(January 07, 2023) Richard Winter challenges…

Many have said to me that all they want to do is get to heaven, that ‘Life is tough and I’ve had enough.’

As a pastor, I want everyone to go to heaven. Indeed every Christian should want this, remembering Jesus’ Matthew 28:18-20 great commission!

Two issues here…
a) Heaven!

All that heaven is and means is a sermon in itself!

When you know  about the incredible place ‘heaven’ is going to be, what our loving heavenly Father has planned for all who believe in Jesus, the alternative is not even a consideration! One can but think, ‘Who would want to go to hell?’

b) ‘Life is tough…’ 
This makes me think… have they had another bad year and merely ‘want out’? If so I understand, because we’ve all bad memories and are believing for a greater year in 2023!

But then I query if those ‘wanting out’ understand that every Christian will be going to the heaven with its perfection and peace – but only in the Father’s timing! Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee us an ‘automatic opt-out of life’! I can’t see that anywhere in scripture and I feel that many such ‘drop-out Christians’ are defining their lack of maturity!

Let me take that further…

1) Some say things like ‘I found God and my life changed but…
2) They don’t want to do anything in the church or its mission.

Firstly, I smile because God has never been lost! I was! Lost in sin, pride, personal struggles and living without God! Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. That was me – as are all those who say ‘they’ found God! The reality is that we didn’t find God – God found us!

Secondly, I remind everyone that Jesus is not only our Saviour, but our Lord! He’s the boss and we’re His servants, bought in love at a terrible price, to follow Him no matter how tough life gets, and be involved in church life, especially its mission helping other lost souls gain heaven!

Precious parable
A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Here’s one what we all need to know while we’re on this ‘tough’ journey of this life… and harvest what Jesus meant. And, I dare to say, not be thick about understanding it and miss catching on quickly!

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it’ (Matthew 13:45-46).

Quick explanation of this precious parable:
– The merchant is Jesus, searching for something of great value.
– Its great cost? His death on Calvary’s cross!                                              .
The  pearl of great value? His church.

For centuries pearls have been regarded as objects of beauty. Notice several beautiful spiritual lessons about our Lord and His church –

A pearl is…
1. The product of suffering
A pearl is formed when an oyster gets sea debris trapped inside its shell. This irritates the oyster and it responds. Ever thought of the suffering oyster when you’ve seen a beautiful pearl?

Jesus came to earth to guarantee us full salvation – ‘to find us’ – and to establish His precious church! It was formed from the terrible suffering He bore for sinners on that cross! (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 1:5).

Sadly, despite what it cost Jesus, in some ways His church has irritated our precious Saviour for many years… Christians not living up to His requirements, not being good servants or witnesses, not seeking to fulfill His great commission, not loving neighbours, not fully trusting Him, not relying on His Holy Spirit to assist!

And – also sadly – many who have been in a church for some time are irritated by:

  • Others! – ‘They’re different!’
  • Fashions – ‘Where did “Sunday-best clothing” go? Why it’s “Come-comfy-casual!”’
  • Age (1) – ‘Those young people! Those noisy babies! Don’t they know where they are?’
  • Age (2) – ‘Oh, those old fogies…’
  • Races – ‘Where did those immigrants come from? Why did they have to come here.’

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about! The reality is that whoever a Christian may be, wherever we’re from, whatever our age or dress preferences, we all have different personalities! Jesus told us to love one another – as is!

As for –

  • Doctrine – ‘We all know “that group” is a sect.’ What? Someone spreading wrong teaching! Have you confronted them, and promptly warned your pastor?
  • Changing world cultures – They may be revelantt now… but they’re not eternal.
  • Music, some instruments – ‘Oh that new music! Can drums and guitars really replace an organ?’ Did Jesus demand that we only sing psalms? Organs may have been around from 3BC, but did Jesus demand His church only have organs?

Oh there are a lot of things that can irritate a church’s attenders… but what about matters that irritate Jesus?

2.  Formed from worthless matter
The pearl is formed from something that is not itself. Anything that enters an oyster as it breathes under water: Sand granule, dead fish’s bone fragment , or other sea floor waste can get inside the oyster’s shell and so, the oyster commences action to stop the irritation.

Think of irritations within the church and you see some comparisons! Composed  of sinners saved by grace of Jesus (Matthew 9:12-13; Ephesians 2:1-3), the church is not perfect!

Plainly put, we sure can irritate others – including our Lord!

Most of us know enough about irritating others, how and when to do it! Remember the work of the Holy Spirit is one of transformation! Permit Him to transform us! Then

  • Irritation becomes patience.
  • Roughness becomes smoothness.
  • Hurts become loving actions.

3. A composite thing
Irritated oysters respond by coating the debris with layers of defence substances… a combination of additions to the fragile body. At least three substances are slowly secreted in forming nacre – mother-of-pearl, such as:

  • Irritants.
  • Saliva.
  • Calcium.

Result: Put all together and over time you have a beautiful pearl!

Paul highlighted the church as composed of all kinds of people from all races and backgrounds ‘… you are all children of God… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-28).

We all come with rough edges that irritate others… yet we can be a precious blessing to our brethren. How? Like the oyster mothers the irritating debris and makes something beautiful out of it!

The smoothing out of our irritating lives is a 3-fold activity… the composite work of the –

  • Holy Spirit (Embrace Him, allowing Him to work in our lives, and supernaturally in our services).
  • Word of God (To be regularly read, meditated on and enacted).
  • Community of saints (The church! Ekklēsia… ‘called out ones.’ ‘Community’ – Complete Jewish Bible).

4. Something that grows gradually
Oysters don’t just have instant pearls! After debris enters inside the oyster, it can take up to three years to produce a magnificent pearl.

Slow growth, time and activity make a pearl. Jesus has slowly and gradually built His church in this world. It has been growing for 2,000 years as the Holy Spirit convicts redeemed sinners to grow in grace.

The pearl – His church – grows through the Word, the Spirit, circumstances and experiences. And as it grows, it too is beheld as something beautiful, something good (See Ephesians 2:21-22).

5. A hidden work
The pearl grows hidden in the oyster submerged in water. You can see thousands of oysters but not their pearls until they are harvested for another use.

Aside from the physical numerical aspect, no one can never truly see the actual spiritual growth of the church. We can only see the visible local church – but not the invisible spiritual body which forms the vastness of whole church (Know what God sees – Ephesians 1:22-23).

The church is revealed in its full beauty when it does the work of Jesus Christ! As 2 Corinthians 5:17 indicates ‘We’re new in Christ do a new thing.’  This is our ‘other use!’ We should all desire that everyone has the opportunity to go to heaven, that none perish. This is the church’s harvest message of love and relationship that Christians must learn to share and live out!

6. A valuable object
Pearls can be worth a fortune. In fact, strings of pearls can be worth millions of dollars. The church –

  • Was worth the treasure of heaven to God – His beloved Son. Jesus, the very best treasure, paid the highest price – to save the church (that’s us)! (Romans 5:6-8).
  • Is very valuable to the world – even though the world doesn’t appreciate Him!
  • Serves as a restraining force against the evil sweeping over the world –  we’ve a job to do!
  • Is worth all the price and efforts that we need to give to keep it alive, active and strong in the Lord.

It’s worth all our praying, giving, working and sacrificing… for young and old, even those that don’t think or act like us, don’t want to be like us!

Indeed the church is worth everything we can do because it’s what God declared would be His visible presence while we are here!

7. A unity
The pearl is the only gem known that cannot be cut!

Large diamonds are cut and made into several smaller, more valuable stones. But the pearl cannot be divided without destroying its natural value and beauty.

When any local church is divided, it loses value and beauty to the watching world! Therefore, there is a great need for us to be of one mind – in one accord for our testimony’s sake! Simply said: It doesn’t look good when God’s people cannot get along well!

Although the local church may be divided in people’s eyes, the true body of Christ is made up of both the believing dead and we who are alive in Christ – the true spiritual church will ever stand as one eternal witness. No wonder Paul directed, ‘Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel’(Philippians 1:27ESB).

Our one message is: ‘Jesus loves us this we know for the Bible tells us so.’

8. Reflects light
One of the pearl’s outstanding qualities is its ability to reflect light. The church is called to reflect the true light of the world – our Lord Jesus (John 8:12; 9:5).

Like the moon reflecting the sun’s light at night, the church is to reflect the light of the Lord Jesus Christ to this spiritually darkened world (See Philippians 2:15).

When a pearl is released from its oyster, others see its beauty. Singularly pearls can be admired for colour and texture, but when you string pearls together the real beauty is seen and appreciated. Go to the like of Tiffany’s and look at strings of pearls, appreciate their beauty and be amazed at their cost!

What was once an irritant has become a thing of great worth.

When implanted into the church, lives that were wasted and worthless move from being an irritant to a pearl of great price because God wants everyone of us to shine and be connected to someone just like us.

We are all pearls to Jesus! When we’re released from sin others see our beauty in Jesus.

Jesus is searching for pearls who grow over time and become beautiful. His church is to reflect God’s glory and beauty here on earth.

Change is the constant for a grain of debris to become a pearl. We also can change! From lost to loved… to loving others because we want all to get to heaven.

Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California. Link:

One comment

  1. Thanks for this ‘spiritual gem’ which is so relevant in its content and challenge. Last evening in our service we sang Onward Christian Soldiers accompanied by piano, guitars and drums!! and it caused the congregation to break into spontaneous clapping along with the singing. It is my prayer 2023 will see God’s people realise the worth of who we are because of Jesus and live it out.

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