Summary: In the gospel of Matthew we see a few recurring themes: True spirituality; living by faith; and achieving greatness. All of these themes overlap to some extent. Matthew 18 begins with the disciples re-opening these issues again by asking Jesus a question.
SEEDS OF CHANGE
In the gospel of Matthew we see a few recurring themes: True spirituality; living by faith; and achieving greatness. All of these themes overlap to some extent. Matthew 18 begins with the disciples re-opening these issues again by asking Jesus a question:
(v. 1) At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
In other words, "What does it mean to be a five-star Christian?" Or another way you might say it is: "What does it mean to be truly spiritual in God’s eyes? ...To be truly holy?"
In the next three chapters of Matthew, Jesus teaches about the nature of holiness. What does it mean to be holy in God’s eyes? How does one become "the greatest in the kingdom?" This is the topic we’ll be addressing, and I’m going to give away the ending right now – I’ll let you know how this will end. Becoming a five-star Christian – becoming the greatest in God’s kingdom – has almost everything to do with how you treat others.
The Bible says that when Jesus was asked this question, he called a young child forward to stand with them and he said...
(vs. 3-4) “I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
When I read these verses, four words jump out at me: "Unless you are converted." Jesus spoke these words to his disciples – men who had been following him for almost three years; men who had already performed miracles in his name; men who would ultimately turn the world upside down with the message of the gospel. These were great men, and Jesus said to them, "Unless you are converted..." These words teach us a primary principle in becoming holy; this may seem rather obvious, but it’s a principle that must be noted.
In order to become holy, you must convert.
The Bible teaches that we are born in sin, that we are born sinners, that we are, in our natural state, separated from God. He is good, we are not. We may make the occasional stab at goodness, but without experiencing a life-transformation, we will never become truly, truly holy.
Just like the disciples, when we make the decision to follow Jesus, that’s where the process of change begins, it’s not where it ends. When you make the decision to follow Jesus, he comes into your life, he wipes away the past, he cleanses you of your sins, and he gives you a new life. At that point, you begin a journey into holiness. I want to make something clear: for each and every one of us, it is a long journey. In fact, it is a lifelong journey. As long as we live, we must be engaged in the process of conversion. As long we have breath, there will be things that we need to eliminate from our life and things we need to add to our life in order to become more like him. The question, then, that we must ask ourselves is not "Do I need to convert anything about myself?" but rather, "WHAT do I need to convert about myself in order to live a life more pleasing to God?" And I can guarantee that he has an answer for each one of us. In today’s text, he spells out the first conversion we must make...
(v. 3) “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Become like little children. That’s it. Do you want to be holy? Do you want to be a top-tier Christian – the greatest in God’s kingdom? Then you have to convert; you have to become like a little child. What does that mean – to become like a child? Today we’ll look at three characteristics of child-like faith. I want to quickly point out that he said that we’re to be "child-like", not "childish." It’s not that we don’t grow in the knowledge of his word, it’s not that we become pouty and petulant and kick and scream when we don’t get our way. He’s not telling us to imitate the worst behavior of some children; he’s telling us to develop the attitude of a child. The first attitude is...
(v. 4) “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Have you ever noticed how our attempts at humility are often laden with exaggerated importance? Oftentimes our efforts are focused on doing things that make us appear humble, rather than striving for true humility.
There’s a joke about a pastor who one day was overcome with a sense of humility and entered into the sanctuary and fell on the altar saying, "Oh, Lord, I’m nothing. I’m nothing." The associate pastor heard the commotion and followed suit, kneeling beside the pastor, saying, "Oh Lord, I’m nothing, I’m nothing." Then the youth director showed up heard the other pastors praying and he joined in, "Oh Lord, I’m nothing, I’m nothing." The associate then tapped the pastor on the shoulder, pointed at the youth leader, rolled his eyes and said, "Get a load of who thinks he’s nothing!"