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Matthew 18:1-5

All right, if you have your Bibles with you, pull those out and turn with me to the gospel of Matthew. We’re going to go to chapter number 18 today and we’re going to start in verse one and work our way through to verse number five Gospel of Matthew Chapter 18 versus one through five. Before we do that, I do want to give you a heads up. My wife was introduced this week to our church app. It’s called Church Center, and I know the pastor’s wife not having the church app on her phone. she’s a little late to the game? But she said, This is really cool. You really need to tell the church about this. I was like, OK, we’ll do that. And so if you download it, you just type in church center and then you click Enable my location and it’ll show a bunch of churches in the area that use that app. Pick us, OK, and then you don’t have to have a password to log in. It just goes off your mobile phone number. It’ll send you a code. If you’re an iPhone, it just like automatically pops in Android. I’m not even sure it works. Sorry. Sorry. Anyway, take my shots when I can. But anyway, you log in with your phone number, you don’t need a password in that and it keeps you logged in, but you can do all sorts of things. You can register for events. You can see what’s on a church calendar. Watch sermons. Listen, a podcast you can give, there’s all sorts of things you can do. There’s a there’s a big old list of links right there on the front page. So we try to put everything on there that you could possibly need. So go ahead and download that. That’s all connected to our church management system. So all of that information is then there you can update information. If your address changes or your phone number changes, you can update it securely in the app so that we’ll have your information. I don’t know. Maybe if we want to send out a Christmas card, which is always fun. We like to have fun with those so gospel of Matthew. Chapter 18 Verse one If you’ve turned there, I’m going to ask you if you would please one more time rise and stand in honour of God’s word for our initial and primary reading of it today. At that time, the disciples came to Jesus saying, who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven and calling to him a child? He put him in the midst of them and said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself, like this child, is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. You may be seated. We’re in a series right now, a mini series, if you will, breaking from the our longer series on the Book of Revelation called Front Lines. And we spent some time last week setting this series up, and if you missed it again, you can catch it on the Church Center app or website or our specific sermon site where you can view everything in five different languages and listen to podcasts, as well as a mini version of the sermon and have worship as well. You can catch it all in that I encourage you to do so, but here’s what we ascertained from our conversation last week. We are on the front lines of our homes. We are on the front lines of our marriages, the front lines of our children in this battle that exists between darkness and light. This conversation applies to everyone. If you’re single you, then you still have a responsibility to be on the front lines for those who are put under the realm of your influence in your life. We learned last week that we cannot enter this conversation about being on the front lines. We cannot do so without having humility. And that’s sort of the great juxtaposition of the Kingdom of God is that taking up the armor of God and going into battle is not a position of pride, but it is a position of humility. It’s saying that God Jesus is making that God reigns. These conversations over the series will require a humble posture, yet a posture that is willing to put on the armor of God and go to war for the souls of those who are in our care. So what we have in Matthew Chapter 18 is Jesus pulls aside this child and uses him as an example. A teaching moment in all of this started because of an argument that the disciples were having, and this wasn’t the first sign that they had this argument, and it was not the last time that they had this argument. We see the beginnings of this in verse number one, it says. At that time, the disciples came to Jesus saying, Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? Now, if we do a little cross examination between the gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke, we get a little bit bigger picture of what’s going on here. Those authors gave us a little bit more detail, so let’s look at those mark chapter nine, verse thirty three, it says. And speaking of the disciples and Jesus came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house, he asked them, What were you discussing along the way? But they kept silent from the way they had argued before another one another about who was going to be the greatest. And he sat down and he called the twelve, and he said to them, if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. Luke Chapter nine verse forty six an argument arose among them as to which of them would be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their heart, took a child and put him by his side. So based on the added perspective information from the gospel of Mark and Luke, we see the disciples were a little ashamed that they were having this conversation. They knew it was wrong, but of course they’re having it out of earshot of the boss. But they underestimated the fact that their boss is God and that he knows everything, and so in this a moment, Jesus appears to tap into his divinity for the purpose of helping his disciples with his kingdom teaching moment for all of those who are in the area. Jesus knows their heart. He knows what they’re discussing, and he wants to bring it out in front of everyone. Now, based on the Greek here, the Greek language, the original language of the New Testament, the whole grammar used here is called a superlative comparison. And what that means is that they’re not just arguing about who is going to be ranked higher when they get to heaven. They’re arguing about who’s going to be ranked higher now, like they want to rank themselves now. So this presents an important question, when did a ragtag bunch of nobodies begin thinking they were somebodies? These men were a collection of fishermen and tax collectors, tax collector was not a respected profession, think mobster, not H&R Block guy. OK, tax collector was not respected, fisherman was respected, but it wasn’t the elite of society. These guys were not the group of people that a rabbi would be going and looking out to find a star pupil. Now they’re forgetting where they came from, and they’re assuming that they’re more important than they actually are. And what causes this? We see pride always subtly sets in over time. They had been beside Jesus and actively participated in some of these supernatural miracles that he was doing. Peter walked on water. He calm the waves. Heck, wavesz can’t even get to us as long as we’re Jesus calms them. Peter, James and John went up to the mountain and witnessed the transfiguration. This moment when Jesus pulls back a part of his human flesh and reveals a portion of his glory and overwhelms them. Heck, just that day they pulled money out of fishes mouth to pay their taxes. They don’t even have to pay their taxes. Jesus is just pulling money out of the fish. This is massive for them. OK, any such person that experiences these sort of things. It’s going to take you one way or another. Humility, or pride. You either remember where you came from and remain humble and thankful that you had the opportunity to be a part of it, or You start to think highly of yourself. You become a little entitled, maybe arrogant, and it turns into pride. So that’s what causes these disciples to begin to start to want to rank themselves. It’s the same thing that we do as Christians today. We try to rank ourselves. Some of us shooting for the top. Some of us just trying to avoid being at the bottom regardless is a dangerous activity to engage in. Jesus then pulls an ultimate flip-a-roo, and he brings in what is perceived to be one of the lowest members of society a child and proclaims him to be the answer to becoming great. Matthew Chapter 18 Verse two. And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself, like this child, is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven now. We have to understand a little bit of historical context to really get the full picture of what’s going on here. The society, then in this culture, in this time did not view children the way that we do today. In fact, it was far different. Today, children in a lot of ways are almost. May I say, worshipped? They become the centerpiece for the family, we have entire entertainment industries that make content just for them. Video games, movies, TV shows, even restaurants designed for kids and parents will pay lots of money to take their kids to these venues because why we love our kids and it makes them happy. But they, the society treats kids much different than it did back then. You don’t have anything like that. Sometimes parents will in dangerous ways and invest all of their affection into their children, sometimes living vicariously through them. Through their experiences and then they’ll neglect their own marriages. That’s why empty nesters often find themselves struggling to rekindle a marriage that’s lost its flame from a couple of decades of being roommates and raising kids together. Don’t find yourself in that spot of looking across the room at a human being that used you used to be in love with that you don’t even know anymore because it’s been all about the kids. You need to keep your marriage kindled. Go on dates, get child care. Take care of your marriage because the health of your family will flow from the health of your marriage. And your kids could have went to Disney five different times, nothing wrong with that. But if there are parents, a marriage is not OK, then they’re not going to be OK either. A marriage is not treated with love and care, it’s going to dry up in any season of life. Kids are important, but your marriage is most important and their health will flow from your marriage. Back on topic, children in this context were often pushed to the side. They were ignored. They were an annoyance. They were not revered as high members of the society. So when Jesus pulls a child up in front of everybody and uses them as an example, this is a shock move. This is shocking. It wouldn’t be shocking, somewhat shocking for me to do that today because because of how we view children in our society, but then it would be shocking. This is bold. This is sending a far greater message than what we receive from in our modern context. Jesus is calling for a radical reversal of their assumption of what leadership and self-importance looks like in the Kingdom of God. Pulling a child in front of them and using that child as an example shocks them all. This child exhibits in front of everyone what humility looks like. Well, how does he look at how he responds? The master made a request for him to come. He responds promptly. He reports promptly he stays put to where he is at for as long as the master wants him there. He doesn’t seem to speak. He doesn’t seem to resist, he doesn’t seem to delay. He just does what God’s tells him to do. Jesus. Humility is following Jesus going where he tells you to go. Staying where he tells you to stay until he tells you to move again. And it all begins with his word. If we don’t know the word of God, how do we know what God is asking of us? Humility is all about saying it’s not about me, it’s it’s about what God wants, so I crucify my flesh to follow him. We must have been even more offensive to Christ is the conversation that he had with the disciples right before this. And Matthew, 18, us back up to Matthew, 17. As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to him the son of a man is about to be delivered in the hands of men. And they will kill him. And he will be raised on the third day, and they were greatly distressed. Moments after Jesus put himself out there and prophetic prophetically declared what his destiny was, God’s plan all along to die a brutal death. Humiliating death in front of everyone. His very own disciples turn around and begin ranking themselves. How offensive is that almost like a bunch of children arguing over their parents inheritance in front of their face before they’re gone? Like, we will look at that situation and say that’s that’s really rude and very sinister. That’s disgusting. That’s what the disciples are doing. They’re trying to measure their cut of the pie. Well, Jesus is checking out of this joint, so, you know, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be in charge when he leaves. No indication of sympathy here. Their concern quickly shifts from what’s going on with Jesus to themselves. And what’s crazy is to have this argument all the way up into the Last Supper. They had this argument on the night that Jesus was eating his last meal. Well, couple of them had their mommy get involved. Mommy comes to Jesus. Will you have one sons and on this side and one son on this side? At one point they get their mommy involved. This is ridiculous. It’s like. Never mind, guys, I’m getting ready to be tortured, you go ahead and just duel it out for who’s going to be the most special. This is what Jesus is working with. And make no mistake about it, this is really offensive to the Lord, but also, make no mistake about it, we’re just as guilty. Our selfish ambition often highlights self-preservation, self-absorption, absorption and sometimes even self worship. Any time that we place ourself above God. It’s self worship, we’re not worshipping God anymore, we are worshipping ourselves. The world sees plenty of that they don’t need to see any more of that. They need to see more of what Christ modelled for us, which is selfless love. Dying for others rather than arguing for our own rank and promotion. So, Jesus, this whole example here is to become like children now, this doesn’t mean take on the maturity level of a child, but accept what you have. Sometimes being a Christian means that you’re spot on the social scale might take a blow. Now it’s not always been the case in America, but there are certainly reasons to observe and believe that it’s becoming more true that that to be an openly professing, genuine believer in Christ, it’s not going to help you out socially. Now, I would be remiss if I skipped over the most important observation found in verse number three. He said, truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, if you hear the words, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That should. Perk our ears, that’s important. I want to know what Jesus is saying here, because he is the one that decides who gets in and who doesn’t. So this text brings us to some key components that leads to genuine belief in salvation. The first one is repentance. Notice that, he says, unless you turn and become like children. Repentance was the message of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2 he said repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It was also the leading message of Jesus, he said in Matthew 4:1y. For the time, Jesus began to preach, saying Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repentance happens when people recognize their sin and they have a genuine desire to learn from it. Second, Timothy 2:25 correcting his opponents with gentleness God may perhaps grant them repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth that God grants us the ability by bringing us an awareness of our sin. We love him because he first loved us, and so he makes us aware that our sin is there, that it’s present, and that he makes us aware of how bad it is. And then we have a choice at that point. Am I going to persist in that or am I going to ask for forgiveness and turn to the Lord, which is repentance, but only repentance is still granted as a gift because the Lord then enables us by the transformation of our heart to even want to not sin. It’s all an act of God. It’s a gift of God. Repentance is not fun. How many of you enjoy repenting? That’s what I thought. It’s not fun, it’s not fun admitting that that you blew it, that you failed God or you failed other people, which is by proxy to fail God, and you’ve got to turn and change your behavior. That’s not fun. Even the word repent kind of makes your stomach feel a little sick inside. But it’s necessary and repentance as a gift, because if we didn’t recognize those and in turn from it, we would die in our sin eternally. The second component is a recognition of spiritual emptiness, like a child who is completely dependent on parents or adults for self care provision and guidance. We, too, must adopt this childlike attitude, realize that we have no spiritual life or vitality outside of Jesus Christ, our Lord. My kids think that they can leave our house and make it on their own. How many of you have kids like that? I can leave the house, I can make it on my own and I’d have it better than what I have in this prison. Well, guess what? Leave. Go find out the the world, chew you up and spit you out. OK, I’m going to go somewhere. Who you’re going to go to? Where are you going to go? Houses cost money. I just go stay in a car. What are care are you going to take? You don’t have a driver’s license. Cars cost money, you don’t have credit to get a loan to buy a car. What food are you going to eat? My fridge is closed if you ain’t living here. Sometimes we have that attitude, right, even as adults, I mean, I can do this without God. We don’t say that, but we act like that. And we step out and we try to do things on our own. I guess the same thing happens every time I know I’m the master at this step out. I do something without God. Oops. And it stinks, and we have to come back, we have the repentant. If you’re like me, I try it again and to come back and repent and try again. But we have no spiritual vitality outside of Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sin not on life support. We’re not barely alive. We are dead. And what can a dead man do? Nothing. So the Holy Spirit convinces convicts us of sin John 16:8, and when he comes, he will convict the world concerning their sin and righteousness and judgment concerning sin because they do not believe in me concerning righteousness, because I go to the father and you will see me no longer. Concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. And the sermon on the Mount Jesus preached. An awareness of spiritual emptiness. Matthew, five three, blessed are the poor in spirit. OK, this is not “oh whose me” with me, this is a recognition of spiritual emptiness. For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. If you want to get into heaven, you have to first realize that you don’t deserve it, that you’re unworthy, and that ultimately you did everything on your own accord to get kicked out. All of us did. You cannot cleanse yourself of your own sin. You cannot be forgiven outside of God’s grace. Now why is this important? Because a person that understands that he is spiritually empty will have remorse over it, and he knows that he can do nothing in himself to please God. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. And what happens when a person finds that that that place at the bottom, he desires God’s righteousness and forgiveness, that he cannot get on his own? And now all of a sudden we’re going to say start taking credit for things that God gets all the credit for. Last week we went home to see some family in Kansas, and one of our stops is at my in-laws house and they live on a couple of acres of land. And as soon as we got there, the kids jumped out and they, of course, they just ran out into the into the woods playing and there was this two big old. Piles of dirt. And they just started climbing on top of it and rolling down it and pushing each other down and standing on top of it and screaming, and they’re just having a blast. And my father in law leans over and says, I don’t have the heart to tell them that that’s not dirt. That’s actually the manure that they’ve cow manure that they have pulled together in a pile and. And so we had a brief discussion about if we should stop them, and we arrived at the conclusion no, because they were having so much fun. And for the first time in an a month, we had some peace and quiet. So they were rolling all over the place. And so here come the kids trickling in one by one, and the teenage daughter, 14, comes rolling up first and. And we break the news to her and and after a momentary brief moment of of denial, she realized that the reason why she smelled really bad was because we were actually telling the truth. And then the 13 year old boy came in and we told him and he thought it was funny. And. He insisted that he liked it even more and he wanted to go back out in it. And then when the seven year old boy came in, he strongly denied it. He still denies it to this day that that was a pile of poop. He will not he will not admit to it this. This is a picture of our attempt at righteousness. Like, it’s a picture of our own attempt. What was so ironic about that whole situation is what they’re doing when they’re playing, as they were trying to get to the top of the mountain and be the kid on the top of the mountain. And that’s us, right? We get in there. We try to be the top of the mountain. We’re trying to be the more spiritual than thou, and we’re trying to be more. You know, I’m a leader and you’re not and I’m more mature and you’re not and I’m a teacher and you not, and I’m on the worship team and you’re not. We try to do all these things where we compete with each other, I’m more holy. And I own more Jesus shirts and I have a fish igloo sign on my car and I can just keep going. But the point is this we have this competitions. just like my kids had this competition on this hill, but all we’re doing is rolling around a pile of manure. Because our righteousness is as filthy rags, I’m not even going to tell you what the Greek actually means with filthy rags, it’s very gross. OK, so the point is is let’s stop competing with each other. All we’re doing is we’re just a bunch of kids rolling around in the manure pile and won’t even realize it. And we’re coming in stinking. All right. The third component is this meekness. This is similar to the other components, except that it removes a person’s sinful desire to bring glory to themselves. If you are aware of your sinful state and you are aware of your own personal, spiritual emptiness. And you’re aware of your lack of ability to make up for any of that. Then you’ll never want to claim credit for anything. OK, so you’re really talented. You can sing, you can you can preach, you can understand the Bible really well, you really good at hospitality. Maybe you have a supernatural gifts to the Holy Spirit? I don’t know. Awesome. Great. It’s not about you. God gives and he takes away. You’ll take that gift away as. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance, but we have to recognize. That all glory goes to God. And so if you recognize that you’re empty and that you have no righteousness on your own and you realize that that you have messed up and we have all messed up, then we don’t take the credit. God gets all the credit. I don’t have breath in my lungs unless he gives it to me. You know. My friends, beware of popular gospels. That propagates self-fulfillment and personal success. Because they are the antithesis to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These kinds of gospels make a mockery of New Testament Christianity, and they strike at the heart of salvation and true Christian living. There is no room in the gospel for the elevation of self, Matthew, ten, thirty nine, whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The way to more of yourself is a broad path that leads to destruction. The weight of selfless love is the narrow path that leads to life. In fact, a fat camel is not getting through the eye of that needle. Big headed people don’t fit through the narrow gate. One person said, I believe the narrow path is like you have to turn sideways and suck in, and hopefully it’s not after the Thanksgiving meal and slide through. Someone with an attitude that comes to the church for self-fulfillment, for self-esteem, for for their for their self prescribed destiny and purpose, they should be concerned if they primarily are in the kingdom or not. Because Christ said we have to go back and start over and be born again, that we have to become like a child stripped of our pride before we can enter that it’s not about me, it’s about Christ and I have to leave everything behind. I have to drop all my selfishness. And I have to repent and recognize that I’m spiritually empty without Christ. Adolph Van Harnick wrote in his book What is Christianity? Humility is not a virtue by itself, but it is pure receptivity the expression of inner need, the prayer for God’s grace and forgiveness, in a word, the opening up of the heart to God. This, then, is the source and origin of the love of one’s neighbor. Now note the transition that Harnick makes here that I think is really fascinating. Humility is a necessary component to have a right relationship with God because there’s no room for pride, humility as we come to the Lord on our knees, we don’t have anything to offer. We’re completely dependent upon him like a child is a parent. But then, which, by the way, is the most important commandment, right? Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, mind and soul. But then that opens up a gateway. Humility becomes now a required component by which we fulfill the second most important commandment, which is to love others that you love yourself. The key to right relationship with others comes from humility. It comes from the fact that you don’t always have to be right. You don’t have to get walked all over like a man. But it requires humility on both sides to make a right relationship work. Real love agape love requires humility, humbling yourself for the betterment of the church, for Christians, for other people and for Christ. So what is Jesus saying here as we summarize this? Well, he’s saying, first of all, children matter and we agree with that. Children matter. They matter to Jesus. They matter to all of us. Not just our children, but the children in the body of Christ. Under our realm of influence. My wife and I, we depend upon some of you that we been entrusted to help us raise our children it really does take a village sometimes. I’m not going to let anybody into that village. But some of you help me because you can offer something that I don’t, I maybe lack the gift that you can provide. Besides that, sometimes parents need or kids need to hear something coming out of the mouth of somebody that’s not their parent to know that their parents are not crazy and just full of it. They need to be treated with respect, and they need to be understood and taught, they they don’t just matter as humans getting treated with all the specialized treatment without any discipline, we don’t do that. That creates little humans that are masters of overindulgence and that becomes a greater issue. But their spiritual lives matter, their eternity matters. Verse five makes it very clear that the way we behave towards children is one of the indicators of the way that we behave towards Jesus. And Verse five says whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. Scripture makes it clear that children aren’t the only ones that fit this category visitors, strangers, the poor, elderly, odd people, they all fit this bucket, those they’re overlooked by society when we treat one of them with respect. The love, we’re doing it on to Christ. The church, above all, should be a place where children and people that are overlooked by society can be assured of a warm, unpretentious, safe place to be in community. And your home should be the same. All of our homes, whether it’s your children or not. Now, what we’re going to see is that it’s not just about how we treat children, but what Jesus is going to do in the coming verses and we’re going to look at this next week. Is that he makes the shift that he’s not just talking about this child that’s before them or children in general, but then he starts referring to us as children. Because we are God’s kids. And so there is a correlation here. It’s important for us to learn how to treat children because we too are children of the king. And this is the way he treats us. So he wants us to facilitate through his grace offered by his holy spirit, this same sort of love with what? With which he loves us. It’s one of the ways that we can demonstrate the heart of the father that he cares for. His kids were his kids. Just as much as these little ones are, were his kids were loved, were dependent on everything from the father. So it’s important before we can become good parents. First, we have to learn how to become a good son. A lesson that I’ve had to learn in the last year. I knew how to be a good dad, I didn’t know how to be a good son. I had to learn how to become a good son. It’s good to be it’s it’s easy to be dad, right? Do this, do that. Take your finger out of your nose, put pants on. I’ll stop there, it’s just going to go downhill. But it’s easy being dad, it’s not easy being son for some of us. Maybe you’re not used to it. Maybe had to grow up a little quicker. But in order to be a good dad in order to be a good mom, you first got to be it to be good son and daughter to the king. To God, he desires that relationship with you. He desires it so much, God’s only son, Jesus, he sacrificed his own son. On the cross so that he could have that relationship with you. He’s not so interested in the religious practices that you can perform in his name as if he’s up there doing this, oh, good job, Josh, in your religious pomp and circumstance. He wants a relationship with you and out of that relationship with you, your heart will be transformed and you’re walking righteousness. And that will please the Lord. He desires to have relationship with you, your his son, you’re his daughter. He cherishes you. He cherishes his relationship with you. And what what is one of the core components that are required for a relationship with the Lord for a son and daughter? Humility. We come to him on our knees in a humble posture. And you get that relationship right? You learn how to be a good son and a good daughter to God. We’re heirs to the King, if you understand that we’re co-chairs with Christ. That’s that’s some of the most mind-blowing scripture to me. We’re co-heirs with Christ. OK. We get to share in the glory because of what Christ did, did you get the son thing right and you get the daughter thing right? You’re going to get the father and the mother thing right. Not all the time, because we’re still sinful beings. OK. But you’re going to get it right. Amen. Let’s pray.