Thursday, February 09, 2017

Sermon Notes Matthew 18:1-14

Matthew 18:1-14
Sermon Notes
Get Low
Lynchburg, Virginia

Things seem like they are getting close now. As we look forward to the showdown in the Garden, Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial, we can clearly understand the Apostles’ expectations. They were vying for Cabinet spots in the new administration. No doubt some of them had some great experiences to relate. The demons were subject to them. They could heal the sick and lame. Jesus possessed all power from heaven to rule the earth and the Apostles were the immediate beneficiaries of this power.
They are right, of course, but the power is not wielded like the kings of the Earth wield it. The disciples could handle that. They were exactly prepared for such wielding of power. Jesus is full of surprises.

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Why would the disciples ask such a question? We might ask that same sort of question but with the teaching of time and the failure of the disciples, we expect a better answer. They were wondering how one might rule in the Kingdom of Heaven, in Christ’s Kingdom.
They probably expected an answer related to a king or a prophet. David is the greatest or maybe Solomon who was wise and ruled in peace. Perhaps Elijah or Isaiah? John Baptist? Maybe the disciples thought that Jesus would choose one of them? Peter? James? John?
The very fact of putting yourself up to be great measured by typically earthly or worldly standards is the problem.
We now have a different expectation in answering this question. We think of the Kingdom of Heaven in terms of Christ’s Kingdom, doing His will. We may think of who is greatest in Christ’s Church. When we think this way, our mind generally does not immediately run to those who have achieved great personal recognition, say some great and wealthy preacher. Or, we don’t tend to think of the great politicians. Our idea of greatness in Christ’s kingdom is rooted in the teaching in this chapter.
Greatness to Christ is determined by selflessness, service, laying down one’s life for one’s friends.
How is the one that does this? Can you think of many? That list starts to get short in a hurry. Maybe we think of some little godly country parson who loved his church and people so much that he served them for fifty years, preaching, visiting the sick, baptizing the children, burying the old saints, praying for the weak and no one ever knew about his toil and struggle. That seems like a really great man in God’s Kingdom. And we can all relate to that but very few of us strive for that kind of greatness.
Or, in our midst, we may think about greatness another way. We have exemplary mothers. They lay down their lives for their husbands and children. Many of them are despised by the world’s standard of greatness.

2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
First, the example of greatness is in a child. What? Why not a mature person? Perhaps because a mature man is too obviously self-aware. A child is still looking out his eyes and not so much looking at himself.
Except ye be converted. You have to be converted. From what to what? From adulthood to childhood. Without this you cannot go to heaven.
What is conversion? It is the Spirit’s work in the heart that produces humility. Conversion makes you like a little child. In what way? It produces the ability to trust in Jesus like a child. Jesus loves me this I know.

4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Do you want to be great in the kingdom of God? We might think the answer is no, that it would be proud and sinful to seek greatness. But Jesus is saying that we should want to be great. We just need to be the kind of great that He thinks is great.

5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Who are the little ones? First, children. The little ones belong to Jesus. They are His. In this church, we baptize them as babies to recognize the fact that they belong to Jesus. Jesus has very strong words for those who cause children to stumble. He says it would be better for you if someone drowned you in the sea.
Second, He has just said that those who humble themselves as children are great in the kingdom. So, those who cause believers in Jesus to stumble also face the punishment of Christ. This is serious business.
How do you stumble children? Look at what Jesus says, “Whoso receives one such little child in my name receives me.” To fail to receive a child in the name of Jesus is to stumble that child. There are many ways to do this. We put many stumbling blocks in the way of children. Our government education system is rigged against them teaching the foolishness of evolution, egalitarianism, sexual promiscuity, gender bending.
But even in the church, there are those who stumble children unnecessarily. When a child professes belief in Jesus just as He suggests here, why do some parents, ministers and churches doubt their words and faith? The child says “I believe in Jesus” and the parent or pastor responds with something that amounts to, “No you don’t, you can’t yet, you don’t understand the gospel the way I do.” This is a stumbling block. In fact, so much so, that I would suggest that Jesus’s words here are aimed at just such an attitude. Repent and be like the child! Jesus says, “It is enough to simply believe that I save sinners and you are one! Receive this child in my name!”

Matt. 18:7   Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Look, we cannot go out of the world. It does not work to bury your head in the sane in some separate holy place. Simple, separate, deliberate does not usually work out. We are in the world and cannot escape out of it until death and the Resurrection. Until then, we in and among sinners. Offences are going to come. You and your children are going to be exposed to evil.  
Of course, you can control that exposure to some degree. You can protect their hearts and minds until they are strong enough to resist the world. But you cannot keep them from the world. Not in your home school, not in your co-op, not in your Christian school, not in your isolated neighborhood. At some point, they will be thrust into the world with all of its ugliness. And in that world, there will be offences and stumbling blocks.
In fact, you need to train up in the way they should go. This should include a systematic exposure to the world and its sin. This way you can teach them how to crash through, hurdle or turn away from the stumbling blocks.
A failure to equip them in this way is a further stumbling block. Some isolated children get exposed the world to late and instead of being prepared to overcome the world in the strength of Christ, they are themselves overwhelmed.

8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
Get rid of your members that cause you to stumble little ones. Cut them off. What are they?
1. Ambition- hand or foot
2. Worldliness- eye

10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Don’t despise the children. Don’t despise those who enter into the faith like children. Their angels behold the face of the Father. They have angels!
For those who stumble, the Son of man, Jesus, has come to save them.

God’s Concern for His Children
12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
The Lord is pleased with those who do well. He rejoices over them. (13). But gives Him even greater joy? That those who have strayed have returned.
We have several in this congregation who have children or siblings or parents who have strayed. It is a grevious matter. But God has not given up on them. He is the Good Shepherd. It is not the will of Your Father in heaven that these little one perish.
So, let us pray that they return, that they are found by the Good Shepherd and when they are found, that they return to the sheepfold with Him.


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