Matthew 18:1-14 - True Greatness
The disciples were arguing who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." - Matt. 18:3-4. By saying "I tell you the truth", Jesus is really emphasizing this. The disciples wanted to have the best seat in His kingdom. They thought Jesus was going to rule a earthly kingdom and they were thinking of political greatness and not greatest of character.
The world calls one greater, because they are superior to others. God calls a person greater if he is humble and serves others. We are to serve others who are weak, helpless and despised by the world. The key to true spiritual greatest is humility. We are to submit to Jesus as a child yields and trusts his parents. Jesus tells His disciples they need to change.
Our attitude should be like that of Jesus. He didn't think Himself greater that anyone else. He was selfless and humble. He didn't think about His own needs, but the needs of others.
When He speaks of "little children", He is speaking not only to His disciples but to all believers. They are young Christians new in the belief in Jesus. Luke 9:46-48 refers to the "lease among you" which are new believers and to those unable to defend themselves - the handicap, the poor, and to children. Ways we can put into practice what Jesus is saying here is to accept others who might not be worthy by worlds standards. We can give them credit when they deserve it, stand up for them when they can't stand up for themselves, and not judge them. When we welcome the "little children", we welcome Jesus and God. Mark 9:33-35 tell us that if you want to be first, you must be last and a servant to all.
The following verses tell us more about this change:Matt. 5:3-4 - We learn that we know we can't please God on our own so we rely on Him and we are sadden about our sins.
John 1:12-13 - If we receive Him and believe in His name, we have the right to be a child of God.
John 3:3-6 - We must be born again by the Spirit.
"But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." - Matt. 18:6. We can influence others to sin by our bad examples or we can influence them positively by setting good examples. If we cause them to sin by our words or actions, then Jesus takes this very seriously. We are in danger of Hell. As parents we set bad examples by gossiping, arguing, swearing, cursing, not reading our Bible or praying, and not going to church. We set good examples by teaching and letting them see us pray, studying the Bible, attending church, and helping others. Don't say, "Do as I say, not as I do", but be an example and do and say what they should do and say.
Does you set good examples for your children?
Do you insist on religious education as you do secular education?
Jesus continues teaching as He teaches the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-14. The lost sheep in the story is a sinful man. When is stumbled and fell away, God left heaven to save him. When he was found or saved, all of heaven rejoiced. This teaches us that a believer sometimes stumbles and falls away yet Go still loves him. Each one of us is important to God. He truly loves us and is not willing for any to perish. When we stumble or lose our way, He is there to find us and bring us back. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16.
What causes you to stumble?What do you do that might cause others to stumble?
Principles:Godly humility makes sure not to lead others astray.
God judges those who cause another to stumble.
Matthew 18:15-35 - True Forgiveness
Jesus teaches what to do if a brother or believer sins against you. The normal thing to do is to ignore the problem hoping it will go away, hold a grudge, or complain to others. Complaining or holding a grudge is not true love and can cause division in the church. Jesus said we are to first go to him and show him his fault. If he doesn't listen then we are go to him again taking one or two others with us. If he still will not listen, then we are to take him before the church meaning a group of Christians. If he still refuses to listen, then we are to treat him as a pagan. By doing these things we are showing love and concern for him and have a desire for him to repent. We want him to be restored in fellowship with other believers. Gal. 6:2 says we are to "carry each other's burdens".
What increases the likelihood that God will answer your prayer? "I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I will them." - Matt. 18:19. God is the authority and when we come together He is there to guide and direct us in our decisions.
Peter asked Jesus how many times should be forgive someone. Jesus said "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." - Matt. 18:22. In other words we are to continually forgive no matter how many times it takes. There is no limit of how many times we should forgive.
Jesus told the story of how a master forgave his servant for a large debt he owed. The servant then had an opportunity to forgive one of his servants for a small debt, but did not. He had him put into prison and tortured for his debt. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from our heart." - Matt. 18:35. This symbolizes Hell for us, if we do not forgive. If we forgive others, then God will forgive us. We should remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Eph. 6:32.
Just think, if we lived by these truths in our home, church, school, and workplace. There would be less arguing and fights and no bullies in school. Our home and our workplace would be less stressful and a happier place to live and work.
Principles:A willingness to forgive is fruit of true repentance.
Godly humility forgives others because God has forgiven us.
Godly humility sets aside personal interests to confront sin and restore relationships.
How can you forgive someone when you don't feel like it?How many times are you willing to forgive someone?
Tell God how grateful you are for His forgiveness. Here are some words you might use.
Father God,Thank you for your eternal forgiveness and your loving grace even though I don't deserve it. When I stumble or lose away, you seek me out and bring me back. Help me to be more loving, compassionate, and forgiving to others as you have to me. I am forever grateful.
More great lessons from Matthew. Hope to see you next week for Matthew 19.