitlement at Georgia? Kirby Smart Keeps His Bulldogs Hungry and Focused on Winning Titles | Sporting News, 10 Jan. 2023, https://www.sportingnews.com/us/ncaa-football/news/georgia-kirby-smart-keeps-his-bulldogs-focused-winning-titles/kliyimqy9z6q6xu5dcg2rmz4

Riley, Connor. “How Injured Nolan Smith Continues to Help Georgia Football Win: ‘He’s Been a Huge Help to Everyone.’” DawgNation, 30 Dec. 2022, https://www.dawgnation.com/football/good-day-uga/georgia-football-nolan-smith-win/H6VP2U6SQJHL7AYDPXPK6HG4LI/

Brent Pollard
The Local Preacher (Part 6)

The Local Preacher (Part 6)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

In Acts 20:24, Paul says, “…But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself…in order that I may finish my course.” 

What an incredible attitude. In verse 24 Paul stated the reason he was willing to face the dangers in Jerusalem. He was ready to surrender his life for the gospel. In his epistles Paul often stated his readiness to suffer, even to die for Christ. Paul had completely given his life to Christ. He was willing to die for what he believed. Are we? As ministers we should believe in the word of God so much that we are willing to give our lives for it. What are our lives to us? How much do they mean to us? Do we care so much about our lives that we are willing to preserve them over preserving the word? Those are a lot of questions, but there’s one simple fact that we must remember. A preacher that is not willing to give his life for the cause of Christ is not worthy to preach. 

God’s church, the Bride of Christ, deserves a man willing to lay down his life for the gospel. When Jesus came to Paul on the road to Damascus, He gave Paul his life’s mission. By the grace of God, Paul completed a lifelong service to Him. As ministers, there is not a better life to model ours after, besides Jesus, than the life of Paul. He was selfless to the very end. His body was a mere tool just for the cause of Christ. What does that take? A lifetime of studying and growing our relationship with the Lord. A man with a poor or lacking relationship with God does not belong in the pulpit. 

From the book of Acts we can pull many examples from Paul’s life and apply them to that of the modern day minister. The Bible is 1900 years old, but it is still a practical guide to today’s preachers. We have different challenges that may seem like new issues, but Paul proves over and over again that following Christ wholeheartedly is all we truly need to make it as successful ministers in the church today. Who does the church see in the pulpit? Who does the church need in the pulpit? These are often two very different things. The preacher can act one way in front of everyone, but who he is when he’s alone is what counts. Does he study and pray constantly? A minister should follow closely the example of Paul, and in doing so he will not fail. If every church had a preacher like Paul the church would be a strong and thriving group. 

Carl Pollard
Spiritual Blessings

Spiritual Blessings

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Ephesians 1.3 says, “In Christ, God has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What does that mean? We hear “spiritual blessings” and might gloss over it as another Christianese phrase. Here’s a short list of what those spiritual blessings are.  

  • 1.4 — God chose us before Christ made the world. 
  • 1.4 — He chose us out of love to be his special people. 
  • 1.5 — He chose us to be his own children through Jesus Christ. 
  • 1.6 — God gives grace liberally.
  • 1.7 — We are free because of Jesus’s sacrifice. 
  • 1.7 — We have forgiveness because of God’s grace. 
  • 1.8-9 — God told us how we can get that grace. He didn’t set up a system that we would have to look super hard for, he made sure to preserve the information needed to find him.  
  • 1.10 — He is bringing the heavens and the earth together through Jesus. 
  • 1.12-13 — He made grace available to every country on earth, not just one group. 
  • 1.13-14 — He gave us his spirit as a downpayment on our reward. 

While we won’t fully appreciate these spiritual blessings until later (Paul says these riches are “too great to fully understand” in 3.8), we’re still extremely grateful that God has done so much to give us hope for eternal life. 

“Do This In Remembrance”

“Do This In Remembrance”

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

The Lord’s Supper comes once a week. Often I find myself wishing that we could spend more time dwelling on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But Sunday morning isn’t the only time that we can think about our Savior. In fact, if we spend more time throughout the week thinking about it, the time during the Lord’s Supper can mean so much more. 

In this article I want to encourage each Christian to start thinking about Christ and His sacrifice before Sunday comes this week. You’d be amazed at the difference it makes. These few verses and hymns are a beautiful reminder of what Christ went through on our behalf. Our sins are washed away through the powerful blood given by God’s Son!

Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces. he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” 

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That you, my God, would die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That you, my God, would die for me?

I pray that this weekend we all see the importance of having the right mindset going into worship on Sunday. I pray that as a church we recognize the unity and fellowship we have in Christ. May we never take the cross for granted! 

Putting In Money Or Putting In More?

Putting In Money Or Putting In More?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

TODAY’S ARTICLE IS REPRODUCED FROM YESTERDAY’S LEHMAN LEARNER. I EMAIL AN EXPOSITORY STUDY OF A SECTION OF A BIBLE BOOK EACH MORNING. YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE AT “LEHMANOFFICECOC@GMAIL.COM.”

S.J. Friesen, in a book edited by Susan R. Holman entitled Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society. Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History (2008), reveals at least seven categories or classes in imperial Rome. This would have certainly applied to Jesus’ day. From top to bottom, they were:

  • Imperial elites (0.04% of society)
  • Regional or provincial elites (1%)
  • Municipal elites (1.76%)
  • Moderate surplus resources (7% estimated)
  • Stable near subsistence level with reasonable hope of remaining above the minimum level to sustain life (22% estimated)
  • At subsistence level and often below minimum level to sustain life (40%)
  • Below subsistence level (28%) (p. 19-20)

In that lowest category were included beggars, the disabled, unskilled day laborers, prisoners, and unattached widows. 

So the woman we meet in Mark 12:41-44 was on the bottom rung of society. Typically, every day was a fight for survival and full of uncertainty about meeting the basic needs of life. She had no advocates, champions, and could have been the target of unscrupulous men if she had a house or anything her husband had left her. Just before Jesus calls attention to the widow in our text, He had condemned the scribes for at least five offenses. The fourth was that they “devour widows’ houses” (40), for which “they will receive the greater condemnation” (40). Was the widow in these verses one of their victims?

What we know is that she enters the alms area of the temple in the court of women carrying “two small copper coins, which make a penny” (42). He makes no judgment on the contributions made by the wealthy, but holds up the woman as a contrast to the scribes and any who practiced pretentious religion.

She gives unpretentiously. She does not draw attention to herself. She quietly slips in the two coins. It is because Jesus is omniscient and observant that He is aware of her gift. She did not make any announcements or ask for any prayer requests, that God help her since she was giving everything to God. It was an assuming moment in time that might have passed unnoticed but for Jesus. 

She gives sacrificially. Many rich people put in large sums (41), yet Jesus says they contributed out of their abundance (44). However much they gave, they could continue their lifestyle at the same rate and pace as before their gift. But she “put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (44). The Macedonians were great givers, who “according to their ability, and beyond their ability gave of their own accord” (2 Cor. 8:3). As incredible as that is, this poor widow gave more. Only Jesus could exceed her gift (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). 

She gives abundantly. Jesus signifies this by saying she gave more than the rich that day (43). It was not a competition to her, a cause for swelling pride. We will suggest her motive in a moment, but the consequence of her gift was that it was unmatched generosity. Those whose giving cost them something know the fulness of heart and the favor of God this woman must have felt. What a challenge!

She gives trustingly. Mark does not tell us this. In fact, neither does Luke (21:1-4). But what other conclusion can we draw? She gave God all she had to live on. Do we suppose that she left the temple, curled up in a ball, and died of starvation and exposure? Is that how God has ever responded to those who give in faith? Has anyone ever out-given God? That does not mean that God moved her up a rung or two in society because of her gift. That is a very materialistic way to view this account. Instead, the way she gave was inseparably joined to the way she lived. She gave with reckless abandon, left only with a confidence that God would be her protector. Had she heard that day or at some point the words of the psalmist, “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous; The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked” (146:5-9)? She seemed to know the source of her help and hope, her administrator of justice, provisions, and support. She gave accordingly.

Next Sunday, we will make an offering as part of our worship. Across 2,000 years, Jesus holds up this widow to challenge us. Will we give like her, unpretentiously, sacrificially, abundantly, and trustingly? If we do, will He cause us to suffer? That is the mental battleground upon which we all stand. May He help us successfully fight that battle. 

How Deep Is The Father’s Love?

How Deep Is The Father’s Love?

Thursday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Kason Eubanks

There is a story about a father building his daughter a wheelchair from the ground up after she got paralyzed in a car crash. Her father was willing to do all the research and put all the time in to building a wheelchair for his daughter who he loved so much. I don’t think I would trust my dad to make me a wheelchair, but this father demonstrates the love he has for his daughter and the lengths he would go to to keep her safe. We are told in multiple different ways how deep the Father’s love is. As the song goes, “Why should I gain from His reward I cannot give an answer.” I want to share just three points with you tonight why we gained from his reward.

The first one is that His love is so deep that He created us. Genesis 1:27 says that God created man in His image. Since we are made in God’s image, we are His special creation. In return for Him to love us so much we need to love Him and obey Him.

Then when we messed up God loved us so much that He gave His only Son for our sins (John 3:16). He was willing to do anything for us as His children. I know this is a point that is used a lot. Would you give your son? Not just your son, but your only son. Now I don’t have children but I’m sure that if I did that I would not be willing to do that. If you go on to verse 17 it says that He did it so that we might be saved. If we do what is commanded here on earth we will have an eternal home.

The third point we gained from his reward was because he loved us so much that He wanted us to have an eternal home with Him. Go back to John 3:16. It says that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Now going back to the example I gave just a moment ago. I don’t think I will ever love anyone enough to give my son. Now let’s back up for a minute and ask ourselves why do we not love each other that much? We are all God’s creation so we should love others like God tells us.

Thinking back to my childhood when my dad would get mad at me I failed to realize that he loved me enough to help me do right. God loves me enough to give me the opportunity to stand up here and give this devo. And God loves everyone of us enough to give His only Son for our foolishness.
And now our job is to love Him so much to obey his laws.

Following The Will Of God

Following The Will Of God

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As we enter chapter 12 the point is, “what are the practical implications of 1-11?” It is the start of a five chapter section on how we can put what Paul has said into action. In the first section of the book we learn that we all have sinned, but through faith we have received justification. This gift of justification should motivate us to faithful service. 

Paul begins 12:1 by saying “I urge,” which is the powerful petition verb (parakaleo). It is always used by Paul to indicate a significant point. 

Here it represents a transition from the doctrinal discussion to the practical. It also represents a key thought, that we must present ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice.” This is in contrast to the dead sacrifices of the Old Testament (slaying of innocent animals that wasn’t enough). 

We must give to God while we are young, alive, and capable of service.

We must present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice that is Holy and acceptable. Holy means we are free from moral filth. Holy means that we are devoted to serving God. Holy means that we are an instrument of righteousness. 

Then we come to verse 2 where Paul says, “Do not be conformed.” As Christians that are wanting to build our character we cannot let the world be our standard when it comes to: 

  • Our morals (the way we act) 
  • Philosophy (the way we think)
  • In context the way we dress and the way we worship. 

Rather than being conformed to the world, we must “renew our minds.” 

  • In intellect (change the way we reason, and think about things) 
  • In emotion (Renew our state of mind, the way we respond to different circumstances)
  • In will power (have the strength to restrain our human impulses) 

Have we found ourselves living without righteous thinking? We must renew our minds. When our gym membership runs out, we renew it. When our car insurance policy period is over, we renew it. When our thinking isn’t in line with God’s, we renew our minds. 

Why do we sacrifice, and renew our minds? To prove/discern: 

  • What the good will of God is
  • What the acceptable will of God is 
  • What the perfect will of God is

And by discerning these things, we can be known as Christians who think righteously.

via Bible Study Tools
A Holy Sacrifice

A Holy Sacrifice

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Romans 12:1 says, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What is a holy sacrifice? Holy means, “to be set apart.” It’s living free of moral filth and being devoted to God. A holy sacrifice is one who is devoted to the service of God. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

God’s agenda comes first. We are now used as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:13 says, “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” We should want to be useable in the hands of God! We should also look to accomplish that which is pleasing to God. 

Ephesians 5:6-10 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Who are we trying to please? If we want to be a holy sacrifice we must be aiming to please God. 

People make sacrifices all the time, but think about something or someone you love. It’s easier to sacrifice for family. God is our family, so why do we not sacrifice for Him? If anyone is deserving of sacrifice, it’s God. I once had a pet squirrel when I was 11. My older brother Gary and I saved it from falling out of a tree. Every day I used an eye dropper to feed it milk and nurtured it into an adult. 

It would be with me during school, and at night I’d have to stay up super late feeding and caring for it. Stuart the squirrel was great, but to nurture him back to health and care for him took a lot of sacrifice on my part. But I was willing to do it. I loved that squirrel. 

Love makes sacrifice easier. How do you feel about living the Christian life? Do you feel like you are sacrificing other pleasures in order to live a life for God? How much does your sacrifice take from you? Be a holy sacrifice when others around you are unholy. Imitate Christ around your coworkers, your kids, your spouse, your friends. Be holy in your service to God and wholly sacrifice your life. 

What Are You Prepared To Do?

What Are You Prepared To Do?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

In Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987), loosely based on historical events, Elliot Ness must stop gangster Al Capone. Ness, portrayed by Kevin Costner, is recruiting capable men to help him accomplish his task. One of the men he selects is an Irish beat cop, Jimmy Malone. Malone, played by Sean Connery, asks Ness what he is prepared to do to stop Al Capone. Ness replies he is willing to do anything within the law. However, Malone reminds him that Capone doesn’t play by those rules, implying that Ness will have to dirty his hands to bring Capone to justice. Sadly, one of Capone’s cronies mortally wounds Malone later in the movie. As he lay dying, he again asks Ness what he is prepared to do. Malone’s death finally causes Ness to take his gloves off and give Capone a hard fight. 

Obviously, our devotional thoughts are just as loosely based on The Untouchables as the said movie was on the actual events occurring during Prohibition. Thus, I am primarily focusing on Malone’s question of what one is prepared to do. This question strikes me as pertinent to two parables spoken by Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 13.44-45. There are seven parables in Matthew 13, but Jesus gave only four of those to the assembled masses. The remaining three he spoke to the disciples alone. Of those three parables, two deal with people making an incredible discovery and the lengths they go to secure it. The Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure is parables requiring sacrifice from those wishing to obtain what Jesus equates to the kingdom of heaven. 

Wait a minute. Are these not disciples to whom He addresses these parables? Yes. So, have they not already found the treasure, having decided to follow Jesus? Indeed, they have. However, there remains something even they must do. Even though they have acknowledged that there is something special about Jesus, that He is the Messiah, there is still a price to be paid. If they wish to complete their faithfulness, they must be willing to forfeit all to secure God’s precious promises. In the case of some, this knowledge came because of a diligent search. For the others, they had chanced upon the Messiah. Regardless of the circumstances, though, both groups had to surrender everything to receive the kingdom.  

Recalling Matthew’s original audience, we note Matthew’s message is Jesus is the Messiah. Thus, he wrote primarily for the benefit of the Jews looking for the Messiah. They had to recognize that Jesus of Nazareth was He about whom the prophets had spoken, even Moses. Yet, they had to do more than mentally assent to Jesus’ identity. The believer’s conviction would cause them even to forfeit their former spiritual wealth obtained under the Law of Moses since God’s kingdom is invaluable in comparison. Elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells those who would follow Him that they had to remove all stumbling blocks from obedience, even if that were a foot or an eye (Matthew 18.7-9). Jesus was using this language figuratively, of course, as He was not advocating self-mutilation. But the message is the same as that of the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure. You must remove absolutely everything coming between you and the acquisition of the kingdom of heaven without prejudice.  

That is a sober message for those of us reading Matthew’s Gospel today. We may have satisfied ourselves with the knowledge that we have grasped the identity of Christ. Perhaps, we have even taken steps to become Christians. We are His disciples. But even to us, Jesus asks, “What are you prepared to do?” If the answer is not the equivalent of forfeiting all for the sake of the kingdom, then we have not yet done enough. As those to whom the Hebrews’ writer wrote, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Hebrews 12.4 NASB1995). The implication, of course, is Christians elsewhere in the first century were shedding their blood for their faith. Hence, the road taken by the recipients of the Hebrews letter was calmer in comparison. Thus, as I read those parables of the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure, I must ask myself if I likewise will give my all to receive the kingdom of heaven. So then, when the situation calls for it, I must do whatever it takes to receive the kingdom of heaven. Only then will I have obtained the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure.