Saturday, January 09, 2010
Matthew 18 The Lord and The Child
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
6 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
8 "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
10 "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
12 "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?
13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
If you've ever been through a job search, you know that people use a bit of creativity when they put their resumes together. Here's what they say and what they mean:
I seek a job that will draw upon my strong communication & organizational skills: = I talk too much and like to tell other people what to do.
I take pride in my work: = I blame others for my mistakes.
I'm willing to relocate: = As I leave Cessnock Prison, anywhere's better.
I am adaptable: = I've changed jobs a lot.
I am on the go: = I'm never at my desk.
I'm highly motivated to succeed: = The minute I find a better job, I'm out of here.
If God was taking resumes, what would you put on yours? In other words, what makes a good Christian? What would really impress them when you arrive in heaven? Experience, qualifications, references, character traits.
The reason I asked is because followers of Jesus Christ have sometimes asked these questions. Matthew 18:1: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'"
2. Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
Jesus took a child. There is a tradition that the child grew to be Ignatius of Antioch, who in later days became a great servant of the Church, a great writer, and finally a martyr for Christ. Ignatius was surnamed Theophoros, which means God--carried, and the tradition grew up that he had received that name because Jesus carried him on his knee. It may be so. Maybe it is more likely that it was Peter who asked the question, and that it was Peter's little boy whom Jesus took and set in the midst.
1. Do You Have The Call To Conversion?
"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Gutzik How the disciples' faces must have fallen when Jesus said this! They knew that in that day, children were regarded more as property than individuals. It was understood that they were to be seen and not heard. Jesus said we have to take this kind of humble place to enter the kingdom, much less be the greatest in the kingdom.
The term “converted” here means just that. Turning from our sin and turning to Him. Converted from going our way to going His. The Greek word for “converted” may also be translated “turn”
(AMP) And said, Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all].
(ESV) and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
(HCSB) "I assure you," He said, "unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
(RSV) and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Interestingly, in its context, the conversion called for by the disciples was a second conversion. It was turning from their selfish ambitions and turning to Christ again. The disciples were headed in the wrong direction with their selfish ambition. “Who gets to run the show whenever you are gone Jesus? Which of us will be in control of the assembly?” Robertson’s Word Pictures: “His tone at this time is markedly severe, as much as when He denounces the Pharisaism in the bud He had to deal with” (Bruce). The strong double negative means that they will otherwise not get into the kingdom of heaven at all, let alone have big places in it.” The issue of power in a church setting is an issue that annoys the Lord. I must admit, little power groups are annoying to me too.
HAVE YOU CHANGED DIRECTION? That is what conversion means. It means turning. Last Tuesday night Steve Munro and I were talking about how important it is that repentance be understood as part of the gospel. Repentance is turning back from going our own way and turning to the Lord and going His way. It’s no longer living our lives our way without reference to Him. It’s humbling ourselves and walking His way from now on.
That repentance and conversion experience is to be a continual one. When the Lord points out our ambitions for power and control over our own lives, or over others’ lives, we are to turn away from them.
HAVE YOU CHANGED DISPOSITIONS? Jesus called a child and placed this him in the middle of the group. Jesus used a multi-media approach to speaking before there was even a word for it. He wanted to make a visual impact upon the whole group. They had been looking at one of themselves as candidates for power positions in the Kingdom, but Jesus forced them to look on the least likely candidate in the place -- a child. Then, while He had their attention He said, "unless you change and become as little children." In contrast to the self aggrandizing attitudes which were all too common even among the twelve, Jesus said, "You must become as a little child." In another place Jesus said, "If you want to be first, you must be last." He said, "If you want to find your life, you have to lose it." He said, "If you want to be great, you have to become a servant."
If you claim to be a Jesus-follower, but there’s no Jesus-fruit in your life...you’re probably religious but lost; “By their fruit you will recognize them.” You don’t have to be a botanist to know the reason you can’t pick grapes from thornbushes is that a plant only produces fruit after its own nature. An apple hangs on a tree because that tree has an inner apple nature. And Jesus said it doesn’t matter what a person says, you must examine their fruit—their lifestyle—to determine their true nature. Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Somebody sent me a funny Far Side cartoon not long ago. It was a picture of a scientist who had invented a machine to translate what dogs were really saying when they barked. As he wore the machine everywhere he went he understood what dogs were really saying. It was really simple. The dogs were actually saying, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!” A dog can’t talk like a person (except in the movies) because it doesn’t have a person nature. A person in religilostity can’t produce Jesus fruit for the same reason—they don’t have a Jesus nature. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Actions speak louder than words.” That’s true, but when it comes to being a Jesus-follower, fruit speaks louder than words.
2. Do You Have The Care For Children
5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! 8 "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.10 "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
Jesus loved children. On several occasions in the gospels, we see Him gently holding children in His lap, laying His hands on them and blessing them. In Mark 10 we read specifically of how parents brought their little ones to Jesus "that He might touch them" but the disciples "rebuked" and tried to send them away. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mk.10:14).
To Jesus, no one was unimportant. Some might say, “It’s only a child, don’t let him bother you.” Jesus would never say that. No one was ever a nuisance to Jesus. He was never too tired, never too busy to give all of himself to anyone who needed it. The way to his presence was open to the humblest person and to the youngest child.
All of this was true about Jesus. How much of it is true about us? Go back to chapter 18, verse 5. Jesus says:
“Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”
How to know if you’re from Tamworth.
1) You might be from Tamworth if you ever cut your grass and found a car.
2) You might be from Tamworth if you think the stock market has a fence around it.
3) You might be from Tamworth if there are more than five old McDonald’s bags in your car.
4) You might be from Tamworth if you had to remove a toothpick for your wedding pictures!
We tend to laugh at the more simple minded. But they are more valuable in the Kingdom of God than you or I are. Children are precious to the Lord. They should be precious to us too.
Have you ever noticed how quick young children are to receive each other? Children quickly receive other children. If we are like a "little child" in our humility, we will quickly receive others.
To delight in the humble, unassuming and lowly of this world is to delight in Christ. If we joyfully serve children and people of modest stature and other believers we joyfully serve Jesus.
William Barclay told the story of an old man on his deathbed who was distraught in confessing a prank he had played as a child. He had reversed a sign at a crossroads. He said, "I’ve never ceased to wonder how many people were sent in the wrong direction by what we did." How many times have we led others down the wrong paths either by a bad example or by absence of a good example.
3. Do You Recognise The Care Of Jesus For Lost Children?
“Few things in life are more tragic and heartbreaking than the death of a baby or small child. For parents, the grief can be overwhelming. For the minister, to stand over a small, white casket and provide comfort and support seems to ask for more than he can deliver.
Many console themselves with the thought that at least the child is now in a better place. Some believe small children who die become angels. They are certain these precious little ones are in heaven with God.
However, it is important for us both to ask and answer some important questions if we can. Do those who die in infancy go to heaven? How do we know? What evidence is there to support such a conclusion? Sentimentalism and emotional hopes and wants are not sufficient for those who live under the authority of the Word of God. We must, if possible, find out what God has said.
It is interesting to discover that the Church has not been of one mind on this issue. In fact, the early and medieval Church was anything but united. Some Church Fathers remained silent on the issue. Ambrose said unbaptized infants were not admitted to heaven, but have immunity from the pains of hell. Augustine basically affirmed the damnation of all unbaptized infants, but taught they would receive the mildest punishment of all. Gregory of Nyssa offered that infants who die immediately mature and are given the opportunity to trust Christ. Calvin affirmed the certain election of some infants to salvation and was open to the possibility that all infants who die are saved. He said, “Christ receives not only those who, moved by holy desire and faith, freely approach unto Him, but those who are not yet of age to know how much they need His grace.” Zwingli, B.B. Warfield and Charles Hodge all taught that God saves all who die in infancy. This perspective has basically become the dominant view of the Church in the 20th century.
Yet, a popular evangelical theologian chided Billy Graham when at the Oklahoma City memorial service he said, “Someday there will be a glorious reunion with those who have died and gone to heaven before us, and that includes all those innocent children that are lost. They’re not lost from God because any child that young is automatically in heaven and in God’s arms.” The theologian scolded Dr. Graham for offering what he called “. . . a new gospel: justification by youth alone.”
It is our conviction that there are good reasons biblically and theologically for believing that God saves all who die who do not reach a stage of moral understanding and accountability. It is readily admitted that Scripture does not speak to this issue directly, yet there is evidence that can be gleaned that would lead us to affirm on biblical grounds that God receives into heaven all who have died in infancy. Some evidence is stronger than others, but cumulatively they marshall strong support for infant salvation. We will note six of them.
First, the grace, goodness and mercy of God would support the position that God saves all infants who die. This is the strongest argument and perhaps the decisive one. God is love (1 John 4:8) and desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). God is love and His concern for children is evident in Matthew 18:14 where Jesus says, “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” People go to hell because they choose in willful rebellion and unbelief to reject God and His grace. Children are incapable of this kind of conscious rejection of God. Where such rebellion and willful disobedience is absent, God is gracious to receive.
Second, when the baby boy who was born to David and Bathsheba died (2 Samuel 12:15-18), David did two significant things: 1) He confessed his confidence that he would see the child again and, 2) he comforted his wife Bathsheba (vs. 23-24). David could have done those two things only if he was confident that his little son was with God. Any other explanation does not do justice to the text.
Third, in James 4:17, the Bible says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” The Bible is clear that we are all born with a sin nature as a result of being in Adam (Roman 5:12). This is what is called the doctrine of original sin. However, the Scriptures make a distinction between original sin and actual sins. While all are guilty of original sin, moral responsibility and understanding is necessary for our being accountable for actual sins (Isaiah 7:16 For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned.). It is to the one who knows to do right and does not do it that sin is reckoned. Infants are incapable of such decisions.
Fourth, Jesus affirmed that the kingdom of God belonged to little children (Luke 18:15-17). In the passage he is stating that saving faith is a childlike faith, but He also seems to be affirming the reality of children populating heaven. “See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven their angels continually view the face of My Father in heaven.Mathew18:10
Fifth, Scripture affirms that the number of saved souls is very great (Revelation 7:9). Since most of the world has been and is still non-Christian, might it be the untold multitude who have died prematurely or in infancy comprise a majority of those in heaven? Such a possibility ought not to be dismissed too quickly. In this context Charles Spurgeon said, “I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they die, speed their way to paradise. Think what a multitude there is of them.”
Sixth, some in Scripture are said to be chosen or sanctified from the womb (1 Samuel 1:8-2:21; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15). This certainly affirms the salvation of some infants and repudiates the view that only baptized babies are assured of heaven. Neither Samuel, Jeremiah or John the Baptist was baptized.
After surveying these arguments, it is important for us to remember that anyone who is saved is saved because of the grace of God, the saving work of Jesus Christ and the undeserved and unmerited regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Like all who have ever lived, except for Jesus, infants need to be saved. Only Jesus can take away their sin, and if they are saved it is because of His sovereign grace and abounding mercy. Abraham said, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). We can confidently say, “Yes, He will.” When it comes to those incapable of volitional, willful acts of sin, we can rest assured God will, indeed, do right. Precious little ones are the objects of His saving mercy and grace.
On September 29, 1861, the great Baptist pastor, Charles Spurgeon, preached a message entitled “Infant Salvation.” In that message he chastened some critics who had “. . . wickedly, lyingly, and slanderously said of Calvinists that we believe that some little children perish.” Spurgeon affirmed that God saved little ones without limitation and without exception. He, then, as was his manner, turned to conclude the message with an evangelistic appeal to parents who might be lost. Listen to his plea:
“Many of you are parents who have children in heaven. Is it not a desirable thing that you should go there too? And yet, have I not in these galleries and in this area some, perhaps many, who have no hope hereafter? . . . . Mother, unconverted mother, from the battlements of heaven your child beckons you to Paradise. Father, ungodly, impenitent father, the little eyes that once looked joyously on you, look down upon you now and the lips which had scarcely learned to call you “Father” ere they were sealed by the silence of death, may be heard as with a still, small voice, saying to you this morning, “Father, must we be forever divided by the great gulf which no man can pass?” If you wilt, think of these matters, perhaps the heart will begin to move, and the eyes may begin to flow and then may the Holy Spirit put before thine eyes the cross of the Savior . . . if thou wilt turn thine eye to Him, thou shalt live . . .”
Little ones are precious in God’s sight. If they die, they go to heaven. Parents, who have trusted Jesus, who have lost a little one, if they have trusted Jesus, can be confident of a wonderful reunion someday. Are you hopeful of seeing again that little treasure God entrusted to you for such a short time? Jesus has made a way. Come to Him now and someday you will see them again." * from “WHY WE BELIEVE CHILDREN WHO DIE GO TO HEAVEN” by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin
Well what do we know? Do You Have The Call To Conversion? Do You Care for Children? Do you Recognise The Care Of Jesus For Lost Children? There is something you can do about this. You can seek to lead to children to the Lord. But you must take care of your own conversion first. One of my favorite writers was Vance Havner, and in one of his books he told a story about a husband who came home from work one afternoon to find that his wife was visibly upset. He said, “Honey, what’s wrong?” She said, “This afternoon a man came to our front door and rang the doorbell. I didn’t recognize him, but he was well-dressed so I opened the door. He said, ‘Good afternoon, ma’am. Could I ask you a question? Do you know Jesus Christ?’ When he asked me that I was so flustered that I shut the door in his face, and I’ve been thinking about his question all afternoon.” Her husband got upset and said, “Honey, why didn’t you just tell him that you and I are charter members of our church, that you’ve been teaching a ladies Sunday School for 20 years, and you sing in our choir every Sunday? Why didn’t you tell him that?” She thought for a moment and said to her husband, “That’s not what he asked; he asked if I knew Jesus.” May I ask you the same question? “Do you know Jesus Christ?” It’s a yes or no question. Somebody asked me if I knew Bob Taylor . It was simple yes or no question. I didn’t say, “I’m not sure.” Or “I think so.” I said, “Yes, Bob is my friend. I talk to him on a regular basis.” My friend, you can be just as sure of whether or not you know Jesus.