I love treasure stories…Treasure Island and the Indiana Jones movies come to mind. Treasure stories contain similar plots.
There is an ancient map that needs to be deciphered.
If it is correct, the heroes are richer than their wildest dreams.
But, there are always problems.
Some will doubt the map will exist.
Some will say the treasure seekers are reading the map wrong or they are charlatans.
There is always danger in the pursuit of the treasure.
Rival treasure hunters threaten to get there first.
But we know how the story should end.
The heroes get the treasure and return safely home.
Consider my favorite treasure story, the movie, National Treasure. Full of fascinating Colonial American History, this story has what all good treasure stories have.
There is an ancient map.
This one being printed on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
If they can just decipher the map they would be rich beyond their wildest dreams.
With treasure stories there are always problems.
In National Treasure they said there was no treasure and the guy nobody believed is actually the hero’s dad, who lost his reputation and was outcast by his belief in the treasure.
In National Treasure there are the dangers in the pursuit of the treasure with rivals threatening to get there first.
But we know how the story should end.
Sure enough, in National Treasure, the hero played by Nicholas Cage, Benjamin Franklin Gates finds the treasure, vindicates his dad’s reputation, defeats the bad guys, and gets safely home.
Now think of what Paul is writing in Colossians.
In chapter one 26-27 he says:
26 This word declares the mystery that was kept secret from past ages and generations, but now has been unveiled to God’s holy people. 27 God’s intention was to make known to them just what rich glory this mystery contains, out there among the nations. And this is the key: the king, living within you as the hope of glory!
Here Paul is speaking of a secret plan that has laid hidden for centuries. Now, Paul is in possession of the map, and is inviting as many people as possible to come with him to find the treasure.
What are your favorite treasure stories?
The Secret Plan…
You see, I’d like you to know just what a struggle I am having on behalf of yourselves, and the family in Laodicea, and all the people who don’t know me by sight. I want their hearts to be encouraged as they’re brought together in love.
It appears Paul isn’t writing to the Colossians only. This letter is meant for new Christians in Lodicea, too. This is a community only nine miles away. Paul is writing to those who have met him and the new believers he hasn’t met.
I want them to experience all the wealth of definite understanding, and to come to the knowledge of God’s mystery – the Messiah, the king! He is the place where you’ll find all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I’m saying this so that nobody will deceive you with plausible words. Though I’m away from you in person, you see, I am present with you in the spirit, and I’m celebrating as I keep an eye on your good order, and the solidity of your faith in the king. So, then, just as you received King Jesus as Lord, you must continue your journey in him. You must put down healthy roots in him, being built up brick by brick in him, and established strongly in the faith, just as you were taught, with overflowing thankfulness.
So, here it is. Another treasure story! And King Jesus is in the middle of all of it!
Jesus is the secret plan.
Jesus, himself is the treasure.
Jesus is the one ‘in whom’ they will be able to ward off danger;
Jesus is the one ‘in whom’ they must find their way to the goal.
Let’s look at each in turn.
First, King Jesus is the secret plan. No one could have predicted that God would bring in his rule over all of creation by using a man who suffers the punishment and execution reserved for the most notorious outlaws and rebels by the Romans, and then come back to life again there days later.
But, it did happen in just that way and Paul and others came to understand it did make sense.
If Hollywood was in charge of how God would bring in his rule what would it look like?
Start with Jesus…
I want them to experience all the wealth of definite understanding, and to come to the knowledge of God’s mystery – the Messiah, the king! He is the place where you’ll find all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Humans have always been seeking spiritual experiences to somehow gain wisdom and knowledge to live by. But, with Jesus it is just the opposite.
Start with Jesus and his being the center of all that exists and then know Jesus himself is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. He is the treasure revealed. Put Jesus at the center of your life and the world makes sense. Jesus is all you need.
Start with Jesus and out of him will flow experiences, wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus is all you need…
Jesus is all you need is fighting words for many. In Paul’s day this was certainly true.
There were plenty of well-known religions about if you wanted new spiritual experiences. And the Roman emperor himself – well, he’s a god, isn’t he? So surely you can’t be serious? Jesus is the truth? Jesus is all you need?
And such talk would be backed up by the strongly implied hint and threat: people like us don’t do this sort of thing. And people who do, despite this warning, may be making trouble for themselves.
Today, it is the same.
Who’s to say Jesus is the only truth?
For example, what about Muhammed? What about Buddha? It can’t be only Jesus who is right? Isn’t there truth in other religions?
Of course there is truth in other religions, it’s just that only what is taught in other religions that matches what Jesus teaches is the truth. In other religions it’s just truth mixed with fundamental errors.
For example, Islam would have us believe we have to earn our way to paradise with our allegiance to a distant God, separated from his creation, and our lives are attempts be good enough towards this God called, “Allah,” that when we die we deserve paradise.
Far different than the God who comes to earth to be one of us and show us the way and sacrifice himself for our sake. All because he loves us and wants us to enjoy him forever. In fact he is the very definition of love. The one who wills the good of others and leads them to be their best true selves.
With Islam, this God, represented by Jesus, is a scandal.
Jesus isn’t the answer for the Buddha either. For Buddha, the key is to see the world as an illusion. Because it is an illusion this means suffering because of evil doesn’t really exist either, and the secret of life for Buddha is to reach nirvana, where you don’t exist, period.
For Buddha, ultimately, you don’t seek to love your neighbor as yourself, you seek to come to the point where you and your neighbor disappear.
Not so with following Jesus. With Jesus love is an overall condition of real people, living in the real world, who are ready to promote the good of other real people, within the range of their influence.
Why does Jesus makes sense when you think of reality?
Gratitude is attractive…
King Jesus is the one who leads to the goal of living with him now and forever. The way we do this is we open ourselves to receive what Jesus has to give us. We learn from him how to expand God’s Kingdom by expanding our trust in him in our own kingdom, the range of our influence. We are built up by Jesus brick by brick, where we learn more and more what we need is Jesus, not something else. We always need more of him.
How will I know if I am on the right track to the true treasure, life with Jesus now and forever? How will I know if I have truly discovered the right map?
I will know by the kind of person I am becoming. Moving forward and making progress in living the life of thanksgiving. I will know when my life overflows with thanksgiving. With gratitude.
Again as Paul writes, “So, then, just as you received King Jesus as Lord, you must continue your journey in him. You must put down healthy roots in him, being built up brick by brick in him, and established strongly in the faith, just as you were taught, with overflowing thankfulness.
Overflowing thankfulness is attractive to others. As a way of life, it is unusual. This attractive and unusual life we are invited into brick by brick will draw others to Jesus who is at the center. It’s kind of the point of the whole Christian life in the first place.
What you think of evangelism do you think of people who are overflowing with gratitude and are glad to be with you?