2007-08-19_Become Like Children_Matthew 17.24-18.14_SL
Become Like Children
Matthew 17:24-18:14 | Shaun LePage | August 19, 2007
A. Something tragic has happened—I believe—in recent history. We have become obsessed with fame and have little concern for greatness. Someone once said, “It’s far easier to become famous than it is to become great.” Fame is an empty thing. If people seek fame for the sake of fame, they will regret it. But greatness is a good thing—if we derive our definition of greatness from the Bible. To be great in God’s eyes is true greatness.
1. Matt 1-11—Jesus presented Himself to Israel as her Messiah-King. Leaders rejected Him.
2. Matt 12—Unpardonable sin (blaspheming the Holy Spirit—unbelief despite proof)
3. Matt 13 and following—turned from nation to disciples; focus is on their preparation
II. Body—Matthew 17:24-18:14
A. Humble yourself as a son: aware of your privileges, but looking out for others (17:24-27)
1. (24-26) Jesus quizzed Peter; “Sons are exempt”—Jesus is the “Son of the Living God” and His disciples are also “sons” who—because of what Jesus is about to do—will be exempt of temple obligations. Disciples are royalty (“sons of kings”); the King will meet all their needs—they’re rich!; Jesus is about to teach on humility; He is the perfect illustration of Biblical humility (Ph2:3-8); Like Jesus’ cross obedience, look out for the interests of others; Humility is not self-loathing, but self-sacrifice. Not thinking too highly or too lowly.
2. (27) “So that we do not offend them” (skandalizw; remember that word); cause them to stumble (tax collectors/Jews; disciples?)—Jesus paid the tax with style; very unique miracle: only recorded by Matthew (tax collector!); only one producing money; only one involving one fish; only one which does not record the results—we assume it happened exactly as Jesus said; The miracle serves as an illustration of the King’s ability to provide without limitation.
B. Humble yourself as a child: helpless by yourself, but loved by God (18:1-4)
1. (18:1) Question probably prompted by Jesus’ previous statement about “sons (of kings) are exempt”; again disciples show they don’t get it; open door for Jesus to teach wonderful truth
2. (2) “Called a child”—illustration, exhibit A; passage not just talking about children—disciples
3. (3) “Converted” lit. “turn”—change directions or repent; from pride to humility; not necessarily about salvation, but can be. Salvation requires repentance: “turning away from” whatever prideful, foolish thing we’re trusting in and “turning” to Jesus alone—childlike trust; “Become like children”—didn’t say “be childish”; defined in v.4
4. (4) “humbles himself as this child” (don’t allegorize—not about simple-mindedness or cheerfulness or “recovering our childlike sense of amazement”! Jesus explained exactly what He meant: humility! What does it mean to “humble yourself”? “Jesus neither practises nor demands the visible self-abasement in life-style, gesture, or clothing which was familiar and customary in the world around. Indeed, He is critical of such practices (in other words, humility has nothing to do with the externals)…Jesus is speaking to adults. He is conscious of their lost childlikeness before God. He thus gives humility a special nuance. It is to become a child again before God, i.e., to trust Him utterly, to expect everything from Him and nothing from self. This is the only way to become great in the kingdom of God.” (TDNT); wanting “greatness” is not wrong; but true greatness is usually misunderstood; sober-mindedness—a recognition of your true status before God: helpless, but loved; attain greatness, but don’t care! 1 Cor 1:26-27. A great paradox: Wanna be great? Be humble! Hard subject to preach…none of us has arrived—even C.S. Lewis! [Mere Christianity p.114 “If you really get…”]
5. 18:5-14 Do you see how much the Father loves a humble “little one” (His children who “humble themselves” and trust Him completely)?
a) 1. Jesus takes it personally when we embrace the humble: receive them like family (5)
(1) What does it mean to “receive”? Child illustration: Accept all of God’s humble children as parents (should) welcome a new baby; trust Christ? You’re family!
(2) “Receives me”—Jesus takes it personally! Mt 25: “You did it to Me!” (more later)
(3) This is the correct response: “Receive” Next 2 strong warnings about wrong response
b) 2. The Father grieves when the humble stumble: do not cause them to sin (6-9)
(1) What does it mean to “cause…to stumble”? Lead into sin: deliberate or example.
(2) (6-7) Don’t cause the humble “to stumble” (skandalizw; remember? 6X)—“the world” always refers to the unsaved, rebellious people of the world. Jesus warns them to back off—don’t lead My children into sin; “Millstone…woe” strong warning of judgment. (Ultimate Father (10,14)! “Don’t mess with my kids and lead into sin!”)
(3) (8-9) Don’t cause yourself to stumble—bad example! You’ll cause others to stumble; “Christ is not speaking literally when He commands us to ‘cut off’ (v. 8) the members of the body that cause us to sin, for sin comes from the heart, not the hands and feet. He is telling us to deal with our sins drastically, completely, and mercilessly, the way a surgeon deals with a cancerous growth. We must not ‘play with’ sin or delay getting rid of it. We must face our sins honestly, confess and forsake them” (Wiersbe). What’s coming up in ch18? Church discipline! For the sake of His children, we must “cut off”!
c) 3. The Father cares deeply for the humble: do not despise them (10-14)
(1) (10) What does it mean to “despise”? To think little or nothing of. To show partiality to the rich and “despise” the poor. To flaunt our liberties in front of weaker brothers is to “despise” them—have no concern for them. To ignore those in need is to “despise”. When we judge from a distance rather than “go and show fault…win over” (v.15); “angels in heaven”—guardian angels? Flimsy support. Even better! Multitudes of angels “continually see” (ready for action) Psalm 91:9-11
(2) (11) Probably not original; not in best manuscripts; but authentic Luke 19:10
(3) (12-13) “Shepherd” who loves His sheep=“Father” who loves His children; “astray”=sin; picture shows His deep concern over every “one of these little ones”; stray is not valued more, but requires special attention (like a sick child requires more attention than siblings, but whole family rejoices when he is well again); We should fear despising or neglecting those God cares so much about.
(4) (14) God’s “will” (desire) is that none of His children fall into a destructive life of sin (“perish”) and by “not causing stumbling” and “not despising” we align ourselves with God’s will—we please Him greatly by taking care of His “little ones”
A. Gladys Aylward: poor, drop-out, domestic servant for British family; late 20’s newspaper article: missionaries needed in China; heart broken for China—resolved to go; applied to mission board, rejected, disappointed, room 2 pennies on Bible, “O God, here’s my Bible! Here’s my money! Here’s me! Use me, God!” Scrimped and saved every penny earned—not enough to go by boat, by train across Europe and Asia (long and dangerous) but she got there! Apparently nothing to offer—became one of the most famous and celebrated missionaries of the 20th century (movie Ingrid Bergman); most notable thing about her: humility! “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done in China. There was somebody else…I don’t know who it was—God’s first choice. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing…And God looked down…and saw Gladys Aylward.” Humility makes us great in God’s kingdom because God gets all the glory!
B. The disciples asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus said, “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”