Summary: In becoming like little children, we can live with a purpose that will endure.
Live With a Child-like Purpose
Pastor Jim Luthy
Last week we discovered Jesus confronting his disciples about their approach to greatness in the Kingdom of God. It seems they were developing a worldly approach, which creeps into our thinking dressed as religion. They thought, you might recall, that greatness came by our doing, and not by our being. "Who is the greatest?" they asked Jesus.
Jesus then taught them a different approach. He set a child among them and said, "unless you change and become like a little child you will never enter the Kingdom." As usual, Jesus’ teaching turned the thinking of the people upside-down. In most cases, the Kingdom of God is quite contrary and opposite to what we might think or presume.
For example, we might presume one way of approaching a text of scripture, basing it on our thinking or our experience, rather than with the mind of Christ.
That’s exactly what I did in preparation for this week’s message.
I approached Matthew 18:10-14 with a "greatness comes by what we do" mindset. By doing that, I kept assuming that this parable of the lost sheep was about evangelism. I was trying to squeeze out a message on evangelism from a parable that wasn’t intended for that purpose. It didn’t help that every sermon I ever heard about this parable was about evangelism.
When I took off my "who’s the greatest" filter, I realized Jesus was still making his point about the little child. While the heart of God is definitely in view here, Jesus told this parable to convince them to change and become like little children. His point – whoever humbles himself like this little child finds favor with the Father.
First, in verse 10, Jesus declares that these little ones have a special audience with God.
See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."
The angels who watch over the humble are always close enough to see the Father’s face. They have quick access to God because they are charged with the truly great in God’s kingdom – those who humble themselves like a little child.
Then Jesus tells them this parable. See if you can read it with me without your filters and hear God’s love for those who humble themselves like a child…
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the niney-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that nay of these little ones should be lost.
Picture the throne room of heaven. Paraded before the throne are the righteous acts of God’s children, one right after another. Suddenly one of the ministering angels interrupts from the side of the room, "O Sovereign One, I am sorry to report that one of our little ones have wandered away."
The angel immediately has the attention of the Father. "How so?"
The angel reports, "It appears that this simple one has been deceived, believing there are many ways to you, not just one. He believes in the Lamb, but has fallen for a young maiden who follows the teaching of Moroni and assumes all is well."
The Father leaps into action to seek and save this little one. He sends angels to protect him, people to teach, rebuke, and correct him, and goes himself in the form of the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to him. The young one is easily deceived, and the Father is not going to remove his freedom to choose, but he will leave the religious parade to make a way of escape to this one he loves so much.
This one like you.
The one who humbles himself like a little child is the greatest in the kingdom. His angels have a place in the presence of God, and his/her wanderings initiate a special effort of the Father to find them. The parable is an invitation to change – to humble yourself and find special favor—grace—with the Father in heaven.
A little child would not approach this parable looking for ways to become great. A little child would not look at this and ask what it tells him about being a better Christian. A little child humbles himself and looks for the Father that Jesus reveals. His response might look quite similar to the person who read it with their "Who is the Greatest?" filter. It might look quite religious. But it comes from a different heart. It comes out of a different purpose.