Archive for April, 2011

Surfing the NetMatthew 13:47-50 – SURFING THE NET, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS AND HELL – Part 18

My starsign is Pisces (the FISH). I don’t read the stars so relax, but it has always interested me that the sign of the fish was used by early Christians as a secret symbol. During times of persecution, if a Christian met a stranger in his travels, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they could speak freely about their faith.

I guess it’s because when Jesus spoke to some fishermen and called them to be His disciples He said “Follow Me and I will make you FISHERMEN OF MEN”. I know He should have been POLITICALLY CORRECT and said “fisherpeople of people”, nevertheless I have to admit, I was caught well and truly by the message of Christ. I came under the NET of His authority and I am part of the network of His kingdom, the Church, along with millions of others across the earth.

But the net that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 13:47 is DIFFERENT. It speaks about the Kingdom of Heaven in terms of God’s authority exercised in the FUTURE. It is spoken of as a NET that sweeps us toward eternity and JUDGMENT. Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) says “And just as EACH PERSON is destined to die once and after that comes JUDGMENT”. 

A SWEEP NET is one huge net intentionally cast to collect everything in it’s way. Jesus says “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught FISH OF EVERY KIND. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away.” This is surfing the net old style.

Even though this kind of fishing is now spoken of as the rape of the sea, Jesus speaks about a huge net that catches “EVERY KIND OF FISH.”

The Kingdom net He speaks of is cast over people of every race, colour and creed. It is cast over men and women, married and single, young and old, hearing and deaf, sighted and blind, speaking and mute (For those who want to be POLITICALLY CORRECT that’s matrimonially, chronologically, aurally, visually and vocally challenged).

The net is cast over those who are attractive and those who are just plain ugly (aesthetically challenged), thin and fat (gravitationally challenged), those who are well adjusted and those who are total psychopathic misfits (socially misaligned), those with hair and those who are bald (follicularly challenged), religious and atheist (spiritually impoverished).

It is cast over the good and the bad, walking and crippled, musical and tone deaf, educated or not, Australian or not, and no matter what language, religion, customs, tastes, sexuality, eye colour or blood type they may have. Somewhere in all of that I am included, especially in the follicularly challenged category. In other words JESUS DIED FOR US ALL.

But coming under the all encompassing authority of God’s sweep net is only HALF THE STORY. His Kingdom authority is very inclusive, but not politically correct because NOT ALL will be saved. This is not EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Yes, ALL are caught in the net of Christ’s authority as a JUDGE. Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT) prophesies that “… that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, …” but that doesn’t mean that everyone who bows will somehow automatically be swept into heaven.

You may not even be aware but you are being pulled inexorably into the shore of eternity, and there is no avoiding the inevitability of being caught in this net and it’s relentless movement towards a VERDICT.

Jesus doesn’t seem to realise that it is POLITICALLY INCORRECT, discriminatory and disrespectful to speak of some people being REJECTED because they are “WICKED” (or should I say people with a “spiritually alternative lifestyle”).

Jesus just says “The angels will come and separate the WICKED people from the RIGHTEOUS, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:50 NLT).

It is so horrific that Jesus doesn’t want to water it down to sounding like it is simply an alternative eternity for the religiously challenged, some kind of spiritual waiting room for heaven.

Hell is terrifying and permanent! Jesus speaks of Hell as a FURNACE. It was originally prepared for the devil and his angels, a place of inconceivable MISERY AND TORMENT. Jesus loves you enough to warn you about it because many people are headed towards a Christless eternity. He’s the only one who has come to save you.

The invitation He gives is encapsulated in the Greek word for “fish”“Ichthus”. It is an ancient Word of Life, an acrostic used to spell out the meaning of the good news in one of it’s simplest forms. It stands for “Iēsous Christos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr” and translates into English as “JESUS CHRIST GOD’S SON SAVIOUR”

God bless you as you give your life to Christ perhaps for the first time today, come under His authority, accept His death on the Cross for your sins, and get to know Christ personally, the fisherman of men, (sorry, fisherperson of people).

Pastor Ross

PS If this post has helped you apply the lifechanging truths of the Bible, you are invited to subscribe by clicking the follow button, to make comments and to share these thoughts with your friends. It would be a privilege to share these conversations with people like you and others all around the world.

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Matthew 13:45-46 – YOU ARE SO WORTH IT ALL! – Part 17

Pearl of Great Price

You are So Worth It All – Image created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net.

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13:45-46 NLT)

Simple parable. Or is it? I find myself wanting to ask Jesus some questions like “Who or What is the PEARL OF GREAT VALUE?” Are WE the pearl of great price and is it Christ who gives up everything to purchase us?

In his world renowned book Juan Carlos Ortiz takes a different approach. He says “CHRIST is the Pearl of Great Value and WE are the merchant seeking for happiness , for security, for fame, for eternity. And when we find Jesus it costs us everything. He has happiness, joy, peace, healing, security, eternity, everything.

So we say, “I want this pearl. How much is it?”

He goes on to say that the seller says that it will cost me everything. Not only does all my money become the property of Christ, but my house, my cars, my family, and even myself. The seller and the pearl seem to be Christ in this story. Perhaps he means that the seller is God the Father. He wants EVERYTHING! All I have and am comes under the ownership of Christ. And then Christ gives it back to me on the understanding that He is the owner and that it must be available for His use as needed. That’s the Kingdom of God – the authority of Christ to rule over my life.

I love the idea of the story – of everything coming under the authority and ownership of Christ, including ourselves. Afterall in Matthew 10:39 (NLT) Jesus says “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.” 

What bothers me about Ortiz’s story is that the parable says that the merchant BUYS the Pearl of Great Price by selling everything He has. Last time I looked the Bible makes it clear that Salvation in Christ is NOT FOR SALE. I can’t buy what Christ has to offer from God. It is a GIFT (Romans 6:23) that comes to us as we respond to Christ in faith. It is given because of God’s GRACE. We can’t work for it, earn it or buy it, and we don’t deserve it in any way (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So perhaps I AM THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE!

Everytime I hear a message on this parable I hear how a pearl is born in great suffering and pain, when a foreign speck of sand enters the environment of the shell and causes the pearl to be formed as the oyster builds up layers of nacre to protect itself. This is used as a picture of SIN coming into the environment of our world and like an annoying, irritating foreign substance causes harm.

God deals with our sin. He becomes a man and also enters our environment and although He lives a perfect life, He experiences the SUFFERING AND PAIN that our sin has caused and He is crucified. Christ dies on the Cross for us. Like that layer of nacre that forms around the speck of sand that threatens to cause harm to the oyster, He took man’s sin and bore it in His own body (1 Peter 2:24).

Our sin was an intrusion upon Him -foreign matter. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He turns cursing into blessing. 1 Peter 2:24 (NLT) says “He personally CARRIED OUR SINS in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.” Galatians 3:13 (NLT) says that when Christ “was hung on the cross, He TOOK UPON HIMSELF the curse for our wrongdoing.”

Christ adorns us with the beautiful layer of His righteousness forming a pearl of great value. Isaiah 61:10 (NLT) says “He has DRESSED me with the clothing of salvation and DRAPED me in a robe of righteousness.” Ephesians 4:24 (NLT) says “PUT ON your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Colossians 2:10 (NLT) says “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”

I like the analogy but I’m not so sure it was intended when Jesus told this parable. It gets a little muddled if I take the analogy too far, but I think it illustrates what Christ came to do in us and that HIS LIFE BECOMES MINE.

I don’t even like pearls but nevertheless, like the pearl of great value, Christ came to purchase me and “There is salvation in no one else!” (Acts 4:12 NLT).

God bless you as you realise how valuable you are to God and in turn how valuable Christ is for your life today. Lord, YOU ARE SO WORTH IT!

Pastor Ross

PS If this post has helped you apply the lifechanging truths of the Bible, you are invited to subscribe by clicking the follow button, to make comments and to share these thoughts with your friends. It would be a privilege to share these conversations with people like you and others all around the world.

Matthew 13:44 – 240 PIECES OF EIGHT … PRICELESS! – Part 16

Treasure!

It has taken me a year but the treasure hunt has actually paid off! Worth the wait! Two hundred and forty Pieces of Eight! I am officially rich!

Finding the Spanish galleon called the Santa Margarita was heralded as one of the greatest shipwreck treasure discoveries of all time. Over $150 million in hidden treasure just lying there on the ocean floor! A King’s ransom in gold and silver, a hidden “mother lode” now revealed. X marks the spot.

80,000 pieces of eight, 169 silver ingots weighing about 70 pounds each, 22 copper ingots, gold bullion and hundreds of unique gold and silver artefacts and a number of bronze canons are still waiting to be recovered. Captain Jack Sparrow his self would be proud.

But that’s not the treasure I have found. Sorry to disappoint you just when I stirred your imagination perhaps with pirate maps and sunken treasure. Actually I’ve found something even more valuable.

As a child I once wrote a story about an Island of treasures, and how the hero of the story found that the treasures of creation are worth far more than Spanish doubloons. But I was wrong. I still missed it.

I’ve found something greater still, more valuable than the beauties of creation and all the Spanish treasures of the sea. I didn’t see it at first but I have been one of the few treasure hunters who has found the “mother lode”.

Jesus speaks of such a treasure hunt in Matthew 13:44. He says “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.”

You are the treasure! Don’t just tell me that the HIDDEN treasure is Israel or the Church or Gentiles or potential believers. Tell me about the excitement of the hunt and how Jesus searched for all those whom He valued. Sure, the Lord has chosen “Israel for His own special treasure” (Psalms 135:4 NLT) but He has also chosen me and somehow I am valuable to Him. Treasure hunting was His intention, “To seek and to save those who were lost” (Luke 19:10 NLT). He calls me “… HIS RICH AND GLORIOUS INHERITANCE” (Ephesians 1:18 NLT).

Perhaps today you don’t think of yourself as valuable to God. Perhaps you think that the only person of any value is Christ and so He must be the treasure mentioned in this parable. Perhaps you are thinking that you must somehow purchase His acceptance by living a good life, and doing enough good works, but that’s all back the front.

To me this parable shouts out that I am loved and valued by Christ. He doesn’t value my sin but He loves me so much that He gave His life to purchase me. He paid the ultimate price. Jesus said in Mark 8:37 (NLT) “Is anything worth more than your soul?” He thinks my soul is valuable! Nothing is worth more!

Jesus sells everything He has to purchase us. Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT) “For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness (the field) and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Titus 2:14 (NLT) says “He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, ….” Galatians 1:4 (NLT) says “Jesus GAVE HIS LIFE for our sins, … in order to rescue us from this evil world (the field) in which we live.” He saw me as valuable when I had nothing of value to give to Him. When I respond to Him, I see just how valuable He is in my life when once I thought He had nothing of value to offer me.

The Kingdom of heaven is the rulership of Jesus in my heart, and the realisation that I am loved and valued by God through faith in Christ. Everyone around you, created in God’s image, is also a trove of rich, opulent, magnificent, priceless treasure, invaluable PIECES OF EIGHT.

Over the last year I have formed relationships with 240 lost souls from another era. Weather worn faces and palid chalky skin, ghostlike hair, fascinating hands with veins like rivulets of stained ochre, and characters that inform me of the values of another world, with ancient stories of love and faith and perseverance. They haunt the floors with measured steps and walking frames.

I am the Captain, I mean Chaplain, of Shalom, an Aged Care Facility, a “Galleon” of immeasurable worth and I have begun to recover hidden treasure, by helping people realise how valuable they are to Christ. Like the ad says “Priceless! For everything else use Mastercard.” That’s my quest today (no, not to use Mastercard) communicating how valuable be my “240 pieces of eight … Priceless!” …And by the way….So are you.)

Pastor Ross