“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)
I can remember two times in my life that relate to the beginning of my spiritual journey. The first was when I was still a young boy, 9 or 10. I remember observing a change in my mother and asking her about it. She told me about her new faith in Jesus. Her life had turned upside down. Looking back I can see a connection to this parable. She had found the pearl of great price and she knew it. Everything else was “sold” that she might have that great treasure. I wanted it too and prayed for Jesus to “come into my heart” though nothing changed for me other than the way I thought of myself. Had I found the pearl of great price? Yes, but I didn’t know what a treasure it was. I certainly didn’t see my life turn upside down to have it.
Fast forward 10-11 years later. I was a junior in college and sliding down the wrong path. The belief that I was somehow different and better off than others because I had prayed a prayer was being stripped away. I could see that my life wasn’t any different at all and nothing I did seemed to rid the guilt that I was experiencing. That guilt drove me to confession and promises to live better. It led me to reading the Bible, prayer, and attendance at a Bible study. Everything I thought a Christian was supposed to do, I started doing. Maybe that would cover my guilt. But it didn’t. My new efforts didn’t last. Instead they came in waves. I would “be good” (as I thought) for a time but soon fell back into my old ways. As the guilt returned, I vowed to try harder. Each time I failed. But at one of those Bible studies I attended (to cover my guilt) I heard the gospel. When I say I heard I mean that it took hold of me. I realized that Jesus had covered my sin and taken away my guilt. My efforts were never going to succeed to do that. I got it and I finally saw Jesus as the pearl of great price, the treasure in the field. And that is when my life suddenly seemed to turn upside down. It was not my effort anymore, however, that did it. It was finally seeing the worth of Jesus.
I think that many call themselves Christians because they have had experiences like my first. Perhaps they are, though I have my doubts. Finding Jesus is to find a treasure that makes everything else in the world, everything else in your life pale in comparison. Selling it all to gain Jesus is not a chore or a work to be proud of, it is the only rational thing to do. It cannot be helped! To have Jesus costs you nothing because Jesus paid the price fully. He paid with his own blood to purchase your forgiveness and membership into God’s family. But it costs you everything too. To have Jesus means letting go of everything else.