The Greatness of Childlikeness (Matthew Sermon 83 of 151)
January 04, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Conversion, Works of the Flesh, Temptation, The Kingdom of Christ
Who is the Greatest?
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?” That was the question the beautiful but wicked queen asked in the 1937 Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She asked it every day. Something a bit strange about that if you ask me, but every day would go to this talking mirror and ask this question, and she would not be satisfied unless she heard this answer, “Oh, my queen, it seems to me, there is none as fair as thee.” But one day the mirror shattered the sick little world of this strange queen, and answered this way, “Famed is thy beauty, Majesty, but behold a lovely maid I see. Rags cannot hide her gentle grace. Alas, she is more fair than thee.” The wicked queen, of course flew into a rage, spent the rest of the movie trying to kill Snow White, her rival.
Now, there's something a little repulsive about this whole scene, I think. Physically beautiful Queen staring into a mirror trying to reassure herself every day that she's the most beautiful person in her kingdom or queendom. The greatest beauty in all the land, you know, got to be the greatest. If we came on this scene in the back of the room and watched it, I think our stomachs would turn with disgust, and revulsion.
And yet are we not beholding ourselves in that scene? And if you don't wanna see it in an animated classic then see it in today's text, as some of the choicest men in history, the apostles of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, were having an argument about which of them was the greatest. It'd be bad enough if it just happened once, but it happens again and again and again. They represent us.
Look at verse one: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’”
A Shameful Dispute
It really is a shameful dispute. Matthew actually greatly reduces the whole thing, as he frequently does in his account. The fuller story is told in Mark and Luke. In Mark 9, as they're walking along the road they're privately having an argument about this topic. “They came to Capernaum and when he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet. Because on the way they had argued about which of them was the greatest.” I find that whole thing fascinating. Jesus bringing up the topic and asking them the question, and they don't wanna tell him.
Now, as we've already noted before, it's a foolish thing to hold back anything from an omniscient God. He already knows what they were arguing about. And the issue went deeper merely than which of them was the greatest. They were really jockeying for position in the coming Kingdom of Christ. They wanted better positions of power and influence, and their flesh was driving them onto it.
And it was a shameful thing and they knew it, that's why they didn't wanna tell Jesus what they were arguing about. They didn't wanna tell him because it was shameful. It was shameful because the desire itself is so satanic. So much like Satan who wanted to be like God, and ascended and wanted to be like God.
Shameful also because of the timing for Jesus is escalating in Matthew's account, the frequency with which he's telling them that he's about to go and die on their behalf, he's going to go to Jerusalem and he's going to be betrayed. And he's going to suffer many things and he's going to die, and it says in Matthew 17, “the disciples were filled with grief,” but apparently their grief over this didn't last long.
It wasn't long before they were back at it again and arguing about which of them was the greatest. It was shameful because of how arrogant it is. It was shameful because of the example of Christ, who lived as a servant, a humble, meek, lowly servant every day of his life. It was shameful because of how deeply rooted this dispute was and would be still in their lives. Even the very night before Jesus died, they're still arguing about which of them was the greatest. That's why he got the basin and towel and washed their feet. They just couldn't get it. It is very, very tough.
The Relentlessness of Pride
And here we come again face-to-face with the relentlessness of human pride, of arrogance. Augustine said, it is the root sin, every other sin comes from it. It is a relentless commitment to self, self-interest, self-propagation, preening for self, self-promotion, self-feeding. It's what Paul calls the flesh. It is that selfish pride, and God's deep desire in the Gospel is to have it out of us. That it would be rooted out and gone forever. And so in his wisdom he has crafted a Gospel specially designed to destroy human pride.
How beautiful, how magnificent is the work of God in the Gospel in humbling our pride, destroying it really. It's really a beautiful thing. God across the Scripture declares pride his great enemy, he hates it. So it says in 1 Peter 5:5, And in James 4:6, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” He says in Leviticus 26:19, “I will break down your stubborn pride.” Proverbs 8:13, it says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil, I hate pride and arrogance.” Isaiah 2:17, “The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled, the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” And as I've said, God's greatest weapon in this warfare against his enemy, pride is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel exalts as saviour a humble man, a Jewish carpenter whose bloody, ugly, twisted frame on the wooden cross is our only hope of salvation.
How's that for humbling? Are you not humbled by that? That's what God says it took to save you and me. That's very humbling for me. He stood under the wrath of God, he put on display for all time, for everyone to see, what each and every one of us deserved for our sin. Put it on display. Every lash of the scourge on his back; you ought to say, “I deserve that, and worse, for my sin.” Every drop of blood pouring from his veins is a clear testimony to what we deserved under the wrath of God. What you deserve, what I deserve for breaking his law, his holy law, for despising his glory and his honor. For setting it aside as though it were nothing. That's what we deserved, Jesus' death a measure of that, and very humbling for the religionists, the religious among us, is that this is also a testimony of the efficacy, the usefulness of our good works in saving our souls. Answer zero. Of no use whatsoever are our good works, Jesus' death on the cross, a clear testimony of that. It is insufficient.
Only as you humble yourself on the bloody ground around the cross of Jesus Christ will you be saved. That's the only place you'll find salvation and the lesson of this text is you have to keep humbling yourself on the same bloody ground the rest of your life. It's not just one time. Your whole life, or your whole salvation, you must humble yourself at the feet of Jesus, and know yourself to be a sinner.
And this is the wisdom of God in crafting such a gospel. Do you not see it? Isn't it beautiful that we would be so humbled by it? 1 Corinthians 1:23-25, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.” The beauty of the Gospel in humbling us. So therefore imagine the heartbreak of Jesus in hearing his disciples again and again have the same argument. Imagine it still friends. How heartbreaking is it to Jesus that it takes us so long to learn this lesson of humbling ourselves?
The Greatest is… Jesus
Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? Well, I know his name, don't you? His name is Jesus, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And how did he get such a lofty and exalted position? Well, Philippians 2, tells us it was because he “didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him,” where? “To the highest place.”
It's already taken friends. You don't need to argue anymore. Argument over, the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus because he gave more than anyone, he humbled himself more than anyone. He humbled himself an infinite amount, what a journey. From the throne of glory to the cross and back again. And therefore, God exalted him, and he gave him the name that is above every name. And Jesus told us that for the lesser positions in the kingdom, highest one's already taken, we've established that, but for the lesser ones, it's the same recipe friends; the same way.
You wanna become great in the Kingdom of Heaven, then become a servant. You wanna become first in the Kingdom of Heaven, then be slave of all. That's how it happens. And you know what? The greatest person in this room right now isn't even thinking about that question. The greatest person in this room right now isn't wondering whether he or she is the greatest person in this room right now. Not even while I say these words, they know immediately it isn't them. And what they're doing is, they're thinking about how they can serve others and honor God and glorify him, that's what they care about. That's the greatest person in this room right now.
Becoming Like a Little Child
And so Jesus wants to teach us this lesson. And so he gives us an object lesson in the form of a little child. Look at verses 2-4. “He called the little child and had him stand among them, and he said: ‘tell you the truth, unless you are converted…’” I like that a little better. “‘Unless you are converted, 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.’”
An Object Lesson
Jesus is clearly the greatest teacher in history. He used physical creation better than any other teacher ever. He says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. Look at the birds of the air,” in order to make a point about anxiety. He says, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree.” Or he says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and hid in a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Or “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a fisherman that sat down and collected good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away,” or “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who went out to sow his seed and as he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path,” etcetera. He's just a great teacher using physical creation in his object lessons.
And so here he calls a little child and has him stand among all of these great men. These great men who've taken a break from their argument to look at this little child, he calls this little child and has him stand among them. An object lesson. You can imagine the awkward pause. The Greek word, “paidion” could be a little infant, but I think older than that, or maybe a little toddler coming in. Not really sure why he or she is there, just there. Looking up blinking at all the little, the big men and just there. Wide-eyed and innocent. It doesn't matter whose child it was. There are universal attributes of childlikeness that Jesus is getting at here. Not one particular child as over or against another especially good child or anything like that. It's none of that, it's just a little child.
The lesson is clear. You need to become like this if you wanna go to heaven. You need to be converted. And the word converted implies, you're not like this. You need to be converted to go to heaven.
Jesus Loves the Little Children
Now, we know from the song and we know from scripture, Jesus loves the little children. And they loved him. They felt totally at ease around him. He set them at ease, you could just tell how comfortable they were around him. They can tell when somebody loves them. He would look them in the eyes, he would speak to them gently, he would touch them with his hands, he would pray for them and they would climb up on his lap and they would be around him. He loved to be with them.
And I think in scripture, he looks on all of us as his little children. Later in verse six, he says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,” etcetera. So we're all his little children, all of us. He spoke about the twelve apostles he was sending out on mission, the great apostles and he says if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, he'll never lose his reward. The little ones are the apostles.
Earlier in Matthew when a paralyzed man came, Jesus looked at him and said, “Take heart, son. Your sins are forgiven.” Later in that same chapter. A daughter, a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years, he calls her daughter. “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.”
Now, Jesus was all of 31 years old. What's going on? Some of these people are probably older than Jesus. Well, it all depends how you look at it of course. John chapter 1, John the Baptist who was what, six months older than Jesus says, he who comes after me was before me because he was before me. He was with God in the beginning, he's the Ancient of Days, we're all like little children to him. We're just little children born yesterday and know nothing.
The Amiable Characteristics of a Child
Now, what are the characteristics of childhood that Jesus is focusing on here, what are the amiable and delightful characteristics of a little child? Well, first of all, we need to be honest, not all the characteristics of children are amiable and delightful. Can we be honest about that? I'm not trying to offend any that are here in our presence today. I don't think they will be offended if they're even paying attention and knowing that I'm talking about them. But they're not offended, even if they knew it.
But not every characteristic of a child is amiable and delightful. Romans 5 makes it very plain that they are descendants of Adam and they have a sin nature, and they have almost no concern for you whatsoever, when they're born. They really don't care about you, alright? And they have, it says in the book of Proverbs, foolishness bound up in their hearts and the rod of reproof has to drive it far from them. We know that they're immature, we know that they're undeveloped, we know that they're self-centered, we know all of these things, but that's not what we're talking about today. Not in this text.
No, there's something delightful, something sweet and amiable and attractive that Jesus is zeroing in on here in these little children. What could it be? Well, it doesn't say. But I think we can have a sense of it. There is a freedom from these kinds of debates. They're not concerned about who's the greatest among them. Not worried about that. So there's a freedom from pride. A willingness to be taught. An obedience. He calls a little child and a little child comes, ready to go. A general stance toward obedience. Readily submitting to clear authority over them. They do what they're told generally, they're ready to believe in invisible beings quite readily, they have a faith like that, there's something delightful.
Michael Card in one of his lullabies, “Come to The Cradle,” said this, “Come to the cradle, come and find peace, alone in the cradle simplicity sleeps, behold perfect wisdom, so gentle and mild.” Listen to this, “In the innocent, upward, trusting glance of a child.” That's beautiful. “The innocent, upward, trusting glance of a child.” It's the faith, the freedom from guile, the freedom from these concerns and the looking to Jesus that I have in mind.
Recently I was on vacation, family vacation late in the fall, and we were at Carolina Beach, and I went for a walk with Daphne, who's with us in Big Church today, I think for the first time. Hi, there she is. And so we went for a walk on the beach and it was just Daphne and I, and it wasn't long before her 45-year-old father needed to put her on his shoulders. I can't carry her very long anymore. So there she is up on my shoulders and we were gonna go to this dock that seemed to be just right there, just seemed to be just right there. But I was noticing the earth was curving as I was walking toward it. And so we were walking along and it just never got any closer. It just never did, and so after a while, I abandoned it as a worthy goal, alright.
She didn't care, she was on my shoulders, we were having a good time. She was pointing at the seagulls, we were just having fun and we walked for probably an hour and it was time to go back and so I decided not to walk on the soft sand. A little bit too much energy put into walking on the sand. So I cut on a boardwalk through onto a street to walk back. And it was a little bit busy street, we crossed the street and we were walking on the sidewalk, and about a couple of minutes into that walk she said, “Daddy, how do we get home?” And I said, “Don't worry, honey, Daddy knows the way home.” She said “Okay.” And she was just pulling on my hair a little bit, lightly, thankfully, and just patting me and then talking about the cars, and about maybe five minutes later she said, “Daddy, how do we get home?” I said, “Don't worry, Daddy knows the way home.” And from then on I heard her say it three or four times, “Daddy knows the way home.” And something came powerfully in me.
The night before Jesus was crucified, Jesus said to his disciples, “You know the way to the place where I'm going.” And Thomas said, “Lord, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way?” What did Jesus say? “I am the way.” You don't need to know all the twists and turns of the road ahead, you don't need to know where to turn left and were to turn right. You don't need to know any of that, you just need to be on your daddy's shoulders. He'll get you home. He'll get you all the way home, just stay on his shoulders, and he knows the way. “I am the way,” he's saying. And I was her way that day, she didn't need to know where the address was, I needed to know and I did. And she didn't trouble herself with that at all. And that's the joy of it.
There's something in a little child of total confidence that Jesus is zeroing in on. And freedom from pride, and concern, and selfishness, that's what I think he sees. You know the grace of God is looking for weakness where it can work. It's made strong in weakness. Present your weakness to him. He is your heavenly Father.
Conversion Required for Heaven
And Jesus says very plainly here that conversion is necessary in order to get there. You've gotta be converted to this. Look at verse three and four, “I tell you the truth, unless you change,” it says in NIV, “unless you are converted,” literally, “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.”
The whole human race is tinted with satanic pride, and we've gotta turn, that's what the Greek word means, actually it's passive, we have to be turned. We have to be converted. It has to happen to us. As Jeremiah put in Jeremiah 31:18, “Turn me, O Lord, and I will be turned, for you are the Lord, my God.” Turn me, oh Lord. Humble me, oh Lord. Change me, oh Lord, and I will be changed. That's the prayer. And unless we are converted, we can never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We must enter friends, we're not born in the Kingdom of Heaven, we are born again into the Kingdom of Heaven. We must be converted to enter.
Have you been converted? Have you come to the cross? Have you humbled yourself on the bloody ground I described earlier, have you been humbled before the cross of Jesus Christ? Have you found salvation there? Have you been converted and become like a little child, given up all of your ways and your wisdom and your good works and let it all go, and just fall in front of Jesus? Has that happened to you? And if so, praise God. It's not your natural state, and you know it, don't you. You have to be converted to go to Heaven, you have to enter.
Welcoming a Little Child
So he says this to these great men who are bickering, and he says you need to welcome a little child. Now he's speaking to them as future leaders of the church, and he's very concerned about them, they are the apostles, and he wants them not to be the mighty rulers, like the rulers of the Gentiles like them. Look at verse 5, “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name, welcomes me.”
What This Means
The word literally means to receive gladly, to accept, to take in your heart. Jesus wants these apostles, someday to be pillars of the church, he wants them to be of a mindset that they are ready to welcome children any time. They're not the great men who walk by with the flowing robes and are too busy for children.
And they were that kind of men by the way, because there was a time that parents were bringing their little children to Jesus to have him place their hands on them, pray for them, and the disciples were rebuking those who brought them. And Jesus, it says, was indignant about it. Indignant with who? With the parents for bothering him? Absolutely not, he's indignant with the apostles for stopping them. “Let the little children come to me,” he said, “And don't hinder them, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” And he wanted them to be converted to be changed, not just to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but to be leaders of the church who weren't too busy for children. It's a kind of a man who's not too busy to be stopped by a child.
Welcoming Christ by Welcoming a Child
It means seeing by faith, seeing yourself as not too important, seeing them, the children, as very important. Seeing Christ in them, because he says “If you welcome them in name, you're welcoming me.” Like the sheep and the goats? “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Well, now it's the children. And if you welcome a little child in Jesus's name, you're welcoming Jesus right in your midst, that's what he's saying.
Do Not Despise a Little Child
And he says, “Do not despise a little child.” Look at verse 10, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones,” that means to despise them, “for I tell you that their angels in heaven are always seeing the face of my Father in heaven.” So the very opposite of receiving a little child in Jesus's name is to despise them, to look down on them. That's what the high and mighty of our world do. They don't have time for children.
I'm talking about the professional people, the ones that are ambitious for the corner office, you know. The ones that are zealous for the six figure or even worse, the seven-figure salary. Those ones. They don't have time for little children. I'm talking about the worldlings, the ones who don't know Jesus. They scarcely get married, if they do marry, it's not so they can have lots of children, not at all, children get in the way of their plans. I fear that some of that attitude's crept into the church though, like children are not seen to be the blessing God sees them to be. There's a gap between us and God on the issue of children and how valuable they are.
Don't despise them, don't look down on them. They are a gift of God. They always make you smile, don't they? If you just had Jesus, he stood a child here, you'd all start to smile, you just would. It's a beautiful thing. It's an awesome thing then, for parents to be entrusted with the precious heart of a little child, for a short period of time, get to pour the Gospel into that heart. That is a precious thing.
And it's a precious thing for a church like ours to be able to train parents to do that very well and hold them accountable so that they do a good job with it, and to have some ministries in addition to what the parents are doing, to help, ministries like VBS, and Bible for Life and other ministries that happen, those things are beneficial as add-ons to what the parents are doing. The parents, all of us have this great privilege to encounter the little children and to make an impact on them. And sometimes God chooses to speak to you through them, doesn't he?
For it says in Psalm 8, verse 2, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Who knows what they're gonna say. And sometimes it's gonna be true. And you wish they hadn't said it. But they just speak almost prophetically. I'm not speaking in terms of spiritual gifts through the Bible, but they just speak as if from God to you. And you have something you need to hear. And woe to the Apostle, or the elder, or the great leader who can't listen to a child because they're just a child. Don't look down on them, don't despise them.
“Their Angels” in Heaven
And he mentions that their angels in heaven are always seeing the face of the Father in Heaven. It is from this verse and pretty much from no other, there's maybe one other verse in Acts 12, that the idea of the guardian angel comes along. Their angels, the possessive, like each child has his or her own angel. Have you ever heard of the guardian angel? I know you have, parents sometimes count on the guardian angels like in the crowded parking lot when the three-year-old runs away chasing a butterfly. They'll be counting on the guardian angel at that moment to rescue, and there may well be an angelic rescue at that moment.
I do believe that angels are all ministering spirits sent to serve those who inherit salvation. But I think it goes too far to say that there is an angel assigned to each child, that just goes a little too far. Instead, as I read this verse, verse 10, it's more that the angels that are dispatched to minister to the children, they get free access right to the throne of grace to say how it's going, and when finally that angel reports that that child has entered the Kingdom of Heaven through faith in Jesus, there is more joy, it says, in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents. They rejoice. God rejoices in the presence of his angels. So these angels, like Gabriel, stand in the presence of God. So how can we despise children? That's the point that he's making. Don't look down on them.
Tempting a Little Child
A Severe Warning Against Sin
But then Jesus turns more serious and he deals with the question of sin, the temptation of a little child. And frankly, since we're all his little children, our temptation as well. Dealing with the issue of sin.
And again he's speaking to his apostles as future elders, shepherds, saying, “Forget about who's the greatest. Let me tell you what really is the issue here. This little child... That little child's gonna need spiritual shepherding, are you ready to protect them spiritually from sin? Are you ready to protect yourselves from sin?” He turns to the issue of sin. Look what he says in verse 6.
“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.” This is a severe warning against sin, there is not a person in this room that rightly esteems the danger that sin is to him or her, not one. All of us underestimate it. All of us.
J.C. Ryle in beginning his book in the 19th century, Holiness, he said this, “He who would make great strides in holiness, must first consider the greatness of sin.” Anselm of Canterbury, writing in the Middle Ages, sought to answer the question of why God became man, the incarnation. In a dialogue between himself, and a character named Boso, Anselm utters the famous line, “You have not yet considered the gravity of sin.” Because he was reluctant to recognize our need for a savior, this character Boso was unable to see why Jesus had to become a man.
You haven't dealt with how weighty a thing is sin. Well, none of us have. And Jesus in these very sobering verses tries to get our attention that the real danger here is not that you're gonna be bypassed for some job in the kingdom, the real danger here is sin, the deadly danger of sin.
Causing a Child to Sin
So he talks about first, the issue of causing a child to sin. As children of God, we are constantly surrounded by temptations. Jesus even says, “Temptations are sure to come,” says it right in this passage. We are surrounded by temptations. They are external enticements that link up with our fleshly hearts in a wicked partnership to drag us off the path of righteousness. It's a temptation, it's a pull, a gravitational magnetic pull off the path of God.
Satan has crafted a whole world system to drag us away from pure faith in Christ and he uses human beings to do it. Ad agencies that portray attractive young models wearing sexually explicit clothing, alluring clothing, that promises excitement and pleasure and acceptance and fun, but which hides the effects of the sin: Single parenting, sexually transmitted diseases, poverty, loneliness, unbelief, addiction, and ultimately death. He hides all that, all the fun TV programs hide all that.
“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin,” said Jesus. It would be better for the people in that ad agency to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea than to cause one of my little ones to sin, said Jesus.
Severe Judgment Against the Tempters
Now, I get the feeling here like a father. Imagine you're a father of a five year old and you come upon some 14 year old beating him up. What kind of feelings would be inside your heart as you see that scene? Are you gonna be motivated to do anything about it? Of course you are. What kind of man would you be if you weren't? You would go and put an immediate stop to it. Hopefully, you'd be self-controlled and thereby not have to get arrested for what you do. But you would put a stop to it wouldn't you? I wanna zero in on the feeling before you go, and I want you to multiply it by a billion and then by another billion, and that's Jesus right here.
He's speaking, not just to Satan, but to human instruments of Satan, who set up tempting situations and lure us away from God. He says, let's take a millstone, not one of the little ones that women use in the households, the counter-top versions, that they grind, the little ones. There are big ones that only a donkey or a horse or some beast of burden can turn. That's the one he chooses. It would be better to have your head stuck through that hole and we could row you out to the deepest part of the ocean and push you over. And as you sink down, and as the water crushes you, just realize it would be better if that had happened to begin with than that you had led one of my little ones to sin.
Because of this kind of language, I say that there's not anyone including me, that estimates properly the danger of sin. But Jesus does, and he says, “Woe to the world because of them.”
Severe Steps by the Tempted
He has a rage against them, but then he turns to us individually. He stops talking about the tempters out there, the temptations are coming, they are coming, friends. Are you ready, are you ready for the temptations? Yes pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” But here in this text, he says temptations are sure to come. They are coming, you can't escape them, you live in the world, they're here. Are you ready for the warfare? Are you taking it seriously? It's far more serious than any New Year's resolution, friends. Your very life is at stake, sin wants your life, it's a viper going for your throat. Are you ready for the fight?
And so Jesus says in verse 8 and 9, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown in the fire of hell.” He's speaking to his own apostles about the fire of hell. Don't quote too quickly, “There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Fight sin as though your eternity depended on it. Jesus is talking to believers here.
Now, what does it mean for a hand or a foot to cause someone to sin? Clearly, it's metaphorical, clearly. But a right hand is something valuable, a foot something valuable, but there are times that something physically valuable must be cast off. We were in Haiti, and there was a woman there who had had a car accident, serious damage to her leg, she went to a witch doctor, by the time our doctor saw her the leg was far gone. No question about it. If that woman was going to survive, she had to have an amputation. She may have been the happiest amputee in history, she knew that her life was hanging in the balance.
Friends your life is hanging in the balance on the issue of sin. It really is. Are you fighting it? Are you ready? What is it? What causes you to sin? Well, I don't know. I know that there are general things, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, boastful pride of life, those are the general things.
I know that the internet can be used to lure men into sexual immorality in their minds, so they're not faithful to their wives, that in their hearts they're committing adultery every day. I know that happens. It's great wickedness. Cut it off, throw it away. Oh, but I have to do research. Look, it's deadly, deadly dangerous. Throw it away. And if you can't go to the mall without being discontent about your life, and your clothes and what you can afford, well then stop going to the mall. Just find out what's causing you to lust or greed or covetousness or anger, find out, trace it back and cut it out. Fight it.
How Stubborn a Problem is Pride
Now, I've been giving applications throughout this whole sermon. I just wanna give a couple more.
I want you to notice for yourself how dangerous is your own pride. Don't excuse yourself. Don't say, “If I had been one of the twelve apostles, at least one of them wouldn't have been prideful.” But you just did it, didn't you? “I would have been the humblest of all of them. Of all of them, the greatest in humility.” There's really no way to get it. As soon as you're being humble, and you note it, it's like the old cartoon characters, you realize that you're humble, that you lose it, you're over, it's done, alright. It's a fight.
See the pride in you whenever you're crossed or critiqued, or commanded by an authority figure. Whenever you think you could do a better job than the referee down there in the field and you'd like to change places with him. I was sitting next to a father, Calvin's in a basketball league for seven and eight year olds. One thing I noticed about seven and eight year olds, almost universally, all they do is have a good time. They just laugh and have fun, they just have a great time. They haven't learned yet to argue with the referee or get angry at each other, or the coach, they're just out there having fun. But their folks have learned how to get angry at the ref, I've noticed. There's one father in particular I was sitting near him, and I don't think the ref made a single good call. And it's just pride, humble yourself.
See How Great a Change Must Come Over Us to Fit Us for Heaven
And be converted, be converted. Are these apostles have they already been converted? Yes. Alright, Jesus is speaking to the human race through this text, all of us must be converted, but there's an ongoing work of transformation that has to go on in us to humble ourselves like a little child.
Parents: Take Full Advantage of your Children’s Growing Up Years
Thirdly, you parents make better use of the time with your children. Teach them when their hearts are tender. Seize the day, it doesn't last long. When they sin, bring them to the law and to the cross. Show them their need of a Savior. Cherish them, love them, realize they really aren't yours, they're God's. God knit them together, he's loaned them to you to disciple them, evangelize them, and disciple them. Do it, make the most of the time, and cherish them.
Fight Sin with Everything You Have
And finally, I just can say to you: fight sin with everything that you have. Determine against it, not just one or two of it, but all of it, that you're gonna fight it. Cut it out of your life, for the glory of God. Close with me in prayer.